Astonished and Afraid and the Hand of God

There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
    Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!” Psalm 4: 6

The day came when Jesus arrived at a synagogue in Capernaum with a small group of swarthy fishermen. The leader of the synagogue asked the newcomer to speak to the gathered. The reaction of those assembled is recorded in the gospel according to Mark (1: 22).

They were astonished at his teaching. He wasn’t like the legal teachers; he said things on his own authority.

The hearers were εξεπλησσοντο – astounded, amazed, struck out of their wits, and were being knocked out. No second or third-hand hearsay accounts from Jesus.

Continuing the valid data stream (ευαγγελιου: Mk.1:1) begun of Peter’s eyewitness account of Jesus the Messiah, God’s son, Mark reports (Mk. 1:23-26):

All at once, in their synagogue, there was a man with an unclean spirit.

(You will read in Mark’s gospel account that the presence of Truth, very Truth, causes vile things to come crawling out of the woodwork and be exposed for what they are.)

All at once . . .” What business have you got with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” he yelled. “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: you’re God’s Holy One!”

“Be quiet!” ordered Jesus. “And come out of him!”

The unclean spirit convulsed the man, gave a great shout, and came out of him. Everyone was astonished.

Those in attendance were awe-struck not just by word but also by deed – the exorcism.

“What’s this?” they started to say to each other. “New teaching – with real authority! He even tells the unclean spirits what to do, and they do it!”

In chapter two of Mark’s narration (Mk. 2: 3-12) Mark reports the reaction of another gathered group to the healing of a paralyzed man. You know the story?

After ministering to people in the open country – the crowds were becoming massive – Jesus returned to Capernaum. When word got around that Jesus was at home, a large crowd gathered once more with the result that people couldn’t even get near the door as he was telling them the message – God’s kingdom was arriving.

Four people arrive carrying a paralytic on a stretcher. They can’t get near Jesus because of the crowd. So, with know-how and dogged determination to bring about the restoration of one of their community, the four neighbors create Plan B: open up the roof and lower the stretcher. (NB: The men didn’t lower their expectations. Their faith finds a way to place their ‘concern’ into the hands of God.)

Jesus saw their faith, and said to the paralyzed man, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”

Legal experts, who were among those gathered in the house, were likely there to investigate “mis-information”. Notice their reaction in the presence of True Authority.

“Who does this guy think he is. It’s blasphemy! Who can forgive sins except God?”

Jesus, knowing in his spirit that thoughts like this were in the air, poses a question to everyone’s Who does this guy think he is question.

“Is it easier to say to this cripple ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher, and walk’?

“You want to know that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins?”

Not just by the word of forgiveness but also by deed, Jesus turns to the paralytic and tells him to Get up, take up your stretcher, and go home.

The man got up, picked up his stretcher in a flash and went out before all of them.

Everyone was astonished, and they praised God. “We’ve never seen anything like this!” they said.

The authority by which Jesus forgave the man’s sins and then raised him up to new life amazed the people who witnessed it all. They had never visualized that this would happen – We never saw it on this fashion. They were so filled with awe, in fact, that they began to glorify (δοξάζειν, doxa) God, reimagining what it meant for God to dwell with man in his temple on earth. Themes of redemption, restoration, and resurrection were invoked that day when the hand of God reached from Scripture into their lives:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and do not forget all his benefits—
 who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
 who redeems your life from the Pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
[a]
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Not everyone’s reaction, though, was recorded by Mark. That reporting would take up volumes. No doubt, though, that the four men who carried the stretcher were relieved of their burden and went back to their community to rejoice with the healed man.

Let’s go on to reactions of fear, as recorded in Mark (chapters 4 & 5).

In chapter four we read about Jesus teaching a massive crowd as he stands on a boat just off shore. The evening of that same day, Jesus and the disciples sail over the sea to the land of the Gerasene’s.

Chapter five records Jesus encountering a man with an unclean spirit – a “Legion” of unclean spirits. The man’s brutish behavior undoubtedly frightened the people living in that area. They tried to restrain him but without luck.

Well, in between the off-shore teaching and reaching the far shore where the untethered demon-possessed man lived, a big wind storm blew up. The boats that Jesus and his followers sailed in began to fill with water. Jesus, according to Mark’s/Peter’s account (Mk. 4:38), was asleep on a cushion in the stern. (I would have no doubt that standing in the hot sun on a boat projecting your voice for hours would exhaust anyone.) They wake him up.

He got up, scolded the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Shut up!”

The wind died and there was a flat calm. Then he said to them, “Why are you scared? Don’t you believe yet?”

Great fear stole over them. “Who is this?” they said to each other. “Even the wind and the sea do what he says!”

Terror gripped the disciples. They were in the presence of . . . who? It appears that their reaction indicates a petrifying reimagining of Jesus as God with us.

The disciples certainly had been taught in synagogue to fear God (Deut. 10: 12-13). It appears that their reaction also indicates a reimagining of what it means to fear God – not just holding ultimate respect for God but also holding onto the reality of his sovereign power over all creation. They undoubtedly knew of God holding back the Red Sea so Israel could cross over and escape the Egyptian army. Now this! Right in front of their eyes!

Their fear would become a proper φοβος (phobos) or phobia and not an irrational phobia, of say, pagans. The disciples had seen God and lived to tell.

Fear abounds in Mark chapter five when Jesus does what no one had the ability to do: tie up the “strong man” and plunder his house (Mk. 3: 27). Jesus exorcises the man with the “legion” and commands the unclean spirits to enter a herd of pigs per the request of the spirits. The spirits didn’t want to leave the country. (My guess: the unclean spirits were given territory to control by the Satan.)

The herd of about two-thousand pigs rushing into the sea and drowning caused a panic.

The herdsman fled. They told it in the town, they told it in the countryside, and people came to see what had happened. They came to Jesus: and there they saw the man who had been demon-possessed, who had the “legion,” seated, clothed and stone-cold sober. They were afraid. The people who had seen it all told them what had happened to the man – and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to leave their district.

The unknown and uncontrollable had happened. Folks were awe-struck, gob-smacked, and beside themselves with fear.

We then read that Jesus got back into the boat and the recovered soul asked to go with him. Jesus wouldn’t let him.

Go back home,” he said, “Go to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how he had pity on you.”

He went off and began to announce in the Ten Towns what Jesus had done for him. Everyone was astonished.

All men did marvel. And it could be said – as taken from the Greek wording – that people in the brief accounts mentioned were astounded, amazed, awe struck, put out of place, knocked out and beside themselves with fear. The hand of God will do that.

****

Tell me. What blows you away? Announcement of a new iPhone? A blockbuster sale? A blockbuster movie? Is it the computer-generated imagery (CGI) that Hollywood keeps cranking out? CGI has never block-busted me, not even fantastical sci-fi smash hits. I don’t marvel at Marvel comics on the big-screen. What’s to believe about what it offers? People in funny costumes role playing about saving the earth from made up monsters? (It unsettles me when I hear grown men talking about Star Wars and Spiderman movies. Ant Man?!)

What causes you to be afraid? It could be any number of things.

The hand of God may astonish you and make you wondrously afraid. Any fear should not be to the point of begging Jesus to leave, as the account above details. One of scripture’s most repeated commands is “Fear not”.

Ask Jesus to heal your imagination so that you will see the hand of God at work in your life. Then let the hand of God astonish you and make you reverently afraid. You will come to REAL-ize that you are I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

*****

Personal note: Shane (1953) is my favorite western. No CGI used. No PC. No soy boys involved. Just homesteaders in Wyoming territory defending their homes and farms against a bully named Ryker.

Ryker claims ownership and rights to the range. He ultimately brings in a hired gun to deal with the homesteaders and the mysterious Shane, a hired hand on a homestead.

The parallels to the abuse of power today are striking.

*****

*****

Special request: Congress members, including Nancy Pelosi and Lindsey Graham, should be made to take sobriety tests before they deliberate, pass laws and speak to the public in their capacity as congressional representatives.

*****

One can pretty much tell what the media wants you to focus on by the changing yards signs of the virtue signalers in your neighborhood. Around me the signs have changed from . . .

TO

Informed dissent:

Dr. Malone describes ‘pattern of unusual Covid cancers’… – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

Dr. Malone describes ‘pattern of unusual Covid cancers’… – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

(READ) Pilots sue CDC to block mask mandates on federal transportation | Sharyl Attkisson

45,500 Rapid COVID Tests Recalled – “High Number Of False Positive Reports” (thegatewaypundit.com)

What the Left brings to bear:

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Reports 35 Percent Increase in Child Pornography From 2020 to 2021 (thegatewaypundit.com)

Power is in Tearing Human Minds to Pieces (substack.com)

Reflections on Separate and Not Equal

 

 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1: 21-23

 

How do you view God? One’s view of God is critical to one’s image-bearing reflection of God. Holding and acting on a proper pan-Scriptural view of God one can reflect the nature and glory of God in one’s humanity. Holding and acting on a low or inadequate view of God will result in a reflection of a baser, beastly, and barbarous nature. There are plenty of examples of the latter.

If a person says there is no god, then that downward blank stare is reflected back as a life devoid of the transcendent. This person’s life lacks meaning and purpose that God has provided (Col. 1:16). This person’s life is full of questions and no answers. This person’s life demands control of outcomes. This person may become suicidal.

If a person says God is a female, then what is reflected back is a person’s belief that God’s self-revelation to us as Father, Son and Spirit is male privileged and not ‘inclusive’. Therefore, God must be ‘repackaged’ as humanized, feminized, and popularized for the masses. Those with this view of God have determined that God must not be separate and must be on par with us. These Gnostics ‘know’ what’s best.

If a person says God is many, then that person reflects back a dilution of truth in the form of pluralism. Such a person is open to all kinds of error and deception to maintain their ‘inclusive’ view.

If a person says God is distant and not available for comment, then that person reflects back an ‘On the Road’ life: avoiding pain, seeking pleasure, and surrounding themselves with like-minded friends.

These few examples, of course, represent only a sample of the effects of a false image of God. A false, replaced or non-existent image of God will always result in a false, replaced and non-existent humanity. As a comprehensive study of history reveals, a people with dysfunctional views of God can result in barbaric societies. Focusing on these corrupt images means that one cannot reflect back the image of God. And, a false, replaced or non-existent image of God will always result in an egregious beastly rule over oneself and creation. Time will reveal the same truth.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. Genesis 1:26

God let it be known from the start that Idolatry and its images, whether material or projected, is perilous to one’s image bearing reflection of God. The reason: we become like that we worship. Idolatry is worship of a lie. Living out worship of a lie results in a life that is a lie. Idolatry also dehumanizes, since it is a reflection of less than God likeness. Much less. Again, there are myriad examples of this in history and surrounding us today.

Idolatry reduces God to His creation, either as a creature or to an element such as gold. For the idolater, reducing God to a creature or to an element means that God can now be controlled and molded into the image that works for him or her. But it is God who is the Image Grantor and Generator. To make an indelible impression on us, God took created elements – tables of stone – and wrote out, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image“.

Over and over again in Scripture we read that God made it very clear that all focus was to be on Him the Creator. To remove that focus was to bring down His wrath. God is a jealous God.

for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Deuteronomy 6:15

Exodus tells the story of Israel’s God removing His people from the false Egyptian gods. And in the desert God lays down the law to tell His people how to be image bearers. As noted above, the Lord God is to be their focus and not idols. And throughout the history of Israel, the Lord reminds His people of the consequences when they change their focus. Later, Israel asked God for a king because their focus was set on other nations. Their first king, Saul, was an ego-centric control freak who turned mad.

Much later, the prophet Isaiah spoke the rebuking words of the Lord to those who took the focus off of Him and focused on themselves:

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9

We become what we worship. I see examples of it every day at the fitness club. Often at the club, two Kim clones work their bodies to create a Kim-sized booty. To paraphrase a bumper sticker, “You can’t take your booty with you”.

Since we are created in God’s image and likeness to have dominion over creation, it is easy for us to assume a self-important stance before God. We are prone to see ourselves as the center of life itself and the Son revolving around us. And, as shown over and over again in the history of mankind, some men and women will convert their ego-centrism into a form of self-divination. These will expect and perhaps demand that others recognize them and even worship them as transcendent or divine. I am talking about those who see themselves as exalted based on power or status or one’s physical appearance. Examples would include Pharaohs, Assyrian Kings, Roman emperors, rulers of nations, heads of state, celebrities, politicians, and superheroes (you worship them with your time and dollars).

What image of God did three exiles have to be able to say “No” to a powerful King? (And, who taught them about a sovereign unseen God who is able to deliver? Who taught them that no other God shall be worshipped?)

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. …the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do:  As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.  Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” …you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.

But…there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up. Daniel 3

By their continued resistance (The exiles had already made their stance known to the king and to his men), the three exiles made it very clear to king Nebuchadnezzar that their focus was always going to be on the one true God and not on their fate tied to idol worship. What the three exiles said next would have made the King very hot under the collar. The NIV does not translate their words in the Daniel 3:17 text well, especially as it pertains to the King’s earlier glowing acceptance of Daniel’s god after Daniel interpreted the king’s dream (Daniel 2:24). The revised text is in italics:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God whom we serve exists he is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace and from your hand he will but if not then be it known to you we will not serve your gods anyway. Daniel 3:16-18

The three exiles were not doubting God’s existence. Just the opposite. They were adding fuel to the fire. They made sure that there would be no shadow of doubt in their reflection of the existence of the One True God. Their words turned up the heat. And once their God-reflecting humanity was miraculously delivered unsinged from the beastly hot furnace, the King was left without excuse and with plenty to think about. He could easily imagine his giant golden image melting like wax before the separate and not equal God.

 

 

And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

“It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.  They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.” 2 Kings 19 (emphasis mine)

More Than Meets the Ear

“Music exists when rhythmic, melodic or harmonic order is deliberately created, and consciously listened to, and it is only language-using, self-conscious creatures … who are capable of organizing sounds in this way, either when uttering them or when perceiving them. We can hear music in the song of the nightingale, but it is music that no nightingale has heard.” Philosopher Roger Scruton

~~~

Did you know that…

The Kingdom of God is about re-creation?

God can turn our mistakes into passing notes?

Improvisation is the exploration of an occasion?

Jazz is the interplay of order and non-order, of tradition and innovation?

Music reshapes our lives?

Music teaches us delayed gratification?

Hope lives in the midst of delay?

Music has a lot to teach us?

Music can increase empathy?

You can’t demonize those you just made music with?

As a musician for most of my life, I learned about and embraced many of these aspects and applications of music. From the videos below I learned that the Kingdom of God employs music to instruct our souls. Here are three short videos, the first two by Jeremy Begbie. The last video demonstrates the reality of the last question above.

These videos are from a musical point of view. But high culture (good literature, good drama, good art, etc.) can also provide us with many of the same benefits.

Jeremy Begbie is a theologian and professionally trained pianist. Here he demonstrates how music can help unlock the truths of the Christian gospel. Begbie is the Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology at Duke Divinity School.

First, the intersection of theology and music:

Next, Unexpected Intersections:

Last, well, you had better watch…

 

Wake up, you sleeper!

 

“So, you should be imitators of God, like dear children. Conduct yourselves in love, just as the Messiah Jesus loved us and gave himself for us, as a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice to God…

So, don’t get involved in the works of darkness., which all come to nothing. Instead, expose them! The things they do in secret, you see, are shameful even to talk about. But everything becomes visible when it’s exposed to light, since everything is visible in light. That’s why it says:

Wake up, you sleeper!

Rise up from the dead!

The Messiah will shine on you!

 

-from the Apostle Paul’s circular letter to Laodicea, called The Letter to the Ephesians