The book of Isaiah manages both to deride idolatry and to analyze it with a deft scalpel. At times, the two forms of protest merge almost without seam.

In chapter 46, it is Babylonian religion—presumably endowed for Jewish captives with all the pomp and appeal of the established faith—that was likely the attractive alternative to YHWH-religion and so now the target of the prophet’s derision. That sarcasm finds the accoutrements of such religion to be a burden that wearies both its practitioners and any beast of burden unfortunate enough to find itself under their rod.

By subtle contrast, YHWH is presented as the God who has always carried his sons and daughters, always borne them up.

So the text presents a jarring, two-ways analysis:

Weighed down by the inert, accumulated detritus of religion. Or carried along by YHWH’s invisible hands. This is the alternative the prophet’s message presents in its attempt to cut through the social and ideological fog to shed a piercing light on what is really going on here.

Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry (נשא) are borne (עמס) as burdens (משא, a form derived from נשא) on weary beasts.

They stoop; they bow down together; they cannot save the burden (משא), but themselves go into captivity.

Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne (ֹעמס) by me from before your birth, carried (נשא) from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry (סבל) you. I have made, and I will bear (נשא); I will carry (סבל) and will save.

Isaiah 46:1-4 (ESV)

In the citation, I have italicized and provided the Hebrew root of the three words deployed both in the descriptions of Babylonian religion’s wearisome failure and on the canvas of YHWH’s bearing up of his own in the past, the present, and the promised future. The irony is thick and its constituent elements deployed with remarkable agility. Helpless Bel and Nebo weary those who would serve them. YHWH bears his along in invisible arms.

I have also placed in bold the double employment of a different verb, this time מלט, with its strong connotations of rescue, even of salvation. When describing the poor beasts who carry the leaden burden of Babylonian gods, the text credits them with the inability to ‘save the burden’, almost certainly utilizing an ordinary expression that would have been known to the handlers of mules. By way of contrast, YHWH claims at the end of this passage that he will carry ‘and will save’. In both cases, the same Hebrew term comes to bear, though with meanings that inhabit very different planes.

The passage is both bleak in its analysis of religious futility and resonant with hope, the latter by way of its assertion that YHWH acts on behalf of his own rather than wearying them with the responsibility of his care, even of his transportation.

Two religious experiences could hardly be more starkly contrasted.

There is a further resonance in this text that I will mention but not develop in this short post: collateral damage.

The prophet who paints this vivid picture of religious subjects and objects brings those suffering animals into the picture in a way that might seem purely circumstantial. That is, oxen and mules are needed to make the metaphor work, but they lack pertinence beyond that workmanlike function.

In fact, more than this is going on. In the scenes in which Zion’s far-flung sons and daughters return with joy to glorified Jerusalem that anchor the book’s development from this point forward, the returnees are served by certain attendants. In point of detail, they are carried, a matter of narrative the utilizes the same verbs we have seen in the passage before us. Those who carry these returnees are not brute beasts but—surprisingly—gentile human beings, who both serve and benefit from their unanticipated role as transport. Indeed, these unexpected protagonists are called to rejoice with Jerusalem and in the final verses of the book are commissioned to return temporarily whence they came to declare there the glory of YHWH where it has heretofore not been known. Though they never quite shed their subservient status, they become at the same time sharers in and contributors to Jerusalem’s bounty. In point of fact, it is the very cultural legacy of the nations these people represent that beautifies suddenly cosmopolitan Zion.

If such highway narratives can speak, as 46.1-2 does, of collateral damage they also anticipate collateral benefit, in this case for those who bear long-lost Jewish exiles back home. YHWH’s empowering habits, his burden-bearing instincts are in a sense contagious in a way that is the exact opposite of the dreadful contagion of unbearable weariness that is the product of Babylonian religion as it is here presented.

These intersecting ironic threads, where subject becomes object and one verb or a collection of them winds its way through differing contexts to make similar but not identical points, represents the very warp and woof of the book of Isaiah. Here, Bel and Nebo absorb the brunt of the text’s rhetorical violence, while the reader is invited alongside his ancient counterpart to consider that YHWH has been near all along, not to pressure, obligate, needle, or demand.

Rather, to carry. Rather, to rescue. Rather, to save

organic: Isaiah 44

YHWH’s commitment to honoring the reality, the means, and the processes of his creation astounds the mechanistic reader who expects him to accomplish everything he does directly, without mediation.

This orientation of honoring what he has made rather than setting it aside when the really important divine business appears on the agenda shows up everywhere, even in YHWH’s most memorable redemptive moments. As the prophet contemplates the national resurrection that is the Jews’ return from Babylonian exile, he finds it natural to envelop this miraculous contradiction of the expected outcomes of history in the language of organic process.

But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen!

 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.

 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.

 This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.

Isaiah 44:1-5 (ESV)

YHWH, the prophet instructs us, will not help his captive ‘servant’ Jacob by plucking those sons and daughters of Israel bodily from Babylon and removing them to their lost land with the movements of his own divine fingers. This will be no early experience in aerospace.

Rather, YHWH will ‘pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground’. Interspersed with the less organic but still gradualistic imagery of pouring YHWH’s Spirit upon Jacob’s offspring and his blessing upon his descendants, the prophet sustains this organic and even horticultural tone. These daughters and sons of a people who might have wondered whether the future would produce any ‘shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams’.

We modern practitioners of YHWH-religion and its spiritual offshoots are so naively taken by the sudden, the unconventional, the catastrophic, the rupture of purposeful gradualism in favor of ‘the miraculous’? We have little imagination and even less expectation that YHWH’s hand often moves by moistening up the soil. We struggle to accept that sons and daughters grow best as willows beside streams that were dry and unpromising a season ago. Things take time, we are asked to imagine, even for YHWH.

But things that grow slowly, we suppose, are not God’s work.

We have no patience for planting trees.

I have watched dreams die.

Personally, matrimonially, and vocationally, I have become acquainted with the acrid smell of death. Yet I am not defined by death—as much to my own surprise as to anyone else’s—because I have heard in time the giddy laughter of resurrection. Time after time.

I cannot explain why my life is joy rather than gloom, generally so at least, without recourse to the loving arms of Providence. I settle easily into solidarity with the prophets and singers of Israel’s memory, as with the abiding astonishment of a crucified Messiah’s unlikely followers when I read the things they wrote, the words they’ve left. Those people feel like long-lost cousins or well-worn friends. Absent for years, we pick up immediately where we left off.

My dead dreams have come to life. Personally, matrimonially, vocationally. If the aroma of death still lingers, it is retrained and repurposed by the lively breezes of dreams reborn in dimensions, textures, and colors superior to the original.

I cannot explain this, if I may repeat myself so soon, except as evidence gently presented of loving Providence. A further, tentative, redundant declaration: this pattern in my life surprises me more than anyone. ‘The lines…’ —oh, those ancient poets again— ‘…have fallen for me in pleasant places.’ They gave out their words ahead of time and here I sit, repeating them as though my own.

This truth is not easy for me to put into words, rumbling along in the heart as it customarily does at an almost inaudible volume. It is perhaps not so much for speaking out or writing down. But it does nurture its own expectation that death is not privileged with the final word. I think I now accommodate the blows of fresh, new deaths with the barely surprised smile of suspicion that this, too, is only for a moment.

Which is why I find myself coming to write on this crisp morning of blue New England skies about a deer named Morris.

We bought a home in Portland, Connecticut not a month ago. This is its own story of dreams reborn, two of them at the least. But that is not my story exactly, not now, not this morning, not with a strangely potent grief for a dead deer weighing down my heart in a way that makes me feel foolish, naive, overwrought. And compelled to write about him.

One of the harmless little fantasies I’ve carried about for too many years to count is having a backyard that, as my Latin American friends would say it, gives to the woods and to find deer wandering into that backyard for me to contemplate and admire. It’s a sentimental notion, the mark of a small-town boy become a city guy who doesn’t sufficiently understand that deer eat everything you’ve planted, bring their ticks with them, and are generally a nuisance to be warded off with stuff you buy at the Tractor Supply.

But I do know this about my little dream, which is why I’ve never pursued it. Life was differently shaped than wood-bordering yards, it seemed. But I had taken the measure of this abiding dream well enough to name it to close friends, to a wife, and to myself. They smiled benignly, sometimes dismissively, about my little deer dream. Life is not like that, I sometimes thought I heard them think, and even if it were, that’s just a little bit childish at your age.

Then it happened. Not a month ago we took possession of our beautiful new-old New England home—ah, there’s another story—with its backyard giving to the woods and a first conversation with neighbors turning to how that’s a veritable deer highway back there because it runs to the river and deer need water, particularly after a night of dodging bobcats and coyotes and sharing their woods with bears, fisher cats, red foxes, and lots of other deer.

Dreams stirring, dreams awakening, dreams reviving, dreams reborn.

Then came Morris. On that first night in our new home—only a week ago—the motion-sensitive light on the back of our new home’s crown came on to show us a beautifully antlered buck exploring our back yard. Clearly something was wrong with this animal. Its left front leg hung uselessly and unsupportive, causing this gorgeous creature to lurch painfully about in search of, well, he really loved early Winter’s paltry remains of pachysandra, gobbling as though there were no tomorrow.

In spite of his injuries, which became grotesquely visible as he began to return from his daytime hidings in the woods behind us, he had a jauntiness about him that made it impossible to see him as a pest, an intruder, just an animal.

He became Morris.

Morris was in clear decline. Soon he was investing some daylight hours in lying beside the house in obvious distress. Our dog Rhea and I would occasionally sally forth to view Morris more closely, to make his acquaintance, one might say.

Uncharacteristically, Rhea kept a respectful distance. So did I. When Morris would see us approaching, he’d lurch as best he could in the other direction, sometimes back into the woods, sometimes just far enough to eye us warily from what might have passed for a safe distance if we had intended him any harm.

I called the police to see what one does. ‘We let nature take its course’, came the voice over the phone, surely a voice that commented to a colleague about ‘another city family up on Karen Drive’ after he’d let me go. Ah, Nature. Red in tooth and claw. I wished I had ammo to pair with the one weapon I own in order to put Morris out of his misery, but after a notorious school-shooting tragedy this New England state puts classes and fingerprints between a hunter and the ability to purchase ammo. It takes weeks.

Morris didn’t have weeks.

Two days ago, I found Morris on the ground, back in our woods—I claim them now, though not with title—lying prone between two fallen trees. He had collapsed or lay down and was unable to extricate himself. I knew the end had come. He looked at me with frightened eyes as I approached, struggled a bit to pull loose from his accidental captivity and flee. He didn’t have the strength.

I pulled one of the trees off of him in the vain hope that he’d be able to get up after I’d done so. But for what what I hoping? Morris was going to die.

Yesterday, he looked at me when I approached in my painful, self–inflicted duty to ‘go check on him’. This time, his eyes seemed plaintive, not frightened. He didn’t kick, didn’t struggle.

This morning, the coldest of the impending Winter, I wandered out. The life is gone from Morris’ beautiful, traumatized body. Clearly, a vehicle had hit him hard, probably only days ago. His lifeless eyes are open, staring. They are glorious eyes, eyes designed and created, eyes now devoid of life.

I cannot say why this has been such an emotional experience for me. My hunter friends will be laughing, my fishing friends asking ‘But you kill and eat what you catch, don’t you?’

They’re right. This was ‘just an animal’. But his nobility, his helplessly injured vulnerability, his proximity, his antlers rattling against the house as he gobbled pachysandra, the way in those first days he kept disappearing and then showing up from behind a new tree when you least expected him. These have fallen on me like an avalanche, making me…well…leading me to sit here and write down these thoughts instead of bending my shoulder to the harness of so many waiting tasks.

I had a dream of deer creeping into a backyard I would never own. Yet I have a backyard like the one in my dreams, now. It gives to the woods. On our very first night in this new place, Morris came creeping—creeping, lurching, creeping—into that yard and captured our hearts.

He arrived as to an appointment.

Why has Providence resurrected my little, inconsequential dream in the form of a mortally wounded antlered buck? Why has this all happened so very close to our windows, indeed in our very own space, if ‘own’ properly describes anything in a world where these things are given? Why is Morris’ once majestic body lying out there in the cold, right now, right there?

Why not a doe and her fawns making a quick appearance and then gone, or an unremarkable quintet of ordinary deer in our backyard? Why not a simple story of ‘lots of deer around here these days’, an anecdote that would prompt a neighbor casually to counter, ‘Oh, I had nine of them the other night…’?

Why Morris?

Is there instruction here, a thing to be learned? Do dreams come alive wounded sometimes? Does Providence beckon us to see remote things called ‘wildlife’, ‘prey’, and ‘deer’ as Morris, who looked at me with eyes that in the end lacked the strength to be afraid?

I don’t know.

But I wonder.

And that is all I have to say about it.

Todo incluido: Salmo 148

Claramente una reflexión sobre la narrativa de la creación del Génesis 1, el ‘salmo del aleluya’ que está enumerado como el 148 del salterio trae toda la creación en su vórtice doxológico.

Tal como es costumbre en la alabanza bíblica, el salmo deconstruye las mitologías reinantes que se muestran como representaciones incuestionables de la realidad. El sol, la luna y las estrellas, por ejemplo, no están simplemente despojados de su presunto poder sobre los seres humanos. Eso ya se ha logrado en Génesis 1. Aquí, el asunto va un paso más allá: se unen en la alabanza a YHWH, y esto debido a un motivo interesante: “porque él mandó y fueron creados”.

Ya no hay poderes que temer, escudriñar y manipular, ahora los cuerpos celestiales ocupan su lugar en la congregación de los adoradores, junto a los hijos e hijas de Israel.

¡Aleluya! ¡Alabado sea el Señor!

Alaben al Señor desde los cielos,
    alábenlo desde las alturas.
Alábenlo, todos sus ángeles,
    alábenlo, todos sus ejércitos.
Alábenlo, sol y luna,
    alábenlo, estrellas luminosas.
Alábenlo ustedes, altísimos cielos,
    y ustedes, las aguas que están sobre los cielos.
Sea alabado el nombre del Señor,
    porque él dio una orden y todo fue creado.
Todo quedó afirmado para siempre;
    emitió un decreto que no será abolido.

(Salmo 148:1-6 NVI)

Desconozco alguna construcción similar, en la que los seres y objetos creados más potentes se entreguen a la doxología agradecida por el simple hecho de haber sido creados soberanamente. Es un acto supremo de reconfiguración, aunque no de humillación. Los cuerpos celestiales se unen a la “hueste celestial” angélica más personal, al ser ubicados firmemente en el lado creado de la bifurcación de la creación del Creador. No representan para YHWH ninguna competencia en el departamento de la soberanía. Por el contrario, lo alaban tan fuerte como cualquier otro de la multitud reunida.

El punto de la unicidad de YHWH es nuevamente traído a colación cerca de la conclusión del salmo. Tomando un lenguaje que es común tanto a Isaías como a los salmos, el poema se complace explícitamente en el dialecto monoteísta:

Alaben el nombre del Señor,
porque solo su nombre es excelso;
su esplendor está por encima de la tierra y de los cielos.

¡Él ha dado poder a su pueblo!
¡A él sea la alabanza de todos sus fieles,
de los hijos de Israel, su pueblo cercano!
¡Aleluya! ¡Alabado sea el Señor!

(Salmo 148:13-14 NVI)

Así que el monoteísmo bíblico toma forma en el contexto de la adoración. Rara vez se expresa prosaicamente o incluso teóricamente. Más bien la poesía y la alabanza reconocen el lugar único de YHWH como el único ser digno de adoración, el único poder al que todos los demás voluntariamente se inclinan, el único que se contrapone a la creación.

El aleluya, en un mundo así, se convierte en la palabra más digna. Sólo ella es capaz de ordenar a la creación con precisión. Se convierte en el contexto doxológico en el que el ser encuentra su significado.

Incluso el sol, la luna y las estrellas lo dicen, y con alegría.

(Genesis 12.1-3)

A sermon preached at the Wethersfield Evangelical Free Church
22 November 2022

We don’t often think of hope as a thing to be endured.

Received, maybe. You can receive hope from the hands of an encourager.

Exercised, yes, I can see that. You can rise up on your hind legs in the midst of difficulty and exercise hope even when circumstances aren’t making much of a contribution to fostering it.

But endured? Is hope really a thing to be endured.

Well, somehow, hope endured has come to be the title of our Missions Emphasis Month here at Wethersfield Evangelical Free Church in this Year of Covid-19. Although it’s the first half of this sermon’s title, I didn’t invent the phrase … hope endured. Pastor Scott tells me he had nothing to do with it either. Frankly, I don’t know where it comes from. Yet hope endured fits what God has laid on my heart for this morning. It fits like a glove.

When I saw it I thought to myself that It’s a Festivus miracle, as some of you old Seinfelders might also be tempted to intone.

And, in fact, I think it is a small but precious miracle. Because, as one of your missionaries and maybe even on behalf of others of us, I want to talk to you about hope that we endure.

I’m not talking about hope that is always happy hope … not mindless optimism. But rather an empowering, resilient hope that brings with it a whole package of pain, brings with it the challenge to endure what our Maker is doing when we might have preferred a different path, hope that unmakes us and then recreates us as we submit to it. Hope endured.

It may or may not surprise you that there are not many missionaries in the story I want us to consider this morning. On a Missions Emphasis month, with a missionary speaker, aren’t there supposed to be lots of missionaries? Well, we’re in this story, but it’s not a story about us.

Yet there is a mission. It’s not our mission. It’s what many today are capturing with the expression the mission of God. Or if you want to dress it up a little, you might call it, as some do, the missio Dei. The mission of God.

Now, to be specific, I want to talk this morning about three things under the umbrella of hope endured:

First of all, I want to talk about our Creator’s end game: God blesses. That might sound like bumper-sticker frothiness, but I have in mind something much more sober and purposeful and redemptive than that.

Second, we’ll see where a human being is for the first time drawn explicitly into the mission of God to bless all nations in spite of the chaos that reigned even in his remote moment in the ancient world. At the beginning of the twelfth chapter of the book of Genesis—the Bible’s very first book—a total nothingburger of a man named Abram is called to initiate humankind’s conscious participation in the mission of God. We know that man as Abraham, and it’s right to think of him as our father. 

Finally, I want to make what might sound to you like the absurd claim that history—even the tiny fragment of it we call ‘2020’—is right on track … that the mission of God is right on track. That’s a case that won’t be easy for me to make.

In all of this, I hope that we’ll end up with a clarified vision of hope endured. And be prepared to lean into that hope, no matter the personal cost it might ask of us.

The Creator’s End Game: God Blesses

Do you understand that God is on a mission to see all the peoples of the earth enjoy the deep blessing that comes from knowing and serving him … from living gratefully under his care? The Bible has a word for that … it calls that blessing shalom. It’s a word that prods at the joy and satisfaction that human beings experience when things are as they should be, when everyone has enough, when people live transparently in life-giving relationship with God and with each other, when hands cannot keep themselves from lifting up in gratitude for all that has been received.

God will have that outcome. He’ll have that shalom for all nations. He’ll never sacrifice that divine purpose.

He has a name, this God. He invites us to call him Yahweh, which means ‘the One who makes himself powerfully present’ or, more informally, ‘the One who keeps showing up’. 

Before we even know his name, we find him in the Bible’s account of beginnings, of first things. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but those early chapters of our book of Genesis, where we learn about beginnings … the why and the who and the what for of them in particular… were not written in a vacuum. No, those first pages of our Bible were inked in a time when all peoples had their own stories of beginnings. 

In those stories, the gods create in order to exploit … in order to employ … in order to use … in order to abuse. In a context like that, the Bible’s story of beginnings is a minority report. It is a version of events that is best described in a phrase I’ll borrow from my late father, who would sometimes say: ‘Them’s fightin’ words’.

The Bible’s account of beginnings gets up in the face of those existing tales of how the world came to be and says to the custodians of all other origins stories, ‘No, that’s just wrong!’ For starters, there is only one God. He made everything noble and good and beautiful, if you want to know more.

And you know what he does as soon as he makes … as soon as he creates

He blesses!

Gen. 1:20   And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

Gen. 1:27     So God created man in his own image,

                  in the image of God he created him;

                  male and female he created them.

Gen. 1:28   And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Gen. 2:1   Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

This is the first thing the Bible teaches us about the God it labors to present to us. And this determination to bless lines up with everything else we learn about him in its pages. This is who he is! The other gods, this Genesis story cries out, are not like this God. When they act, they do so for their own selfish and corrupt reasons. When this God creates, he does so in order to bless.

That’s a whole different universe.

Them’s fightin’ words … They’re a way of declaring that the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not like other gods. He is good and generous and purposeful. He blesses. This is the first thing we learn about God in Scripture. It may be the most important thing we can know about him.

Genesis rumbles on, as you know, and soon we learn that …

God is on a mission … so, therefore is Abraham … and, in consequence, so are we.

But as we learn this, we also learn that blessing is never easy. Nor is the hope that believes and insists and proclaims that God is like this. Hope, which in a shattered world leads to eventual blessing, is always something to be endured.

The Lord’s intention to bless eventually drew his gaze to this Abram guy, who would in the most outrageous way imaginable become the father of all who would put their trust in Yahweh, in the God who showed up when Abram had no reason to expect Him.

In those first verses of Genesis 12, Yahweh brings Abraham into his own mission to bless the nations. Yahweh asks Abraham to abandon all that he knew and all that he was and to follow the direction of Yahweh’s invasion of his life into a place and a future and a mission that would only become clear in time:

Gen. 12:1   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. 2 And 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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Do you see how the Lord’s command peels the layers of Abram’s identity as though peeling an onion? ESV: your country … your kindred … your father’s house. These are the three primary loyalties… primal identify markers of a man in the ancient world. You didn’t carry a passport back then. But you knew where you belonged.

It’s an order that some of us who have been called to be missionaries can understand a little bit from the inside.

More importantly, and for all of us, it was for Abraham and it is for all his sons and daughters a blessing to be endured.

Don’t miss the effect that Abraham’s obedience will have on the world as he joins himself to the mission of God:

3. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Scholars puzzle over that last phrase … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. They ask themselves, how is that to happen? What is the role of those families who find blessing in Abraham?

The best of them, in my judgment, see in this promise the active and conscious identification of those families of the earth with Abraham and his offspring. That is, these families of the earth opt in to Abraham’s chosenness in some way. They join with Abraham in participating in what Yahweh is doing in his world and so find the Lord’s blessing.

In this first book of the Bible, we begin to glimpse a Creator who is passionately committed to blessing his world. In fact, blessing his world is the God of the Bible’s end game. The Bible begins on this note. If you know the New Testament book of Revelation, you know that it ends on this note as well.

Simply put, it is the Creator’s end game.

And, at the same time, this God who keeps showing up is mysteriously committed to the fact that the spread of such blessing will require sacrifice … trust … a measure of pain … and supernatural endurance. The hope of this blessing is in fact a hope to be endured.

Think about Jesus. 

Jesus is the person in whom we see the face of our Maker most clearly. It is in Jesus that the God of Abraham, intent on blessing all nations, becomes one of us and invites us to come closer than human beings have ever been allowed to approach a Holy God.

Yet Jesus instructs us that ‘in this world you will have lots of tribulation’. He himself dies the most shameful imaginable death before being raised as the one who has overcome death and gives us the sure hope of accomplishing the same.

Jesus invites us to walk with him in the path of a hope endured.

We’re right on track.

Now this is where I’ll lose some of you. Especially because it’s 2020…

That’s understandable. We who have for several generations grown accustomed to a life that is safe and reasonably secure have been yanked in with the rest of humanity to a place where things do not feel safe. Life does not seem secure.

In the shock of it all, we’ve not only been rattled. We’ve become pessimists

We lose our grip on a hope that is to be endured. This is natural, I think, when an historical moment goes a little thin on the reasons for hope that it’s offering up. Natural, perhaps. But not necessary. And not obedient.

To become a pessimist about God’s purpose with his world is one way of abandoning the faith. It’s the most common way that self-defined ‘practical people’ say ‘I’m done.’

I think our problem is one of timing. The mission of God rolls along its path on a different schedule than the one we follow in our short, little, fragile lives. A thousand years for us is for the mission of God a mere moment. Its stately pace feels to us like a total stall. Or a failed project. Or a pious dream that once animated us, but now not so much.

You see, no single generation, no lifetime, no portion of our customary timetable lasts long enough for us to gain accurate perspective on what is really happening.

Let me put it a different way: if our Maker had not disclosed to us orientation … instruction that flows from a different time frame, we’d have no idea of what is actually going on. We’d see little evidence of God’s determination to bless. We’d hunker down. We’d act as if this moment is the most important moment, the only moment, the determinative moment. We’d take our clues exclusively from right now. We’d conclude that the sky is falling. In our despair, we’d turn against each other over matters that are important, but not of first importance. We’d divide.

We’d be like a family on a long camping trip that pitches one of those big, sturdy, family tents to spend the night. In the middle of that night, a windstorm come ups and buffets that tent with what feels like unendurable violence.

In the panic of the moment, some would yell ‘Lean right!’ while others would scream ‘No, lean left!’. Some would order, ‘Everybody out of the tent!’, Others would say ‘Every stay right where you are!’, while others would run around in circles crying ‘We’re all gonna’ die!’

We’d have no perspective and very little way of knowing who was right and who was wrong and what is happening to us.

You see, we’re stuck in a dilemma: Without orientation, without instruction, no generation, no lifetime lasts long enough to get us up to a vantage point where we can see the whole story … the entire woods beyond the trees … the big picture.

So may I ask you for a special favor this morning?

Will you lower your defenses this morning and allow me to speak to you from the heart as a missionary whose particular calling has been to spend most of his growed-up years (again, as my Dad would have put it) in places where life has not been safe and not been secure…

May I?

May I not talk about missionaries today, opting instead to speak to you as one of your missionaries?

This is where we are. We’re stuck in that tent in this windstorm that has come upon us. And, you know what? This particular storm may give way to a beautiful, bright, calm, life-giving dawn. Or it may end very, very badly.

I don’t know.

But, like you, I have access to orientation from outside this moment … from outside this disturbing bubble in which we find ourselves. That orientation … that instruction … tells me that hope is to be endured. It informs me that the God who made this world and loves it more than we do is on a mission. It assures me that he will bring that mission to its conclusion in the blessing of all nations … all the families of the earth.

And, as one of your missionaries, I have a map inside my head. It spread itself out in there many years ago and it won’t go away. I see that map nearly every day. I can’t help myself.

It’s one of those maps that walks you through history in a visual way.

I see Abraham under his little tree, unpromising as any man or woman who ever lived (‘Our father worshiped idols beyond the river…’[Joshua 24.2]). I see Israel on its little sliver of land, promised … then occupied … then lost … then restored … then lost…

I see a little knot of Jesus-followers, mostly confined to an otherwise unimportant city called Jerusalem. They are meaningless, almost too few to count.

But I also see the spreading boundaries of their hope as it invades and eventually conquers the empire in which their hope was born. Because I am a child of the Western world, I see the blessing of the gospel they carry—their apostles carry it, their merchants bear it, their refugees encourage each other with the truth of it as they go—I see that blessing spread up through pagan Europe and into the British Isles.

As it goes—and, to be candid, it goes very slowly—it not only brings people into joyous relationship with their Maker. It also undermines and then reconstructs pagan societies into nations where the widow, the orphan, the slave, the poor, the sick have some hope of rescue and restoration. Places where there are hospitals and schools, places where infanticide becomes frowned on, places where the aged are not sent out into the cold to die alone, places where human beings are considered to manifest the very image and likeness of God and so not   be expendable when they’re no longer economic producers. 

My map keeps speaking to me. It shows me this blessing spreading across the Atlantic to this land that has given many of us birth and which all of us love. It is not an unmixed blessing. In the process, Native Americans lose their land and cotton fields become filled with African-born slaves. 

But somehow hope endures, and even those slaves sing of Zion. They give us their negro spirituals and teach us that hope endures longer than the slaveowner’s whip.

My map won’t stop.

I entered a Zoom teleconference the Thursday before last, one in which I’d been asked to speak about the mission of God in and from the Old Testament. As I obediently logged on as I’d been instructed a quarter of an hour before our start time, my screen filled with fifteen faces of my Colombian students whose lives the blessing of God has joined to my own. They represent the leadership of something called the Medellín Ministerial Institute, a service of our Seminary to Christian leaders across our South American city of four million souls. Then, as the top of the hour approached, dozens and dozens of Latin American participants—all of them agents of God’s blessing in a country that has known unending political violence—clicked on to spend the evening savoring the wisdom of the God of Israel, known to us in Jesus Christ.

I thought to myself, that map still in my head, still speaking…

  • This is a scene of blessing endured.
  • This is a scene about which Israel’s prophets could only dream and Israel’s worshippers could only sing in hope.

This is the evidence that God remains on mission, determined to bless all nations and to bring history to its climax not in ashes but in glory.

None of this is easy. My beloved Colombian friends will likely not in their lifetimes see the end of the widow’s cry or the murder of the innocent by power-hungry men and women. Yet they will endure. They will be participants in the mission of God. The Lord’s blessing, through them, will triumph. Andrés Bedoya, one of my favorite students, was five years old when the paramilitaries who ruled his neighborhood murdered his father in front of the Seminary and threw his body against its gates to demonstrate what happens when uppity pastors instruct their people to follow God’s ways rather than man’s. Now Andrés is one of those pastors.

 My map won’t stop speaking.

I see you this morning, bringing your fears and your grief and your troubled spirits and your hope into this place to learn, as the ancient prophets said that we non-Jews would, from the word of Israel’s God. This is all impossible unless God has done it, you see. There is no other explanation for why a little tribe of Hebrews and their crucified messiah should still command our attention today, still capture our hearts, still welcome us—like grafted-in branches—into their life under God.

This is insurmountable evidence that God has been here … still is here … abides with us and we with him.

It is evidence of hope endured. 

It’s also testimony to another reality, one that I think is impossible to deny: The mission of God is right on track, his determination to bless undiminished, his presence among us as powerful and life-giving as ever, even in this awful year when we struggle to see beyond our fears of what is happening to us with COVID and with political differences that shout that they are more basic, more fundamental, more defining than our shared identity in Christ.

I hope that you can see that I’m not making some mindless, utopian claim here that things cannot lurch in horrible directions in any given historical moment. Indeed, they can. And they may.

Rather, as a missionary sent to Colombia from this church and a handful of others like it, I want to speak to you, our sending church, in Jesus’ name and by the authority of his gospel:

Take courage. Be at peace. Dare to find your primal identity in Christ. Taste and see that the Lord is good. No matter what happens to us in this unsettling moment of time in which it is our calling to live, find his grace to be sufficient.

Then love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength … and your neighbor as yourself.

Endure in hope.

May it be so. Amen.

For a scholar bone-weary of the educationalist wars, Lee Schulman’s introduction to The Formation of Scholars is both balm and hearty invitation to risk the reading of the book that follows. His emphasis on the carefully vetted vocabulary of ‘formation’ and ‘stewardship’ frames up the work’s inspection of what must change in this pinnacle of educational achievement that we call the PhD without neglecting what must be conserved.

The book’s lead-off chapter (‘I. Moving Doctoral Education Into the Future’) profiles the dimensions of what is at stake. On the one hand, massive numbers of human beings enroll in doctoral programs. On the other, a shocking half them leave their programs prior to completion. The challenges that foment the carnage are both long-standing or traditional and relating to new challenges around novel technologies and other environmental variables. This early attention to the both-and dynamic in a context that lends itself to revolutionary screed is encouraging from the outset.

The Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate (CID) professes to bring to this formidable nexus a jaunty confidence that things can improve, motivated in part by the doctorate’s native inclination to ask hard and uncomfortable questions. An early axiom that corresponds to this hopefulness is the expectation that, where hard questions are unleashed in a permission-giving environment, profitable changes will be identified and in time implemented. 

The formation of scholars, we are told at this early juncture, involves identity, training, and formation. The process cannot be reduced to any one or even two of the features of the long path that is entailed. Already, hope becomes anchored to scholarly integration and intellectual community, two motifs that will recur throughout this volume. A third critical concept—at least in this reviewer’s eyes—emerges in this first chapter, that of the steward. It is worth pausing to absorb some defining expressions:

‘The contemporary environmental movement has adopted the word steward by focusing on sustainable management that will make resources available for generations to come. Here the emphasis is on people living in concert with the environment and on preservation with an eye towards the future. A steward, then, thinks about the continuing health of the discipline and how to preserve the best of the past for this who will follow …’

‘A fully formed scholar should be capable of generating and critically evaluating new knowledge; of conserving the most important ideas and findings that are a legacy of past and current work; and of understanding how knowledge is transforming the world in which we live, and engaging in the transformational work of communicating their knowledge responsibly to others.’

‘By invoking the term steward, and by focusing on the formation of scholars who can indeed be good stewards, we intend to convey a sense of purpose for doctoral equation that is larger than the individual and implies action. A scholar is a steward of the discipline, or the larger field, not simply a manager of her own career.’

In this first chapter, such agreeably anchored thinking leads to a brief advance look at the structure of a book that is meant to tease out the implications for both continuity and change which such concepts all but require.

The book’s second chapter (‘Setting the Stage for Change’) sketches the relative novelty of doctoral education in America and its migration from an environment whose chief virtue was that ‘no one is in charge’ to the point where established traditions often pass unexamined from one cohort and one generation to the next.  The survey sheds light on two distinct stories:

‘On the one hand, the story is of change—gradual, yes, but ongoing and significant as PhD programs have evolved in response to new funding source and incentives, more and different students, recalibrated purposes, and other changing circumstances both within and outside of the academy. On the other hand, the story is one of stasis—of structures and assumptions that have become increasingly difficult to budge.’

These stories in turn engender ‘four larger ideas’ that become the stuff of ensuing scrutiny: (a) The (Partial) Myth of Money, (b) The Power of the Disciplines, (c) The Double-Edged Sword of Decentralization, and (d) Students as Agents of Change and Improvement. The last of these—students as change agents—comes in for persistent mention precisely because the CID discovered that students are both deeply invested in their programs and capable of enacting real change when they seize or are granted the opportunity to become genuine actors in the process which has claimed a large share of their lives.

The authors open their third chapter (‘Talking About Purpose’) by conjuring the often terrifying beast called ‘qualifying exams’ and then arguing that the purpose of this mile-demarcating ordeal is about as opaque as can be imagined. The obvious desideratum of clarity is then pursued by way of the three-part metaphor of mirrors, lenses, and windows:

‘Mirrors, lenses, and windows improve vision—and thus understanding and motivation to change—by providing new views. Mirrors allow us to see ourselves … Lenses enhance the ability to see by sharpening focus and magnifying detail in one area .. Windows provide the opportunity to gaze at the work done by our neighbors.’

The burden of this chapter lies in its implicit exhortation of doctoral constituencies to summon the courage to design to purpose. Encouragement towards amply populated conversations about purpose and then the identification of the structural components that sustain its pursuit pervade the chapter, together with the recognition that not all of these conversations will be easy ones.

The book’s fourth chapter (‘From Experience to Expertise’) explains how one learns to think like a practicing and productive member of his or her guild. Where lies the path from early experience to that established presence and competence that are captured by the word ‘expertise’?

The CID discerns three principles that mark the road with milestones. The first is ‘progressive development’. This developmental pathway includes the acquisition of research competence, a fluency in the art of teaching what one has learned, and those interactions within one’s field that produce enduring professional identity. A second element of becoming expert (somehow, the adjective seems more accurate than the noun) is ‘integrative learning’. The most effective doctoral programs encourage their subjects to ‘make connections across settings and over time’. Thus, one becomes fluent in the history and dominant dialects of one’s discipline as well as capable of conceiving of that discipline as one among many, some of which are in fact contiguous with one’s own area of expertise.

Finally, the CID makes a plea for ‘collaborative learning’, rooted in the conviction that the world is becoming ever more complex and so isolated research ever more incapable of comprehending sizable pieces of it. A series of three imperatives rounds out the chapter, calling for greater awareness of the structure(s) of an expert’s knowledge and the need consciously to introduce students into these; a call to students to develop a keen sense of how they learn; and a plea to all to interact as genuine partners.

The fifth chapter (‘Apprenticeship Reconsidered’) engages the hoary ‘apprenticeship model’, its roots extending back to Medieval origins and its whispered ‘When it works…’ dynamic acknowledged out loud.

‘The solution, it seems to us, is not to abandon the apprenticeship model but to reclaim and urge it in directions more purposefully aligned with the vision of learning that is needed from doctoral programs today, combined with known ways to foster that learning.’ CID’s solution becomes ‘a shift of prepositions: from a system in which students are apprenticed to a faculty mentor, to one in which they apprentice with several mentors.’

CID would pry the apprenticeship model from its one-on-one ‘Darwinian’ manifestation and reconfigure it ‘more broadly as a theory of learning and a set of practices that are widely relevant’. The constituent elements of this theory and practice are then described with reasonable specificity. One might query, however, whether the apprenticeship model requires incarnation in a one-on-one relationship and whether its relecture as theory and practice risk a gnostic dissipation of its genius.

In what is arguably the strongest entry of the volume, chapter six (‘Creating and Sustaining Intellectual Community’) focusses on ‘intellectual community as a synthesizing concept that pulls together our major themes: the formation of scholars, integration of research and teaching, and stewardship. Intellectual community is also essential to the new vision of apprenticeship …’ It is, after all, precisely in community that the noble ideas put forward by so many educationalists and both identified and named in the present volume become real. They are of little value as abstractions. Yet they are both generative and catalytic when they take shape in the mix of human beings united by a common intellectual cause.

The chapter approaches intellectual community from three principal angles. First, it names the characteristics of intellectual community. Next, it identifies activities that foster such community. Finally, it describes the impact of such community upon the formation of scholars, both in its presence and its regrettable but too common absence.

Nowhere is the belief in doctoral formation as plainly evident as in the final summons of the book (Chapter 7: ‘A Call to Action’). One senses that the principal and supporting actors in CID consider the PhD too valuable to be left untouched. Reform is needed and meaningful change will require all constituencies to bend shoulder to harness.

Five appendices provide details and documents of the CID methodology.

This reviewer is engaged in a thriving theological university in Colombia, where a long history of providing solid, undergraduate level is producing adventurous forays into graduate level education, with a PhD beckoning from just over the horizon. In this context—where words like ‘relevant’, ‘practical’, ‘interdisciplinary’, ‘contextual’, and ‘accessible’ are often considered self-authenticating icons worthy of enthusiastic genuflection—The Formation of Scholars brings its thoughtful examination of what one might call ‘responsive traditioning’. In this reader’s experience, the book achieves this with all the refreshment of an August rain. The Formation of Scholars should remain at the elbow of all shapers of high-level graduate education.

Los salmos bíblicos hablan con claridad sobre el hecho de que alabamos motivados por un conocimiento parcial.

Uno no puede conocer a YHVH exhaustivamente, nos enseñan. Paradójicamente, la alabanza parece más dinámica precisamente cuando el salmista llega al límite de su propia capacidad para conocer a YHVH. No es que la alabanza habite en el vacío insondable del misterio. Uno no se lanza al gran vacío, allí para alabar. Más bien, uno conoce a YHVH verdaderamente por medio del observar sus caminos en la creación, redención e instrucción, entonces con el tiempo uno se da cuenta de que las virtudes de YHVH superan tanto el conocimiento como la articulación.

Uno comienza con lo que uno conoce de YHVH y alaba con eso.

Grande es el Señor, y digno de ser alabado en gran manera;
y su grandeza es inescrutable.
Una generación alabará tus obras a otra generación,
y anunciará tus hechos poderosos.

Salmo 145:3 (LBLA)

El salmo ciento cuarenta y cinco, como muchos otros, yuxtapone la inescrutabilidad de YHVH, por un lado, y la declaración directa de que el paso normal del legado de una generación a otra incluirá la convocación para conocer los actos de YHVH, por otro.

No existe ninguna contradicción sin sentido en esto. Por el contrario, YHVH llama la atención a las mentes de los individuos, comunidades y generaciones. Sin embargo, los que conocen a YHVH se recuerdan a sí mismos cuán poco de él saben. 

La alabanza es suficiente para aquellos que conocen a YHVH. Pero nunca es exhaustiva.

‘La verdadera religión’, por tomar prestada una frase del Nuevo Testamento al hablar del Antiguo, no supone que el Alto y Santo no sea conocible. De esa forma se encuentra la espiritualidad sin sentido capaz de enervar, aburrir y fascinar por partes iguales.

Tampoco supone que lo conozca exhaustivamente. Ahí está la idolatría proteica.

Los salmos nos instan a la alabanza que es suficiente para que podamos conocer a un Dios que se revela a sí mismo. Alaba sus obras y con mucha expectativa espera más.

Sin embargo, eleva las manos abiertas hacia su cielo en lugar de crear imágenes de él con dedos controladores y agarradores.

El ojo escrutador del Señor no siempre es una noción agradable para los escritores bíblicos. En su agonía, Job lo encuentra implacable. Los pecadores, nos dicen, lo consideran risible y a veces un tigre de papel destinado a asustar a la gente, pero bastante incapaz una vez que se obtiene un ángulo claro de las cosas.

Por otro lado, el escritor del salmo ciento treinta y nueve se deleita en la visión ilimitada de Dios en su vida. Ciertamente, después de relatar la imposibilidad de esconderse de su creador, él pide aún más transparencia:

Escudríñame, oh Dios, y conoce mi corazón;
pruébame y conoce mis inquietudes.
Y ve si hay en mí camino malo,
y guíame en el camino eterno.

Salmo 139:23-24 (LBLA)

Tal es la notable conclusión de un poema que insiste en que puedes correr pero no puedes esconderte, y luego afirma que una vida sin escapatoria es algo bueno:

¿Adónde me iré de tu Espíritu,
o adónde huiré de tu presencia?
Si subo a los cielos, he aquí, allí estás tú;
si en el Seol preparo mi lecho, allí estás tú.
Si tomo las alas del alba,
y si habito en lo más remoto del mar,
aun allí me guiará tu mano,
y me asirá tu diestra.
Si digo: Ciertamente las tinieblas me envolverán[f],
y la luz en torno mío será noche;
ni aun las tinieblas son oscuras para ti,
y la noche brilla como el día.
Las tinieblas y la luz son iguales para ti.

El escritor no señala qué experiencia de vida, qué dilema existencial puede haber despertado en él pensamientos de huida de Dios. No provee ninguna circunstancia para la hipotética auto-maldición que invocaría a la oscuridad para que lo cubra en sus sombras. Tales detalles sugieren que el hombre ha vivido mucho o al menos ha conocido el lado oscuro de la experiencia o por lo menos que ha sido estudiante de lo vivido.

También aparece asombro por la gloria de ser humano y una agradecida negación a dejar que el crédito de ese esplendor recaiga finalmente en la criatura que lo manifiesta.

Oh Señor, tú me has escudriñado y conocido.
Tú conoces mi sentarme y mi levantarme;
desde lejos comprendes mis pensamientos.
Tú escudriñas mi senda y mi descanso,
y conoces bien todos mis caminos.
Aun antes de que haya palabra en mi boca[c],
he aquí, oh Señor, tú ya la sabes toda.
Por detrás y por delante me has cercado,
y tu mano pusiste sobre mí.
Tal conocimiento es demasiado maravilloso para mí;
es muy elevado, no lo puedo alcanzar.

La vida vivida de esta manera transparente puede no ser siempre algo dulce, parece sugerir el salmista. Existe demasiada oscuridad en los márgenes de este poema para que nosotros pensemos eso. Sin embargo, es maravilloso. Uno es tan profundamente conocido que sólo las hipérboles, imágenes y exclamaciones de la poesía se acercan a decirlo bien.

Artesanía: Salmo 138

La arquitectura ontológica del hebreo bíblico distancia a YHVH de sus criaturas humanas y al mismo tiempo le acerca más a ellos.

La altitud de YHVH—él es representado como elevado, exaltado y levantado—se asocia a una paradoja apasionada con su proximidad a los más humildes. En un pasaje emotivo pasaje del libro de Isaías, él es exaltado y sin embargo vive con el humilde y abatido. En el salmo ciento treinta y ocho, él mira al humilde con precisión exquisita.

Porque el Señor es excelso, y atiende al humilde,
mas al altivo conoce de lejos.

Salmo 138.6 LBLA

Las concepciones ordinarias de poder exaltado son subvertidas otra vez en la segunda línea del verso citado, pues allí el salmista percibe de lejos a la persona que se exalta a una proximidad aparente con YHVH. Intentar acercarse a YHVH por medio de la auto-exaltación es de hecho distanciarse en una hazaña trágica de autoengaño. 

YHVH, el altísimo, mira y se acerca a sus hijas e hijos cuando se han vuelto los más humildes.

El poeta que está detrás del salmo 138 no concluye sus reflexiones con esta hermosa observación, hecha en abstracto. Más bien, él expresa una declaración y una súplica conmovedoras, llena de la mucha humildad que él ha descrito.

Aunque yo ande en medio de la angustia, tú me vivificarás;
extenderás tu mano contra la ira de mis enemigos,
y tu diestra me salvará.
El SEÑOR cumplirá [su propósito] en mí;
eterna, oh SEÑOR, es tu misericordia;
no abandones las obras de tus manos.

Con una regularidad inesperada, los salmos asocian las declaraciones del cuidado de YHVH más confiadas de sí mismas con las peticiones más sentidas para que dicho cuidado no flaquee.

El salmista ha conocido, en algún nivel conoce, que el cuidado intencional de YHVH no se interrumpirá por las agonías de dudas de la experiencia humana. Empero, su palabra final— ¡No abandones las obras de tus manos!—clama con un temor discernible porque el amor tan celebrado de YHVH no se agote mientras su propia vida no esté concluida.

Con una autoconciencia notable, con extraordinario entendimiento de la gloria como de la degradación de la existencia humana, el salmista ubica su propia y frágil vida dentro de una frase que se ha vuelto familiar para el lector como una firma descriptiva de la creación de YHWH: la(s) obras(s) de tus manos.

El poeta se conoce como un objeto de esa misma artesanía. Junto al sol, la luna y las estrellas, él vislumbra en sí mismo las huellas del Maestro Artista. Sin embargo, él sabe que, aquí abajo, algunos intentos fallidos al crear belleza terminan descartados en el piso del estudio, muy arruinados por accidente o por fallo inherente para convertirse en algo bueno.

Por un momento, se pregunta si YHVH, creador y sustentador sin defectos, podría también permitirse dicho lapso momentáneo. 

¡No me descartes…!

… clama el trabajo en progreso que es el ser humano. 

¡No me descartes…!, clamamos mientras leemos, encontrando nuestra condición en él. 

La tradición bíblica lucha poderosamente con el exceso aparente del compromiso de YHWH para con David y su ciudad.

No corresponde a la tradición mosaica el hacer promesas sin destacar las responsabilidades que devienen de la generosidad divina. Sin embargo, uno o dos clásicas declaraciones del pacto ‘davídico’ o ‘sionista’ hacen exactamente eso. A mi juicio, los errores teológicos más grandes están al lado del camino donde uno intenta restringir la libertad divina. Aun así, debemos considerar la posibilidad de que una condicionalidad implícita habite incluso en las promesas más absolutas de YHWH para con David y su descendencia. A la final, YHWH es en el drama bíblico un maestro en el rescate creativo de situaciones puestas en peligro por la debilidad humana, la terquedad, o ambas.

Si estas advertencias suenan densas y en algunas ocasiones se alejan del texto que tenemos al frente, no están desvinculadas de él. La misma lucha de la tradición sugiere que los puntos de vista que podríamos catalogar como ‘teológicos’ emergen de la felicidad de las propias promesas de YHWH.

Dejemos que los salmos —presumiblemente uno de los géneros menos cautelosos cuando se trata de articular las cosas que realmente importan—yuxtapongan el juramento seguro de YHWH para con David a un gigantesco si que ambula como un fantasma por los pasillos de Sión y sus edificios reales/religiosos:

El Señor ha jurado a David
una verdad de la cual no se retractará:
De tu descendencia pondré sobre tu trono.
Si tus hijos guardan mi pacto,
y mi testimonio que les enseñaré,
sus hijos también ocuparán tu trono para siempre.

(Salmo 132:11-12 LBLA)

Aunque un lector pedantemente lógico podría con dificultad tragarse la apariencia de una contradicción ingenua, la tradición que aquí está inscrita es consciente de dos realidades. Primero, el legado poético está muy consciente de la inescrutable firmeza de YHWH. Segundo, no negará la responsabilidad profundamente arraigada que el misterioso camino de YHWH con aquellos en los que cae su amor exige en las vidas, aunque infrequentemente se hayan acercado a él. Más a menudo dichas personas —David siendo el primero entre ellos—se ven atrapados en la red del amor divino. Les resulta difícil —si, en teoría, no imposible—liberarse de la red tenaz, envolvente y retentiva que está en sus pies, sus piernas, sus brazos y en todo lo que son.

Las promesas de YHWH. Seres humanos más o menos arruinan el posludio. YHWH encuentra un camino. 

Pareciera que en tal redención dialéctica sobreviven este mundo y el próximo, no sin tragedia pero sí sanos y salvos.