Sunday, January 25, 2015

Treasures of the heart and soul

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. (Jesus, in Matthew 12:34-35)
As my teen Bible class works through Proverbs, we've considered a lot of instruction about what we say, how we say it, and when we say it. We've looked at how the proverbs cover different steps along the way, from recognizing evil to avoiding evil to recognizing good to pursuing good. 

We've looked at Solomon's devotion to wisdom, and his challenge to all people to add wisdom to our lives in any measure we can receive it, to pursue it openly and passionately:
If you call out for knowledge, and cry aloud for understanding;
If you seek it as silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures,
Then you shall understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
(Proverbs 2:3-5)
The treasure of our heart is clearly tied to wisdom and understanding ... to the Spirit of God and true knowledge of God. In this way, again the scriptures suggest an intimate connection between wisdom and love. There is an ancient Christian saying, "Knowledge becomes love." I'm becoming more intrigued with the relation among them. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Because it is our Creator who gave the word

For what purpose would God command something? It depends very much on who "God" is. If we think of God as a slavemaster and ourselves as his servants, then it is not our place to ask why. If we think of God as a more powerful being who has no special love for us, there may not be a purpose to what he commands. But if God has created us ... then what he tells us to do is part of the same picture as why he made us. What he tells us to do will be the sensible enactment of why we are here. Living that will be the true and ultimate purpose of our lives. Consider this: Would he command something besides fulfilling the purpose for which he made us? To put it another way: if the command came from the Creator, wouldn't the that imply that the command was to live out the purpose for which we exist? If the divine law comes from the Creator, then keeping that law simply means being who we were intended to be, and fulfilling all of our human potential. And it means that straying from it is always cutting short our own potential as humans.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The stones cry out

"I tell you, if these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out." (Luke 19:40, Jesus' reply to those wishing to silence those who were celebrating him by shouting, "Blessed is the King that comes in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.")

At this point, the people very nearly are repeating the song of the angels to the shepherds. But I found myself wondering, what with the possibility that Jesus might be making allusions and with inspiration  a thing to consider, whether Jesus had wanted us to remember any particular stones that might cry out "peace in heaven, and glory in the highest". I found myself thinking most about:

* The stone that the builder rejected
* The stones not one on top of the other
* The living stones being built into a Temple for our God
* The stones dropped from the hands of the accusers
* The stone rolled away from the tomb

The first three are actually part of a set: one thought of God's Temple on earth and in heaven. The next two are more independent, but are definitely stones that cry out the glory of God, and peace and goodwill towards men.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Silent for the sake of the angels

There is a puzzling reference in the Bible when Paul discusses orderly worship, where he instructs that women should be silent during the worship service "for the sake of the angels", and save their questions to ask their husbands at home. While I'm sure nobody wants the worship service disrupted with whispered questions and answers, what do angels have to do with it?

I think I may have found the Jewish context that makes sense of that, the missing piece of the puzzle. It starts with the Jewish understanding of a certain Psalm:
Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)

The Jewish understanding of this verse was that the "night-time" reference was about the song of the angels: "in the night his song shall be with me" was the angelic hymn of praise. And why was the angelic hymn of praise heard specifically during the night? According to the Talmud, it is because during the day, the angels kept silent for the sake of Israel, that God might hear Israel's prayers.
"there are companies of Ministering Angels, who utter divine song by night, and are silent by day for the sake of Israel's glory, for it is said: By day the Lord doth command His lovingkindness, and in the night His song is with me. (Talmud, Mas. Chagigah 12b)

Some helpful footnotes to the Soncino Talmud explain that the angels are silent by day "because Israel utters God's praise by day" and that, "By silencing the angels by day, God shows his lovingkindness to the children of Israel, who are thus permitted to win divine grace by their prayer."

Apparently, when Paul cited that the women should be silent "for the sake of the angels", it may have meant: If even the angels in heaven are silent during human worship that God might attend to it, how much more should the mortals be silent from things that would disrupt it. So if some congregation had an issue with some wives who didn't understand some aspect, they shouldn't be whispering to their husbands during the service for an explanation, but saving their questions for home, and keeping silent "for the sake of the angels" who also kept silent so as not to disrupt the prayer and praise.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Best of the Blogroll 2014

To start off the new year, here are my favorite posts of 2014 from the blogs that I read regularly: 

Thin Places continued a blogging hiatus this year; still hoping for a return to blogging. 

Blessings to all of you and yours in the New Year. And a special thanks to all those who blog and continue to let their light shine.