Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

ARGUMENTS BASED ON FALSE PREMISES

 

If we’ve managed to shove the 800-pound “He”-issue gorilla out the door, there’s still a few 200-pound gorillas lurking in the corners of the room.

Scriptural references to gender neutrality: Two such references stand out in particular: Galatians 3:28, which declares that in the spiritual realm humans are neither male nor female, and Matthew 22:30, in which Jesus asserts that in the resurrection, men and women neither marry nor are given in marriage. These passages are frequently interpreted as declaring that the realm of God in heaven is genderless.

The obvious alternative interpretation, which also is a more logical one, is that while individual humans aren’t gendered in the spiritual realm, their aggregate, as the Church, is indeed gendered, that gender being female. Paul himself, in describing spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, depicts spiritual humans as components of the church, likening them to body parts such as ears. Body parts of themselves are not gendered. In the material realm, the exercise of gender requires a multitude of body parts, including the mind, interacting in close cooperation. Scripture indicates that this is precisely how gender works in the spiritual realm. That being the likely case, the Scriptural references noted above make no statement whatsoever about a supposed lack of gender in the spiritual realm.

Wisdom associated with the Holy Father as a personal attribute: To those who consider the Godhead to be either masculine or genderless, the intra-Godhead bond is seen in somewhat similar terms to that which may be found in a corporate boardroom. In that context, in Jeremiah 10:12, where God describes His creation as being made by His power and wisdom, those descriptors are naturally interpreted as His personal attributes.

But there is an alternate interpretation that not only makes more logical sense, but is beautifully descriptive. In that alternate interpretation which again is obvious, the Father and Holy Spirit are considered to be a tightly-bonded couple, each possessing the other in a romantic relationship. Under that alternate understanding, the Holy Spirit, along with Her attributes of Wisdom and Power, are naturally seen as an intimately-loved possession of the Father, and therefore belong to Him as part of Him in the same context as Adam’s understanding of Eve and his description of two joining to become one.

The personification of Wisdom in Proverbs is often interpreted as simply a literary device: Those who would deny the femininity of the Holy Spirit correspondingly deny the Personhood of Wisdom. Instead, they view the feminine voice of Wisdom in Proverbs as a literary embellishment of the wisdom of God.

An alternate and more reasonable interpretation exists here as well. It is supported by Jesus Himself who in Luke 7:35, in opposition to the interpretation of wisdom as a mere literary device, confers motherhood on Wisdom. Motherhood is an eminently personal attribute, was well as being a hallmark of femininity. Jesus more emphatically personifies wisdom in Luke 11:49 and 50, having Her speak and perform actions.

Femininity is viewed as inappropriate to Godhood: This slanderous, misogynistic rebuke of womanhood is surprisingly common among theologians. Paul’s commentary in 1 Corinthians 14 on the role of women in Church (“it is a shame for women to speak in the church”) is often taken as justification for this view.

Given Paul’s beautiful description of the future spiritual woman, the Church, in Ephesians 5, and his friendship with many women and use of them in Church activities, his probable intent with regard to womanhood is much more benign than the usual interpretation of this passage would suggest.

My view in opposition to that stance attributed to Paul, as I had noted in Marching to a Worthy Drummer, sees Eve’s error in the Garden as a transgression on her proper role as a type of the feminine Holy Spirit by failing to limit her responsive role to that of the will of either her husband Adam or of the Holy Father. In that context, Paul’s commentary in 1 Corinthians 14 actually supports a feminine Holy Spirit.

God is above the passion that a gendered Godhead would suggest: This view arose from the attempt to purify the Church of all sexuality. It was supported by Augustine and other Church Fathers and, centuries later, was formalized by medieval cleric Jerome Zanchius in his tome on Absolute Predestination. This work consulted very little, if any, Scripture.

Scripture itself provides a rich source of alternate viewpoints, all of which endow God with passion, including love, possession, anger and sorrow. Examples include Exodus 32:10, Hosea 1, Matthew 19, 21, 23 and 26, and Luke 24. Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Matthew 19 indicated a familiarity beyond His human form with love and its implications regarding inter-gender relationships. He was fully aware of the passionate nature of the marital bond and went so far as to claim (Matthew 19:6) that the source of the bond was God Himself.

The grammatical “she” in the Hebrew language does not necessarily indicate femininity: There has been much ado made by deniers of femininity in the Godhead about the fact that some objects are given feminine designators when no actual femininity is involved. The situation here is similar to the standard practice in English of calling a genderless object such as a ship “she”.

This argument would typically apply to objects, but not to sentient beings such as humans or Members of our Trinitarian God. If indeed the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs did not refer to an actual Person but was simply a literary device, then this argument might apply. But, as already noted, the Holy Spirit is indeed a Person within the Godhead.

Moreover, the gender distinction in Hebrew (the original versions of the manuscripts) is more rigidly applied in the modifiers, which very often define the Holy Spirit as feminine. This important point is often overlooked by those who would claim that a noun in Hebrew doesn’t necessarily depict gender.

The bottom line is that for every argument of which I am aware that calls into question the femininity of the Holy Spirit there is at least one alternate explanation, often considerably more reasonable than the original argument, that negates the argument itself and supports the notion of a feminine Holy Spirit. Furthermore, where the argument references Scripture, the rebuttal also appeals to Scripture.

As I review these arguments I find myself thinking of those responsible for establishing and maintaining Church doctrine in terms of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Did the Jews get it wrong in refusing to see Jesus as God? So did we in refusing to see the Holy Spirit as the feminine complement of the Father.

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THE “HE” ISSUE

 

Something’s definitely wrong about the Church’s current understanding of the Holy Spirit. A recent poll of evangelicals revealed that 68% of us consider the Holy Spirit to be an impersonal force, indicating the shallowness of a large group of Christians that would permit the movie Star Wars to influence their perception of God to such an extent. But shallowness isn’t the only culprit. Theologians with advanced degrees in Divinity admit to being stumped by the nature of the Holy Spirit.

The problem is at once both simpler and more profound than confusion or shallowness of thought. The primary source of our misapprehension of the Holy Spirit has been with us for a very long time and is our presupposition, inculcated by the Church herself, that the Holy Spirit is either genderless or weakly masculine.

With regard to the common perception of the Holy Spirit’s masculinity, the enormous gorilla in the room is the use, in virtually all translations and versions of the Bible, of masculine pronouns in reference to the Holy Spirit.

Examples of this include John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7 and 8 and 13-15, and Hebrews 3:7 and 10:15, although some verses reference the Holy Spirit as neuter. These references constitute the most common argument against a feminine Holy Spirit.

The most likely reason for all those “he”s in the Bible is the certainty that the Bible we use today does not represent the original. While I believe that the original autographs of Scripture are inspired and inerrant, I don’t extend that trust to the various translations and versions that are available to us today. There is ample reason to suspect that a gender switch took place around the time of Constantine under the misguided motive of purifying the heavenly domain from all connotations of sexuality. Many well-known Church Fathers at that time have conveyed, through their writings, their repulsion of matters involving gender and their equation of purity with chastity.

We know that the Hebrew name of Spirit, ruah, is feminine, while the Greek equivalent is neuter and the Latin equivalent is masculine. These language-based gender differences may partially account for the gender switch in the translations. The more likely scenario, unpleasant as it may be to consider, is that the switch was deliberate. The Jewish religion had, for the most part, viewed the Holy Spirit as feminine, as did a large group of early Christians, as demonstrated by the femininity of the Holy Spirit in the Syriac Scriptures. In addition, the Sinaitic Palimpsest, the original writing of which is thought to be close or identical to the Gospel that Paul taught from, depicts Jesus in John 14:26 as describing the Holy Spirit as feminine.

There are multiple reasons why it is thought that the switch was deliberate: first, the neuter description of the Arm of the Lord in Isaiah 51:9 and 10 is known to be a deliberate switch from the feminine; second is the motive: the prevailing sexual debauchery of the secular society surrounding the Christian community led the Christian leaders to set the Church apart in perfect purity, even to the extent that motivated some early Christian males to attempt to castrate themselves. Sometimes, as was possibly the case with Origen (according to Eusebius), the attempt was successful. Many of the early Church Fathers, including Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Ambrose of Milan, and, most famously, Augustine, vehemently equated purity with chastity. Some of them were misogynistic as well. Supporting that urge to switch genders was the pressure of numerous heresies that confronted the early Church. One important threat to the Church was Gnosticism, which favored a femininity of the Holy Spirit. The heresies embraced by the Gnostics placed their belief in a feminine Holy Spirit, which was common to Jewish faith and early Christian expressions in general, in disrepute. The rejection of gender in God seems to have been a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The switch to the masculinity of the Holy Spirit was probably complete around the time of Constantine.

It’s a matter of concern to me how reluctant the Church leadership has been throughout the past several centuries to see God in the light of His Word rather than blindly adhering to Church doctrine in the face of Scriptural passages that are inconsistent with dogma. There are plenty of indications in Scripture, even in the versions we use today, to support the femininity of the Holy Spirit in opposition to the use of male pronounce in reference to Her. All it takes to see this is scripturally-compatible eyes.

We revere Christians of the past who had the insight and courage to reform the Church in the face of the corruption that attended her political power. But these Church Greats were human just like the rest of us. None of them was perfect, nor were their insights complete. Martin Luther, for example, was a rabid anti-Semite; he also thought that Jesus had an affair with Mary Magdalene. Those who are inclined to avoid any questioning of the Bible as it stands now should apply that same inclination to Luther, who lashed out against the Book of James and supported the removal of the Book of Wisdom and others from the Protestant canon of Scripture.

CREATION’S EPIC LOVE

 

In re-reading the Creation epic of Genesis 1, I was rather surprised to see in it an intense and beautiful love story. I was more surprised that I hadn’t picked up on that sooner, as my view of the Godhead and Creation dovetailed quite well into that understanding.

That same understanding is emphasized throughout Scripture itself. 1 John 4:8 defines God as the very essence of love:

“He that does not love does not know God; for God is love.”

Scripture virtually pleads with us to apply that understanding to the relationship between the Father and the Holy Spirit.

With respect to Creation, I understand Scripture in the original to be inerrant and inspired of God as both Paul, in 2 Timothy 3 and Peter, in 2 Peter 1, have claimed. That means that I accept the Creation epic as truth, and its competing worldview, (macro)evolution, to be false. That clash with secular wisdom led me into a rather lengthy research of modern molecular biology which, in the end, more than justified my rejection of evolution on purely scientific grounds as itself being mythical in nature and not to be trusted.

With evolution out of the way, the Creation epic stood boldly as an account that deserved much reflection. From the many hours spent in consideration of Genesis 1, I eventually reached an understanding that not only reconciled a large number of ill-fitting odds and ends regarding the nature of the Godhead, but also managed to blow my mind with its simple, majestic elegance. I couldn’t have come up with the ideas myself, so I give credit where credit is due: to the Holy Spirit and the Wisdom She embodies. I have written of my vision of the Godhead before in numerous places, so here I will limit myself to a brief review of what was touched on in a previous chapter: the Godhead as I perceive it consists of three Divine Members, Father, Holy Spirit and Son, tightly united as a Divine Family, and each with different but complementary roles: the Father as the Divine Will, the Holy Spirit as the Divine Means, and the Son as the Divine Reality.

That view of the Godhead implies much about the relationship between gender and love as well as about the origin and function of the Trinity. There are many forms of love, as reflected in the several names for love in the Greek language: fileo, agape, eros. Of these differing forms, eros or gendered love is unique in its possessive nature. That quality of mutual ownership grants gendered love an intensity and passion of an altogether higher level than the other forms. Love of that nature is fervent.

The functional relationship involving Will, Means and Reality, where the functionally male Father, in marital union with the complementary functionally feminine Means, gave birth to the Reality, is an intrinsically gendered one. The intimacy involved in this functional relationship identifies gendered love as the driving force behind all of creation.

At its core, the nature of this functional relationship evokes the notion of complementary otherhood, where the other responds to initiation and in complementary harmony with it. The joyful execution of this teaming activity elevates love to beauty of the highest order. When it is performed in selflessness, it becomes noble as well.

If complementary otherhood is considered to be the essence of gender, virtually all of creation exhibits that characteristic. Even at the cellular level, as biologists have recently discovered, cell division involves the search for a complementary other. Below that level as well, a complete atom has matching numbers of protons and electrons; a mismatch of these causes the atom to search for balance.

The ubiquitous display of love in Creation verifies Paul’s words in Romans 1:19 and 20:

“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shown it to them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse;”

It was with Adam and Eve that God brought gender and love together in the form that most closely matched that which exists within the Godhead. Had not the Fall of man occurred, man would have been free of the numerous perversions that produce debauchery in the place of love. Because of Jesus, man can look forward to a restoration of love to its original meaning.

It is fervor of this order that lies at the center of Moses’ Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5, connecting the oneness of God with love of a passionate nature:

“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 might.”

Gendered love and its associated fervor is why Scripture describes the spiritual union between Jesus and His Church in terms of marriage, and why Jesus, in Matthew 22, repeats the commandment of Moses to love God with passion and labels it the greatest of commandments.

If we look beyond the level of the individual to the composite Church, we see that there is nothing in Scripture to suggest, as do many pastors both now and in the distant past, that this marriage is no more than a figure of speech connoting a relationship that in actuality lacks gender and its corresponding intensity. A profound joy of gendered love is implied by Jesus’ turning water into wine through His first miracle at the wedding in Cana. Jesus obviously is anticipating in His marriage a far more intimate bond with His Church than a genderless relationship would produce.

The desire of God, as revealed in the Bible, to endow us with appealing personal qualities of character, speaks to His loving plan for His Church as Jesus’ worthy partner in her future role as the Bride of Christ.

IN THE IMAGE OF GOD

 

Man is typically treated as the primary subject of Genesis 1:26 and 27. This passage is routinely viewed as descriptive of the manner in which God created man to reflect certain attributes of His own. These attributes are generally considered to be related to character and intellect, chiefly man’s personality, rationality, and morality.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Reference to man’s gendered creation is usually omitted or, at best, treated as incidental. But there it is in Scripture, in black and white, in a context that discourages it from being disregarded with such appalling ease. This passage speaks as much about God as of man. The attribute of gender isn’t trivial, but instead is presented as among the most profound of the attributes of which man was made in God’s image.

And to what end have we denied this beautiful attribute to God? So that we may maintain a distance from Him in direct opposition to what He desires in His relationship with us? So that we can equate purity with chastity, when the two are manifestly different concepts? The key to this blatant falsehood is found in the end of the passage above: . . . “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

As I had noted in Marching to a Worthy Drummer, it is the shame, not the act, that has driven us to think of gender as inappropriate to God. And the shame came not from God but from Adam’s fall. It persists to this day, and prevents most of us from perceiving the Trinitarian Godhead in all its beauty and glory.

In Genesis 2:18 and 21-24 is another passage that tends to be trivialized. As is commonly accepted, God the Father existed forever. Our minds, particularly in the material realm, are too limited to grasp any more of the nature of the Father, the Divine Will. But that same limitation doesn’t apply to the Holy Spirit, as Scripture itself gives us a clue as to Her origin. In Genesis 2, Scripture brings out details for emphasis of Eve’s creation out of Adam. This account of the creation of Eve out of Adam is commonly but quite mistakenly treated as a secondary or afterthought account of the creation of man, simply providing additional detail to the first account in Genesis 1:26 and 27.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help fit for him. . . And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 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.”

But the repetition of the latter part of this passage by both Jesus, in Matthew 19, and Paul in Ephesians 5, places it far above the trivial in importance. This account of the creation of Eve out of Adam, rather than furnishing incidental details of man’s creation, was far more likely to have been included in Scripture for emphasis as describing the romance of the loving formation of the Holy Spirit out of the essence of the Father.

The thought that this portion of the creation epic might be descriptive of the Godhead Itself points back to the very beginning, Genesis 1:1-5:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

“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 first passage of Scripture, the Holy Spirit is seen responding to the Father in giving birth to the first spoken Word of God, the Light. But that is precisely what John said in verses 1:1-5 of the Prologue to his Gospel of Jesus Christ:

“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.”

We in the Church have been conditioned to believe, in opposition to the notion of Jesus being a created Being, that Jesus eternally co-existed with the Father. But that comes from the various Christian creeds, not from Scripture. Scripture itself, in Revelation 3:14, stands in plain opposition to that notion:

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

Can it be that the Holy Spirit, in union with the Father, did indeed give birth to Jesus Christ? John, in Chapter Three of his Gospel, attributes spiritual birth to the Holy Spirit. The details of the Holy Spirit’s participation in creation are provided in Proverbs 8:22-31:

“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 would 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.”

Why did God emphasize the detail of Eve’s formation out of Adam? And why, if it was not good for the man to be without a complementary woman, would it be good for God Himself to be so, as theologians commonly assume? Could it be that at one stage before the beginning of time all the attributes of the Godhead resided within the Father alone, and that in self-denial the Father parted an element of Himself to form the Holy Spirit as a separate but complementary Entity in order that love transcend all other attributes of God? Could it be that what He lost in the parting He regained in love according to the words of Adam that a man shall cleave unto his wife and they two shall be one?

PSALM 22

 

Psalm 22 was written by David about a thousand years before Christ and several hundred years before the punishment of crucifixion was known in Israel.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you hear not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But you are holy, O you who inhabits the praise of Israel. Our fathers trusted in you; they trusted, and you did deliver them. They cried to you, and were delivered; they trusted in you, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people. All they who see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

But you are he who took me out of the womb; you made me hope upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon you from the womb; you are my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, like a ravening and a roaring lion.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; and you have brought me to the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I may count all my bones; they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots for my vesture.

“But be not far from me, O Lord. O my strength, hasten to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth; for you have heard me from the horns of the wild unicorns. I will declare your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation will I praise you.

“You who fear the Lord, praise him; all you, the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all you, the seed of Israel. For he has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither has he hidden his face from him; but when he cried to him, he heard. My praise shall be of you in the great congregation; I will pay my vows before them who fear him. The meek shall be satisfied; they shall praise the Lord who seek him; your heart shall live forever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before you. For the kingdom is the Lord’s; and he is the governor among the nations. All they who are fat upon the earth shall eat and worship; all they who go down to the dust shall bow before him, and none can keep alive his own soul.

“A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness to a people that shall be born, that he has done this.”

Matthew 27:46 records Jesus, after suffering for at least three hours after He was nailed to the cross, as echoing the cry given by David at the start of his psalm:

“And about three o’clock in the afternoon, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

It was noted in another volume of this series that God had to forsake Jesus, as He, in his moral perfection, could not look upon the sin that Jesus had personified. Jesus knew this beforehand, probably no later than while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane the evening before, and this knowledge may have contributed greatly to his agony there. He certainly agonized over it on the cross, but He also may have intended this utterance to point the future reader of Scripture to that Psalm.

Psalm 22 itself described in detail the physiological effects of crucifixion. The account has a supernatural element, as the Psalm preceded the punishment of crucifixion in Israel.

THE ROAD TO EMMAUS

 

This touching account in Luke 24:13-22 is notable on several levels. At its most poignant, it shows the loving intimacy with which the risen Jesus associates with the human race. He speaks to the two men as would a loving, compassionate Parent intent on comforting their grieving souls.

The story also shows how closely the Old Testament is associated with the New, and how highly Jesus regarded it. When He revealed to the two travelers how the Scriptures foretold Him, the only Scriptures that were available to them were those of the Old Testament.

“And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about seven and a half miles. And they talked together of all these things which had happened since Jesus’ crucifixion.

And it came to pass that, while they talked together and thought of these events, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. And he said to them, What manner of communications are these that you have one with another, as you walk, and are sad? And one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, saying, Are you only a stranger in Jerusalem, and have not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said to them, What things? And they replied, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we hoped that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel; and, besides all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company amazed us, who were early at the sepulcher; and when they did not find his body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.

Then he said to them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself.

And they drew near to the village, to which they went; and he made as though he would have gone farther. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to linger with them. And it came to pass, as he sat eating with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us along the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Perhaps Jesus explained to the travelers how He had to die for their benefit, presenting that information in terms of Joseph in Genesis, and how Joseph suffered for the salvation of his brothers who hated him, and, in the end, how he did so willingly. He could have added the account of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac, and of how that story foretold the Father’s suffering as He had to turn His head away in sorrow from the sin that Jesus had become on the cross. He also could have explained how Moses prophesied of Him becoming sin by holding up the bronze serpent on a pole to heal those in the wilderness who had been bitten by snakes. He could have topped that off with Psalm 22, which foretold in agonizing detail how it felt to be crucified.

Maybe Jesus also explained to them why He had to wait for four days before He resurrected Lazarus, and how in doing so he was prophesying of His own resurrection after the fourth millennium from Creation.

It could be that Jesus went on to speak of the love of God toward mankind, quoting from passages of the Song of Solomon to show the exquisitely romantic nature of that love. In looking forward to that day when the Church would become the Bride of Christ, Jesus could have noted His first miracle at the wedding in Cana, where He changed water into wine to make complete the joy of marriage.

SEA STORY

 

Going back in time from the revolutionary period of our history, those who look for them can find many examples of God’s Hand, both positive and negative, in the affairs of the American political experiment in freedom.

Why negative? Because that’s how God operates, as He has told us numerous times. In Deuteronomy 11:26-26-28, for example, Moses told the Israelites who had left Egypt with him:

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.”

This admonition applies to every Christian today just as much as to the Israelites whom Moses addressed back then. It applied as well throughout the American experience. According to the authors of The Light and the Glory, it took only one or two generations after they landed before the pilgrims, in experiencing an increasing ease of existence, began to fall away from their daily devotion to God. At first the chastising was mild, and quickly returned to blessing as the people heeded the correction:

“Perhaps the most extraordinary chastisement in this vein was the rain of caterpillars which Winthrop reported in the summer of 1646. ‘Great harm was done in corn (especially wheat and barley) in this month by a caterpillar, like a black worm about an inch and a half long. They eat up first the blades of the stalk, then they eat up the tassels, whereupon the ear withered. It was believed by divers good observers that they fell in a great thunder shower, for divers yards and other bare places where not one of them was seen an hour before, were presently after the shower almost covered with them, besides grass places where they were not so easily discerned. They did the most harm in the southern parts, as in Rhode Island, etc., and in the eastern parts in their Indian corn. In divers places the churches kept a day of humiliation, and presently after, the caterpillars vanished away.’”

God also is a champion of justice, particularly when mixed with compassion. There are several Old Testament references to how God prefers justice and mercy over lip service to Him. One example is found in Hosea 6:6; another in Isaiah 58:6 and 7:

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen- to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh?”

Jesus repeated these sentiments in Matthew 12:7 while He explained to the

Pharisees how much more important it is to show mercy, even on the sabbath, than to participate in spiritually empty adherence to the law:

“But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.”

It is much more fun to describe blessings than curses, and justice served rather than justice denied. Here is a good sea story, also taken from The Light and the Glory regarding that time period in America’s history:

“Our favorite of these sea stories involves two ships in distress. The first, under the mastery of William Laiton, was out of Piscataqua and bound for Barbados, when, some thousand miles off the coast, she sprang a leak which could not be staunched. He crew was forced to take refuge in their longboat. It happened that they had a plentiful supply of bread, more than they could possibly eat, but so little water that after eighteen days of drifting, they were down to a teaspoon per man per day. Meanwhile, another ship, captained by one Samuel Scarlet, was having its own difficulties, being ‘destitute of provisions, only they had water enough, and to spare.’ The spied the drifting longboat, but as Scarlet made ready to take them aboard, his men ‘. . .desired that he would not go to take the men in, lest they should all die by famine. But the captain was a man of too generous a charity to follow the selfish proposals thus made unto him. He replied, “It may be these distressed creatures are our own countrymen, and [anyway] they are distressed creatures. I am resolved I will take them in, and I’ll trust in God, who is able to deliver us all.” Nor was he a loser by this charitable resolution, for Captain Scarlet had the water which Laiton wanted, and Mr. Laiton had the bread and fish which Scarlet wanted. So they refreshed one another, and in a few days arrived safe to New England. But it was remarked that the chief of the mariners who urged Captain Scarlet against his taking in these distressed people, did afterwards, in his distress at sea, perish without any to take him in.’”