Consolation Series- Part 11

David took his staff in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones out of the brook and put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag which he had. His sling was in his hand; and he came near to Goliath, the Philistine. The Philistine walked and came near to David; and the man who bore the shield went before him. When the Philistine looked around and saw David he disdained him; for he was but a youth.  The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” The Philistine cursed David by his gods.  The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky, and to the animals of the field.”

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of Yahweh of Armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  Today, Yahweh will deliver you into my hand. I will strike you, and kill you. I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines today to the birds of the sky, and to the wild animals of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that Yahweh doesn’t save with sword and spear; for the battle is Yahweh’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

When the Philistine arose, and walked and came near to meet David, David hurried, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.

1 Samuel 17:40-48

David represents God’s beloved; outmatched, outgunned and with virtually no chance of success against the troubles he faces.    

Nonetheless, David delivers his inspiring, confident war cry and then runs headlong against his enemy.

God will not necessarily deliver us from the cause of our suffering (“Yahweh doesn’t save with sword and spear”).  But in the end, the day will be His and the day will be ours.  In the story of Noah and the Ark, the Flood did not represent the judgment of God, it represented Chaos.  God did not make Creation from nothing, but rather drew it out of Chaos - dividing light from dark, night from day, earth from water, and finally humanity from earth.  Chaos will return in each of our lives, but God tells us it does not have to sink us.  He will invite us to float over it until it recedes and dutifully close the door of the Ark behind us.

This Good Friday, we might feel outmatched and outgunned by COVID-19. Our lives feel chaotic, with no real sense of what the future holds for us.

Knowing that we are the beloved of God means that we never suffer alone and we don’t have to let suffering demean us.  We can run headlong into it. 

Image: David & Goliath, Caravaggio (1600)

Consolation Series - Part 10

There is no one as holy as Yahweh,
for there is no one besides you,
nor is there any rock like our God.

The bows of the mighty men are broken.
Those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread.
Those who were hungry are satisfied.
Yes, the barren has borne seven.
She who has many children languishes.

Yahweh makes poor and makes rich.
He brings low, he also lifts up.
He raises up the poor out of the dust.
He lifts up the needy from the dunghill
to make them sit with princes
and inherit the throne of glory.
For the pillars of the earth are Yahweh’s.
He has set the world on them.
He will keep the feet of his holy ones,
and no man will prevail by strength.

1 Samuel 2:2, 3-5,7-10

One of the most prominent themes in Scripture is that God is with those who suffer. It manifests itself in every book of the Bible in one way or another. 

Heroes are always the smallest, the morally compromised, the second born:  Moses, chosen by God to be His chief negotiator with Pharaoh, is a stutterer.  Jacob, later to be renamed Israel and father of the twelve tribes, was the second born and obtained his older brother’s birthright and blessing by fraud.  David, chosen to be king of Israel, was out in a field shepherding sheep when the promising candidates were lined up for selection, and the thing with Uria was pretty disgraceful. 

Also, God always concerns Himself with those the widows and the orphans. Jesus concerns himself with the sinners and tax collectors, the prodigal sons, the lost sheep, the poor and the sick.

We’ve heard this so often, the existential shock of it has worn off.  Historically, God’s competition was Ba’al.  According to the Canaanite mythology that Judaism replaced, Ba’al was a fertility god and demanded the execution and immolation of first born children to appease him.  It is said that the valley outside Jerusalem, Gehenna, stank from the smoking pyres of human sacrifice.  Ba’al, like every pagan god before him, clearly favored the strong, the wealthy, and the powerful.   

When, in the fullness of time, God revealed himself, he announced that He was different.  God favored those who could not defend themselves and found themselves brought low. 

This is our God.

Consolation Series - Number 9

Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘This is how you shall bless the children of Israel. You shall tell them:

May God bless you and keep you.
May the light of His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace.’

So shall you invoke My name to the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

Numbers 6:22-27

Every Sunday night before we sit down to eat, my wife and I place our hands on our daughter’s head and recite this ancient blessing.

It is not so much an attempt to get God to do something, but a recognition that He has already done it. As the descendants of Abraham, we can claim the ancient promise God made to him.  This is the covenant, so often repeated, and so often confirmed throughout the Biblical narrative – that God will always suffer with us and love us.  Though the universe is vast and often seems capricious and cold, we are never alone.