Calendar disputes have plagued history for centuries. Even in the days of Jesus. Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans, Essenes, all had their take on how the calendar should be followed. The Gregorian calendar the western world follows today has had several revisions but if we are to be able to operate together, we must agree to a consensus to follow the same calendar.
One very special day in the Jewish calendar is Yom Kippur in the fall. It is believed that that day is the last of ten when the heavens were opened to receive the people’s prayers of repentance. Until today, it is the most important day in the Jewish calendar. It a day of fasting and prayers; even non-religious Jews fast on that day. People neither travel, carry money, nor work. On that day, everything is closed in Israel. There is no traffic in the streets and people stroll on the highway with their children and families.
There was a time when 2 Rabbis from a well known academy disagreed on the calendar and therefore on the day of Yom Kippur that year. That school was the most important academy in the Land after the Romans had shut down the country of Israel. This school was actually in charge of the program to preserve Judaism through the coming long years of exile. The younger of the two rabbis who ran the school, wanted to make his mark as a leader so he forced the older rabbi (who had been his teacher) to come to the school for a dinner on a certain day, day which the older rabbi felt was actually the day to fast.
The old rabbi wrestled with his conscience but finally decided to go; why? He weighed the pros and the cons. He realised that if he allowed himself the luxury of following his own hunches regardless of how right they are, everyone would start doing the same and as a result, not only the country will be finished, but the Jewish people themselves. He felt then that in this situation, it was a better ‘obedience’ to the commandments to follow consensus than to follow his own convictions of what is right.
A very famous Rabbi commented on that episode between the two religious leaders of that academy. He said,“Sometime you must break the Torah in order to obey the Torah.” What he meant was that the word of God requires us to learn to live together in love and unity, and sometimes to accomplish that, one may feel like he is breaking another demand of the Word, but consensus, love, and unity trumps individuality.
I think that a great lesson can be learned from this for marriages, associations, organisations, religious groups, even for the members of our government. The ideas of consensus and unity for the love the greater good are more important than trivial details. As the old saying goes, “If we don’t hang together, we will surely hang separately!”
There is an excellent story about choice of leadership in the Bible. It came at a time after Gideon had delivered Israel from his enemies. Like even the best of men, Gideon eventually died. He left 70 sons behind. One, Abimelech, who was actually the son of one of Gideon's concubine, was hungry for power. Thinking that his half-brothers had the same thirst for vain glory, Abimelech used his peculiar family status to propose to the nascent nation of Israel the argument of all arguments. Reminding the people that “Too many chiefs spoil the broth“ he asked” Which is better for you, that all seventy of the sons of Gideon rule over you, or that one rule over you?” Opting for one tyrant instead of 70,Abimelech was elected. The Bible tells us that as a result, Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. And he went to his father's house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. (Judges 9:4-5)
Jotham eventually came back to haunt Abimelech. He challenged the people’s wisdom and choice with the following parable. The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, 'Reign over us.' But the olive tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?' And the trees said to the fig tree, 'You come and reign over us.' But the fig tree said to them, 'Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?' And the trees said to the vine, 'You come and reign over us.' But the vine said to them, 'Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?' Then all the trees said to the bramble, 'You come and reign over us.' And the bramble said to the trees, 'If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.' (Jdg 9:8-15 ESV)
On this parable Bible expositor Matthew Henry comments, To rule, involves a man in a great deal both of toil and care. Those who are preferred to public trust and power, must forego all private interests and advantages, for the good of others. And those advanced to honour and dignity, are in great danger of losing their fruitfulness. For which reason, they that desire to do good, are afraid of being too great. Jotham compares Abimelech to the bramble or thistle, a worthless plant, whose end is to be burned.
Indeed, the bramble didn’t mind ruling because he had no goodness to lose. To this idea proposed in this chapter of the Old Testament can be added Jesus’ statement that certainly, The tree is known by its fruit! (Mat 12:33)
As is the case with many other people, I require the use of glasses. This is because while my left eye sees normally, my right eye is very weak. I do pretty well with most things, except for things like aiming when practicing shooting.
Isn’t it strange how we see defects in others that we do not see in ourselves? I read in an article one time that this is because unbeknownst to them, most people carry the same spiritual ocular handicap as I do. Yes indeed, we all see with two different eyes. A weak eye that seems to be almost blind to small details of imperfections, and that that is the one we use to look at ourselves. We also have a strong eye that is very kin at discerning even shades of imperfections, and that is the one the we use to look at others. As a result, while we are very careful not to be negatively affected by the imperfections of others, we excuse ours and allow them negatively affect the lives of others.
I think that it would be more efficient to do it the other way around. We should use our very good eyes to look at our own imperfections and the weak eye to look at those of others. After all, we would not need to be so watchful about other’ imperfections since they would also use their good eye to introspect. It may also make for better relationships based on trust and empathy.
A famous teacher roaming the earth 2,000 years ago made the same observations. He asked people who had the tendency to look at themselves with their weak eye and at others with their strong eye, Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? (Mat 7:3-4) Indeed, isn’t it strange how we can so easily discern the faults in others that we are blind to in ourselves? This teacher then answered his own question with, You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Mat 7:5)
Anyone who has read the story of the Exodus in the Bible is awed by the person of Moses. Armed with his simple humility and pragmatic obedience to God, he brought a proud nation with an even prouder ruler to their knees. He also helped establish the constitution of the new nation of Israel.
Moses had a big sister, Miriam. Like all big sisters, she was always trying to boss her kid brother around. There was no exception for Moses and Miriam. One time she accused her kid brother of thinking too much of himself; of having an inflated ego; of not being a team-player. The Bible tells us that this action displeased God who afflicted Miriam with leprosy as a punishment .
To me, bringing down plagues, bringing Pharaoh to his knees and dividing the Red Sea are not the only marks of Moses’ greatness. The reaction that he had toward his sister tells us of a kind of greatness that only comes from God. A greatness that is the proof of God’s presence in a man or a woman; a greatness that would immediately create Heaven on earth if it were owned by every person who claims to believe in the God of the Bible.
The Bible tells us that after he saw what happened to his sister because of her criticism, Mose cried to the LORD, "O God, please heal her—please. (Num 12:13).
Our natural response when people do us wrong is to return the attack in some form, even sometimes with extreme subtlety. We do not take it lying down. For example, if you were to maybe lose your job because of someone’s vicious verbal attacks against you, how would feel towards that person? Would you pray for their welfare and against God’s punishment for their evil deeds?
This reminds me of a story I once heard. There was a private who constantly criticised his commanding officer, even sometimes publicly. One day that very same commanding officer was asked what he thought of that private’s soldiering. The officer gave the most glowing report. Another officer thought to inform the first and said, “Don’t you know that this is the private who openly criticises you?” to which the officer answered, “I was asked for my opinion of him, not for his opinion of me!
I read about a strange ritual in the Bible today. Moses instructed the Children of Israel that if a woman is suspected of adultery, her husband is supposed to take her to the priest. Among other altar rituals, the priest then unties her hair and gives her to drink a solution made of water, dust from the floor of the Tabernacle, and the washed down ink from a specified curse containing the Sacred Name of God that has been written on papyrus. All the details can be found in the fifth chapter of the Book of Numbers.
To understand the depth of this ritual, it is important to know that until this day, the Children of Israel never write the name of God wherever it can be erased or defaced. In this case, we have the Ineffable Name being both erased and defaced. The idea understood by this ritual is this. Suspicion of adultery is fatally toxic for a marriage. But God is so intent on protecting the stability of our families that, though He is innocent of any wrongdoing in the matter, He is willing to let His own name be erased and defaced to salvage the situation.
I believe that discipleship is the imitation of God. As a husband and believer, this ritual teaches me a great lesson. Many things can go wrong in a marriage. Some can be easily solved with a rose, a ring, a meal at a restaurant, extra duties, or a simple, “I’m sorry!” Other can be more serious and difficult. In my many years counseling couples I have discovered that the three main fatal issues in a marriage revolve around money, children, and religion (not necessarily on that order for everyone). When leading new couples into marriage, I usually try to hit on these three issues.
I am an old-fashioned person. I believe that a man is the head of his family. I also believe that because of this title, the buck stops with him, and that even as God is willing to let His own Name be besmirched in order to preserve our unions, we should be willing, guilty or not, to take the brunt of the blame all for the sake of keeping it together.
A clergyman I heard about understood this. A woman who used to attend his teachings came home late one day. Her husband was so mad that he told her, “If you go back there, don’t come home unless you spit in his face!” When the teacher heard that, he said, “Spit in my face seven times and tell your husband you did even more than he asked!” Like in the ritual of the woman suspected of adultery, this humble clergyman understood that it was better for him to be shamed by this action than to see this marriage in tatters.
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