Saturday, July 25, 2015

A soft answer turns away wrath

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.  Proverbs 15:1

This is a verse that has saved the lives, reputation, and livelihood of many people throughout the ages. It is found in the Book of Proverbs,  book of great wisdom that is designed to protect its reader from sin, shame, poverty, and death. There is much in Proverbs about anger, and it behoves the reader to take these admonition to heart.

It is generally a part of human nature to defend itself, whether the "self" is right or wrong. It is also generally a part of human nature not to allow one's self to be intimidated. Humans are also insightful. They can perceive egotistical and subtle human pride in the rebukes, corrections, and scoldings they receive from when certain teachers, officers of the law, pastors or others use or abuse their "authority" to lecture them and triumph over them.  Rebukes can be given at the correct or incorrect time, with the wrong or right attitude, with a desire to help or a desire to assert the rebuker's pride. Those with power, however, often become so identified with their power that they do not wish to be challenged.

In American culture, there have been many instances of cruelty done by police, slaveholders, financiers, and others in some kind of authority. Sadly, those in power have often won, especially when there was no videotape or fair-minded judge to challenge them. The guilty have often triumphed over the weak even when the laws were fair.  

The Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes 4:1, "Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless."

The Preacher also writes in Ecclesiastes 7:17, "Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them."

Those who believe in God trust God to defend them and to show them when to speak and when to be silent.

The Psalmist writes: "How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?" Psalm 13:2

He also writes: "O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me."  Psalm 25:2

The Preacher also states, "I said to myself, 'In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.'"

A victim might or might not get justice inside a court of law, but learning to answer one's oppressor carefully by "biting one's lip" can protect one's life, livelihood and health. As the Preacher says in Ecclesiates 9:4, "There is hope only for the living. As they say, 'It's better to be a live dog than a dead lion!'" The victims of oppression in many countries have learned to survive the unjust authorities over them by knowing when to use gentle --if cowardly-- answers. This is how the ancestors of Black people survived during the early days of lynching and perhaps this will be necessary in the modern day when the counterpart of lynching is also prevalent.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Hebrews 11:31 -- Rahab

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.  -- King James Bible
by faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who disbelieved, having received the spies with peace. -- Young's Literal Translation

In the book of Judges, it is written that Joshua sent spies to Jericho to search out the land. The spies happened upon a tavern where the prostitute Rahab worked. She protected them and told the spies the way to escape. At that moment, she aligned herself with God's people. She was a harlot, yet God chose to have the spies meet her. She did not welcome angels unawares. The spies were not angels but her gift of hospitality caused her to be rescued. The citizens of Jericho, however, are described as "disobedient" or "unbelieving." How then did they not "obey?" Were they given a chance to "obey"? What did they not "believe"? Is Paul writing about all the dwellers of Jericho or only about those who had received the message of possible salvation from Rahab?

Rahab is shown as a messenger of salvation. If she believed what had been told her, she and her household would be saved. How many received her message? The Bible is full of messengers of salvation: There was the Samaritan woman at the well who told her village about the man who told her everything about her life? There was the Gadarene Demoniac who spread the news about his salvation and caused all the inhabitants of the ten cities to meet Jesus when Jesus came the second time to their coasts. There was Cornelius who gathered all his friends into his house because of the angel's message. All these people preached the gospel and had oportunity to share the good news of rescue -- from death, destruction-- with others. The others who heard their message could choose to obey the message or to disbelieve it.  

And what of those who did not hear of possible salvation but who only heard of destruction? The Gibeonites believed and came from afar and used deception to save themselves. The people of Jericho didn't seem to battle the Israelites at all. So, then what does Paul mean by the disobedient. Rahab believed and showed her belief by using the scarlet thread at her window. It is also written that she and her household were saved. Therefore, it can be assumed that her family believed they could be rescued from such a large invading army.
It is a difficult thing to believe that one can be saved when a thousand are falling at one's side and ten thousands at one's right hand. The scarlet thread was a thin string to hang one's hope upon. The scarlet blood of Jesus Christ is a thin string to hold onto, if one does not believe. But to those who believe, the cross of Christ is the delivering power of God.

The Exception on earth is heaven's rule and often one must be courageous or conceited eough to trust that one would be an exception. The spies had promised salvation. If Rahab had not believed in the power of that little scarlet thread and had been disobedient to the promise made by the spies, she would not have lived.  

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Hebrews 11:30 -- Jericho

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.  Hebrews 11:30

Joshua had inherited the leadership of the Children of Israel after the death of Moses. One of his first challenges was to conquer the city of Jericho which had a large protective wall around it. Joshua was told how to break the wall down: The Israelite army, along with its priests, were to walk around the wall for seven days.  On the seventh day they were to walk around the walk seven times. Only the trumpets of the priests would be sounded during the seven days and only on the seventh day were the Israelies allowed to give a war cry or to make any human sound.

The inhabitants of Jericho were already full of terror. What must it have been like for them to stand within their barred city gates awaiting certain doom? But what would it have been like for the warriors in Joshua's army? Perhaps they wished to speed up the taking of Jericho? How difficult was it for them to remain silent during the seven days?

Six days of dutiful treading around the city turned into a seventh day in which the momentum increased. Faith often requires momentum, more action as the days of prayerful waiting advances. Faith added to faith, fasting added to faith, silence added to faith. Then at last, the release comes with a war cry.  

This is another undertaking which requires communal faith.The science behind the fall of Jericho's walls is unclear -- the steady tramping of human feet and the sound of trumpets might have had some effect on the ground and the walls. But it was the faith of Israel's army and the perfect adherence to God's commands that caused the walls to fall.  Later in the book of Joshua, the story is related of Achan's sin: Achan is the only one in the whole Israelite camp who sinned, yet the entire nation suffered. It is also written in the Bible that a little yeast permeates the entire lump of dough. The Church of God is affected by the sins and blessings of every individual believer. How glorious and triumphant would the church be if unity reigned in the church. However, at this time in history, one part of the American Church values the rainbow flag and another part of the American Church values the Confederate flag.

12Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." 13Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I Corinthians 1:13

(We) have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- 11a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. 12So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:11

 is divided between  

Monday, July 06, 2015

Hebrews 11:29 - Faith and Division

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.  Hebrews 11:29

In this verse, Paul reminds his readers of the day when the Israelites miraculously crossed the Red Sea. The Children of Israel were fleeing the pursuing Egyptians. However, their route to freedom was barred by a natural obstacle. Some natural obstacles are easily overcome, or can be overcome by natural means. In this way, a natural way of fording the river would have been by ship. But the Israelites were many and time was of the essence.

Moses asked God to help him flee, but God rebuked Moses for asking. God reminded Moses that Moses held a staff in his hand and could command the sea if he so wished. Moses commanded the waves to retreat and the waves stood up high. The former slaves walked through on dry land while the Egyptians were swallowed up by the waves.

Paul writes here that by faith the people passed through the Red Sea. Moses had faith to command the miracle; the people had faith to believe Moses was being used by God; the Egyptians had no such faith and no such leader. Throughout the ten plagues, the Egyptians slowly learned about the futility of their gods. The two magicians and all the other workers of supernatural magic who had stood before Pharoah had seen how powerless their magic and gods were. In addition, Pharoah's status as a god on earth had been shown to be false. By the time the Egyptians were crossing the Red Sea, they had little faith in the supernatural powers of either their gods or their Pharoah. Their gods of war, water and rivers had also not given them any promise of victory. The Egyptians had battled Moses and "I AM" without hearing a word from their own gods. The only God doing any kind of speaking to his people was Yahweh, "I AM."    

Christians believe that there is a difference between those who are Yahweh's people and those who are not. Christians, like Jews, are also taught that Yahweh is a God of miracles.  These miracles often come about to people of faith. In this case, the dividing line between those who are not God's people and those who are god's people comes down to faith. In this particular instance, it is not personal or individual faith that brought deliverance but communal faith and the faith of a community's leader. 

Blog Archive

Popular Posts