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Showing posts from September, 2018

Names of God: YHWH Nissi (banner)

Banners or flags serve various purposes in our society. We see them prominently displayed in settings such as national celebrations, at borders, atop government buildings, at sporting events, and in military settings. But Banner as a name for God is a bit unexpected.

YHWH Nissi is only mentioned once in the Hebrew Bible, at the end of a story which chronicles the first armed conflict of the nation of Israel. Though just a few months out of slavery, the people of Israel have had their share of troubles. They ran out of food, so God provided manna and quails. They also ran out of water, so Moses struck a rock and water came gushing out. Even so, morale is low and complaints are high. Now at Rephidim (most likely a valued oasis), they are attacked by the Amalekites, nomads in the region who are protecting what they view as their territory. Moses tells Joshua to take some men and go out and fight, then indicates that he will stand atop a hill with the staff of God in hand.

The battle is …

what is freedom?

In English usage, freedom is defined as the power or right to act, speak, and think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Most often, at least in our Western context, we use the word freedom to refer to self-determination, meaning we are free to be who we want to be, to do what we want to do, to say what we want to say.

This way of thinking about freedom has some problems. First, it assumes that we have relatively few limitations as human beings when, in fact, we all have limited choices and options in life. Not everyone has the capacity to be an astronaut or an Olympic swimmer or an opera singer or the Prime Minister. I could do none of those things well. I also cannot be a cat or a bird, much as I would like to be able to jump six times my height or fly by moving my arms. Viewing freedom as pure self-determination gives us an inflated sense of our own agency. It also sidesteps the fact that we do not function in isolation; our choices and actions have implications for other…