Posts Tagged ‘Godhead’

THE FULFILLMENT OF HANNAH’S VOW

The Fulfillment of Hannah’s Vow

The two books of Samuel in the Bible were written over a thousand years before Jesus Christ was born, when Israel was still a young nation. The book of First Samuel opens with a story regarding Hannah, a woman of Israel from the tribe of Ephraim, married to a man named Elkanah.

Hannah wanted to have a son very badly, but she wasn’t able to have one. Yet she remained faithful to God, and every year she went with her husband up to a city in Israel called Shiloh to make their yearly worship and sacrifice. Year after year she did this, hoping to have a son by the next year. Finally, one year while she was praying, she broke down and wept in the sight of the priest for her lack of a son. In her misery, Hannah prayed to God, making a promise to Him if He would show His kindness toward her by giving her a son. Her vow went like this:

O Lord, of hosts, if you will look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget me, but will give to your handmaid a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.”

After speaking to God, Eli the Priest blessed her, and she trusted God and was no longer sad when she returned home with her husband.

“And the Lord remembered Hannah. And she bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying Because I have asked him of the Lord. And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her along with sacrifices to the Lord. And they brought the child to the priest Eli. And Hannah said, O my lord, as your soul lives, I am the woman who stood by you here earlier, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has answered my prayer which I asked of Him. Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.

And he worshiped the Lord there.”

Hannah did as she had promised God: she left her son Samuel with Eli the priest to live with him and learn the deep things about God from him. Then Hannah prayed again, this time to thank God for His kindness toward her:

“And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoices in the Lord, my horn is exalted in the Lord; my mouth is enlarged over my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like the Lord; for there is none beside you, neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They who were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they who were hungry no longer hungered; so that the barren has born seven; and she who has many children has become feeble. The Lord kills and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and brings up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he has set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven He shall thunder upon them. The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.

“And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister to the Lord before Eli, the priest.’

Samuel was raised among the priests, where he learned much about God. Then God used him in a mighty way. He became a great prophet, one of the greatest in Israel.

The words that Hannah spoke in thanksgiving to God for His gift of Samuel are significant beyond her time: ‘The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.’ The message: God humbles the proud and lifts up the humble.

Hannah was a prophet herself. She foretold in the Old Testament another woman’s prayer, far into the future, in the New Testament. This other woman’s name was Mary. Hannah’s words are echoed in Mary’s ‘Magnificat’ in Chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel, which she spoke after learning that she was to give birth to our Lord Jesus Christ:

“’And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant, Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.’

We can glean something from this. The Old Testament is very important in that it introduces to us the things about God that He describes more fully in the New Testament. Just about everything that Jesus said and did when He came in the flesh was done before in the Old Testament by people of faith who were willing to be directed by the Holy Spirit. The same is true of those who were the closest to Him, like Mary.

We also can learn something else from this. God is our maker, and He loves each of us with a very great passion. But He doesn’t like it when we puff ourselves up as important, or when we get upset with ourselves because we don’t always win. He made us how He wanted to make us. Perhaps we should think less about how God should make us as perfect as possible and more about how we can be used by God and for His purpose the best that we can with what He has given to us to use.

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THE MIGDAL EDAR STORY

 

During one Christmas season our pastor gave his Church a special treat. He began reading the familiar Christmas story from Luke 2:7:

“And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Pastor looked up at us and said, “How sad that man couldn’t find a more appropriate place for the Son of God to be born. Plan B it was, then,” which echoed our own thoughts. But then, smiling, he continued at Luke 2:8:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

As our pastor recited this oft-told story, I formed my own familiar mental imagery: a large grassy field with flocks of sheep mixed with cattle, and the barn where Mary, Joseph and Jesus dwelt surrounded by the usual barnyard animals: cows, donkeys and, yes, perhaps a sheep or two. My mind drifted into a contemplation of the poverty surrounding Jesus’ birth. Of course the setting was appropriate, given the humble character of Jesus’ sojourn in the flesh. But being born in a manger certainly couldn’t have been plan A for Joseph’s family.

But then our pastor embellished on the story. It wasn’t well known, he said, that the region near Bethlehem where Jesus was born was a rather special place. He quoted another familiar passage, the prophecy in Micah 5:2 foretelling of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

Pastor didn’t stop there. He went on to read another passage out of Micah, verse 4:8, which is much less well-known:

“And you O watchtower of the flock [Migdal Edar], the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto you shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.

Before commenting further on the function of Migdal Edar, pastor took us back to Genesis 35:19-21:

“And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.”

Pastor put his Bible aside and looked at his congregation as if he had something momentous to tell us. And well he did. Finding his voice, he said that the region where Jesus was born was under the watchtower of the flock, a special lookout of the shepherds there because of the importance of that particular place. It was, he said with emotion, the place where lambs were born and raised for the Passover sacrifice. The manger of Jesus’ birth was, in fact, the birthing place for these special lambs, so maybe while it didn’t represent plan A for Joseph, it certainly did for God.

Pastor topped off that shocking disclosure by saying that, according to the Passover account in Exodus 12, the lambs had to be perfect in every way. When birthed, they tended to struggle some, putting themselves at risk to injury. There was a procedure in place to prevent this: upon their birth, these lambs were wrapped in swaddling clothes.

I was so enthusiastic about this revelation that I attempted to share it with other Christians, some of whom were rather cynical about it. It seemed that if this were to be true, they already would have known about it. Faced with that negativity, I pursued the topic on my own on the Internet, where I found a wealth of commentary regarding it, all of which was positive and some of which furnished excellent justification for accepting it as truth. I recommend the interested reader to do the same, simply by Googling “Migdal Edar”, or, alternatively, “Migdal Eder”.

RESTORATION OF THE LAND

 

When God gave his everlasting covenant of land to Abraham, as first described in Genesis 15:18 and later reaffirmed to Isaac and still later to Jacob, it amounted to the only land grant that ever came from God Himself. But the promise extended beyond mere land: the land was to be filled with the riches of life. Much later, when God appeared to Moses out of the burning bush, He spoke again about that land, as described in Exodus 3:7 and 8:

“And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a large and good land, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites and the Jebusites.”

After the Fifteenth Roman Legion under the command of General Titus destroyed the Jewish temple in 70 A.D., much of the land fell into disuse. Moreover, there came an extended period of drought that transformed many of the lush regions into barren wastelands.

That was the environment that greeted the first modern settlers out of the Zionist movement of the nineteenth century as they trickled back into their old homeland. They formed kibbutzim, farming communities wherein they struggled to restore small areas back to life, hoping for the restoration of the land that God Himself promised them in Joel 3:18:

“And it shall come to pass, in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim.”

That promise of Joel’s is not yet fulfilled in every detail. But it has been realized to an amazing extent. God Himself had a big hand in the land’s restoration, for when the Israelites came back to the land, the centuries-long drought came to an end. After 1800 years, from the first century to the twentieth, it began to rain again. The heaviest rainfall to date came in 1948, when Israel was restored as a nation, and in 1967, when Israel reclaimed Jerusalem. Adding to the rainfall, the Israelis have created a vast irrigation system, restoring much of what once was wasteland into extremely productive farms. The country now is a major exporter of food and flowers to Europe, and is considered a world leader in the production of milk. Its cows produce more milk per year than cows in America and Europe.

Recognizing the promise of Ezekiel 36:4-8, the settlers began to plant trees with a fervor.

“Therefore, you mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God, Thus says the Lord God to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the nations that are round about; therefore, thus says the Lord God: Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the nations, and against all Edom, who have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey. Prophecy, therefore, concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations; therefore, thus says the Lord god: I have lifted up my hand. Surely the nations that are about you, they shall bear their shame.

“But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel, for they are soon to come home.”

Israel now boasts two hundred million trees. Thousands of acres are devoted to date palms, the ancient source of honey production from bees. Each tree is highly productive, yielding over three hundred pounds of dates per year. Over ten thousand tons of dates are exported each year.

Scripture links the fig tree to the nation of Israel. In His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24), Jesus tells His followers to watch for the budding of the fig tree as a sign that the end of the age is very close. Many Christians consider the budding of the fig tree as a metaphor for either the reestablishment of Israel as a nation in 1948 or the retaking of Jerusalem in 1967. But there is a natural element as well to Jesus’ assertion: fig production in modern Israel amounts to five thousand tons – not a huge amount, but not insignificant, either, and growing.

Orchards of olive trees occupy eighty thousand acres in Israel. Olives and olive oil are major export items.

In Ezekiel 36:29, 30, 34 and 35, God promises to make the land productive again:

“I will also save you from all your uncleanness, and I will call for the grain, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. . . And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fortified, and are inhabited.”

As of 2013, Israel grew 95% of its own food and exported $2.4 billion in food to other countries.

Now there’s talk of oil. Surely there’s incentive here, with all of Israel’s modern riches, for Russia to come into the land to take a spoil, as foretold in Ezekiel 38. Nevertheless, as noted by evangelist David Reagan, the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses was itself prophetic of the indestructibility of the Jewish people in the face of the flames of hatred and violence against them.

SQUANTO – A THANKSGIVING STORY

 

When the Pilgrims left Holland aboard the Mayflower, heading toward the Atlantic coast of America in search of religious freedom, they embarked on a sea voyage marked by danger, misfortune, disappointment and a continuous struggle for survival. Forced to leave sister ship Speedwell behind with its much-needed provisions and burdened with the Speedwell’s passengers in addition to their own, they faced alone the North Atlantic, famous for its awful winter weather and mountainous seas. By the time they reached their destination of Plymouth, situated on the northwest edge of Cape Cod south of Boston in what is now the State of Massachusetts, they were already enfeebled by the rigors of the voyage and short of life-sustaining provisions. The date of their arrival was November 21, 1620 – the middle of a harsh, frigid Northeast winter.

Knowing nothing of the hunting and farming techniques that enabled the natives of this new land to survive, and constructing shelters inadequate to the task of staving off the constant, biting cold, they quickly began to fall sick and die of exposure, compounded by their near-starvation. Yet throughout this ordeal they remained faithful and warm-hearted to their Christian God.

The death rate from scurvy and pneumonia climbed from one to two, and then to three every day. By the middle of the next spring, thirteen of eighteen wives had died; only three families survived without suffering a dead member. Nearly half of their number had died. Yet their faith and love of God failed to be shaken. Nevertheless, as they welcomed the return of Spring, they also knew that they remained on the very edge of survival, a dark understanding thrust into their cold and hungry faces by their inability to obtain food from this strange new land. They prayed fervently to God for His aid.

Unknown to them, God had set in motion their rescue fifteen years before.

Another person had arrived near their colony just six months before the Pilgrims had arrived. He was a Native American named Tisquantum, or Squanto for short. He was a member of the Patuxet tribe, known for its savage, deadly hatred of whites for the abuses the tribe had suffered at the hands of earlier Englishmen who had come to fish these shores. Fifteen years had passed since Squanto had last seen his relatives. He was taken from them in 1605 when he had been abducted and carried off to Europe.

Accounts differ as to what happened to Squanto after his arrival in Europe. One story has him arriving in England, learning the language, and returning to New England, only to be abducted again and carried back off to Europe, this time to Malaga, Spain. There he was bought at a slave auction by kindly monks, who taught him their language and about their Christian God. Later, he went by ship to London, where he was able to obtain passage a second time to New England. Another story has him first being carried off to Malaga and being taken in directly by the monks. Several years thereafter, he managed to get to London, from where he sailed back to New England.

Whatever the version, Squanto arrived back in New England after a lengthy absence just before the arrival of the Pilgrims and equipped with a love of God and a fluent understanding of the English language.

When he came back to his Patuxet home, he was devastated to see that the village no longer existed. It had been wiped out four years earlier by a vicious disease that had claimed the lives of everyone in the village. But he had come back with a friend, an Algonquin chief from Maine. Samoset, ever the wanderer, had a fondness for travel and was given to hitching rides on the ships of Englishmen whom he’d befriended.

Squanto lived alone with his grief for a time, but when the Europeans arrived, Samoset decided to visit them. It was mid-March, and Samoset saw how bad their lot was. Walking into the poverty-stricken village, his first word to them was “Welcome!” His next words were “Have you any beer?” The Pilgrims gaped open-mouthed in astonishment over his command of their language.

The next week he dragged Squanto back with him in an attempt to get him out of his funk. Perhaps at that point he may have recalled the Spanish monks’ words of comfort to him over the pain and abuses he had suffered at the hands of Europeans. As he had questioned the motive of a God who would have let him be kidnapped, they had reassured him that God loved him and knew all the trials Squanto had been subjected to. They promised that if Squanto trusted in Him, God would use his suffering in ways beyond his imagination.

Like the Biblical Joseph, who had emerged from his own undeserved suffering to become through the Hand of God the second most powerful man in Egypt that he might save those who had wrongfully mistreated him, Squanto saw an opportunity in the Pilgrims’ squalor. Adopting them as his own family, he set about to teach them how to survive in America.

Under Squanto’s tutelage, the Pilgrims emerged from want to abundance. That fall they held a feast in thanksgiving to God for blessing them, including the valuable things that Squanto taught them as the living answer to their prayers. They invited the local tribes to join them, and the Native Americans joined in with the transplanted Europeans in praising God for His benevolent love.

PAUL

 

Perhaps, when Paul, known as Saul, was so down on Christians, he had an attitude toward God much like what the nominal Christian has today. Possibly, governed by what he had learned about God through the Jewish religion of the day, he saw God as rather remote, even alien, His attribute of transcendent majesty may have taken front place over any alternative understanding.

Paul in his unregenerate state was, in the words of modern conservatives, a defender of the faith. Zealous in his protection of God from the intruding Christian faith, he managed through this very devotion to see in himself a man worthy of the favor of God and the ultimate prize, heaven.

In his amazing transformation on the road to Damascus as described in Acts 9, Paul must have received from Jesus some profound insights into the real nature of God. Only an enormous shift in understanding could have led him to follow Jesus in such humble adoration thereafter. There is some evidence in Scripture that Paul was given an incredibly detailed picture of God that went way beyond what he had learned at the hands of men. It is generally accepted that when Paul spoke of a man who went to heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, he was speaking of himself, probably during the time after Jesus had approached him that he was temporarily blinded:

“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows) – such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man (whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows) – How he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

The most prominent feature of the Godhead must have changed in Paul’s mind and heart from magnificence to valor. What else could have led him to dote upon his baby Church so lovingly, and to willingly endure such trials as Jesus had promised him when He appeared to him on that road, becoming perhaps the greatest Christian outside of Jesus who ever lived?

“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them under arrest to Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly there shone round about him a light from heaven; and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? And he said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom you persecute; it is hard to you to kick against the goads. And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord what will you have me to do? And the Lord said to him, Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told you there what you must do. And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

“And Saul arose from the earth, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man; but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus; for, behold, he is praying, and has seen in a vision a man, named Ananias, coming in and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on your name.

“But the Lord said to him, Go your way; for he is a chosen vessel to me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel; for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Paul did suffer, and willingly, for a God whom he truly loved with all his heart. As he recalled in 2 Corinthians 11:22-31:

“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times I received forty stripes, save one. Thrice I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which comes upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I am not indignant? If I must needs glory I will glory in the things which concern my infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore, knows that I lie not.”

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.

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!