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God's Nudniks


Matthew 7:1-12 (CJB)

7 “Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  8 For everyone who keeps asking receives; he who keeps seeking finds; and to him who keeps knocking, the door will be opened.  9 Is there anyone here who, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone?  10 or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  11 So if you, even though you are bad, know how to give your children gifts that are good, how much more will your Father in heaven keep giving good things to those who keep asking him! 12 “Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that sums up the teaching of the Torah and the Prophets.

I’ve switched to the translation called the Complete Jewish Bible, because for me it seems to provide a more fertile ground for reflection. At least for the time being. I almost always compare several translations in my work of Lectio Divina, and the phrase construction in the CJB often elicits something in my thoughts that feels true and real.

Anyway, the difference between “ask” and “keep asking” seemed really noteworthy to me. It links with the other gospel about the pestiferous widow who kept after the corrupt judge until he finally heard her case:

Luke 18:4-5 “4 For a long time he refused; but after awhile, he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God, and I don’t respect other people;  5 but because this widow is such a nudnik, I will see to it that she gets justice — otherwise, she’ll keep coming and pestering me till she wears me out!’””

It’s because this theme is repeated, that I feel that my sense of its significance is accurate.

So, keep on pestering God.

I’m not sure why or how, but today I got sidetracked into looking at the names of God, and then on into the names of Jesus. I started with HaShem, rather dubiously translated by one author as “The Significance,” when every other source translates it as “the Name,” which is a linguistic device intended to protect folks from saying the true Name of God out loud.

(I kind of liked “The Significance” as a descriptive title for God. Oh, well…)

The other word I liked very much was “Shekinah.” It means “the dwelling” in Hebrew, and it denotes God’s presence with us, dwelling among us. It’s often translated as “the Glory (of God).” The Talmudic Rabbis liked to use it as a word for “God” because it “avoided the anthropomorphic expressions in the Bible.” (From the Jewish Encyclopedia website.) The article also says this: “Nevertheless the word "Shekinah" occurs most frequently in the Aramaic versions, since they were intended for the people and were actually read to them, and since precautions had therefore to be taken against possible misunderstandings in regard to the conception of God.”

(Digression: I’ve said many times, and I’ll say it again, at the risk of being a nudnik! An anthropomorphic God is the most pernicious misrepresentation, promoted by folks with an axe to grind. They always endorse it in service to their own advantage, and for their own benefit. These are the same folks that Jesus called hypocrites and double-dealers. Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.)

Then I went looking at the meaning of the Hebrew name ‘Yeshua’, which is the same as ‘Jesus’. It comes to us through the Greek. ‘Jesus’ is just a transliteration of ‘Iesous’, which in turn was a transliteration of ‘Jeshua’ or ‘Joshua’. (Pronounced Yeshua or Yoshua. ‘J’ is pronounced ‘Y’ in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.)

I found out something else cool. The ‘Yeh’ part of the name is the same as the ‘Jeh’ in ‘Jehovah’, and ‘Yah’ in ‘Yahweh’. The ‘-shua’ part comes from a word that means “a cry for help” with the implication that the cry is answered. The source I read used the phrase “a saving cry.” “Cry” is a little bit archaic in the sense it’s used, so I thought “shout” might be a reasonable modern substitute: “A saving shout.” There’s no ambiguity in the phrases, “I heard someone shouting for help,” or, “My shout saved me.”

So the name Yeshua means “A God-answered shout for help.” That made me think of the passage in John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

So, Yeshua is both the ‘Shout-for-Help to God’, and the Answer to the ‘Shout-for-Help to God’.

In Lectio Divina, the test of the ‘response’ part of the practice is to see if it all hangs together and echoes into deeper and deeper meaning. If my digression into the meaning of the names of God and Jesus had turned out to have nothing to do with the reading of the day, then I would have scrapped it and never posted it.

I can’t help feeling like I’ve had a penetrating insight here. I feel a little bit transfixed; impaled by an idea; pierced by a Reality beyond words, even though it’s about a Word.
My insight that the name of Yeshua has an involuted and liminal meaning of both ‘the-one-whose-shout-for-help-to-God-is-answered’, and ‘the-one-who-answers-a-shout-for-help-to-God’ is still echoing in my mind, but it’s quite clear that the reading for today is relevant to that understanding. I don’t know what led me from today’s reading into an internet search for the meaning of the Names of God, but I’m sure it was not mere distraction.

So, back to the reading:

Keep on asking; keep on searching; keep on knocking -- because the asking itself is the answer, the searching itself is the discovery, and the knocking itself is the clear and open Way.

Could it be that simple? Just “Keep on keepin’ on”? Just “Don’t give up?” Just “Be God’s nudniks”? Just “Go on down the Way, and don’t stop”?

‘Fraid So.

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