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Class #1 (9 Dec 82) and #2 (16 Dec 82) on the Book of Exodus.

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#ends-short; #item-set-178; #monastic-class-series


Still in Exodus chapter 3, we'll just read the rest of the chapter, but we still want
to stick with the revelation of the name.
I'll read from verse 16.
Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, Yahweh the Lord, the God
of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying,
I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will
bring you up out of the afflictions of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites,
the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hittites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk
and honey.
And they will hearken to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king
of Egypt and say to him, the Lord, Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us,
and now we pray you, let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice
to the Lord our God.
I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand,
so I will stretch out my hand and smite Egypt with all the wonders which I will do in it.
After that, he will let you go.
And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and when you go, you shall
not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor and of her who sojourns in her
house jewelry of silver and of gold and clothing, and you shall put them on your sons and on
your daughters.
Thus you shall despoil the Egyptians."
The Fathers of the Church are always delighted in this kind of secondary tradition here in
the narratives of Exodus, of the despoiling of the Egyptians, taking their gold and silver
ornaments and their clothing.
We don't know quite what meaning it would have had.
It's clear, though, that there's a subtle irony going on here, and so it's a bit of
semitic humor, but it could be part of a general custom or concept of worship, of the sacred,
the sign, you know, and this shall be a sign for you that I have sent you.
When you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain.
You shall worship God.
The act of worshiping God, the God who reveals himself here on this mountain in the wilderness,
the fact of worshiping God is a great sign.
For us, worship is basically a voluntary thing.
We go to church because we want to.
Of course, it's the precept of the church, which a good Catholic obeys, but ultimately
to obey or not to obey is a choice, a matter of will, whereas there was something, the
need to worship somehow, some God, some way, was felt much more strongly by the ancients.
Of course, it was felt also more strongly, I think, by earlier generations of Christians.
You might say that our faith maybe in some ways has been purified by the secularization
of modern Western society, but we've lost the sense of the necessity of worshiping,
the necessity of the sacred.
Life has no meaning without the sacred, for the ancient peoples or for so-called primitive
peoples or for early Christianity, of course.
And so there may be something here about a general sense of fear, you know, the kind
of servile fear, pagan fear, which is something we're not supposed to have, but the sense
of the holy as fascinating and frightening, you know.
The one scholar called it mysterium, tremendo macfascinans, the holy, the sacred as such,
however it is imaged or defined or named, has a terrible fascination, and yet at the
same time, the closer we draw to the sacred, the more it arouses this, I mean, we, in other
words, at the archetypal human, psychological level, it arouses this, also the sense of
the tremendous mystery.
And so it could be that just the fact that here's a people, they're going off to worship
their god, they don't know this god, who is this god, but anyway, they're going off to
worship, and this is an important thing, so they're given some jewels or gold so that
they will pray, you see, give them clothing, so that somehow there won't be any hex coming
out of this.
This could be, you know, the way that the Egyptians might have reached it.
So this may be just a very accurate memory of something that did happen on some level
in the exodus.
But anyway, here there is a little tone of irony, and of course the fathers of the church,
how did they read this?
They read this in the wider context of faith and culture, you know, they're always going
back to these verses about the despoiling of the Egyptians in order to say, why does
Christianity use philosophy?
Or how does Christianity use philosophy?
Or dare Christianity use philosophy?
If it is a despoiling of the Egyptians, then it can be used.
The gold and silver can be melted down, so Plato and Aristotle can be Christianized,
and they did that, of course.
The fathers and the medievals and the scholastics, they all did that.
And this was sometimes their proof text, sometimes their support for that way of doing it.
But we don't need to stick with that.
We want to stay also with the revelation of the name.
The verses we read the last time, 13 to 15, Moses said, if I come to the people and say
to them, the God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, what is his name,
what shall I say to them?
They want his name.
And God said to Moses, I am who I am.
Last time we already went through some possible meanings, and I think all of these meanings
are good, because all of these meanings have some relationship to what is really being
communicated here.
My own feeling, there is of course the interpretation, nothing wrong with it, but it is an interpretation
that I personally don't think is too well supported, that this is a non-revelation,
an anti-revelation, in other words, don't ask who I am.
The parallel then would be with the, as I mentioned last time, with the angel's reply
to Manoah, you know, the father of Samson, why do you ask my name, it is wonderful.
And then the pregnant silence of the angel, or whoever, the man, who wrestled with Jacob,
he bludgeoned himself, didn't give him his name.
So, I am who I am, don't ask me.
But I think though that there is a revelation here, it seems the tradition is pretty unanimous
on there being a revelation here.
And the Greek tradition, that's the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and the
tradition of the church, of the early church, and of the fathers, that sees in this, I am
he who is, or I am the being one, the one who is in a living way, or the one who is
the source of being, who is in a way that creatures are not, whose very essence is existence,
so forth.
This is an interpretation which can be defended on the basis of the text.
But there are other resonances here in the Bible, and I think probably this text, the
revelation of the name cannot be fully understood except in relation to the concept of the covenant,
and the covenant promise, you shall be my people, I shall be your God.
And remember the parallel, or the analogy of this, of the covenant formula, of the covenant
promise, or enunciation or whatever, with the marriage formula, from this time forward,
now and forever, she shall be my bride and I shall be her lord, her bond, her husband.
There is a marriage then between God and his people, for marriage itself is an archetypal
And the covenant, we'll see more about this in later readings of Exodus, the pattern
of the covenant is something that comes from international treaties in this world, this
ancient Near Eastern world, the Fertile Crescent, where Israel was situated, and therefore their
relationship with God is often expressed in terms that parallel the treaty formulas
of the ancient cultures that surrounded them, especially the Hittites, but other cultures
as well. Of course you're dealing here with something unique, it is a transferal of a form,
a literary formula, into a theological context which is totally unique, the idea of the special
relationship with the God of Israel. But in our Western tradition of the marriage
covenant and of the wedding consent and that sort of thing, you know, it is, because to
say I do, the equivalent to that then is I am. They do not say, the husband, the wife
does not speak, the bride does not speak, because her consent is implicit within the
cultural context of women occupying an imperial place, which is, of course, has been disestablished
by Christianity, though not always realized in practice. But in those days when it had
not yet been revealed that in Christ there is neither slave nor free, neither male nor
female, the woman simply kept silence, and her silence was consent, and so the man said
I am. Not I do, but I am. And so God says I am. So a meaning, or at least part of the
meaning of the revelation of the name is I am he who says I am. I am the I am. I am the
one who is with you. When Moses made his first objection, you know, I do not know how to
speak, and so forth, God says I shall be with you. I shall be with you, or I am with you.
This is, of course, the typical expression throughout the Bible in the prophetic vocations.
We already saw that. We saw this in the annunciation to Our Lady. But even at the greeting the Lord
is with you. The Lord is with you. So it is here suggested that I am. I am he who is with
or I am the I am with. Does that make sense? Being with. It is all an active sense. It
is never this kind of static, abstract, philosophical being, but it is always an active being. And
the act is precisely in being near and being with.
You can also pick up the resonance, the echo, in this revelation of the name from the last
two verses of chapter two, which actually introduce, they are part of the narrative
of the vision of Moses and the revelation of the name. Because the division, the dividing
point starts in 223 and then on continuing through chapter three. So the chapter beginnings
sometimes are a bit arbitrary. They do not really correspond with what, exegetically
speaking, is the division of the narrative as such. They sometimes were just simply made
in a rather casual way without too much concern about the actual division of the text, simply
to break it up into manageable units for easy reference.
Verses, chapter two, verses 24-25, And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his
covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. You notice the mention of the patriarchs,
God of our fathers. And God saw the people of Israel and God knew their condition. Note
the mounting intensity, already mentioned this, the mounting intensity of the four verbs.
God heard, he remembered, which of course is not always, not only exclusively a mental
process of what we call a memory, not something entirely interior. But to remember is to put
oneself in a state where one was before and to act accordingly. So to remember something
is to act on it. Or the act of remembering is always an act that is witnessed, is an
inward act which is witnessed in an outward action. And remembrance, memorial, is very
often presented in sacramental, quasi-sacramental terms in the Old Testament and also in the
New. We will touch on that concept of memorial because he says, Yahweh is my memorial, is
my remembrance. This is my name forever and thus I am to be remembered throughout all
generations. The text is literally, this is to be, this shall be my memorial throughout
all generations, my remembrance. So God heard, God remembered, God saw and God knew. To know
in the Bible is always much more than an exclusively intellectual act. It is an act of the whole
person and implies intimacy as in Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore Abel.
So God knows their condition which is saying that God unites himself in some very mysterious
way, very unexplainable way with their condition. And here accepting in the line of the fathers
the idea of the fuller meaning, sensus plenio, it's a technical term, the fuller meaning,
that is the meaning intended by God in his total divine plan as realized in Jesus Christ,
in the church, in the sacraments and then at the end of time. Here we are already in
the dynamic or in the, how can I put it, yes, the dynamic of the incarnation. The dynamic
of the incarnation. The incarnation is not something that was, you know, a new idea that
God thought up at a certain point in time and decided I better do this because things
are getting out of hand. The incarnation is the plan of God. The incarnation is the way
God relates to his creation. And how this can be Christian is absolutely beyond explanation.
If we take God seriously, because God is in a way that creatures are not, so that the
affirmation of being is only analogous and not univocal, what does that mean? It's philosophy.
What does it mean? It means that if we say that God is, we must say that creatures are
not. Because his being, his existence is so infinitely greater than ours, that our concept
of being, which is something subjective, we are in our own rather fragile and substantial
way, our consciousness of being is always of just a faint shadow of what is the being
and yet, in spite of this, and this is a consistent affirmation of the Father, it's a very strong
in it with reading Saint Maximus and his passage of God who is beyond being and beyond beingness.
So they simply run out of language. Simply run out of language. And this of course is
Saint Maximus, who is called the confessor because he died from the wounds of his torture
defending the Incarnation and the full doctrine of the Incarnation, the Council of Chalcedon.
So he is, you know, a witness to both the unfathomable mystery of God who simply has nothing in common
with creation. God has no relations with anything else. Another affirmation of Saint Maximus.
And yet, as God said, he's the only begotten Son in the flesh, and he takes flesh and blesses
the Virgin. Like us in everything except sin, then he adds in parenthesis, and sin of course
is against nature, so it has nothing to do with nature. Everything. But if this happened
at one point in time, it is because this was the way God was acting with his creatures
and with his people throughout the history of salvation. So God heard, God remembered,
God saw, and God knew, and entered into, entered into them. God came down. So God with, I am
with, I am with. The God with, the I am, you shall be my people, I shall be your people,
I shall be your God. These wonderful covenant formulas have their counterpoint in the continual
complaint of the prophets speaking in the name of the Lord, who warn the people that
you can't take God for granted. And they do, of course. And then God has to say, as he
says through Hosea, Hosea. The prophet Hosea, by the way, is called Hosea, and Hosea is
closely connected with the authorship of the so-called Elohist tradition, which was the
narratives of the Exodus and the wonderful works of God that came from the Northern Kingdom
mainly, and so forth and so on. So look these up in your standard Bible introductions to
the Bible books, like the Oxford RSV or the Jerusalem Bible, all of that. No need to go
back into it. But you have in the Northern Kingdom the beginnings of prophetic tradition,
and you have the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and then you have the so-called non-writing
prophets, and the writing prophets, you have Amos and Hosea. And Hosea is full of the Exodus.
So it is a kind of a recalling of the Exodus, a remembering of the Exodus, and it is an
announcing of the active presence of the same God who said to Moses, I am, and who was with
the people in their condition of slavery and then in their being liberated. So in the book
of Hosea, the beginning of the first chapter, his complaint, you know, of the unfaithful
wife. And the Lord said to Hosea, go take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children
of harlotry. Go marry a prostitute. Then you will understand how I feel, you know, and God
is saying to him. So you can be my prophet. First you have to understand how I feel, the
way I have been treated. And she conceived again and bore him a daughter. And the Lord
said to him, call her name not Pity, for I will no more have pity on the house of Israel
to forgive them at all. And of course, he is just saying this. He is just saying this
in order to go back on all of this. That is sometimes a little irritating, I guess. One
wishes, you know. Well, he said it, forget it. He should just rid himself of these people
and yet time and time again, this is a absolutely constant theme. It is present in the book
of Exodus. It is present in the prophets of God saying that I will no more have anything
to do with them. I will no more have pity on the house of Israel to forgive them at
all. But I will have pity on the house of Judah. All right, he is making an exception.
But, and I will deliver them by the Lord their God. If this is indeed a part of the text
of Hosea, it might have been added later and therefore has reference to another situation
where God was revealed and equally present and therefore it is the word of God also.
But then it continues. And when she had weaned not Pity, she conceived and bore a son. And
the Lord said, Call his name not my people. Lo am he. For you are not my people and I
am not your God. The opposite. It is kind of, I want a divorce. Then of course this
all leads up to chapters 11 and 12. Or especially chapter 11, which is just slightly overwhelming.
When Israel was a child I loved him. Now that Egypt I called my son. The more I called them,
the more they went from me. They kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning incensed idols. Yet
it was I who taught Ephraim to walk. Ephraim taking one tribe for the whole northern kingdom
and then for the whole of Israel anyway, you see. So it is one name which can be read as
equivalent to Israel in the end. The people. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim, or Ephraim
as they sometimes mark it here, to walk. I took them up in my arms but they did not know
that I healed them. They did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of compassion.
The word is man. Cords of man. What does that mean? Human bonds. Human bonds. Human bonds.
So, you know, here is, the word was made flesh. And with bands of love. The term is related
to the word for the bowels or for the womb. It is a motherly love. But it is a deep love.
Deep within. And I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws and I bent down
to them and fed them. This God bending over, you know. This nursing mother, if you will.
And then the prophet bewails the situation. They shall return to the land of Egypt. Assyria
shall be their king because they have refused to return to them. My people are bent on turning
away from me. So they are appointed to the yoke and none shall remove it. And then God
cries out. How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can
I make you like Admon, people who no longer exist? How can I treat you like the Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me. My compassion, my bowels grow warm and tender. I will not
execute my fierce anger. I will not again destroy Ephraim. Forget everything in chapter
one. For I am God and not man. The Holy One in your midst and I will not come to destroy
you. We need chapter one in order to be ready for chapter eleven. God has always done that.
I am God, not man. The Holy One in your midst and I will not come to destroy you. This would
be an interesting thing to pick up and touch on. When God says, I am God, not man. And
when God says, I am God, not man. Isaiah chapter fifty-five. Seek the Lord while he
may be found. Call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous
man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord that he may have mercy on him. And to our
God for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways
my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your
ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. What does he mean? Let him return to the Lord and
the Lord will have mercy. God will abundantly pardon because God is God. My thoughts are
not your thoughts. Your thoughts are to withhold pardon and mercy. My thoughts are to grant
you mercy. And then this connects with the early chapter in Proto-Isaiah, the first part
of Isaiah, where if your sins were red as scarlet, red as crimson, I will make them
white as wool. And it says something of the same thing about God being very different
from human judges.
God with. The God who in the drama of salvation history is revealed as the one who indeed
is free in granting his mercy, free in granting this unique relationship. The people do not
have a handle on him. They cannot presume on this. God can raise up children of Abraham
from these very stones. Or if you silence them, the stones will cry out. And yet God
is always self-consistent. He is. It's another dimension of him. He is not one way now and
then another way later. I am. The same thought is expressed in greater detail and in the
book of Revelation, chapter 1, verses 4 and 8 and other times. He who is who was and is
to come. Or in the book of Hebrews, Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever. I am
means that there is never a time when I shall not be. I am with you. There is never a time
that I shall not be with you. Another reference to that in Isaiah, chapter 52. Part of these
wonderful hymns of consolation. Book of consolation. Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion.
Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city. He's addressing this people
in exile. He's addressing the city, the devastated city, crumbling walls and just a few people
there. Shave yourself from the dust. Arise, O captive Jerusalem. Loose the bonds from your
neck. For thus says the Lord, you were sold for nothing and you shall be redeemed without
money freely. For thus says the Lord God, Yahweh God. My, or Lord Yahweh. This is Adonai
Yahweh. My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there. It was the first time
this happened, was in Egypt. Then another time. The Assyrian oppressed them for nothing.
That's at the time of Proto-Isaiah. The 8th century. Now, therefore. He's mentioned these
two disasters. The slavery in Egypt, the destruction of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians.
Now, therefore, now that you're in Babylon, what have I here, says the Lord, seeing that
my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail, says the Lord, and continually
all the day my name is despised. My name is despised. Therefore, my people shall know
my name. Therefore, in that day they shall know that it is I, that I am, who speak. And
here I am. So, I am means I am here. I am with. That it is the I am speaking. So, God
is he who is here, who is with. He who hears, remembers, sees, and knows. And he who hears
and knows. Going back to Hosea. What is so moving about this? About this book? The human
warmth of it, but also the drama of God who remembers and the people who forget. Hosea
chapter 13, verses 4-6. I am Yahweh your God from the land of Egypt. You know no God
but me. And besides me there is no Savior. It was I who knew you in the wilderness. He's
building this on the marriage symbolism. And in the land of Droth. But when they had fed
to the full, they were filled and their heart was lifted up. Therefore, they forgot me.
Then later on, Ezekiel will take this image and these themes from Hosea and present them
in his chapter 16. A wonderful, overwhelmingly beautiful chapter.
A beautiful parable of the abandoned infant. As for your birth on the day you were born,
your navel string was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed
with salt, nor swathed with bands. No, I pitied you to do any of these things to you out of
compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field where you were abhorred
on the day that you were born. The infant cast out. And when I passed by you and saw
you walking in your blood, I said to you in your blood, live and grow up. And when I passed
by again, I looked upon you. Behold, you were at the age for love, and so forth. And I spread
my skirt over you and covered your nakedness. Yea, I plied my truth to you and entered into
covenant with you, says the Lord Yahweh, and you became mine. And so forth. The whole chapter
is about that. So this is the God, this is he who speaks and says, here I am. But Israel
forgets, the people forget. There is another important connection here, of course the relationship
of Yahweh to the people is the basis, but there is also this special relationship to
the fathers. That the relationship to the people has been mediated, has been built upon
the relationship that he has established to chosen individuals. Not because God prefers
individuals or individualists, but because he does his work through free human consciences.
I've said that a few times and this is important I think in reading the Old Testament. We need
to overcome our lack of sense of shared life, of corporates or corporative personality.
The people, the tribe, the clan, the family, all these are seen as one, being one flesh
in the Bible. There is much less attention to the individual in the way that we pay attention
to the individual. The concept of privacy, all of these things are alien to the mind
of the Bible. And yet at the same time there is this other dimension which places a great
store on the freedom of this person or that person to respond to them. He speaks to persons
and he makes them persons, he calls them by name and so forth and so on. So this is something
that has already been mentioned and is very important.
So Moses here is not simply a, how can I say it, kind of a medium, possessed by the divinity
and swept off his feet and is a puppet. He's not a puppet. Moses is not a puppet. The midwife,
I love the midwife, they were not puppets. They feared God, they obeyed God and fooled
the Pharaoh, twisted him around their little fingers. So God spoke to the fathers, the
God Yahweh who is intervening, who knows the people's condition, who is becoming their
Lord, who is becoming their husband, who is uniting with them in this mystical marriage,
is the God who spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That is, he knew them and read into
their lives. I think at this point we can read chapter 6, verses 2 to 9. This is a retelling
of the revelation of God to Moses. It is from what is called the priestly tradition, which
came out in written form during the exile. All of these are parallel traditions, they
come from oral traditions, so they are all very ancient and then they are brought together
in writing and then united together in one single narrative in the course of the centuries
under divine inspiration. So chapter 6, verses 2 to 9 simply retells the same story but it
has other subtle aspects to it. It sheds some different lights on this event, this mysterious
event of the revelation of God to Moses. Chapter 6, verses 2 to 9. And God said to Moses, I
am the Lord, I am Yahweh. He is just simply announcing his name. I appear to Abraham,
to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, the Hebrew is El Shaddai, and this is part of
the theology of the priestly codex, the priestly traditions, as also of the Elopists. Both
of these see the use of the name of Yahweh as beginning with Moses, the cultic use of
Yahweh as the name for the living God, the God of the patriarchs, the beginning of Moses.
Whereas the Yahwist, developing another theological perspective on the same realities, projects
this name of Yahweh back into the times of the patriarchs, through the time of creation.
You might say that I like the Eastern and Western churches or something like that. You
have these different theological perspectives. All of them are illuminating. And God said
to Moses, I am Yahweh, I appear to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but
by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with
them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they dwelt as sojourners. Therefore
I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold in bondage,
and I have remembered my covenant. See, he's paraphrasing this verse 224. Say therefore
to the people of Israel, I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens
of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with
an outstretched arm with great acts of judgment. And I will take you for my people, and I will
be your God. And you shall know that I am Yahweh your God, who has brought you out from
under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore
to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession.
I am Yahweh. Notice this speech here, and it begins and ends with the phrase, I am Yahweh.
This is what they call in the Bible, Semitic poetry, it's called inclusion, where a word
or phrase, key word or key phrase is used to kind of frame off a passage, a unit, so
that if it's said at the beginning and then again at the end, you kind of frame it off.
I am Yahweh. Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses
because of their broken spirit and their cruel bondage. You notice here there's a different
reflection on the situation. The promise given in chapter 3 in the passage we just read was
that they will pay heed to you, they will hearken to your words, in other words, they
will obey, and then you will go to peril, and so forth and so on. And here it says they
did not listen, referring in general to the reluctance of the people, beginning in Egypt
but also expressing itself throughout the wilderness, wandering, the theme of the rebellion
in the wilderness. Because of their broken spirit, that is their shortness of breath,
panting under the burden of the tasks, the heavy tasks that they are set and their slavery
and their cruel bondage. So here the revelation of the name, the declaring of the name, I am
Yahweh, is strongly connected with the patriarchs, with the covenant, I established my covenant
with them, to give them the land of Canaan, so the promise of the land, the covenant with
the prophets. I am Yahweh and I will bring you out from under the burdens of Israel.
Here we have another string of verbs which we will see later and which are also important
because they establish themes or because they also give meaning and intensity to the concept
of Yahweh as Deliverer. Each of these has its own feeling, to bring forth, to deliver,
to redeem, to take. I will take you for my people, I will be your God. I will take you
for my bride. This, I'm trying to remember, this is the
time, I don't know whether, yes, I'll just say a couple of things about an expression
here which is also in the passage we read today, I believe. The expression about God
visiting his people in Egypt. You find this frequently, the expression, the visitation
to visit means to intervene. A couple of examples, interesting examples, not only God becoming
present in a dramatic way on the great stage of history, but, for instance, God visits
Sarah and therefore she conceives as a child, Isaac. This is a visitation of God. Does Sarah
simply bring forth life from what seems to be a dead womb? Then it also has a negative
meaning in Exodus 20 verse 5 where God says, I shall visit the iniquity of the fathers upon
the sons, the third and fourth generation and so forth. A phrase which we don't like.
And of course, the numerology there is important. We will see that in due time. It's used in
the New Testament, in Luke. Luke, you know, who is the, just about the best, along with
2 Peter and Hebrews, the best Greek in the Bible, and yet he loves to use Semitic expressions
which are coming to the Greek language through the Septuagint, and so we are familiar with
blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people. The
expression is an example of Semitic parallelism, defining visit, the verb to visit, by the
verb to redeem, to liberate, to buy back. There are other similar expressions. There
are other expressions. In Luke 19, 44, or 41 following, and when Jesus drew near and
saw the city, he wept over it, saying, Would that even today you knew the things that make
for peace, but now they are hid from your eyes. For the day shall come upon you when
your enemies will cast a bank about you and surround you and hem you in on every side
and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone
upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.
This is among some of the more important passages from the Gospels, the Synoptic Gospels, where
the divinity of Jesus is revealed in a more explicit way. It is of course implicit throughout
the Bible, but when we talk about the Gospels, but when we talk about the explicit, more
explicit manifestation of the divinity of Jesus, we see here Jesus bending over the
city, and the parallel I believe in Matthew has something about the mother hen gathering
up her chicks under her wings. I believe that's Matthew. The image it evokes is precisely
the Yahweh in the prophets, especially in Hosea, this maternal care and love of the
God who bends down over his people, and here Jesus is weeping over the city, and you did
not know the time of your visitation. The visitation then is here a loving visitation.
Jesus comes to invite his people to...
Today I'm just going to run through chapter 4 of Exodus. There are lots of interesting
things here, which could be developed separately, but they're not too apropos of Exodus.
They're not too apropos of the general direction of our reading of Exodus so far, so we will
just simply read and consider various aspects of this chapter 4, and then continue on with
the story. A lot of these traditions which we have in chapter 4 were simply part of the
different narratives, a way of narrating the general story of Moses and the Exodus, and
so are part of the story, but they are marginal events and not the central events, like the
vision of Moses itself, the revelation of the name, the crossing of the sea, and so forth.
Now, we are still in the context of the dialogue between God and Moses, and the context is
that of the vocation of the prophet, and remember that when God calls his servant, he enters
into dialogue with his servant. The prophet, with the one call, is always free, is never
compelled or overwhelmed. There is something very different here, by the way, from other
religious forms of divine possession, or exaltation, or enthusiasm, as they say, in the root meaning
of the word, that is, God invading the person, the sort of thing you find maybe in the Delphic
oracles, and so forth. God does not, or you had some of those phenomena in Israel, where
it seems almost as if the spirit of God is a kind of a wild force that possesses an individual
and really takes away that person's freedom, does make that person an instrument of the
divine, but not really a collaborator. What God seeks, though, and this is what we have
here and what we have in the prophets, what God seeks is collaborator, free persons who
respond to the call. So here is this dialogue that continues, and Moses continues his objections.
So from chapter 4, verse 1 and following, Then Moses answered, But behold, they will
not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, The Lord did not appear to
you. The Lord said to him, What is that in your hand? He said, A rod. And he said, Cast
it on the ground. So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses fled from
it. But the Lord said to Moses, Put out your hand and take it by the tail. So he put out
his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand, that they may believe that the
Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,
has appeared to you. Again the Lord said to him, Put your hand into your bosom. And he
put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, as white
as snow. Then God said, Put your hand back into your bosom. So he put his hand back into
his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh.
If they will not believe you, God said, or heed the first sign, they may believe the
latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or heed your voice, you shall
take some water from the Nile and pour it upon the dry ground. And the water which you
shall take from the Nile will become blood upon the dry ground.
What do we have here? Signs. God does give a sign. It is not wrong to ask for a sign.
It is not wrong to ask for confirmation of this call. How can this be, since I know not
man, since I am a virgin? Our Lady said. How can this be? And the angel responds, Behold,
Elizabeth, your relative in her old age has conceived a child, and she is now in the sixth
month. So the sign for Mary was the pregnancy of Elizabeth. God does respond to this. And
you might say the sign for Isaiah, for instance, was the vision of the angel with the tongs
who takes the coal off the altar and touches his lips. And the Lord says, Behold, your
relatives have been purified. And then Jeremiah sees the basket and sees the cauldron and
sees the pigs and these other things are, as it were, confirmation. But there has already
been the promise of a sign, and it is the most important sign. Behold, I will be with you,
and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you. When you have brought forth
the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain. That's chapter 3, verse
12. That is the primary sign. We can make all sorts of considerations, and I think we
should, for our own lives. You shall worship God, and this shall be a sign for you. Being
able to worship God is an extraordinary thing. Being able to respond to God's Word, being
able to offer Him a sacrifice is an extraordinary thing. We take it for granted. We can attend
mass. There are, of course, situations in which it is impossible to do so because of
human malice, persecution, or what not, or simply because of material difficulties, illness
or distance or what not. But just the fact that we can worship God is already an extraordinary
sign for us. But God does not only offer this great sign, but He also condescends, and this
isn't a bad word to use of God. He condescends, which really means coming down with, you know,
coming down to join them. God condescends to respond to the religious expectations of
this people, of this simple people, primitive people. Condescension, the Greek word which
you find so often, the Greek Father, especially St. John Chrysostom, in the Second Vatican
Council, quotes it, sin katar vasis. So this sin together with katar down, vasis going down.
So God comes down, and to be with His people, He comes down to their level. This is not
the condescension of someone who sneers at these petty creatures, but of a loving Father
who, again, bends over his firstborn child. He humbles himself. He reaches down to his
firstborn child. Remember Hosea chapter 11, and then the background for Hosea is, of that
chapter is right here in these chapters of Exodus. So God considers their own limited
capacity for religious understanding and responds to this limited capacity. He does not demand
of them a greater receptiveness than what they really have. They were, I'm sure, quite
aware, or certainly, without doubt, quite aware of the religious practices of the Egyptians.
The Egyptian priesthood utilized a great deal of magic, what we would call magic, and they
used magic, maybe simply magic tricks. In fact, quite probably, a lot of magic tricks,
illusions, in order to generate a sense of awe or to draw attention. And then, with the
scope of, at best, keeping a certain order through the religious sanction in society,
and at worst, simply manipulating people's minds and consciences. But there may very
well have been the exercise of paranormal, parapsychological powers. Catholic scholars
have no difficulty in admitting the existence on a natural level of clairvoyance and telepathy
and what they call psychokinesis, or psychokinesis. That means moving things with your mind, mind
rays, whatever. In other words, some people say the great winners in the, what do they
call it, the dice, you know, great dice throwers, use some psychokinesis to influence the fall
of the dice and make a lot of sevens turn up, or whatever they're supposed to make turn
up, snake eyes or something. They may very well have developed these powers.
Certainly primitive man was more receptive to these dimensions of human and natural reality.
We have in our own culture kind of a censorship, an automatic censorship, which begins in
childhood. Many, many children have manifestations of parapsychological phenomena, and they hear
immediately from the adult population, oh, you know, you were just dreaming, or from
your parents, forget about that, that's nonsense. And so it kind of gets immediately thrust
back down into the unconscious. But the ancient peoples, just as primitive peoples today were
more accessible to that. And then if you want, you can also speak of devilry, you can speak
of necromancy, and all sorts of, the dark side of all of this, which is, you know, the
flesh is never totally absent. But in any case, God condescends to this in a good way.
He comes down, he humbles himself. He is considerate of their limits. So you have this trick with
the staff. He was a shepherd, you know, shepherding his flock, so he had a staff in his hand, turns
into a snake. Interestingly enough, we find these two signs not being used, it doesn't
say that Moses ever needed to use, well, he sometimes, not in this particular tradition.
There's really, there's the two interwoven narratives here. So then it does say, it does
say at the end of the chapter that he worked with signs. But the response seems to be much
more receptive than is otherwise suggested. But what we do find is later on he used these
signs in front of the Egyptian priests, and they duplicate that. And that is something
I think very significant, that they can duplicate that. In other words, he throws down the rod
and it turns into a snake, and they pick up the snake and it turns into a rod, that sort
of thing, you know, so, it eats up their rods, their snakes and their rods and so forth.
But anyway, the point of it all is, and this underlies this passage and is brought out
in the, I would think would be kind of a subtle irony in that, the kind of contest, who can
work the best tricks, that this is not the divine power. Now you have this third sign
of pouring water from the Nile upon the dry ground, and the water which you take from
the Nile will become blood on the dry ground. We have already here like a foretaste of the
plagues, and we will have plenty of time to look at the plagues because they cover a few
chapters in the book of Exodus. Obviously a great moment and great importance for the
whole dramatic build-up to the death of the firstborn and the going forth from Egypt.
But the actual content of the sign is not of any great importance, because we will later
see with the plagues, the plagues themselves are simply plagues which did take place in
Egypt and which do take place in Egypt today. The water becoming like blood is, I think,
something to do with microorganisms in the water. But that's not important. All of these
are indications of divine power, but where the power of God is, and where divine power
is really manifested, is in the way He leads the events of this history to accomplish His
plan, His purpose. And His purpose is the freeing of His people, setting them free from
their bondage and their slavery, and bringing them into His freedom so that they may then
worship Him. I remember, it was just an offhand remark by an Italian priest who is also a
rather famous poet and sometime political polemicist, who talked about various things
and said one day, was among friends, he said, you know, really, freedom begins on your knees.
And what he meant is the first real, the fundamental gesture of freedom of the human person, I mean
within, this is, you know, from the standpoint of a believer, someone who believes in God,
the fundamental expression of freedom is being able to pray to God, or to respond to God.
God, of course, does take the initiative. But being able to enter into a dialogue with
God, that is where power is. The power of God is always to liberate His people from
their slavery, and also from their superstitious fears. Even though He, in this very moment,
seems to condescend to this, and use the same means that for other ends, not in accordance
with His purposes, were used by the Egyptian priests and magicians. God bends down, and
to the lowliness of our human kind, and then lifts us up. He doesn't leave us there. And
that's very important. The next part of the chapter, we've already just touched on this,
but now we will read it again. But Moses said to the Lord, this is from chapter 5, he said,
chapter 4, verse 10 following. But Moses said to the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent,
either heretofore or since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant, but I am slow of speech and
of tongue. Then the Lord said to him, Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him dumb, or
deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with
your mouth, and teach you what you shall speak. But he said, Moses is still insisting, O my
Lord, send, I pray, some other person. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against
Moses, and he said, Is there not Aaron your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak
well, and behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad
in his heart, and you shall speak to him, and put the words in his mouth, and I will
be with your mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. He shall
speak for you to the people, and he shall be a mouth for you, and you shall be to him
as God, and you shall take in your hand this rod, with which you shall do the signs.
So, God is angry with Moses, not because he recognizes, Moses recognizes his own weakness,
but is not willing to accept his own weakness, and to allow God's power to work through it.
It's one thing to say, I am not, I am weak. Jeremiah says, Ah, ah, ah, Lord God, do not
send me, I am too young. He was only twenty. Sure, Moses was not eloquent, did not have
much slow speech and tongue, maybe he stuttered or something. But then when he said, send
somebody else, God would not take this. It's a very different thing to recognize one's
weakness, and then trust in God. And another thing to see oneself as weak, and not believe
in weakness, is exactly where God works. There are two places in the New Testament, I think,
that immediately come to mind as you read these words. I will be with your mouth and
teach you what you shall speak. Jesus promises this in almost the same words to his apostles.
Do not plan in advance, do not think in advance of what you are to say. You will be brought
before kings and princes. Do not plan, do not consider, do not think in advance what
you shall say. Because the Holy Spirit himself will give you what is to be said in that moment.
Jesus reveals the Holy Spirit. But the promise is the same. God shows the weak, God shows
those who come in fear and trembling, gives them the Holy Spirit that they may speak as
the New Testament Greek says, parrisia, with free speech. We don't have a nice expression
in English. As friends, but it also is the right of citizenship. In other words, being
able to speak out, speak your mind. A slave cannot speak his mind, has no forum for his
self-expression. Parrisia is actually a technical term, really, it's a political term. Equivalent
to what we say freedom of speech, the first amendment, first article of the Bill of Rights.
God gives us freedom of speech in relation, of course, to himself. We can speak freely
to God and also we can speak freely to others. I was going to mention an Italian saying,
well, we use the expression to say it like it is, bad grammar, but that's the expression,
say it like it is. And the Italian says it like it is, he says, he doesn't have any fur
on his tongue. That's kind of a funny expression. He doesn't have any fur on his tongue. He
doesn't beat around the bush, he doesn't use this nice word, soften up what he's saying.
He says it, he says it, he doesn't have fur on his tongue. So, anyway. So God is promising
this, to speak out, to speak out at the right moment in the right way. And the other passage,
of course, that was one of the passages in the New Testament. The other one, of course,
is the first letter Paul to Corinthians, where he's talking about the two kinds of wisdom
and how he came to the Corinthians, you know, in fear and trembling. He did not come with
worldly wisdom, he did not come, but in the Holy Spirit and power. When I came to you,
brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom,
for I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with
you in weakness and in much fear and trembling. And my speech and my message were not in plausible
words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might
not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." The vocation of Moses is, indeed,
the backdrop of these words of Paul. There are similar expressions in 2 Corinthians and
the latter, let's see if I can just put my finger right on the chapter, yes, right, chapter
12, where he really lets it all hang out, as they say, really empties the bag and just,
you know, lets them hear the emotions that are in his heart and his loving indignation,
not righteous indignation only, but loving indignation, he loves them and he's mad at
them. Though if I wish, this is chapter 12, verse 6, though if I wish to boast, I shall
not be a fool, for I shall be speaking the truth, but I refrain from it, so that no one
may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. And to keep me from being too
elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger
of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. We don't know what that thorn
is, it's no use trying to speculate. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that
it should leave me, but he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made
perfect in weakness. And Paul says, I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses
that the power of Christ may rest upon me. I have been a fool, you forced me to do it,
for I ought to have been commended by you, and so forth and so on. The signs of a true
apostle were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty words. For
in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did
not burden you? He paid his own room and board. Forgive me, that's wrong. He's being very
sarcastic. But that's the backdrop of what St. Paul says there in 1 and 2 Corinthians.
But still, God is still this wonderful condescending God, this condescending Father, and just as
he stoops down to the ignorance, the religious ignorance and superstition of the people and
gives them a few magic tricks, why not? For they are for his purposes, for his plans.
So even when Moses spits in his face, I mean when he says, send somebody else, I mean that
you really, that is pretty far down the line. He has received the revelation of the name
of the living God. He has seen the burning bush. He has received all of this sign of
divine favor. He says, send somebody else. And there is one interpretation, some of the
fathers do see this as meekness and humility. Yeah, well the first one is meekness and humility,
but here the anger of the Lord is kindled. The first one when he says, O my Lord, I am
not eloquent, neither could a force since thou hast spoken to thy servant, but I am
slow of speech and of tongue. He's right, okay. But here he is sending, he is saying,
send somebody else, send somebody else. And that is why the anger is kindled. Not because
Moses is slow of speech and not because he realizes that he is slow of speech and is
shaking in his shoes, how can I ever do this? But because he doesn't want to accept both
his weakness and the power of God which makes use of this weakness for his divine purpose.
Because that is the way God acts. That is the way his purposes are accomplished. Not in worldly
wisdom, not in worldly power, but in the power and the wisdom of the Spirit. And then, of
course, then he mentions Aaron here. This is a beautiful, really a beautiful passage,
you know. It may have been inserted into the story in order to, as a, what they call etiological
explanations, in other words, looking from the effect to the cause, in order to understand
the importance of the role of Aaron in the history of the Exodus, and yet why Aaron,
the elder brother, was not, as it were, the top man, you know, Moses was. So, anyway.
But, but here, you know, God's anger is kindled in an instant, as in this morning reading.
And then immediately, you know, he, his indignation, the divine wrath vanishes and here he, he
says, there's Aaron, of course, and he can speak well and he is coming out to meet you
and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. There will be union of brothers
and all. So, immediately, you know, the overwhelming mercy of God, his everlasting love prevails.
But let's go back to this. The first, what Moses says at first, and then there's this
other verse here, which is also very mysterious. We need to think about it, you know. Moses
said to the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, either here to force, since I was spoken to
by a servant, slow of speech and of tongue. Then the Lord said to him, he's answering
the objection, who has made man's mouth? Who makes him dumb or deaf or seeing or blind?
Is it not I, the Lord? This, these expressions can cause us a little
difficult, if we think about them, because it seems that God is being, I mean, that God
is presenting himself, revealing himself as a kind of a rather arbitrary despot. Yes,
he is the creator of all things, but it seems, at this point, to simply, you know, decree
somebody is going to be blind and somebody is going to be able to see and all of that.
And yet, of course, in a way, that's what happens.
This, our difficult, the inequalities in the world, you know, why some people are born
blind? I mean, a little child, you know, infants with congenital defects, you know, this is
always one of the primary arguments against the existence of God. One of the primary arguments.
If God existed, why would he let these babies be born blind or lame or mentally retarded
or whatever? We all, we try to, you know, we have to figure
up some nice answer and usually we do. Maybe that's because we think the way we do.
For the ancient world, including ancient Israel, and for the most part in the Bible, there
is no great concern about seeking explanations for these things. They simply are facts and
realities. And there's no real problem, no real difficulty that they have in making,
in putting together their conviction in the goodness of God and their acceptance of inequality
and sickness and the sufferings of the innocent and so forth and so on. They don't, there's
no real theodicy in the Bible. Yes?
When you say also that there's a, that modern men, particularly I'd say Americans, have
gotten away from the biblical notion of justice to an idea of what is of equity.
Because St. Paul speaks about God being a father who can fashion some justice to destruction
and so forth. And that really scandalizes. Therefore, I think that God is unjust, whereas
St. Paul is making a point in that message that God is just.
Yeah, and he's using, he's using the language of the Old Testament. He is using, giving
language. He's using a standard statement, not to answer the difficulty, not really to
respond in a philosophical way, not to justify the ways of God to man. As far as the concept
of justice is concerned, there's of course St. Thomas Aquinas says a lot about that and
so forth. And what we, what is usually referred to as justice in modern thought, modern, you
know, in the last 1,500 years, is part of justice as it is conceived in, you know, in
Christian tradition. And the justice of God in the Bible is not, does not exclude that,
but is not that. This is just in parenthesis, but the concept of justice, which is very
important of course in the Bible, can be rather roughly, cannot be really defined, but you
can say, you can use an expression that roughly corresponds to it. God is just because he
fulfills his promises. The justice of God consists in fulfilling his promises. He promises
redemption, salvation, good, eternal life, and he fulfills his promises, and therefore
he is just. There's one book by, just again as a footnote, one book by Jean Danielou,
I don't remember which one it is, but one of his very popular books on the Bible and
spirituality, and where he goes into a beautiful explanation of these key terms, which are
the three key terms, which you find again and again in the Psalms, and you find them
in the Prophets, which are tied together. Many of you have probably heard them before,
you know, in the Hebrew word chesed, tzedek, and emet, or emunah. Chesed, tzedek, and emunah,
steadfast love. Tzedek, justice in a biblical sense, and righteousness is another translation,
or you know, the old Bible English type of translation, across the Bibles, the Revised
Standard Version usually translates, that's right, usually translates tzedek as righteousness,
sometimes I guess justice also, but then emet or emunah is truth, but closer to troth, you
know, that old phrase which is in the, I think most Protestant churches, or liturgical Protestant
churches use it in the wedding ceremony, I plight with this ring, I thee wed, and I plight
thee my troth, you know, we have the same expression in Ezekiel, they kept it in the
RSV because it was familiar, I plight thee my troth, I promise you my faithfulness, and
our word truth is troth, you know, in medieval English, so the English word of course truth
today is usually interpreted more in the Greek sense of that which, you know, the concept
corresponding with reality and so forth, but it has a strong connection with faithfulness,
and with the matrimonial faithfulness, fidelity, but anyway, that's in parenthesis, now, so
the biblical man found it less difficult, there were other difficulties, there were
other struggles that biblical man had to make in order to understand God's ways, but
it was not in the terms that later philosophy, even scholastic philosophy developed it, and
then modern times, modern objections to the belief in God and so forth. Always remember
of course that these objections are real objections, they're serious, they must be taken seriously,
the existence of evil, or even in a certain sense the apparent autonomy of the material
world, you don't need outside explanations, really, you know, yes you do also, but I mean
that is, these are real objections, they're not simply because the person is stupid who
objects in this way. The person may be insincere and not believe in God out of malice, or say
I don't believe in God out of malice, but on the other hand, sometimes the awareness
of the objections, especially the existence of evil, of the apparent capriciousness of
nature and so forth, and babies born blind and then retarded and so forth, this objection
is a real objection, we should feel it.
It tends to be a very emotional objection too, as some people may object to the existence
of God.
Yeah, it is emotional, and we get of course emotional on trying to defend it when perhaps
what is needed is just being very cool and clear about what we really, you know, and
admitting that our faith does not simply explain away evil, explain it away.
You know, Thomas Aquinas, when he starts out with this an deus sit, whether God does exist,
you know, he starts out with these two objections, and he looks at them four square, and he recognizes
their reality as objections.
But anyway, this is something that will take us a little off the line.
What I want to get back here though is to this verse and the expressions we have on
the Lord's lips, in the Lord's mouth.
Who has made man's mouth?
Who makes him dumb or deaf or seeing or blind?
Is it not I the Lord?
What we have here, what is the mentality?
What is the basic thought, basic concept here?
The thought that is implied here is a more immediate, or how could I say, a greater awareness
of the immediacy of divine causality.
Does that make sense?
Things happen because God makes them happen.
A pagan would say, things happen because the gods make them happen, you know, or things
happen because spirits make them happen.
And you can trail off down into animism, all sorts of rather, to be nice about it, limited
or primitive forms of religious consciousness.
But even in the Bible's consciousness of the facts and events of this world and of human
reality, they were more aware of the immediacy of the divine causality.
It is important for us because, naturally, we do have a tradition of thought and theology
and Christian philosophy to always, I mean, we can't simply go back to that way of seeing
things because that's not the way we would think anyway.
It would not be normal for us.
And we have, of course, the tradition of the fathers and especially of the scholastics and
so forth, where they develop, in a very refined way, the concept of the relation between the
first cause and the secondary cause.
God's causality is both immediate but also immediate.
God works upon his creation.
He's not the kind of deistic god of the Enlightenment philosophers, you know, the idea of the watchmaker
who winds up his creation and sets it on the shelf and lets it tick away.
But the divine providence involved in his creation works normally through secondary causes.
That's good theology, good thought, and we should always, you know, be aware of that.
And yet, at the same time, not be particularly, you know, surprised when the Bible simply does
not refer to secondary causality.
Oh, there are a number of parallels which we could have used to this expression, a number
of similar expressions or even stronger expressions.
One of them in the book of Psalms, Psalm 94, and that would be 93, of course, in the Old
Testament, as it is in the Greek, in the Latin.
And they say the Lord does not see, the God of Jacob does not perceive.
The atheist for the Bible, you know, is not the philosophical atheist of our time who
says God does not exist because the concept is repugnant to orderly thought or because
the concept is unnecessary or unfoolable.
But the fool says in his heart, no God, means simply that God does not bother about what
I do.
He's not present in these facts.
It is not a philosophical denial of God, but the denial, we would say, of divine providence.
And the other expression, which is the equivalent, the Lord does not see, the God of Jacob does
not perceive.
And then what does the psalmist respond?
Understand, O dullest of the people, fools, when will you be wise?
The fool says in his heart.
When will you be wise?
He who planted the ear, does he not hear?
He who formed the eye, does he not see?
He who chastens the nations, does he not chastise?
He who teaches man knowledge, the Lord, knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath,
a breath in the sense of something that passes and is gone in the next.
And then, blessed is the man whom thou dost chasten, O Lord, and whom thou dost teach
out of thy law, to give him respite from days of trouble.
The Lord will not forsake his people.
For justice will return to the righteous, in other words, tzedek to the tzedekim, and
all the upright in heart will qualify, and so forth and so on.
When I thought my foot slips, thy steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
When the cares of my thought were many, thy consolations cheer my soul.
What are the cares of his heart?
The difficulty of seeing God present in what happens to him.
But the Lord has become my stronghold.
He makes this act of faith.
And, well, of course, there are a number of other psalms.
Psalm 73, which is 72 in the Yale Psalter.
Therefore the people turn and praise them and find no fault in them.
And they say, this is those whose bodies are sound and sleek, who have no pangs, who do
not suffer, their eyes swell out with fatness, their hearts overflow with follies.
What do they say?
How can God know?
Is their knowledge in the Most High?
Behold, these are the wicked, always at ease.
They increase in riches.
Oh, scandalous.
How can the wicked become rich, and here I am, miserable?
All in vain.
I'm going to lament, you know.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I've been stricken and chastened every morning.
When I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task.
Till I entered into the sanctuary of God, then I perceived their end.
They are like a dream in one awakes.
When my soul was embittered, I was stupid, I was like a beast toward you, toward thee.
Nevertheless, I am continually with thee.
Thou dost hold my hand, thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt
receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but thee?
And there is nothing upon earth that I decide beside thee.
My flesh and my heart make faith that God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Here we come a long, long way where he does not really need to answer his dilemma.
A real dilemma, a real dilemma.
Why do the rich grow fat and I'm hungry?
And I am following God's law and they are not, and yet God is my portion.
And with him that is all I need.
And here without any explicit faith in an afterlife, we always put this into the perspective
of the full revelation of resurrection and eternal life, the whole eschatological teaching
of the very latest books of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, and yet most likely
here this was not conscious, I mean it was implicit in the faith, the act of faith we
should make here, but it's simply an act of faith.
God is enough.
God is enough.
God who has made the eye and the ear.
He does see and he is concerned for his faithful ones.
Well this is perhaps a much further development of the whole expression, but to go back to
the rather, well, what you would call kind of primitive perspective, but not to understand
this in a demeaning sense, but simply where the biblical faith starts, you find a similar
expression in Isaiah chapter 45, this is the second Isaiah, and he's writing in the context
of the fall of the Babylonian Empire and the rise of the Persians with Cyrus, the anointed
of the Lord, this holy pagan in the Old Testament.
And I am the Lord, there is no other, 45 verse 5, I am the Lord and there is no other, besides
me there is no God.
I gird you, though you do not know me, he's talking to Cyrus, you do not know my name,
but I know your name, I give you a name, that men may know from the rising of the sun and
from the west, he's from the west, that men may know from the rising of the sun and from