Saturday, July 16, 2005

Who Made You?

Sov vetlh joH'a', ghaH ghaH joH'a'. 'oH ghaH ghaH 'Iv ghajtaH chenmoHta' maH, je maH 'oH Daj. maH 'oH Daj ghotpu, je the Suy' vo' Daj tI yotlh.
Know that the LORD, he is God. It is he who has made us, and we are his. We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

There's a joke about a scientist who achieved so much knowledge that he felt that he could do everything - that he was the equal of God. God responded with a challenge - they would each try to outdo the other. God began: he picked up some dirt, added water, molded it in to a human shape and brought it to life.

The scientist nodded to himself, made a few notes, then rolled back his sleeves. As he reached out to gather up some dirt... and God interrupted.

"Oh, no you don't. You make your own dirt."

I think of that joke when I hear the odd expression "self-made man," usually presented in admiration for someone who has accomplished a great deal.

As a term of praise, I suppose it has its place. It is a way to say how much a person has accomplished. But take care if you begin to believe it about yourself. This is a mistake and the psalmist tells us clearly that we can't claim any such thing:

'oH ghaH ghaH 'Iv ghajtaH chenmoHta' maH
It is he who has made us

It is tempting to assume we are on our own - that we can take credit for all our accomplishments. Once, in the heat of battle on Deep Space Nine, Worf remarks that the Klingons have no gods - "we killed them." Bold words, and tempting to some who wish to consider themselves "self-made." But such a notion is founded on an imaginary independance - as if we could somehow make ourselves out of nothing.

The word used here for "made" in Hebrew is "'asah" and is also the verb used in Genesis when we read:

joH'a' leghta' everything vetlh ghaH ghajta' chenmoHta', je, yIlegh, 'oH ghaHta' very QaQ

God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31)

In the Klingon, I've used "chenmoHta'." chen, build up or take form, then added the suffix moH (cause to) and added one more suffix ta' (did happen) giving
chenmoHta' : did form or create.

One other note of interest in the text. Some translations, notably the KJV say "it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves," instead of "It is he who has made us, and we are his. " The reason is that the Hebrew word "v'low" can mean "and not" or "and his," depending on the context. This could yield either the modern reading "he made us AND-HIS we-are" or the KJV's "he made us AND-NOT us." Neither translation rules out the meaning of the other - but the majority of translations do not use the negative clause since it doesn't fit in with the parallel construction that follows, "We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. "

The emphasis is that we are God's handiwork, and that this has a consequence. We are not our own - we are answerable to a maker.

Do you consider this good news? I imagine the Klingon response to be much like our own individualistic one - I AM MY OWN! It isn't easy to give up our autonomy. Yet the psalmist wants us to know we are answerable to a creator. No way can I claim to be "self-made."

And it is good news. If we are responsible to our maker, we should realize that he is responsible for US. He did not make us to be discarded or abandoned. Peter wrote:

trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you.
(1 Peter 4:19b NLT)

No comments: