No, this is no riddle I propose. Rather, it is a reality when studying literature; and for me, the literature I have been focusing on is Biblical as I continue the year-long Bible study.
I know I have shared before about my personal study, and it is not always easy. I just completed reading the two books of Samuel. To be honest, I should have read them after completing a course in ancient history that included the sociology and the geography of the Middle East. These books were not easy.
Add to the historical, geographical, and the social-political intricacies of these books, the filter of Christianity that has been my upbringing and continued adult life. The content seemed so distant, until I stopped and realized the above truth that I know is literature: Yesterday is today; old is new. This then translates as Today is yesterday; new is old.
While studying literature in college, the emphasis that any story, poem, essay that can withstand the test of time can be defined as classic literature. The themes, regardless of the style, the plot, the setting, and the characters (aka the elements of literature), are as time-appropriate today as they were when first written—and anywhere along the timeline of humanity.
Therefore, the books of Samuel, continue to be literature which teaches today’s generations the themes of how to live within our earthly, human context. The book is filled with human drama, political battles, jealousy, adultery, and more. These are the very same conflicts that exist in our world today.
So what does one learn? Over and over again, the lesson is to follow the Golden Rule: Love one another as you want to be loved. And love being an attitude between one and any other human (and dare I add, species).
But there is one other commandment that all need to remember. We are to love God. Not only that, we are to love God above all else.
Remaining in a long-term relationship with God is not easy, especially with all the temptations that humanity has created throughout history. And we all tend to be weak in the face of temptation or in the face of peril.
This week my thoughts have focused on the health needs of close friends. One had bypass surgery and the other has been in chemo treatment for a rare cancer. Recovery is not easy for either of them, and what can I do?
Pray. I can on holy conversation with God. The prayers are for them to have the strength and the resolve to do whatever they, their medical team and primary care providers can do to battle the health issues.
But maybe the most important prayers is that God uses these trials to reach into their own lives and let them experience his loving presence.
Over and over the Old Testament stories share that bad things happen to good people. We cannot explain this as humans, but there are the words in scripture that can advise us.
Today, the reading was Habakkuk, not a common book and one of prophecy. But today, I heard God’s message that helps me to manage the earthly experience.
In the first chapter, Habakkuk asks two questions:
–v. 3 “Why do you make me see wrong doing and look at trouble?”
–v. 13 “. . . why do you look on the treacherous and are silent when the wicked swallowed those more righteous than they?”
Habakkuk has four more sections:
- “God’s Reply to the Prophet’s Complaint”
- “The Prophet’s Prayer”
- “The Woes of the Wicked”
- “Trust and Obey in the Midst of Trouble”.
It takes reading through them and the study notes to make God’s answer clearer:
Under “God’s Reply to the Prophet’s Complaint” is verse 2:5: “Moreover, wealth is treacherous, the arrogant do not endure.”
Under the section” The Woes of the Wicked”, there are a series of ‘alas’ statements, but hear v. 20: But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him!” What a reminder to have no other god before him.
Then Habakkuk prays in v. 3:16:
“I hear, and I tremble within;
my lips quiver at the sound.
Rottenness enters into my bones,
and my steps tremble beneath me.”
Even the prophet speaks honestly to God. We can do the same. Go to God in prayer to defend yourself from despair.
Habakkuk ends with these words from v. 3:18-19:
“. . . yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exalt in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes me feel like the feet of a deer,
and makes me tread upon the heights.”
In the introductory notes for Habakkuk, there is more clarification in understanding why bad things can and do happen. In referring to Habakkuk 2:4 “. . . the righteous live by their faith”. The notes continue, “The prophet’s vision emphasizes trust in God despite circumstances.”
John Wesley spoke to the same them in Sermon 119, as referenced in the introductory notes:
“. . . judgments concerning good and evil, not to visible and temporal things, but to things invisible and eternal. . . .hope [is] based not on visible circumstances but in God.”
These words from the Old Testament and the Wesley Study Bible are guiding me to fuller understanding and appreciation of how valuable my faith is in managing life in our earthly world. And with that, I pray:
Guide me along my journey.
Speak to me through scripture.
Teach me by the words of your faithful.
Then, let my words be your words
Sharing your grace, your promises
and your love with others so they, too,
feel your love and live to love others. –Amen