Impaired Not Defeated

It might be an impairment you have had since your birth

But it’s not the sole factor in determining your contributions or worth

It can be that childhood injury after which things were never the same

Or arrive with the menopause bringing fog to the brain

It can stem from that fall while out walking the dog

Or damage to your lungs from breathing city smog

It might manifest in a blink of an eye

Or through wear and tear as the years creep by

But it is not the impairment that you does disable

But unadjusted conditions around you and the attitude of people that label


Padre

Reaching Our Limit

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Reaching the limit as to how far you can go

Meeting that margin and coming to know

That for all of our bluster and confidence bold

That we are all to often by circumstance controlled

If left to our own strength and devices

We would soon be overcome in crisis

But we have a helper to lift us and guide

If we turn to Him and surrender our pride


Padre

Proverbs 18:24

Entitlement Revisited

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I wrote some time ago about the tendency of many people to take the attitude that life owe’s them something. I have had students who have expressed opinions which suggest that their parents are here “because of them” and not the other way around. The self has become the measure of all things for some people.

There is a rabbinic story which captures the flaw in the modern doctrine of “entitlement.”

Some travellers were taking a journey by boat. One of them took a drill and began to drill a hole beneath himself. His companions, shocked, inquired, “Why are you doing this?” He replied, “What business is it of yours? I’m not drilling under your part of the boat, but my own.” They all shouted, “But you will flood the boat for us all!” (Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 4:6).

Our actions are often far from individual in their consequences.  John Donne was right when he penned “No man is an island.” Scripture tells us that the fall of all humanity came through one man (Romans 5:12, I Corinthians 15:21). Likewise, each of us has a greater impact on those around us than what we might think.

For those of faith, our actions are monitored by those who come into contact with us.  Our inconsistencies (rightly or wrongly) reflect on our brethren, and on God Himself. We are ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Likewise our virtue is a light unto the world, and a city upon a hill.

But example aside, all people by their actions impact others. Our risky behaviours may endanger others. Our wastefulness may deprive future generations. Our untrustworthiness may leave others hurt.

At the centre of this is the “the hole is in my part of the boat” attitude. We as people of community, a family based in love, need to stand in contrast to the 21st Century cult of the individual.

As Paul reminds us, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2: 3-4).”

Padre

 

Bible Ladies (Part 3): The Foreign Women (a)

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There has been some conflict in scripture and a lot of debate in rabbinic literature on marriage. This is especially true  in regards to marrying “aliens.” In this regard, modern Jewish thought holds that one is a Jew (and therefore not “an outsider”) if they are born to a Jewish mother, or if they undertake a formal rabbinically sanctioned conversion process. [See Rabbi Tzvi Freeman’s article entitled Who is a Jew?]

I have previously written about Ruth, but she is an interesting case study, as she is a foreigner, but also “mother” of the line which includes both King David and Jesus.

I take it as a given that the scriptures are silent on many points, and if a point is not key to the narrative, the details are often omitted.  Maybe this is the case in Ruth, as there is no reference to her formal conversion to Judaism, but rather a self-attestation that, “Your people will be my people and your God my God (Ruth 1:16).”  

There are several scriptures that forbid the marrying of “people of land,” notably Deuteronomy 7:1-2.  “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.  Do not intermarry with them.”  This is a clear prohibition (at least for the people of these nations).

This leads to a consideration of Ezra 9.  This text is a little problematic. “After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites,  Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them (v. 1-2).”  The chapter goes on to clarify the point, in part,  by noting it was “the detestable practices” of these nations, which were the core concern.  Ezra 10:3 shows that in an attempt to return to “righteousness” there was a programme of mass divorce of “alien wives.” 

Notice Moabites [as with Ruth] are on the Ezra list [but not on the Deuteronomy list], as are Hittites [previously prohibited and with possible application with David and Bathsheba account].  In the scriptures we find the celebration of faithfulness of the Moabitess Ruth; and interestingly the sin in the latter case [Bathsheba] was instigated by the Jew David. The “race” of the foreign wife seems in practice inconsequential, it is rather her conduct and righteousness that is the concern.

The marriages of Moses may prove to be good cases in point.  His first wife, Zipporah was a Midianite.  Her father was noted to be “a priest of Midian.” An aside here is important. Midianites were descendants of Abraham, and would have shared the knowledge of the God of Abraham.  While not of  the line Isaac and Jacob, they would  have had knowledge of the God of their father Abraham.  Moses’s wife, Zipporah was from Midian in Arabia, but presumably a mono-theist and acknowledger of God.  Note here again that there is no mention of a formal conversion.  An interesting point by Jewish law, but perhaps not as important as her God-centred beliefs (and those of her father).

It is Moses’ second marriage which gives us some insight to the nature of what should be considered “foreign.”  Numbers 12:1-2 records,  “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the Lord heard it.”

The details of the dispute are unclear.  It does centre on the fact that “Moses had taken a Cushite woman as a wife.”  Cush is the ancient name for Ethiopia.  Moses’ second wife (who is unnamed) was not only non-Hebrew, but African.  Was it an issue of her race?  Was it that she was not a believer?

Exodus 12:38 tells us that as the Hebrews departed Egypt that “a mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock.”  We can postulate that with the exodus of the Jews, that other slaves (among them Cushites) used the opportunity to leave as well.  Jewish tradition holds that Moses accepted these into the Twelve Tribes.  As such, they became subject to the same rules and laws of the covenant.  So presumably this Cushite wife’s beliefs (like those of Zipporah’s) were not the issue.

The main teaching of the passage seems more about Miriam’s self-elevation, but there is a great secondary application which advances our theme. “The anger of the Lord burned against them [Aaron and Miriam], and he left them. When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. (Numbers 12: 9-10).”  Miriam complained about Moses’ marriage to an African, the result -she [Miriam] is made “white as snow.” It being leprosy, a presumably unwelcome state.  Was this incidental or central to the narrative?  If it is central it is an interesting point to ponder, was it about race or skin colour?  If so, God gave a definitive response. 

In the end, the faith of the spouse, not their “ethnicity” seems the more germane issue.  The concern from God’s point of view seems to be about corrupting influences of  practice.  Ruth and Zipporah are celebrated in the Word.  Foreign by birth, yes.  Foreign to God, no.  The call of God is “To you, O men [and women], I call, And my voice is to the sons [and daughters] of men (Proverbs 8:4) [see also Acts 2:39].” Tribe and nation does not diminish the call, all that is required is to answer it.

Next time in Bible Ladies, I will explore another foreign woman, Rahab.

Padre

 

 

 

More Than Just A Foot

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On Sunday, Pastor Vince shared a word in which we were reminded that we are all valuable in the sight of God.  God so loved the world (and each and every individual in it) that He sent His very own Son to die, that that world might have life.

Yet, many of us question our value. We wonder if we, or our roes are important.  This is not new, however.  Paul told the church at Corinth:

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.

Whether hand or foot, eye or ear, we are all needed in the kingdom.  We are all part of the body.  And every single member is loved.  So loved in fact, that even if we were a body of one – Christ would still have come and died, just for you; just for me.

You are more than a foot!

Padre