Archive for April 2010

A pilgrimage that adds meaning to life

 

A pilgrimage that adds meaning to life

By

Jose de Carvalho

I was watching a program on TV about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt screened either on National Geographic Channel or the Discovery Channel. I’m not sure, as it is now four in the morning and for obvious reasons I cannot remember – the coffee smells good though. I, like many of you could not sleep, so I decided to put pen to paper writing down the thoughts that were keeping me awake (a tip from a very good friend of mine that happens to be a psychiatrist, dealing with insomniacs on a regular basis!). The question that I was pondering on was ‘did the exodus event really take place?’ The programme questioned its existence based on the fact that there is no archaeological evidence of such an event. I really don’t blame anyone for questioning this on the basis of the lack of evidence. The question is, is there a reason for this? The Biblical account in the Book of Exodus provides some possibilities for the lack of any trace of millions of people that departed Egypt approximately 3500 years ago! (Exodus Chapter 1-13:16). This is where you will probably come in with a response like, ‘Bible stories!!! Should be left in Sunday school’ and for the more intolerant let us, we’ll add ‘stupid stories’ to the response.

 Now these are my thoughts:

Is it possible that the reason why that there are no trace is that God intended it that way?

The departing steps of the Israelites were taken solely depended on the promises of God to Moses and had to be taken by faith. Does this maybe indicate that any steps that we may take to find the God of the Israelites requires that we should step out and take these by faith – is this the lesson to be learned? I have difficulties in accepting any arguments based purely on faith so, I am searching for a reasonable argument. I found food for thought in an article by Howard, where he comments as follows:

The Exodus account is not just a story – it is part of Israel’s history even if it does not make sense to us – it still remains their history.  We have a similar situation in South Africa.  We grew up learning a very different history to the one our kids are learning now in school.  Some of which the population have difficulties in making their own, still it does not make it obsolete or less relevant. The true account of our South African history is based on the experiences of different parties, from a totally different angle, yet it is still true…it happened. The crust of the matter is that the history of Israel is not just history, these events are essential to understanding God as He reveals Himself directly through these events in history.

 In the final analyses, God is dealing with man through history – revealing something of His character in these stories.  So don’t be to quick to dismiss them.  It elicits a response from all of us, both at the literary level (it is not morally neutral) and at the spiritual level (it demands commitment and changed lives). The Biblical account makes claims that are central to the core of our faith.  Jesus’ death at the cross and resurrection is a historical fact, (recorded and confirmed in countless extra Biblical references) without which Christianity does not exist; this is the importance of Biblical historicity. We have to believe that the Bible accurately records the events in history and that God reveals Himself through them.  They are fundamental for us to know Him, to know His Will and for us to respond as required by Him – all of it building our faith, trust and dependence on Him, paraphrase from memory (Howard 1993:30-57).

 Well that is me for today.  If the article was not for you in a spiritual sense, then I hope that it was literary stimulating just like you would consider the work of lord of the rings.

The account of the miraculous deliverance of Israel, Exodus 1:1 – 13:16

 

In the Bible the book begins with the seventy descendants of Jacob who joined Joseph in Egypt. During the birth and early life of Moses the Israelites enjoyed prosperity in Goshen, Egypt until a new dynasty that was not friendly and threatening to God’s people. In order to stem the growth of the Hebrews, the Egyptians forced them to hard labour, enslavement and ordered all boys to be killed at birth. Chapters 1-6 end with God promising deliverance of His people through His divine power. Chapters 7-12 record ten plagues that God afflicted on the Egyptians – in anguish Pharaoh drives the Israelites out of the land.

 The same article dismissed the ten plagues as natural phenomenon. It could have been, but in my opinion it was ordained and controlled by God, thus proving that the God of the Israelites is the God of Creation.

 In the next article I will evaluate and justify the above statement. If any of this enriches you, stay connected and travel with me as we migrate in this pilgrimage of finding ‘what adds meaning to our lives’.

Works cited

Howard DM 1993. An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books. Chicago: Moody Press.

Hayford JW 1991. Spirit filled Life Bible: New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Man’s search for meaning

A book review of Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

A summary in Précis

By

Jose de Carvalho

 The book is about Viktor Frankl’s story of his struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Today this remarkable tribute to hope offers us an avenue to finding greater meaning and purpose in our own lives.

 “It has the power to transform lives” Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks.

 The author “in my living laboratory” was able to observe human behaviour and make some sense of it in the midst of the most horrendous circumstances and state, “we watched some of our comrades behave like swine, while others behaved like saints”. Concluding, man has both potentials within himself; which one is activated depends on decisions, not circumstances.” He alluded to that due to the extreme suffering, psychotic individuals would lose their usefulness, but some would retain the dignity of a human being. Everything can be taken from a person, apart from one thing – the last of human freedom, namely to choose ones own way! Fundamentally therefore one can conclude that if that kind of distinguishable behaviour transpires under those circumstances, any person can decide what shall become of him mentally and spiritually and have the ability to decide whether to retain his dignity or not. This is freedom that cannot be taken away. When one seeks  purpose invariably it is pleasure, wealth or achievement, but not all enjoyment is meaningful. Suffering is an indispensable part of life – without that and death human life is not complete. The way man accepts his fate and the suffering that it entails, the way he takes up his cross, even under the most difficult circumstances adds deeper meaning to his life.

“Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose and therefore no more point in carrying on” (Victor Frankl). 

The author also believes that if anyone utters the words, “I have nothing to expect from life anymore,” he would perish shortly. To him the question one should ask is, “what is life expecting from me?”

Any attempt in the camp to restore man’s inner strength was being shown some future goal giving him the ‘why to live’ for then he could bear almost anything. The moment a man became conscious of the responsibility he bears towards another human being, somebody who affectingly waits for him, or the knowledge that an unfinished work that uniquely and specifically can and must be fulfilled by him alone, added ‘meaning to his life’ to such an extent that he could bear almost anything. He will not throw his life away if he knows the ‘why’ of his ‘existence’ and then will be able to deal with it anyhow.

 Frankl made a very important observation, namely that the crowning experience of all for the overcoming man was the wonderful realisation that after all that he had suffered, he reached a place where he was no longer afraid of anything – the only fear left, was his fear for God.

 The author of the Biblical book Ecclesiastes come to similar conclusion from a different departure, after he had failed to find any value or justice “under the sun” over and above enjoying our lot in life, he begins to conclude that value must then be found transcendent to this life, leading  to reverence and obedience to God, bearing fruit that will stand on the Day.  Ones priorities should therefore not just lie in the things of this life, but also in God. He quoted has follows, “Fear God and obey His commandments for this is the entire duty of man, for God will judge us for everything we do, including every hidden thing, good or bad” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

 The above although not part of the book review serves the purpose to contrast the two authors, one found meaning in suffering for what was to come still in this life, where the other in his search found none, however he found it in what was still to come in the after life, his philosophy was although man has to put up with his lot in life, all men will have all their deeds assessed, and such adds meaning to life.

 ‘A purpose for more than ourselves and greater than ourselves adds meaning to life’