Thoughts for Friday 24th July 2020

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Genesis 29:9-14; Acts 7:44-53

Friday 24 July

As Christians, we find meaning in these Old Testament passages, and sometimes that meaning can be different depending on the context within which they are read, or who’s reading them. Take a passage such as Isaiah 66:1-2, for example. Quoted near the very end of St Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 (at verses 49-50), while Jesus has used the same quotation in Matthew’s Gospel (at 5:34-35 and 23:21-22) to speak about vows, Stephen uses it as an argument against the accusation that he was heard ‘talking against our sacred Temple’ (see Acts 6:13-14) instead.

Nothing less than impressive in the way he is able to reference so many Old Testament books, in just these 10 verses alone it’s possible to detect at least 7: Exodus, Joshua, 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah itself.

While Stephen and Jesus, albeit different, have found meanings in Isaiah 66:1-2, they are ones that do actually seem to have been there in the first place. There are times, however, when it’s possible for us to find meanings which weren’t, and couldn’t possibly have been, there originally. And that, I think, is okay. And that’s something I’ve done today as I’ve read our passage from Genesis.

For, what it has mainly done for me is to remind me of two things: 1) Baptism and 2) Easter. The well in the story is so reminiscent for me of a font that, although the author of Genesis wouldn’t even have ever heard of baptism, I don’t feel I’m doing any disservice to the author of Genesis by thinking these thoughts. Similarly, the rolling away of the stone in the story is so reminiscent of what happened on that first Easter Sunday morning that, although it could never have even entered the head of the person who wrote these words, I hope they wouldn’t object at all.

Indeed, I once heard the Scots author, James Robertson, speaking at a Book Festival about his novel, The Testament of Gideon Mack, when he was asked something about the characters in his work, and whether such-and-such was what he had meant by characterising them in the way he had. And he replied by saying, ‘No, not consciously, but what I love about these events, ‘he said, ‘is the way they throw up for me meanings in the text other people have found but which I never ever intended. And that’s such a good thing!’

Let us pray:

“Father, I pray that no circumstances however bitter or however long drawn out, may cause me to break Thy Law, the Law of Love to Thee and to my neighbour.  That I may not become resentful, have hurt feelings, hate or become embittered by life’s experiences, but that in and through all I may see Thy guiding hand and have a heart full of gratitude for Thy daily mercy, daily love, daily power and daily presence.

            “Help me in the day when I need it most to remember that:
            —All things work together for good to them that love the Lord.
            —I can do all things through Him that strengtheneth me.
            —My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
            —Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever, Amen. (Eric Liddell)


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