2

Zechariah’s story

To navigate between posts, please scroll down to the end of the widgets in the sidebar and use the arrows << or >>.

When I married Elizabeth long ago in the days of my youth, I hoped for children, especially for sons to follow me as a priest. The years passed. I carried out my priestly duties taking my turn in the Temple in Jerusalem. I lost count of the times I prayed for a son and heir.

Eventually I gave up praying. It seemed useless. Elizabeth was making the best of her life without children in a society where married women without offspring were looked down on, pitied or even made fun of.

The day I was struck dumb began like any other. Lots were cast to see which priest would enter the innermost part of the Temple to burn incense. I was chosen. There was nothing to suggest that this would not be a duty like others I had performed many times over the years. Sometimes I felt that God was present in his Temple. Other times, although I knew that this was His house, He seemed more distant. After the time in the innermost part of the Temple, I would return to the other priests and the people, who were praying in the outer part of the Temple and the courts.

On this day, which I will never forget, I was concentrating on carrying out the rituals according to the instructions laid down by our forefather Aaron. Suddenly there was a bright light and I looked up to see a figure standing to the right of the altar of the Lord. I was surprised and not a little fearful. The angel told me that my prayer had been heard and God would grant me my request for a son. He went on to tell me how this son’s birth would be rejoiced over and what kind of life he was to lead.

I couldn’t believe my ears.

No wonder I said the first thing that came into my head: “How can I know this is true?”

The figure told me he was the angel Gabriel. He told me off for not believing what he had told me. He said I wouldn’t speak until my son John had been born. I doubted that too, but when I left the dark enclosed part of the temple and reached the lighter outer parts, I soon discovered to my dismay that he had not been joking.

All the priests and people were clamouring to know what had taken me so long – and I couldn’t tell them.

The following months were the longest in my whole life. Elizabeth did conceive for the first time ever, even though she was past child-bearing age. Her very young cousin Mary came to stay. She too was expecting a son, whose arrival had been foretold by the angel Gabriel. It was a rum do!

My speech was restored to me shortly after John’s birth. When they asked me his name, I sent for a wax tablet and stylus. “His name is John.” They argued with Elizabeth and me, because this was not the name that would have been chosen from our traditions. Suddenly I discovered my speech had been restored. I lost no time in praising God.

The story of the birth of John the Baptist may be found in Luke 1: 5-80

This year for the A to Z Challenge I have taken my 2013 Challenge as a starting point for most of the posts. I have written a post based around something or usually someone from the Bible. Sometimes it is a fictional story, for example when I have added some back stories (as a writing exercise). Sometimes it is a summary.

I hope my readers will be challenged to consider the original texts in more depth. (If only to discover what liberties I have taken with them!)

My Z post from 2013

4

Vanity

To navigate between posts, please scroll down to the end of the widgets in the sidebar and use the arrows << or >>.

In modern English ‘vanity’ means ‘being vain’. That is, thinking a lot about oneself or one’s appearance..

In the Bible the meaning is more like emptiness or meaningless. Perhaps insignificant could be used to translate it in some contexts.

King Solomon was famous for his wisdom, wealth and less so for world-weariness. “What’s the point?” might sum up some of his later writing.

He is the probable (co-)author of three books of the Old Testament. Many of the Proverbs are his work. He wrote the Song of Songs, which is also known as the Song of Solomon. It is thought that he also wrote Ecclesiastes, in which the narrator calls himself the Preacher. It is in this book that the word, “Vanity” occurs many times.  “Of the making of many books there is no end.” is also from Ecclesiastes.

Solomon was the son of King David. He began his rule well, building the Temple for the Lord, which his father had planned. King David would have liked to build the temple, but God did not allow him to, because he had shed blood. At first Solomon followed God’s ways. However he later disobeyed God’s instructions both by marrying many foreign women for political gain and by accumulating many horses. These events are written in the books of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles.

Perhaps it was because of his disobedience that he felt that there was little of value from a human life. Or perhaps he believed that by putting forward various ideas about human existence, he would generate useful discussion.

Whatever his reasons, he could hardly expect people to be discussing his words, life and motivation thousands of years after his death. Had he believed that, he would have been vain in the modern sense of the word!

This year for the A to Z Challenge I have taken my 2013 Challenge as a starting point for most of the posts. I have written a post based around something or usually someone from the Bible. Sometimes it is a fictional story, for example when I have added some back stories (as a writing exercise). Sometimes it is a summary.

 I hope my readers will be challenged to consider the original texts in more depth. (If only to discover what liberties I have taken with them!)

My V post from 2013 gives my view of KIng Solomon.

Books I read in December 2016

I read one book from cover to cover in December and began reading another book or two, one of which I’ll write about here.

Book CoverThe book I read from cover to cover was one I won on Twitter. It wasn’t really what I expected. The Parish Nativity Play by Kevin Carey didn’t seem to me to be just what the parish where I live needs. We didn’t have a play this year, due to a shortage of children among other things. Before that the same play has been performed by different children every year for over twenty years – possibly longer than that. This new play is in the style of a modern mumming play. It is designed to be read (by adults?) with little rehearsal. I am not good at visualising how a play might be interpreted. However I suspect this one could be made into something spectacular with the use of multimedia effects, but not where where tradition is strong (and change is resisted!).

The second book I began, but did not finish until I had renewed its loan twice, was The Highland Clearances by John Prebble. I realised over a decade ago that the versions of history taught north and south of the Scottish border are completely different. I had heard of the highland clearances, but knew nothing of the details, the length of time over which people were forced to emigrate and the cruel conditions on the ships they sailed in. The book is well-researched, with extracts from other writings quoted in a slightly smaller font size. What happened is yet another example of man’s inhumanity to man. While people were campaigning about the slave trade, something equally horrific (but hardly noticed) was happening within the realm. This is a book which should be read by anyone, who wishes to understand the history of the British Isles and why there are so many expatriate Scots. People of Scottish descent abroad, particularly in Canada and Australia might also find it interesting.