“Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
~ Psalm 90v1-2
“My father was a wandering Aramean…”
~ Deut. 26:5
~ I have not been able to get Psalms 91/92 out of my head, in particular, the phrase, “dwelling place.” The stuff is a jumble in my head. Sometimes writing helps bring clarity so I will throw the jumble out in the hopes that something will form on this screen in the front of me.
Ok. So here goes…
~ We live our lives East of Eden. Eden was meant to be our Home. However, Adam & Eve sinned and were given an eviction notice. That notice has been passed down, through the generations, to us. So – we are no longer Home, and if you are not Home, then you are a wanderer, a pilgrim, a sojourner in a strange land. Wandering is now, a part of our identity. We live our lives as Eden interrupted.
This is where the description of God as our “dwelling place” becomes important. This side of the New Jerusalem, i.e. the New Eden, we do not truly have a home. Wherever we live in and whatever we live in, whether it be the slums of Calcutta or some mansion in Bev Hills, its all a tent. Its all temporary. Even our very bodies are a tent. A restlessness is baked into it. We have no true, home-sweet-home. Rather our true home is Dwelling-Place-Sweet-Dwelling-Place. It sounds silly, but its true on the most fundamental level possible. God is our true home and He must be.
For a thousand and one reasons. Because while goodness and mercy pursue(!) us all the days of our life (Psalm 23), so too do restlessness, anxiety, worry, weariness, groaning, etc.
Because we might be in Charm City today, and yet in Togo tomorrow. You never know when you will be called to do an Abraham. Moreover if you do get called to do an Abraham and then find yourself not being able to hack life in, say, a 125°+ degree Vijaywada, India – been there – then you need to remember your true dwelling place. Move in. Meet its people. Get to know God even better in a new context. It will be sanity and survival.
If we do not move, our homes will move.
“But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:8. It can be frustrating moving. I have lived in 21 different states. Once when I moved to PA, I prayed to God and asked, “Who am I? An Israelite wandering in the desert? There is no end to this.” That day, I happenstance-d on the verse about the Rechabites. Little did I know that PA was just one station, and I would keep moving to other places.
Getting back to the Psalms and our Dwelling Place. We have an on and off moving/stationary temple in the Bible. The tabernacle is in motion, while Solomon’s stayed in place. Jesus was our Temple, and He lived and moved – “Destroy this temple” (John 2:19). In the New Testament, our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and we move. In Revelation, the Garden, the City and the Temple come together in one and the whole thing descends down to earth (Rev. 21).*
The bottom-line: If we do not move, our homes move but it almost does not matter because whether in station or in motion, you can be at rest. Rest is where God is. He is your dwelling place.
*Ezekiel & Revelation are difficult to understand.
~ I could go on with a 1,000 more why’s, however I will stop here. The point is that all Christians are nomads, Bedouins, pilgrims, wayfarers, etc. The apostle Paul, a tent maker, was always in motion – unless he was in prison.
This business about being present day nomads is likely more difficult for Westerners to grasp – not people in say Africa, the Middle East or Asia. But the fact is that in this present world, there is not one square acre of land on this planet that you can truly call your home. You can derive your identity, only in a limited way, from land.
Say what? Say who?
Isaiah 52:7,12 says
on the mountains
are the feet of those
bring good news,
bring good tidings,
say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
. . .
But you will not leave in haste or
go in flight;
for the Lord will
go before you,
the God of Israel will
be your rear guard.
A section ends here and then a Servant song begins.
~ Isaiah is recognized by many scholars as a masterful writer. His Hebrew, while among the most difficult in the Bible, is also among the most majestic and glorious. J. Sidlow Baxter has said of Isaiah – “What Beethoven is in the realm of music, what Shakespeare is in the realm of literature, what Spurgeon was among the Victorian preachers, that is Isaiah among the prophets.”
~ I ended the excerpt above with verse 12. That is the verse that is of interest to me as it contains an imbalance. It balances the word “before” with the word “rear-guard”.
– It does not balance “before” with “after” as sometimes you hear or read.
– It does not balance “go ahead” with “behind” as sometimes you hear or read.
– It does not balance “vanguard” with “rear-guard” as some write.
No. Isaiah is a writer par excellence, who very deliberately picked his words and introduced an imbalance.
Cutting to the Chase: Here is what I see as going on.
1) The Idea: When Israel walked around the wilderness for 40 years, who was at the back?
~ At the back were the elderly, the disabled, the sick, the weak, the tired, those who were unclean (ceremonially and otherwise) and so on. Those who were somehow disadvantaged were at the back.
~ In fact, when the Amalekites attacked Israel, they deliberately attacked the rear ranks, where the weak and tired were (Deut. 25:17-18).
2) Songs of Ascents: When the Israelites converged upon Jerusalem, during its festivals, and the crowds made their way up the holy mount, who walked at the rear? Etc. You get the point.
3) Isaiah 52: I am still trying to sort out the (difficult!) context here. The picture seems to involve a messenger being sighted by Jerusalem’s watchman/sentry, bearing the Good News – Redemption is on the horizon! The picture also seems to involve a return of diaspora and exiled Jews to Jerusalem with God going before them and being their rear-guard. Why rear-guard (= asaph = “to gather or assemble”)?
So what does this mean?
~ God is with all of His people everywhere, but He is with the sick, the weak, the disabled, the disadvantaged and such in a special way.
~ God goes before the strong and able. However He gathers the weak and broken from the rear. God does not simply march side by side with the downcast, the broken, etc. He gathers them up to Himself. He is their help in a special way. If you are at the back and falling, He will pick you up.
~ Are you sick? He is with you in a way unlike when He is with the strong and able. Know that God is near. He is there right beside – AND – He is at work. He is not simply watching you be sick. We do not know what exactly He is doing but He is always at work (Jn 5:17).
Where we are weakest . . . God
– doubles up the effort
– doubles up the encouragement
– doubles up the provision
– doubles up the help
– doubles up the protection …
– doubles up the ______ <—- you fill in
Once in a ways, I like to dabble in something creative. Here is an attempt.
Quite often when we find ourselves feeling down and blue inside, we turn to one of the darker Psalms in the Bible in the hopes of finding a voice that will help us to clear out our insides. Heman’s psalm, Psalm 88 is a classic here. Even though it ends on a grim, un-redemptive note, viz., “darkness is my closest friend” (v18), it has still helped so many people. Yet I wonder though. Perhaps sometimes, instead of ministering to the dark with the dark, maybe sometimes we need to defy the dark with something totally light, bright and joyful – a Psalm of praise. Meaning…?
Meaning . . . Some Psalms are like fireworks gracing the landscape. They are bursts of joy, explosions of praise, outbreaks and breakouts of thanksgiving scattered across the skies.
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea roar, and all that is in it!
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy!
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord,
for He is coming!
~ Psalm 96:11-13
So much praise and excitement! I love this Psalm! The above is a praise bomb. Its almost like a flare or rocket, that when launched goes from boom to bloom, throwing up a bouquet of full blown praise into the dark skies. He is coming!
Here is another:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
~ Psalm 19:1-2
Ok – Calming down and a take away: Apparently, when fireworks go off in the skies, they split the atmosphere in all sorts of ways. This is something that we cannot see but scientists can detect. Sometimes when the skies are overcast or dark, we need to set off praise bombs. We must defy the dark and still worship. It will do stuff to our insides even if we cannot detect it. We will be blessed. This is something that even secular neuroscientists (e.g. Daniel Kahneman) have confirmed, although they are speaking more in physical terms, not spiritual terms. Turn to the Psalms of praise!
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
Praise Him in his mighty heavens.
Praise Him for his acts of power;
Praise Him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the harp and lyre.
~ Psalm 150:1-3
*Note: Please keep in mind that, all this is just scrawl – scrawl for the sprawl. I am no pro – this is neither the reed nor the quill for les occupants du palais royale – its just scrawl, scrawl for us humble urban sprawl. Ok. Be baptized in worship!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding.
Acknowledge Him in all your ways, [a]
and He will make your paths straight. [b], [c]
~ Proverbs 3:5-6
[a] דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ – your ways (derekh – my transliterations)
[b] אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ׃ – your paths (arehoteka)
[c] יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר – straight, smooth (ye-yasher)
Make the path for your feet level, [a], [b]
so that all your ways may be established.
~ Proverbs 4:26
[a], [b] מַעְגַּ֣ל – path (magal) and “make” is pales
[c] דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ – your ways (derekh)
“Commit your works to the Lord, [a]
and your plans will be established.” [b]
~ Proverbs 16:3 (NET)
[a] גֹּ֣ל – roll (gol), i.e. roll your works onto the Lord. I just think that to say to roll is so much cooler.
[b] מַחְשְׁבֹתֶֽיךָ׃ – your thoughts, plans… (machsevoteka)
One more for the road…
“The Lord’s Spirit will rest on him—
a Spirit that gives extraordinary wisdom,
a Spirit that provides the ability to execute plans…” [a], [b]
~ Isaiah 11:2
[a] ר֤וּחַ עֵצָה֙ וּגְבוּרָ֔ה – the Spirit of counsel and might (ESV)
[b] Here is the NET Bible comment on this verse: tn Heb “a spirit of counsel [or “strategy”] and strength.” The construction is a hendiadys; the point is that he will have the strength/ability to execute the plans/strategies he devises. This ability will enable him to suppress oppressors and implement just policies (v. 4).
[c] A quick note from the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (TOTC) on Isaiah, by J Alec Motyer
“… counsel, the ability to devise a right course of action, here coupled with power to see it through.”
~ Add Sisyphus art later.
And the New Year has begun. 2021 been a tired old year for me, in the main due to Corona fatigue. I think that I have evaded the virus so far or if I got it, I was asymptomatic. Anyway… I hope 2022 wont be the same. Anyway… anyhue…
~ Doxa means glory or praise. The word doxology comes from it.
~ Paradoxa – well I made that up. It has a nice ring to it. I am referring to paradoxes here.
The above png is of a book, Surprised by Paradox, that I will have to look into in 2022. Its by Jen Michel Pollock. I read another book of hers, some years ago, viz. Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith. What I like about her is that she can do deep on a philosophical level if need be. And…
ANDDDD… – I have been sensitive to the issue of paradoxes in the Bible of late. There just seem to be a bunch in the Bible. I call them the Grand ANDs of the Bible. Here are some that I think are either paradoxes or at least suspects to that end.
And1) Jesus is 100% divine AND 100% human.
And2) God exhaustively knows everything, including what we will eat for lunch tomorrow AND yet we are still free.
And3) The Bible is both the biography AND the autobiography of God.
~ Only a snip of course, because you cant put to ink (or pixel), the entire life of the Ancient of Days.
So those are some Grand ANDs . . . So lets continue grand ANDing… I think I possibly see some in Scriptures…
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.”
~ Prov. 3:5-6
“Let your eyes look directly in front of you
and let your gaze look straight before you.
Make the path for your feet level,
so that all your ways may be established.”
~ Prov. 4:26
~ So on the one hand God “will make your paths straight” AND on the other hand, you are to “Make the path for your feet level.” Which is it? Ans. Yes.
2) 1 Peter 4:7
“The end of all things is near.
Therefore be alert and of sober mind
so that you may pray.”
~ The above verse is saying that you need to keep your head cool so that you may be able to pray. Now if… IF – IF only I could find another verse saying, pray in order to get your head together, i.e. cool. Then I could put a grand AND together! But I don’t. However it is true. Sometime we have to pray in order to collect our wits and cool down. And other times we need to collect our wits in order to pray!
3) 1 Corinthians 15:10 “… and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
~ Paul says that on the one AND(lol!) he worked really hard, AND on the other hand, he did not. It was God’s grace working in him.
~ All this is nice, but some people can find them to be trivial also. So whats the point of all these paradoxes? My ans:
I.e. . . . Praising God!
Jacob’s name means something like “heel-grabber.” This means that he is sort of a sketchy guy. He deceives.
Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” ~ Genesis 27:36
~ What I want to note is that it is not simply that Jacob is a deceiver, but it seems to be all over his life. Where he is, there deception is, even if he is not directly involved in it. Here is a quick list that I will clean up later.
1) Rebekah – Jacob’s mom: She sets him up to deceive his father.
2) Jacob: deceives his father on account of the blessing also deceives Laban on account of his getaway.
(His melodrama at the well at Haran and also the gifts sent to Esau at night can be viewed as a resort to desperate manipulation.)
3) Laban: deceives Jacob on account of Leah and wages
4) Rachel: deceives Laban on account of the idols
5) Jacob’s 10 sons: deceive Jacob on account of Joseph. They also deceive the Shechemites later.
6) Joseph – deceives his 11 brothers later on when he does not reveal his identity. This one … sort of.
The only ones who are not implicated in committing any deception are Isaac, Esau and Leah. These are the deceived.
Also one more quick note in passing – Guess who else in the Bible is linked to the heel?
~ I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
~ Genesis 3:15
Chariots of Fire is one of my favorite movies.
In meditating on Psalm 89, I felt that one particular verse seemed to be saying something very similar to what Eric Liddell said in the movie. So I quickly made the following:
Image – Courtesy Wikipedia
~ I just made this . . . and yes, I know. We are in the Summer Olympics right now – not the Winter Olympics. I like Speed Skating however so, this is what I thought I’d do.
The words “Press on!” comes from Philippians 3:13, which has to do with coming to terms with the past so that you are not hindered by it. I will comment on that later. But for now – “Press on!”
~ The above artwork was a random happening. I just did it on the side.
~ La Belle Epoque – The Beautiful Era – historically was a period of time, starting from around the 1880s and going up till about 1914, when WWI began. It was a time during which, in Europe and North America, there was hope, optimism, prosperity, progress, etc. brimming in the air. I hope and think we are over the worst of the C19 virus and more positive changes are on their way. It is time to start breathing again.
Now that aside, some random thoughts to add.
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).
~ I think that words, phrases, sayings, etc., work like clothing. They work like fashion. They too come and go. They have their moment and then go. Sometimes the come back and have other moments, and then they go away again. Nobody uses the word “fresh” anymore. The word has become stale.
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time” (Eccles. 3:11).
Language – words, phrases, expressions, idioms, etc., has its season. Language also has its annuals, biennials, perennials… Shakespeare is a perennial.
More from Ecclesiastes 3:
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
La Belle Epoque . . . Its time to rebuild.
… a time to be silent and a time to speak,
*Note: There is a negative slant on the BE, historically speaking… however I tend to take a more positive outlook.
Here is my latest on how I think discussions on Identity in Christ proceed online:
Stage 1: Negative Particulars: “John… Put that… Put that cigarette down! Shame on you. You are not a smoker. And stop hanging around that Kitty Hoyne crowd. You are not one of them. No. It isn’t. And whats that in your backpack? It better not be GQ magazine! Your identity is NOT in cigarettes, or Kitty Hoynes crowd or in GQ. No. Your identity is in Christ.
Stage 2: Positive Universals: “Jane – you are righteous… You are loved. You are a child of God. You are loving. You are kind. You are holy. You You You…”
~ Collective identity or Social identity or Group identity.
Stage 3; Positive Particulars:
~ You discover your gifts and identity over time. This may be the ability to do philosophy or math or hitting the ball well with a baseball bat. All these are an outflow of your Identity in Christ. All gifts come from God (James).
~ Individual or Unique identity
The problem with (1) is that it leaves you scratching you head as to what your identity still is.
The problem with (2) is that it still leaves you scratching your head as to what your identity still is. I mean, righteousness, holiness is a feature of every believer. What makes me different? What makes me unique? What recognizes my gifts and talents? Or am I just a generic person who is holy like everyone else, or loving like everyone else, etc.
~ A gold bar sitting in a safe in the bank is lovely, beautiful, gleaming, sparkling, etc… but I would rather be an ear ring that hangs from a lobe and travels the world. Better to be even a bronze figurine sitting in a living room and observe the world than be a locked up, yet beautiful 24K gold bar in dark, ice, cold seclusion.
My suggestion is (3) what most people are concerned with. I am thinking of it as… a tree where the
Leaves = Guided Identity
Branches = Gifted Identity
Trunk = Given Identity – in Christ
How do I know who I am?
1) God tells you who you are
2) Discovery – i.e. you try things out in life (music vs. math)
3) Grow old… aging… No shortcuts to this.
The leaves and the branches – where the wind blows. Where you feel things. Where the storm-clouds gather and the thunder and lightning flash.