October 16, 2019

The Partisan Paradox IV: No One Can Serve Two Masters

There is an adage: “The church that marries the culture today will be a widow tomorrow.” This applies to the matter of Christians and Christian leaders endorsing political candidates or their churches identifying exclusively with one party or the other. It’s a warning to those who would dare to blur the line between human statecraft and divine mandate/instruction.

There are some important issues. I am not disputing that. Admittedly I sort of understand some of the arguments for actively endorsing a specific politician that is vocally anti-abortion or leans more towards old-fashioned values. The matter of immorality, abortion and how to deal with poverty looms largest on my own moral horizon as do a few other hot-button social issues. Furthermore, the economy/debt of this country and what this nation should be doing in the Middle East are crucial matters. There are moral aspects to these issues which Christian leaders and Christians can address and should be helping their people and brethren with.  By all means you should vote and participate in the democratic process.

But don’t be endorsing specific candidates. There is an obvious and inherent danger in doing so. Human leaders and humans in general are infamously fallible and will bring shame to themselves through their sins inevitably sinking their own ship. To saddle one’s self with that burden virtually guarantees you’ll go down with the ship too. You are effectively strapping on concrete boots. In so doing you are dragging the Gospel down with you as a Christian.

As critical as those issues are, none are as important as the church’s primary task of bringing the gospel to the community and the world. Plainly, some pastors have lost their way and some churches have forgotten their task. When they are willing to risk the salvation of lost people who wander into their services in order to get certain candidates elected, one must wonder if these men of God have forgotten their assignment from Matthew 28:18-20.

When Israel was in Babylon, God sent a message to His people through the prophet Jeremiah. “Work for the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray on its behalf. For as it prospers, you will prosper." (Jeremiah 29:7)

In your town, state and country…work for it, pray for it. I even encourage people to be politically active of course. Just don’t bring the politicians and campaigns into the church building. And don’t donate the reputation of your Christian identity and the reputation of your faith to the politicians to be used as a tool. The church is a sanctuary not the other way around. The politicians should be coming to the church for wisdom and sanctuary, not the church going to the government and politicians. Christians should not be whoring their righteousness to those that will merely use it as a political or fiscal gain. There ought to be at least one place where we are protected from such.

Our allegiance is to the Gospel not to the systems of men. Anything that would seek to impose itself in the place of the Gospel or bring insult or offense to the Gospel and Scriptures is a resounding…NO. If your allegiance is not first to God, Gospel and Scripture you are effectively mixing God’s kingdom with a broken divided kingdom. We all know what the Bible says about the priority of the supremacy of God’s kingdom, divided kingdoms, mixing religions and serving two masters.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. Mark 3:24

Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. Mark 12:17

They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the LORD nor adhere to the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands that the LORD gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel. When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: "Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the LORD your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies." They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did. 2 Kings 17:33-41

October 15, 2019

The Partisan Paradox III: The Only Ruler Who Matters

Politics should not shape religious identity. Your Christian identity should shape your politics. As I said, I am neither Conservative nor liberal. I am Christian. I am to engage the culture with my Christianity not conform to it. Because society has become so polarized that is getting harder and harder to do. 

Anything that continues to exacerbate the political divide should not be the goal of any Christian leader or Christian in general. If you see them doing so it is likely there is something to be gained out of it selfishly. We cannot allow the message of the Gospel to be hijacked by religious influence peddlers in political circles.

We must hold fast to God’s declaration in Genesis 1:27 that every person is made in his image. The Imago Dei is more than a theological statement about creation. It tells us that our attitudes toward others should reflect the love of God for them. Divisive politics doesn’t allow this. Regardless of our political views we must always acknowledge other people’s inherent dignity as created beings. On the other hand, remembering the Imago Dei in others does not mean we must agree with them. Christians are called to speak truth into a corrupted world. But we can do this in ways that don’t diminish human dignity and doesn’t incorporate politicking. Its called educating. Even education means being close enough to another person in idea and proximity to be able to communicate in a civil manner. The political division we currently have being fostered by our current brood of viperous politicians will prevent this from the POTUS down to the local township supervisor.

Second, we should listen—really actively listen—to our political opponents. In order for a pluralist society to thrive, citizens must seek to understand perspectives and views we believe are wrong. This is the only way there can be a balanced well-informed debate/argument/polemic. There should be a peaceful rational exchange of ideas not derogatory labels flung a one another from a distance like deadly projectiles. We need to stop sniping.

Again, this doesn’t mean Christians should be doormats on meaningful matters like abortion and immorality. What should come to the forefront is that our belief that God is the author of truth and social justice. We should be reasoning with political opposites with humility and grace not hostility and rancor.

Finally, we must put politics in its rightful place and not let it dominate our actions, relationships, or priorities in or outside our churches and homes. Political affiliation is not our true Christian identity.  We are to be Christians and embodiment of the Gospel in thought, word, and deed. No matter how often you hear that the next election is...“the most important election of our lifetime,” don’t buy into the perspective that the stakes are so great that it warrants compromising the Gospel. Don't buy the shtick that the false sense of urgency warrants aligning with and electing the ‘lesser of two evils’. In reality, we are still aligning ourselves to a sinful fallible human being regardless of how bad we’re in denial.

A compromised witness from aligning to a tyrant or a fool (or both) taints the Gospel and demeans the name of Christ. We need to look at the larger time frame. Is four years in The White House or State Capital worth an eternity for other people in judgment. If so, by all means saddle yourself up to the next idiotic politician but it you find any value in the Imago Dei of your fellow human, compromise so that you can reach them with the Gospel. Keep the politicking outside the door of your witness. The only Ruler / Leader that warrants aligning ourselves to is the one whose feet at which all other kings will be casting their golden crowns anyway.

October 12, 2019

The Partisan Paradox II: Lobbing Rhetorical Grenades

Okay, so the sides in politics are miles apart and can’t communicate. No communication, no meaningful transfer of ideas. If there is little or no transfer of ideas there is little or no dissemination of the Gospel. It gets worse…

What’s worse is that by aligning myself to a specific political ideology, I defame the Gospel to 50% of my potential audience (+/- 3% margin of error). By aligning myself to a specific political ideology I create what I will refer to as a negative partnership. It is a form of impersonal codependence at a distance. People generally don’t delve down intellectually into every individual social/cultural issue dividing the parties. Parties, of which we are told there are only two which is a false polemic and false framing of reality. There are in reality many. 

Regardless, rarely do the general populace have an informed logical argument for every issue. It requires too much thought and too much effort. Instead, people attach to political parties in a negative partnership. Many just vote and think along party lines and the media caters to this mindset. As parties have grown more distinct, people have been more prone to view politics as simply a game to be won or enemy to be vanquished. Emphasis is placed on ideological policy achievements and not reforms. The focus is on making sure my “team” beats the other. 

At times it seems the issues of abortion, gun rights, social justice, racism and other hot button issues are deliberately kept in play to maintain a perpetual polemic to assure re-elections along these ideologies. Battles are won but they are meaningless because the war never ends. It is literally the endless war in Oceania and Eastasia in George Orwell's 1984. The sides just keep fighting on from farther and farther away against an enemy hard to define except by a stereotype and oversimplification. A so-called enemy that is much deeper, more intellectual and more compassionate than they'll ever be given credit for.

In a win-or-lose mentality there is no middle ground for the Gospel. No compromise. Its not about meeting in the middle to discuss commonalities, its about lobbing rhetorical grenades over unscalable walls to cause your opponent’s demise. Winning the ideological war isn’t the end goal anymore. It’s about destroying reputations and murdering character. What do we suppose happens to the message of the Gospel if we take a decidedly left or right stance? It destroys hearts. Why are we only allowed those two choices? Why does the media only portray two viable choices when there are many?

In a Christian and American system that depends on the transfer words, and a deliberate exchange of ideas, it is disconcerting. We might not agree on the ideologies but we need to at least agree to communicate with one another and agree on the meaning of words (Law of Identity). 

What is tolerance? What is life? What is love. What is hate?

The negative partnership poses a deeper and thornier problem for the Christian. Especially Christian leaders or those of Christian influence. It tempts us to show favoritism (James 2) and thereby diminish others that do not align to our party or our politician. It literally is a twisted form or Jesus’ words. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, eh, unless they belong to the other political party. If you align to a specific politician...everyone that doesn't like that politician loses the Gospel.

The Partisan Paradox I: The Gospel & God Are Always The Right Answer

Well, what I vowed I’d never write about on this blog...I am now writing about. Politics. No single word dredges up more loathing and eye-rolls than politics. Except maybe religion. No, I’m not joking. I really am going to do a series on politics. As a person of the Christian persuasion, writing about things Christian is second nature. Writing about things political in nature will make this series about as pleasant as running through a minefield with clown shoes on. One mention of politics and there is immediate polarization and nearly guaranteed polemic or argument. At best you’ll get a heated debate. At worst you’ll have emotive meltdowns and violence. Two things not conducive to communication. 

Communication that is necessary for the transfer of the Gospel. It's actually quite simple with me…its always about the Gospel. It’s the first, it’s the last and its everything. Everything for me falls out from that. It is my point of origin and point of departure. Where I fall in with how you think depends if your thinking is aligned with Scripture and the Gospel. Where I fall out with you is when your thinking is misaligned with Scripture and the Gospel. I always joke when I teach or preach in church ... if I ask you a question in the congregation and you yell out, “The Gospel!”, “Jesus!”  or “Scripture!” you’ll usually answer my questions correctly 95% of the time.

The political atmosphere is toxic. Too emotionally charged and too far apart. At least too far apart to communicate clearly and logically. This makes a bad environment for one to live out their faith without compromise. Alignment to either side runs the risk of permanently alienating the other side over non-essential issues. Hostility and over-emotiveness breeds rancor and allows people to quickly devolve into dehumanizing rhetoric and name-calling and epithets. 

Snowflake. Libtards. Trumpsters. MAGAbots. Trumpettes. Blah blah blah.

Aligning to one side or another in this political charged atmosphere creates a guilt by association. Conservative and Christian are inextricably linked together in the American lexicon because of the work of Ralph Reed in the 1980’s. His brainchild is the Christian Coalition. It might single-handedly have done more damage to tarnish Christianity than Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and Harold Camping combined. People cannot see Christians as anything other than conservatives now. I am neither Liberal or Conservative. In today’s environment, this immediately erects an impenetrable incommunicable wall.

So, bottom-line, no communication, no Gospel transfer. The sides are so far apart there is no transfer of ideas or words. That’s bad. The Gospel is based in words. If something I'm doing inhibits conveyance of the Gospel, I shouldn’t be doing it as a Christian.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

I could literally stop my series here and be Biblically justified...but I won’t. I’ll make a more nuanced argument.

October 9, 2019

The Great Physician XIII: A God of Taxonomy & Systemic Divine Order

The God of the Bible is a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33). In the Bible there is an order. There are rules. Laws. Hierarchies. Just as we see in life. In the Creation. There are also classifications. Things are grouped together by their characteristics. In modern times we call it taxonomy. Taxonomy which comes from the Greek word τάξις / taxis which means arrangement (tactics) and νόμος/ nomos or method/law. Arrangement method or laws. It is an order that is maintained by separations. Order through separations or more specifically categorization and isolation. Ceremonial Law. Civil Law. Moral Law. Pure-Impure. Holy-Unholy. Sinful-Righteous.

ולהבדיל בּין הקדש ובין החל ובין הטמא ובין הטהור׃

…and that ye may put difference between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean ~ Leviticus 10:10

Within priestly ritual these categories were themselves identified and compartmentalized further in terms of space, time and position. These subcategories operated as a set of measurable factors in terms of separation so that there was proximal categorization of space/location: Separation of the Holy of Holies from all other places. There was proximal categorization of time like the separation of the Sabbath from all other days. The Day of Atonement and even just regular occurrence (Ecclesiastes 3). There is a categorization of position or status the separation of the priests from all other persons. There were even restrictions on who could wear mixed fabrics and who couldn't

...nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material. Leviticus 19:19

Mixing of wool and linen were prohibited...except in the case of priests. Why do you suppose the priest's Ephod was a mixture of linen and wool? Natural blended fabrics were slower to ignite near fire and considering priests were near ritual flame quite often its important. Wool is sheep hair and is made of protein which is more prone to melt or cauterize rather than burn. Additionally, linen when it is around a lot of heat breathes better than most fabrics and is very cool and it also is less likely to cling to the skin. In the event of fire this is a characteristic I would prefer in my clothes. Can anyone say burnt offering?

The priestly worldview and Jewish life was/is ordered and maintained through the zealous adherence to systemization, categorization and recognition / observance of specific boundaries. This of course lends itself greatly to medicine which prides itself on understanding systems and systematic ordering of thought through diagnosis and systems of elimination when a cure is attempting to be sought to a puzzling ailment or illness.

Sadly, it was the human inability to maintain this order and categorization that was the Achilles Heel in the system of purity and holiness. Human shortcoming…the exact reason these systems for purity and cleanliness were given. It was sin, defilement and impurity that muddled the clear separation in these orders and classifications. God was giving mankind a way to reestablish the order before the Fall and man was incapable of obeying that system. God was restoring order through obedience and a sacrificial system. Through it humanity could be redeemed. Righted. The priestly order through the sacrificial system given by God inevitably pointed to and was fulfilled by God in Christ. It was never really about the law so much as it was the inability to meet the law that showed the need for a Redeemer. The Great Physician offered Himself as the cure to disease, the disease that is sin and even death. He was the Order. He was the Law. Where Jesus walked things righted themselves and the order of the the Kingdom shined in power. Where Jesus is people are healed.

As with the physician and a human body/life, the physician is attempting to categorize systems in the body, systems in the environment affecting the body, and systems of diagnosis to bring order to an otherwise chaotic out-of-control system.

Through systematization of symptoms conclusions can be arrived at with a modicum of certainty especially if there were precedents. Systems of treatment can then be devised for otherwise incurably complex systems because in reality, curing an illness or disease is a balance of wholeness of the systems and strategic ability to pinpoint within a system…the flaw. Just as the Bible and priest did with sin. Disease and sin muddy boundaries and categories thereby compromising the systems whether they be physical or spiritual. They are synonymous. Disease can result from sin and sin can be the result of disease. Both make things unwhole. Imperfect. Undoing God’s perfect order.

The priest like a physician is required to carry out specific duties to maintain the separations demanded to maintain order through categorization. Diseased-Healthy. Holy-Unholy. Priest and Physicians are called to do triage. Spiritual triage and Physical triage and respectively. Sometimes…they do both. Triage is the assignment or categorization of degrees of urgency/severity to wounds or illnesses (sin) to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties (or sinners). If they’re beyond saving…they are literally left to God. There is never one patient and there is never one sinner. Triage is essentially a way to preserve sacred space and time dedicated to healing which inevitably happens in the presence of God whether it be physical or spiritual.

Both a priest and physicians’ diagnosis are based on a systematic questioning. A system of juxtaposed questioning using a thesis / antithesis or yes / no inquiry. This then leads to what theologians / philosophers call a logical syllogism. Based on the answer they proceed another step until a root cause is found. Literally it is a logic fault chart. Order on top of order until no further questioning is possible. This is done to identify the error, sin, disease and determined the best way to either reverse it, heal it or cure it.

 “You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” Leviticus 15:31

The priestly ritual is systematized behavior and systematized behavior is…ritualistic. Systematization and ritual create structure or order where there is little or none. Hence the need for triage. Order in chaos. Which is an emulation of God. Systematized behavior and ritual also are communal. The priest and physician must interact with others to perform their duties. There were also different types of rituals. There are preventative rituals which are to avoid danger of impurity or sin just as there is preventative medicine. There are maintenance rituals which are to preserve/maintain the established order just as maintenance medicine or physical exercise and healthy habits maintain physical health and bodily order. Finally, there are restoration rituals or rituals to restore the broken order of creation just as there are restorative, healing medicine and surgery to reverse the effects of disease and decay. All of this takes place within a proper space and proper time ordained/ordered.

All of this bespeaks of The Scientific Method and to lesser extent Root Cause Analysis and Defect Classification. The priests and the Jews might not have fully understood why they were practicing it but God did. The method existed over 3000 years before the Enlightenment. It just wasn't called Scientific Method. It was called the Mosaic Law.

October 7, 2019

The Great Physician XII: The Serendipitous Doctor

Doctor and the Doll
Norman Rockwell

The aim of The Great Physician series was fallout or the end byproduct of me wanting to understand the medical significance of the Mosaic Law. There just hasn't been a lot of highly specific writing on it. I suppose it is because many theologians are not medically savvy and many physicians may not be theologically savvy. There have been a few that have tried to bridge this gap but not many.

I always knew in my heart that part of the reason God had put it there was for the health of the Jewish nation not just holiness. The health part fell out from the holiness or perfection of it. I just couldn’t find books that spoke to it thoroughly so I put it on myself to do the research and prove it out through root cause myself. It appears to me after reading the Levitical laws that there is a medical foundation in the law permitting the development of a rudimentary form of public healthcare but was given to establish and maintain sacramental hygiene and purity.

Of specific medical interest to me is Leviticus 13 and 15. On the surface the Levitical priest appeared to have practiced a form of diagnostic and preventive medicine but acting as a physician as a therapeutic agent and the idea of cure may never have been considered. Priests became inadvertent doctors via obedience to God’s law. God can even work through the ignorance of men. The priest was concerned with issues of holiness. The doctor or nurse with health. But today we could potentially have both. Back then not so much. God knew that what HE was passing on to the priest and his people were medically beneficial but they likely didn’t understand the medical implications. It has taken until modern times to see the medical connection.

I believe Leviticus should be viewed as the first book of medical hygiene. I will also note that I am in no way a medical expert and by doing this series of posts I am literally attempting medical/biblical exegesis. In some posts I’m trying to diagnose or find the root cause of the symptoms the Levitical law was trying to prevent. No small feat for either a theologian or physician. Add to the mix the role of ancient historian an I believe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. But onward I endeavor…

Simply put the ‘wholeness’ of Judaism’s ritual purity is prerequisite for holiness…so being holy meant being pure. As we can see down through history being pure or righteous by the law also meant being of good hygiene which was conducive to good health. Being healthy and being pure and controlling said conditions in themselves and others could make priests diagnostic doctors whether they realized it or not. The simplest notion of wholeness that they or we would understand was good health via holiness and the absence of disease and illness. The Levitical law served as a set of holy wellness programs.

It was a divine trifecta: Wholeness-Holiness-Healthiness.

Death and disease is essentially malfunctioning or degradation of a biological system. Disease when diagnosed is manifested by symptoms that an individual / patient reports, and signs that are observed or elicited by others whether they be a priest or physician. Illness and disease are medically different terms but the ancient Hebrews did not distinguish so neither will I. I will merely address the manifested symptoms and attempt to draw conclusions.

Botanical Medicine in ancient Israel would’ve likely been gleaned from surrounding existing sociocultural milieus but I will state outright that there is only about half a dozen places where I can find that plants are to be used medicinally.

Psalms 51:7 - Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow

Isaiah 38:21 - For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay [it] for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover.
Psalms 104:14-15 - He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine [that] makes glad the heart of man, [and] oil to make [his] face to shine, and bread [which] strengthens man's heart.
Ezekiel 47:12 Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing."
Revelation 22:2 - In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, [was there] the tree of life, which bare twelve [manner of] fruits, [and] yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree [were] for the healing of the nations.

So…although the Bible mentions it only in passing, doesn’t mean it wasn’t used. We must always remember that the Bible is written for purposes of purity, holiness and salvation. It tells of how to avoid things but once disease was sustained it most certainly was treated not ignored….even by the Israelite people who were called to be holy. We need to distinguish that medicine is not necessarily equated with witchcraft in the Bible. It is witchcraft based on the intent of the practitioners / recipient’s heart/spiritual condition. Just as today Christians go to atheistic/agnostic doctors. Does this make them non-believers? No. Is it probable that priests administered some of the known cures of the time as they were men of education and social status. They were looked up to. The Bible doesn’t speak to it but it is likely those with Judaic/Christian beliefs including priests did medical/medicinal things. The Gospel of Luke was written by a physician.

“Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas” Colossians 4:14

Even Paul and Apostle recommends the use of alcohol, likely as an antiseptic in 1 Timothy. Paul was neither a physician or a priest but clearly believers used medicine or took things internally to cure ills.

“Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” 1 Timothy 5:23

Please note that this is not pharmakia / φαρμακεία or drug use to alter one’s mind and reality which is usually associated to witchcraft or magic. It is medicine in the purest sense for the treatment of an observed disorder/disease. The Bible certainly draws these distinctions. Magic was not medicine. Unfortunately for the believer, both were in practice in the Old and New Testament.

October 5, 2019

The Great Physician XI: A Peaceful Childlike Quality

The Peaceable Kingdom
[Edward Hicks 1780-1849]
Oil on canvas
17 7/16 in x 23 9/16 in
Brooklyn Museum

Shalom. The final word idea in health and wholeness. The noun shalom may be said to embody the warmest and most comprehensive vision of health and wholeness in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word shalom occurs 237 times in the Old Testament. It is found in three different senses. Its most frequent use is that of material “well-being and prosperity”. Most often used by modern Jews as a greeting or goodbye. When Joseph was sent by his father Jacob to check out the shalom of his brothers and cattle, Joseph was asked to learn about their health, their physical well-being. He was to find out whether or not they were all okay. (Genesis 37:14)

Next in usage is its use with reference to social or political relationships. shalom used here typically refers to the character of a relationship, such as that between Tyre and Israel (1 Kings 5:12E) or between a king like Zedekiah and his supposed friends (Jeremiah 38:22). The third and least used sense in the Hebrew Bible is its moral sense of “integrity” or “straightforwardness”. It is in this sense that the Psalmist would instruct us: “Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright, for there is posterity for the man of shalom (Psalms 37:37).

An important underlying principle of all three of these meanings of shalom is how it defines how people, situations, things, should be. It assumes such entities are to be healthy and whole. At peace with itself, God, others and the world. It other words shalom is attempting to express the perfection to which the creation longs to return prior to the curse. A world of being in which every individual and peoples are full, complete, free of injustice, oppression, pain, and sickness. A place and time that Revelation 21 promises will exist in the future.

A world where social relationships no longer exploit or are exploited for personal or corporate gain. A world enriched and enhanced. Shalom is that place and state where Christ rules. A world where humanity and environment are one in harmony and peace.

Isaiah 65:17-25 anticipates this new creation in which infant mortality will be at an end, in which people will live in the houses they have built and will eat of the vineyards in which they have labored, a world where wolf and lamb shall feed together. Such reassuring words are very close to the equally beautiful vision of Isaiah 11:6-9, where wolf and lamb, child, and calf are depicted as dwelling one day side by side in tranquility. This will not be sentimentality. It will be reality.

Amos 9 speaks of coming days in which the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes the sower, when mountains and hills shall drip and flow with sweet wine…

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills…” Amos 9:13

This is Shalom.

Isaiah 32:16-17 goes on to associate shalom with justice, righteousness, quietness, and trust. Most picturesquely and dramatically, Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-5 envisions many nations going up to Jerusalem, beating their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, with nation no longer warring against nation, and the people at last enjoying the return of a pre-curse prosperity. Such is the beatific vision of shalom. Some may reject the Old Testament here as hopelessly and naively utopian. But this is what the New Testament promises also when Christ finally reigns in glory.

This of course will be beneficial to the Hebraic concept of self as it will be conducive to perfect community. A perfect community being the building block of perfect self….at rest with itself and its environment.

So, over the last three posts we have examined three selected concepts of the Old Testament, which, encapsulated the concept of what Old Testament has to say on the subject of health and specifically wholeness. The concept of the Hebrew self implies an insight into the totality and irreducibility of individual and corporate being. The purpose behind the sabbath is that it is an institution to help us renew motivation and time new opportunities. The concept of shalom hopefully awakens in us a longing for and a working toward the most loving unifying vision of all three. The concepts of “self”, “sabbath” and are only a beginning. In them are our vital relationships: to self, to others and to God the most vital relationship of all.

Most people including Christians find it almost disturbing when systems treat diseased or handicapped people in a cruel or inhumane way. People with bodily malformations, skin disorders, blemishes, or those subject to abnormal bleedings or emissions, or those in recent contact with the dead, were understood to lack wholeness and were made to experience various degrees of societal discrimination and exclusion in ancient Israel. These laws were ceremonial and civil laws to protect man from himself. The ceremonial and civil laws for Jews were abrogated in Jesus Christ. We see that when Christ came these effects of the Fall were pushed back on their heels. Jesus brought with Him the Kingdom. The Kingdom is where the King is and where the King is…there is Shalom. There is wholeness. There is healing.

The line of ordained delimitation now extends well outside Hebrew society to Jew and Gentile alike, involving bond and free, male and female, native and foreigner, sacral and secular. It is now embodied in the acceptance of Jesus Christ with a full expectation that at some point in the future, which is imminent, all disease, sickness, suffering, sorrow and tears will be swallowed up in the glory that is Christ and his eternal reign.

Addendum: There was an artist named Edward Hicks (1780-1849). Hicks was self-taught and the only book he really knew well was the Bible. He was thoroughly preoccupied with the theme of Isaiah 11:6-9. He painted the same scene twenty-five times in his life. In one version, The Peaceable Kingdom dated between approximately 1834, he shares his interpretation of the new world in which all of God’s creatures live harmoniously. In the immediate foreground we see predators, domestic animals and innocent small children dwelling together in peace. In the distance we discern men of all race making peace. It is done in a style called Naïve Art. It is usually created by a person who lacks the formal education and training that a professional artist undergoes in things like anatomy, art history, technique, perspective, ways of seeing, etc. It’s defining and most endearing characteristic is its often-imitated childlike simplicity and frankness. The innocence is its appeal. Its peaceful childlike quality. It's shalom. The painting is a bit idealistic in its vision of our future world and it is deftly captured in an innocent expression from the past. A shalom sorely needed in our time. Someday this will come to pass. The Scriptures promise this. Shalom!

October 4, 2019

The Great Physician X: A Tale of Two Woodchoppers

שַׁבָּת Shabbot, The Sabbath is the second concept from the world of the Old Testament which helps explain the concept of self and wholeness. In the Old Testament is the idea of שַׁבָּת “sabbath” Shabbat or rest and cessation of the world’s routine that drags us down. A chance to unplug from the world and plug into eternity. A time to sharpen our axes and saws. Sometimes you just need to go offline. I stopped doing this blog for over three years. I powered down. I had to. Time and life circumstances didn't allow me the time I needed to do exegesis and study properly. Sabbaticals save resources, recharges batteries and renew spirit/Spirit.

While, for some, the sabbath and church going as an institution may conjure up painful memories of religious dogmatism, polemics, legalism, exclusiveness, charlatanism and intolerance, in reality it is the opportunity to re-examine one’s life weekly or at times daily. When we look at it as an avenue to health, renewal, and freedom the sabbath opens more doors than it closes. The sabbath wasn't intended by God to be a confining encumbrance, but rather as a wholesome resource for blessing. It was given a prominent role in Israel’s covenant tradition and laws / commandments. It was thereby borrowed and carried on by Christians.

It is only the sabbath a festival of ancient Israel significant enough to be included in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21). Like the other nine commandments, the sabbath is considered constitutional and basic to Israel’s continued life and well-being. The violation of the sabbath, as with most of the rest of the Ten Commandments, was to result in the death penalty (Exodus 31:14-15, Numbers 15:32-36). You could literally be put to death or incur a death penalty for not resting. The irony here should not be lost. A failure to not rest, to stress and not relax causes anxiety which in turn shortens one’s lifespan. To not stop and rest (and worship) was detrimental to one’s health anyway. Literally.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Mark 6:27

The sabbath literally gives a person time to reflect. On what? Time...the future and past of course. Reflect over one’s life but what God had done for the individual and their community/ nation. Call it a weekly day of memorial. Just as any good believer acknowledges God’s true ownership of the earth/land so to the Sabbath acknowledges God’s ownership over man, time and eternity. The Sabbath brings to the fore not just spatial but also temporal.

When we look at the institutions of the sabbatical year(s) as a whole (when the land was to lie fallow for a year) and the seven sabbatical years plus one, the fiftieth year of jubilee (when all property was ideally to revert to its original owners), so through the sabbath Israel had opportunity to acknowledge God’s lordship and ownership of space, time, and life and be reminded of it weekly. God would never be far from the believer in either space or time in their lives. A living constant God. A God who had rested on the seventh and final day of Creation. God is commanding man to emulate Him in their labors, service and…their rest.

The deep significance of the sabbath to believers should be clear, from the beginning, in the observation that the sabbath (Genesis 2:1- 3), not the creation of humanity (1:26-31), constitutes the real climactic outcome of the opening chapter(s) of Genesis. In the godly mind, God’s primal sabbath rest provided insight into and anticipated the very goal the Creator set for the ongoing creation or labors of men. To bring glory to God Himself.

Essentially the sabbath stood as an agent of restoration, health, and wholeness for Hebrew society as a whole. As Exodus 20:10 stated:

“…in it [the sabbath] you shall not work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates”. The motivations are clear, “…so that your ox and your ass may have rest, and the son of your bondmaid, and the alien, may be refreshed.”

In the sabbath we see time itself as sacred. Time is God’s. We all live on borrowed time that is God’s. Time which He can reclaim at any point He wishes. The sabbath day was understood to be a “holy day”. It was a day set apart from all other days of the week. It was to be kept “holy” and not to be profaned. Just as a believer was to be set aside and holy for use by God. In this way we see the sacredness of saved believers existing and living within time…both being creations of their Creator. Existence of man is not possible without the time to live a life within.

The observance of the sabbath therefore bound the creation and the Creator temporally and each week would be a renewing invitation of a Hebrew/Christian society to respond in praise to the One who created time and space. In the covenant relationship initiated at Sinai God said to Israel:

“You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you....It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel... ” (Exodus 31:13, 17)

The Tale of Two Woodchoppers

Once upon a time there were two woodcutters named Peter and John. They were at loggerheads over who chopped more wood. One day they held a competition. The rules: Whoever produced the most wood in a day would win. The next day both started chopping wood. An hour later Peter stopped. When John realized that there was no chopping from his opponent’s side he continued to cut down his trees with renewed zeal. After 30 minutes passed, John heard his opponent chopping again. Both carried on synchronously. John was starting to tire when the chopping from Peter stopped once again. Sensing victory John continued fervently. This continued all day. Every hour, Peter would stop chopping for 30 minutes while John kept going. When the competition ended, John was confident that he had won. To John’s astonishment, Peter had cut down more wood. “How did this even happen? I heard you stop working every hour for 30 minutes!”, queried John. Peter replied, “It’s actually simple John. Every time I stopped work, I was sharpening my axe.”
#sabbath, #time #resurrection
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