Saturday, August 02, 2014

Psalm 118: “The nations surround me; in the name of G-d they will be struck down"

In today's synagogue service, Jews throughout the world will read the opening chapters of the book of Deuteronomy (1:1-3.22). Verses 1:41-44 recount the Jews' response to the admonishment of Moses:
Then you [the Jews] answered and said to me [Moses], we have sinned against G-d; we will go up and fight, as the Lord our G-d commanded us. And when you donned your armour, you made light of going up into the hill country.
And G-d said to me: say to them. Neither go up, nor fight, lest you be struck down by your enemies; because I am not in your midst.
So I spoke to you; but you would not listen, rebelling against the commandment of G-d, presumptuously going up into the hill country.
And the Emorites, which dwelt in that hill country, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you from Seir, as far as Chormah.
His Grace was sent this exposition yesterday (by a Jewish communicant [before the onset of the Sabbath]):
The early mediæval Rabbinic commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, universally known by the acronym “Rashi”, explains that just as bees die immediately after stinging, so did the Emorites die following their attacks on the Jews. Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik (1886-1959) asks the question: "Why does the Bible inform us (indirectly) what happened to the Emorites, when the principal purpose of the verses would seem to be to inform the Jews of the dire consequences of disobeying G-d’s word?" He answers that it is to tell us of the level of hatred the Emorites bore us, and that we should be under no illusions that the enemies of the Jews will never willingly decease from their attacks, irrespective of the consequences.

In similar vein, the verses in Psalm 118:10-12 read: “The nations surround me; in the name of G-d they will be struck down. They surround me, they also surround me. In the name of G-d they will be struck down. They surround me like bees. They will be consumed as a fire burns thorns. In the name of G-d they will be struck down.”

The commentators explain that initially the anti-Semites besiege us. If the initial siege looks as if it will be breached, they re-double their efforts by re-encircling the previous siege lines. If this too fails, they attack us with reckless disregard for their own safety. Our only protection is a recognition of the power of G-d; but with that, they can be destroyed as comprehensively as a fire destroys a dry thorn bush.

The symbolism of the thorn bush is perhaps that it appears impregnable, with devastatingly sharp thorns; it is unbelievably hardy with an ability to survive with minimal water (which itself represents Torah because of its life-giving properties as a channel between G-d and man). It also bears no useful fruit. However, when attacked through the appropriate medium, it consumes itself speedily and with ferocity, precisely because it contains so little water/Torah.
This is meaty stuff for the Christian, too. In Deuteronomy, Moses is not simply explaining the laws of God: he is earnestly enjoining them upon the consciences of his people, and urging them to pursue a holy life under the Covenant. Israel's greatest peril is idolatry, which is to be resisted and suppressed with uncompromising severity. Faithfulness to the Covenant will be rewarded by material benefits; violation and disregard of the Covenant will be punished by material disaster and, ultimately, exile.

The overriding lesson which pervades the whole of the Old Testament is that a nation that turns its back on the Lord will be judged. And God will use the enemies of that nation to mete out that judgment. You might think this absurd, but the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing judgment is ongoing:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged (Jn 16:7-11).
God, sin, righteousness and judgment are real and present: they determine the meaning of the life that we are given to live in this age. But this age repudiates God, mocks sin, scorns righteousness and laughs in the face of judgment. It is no wonder that the thorn bush is being consumed.


Blogger Ivan said...

The guy Moses himself didn't make it to the promised land. Seems that old Jehovah had not forgotten that he had murdered an Egyptian in anger in the early days. Perhaps more importantly the angel of the Lord tried to off the wily Moses for apparently not circumcising his son. Tante Zipporah certainly thought so. Trying to please Jehovah is akin to to trying to stay on the good side of Josef Stalin. Sooner or later the monster will get you for some triviality. Three weeks is more than sufficient to make the trek out of Egypt. Yet after promising the Habiru slaves a land flowing with milk and honey, he made them wander around for forty years,in the desert. Bitten by scorpions, always thirsty, with no water to wash off their itches. Yet somehow we the victims of his caprice are the sinners? And the monster made sure that there was no going back, he burned all the bridges by killing off the Egyptian firstborn.

2 August 2014 at 09:31  
Blogger skeetstar said...

Ivan, trying to please God is a lot harder than trying to please Stalin, in fact it is impossible, no human has yet achieved it, save for Jesus Christ.

2 August 2014 at 10:38  
Blogger Ivan said...

skeetstar, then why bother ? The joker holds all the cards. Being human we are bound to fail. Would you sit at such a loaded table ? And it isn't as though the punishment falls on the deserving. One can live as righteously as possible yet still fall afoul of the tyrant, while the scofflaws continue to live it up.

2 August 2014 at 12:06  
Blogger Huldah said...

Happily, as CS Lewis' Aslan puts it in 'The Magician's Nephew'

"A great evil has entered the world. But I will see to it that the worst falls on myself."

And He did.

2 August 2014 at 12:23  
Blogger Martin said...


"Being human we are bound to fail."

Of course, that's why God created a solution, why He came to Earth as a Man to bear the punishment for His people's sins. He offers all mercy yet none seek it So He searches out those whom He will save.

If you choose to take the punishment rather than mercy why blame God?

2 August 2014 at 12:26  
Blogger meema said...

Hard is as hard does and no where is it written that we have to like it or believe it for it to be true.

(Romans 11:19) Thou wilt say then, Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. (11:20) Well; by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not highminded, but fear: (11:21) for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee. (11:22) Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, God's goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (11:23) And they also, if they continue not in their unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. (11:24) For if thou wast cut out of that which is by nature a wild olive tree, and wast grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which are the natural [branches], be grafted into their own olive tree? (11:25) For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; (11:26) and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (11:27) And this is my covenant unto them, When I shall take away their sins. (11:28) As touching the gospel, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake. (11:29) For the gifts and the calling of God are not repented of. (11:30) For as ye in time past were disobedient to God, but now have obtained mercy by their disobedience, (11:31) even so have these also now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you they also may now obtain mercy. (11:32) For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all. (11:33) O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! (11:34) For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (11:35) or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? (11:36) For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him [be] the glory for ever. Amen.

2 August 2014 at 12:27  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Well said, Your Grace. Thank you.

Martin @ 12.26

If I may say so, that's a stunningly succinct explanation of God's salvation, freely offered to all, but sadly spurned by many.

Although we Christians on this site, being a diverse and sometimes irascible lot, me included, squabble between our denominational views, at bottom we all know that the simplicity of God's rescue plan is both beautiful and stark.

Glory to God forever !

2 August 2014 at 12:40  
Blogger Ivan said...

Martin, lets leave Jesus aside - he came about 1500 years after the Exodus - and stick to the story as it stands. Now Jehovah told Moses that he heard his people's cries and so on and wanted to set them free. But with a catch, it was going be his way or none. It would involve the death of all who had tasted of Egypt, so no beers and it would be unleavened bread forever. But was that how it was sold to the Habiru? That none of them were going to make it, including Moses himself? If I were to pull something like this on you, would you accept as an honest mistake? Laugh it off as a cosmic joke and walk off with what remain in your nickel bag?

2 August 2014 at 13:01  
Blogger Len said...

Getting the Israelites out of Egypt was one thing getting Egypt out of the Israelites was another thing altogether.
God gave man every opportunity to do things mans way and it has ended in total disaster.Man has had every opportunity to work out a system which treated all people honestly and fairly(hasn`t happened yet!)
So God gave Himself at Calvary so that we could do things under the guidance of his Spirit.

Seems totally fair to me...

2 August 2014 at 13:35  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

Our only protection is a recognition of the power of G-d; but with that, [the anti-Semites] can be destroyed as comprehensively as a fire destroys a dry thorn bush

Does anyone know if the Jews have tried recognizing the power of G-d? I don’t suppose they can have or there wouldn’t be a single anti-Semite left alive. In which case, my advice would be to initiate a programme of recognition tout de suite before the God who is being repudiated has a word with the G-d who isn’t being recognized and They decide to jack it all in and leave the mess to Allah to sort out.

2 August 2014 at 13:42  
Blogger Ivan said...

Len fair to you maybe, but certainly not fair to the guys who didn't make it. You are on this side of the river, so you give praise and thanks to Jehovah for sparing you to give him further praise and thanks forever. But of those who drowned in the river, gulping desperately as they go down, of them can it be said that they were evil or just plain unlucky, the detritus of a failed revolutionary experiment?

2 August 2014 at 13:51  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


Of you it is well said: Do not answer a fool according to his folly.

Congratulations. I have been commenting on the internet ten years. In all that time, and for all the unbelievers with whom I have interacted, I have never met anyone who I thought deserved that response.

Until now.

You are a mocker and a fool. And absolutely nothing more.


2 August 2014 at 13:56  
Blogger Ivan said...

Johnny, you know how the religious fanatic's game is rigged. If the Jews make it, this is the result of their intense prayers and their obedience to G-d. If they don't, they are obviously not up to snuff and should be ploughed under, as we await another worthier generation. Heads I win, tails you lose; pretty much encapsulates the situation.

2 August 2014 at 14:00  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

"But this age repudiates God, mocks sin, scorns righteousness and laughs in the face of judgment."

Indeed it does - in fact its highly fashionable and trendy to do so.

CBS recently screened Kristeen Young singing what can only be described as a Satanic song.
Prior to the programme in an interview she said: "I felt like wearing and making something Satanic” and went on to describe how she defaced the Cross, the Star of David, and the Crescent Moon in her clothing design for her debut album.

Here's the words - broadcast to millions of Americans and now going viral on Youtube:

I never knew I was a girl until they stopped to tell me.
I never knew I was disturbed until they dropped three volumes on me.
But in the Bible/Torah/Quran there are really no good roles for me except concubine and wash woman.

I used to be the sad one now I just wanna stab them it's so severe its brutal.
They've needed to have the law so they can legally bind us.
They've needed to have the church so they can morally ground us.
They've needed most of the dough so they must be so scared of us.
So their stories are of ghosts. I only wish the virgin would've had an abortion

Imagine if she'd said:
I only wish Moses had died in reeds
I only wish Muhammad had been aborted

Yet Christians take this blasphemy through CBS without complaint. Fair enough, there's no human right against being offended. It is a whole other matter with God.

In the words of Bob Dylan - "A hard rain's gonna fall."

2 August 2014 at 14:05  
Blogger Ivan said...

Thanks Carl. Let me repay your compliment by taking off on your gloss on the Book of Job. I know all about the inscrutable will of God and how his vision is boundless and lofty beyond imagining. But you know in that book - a reworking, and a great one of a Babylonian myth - Satan was just going about his business when God put the mickey to Job, by putting it to Satan that Job's faith was boundless and undoubtedly of the type that could pass through fire and ice and all sirens' wiles . That fellow Satan was just going his business, hither and thither as he said, but like Loki, Jehovah couldn't avoid a spot of mischief. And of course he made it up to Job, giving him more sons and daughters and cattle and kine, notwithstanding that for a normal person, no child can substitute for a dead one. You are taken up by this story, lashing yourself to the brow with it, as you make it through this valley of tears. My feeling is that that there could be more than one fool on this blog.

2 August 2014 at 14:20  
Blogger Nick said...

"The nations surround me; in the name of G-d they will be struck down"

I presume from the photo that YG is referring to the current situation with Israel. At the moment Israel is doing the "striking" which is a legitimate act of self-defence; something that many of the media-brainwashed people in the West find it hard to appreciate. However, at some point G-d may step in in a more direct way. Who knows what could happen. Hamas, like most of its Islamist clones, rejoices in death, hence its willingness to sacrifice Palestinian civilians. Perhaps G-d will grant them their wish and allow them (Hamas) the martyrdom they crave. It would certainly suit everybody else.

As an aside, here is an interesting interview on CNN with the son of the Hamas founder. Its a useful insight....

2 August 2014 at 15:33  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Nick @ 15:33

The direct martial intervention of God certainly seems to be envisaged in 'Revelation', at the end of history.

Who is to say it can't also happen before then? (Some might say it must have happened during the Six-Day War.)

2 August 2014 at 16:26  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Happy Jack @ 14.05

Satanic indeed !

I wonder what happiness it will bring the performers ?

2 August 2014 at 17:31  
Blogger The Explorer said...

HJ @ 14:05

Quite so. I'm sure Satan DOES wish Christ had never been born.

As to the lyrics, concubine or washwoman is a bit limiting even by the opportunities open to biblical woman.

Presumably she's never heard of the businesswoman, Priscilla? Or the Lady chosen by God of '2 John'?

2 August 2014 at 18:07  
Blogger Shadrach said...

Great piece Your Grace,
I love Biblical analysis and it's potential for pointing out our need today.

The Middle East has been unstable since at least the 11th Cent and perhaps well before that. It has not always been between Christians and Muslims but between themselves.

I was fascinated to see the 'son of Hamas', now a Christian, say that the eventual aim of Hamas is to create a Muslim state, not only on the ruins of Israel but every where.

It is amazing how the media are so fixated about the destruction in Palestine without any consideration as to why it was brought about.

2 August 2014 at 18:17  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Come now Explorer, surely you don't expect her to have actually read the bible!

2 August 2014 at 19:33  
Blogger Happy Jack said...


Is it the Old Testament and Jews you reject - or Christ too?

2 August 2014 at 19:52  
Blogger David Hussell said...

The Explorer @ 18.07

Or for another strong woman there's Hannah of 1 Samuel 1.

2 August 2014 at 20:07  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David H @ 20:07

Indeed. Or Deborah, the prophetess, of 'Judges'.

That's another occupation in the Bible our singing lass appears not to have considered.

Add up all the possibilities and it would become a bit like John Cleese's list of "What have the Romans..."

2 August 2014 at 20:42  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

The overriding lesson which pervades the whole of the Old Testament is that a nation that turns its back on the Lord will be judged. And God will use the enemies of that nation to mete out that judgment

So, God having sent the Muslims to punish Britain, if we turn back to Him, the Muslims will be ‘consumed as a fire burns thorns’ and we shall live happily ever after. Sounds good to me. Revival, conflagration, bliss.

2 August 2014 at 21:55  
Blogger Happy Jack said...


It's figurative language but that's about right - assuming He is sending Muslims to punish the West. However, it may apply more immediately to Israel and be a general wake-up call to the growing secularism and ungodliness there.

Who knows?

3 August 2014 at 00:10  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

Your grace, apologies for going a little off topic, but Freedom Force International's "Unfiltered News" is running two interesting stories, one on Russian blogs with over 3k readers needing to register, and another about atheists in the US trying to stir up trouble against Christian churches who express any political opinion, and have their tax exempt status removed. (This would, hypocritically, not involve the many non-church tax exempt foundations with billions who push all kinds of agendas, naturally....)

Us next?

3 August 2014 at 00:43  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Explorer
Not forgetting Judith with the tent peg! That might be more their sort of thing!!

More seriously, I suspect that cavorting around in black leather bondage underwear being sulky and attitudinal surrounded by yet more black,red and flames and general unoriginality and tired cliches towards the fount of radiant Love and creativity in ninth rate lyrics has a morass of drawbacks.

Satan isn't even generous to his peace-deprived minions.

Incidentally I thought that the Elect Lady in John's letters was usually thought to be the church.

3 August 2014 at 01:19  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Lucy @ 01:19

There are three options, as I understand them:

1. The personified Church.

2. A personified local church

3. An anonymous actual lady.

Whichever of the three, more than a concubine or wash woman.

3 August 2014 at 07:02  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ the Explorer.
Thanks for the response and agree that the two options given are drearily ignorant.

And then someone has decided that the correct washerwoman does bad thins to the rhythm so just plonk in wash woman and hope no one notices that it isn't a word and could just refer to having a shower!

Maybe they protest about cleanliness generally;not clear at all!

3 August 2014 at 09:46  
Blogger Len said...

What we are seeing on the attacks on Israel (which started on the day that Israel was reborn as a nation)is an attempt to destroy the integrity of God.(The God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob that is not the' god 'of this present world system who has no integrity)
God made a promise to Abraham which God is honouring not because the Jews deserve it but because God is upholding His Holy name and His covenant with Abraham." I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God. I will give you and them the land in which you are now a foreigner. I will give the whole land of Canaan to your family forever, and I will be their God"(Genesis 17)

We see satanic forces attempting to crush Israel so God cannot fulfill His plans but their plans will eventually come to nothing .

The war going on the ground is a reflection of the spiritual battle between God and Satan between God the author of Life and Satan the author of death disease and destruction.

The only lasting solution to this tragedy will be the arrival of the Prince of Peace himself Jesus Christ.

3 August 2014 at 10:09  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hi Ivan,

You are a Roman Catholic, yes? So when you make fun of "Jehovah" you are also making fun of Jesus? Yes or no?

3 August 2014 at 17:41  
Blogger Ivan said...

HJ @2 August 2014 19:52 - I don't reject Jews or Jesus. The fact is (as you know) the disturbing events in the OT makes sense, and are made palatable to Christians only in the light of the life and death of Jesus Christ. Otherwise it just the history of a nation coming into being, with its own biases and prejudices with a standard issue ogre for a god. The OT does not stand by itself except as great literature, without Him as far as I am concerned. All that is to be fulfilled is already fulfilled in Jesus Christ. No other being, tribe, or nation takes His place and certainly not the laughable idea that we have await something millennial to push matters.

If there is a history of salvation, then by the fact that the Christian God is bound by His attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, His existence for all eternity, and that in Him there can be no contingency, no two minds about any matter whatsoever - it has to follow that He has to answer for human suffering in particular. For if not, then this God is either unable to foresee the course of events or impotent in its face, or both altogether. None of these notions are palatable to sensible Christians. The Christian answer to suffering is to claim that it is redeemed by the suffering and death of God Himself. A resolution that does not impact in any way the divine attributes mentioned earlier. This I know and accept with all my heart.

4 August 2014 at 05:49  
Blogger Ivan said...

Hannah @17:41, I don't claim that what I said is a Catholic position. But we Catholics have more fun than the sepulchral Proddies. Being able to question Jehovah and his later manifestations is an attribute attribute inherited from the Jews.

4 August 2014 at 05:59  
Blogger Ivan said...

for 'an attribute attribute' please read 'a characteristic'...

4 August 2014 at 06:01  
Blogger Happy Jack said...


Thank you.

That actually makes a lot of sense to Happy Jack. He notes however, that your approach is not very ecumenical and it might have helped if you had elaborated it more clearly to begin with.

4 August 2014 at 12:28  
Blogger Ivan said...

HJ, thank you for your advice.

5 August 2014 at 05:16  
Blogger Happy Jack said...


You're very welcome.

6 August 2014 at 00:57  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older