Tag Archives: blessings

Covenant as Blessing

What are the roles and meaning of blessings to the Ancestral Story?

First, we must define the Ancestral Story. The Ancestral Story is a collection of three sagas which follow the stories of Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph and combined are the story which shares the history of establishing Israel. (Bandstra, pg. 78) Also known as the Ancestral Narrative the stories link the people to the land and are found in Genesis. (Stanley, pg. 82)

How is covenant important to blessing?

In the Ancient Near East, the cultures made agreements with one another which contained obligations in the form of rules binding both parties together. These contracts might be between city-states or nation-states and even person to person. Another important thing to understand about these contracts is that they acquaint us with the idea of covenant. Covenant described as the contract or treaty God has with the people of Israel. (Wells)

There are two types of covenant conditional and eternal. Conditional can be broken when the people fail to do God’s will, but can always be restored if the offenders repent. Eternal covenant is made with Abraham as the relationship God will have with the people of Israel. God promises to serve as the people’s God, to make them a great nation, and to provide them with the land of Israel. Abraham promises to worship God as the one and only God by following God’s rules. The eternal covenant is then passed on to the next generations of Isaac and Jacob. (Sweeney)

In his lecture, Dr. Brook Lester shares how Walther Eichrodt determined that covenant was the most important theme of the Hebrew Bible. There have been many other scholars since who have different views on the most important theme, but Eichrodt’s theory is strongly supported by biblical text. He further discusses how there is a cycle the chosen people follow of committing sin, repenting, and then asking for God’s forgiveness which all happen with God’s underlying grace.

The cycle happens because it is the fulfillment of the covenant. Yahweh promises the covenant he made with Abraham will last forever and extends to the people of Israel as long as they follow the laws God gave to Moses. If they do this then they will continue to receive Yahweh’s blessings and protection. (Stanley, pg. 16)

Was Abraham a positive or negative model of how to respond to blessing?

Abraham is the first monotheist or follower of only one god. Genesis shares the story of how Abraham came from Mesopotamia where his ancestors were polytheists and worshiped several gods. Abraham broke from his family tradition to enter into covenant with God. (Hendel)

There comes a point when God tests Abraham’s faith in the covenant/blessing they share. Long before this happens Abraham’s story starts with God calling him to leave his homeland in Genesis 12. God creates the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 in which Abraham will have a son and many descendants. The covenant is restated with a condition in Genesis 17 the condition is that all of Abraham’s male descendants must be circumcised.

Throughout Genesis, Abraham chooses to do things which go against what God has told him to do. The first deceitful action is to tell the Pharaoh that Sarah is his sister to save himself from harm. (Genesis 12:10-20) Abraham and Sarah grow impatient waiting for Sarah to get pregnant. Sarah has her maidservant, Hagar, become a surrogate mother in her place. (Genesis 16:1-16) Another example of how Abraham did not wait for God to fulfill God’s promise.

Abraham continues to display his lack of faith this time in God’s protection from Abimelech when he was staying in a place called Gerar. It is the same scenario as with the Pharaoh he tells Sarah to lie and say she is his sister to protect him from harm. (Genesis 20:1-18)

Each of these choices demonstrates how he chose to protect himself and how each lacked trust that God would uphold God’s end of the covenant. So God chooses to test Abraham. The story is found in Genesis 22:1-18 and tells of when Abraham takes his son Isaac up the hill to sacrifice him as God asks him to do. Isaac is the son Sarah gave birth to which was when God completed the blessing to both Abraham and Sarah of a request for an heir.

Isn’t God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son who is his blessing a bit harsh?

Scholar Ellen Davis suggests that God’s actions are not too harsh if God doesn’t really know what Abraham will do making this a true test of faith. She believes that Genesis doesn’t support the theological notion that God is all knowing. Secondly, God must demand everything from Abrahams so that Abraham learns who is in control of the covenanted relationship. Another interesting point Davis makes is that the correct title for the story is the binding of Isaac as he is never really sacrificed because his father complies with God’s request and in return sends a ram to be actually sacrificed.

My thoughts

The foundations for healthy relationships depend on how we bless, encourage, and support one another and when we practice these characteristics with each other it enables us to develop strong self-image and positive attitudes.

I have too many people to list by name that have been and continue to be my encouragers and those who bless me. It is because they positively affirm me that I am able to keep working on this goal towards ordination as a deacon and completion of my Master’s degree.

Bandstra, Barry http://barrybandstra.com/rtot4/rtot4-05-ch2.html

Davis, Ellen http://bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/main-articles/binding-and-sacrifice-of-isaac.aspx

Hendel, Ronald http://bibleodyssey.org/people/main-articles/abraham.aspx

Lester, Brook https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBy9bsyDcPk&feature=youtu.be&list=PL-VPCh99l1-mh0JGg9zQ6zbUO1GfLWIrG

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfL5sNxtTlg&feature=youtu.be&list=PL-VPCh99l1-mh0JGg9zQ6zbUO1GfLWIrG

Stanley, Christopher “The Hebrew Bible: A Comparative Approach”

Sweeney, Marvin http://bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/covenant-in-the-hebrew-bible.aspx

Wells, Bruce http://bibleodyssey.org/passages/related-articles/tablets-and-treaties-in-the-ane.aspx

 

Ultimate Pity Party

Nameplates are part of the sidewalk found in front of a store in Berlin, Germany. They commemorate a Jewish family who died in the Holocaust.
Have you ever experienced a time when life was not going your way, so you hosted the Ultimate Pity Party?

If you are remotely like me you have hosted numerous pity parties throughout your life. Each time I participate in suffering or sadness that I feel I can’t handle I enter pity party mode. I am writing this on the day we are asked to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust. A day to collectively be mindful that as human beings it is our duty to make sure nothing this horrible ever happens again. I have no first-hand knowledge of the Holocaust, but I make sure to pay attention to what did take place from those who were there. Suffering like this is beyond my individual self and is part of the communal human experience. It is in these times I am grateful to be integrated with the Universe for I know that God is always with me, even in tough times.

So, who can we turn to when God seems out of touch with our reality when we are sad and suffering?

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 offers us insight in this matter. Basically, if you search for God or the ways of the Universe you will find that God is love. If you are questioning my sanity it’s okay because during my pity parties it never feels like God is present. (Even though I know God is.) In this Bible scripture reference, you can read about the people God calls to share the story of what it means to be love. They will not be the leaders that society wants you to believe are God’s spokespeople. Instead look for these storytellers in the places that society shuns. Here is where they will be sharing the message of God’s great love.  They have been chosen by God to bring those searching for God closer to God. One tip in finding these individuals is that they will not claim they have done or earned anything on their own. Instead, they will praise God for the blessings granted to them from the Universe. They know the Universe is in control of everything that happens including finding the blessings in the midst of suffering.

Wait, are you confused about how to look at times of sadness and suffering as blessings?

Me too, sometimes. Jesus reminds his followers what blessings look like in Matthew 5:1-12. This Bible story talks about what are called the Beatitudes. A beatitude is a fancy word for a blessing. In this story, Jesus tells his disciples or followers that there are nine blessings they should be aware of. Blessing 1- when you can’t handle whatever is going on it’s okay because God can. Blessing 2- when you’ve lost what is most important to you then God is holding you closest. Blessing 3- when you are happy with yourself just as you are then you will have everything at no cost. Blessing 4- when you have an appetite for God then God will feed and fill you. Blessing 5- when you care for others you will find you are cared for. Blessing 6- when you get your heart and mind on right things you will be able to see God. Blessing 7- when you demonstrate working with others not competing or fighting with them you will discover your place in the family of humanity. Blessing 8- when people want to harm you because of your faith, instead you lean on God bringing you closer to the Universe. Blessing 9- when people try to trash you and your reputation because they are afraid of the truth you are speaking it means they know you are close to God. When this happens it delights God because you are demonstrating the Universe’s love. Remember that many prophets before you have had this same struggle and because they accomplished it so can you.

Suffering is not a bad thing even though it is painful. 

Without overcoming struggles we would not be able to grow stronger. So go ahead throw the Ultimate Pity Party! When you are ready you can choose to leave it. And even though your friends and family may not join in, remember you are not alone. God’s there loving you. Once you decide the pity party is over then you can choose to be love in the world. Together let’s love each other.