Posts Tagged ‘Ezra’

Joseph Smith was given the Golden Plates that made up the Book of Mormon at once. The Prophet Mohammed had the entire Qur’an recited to him.  The Holy Bible is not that. It is a journey. There has been additions, subtractions, sections and books that were in and out at different moments and dependent on geographic location. This post is not to dive into a hermeneutical spiral but I will touch on quickly the need to read the stories in context which includes historical, cultural, genre to name but a few. As well, the question of why it matters today? What does it say about and into now?

Actually, the way the Bible came to be assembled is much the same way our own stories work. There is memories, shaped by the context, and distance. There is those things that cause negative and positive ripples throughout our lives. Those things with experts we can go back into and rewire to remove the trauma, but still let the memory be there though act as director within our script of life for a more functional outcome. That is what we anchor to.

Today we explore a tidbit from a book that was part of post-exile Israel’s story. Think of the trauma of slavery, displacement, rape, religious sex trafficking, basically being degraded to the point you were no longer seen as a “person”. This is the point where Israel was emerging, I refer you to the stories of Nehemiah and Ezra about the rebuild and return. These works are a reboot for the nation, we see emerging out of this period a sanitized history of 1 & 2 Chronicles that took out all the horrors from the stories of the people with God. During this time to, Ezra, “discovered” the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah (in Greek Pentateuch). It reshaped the worship story, tightened up the ship post exile to exclusivity on worship and laws. It was laying down a frame work of protectionism for the nation of Israel.

Yet, as with our world today, the sanitizing and protectionism did not bear fruit. In fact, it bore more subjection and oppression from the religious leaders and the Roman Empire…hmmm…anyone see any parallels in our world today? In your local communities? Local churches? What ripple effect does that have within your own being and family?

Oh, and like today though, this sanitized world, have what we have in the Western world as a cornerstone of our faith:


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and the Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10 when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe

-Deuteronomy 30:9-14 (New Revised Standard Version)

We tend to focus on the first chunk, the idea, that held in the ancient world, if you made the cut we know this because God blesses you, you are the wealthy, the powerful. Yet, that first part is tied into an unpacking of the Great Commandments. The blessing comes from our communal responsibility, neighbourhood, care for ourselves and one another. Embracing, loving and honouring the Imageo Dei.

For 6,000 years in the Abrahamic faiths, we have had the Great Commandments. Longer if we roll back into Indigenous teachings. Is it not about time, we actually lived what we profess to believe?

That is, what does it mean to love with our all?

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Renewing Leaders

Posted: January 27, 2019 by Ty in Brunch & Bible
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The stories of Nehemiah and Ezra  are about returns from exile. Communities growing and changing, rebuilding themselves. Deciding what is the important pieces of their historical story, and what needs to be left to the shadows. How many people and organizations are in this flux currently? Mainline or evangelical churches?

There are some keys lessons within these stories to be teased out. The first is a belief in what one is called to do. Nehemiah could have continued on as the cup bearer to the oppressor king, but he took a risk on something different. An act of rebuilding and renewal. I know many look to this as how devout he was, and this is probably true to hear the still quiet voice and respond, but there is still the internal struggle of change, the grieving for what is lost as one steps into the unknown.

At the rebuilding of the city wall, we get two lessons in leadership. One is being in the midst of the work with the front liners. Literally these workers were building with one hand, and had a sword in the other. Nehemiah as a leader understood the stressors that the workers were going through, the risks they were taking because he was not hidden from them. He was in the midst.

Then he would take midnight rides. Those times a leader must pull away from the day to day operations on the lines, to get to a higher plain (a balcony view some call it) to take in the whole scope of the work, the project. It can be a quiet coffee shop away from work in today’s world to remove distractions, unplugging from phone, e-mail, social media for a span of time- a day retreat, a few hours, to remove the constant white noise buzz of busyness, and rest in the silence. In the silence to hear the guidance, to renew one’s mind, heart and eyes to look anew upon what is being done.

This clarity leads to better understanding, on how to manager transition, transformation, rebuilding and renewal, while bringing as many as possible along for the ride. If there are losses, it can create a space where those are healthy transitions.

In Ezra we see the high priest, rebuilding the sacred imagery by rebuilding the temple. In ancient wars, as we see echoes of today by extremists, winning was not just beating the other army but proving one’s deity (ideology) superior to theirs by laying waste to that which they held sacred. It is in the rebuilding history guides us to the “discovery” of the lost fifth roll of the Torah- Deuteronomy. It is within this re-telling of the Law, that rules are tightened up and there is a move to transform the community. Though it still uses the same understandings, meta-narratives, and trappings that provide comfort.

It is easy when on the journey of change to want to be an iconoclast, I also enjoy blowing things up. Letting the pieces blow away in the breeze and start anew. Sometimes though, it is honouring what has come before, building the next level upon the already existing foundation. It was through this journey of renewal that the sanitized history of Israel would be produced- 1&2 Chronicles, which re-writes the stories of 1& 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings, but takes out all the drama, treachery, rape, bloodshed, and well, non-holy things that the people and kings had done to end up broken and in exile. The new history was a way to highlight that when things were done as they should be, when the new-old system was working properly, things were good. It was an encouragement text. It was also a prime example of how history can change due to one’s own point of view.

As one enters into leadership, it may not be as a Paul or a Peter striking something brand new, it could very well be tasked with a vocation like Nehemiah or Ezra in rebuilding and renewing. Which do you feel called into?

The story of Nehemiah, found in the Hebrew Bible, after the work of Ezra (the one who re-established the priestly role in Jerusalem post-Babylonian Exile) is a story of reconstruction, and illustrations of leadership. It is a short 13 chapters and it would be unfair to say that the principles I am to write about are found only in certain chapters, they go throughout the short book.

See Nehemiah had established a life for himself in Babylon, he was cup bearer to a king. Yet he was still open to the work of the Holy within his life, and got a call from God (first leadership principle: be open to hearing, not just talking, to God) and it was this call that weighed on him so the king inquired and supported his decision to lead the return to Jerusalem and rebuilidng of the wall (Principle 2: Confirmation and support of call by others).

Principle 3 is illustrated in most project management texts today, but Nehemiah did it by horseback. First he rode through the shattered city (micro level of the project), then he move up higher to be able to see the whole city in ruins (Macro level) to inform his plan. So being able to see an issue/project on all levels, or being able to remove yourself from a situation to the higher plain.

But I have skipped ahead for there are two imporant principles within #2 to be teased out.

2.1 Spiritual companionship with The Holy Mystery. Or some would say prayer, but that is living in a constant reflective relationship with the Holy.

2.2 Removing barriers to forward movement (as seen when the king provided letters of passage). What are the challenges you will face? Who in your network can aid in their removal?

Principle 4 is delegation. That is Nehemiah broke the project down into zones and assigned each zone to a mixed group of individuals who could accomplish that priority. That is delegation and with that in the system those individuals not only given the responsibility to complete a task, but empowered with the proper authority to do it.

Principle 5 is pragmaticism. We may want to come up with flowery theological answers, but sometimes you just need to work in shifts so half can be armed and half can work. When there was stumbling blocks, the simplest solution was the easiest one to follow to remove it to lay the ground work for success.

Principle 6 speaks to fairness, or as the prophets say justice (some translations righteousness) that is doing what is right, as we see in ensuring all are cared for. (chapters 5-7)

Principle 7 is seen brightly in chapter 6, but it illustrates that a good leader needs to have their thumb on the information pulse of a community (or for today media and new media) and be able to respond in truth, and transparency.

Principle 8 is living the Core. Nehemiah had Ezra in brin the people the Law, a renewal of the core of loving God and celebrating this.

These are 8 principles my inductive reading of Nehemiah revealed to me. What have you seen?