Thursday, April 05, 2007

Two verses

Were you ever taught this little rhyme?
Sticks and stones
may break my bones
but names will never hurt me.
I was. I might even have believed it. But today's reading from Proverbs gives the lie to that little ditty:
Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18
I've been both perpetrator and victim of the "reckless words" part, and I've lived long enough to know it. Fortunately, as time has gone on, I've had chances to bring healing as well.

Much of the time the way this works is that I place my tongue behind my teeth and press my lips together, but if I can keep my head about me, mirror and validate feelings, and pray for someone, they can become open to healing from God. After all, it says the tongue of the wise brings healing; it does not say that the tongue of the wise itself heals. (I just noticed that now.)

Here is a verse that bothers and confuses me. It's from the book of Deuteronomy. Moses is preaching to the nation of Israel, talking about the blessings (or curses) they will receive if they obey God (or rebel against him). So far so good. I mean, some parts sound a little harsh, but basically I think I get it. And then I read this:
Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.
Deuteronomy 28.63
I have looked at this passage in various versions, hoping that at least one of them wouldn't say "it will please him" to ruin and destroy the Israelites.

This is the only place I know of where it says he will happily ruin and destroy his chosen people. Elsewhere we read things like I take no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies (from Ezekiel) or he does not willingly bring affliction to the sons of men (from the Psalms).

What does this mean? Is it just a literary device? Or does it mean what he says?

One meta-answer is that God's character is not easily explained. But need this trouble us? The servants do not completely understand the master's psyche.

More on this tomorrow, when we look at Deuteronomy 29:29

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