Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: Walter Brueggemann (page 1 of 2)


Read Genesis 9:8-17.

washing_3262c-2“When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16)

The rains came. The waters rose. The ark floated. The sun appeared. The dove flew. The ark landed. Noah worshiped. The rainbow appeared.

The story of Noah’s Ark is well known and well filmed. From Russell Crowe to VeggieTales, we have seen Noah depicted in a wide range of ways.

I imagine the flood as a massive time-out for humanity. God the Parent had had enough, and it was time for humanity to have a time-out. As an educator, whenever time-out is used, the general rule of thumb has always been one minute for each year of life. So a three-year-old, for example, would sit in time-out for three minutes.

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Trust and Obey

Read Genesis 2:15-17.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comHave you ever been told what NOT to do? I’m sure you, like myself, have. For example, our parents telling us not to dip into the cookie jar before dinner. As I was writing this devotion, my wife Megan came in from the grocery store. She had a box of cookies and said, “These are for Monday night.” In other words, do NOT eat them before Monday night.

It turns out that being told not to do something is as old as time itself. In the three verses from Genesis 2, we hear the familiar words of God telling the human what NOT to eat. But it is really less about what NOT to do, and more about what God is doing.

First, God gives the Human a purpose. The Human’s vocation is “to farm and take care of the garden.” God created the Earth, but the Human is called to share in the care of that creation. Second, God permits the Human to eat of anything in the garden. This would cause an interesting conversation about the early church’s theological conundrum regarding what foods they should eat.

Third, God calls the human to trust and obey. You thought I was going to say NOT eat from the tree of knowledge, right? Well, that’s true, God does do that. While God permits the Human to eat freely, God prohibits eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  

Walter Brueggemann writes about these verses, “The primary human task is to find a way to hold the three facets of divine purpose together.” We have a purpose from God in caring for God’s creation, which includes caring for each other. God permits us freedom and free will, yet God also calls us to trust and obey. This is really what is happening here. We do God an injustice when we reduce what is happening here to a “don’t do that,” command. In fact, command is the wrong word. It is an invitation to trust and obey the Creator.

When we are told to keep out of the cookie jar, it is so that we eat our healthy dinner. Our parents (or wife) tell us that because it is good for us. We have to do the same with God. God is longing us for to trust and obey. And it is not because God needs us to, but because God loves us.

Lent is a prime time to consider how we are or are not trusting and obeying God in our lives. This season of self-reflection invites us to contemplate how we may over used our free will to the point of not trusting and obeying God.

How are you trusting and obeying God?

Resources: Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. John Knox Press, 1982.

Bible’s Major Players: David

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. King David is one from the Old Testament.

The Bible says that when Samuel anointed David, the “spirit of the Lord came mightily upon” him (1 Samuel 16:13). In the very next verse, the reader is told that an evil spirit in Saul replaces the spirit of the Lord. Barry Bandstra notes that in “the Hebrew Bible the spirit of God is the power God bestows on select individuals that enables them to perform their God-given task.” God had chosen David.

The first narrative of David is when he confronts the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17). In this act of defeating the giant, David was able to gain much popularity with the people, including Saul’s own family. This began Saul’s rich jealously and attempts to kill David, failing again and again. David would spend much of his time in hiding from Saul.


While in hiding, David becomes something like a Biblical Robin Hood. As Walter Harrelson explained, David “gathers around him a band of desperadoes, and is able both to prevent capture by Saul’s men and to become the most feared and respected man in all Judah.” When he grows tired of being an outlaw and on the run, he and his “band of desperadoes” join the Philistine camp in their struggle against Saul. The whole time, however, they are raiding the tribes south of Judah. This only increased Saul’s determination to rid of David.

Meanwhile, the Philistines have pushed Israel back toward the Jordan River. Saul attempts to take a stand at Mount Gilboa. However, Saul and his sons die in this battle, leaving the throne empty. David would claim his divinely ordained role as King.

David, from the beginning of his kingship, would lead with what many scholars have called “political savvy.” At the news of Saul’s defeat and death, David made a point not to approve nor condone the death of Saul. As Bandstra points out, “He did nothing that might serve to alienate the loyal followers of Saul,” which made up most of North Israel.


Michelangelo’s David

David would set his capital at Hebron in Judah. David would rule over the southern tribes, and after the northern tirbes fell apart under Ishbaal, he would rule the northern tribes as well. It would be the first time that all the tribes of Israel would be united. David then decided to move his capital to Jerusalem, so as not to give the impression that he was favoring the south, and called it “the city of David” to show that it was under his command. After chasing the Philistines out from around the city, he made another political move that would change things. He moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, setting the city as the political and religious center for the newly unified nation.

David’s heart became troubled after the nation was safe. He was living in a great house, while the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence among God’s people, was in a tent. David set out to build a great house for God. God, however, through the prophet Nathan, told David to not build such a house. Instead, God promised that God would build a house for David (2 Samuel 7:16).

This is a play on words, as Walter Brueggemann suggests. The word “house” can mean either “temple” or “dynasty.” Daivd would not build God a temple, but God would build David a dynasty. This will become the first dynasty of the Hebrew people.

As great as David was as a king, he would make some pretty bad decisions. Despite these mistakes, God still supported him. Although Samuel disapproved of the people’s desire for a monarch, God used the line of David to shepherd his people.

How has God used you through your successes and mistakes?

Resources: Bandstra, Barry L. Reading the Old Testament. Wadsworth Publishing, 1999. Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel. John Knox Press, 1990. Harrelson, Walter. Interpreting the Old Testament. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964.

Bible’s Major Players: Samuel

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. Samuel is one from the Old Testament.

Samuel is the son of Hannah, a wife of Elkanah. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah was able to give him children, but Hannah was barren and not able to have children. She prayed to God, asking for a son. God heard Hannah’s prayer, and blessed her with a son whom she named Samuel, meaning “God heard.” She gave the son back to God, devoting his life to the work of the temple in Shiloh. Samuel heard the voice of the Lord as a boy and continued to hear from God was seen as a prophet.

He is often viewed as the last and greatest of all the judges of Israel. One reason for this view can be seen in 1 Samuel 7:3-17. Prior to this episode, Israel has been at war with the Philistines. They had battled and battled, and then remembered that the Ark of the Covenant had been left at Shiloh. The act of forgetting the ark, the symbol of the presence of Yahweh, suggests that Israel, Walter Harrelson says, “has acted without consulting Yahweh at all.” After brining the ark out, the ark is captured by the Philistines – but not for long. Everywhere the Philistines take the ark, plagues follow.

Though Yahweh was not consulted, Yahweh is still in the battle. In the seventh chapter, Samuel gathers all of Israel together at Mizpah. He is the leader, one that is like that of Moses. In the midst of Canaanite culture and religion, along with the Philistine threat, the people are easily distracted and were putting their loyalty in other places. God called Samuel to refocus Israel’s loyalty back to Yahweh.

source: shrove.wordpress.com

source: shrove.wordpress.com

Samuel renews Israel’s commitment to God and the people start fresh. Samuel inspires new beginning. Samuel remained judge and leader of Israel until he reached an old age. It is his role, as Harrelson highlights, in the “establishment of the kingship” that marks “him as more than just another of the judges.”

As Samuel got older, the fun continued. The people requested that they have a king like all the other nations around them. They felt threatened by the growing, neighboring nations and did not have confidence in Samuel’s sons to be their judges. Samuel was not happy about this. How can they ask for a king to rule them on earth when their one sovereign God rules in both heaven and earth? Even so, Samuel seeks counsel from God.

God tells him to listen to the people’s request and give them a king. Samuel does so, but warns them first about what it will be like having a king (1 Samuel 8:10-18). Samuel concludes in verse 18 with a harsh truth:

In that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.

This statement makes it clear that Samuel did not approve of a monarchy. However, Samuel set aside his own personal thoughts and sought counsel from God.

How do you seek counsel from God?

Resources: Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel. John Knox Press, 1990. Harrelson, Walter. Interpreting the Old Testament. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964.

Bible’s Major Players: Eve

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. Eve is one from the Old Testament.

Eve. The first woman. The first wife. The first mother. The first sinner?

We are familiar with the story of Eve found in Genesis 2 and 3. But, if you’re looking for a unique retelling, I recommend the Slappy Squirrel animated version. God decides that it is not good for Adam to be alone, so God puts Adam in a deep sleep. While Adam is under, God uses one of his ribs to create Eve. And there they are, one happy, newlywed family.

That is, until the serpent enters the drama. The serpent engages Eve in a conversation not with God, but about God. The serpent and Eve have a little God-talk time.  Theologian and scholar Walter Brueggemann writes, “The serpent is the first in the Bible to seem knowing and critical about God and to practice theology in the place of obedience.” Doing theology is not limited to the Ivory Towers. From the beginning, theology – God-talk – has been accessible.

apple_10632cTheir conversation ultimately leads to the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The Bible does not name the fruit. Tradition has taught us that it was an apple. However, apples were not Mesopotamian fruits. Most likely, the fruit was a pomegranate, apricot, or fig. But the identity of the truth, at the end of the day, is that important.

What is important is that the serpent talks about what will happen if Eve does eat the fruit of the tree, and the serpent proves to be convincing. “And she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6). And everything changed! She tasted the fruit and then ate it. Cue the John Williams score, the fall of humanity just got real.

We were taught in Sunday school that Eve ate of the fruit first, and then took it to Adam and he ate without thinking.  The plural use of “you” in the Hebrew suggests that Adam is most likely with her during this conversation. That is to say that we need to stop giving Eve a bad rap. Eve made have eaten first, but she did not act solely alone. She may have been the spokeswoman for the couple, but that does not mean that she and all women after her must submit to their husbands. It does, however, reinforce the idea that this thing we call faith is a communal act. We are in this together.

There is a three fold action in this story. Eve takes the fruit, she eats the fruit, and she gives the fruit. Compare this to the four fold action Jesus and others use in the New Testament when celebrating the Lord’s Supper. They take the bread, bless the bread, break the bread, and give the bread. The connection is striking. Jesus redeems the basic disobedience of humanity through the action of giving his body and blood for us. When we respond to this taking, blessing, breaking, and giving of bread, we are affirming our active participation in the salvation story.

In a sense, Eve set in motion the fall of humanity, but also the salvation story that would redeem all of humanity.

In what ways are you participating in the salvation story?

Resources: Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. John Knox Press, 1982.

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