Tag Archives: Abraham

Creating Encounter in Colour: Gold

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I keep on digging, paddling my way into the wet demerara, this sea-soaked sand, hurriedly flinging it away with my flippers. Must dig, must dig, must lay eggs, must lay eggs. This is the only time I feel like a human, with their never ending desperation to get things done so that the next task on the list can hove into view, each one humming away, bee-like on a never-ending Caucus route, crossing things off in hopes of one day finding the finish line, unaware it is immovable and inevitably the casting off of this life.

It is a rare thing that is truly time-constrained. Birthing is one of them. And so I work hard to bury myself in this deep golden grain, the soft and yet abrasive descendants of Abraham remaining defiantly countless, but so many fewer than they ought, by rights, to be. I am sure God, who no longer counts sins, counts these little ones and knows each mustard seed by name.

Having hollowed this hallowed place, I would like to lie down here and die, I am beyond every resource. There is nothing left, but the work only half done. A few shallow groanings, and I divest myself of what has been waiting, all this time, to become treasure. Gelatinous albumen the casket, calcium crust the mantling lock, and inside the gold that will feed each tiny cold-blooded life.

Exhaustion is burning every cell now, and still the work must be completed, the children buried, the brown caramel topping covered and smoothed down. There must be no x marking the spot, that enemies can find them, and no way for this mother to return to the nursery. Here I must leave my heart, and these small beginnings, and hope with everything that is good and holy to encounter familiar seeming tiny turtles when I am traversing the ocean, seeing and recognising the glint in my own eyes before me. Somehow, I lift myself, and turn.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt  Photo from Pixabay

Veil of Tears 104: Asked Too Much

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“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.” 1 Kings 17:12-13 NIV

How would you react to this strange request from a wild prophet? God wants your last meal. Not only that, but to steal the very food from the mouth of your only child. Like Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, here is another seemingly strange test given to a person of faith, requiring total trust in the providence of the Living God.

In some respects, the widow of Zarephath is asked both less and more than Abraham was. Less, because she and her son, starving in this besieged town, are going to die anyway, so this last meal is symbolic more than anything, it wasn’t going to save them. But it was going to buy them a few last precious hours, and that desperation is not something any of us simply reading this story should underestimate. More, because this command comes, not from the mouth of God, as it did for Abraham, but from a wild and woolly man of God fresh in from the desert, who, frankly, could just have been mad, who made little sense and who probably hadn’t washed in quite a while.

So often in the Bible, women have to receive God’s commands second hand, like Eve in the Garden of Eden, and decide for themselves whether to take it as truth or not. This is what happens when exclusion becomes part of any religion. Well, this amazing widow obeys immediately. Does God give us that special and abiding grace to act, right when we need it? Does he sway our hearts when it is a choice between his life or spiritual death? Perhaps he does. The amount of faith we sometimes need often seems unearthly.

And this act of utter obedience also brings untold blessing. Like the magic porridge pot in the children’s fairy tale, the flour and the oil continue to pour and flow to feed the widow, her son, and Elijah for as long as they need. A miracle has come to save them, and in the strangest form. For sometimes God comes to us odd guises, dishevelled and whiffy, desperate and defiant, but always making some strange unnatural sense in a deep place that cannot help but be fired into action, and warmed to faith. When we hear and obey that voice, the blessings are great and beyond our understanding.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

Veil of Tears 85: Polygamy

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Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah.” Genesis 25:1 NIV

Whatever you may think of the furore around same sex marriages, there is huge precedent in the Scripture for polygamy and if we stuck to the Old Testament patriarchs we wouldn’t have too much trouble arguing for its return. Joseph Smith did exactly that of course very successfully within Mormonism. So many of the men in the Bible took more than one wife, and the richer they were, the more they had, as though women were indeed chattels, possessions, trophies. Solomon in his wisdom had over 300 wives and concubines, but more often than not, it was two or three.

The trouble caused was endless and deeply painful, and quite clearly patriarchal, for there are no instances of women taking more than one husband. It begins, as every mistreatment of a human being or animal, with those with souls being taken for things. In Genesis 2, when the human being (“ha’adam”) is created male and female, Adam and Eve recognise one another as equal halves, as one flesh, neither one subordinate to the other.

Under Mosaic Law, adultery and coveting of another man’s wife are both such important rules for living that God gave two of the ten commandments over to them.

But when a people or an entire gender become seen or defined by those who enforce the rules as less than, other, lower down, not as human, they can be used, manipulated, abused, downtrodden, and even made to partake in their own oppression. If it serves the purposes of men, women can become disposable, replaceable or even part of a collection. More offspring, more pleasure, more variety, more power, these are strong motives to bend or break God’s moral code.

But over and over again we also see the pain and confusion of women feeling as though they need to compete for the love of their husbands. That was never part of the plan. It leads to a smaller existence for both man and wife, than God wanted for us. Thankfully, monogamy has long been the accepted norm in western society, but there are far more “open relationships” and certainly serial relationships now, and in many other cultures, such as tribal Africa, it is still commonplace for a man to take more than one wife as a sign of status. I come at this from my own cultural and religious standpoint of course, and I am sure a lot of those wives are happy and would defend the system. But I see from the biblical accounts that this causes deep jealousies and competition between women, often sisters, and that seems humiliating and wrong from my belief that men and women were made for equal partnerships.

How can it be right for a male chief to take a teenage bride in addition to the wives he already has? What possible hope is there for the redemption of God’s Edenic plan for two halves to become one where that kind of inequality is ingrained and implemented? There will always be a Leah who is heartbroken, a Peninnah who is jealous, a Hannah who feels less than whole, an Abigail (clearly David’s equal) who deserves better than to simply become another of the King’s concubines.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

12: Testing, Testing.

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“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2 NIV

God gave this instruction to Abraham, and it took three days for Abraham, Isaac and their servants to reach the intended mountain. Three days for Abraham to think and weep at this strange command, not that we are told anything about his feelings at all in the scripture. But how long that journey must have seemed! I wonder at Abraham’s faith and I also wonder if he got any sleep. There seems to have been no remonstrating with God, no attempts at bargaining, just total obedience.

I often think I’ve given God everything and that I love and trust him so much that I would never withhold anything from him. But I know it isn’t true. I withhold my character and my heart from him all the time when I act or think wrongly, or when I am selfish, and if he asked me to sacrifice someone I loved very dearly (including my pet) I would balk at the command. I only have the little faith I’ve been given, and know that anything I do get right is God working through me, his love or wisdom flowing on, perhaps despite rather than because of me.

For Abraham and Isaac, as so often in the Bible, three days separate deep dark deathly hopelessness and resurrection blessing. When it is clear that Abraham will truly withhold nothing from his God, God blesses him with great promises for him and his descendants.

Most of the Bible translations call this story “Abraham Tested” though of course these headings are not in the original Hebrew, just place-markers for us. I am not sure that we gain much from such a description. The Living God is not a capricious tester of faith. I don’t think that he tests, so much as refines us. We don’t get marks out of a hundred for how we react to difficult circumstances or the things that are asked of us. Instead, these trials are just as much a loving opportunity. God isn’t playing games with us.

This episode with Abraham and Isaac is clearly a picture of the sacrifice that God will make for us much later on, giving us his only son, and sacrificing him to a much more brutal and drawn out death than this poor ram had to suffer. No, there is nothing withheld here on God’s side either and this alone should help us to see that this is no thoughtless whimsy on the Lord’s part. All he does is done with purpose and with our best interests at heart. For some reason, this journey up the mountain with a heavy heart, but one which trusts the goodness of God above all things, this is something Abraham needs to do before he can come into a still deeper blessing from the Living God.

I believe this man of amazing faith spoke truth when he declared to his son that “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” (verse 8 partial) and that he was on the lookout for a substitute all the way, knowing the goodness of the Lord. But when none such appeared, he still trusted that obedience was the way forward. I cannot imagine how either he or Isaac felt, and I don’t pretend to understand why it had to be so dramatic and difficult, but I do see that it is willingness, obedience, trust and the giving over of everything dear that takes us further into God’s heart.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com