Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Comparisons are odious

Better is a word to be avoided. Conclusions are destructive. Abstractions distance us from reality. What then should one dare say about God in these days of brutality and remembrance of horror?

I read the extended curses in Deuteronomy with fear of drawing the wrong conclusions. I will not put some things together in a sentence. And what you infer from these words is equally dangerous. God is love. How dangerous is that?

I am concurrently dipping into the first epistle of John aided by The immense commentary of Raymond Brown with pages and pages of interpretation of every word - whether the masculine or feminine or neuter is of metaphysical import or not. He is a lovely writer and occasionally I laugh at the extremes to which humans will go when reading a text that has become canonized. Everything is in the metaphysics. Does 'was' include the time before all things were or does it not?

So between extended curses in a treaty that stamps and seals the people as God's own people - he is determined that this be the case - and endless speculative interpretations of the NT, I begin to wonder if abstraction and understanding trump obedience, the obedience of faith working itself out in love, that is.

I also laugh at the curses. They are over the top. Piling on. And we aren't even finished the chapter. But if you look closely, love appears between the cracks. If the whole of TNK is a love song, then there's some learning to do - not so that we can stand over it and say 'Ah, I have success' but so that we can live in those cracks where the love pours through in potentially blinding light. For as 1 John tells us that God is love, so also he / they / the author / the majesty of the authorial we / tell us that God is light.

Some ancient correspondents would tell me that these are tired metaphors. Not so really. Conditionals and future tenses are equally destructive of obedience. There is no condition we can escape to and no false hope in an alternative future that will avoid confrontation (as I read verse 45 in this subdivision of the text). We are confronted every day by greed, by poverty, by violence, and by prejudice that comes only from ourselves. These may not create earthquakes but we are beginning to think they create weather. Come now, let us reason together... (There's snow in this passage from Isaiah, and red blood - more tired metaphors?)  No. Let us restore the white snow that supplies our glaciers and our water. Good government and a healthy fear of those enemies that are in us and therefore subject to a creative destructive force, a death that is desirable, that comes out of the love of the one who gave himself for the life of the world, and therefore through the stamp and seal of baptism includes new life, and a hope that will not disappoint.

This is the continuing record of the treaty curses of Deuteronomy 28 - what sort of a God is our partner? God is one whose words of promise that satisfy are hidden in every verse. So verse 21 - the land towards which we are coming to possess - yes there is possession, but not by greed or economics falsely understood. Possession comes in not grasping, and by faith. We may grasp at faith, for it cannot be held by possessiveness, but it is possessed in the presence, face to face. (Maybe I can allow Raymond Brown his astonishing depths of exploring the metaphysics of the scholarly community.) So let us be face to face with each other, 'living in the truth' as we may read in the third letter of John (the one to Gaius).

Dies illa, dies irae, ...
יַדְבֵּ֧ק יְהוָ֛ה בְּךָ֖ אֶת־הַדָּ֑בֶר
עַ֚ד כַּלֹּת֣וֹ אֹֽתְךָ֔ מֵעַל֙ הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה בָא־שָׁ֖מָּה לְרִשְׁתָּֽהּ
21Yahweh will make the pestilence cling in you until he consumes you from off the ground toward which you, yourself, are coming to possess.10
22
16
33
יַכְּכָ֣ה יְ֠הוָה בַּשַּׁחֶ֨פֶת וּבַקַּדַּ֜חַת וּבַדַּלֶּ֗קֶת וּבַֽחַרְחֻר֙ וּבַחֶ֔רֶב וּבַשִּׁדָּפ֖וֹן וּבַיֵּרָק֑וֹן
וּרְדָפ֖וּךָ עַ֥ד אָבְדֶֽךָ
22Yahweh will strike you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with scorching and with the sword and with blight and with mildew,
and they will pursue you until you perish.
36
8
50
12
וְהָי֥וּ שָׁמֶ֛יךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עַל־רֹאשְׁךָ֖ נְחֹ֑שֶׁת
וְהָאָ֥רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־תַּחְתֶּ֖יךָ בַּרְזֶֽל
23And your heavens that are over your head will become brass
but the earth that is under you, iron.
15
11
21
17
יִתֵּ֧ן יְהוָ֛ה אֶת־מְטַ֥ר אַרְצְךָ֖ אָבָ֣ק וְעָפָ֑ר
מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֙יִם֙ יֵרֵ֣ד עָלֶ֔יךָ עַ֖ד הִשָּׁמְדָֽךְ
24Yahweh will make the rain of your land powder and dust.
From the heavens it will descend to you until you are exterminated.
15
13
23
21
יִתֶּנְךָ֨‬ יְהוָ֥ה ׀ נִגָּף֮ לִפְנֵ֣י אֹיְבֶיךָ֒ בְּדֶ֤רֶךְ אֶחָד֙ תֵּצֵ֣א אֵלָ֔יו וּבְשִׁבְעָ֥ה דְרָכִ֖ים תָּנ֣וּס לְפָנָ֑יו
וְהָיִ֣יתָ לְזַעֲוָ֔ה לְכֹ֖ל מַמְלְכ֥וֹת הָאָֽרֶץ
25Yahweh will give you plague in the face of your enemies. In one way you will go out to him and in seven ways you will withdraw into his presence
and you will be a quavering to all the kingdoms of the earth.
32
16
54
23
וְהָיְתָ֤ה נִבְלָֽתְךָ֙ לְמַאֲכָ֔ל לְכָל־ע֥וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וּלְבֶהֱמַ֣ת הָאָ֑רֶץ
וְאֵ֖ין מַחֲרִֽיד
26And your corpses will become food to all the fowl of the heavens and the beasts of the earth
and there is nothing but apprehensiveness.
23
5
36
9
יַכְּכָ֨ה יְהוָ֜ה בִּשְׁחִ֤ין מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ וּבַטְּחֹרִ֔ים וּבַגָּרָ֖ב וּבֶחָ֑רֶס
אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־תוּכַ֖ל לְהֵרָפֵֽא
27Yahweh will strike you with the ulcers of Egypt and with the tumours and with the hemorrhoids and with scab and with sunburn,
that you cannot heal.
20
9
35
14
יַכְּכָ֣ה יְהוָ֔ה בְּשִׁגָּע֖וֹן וּבְעִוָּר֑וֹן
וּבְתִמְה֖וֹן לֵבָֽב
28Yahweh will strike you with craziness and with blindness
and with astonishment of heart.
12
5
21
10
וְהָיִ֜יתָ מְמַשֵּׁ֣שׁ בַּֽצָּהֳרַ֗יִם כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר יְמַשֵּׁ֤שׁ הָעִוֵּר֙ בָּאֲפֵלָ֔ה וְלֹ֥א תַצְלִ֖יחַ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֑יךָ
וְהָיִ֜יתָ אַ֣ךְ עָשׁ֧וּק וְגָז֛וּל כָּל־הַיָּמִ֖ים וְאֵ֥ין מוֹשִֽׁיעַ
29And you will be groping at noon, as the blind grope in the gloom and you will not thrive in your ways
and you will surely be oppressed and ravaged every day and there is none to save.
34
19
47
32
אִשָּׁ֣ה תְאָרֵ֗שׂ וְאִ֤ישׁ אַחֵר֙ יִשְׁכָּבֶ֔נָּה בַּ֥יִת תִּבְנֶ֖ה וְלֹא־תֵשֵׁ֣ב בּ֑וֹ
כֶּ֥רֶם תִּטַּ֖ע וְלֹ֥א תְחַלְּלֶּֽנּוּ
30A wife you will betroth and someone following will lie down with her. You will build a house and not sit in it.
A vineyard you will plant and not begin to use it.
22
10
35
15
שׁוֹרְךָ֞ טָב֣וּחַ לְעֵינֶ֗יךָ וְלֹ֣א תֹאכַל֮ מִמֶּנּוּ֒ חֲמֹֽרְךָ֙ גָּז֣וּל מִלְּפָנֶ֔יךָ וְלֹ֥א יָשׁ֖וּב לָ֑ךְ
צֹֽאנְךָ֙ נְתֻנ֣וֹת לְאֹיְבֶ֔יךָ וְאֵ֥ין לְךָ֖ מוֹשִֽׁיעַ
31Your bull will be slaughtered in your sight and you will not eat from it. Your ass will be robbed before your face and will not return to you.
Your flock will be given to your enemies and there will be none for you to save.
30
17
48
26
בָּנֶ֨יךָ וּבְנֹתֶ֜יךָ נְתֻנִ֨ים לְעַ֤ם אַחֵר֙ וְעֵינֶ֣יךָ רֹא֔וֹת וְכָל֥וֹת אֲלֵיהֶ֖ם כָּל־הַיּ֑וֹם
וְאֵ֥ין לְאֵ֖ל יָדֶֽךָ
32Your sons and your daughters will be given to another people and your eyes will see and faint for them all the day long but there is no capacity at your hand.29
7
47
10
פְּרִ֤י אַדְמָֽתְךָ֙ וְכָל־יְגִ֣יעֲךָ֔ יֹאכַ֥ל עַ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹא־יָדָ֑עְתָּ
וְהָיִ֗יתָ רַ֛ק עָשׁ֥וּק וְרָצ֖וּץ כָּל־הַיָּמִֽים
33The fruit of your ground and all your labour a people you do not know will eat.
And you will certainly be oppressed and splintered every one of the days.
20
14
31
23
וְהָיִ֖יתָ מְשֻׁגָּ֑ע
מִמַּרְאֵ֥ה עֵינֶ֖יךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּרְאֶֽה
34And you will be driven crazy
from the appearance in your eyes that you will see.
7
10
9
17
יַכְּכָ֨ה יְהוָ֜ה בִּשְׁחִ֣ין רָ֗ע עַל־הַבִּרְכַּ֙יִם֙ וְעַל־הַשֹּׁקַ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־תוּכַ֖ל לְהֵרָפֵ֑א
מִכַּ֥ף רַגְלְךָ֖ וְעַ֥ד קָדְקֳדֶֽךָ
35Yahweh will strike you with evil ulcers on the knees and on the legs that you cannot heal
from the sole of your foot to your scalp.
25
11
45
15
יוֹלֵ֨ךְ יְהוָ֜ה אֹֽתְךָ֗ וְאֶֽת־מַלְכְּךָ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תָּקִ֣ים עָלֶ֔יךָ אֶל־גּ֕וֹי אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־יָדַ֖עְתָּ אַתָּ֣ה וַאֲבֹתֶ֑יךָ
וְעָבַ֥דְתָּ שָּׁ֛ם אֱלֹהִ֥ים אֲחֵרִ֖ים עֵ֥ץ וָאָֽבֶן
36And Yahweh will usher you and your king that you place over you to a nation that you do not know, you or your ancestors, and there you will serve other gods of tree and stone.34
15
52
23
וְהָיִ֣יתָ לְשַׁמָּ֔ה לְמָשָׁ֖ל וְלִשְׁנִינָ֑ה
בְּכֹל֙ הָֽעַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־יְנַהֶגְךָ֥ יְהוָ֖ה שָֽׁמָּה
37And you will be a desolation, a parable and a gibe
among all the peoples where Yahweh will drive you.
14
15
20
23
זֶ֥רַע רַ֖ב תּוֹצִ֣יא הַשָּׂדֶ֑ה
וּמְעַ֣ט תֶּאֱסֹ֔ף כִּ֥י יַחְסְלֶ֖נּוּ הָאַרְבֶּֽה
38Abundant seed you will bring out to the field
but little will you gather in for the locust will decimate it.
8
13
14
21
כְּרָמִ֥ים תִּטַּ֖ע וְעָבָ֑דְתָּ
וְיַ֤יִן לֹֽא־תִשְׁתֶּה֙ וְלֹ֣א תֶאֱגֹ֔ר כִּ֥י תֹאכְלֶ֖נּוּ הַתֹּלָֽעַת
39Vineyards you will plant and you will serve,
but wine you will not imbibe and not store for the worm will devour it.
9
19
13
30
זֵיתִ֛ים יִהְי֥וּ לְךָ֖ בְּכָל־גְּבוּלֶ֑ךָ
וְשֶׁ֙מֶן֙ לֹ֣א תָס֔וּךְ כִּ֥י יִשַּׁ֖ל זֵיתֶֽךָ
40There will be olive trees for you through all your borders
but with oil you will not rub yourself for your olive will drop off.
12
12
19
19
בָּנִ֥ים וּבָנ֖וֹת תּוֹלִ֑יד
וְלֹא־יִהְי֣וּ לָ֔ךְ כִּ֥י יֵלְכ֖וּ בַּשֶּֽׁבִי
41Sons and daughters you will beget
but they will not be for you for they will walk on into captivity.
7
11
14
19
כָּל־עֵצְךָ֖ וּפְרִ֣י אַדְמָתֶ֑ךָ
יְיָרֵ֖שׁ הַצְּלָצַֽל
42All your tree and the fruit of your ground
the cicada will possess.
9
6
14
9
הַגֵּר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּקִרְבְּךָ֔ יַעֲלֶ֥ה עָלֶ֖יךָ מַ֣עְלָה מָּ֑עְלָה
וְאַתָּ֥ה תֵרֵ֖ד מַ֥טָּה מָּֽטָּה
43The guest that is among you will have ascendancy over you, ascendancy, ascendancy,
and you, yourself, will be descending down, down, down.
18
9
27
13
ה֣וּא יַלְוְךָ֔ וְאַתָּ֖ה לֹ֣א תַלְוֶ֑נּוּ
ה֚וּא יִהְיֶ֣ה לְרֹ֔אשׁ וְאַתָּ֖ה תִּֽהְיֶ֥ה לְזָנָֽב
44He will lend to you and you will not lend to him.
he will be the head and you will be subservient.
11
13
18
23
וּבָ֨אוּ עָלֶ֜יךָ כָּל־הַקְּלָל֣וֹת הָאֵ֗לֶּה וּרְדָפ֙וּךָ֙ וְהִשִּׂיג֔וּךָ עַ֖ד הִשָּֽׁמְדָ֑ךְ
כִּי־לֹ֣א שָׁמַ֗עְתָּ בְּקוֹל֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ לִשְׁמֹ֛ר מִצְוֺתָ֥יו וְחֻקֹּתָ֖יו אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוָּֽךְ
45And all these denials come upon you and they pursue you and overtake you until you are exterminated
for you have not heard with the voice of Yahweh your God to keep his commandments and his statutes that he is commanding you.
26
25
40
43





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