FAMILY

 

The beauty of complementary otherness within the Godhead shines forth in its ideal representation of family. I attempted to capture the essence of that beauty in my novel Buddy, where in Chapter 20 I repeated a blog that I had posted on my site friendofthefamily.wordpress.com entitled The Marriage of God with God. Excerpts are presented below.

“In previous postings I have raised the question of why God’s Trinitarian nature, a facet of Him that is accepted without question by mainstream Christianity, is so vaguely defined in Scripture. I also raised a companion question as to why, in the face of this apparently feeble portrayal of the Trinity, both Moses and Jesus declared with passion the oneness of God. I then presented the obvious answer, which was that the loving union of male and complementary female produces unity from multiplicity, a unity that continues with the fruit of the union. In this context and only in it, the description of the Trinity in Scripture isn’t feeble at all; it’s quite strong. Given that basic understanding, the wonderful truth about the Holy Trinity is expressed openly throughout Scripture beginning in Genesis 2:23 and 24:

“’And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.

“’Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.’”

“To the above I add the following:

“God Himself through Scripture has provided man with certain specific images of His nature by which He apparently wishes us to understand and appreciate Him. First among these is His ability to give and to receive love. Fundamental to the exercise of that ability is the family structure, within which we have the ability to intuitively understand a corresponding relationship among the Members of the Godhead itself as well as of the relationship between God and mankind. The family is the singular means within our comprehension by which separate individuals may become component elements of a greater whole, a oneness in love that both transcends the individual person and extends his own significance.

“As the communication and functional harmony within the family approach the highest ideal of which humans are capable, in the setting of selfless love at an equally ideal level, the individuality of its component members blurs. All become subordinate to but vital elements of the greater entity called family, which itself takes on a life of its own. If the love, communication and harmony within this entity are perfect, an impossibility with mankind but perhaps a defining quality for God, one would expect a spiritual unity and mutual identification so complete that the component members could no longer rightly be thought of as separate individuals. The divine Family, in which the various Members would identify perfectly with each other as if the individual boundaries did not exist, would have its own unique identity and life.

“God, in this context, is truly one God.”

Given the family nature of the Godhead, the commandment to love this God fervently becomes natural and effortless. Indeed, as I had commented in Part 2, Chapter 2 of Family of God, within our own families we see positive attributes of our own that arise from the family relationship.

“Under the extraordinary circumstances of disaster or war, a man might bond with his companions through the sharing of hardships and fear. In some cases, this bond may become so close that he will lay down his life for them. But the individual character and the conditions that might bring this about are so unique that medals are granted for altruism of this order. More typically, man is, at best, indifferent to the welfare of his neighbors and acquaintances. At his worst, he regularly places those with whom he is in contact at a disadvantage for his own profit, caring little about his victims’ consequent loss and discomfort. He lies, cheats, covets, and steals, doing these things with impunity under a pragmatic and often twisted legal system. He may do them with little sense of wrongdoing. Hidden behind the mask of a false face or the tinted glass of his automobile, he often indulges in nasty, mean-spirited thoughts: he hates; he is quick to take offense and visualize a bad end for the offender. In this manner he might, in his mind, break most of God’s commandments without hesitation during a simple drive from home to work.

“But there is a unique relationship in which that same individual will often behave in an altogether more altruistic manner. That relationship is with his family, his spouse and children. Historically, most people on earth have willingly belonged to this unit, exercising their responsibilities to it and taking pleasure and comfort from it. The individual intuitively understands and accepts the principle that while every member of the family unit deeply and permanently belongs to him, he also belongs to them in the same way. He accepts as natural the principle of sharing: of shared responsibilities, shared activities and recreation, shared possessions and, most importantly, shared intimacy. Within the impositions and limitations of the larger society to which he belongs, the individual will also usually accept as natural and beneficial that particular division of function and labor which will result in the most secure and orderly maintenance of the family unit. Beyond that, he will often behave as nobly as the heroic soldier in the protection of his family members from harm.”

In thinking of our Judeo-Christian God as a Divine Family as Scripture suggests, I gladly and without reservation worship Him with the fervor of the Great Commandment.

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THE FIRST LIGHT OF CREATION

 

In Revelation 3, the risen Jesus delivers to John an admonishment regarding the seventh Church of His concern, the Church of Laodicea. In His description of that Church, He bypasses His usual format by omitting any mention of commendation. Of the seven Churches over which Jesus prophesied, only Sardis and Laodicea received that implicit chastisement. The Church of Laodicea, in fact is often cited by scholars of the Bible as representative of the fallen state of the Church at the time of the end of the age.

Focused on the characteristics of the Laodicean Church, scholars typically overlook the nature of the label that Jesus applied to Himself in verse 14, which is odd because that statement contradicts the traditional doctrine of the mainstream Christian Church in a very important area.

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.”

According to the Athanasian Creed and implicit in the others, including the Nicean Creed, Jesus had no beginning in time. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were supposedly co-existent throughout eternity, none having been created. While in one sense that may be true, if one considers the pre-existence of one to include presence within another Being, that is not the usual interpretation of the creed as understood by the mainstream Churches, both Catholic and Protestant: Jesus and the Holy Spirit existed forever as separate Entities alongside the Father.

Yet there in Revelation 3:14 Jesus directly claims the opposite. If one must choose between a creed, which itself is extra-Scriptural, and Jesus, the very embodiment of truth, the obvious choice is Jesus.

The understanding that Jesus was created carries with it some very important collateral implications. In opposition to the mainstream Church’s insistence upon God being genderless, which itself implies that procreation is a non-existent feature of the heavenly realm, this contradictory understanding implicit in Revelation 3:14 solidifies the notion of the Holy Spirit’s femininity, which, in turn, supports the characterization of the Holy Trinity as the embodiment of Family, complete with the function of procreation. The procreated Entity, in that context, is none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father and of the Holy Spirit.

This identification clarifies a functional issue: do the members of the Holy Trinity have the same or different functions, and if they are different, what are they? In the family context, with procreation on the table, the functions are indeed different, much as in an earthly family. Scripture itself identifies the Holy Father as embodying the divine Will. Scripture in John 6:38-40 exemplifies this association:

“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the Father’s will who hath sent me, that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him who sent me, that everyone who seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

As divine spouse of the Father within the divine Family, the Holy Spirit must not only be feminine but must embody a function that represents the perfect complement in the procreative sense. That would necessarily define the functional attribute of the Holy Spirit as one which would enable the implementation of the Father’s will. A word for this enabling function would be “means”. Thus the divine will, in union with the divine means, creates the Holy Son, the divine actuality Jesus Christ. It is Jesus, the divine implementation resulting from the union of will and means, who came into the created universe and represents the actuality of creation. John’s Prologue, verses one through eighteen of John 1, says nothing less:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shone in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men though him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness to that Light.

That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came to his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them who believe on his name; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.

John bore witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spoke, He that comes after me is preferred before me; for he was before me. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.”

In addition to declaring Him to be the actuality of creation, John’s Prologue equates Jesus to both the Word and the Light. Given the nature of Jesus in this passage that is so fundamental to creation itself, is there a context within the creation epic of Genesis in which Jesus is both the Word and the Light? The account in Genesis 1:14-19 that the sun and moon were created on the fourth day of creation places these bodies as having been created later than other events; while it doesn’t implicate Jesus as the Word and the Light, an earlier passage does, that of Genesis 1:3-5, and it is the first act of creation, following references to God and the Spirit working together:

“And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

In this passage God speaks. His first Word is the will for Light. We can assume from this that the Holy Spirit responded with the birth of the Light, the implementation of the Word of God – Jesus Christ, who acknowledged His birth in Revelation 3:14.

Is the Holy Spirit associated with birth elsewhere in Scripture? Yes, and directly indeed, from John 3:3-8 and Colossians 1:15:

“Jesus answered, and said unto [Nicodemus], Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time unto his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again. The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but can not tell from where it comes, and where it goes; so is every one who is born of the Spirit.”

“[Jesus], who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;”

Given the obvious nature of birth as a feminine function, Jesus and Paul here directly identify the Holy Spirit as feminine. Proverbs 8:22-31 is a more detailed and beautifully intimate narrative, delivered from the perspective of a feminine source, of the Holy Spirit’s function as complementary to the Father’s:

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth – when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when he gave to the sea its decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth.

“Then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delight was with the sons of men.”

OTHERNESS

 

The various Christian creeds have a number of things in common, one of which is that while for the most part they conform well to the essence of Scripture, they are in fact extra-Scriptural. They make some statements that don’t quite match up with Bible teachings. In one major issue, in fact, they oppose the clear teaching of Scripture. This issue is time, or sequence.

In this issue of time, the Nicene Creed and others like it claim that Father, Son and Holy Spirit coexisted from eternity past. The implication is that they coexisted forever, or to state it in a firmer way, there was never an occasion where they didn’t exist apart from each other. But that implication runs against the grain of Genesis in general and Revelation 3:14 specifically, in which Jesus asserts that He is the beginning of creation. This assertion of Jesus is a claim that harmonizes with Genesis 1 and John’s Prologue, in which Jesus is the first light of the spoken Word.

Paul, speaking of Jesus in Colossians 1:15, echoes that assertion:

“Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;”

This issue is anything but trivial. As co-existing Entities, and either genderless or weakly-gendered as well, each Member of the Godhead in the eyes of the creeds is self-sufficient with regard to attributes, powers and commitment to the others, and fully God in a manner identical with the others. This perceived self-sufficiency creates a situation that profoundly opposes the intrinsic nature of God.

Scripture often speaks out against the sin of pride. Proverbs, for example, has much to say against pride, as exemplified in Proverbs 8:13, 11:2, 13:10, 14:3 and 16:18:

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the perverse mouth, do I hate.”

“When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the lowly is wisdom.”

“Only by pride comes contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom.”

“In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride, but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.”

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Despite the numerous instances in Scripture where God speaks out against the sin of pride, an eternally coexistent, individually self-sufficient Godhead renders it difficult for the Christian to understand and appreciate the unity in love implicit in Jesus’ Great Commandment, Mark 12:28-30, which echoed God’s Word through Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5:

“And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and all your strength: this is the first commandment.”

In attempting to maximize the majestic attributes of God, the founders of the creeds minimized the attributes of God of most importance, their selflessness and humble nature. Earlier, in Mark 7:6-9, Jesus spoke out against teaching doctrines of men in the place of Scripture:

“[Jesus] answered and said to [the Pharisees], Well has Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups; and many other such things you do. And he said to them, Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.”

Apparently not much was changed from the time of the Pharisees to the time that Christianity became legal and began taking over the affairs of men.

The problem of eternally co-existent, self-sufficient Members of the Godhead is that such an arrangement would support the narcissim of each Member. Moreover, that situation would tend to convey to Christians that same self-centered characteristic within the Godhead.

For that reason, otherness within the Godhead is an absolutely necessary feature. How much more representative of the tenor of Scripture to impute complementary otherness between Father and Holy Spirit, where they are strongly bound together by love, a love that bears fruit in Jesus Christ, their only-begotten Son!

COMPASSION

 

God often chided the Israelites for adhering to ritual worship while foregoing the far more important compassion and mercy embedded in the spirit of the law. In Proverbs 21:3, Isaiah 11:1-17 and Malachi 3:5, for a small sample, God speaks about this issue:

“To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”

“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me? Says the Lord; I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination to me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot bear; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they are a trouble to me, I am weary of bearing them. And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; but away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil. Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”

“And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, and widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, says the Lord of hosts.”

Jesus displayed His honor of compassion in His parable of the good Samaritan, recounted in Luke 10:30-37. He added further depth to the account by having the compassionate person a Samaritan, one who was looked down upon by the Jews, contrasting him with Jewish religious elites, who failed to follow the spirit of Jewish law.

“And Jesus, answering, said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day, when he departed, he took out ten dollars, and gave them to the host, and said to him, Take care of him; and whatever you spend above that, when I come again, I will repay you.

“Which, now, of these three, do you think was neighbor to him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He who showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus to him, Go, and do you likewise.”

Jesus, of course, honored mercy and compassion in His own doing as well as His speaking by offering His own body as a substitutionary atonement for the wrongdoings of a helpless human race. He also showed compassion in other ways, such as His mercy toward Peter, who had denied Him three times during His incarceration. In John 21, Jesus forgave Peter three times for that, and Peter went on from there not only to fulfill Jesus’ parting commandment to feed His sheep, but also to become a giant of a Christian in the process.

The account of Joseph in Genesis 37 through 45 is an early portrait of Jesus’ compassionate nature. It foretells in detail the tender love that Jesus showed, even toward those who hated Him.

“Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them who stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known to his brethren. And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said to his brethren, I am Joseph; does my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were terrified at his presence. And Joseph said to his brethren, Come near to me, I ask you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.

“Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that you sold me here; for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years has the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in which there shall neither be plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me here, but God: and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”

But the account of Joseph involves more than this central character. Joseph’s revelation of himself before his brothers was triggered by another compassionate event that pointed to Jesus as well, the offer of Judah, Jesus’ forefather, to offer his substitutional enslavement in place of his youngest brother Benjamin, just as Jesus died in our place on the cross.

God’s focus on compassion often links it with selflessness. But there is another factor in compassion: in its concern for others, it involves love of pure selflessness.

SELFLESSNESS

 

In Israel’s confrontation with the Philistines, David demonstrated a selfless nobility that was highly pleasing to God. The account begins in 1 Samuel 17:1-14:

“Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Socoh, which belonged to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephesdammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and encamped by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.

And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was almost ten feet. And he had a helmet of bronze upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was about one hundred pounds. And he had shin armor of bronze upon his legs, and carried a javelin of bronze between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed ten pounds of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him. And he stood and cried to the armies of Israel, and said to them, Why are you come out to set your battle in array? Am not I a Philistine, and you servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants,; but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall you be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.

When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.

Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-judah,whose name was Jesse, who had eight sons; and the man went among men as an old man in the days of Saul. And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle; and the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab, the first-born, and next to him, Abinadab, and the third, Shammah. And David was the youngest; and the three eldest followed Saul.”

David was kept back from the challenge because of his youth and size. Instead, he was told to tend the family sheep. In modern terms, it was like he was told to stay in the car. But at one point Jesse told David to take some food to his brothers at the battleground, where Goliath held forth for forty days mocking the fearful Israelites, none of whom wanted to do battle with the giant of Gath. While he was with his brothers, Goliath was indulging in trash-speak about the Israelites and their God, while the Israelites continued to cower. The account continues with Saul offering a reward to anyone brave enough to face Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17:26 David responds:

“And David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

When Saul heard of David’s response, he sent for him, whereupon David volunteered to face the giant. When Saul told him that he was too inexperienced to go against Goliath, David told him about how, during his shepherding duties, he had killed a lion and a bear that had threatened his flock. The record continues as David addresses Saul and then takes to the field in verses 36-50:

‘Your servant slew both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said, moreover, The Lord who delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said to David, Go, and the Lord be with you. And Saul armed David with his armor, and he put a helmet of bronze upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword upon his armor, and he attempted to go; for he had not tested it. And David said to Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not tested them. And David put them off.

“And he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones out of the brook; and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a wallet; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near the Philistine. And the Philistine came on and drew near to David; and the man who bore the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. And the Philistine said to David, Am I a dog, that you come to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.

“Then said David to the Philistine, You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day will the Lord deliver you into my hand; and I will smite you, and take your head from you; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day to the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.

“And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew near to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took from there a stone, and slung it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sank into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.”

Some unbelievers are fond of pointing out what they think is a discrepancy in this account that renders it a fable, the mention of five stones when David only used one. Why five stones, they ask in contempt of the Word. The reason why David picked up five stones is because Goliath had four brothers. David was arming himself to do battle with all five.

In this account, David surely exercised his faith, and demonstrated an abundance of courage as well. But he did something else besides: he kept his eye on the Lord instead of himself, taking offense at the ease with which the Philistine denigrated his beloved God. In modern-day accounts of the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor for their valor on the field of battle, there continue to crop up the medals awarded posthumously to those who knew that they were to die in the process of saving others, but who did so willingly, their minds focused on their brothers’ peril rather than their own.

Jesus spoke in John 15:13 of this selfless nobility:

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

COURAGE

 

To fear the Lord is to understand His reality, and the greatness of His Being. That fear however, is tempered with a companion knowledge of His goodness, permitting that fear to banish from the mind the fear of anything else. According to Proverbs 1:7, it fosters wisdom.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Fear of the Lord supports courage. God treasures that quality of character, as exemplified in Joshua 1:5-9, where God speaks to Joshua as he replaces Moses as leader of the Israelites in their journey into the land promised to Abraham by God.

“There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you, nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage; for unto this people shall you divide for an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be you strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law, which Moses, my servant, commanded you; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. Have not I commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be you dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim was given that position of leadership upon the passing of Moses because, through his faith in God, he stood with only Caleb of Judah in support of their entry into the Promised Land out of the twelve tribal representatives who went into the land to spy it out. When they returned from their venture, only Joshua and Caleb had the courage to recommend that they go into it and conquer it.

Two years into their wilderness wanderings, the Israelites stopped over at Kadesh-Barnea while the twelve tribal representatives went into the land of Canaan to spy out the produce and the people who inhabited it. They returned with news that the land was lush and productive, but the people there were giants. While Joshua and Caleb stood firm in their trust in God, the other ten were afraid and, weeping in abject terror, convinced the nation to hold back from entering the land. God did just that – He kept them in the wilderness for another thirty eight years, waiting for a full forty years from the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, until the last of that generation died out save Joshua and Caleb. For his valor God awarded Caleb Hebron, the final resting place of the Patriarchs and their primary wives, and the location of David’s first throne. For the valor of Joshua, God awarded him leadership over Israel upon the death of Moses.

The journey of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan was a real event; it also was a type of every Christian’s personal journey from sin to salvation and fellowship with God. Our individual journeys involve our development of character from the secular traits of self-service, avoidance of trouble, greed and indifference toward others to the more noble qualities set before Christians. This process of growth demands the heavy involvement of the Holy Spirit, but also asks of the individual personal courage and eventually results in the Christian’s own possession of valor.

Jesus Himself set the standard for courage. Knowing that He was God and understanding with excruciating clarity what lay ahead, yet for our sakes He submitted Himself to disgrace and great suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane, according to Matthew 26:36-39, He revealed His knowledge of the horror to come upon Him.

“Then came Jesus with [His disciples] to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, Sit here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very depressed. Then he said to them, My Soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death; stay here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Faith and courage are very close in nature, but there is a subtle difference. Faith involves a willingness to believe, even in times of stress when it might be thought of as beneficial to give up that belief. Courage involves faith to the extent of casting out fear, but also requires the ability to do something unpleasant, of which the flesh protests.

Persecuted Christians everywhere must exercise courage to stand fast in their faith.

FAITH

 

Faith is the ability to understand that the God of Judeo-Christian Scripture truly exists, to want that God to exist, to the point that enough Scripture is read and digested to understand intuitively that God does, indeed, exist. Faith also accepts as real and welcome the work of the Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers. Moreover, faith involves the ability to appreciate that a better world exists, the spiritual one in which God plays such a vital and loving part. Faith includes the ability to value valor over wealth. Faith is explained in a noble manner in that great Hall of Faith chapter, Hebrews 11:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders received witness. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he being dead yet speaks. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.

“By faith Noah . . .By faith Abraham . . .By faith Isaac . . . By faith Jacob . . . By faith Joseph . . . By faith Moses . . .

“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets. Who, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again, and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tested, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was not worthy); they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

“And these all, having received witness through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

Abel’s offering to God was more excellent than Cain’s because of his more noble understanding of what would be pleasing to God, which came from his greater faith. Even back then, Abel understood that God Himself would have to die sacrificially in the place of fallen and helpless mankind to bring him back into fellowship with God. He knew that and sacrificed an animal, one of God’s creations, in honor of that future event, long before Abraham attempted to sacrifice Isaac and Moses instituted the Passover in commemoration of that same great sacrifice that Jesus made.

Cain failed to understand that same helplessness of man; he thought that he could please God through the fruit of his own labors. There are sects that attempt to do that today: storm the gates of heaven through their own efforts.

Enoch pleased God through his faith. His translation from Earth into Heaven without death was equivalent to what we look forward to today: the rapture of the Church, as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

“Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them who are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also who sleep in Jesus God will bring with him. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not precede them who are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.”

Jesus Himself stressed the importance of faith, often attributing the faith of those whom He healed to their restoration. In Luke 18:42, Jesus heals a man, and then tells him that he was saved through his faith:

“And Jesus said to him, Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.”