10.24.2008

Original date of writing, 1/15/08; finishing now.

A while back, I was reading something, and it basically said that we were given bodies to keep us humble. This makes a great deal of sense to me, because no matter how finely tuned an instrument the body is, it's still capable of going entirely haywire with little or no provocation. I say this because, in the past four or five days, I've managed to get bronchitis. I've also discovered the joys of NoTuss cough syrup, which proves that narcotics are the true opiate of the masses (ba-dum-tshing). Seriously, it's kind of brilliant. I am avoiding it forever after I get better.

On to serious things, though. Because I'm sick, I've been put on home rest for forty-eight hours. This means no work, no school, no discipleship (which makes me really sad, because I hate missing it), no juvie, no nothing. Which means time. Most of the time I don't get to sit and think about what I'm reading when I read my Bible. Typically I read it in the morning, which means that really have to struggle just to keep awake. But it's the only time of day I could possibly do it, because my nights are crazy. Anyway, sometimes I get stuff out of my reading, and sometimes I don't, but I'm basically just trying to be faithful. But yesterday I was able to take some time and just enjoy it.

I've been trying recently to understand God better as a Person. I think that a lot of people have this idea that there are heavily distinct personalities within the Trinity--that God the Father is kind of stern and smite-y, that God the Son is happy and loving and compassionate, and that God the Holy Spirit doesn't have much of a personality at all. But Jesus said that all the Law and the Prophets were about Him, which means that, when we see the personality of God in the Old Testament, we are seeing the personality of Jesus, and that when we see the personality of Jesus in the New Testament, we are seeing the personality of God (though we can't grasp all of it, obvs.). I learned in Systemat the other day that God's communication with us has at least three distinct characteristics: it is anthropic, analogous, and personal. This means that He communicates in a way that man can understand, in man's languages, using man's culture and context to make Himself understood. He also communicates by way of analogy, giving us pictures that help us to understand things for which our world has no equal (holiness and spirit, for example, we can only define by negatives--not sinful, not bodily, etc.). He also communicates personally. In the Old Testament He spoke to His people (Ex. 20), and that freaked them out so much that they ran away and asked Him to speak through Moses. He spoke through prophets, and the whole Old Testament has to do with God's communication with man. Then the height of His communication came in His actually coming to earth as a person, living with people, loving them, making some of them really mad, dying, and coming back to commission them. Then the New Testament is the story of His doing this, and what that means for the Old Testament and for us. We talked about this for a while in Systemat, and I pretty much loved it, because I really enjoy getting that kind of thing out and thinking about it.

But back to my original point: I've been trying to think through what I read in terms of God's personality--what He's like, who He is, how He does stuff. Hebrews 1 says, "In many times and in many ways, for a long time God was speaking to the fathers by way of the prophets, [but] on the last of these days He spoke to us by way of a Son, whom He made heir of all, through whom also He made the ages; who being the out-radiance of glory and the character/reproduction/representation of his reality, bringing/holding all things by the word of His power, being made a purification of sins sat down at the right hand of the Majesty/Greatness in high places." Three interesting words here: apaugasma, character, and hupostasis. The first, which means out-radiance, is like light--it's all you can see with your eye of His light, as of the sun's being so bright that, if you look at it, all you can see is the shine. You cannot see the true shape or nature of the flaming ball of gas; you can only behold its out-radiance. The second, literally the word "character" in Greek, stands for the reproduction or representation of something, as of a signet ring which, pressed into hot wax, leaves its character behind--this is its stamp or impression. The third designates essence, substance, reality, or realization. Jesus is God's out-radiance--all we can see of Him for the glory that shines out. He is the character of God--the stamp of God's essence, substance, and reality. It stands to reason that Jesus' story can thus be interpreted as the story of who God is at His most accessible.

In view of that, I got to read Matthew 14 yesterday as part of my quiet time, and I saw some things I hadn't seen before.
(10/23/08)1. Jesus never got to rest for sorrow. In Matthew 14, His cousin dies--the guy who had been filled with His Spirit since birth, who had jumped in the womb when he sensed the approach of the just-conceived Jesus, who had lived in the wilderness and waited to announce His coming, who had baptized Him, who had gone to prison for upholding His standards and had sought Him out when doubting in prison. As nearly as I can tell, Jesus was in His home country, likely in or near Nazareth, where he had just been rejected by the people who knew Him growing up, when he heard that John had died. The Scriptures say that He took a boat to a lonely place, by Himself, and when He arrived, He got out of the boat only to see a crowd of 5000 men, all waiting for Him, all wanting something from Him. In his time of sorrow, He could not escape the crowd.
2. Jesus never responded out of self-pity or selfishness. From my entry for Jan. 14: When He sees the great crowd, He's moved by a visceral compassion to heal them--even in His grief, He makes Himself the perfect servant. This is the night He fed the 5000--the end of a very hard day, and His disciples come to Him saying, this place is deserted, and it's already late. Send the crowds into the surrounding regions so they can buy food. But Jesus said, they have no need to depart; you give them something to eat. So they took the 5 loaves and 2 fish, and Jesus spent time breaking bread and fish for 5000 men, plus women and children, until there was enough and to spare. This is the untiring love of our Lord."
3. Jesus always took time for people. Sometimes He retired with His disciples to spend time with them, but as far as I can tell, the only time He's alone in the Bible is when He's in the desert and when He gets by Himself to pray. So much of the rest of His time, He's in marketplaces, talking with crowds and healing everyone brought to Him, or traveling and preaching, healing and touching. Or He's being confronted by Pharisees, taking time to answer them in front of people. But Jesus took a lot of time for people. I think about what I know of my friends' lives in other countries (non-developed countries, that is), and about how much time it takes to get everything done. I remember that Mom used to stand in lines for hours in Zimbabwe, just to pick up a package. Jesus came on purpose in a world like that. Everything in Jesus' life took time, and yet He was always patient with people.

I know a lot of people struggle with concepts of God and the idea that He was a God of wrath in the Old Testament and a God of love in the New, but I don't see it. What I do see is that He never tolerated anything that brought His people in bondage, that He hated man's inhumanity to man, and that He judged wickedness. We see that in Jesus. He said the Father had committed all judgment into His hand, and He upbraided the Pharisees, called them hypocrites, sons of Satan, sons of hell, a brood of liars; He called Peter Satan when Peter tried to deter Him from the cross; He whipped the money changers out of the temple (taking time to braid the whip), and He yelled at the men selling doves (I think He singled them out because they were taking advantage of the people who had to buy doves--the poor; also His parents, see Luke 2). Love motivated His wrath each time: He loved the Pharisees and those they taught, and thus chastised the Pharisees (and the chastisement of God is always an invitation to repent) and warned His disciples not to be like them; He had to endure the cross for our sakes, and thus chastised Peter; He loved the poor and was outraged that His Father's house, which should have been a place of prayer, was a place in which those who should have been leading in the worship of God were taking advantage of even the least of His worshipers.

Same in the Old Testament. It wasn't that God didn't love the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Hivites, etc.; He did love them. In Abraham's day He gave them a big, obvious sign to repent--fire falling in a valley, destroying a major trade concourse. Sodom and Gomorrah could be seen from miles around, could definitely be seen from all of the mountains and hills in the vicinity, and the message was clear--there is a God who does not tolerate wickedness. God gave the nations in that area four hundred years to fulfill their wickedness, but they also had a warning to repent. The king of Sodom had already had the testimonies of Abraham and Melchizedek. Also, every nation remembered the Flood and knew there was a God who judged evil--when Abimelech took Sarah for a wife, God confronted him and said, "You are a dead man," and he feared God and repented. Abraham had assumed that there was no fear of God in the people around him, but this was not so. By four hundred years later, though, everyone in that area made a practice of sexual immorality of all kinds, of following idols, and of sacrificing their children to idols. In the face of an obvious rebuke from God, they dug their heels in and, as Jeremiah said, went backward and not forward. Their time for repentance ran out; allowing them to live among the children of Israel would only result in the Israelites' becoming like them--a thing that they struggled with throughout their history as they encountered other nations and their gods. When the children of Israel approached Jericho, the city trembled; they had heard forty years earlier of the dividing of the Red Sea and the death of Pharaoh's army, yet only one woman heard this and acted in faith, and was thus saved. The rest refused to repent and act in faith toward God. See Nineveh: Jonah was angry that God wanted to give the Ninevites a chance to repent, because he knew not the wrath of God, but the extent of His mercy.

Significantly, the signal word of Deuteronomy, Moses' big sermon that related the Law a second time, is "love"--God's love for man, and the necessity to love God and love one's neighbor.

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