Mahafaly Bible Stories: Passover

It’s me, the Traveler, and I have a story to tell you. It’s a story from a book of holy writings called the Bible. This book is a collection of many stories, and they have all been brought together to tell the whole story. It is the story of our ancestors, and our story. Let me tell it to you.

Passover

Now then, when Moses and Aaron had told the story of the Prince of Creation’s message to the tribe of Abraham there, they went also to the king there, that is the King of Egypt, you know, to tell the story of the Prince’s message.

So they, what they do at this point is the Prince had them bring many signs to do before this king. And even though they told the story the Prince of Creation’s message to the king, even though, there before the king, they did all those signs the Prince had them bring, the king resisted them and did not send the descendants of Abraham there to that other land.

So then at that point, the Prince spoke to Moses and Aaron, and says, “There this one sign I’m going to do, and that’s what’s going to get you out of this land here. So, tell those in the tribe of Abraham: All of you, get a male sheep, fat, one year old, and nothing wrong with it . . . every family, every house. And on the day that I come, you will kill this sheep. And his blood you will drip on the sides and over the top of your doorways. And then it’s meat, don’t eat raw but roasted. And you all eat it quickly; you’ll be going.

When I come in the night, that house with blood I’ll pass over, but those with no blood I will, instead, kill . . . the firstborn male animal and the firstborn male human. This is also a rite for you every year, every year: you will get a sheep, kill it, eat it together, have a party, and remember how I bought you back when you were slaves here in this land of Egypt.”

And so, you see, when this message was done concerning all these things, Moses and Aaron retold the story of the message to the tribe of Abraham there. And they did everything in keeping with what they had just retold to them.

So then, on the day of the Prince’s coming, when Prince of Creation came . . . at night, he passed over those houses with blood, but those with no blood he, instead, killed. At once, all the firstborn animals were dead in that land, and the firstborn human, up unto the firstborn of the king.

At that point, the king got summoned Moses and Aaron, saying, “Right now, right now, you all take the tribe of Abraham and get out of my land.”

Moses and Aaron took the tribe of Abraham there, immediately, left the land, and they were gone. And as they left, they were afraid. They had seen the enormous sign done by Prince of Creation to buy them back from slavery in the land of Egypt, so that they were able to travel to the land given by the Prince to Abraham. And they thanked the Prince, and they worshipped the Prince of Creation.

That is story I am telling you.

Mahafaly Bible Stories: Moses

Hello, it’s me again, the Traveler, and I have a story to tell you. It’s a story from a book of holy writings called the Bible. This book is a collection of many stories, and they have all been brought together to tell the whole story. It is the story of our ancestors, and our story. Let me tell it to you.

This story is called, The Calling of Moses . . .

The Calling of Moses

It came true what the Prince of Creation had said to Abraham: those from Abraham’s heart, his tribe, settled and grew. But, these from the tribe of Abraham, at that point, did not stay in the land given to Abraham by the Prince. Instead, the settled in a land inhabited by other people. And they suffered in that land, enslaved and suffering badly. Just then, the Prince of Creation made a plan to take them from there, leave that place, and finally go home to the land given to Abraham. So he chose someone, one person, to lead them there. Moses is the name of this person.

So there was Moses. Then one day, Moses went to shepherd out there. So there he was out there, shepherding. And when he was out there, he saw a bush in flames! But the bush did not make any ashes, it did not turn to ash at all! So befuddled by all this was Moses, he went and visited this bush.

A voice, then, spoke from out of that fire there, “Mosesy! Mosesy! Slip out of your cow-hides there. This is holy ground.”

Moses took off his cow-hide sandals. Moses got closer to the plant. Again, there was a voice, “Mosesy! You’re going to be sent by me. You will go to the land of Egypt where the lineage of Abraham is suffering. They are ensalved by that land. And you will lead them to get them out of there, to not be there anyone. And you will lead them to the land I gave to their ancestor . . . that’s Abraham.

“Aha,” said Moses. “Look, I, even though you’re sending me to go there, those people don’t miss the sound of my voice. They won’t take me seriously, but this is what they’ll say, “Hey! What God and from where said all this to this guy? I’m a person who doesn’t know how to talk. So you just pick another person.”

“Aha,” said this voice. “You look, I am the Prince of Creation who is said to have always been from ages past. That’s me. I am the Prince of your ancestors. Abraham’s God. Isaac’s God. And if you speak this, my name, to them they will be afraid and they will believe what you say. All this that you’ve said, like, ‘I don’t know how to talk.’ Look, I made the mouth. And I will put want I want to say in that mouth of yours, and the same thing will be done to the mouth of your brother, Aaron. You two guys are gonna go over there. “You all,” said the Prince, “I will be send with three signs.”

So then, after all that, Moses left and met with his brother, Aaron, took him with him and the two guys went there. And when they arrived there in that town, they gathered the tribe of Abraham there. They told them the story of what God had said, how he would get them out of that land, and go to the land the Prince had given to Abraham. And, they also did there, those three signs. After that, the tribe of Abraham was good and scared and they believed the Prince and trusted Moses.

Then, the tribe of Abraham was happy and thanked the Prince and they were saying, “Would you look at that! God sees our suffering and he’s gonna get us out of this suffering to the land there that he gave our ancestor Abraham.

And that is the story taken from the holy writings, and it’s all true.

Theology Tuesdays: Democracy in the Bible

Tomorrow the United States inaugurates a new president.

If you’re anything like me, this last election cycle has brought out a lot of questions. I’d love to hear yours. Here are some of mine:

  • What is a Christian’s role as a citizen of a country?
  • What does the Bible say about abortion?
  • What does the Bible say about refugees?
  • What does the Bible say about the poor?
  • What does the Bible say about how a government should be run?
  • Is there anything inherently Biblical about representative, democratic government?
  • What is the role of my vote versus my responsibility to serve my community . . . and what is my community?
  • Does the Bible actually say anything about voting in a democracy?
  • And, finally, what in the world is going on? 😩

Maybe some of you share some of these questions. Actually, we’d like to try to address some of these over the next few months, as we’re trying to find answers ourselves. But today, I’d like to hone in on this one:

Does the Bible actually say anything about voting in a democracy?

I’m still a little baffled by the examples I hear from some comparing our current president to a biblical king used by God. In 2016, it was Nebuchadnezzar. Recently, I heard comparisons to Cyrus or even King David. Notwithstanding that only one of those kings was actually the from the same country as the people of God, and not enslaving them, my question, again, since I heard this line of reasoning is, “What does the Bible actually say about voting in a democracy?”

Our government is by representation, which means we don’t have kings who inherit power, or are appointed by God as David was, and so far we don’t have political leaders from another nation and culture who conquer our nation, deport us, and enslave us, as in Nebuchadnezzar.

So does the Bible actually say anything about representative democracies? Certainly there are verses we could appeal to about how Christians should act. But what about an example of voting in the Bible? The following story is actually something I was looking at and wrote up in 2016. At risk of adding fuel to the fire of the political ire at the time, I never did anything with it. Same song, second verse, this past year. But now that the votes are cast, and especially after what the last few weeks have held, I’d like to share it.

The story is, of course, a Bible story. Here in Madagascar, we turn to Bible stories to try and understand what’s going on. This particular story is from the book of Judges (chapter 9), and in my 2016 search it was the closest thing to voting in a representative democracy I could find in the Bible.

God’s people electing their own king in 1 Samuel chapters 8 – 10 might be another example but even then God selects Saul and puts him forward for the people’s approval. Abimelech seems to be the best example of something close to democratic election.

The Story

Abimelech was from a privileged family. His name means “my father is a king,” because his father, Gideon, had led Israel and been treated like a king. But Abimelech was the forgotten illegitimate child. Until, one day, at a time in which Israel is being led by a multitude of privileged aristocrats, Abimelech campaigns to lead them. His strategy was careful, his message simple: (1) Better for one to lead than many—a strong leader can cut through the bureaucracy and get things done. (2) Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Abimelech uses his influence to persuade the citizens that he is “one of them” in order to get their vote.

But the citizens are going through a rough time politically, so they listen to the outsider. He convinces them he’s a better option than their current government because he is really one of them. So they give him religious blood money (taken from the temple), he quickly gathers other evil-minded people around him, and promptly goes and kills off all their leaders, 70 of his half-brothers. What a leader. 

But one of the brothers escapes from the slaughter and decries this new leader’s actions. This guy tells a parable that reveals that while their government had problems, the citizens knew Abimelech was a bad choice. Strikingly, this guy prophesies that the citizens have elected a worthless man who treats the lives of others as worthless—and they will be held responsible for their choice.

For a while it looks like the prophet’s wrong. Things go for fine for three years. But then God brings justice. The citizens decide they actually don’t like their leader now that he’s leading. So they try to get him out of office. That goes poorly. Abimelech starts a war, razes a city, and burns the citizens inside the temple. Like I said, fun guy. Then, while trying to do that same thing to another city, Abimelech is maimed by a woman with a millstone. So God brings justice on Abimelech for his destruction and justice on the citizens for electing him. As Bible scholar, Daniel Block, sums up, God gives the people the leader they deserve, and Abimelech what he deserves (Block, 335).

There is so much in this story, but I just have three questions as we read this story: 

  • What do we learn about people? 
  • What do we learn about God? 
  • What do we learn about voting?

What do we learn about people?

People are blinded and corrupted by what they want.

Now there is obvious unrest in the community. How do we know? The parable describes leaders who act too good to help. The citizens are also willing to get rid of their leadership by paying off their illegitimate, distant relative—which is still pretty shameful in today’s majority cultures. It means these people really wanted something to change in their leadership—enough that they were apparently completely blind to what Abimelech really was.

In part this is because the citizens treat the lives of others as worthless. People who do not respect all life often usher in death. They pay a shekel apiece for the lives of the 70 brothers at a time when you had to pay 50 shekels to buy someone’s life back out of slavery or poverty (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, 258).

And with the measure they use it is measured to them (Matt 7:2). Those who do not respect life (unborn, weak, strong, the dying, black, Muslim, etc.) create a culture of death. These citizens mistook hubris, a lack of respect for life, and an insatiable lust for power as the ability to get things done.

What do we learn about God?

God is unfortunately absent in this story—not because he’s not there but because the people don’t care about him. Still, justice is meted out. 

God lets his people face the consequences of their decision. What can we say? the people want what they want. So God let’s them have it. And chaos ensues. God basically lets Israel destroy herself (Block, 309).

God always wins; His kingdom always standsIn different ways, both Abimelech and the citizens were only using each other to get their hands on power. Abimelech wanted to be the ruler and the people wanted a new form of government. Both completely ignored the fact that God rules over all, and it cost them their lives. “In the end Abimelech’s egomaniacal ambition must yield to the kingship of God” (Block, 334).

What do we learn about voting?

God respects the votes of citizens, but allows voters and elected officials alike to reap what they sow. 

The Hebrew wording draws out the idea that the people of the town are leaders able to make decisions for the community. Or, as the NIV translates it, they are “citizens.” These citizens have the right and power to elect a leader (king) for themselves (Block, 313-14).

What we see is that in a setup where people are electing a leader to make decisions for them, those people are held responsible for their vote, especially for the brutality they invoke. In the context of this story, we might say they are held even more responsible when they know they are choosing to be led by a ruthless man.  

Again, these citizens make a bad choice to solve their political situation. The parable shows that for sure there were already problems with Israel’s government leaders. It’s not like those before didn’t have their own issues. But it shows God outright rejects Abimelech’s style of leadership (Block, 321).

Regardless of how bad the government is, these citizens do not take their grievances to God. Instead, they elect a ruthless man who is contributing nothing to society or God’s kingdom . . . but he does think a lot of himself (Block, 318).

Old Testament scholar Daniel Block (from whom I have pulled from throughout) has this priceless quote:

“ . . . persons of honor engaged in constructive activity have no time for political agendas. They are too caught up in serving humanity, and so the rule often falls to the despicable elements of society. Third, rulers have a tendency to desire power for the worst reasons—their own narcissistic self-interest. In order to gain power they are often forced to offer promises they cannot fulfill. Fourth, in the words of a modern sage, people tend to get the leaders they deserve. Jotham’s fable is not only a polemic against a certain kind of kingship; it is actually directed primarily at those who are foolish enough to anoint a worthless man to be their king.”

Daniel Block, Judges-Ruth (NAC; Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1999), 321.

Foolish votes in a democracy have consequences. We should vote in the fear of God, who rules his kingdom with perfect justice and watches over the lives of all. We will be held responsible for who we choose to represent us.

This past week at the Capitol shows very clearly the kind of president we voted for (and when I say we I mean an overwhelming majority of evangelicals) and the kind of violence and shame he has ushered in . . . thanks in large part to evangelicals. We must take responsibility for that. That does not stop with our vote.

Our form of government is built on the principle that the voter is in charge. As Christians, it is our right and responsibility, no matter who we voted for, to use our voices, time, and resources in the fear of God, for the sake of all life, and putting others before ourselves. The issues facing our nation are complex, and aren’t solved with just our votes. We must intentionally invest ourselves in the issues we voted on, learning from both sides–that’s what it means to be in a democracy. We have to sow better things or risk our choices crashing down on our own heads.

Mahafaly Bible Stories: Birth

Hello, it’s me again, the Traveler, and I have a story to tell you. It’s a story from a book of holy writings called the Bible. This book is a collection of many stories, and they have all been brought together to tell the whole story. It is the story of our ancestors, and our story. Let me tell it to you.

The story is called, Birth!

Birth

It came true! God’s promise to send the long-awaited One. He sent the Savior here to earth. This is how he came . . .

There was a young lady, Maria, who was a virgin. A young guy, Joseph, had already asked her parents to be her husband. But then, Maria got pregnant. She was pregnant because of God’s Spirit in her, even though she and Joseph had not yet been together. Joseph was lost. Now, he was a wise and upstanding guy. He didn’t want to shame Maria in front of everyone, but to separate from her quietly. 

So, he made up his mind on this. But then, one of God’s messengers appeared to him. It said, “Joseph, descendant of King David, do not be scared to take Maria into your house to be your wife. Though she is pregnant, the child in her is from God’s Spirit. In some time, she will give birth to a son. His name is Jesus. This is the Savior of all humans, who will make clean by blood the curse of all humans on the earth.”

Suddenly, the messenger left. With that, Joseph woke up and set about doing what the messenger had commanded: he brought Maria into his house and married her. And yet, they did not share the same sheet as those who are married, even though they were husband and wife—not until Maria gave birth. 

After a few months, they went to a town far away, Bethlehem. Maria gave birth to a son while out there in Bethlehem. After eight days, they gave this child the name, Jesus, as the messenger had said.

Now the story is getting good. A few weeks after that, they also went up to Jerusalem. There in Jerusalem was where there was the Great House of God, a place to sacrifice to him for people to make clean their curse by blood. But also, there in Jerusalem, was a particular elder, and old, old man, expecting the coming of the Savior upon the earth. When Maria and Joseph came to the Great House of God there, the old man came and took Jesus in his arms. And this is what this elder said, “I see the Savior God has sent. This is him.”

Joseph and Maria were surprised by the old man’s words about Jesus. Later, the elder blessed him. This is what he said to bless him, “This child has been chosen. There will be many who fall and do not follow him. But many also will rise, who follow him.”

Then, when the words of the elder were finished, they all left. Joseph and Maria went home, returning again to their town far away. This child grew up, got bigger, and became wise and only God’s goodness was with him.

And that is the story taken from the holy writings. 

Job in folklore and in our own time

We were able to get out to the churches in the South (some of our so-called “bush churches”). Thankfully, we have some good, godly leaders who, even though like everyone else have been slowed down by COVID-19, continued to care for their communities.

Meeting can be very hard for these leaders who are separated by a day’s walk in a place where almost everyone has to walk. So we kept picking up folks in our truck and carried them to the final village. They killed a goat for us and cooked us some of their meager rations of rice. These people will literally starve themselves before being inhospitable. Then we met. And we met. We met well into the night and then the morning. Then we got up early the next morning and continued meeting. We talked about good things and bad things, encouraged one another and grieved together. But everyone was so happy to see each other!

That next morning, as we all sat wrapped in blankets in that sparse, concrete schoolhouse, we presented the story of Job. We brought a recording we had just completed the day before, where a team of Malagasy created a radio drama of the story of Job. The leaders sat in rapt attention and then, when the story was done, we began asking questions and drawing out what everyone had understood and learned from Job.

Those men and women sat there, after they had told us how hard things had been and how hungry they were, and vowed to be like Job and never turn their backs on God. Satan would not get the best of them, no matter how hard he tried!

One leader, Emanda, who serves in a local government capacity and serves as the statesman and wise elder of the group, said it reminded him of a Malagasy folk story, a story I now share with you . . .

In the kingdom before there were two great friends. These guys were inseparable. It didn't matter what they were doing or where they were going; they were always together. They had been friends since anyone could remember and nothing could drive them apart.

But one day, a troublemaker came to the king of that land. The king was watching these two guys walking down the road together, laughing and enjoying one another's company. "Do you see those two?" the king asked. "There's no one else like those friends. Nothing could ever break their bond!" But the troublemaker overheard the king. "What's that, O King?"

The king again point out at the two friends. "Nothing could ever drive those two apart, they're inseparable!"

"I can do it," said the troublemaker. "I can drive a wedge between them."

"You're lying!" cried the king. "And even if you could if would take so long it wouldn't even be worth it."

"Oh no, O king," said the troublemaker, "I'll be quick. I'll have them hating each other even for this day is dark."

So as the king and others watched, the troublemaker set out ahead of the two friends. As they passed him on the road, talking and carrying on with each other, the troublemaker flagged the one down. "Hey," he said waving. "I need to talk to you for a minute. It's important."

So the one friend broke off from the other and came to the side of the road where troublemaker stood. "What's up?" Troublemaker didn't say anything, he just looked at him for a minute. "Make it quick, man," said the friend, "I've gotta get back to my friend."

Then Troublemaker pulled him in and began whispering to him, making sounds with his mouth that never formed into words.

The friend pulled back in horror. "What in the world? What are you trying to say, man?!"

Troublemaker pulled him in again and whispered still, still moving his lips but not saying any distinct words. The friend was angry. "Listen, I'm not sure what you're trying to do but you're not saying anything! I'm going back to my friend." And he left, racing to catch back up with his friend further ahead.

"What was that all about?" asked the other friend once they were walking together again. "Oh nothing. I can't even tell you anything he was saying!" His friend stopped suddenly in the middle of the road. "You can't tell me he didn't tell you anything. I saw him pull you in and whisper to you. Now, please, tell me what he said."

"He didn't say anything!" exclaimed the one.

"You're planning to kill me aren't you? You're going to kill me and take my stuff!"

And the two friends argued and went their separate way to their own houses, each now the others' enemy. And Troublemaker laughed as he watched, having separated the best of friends without ever having said one word.

The whole point of Job is that Job refuses to jump to rash conclusions while still grappling with what he has seen and what has happened to him. Job struggles mightily not to read into what’s happening to him and instead just take his complaints directly to his friend, God. In the Malagasy story, it would be as if Job stands their quarreling with his friend without storming off.

I couldn’t help but ponder our sound and fury right now during this season. It’s not that I think there’s nothing behind all the accusations we’re hurling and the existential panic we feel. But as Job and folklore remind us in our time, we never really know what’s going on behind the scenes. But trust is key, and we need to spend more time building trust than tearing down one another.

Mahafaly Bible Stories: Abraham and Isaac

My name is Traveller. I’m going to tell you a story. And the story I’m going to tell you is called Abraham’s Sacrifice, and it’s taken from the Holy Writings . . .

Abraham Sacrifices Isaac

It came true! What the Prince of Creation had spoken when he promised Abraham came true! Even though Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was old they had a son. His name was Isaac. There and with that, the Prince of Creation touched Abraham’s thoughts. The Prince said to Abraham, “Abraham! Take your son, of which you have not two and not three, and worship me. Go on, and I’ll show you the land and the mountain.”

“Ok,” said Abraham. So Abraham woke up the next morning and took his son, Isaac. He also took with them two younger boys. And they left.

So they went, and went. After three days, Abraham saw the mountain. And, you know, he thought, “That’s the mountain the Prince of Creation was talking about.” He said to the two young boys with them, “You boys stay here. We’re going, me and the child, on top of that mountain over there.”

“Ok,” said the one.

So they left, climbing and going up the mountain. When they had gone a little ways, Isaac said, “Um . . . Baba . . . Where’s the sheep we’re going to worship with? Only the knife, the wood, and the fire are here.”

“Uh-huh,” responded Abraham, “The Prince of Creation will see the sheep we’ll worship him with.”

So they went, and they climbed higher. And they arrived at the top of the mountain there. When they arrived there on top of the mountain, they constructed the place, the place they would make the sacrifice. After everything was done to do the sacrifice, the father seized his son and was about to slit his throat. Just when he was about to slit his throat, the Prince of Creation’s messenger spoke, “Abraham! Don’t kill the child. God sees that you believe and trust in his voice.”

Abraham turned with that, hearing a male sheep stuck in a small, thorny tree. And Abraham saw it. He untied Isaac and grabbed the sheep, placed him on top of that wood they had brought, slit its throat and worshipped The Prince of Creation.

And when all that was finished, the name that was given to that place was, “The Price of Creation will see.”

Afterward, the messenger spoke again, saying, “Abraham! The Prince of Creation has said to you, ‘He will make many, many, like the stars or the sand of the seashore, your offspring. The Prince will bless you, and you will be protected by the Prince.”

Then, with that, they went and got off the mountain, Abraham and Isaac. They met up with those two boys they had left below there. So they went back home together and arrived back in their village.

And that’s the story taken from the Holy Writings, the sacrifice Abraham made.

Mahafaly Bible Stories: Abraham

Hello, it’s me, the Traveler, and I have a story to tell you. It’s a story from a book of holy writings called the Bible. This book is a collection of many stories, and they have all been brought together to tell the whole story. It is the story of our ancestors, and our story. Let me tell it to you.

First, madam and sirs, let me tell you that after the curse came in, Adam and Eve, well their relationship with God was severed. But God, you see, he still wanted the relationship with humanity. Yeah, so Adam and Eve sprouted and their tribes began to settle. Then, after this, you see, God chose one person to be in relationship with so that he could have humanity worship him again. The name of this person was Abraham. The story I’m about to tell you is about this guy, Abraham. 

“So,” says God, “Abraham, leave your lands, leave the lands of your father, your ancestral lands. You go and travel to a land I will give you. You will be blessed by me. Your offshoots will be made so many by me. Your fame will be made my me to be heard from the ground to the sky. Also rooted in you will be all the people on this earth that I go on to bless. 

Abraham says “Ok,” and he takes his wife and everything else he’s in charge of, his shepherds and all of his belongings. Abraham was seventy-five years old at this time.

So that was that. He left. Now let’s keep the story moving . . .

They made it to that land there. They explored all over that land. Then, once finished going all around the land, Abraham set up camp.

“So,” says God, “This right here is the land I’m gonna give to your offshoots.”

And with that, you see, Abraham thanked God.

So there Abraham was for a long while. But let’s keep the story moving . . .

“So,” says God, “Abraham! I’m gonna bless you. Don’t be scared. There still a lot of other big things I’m gonna give you.”

“Huh,” says Abraham, “And what exactly will I do with these good and great things you will give to me, me not even having any offspring? Are all these workers here going to inherit everything?”

“Oh no, says God, “You will beget a son who will be your heir. Those workers of yours won’t be your heirs. You go on outside.” Abraham went outside. “Now you look up above you and watch.” So, Abraham looked above him and watched. “Just like these myriad stars above you, I’ll make your offshoots many.”

Abraham trusted this pronouncement. And God also saw that Abraham trusted his pronouncement. And there was relationship between God and Abraham.

Darkness and Light: Psalm 139

Tessa here for a quick devotional! This week I want to share a Scripture that has become especially meaningful to me during this strange time of pandemic. Many of us are familiar with Psalm 139. I have loved these verses:

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

This is the version I was used to. However, back in March I heard someone read aloud these verses from the New American Standard Bible.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

For some reason these minor changes shifted my idea of this Scripture, especially at an unprecedented time like this. I think I’ve always understood these verses to mean that God’s presence will make darkness light . . . I won’t notice the darkness because God is right there, lightening things up. 

Though I’m sure this is true, after hearing it in the NASB, I have another impression. The verse ends, “Darkness and light are alike to You.” As in, it makes no difference to God if it’s dark or light, if things are easy or hard, if I feel happy or sad . . . He is the same (yesterday, today and forever) (Heb 13:8). He is always good, always powerful, always at work. His work in the world, His work in His Church, His work in our individual lives, doesn’t change. He is always working. Whether we feel frantic and terrified and confused and are desperately seeking Him, or we feel pretty good about things—He is the same. Whether we recognize sin in our hearts or are blind to it—He is the same. Whether we see the big picture of His work in the world or can only see our own individual struggles—He is the same. 

Darkness and light are alike to You.

Psalm 139:12 (NASB)

I am praying during this time to see Him as He is, to let Him show me sin in my heart, to seek forgiveness, to have greater awareness of His work around me—because He has been and is working always, no matter what personal concerns I’ve been consumed with. I want to look up, and see Him.

The Curse Enters

The Curse Enters

Of all the intelligent creatures, the snake was the most clever of them all. He could have taken the liver out of an ant. He came to Eva and said to her, “Now Eva, is it true you can’t eat of all the fruits from the trees in this garden?”

“Oh no,” said Eva, “Eat the fruit of all the trees in this field, is what God told to us. But the fruit of that tree of knowledge of the good and the bad, this one, this one we cannot eat or touch it, God said, or then the day that you eat from it you will die.”

“No,” said the snake, “You won’t die. God knows that if and when you eat it, you all will be the same as the Prince of Creation. You will know the good and the bad.”

Then Eva saw the fruit of this tree. It was good. It made her want it, and she wanted to be intelligent too. She took the fruit and ate it. Her husband too, was given fruit by her, and he ate it also. 

Then, when they were done eating it, they felt exposed, in their souls. They looked at each other and saw their bodies were naked. And they knew shame. They took tree leaves and made to cover their bodies.

Later that day, the Prince of Creation was walking through the field. He was calling, “Adam, Adam! Where are you?” “Here we are!” said Adam. “We’re hiding because we’re scared, and ashamed, and naked.” 

“What?” said the Prince of Creation. “What made you know that your bodies are naked? Did you both eat the fruit of the forbidden tree?”

“No!” said Adam. “The woman, given to me by you, ate the fruit, and she gave it to me to eat, so I ate.”

“How about it, Eva? What is this thing you have done?” said the Prince of Creation.

“It was the snake! He tricked me,” she said. 

With that, the Prince spoke to the snake, cursing it, saying, “You will crawl on your chest, snake. Dust will be your food. Your children and the children of the woman will be enemies. The child of the woman will stomp your head, and your children will bite the heel of the woman’s child.”

Then, the Prince turned to Eva. “You will give birth to suffering and difficulty in order to have children. You will desire your husband and want to control him. But he will rule over you.” 

Then, God cursed Adam, saying, “This whole earth is cursed now because of you, Adam. It will grow thorns. You will sweat to find something to eat, and you will work hard until you die and return to the ground. You were made from the ground and you will become ground again.”

But the Prince did not leave there, he saw them, still naked. He killed an animal, took its skin and the Prince of Creation clothed them.

Now with this, the Prince also said, “Here are these humans, but like one of us now in that they now know the good and the bad. I must throw them out. If not, they will continue to eat from the tree that enlivens them and they will live like this forever.”

Adam and Eva (Earth and Life) were then thrown out by the Prince of Creation and made to leave the beautiful rice field there. The Prince also put something to guard the way back into the beautiful field, so that no human could return.

That is the story, taken from the holy writings, of how the curse came in, and why we all die. 

Mahafaly Bible Stories: Creation

Much of our work since coming to Madagascar in 2009 (Tessa) and 2011 (Nathan), has been in crafting and telling the stories of the Bible in the Malagasy dialects local to our area. The one tribe with whom we’ve worked most closely and the longest is the Mahafaly.

It has been an education just grappling with Scripture verse by verse with our Mahafaly friends, and watching them take in and then re-verbalize the stories in their own vernacular. Suddenly, the stories come alive for them. And while we think all of us should be doing the work to ingest, digest, and then retell the story of the Bible in our own local culture and parlance, we also wanted to give you all the chance to hear how your brothers and sisters here in Madagascar retell those stories. These are familiar stories. But we hope you see how the Mahafaly have made them their own. These are translated from Mahafaly into English, I’ve adjusted them only slightly for our ear.

These are not the stories of the white man or Americans or Westerners. This is the story crafted by God himself, about the origins of humanity, and the end of evil. And as such, all of our stories are wrapped up in this one.

Creation

Hello, it’s me, the Traveler, and I have a story to tell you. It’s a story from a book of holy writings called the Bible. This book is a collection of many stories, and they have all been brought together to tell the whole story. It is the story of our ancestors, and our story. Let me tell it to you.

The first story I must tell you is . . . Creation!

Back when all was very still and quiet, there was nothing there yet—nothing at all moving around, no people like us. But the Prince of Creation was there. He spoke. He made the world we see around us today, just by speaking it. 

He said, “There is light!” and there was light, and also dark. He called the light, Day, and to the dark he gave the name, Night.

He said, “There is water!” and there was water. And the Prince of Creation saw that what he was doing was good. 

Then, the Prince of Creation said, “The water is gathered together and the dry land appears! There are trees and growing grass!” And the trees and grass began to grow as the new, dry land appeared, as the waters pulled away. This land was called, Earth, and the gathered waters were called the Sea. And the Prince of Creation saw that what he was doing was good.

The Prince of Creation said, “There are stars, a moon, and the sun!” And they all appeared. Prince of Creation saw that this too was good.

He said, “There are animals in the water, jellyfish and whales, all different kinds! There are flying birds like hawks and bats and animals on the ground like chameleons and sheep, all different kinds! And these appeared. And the Prince of Creation saw all that he was doing was good. 

Then, the Prince of Creation said, “I am going to make a human.” So he did. The Prince of Creation made a human, but he created him in a different kind of way. He did not use just his word. He took some dirt, and then molded it. When he was done, he blew into it. It came alive, and started moving! This was the first man.

The Prince of Creation called the man, Adam. That’s the name he gave him, which means, Earth. Then the Prince of Creation took the man and put him in this one, green rice field that was there beside many rivers. Now, in this beautiful field, there were many trees there. Also, in the middle of this field there were two special trees. One tree was a tree that gave life. The other tree was a tree of knowledge—both of the good and the bad. 

“Ah, yes,” said the Prince of Creation, “Eat the fruit from all of these trees here. But the one tree there in the middle of the field, the one that gives knowledge of the good and the bad, don’t eat the fruit from that one. If you do eat it, you will die.”

But now, the Prince of Creation saw that Adam was alone. “Ah,” Prince of Creation said, “This is not good, for the human to be alone. I will find him a fitting partner who can add to him. So the Prince of Creation brought by all the animals to Adam. He brought the dolphin and the lemur, the zebu and the parrot. But none of them seemed to fit as his partner. So, with that, the Prince of Creation put Adam to sleep. Then, he took a bone from Adam’s side. And with that, the Prince of Creation made another human. It was the first woman. He brought her to Adam. When Adam saw her, and that she was a human like him, he said, “Ah, yes! Her bones are from my bones. She is flesh from my flesh.” So he called her, Eva. That is the name he gave her, which means Life.

Now at this time, Adam and Eva (Earth and Life) were still naked together, but knew nothing of shame. The Prince of Creation saw that this was good. Everything the Prince of Creation had made there was so good! 

The Prince of Creation blessed the humans, saying, “Multiply and cover this earth! Everything that moves here on earth belongs to you all. They are under your care as Masters and you must take care of them.” 

Then, the Prince of Creation saw that everything he had done was good. He had finished his work there. Six days it took for Prince of Creation to finish all of that. Then, he rested. And he also blessed this day when he stopped and rested with his creation.

And that is the story of how the world we see around us was created. It’s from the holy writings—the Bible.