Tag Archives: Christ

12: Testing, Testing.

12 testing testing ram wiselywoven MF

“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

Advertisements

7: Toothless

7 toothless BBoomerindenial MF

“He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.” Lamentations 3:16 NIV

In this chapter of Lamentations, we find some of the most downcast descriptions of human misery the Bible has to offer. A prophet tormented at seeing his words come to pass, taken into exile with his people by the Babylonians, Jeremiah is beyond sorrow. And though he sees under the old covenant, all punishments righteously coming from God’s hand, he is also able to hope in God’s ultimate goodness, like Job, who said, “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him…” (Job 13:15 partial NIV).

Jeremiah has no way to fight his enemies, he is remembering all the terrible things he has seen, and the afflictions he has partaken of. It must indeed have seemed like his very teeth had been ground away, that all he had left to eat were stones, all he had to fight with were bleeding gums.

It is the toughest lesson in life, to sit face to face with our own powerlessness. But in a turn of faith, it is also the place where all is changed. Because it is not until we can face our true nature as dust, not until we are grounded in humility (humus=earth) and ground into our smallest particles, that we can finally look about us like toothless infants and see that all the control belongs to God. Once the acceptance of that truth comes we become strangely powerful ourselves, because we are his, because we know that we can rely on his words and his teeth to save us.

For it is whilst he is meditating on all this suffering and brokenness that Jeremiah comes to the far more well-known verses from this chapter, the conclusion that,

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 

it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV

It is also good to remember that without the lament, we do not find the hope. The one lived through becomes the other, and we serve a God who delights in transformation, even turning a vile death on a cross into a universal victory. Yes, the world should beware those ground into the dust, the toothless and the weak. We are people of the living God.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com

195: Garden

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAGardens dotted along the line of your life are oases for us too. Where you placed us, and walked in the cool of evening, naming us and fashioning the first Designer clothes. Where your forehead oozed bitter blood, and you longed to sink deep into olive roots. Where you prayed and we slept. Where your death began with a kiss in the scented night air. Where you rested for a time and then awaited angelic hands to roll the millstone from around your neck, our sin borne and removed. And where you smiled at Mary and spoke her name and cartwheeled her heart and ours.

 

© Photo and text Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

 

 

182: Desert

182 jojo22 MF desert

The tempter lives here, somewhere in the shimmering heat, his lies a mirage. But the truth is here too, in pillars of fire and burning bushes that consume nothing and everything at the same time: leaves and faces ablaze. Here is a place for paga meetings on summits above, when dry dust from broken stone tablets catches in your throat even as you try to pray. Here is thirst of the panting deer and water gushing from rocks, split open like the heads of the unbalanced and unwary. Here is a rain of quails and a covering of honey wafer, what-is-it? confusing your mind with its mantle of snowy white crumbling.

And here is the place of tents and tabernacles, the twisting path of a lost people, going around in circles, caught in a spiral journey that never seems to end. Forty days, forty nights, forty years. Each ending atop a peak, each carrying an ark, and then the newcomer, old as the universe, stood here and calmly hungered, patiently thirsted. Everything inside him complaining that he could end the suffering here and now, calling forth a whole new cosmos if needed. And he knew and he knows, and he still chooses to keep the vigil, alongside us in our lack. This torrent of love will slake all thirsts, and this broken bread leave behind basketfuls to be gathered up daily. The desert borne become a place of abundance.

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

Photo from morguefile.com

157: Ballroom

chandelier KRobbins1949 mf

The diamond of grace hangs from the softest gossamer thread heaven can spin, twirling like a spider’s larder. The delicate lights land, kissing the rough ground, each facet sending out the palest tint of each colour, till the floor is covered in a patchwork of pastel hues.

How softly, how sweetly, the feathering of mercy falls, reflected from another kingdom, another way of being. It is all light, all waves and particles dancing and beaming, a glowing flowing spectacle for those with eyes to see. And so we are blanketed by illumination, Immanuel, the incarnate love of God brought shining upon us, enlightened by the radiance sent from a sacred chandelier: the Light of the World softening our gaze and brightening our eyes. And then the dancing begins.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

151: Snowfall

151 snowfall

I feel a tingling in the air that crackles at the ends of my fingers. I sense an electricity in the universe of love that vibrates my heart strings in a cadence of hopefulness – even in the midst of despair. It is like the sense of iron in the air before a thick snowstorm, or the bright whiteness of clouds about to burst with hail. That deep, magical half-light that is going to sparkle on some treasures and keep others in the dark. It is the crack in God’s voice as he speaks with love in his throat. It is the yearning expectation of every heart and heart’s eye looking to him in the midst of dreaded and dreadful times.

And the fear falls away as we look up into cavalcades of soft flakes, white covering blessings, crystal masterpieces, icy wonders, and we know and we see, and we cannot count them, only receive, and we hold out hands made holy by the cold light of heaven falling down to earth. We open our mouths and let the frozen breath of God the Father melt on our tongues into the Host of his Son, by the Holy Spirit who dances in the fizz of transformation, in the transubstantiation of ice into living water. And thus in this place of death we are given life and the thaw of our hearts begins. Life is beginning again. Taste the sharpness of blood, and see the world covered in a blanket of loving mercy.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2015