Did the prophets think God could only speak through them? Did they think the God was mute without them? On the contrary, the prophets recognised it was the Spirit of prophecy who enabled them to speak, and that God could speak through anyone or anything. Job was emphatic on this point:
But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
Is it such a strange suggestion then, that God can still speak to us through the land?
Might we experience the stones crying out, even today?
In case any of you are wondering how I reconcile Christian monotheism with Pagan polytheism, here’s a brief if somewhat incomplete explanation of how I understand deity.
In essence, I differentiate between an uncreated One, who is the source of all life, and many created ones, who influence life in all its many aspects. Whether these created ones, these intermediaries, are knowns as gods or angels or spirits or otherwise is of secondary concern to me. I tend to think in more functional terms, recognising that many of these functions tend to translate across cultures even if the names don’t.
So, do I worship these created ones? No, I reserve worship for the uncreated One alone. However, I do consider them worthy of respect, and although their influence is limited in both space and time and in relation to the uncreated One it is still considerable. So I pay my respects where appropriate.
So, how do I understand Jesus in relation to deity? I recognise Jesus as the embodiment of the uncreated One – not in his masculinity, for the uncreated One is the source of all gender, but in his unconditional love and faithfulness which he demonstrated when he was amongst us, for that is the true character of the uncreated One.
As for the uncreated One, I get why the Jews were reluctant to name this one casually. Naming tends to limit and we are talking here of the limitless. If I use the word God or Deity or Spirit it is with the recognition that this word can confuse as much as enlighten.
I wrote this haiku, based on Luke 24, while reflecting of the story of the road to Emmaus
Their eyes were opened
In the breaking of the bread
– Jesus is alive!
This prayer is commonly attributed to Saint Basil, the Bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century, though this is somewhat contested. Irrespective of it’s origins I think we can benefit from it.
O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, even our brothers, the animals, to whom Thou gave the earth as their home in common with us. We must remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of pain. May we realise that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee and that they love the sweetness of life
I find that, if I am going to try and write a psalm of praise and worship, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the poetic devices I have at my disposal. Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up from my research and experimentation.
Poetic devices not normally present in Hebrew poetry
Poetic devices used in Hebrew that do not normally survive translation
- repetition of sounds -alliteration, assonance andparonomasia
Poetic devices used in Hebrew that do translate well
- Synonymous parallelism – second line repeats the first in different words having the same meaning
- Antithetic parallelism – second line contrasts with the first
- Synthetic parallelism – second line adds to the first
- Climactic parallelism – successive lines build to a climax or summary
- Eclectic parallelism – combination of different types interwoven
- Emphatic parallelism – synonymous words used for emphasis
- Emblematic parallelism – literal statement is contrasted with a metaphor or a simile
- External parallelism – syntactic units balance one another across multiple verses
- Introverted parallelism – the order of the parallel elements is reversed (also known as chiasmus)
Is the One who created everything
Comparable to anything, above or below?
If we craft an image
If we voice a name
Are we not seeking to limit the limitless?
Was it unjust of Jesus to warn of coming judgement for Israel and the nations? Personally I see the teaching of judgement as having a lot in common with the teaching of karma. It is the simple observation that actions have consequences, socially as well as personally. Unfortunately I think the teaching has been much abused by Christians over the years, so there’s much we need to unlearn first, before we can understand it as Christ did.