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Monday, September 26, 2016

It's Hard to See Hope From Here (Jeremiah 32)

            The state of the world today has me adrift at sea, in a boat without an anchor, afloat in a thick fog.  I don’t know if I am miles from land, or if I am about to run onto rocks that will rip through the hull and send me to the depths.  I am frustrated, sad, uncertain, and exhausted. 
            Yet, there is another a deeper feeling, and my brokenness cannot silence.  There is a low hum that never quiets, never quits, that is always there reverberating in my soul.  It began at the cross and grew in tone and texture on Easter morning.  I am an Easter Christian following the resurrected Christ.
            We are an Easter congregation that has hope even on the darkest day.  On Friday, we know that Sunday’s coming.  It doesn’t mean we’re happy all the time.  And we do get broken.  Right now, I feel broken.  But the light emanating from the empty tomb is there.  The hum of the Holy Spirit is there. 
            A few weeks ago there was a pipe bomb in Manhattan.  And a man associated with ISIS stabbed nine people at a Minnesota shopping mall.  These are reminders.  Violence is always possible, in any community.  It is hard to have hope that this era of terrorism will pass.  A broad historical perspective suggests it will pass and be replaced by deadlier evils.  But standing in the thick of it, it feels like we’re just waiting, wondering if the next attack or mass shooting will happen in our town.  We must pray.  But sometimes even with prayer, it is hard to see hope from here.
            The pipe bomb incident and the mall stabbing were not actually what pushed me to depression.  It’s what came next.  First, I experienced something quite hopeful.  Heather, Angel Lee, Carlin and Enam, Beth Roberts, and I were in Atlanta two weeks ago for the New Baptist Covenant Summit of 2016.  Did you know there are over 60 different kinds of Baptists in America?  In 2008, former president Jimmy Carter tried bringing Baptists together.  He thought if he could promote unity among Baptists, then we Baptists could be agents of unity in America.
Many of the Baptist denominations are primarily African American.  So, bringing Baptists together is also bringing black and white people together.  In Atlanta we heard from many Christians, our brothers and sisters from across America who are black.  They told of the pain they have experienced living in America.  Some shares stories that are pretty intense, testimonies of blatant discrimination.  It was hard to hear, but all of us joined together to walk in these stories. 
Then, this past week, I traveled to Campbell Divinity School where our own Beth Roberts is alum and Heather Folliard is a current student.  Campbell is having a series of discussions this semester on race relations within the body of Christ.  How can Christians who are black, white, Arabic, Cherokee, Chinese, Mexican, Korean, Ethiopian – how can we all join together in showing the world what the love of God looks like by the way we love one another?  Students and professors at Campbell are discussing this all semester and they invited me to the join the conversation.  That’s hopeful. 
However, as we met in Buies Creek, North Carolina, at Campbell, Charlotte was burning because another African American man had been shot by police.  This was a few days after what happened in Tulsa. 
Make no mistake: sometimes white suspects get shot by police officers.  Sometime black suspects survive these encounters.  That is so.  But, the running narrative in America is a black person, especially a male, is more likely to be considered suspicious just because he’s black.  And public consciousness is less likely to be upset when an officer kills a black suspect.  It is as if the death of black men just isn’t big of a deal.    
Black men are afraid that a simple traffic stop might lead to death.  Black men have to live with a constant fear white men don’t have.  Before I was married, I was stopped by police quite often.  I had a lot of tickets.  Never, when I saw those blue lights in my rear view mirror did I think I might die.  Never!  Every time black men are pulled over they have to be hypervigilant and they fear that one wrong move could get them killed.  It is not fair that I am treated on way by the police, and a black man is treated another.
When I go to Campbell or to Atlanta and the New Baptist Covenant, I am filled with hope.  When I think about Terrence Crutcher dead in Tulsa, and Keith Scott dead in Charlotte, I struggle.  I want to inherit the dream cast by Dr. King.  I want an America free of racial hatred.  Right now, that seems light years away.  Right now, it is hard to see hope from here.
Someone I talked with this past week asked some powerful questions. 
·        Why aren't we all grieving for two men whose lives were cut short?
·        Why are we spending so much time pointing out how one "should" act instead of recognizing the loss of human beings created in God's image?
·        What does the Church look like when tragedy strikes and the church is broken open and poured out for the kingdom?
In the New Testament, more commentaries have been written on Romans than any other book.  The Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:15, “Weep with those who weep.”  Weeping in solidarity with one who is wounded is an act of discipleship.  At Lazarus’ funeral, Jesus wept for the pain of those he loved.  He knew he would raise Lazarus, but he wept out of his compassion for Mary as she wept.  As he rode into Jerusalem, he wept for the city lost in sin (Luke 19:41-44).  Weeping as an expression of God’s love is the right thing to in America right now. 
I don’t know if the deaths of Terrence Crutcher or Keith Scott happened because these men were black.  I don’t know.  But I know they are dead and they leave behind people who loved them.  I know God weeps when one of his children – one made in his image – is hurt.  If God is weeping, then I should too.  To align myself with God, I weep for these guys.
I also promote the expression #blacklivesmatter, and I do so because so many people in America act like black lives don’t matter.  Black people tend to get multiple year prison sentences for drug possession and drug sales.  White commit the same crimes at the same rate and end up getting 6 months and probation.  And there’s a ripple effect.  Many years in prison takes years from your life and no one seems to care. And you can’t get a job when you get out. 
In Atlanta, we were told about Dallas community where all the services – gas stations, grocery stories, banks – were gone from a certain low-income, black community.  Whites from a church in North Dallas in a wealthy community came to visit the poor community.  Churches from each community were in partnership.  The whites from the wealthy community were shocked that the only institutions open in the economically ravaged black community were payday lending institutions. 
And what about convictions.  In the cases of black young men killed by the police – Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice – there have been acquittals; no convictions.  .  A lot of black people feel like the system is stacked against them and they live in fear.  It shouldn’t be that way. 
#blacklivesmatter is not saying all police officers are racist or are bad or are out to get black people.  Most are honest, public servants.  All the police officers I know want to protect and service.  The stories of the many good things police officers do are never reported in the media.  We have to tell those stories. #bluelivesmatter.  We must appreciate, support, and love police officers.  Please hear me that. 
#blacklivesmatter is not saying all lives don’t matter.  Of course God loves all people.  The picture in heaven, which we as church hope to reflect, is a gathering of people from every race, tribe, language, and nation.  That multi-colored, multi-cultured image is found in Revelation 5 and then again in Revelation 7:9-10.  We don’t want HillSong to be a white church.  We don’t want HillSong to be a black church.  We want to be a Revelation 7 church.  And we’re on the way to that.
We have people from many cultures right here in our church family.  We are in relationship with two congregations that speak other languages, Karen and Spanish.  We reach for this diversity not for diversity’s sake but because we want our church to have fuller expression of who God is.  When we expand our vision of the body of Christ, we see more of God.
We now have a lot of black people at HillSong.  We say #blacklivesmatter because we want to stand with our members who are hurting.  When one of is injured all of us hurt.  This is us.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing the cross was coming, Jesus wept because sin leads to death. We join him there and with him, our Savior,  weep over sin and death.   
One more way to explain why it is so important for Christians to focus our love by standing in solidarity and saying #blacklivesmatter is the analogy of the house on fire.  At the fire station, the call comes in.  “We’ve got a house burning down on Elm Street.”  The firefighters DO NOT shrug their shoulders and say, “All houses matter.”  We know all houses matter.  They give their attention to the one that’s on fire.  In our church, we know all lives matter.  But right now, our black brothers and sisters feel like their house is on fire.  We – followers of Jesus of all races and colors (what a privilege we have to be in a diverse church) – we lead the call to wake America up and say that Jesus cares about people and because of that we love people who feel unloved right now.  #blacklivesmatter.
I look at my friends – my brothers and sisters in Christ; I say that; and I am filled with hope.  But, then, I talk to other Christians who don’t feel the same way.  I go on Facebook, I talk to people in person, and I hear many white Christian friends rail against the idea of #blacklivesmatter.  They gripe that all people who say that phrase are thugs and looters and criminals.  I hear Christians speaking damning words against the victims and against communities that are in pain.  Instead of the compassion of Christ, I hear judgment. 
Why would anyone oppose expressing love and offering help to hurting people?  And yet I hear Christians deny systemic racism.  I don’t know how it could be denied, but compassion gets kicked out of the conversation and is replaced with argument and anger and more pain.  In the midst of that, it’s hard.  It’s hard to see hope from here. 
This is where Jeremiah has something beautiful to offer because he found himself about as far away from hope as you could imagine.  He didn’t want to be a prophet, but God tells him that God had planned his life even before he was born (Jeremiah 1:5).  On career day Jeremiah’s classmates had their pick – Shepherd, Merchant, Torah Scholar, Farmer, Soldier.  They could fill out the career day form with their first, second, and third choice.  Jeremiah got a different form.  Jeremiah, you can be a prophet, a prophet, or a prophet. 
He hated it.  He says to God in Chapter 20, “you enticed me.  You overpowered me” (v.7).  In the Hebrew way of thinking, the verb used in Jeremiah 20:7 was the same one used to describe a rape.  In calling him to be a prophet, Jeremiah felt God had overwhelmed him.  But God was dealing with his people when they had sinned against him for generations.  God needed a prophet to speak a hard word and whether he liked it not, Jeremiah was that prophet. 
This all happens in the 6th century BC.  Babylon is a major world power and by the time we come to Jeremiah 32, the capital of Judah, Jerusalem is surrounded by the Babylonian army.  They will break through soon.  Inside the walled city, Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet is in jail because of his prophecies.  The king has Jeremiah locked up.  The leaders at the palace ask him, “Why do you say, ‘Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hands of Babylon?’”  He’s been telling a truth they haven’t wanted to hear.  Their generations of turning away from God have led to God allowing them to fall into enemy hands.  But they didn’t want to hear it so they imprisoned Jeremiah when he said it. 
            For Jeremiah, the situation could not be worse.  The city is surrounded, and starving.  What will happen when the Babylonians finally break through?
Will the people be massacred?
Will they be enslaved, dragged to exile?
What will happen to the great city of Zion and to the temple Solomon built, one of the wonders of the ancient world?  It’s hard to see hope from there.  Very hard. 
At that moment, in the jail, once again, the word of the Lord came to him.   
“Buy a field at Anathoth from you cousin Hanamel.”  What Lord?  Say that again?  The great prophetic act you want me to perform is to buy a farm?  Um, hey God?  The Babylonians are all around.  I can’t even get to Anathoth. 
Right then, his cousin Hanamel arrives.  He’s a jail visitor’s pass.  Baruch, Jeremiah’s right hand man is there.  Baruch and Hanamel have brought witnesses and legal documents.
Jeremiah just stares at Hanamel.  “Let me guess? You want to sell me a field?” 
The description in Jeremiah 32 is unusually detailed.  All documents are officially signed.  All signatures are notarized.  Jeremiah instructs Baruch to put the parchments – deeds of sale – in a clay pot, the 6th century BC version of a safety deposit box. 
Why does God speak this word to Jeremiah?  Buy a field?  Every field in Anathoth is going to belong to the Babylonians in a week.  But God tells him that what he has done is a sign of what God will do.  God says, “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.  … I will bring upon them all the good fortune that I now promise.  … I will restore [them]” (32:15, 42, 44).  God says exile is coming and it will be bad.  But he also promises it will not be the end.  On the other side of the valley of the shadow of death is new life.  Shalom – the Hebrew idea of peace, wholeness, community, and right relationships - will come again to people who put their trust in the Lord.  In the midst of calamity, God tells Jeremiah to speak a word of hope.
I take courage from God’s promise to Jeremiah and the people in that desperate situation.  As I said, with the state of race relations in America, it is hard to see hope from here.  And for HillSong, that’s devastating because we’re talking about our church family.  Yet I see hope, and I think the best hope in our situation is God’s church.  We – the Body of Christ - weep with those who weep, we stand with those who feel they have no voice and no power, and we speak peace.  Acting as disciples, we go out of our way to love our neighbors and work for their flourishing. 
We Christ followers who comprise the Body of Christ work for our society’s good when we see those in pain, sit with them in their pain, listen to their stories without judgment, and sitting together recognize that we are all broken.  We help each other. That’s how we see hope from here and help others see it.  We love with our presence, our ears, our arms offering embrace, our actions, and our hearts.  Just as God promised Shalom would return when it seemed impossible, His eternal Kingdom will one day come in full and all good will be restored.  Until that day, we Christian gives signs of the Kingdom and participate in its coming by being Christ to all people and especially to those who feel like they are being burned. 
It is hard, no question.  Jeremiah knew it was hard, but God spoke to the difficulty direct.  “See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me” (Jer. 32:27)?  Our society’s struggles are so massive and race relations are so broken, it seems the problems are utterly intractable and a solution seems impossible.  But we don’t look at the size of the problem.  We look and see God and we know nothing is impossible.   Nothing is too hard for God in Jeremiah’s time or ours.
We see hope because we know who God is.
We – the church – work for shalom in our community as we stand in a new and lasting covenant of love with each other and God.  We work for this because we know who God is.
We walk out of church arm-in-arm bonded together as brothers and sister, sons and daughter of God, determined to breathe life into our community by loving people and giving extra doses of blessing to those who hurt the most.  We go out to serve and love knowing God will bless our efforts. We able to do this because we know who God is.
Yes, hope can be hard to see, but we see it clearly. We see it because we know who God is and we know we are His. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Who is Like our God (Psalm 113)

Psalm 113
Psalms 113-118 were ordained by the prophets and Torah scholars to be recited as a unit on special holy days. These are ‘Hallel’ Psalms.  According to tradition, as the reader reads the Psalm, when he or she comes to a command to praise the Lord, the gathered worshipers respond “Hallelujah!”  We will read the first of these Hallel Psalms with the congregation responding “Hallelujah!  Amen!”  This will be the primary text for today’s sermon.

Leader: Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
    praise the name of the Lord.

Congregation: Hallelujah!  Amen!

Blessed be the name of the Lord
    from this time on and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
    the name of the Lord is to be praised.

Congregation: Hallelujah!  Amen!

The Lord is high above all nations,
    and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
    who is seated on high,
who looks far down
    on the heavens and the earth?

Congregation: Hallelujah!  Amen!

He raises the poor from the dust,
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
    with the princes of his people.

Congregation: Hallelujah!  Amen!

He gives the barren woman a home,
    making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

Congregation: Hallelujah!  Amen!

Who is Like Our God?  (Psalm 113)
Rob Tennant, HillSong Church, Chapel Hill, NC
Sunday, September 18, 2016

            Last week, we remembered the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001, looking at them from the perspective of the prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah saw God through it all.  Take the emotions, the intensity, the horror of that day; take all of it and imagine it as a still photograph. 
Now, fast forward to 2016.  Maybe the still photograph is of police cars and ambulances outside an Orlando night club.  Maybe it is of Syrian refugees standing waste deep in the surf as they desperately try to get their children onto the impossibly overcrowded boat headed to Greece.  Maybe the photo is of people protesting by taking a knee during the playing of our national anthem.  Others around them glare and gesture angrily. 
            Any of these images could serve as testimony of the pain, the chaos, and the fracturing of society today, September 18th, 2016.  When Jeremiah sees that picture, he sees something else in the background.  Whatever photo you would choose, Jeremiah looks at your photo and sees someone; God is over the entire picture.  Beyond our picture, there is God.  There is far more going than we can see.  God is in the middle of it alongside those who are angry, those who hurt, and those who suffer.  God is with them. 
            The singer in Psalm 113 asks the question.  “Who is like our God?”  If Jeremiah is right and if we see what he sees, then God is in the middle of everything that happens.  God is never absent.  God is in the thick of it in the worst of places.  God does not cause agony, despair, and madness.  God comforts and helps people who suffer because of the chaos caused by other people - those who have rejected God. 
Who is the God who stays with us no matter what we do?
Who is our God who comforts us when all has gone wrong?
Who is our God who delivers us life everlasting?  Psalm 113 is a Hallel Psalm, a Hallelujah Psalm.  This Psalm shows us this God who is like no other. 

Together, we read the Psalm and raised our own “Hallelujah’s.” God is worthy of ours praise. 
As we went through the Psalm, did you notice the connection?  “Who is like our Lord, seated on high?”  “He raises the poor from the dust; and lifts the needed from the ash heap to make them sit with princes.  … He gives the barren woman a home” and gives her joy.”  How do we get from the Lord of entire universe sitting on high to the poor who are in the dust?[i]
Independence Day was a movie with awesome visuals.  An alien race came to earth in ships that were as massive as our planets’ largest cities.  These ships hovered over New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles, London.  The most important people on the planet – presidents, generals, prime ministers scrambled to respond to the arrival of aliens.  Clearly these aliens were more advanced than us, so the most powerful among humans must be the first of us to respond to their arrival.
That’s a Hollywood movie that cashes in on our thirst for spectacular special effects and our tolerance for bad acting.  But what if God – the only God – showed up in an over-the-top visual fashion so that everyone on earth truly was shocked and awed?  If we were to meet that God, wouldn’t it be the president of the United States or the leaders of the nations on the UN Security Council at the front of the line to shake God’s hand?
Not in Psalm 113.  Unnoticed God moves past the white house, past the Pentagon, past where millionaires live.  God keeps stepping, past middle class neighborhoods, past working class communities, past farm houses, past the decent apartment complexes.  God finally stops where the poorest of people are – those barely surviving, wallowing in the dust. 
We sing Hallelujah because we think we can at least see how mighty, big, and awesome God is.  We praise God because God is so impressive.  But as Psalm 113 moves from stanza to stanza, we see the impressive God sitting down beside people who are stuck at the bottom.  Who is this God we worship?
Walter Bruggemann sees this God as he tracks the journey of the ancient Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land.[ii]  Israel had been enslaved in brutal conditions, doing the hard labor in the construction of the pyramids in Egypt.  They baked in the desert sun and collapsed under the whip of the Egyptian taskmaster.  Then Moses, under the power of God, led the people into the Sinai wilderness.
There they were an entire nation on foot moving through wastelands.  In their thirst and hunger, they despaired.  They longed to go back to Egypt, back to slavery. At least in slavery, they were fed. 
Who is our God? 
God responded by giving manna – bread from heaven.  God poured out water from the rock.  God heard their hungry cries and broad birds to eat – quail.  They had plenty; never too much, never not enough.  They thought the Egyptians were the source of food.  If they could settle down and build cities and plant gardens and pasture herds and flocks then the land would be the source of food and stability. 
We think America’s military and our local police department and fire department and hospital  is our source of security and safety and freedom.  Our soldiers and marines and sailors and airmen, members of the coast guard, our officer and firefighters – they are all courageous, worthy our respect and our support.  The should receive our appreciation and our love.  But they are not the source that gives what we need.  That’s God.  In Israel’s history, the wilderness was where they were closest to God.  All their needs were met by God’s touch.  They lived in completel reliance upon God. 
From a human standpoint, could any situation be more desperate?  Five hundred thousand people in the desert with no food and water: we call that a humanitarian crisis.  For God, it was an answer to a question.  Who is this God we worship?  He is Provider.  Who is like our God?  No one. 
Who is our source?  Who meets our needs?  Our employer?  Our parents?  Our government? 
Do you remember the story of Hagar in Genesis 16 and Genesis 21?  Abraham was told by God he would be the father of a great nation.  But when the promise came, Abraham was a very old man, his wife Sarah was very old, past childbearing years, and they had no children.  He had no children, but God said he would be the patriarch of a great nation.  Abraham did not trust that God was his source.  He thought natural procreation and childbearing, in other words the natural biological process, was his source.  So he and Sarah came up with a plan.  Their slave, Hagar, would be the surrogate mother. 
Abraham went into Hagar and she had a son, Ishmael.  That wasn’t God’s plan.  God was not the source of that plan.  All that did was bring tension between Abraham and Sarah, Sarah and Hagar, and between Ishmael and Isaac.  Despite what Abraham thought, God is the source and when he said barren Sarah have a son, she did. When we ignore God and try to work things out with our wits and power, we interfere with the picture God is painting.  We should contribute to the flourishing of the people around us, but in concert with what God’s doing and in recognition that we need God.  Abraham and Sarah ended up sending Hagar and her child out to the wilds of the desert.  Relying on themselves, the plan backfired.
God is the source of every blessing, of fulfillment, and of every good thing.  And this God was with Hagar when she was cast out.
Abraham and Sarah’s action of rejecting her robbed her of her humanity.  Hagar, you and your child are nothing, and nothing is easily discarded.  No, God responds.  As Hagar gave in to a wilderness death – death by heatstroke, starvation, and dehydration, God declared no to the forces that would rob her of her humanity.  Psalm 113, in showing why God is worthy of our ‘Hallelujah’s,’ says that God gives the barren woman a home.
Hagar had a son, but she turned away from him, too heartbroken to watch her child die (Gen. 21:16).  Barren?  No, she wasn’t barren, but she had accepted labels affixed to her.  You are nothing.  She accepted that.  You are a lost cause.  She accepted that.  How many people in our society are so broken, they accept that all they will ever be is broken?  How many here accept labels like mediocre, failure, worthless, or stupid, or something worse?  We have asked, ‘Who is our source?’  Here is a second question.  Who shapes our lives?
God heard Ishmael’s cry and said, “Do not be afraid, Hagar.”  She is alone in the wilderness forced to watch her child die.  Do not be afraid (Gen. 21:17).  She accepted the label ‘nothing,’ but God calls her by name.  God promises her a future.  Abraham and Sarah imposed an identity on her, but now God comes and Hagar finds that the most blessed place she can be is in the desert with nothing.  It is there that God comes to her.  Who is this one we call our God?  Hagar calls Him El-Roi, the God who sees (Gen. 16:13). 
Who shapes my life?  The voices of society?  A man my age, with education, should be earning so much money by now, I am told.  Advertising tells me I should be driving a certain type of car by this stage in my life.  A friend from college makes 1000’s of dollars more than me and cannot understand why I won’t travel with him on a vacation he knows I cannot afford.  Salary; professional success; comparisons; are these the things that determine who I am?  
What if I am right where I need to be because God had called me here and in answer to God’s call, I am forced to depend on God?  We should all strive to be responsible with finances.  We should be grateful for what we have (and I try to be grateful).  I recognize how good I have it.  But what if the reason you or I have it good our accomplishments, but rather our need?  In place of deepest need and greatest weakness, we meet God.  Nothing compares to walking hand-in-hand with God?  This is true whether today is the best of the best days or the worst of the worst. 
Who shapes my life?
Who is my source?
Who is this God that we worship? 

We move from “seated on high” in Psalm 113:5-6 to “raises the poor,” “lifts the needy,” and “gives the woman a home,” in verses 7-9.  Rich, filled, and secure, we can’t see our need for God and our praise may be heartfelt, but it falls short.  We meet God when we align with the needy by seeing and acknowledging our own need.  Aligning with the poor is recognition that we are just as poot.  Unless go to the wilderness and wander with Israel, unless we see how small and dependent we are, we can’t know God. 
Who is our God – the God who is bigger than history, the God who hovers over us, the God whose shadow makes insignificant institutions of power – who is this God?  This is the God who sees, the God who is our source, and the God who shapes our lives.  No one else tells us who we are.  Only God.
As we prepare to sing, I invite you to respond to the God who is our source and who shapes our lives.  Pray in silence.  Ask God to reveal your need.  Maybe you have a good job and are financially OK.  Still, in your life as in the life of all people there is poverty.  There is deep, deep need.  It could be relational.  It could be emotional.  It could be spiritual.  Maybe for some it is material.  Ask God to show you your deepest need. 
In silence we all pray and ask God to show us our deep need for Him.  You may come and kneel at the steps as you pray.  We’ll have people at the front and back if you’d like someone to pray with you.  After a few moments, we’ll sing, but you may keep praying as long as you need to.  Don’t let the moment pass. Whether you kneel at the steps, pray in your seat, or come to pray with one of us, turn to God.  Ask God to lead you to the desert, to wander to with Israel, to sit with Hagar, to sing the Hallel Psalm with the community.  Ask God to bring to that place, because that is where you will meet God.

[i] Elmer Martens (1981).  God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology, Baker House Books (Grand Rapids), p.163.
[ii] Walter Brueggemann (1977).  The Land.  Fortress Press (Philadelphia), p.25, 31, 33, 34.

What is a Human Being?

Job 7:17-21

17 “What is man, that You should exalt him,
That You should set Your heart on him,
18 That You should visit him every morning,
And test him every moment?
19 How long?
Will You not look away from me,
And let me alone till I swallow my saliva?
20 Have I sinned?
What have I done to You, O watcher of men?
Why have You set me as Your target,
So that I am a burden to myself?[b]
21 Why then do You not pardon my transgression,
And take away my iniquity?
For now I will lie down in the dust,
And You will seek me diligently,
But I will no longer be.

Psalm 90

Psalm 90

A prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Lord, through all the generations
    you have been our home!
Before the mountains were born,
    before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
    from beginning to end, you are God.
You turn people back to dust, saying,
    “Return to dust, you mortals!”
For you, a thousand years are as a passing day,
    as brief as a few night hours.
You sweep people away like dreams that disappear.
    They are like grass that springs up in the morning.
In the morning it blooms and flourishes,
    but by evening it is dry and withered.
We wither beneath your anger;
    we are overwhelmed by your fury.
You spread out our sins before you—
    our secret sins—and you see them all.
We live our lives beneath your wrath,
    ending our years with a groan.
10 Seventy years are given to us!
    Some even live to eighty.
But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;
    soon they disappear, and we fly away.
11 Who can comprehend the power of your anger?
    Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.
12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom.
13 Lord, come back to us!
    How long will you delay?
    Take pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
    so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
    Replace the evil years with good.
16 Let us, your servants, see you work again;
    let our children see your glory.
17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval
    and make our efforts successful.
    Yes, make our efforts successful!