John T. Willis

Saturday, June 20, 2009

This Is My Father's World

Throughout many eons, music has been the major force to encourage, motivate, emphasize, recollect, and challenge the human heart and whole nations in times of war and in times of peace, in times of tragedy and in times of victory.

Just a little over a century ago, Maltbie D. Babcock wrote the words of the song: "This Is My Father's World" in 1901. In 1915, Franklin L. Sheppard added the music. Here are the three stanzas of this compelling song without further comment.

This is my Father's world, And to my list'ning ears,
All nature sins, and round me rings The music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world, I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father's world, The birds their carols raise;
The morning light, the lily white Declare their Maker's praise.
This is my Father's world, He shines in all that's fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father's world, Oh, let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.
This my my Father's world, The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied, And earth and heav'n be one. Amen.

As you ponder over these words, I hope and pray they will touch your heart and your life in many ways daily.

[P. S.: I am not inviting a response on this blog. But if you have a significant response, send me an e-mail to Blessings]

John Willis

Monday, June 15, 2009

Doubting, Unsubmissive, Disobedient Moses On the Mountain

[Mid-Stream Comments:
As we move together through the Book of Exodus, I want to make sure that all of you know my approaches and understandings. Yes--I have been blessed to study the Old Testament for almost 55 years on a scholarly level. BUT, I want you to know that I do not know the whole message of the Bible, all tied up in a nice box with a ribbon on top. I have MUCH to learn from YOU. Yes--I have read lots of scholars for many years in several languages--but, believe me, I have hundreds of years to go. So, PLEASE help me.
A long established approach or method of the Pentateuch, including the Book of Exodus, is Literary Historical Criticism, or Source Criticism. Scholars committed to this view insist on dividing the Pentateuch, including the Book of Exodus, into earlier sources--most scholars identify this as J, E, D, and P. Others add H, L, N, and others. I think I have a pretty good understanding of this approach, and I highly honor and respect those who hold this approach. In my opinion, there is definitely an important place for pursuing this kind of scholarly work, and I applaud and encourage those who spend their lives to do this. I myself spent several years in doing this sort of thing, and intend to do so on a scholarly level.
At the same time, there is a strong growing scholarly approach which affirms that one needs to examine the biblical texts as it stands in its present final form. In these blogs, this is my approach right now, BECAUSE it seems only logical that the biblical speakers and writers presented the books of the Bible as they stand now, freely admitting that they used earlier sources as they made these compositions.
I hope this little explanation will help the reader. Now to continue our story--And REMEMBER, I am striving to be your "friendly reporter and story teller" of the biblical text, not attempting to create a new story. Of course, I may miss the biblical teaching. If so, let me know].

Exodus 3:1-4:17 is one of the best known passages in the Book of Exodus, and perhaps in the entire Old Testament. This is the story of God's appearance to Moses at the burning bush. Many important ideas occur in this text. In an attempt to follow this account, I will break this down into several points.
Note: At the very beginning, the event of the burning bush is when Moses was on "Horeb, the mountain of God" (Exodus 3:1). Horeb is another name for Sinai. It is significant that several important events involving Moses took place on a "mountain" (see Exodus 19:1-9; 24:15-18; 32; Numbers 20:22-29; Deuteronomy 34:1-8--but there are other texts as well). While people today often think positively of "mountaintop experiences" in life, most of Moses' experiences are very negative. Like all of us, Moses was a very human being. He OFTEN thought and said and did the wrong thing. It would be a mistake to "idolize" Moses--or, for that matter, any other human being.

A good example of Moses' weakness and failure clearly describes in the story of God appearing to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-4:17. For beginners, very briefly, God commanded Moses to return from Midian [where Moses has been living for 40 years--read Exodus 2:11-25] to Egypt to guide his fellow-believers, the Israelites, out of bondage. Throughout, consistently, Moses repeatedly tries to persuade God it is not best that Moses go to Egypt and guide the Israelite out of bondage. Here are Moses' FIVE ARGUMENTS:

1. "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" 3:11. Moses argues that he is not qualified to do this--he is not "up to" this charge.

2. If I come to the Israelites in Egypt, and they ask me, "What is the name of the God of your ancestors?", what shall I say to them? 3:13. Moses assumes the Israelites themselves will not believe that God has spoken to Moses.

3. If I [Moses] come to the Israelites, the Israelites will not believe me or say the Lord appeared to me--4:1. Moses assumes the Israelites must either believe or not believe Moses' words--and they certainly will not believe Moses' words.

4. I am not eloquent--I am not a good speaker--I could never persuade the Israelites to follow you, O Lord--4:10. In the first 40 years of his life, Moses grew up in the royal house of Pharaoh--Exodus 2:10-15. But the Bible says virtually nothing about Moses' education. It is a good guess that Moses had the best available Egyptian education of his day. But Moses claims he "failed" in "communication" or "speech." So, he certainly could not motivate and direct the Israelites.

5. "O Lord, send someone else"--4:13. Moses ran out of arguments. So he said baldly and very frankly: Lord--I DO NOT WANT TO DO what you commanded me. If you want to get this done, send someone else--NOT ME.

I am sure I would have done worse than Moses. Most of us would have done worse than Moses. BUT--Moses sinned on THE MOUNTAIN--Mount Horeb, Mount Sinai. By his words and his actions, Moses DOUBTED God's power and ability; Moses was UNSUBMISSIVE to God's command; Moses was DISOBEDIENT to God. I know--we all do the same. And we wish we were so weak. BUT do not "idolize" Moses. God carried out his purposes and his accomplishes--NOT THROUGH Moses, BUT IN SPITE OF Moses. That is the way God has to work most of the time.

There is another PERSON on that MOUNTAIN whom we should idolize and revere and serve. Soon, we will return to this same passage [Exodus 3:1-4:17] to see what this event may teach us about God--and ourselves.

John Willis

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two Choices in Life

Often, I return to the little poem of Robert Frost entitled: The Road Not Taken. Maybe you have read it yourself often, maybe never. But it is worth reading and pondering again and again. Here it is:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

All of us HAVE to make CHOICES. We fret and pray and wonder and doubt and puzzle--BUT because we are all human beings--at some point, sooner of later, we MUST make choices.

Once we make each choice, THAT choice leads to another, then another, then another. That is just the way it works. SO, it is very important to do our best to make "God centered" choices. When that happens, God will bless us richly.

Every choice is a RISK. But God is in control. So--make each choice--trust in God--and GO FOR IT. God will bless you abundantly.

John Willis