Lesson One, Discussion G

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Lesson One, Discussion G

Post by Tara Bernard on Wed Nov 08, 2017 8:57 pm

G. Consider Zechariah's and Elizabeth's character (v.6) and struggle. When have you been obedient to God and still felt forgotten? What does this story tell you?

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Re: Lesson One, Discussion G

Post by Pamela Meyers on Fri Nov 10, 2017 3:26 pm

They are described as being righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. They might be like Aunt Marjorie—a bit uptight! Not really enough information about who they are other than being “righteous” and “blameless” (before Zechariah opens his mouth, that is. Do you suppose that was the first and only time, then, that he had doubt about God's plan?) We also don’t know about their struggle. Some people overcome having terrible, horrible things happen in their lives with such grace. Others struggle tremendously with what seems a minor inconvenience to me. People’s struggles are different. Without talking with Z and E, and without knowing them, I can’t assume to know how they reacted to their situation. I would have liked to have known them, though!

Obedient but still felt forgotten: This is a strangely worded question. It assumes that if you are obedient to God you shouldn’t feel forgotten... that feeling forgotten is unusual or somehow unexpected if you are obedient. I remember a time when I felt this (When I was married to Keith and did everything right and my marriage still fell apart. I felt like God, somehow, owed me something. This was an unspoken agreement I presumed to have with God: I obey you, you reward me.) Now, however, the question seems misguided. Being obedient seems like it has nothing to do with being remembered or forgotten. I don’t remember or treat kindly only my students at school who are obedient. I love all of them and want good things for all of them.

I don’t think I am getting what the author of the question intended when he/she asked “What does this story tell you?”

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Re: Lesson One, Discussion G

Post by Tara Bernard on Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:03 pm

Pamela Meyers wrote:They are described as being righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. They might be like Aunt Marjorie—a bit uptight! Not really enough information about who they are other than being “righteous” and “blameless” (before Zechariah opens his mouth, that is. Do you suppose that was the first and only time, then, that he had doubt about God's plan?) We also don’t know about their struggle. Some people overcome having terrible, horrible things happen in their lives with such grace. Others struggle tremendously with what seems a minor inconvenience to me. People’s struggles are different. Without talking with Z and E, and without knowing them, I can’t assume to know how they reacted to their situation. I would have liked to have known them, though!

Obedient but still felt forgotten: This is a strangely worded question. It assumes that if you are obedient to God you shouldn’t feel forgotten... that feeling forgotten is unusual or somehow unexpected if you are obedient. I remember a time when I felt this (When I was married to Keith and did everything right and my marriage still fell apart. I felt like God, somehow, owed me something. This was an unspoken agreement I presumed to have with God: I obey you, you reward me.) Now, however, the question seems misguided. Being obedient seems like it has nothing to do with being remembered or forgotten. I don’t remember or treat kindly only my students at school who are obedient. I love all of them and want good things for all of them.

I don’t think I am getting what the author of the question intended when he/she asked “What does this story tell you?”

I hear what you're saying. I have felt that way many times in my life (i.e., I've done a, b and c, you're therefore obliged to do d) and I think we are taught that in our early years which is a disservice to us all. An example I can think of right of the top of my head is an episode of "Full House." Stephanie is teaching Michelle to use her manners. Michelle says, "Can I have a cupcake?" and Stephanie says, "You're not being polite." Michelle says, "Can I have a cupcake, please?" and Stephanie says, "No, you may not." Michelle gets terribly upset and says, "I was polite! I said please!" Stephanie says, "I was polite, too. I said, no you may not." The moral was you don't get something because you're polite, you're polite because it's the right thing to do. Anyway. the "religious" answer here, I think is, (as Timothy Keller puts it): Religion says "I obey therefore I am accepted by God." Gospel says "I am accepted by God through Christ therefore I obey."

The other thing I think is important here is a recognition that we can feel forgotten when God doesn't answer our prayers according to OUR plan. It would be easy for Zechariah and Elizabeth to say, "Oh, NOW you're answering our prayer, now that we're old and have been miserable all our lives." (Not that I have any idea whether or not they were miserable and I'm rather inclined to doubt that they were, just from the admittedly small amount that we do know about them.) So, I think there is a common temptation to equate God's lack of an answer--or an answer of "no" with being forgotten which I think is what the author is trying to point out. I think the question is worded this way to make you feel....hmmm..freer, maybe? to talk about the times you felt "forgotten" by God. Then, through discussion and meditation come to realize that you were not forgotten, rather the answer was "No." or perhaps, "Not now."
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Re: Lesson One, Discussion G

Post by Tara Bernard on Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:14 pm

Pamela makes an excellent point, we don't know Zechariah and Elizabeth very well and can't make sweeping assumptions about them or their character. Just the same, we are told they are "righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly", so I think we are intended to draw come conclusions about who they are.

The Bible is an interesting document. It is intended to be read in multiple translations, by multiple cultures, multiple times. Each time I read it, I learn something I didn't know before. I take passages differently than I did before. I think this is necessary. I think this is one of the "miracles" of the Bible, that it can be read and understood and responded to as "milk" and that it can be read and understood and responded to as "meat." I do think, though, that a basic awareness of the culture about which it is writing is helpful. In Zechariah and Elizabeth's time, not having children was a "reproach." Elizabeth feels the reproach of her community very keenly. It is also a reproach that is directed solely at the female partner. How did Elizabeth respond to this? We don't know. Did she redouble her efforts to be righteous? And if so, did she do it as a response to God or to her community? Did she harbor bitterness? We don't know. We know that she "observed the Lord's commands blamelessly." I assume this means that the author wishes to convey that she did not react out of bitterness, but I don't know that. I think the main point the discussion question wants to address is that "forgotten" and "struggle" are not the same thing. That "remembered" and "smooth sailing" are not the same thing. That if we assume that taking Jesus into our hearts and being grateful for God's mercy means that our troubles (here on earth) are over, we are sorely mistaken! I am reminded that there is NO temptation, NO emotion, NO situation with which Jesus was not confronted. When he says, "Be still and rest in me," we can be assured that he knows exactly how we feel and is able to say, "It is overcome."
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