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things forever speaking

A smell pleasing to the LORD

Bibelrefleksjoner Posted on 27 Mar, 2010 07:55

Our current image of God is spiritual. God doesn’t have a body.

The Hebrew Bible contains both direct and indirect anthropomorfisms – God described as a human being. Theology, human thought about God, depends partly on anthropomorfisms, it isn’t possible for us to reach outside images and our own language in our descriptions.

This is a limit theology usually recognizes. How theology views its own validity varies, from apophastic theology, which says that we can only know what God is not to natural theology, which says we can make true statements about God based on our knowledge of the world.

I’ve just started reading Leviticus. In the first text, which describes how to present a burnt offering, it says that when the animal is burnt on the altar, its smell is pleasing to the LORD.

A direct reading of this passage would be that the early israelites thought the actual smell from the burnt offering reached God in heaven or in the tabernacle. A direct anthropomorfism.

Which is, of course, very interesting theologically. It illustrates how even the image and concept of God evolves through the Bible and history of theology.

What are spiritual gifts?

Bibelrefleksjoner Posted on 22 Mar, 2010 06:51

“Then Moses said to the Israelites, ‘Look, the LORD has chosen Bezalel, son of Uri the son of Hur, form the tribe of Judah. The LORD has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God and has given him the skill, ability, and knowledge to do all kinds of work.”

The charismatic concept of being filled with the Spirit focuses on speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing.

Here, what Bezalel does, filled with the Spirit, is goldsmith-work and woodcarving.

We might call this just talents and skills, but in ancient Israel, there was no such thing as mere talents. A man’s skills were gifts from God, and extraordinary gifts could be interpreted as being filled with the Spirit.

This might give us a new view of the things we are really good at. Maybe God’s way for us isn’t just doing what we would call spiritual things. It might just as well be doing what we are really good at – in the Spirit of the Lord.

Hiring people

Bibelrefleksjoner Posted on 02 Dec, 2009 06:42

Whom you employ or hire is an important decision. It is very inefficient having to watch over everything an employee does. And it is very expensive making things right after serious mistakes.

Jethro gives Moses criteria when he is about to delegate some of his office as judge:

Choose some capable men among the people – make sure your people have the necessary skills – or the ability to learn them quickly.

– men who respect God, who can be trusted – think of the difference in dealing with people you know you can trust – and people you have to watch or be careful with.

– and who will not change their decisions for money – there are many people who do and cultures where this is accepted. But it is a terrible thing for a society not being able to rely on people in public office or in businesses dealing fairly with them.

Watching out for character is the key. It even pays off in the end, though that is not why we should do it.

Hard work

Bibelrefleksjoner Posted on 01 Dec, 2009 06:48

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “You are not doing this right. You and the people who come to you will get too tired. This is too much work for you; you can’t do it by yourself.”

Many have felt that they have too much to do. Have they also observed, as Jethro did, that taking too much upon yourself, or having too much work to do, means not doing things right?

That being tired is a sign that something is wrong and that you should stop, both for your own sake, for the sake of those you are working for or serving, and for the sake of the work itself?

There is a wonderful work ethic in Exodus. Slavery is criticised. Jethro gives excellent advice and observes wisely.

The road to reality is the challenge, but I know which way I’d like to go.

The LORD had saved them

Bibelrefleksjoner Posted on 27 Nov, 2009 05:50

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law and priest of Midian, visits Moses. Moses tells him of the Israelites’ experience in their exodus from Egypt, and how the LORD has saved them.

This is an example of the width of the concept of salvation in the Bible. In this text, salvation means freedom from slavery, safety from enemies and deliverance from hunger and thirst.

In the gospels the greek word for salvation is similarily used when people are healed.

Therefore, being saved is not just being forgiven. The goal of salvation is not purely religious or spiritual. Biblically, it also has to do with physical well-being, peace, security and justice.

And that gives perspective to how Christians today should preach, act, think and relate to people and the world.

The Lord Will Fight the Amalekites Forever

Bibelrefleksjoner Posted on 25 Nov, 2009 06:50

“I will completely destroy the Amalekites from the earth” (Ex 17:16, NCV)

“Then Moses built an altar and named it The LORD is my banner. Moses said, “I lifted my hands toward the LORD’s throne. The LORD will fight the Amalekites forever. (Ex 17,16 NCV)

What would you think of a God who had ethnic cleansing as a project?

What is the difference between these statements and modern versions of ethnic cleansing? That they are divinely authorised? What would that say of such a divinity?

This is part of a beautiful story of how Joshua wins a battle while Moses stands on a mountain, lifting his hands in prayer. As long as Moses lifts his hands, the Israelites win.

The theology and reality of the story is, weakly put, problematic. It might say something beautiful and important about prayer, but what it says about solving conflicts, war and God’s attitude toward people is deeply troubling.

There are those who look at the Bible as a theological unity. I find great diversity. The parts of the Old Testament that portrays the Isralites’ struggle for power and survival as God’s own struggle, and portrays killing people because of their faith or ethnic identity as a sometimes necessary thing, is a theology I find it necessary to fight rather than promote or explain away.

The unity of the Bible must be sacrificed if theology is to be ethically acceptable. To me, that is a deeper and more important claim than staying with the tradition of having a strong view of every part of the Bible’s authority.


Bibelrefleksjoner Posted on 24 Nov, 2009 07:02

You might know what is best for your children – that it is not smart as a family to leave the airport check-in queue, that they should not eat toothpaste, that jumping into a pool without knowing how to swim isn’t a good idea.

You might know as a leader that some investment, hard work or painful changes will pay off in the end for all – but you might still encounter serious resistance.

On their way to Canaan, the Israelites faced thirst, lack of food and dangerous enemies. It is understandable that they were worried. Still, from Moses’ perspective, they had the Lord’s promise that they would reach the promised land, so doubt in their success was really doubting the Lord.

Therefore, Moses cried out to God “What can I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me to death.” (Ex 17.4 NCV).

I identify with him, though I would need a high level of security to put people through what he did. But things might look different to a leader, the challenge is communicating it so that people follow.

God answers Moses and brings the people water. He doesn’t have to solve the problem or create trust himself. Prayer might be part of the solution. I also find that it’s good to see that even the great leaders of the Bible weren’t always believed or followed.

Prophecy or Anachronism?

Bibelrefleksjoner Posted on 04 Nov, 2009 07:05

The Song of Moses in Exodus 15 ends with a prophecy that the peoples of Canaan will fear the Israelites and let them pass into their land, and that God will lead the Israelites up onto his holy mountain and to his temple. It is difficult to see this as something other than Jerusalem and the sanctuary there.

It seems a bit unlikely, though not impossible, that a detailed list of the people living in Canaan should be part of a song the Israelites sing before they enter the land. They have been slaves in Egypt for 450 years – do they know the land they are moving towards from more than legends of the past? Have they travelled as slaves?

Downright impossible biblically is the statement that God will lead them to the temple in Jerusalem, as it has not yet been built. The text doesn’t prophecy that it will be built, it says that it is already there.

This is a typical feature of parts of the biblical histories. It shows that they are written much later than the events which they tell of, so much later that they in some ways reflect more of the writer’s time and thoughts than the situation when the events first occured.

In order to avoid this conclusion, one must twist the text’s own natural meaning and construe it as a prophecy in a stronger sense than it itself seems to claim. Is that necessary?

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