Thursday, January 12, 2023

Time and Human Nature- Readings in Genesis

Here I am, reading once again the Book of Genesis along with physical commentaries, podcasts, and online sources. But I am older now. The land I live in feels darker and colder to me. I was reminded recently about the Shakesperean lines-"The 7 Ages of Man"

We find this amazing piece in  William Shakespeare’s "As You Like It", the sad Jacques delivers these lines as a monologue in Act II, Scene vii. The monologue is centered on a conceit comparing life to a play. Jacques uses a brief remark from Duke Senior, who uses the pieces of a play as an illustration of life

Jacques, renowned for his cynical wit, immediately responds by extrapolating all of life to a play.

It is where we get the idea that "All the world's a stage".

Jaques: All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. 

At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.

And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. 

And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. 

Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. 

And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. 

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon, (old fool)
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. 

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans (without) teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

I first read this monologue in my early 20's. And as a football coach, it was easy to see me as the soldier "seeking the bubble reputation".

I asked high school students where they were- and usually they understood the "lover" at that point.

And where am I now? Struggling to live as a justice I guess... but realizing that "the clueless old fool" presses in all the time. And if the Lord allows, I too will experience the "second childishness"- man once, baby twice.

What does this have to do with Genesis?

Two important things, I believe.

One is that the age I was when I read Genesis can impact HOW I read Genesis.

When I read it as a kid- it is just stories without context. Noah's Ark is a sweet Jewish zoo. 

When reading as the lover.... you tend to dismiss it as an interesting story you have heard for too long, you  think that the forbidden fruit is sexual in nature, but time doesn't demand my attention, like it should.

When reading as the soldier, I am ready to fight for my hermeneutics and viewpoint. "No way the chapters are symbols, no death before sin", and  I'm ready to shred to pieces anyone who objects to my 14 points of proof.

The Justice? You just get there-life beats you to a pulp, and though you keep swinging back, you find inconsistencies in your life and in this strange world. I'm not as smart as I thought I was and that actually makes me a little wiser. And I read the text now a little more carefully. The problems are no longer things that worry me. God finally got through to me that He doesn't need me to defend Him, He can do it all by Himself. 

As I dig into the problems, they unlock treasures of depth that go deep into the wells of my soul. That is why I sat the text of Genesis is BEYOND literature. It reads as narrative with enough "Holy hints" that we know there is infinitely more here than I could ever comprehend.

And one day, I hope I am humble enough to let others read it to me as I dig into the hope of the gospel with all soul and little physical ability left. It is then that I expect to meet the unheralded mighty servants of God and praise Him for the provision.

But there is a SECOND reason, I have referenced this monologue.

Do you see it?

Throughout the centuries, across time, land, language, culture.... human nature has not changed.

Technology has changed.... planes fly, there is space travel, we peer into black holes, we unlock molecules for good and for ill, we stream movies..... but our nature and interactions remain unchanged.

If you took a man's goat in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago, you had a high probability of pain coming your way. And those same complex desires, fears, anxieties, and violent responses exist today if you steal his car.

We have the same dreams, fears, tears, laughter ... we see the sun rise and set, we see birth and death, we see the stars, contemplate our place in its vast display. We understand upset stomachs and suffer bouts of insomnia.

So now, I read the stories of Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham and get a glimpse of who God is. What He likes and what He doesn't like.

I also see that God drove man out of the garden to the East... and man kept moving East of Eden... away from God who is in the opposite direction.

And then Abraham went west, embracing the promise of this God of the Covenant.

Genesis proves to me over and over that He is there and He cares.

And that message is ultimately my only hope as I live these roles that I play on a daily basis.

And God makes them all so cool... in fact, this grandpa thing is awesome right now. 

Genesis- if I know where I came from, I have a better map to where I am going!

So allow me the opportunity to record thoughts as I read once again through this beautiful book with great expectations to what I am supposed to see THIS time through in 2023.

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