I am often intrigued by how different people can be involved with the same problem or concern at the same time without any awareness of each other. An example of this occurred today at services.
For example, I recently wrote, in my on-going serious about the Twelve Disciples, a post on Bartholomew called Nathanael, which focused on his guileless character and its importance for us . Now, besides the fact that I would like to think that like that disciple I’m an Israelite in whom there is no guile, though I’m not really sure that same expression applies to me.
Nonetheless, there is an interesting fact that when I was born my mother wanted to name me Nathanael Bennett Albright (Nathanael after the disciple, Bennett presumably after the Bennet family in Pride & Prejudice (and because she liked the name and what it meant), and my father wanted to name me Nathan Benjamin Albright (Nathan after the prophet, Benjamin because I was the son of my father’s right hand, even though he and I were both left-handed naturally, as is a large part of my family). My parents compromised and I was named Nathan Bennett Albright, though occasionally people who should know better still mess up my name, by calling me Nate (or Nathaniel) or by mistaking my middle name for something less puzzling than Bennett. I don’t like it when people get my name wrong .
Okay, so that’s how I got my name. Anyway, at services today, our relatively new pastor gave us a sermon on being guileless by referencing Psalm 32 as well as the comparison between Nathanael and Jacob. While his focus was more on the dream of Jacob’s ladder (which reminds of a song by Huey Lewis & The News written by Bruce Hornsby that I particularly like) and on the guile that Jacob had shown in his life. More than most reviewers, though, I guess I cut Jacob a bit more slack concerning his guile. For one, Isaac was attempting to thwart the will of God by designing a rigged challenge in favor of Esau in order to give the promised blessing to him rather than Jacob. God took advantage of the guile of Jacob and Rebekkah to accomplish His will. This fact is insufficiently understood and recognized.
That said, it is interesting that guile would be a subject on both of our minds recently, as the story of Nathanael is not a commonly recognized one, nor is it often made as the centerpiece of his sermon (for that matter, neither is the dream of Jacob’s Ladder). Nonetheless, the explanation for the synchronicity seems straightforward enough. As we approach the Passover in an mood of self-reflection, the most dangerous quality to possess is guile in the sense of self-deception. We are the easiest people to deceive about ourselves because no one wants to be more deceived about what we are like than we ourselves do. Let us all, therefore, be without guile as we prepare for the Passover.