AND GOD SPOKE

AND GOD SPOKE

Sunday, October 8, 2017

If You Think Sukot is Fun Now Wait ‘Till Jesus Returns


Most Gentiles (non-Jews) don’t know what “Sukot” is so I’ll try to explain.  “Sukot” is what Gentile Christians commonly call “The Feast of Booths” or “The Feast of Tabernacles.  It was ordained by God through Moses, in Leviticus 23:39-44, and like the other festivals outlined in that chapter of the Torah (Pentateuch) it was to be observed annually during the seventh month of Tishre on the Hebrew calendar.  Because the Hebrew Calendar is Lunar, Sukot falls roughly between late September and early October on the Gregorian solar calendar.

Although Sukot is mentioned frequently in the Bible, including Deuteronomy 16:13-15, the way that Sukot is supposed to be observed from a Biblical standpoint is most thoroughly discussed in the Leviticus reference to it.  There, it explains that it was to begin on the 15th day of the month, 5 days after the Day of Atonement (Yom HaKippurim) and after the completion of the summer harvest. The first and eighth day of the festival were to be days of complete rest from entrepreneurial labor.

On the first day, the fruit of beautiful trees, date palm branches, boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook were to be gathered and there was to be rejoicing before the Lord for seven days.  The rabbis took the “fruit of beautiful trees” to be an “esrog”, a lemon shaped and fragrant citrusy species of fruit, and they took “the boughs of thick trees” to be branches of myrtle.

Traditionally, the myrtle and willow species are attached to the lulav, or palm branch.  The esrog is held in the left hand while the three-leafy species are held in the right.  They are brought together and waved before the Lord in a manner indicating the omnipresence of God.

According to Ari Greenspan and Ari Z. Zivotofsky all four of these species require copious amounts of regular irrigation in order to thrive and survive and yet each of them is found in a different ecological habitat… (the palm – desert; willow – river beds; myrtle – mountains; esrog – plains).  The need of these species for water coincides interestingly with other rituals associated with this feast, including thanksgiving and prayer for rain and the pouring out of water libations.1

This emphasis on water finds its way into the New Testament where Jesus, at the Temple during Sukot, launching off the ritual of the water libation, cries out…

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From ihis innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 2
John, in this account, goes on to point out that Jesus’ reference to water, a much-needed commodity, was an allusion to His Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) whose necessity for true life, eternal life… salvation as it were, dwarfs even that of water.
Isaiah reinforces this association of water being linked as a type to salvation when, pointing to the future he writes…

Thus says the Lord who made you
And formed you from the womb, who will help you,
‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant;
And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
‘For I will pour out water on [a]the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants;
3
During the seven days of this feast, the Children of Israel were commanded to live in Sukot or “booths” which were essentially huts made from sticks.  The apparent reason for this was, in God’s own Words,

so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’” (Lev. 23:43)
I believe that there are other reasons for this feast which, to me at least, are even far more exciting. 

The Prophet, Zechariah writes of a time after the last war has been fought and there’s finally peace on earth that

it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them.4
What I find striking about this passage is that in that day, there will be a universal consensus concerning the nature of God.  Furthermore, former enemies of Jerusalem and consequently of one another (seeing that they’re from different nations) will be required to come to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukot.  And, again, how is Sukot supposed to be celebrated?  It is supposed to be celebrated by living for seven days in huts made of sticks!  Now, if my next-door neighbor were my enemy I would want a nice solid brick wall between us.  But how are these former enemies supposed to spend their time in Jerusalem?  They’re supposed to be “camping out” in huts made of sticks, vulnerable to one another and most certainly vulnerable to the one true God of the universe whom they’d been called upon to worship.

And what happens when nations don’t comply with this demand?  The one who controls the weather will give them no rain!  Again, water and salvation are intrinsically tied to Sukot.

In this end-time to which Sukot points and which Sukot will be ultimately celebrated in its fullest, there will also be a great feast of choice wine and meat.  Spiritual blindness will be removed from the eyes of people, death will be swallowed up and God will remove tears from the eyes of all people.

The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain (Jerusalem);
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
And refined, aged wine.
And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,
Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.
And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
5

1 Greenspan, Ari and Zivotofsky, Ari Z. “The Extraordinary History of the Etrog” The Jerusalem Post http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-Features/The-extraordinary-history-of-the-etrog-2179 October, 2015
2John 7:37-38 New American Standard Translation.
3Isaiah 44:2-3 New American Standard Translation.
4Zechariah 14:16-17 New American Standard Translation.
5Isaiah 25:6-9 New American Standard Translation.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Fact that You're Reading This is Evidence Enough to Explain the Miracles of the Bible

Quite often, I'm asked...

"Do you really believe that this guy, Jonah, was three days in the belly of a whale and then got coughed up and made alive again?"

or

"Do you really expect me to believe that Noah could fit all of those animals on an ark?

My answer is, more often than not,  "You know, you're really not much more than $2.00 worth of chemicals.  You're just a combination of Carbon and Nitrogen and Phosphorus and Oxygen, with a little bit of Iron, Potassium and a few other elements like Zinc and Strontium thrown in there.  By all accounts, you should be just an inanimate mass laying on the ground waiting to be blown away by the wind.  But since you had the intelligence to ask me that question, you must be more than just an inanimate mass.  In fact, I would argue that you're a miracle!"

If, as this video shows, the structures that are found in every cell of the body are so beautiful and complex, why is it that such an amalgam of structures can exhibit life at one moment and the same structure fail to exhibit life in another moment (which we commonly call death)?

I suppose that we can attribute the workings of the single cell to laws of chemistry and physics, but in the end, when all is said and done, King David had it right when he said: "I am wonderfully and fearfully made". (Ps. 139:14)

And if, in fact, there is a God who designed not only the intricacies of a cell but the amazing variety of life forms that we know of as well as YOU, my reader, and gave life to $2.00 worth of chemicals, than He can most certainly restore life to a man who'd been in the belly of a fish for 72 hours, or find a way to fit two specimens of every "kind" of animal that exists into a boat of exactly specified dimensions..

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Confession

It is not with reluctance but with a serious level of shame that I have a confession to make.  During Barak Obamas 8-year tenure in the White House I could count the times I prayed for him on one hand if I ever prayed for him at all.

Whether Mr. Obama believes the things he says, or not, only he knows. 

Whether Mr. Obama’s motives are altruistic or intentionally sinister, I believe only God knows.

Personally, and I believe that there’s evidence as far as the eye can see, I would argue that he’s a member of a cabal committed to the destruction of the United States as a major part of an effort to institute a one world government run by self-appointed elitists who’ve already shown themselves to be murderers and liars.

But that does not excuse me from praying for him. 

Hell is a very hot place, it is an understatement to say that those destined to reside there reside there for a very long time, and I shouldn’t wish it on anybody which is perhaps why Paul said to Timothy…

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-3

In fact, it is the very reason why Paul inserted the words “…who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  He also implied that there are consequences for not praying for “kings and all who are in authority”.  The implication is that if we fail to pray for them we will NOT lead tranquil and quiet lives!

And so, for 8 years I conducted a wrestling match with the Holy Spirit…

Me: “But he promised shovel-ready jobs and he knew there were none.”

God: “My Word is a lamp unto thy feet and a light unto thy path. Oh, by the way… 1 Tim. 2:1”

Me: “But God… Look what he did with Fast & Furious, smuggling guns into Mexico, resulting in the death of Brian Terry and he lied about Benghazzi, promoted anarchy, sexual immorality and contempt for police.”

God: “I have ordained My precepts so that you might keep them diligently. Oh by the way… 1 Tim. 2:1.  That’s one of them”.

Me: “But God… his foreign policy has resulted in the deaths and rapes of hundreds of thousands of Christians and Yazids throughout the middle East and North Africa and I have prayed for these people and supported causes to rescue and shelter them”.

God: “Have you not read ‘Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your Name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Oh by the way… 1 Tim. 2:1”

Do you get the picture?  In one very teeny but important manner, let alone many others I’m sure, I have refused to heed the Word of the God who is the judge of the whole earth.  I can rail against Mr. Obamas policies.  I can be angry at him and I’m allowed to be angry, but as the text says… “be angry but sin not”. And how am I sinning? I sin and have sinned by being so angry with the man that I subconsciously attempt to usurp Gods place as his judge and refuse to pray for the mans’ repentance and salvation.  To be honest, I am caught up in my own self-righteousness.  And I did not come to trust in Jesus because I was so smart or so talented or such a fantastically good person.  I came to trust in Jesus because I knew that I was a sinner and I needed His atonement for my salvation before a holy and just God.   

And the mighty King… the ruler of the universe… the one who holds the key to death and hades in His hands, because His Word is unquestionably true, wins the wrestling match.  “You’ve not prayed for kings and all in authority?  I will send you civil war so that you will not have a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity”.

And I assure you, rumblings of civil war are on the horizon.  The future of the United States from one threat or another seems ominous.

I will make a pledge to you.  Yes, I will continue to hate and oppose the agenda of Mr. Obama and his cabal, but I will begin praying for the man and his salvation in the hopes that he might repent and seek the will of God.  Yes… his repentance seems, to me, unlikely, but I’m still commanded to pray for him knowing that God does hear prayer and knowing that God, “not willing for any to perish but for all to come to the knowledge of the truth”, will honor those prayers one way or another.

I also ask a difficult thing of you. If you are an “anti-Trump” kind of guy or gal, you may believe that you have every reason to hate the man and even his policies, but I beg of you to begin praying for him, for wisdom and repentance so that he seeks God’s will and desires His salvation more than anything else. Just maybe God will be gracious and we can avert a civil war. But I dare say… God’s Word is sure and true and sharper than a two-edged sword. Yes, providence is providence, and God’s will will be carried out regardless of what we necessarily want, but failure to play our respective roles not as I, but the Apostle Paul himself, has outlined, and pray for our leaders will only result in disaster.


Oh, by the way, I’ll also be praying for Bill and Hillary.


Thank you for “lending me your ears”.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

HATE = MURDER

Some of us tend to be critical of God for sending a flood to destroy the earth and kill all the people on it.  Of course, some people don’t necessarily believe in that God but would nevertheless argue that if He did exist, they would still be critical of Him for sending that flood.  But, to be honest, what’s there to be critical about?  As an introduction to the “story” of Noah and the ark, there was a small phrase inserted… “and the earth was filled with violence”.  To put it another way, people were killing each other.  What God did by causing a flood was to simply speed up the process of what mankind was already doing to himself, yet in the meantime, rescue one family that was not party to all the violence so that they would not also fall victim to the carnage that was going on at that time.

Even that one family that survived the flood had some make-up within its spiritual DNA that aroused a tendency toward evil.  The descendants from that one family still were prone to selfishness, anger, defensiveness, lack of forgiveness and all those elements that make us prone to violence.  But one might say “I’ve never practiced violence.  I’ve never felt hatred towards anyone.”  I ask rhetorically, “what if you had no police or army to keep you from being exposed to that violence?  Would you still have a heart filled with pure benevolence towards those who’d harm you because of the absence of military or police protections? Can you guarantee that you would have no feelings of revenge in your soul?”

Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
 (Matthew 5:21-22)

Simply put, Jesus said, “if you hate others, or think even so much as to have an attitude of dismissiveness towards others as (thus, in disdain calling them a fool), you’re guilty enough to go to hell”.

What Jesus said is not anything new.  God, through Moses, said:

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people (members of your nation), but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
(Leviticus 19:19)

The importance of this law is punctuated with God’s declaration… “Ani YHVH”  (I Am… the ineffable Name of God… poorly translated as Lord and often somewhat flippantly mispronounced in many circles).  Putting God’s Name on this law is a declaration as to how utterly important it is to not even bear a grudge but to love instead.

As I’d written here, http://onlyholybook.blogspot.com/2017/05/liberal-guilt-moral-relativism-and.html God had intended for Israel to be a model nation characterized by such a level of peace and prosperity that the other nations could not help but emulate it and, by so doing, discover that there was indeed a God who was worthy of universal worship.  After all, it was this God who himself, had written the constitution for that nation.  This constitution not only had specific verifiable laws such as “leave some of the grain on the fringes of your fields behind after harvesting so that the poor and needy will always have food available to guarantee their well-being” (Leviticus 19:9-10) and “build a fence around the roof of your house so that no one whom you are entertaining will fall off” (Deuteronomy 22:8) but it also had less verifiable laws such as “don’t harbor hate”.

The United States Constitution has no such unverifiable law… “don’t harbor hate”, but the Mosaic law presumed that the author of their constitution, God Himself, being all knowing, also knew the thoughts and intentions of every human heart.  Where the enforcers of law could not accuse an individual of hating for lack of evidence, the omniscient God could and was capable of discerning whether an individual harbored hatred.  And thus, a fearful awe of this God would hopefully inspire the one who’s doing the hating to repent, ask God for forgiveness and seek to rationally, dispassionately and in a non-accusatory manner, seek reconciliation with the one who is the object of his hatred. 

And why would this law against hate (which cannot be perceived by the senses) be inserted as part of ancient Israel’s constitution which we call the Torah?  Because ultimately hate cannot be hidden.  It does manifest itself tangibly eventually in one way or another.  It manifests itself in the form of violence whether it be the result of the hater murdering the object of the hatred directly, or the result of a chain reaction of people taking their aggressions and frustrations out on one another.  It tears people apart, forces people to take sides and ultimately creates unrest, dissention and chaos.  And hate which pervades among the citizens of a nation ultimately results in the nations demise. 

The Law of God given to Israel and reiterated through Jesus is a universal law.  It is applicable regardless of geography, background or time in history.  Hate yields death and seems to be the element that is dividing the world.  And so, allow me, if you will, to ask some rhetorical questions.

Do you hate black people?  If so you’re a murderer in the eyes of God.
Do you hate white people? If so you’re a murderer in the eyes of God.
Do you hate Hispanics or Asians or Jews?  If so you’re a murderer in the eyes of God.

Let’s say there’s a more tangible reason for hatred…

Do you hate conservatives? If so you’re a murderer in the eyes of God.
Do you hate liberals? If so you’re a murderer in the eyes of God.
Are you black and never experienced slavery but hate whites who’ve not only never owned
            slaves but whose ancestors never owned slaves either? If so you’re a murderer in the
            eyes of God.
Are you black and hate whites because they have “white privilege”?  If so you’re a murderer in
            the eyes of God.  The likes of Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Thurgood Marshall and
            Condalisa Rice may just bear witness to the fact that your failure is not because of
            white privilege but the fact that you’d never applied yourself.
Are you Jewish and hate Nazis? If so you’re a murderer in the eyes of God.
Do you hate Muslims? If so you’re a murderer in the eyes of God.  (I would hold that they are
            deceived by an erroneous world view but it is the world view that I’m obligated to hate…
            not it’s adherents.)

Let’s get even more personal…

Do you hate your former spouse because he or she was abusive or a druggie or alcoholic or
            even beat your children?  If so you’re still a murderer in the eyes of God.

No doubt, wrongs done to you can create deep wounds and may make it very easy to harbor hate.  But there is absolutely no justifiable reason for harboring hate.  Hatred has no place in the human heart.  Hate is man’s natural way of responding to being offended.  But God does not want people to react to being offended as they normally do but as they are supposed to react.  And just suppose you were very deeply hurt, you do have a choice… to take it personally and harbor hatred or regard it as a test to see just how much you love God.

If there was one person who deserved to or had an excuse for hating it was Jesus.  He did nothing but good for everyone, yet He was unjustly accused as being evil.  He was whipped so that his raw flesh was exposed.  He was mocked, crucified and mocked some more.  Yet, while dying, He cried out to God “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing”. 

You may have experienced terrible persecution or pain of some sort at the hands of others.  But don’t hate!  You will only accumulate the guilt of murder to your own soul.  There is such a thing as justice.  If you can, pursue justice in a rational and just manner, but without the attitude of pursuing vengeance or vindication.  Ultimately, though, trust that God will mete out perfect justice in His time.  And remember.  You’ve never been as innocent as Jesus.  Neither have you ever endured more than Jesus who nevertheless was quick to forgive.


Do not hate.  Love.  And if you discover that you can’t love, ask Jesus to love for you. As you trust Him, He will.  Your soul depends on it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Homosexuality, Muslim Jihad, North Korea and Light Switches

How could these four topics possibly be related?  I’ll try to explain.

I’m neither a physicist nor an electrician.  I don’t know the ins and outs as to how electricity works and how it is generated.  The only thing that I need to know is that when I walk into a dark room, I can “flick on the light switch” and the light turns on.  Yes, there is a cause and affect i.e. the switch makes a connection allowing for a flow of electrons to reach a light bulb, etc., but I don’t need to know all that.  All I need to know is that the switch turns on the light!

The Book of Exodus gives an account of the Children of Israel encountering an army of Amalekites, their mortal enemy, in the desert.  God tells Moses to go up on a hill and hold his hands up.  While his hands were raised, Israel would be winning and succeeding in rebuffing the Amalekites.  But his arms grew tired and when he dropped his arms, the Amalekites would start winning.  After a stone was placed under him so that he could sit and two men by the names of Aaron and Hur, came alongside him to steady his arms, Israel prevailed, won the battle and the Amalekites retreated.

What happened on the ground to change the tide of the battle, I do not know.  All that I know is that there was a correlation.  Moses’ hand was raised?  Israel would win.  Moses’ hand grew heavy and was lowered down?  The Amalekites would win.  Like that light switch, turning the light on and off, Moses’ hand raised or lowered controlled the progress of the battle.

Leviticus 18 is a notorious chapter in the Bible.  It contains and condemns a list of extreme aberrant sexual behaviors from incest to homosexuality to bestiality.  It is often rightfully used as an argument against contemporary homosexual behavior.  A contention cannot be made that “that was the Old Testament and it doesn’t apply for today” simply because Paul denounces homosexuality as well in Romans chapter1 of the New Testament.  I do not believe that homosexuality calls for the death penalty today.  My reason for saying that is because as I say in this essay, Israel was originally established by God to be a “light to the nations”.  The Torah which was the constitution of a nation that was intentionally placed by God at the crossroads of the ancient trade routes was intended to be the laws of governance for that nation which, by strict adherence to that constitution (thus necessitating severe penalties for those who defiantly broke said constitution) would serve as a beacon to the other nations that there was only one God who was sovereign over all the earth and when people obeyed His laws and statutes they could live in a level of peace, harmony and prosperity unequaled by any culture in history.  The laws of Leviticus 18 are not part of the US Constitution and therefore aren’t required to be civilly enforced.

Nevertheless, the principal in Leviticus 18 still holds.  Sexual immorality was and remains a sign of defiance against the laws of God and consequently the laws of nature.  All people, whether they be Jew or Gentile are subject to these laws (as the following scripture indicates) and just as objects thrown into the air inevitably fall to the ground because of the law of gravity, societies which break the laws of nature suffer less immediate but nevertheless, inevitable and dire consequences.  It was for that reason that the list of behaviors in Leviticus 18 ends the following way:

But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. (Lev. 18:26-28)

It is for this reason why I oppose the LGBT agenda.  All people are sinners and engage in sinful behavior including yours truly.   Homosexuals, if they repent and turn to God will receive the same salvation as anyone else and just like anyone else, if they refuse to repent and turn to God are destined to experience His wrath, just like any other sinner.  That is not the issue here however.  At issue is that that statement at the end of the list in Leviticus 18 is a clarion call.  The nation that allows sexual perversion to run rampant in its midst will die and be overthrown as surely as a ball thrown into the air, falls back to earth.  In essence, sexual perversion run rampant in a society makes the land uninhabitable.  Opposing LGBT is not an issue of one's love for homosexuals.  To make such a claim is likely phony pandering. How can one genuinely claim to love an individual whom one doesn’t know and with whom one doesn’t have a relationship?  Nevertheless, Jesus does indeed, love homosexuals.  He died for homosexuals and offers eternal life to anyone who will receive Him in repentance be he gay or straight.  No!  Opposing the LGBT agenda is a matter of national security!  As stated earlier, “The nation that allows sexual perversion to run rampant will die and be overthrown as surely as a ball thrown into the air, falls back down to earth.”  The way of addressing the LGBT agenda though, is not through litigation or civil punishment but through repentance.

So how is it that rampant sexual perversion in a society will destroy that society?  I don’t have to know the mechanism behind how it happens just as I don’t have to know how a light switch works.  It happens.  It’s inevitable. 

But just in case you have doubts, I ask you to look around you.  The United States has a population of people who don’t know right from wrong (evidence of acceptance of the LGBT agenda).  Hence, they don’t have the discernment to perceive the evils of Islam as a world view.  The American population is naïve.  Islam’s goal is to subjugate the entire world, including the people of US, under the auspices of Sharia law which will deny women rights and will actually demand the deaths of advocates of the LGBT movement.  How’s that for irony?  The US Constitution will be dead, everyone will be required to publicly worship five times a day facing in the direction of an idol in Saudi Arabia and only a very few will experience any level of freedom.

But hey, The United States may not even have the time to fall under the domination of Sharia law.  During what was known as the “Cold War” of the 1950s through 1980s, the world was dominated by a policy called “détente” in which the two most powerful nations in the world, the United States and the Soviet Union, by virtue of the fact that both had the atomic bomb, could blow each other to smithereens.  What prevented that from happening was that the leadership of each country were relatively rational and knew that mutual destruction was far from desirable.  What is different currently is that atomic bombs are now in the hands of irrational nut cases like Kim Jong Un who don’t care if any of their people die so long as they, themselves, survive.  The Mullahs in Iran are even worse.  They look forward to dying believing that they’ll have 72 virgins to play around with in the afterlife.

I’ve been a resident on this planet for a considerable length of time and I have never ever seen a time as dangerous as it is today.  Estimates are such that as high as 85 million people lost their lives during World War II.  Do not doubt me that World War III can break out at any time compliments of Kim Jong Un.  History substantiates that casualties can run in the hundreds of millions and it is not unlikely that you, I, and/or any number of loved ones can be among them!  Theoretically, anything could prevent war from happening... even something which might be perceived by some as miraculous.  Perhaps Kim Jong Un may get sick and die.  Perhaps he may have a change of heart and become a “nice guy”.  Likewise, perhaps, Muslims might universally draw the conclusion that their world view is erroneous.  These are any of many possibilities that could occur to prevent war.  But mark my word.  Untold destruction is inevitable because God will not intervene unless the light switch called repentance is implemented.

You Can’t Impress God. Jesus Set the Bar Too High

Actually, in a very real sense, it was Moses who set the bar too high.  Even to be more precise, it was God, through Moses who set the bar too high.

Do you remember those ten Commandments which the Bible says were written in stone by the finger of God?” Remember that seventh commandment?  You shall not commit adultery?  Jesus said that you not only commit adultery by messing around with someone else’ wife, you commit adultery when you even look with lust at another woman.  Moses really said the same thing.  That tenth commandment the one that says, “you shall not covet”, it basically says You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  Put another way, “you’re not to want anything that belongs to anyone else, including another man’s wife”.  So, I rhetorically ask “Men: how many times a day have you coveted”?  The same goes for women… “how many times a day have you coveted”?

Jesus also equated murder to mere hate.  He said, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Mt. 5:17-18).  God, through Moses, similarly said “‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:17-18)

The above Leviticus reference is particularly difficult for most people.  The text points out that, to avoid ‘hating’, the offended individual must communicate to the offending individual what it was that was offensive.  Obviously, the offending person can respond to the criticism in one of two ways.  He can, in turn, be offended by having been corrected, likely causing the honest person to recoil, or he can receive the criticism graciously using it as a learning experience by which he can improve his character.  Either way, the offended person is required to be honest whatever the outcome.  If he is not honest, and internalizes his grievance, he loses the opportunity to aid in improving the character of his ‘neighbor’, thus leaving his neighbor in a state of sin and he, by internalizing the offense, causes himself to ‘stew’ over the issue, carrying bitterness around with him which, also is sin.

I would posit that Jesus not only taught these principles but practiced them to perfection.  I would also suggest that Jesus, being perfectly honest, offended a lot of the ‘offenders’ whom He corrected and He corrected them precisely because He loved them, love being the ultimate basis for this law.  Consequently, those who were offended by Him harbored hate for Him and ultimately sought His demise which He, in contrast to any other person who ever set foot on the world stage, accepted graciously and with an air of total love and forgiveness towards His accusers.

I would also argue that this one Mosaic law is just one example in which Jesus perfectly practiced every aspect of the Torah, the Torah outlining what was required of the truly righteous man.  For that reason, I like to call him THE Tsaddik... THE righteous man.  In a world, devoid of tsaddikim (righteous men) because as ye ole’ adage goes ‘nobody’s perfect’, There’s one man that stands out as an ensign to the nations (goyim).  As Isaiah said…

“It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
                                                                                                     (Isaiah 49:6)                 

Even as DNA takes random chemicals and elements and, like a template, uses them to replicate itself, so Jesus takes sinful, depraved, proud and self-willed human beings with selfish motives and by, metaphorically speaking, attaching them to Himself, makes them, over time, into a duplicate of His righteousness.  The only caveat to this is that being attached to Jesus must not be superficial but genuine.

In the world we live in today, where people are offended easily, the consequence of all these people being slighted is nothing but anger and strife.  Imagine, if you will however, a world where people know that the bar for righteousness is too high for them to attain God’s acceptance on their own.  What we would have is a world filled with humble people who, if corrected, do not retort with belligerence but respond with thankfulness for having been corrected because it makes them better people.  Relationships between people would be devoid of jealousy and bitterness and filled with acceptance and mutual appreciation.  That is the world that God ultimately wants and will ultimately achieve one day.  And those who throughout history have acquiesced to the knowledge that precisely because the bar is too high, they know that their self-effort at striving after righteousness is therefore futile.  Hence, if they’ve recognized that trusting only in the atoning death of Jesus for His righteousness to be imputed to them, they can be rescued from the wrath of God to one-day experience that world.












Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I Bet You Never Thought That God Was Humble. He Demonstrated It

The Bible makes all sorts of preposterous statements and claims.
It is filled with all sorts of verses such as the following...

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
1 John 1:1-2

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made... The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-3,14

Those verses imply that the authors claimed that Jesus was God. To make such a statement, however, was anathema to the Jews of His day. It gave rise to justification for their wanting to put Him to death. The following verse illustrates that.

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with GodJohn 5:16-18

Claiming to be God or making oneself to be equal with God, was, indeed blasphemy and punishable by death. Indeed Islam, which came 600 years after the compilation of the New Testament, calls this "shirk"... idolatry, also punishable by death.

Nevertheless the Apostle Paul who'd been educated by the great Rabbi Gamalael, of his day, had the audacity to make the following statement.

For in Messiah all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Messiah you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.             
Colossians 2:9-10

Such seemingly preposterous New Testament claims about a man being God, or a plurality of God's nature, or God having a "Son" did not just pop up out of nowhere. A veritable plethora of verses hinting at this sort of claim pervade the pages of the Old Testament as well. The possibility of a plurality in the nature of the one true God is hinted at in the following where God speaks to Himself in the first person plural:

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

Even the Sh'ma of Deuteronomy 6:4, the watchword of the faith of Judaism which declares the oneness of God, in its declaration of the oneness of God, uses the adjective "echod"... which implies a unity which is potentially made of many parts much as one hand is made of a palm, a thumb, fingers, skin, muscles, bones, connective tissue, etc.

Interestingly the Rabbi, Maimonodes of the middle ages, in his contention for the "oneness"of God, in his 13 Articles of Faith, used a different adjective "Yachid" which implies an absolute ONE. In so doing, he resorted to using a term other than the one used by scripture. Hence, one might rightfully ask the question "whom did Maimonodes regard as more authoritative, Torah or Himself"?  And there is one of a number of very important principals in hermeneutics (interpretation)... let the scripture speak for itself.  Don't infuse your interpretation upon the scriptures.

Such verses as the following, imply that God has a "Son"...

“I am weary, God, but I can prevail. Surely I am only a brute, not a man; I do not have human understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One. Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know! Proverbs 30:1-4

Passages such as the following add leverage to the notion that there exists an individual that can manifest Himself as both exalted and yet humanoid...

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. Daniel 7:13

This particular individual, in fact, approached into the presence of the very Ancient of Days (a synonym for God) without even so much as prostrating Himself.

Indeed, the following verse hints of a "Trinity".

16 “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with his SpiritIsaiah 48:16

So, the notion that God could reveal Himself as a man, did not just come out of nowhere. There is Old Testament precedent for it. However such a notion seems to defy logic. It is no wonder that Muslims might question the veracity of the Bible. Judaism, itself, seeks to interpret Tanaach (Old Testament) through Rabbinic eyes and by so doing, avoid, like the plague, the possibility that God could manifest Himself as a man. I would argue that anyone, as the scripture says, "who has eyes to see and ears to hear" can read the text for himself and determine clearly what it has to say.

But even so, maybe this Book that we call the Bible is, in fact, nothing but good (or bad, depending upon one's taste) literature. Maybe it's not divinely inspired at all!
Despite the fact that the Bible has withstood all sorts of tests from scientific to archeological to historical, through well over two millenia, I would like to pursue a line of thought, which, to this day, I don't think has been adequately approached. Somewhat ironically, it is built around the question "What does it mean to be truly human?"
Let's put the Bible to the test. We've already seen the Bible verse Genesis 1:26 which begins with "Let us make man in our image..." According to this text, in some fashion, if the Bible is, in fact, veracious, man was made in such a way that he is like God. If that's the case, how is He presumed to be like God?

The three major monotheistic religions would argue that there are certain things about God upon which they can all agree...

God is omniscient - There's nothing He doesn't know.

God is omnipresent - He's everywhere at the same time.

God is omnipotent - He's all powerful... There's nothing He can't do.

God is self existing - He always was, He is and He always will be forever on into eternity.

God made and created things ex-nihilo, out of nothing.

Such assumed facts about the nature of God (to which I also subscribe) are certainly beyond human capability. No human knows everything, is everywhere at the same time, is self-existent or is all powerful ('though there are many humans who think they are).

This creates a definite conundrum for someone like me who argues that a God of that nature can actually manifest Himself as a baby and later as a man. How can the God who fills the infinite universe take up just 4 liters of space? How could an all powerful God have difficulty bearing the weight of a 30 km. execution stake? How can an all knowing God "Learn obedience" through suffering? (Hebrews 5:8).

My answer may not suffice to convince you. I can't do that anyway, only God can. I can only present my case. And as I've already intimated, it is wrapped up in the question of what it means to be human. Because according to Genesis 1:26 being fully human is, in some way, being like, or in the image of God.
So we humans can't be any of those absolute things that we know characterize God's nature but what about those absolute things that characterize human nature? I think that if we were to look at people today, or throughout history, for that matter, they are decidedly schizophrenic. "How?" you might ask.  People are universally inconsistent.

Sometimes they Love. Sometimes they hate. Most of the time they're ambivalent.

Sometimes they're humble. Sometimes they're arrogant.

This "Yin-Yang" human response to what we commonly call virtue pervades all of our human nature... Sometimes we're patient. Sometimes we're impatient. Sometimes we're generous. Sometimes we're stingy. The list of virtues coupled with their associate vices is quite extensive!

I think it's safe to discern between the virtue and its associated vice as well. For instance...

Clearly Love is preferable to hate or indifference.

Likewise, we can easily discern that humility is preferable to arrogance.

Perhaps I'm mistaken but I think that an objective poll would yield almost unanimous consensus that people would instinctively discern what the virtues are as opposed to their corresponding vices. Yet, in spite of our ability to make such judgments it's, nevertheless, apparently impossible to imagine that anyone could possibly be perfectly humble or loving all the time throughout one's entire life without just a little bit of vice sneaking in somewhere along the way. Such conduct, humanly speaking, would seem impossible to do yet not impossible to conceptualize.

We've looked at omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence etc. and we've seen that these traits of God are absolute. Omnipotence, possibly might be the easiest to illustrate. The physicist defines power as the ability to do work divided by time. Work by definition, is the mass of an object times the distance it is made to travel. Put mathematically...

Power = Mass X Distance
        Time

A rule of mathematics is that as the denominator (time) approaches 0, the value of the equation (Power) approaches infinity.  Hence, if God is able to accomplish any task in no time at all, He is demonstrating absolute power, or omnipotence.

But what if humility, for instance, were measured in absolutes? We pass judgment on individuals and say "this man is humble." This man is not humble". But by what standard can we make that judgment? What is absolute humility? Could an individual's humility be graded according to that standard?

One dictionary definition of humility is "Modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc." It seems from this definition that one must have importance or rank in the first place in order to be modest about it.

So what would be an absolute definition of humility? Allow me to posit a suggestion. You're free to accept it or reject it.

Absolute Humility - God (certainly the zenith of importance or rank) willing to give up all the rights, privileges and accolades that are associate with being God in order to become a perfect servant (the utter expression of modesty) on behalf of His entire creation.

Put into mathematical terms (as was the case with our definition of Power)

Humility = One's actual rank or stature divided by
The importance that one holds onto that rank or stature

Therefore, how would we define Absolute Humility?

Absolute Humility =
                  God (The highest of any possible rank or stature or importance)
   God's relinquishing that stature called "God-ness" and become a perfect servant

Again, as the importance of one's rank (that of being God) approaches zero, Humility approaches infinity.

This is entirely consistent with what Paul said referring to Jesus...

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:6-11

In reality, God is both our God and our servant. "Such blasphemy" you might say! But, think about it. Is it not God who gives us life? Is it not God who gives us breath and the food we put on our table? By doing so, is He not serving us?  Without Him serving us, we could not live.

Yes, we can declare the power, might, glory majesty and sovereignty of God. But part of that glory and majesty is caught up in the reality that He is THE perfect servant of His creation. If we lose sight of His servant-hood towards us, we can't even begin to scratch the surface of what it means to worship Him!

In both science and philosophy there exists a phenomenon called an "antinomy". An antinomy is a clash between two totally opposing contradictory rules or phenomena which are derived rationally or even experimentally and are, in and of themselves, totally rational and indisputable. In essence, two irrefutable laws are mutually incompatible. Emanuel Kant, for instance was able to rationally argue that time had no beginning. On the other hand, he rationally contested that time did have a beginning. Both assertions are true, yet they both contradict one another and are mutually incompatible.

If we can't understand Time, therefore, how can we even begin to understand God?

If there's one thing that I know for sure... it's that I am not God. How could God, who governs the infinite vast universe, who's power, wisdom and knowledge is limitless, at the same time, take the form of a baby occupying 4 liters of space? How could this eternal God endure death while still governing the universe? I do not know the answers to such questions. I'm not God.

Yet, I know, for instance that God desires for each and every person that He's created to demonstrate the virtues that make up our humanness... humility being one of them. Furthermore, when we fail at manifesting this virtue, we are without excuse because God, Himself, showed us that it can be done. If Genesis 1:26 is true, therefore, by virtue of the fact that we were made in God's image, we are required to reflect that image perfectly. Hence, in light of our failure, we are deserving of nothing but eternal condemnation.

But God, as has already been alluded to, possesses absolute virtues that we humans inadequately display as part of our humanity which are really poor reflections of God's nature. the actual umbrella for these virtues is love. And for us, as we shall see (if we don't already know), love is necessary for our well-being.

Hence, I ask... "What would be the definition of perfect love? Does God manifest this virtue perfectly as well?"

Might I suggest that perfect love be defined, not just as love for one's friends or family but for all people, including complete strangers and even the bitterest of enemies. This love has total empathy for the condition of even these enemies and is so self-less and concerned about the well-being of the "other" that it's willing to absorb the punishment that is rightfully due the objects of that love for whatever wrong actions and attitudes of which they might be guilty.

Put another way (according to our mathematical method of communication)...

Absolute Love = Willing endurance of punishment deserved by the one loved (times) Everyone
(since everyone is loved)

NOTE: As the number of objects of love grows larger, love grows larger.  In light of that I would say that "everyone" is a pretty large number!
Put another way... God manifested absolute love by being willing to endure the punishment deserved by everyone. And what is this punishment? From our discussion of humility we've concluded that lack of humility deserves condemnation. Now take that virtue and multiply it by all the other virtues and I think it's safe to say that our ineptness at practicing the virtues we were created and supposed to demonstrate leaves us deserving of eternal condemnation.

But Jesus, having taken on this condemnation Himself, rescues us from its consequences.

Paul alluded to this when he said...

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Messiah's physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation
Colossians 1:21-22

So what are we to conclude, having said all this? God is ONE (Echod). This remains a constant, goes without saying, and is irrefutable. However, If GOD had not manifested Himself as an entirely human individual, capable of and, in actuality, perfectly practicing the virtues that inherently are part of our humanity, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN INCONSISTENT WITH HIS NATURE.

It is commonly said that "to love someone is to know that someone". In Deuteronomy, we've been commanded to "love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength". But how can we love God if we don't know Him? Jesus said to one of His disciples "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father". Conversely, if you don't know Jesus there is no way that you can know the Father.
Furthermore, if we willfully choose not to know Jesus, we've willfully chosen not to love the Father and our eternal condemnation remains on us.

It is my hope that you would choose to know Jesus.