Friday, August 19, 2016

giving a servant boy command authority

Anyone who has enjoyed as many Bible stories, especially “call stories” as I have can’t help but love them. I love Abraham called at age 75 and blithely packing up and driving off into the sunset in his BMW with the sunroof closed because Sarah has strapped the chicken cages to the roof-rack (let the reader understand); the call story of Moses where I AM introduces himself, takes charge, and turns Moses’ pastoral life upside down; and of Isaiah seeing the Lord, high and lifted up and his train filling the temple, while my wandering mind sees a smoking locomotive waiting there on Track 9 and 3/4 like the Hogwarts Express; and our first reading for this coming Sunday (scroll down), the enchanting story of YHWH telling Jeremiah, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you a prophet to the nations (לַגּוֹיִ֖ם the goyim).” And Jeremiah protests famously (as Moses had weakly whined centuries before him), “Ah, Yahweh Elohim, I don’t know how to speak דַּבֵּ֑ר , I’m only a boy נַ֖עַר .” Perhaps in part because my own sense of “call” developed by the time I was ten years old, this is one of my favorite call stories.

Among other things I can discern is that, as evidenced by many other Bible stories, God calls whom God will. Even me, who couldn’t leap and sink a basket or swat a homerun. Even Jacob, for example, a scoundrel if ever God called one, cheating his ignoramus brother out of his heritage but then being served hilarious oneupmanship by his FIL when Jacob wakes up at dawn after his wedding night and sees that he has impregnated the ugly one, to me the funniest story in the Bible. Perhaps the origin of the burka, I shouldn’t wonder.

At any event, Jeremiah. I love the story. I’m intrigued with what OT scholars do with it, fiddling around with the Hebrew, which I cannot and am not in the least qualified to do. When Jeremiah says he’s only a boy, he’s using the same word נַ֖עַר that the Genesis (ch.22) writer uses when he tells about Abraham taking Isaac out to sacrifice him, that Abraham took along with him his two young men. They were servants. The LXX may say doulos, slaves, I’m not sure and I don’t want to bother looking it up. No, I did look it up, it says παίδας which the interlinear renders servants, παιδίον is a child or youth in training. So one possibility is that Jeremiah was not simply an adolescent, but a servant, a retainer. 

And then Jeremiah says he doesn’t know how to speak דַּבֵּ֑ר which, unlike Moses who’s whining that he stutters, may mean that he’s not used to giving commands, orders, speaking with authority, being, as he is, just a servant boy. Of course, God snaps back to Jeremiah just as he did to Moses.

Finally, stirring me a bit this morning, but not much, is God telling Jeremiah that’s he consecrated him a prophet to לַגּוֹיִ֖ם the goyim, when Jeremiah’s prophecy is indicated by his sometime title Jeremiah of Jerusalem, and he was prophesying not to the gentiles but to Jerusalem that the Lord was sending destruction upon them.

This blogpost is my personal rambling and contemplating, but anyone is welcome to read the lesson (scroll down) and think for yourself.

Pics: Thursday, the party boat is riding folks out into the sunset. Friday morning, the moon is up there whether you can see it or not, hidden by clouds

Jeremiah 1:4-10
The word of the Lord came to me saying,
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations לַגּוֹיִ֖ם ."
Then I said, "Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy נַ֖עַר ." But the Lord said to me,
"Do not say, 'I am only a boy';
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord."
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
"Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant."

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