Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Beatitudes for Cynics

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
-A poetic introduction to an ancient sermon, Matthew 5:3-12

You know Pastor Jesus, I thought your sermon was great—really poetic.  I really appreciated the chaism and the repetition.  It was great.  Just brilliant.  I did have a few questions about the content, though.  Jesus, let me see if I heard you right—the poor in spirit are fortunate?  Sure, in Proverbs it says that the poor in spirit are better than the proud,51 but really, does it help people to be associated with the lowly?  I mean, they are so… lowly.  So below par.  It’d be okay to give the lowly a buck now and them, but who would actually want to be socially connected with them? 

And those who grieve?  Happy?52  I don’t think so.  I mean, the fact that they are mourning means that they’ve got a reason to mourn.  To grieve actually means that you are the opposite of happy.  Somebody dying, terrible circumstances, being beat up, that kinda thing.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  I mean, sure Isaiah 61 says that God’s good news is for the mourning, but who really WANTS to mourn?53  There's nothing inherently joyful in that.

What about the meek?  A lot of the congregation here thinks this sounds okay—humble people ruling the earth.  Yeah, but they don’t really know who the meek are, do they?  Not like you and I. The meek aren’t just people who aren’t proud, even if they are CEOs or something.  These are the people who have no power, no opportunities—they have proven themselves unlucky.   Sure it says in Scripture that the meek would inherit the earth.54  But I hate to break this to you Jesus, but… the meek?  They don’t have anything except a bunch a trouble.  The meek are called meek because they don’t have much. 

And the hungry and thirsty for justice?  I’ve known a bunch of those people.  And there isn’t any money in seeking justice.  The ones who really are desperate for justice, it’s because they didn’t get any. Ever. And those who get injustice and can’t do anything about it, well, they’re just stuck.  I mean, if they sought justice, only to find that they can’t get any, well, it’s just too late for them, isn’t it?

            As far as the other folks you’re talking about, Pastor—the merciful, the clean in heart, the peacemakers—that’s all nice.  But let’s be practical.  If you are so merciful that you give your resources to those who need it, then you have no resources to really help the world, do you?  If you are so focused on being right before God, then how can you get ahead?  We want to live before God, but a little bit of compromise is necessary, right?  If you focus on creating peace between people, then you aren’t really the kind of person to really make positive changes in the world.  Reconciliation doesn’t get anything done.

            And the persecuted?  Well, that is the most ridiculous statement of all.  Can you imagine a bunch of rag-tag farmers in Congo running from an army suddenly turning around and ruling the world?  What about a teacher fired from her job in the U.S. because she was praying with students in charge of the education system?  A prisoner in Vietnam teaching the gospel, running some underground churches suddenly becoming the head of the Communist Party there?  How about a dead martyr in Bangladesh suddenly being at the head of parliament?  That’s hilarious!  You know, Jesus, that’s the one thing I really like about your sermons—you always make me laugh! 

            But really, Jesus, do you think that you should encourage these folks this way?  Despite the beauty of your poetry, I think that you are really leading people for a fall.  What happens after they don’t received what was promised—the weak and hopeless getting to rule the world and all?  What happens when they realize that it’s all pie-in-the-sky and no practical basis, no reality at all?  They’ll stop listening, is what.  They’ll realize that there’s no real hope in what you are saying.  And a people without hope are a people in despair. 

            My suggestion is, give them hope, but make it a little bit more graspable.  Tell them that if they vote a certain way that changes will happen. Or if they sign this petition. No, I KNOW that real change won’t happen through a single vote, but that’s the kind of thing that real hope is founded on.  Small goals that offer big changes.  Think of it as a white lie to keep people satisfied with their less than satisfactory lives.  At least you don’t drive them into despair that way.

Anyway, it’s just a suggestion. Have a good day, Pastor.  See you next week.

51.                Proverbs 16:19—one of only four places in Scripture that mention “the poor in spirit”, including Matthew 5, Isaiah 66:2 and Psalm 34:18.  In Proverbs and Psalms it is used as another way of speaking of the oppressed, even if not actually in poverty.  Since Matthew 5 has the parallel in Luke 6:20, we would rightly think that the meaning would be similar in both, but Luke doesn’t have the “in spirit” phrase.  Most of the people who interpret the beatitudes in Matt 5 interpret them to be something completely differently than in Luke.  But both can be interpreted to have the same meaning: the disciple who is oppressed is the one who is blessed by God.  In my mind, this is the better way of understanding both sets.

52. The Greek word for “blessed” literally means “happy.”  Thus, the Greek of Matthew 5:4 would read, “Happy are the mournful.”  While “happy are the poor in spirit” might be interpreted as possibly fitting together, in the second line Jesus is highlighting the contradiction to absurdity. 

53. The good news for the mourning—another term for the oppressed in both Isaiah 61 and the beatitudes—is not an internal help now, but the knowledge that because of their oppression they will get a greater release from oppression.  The basic message of the beatitudes is the joy of faith—knowing that the greatness of what is to come is the result of the suffering one has now.

54. Psalm 37:11.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Daddy, You Promised!": A Poem of Promises in Prayer

The prayer traditionally called “The Lord’s Prayer” is frankly a simple request: “Daddy, you promised!”  And the ones who pray this child-like prayer are those who are so helpless that they are in need.

Our Father in heaven
“Father” in the ancient world meant not only one’s dad, but also one’s ruler.  One of Caesar’s many titles in ancient Rome was “Father” because, ultimately, he was the one who provided for and judged every citizen of Rome throughout the world.  God, for Jesus, is the one that encompassed every aspect of positive fatherhood.  His heart yearned for his children and set himself aside to meet their needs.37  He is both unbelievably powerful and lovingly intimate with his helpless children. 

He sees his toddler across the room and says, “Give me a hug!” 
She paddles across the floor and is wrapped in her Daddy’s secure arms.  He tickles her and then whispers in her ear, “Hungry?”  She nods and, almost magically, a plate of eggs and toast appears.  She sits down to eat and he looks at her with eyes of joy.  

May your name be sanctified 38
God’s reputation has been, and continues to be, defiled.39  People who call God by his name have been hypocrites, and the enemies of God has used this as an excuse to defile God, to say that the Father of power and love does not exist.  This is the prayer of the faithful in God who cannot accept that God’s reputation is sullied.  But, at the same time, they know that only He can cleanse his own reputation.

In his eyes there is a sadness.  She cannot accept her daddy being sad, so she will take care of it. “Daddy, are you okay?” 
“Oh, some bad people have been saying things about your daddy.” 
She stamps her foot.  “Don’t let them!” 
He smiles with a tear in his eye, “I’ll take care of it, little girl.”
 “Good,” she murmurs.

May your kingdom come
May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
God’s promises are all toward the fulfillment of the utopia of God.  A land where God’s people will be secure, provided for and God would rule.40  The earth, as it stands, is far from that ideal, but the people of God continually hope and expect God to take over the world and make all things right.

“I’m tired of being stuck in this place.  I want to play!”
“We can go to a park.”
“But I can’t go out by myself!”
“It’s pretty dangerous out there.” 
“Daddy, we will live in a big house, right?”
 “With a backyard for you to play in.” 41
“And a pony.  You know I want a pony!” 
“We’ll see,” he smiles.

Give us today our daily bread.
In our society of full refrigerators and overstuffed cupboards, it seems hard to imagine that more than a billion people go to bed hungry every night.    Yet God promised them plenty and generous food.42  If God provides for his anawim daily—even as he did the children of Israel in the wilderness—it would be seen that God’s power is greater than any god or government or wealthy patron.  For who feeds all of their people, every day?  Who has that kind of resources?  Only God.43

She and her daddy play with a ball on the wood floor.  Suddenly she jumps up, “Daddy, guess what?” 
 “I’m hungry again!”
 “Imagine that! How often do you get hungry, anyway?  Don’t you ever quit?” 
She throws her hands on her hips, making a defiant stance. “Nope.  I’m always hungry.” 
“So what do you want?  A rock?” 
“Nooooo!  I want food.” 
“Ah, let’s see what we can do for you, then.”44

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
God promised to forgive his people.45  But forgiveness is never unconditional.  According to Jesus, forgiveness is conditional on two things:  forgiving others and repenting of what one needs to be forgiven of.46  Thus, God must send his Spirit—a promise of God—so his people would be able to fulfill the conditions and thus gain the promised forgiveness.

She walks up to him with her hands behind her back and her eyes fixed on the floor.  “I broke something.”             
His face is serious, “What?” 
“Your calculator.” 
“Didn’t I tell you not to play with it?”  She says nothing, but her cheeks burn red.  “Give it to me.”  She takes it from behind her back and shows it to him.  He gently takes it from her hand, looking at it closely. 
“Are you going to punish me?” 
“Do you want me to?” 
“Well, it was good you told me.  If you had tried to hide it, then I might punish you.”  He pushes the corner of the object back into place.  “See, it just came out of the casing.  It’s okay now.”
 She stares at it with eyes wide, “You can fix it?”
 “I already did, see?”  She does, and jumps in joy.  “Now listen, little girl.  Remember when your brother broke your doll?”
She glowers, “Yeah.  He was mean.” 
“Were you mean when you broke my calculator?” 
“No.  I didn’t mean to.” 
“Uh, huh.  But you disobeyed me when you played with it, right?”
 She looks down, “Yeah.” 
“And he shouldn’t have played with your doll, right?” 
“Yeah!”  “What did you want to do to him?” 
“I hit him!” 
His face registers its disappointment. “Did you?” 
Her stare doesn’t waver. “He broke my doll!”
 “Do you want me to hit you for breaking my calculator?” 
She stares at him soulfully in his face.  “Are you going to do that, daddy?” 
“Do you want me to?” 
“Do you think your brother wants you to hit him for breaking your toy?” 
“I don’t know.”
“Remember this—your brother is like you.  If you want me to not hit, then you need to not hit, too.  I won’t hit you, so don’t hit your brother.” 
Reluctantly she says, “Okay….”

Lead us not into testing
            But deliver us from the evil.
Most of all, God’s people must remain faithful to their God.47 It is God’s promise in Ezekiel 36 that if God’s people received of God’s Spirit, they would have hearts that would be faithful.48
 But how could God’s people remain faithful, day by day, unless they are released from the daily testing of their faith?  The suffering we face causes us to doubt.  The difficulties we face make it hard to live according to God’s law.  Our own weaknesses make it difficult some mornings to get up and live in God.  How can we rest in God’s kingdom until the constant persecution, the constant attack, the consistent pounding against our faith is finished?  God’s people must finally be delivered from the evil attacking them each day—they are only human.  To fulfill the complete promise, not only must the power be there, but the obstacles to fulfillment must be removed.49

She comes running to her daddy, crying in his arms, “You told me to go next door, daddy!” 
He is surprised to find a shivering child with a damp face on his lap, “Yes.  You’re being babysat by Ellen tonight.” 
“But I can’t!” 
He sees her sorrow and holds her, soothing her.  “Why can’t you?” 
“There’s a boy on the sidewalk, and he says it’s his and I can’t walk on it and if I do then he’ll hit me and I don’t want to be hit because it will hurt!” 
“Oh really?”  He stands up, steel in his eye.  “Well, I’ll tell you what.  I’ll walk out the front door with you and go with you to Ellen’s” 
“But what if he’s still there?” 
“He might be there still.  But not for long.”

The promise of God can only be fulfilled through the power of God.  The power of God can only be found through intimacy with God.  “Don’t be afraid little sheep, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”50

37. Luke 11:10-13; Luke 12:22-32.
38. “Hallowed” is an often misunderstood term.  It is not a term of praise, nor does it strictly mean “holy”.  Rather, the request is demanding that God’s name be made holy, as if His name is not currently holy.  This is not about God’s nature—which is always holy—but about His reputation.  Thus, the request is that God’s reputation be straightened out.
39. As we saw in Ezekiel 36:20-23-- in the section "I Refuse to be a 90 lb. Weakling!"
40. Ezekiel 36:24.
41. With regards to Audio Adrenaline.
42. Ezekiel 36:29-30; Matthew 6:25-34.
43. See the first chapter on Psalm 146.
44. Matthew 7:9
45. Ezekiel 36:25
 46. Luke 17:3-4; Mark 11:25-26; Matthew 18:21-35.
47. Faithfulness and obedience is the condition of receiving God’s promises.  Not perfect obedience, but an obedient walk, a faithful approach to life.  This allows for mistakes that can be forgiven, but an obedient heart. John 3:36; Matthew 12:50; Matthew 7:24-27; Matthew 18:15.
48. Ezekiel 36:26-27.
49. Matthew 18:6-7.
50. Luke 12:32.

The Utopia Man

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand
If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
Sayings of Yeshua

Jesus was well aware of all the promises of God and their lack of fulfillment.  He knew about the promise to give the Spirit to God’s people so that they would live rightly.  Jesus knew about the promise of health and peace.  Jesus knew about the promise of a king who would rule justly.  Jesus knew about the promise to the poor that they would receive the wealth of the unrighteous. 

Jesus lived these promises and breathed them and fully believed them.  Jesus’ whole ministry was based on these promises.  Every time Jesus spoke of the “kingdom of God” coming, he was speaking about these promises, the coming utopia of God.  Jesus healed because of God’s promises to heal his people. Jesus cast out demons because of the promise to release people from imprisonment.  Jesus prayed for the Spirit to come on his disciples because God promised the Spirit when his kingdom came.  Jesus fed the poor, because God promised that the poor would be fed in the coming kingdom.  To see the promises fulfilled meant the kingdom was coming.34  To see the promises fulfilled is to see God glorified above all.

For this reason, Jesus spoke of the utopia of God as being both now and in the future.  It is still to come, for oppressors still exist, sickness still reigns, famine still ravages.  But the utopia has come already wherever Jesus has worked.35  Every sickness healed, every poor person fed, every prisoner released is a touchstone with God’s utopia.  It seems small compared to the large promise to come, but it is an indication that God hasn’t forgotten His promise.  And that Jesus is the center of fulfillment.36

34. Jesus’ focus on God’s promises being fulfilled is a major theme in his work, and especially seeing himself as the focus of that fulfillment:  Matthew 5:17-18; Luke 4:16-21; Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 22:15-16, 36-37; Matthew 26:52-56; Mark 14:49; Luke 24:44; John 5:45-46.
35. Matthew 12:28; Luke 7:20-22.
36. See note 34.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Brave New World

Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law."
I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,
I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you,
And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations,
To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.
                     An Ancient prophecy, otherwise known as Isaiah 42:1-7 22

When God makes a campaign promise, it isn’t just a political maneuver.  Rather, God is actually interested in changing the world.

Unlike Cyrus, Churchill, Charlemagne or any other world leader, God is well aware of every person suffering in all the world.  Every baby born with AIDS, every mother with too little nutrition to feed her infant, every village with poisoned water, every man imprisoned for religious reasons, every son kidnapped by a militia, every daughter enslaved for sex, every abused wife, every man who is slowly dying every day to feed his family—God knows every one of them. 

And as we saw in Psalm 146 in the first chapter, God has provided for them all.  The means to feed, deliver, heal, and save all of these people are available.  However, we all live in a system that distributes wealth, food, medicine, freedom and hope to those who don’t so desperately need it.  Rather, all of these resources are granted to those who already have what they need, and now has the resources to horde what they want, even at the cost of many who do not receive what they need.

God is wanting to change all that.  So that way he no longer has to share in the suffering of the many.

So we have the promises that God made above.  In many of these promises, God focuses on His people, whom He has chosen.  God centers on this people not because He wants to ignore the rest of the world, but because of—guess what?—His promise.  He stated often that it is through this one people that all the peoples of the world will obtain His promises.  It is as if God poured all the grain of the world into one huge silo, not for storage, but for distribution.  The promises fulfilled are not meant to remain with God’s people, but are to be distributed to everyone. 

Thus, the promise of land isn’t for the few wealthy, it is for the poor masses.23

The promise of provision of food and clothing isn’t for some religious folks but for the world.24

The promise of God’s Spirit isn’t for just the chosen, but for the Gentiles.25

The promise of deliverance from captivity isn’t just for Israel, but for every poor person in every nation.26

The basic promises of Ezekiel 36, Psalm 37 and Isaiah 61 weren’t the only grandiose promises God had given to his people.  Again, God had been king for a long time, and he had made many promises to his people.  Some of them were because of his reputation, as in Ezekiel 36.  Some of these promises were made to make sure that the people wouldn’t feel that they were going to be punished forever.  Others were promised simply because of God’s justice—to see right prevail.

·      God promised that he would bring a new king.27
·      God promised that the new king would bring justice to everyone who lived in the land.28
·      God promised that people would be healed of their illnesses.29
·      God promised that all oppressors would be judged.30
·      God promised that the power of the nations would be destroyed by his new kingdom.31
·      God promised that those of his people who had died would be resurrected.32
·      God promised that there would be a time of peace under a ruler concerned about the poor.33

God’s promises listed here weren’t just promising some good for a few people.  God was promising a complete change in the world system—a utopia for those who were loyal to God alone.  When you talk about healing for everyone (the best medical plan ever!) and destruction of all oppression (greater justice than simply throwing “bad guys” into prison!), then you are talking about seeing something that the world has never seen!  This is rightly called a “utopia”, which was Thomas Moore’s word for his novel that literally means “no place.”  Thomas Moore was such a cynic. It didn’t exist.  It never had.  Mr. Moore thought it never would. But God was promising that someday it wouldn’t just be an ideal but reality.  The first world order that is truly new. 

Every needy person, all the anawim, in every spot on this world can trust in God’s utopia.  As long as they understand the conditions.  (For every promise, whether spoken or not, has a condition.)

22.  I would also want to put another prophecy from Isaiah here: “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den.”  Isaiah 11:1-8
This passage is not about animals so much as the poor being on an equal level with the wealthy and oppressors.
23. Psalm 37:10-11; Matthew 5:5.
24. Matthew 6:25-34
25. Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21.
26. Genesis 12:2-3; Isaiah 66:18-21; Revelation 7:9-17.
27. Isaiah 9:6-7.
28. Isaiah 11:1-8
29. Ezekiel 34:4; Deuteronomy 7:15.
30. Psalm 82.
31. Daniel 2:44
32. Daniel 12:2-3
33. Isaiah 11:6-11.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Penultimate Redemption

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,
They will raise up the former devastations;
And they will repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks,
And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.
But you will be called the priests of the LORD;
You will be spoken of as ministers of our God.
You will eat the wealth of nations,
And in their riches you will boast.
Instead of your shame you will have a double portion,
And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion.
Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land,
Everlasting joy will be theirs.
            -An Ancient Hebrew Prophecy, AKA Isaiah 61:1-7

To my great lord Yakov, the redeemer of the forsaken:

Yes, I have heard of your fame!  Yakov is now praised most highly among the former captives of Judah!  For he took his considerable wealth and delivered great numbers of Judeans—possibly up to a thousand!—to return to the homeland.  How wonderful is the name of Yakov, how magnificent and merciful he is!  How your name will be remembered in this generation!  I am sure that many of the men whom you supported for the return will feel deeply in your debt!  These same men will build whole towns in your name and pay you taxes gladly for the joy you gave to their lives!  You granted them their home, a place for their families, and you will be their voice in the new order under governor Zerubbabel.18  Glory to the name of Yakov!

            I have heard this from my close friend, Yohann, who was redeemed from his prison by his cousins, who gathered together to pay his debt to Shad.  Of course, you know this, for this letter has been handed to you by none other than Yohann himself, to grant you these words of praise you so rightly deserve. 

            Have you heard of the prophet Isaiah?  Not the Isaiah of Hezekiah the Great, but of the Isaiah that spoke right here in Babylon for years?  I just received a prophecy from him.  It is a declaration of redemption, even as Cyrus offered you.  This declaration is for me and my kind.  Cyrus offered freedom to the Jews, but not to the prisoners.  He offered release to the wealthy, not the afflicted or oppressed. 

All men only see those one step below them.  Should a master free the slave?  No, but only the servant who can almost reach his standing.  Can a Pharaoh release a cat from debt?  No, but only his priests. Should a king release the poor?  Of course not, for he does not even see them.  The king does not eat with the poor, the counselors of the rich do not fellowship with the servants.  Like serves like, and all the rest are on their own.  Even so, Cyrus released from captivity only those who could afford to be released.  Many like me, educated sons of the great of Judah, are left behind, for we do not have the means to be delivered out of exile.

But Yahweh, the God of heavens, the Lord of all lords is not like men.  He sits with the needy and hears the cries of the afflicted.  He promises to deliver the prisoner, not the wealthy.  He saves the poor from slavery, not the oppressor. 

You may think of yourself, Yakov, as the builder of broken walls, the restorer of the lost land.19  And so may you be, according to the promise of Cyrus.  But the promise of Yahweh belongs to me.  To me, says the King of kings, belongs the title “Rebuilder.”  You may see me as insignificant, swept away of no standing in God’s people.  But that is not for you to determine, is it, Backstabber?20

Yudah’s family discovered more of our situation as we sat, mourning in prison.  They found that Shad was actually in your pay, the Babylonian front to your scheme, dear Yakov.  You had already heard of Cyrus’ plan long before the rest of us, did you not?  So, quickly, you plotted our demise, having your servant seed blighted crops into my own.  You yourself were Yudah’s partner who stole the goods from him.  And you stopped up Yohann’s irrigation so his crops choked.  All this, so you could buy up the whole of the land of the refugees before it emptied out.  Then, you divided it up and sold it to the Babylonians as prepared land, which they bought at a low rate, but you sold at a great profit.  Ah, Yakov, how you are aptly named after our forefather.  You are not an Israelite at all, for you wrestle not with God, but you are the Deceiver, who takes away that which belongs to his brother.

But Yudah’s and Yohann’s family, after hearing this tale, had mercy on us.  As this story was passed from village to village, they collected monies and gems from those not as unlucky as we, to release us from our captivity.  Yahweh’s word is already fulfilled.  Yes, I still sit in prison at the writing of this letter, but my release is at hand.  The Most High be praised for His deliverance!

I can see you sitting in your large tent as you read this letter, Yohann standing before you.  He smiles as he hands it to you.  He sees my wife, sitting next to you, your latest possession gathered to yourself.   Is this why you made sure I was destroyed, even after I pleaded for your mercy?  To keep my wife for yourself, a part of your harem?   Yet, this is your prideful mistake, the seed of your ruin. For now, I have no family, no land, nothing to keep me in Babylon.  You need have no fear of Yohann, turning away from you to leave.  He holds no knife to murder you, to take out our vengeance against you.  Vengeance belongs not to the poor.  We have no such power.

So, as Yohann runs away from your tent, fearing your order to your guards to kill him, I am now in Jerusalem, standing before governor Zerubbabel.  I hand him another letter of my writing.  A letter speaking of your treachery in the land of our refuge.  I hand it to him now, as you finish this letter.

Perhaps you will have the fortune of the wicked.  Perhaps Zerubbabel will see your theft as a small thing that happened in a land far away.  At the very least, the governor will watch himself when you are near.  After my audience with the governor, however, I will walk to the dedicated altar.  There, I will bow before the King of heavens who has delivered me.  I will give Him the praise rightly obtained for delivering me from my captivity.  And I will hand you into His hands.  May He judge between you and me.  I hope to never see you, adversary.  But you will stand before the Most High, and you rightly should be trembling before the altar.21  For I shall be a witness against you in the Court.

Until we meet again,

18. Zerubbabel was the leader of the first caravan of refugees returning to Judah, and the governor of Judah under Cyprus.  Zerubbabel was a descendant of David, one of the potential kings of Judah.

19. These titles were appointed to those who established the land after its destruction. But Isaiah says that these titles truly belong to those who help the poor, establishing justice for the weakest. Isaiah 58:6-12.

20. Yakov is the name “Jacob” which literally means “ankle grabber” the equivalent of our term, “backstabber.”  See Genesis 25:26, 27:34-36.

21. Thus Jesus’ warning to make peace with one’s adversary before going before the altar of God.  This is based on Exodus 22:21-27, where it is declared that if there is no justice for the poor on earth, then Yahweh will take vengeance out against the oppressor for the sake of the poor.  Matthew 5:23-26.