I remember an event from my childhood years, which at the time I thought was rather strange. In the village where I lived a small, new enterprise was started. Two men had conceived of the brilliant idea to start a mobile processing unit of grass. They bought a barge on which they built a rather imposing technical structure. The barge could move over the water to a place close to the farmer who wanted to make use of this service. The green, sometimes rather wet, grass was thrown in on one side of the machine, and re-appeared on the other side, dry and pulverized. It was easy to store the product and to feed it to the cows during the winter when they remained indoors.
The special element at the official opening ceremony of the enterprise, was the involvement of the Catholic village priest, who came with a supply of holy water to bless the new industry. I looked on with great curiosity, for something like this was unknown in the Protestant part of the village. Decades later I found that in my own faith community, among those who had migrated from the Caribbean to the Netherlands, it was also a quite common practice to dedicate a new home or an important object. And I discovered that this was far from unique, for I noticed that in the new (2004) liturgical manual of the United Church of the Netherlands, an order of service had been included for such dedications.
This surfaced this past week, as I sat each day for a few hours at the kitchen table in my son’s home in Sweden, composing some devotional messages for the new devotional book that I am writing. I intend to produce a short devotional message for every day of the year, based on a known, or lesser known, biblical character. So, a few days ago, I was dealing with Jezrahiah.
Most readers of this blog may not have a clear picture of who this Jezrahiah was. Well, he is mentioned in Nehemiah 12:42, as the leader of the choir that performed at the dedication of the restored wall around Jerusalem, after the return of a group of Judean citizens from the Babylonian exile. The exuberant dedication of this structure, in which our Jezrahiah played a liturgical role, led my thoughts to the dedication of the small mobile factory, which I remembered from my childhood years. When I gave this some further thought, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea, not only to dedicate church buildings and newly elected church officers, but that it would be very fitting to ask for God’s blessing over important secular projects and processes, by means of some dedication ceremony. A traditional Dutch saying still holds a lot of truth: Everything depends on God’s blessings! (Aan God’s zegen is ales gelegen).
During my flight (yesterday) from Stockholm to Amsterdam, I dealt with another biblical character: Issaschar. He may be slightly better known than Jezrahiah. He was one of the sons of Jacob and was, therefore, the progenitor of the tribe of Issaschar. The Bible does not give many details about Issaschar, but mentions that the men of Issaschar ‘had understanding of the times’ (1 Chronicles 12:33). A present-day application is rather obvious. I was able to successfully complete this devotional message before the wheels of the SAS plane touched the runway at Schiphol.
Today the biblical men and women must exercise some patience, as preparations for tomorrow’s sermon in Enschede must have a higher priority. And I want to make a start with reading a new book that the author kindly sent me a few days ago: Suffering and the Search for Meaning: Contemporary Responses to the Problem of Pain (by Richard Rice; published by: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014). I look forward to finding out how the author approaches this issue. I regard Richard Rice as one of the most creative Adventist theologians of our time. I have no doubt that reading this book will further confirm my appreciation for him.