Genesis 11 starts with the story of the Tower of Babel. And a contradiction. In Genesis 10:5 Noah’s descendants each had their own language. But here it says all the people of the world spoke the same language. What’s going on? The safest assumption is that this book was written by more than one author. But that’s a cop-out because it’s been translated and rewritten dozens of times by learned scholars. So my take on it is that the word “world” means region. That would make sense because Noah’s descendants spoke a different language depending on where they had settled. So all the people of Babel spoke the same as each other. That seems to be the easiest way of explaining that contradiction.
Genesis 11, 12 and 13 tells the story of the aftermath of the fall of Babel. The people are scattered widely and Abram finds himself in Egypt. But he needs to pretend that his wife is his sister. So she marries the Pharaoh (it’s like a soap opera isn’t it?). But disaster strikes Egypt and Abram gets the blame. The Pharaoh sends Abram and his wife back to his homeland with a cart-full of riches, just to be on the safe side. He knows what God can do and fears him.
All this is setting the scene, isn’t it. I’m not familiar with Genesis 12, but I do know what’s coming. We’ve heard of Canaan lots of times and it’s not the best place in the world to live by all accounts. How long before we start singing: “Those Canaan Days” from the musical “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”?
Matthew 5 and it’s the Sermon on the Mount. One of Jesus’ greatest speeches. There are so many marvellous lines that it seems wrong to choose one or two to quote out of context. “God blesses those who are poor”. Note, he doesn’t give them money. He doesn’t give them an easy ticket. No, he blesses them. How? Jesus says, “the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs”. Why? Ah, that’s the real question, isn’t it!
Psalm 5 also throws some difficult questions at us. The psalmist is crying for help because he (or she?) is surrounded by wickedness, evil, lies, murderers and deceivers. Aren’t we all at some time or other? But he knows that God will lead him on the right path. My personal view of Satan, or the devil, or evil or whatever you want to call it/him is that it is sneaky. Just when you think things are going well and everything’s hunky dory, there’s this unnerving feeling that you are on the wrong path. Is the right path any harder? Sometimes, yes! It’s not easy to “do the right thing” and say the right thing. But the psalmist gives us some encouragement, “O Lord, you surround them with your shield of love.”
The last reading today is Proverbs 1:24-28. Another short and punchy one to counter the one from Matthew earlier. But the message seems to be the opposite of Psalm 5. Here, the writer says they have “Called you so often… but you pain no attention.” The speaker is Wisdom. And by the end of this passage, Wisdom has given up, “Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me.”
I hope that as the year goes on, we all learn to find a little bit of Wisdom and maybe even share it with others. I have had some feedback from the last few blogs and it seems positive. Early days yet, ha!
You remember I said I was due to read in church today? When I arrived, I was surprised to find the readings had been changed. But I didn’t panic: it was Matthew 4 and I’d just read that as part of my Bible in a year. I think the message there is that God does have a plan… but he likes to change it to keep you on your toes.