Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Answers on a postcard

Answers on a postcard, please, to some questions. Rabbinic type questions: questions which the rabbis have loved to debate over the ages.

It's Wayne Muller's fault, quoted in Peter Scazzero's Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: thinking about taking a Sabbath rest, Wayne exhorts us to take a Sabbath rest as part of our life discipline, learning to rest and recuperate. He suggests that this should be routine, because if we waited until our work was finished, we would never stop.

But Genesis 2:2 says:  " By the seventh day God had finished his work, and so he rested. God blessed the seventh day and made it special because on that day he rested from his work."

God had finished. We are to make the seventh day special because God had finished his work. 
So, did God stop working?
Was his work just to create the world and set it running, or is his work to sustain it?
Without sin, would the world have stayed perfect, not needing to be sustained?
Did God rest because he knew sin was coming - the 'calm before the storm'?

I suspect that as soon as I start to try to answer these questions with other Scripture, then more will arise.

For example: there are numerous mentions in the Psalms of God sustaining us: which surely needs energy, which is expended in mental or physical effort - a definition of work.

Exodus 15 talks about God working, when Miriam sang her praise song after the Israelites were saved from the Egyptians at the Red Sea: "Our Lord, no other gods compare with you—
Majestic and holy!  Fearsome and glorious!  Miracle worker!"

When God gave the ten commandments, he wrote them on tablets of stone; " The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets." work.

And Moses recognised that God works: "Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?"

So perhaps I have answered my question 'Did God stop working?'.  No. God is at work in the world, in us, sustaining, changing, bringing life. But He did stop working after he had finished one particular piece of work, and that is easily translatable into a practical tip for us: to break our tasks down into achievable chunks, building in rest and relaxation so that we can recoup our energy to continue. Books - whole libraries of them - have been written about rest and avoiding burnout.

Still, I am more interested in how I came to the answers.

In all my learning about how to study the Bible, I don't recall much emphasis on asking questions of the text: the SOAP method (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer) is wonderful but depends on reaction and deduction...

I like questions. I think I rather like this new approach to study.

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