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Obedience to the heavenly vision

by Robert MacDonald
Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

PsalterSuch words we read in the New Testament. Paul claims he was not disobedient (Acts 26:19) but Festus interjects a few verses later that Paul is mad.
How do we know? We are not all given heavenly visions to ‘obey’ as Paul was. How do we know we are not mad in our pursuit of the calling that is in the Anointed Jesus? How will we be like-minded? Paul writes to the Philippians (3:14) that God will reveal our situation to us.
Now the question is: do we really want to know our situation? Take care. You may find things you did not want to know. But here is an excellent method, one that was used by Jesus himself in his own growth and maturing.
I was brought up with a certain inertia. You know what inertia is: it’s what happens to you when you are pushed in a particular direction, and you have to work to stop going in that direction. You may have had a good push or a bad one, but we all need to take charge of the momentum at some point in our lives. I reacted with a favorite word: No! No to the distortion produced by dangerous directions – take alcoholism for example, or to violent actions against others, or even to my own longing for I did not know what. ‘No’ came easily to me, but I really did not know a Yes that would satisfy. At some point I learned the gospel and learned the love of Christ that is without boundaries. But I had not been taught consciously of what I must do to enter into that glory.
The work which is explained in the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament is a work described for us as if we were overhearing a conversation between a father and a son. Unto which of the Angels did he say: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee? (Hebrews 1:5 citing Psalm 2.)
This work includes our work, individually, mine and yours, and together, ours, caring for the work of God that is from the beginning and that is complete from then. We must become part of this conversation that we are overhearing. The conversation is an extended conversation that continues forever. In that letter to the Hebrews, the conversation is taken from the Psalms.
When I learned that the Psalms were where Jesus himself is in conversation with his Father, I knew that I must learn them more carefully. I knew when I discovered this, that I must hear that conversation in its original tongue. That meant learning a language that I knew not. (Psalm 81:6). Though I had discovered something of truth already, it was in the Psalms that God reached deeper into me and showed me more of how to live. It is there in that very personal conversation that we will find the truth of our situation, and complete the journey of obedience which God will reveal to us.
I could not find a book that would help me read them in sequence with a close reading that preserved the ancient foreign thought form in the way I wanted to see it. So I wrote it myself and called it Seeing the Psalter. It helps us see the story in the Psalms, and it slows us down in a number of ways so that we will not rush through the necessary time that we need for such hearing and obedience. Still, it is a beginning, but I am convinced we can continue in such a work.
If this be madness, Festus, it is a madness to be deeply desired, like David’s pretense when he feigned his madness in the face of Abimelek (Psalm 34:1). And he writes there in the 7th verse: this poor one calls and the Lord hears and from all his troubles he saves him. And later “taste and see that the Lord is good.” This word taste has the same letters in Hebrew as the word used for madness.

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  1. Bob,
    This is beautiful! You are ringing my bells! Thank you for these insights. Yoh say “taste” and “madness” are the same word. Recently, I found out that in the story of the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22) that the “wood” on Isaac’s back and Jesus’ “cross” are the same word! Also, “thicket” the ram’s head was caught in and ‘thorns” in the crown on Jesus’ head are the same word! So foreshadowed in Gen. 22 is John 3:16!!! Keep these insights coming. Good job.

  2. Thanks, anon, for your comment. The Hebrew for the wood, עץ (ets), that Isaac carried is translated in the OT by various words in English versions including tree, wood, and even gallows (i.e. a cross).
    It is quite clear that Abraham and Isaac can be read as a prefiguring of the cross. Such foreshadowing as you say, is one way to see Christ in the Old Testament but not by any means the only way. The exploration of the ancient texts is all a journey of wonders. It is important to undertake it with the discipline it deserves.
    The Greek in the Greek translation of the Hebrew of Genesis 22 is ξύλα. The Greek for cross is in the NT is σταυρός. I’m no expert in Greek, but these are differing words and word stems.
    Again with thicket, the word must be traced across a Hebrew-Greek divide. It’s a journey in a foreign land for us. The Hebrew for thicket is used in the Psalms in the lament of Psalm 74 where the tree surgeons are praised:
    Famous is one who wields to the ascendant,
    wedges in a thicket of a tree.
    It’s tricky in English because there is a pause in the Hebrew where you would not expect it. Both words thicket and tree are used here in one phrase. בִּֽסֲבָךְ־עֵ֝֗ץ
    And the psalm goes on:
    But now her carving, together,
    with axes and hammers, they smite.
    This refers to the destruction of the temple and the exile from the land. Such a process must also be ours. We must understand exile. The job is hard work, difficult, like death our death so that we may rejoice on our return in the rebuilding of the temple, the temple of our bodies, by the Spirit, the comforter.
    I am going to push this comment just a bit further on connecting words. The word for comfort נחמ (nacham) in Hebrew is reflected in the name, Nehemiah, who is a leader in the rebuilding of the temple after the exile. Such comfort will get us through all difficulty and build us into the living temple of God. You might want to follow the Greek-Hebrew divide here with this word, quite consistently translated as paracletos, a word with legal overtones, our Advocate. The root is also reflected in the story of Simeon who is looking for the consolation of Israel.

    1. Bob, I didn’t mean to be anonymous. I am on my tablet. I am Nancy Petrey and will have some posts on here next week. What you have written is so rich! Thank you. I have only studied modern Hebrew and do not know Greek at all. In my first book, “Jewish Roots Journey:Memoirs of a Mizpah,” I have a chapter about Hebrew. The book, “Portrait of the Messiah in the Hebrew Alphabet,” is a wonderful devotional book I have received blessing and education from. I enjoyed trying out my Hebrew in Israel, but it was difficult due to my hearing disability. Beautiful about Nehemiah. Did you notice that “your only son” is “yachid,” the same as God’s “only begotten son” as well as “an only son” in Zech. 12:10? Ooh! And there is more! I wrote a poem about Gen. 22. Thanks again for your excellent post and comment.

      1. Bravo for learning that tongue, Nancy. Yet it is clear that modern Hebrew is quite different from Biblical Hebrew. I rejoiced in my own early learning in Israel at the grocery store when I could read הומוס, or something like that and knew what it was. Many words in modern Hebrew are simply transcribed from English. Like this one that goes well with pita.
        I was stumped by the script though, the ‘lower case’ letters until I was introduced to a friend who had written Aleph through the looking glass, a brilliant exposé of the origins of our alphabets and how scripted Hebrew is formed as a mirror of Latin lower case letters. Resh and kaf are the most obvious examples. The author explains how the constraints of the hand and arm together with right to left writing create the other reflections in the mirror.

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