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Biblical Literacy

Moving into 2014 is a “new slate” moment for me. With the mayoral season behind me, there seems plenty of room to consider what my next five-year window of service will be. Five years, because that seems the pattern in my life. The beauty of aging may in part be the patterns and rhythms that become obvious. Life however, need not be a total blank slate to the believer, but a very meaningful apportioning out, a stewardship of this precious gift. And if a gift, there must be a giver. Life is about knowing that Giver.

For that reason, forty-one years tomorrow, and perhaps from my Father’s grace perspective, over 65 years have now been given to His service. That implied gap of twenty-five years seems to have been the requirement on my part to come to my senses. I am a slow learner. However, since a wonderful moment on January 3,1973, I have given myself as much as within me, to knowing God.

That “knowing” has come in many forms, life circumstances both blessing and pain, personal relationships and the writings of many. However, the one thing that has guided my life most, has been my daily dosage of intimacy. I use the words “dosage of intimacy” rather than “devotional,” as my mornings with the Spirit have been far more than simply the reading of a religious text. Each day, with some exception lest I sound overly religious, I have awakened to a cautious sense of destiny. I use the word destiny because of the privilege it implies; with every morning I seem enjoined by a sense of calling and expectation. The word caution I use because I have always known, perhaps from that twenty-five year window of rebellion and some intermittent failures since, that my capacity for serious impact is minimal without the favor of the Lord.

Opening the scriptures is not something I do alone, though sitting down with the Holy Book in some sequential manner has always been a part of my day. Any canned approach to memorization or parallel study has never appealed to me. I have always preferred to pick up the Word where I left off the day before and let the Spirit go from there. Invariably, that takes me to some C.S Lewis like moment with God.

This morning, I was only a few verses into Genesis 15 when I became intrigued with the sacrifice asked of Abram: three, three-year-old animals; a heifer, a goat and a ram (along with a dove and a pigeon). I have found that with ever request of God, there is a purpose. The dove and pigeon I have always understood as representative of peace and a provision for the poor (affordability).

Of the three larger animals, the heifer (a young cow, not yet calved) implied unknowing and innocence to me. The goat always seems to imply stubbornness (with which I can identify), as opposed to the Ram, a male sheep, strong and virile, but able to be led.

My understanding was enhanced as I read a more scholarly address around this passage (always a meaningful part of my devotions when time allows). The idea was, that God was in fact laying out three progressive covenants for three ages: that of the Abrahamic (a covenant based on faith and relationship); Mosaic (the Law, a school master for stubborn creatures) and Messianic (the grace to live the Law and to be faithful). The nature of the animals so align with the message and progression of the covenants that I am awed. As well, I now understand the significance to Abram, of the substitutionary Ram caught in a thicket on Mt. Moriah (a lesson for another day).

There is so much in scripture that jumps out when one both listens to the Spirit and considers the revelation shared within these writings, as well as, the thoughts of sincere followers of God who have come before us. I know that the temptation is to pick and choose built upon the religion of ones tradition, but there is much to be said for all that I read, especially within the covers of the Canon. The mystery is how that Moses and other prophets captured a story which so foretells the life of our Lord, and against all odds, that story be preserved, as overly religious men and women tamper with it for centuries.

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