In which the exiles reimagine exile as God’s constraint and shelter for them
And God said, “Let there be a vault in the midst of the waters, and let it divide water from water.” And God made the vault and it divided the water beneath the vault from the water above the vault, and so it was. And God called the vault Heavens, and it was evening and it was morning, second day.
I saw the Master stationed by the altar, and He said: Strike the capitals that the thresholds shake. I will split them on the heads of them all, and who is left of them I will slay with the sword. None of them shall be able to flee, and no survivor from them shall escape. Were they to dig down to Sheol, from there My hand would take them, and were they to ascend to the heavens, from there I would bring them down. And were they to hide on the peak of Carmel, I would search them out there and take them. And were they to take cover from My eyes on the floor of the sea, from there I would summon the Serpent and it would bite them. And should they go in captivity before their enemies, from there I will summon the sword and it would slay them. And I will put My eye on them for evil and not for good.
And the Master, LORD of Armies, Who but touches the earth and it melts and all dwellers upon it mourn, and it goes up like the Nile, and sinks like the Nile of Egypt. Who builds in the heavens His lofts and His vault upon the earth He founds. Who calls forth the waters of the sea and pours them over the earth—the LORD is His name.
In dark times, we long for hope. But when we rush, we are likely to rush to false hopes. The exiles deported to Babylon needed to make sense of their situation, and Advent asks the same of us. God has set limits on our human capacity to determine our lives, has fashioned a vault that—like all great architecture—both shelters us and draws out wonder.
In what ways have you had to accept the limits of your capacity over the past year? In what ways have you discovered this to be grace?
Biblical texts: Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary
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