Bible Ladies (Part 8): Abigail

 

David Meeting Abigail by Rubens (Getty Museum)

 

It has been some time now since I made a posting in the Bible Ladies Series.  I will try to rectify that here.

Proverbs 31 reads in part,

“A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life (verses 10 -12).”

There are few biblical examples which illustrate this than the story of Abigail in the 1 Samuel 25.  She is introduced as the wife of Nabal a wealthy man in the region of Carmel. Nabal is not just wealthy, but “very wealthy” according to verse 2.  Despite this wealth he is depicted as greedy, and disrespectful.  This is shown when David sends men to Nabal and asks for what he might spare for the up keep of David and his men. Nabal responds, “Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where? (verse 11).”  This was in spite of the fact that David and his men had previously protected Nabal’s servants.

The snub towards the future king does not go unnoticed.  David mobilises 400 men to address the insult.  Here we see Abigail’s character revealed.  Verse 3 had already reveled that “She was an intelligent and beautiful woman.” But she is loyal and virtuous as well.  She,  the account continues,  of her own accord,  . . .  “took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seah of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys (verse 18),” and went out to meet David and his advancing men.

She bows herself before David and offers the food to him.  She then essentially entreats David to spare her husband and household.  She notes that “needless bloodshed,” need not be on the future king’s conscience.  She goes on to make reference that David’s line will be a lasting one.

David said to Abigail, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands (verse 32)’  . . . . “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request’ (verse 35).”

Later Naban dies (possibly from his own excesses). And, When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.” Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.” She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants (verse 39 -41).”

Abigail, therefore became David’s third wife, and would go on to bear his second son.

She is in brilliant contrast to David’s other wife Bathsheba.  In her case the king is drawn to a woman willing to cheat on her noble husband, which in time leads to her husband’s  death; while Abigail shows virtue and gains a reprieve for her corrupt and disrespectful spouse.  Yes, both become wives of a great man, but it is Abigail who exemplifies Proverbs 31, even for a husband unworthy of her grace.

Padre

 

 

 

Jacob’s Ladder

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image from: Wikipedia

Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt this week was the word: Translucent, and a word count of 29.

I drew upon this and the biblical account of Genesis 28:10-19 for the following,

From his stony pillow, Jacob gazed with awe upon the heavenly ladder.  Angels ascended and descended the shimmering flight from via the translucent doorway to the glorious throne beyond.

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Word Prompt

Translucent

Challenge

The challenge is simple: each week you will be given an exact number of words you can use to write a poem or piece of prose.  You can use any format or style you like; go wherever your inspiration takes you.  The only rules are these:

  • your poem / prose must contain this week’s word.  The word does not have to count towards the exact word count total – it can be in the title, or the first letters of the lines of a poem can spell it out – you can be as creative as you want as long as it’s there somewhere.
  • the length of your poem / prose must match the number of words stated in this week’s challenge.  No more.  No less.

 

Billy Bob Bobiley’s Tractor

 

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Folks thought William Robert Bobiley was a bit peculiar. Down on Main Street the old boys sitting at the barber shop would say things like, “That Billy Bob Bob Billy is a mite peculiar;” or at the church flower committee meetings they would reflect that “There was something peculiar about that Bobiley boy.”

Billy Bob didn’t look all that unusual. He was average height, and maybe a few pounds on the skinny side, but not all that different from the other boys in the town. He had sandy brown hair, and a kind of blue-grey eyes that folks in those parts often had. It was his manner that set him apart. William Bobiley was a dreamer.

Most folks took the view that working the land was a God given blessing. When them Fordson fellas came round to market their tractors, people turned a deaf ear to them. “I got six boys and a mule,” or similar remarks greeted their advances.

But not so Billy Bob. He saw the potential of the coughing, sputtering, gasoline driven oddities. But not for plowing fields, or pulling wagons. To Billy it was the 20 horsepower engine that held the attraction. Five miles an hour, and more pull than a whole team of mules.

You see, power was Billy’s thing. He had set himself up with a pair of mules when he left school the year before, and now made a modest living dragging logs, and pulling stumps for folks. But a tractor, that would make him a “rich” man.

The $790 price tag was the catch.  But Billy Bob, being a true entrepreneur, was up to the challenge. At fifty cents a job, he pulled, and yanked, and dragged, and pulled some more.

At last he had it. He handed over the money and laid claim to the shinny new Ford tractor.

Problem was, that by the time he got it, there wasn’t a fallen log, or stubborn stump left in the valley. Well, as folks always said, “Billy Bob was a mite peculiar.”

Padre


Bible prompt: Luke 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”

I have approached this as a piece of allegory written as fiction.  It is a little tongue in cheek, but meant to be fun, not offensive. For anyone else attempting the challenge, feel free to use poetry, biblical or spiritual reflection on the verse itself, or do as I have and come up with a story prompted by the theme of “counting the cost.”

Bible Prompt Writing Challenge

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I have recently taken part in some prompted writing challenges.  Some of these have been based on photos, and others by key words, or collections of words. I thought that it might make for an interesting twist to use a Bible verse as a prompt for a brief (350 words or fewer) piece of flash fiction, poetry, or reflection. The choice is yours, but I do ask that you use the prompt respectfully and keep any submissions to the PG13 rating (I will be strict on that one).  There is no prize, but it is a great opportunity to get feedback from the community, and maybe link the reading of blogs from circles that don’t ordinarily mix. Your piece does not have to be religious, but should reflect the essence of the prompt.

So here it goes, the Bible prompt is Luke 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”

Please enter this post’s URL so I can have a chance to read them.

I plan on posting my own take on it on Thursday.

Padre

La vie du Christ (The Life of Christ) 1906: Film Review

The Life of Christ, or the original title La vie du Christ is a “costume drama” depicting the birth, life, and death of Jesus. It runs for a little over a half an hour, and for a film made so early into the media form it is rather well done.

It is constructed in a couple of dozen individual scenes of various lengths, and each introduced by a title card. As a rather old silent, black and white production, there are some variations in the quality of the picture, but the extant footage below is still incredibly watchable.

I could find no credits for cast or crew beyond that of the director, Alice Blaché, but some of the acting is first rate by the standards of the short reel age it was made in. Some of the nuance is really good, especially for the biblically literate (thus able to identify points which are not titled). Examples of this include Pilate’s wife making gestures of appeal to her husband, and Peter’s denial of Christ is emphatic in its gestures. The cast is fairly large with women, children, and ethnic minorities included, and not necessarily stereotyped in their portrayals.

The opening sequence is the “Holy family’s” arrival in Bethlehem. This has all of the hallmarks of primary school nativity plays, but with a larger cast, and establishes early that “there is no room in the inn” by other families being turned away before the arrival of Mary and Joseph. The heartfelt appeal of the heavily pregnant Mary falls on deaf ears of the inn-keeper, but a Roman shows the couple to the stable.  The arrival of the magi soon follows, and a real baby is used in the crib. Here again a large cast makes for some spectacle.    This is not the traditional 3 kings approach, but a parade of wise eastern figures and their retainers. This I find biblically refreshing as it makes the number of magi indistinct, though the three gifts are highlighted.

The French Catholic tradition is evident in several places in the film, but one of the earliest is a brief segment where the sleeping infant Jesus is watched over by an angelic band, complete with wings, harps, and violins.

There is a rapid transition to the ministry of Christ. No reference of the childhood visit to Jerusalem, or of His baptism is made, but it leaps into events of His adult life including the Samaritan woman at the well,  Jairus’ daughter, and Mary’s washing of Jesus’ feet. I can only speculate at the reasons for the choice of events in the drama. I wonder if it is because Blaché was the world’s first female director, and the opportunity for woman actors to be featured was part of her selection.  The pieces are nevertheless well done.  The detail in the Magdalene scene is excellent with the use of her hair as a towel, and care use of scriptural detail.

The film next proceeds to “the passion” a Century before Gibson’s exploration of the theme. The Catholicism of both films is marked. This is not to say that it lacks a true rendering of the Bible story. The adoration of the crowd is well presented in the Palm Sunday scene.  Worshipers wave palms, and place sheets in the road of the coming Messiah. The Last Supper follows (with no reference to the intervening 4 days) but only eleven disciples are seen in the clip.  At first I wondered if Judas is excluded, but it seems by the action, and following scene, that he is indeed there.

In the Garden, Jesus is comforted by an angel, and the disciples sleep. When Jesus is taken to Caiphus, there are women and children in the hall, but the testimony of false witnesses is clear. It is the trial by Pilate which is really outstanding, though.  Pilate’s wife appeals to her husband, Barabbas is released with obvious joy, and Pilate washes his hands of the situation. In the ecce homo segment, it is a wonderful precursor of the 1977 Jesus of Nazareth film , in fact the later film can almost be seen as a colour copy of this 1900s film, as the imagery is so similar.

Without labouring the remaining scenes one by one, notable points include the scourging of Jesus to His chest and stomach rather than the back, the thieves carry only cross bars to Calvary, while Jesus struggles with an over-sized cross, and there is a clear addition of the Veronica story in this version, complete with a focused still of the face of Christ on her towel. Jesus is later lowered from the cross directly into a shroud.

The burial is in a cave, and the resurrection is over dramatic with the Roman soldiers actually witnessing it.  The women come to the tomb on resurrection Sunday to be greeted by angels, and the film ends.

While this review has been full of “spoilers” the story is all known, so I haven’t really given much away beyond comments on the approach of the film-maker. This may not the the absolutely first cinematic representation of the Saviour’s life, but it is a remarkable one for its time, and one which colour, sound, and modern make-up techniques have not improved on much.  It is a tribute to Blaché as a pioneer and her wonderful depiction is well worth seeing.

Padre

 

When Enough is Enough

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Paul wrote to Timothy that All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3: 18-17).” God through His prophets has provided us with a wonderful collection containing history, laws, moral, ethics, spiritual guidance, and more.  It reads in the style of prose, and poetry; it has inspired song, and volumes upon volumes of teaching.

There have also been countless philosophers, moral “sages,” and social commentators that has tried to provide us with all of the same categories as are provided by scripture. They have at times denied the accuracy of the biblical accounts, or sought to replace them with “up to date,” or “socially progressive” alternatives.  These attempts have been augmented by the “new priesthood” of the 21st Century West: the scientists. Gone today for many is any faith in the words and pronouncements of men in black, wearing backwards white collars. But, if a person in a white lab coat, and carrying a clipboard makes a statement, “it must be true.”

Whether scientific pronouncement, existential philosophy, or new spiritual guidance; if it departs from the word of God, it must be tested by the Word. Galatians 1:8 reads, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” Even angels’ words fall short!

Let us rest in the words of Proverbs 30, “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar (vs 5 -6).”

Does this mean we cannot make commentary on the scriptures? No. But we are to use scripture to interpret scripture, not social convention. And we are to never try to pass off our words for God’s.

As we look at the world around us today, let us remember the true road map, the real Route 66, the Bible.

Padre

Noah Faith

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Just some brief musings today on the faith of Noah.  The tenth patriarch of Genesis was a man who strove to do good.  So much in fact that God singled him out when He decided to punish humanity as the central figure of those who would be saved.

His standing out as righteous amid a corrupt generation, is a good starting point.  But Noah went beyond.  When he was told that there would be a flood, he obeyed and constructed the ark as God told him to, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he (Genesis 6:22).”

He took about 100 years to complete his task.  Noah built it as instructed, as a box.  This was no boat. It does not seem to be tapered at a prow, nor does it have a rudder.  His trust and obedience was complete.  There was no second guessing.  He was not to be a sailor or navigator, but a zoo keeper aboard a structure the shape of a shoe box.

Noah put his life in God’s hands, and was willing for the floods (emotional and literal) to take him where God desired.

Do we second guess?  Do we seek a Plan B? Are we obedient even to follow what the world would call absurd? Do we have Noah faith?

Padre

 

Lessons of the Man of Uz

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The Book of Job opens with the words, “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Despite this, he faced terrible loss, and had a crisis in faith.  He nonetheless refused to curse God for his misfortune.  He saw that God is good, even if our personal circumstances are not.

While I tend to create commentary within these blogs on the passages mentioned, today I intend only to share a brief recap of the story.  This simple animation is one I have used with my students, and it is very much a “I love it” or “I hate it” version. It is in the end a pretty good summary.  I do hope you get something from it.

Padre

Key to Life

Key to Life

Pastor Vince gave a passionate presentation this week of the key principles of Christian life, and life more generally. He then expanded this general theme by noting the example and attitude of the Apostle Paul.

Philippians 4: 10f reads, “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” A central factor in the key to life, is accepting the circumstances that we are in and making the most of the situation.

Pastor Vince then expanded this with the observation, that each of us has a different ministry, different lives, and different callings.  All too often, we fail to find “the peace beyond understanding,” because we are judging our own lives by the standards, abilities, and callings of others.

Paul had in several places spoken of the different gifts of the Spirit, and of the different parts and functions of parts of the body. We are meant to function corporately. Think in secular terms. Could we function as a society if everyone was a lawyer, or doctor? Who would build our houses or grow our food? We need to find the gift and vocation God has prepared us for, and then be the best at it we can be.  Not spending our time wishing we were something else, someone else, or that things were different.

Luke 22 shows us this.  Jesus told the disciples of trials ahead.  Peter took the view that that can’t be the case. He was after the “making things different than they are” approach. Verses 31 and 32 tell us how Jesus then prophecised, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Essentially it is saying “Peter, you are going to be tested, and tried. The chaff will be blown away, and what is left will be stronger for it.”

Tested, proved, completed. We have examples of this as well, notably in I Samuel 17. Young David had already killed a  lion and a bear before he ever saw Goliath. God had tested him, proved him, and perfected him to the task of facing giants.

We like Paul need to be open to the good and the bad.  We need to grow in the times of want, and to praise in the times of plenty. We need to not seek to accept that we have a role even when times are difficult, and wishing them away is not an option (like Peter had to learn). And we need to take those opportunities to grow and be tempered as Peter and David were.

The key to life, is to trust God who is guiding us, and to take the world for what it is, in the good and the bad.

Padre

 

The Baptiser (Part 3)

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John the Baptiser (Free Bible Images)

John’s humility and preparation to diminish so that Jesus would be elevated, does not mean he was a footnote to the biblical account. Jesus’ own testimony of John shows us this.

“When the messengers of John had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. “What did you go out to the desert to see—a reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine garments? Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom scripture says: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you. I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John . . . . (Luke 7:24 – 28 emphasis mine)”

John was more than a prophet.  In fact in Matthew’s account Jesus adds,

“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.  For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear (Matthew 11: 12 – 15).”

John, the awaited Elijah?  The precursor to the arrive of messiah?  Jesus says – yes.

But we have this account immediately before Jesus’ announcement about John in which John seems to question Jesus’ identity.

“After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples  to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor (Matthew 11: 1 – 5).”

 Was he despondent? While it has been argued that it was the despair of captivity and impending death which clouded his faith? Was this the same man who had seen the Spirit descend on Jesus?  Had he not proclaimed Him to be the lamb of God? Is he doubting now?

Many pastors have drawn on this seeming crisis of faith to use as an analogy of our own doubts, and struggles. But this approach seems problematic (though not impossible) based on the scriptures.  Let us remember that John had a loyal supporter base.  Even in Acts, Paul encounters “those who only knew the baptism of John,” but not the gospel.

If we explore John’s attitude about his disciples “abandonment” of him in favour of Jesus (see Andrew and John) we might have a clue. The question may well have been for the sake of the messengers sent to Jesus, not for John himself.  He may well have seen that his remaining followers needed to hear Jesus’ testimony for themselves.

John Chrysostom suggests a more consistent view that the question was intended for his disciples’ instruction, rather than his own benefit.  He was passing the mantle of “master” from himself to his cousin, much as he had 2 or so years earlier with Andrew and John (John disciples who had witnessed Jesus’ baptism).

While we may never know while on this Earth the answer to this question, it does seem that John’s question  offers an insight into the man.  Whether as some suggest, that his humanity (even as one of the greatest men ever born of a woman) remained nonetheless human, with doubts and fears; or as a prophet to the end, giving direct teaching to his disciples by sending them to the source – this was a man of God.

John: Levite, prophet, teacher, and above all example.  We have much to learn from this cousin of Jesus.

Padre