Jewishness


The Lectionary reading for this 3rd Sunday of Lent, begins with Isaiah 55, which has always been one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It comes at a very strategic point in the prophet Isaiah’s message to Israel. Understood in this context which provides the clear reason for Israel’s need of the promised Redeemer, but also one of the most tender invitations for individual repentance in God’s Word.

Ho Everyone that is thirsty!

brushyfork by Mitchell Tolle

 

My favorite interpretation of Mary’s Magnificat.

Gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter 1

44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be [1] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Related post: Read the First Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI, 25 Dec. 2005

I frequently tell anyone who will listen, that this is the day of opportunity for those working for peace and unity in our fragmented and increasingly polarized society. Against the usual backdrop of ugliness, almost any demonstration of togetherness across the barriers that divide and separate us from oneanother is bound to shine forth as a candle in the darkness. Here is an example that is just full of implications-

Only about a dozen Jewish residents remain in Natchez, a city of about 16,400 best known for its elaborate plantation homes. As younger generations moved away, the congregation hasn’t had its own full-time rabbi since 1976.

With a circuit-riding rabbi visiting on this Friday night, about 80 Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists joined their Jewish neighbors and helped fill the wooden pews of the 105-year-old temple. Read more. . .

Rabbi Marshal Klaven reads Torah

Gleening truth fom the Jewish faith

My wife and I were having a wonderful time of noting the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and reviewing the heritage of the Old Covenant in the Christian Bible. This was the day after we had the joy of studying in our Bible classes on Sunday, Psalm 105 and 106      which close Book IV of the Hebrew Psalter.

Give Thanks to the Lord, for He Is Good

106:Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!

The Ram's Horn announces the New Year

The Ram's Horn announces the New Year

Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them, [1]
that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory with your inheritance.

Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
15 he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord,
17 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram.
18 Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.

19 They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
25 They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.

28 Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29 they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed.
31 And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.

32 They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
33 for they made his spirit bitter, [2]
and he spoke rashly with his lips.

34 They did not destroy the peoples,
as the Lord commanded them,
35 but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.

40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.

44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord!                          –  The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

Anyone who has read and studied the Biblical narrative of the Old Testament at all, has noticed a distinct theme that seems to be a recurring pattern-a cycle, as it were in the history of Israel. The birth of Israel as a people/nation is often taken to be the great deliverance from Egypt under Moses. The pattern then looks something like this: Deliverance- Rebellion- Judgement- Confession/repentance and cry to God to save- followed by a new deliverance. I personally believe this cycle is embedded in the very heart of the Jewish calendar and the holy days.

I have gleened so much through the years, and now more than ever, by listening to those who live and practice the Jewish Faith today. It has taught me the richness of my Hebrew heritage which I have ” been grafted into” (using the words of the Apostle Paul) in Christ Jesus of the Christian Faith. In fact this is one of those themes that many of us are re-visiting, the Jewish context of Jesus and his first century followers.

I found a great post on my favorite Jewish blog which I hope you will visit. Shalom. For my Jewish friends, may you have a truly blessed holiday season leading up to and including Yom Kippur. Roshgreeting

For those who are not Jewish, would you like to guess the location of “The Third Oldest” Jewish congregation in America? Visit this link.  How about 275 years!

PSALM 9 from the Song Book of the BIBLE

New-york

9:1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before [3] your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. [4] Selah

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

The theme of vengeance is not an obscure part of the people of faith including the faith of the Psalmist, who is generally taken to be King David himself in this composition. If the Psalms is the “Song Book of the Bible” as Bonhoeffer and others have suggested, then this song touches the very heart of the ancient faith. The confidence of the righteous in the face of oppression and hate was a stedfast assurance that God Himself was to be looked to for vindication: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord! “The Lord will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”, wrote the author of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament.

If you have a Bible you can confirm for yourself the presence of this theme in the entire Biblical narrative. Here are just a few chapters that will serve as “evidence that demands a verdict”.

The Song of Moses- Deuteronomy 32 and 33.

The Wrath of the Lamb- Revelation 6

The Song of the Lamb- Revelation 15

So you see, there is a lot of singing going on by the people living by faith in the God of the Scriptures. When we consider today the persecution, oppression, and even destruction by the wicked that right now going on in the world, we need to have this quiet assurance and confidence so that our soul may be at peace, knowing that the Most High God will judge righteously. Selah.

Be Still My Soul (video by Selah)

Meditating on the Prayer Book!                                                   

The Book of Psalms in the Hebrew Bible has been called by various names but the one that appeals most to me is, “The Prayer book of the Bible”. From one of the resources listed in E4Unity “toolbox” comes this very unique essay on what he calls the “gateway Psalms” of the entire book.  

 

 

Solus Christus in the Psalms  Book

It would be tempting to highlight “particularly Messianic” Psalms and say “There, see, Jesus is spoken of here and there in the psalter.” But I’m not sure that’s right. I once told a friend I was helping preach through an 8 week series called “Jesus in the Psalms”. He said “Right, so you’ll get through Psalms 1-8, when are you going to do the other 142??” I was chastened! That’s absolutely right. It’s not like Messianic Psalms form a sub-division of the psalter: like there’s imprecatory Psalms, Psalms of lament and messianic Psalms. You’d never think of having the ‘God Psalms’ as a sub-category! Christ is not a sub-category of Christian revelation or experience.

Think of the doctine of sola fide (faith alone) for instance. There are a number of passages that we can readily turn up to demonstrate its truth. And a paper on sola fide will spend time going through those specific passages, but not so as to prove that sola fide holds in those cases alone. We look to the specific passages to show that this pattern holds for all God’s dealings with man. And it holds even for those parts of the Scripture which opponents may erroneously claim refutes it. It’s like this with solus Christus (Christ alone). We look at the specifics to demonstrate a divine dynamic which holds for all Scripture.

So as we think about Christ in the Psalms we’re not going to pick out messianic mentions here and there. Instead we’re going to look at Psalms 1 and 2 and see how these model for us what to expect in the rest of the Psalter.

Psalms 1 and 2 are often called the gateway to the Psalms. They belong together for many reasons not least the “blessed”s at the beginning and end. Just as with the Sermon on the Mount, the “blessed”s tell us exactly who is in on what’s about to be discussed. In the Sermon on the Mount, the “blessed”s tell us who’s in the kingdom which Jesus describes. In the Psalter, Psalms 1 and 2 tell us who’s in on the worship of the living God. And who is the blessed man??

Well He is an ‘ish – a representative man. In fact He is the Man. This is an audacious claim. (I rarely even claim to be a man!) Verse 2 says He is a night-and-day Bible-meditator, which makes Him a king (cf Deut 17:18-20; Josh 1:8). Verse 3, He is also like a tree (think ‘Branch’ or ‘Root’ or ‘Vine’ – kings are described like this). Not only this but He can make others become prosperous (causative hiphil stem).

This one Man, this definitive Man, is contrasted in v4 to the many wicked. The Psalm does not begin by comparing righteous people to wicked people but rather The Righteous Man is contrasted with the wicked masses. Then (presumably through the Man/Tree-of-Life causing many others to prosper like Him) we hear about other righteous ones (v5-6).

When we turn to Psalm 2 we see the Man given more names. The LORD’s King (v6) is here called “Anointed One” (Messiah, v2), and “Son” (v7). Though He is raged against, He will be poured out on Zion (v6) and publicly vindicated by the Father (v7) before claiming universal rule. (v8-9) All must love and take refuge in Him – both Judge and Saviour. (v10-12)

Here is the gateway to the Psalms. We ought not to rush into the Psalter without stopping here and asking who is welcome in the Psalter. And the answer is: “Blessed is the Man… and Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” We must be rightly related to Christ to be welcome in the worship of the living God. He, supremely, is the Scripture-meditating, righteous, flourishing, tree-of-life-like Worshipper. But as Calvin comments on Psalm 22:22, He also is the heavenly choir-master who tunes our hearts to sing God’s praises.

Now what implications does this have for how we read the rest of the Psalter? Well one big help we have received in this, the gateway, is that we’ve been introduced to the four main characters in the Psalms. Here we have:

(1) the LORD;

(2) the Christ, the Blessed Man;

(3) The Righteous who take refuge in Him; and

(4) The Wicked who oppose Him.

All the Psalms are about the interaction of these four groups. In some, like Psalm 1, the Blessed Man is shown before the LORD and then the righteous and the wicked are contrasted. In some, like Psalm 2, the righteous complain to the LORD about the wicked and then He reminds them about the Blessed Man, Christ. In some we have simply the words of Christ. In others we have the words of the LORD to Christ. In some we simply have the words of sinners like us taking refuge in Him. But all of the Psalms are about the inter-relation of these four groups. And they all work together to speak to us of Christ. Let’s be alert to that as we read the Psalms, they are related to Christ.

From blog of Glen Scrivener, Church of England pastor in UK)

 

 

Tony Blair Speaking at Westminster Cathedral -2008

Excellent Statement about people of Faith

Here is one of the best statements I have encountered speaking into the present public square from an unashamed perspective of faith. Though Mr.Blair is obviously speaking from his own faith tradition in one of its hallowed temples, I believe what he says is applicable to all  faith traditions and is why he can promote a solidarity among such traditions as we face the challenges of our world. I posted this so it would be here at E4Unity to refer to in future blogs. Be sure to let me know what you thought as you listened to it.

I’ve already heard some comments reminding me that Tony is campaigning for the Presidency in the European Common Market.

A Related Post on E4Unity: “Why Does Faith Matter?”

The Gift of TORAH (Jerusalem May 2007)

There will be many Christians joining the People of Israel at the wailing wall celebration tonight. For a video of Shavuot 2007 at Jerusalem click the link above.

I found this message by Rabbi Max Fox at Jewish Times of South Jersey today: ” Shavuot is not only the shortest festival in duration, but is devoid of any symbols or mitzvot that must be fulfilled. Yet, Shavuot is not a minor holiday. This festival celebrates “Z’man Matan Toratenu”, the giving of Torah on Mt.Sinai.” He continues saying,

Shavuot celebrates the birthday of our Jewish Faith- a Faith that has given meaning and purpose to our existence. Unlike the other holidays, Shavuot celebrates the giving of Torah, and there is no symbol for Torah. There is only one way to celebrate this festival that commemorates that awesome moment in history when G-d revealed Himself and gave our People a most precious gift the Torah. And that is, by practicing and living in accordance with the precepts and moral teachings of  the Torah. . .the true celebration of Shavuot lasts more than a day or week. It should be observed 365 days a year and in a lifetime of practicing and living a life of Torah.

As the great Saadyah said, ‘ Our People are a nation only by virtue of the Torah’.

The rabbi trained by the great Gamaliel, Saul of Tarsus would have thoroughly agreed with these statements. In fact much of what he tells us in his writings almost two thousand years ago shows the same great respect and praise for Torah and its gift to the Jewish people. He asked a pointed question at one point: “What advantage then has the Jew?” And he answers immediately his own question by stating, ” Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of G-d”.

We said earlier that Saul was very zealous for the Law, making himself as a Pharisee, personally responsible as guardian for its purity exactly because he rightly understood what a precious gift it was and that it was indeed central to the very existence of the Jewish nation.

Because men like Rabbi Fox and Saul of Tarsus understood that the gift to Israel was in turn to bless the Gentile nations as well with what I believe to be the highest moral and ethical standard even known to Adam’s race, non-Jews should celebrate with Israel this holiday and indeed many will do so even in Jerusalem.

But of course Saul became known as Paul, the Christian Apostle to the Gentiles. And in the very letter to the Romans, quoted from above, he goes on to develop a precise thesis. And this is not only highly practical and precisely aimed at the way we live our lives seeking to be approved by G-d but also seeking to be the very best world-citizen we can be. For Paul also knew of a yet future Day taught in the Law and the Prophets, when humankind would be held responsible for their deeds in this life on earth. Here is only one example of his teaching: “The righteous judgment of G-d, who will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor,and immortality. But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness- indignation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Made in the image of G-d Himself, and for the purpose of living in harmony with the Creator and bringing praise and honor to Him, it makes all the sense in the world that conformity to the Law of G-d would not only guide humankind to fulfill that role but would in turn produce untold bliss and delight fulfilling the good and perfect will of G-d.

Paul’s thesis and thus his life following and serving Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Anointed One of G-d made perfect sense to this zealous defender of the Law. It goes like this, “The commandment which was to bring life, I found to bring death. . .the Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. . .for sin, that it might appear to sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment  might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.”

Paul’s thesis is the Law, precious gift that it is, can never on this earth produce the godly living that is harmony with G-d and our fellow human beings and the problem is NOT with the Law, which as he says numerous times, is perfect, and holy. Its greatest worth is not only to give the world the highest moral and ethical standard but also to reveal to us our basic human predicament: the predicament of our very nature which because of rebellion, can NOT keep the Law.

Listen to what he says, as he sums up what I believe is the situation not only of the non-religious but also of religious Jews and Gentiles alike: “What I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; (remember the words today of Rabbi Fox) but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the Law that it is good. . .For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”  

So for Saul, now Paul, if we were ever to be delivered from this human predicament, G-d Himself would have to do it for us. He would have to send someone from “beyond” the race of Adam who Himself could obey the Law perfectly. And that is the other half of the Apostle’s thesis and basis of all his letters. To the Christian churches of Galatia, for example, he wrote in relation to the promises made to Father Abraham and his seed, “Is the Law then against the promises of G-d?” And emphatically replies, “certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the Law.”

“But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the Law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

So as a Christian, I celebrate with the Jewish People tonight, thanking G-d that the gift of Torah was indeed at a very special moment considered by some as the “birthday” of the Nation, given through Moses, the servant of G-d. And I express for all Christians our great debt to the Jewish People for preserving this priceless treasure for the rest of us. We celebrate tonight Chavuot but soon we will also celebrate the Christian Pentecost.

There remains then at least one post for me to explain why the Apostle Paul had absolutely no trouble seeing how the two celebrations are in fact one. One parting thought from Paul, also in the letter to the Galatians:

“When we were children, (we) were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of the time had come,  G-d sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons”.

Shavuot 2012 is Sunday, May 27th, same as Pentecost Sunday this year!

 

 

 

The Festival of Weeks also known as Pentecost

For the Christian of the Twenty-first century, trying to get a handle on the major feast days of ancient Israel can be a difficult undertaking. But the Biblical Christian also recognizes just how important and necessary these festivals are to understanding the flow of the narrative. I’ve decided that in keeping with the “Year of Saint Paul” (which will come to an end June 30th), perhaps it would be helpful to see Shavuot through the eyes of the Apostle. First as a Pharisee before he became a follower of the Christ, and later, perhaps as long as twenty-four years,as he approached Jerusalem to observe Pentecost with the Jewish Church.

The Law-giving

Originally Shavuot was an agricultural festival. The barley harvest that had ripened around Passover would have ended, but the wheat harvest would have just begun. When the Temple still stood, Jews celebrated the harvest by offering its first sheaves back to God. But  celebrating the harvest was only one layer of meaning for Shavuot. Over the years, it was endowed with another: the anniversary of the giving of Torah.

The Book of Exodus is read on Shavuot, including the chapter containing the Ten Commandments. The general theme of the day is our traditional love of learning…More commonly, Shavuot has become a time for Confirmation. (“What is a Jew”, p.227, by Rabbi Morris N.Kertzer, 1996 revised edition by Rabbi Lawrence A.Hoffman) 

This book has been a great help to me in understanding through the eyes of twentieth century Rabbis the beliefs, traditions,and practices of Judaism including the ancient Biblical roots. I have posted earlier that Saint Paul was a highly trained Jew himself, and specialized on the Torah and its interpretation. Since his earliest childhood, he knew that there were three times (festivals) all Jewish males were expected to be present in Jerusalem: Unleavened Bread and Passover, Shavuot, and the Feast of Tabernacles. At Shavuot, the focus for him was undoubtedly on the anniversary of the giving through Moses of the Law to Israel which constituted the covenant agreement between their God, the God who had recently redeemed them from Egypt (Passover). It was also all about the promises of God that begining with Father Abraham,He commited to give them a “promised land” if they would keep covenant with Him by obeying the Law, by “walking in the steps of the faith which Abraham had when he was yet ‘uncircumcised’.”

John Bright in his book, The History of Israel writes, ” They (the Festivals) ceased to be mere nature festivals and became occasions upon which the mighty acts of Yahweh toward Israel were celebrated. ”  Saul’s conversion is sometimes dated as early as 34 a.d. which means he most certainly would have been at these great Feast days in the last year of Jesus life at Jerusalem and the first Pentecost just ten days after the Ascension. But as a non-Christian Jew he would be celebrating Shavuot as his foreFathers had done for centuries unaware that a dramatic and non-reversable change in the history of God’s redemptive acts with Israel was even then taking place. He was still a part of the “old” creation and the “old” covenant of which he would have a great deal to preach and teach about following his dramatic conversion.

Now, following over twenty years of taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles in obedience to the specific commission the risen and exalted Christ chose him for, he was on the voyage back to Jerusalem with the offering from the Gentile churches for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Undoubtedly he had plenty of time to relive those earlier years when he was convinced that this “sect” inside Judaism was a dangerous heresy and he had personally taken a major role in persecuting and trying to stomp it out. He was proving how zealous he was for the Law of God as he understood it and its importance at the heart of being faithful to the covenant that made Israel a distinct people in the midst of all the nations of the earth.

Yes, this was no ordinary Pentecost celebration he was headed for. But that will have to be in the next post. One other additional piece of the puzzel of God’s narrative. It is almost certain that when Luke wrote his second volume of early Christian history, the Book of Acts,he had these festivals utmost in his mind. I would even venture that one of the major factors in the organization of the Acts, is Pentecost. He begins with the events leading up to “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come“-his words, not mine; and then spends almost the final one-third of Acts around this last voyage to Jerusalem, the attempt there in the Temple on Paul’s life, his life-saving arrest by the Roman Centurion, his awaiting justice for more than two years, and finally his trip to Rome in chains to face Ceasar.

In the next post I will begin to connect some dots to the Saul of the Old Covenant and to the Christ event which all the shadows look to for their fulfillment, the fulfillment of God’s promises to His People and the establishing of the New Covenant. I hope you are seeing what I am seeing: we definitely cannot afford to neglect the Day of Pentecost!

That All Depends on WHO we pray to, doesn’t it?

As I was preparing my mind and heart to spend time in intercession for my country, I found myself asking this question: Is the Bible sufficient to give me the guidance I need to pray intelligently at this time for my country?

I had read a blog of my friend MoSop on the Bible’s influence as one of the sacred books that guides her own Mormon faith. All of the Christian traditions, whether they realize it or not, have those other sacred texts or creeds in addition to the Bible. But is the Bible alone  sufficient   at a time like this? Let me give you a small sample, taken from the Lectionary readings for today, including Psalm 50, and see if you can figure out, based on the context in Israel’s future, if this gives us any guidance at all in thinking about the One I pray to:

But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.

Read the entire Psalm 50 

I have certainly read and greatly benefited from those other books, the commentaries, and the covenants from the diverse Christian traditions, the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran, the Reformed, and a host of others including Seventh Day Adventists and now the Latter Day Saints. But when it comes right down to the bottom line, it’s always the Bible that has the final Word as God’s voice that this sheep recognizes and is dedicated to hearing in order to obey from a heart of passion for Him.

I did receive real orientation in Psalm 50 as to how I must pray today for my country. For one thing, I was reminded that I could not take for granted that I had any hope of being heard and my petitions answered if my own heart was not right in my relationship with Him to whom I had the audacity to present requests. I have to alter my own attitude first at His altar. There is a wonderful text in the New Testament, recognizing we are now on this side of the Christ event and His victory, awaiting Pentecost in the Biblical narrative, that assures us that if we ask anything according to His will, we know He has heard us and He has given us what we asked of Him.

May you participate in the National Day of Prayer with others from different faith traditions of your own in a meaningful way-just keep the Biblical narrative in your thoughts and hearts.

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