Return to your God

So what was Esau thinking when he went out with the men of his house- four hundred strong, to meet his twin? Was it score settling time, as Jacob feared?  Were they mounted on fast raiding camels, Lawrence of Arabia style?

They meet, embrace, weep.  Jacob eats humble pie, “My Lord, your servant,” “I see your face as the face of God.”  His gift in sheep, and goats, camels, cattle, and donkeys, is over the top. Esau is gracious, only accepting the gift after Jacob insists, offering to lead the way, or provide escorts.

Still, the bottom line remains. Esau goes south to Seir, and Jacob heads north-east to Succoth.

Bloodshed is averted, but a real home-coming, doesn’t happen.

We are left wondering about the rights and wrongs of the relationship because the writer of Genesis limits himself to recording, he doesn’t offer commentary.

Years later two of the Old Testament prophets do weigh in on the issue.

Malachi:

I have loved you, says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord. Yet I have loved Jacob  but I have hated Esau;(NIV)

Hosea:

 The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah;
he will punish Jacob  according to his ways
and repay him according to his deeds.
In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel;
as a man he struggled with God.
He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
he wept and begged for his favor.
He found him at Bethel
and talked with him there—
the LORD God Almighty,
the LORD is his name of renown!

But you must return to your God;
maintain love and justice,
and wait for your God always. (NIV)

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Unless you Bless Me

There are passages of scripture that remain obscure until we have walked through similar life experiences.  Some, we shrink back from, because the price tag is high.

I’ve been thinking of Jacob, now renamed Israel, limping away from the ford of Jabbok with the light of the morning sun on his face.

Surely the night before was one of the darkest of his life. After twenty years of running and scheming he had run out of dodges. His past had caught up with him.

Finally, he sent everyone and everything else ahead, and spent the night alone at the Camp of God.

I think of David’s cry to God,

“Who have I in heaven, and what is there on earth to take pleasure in, other than you?”

So Jacob says, to the one he has wrestled with all night, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

It is only later, in the clear light of day, that he gulps and says somewhat shakily- I have seen the face of God and been delivered.  Limping, but alive, and blessed.

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Psalms are Poetry

The last few mornings I’ve been reading Psalms, with nine English Versions up on the computer screen. I’ve been reading and thinking about  bringing them into the Nkonya language.

It’s a particular challenge, because the Psalms are art and poetry as well as message.

After only a handful of days I’m still working on plotting the translations as to their various characteristics. However I do have some initial favourites and least favourites.  I have discovered that while I want a psalm to be accurate I also want it to touch me with it’s beauty. I want elegance of line and cadence. I want my emotions engaged.

The New Century Version , which I’ve often consulted when translating narrative passages goes to the bottom of the list here.  It has basically jettisoned any attempt at the poetical in it’s dedication to the simple and straightforward.  The Today’s English Version also suffers in that direction.

A number of translations cluster at mid-range.  The New American Standard Version does better than one would expect. Hebrew is a language of heart and passion. If you keep close to the original text much of that emotion actually spills over. In poetry it doesn’t matter so much if the wording is a little unusual. The Revised English Version also gets a nod from me for its creative turn of mind. It is quite flavourful.

The two translations that most consistently wax lyrical are the New Living Translation and the New International Version. They are quite different in style. The New Living has a full rich flavour.  If it were a cupcake it would be generously iced.

The New International opts for a fairly spare rendering. However it is characterized by lovely turns of phrase that wear well and satisfy.  It’s translation of Psalm 65:8, for instance, is nicely evocative.

“Where morning dawns and evening fades
you call forth songs of joy.”

This particular verse, has called forth a rich spectrum of renderings in English.  Looking at it in a variety of translations highlights many of the issues involved. (Consider that homework- perhaps a future blog.)

Here’s a bit more from Psalm 65, in the NIV, my current favourite.

It’s a nice passage to read as winter passes out.

You care for the land and water it. . .
You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops.

You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the desert overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.

“Drench” is such a nice verb-I have this urge to run out and wriggle my toes in moist loam. I also love the image of fields “mantled with grain.”  I can see the heavy richness of August wheat fields around Red Deer.

There are 150 Psalms to bring into Nkonya and I have yet to work on even one.  Doubtless my initial impressions will be modified many times. I’m looking forward to the exercise though.

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Our daily bread

After I finished the last post on Jacob, I was sitting quietly, just to listen, and the word that immediately popped into my mind was, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Yes, holding our Father’s name holy, and asking for his kingdom to come, and his will to be accomplished, come first in the Lord’s Prayer,

But then, there it is, the daily necessity of food for the body has it’s own plank in the prayer of prayers.

Fear not little flock, our Father knows we need these things and it is meet, right and our bounden duty, to ask them from his hand.

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First steps

God said,

I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. . .

All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.

I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (NIV)

The promise of God is iron clad, comprehensive, reaching down through generations, and out to all the peoples of the earth.

Jacob responded,

“If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house,

then the LORD will be my God and  this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (NIV)

Jacob’s build has a limited scope, reaching only to his immediate dilemma – this journey, and limited concerns – food, clothes and a safe return.   It also includes a payback.

You will be my God, I will establish this place as a house for you, and tithe ten percent.

God, in all his graciousness, accepts that first response.

As Robyn’s mother  says,

“If an infant can take five consecutive steps alone, they’re walking.”

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The Rescue of a Dog

So much evil going on in our world- murder, and torture, and rape.   Human lives so little valued, destroyed as just so much collateral damage.  I think that’s why the rescue of a mere dog touches me.  Perhaps if being kind to an animal is worth while, there is hope that extending mercy to humankind is also possible.

It reminds me that unlike us, an Almighty God does not have to triage his resources- they are unlimited. Important things do not go unattended while he fritters time and effort on minor issues.

It reminds me that I have to listen to his nudging because there will be times when he wants me to spend time and money and energy on items I have mentally put on my  “Z” to do list.

If you have missed watching the dog who escaped the Tsunami- its here.

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A Psalm for today

One of the wonderful things about God’s Word, is the way God has engineered it to be case specific, spanning the comprehensiveness of the human condition.

Today I chanced on these.

A Psalm for those in Misrata,

Praise be to the LORD,

for he showed his wonderful love to me

when I was in a besieged city.

In my alarm I said,

“I am cut off from your sight!”

Yet you heard my cry for mercy

when I called to you for help.

Psalms 31 (NIV).

A Psalm for those in danger of Tsunami,

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you

while you may be found;

surely when the mighty waters rise,

they will not reach him.

You are my hiding place;

you will protect me from trouble

and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Psalm 32 (NIV)

File in case of need.

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