Speaking in the Maelstrom

Despite being terrified and knowing that his presence on Mt. Horeb was underwritten by God, his face-to-face God, and that his career needed this encounter. How do we know? He tells us in Hebrews 12:21, Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, I tremble with fear. Moses hears the memorable sounds, feels the momentous tremors, and, groping in the dark, he opens his mouth.

And the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever. When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, Exodus 19:9

What that was exactly is clear from the following. Exodus 19:18

Now Mount Sinai was

  • wrapped in smoke because
  • the Lord had descended on it in fire.
  • The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and
  • the whole mountain trembled greatly. .

One would think that the right thing to do was to keep quiet especially as the noise increased.

And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder (vs 19)

God answers with thunder! One just can’t win against God. If one is interested in going up for a chat then one needs to be aware that with the volume rising amid tremors, fire, smoke and darkness we can be intimidated or dare to speak and get thunderous answers.

The prayer life of Moses certainly has some sobering elements. If the Psalm, Prayer of Moses, is any indication, Moses may have been afraid but up on Mt. Horeb was where God was and if God is there things will turn out just right. It was home: loud, dark, shaky, and smoky.

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Psalms 90:1

Smart Songs. Happy Sounds

Some songs hit the spot and there are subliminal effects in almost every composition. Of course songs get charted and win prizes too. A really good song for me is the tough unending love and exposure of folly (my own included) type.

Among my favourites are the happiness songs. Here is a happiness song combined with smart insight: one of the maskils.

Psalm 32 is an intriguing happiness song, but also mysterious. Lead by the eye (vs. 8)? Hmmm

Saving Yarchoite Rahab

Amid the triumph of the sons of Israel taking the cities of Canaan there is Canaanite hope.  Jericho (Yarcho) was a solitary symbol of promise fulfulled.  No other city falls into Israelite hands in the way Rahab’s city did.  Adopting a Canaanite into the Hebrew clan in what seems to be a reward for undercover work is of immense interest because of the triumph of hope, a commodity which remained, officially, under wraps for non-Jews until the death of Christ.  The people who received Rahab must be distibguished from the Exodus generation.  Nevertheless, the preparations for life in Canaan must have been sobering for Rahab and her family and confusing for the Israelite generation that emerged from the Wilderness Wandering.  The difference between the Sinai and post-Moses generation was that they had very distinct worldviews.  On the one hand there is the formation of the people and their preparation to travel, and on the other a generation armed with instructions about the new life in Canaan and the task of violently taking possession of Canaanite land and property with a Canaaite family safe in the ranks.

Saving a prostitute

Joshua made sure Rahab received the promised reward.  Joshua saves her family.  She gets moved into Israelite socitey, on the fringes, as it were,  at first (see below Outside the Camp).   She joins the family of the Sons of Israel right where God is planning to become human: Bethlehem.  There, she becomes the wife of Salmon, connecting her to the tribe of Judah.

Behold, [when] we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. Josh 2:18

Rahab is an ancestor of the David

There are two Gentile women in the lineage of David. The Judah tribe apparently received Rahab who became the great great grandmother of David. The tribe also received Ruth the Moabite, whose story is told in the Book of Ruth.  Luke records,

and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, Matt 1:5 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, Matt 1:6

Estrangement discontinued

Paul reminded his Gentile audience that a massive shift has taken place in human interactions and that hope had not always been a commodity they could rely on.  This is an arrangement that eluded the Jewish people as normal.  The exclusion of Gentiles from the priesthood and the monarchy persisted despite indications to the contrary.  The presence of friendly Canaanites in the land, their cooperation with David and Solomon,  the longstanding cosmopolitan character of Abraham’s family in patricarchal times all hinted that barriers and partitions were not the absolute standard they are held out to be.  It only takes one exception to destroy a precious pipedream.   How could Ezra, a competent scribe, be unaware of the Rahab narrative when he ordered the dissolution of Jew-Gentile marriages and the separation of parents from their children?

 

Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Ezra 10:3

That they were trying to undo a necessary thing never dawned on them.  The operation took two days and one can opnly imagine the misery.

But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing. Ezra 10:13

The treatment of outsiders has always been a diagnostic because of Israel’s higher and separate identity.

Deuteronomy 26:19 reports God’s intention.

… he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

Paul registers the wretched condition of the partitioned spiritual world.

remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Eph 2:12

In hindsight, we should recognize that Israelites too have known estrangement. They found themselves unaccompanied during the desert days and evicted during the monarchy and in New Testament times. Ezekiel records that an attachment to idols accomplishes the same estrangement as Gentiles have experienced.

That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Ezek 14:5

Hope is now an eternal spring

Barriers have come down in a big way. Conventions have been shpwn the door. First and above all, access to God is now a personal happening. Secondly, the priesthood is dislocated from its Levitical roots and located in Judah’s king-priest. The Jew-Gentile splits are over. Male-female dichotomies fail and slave and free get equal justice.

We can leave hopelessness behind. We find ourselves no longer alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and we are no longer strangers to the covenants of promise.

Rahab is perhaps the first Canaanite to be welcomed into Israelite society but not the last.  Despite the promise to clear outr the Canaanites and the purge by Ezra there were Gentiles living in Judea, and not only Romans.  There were people of Canaanite descent and Samaritans to contend with.

When our Lord meets a woman with a demonized daughter and he tries to avoid meeting her request, he discovers that she has something uncommon in Israel.  She has faith.  Rahab’s inclusion in safety among the Israelites is a well-known fact.  We do not know how many other Canaanites were enveloped into Israelite life but we are certain that there ought to have been one family that was notable in New Testament times for its faith and Canaanite strain: David’s.

Same to God – Jew or Gentile

Christ has brought the far near, he’s broken down walls with his body, he’s made a new entity of two, and he’s smoothed everyone’s way to God.

  • FAR vs NEAR: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph 2:13
  • NO DIVIDING WALL: For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility Eph 2:14
  • TWO BECOME ONE : by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, Eph 2:15
  • THE PASSION ENDS THE US-THEM HOSTILITY: and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Eph 2:16
  • Few people have been born to hopelessness, if any, but it has been the experience of countless millions to hear “You can’t sit here”, “You cannot get married here”, and “You can’t drive here”.

It smacks of dishonesty to say that the obstacles to Gentile inclusion was misapplied covenant and not clear directions.

As early as Exodus 34 (it certainly looks like Palestinian Covenant) we begin to hear “Watch your interactions with the inhabitants of the land” (vs. 11-12) and avoid participating in their sacrificial feasts.

Hope was a red rope

The instrument of Rahab’s salvation was a rope: a scarlet line (tiqvah). This is the word for hope. This word discovery makes the saving of Yarchoite Rahab a gripping vignette of the mystery of godliness.

  1. Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. Josh 2:18
  2. And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. Josh 2:21
  3. But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” Josh 6:22

Outside the Camp

The Sons of Israel did not know what to do with Rahab. They actually had rules about access to Yahweh and they had to keep Joshua’s word.

So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. Josh 6:23

And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. Josh 6:24

So Rahab had a tent outside the camp of Israel.  She was safe.  She was not a hero.  Her family may have cheered her and revered and feted her for giving them the chance to escape the Amorite decree: dispossession and destruction.

But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. Gen 15:16.

 

And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you. Josh 24:8

Special arrangements had to be made for her to have food and the services that every woman deserves. Ten men in the congregation Israel owed their lives to her.

Us and them – a discredited blueprint

The entire history of keeping people apart was never a healthy or happy occupation. The celebration of the weekly day of rest included recalling the 400 year Israelite stay in Egypt.

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. Eph 2:17

But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Josh. 6:25

United Bunk and Great Misadventures

The United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Islamic Republics, and the European Union are each a pathetic example of human persistence. Of course the noble aspects of human advancements have continued as the seeds of false gods and empty standards have been sown and the proceeds reaped. If one dares look closely at the entities named united what emerges is a picture of great brokenness, desperate windowdressing , all shining monuments to the utterly unreliable and factually-challenged bunk of human misadventures.

Enlightenment produces sophistication and we have been programmed into thinking that the signs include moon landings or wise statements about justice and decency. With no-one claiming to be the bright shining whore who deceives the world and merchandises everything (including people) the chances of light where there is no lamp is slim indeed. The world’s declared powers continue to horrify us.

One can always find people who are eager to justify their nation’s history no matter how cruel and disgusting. Extreme examples have been toyed with to correct historical narratives and escape the stigma: homelands (Israeli Zionism, apartheid policies, and ghettos), legislation to keep the gap between the poor and the rich widening, and xenophobia as a self-defense strategy. Few people really want to go back to anything. Yet it is the past that appeals to current views. At least the last shapes the present.

It may seem that life in its tribal configurations were simple and uncomplicated, but tribal and national arrangements are not sustainable. Building walled cities seemed to benefit the pirate and colonizer. This was the world into which Abraham came, and saw the same mentality about community and fellowship that he had seen in Mesopotamia. Canaan had no sprawling metropolises but its nations built and fortified their cities, and conducted raids on the neighbours, taking people, animals, food and all kinds of goods.

The world into which most of us were born had nations allied and determined to make merchandise of their neighbors, and the record shows that there were nations that ventured to distant shores to loot and rape.

The unity that makes strength was denied the world-ruling powers, and their ventures prove that their tribal loyalties build no lasting solidarity. Unless there is a new definition of unity everybody should be careful about attaching harmony to character of the United States, the United Kingdom or the European Union. The new Yorks, Bedfords, Dublins, Scotias, and Glasgows are more than spitting images of the namesakes. They ensure memories of character: a motherhood necessity.

Daniel saw that mixing iron and dirt does not create unity.

And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. Daniel 2:42-43

The beastly powers have no conscience. They are corporate giants with robotic and capricious habits. The moments when they are not hungry and prowling are rare.

Since American character has been sealed by the Constitution and the devastating Civil War it is unlikely that real unity is possible. The two amendments that people seem to treasure most dominate the scene – the right to speak freely and the right to bear arms – have been the fuel for ongoing conflicts even bloody conflict.

All of these United entities – Europe, the States and United Kingdom- have one thing in common, a record of family squabbles. States’ rights have been the tools of seditious and discriminatory legislation. Divided houses have a date with calamity and that is a lesson the great do not seem to learn easily.

Highly Helpful Human Happenings

TO GOD nothing will be impossible needs to be addressed with people in view, saved or unsaved. There are many things that are not possible. The mindset that places human capacity and alliance with God on the level of divine omnipotence is responsible for people saving themselves by enduring, by obedience and many other false constructions. God is quite alone in saving us and alone in his ability.

Understanding that God is constrained by what he has said we realize that God, by saying nothing shall be impossible, is actually committing himself to do whatever it is we need. No business (rhema ρήμα) shall be possible to him is with regard to us. There are so many things that God will never do; he is not capable of failure, not capable of deception.

When the angel told young Mary she was going to have a child she wondered how. She hears how and gets encouragement that her barren and older cousin was also going to have a child. And wouldn’t you know it, off goes Mary to visit cuz Liz.

One can only imagine Mary’s eager watch on her own signs of motherhood but we do not have to imagine, we are certain that Mary did not become a worker or operator of any impossible rhema.

Not many women confirmed as barren have children in their senior years. No young girl has become pregnant and had a baby without male contribution. We are pretty certain about who finds no business impossible. We are going to have a good day whether or not we have agreement in prayer about our requests. We have top level evidence that God has already gone to the realms of impossibility.

The death of Christ cannot be outdone for majesty and significance and everything we imagine or desire is to God “no problem” at all. When we question how God does his business we should remember that God holds the bag, he knows best how to give gifts. and he is responsible for the helpfulness of all human happenings.

Not all things are expedient