When All is Not Bright

 

… a personal reflection

Tampa (AFP) – Life expectancy in the United States dropped yet again as drug overdose deaths continued to climb — taking more than 70,000 lives in 2017 — and suicides rose, a US government report said Thursday.

The drug overdose rate rose 9.6 percent compared to 2016, while suicides climbed 3.7 percent, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.

-from Kerry SHERIDAN’s article US life expectancy drops again as overdoses climb

 

As confusion and losses stack up in a person’s life many, now more than ever, begin to seek a way out of their humanness wherein the pain is acutely felt. They will take drugs and medicate in hopes of stopping the screaming in their heads. It is the pain that tells us that we are alive and human.

I can relate. At one point in my life years ago I carried with me the same hurt locker. I had experienced losses caused by my own doing and losses beyond my control. Having been married and divorced, I then lost closeness with my children and years of my life. I lost a son in a tragic car accident. I lost a job when the company I was working for no longer had orders coming in. A truck rear-ended my car as I was on my way to a new job. I received a herniated disc in my neck and a concussion and many painful nerve-affected nights and tons of medical bills. That block of time was crushing. It was also confusing.

Trying to sort out the events, trying to make sense while inside the hurt locker, is well nigh impossible. I tried to mitigate the pain through medication, but the pains in my body and in my heart were overwhelming. There was screaming in my head that would not stop. Couple that pain with the need to continue making ends meet and trying to keep your head above water is…well-nigh impossible. And so, Impossible was the name on my hurt locker. I desperately wanted to remove myself from the locker and go to a place where I didn’t have to think anymore. When you are crying at your desk you know that something had to give. But it wasn’t going to be me. It had to be despair’s grip.

I came to the realization out of my relationship with the Lord that all of my presuppositions where being up ended. The first one to go was that I believed I was strong and could handle whatever came my way. In that dark hour I understood that the Lord had broken into my self-composed life and was making all things new. This all happened the weekend of Easter. And though I had heard the words of Easter proclamations all of my life, I finally understood that the Lord’s resurrection was the means for me to be resurrected to new life here and now. Nothing was impossible. The stone in front of the hurt locker had been removed. I was freed to be human once again. What I had endured became “I do exist, by the grace of God”.

 

It is easy for a Christian, I believe, to think that any bad thing that happens to them is a result of judgment for past sins. With all of the talk of heaven and hell in many churches it is easy to frame events in terms of reward or punishment, in almost Pavlovian ways. And, onlooking Christians are eager to point that out. Read the oldest book of Scripture, Job.

To be sure there are ways in which we dehumanize ourselves and come to believe that there can be no resurrection day and if it happened it would look like today. We live in a culture of dehumanization: abortion, drugs, ‘free’ sex, rife consumerism, and words, rites and traditions emptied of meaning. Christian holidays are paganized. Individual rights that are demanded cut people off from a community of shared human values. When body parts and their redaction become cause célèbre you know the culture is in trouble. When any thought of joy is replaced by the fatuous roose of commercialized store-bought happiness, then you know you are in trouble.

One can drink their reason for life to death. One can sit in isolation and loneliness on the internet arguing points of nihilistic bent. Social media is anything but social. Those who pattern their life after media come up empty and as impersonal as the data bytes that transfer the images to their screen.

To be sure, there are consequences that are derived from one’s sinful behavior. And, that is good to know. One needs to bump up against the wall of one’s own doing to know that there is cause and effect, a principle that even rationalists and atheists embrace.

To finally be sure, we must frame our understanding with redemption. That was the revelation that occurred to me. Resurrection and redemption. The impossible is beyond me and is only doable by the Son of Man Who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

The intent of this post is not to put a happy face on any one’s suffering or losses or pain. You do not see the sunny side of life inside the hurt locker. Rather, this post has been written to provide hope. And it is hope which brings about true-life expectancy – abundant life in this age and the age to come. Hope is born of resurrection and continues with redemption. Suicide says” All is lost. There is no hope if I can’t produce it with within myself”.  You can’t.  Hope is beyond you.

Here is hope: you are known by God. Consider that the announcement of the birth of the Son of Man was to lowly shepherds tending sheep in a field. The announcement they received wasn’t “We bring you tidings of great minimum wage!” No, the angelic message was…

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest,

    And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Some life-saving suggestions. When I was in high school, I walked many nights through the neighborhoods after supper with my family. I doubt that my siblings knew this. I walked because I needed to resolve all the inputs into my life: my personhood, and the mental, emotional and social goings on around me, including all that the sixties dropped on me, including the Vietnam war. I walked to find resolve to go on.

Some of us have pets. I currently have Henry, my parrolet, to keep me company. I am considering adding finches to my home. I relate to birds.  I placed a bird feeder on my patio. I’ve noticed that birds are flighty when they sense imminent danger but return when they feel safe. Birds remind me of life in the moment. They are fragile beings. They, like me, have open mouths to feed and so they return to the one who feeds them.  I had to return to the One who feeds me daily, in the moment.

 

We are right to cry “Lord have mercy!” And, we also right to cry “I must have mercy on myself and not do those things which bring judgment on me by their very nature! I have sinned, O God, have mercy upon me a sinner!”

 

A prayer:

Father of all mercy, have mercy on me. I am distressed. My heart is like wax. It melts before every fear. I am depressed. I am confused. I am not able to exist except at your pleasure. I am at the bottom of my life. Restore to me humanness. Return to me with Thy salvation. I’ve heard that my Redeemer lives. Redeem my life from destruction. Redeem me from all my transgressions. Restore my soul. Amen.

 

Leech or Lizard?

 

 When you think of Thanksgiving you of think family, food and football. Let me suggest a fourth focus: creature features.

 

The Book of Proverbs, found in the wisdom literature of the Bible, offers insight into the human condition. From my youth on I have asked God for wisdom, knowledge and a good understanding. I have not always used the wisdom, knowledge and understanding given me. Much of my younger life can attest to Proverb’s description of fools and folly.

Proverbs contrasts fools and folly with those who gain wisdom and avoid imprudence. Proverbs gives us examples of what one should not be like and what one should be like. Leeches and lizards are among the examples. Let’s start with leeches.

The leech has two daughters. ‘Give! Give!’ they cry. Prov. 3:15 

How would you characterize a leech? The picture that first comes to mind is that of a bloodsucker that extracts what it wants and then goes on to the next source to extract again. Personified as above, do you see them as never satisfied? As never contented? As always craving more?  Are they greedy and covetous? Are they insatiable in their appetite? Do they see themselves as deserving and therefore warranted in entering your space and presenting their unending demands? What about another space intruder, the lizard?

a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces. Prov. 30:28

Lizards, the proverb says, can be easily controlled but they show up in highly respectable places, places like lavish Caribbean hotels. Lizards like to come indoors for a meal. They are attracted by an insect infestation. Due to their small size, tiny gaps or cracks around doors and windows can be enough for geckos to let themselves in. Some owners may allow a few innocuous lizards to come and take care of the greater insect problem. And, insects are not as ‘cute’ as Geckos. The GEICO commercials invite us to let them into our lives to solve insurance problems.

The creeping and crawling Lizards can be held in check but they show up anyway in king’s palaces looking for insects hiding in dark places and likely feasting on the crumbs dropped from the royal table.

The Gospels provide with us with human examples of these creature’s features:

A recent review of a first century survey (Luke 17) found that nine out ten lepers do not give thanks. Apparently, nine lepers saw Jesus, latched on to his presence and demanded ‘Give! Give! And one leper, the out of place Samaritan, saw Jesus, creeped up slowly and waited for the crumbs to fall from the Master’s table. When Jesus healed all ten of the lepers, the nine leeches went on their way feeling they got what they deserved. But the once dried, scaling, atrophic, depigmented-skinned lizard returned and gave thanks for being allowed into the royal court and receiving a new skin on life.

As we learned, one can live their life as a leech: show up, latch on, cry ‘Give! Give!’, take and feel deserving and ungrateful. Or, one can live life as the lowly out of place lizard who shows up in our King’s palace looking for the means to go on.  The latter provides us with a prime example of grace – that easily controlled lowly lizards like us are even allowed a notice and a few bread crumbs that fall from the King’s table. Thanks be to God.

 

‘Tis the Season to Rethink Equal Outcomes

 

The Progressive’s notion of equal outcomes: “income equality” realized through redistribution; test results based on tests revised so that certain people could pass the test; participation-trophy type merit; laws that ‘fix’ opportunity for certain people; verdicts and sentencing of activist judges who rule based on a defendant’s social circumstances rather than by the crime committed upon another; homosexual ‘marriage’ as marriage equality; “equal pay for equal work” which dismisses the resultant quality of what each worker produces; a state in which people have approximately the same material wealth and achieve equal levels of income; equating equal opportunities with equal results…

Economist Thomas Sowell gives us some insight into Progressive thinking:

Equal opportunity does not mean equal results, despite how many laws and policies proceed as if it does, or how much fashionable rhetoric equates the two.

An example of that rhetoric was the title of a recent New York Times column: “A Ticket to Bias.” That column recalled bitterly the experience of a woman in a wheelchair who bought a $300 ticket to a rock concert but was unable to see when other people around her stood up. This was equated with “bias” on the part of those who ran the arena.

The woman in the wheel chair declared, “true equality remains a dream out of reach.” Apparently only equality of results is “true’ equality….

…Confusion between equal opportunity and equal results is a dangerous confusion behind many kinds of spoiled brat politics. -Thomas Sowell from Spoiled Brat Politics, The Thomas Sowell Reader

To put us in the proper reflective mood for the Season to Rethink Equal Outcomes, below are three accounts from Scripture which reveal to us God’s concept of equal outcomes.

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 2 Samuel 24:24

The first thing I notice about the above account is that forms of capitalism have been around for a long time. That is, capitalism, simply defined, as an economic and social system in which property, business, and industry are privately owned and directed towards making the greatest possible profits for successful organizations and people, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

In the above account there was a cooperative exchange of private property between two individuals. Both were satisfied with the outcome. And, apparently God was satisfied with the outcome. David’s desire was to not give God the impression that he was doing something good for God, a.k.a. virtue signal or tokenism, but to pay proper respect and attribute worth to God through his offering.

David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped. 2 Samuel 24:25

The second thing I notice is restraint. Though Araunah offered his property freely to king David (2 Sam. 24:23) the king did not accept it without paying Araunah its worth to Araunah  and perhaps more. That cost David. The king could have just taken the property to begin with. Beastly kings and rulers throughout history have seized property for themselves and for “the masses”. David was not about to disrespect his neighbor Araunuh or his God by stiffing either. The king did not exploit Araunuh for righteous ends.

Worth had to be accounted for with regard to Araunah’s property and with regard to a show of respect to God. “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” That is what David said and that is what the widow thought.

Then Jesus sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”  Mark 12:41-44

The first thing we notice in this account is the virtue signaling and tokenism of cha-ching-ers who want to appear to profit God while incurring little or no cost to themselves. In kingdom contrast, the unassuming widow, like king David, gave an offering that cost her appreciably and was God’s Temple worthy. The widow gave her financial security. The Lord was pleased to acknowledge her gift acknowledging the God Who is Faithful (Psalm 146: 8). She loved God more than life itself. Now, did you notice in these two stories that taking into account the worth of each party and their property creates equal outcomes – both parties being satisfied and even pleased with what is exchanged? This method of accounting, making sure the ‘other’ is considered and is valued as at least equal with ourselves, can be applied to all interactions.

In a previous post I wrote:

We are told by Jesus to “love your neighbors as yourself”. To do this we must consider our own self-interest and then apply the same measure of self-interest toward our neighbors. This parity of accounting is not unlike the Lord’s accounting of forgiveness: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others their trespasses.” […,] the resentment worldview has a perverted accounting system: the self is to be credited and others must be debited for there to be parity in their world. If the word “fairness” is ever to be applied socially and economically to our culture then these two commands of our Lord define its limited and personal application.

As shown from Scripture, God endorsed equal outcomes are marriages of opportunities with offerings. The outcomes are not forced or determined by a higher power or the state. The individuals involved come to an agreement about the outcome. A marriage of a man and woman is the archetype of this union of opportunity and offering.

The man and woman exchange vows and rings and, over time, their lives. The opportunity: they met and each determined that an exchange of their life for the other would make both happy. The offering: they give themselves which costs everything. They do so freely. The exchange is not coerced as in a shot-gun wedding or when those in power decide to take your property by force. When things are forced and a person is acted upon without it being offered it is called rape. It is called stealing when a person’s property is forcibly taken.

The equal outcome of marriage is that the two become one. The transaction creates a greater good (including little ones) and both parties equally, with God’s help, continue to be satisfied with the outcome.

One more illustration from Scripture regarding the marriage of opportunity and offering. Remember this woman?

While Jesus was at Bethany, in the house of Simon (known as “the Leper’), a woman came to him who had an alabaster vase of extremely valuable ointment. She poured it on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw it, they were furious.

“What’s the point of all this waste?” they said. “This could have been sold for a fortune, and the money could have been given to the poor!”

Jesus knew what they were thinking.

“Why make life difficult for the woman?” he said. “It’s a lovely thing, what she’s done for me. You always have the poor with you, don’t you? But you won’t always have me. When she poured this ointment on my body, you see, she did it to prepare me for burial. “I’m telling you the truth: where this gospel is announced in all the world, what she has done will be told, and people will remember her.”

Matthew 26: 6-13

 

 

What do we learn about opportunity and offering from this account of a woman pouring a very expensive offering onto Jesus’ head? We learn that the Progressives around Jesus were highly offended when they couldn’t control the outcome of the “alabaster vase of extremely valuable ointment”. We also learn from Jesus about the opportunity that brought them together: “… you won’t always have me”. The woman’s offering was what she could have lavished on herself. Maybe she applied David’s words to her head: “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

The extravagant and expensive offering given freely was freely accepted by Jesus in preparation for his burial. In fact, he tells us that the equally shared outcome of what she had done was worth proclaiming: the marriage of opportunity and sacrificial offering as an act of love.

Who Can Stand Upright?

 

The unjust cry out for revenge justice: “No Justice, No Peace!

The envious shout for equal outcome justice: “Fair Share!”

Feminists rally for Pro-choice justice: “Abortion is a Civil Right!”

The LGBT coalition demands lifestyle justification justice: “We demand equality and not your approval!”

Social justice advocates crave an inclusive world: “Check Your Privilege!”

Environmental advocates seek justice “against the onslaught of oppressive toxins and toxic oppressions that threaten to submerge out homes!”

Parents call for education justice: “No Child Left Behind!”

Those who have lost loved ones to inhuman acts petition for criminal justice

…the scales of justice are constantly tugged on by the just and unjust. Yet, in the end, God determines who stands to lose everything and who stands to gain everything.

 

It would appear, looking at just a sampling of recent events, that we have been created by God with a need for justice. There seems to be within us a deep-rooted desire for things to be put right. And because things are not right in our eyes, there is a constant clamor for resolution. Humanity longs to be restored and reassured among the inhuman events occurring every day. Yet justice, in a world of people dehumanized by sin, is often abstracted and ad hoc, and even beastly. And for many today, human rights have morphed into individual rights to justify inhuman behavior.

When man’s justice bypasses deliberative and evidence-producing due process it has deteriorated into kangaroo courts, lynch mobs, mob rule, vigilantism, Cain-killing-Abel retribution and whatever feeds the beast within with power. Diametrically opposite of man’s degraded justice, God’s justice is not a knee-jerk reaction. Rather, it is consistent with God’s character which God has made know to us. Mercifully and within the surety of God’s name, God’s justice is also restorative and humanizing. It is universal and fair – it applies to everyone for all time. And, it includes due process and evidence.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the LORD comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. -the Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 4:5

And,

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. – the letter to the Hebrews 4:12

Not only does God’s word go to the heart of the matter, Scripture gives us the means to learn of God’s character and the nature of His justice. Scripture reveals God’s justice in history and God’s justice to come.

With dreams and vision, the books of Daniel and The Revelation of Jesus Christ graphically depict the beastly empires and their beastly rulers. The empires and their rulers do not acknowledge God as sovereign. When they do they oppose God. Both books describe in vivid detail God’s justice in dealing with the de-humanized beasts in the world.

In 587 BCE king Nebuchadnezzar and the ruthless Babylonians conquered and pillaged civilizations. The king’s army captured Jerusalem and plundered the temple. Israelites were taken into exile in Babylon, a city which historically and metaphorically represents a center of man’s opposition to God.

Daniel’s account describes the exiled Israelites being commanded by the king to pay homage to that which isn’t God. Implied in the account, the four Israelites had been taught early on about the One True God and that idolatry was forbidden. They understood from reading the Psalms (115:8) that those who worship idols become like the idols – inhuman.

Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

And, from Psalm 135:15-17 the futility of seeking justice from idols:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.

Daniel and his three friends are told they must worship a towering gold statue of king Nebuchadnezzar. They resist, making it clear that that they “walk in the name of the Lord our God”. God saves them and vindicates their stance. From this episode we learn that God vindicates those who wait for his justice. Again, the Psalms provided their pleadings:

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, And I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.  Psalm 26:1

Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation; O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! Psalm 43:1

Save me, O God, by Your name, And vindicate me by Your power. Psalm 54:1

God’s sovereign justice is revealed to king Nebuchadnezzar in a vivid and perplexing dream about a statue. Daniel’s God-given interpretation describes the king as the statue’s head of gold. The statue’s body is made up of different material elements each representing different kingdoms. In the dream the kingdoms come and go. Daniel goes on to say that an everlasting kingdom – the Kingdom of God – will not be crushed but “it will crush all these kingdoms” and “will endure forever” (Daniel 2).

In Daniel 3 we learn that the king hasn’t learned a thing from the dream or about the One True God other than Daniel’s God is just another god to be respected. The king goes on to create an enormous image of gold. He demands for it to be worshipped like a god.

Daniel 4 records the king’s vision. Another interpretation follows with Daniel describing a tree being cut down and the king being humbled “until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes”. We learn that the king’s mind becomes the end result of his self-worship – inhuman and like a wild beast of the field.  The book of Daniel gives us insight into God’s vindicating justice. We see God seeking to spread knowledge of himself within a beastly empire.

 

The Revelation of Jesus the Messiah is a long letter relaying what Jesus was told by his Father about future events. Jesus communicates what he has been told to an angel. The angel then reports the revelation to the Lord’s servant John. And John, we learn in Rev 1:2, is someone in God’s court room who “bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus the Messiah”.

John also bears witness to the judgments that will rain down, like stars falling from the heavens, on the “…kings of the earth, the leading courtiers, the generals, the rich, the power brokers, and everyone, slave and free” as they run to hide themselves “among the caves and the rocks of the mountains” screaming.

“Fall upon us!” they were saying to the mountains and rocks. “Hide us from the face of the One who sits on the throne, and from the anger of the lamb! The great day of their anger has come, and who can stand upright?” – Rev. 6: 12-17

The letter is from “He Who Is and Who Was and Who is to Come”. The Son of Man – the True Human and Lord of Creation– is introduced in Revelation chapter 1. He is the one who can rightly judge the beastly rulers and their empires and the Beast itself and those who allowed themselves to be marked by the Beast.

The letter records God’s accounting of those entrusted with the Gospel at one time. Seven letters are read to seven churches. These written assessments remind me of the writing on the wall in Daniel’s day (Daniel 5: 24-26), condemning a ruler who held authority over others and acted against God and man. Ultimately, beastly rulers will not stand before God. They will be removed from power.

“Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out.

      “Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’ “This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. ‘TEKEL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. ‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”

And, like the seven symbolic days of creation, there are seven seals which are opened and seven trumpets are blown and seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out onto creation. In the day of the Lord the world will be purged of its patterns of perverted tyrannical power and of those who have rebelled against God and took on an inhuman existence, even to the extent of murdering those loyal to God:

When the lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been killed because the of the word of God and because of the witness they had borne.

 They shouted at the tops of the voices. “Holy and true Master!” they called. How much longer are you going to put off giving judgment, and avenging our blood on the earth-dwellers?” -Revelation 6:9-10

 

Revelation, as it describes the beast that comes out of the sea, parallels Daniel’s vision description of beasts (Rev. 13). Both the beast from the sea and the beast of the earth are defeated in battle.

Before we “see a new heaven and new earth” (Rev. 21) the enemy of man and the Son of Man, the Deceiver, the Great Beast, the Satan, will be dealt with once and for all:

… the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

 

Unlike many of the world’s attempts at justice, God’s justice names evil for what it is and deals with it. Evil’s power was dealt with on the cross. Jesus took all evil upon himself and defeated it. Evil no longer has power over us, unless you decide it to be so. For the loyal, God is Just and Justifier:

God put Jesus forth as the place of mercy, through faithfulness, by means of his blood. He did this to demonstrate his covenant justice, because of the passing over (in divine forbearance) of sins committed beforehand. This was to demonstrate his covenant justice in the present time: that is, that he himself is in the right, and that he declares to be right everyone who trusts in the faithfulness of Jesus. – Romans 3: 25-26

 

Will God’s final justice have you crying out about acts of justice on your terms: “Hide us from the face of the One who sits on the throne, and from the anger of the lamb! Who can stand upright!?” Or, will God’s justice vindicate your loyalty to His faithfulness?

Will God’s justice be the sum of all your fears or the sum of all your fealty?

Dreams and Dragons

 

Headlines daily declare man’s beastly behavior. Here are just a few of today’s headlines:

From the AP: “Indictment: Woman poured toilet water in roommate’s drink”

From ABC News: “Husband who had blamed cold medicine pleads guilty to killing his wife, stabbing her 123 times”

From Chicago Sun Times: “Saturday shootings kill 2-year-old boy, wound 8 other people”

And, “Man, 36, shot during argument in South Austin”

And, “2-year-old toddler dead, 18-year-old wounded in Hermosa shooting”

 

Going back in history, a Babylonian Times headline might have read:

“King Nebuchadnezzar Loses Mind, Lives with Beasts of the Field”

King lives like wild animals, eats grass like the ox

Nebuchadnezzar – William Blake

 

We read in Daniel chapter 4 of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and of Daniel’s God-revealed interpretation of the dream. We find out that the king, depicted as an enormous tree in the dream, has grown in pride and presumption and power over many. He will be cut down. We further learn that the king will become beast-like until he acknowledges God as sovereign. Those who walk in pride God is able to humble (Daniel 4:37).

In Daniel 7 we read of Daniel’s dream. In his vision he sees four great beasts. Daniel is able to describe them in detail. There are disturbing images of the earth’s rulers as terrifying unearthly monsters. These beasts rule over four kingdoms.

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

Daniel goes on to describe a protruding animal-like horn: “This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.” He then describes heaven’s court room where thrones are set up and books are opened and where the Ancient of Day presides. And where a human figure comes into the vision:

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7: 13-14 (emphasis mine)

Take note. A “son of man” designation is another way of saying a human. Ezekiel the prophet used this form of address (93 times) to remind Israel of their place: that they are not God but mere humans accountable to God.

In apocalyptic literature, Daniel is called a son of man, a human, in chapter 8 vs.15-17.

While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man.
And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”
As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.”

Where am I going with all this talk of beasts and kings and kingdoms and humans? To stop the presses. This will require an explanation.

The “Son of Man” title is used by Jesus throughout the Gospels. Mark records the title 12 times in his account. What we are to understand when Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man? That Jesus represents the human that God intended when he created the universe.

To clarify his ministry of redeeming fallen and often beastly humanity, Jesus, the Real Human, talked about servanthood and sacrifice and about his relationship with the Father. He talked about justice, and about the means to nourish the true human in each of us: “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

 “…and just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

And He said to him [Nathanael], “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51

“For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:27

So, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. John 6:53

You see, only a True Human – the Son of Man and Last Adam – who has been given all authority in heaven and earth, can redeem and restore humanity from its “red in tooth and claw” ways and from its beastly rulers. And, that reminds me.

C.S. Lewis, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, describes the agonizing redemption process the boy Eustace Clarence Scrubb goes through after Eustace became less than human. Eustace was selfish, whiny and cruel. Such a boy had turned into a beast – a dragon.

With Eustace’s permission, the lion Aslan claws off Eustace’s think scaly dragon skin until Eustace’s humanness is uncovered. The de-scaling has left Eustace raw and in a lot of pain. Aslan provides him a cool bath to recover in.

You see, being Son of Man human is the destiny of the sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve. We will be like him when we see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. Revelation. 1:12

 

Roll the presses: “Dragon Skin Found Among the Ruins”

The Rise of Resentment

 

Ressentiment is the French translation of the English word resentment. In philosophy and psychology it is a concept that was of particular interest to the existentialist philosophers. According to the existentialists, ressentiment is a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration. The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousy in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration. This value system is then used as a means of justifying one’s own weaknesses by identifying the source of envy as objectively inferior, serving as a defense mechanism that prevents the resentful individual from addressing and overcoming their insecurities and flaws. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability. – Wikipedia

 

The resentment worldview has a perverted self-interest value system:

The resentment worldview has a perverted accounting system:

“Most economic fallacies derive from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.” – Milton Friedman

 

We are told by Jesus to “love your neighbors as yourself”. To do this we must consider our own self-interest and then apply the same measure of self-interest toward our neighbors. This parity of accounting is not unlike the Lord’s accounting of forgiveness: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others their trespasses.” As mentioned above, the resentment worldview has a perverted accounting system: the self is to be credited and others must be debited for there to be parity in their world. If the word “fairness” is ever to be applied socially and economically to our culture then these two commands of our Lord define its limited and personal application.

Apart from the resentment worldview of “fellow travelers” and socialist sympathizers, I believe that many of us know that self-interest is not selfishness. We take care of our bodies. We wash and feed and exercise them. We think and dwell on good things and not on twaddle. We work and seek to pay our bills on time. We take our responsibilities to our family and to those around us seriously. In all of our transactions, social and economic, we strive to maintain a good name.

Going beyond a universal self-interest, a Jesus follower’s self-interest takes into her accounting what appears to be the opposite of self-interest – losses (see Mark 9: 43-47) or dying to self. Her losses (and subsequent gains) go right to the bottom line of her P & L statement: “What shall it profit a woman if she gains the whole world and loses her own soul?” The bottom line is what she gives out of in parity and fairness to her neighbor.

Scripture gives us God’s world view. And, early in Scripture, we read of contrasting worldviews: the worldview of resentment and its perverse self-fulfillment accounting and the worldview of God and His “on earth as it is in heaven” accounting.

In the familiar Genesis narrative (Genesis 37) of Joseph and his brothers, the brothers took account of how they thought they were treated and compared that to how they thought Joseph was treated. From their recorded behavior we find out that jealousy in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration.

Joseph became the source of their envy. Born in Jacob’s old age, Joseph had the gift of his father’s love. Joseph also had the gift of dreams – presumptuous dreams the brothers thought (Gen 37:8). And Joseph was given an ornate robe from his father Jacob. They also considered Joseph a tattle tale (Gen 37:2).

Resentment rose in the brother’s hearts. Heated arguments followed and then boiled over. Joseph became the stated enemy of their egos. The brothers acted on their resentment. Joseph was sold into slavery after almost being done away with under a Democratic death sentence (Gen 37:18).

Years later in Egypt, when tables are turned, Joseph did not hold resentment in his heart. He did not reciprocate (Gen. 45). He dealt with his brothers, not by returning upon their heads the evil done to him, but with God’s accounting worldview: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’

 

Resentment worldview onlookers that day would have testified that something bad happened years ago and now someone had to pay. And that brings us to today.

The Final Protest

 

The whole world is watching” was a chant by antiwar demonstrators outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel the evening of August 28 during the 1968 Democrat National Convention in Chicago

-Wikipedia

“Prologue, August 29, 1968”

 

If you lived through the 60s as I have you will remember the numerous protests across the nation. If you lived in Chicago during that time you will remember the local newscasts showing nuclear armament protests, civil rights protests and antiwar protests. At the time of the DNC Convention in August of 1968 downtown Chicago was flooded with protestors. The violent confrontations between anti-war protestors and the police and the responses of Mayor Richard J. Daley were shown on our family’s black and white with rabbit ears every night.

The national and local protests appeared to me, a teenager, to be a release of anger, frustration, hatred and anarchy. The protests, in a way, looked familiar. They appeared to a be a rebellious teenager’s emotional response to the authority in his life.

The signs, the shouts, the shoves and the protest songs were captured on tape for the whole world to watch and to listen. I said all you got to do is listen. Ironically, as witnessed in Chicago, many antiwar protests turned violent, as protestors incited a civil unrest to make their point about wanting peace in our time.

Protests have been around since day one. And many if not most of those protests focused fault for an objectionable situation away from the protesting party and outward onto a larger amorphous party – The Man. The Man is typically God or government or a boss or “the system”.  Any authority figure can be in the index finger’s protest sights. Here’s Adam (the man) protesting God (The Man) questioning him (the man):

But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

 The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3: 9-12 (emphasis mine)

Behind many protests today there is an “It takes a village” mindset that says everyone is responsible while making no one personally responsible except for The Man – an authority figurehead. Making every one democratically responsible then puts the onus for change dangerously into the hands of those elected – the political and religious elite – and away from personal accountability. When those in power are offered more power, totalitarianism follows. The State – The Man – then confiscates your liberty to control those situations and people you want controlled.

There are protests that hamstring or hamper others. These protests are meant to cause others to feel the protestor’s pain. One such protest happened in Chicago recently. Protestors shut down Lake Shore Drive on a Thursday afternoon. They carried signs decrying the ongoing violence on the west and south sides of Chicago: No More Violence Black Lives Matter, Help My Community and Enough is Enough.

Violence should be a matter of concern. Yet, in my view, the LSD blockage protest was a redistribution of responsibility for the choices the protestors had made. Consider that most of those protesting were the same people who voted for Chicago’s mayor and city council. And, if you recall, those elected officials made Chicago into a “Welcoming City” allowing in a criminal element composed of drug lords, MS-13 gang bangers, sexual predators, molesters and pedophiles, to name a few generators of imported violence. Consider also that most of those protestors are Democrats who continue to vote for programs that foster government dependence and not self-reliance and responsibility. The pols these protestors vote for offer to assuage fears by throwing money at a problem. And that means raising property taxes, which creates more poverty and more dependence on government, which, by lack of ownership and responsibility, creates more gang violence in neighborhoods. Therein is a Self-Induced Catch 22 for the protestors.

There are protests as marches which are meant to be a show of strength, and perhaps intimidation, in numbers. Union protests, the Million Man March and The Woman’s March in DC are these types of protests. In the end the marchers have had their fifteen minutes of fame and then often go on with nothing changed but their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts.

Many protests are about perceived injustices, inequities and intolerable conditions. As I see it, the cries for “equal rights for all” is often conditional on others being treated unequally.

Did you know that there is a Chicago protest website called Chicago Protest? Today you will find the following protests scheduled:

All Out – the Jason Van Dyke Trial

Rally to #End Money Bail

MeToo MacDonald’s

SayHerName: A march to end the violence against trans women

There are protests against personalities which represent The Man. The #Resistance protests against Trump. As they do, have you noticed that many of those who protest Trump’s behavior act as bad or worse than Trump as if by projection of their own immaturity? The #Resistance appears to justify its jejune behavior by saying Trump is The Wrong Man and anyway he should be a better-behaved (but not like those of the #Resistance). Of course, such personality protests are egged on by deep political and ideological divides which are stoked by media personalities who have their own following. Like all else regarding human nature, personality protests are not new under the sun.

In Paul’s day there was such a protest within the young and immature Corinthian church. The protest involved personalities Paul, Cephas and Apollos. It seems that these three each represented to the Corinthians a unique style presentation of the Gospel. The Corinthians, eager to take sides, had lined up behind the personality who was the most pleasing to their ears. Some chose Cephas, the hands-on fisherman who had walked with Jesus and could tell tales of his time with Jesus. Some chose the didactic deep thinker and talker Paul and others chose the polished speaker with the locally familiar Greek god name – Apollos.

Paul, writing to the church, reprimands the Corinthians for their partisan protests based on worldly wisdom.

In my own case, my dear family, I couldn’t speak to you as spiritual people, but as people who were all to obviously merely human, little babies in the Messiah. I fed you with milk, not sold food, because you weren’t able to take it—and you still can’t, even now! You’re still determined to live in the old way! Yes, wherever there is jealousy and quarreling, doesn’t that mean you’re living in the old way, behaving as any merely human being might do? When someone says “I’m with Paul!” and someone else says “I’m with Apollos!” are you not mere humans?

– 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

Personality protests are self-serving protests. They derive from a person’s worldly human wisdom which generates errant expectations about how things should be – for me.

In Mark’s gospel account (Mark 8: 31-33) we read of Peter’s protest of Jesus announcing his coming suffering and death. Peter was expecting a Messiah who lived out Israel’s’ covenant hopes.

Jesus now began to teach them something new.

“There’s trouble in store for the son of man,” he said. “The elders, the chief priests, and the scribes are going to reject him. He will be killed – and after three days he’ll be raised.” He said this quite explicitly.

At this, Peter took him aside and started to scold him. But he turned around, saw the disciples, and scolded Peter.

“Get behind me, Accuser!” he said. “You’re thinking human thoughts, not God’s thoughts.”

How should we frame our thinking about protests? With human thoughts? Or, with the “mind of the Messiah” (1 Cor. 2:16)? After Jesus protests Peter’s mere human wisdom, Jesus, the Messiah, goes on to tell the crowd his mind: what protest should be about and about the Final Protest:

“If any of you want to come the way I’m going,” he said, “you must say no to your own selves, pick up your own cross, and follow me. Yes: if you want to save your life, you’ll lose it; but if you lose your life because of me and message you’ll save it. After all, what use is it to win the world and lose your life? What can you give in exchange for your life? If you’re ashamed of me and my words in this cheating and sinning generation, the son of man will be ashamed of you when he comes in the glory of his father with the holy angels.” – Mark 8:34-38

Jesus calls us to a protest that is personal, self-effacing and not world attention-grabbing. In fact, it is the opposite of the social media-grabbing, exploitive and often violent protests occurring in the world today. The violence of the Jesus protest is directed toward one’s ego and fleshly desires and even to one’s self-esteem. We are to sever all claims to self and all protesting rights from our thinking.

Be warned if your worldly human wisdom has you say “I’m behind the person that gives me the gospel the way I like it”. Be warned if your worldly human wisdom has you say “I will march for and demand my rights because my rights define me.” Be warned, also, if you protest the Lord’s claim on your life. Jesus, as we read above, warns of a Final Protest where he reveals his total displeasure with your cause to gain the world of self-interest and his embarrassment to be seen with you in the company of heaven.

 

 

~~~
Here is how the Apostle Paul understood the Jesus Protest:
“…I didn’t come and proclaim God’s mystery to you by means of a superior style of speaking or wisdom. No: I decided to know nothing in my dealings with you except Jesus the Messiah, especially his crucifixion. I came to you in weakness in great fear and trembling…” Paul’s first recorded letter to the church at Corinth, 2: 1-3
And…
“As for me, God forbid that I should boast – except in the cross of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, 6: 14

Circumstantial Evidence

You don’t feel right. You feel unsettled and unable to sleep at night. You feel achy, restless and depressed. You wonder if there is something in the air. You feel that there is something going on but you can’t put your finger on it.

One day, on the way to work, you stop for a “Caramel Macchiato, Venti, Skim, Extra Shot, Extra-Hot, Extra-Whip, Sugar-Free” at Starbucks. Getting out of your Subaru, you see a sign across the street: “GOT CARE?” The sign is out front of the Hope and Change Clinic. Another yard sign says that the clinic accepts all patients and rejects none. You say to yourself, “Maybe this is what I need.” You call and make your first appointment.

On the day of your appointment you find the waiting room full of scrutinizing looks. You meet with Dr. Betterman. He doesn’t examine you. He tells you right off the bat what ails you. He says, “I see this all the time in my practice. My patients sense that something isn’t right and they become anxious. They often feel stigmatized by their choices. I counsel them not to worry. The problem, I tell them, is not behavioral. It is not anything you ate or did. It is not you. The problem is who and what is going on around you. A fundamental transformation is required. You will need to see me at least once a week to work through this. For payment, we accept cash, credit cards and all kinds of insurance and reject none. A copy of my best-selling book “Think Through You: 17 Steps Toward Transcendental Reasoned Being” is available for purchase at the front desk.”

Already feeling chipper, you reschedule and then stop at Starbucks, book under your arm, before going home.

Our Common Problem

 

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see… Genesis 11

To counter the threat of disintegration and to triumph over insignificance, they build a city and a tower “with its top to the heavens. A single “place”, a single “tongue”, and a single “tower” will provide the pillars for a centralized political, economic, and religious system with universal pretensions. Humanity will be securely unified and great. -Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

 

On the plain of Shinar the whole world acted out of fear. The whole world feared loss of group identity through scattering. They feared the differences that would evolve once “scattering” began. Out of fear the whole world decided that they needed to build a towering edifice as a symbol of their identity and intransience. Out of fear, the whole world acted like the woman who believed that having a child would solidify her identity and her relationship with a guy.

For their One World Project it could be assumed that the people living on the plain of Shinar used clay and straw for their bricks. The plain had stones but they were likely smooth river stones. Shinar translated literally is “country of two rivers”, the two rivers being the Tigris and Euphrates. River stones were not going to work for a towering monument to themselves and for their socialized labor effort. Besides, to achieve structural integrity for both the tower and a One World society, the bricks and the people had to be uniform or be tossed onto the rubbish pile.

We learn from Genesis 10:8-10 that the Land of Shinar was the site of the kingdoms founded by Nimrod. We also learn that the name-making business had already started with Nimrod:

 Cush became the father of Nimrod, who was the first on earth to become a powerful man.  He was a powerful animal-killer in the eyes of the Lord. So, it is said, “Like Nimrod, a powerful animal-killer in the eyes of the Lord.”  The beginning of his nation was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

The tower was meant to create a unifying One World name for the people. We never hear of a name later on. Maybe the tower would have been named Nimrod Tower to honor a mighty hunter and self-made man.

The narrator, with tongue-in-cheek, relates “But the Lord came down to see” the finger in His face. In that same narration (Genesis 11:5-9) we learn of a God who is “us”.

Come, let Us go down and mix up their language so they will not understand what each other says.”  So the Lord sent them everywhere over the whole earth.

Why would God mix up their language and then scatter the Shinar plain’s people? Well, God earlier had commanded their forefathers (and remnants of the flood judgment) differently:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.  The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.  Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. – Genesis 9:1-3

In response to a centralized obstinate hunkering down in disobedience tower building people, God confounds their language. The people are scattered, fear and all.

 

Scattering (and moving people out of their comfort zones) happens throughout Scripture. In the next chapter of Genesis (12), we read of the beginning of God’s people:

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

Like the remnant theme, the scattering theme is repeated throughout Scripture. The people of God are scattered into exile when they choose other gods and the ways of the world.

When men or a nation hunkers down as an immovable force and starts going vertical with pride and not horizontal in obedience, God scatters. Read Daniel 2. Daniel reveals the king’s dream. The dream portrays the knocking down of the towering kingdoms man has built up and affixed their name to. God scatters the remains.

To be sure, God doesn’t scatter for the sake of scattering. God is good. Listen to the what the prophet Jeremiah wrote (Jeremiah 29) to God’s exiled (scattered) people:

This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:…

 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

 

“I will be found by you.” Consider how God, by sending his Spirit, communicates (without towers) the gospel at Pentecost to those who had been scattered. From Acts 2:

There were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem at that time. When they heard the noise, they came together in a crowd. They were deeply puzzled, because every single one of them could hear them speaking in his or her own native tongue. They were astonished and amazed

“These men who are doing the speaking are all Galileans, aren’t they? they said. “So how is it that each of us can hear them in our own mother tongues? There are Parthians here, and Medians, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia (the land of Shinar!), Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and parts of Libya that belong to Cyrene; there are people from Rome, proselytes as well as Jews; there are Cretans and Arabs. We can hear them telling us about the powerful things God has done—in our own languages!”

 

Scattered people come together in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. They hear the Apostles speak in their own native tongue. They hear about “the powerful things God has done” (and not about the powerful hunting of Nimrod). They return home to announce the Gospel – “Jesus is Lord” – in their own tongue. They were filling the earth with the knowledge of God.

 

Notice in Genesis 9 (above) that the fear of going without has been lifted off of mankind. Mankind has to choose to live in fear. Yet, when we live in fear and act out of fear we make terrible decisions. We become codependent in relationships. We become sexually involved. We overeat. We make monetary demands of others for socialized this and that. We shun others who are not the same as us. We lie. We steal. We kill. We take revenge. We isolate. We hoard. We surround ourselves with the like-minded. We build mega-churches to make a name for ourselves. We become territorial. We become ultra-nationalistic. We spend our days making bricks of straw and clay for a tower that will symbolize our efforts to secure our brick and straw identity.

By scattering and filling the earth with the knowledge of God, God desires to drive out fear from the whole world as each embrace his perfect love for us. And, God makes an endearing name for the scattered – adopted sons and daughters.

By scattering and filling the earth with the knowledge of God, God desires to prosper us as we seek first His Kingdom and not the kingdom of the clay tower. Man’s vertical projects are always redirected into God’s horizontal filling the earth with the knowledge of God.

God knows that our being scattered, redirected and moved out of our comfort zones involves risks of the unknown. But, God is there. Like Abraham, I want to go into the unknown and follow God to where God is working and communicating. Don’t you? That is the only way for us to experience God’s character and His presence. You won’t gain that experience with your head in the clouds at the top of Nimrod Tower.

 

As people are “fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” they will find the earth full of God’s love. As the Psalmist wrote (Ps. 33:4-5):

For the word of the Lord is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
 The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.

 

~~~~~

Remember:

“We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults. The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one’s life. But anyone who shrinks from that is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being.” G.K. Chesterton

~~~~

Scattering appears to be consistent with God’s character. Consider the creation of the universe. The Big Bang unleashed atomic particles which later formed into mass. The universe continued to expand and so did the evolution of species. Pentecost reminded me of another Big Bang, a Kingdom Big Bang.

Consistent with man’s character: tower building with the accumulating and hoarding of mass.

Because the human heart remains the same throughout millennia there is a current political ideology of “a centralized political, economic, and religious system with universal pretensions.” Progressivism is its name and it is based on fear. It is also based on the fear of scattering.

God’s command mankind to “fill the earth” is certainly not a directive for a One World centralized tower top down collectivism.

For Progressivism to be about “Hope and Change” it must first invoke fear: fear of going hungry, fear of medical bills, fear of going bankrupt, fear of having to pay for one’s college tuition, fear of not being accepted, fear of having to care for an unborn child, the fear of being insecure, and fear of an unapproved of group, to mention just a few of the promoted social insecurities. Progressivism’s answer to fear is to centralize, homogenize and to be given totalitarian authority.

For Progressivism to be about hope and change it must reach the heavens. So, it uses the words of a well-being gospel Jesus (aka, a prosperity gospel). When it invokes Jesus, Progressivism can then justify its means to an end. The means can be socialized medicine, socialized income, and socialized well-being all done under totalitarian control.

The ends are to remove differences in income, differences in thought, and differences in morality. Progressivism suppresses differences that do not fit their narrative. Progressivism seeks to homogenize, repress and to pull suckers into its social tar, the mortar holding the clay bricks together. To build their tower of hope the bricks are to be handmade – formed by all the same to be all the same. The bricks are to laid, one on top of another, until they reach the pinnacle of Tower Utopia.

“With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.” – from FDR’s First Inaugural Address

~~~~

The Tower of Babel…

…reminds me of top down centralized government.

…reminds of the high places mentioned in the OT. They were places where false gods were worshipped.

…reminds me of the Eye of Sauron.

Added 8/21/2018, fixating on a problem:

The belief that everything is getting worse paints a distorted picture of what we can do, and makes us more fearful. But while getting the facts wrong – or willfully misrepresenting them – often results in misguided policies, fact-based recognition of what humanity has achieved encourages policies that can achieve the most good. –  Bjørn Lomborg “A Better World is Here

What Remains to Be Seen

 

The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. Joshua 6:17

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient Hebrews 11:31

One cannot read through Scripture without coming across the remnant theme – God preserving a trace element of faith. And, as you will read, nothing, not even man’s wickedness including that of an idolatrous harlot, will thwart God’s plan for His Creation. His kingdom is forever. Below are just a few of the verses which reveal the Lord’s dealing with man’s unfaithfulness and His deciding to leave a humbled and teachable remnant, as the prophet Ezra described,

“But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.” Ezra 9:8

 

Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. Genesis 7:23

“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.” Joseph, Genesis 45:7

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Joseph, Genesis 50:20

“Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 1 kings 19:18

But some of the poorest people who had nothing, Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard left behind in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at that time. Jeremiah 39:10

Likewise, also all the Jews who were in Moab and among the sons of Ammon and in Edom and who were in all the other countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant for Judah, and that he had appointed over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan. Then all the Jews returned from all the places to which they had been driven away and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and gathered in wine and summer fruit in great abundance. Jeremiah 40:11-12

…and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Please let our petition come before you, and pray for us to the LORD your God, that is for all this remnant; because we are left but a few out of many, as your own eyes now see us,…” Jeremiah 42:2

“But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.” Ezra 9:8

“After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and our great guilt, since You our God have requited us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us an escaped remnant as this, Ezra 9:13

‘I am with you,’ declares the LORD. So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, Haggai 1:14

“The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you.” Deuteronomy 4:27

“For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return; a destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness.” Isaiah 10:22

‘One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them. “Ezekiel 5:12

As they were striking the people and I alone was left, I fell on my face and cried out saying, “Alas, Lord GOD! Are You destroying the whole remnant of Israel by pouring out Your wrath on Jerusalem?” Ezekiel 9:8

For thus says the Lord GOD, “The city which goes forth a thousand strong Will have a hundred left, And the one which goes forth a hundred strong Will have ten left to the house of Israel.” Amos 5:3

“Unless the LORD of hosts had left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, We would be like Gomorrah.” Isaiah 1:9

“The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. “For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant and out of Mount Zion survivors The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 37:31-32

“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem There will be those who escape, As the LORD has said, Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls. Joel 2:32

“Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. Isaiah 10: 20-21n; A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. “Isaiah 10:22

Now let’s turn to last Sunday’s Gospel reading, John 6: 1-21. As I listened to the reading I was reminded of the persistent remnant theme in Scripture. This theme is clearly evident in the two events described by John, though the miracles are what usually capture people’s attention: the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water.

The feeding of the five thousand:

After multiplying the loaves and fishes of a boy’s lunch to feed a vast crowd, Jesus tells his disciples (the Twelve) to gather up the remnants. The remnants fill twelve baskets. Isn’t it interesting that God’s people Israel belong to twelve tribes? The remnants, the twelve tribes are later enshrined in the Holy City of Jerusalem:

It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Revelation 21:12

 

Jesus walking on the water:

The disciples are on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. A furious squall whips up. The possibility of capsizing terrifies the men. Then, they see Jesus walking toward them. He is walking on the water! (Jesus, the Creator, had just multiplied organic compounds – loaves and fishes – to feed the many and now he modifies water, an inorganic compound, to reach and secure the few). As the disciples reach toward Jesus to pull him aboard (where they perhaps thought he would again calm the sea) they immediately reach where they were going – the other shore. The storm is not quieted as before. But that is of no matter. What matters is that another humbled and teachable remnant is saved.

 

The recurring remnant theme tells me that God is sovereign. God oversees the works of His hands. Nothing escapes his attention. God is involved with you and me. He supplies food and sure-footedness. The remnant theme also tells me beyond any doubt that the wicked and evil will be dealt with and be removed to where they need to go. The faithful will be gathered up and brought safely to where they need to go. And, another humbled and teachable remnant is saved – me. Everything is under His control. And that is what remains to be seen …by faith.