Posts Tagged ‘destiny’

GENESIS 12:1-4a

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

Accepting God’s calling on our life will always involve some sort of “departure” from where we are presently. Sometimes this departure is of a physical variety and takes us to another place, nearby or distant, in order to fulfill what God has given us to accomplish. But whether or not such a physical departure is involved, there will always be required of us a going forth from our current way of life – from our present mindset, our acquired habits of thinking, valuing, and behaving.

Because our worldview is our reality-in-perspective, this psychological departure can often be felt as a death (and rebirth) experience. The most critical phase in this transformation is just after the departure has been made, but before a full view and understanding of our destination is gained. In that vulnerable and frequently confusing time, the thing most needed is our deep trust (faith) in the providence and wisdom of God.

The Jewish people came to an early appreciation of Abram’s call as most significantly a summons from God to leave behind one worldview for another. Abram was called out of the polytheistic culture of his ancestors, with its deep assumptions and ancient traditions, in order to enter a revolutionary and completely novel experience.

His destiny was to be in a devotional and moral relationship with the one God, the one and only God, with that Divine Reality and Holy Mystery beyond all the gods of religion.

                                                                                            

Abram’s departure, being physical, must surely have been difficult. Leaving his tribe, its traditions, its pantheon of deities, the familiar landscape and way of life – not to mention his relatives, his occupation, and whatever reputation he had been able to make for himself – leaving all of this must have been a fairly wrenching experience.

But leaving behind things, particular locations, and even other people is not in itself the most difficult part. It’s the value and meaning, the emotional attachment (in degrees of dependency) and cognitive certainty we’ve associated to these that arouses feelings of anxiety, disorientation, and sadness.

This is where physical departures become psychological departures, where shifts of location initiate shifts of identity.

For Abram, the call of God was not simply and exclusively a summons away from his familiar environment and definitions of self. Along with the call away was the call toward: “Go from your country and your kindred” was followed by “to the land that I will show you.” Abram’s new mission was to serve God’s blessing for the world.

 

PSALM 29

1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
    worship the Lord in holy splendor.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
    and strips the forest bare;
    and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

In addition to the conventional tasks fulfilled by the gods and goddesses of the ancient world – managing the cosmos, blessing the fields, flocks, and women with fertility, giving victory in war and upholding the moral order – the God of Israel was rather unique for his attention to the forward progress of history.

This can partly be explained as reflecting the fact of Israel’s tribal and national experience, beginning as a nomadic people, having to contend with the near-constant threat of invasion once they settled Palestine, and undergoing the profound trauma of deportation and captivity in Babylon.

The current state of affairs for them as a nation was something that kept them looking to the horizon of the future for deliverance, security, or fulfillment. But beneath this psychological explanation lies a deeper spiritual one: the God of Israel was the transcendent anchor-point outside the turning cycles of time, who awakened and inspired in his people the self-understanding of being an instrument of a greater will and purpose.

That’s not to say that Israel couldn’t appreciate the mystery of being in the Now, or enjoy the passing beauty and pleasures of the moment. For them, however, the present moment was not defined so much by the revolutions of time past, as by the progressive realization of God’s promised future. Israel’s difference from other surrounding cultures is most pronounced in this idea of time as evolutionary and forward-moving.

ISAIAH 42:1-9

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be crushed
    until he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

5 Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
    I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
    a light to the nations,
7     to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the Lord, that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
    nor my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have come to pass,
    and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
    I tell you of them.

The topic of vocation has become increasingly important in the recent literature, both religious and secular, interested in the question of purpose or mission in life, business, and personal development. Since the word itself is identified in the popular mind with an individual’s profession or occupation, the general preference in this literature has been to recover the root meaning of the term vocation itself, which refers to one’s calling.

The difference between occupation and calling, just as far as literal definitions are concerned, is the difference between the role one occupies in the commercial fields of labor, manufacture, service, intelligence and trade, and the deeper human purpose to which one is being summoned by the evolutionary universe itself.

As our quest for fulfillment forces us to look beyond the relative rewards of professional success and economic value, more and more people today are being drawn to this question of human purpose. What is it that the supreme reality is calling us to become? What is the evolutionary goal of humanity?

In the middle section of the book of Isaiah, called Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55), this question of human purpose is the driving focus of the author’s work. His answer to the question will reflect the actual conditions of his historical situation and that of his community, but his central metaphor of servanthood is something that has been proven to transcend time and circumstance altogether.

                                                                                             

While in exile, the author of Second Isaiah received a vision of his displaced community in terms of a corporate personality, with the entire generation caught up and unified in the image of God’s chosen servant. This image enabled him to look through their shared circumstance of captivity in order to discern the deeper hidden current of God’s purpose being worked out through their loss and adversity.

By definition, a servant is one whose principal task is to carry out the will and purpose of another. Different from a slave, a servant occupies a recognized social class, providing services in exchange for room, board, social protection, or a regular wage. When Second Isaiah fastened on this metaphor of servant as a way of conceptualizing the experience of his people, he opened the path toward incorporating their suffering into the purposes of God.

Significantly, however, his image did not simply assume the popular idea of suffering as punitive for sins. Instead of the Suffering Servant of God enduring hardship as punishment for the past, their – remembering that the title refers to the exiled community as a whole – travail is interpreted as birth pangs of a future reality.

Of course, the idea of God working out a purpose through a people had been around for some time. It was central to Abrahamic religion. But now, even suffering was seen as redemptive.