Why God Hates a Smartass

eggshell

I am reading “A Compleat Body of Divinity”.  It is a collection of 250 lectures on the Shorter Westminster Catechism written by Samuel Willard and published posthumously in the early 1700’s.  At the time I started writing this, I was on lecture 13, page 42.

Why am I reading this?  I mean really, Puritan theology from 300 years ago.  First, he’s a relative and you know how relatives are about inflicting their pursuits on you.  How can I say no?  What will I say at Christmas when he asks me how I like it?  Secondly, it’s really good stuff.  A little slow in places but don’t tell him I said that.

Speaking of page 42.  I realized as I read it why it is that God is so deadset in his opposition to the proud.  Pride was the sin of Satan.  That’s enough of a reason.  But you begin to ask yourself what is it about that particular sin that is such an affront to God?  What makes it so terrible?  Terrible enough for God to single it out?

Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to the Lord;

be assured, he will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 16:5 HCSB

Pride is the basis for all sin.  Why?  Pride consists of us putting ourselves above God or at least equal to God.

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Whistling Past the Graveyard

old-graveyard

Did you ever hear of this?  That people walking past a graveyard at night would whistle as they walked?  The dictionary defines this as remaining cheerful or confident in a difficult situation.  How difficult a situation is this?  The residents are all dead.  And not just dead, but underneath 6 feet of dirt.  How many of us really think they’re coming up anytime soon?

The answer to why people whistle as they walk past a graveyard is found in walking past a graveyard in the “dead” of night.  The hair rises on the back of your neck and you start at every sound or noise.  It’s creepy and unnerving, even though you know, yes-you KNOW, there’s nothing to be afraid of.  No one is there, at least not in any sense you need to worry about.  The whistling is comforting on a number of levels.  First of all, it gives you something to do other than think about walking past a graveyard full of dead people in the dark of night.  Secondly, you are hopefully whistling something cheerful which not only makes you feel happier but covers any of the odd little sounds that have made you so nervous in the first place.  Thirdly, and most importantly, it disarms the air of the supernatural and brings it back to the realm of the human.  Ghosts and creepy crawlies don’t whistle.  People whistle and there is nothing more lacking in the air of the supernatural than a whistling, flesh and blood, mortal man.

Most of us spend our lives walking past the graveyard.  And we whistle loudly while we do it.  We are determined not to see anything further than our simple, flesh and blood lives.  The whistle blocks out the sense that the world is bigger than the things we touch and see.  You see, what we’re really afraid of is that when we stare into the dark, that someone will be looking back.

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Arise! Shine! For your light has come!

sunrise

One thing I love about the Bible is the odd things you suddenly notice.  You’ve read the same passage time and again.  You can practically quote it verbatim and then suddenly you’re scratching your head and wondering how THAT got in there.  Something stands out to you like a searchlight in the dark and you can’t figure out how you never noticed it before.

Yeshua rose from the dead at dawn.  Now ask yourself which part of that sentence you just didn’t really notice.  Dawn.  He rose at dawn.  Yeah, so???  Why dawn?  We take it for granted that he rose first thing on the Sunday following his death on the cross on Friday.  That would work if God viewed the day as we view the day.

We start our days at dawn.  Sometimes before dawn.  I wake up at 5:50 AM on Monday through Friday.  This time of year that is definitely before dawn.  I can understand Yeshua rising at dawn.  I see no point in getting up before the sun can be troubled to burst over the horizon.  But that’s not the way God views the day.  To understand that we have to go back to Genesis.  Each and every day of creation, it says the same thing.  “Evening came and then morning: the first day.”  [Genesis 1:5 HCSB]  This is why Jewish holidays begin at sundown.  For God, the day begins at sundown.

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What’s Coming is Better Than What Could Have Been

Walking in the Light

I was listening to someone talk about Adam in the Garden of Eden.  He talked about how the death and resurrection of Yeshua meant that we would be restored to the relationship Adam had in the Garden of Eden.  This is when my Jewishness kicks in.  I thought, “Well, yes…..and no.”  What do I mean by that?

The relationship we will have with God based on Yeshua’s death and resurrection has its feet in the Garden of Eden.  The relationship we will have towers above that relationship and explains why it is worth it for us to go through the fall of mankind to reach it.  It is breathtaking that God would offer us so much.  And the cost of a fallen world crippled by sin will make it all the more precious.

What was Adam’s relationship to God in the Garden?  God created man to be perfect.  He could walk with God face to face.  He ruled a creation put under his care by God and it all worked.  There were no broken relationships.  No natural disasters.  No famine, no drought.  Death was unknown and it was all created to continue on in that way for all of eternity.  Except that it wasn’t.  God put everything into place knowing exactly what was going to happen.  This relationship was not enough.

So what was missing from Adam’s relationship that made the fall of man necessary.  Yes, necessary.

 It wasn’t close enough.

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Yom Kippur and the Azazel

two-goats

God institutes the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16.  He describes what is to happen and why in some detail.  Here’s what I noticed in this section this year.

First of all, cleanliness is directed time and again. Aaron must bathe before dressing to enter the Holy of Holies.  After removing the holy garments, he must bathe again and re-dress in his regular clothing.  The person who releases the Azazel (scapegoat) must bathe before re-entering the camp.  The person who burns up the remains of the bull offering and the goat offering for sin must bathe before returning to the camp.  Wash.  Bathe.  Cleanse yourself. Remember the purity of God.  Be pure and present yourselves to God.

Next is an emphasis on God’s holiness.  Aaron is instructed not to enter the Holy of Holies anytime he pleases.  He must only enter once a year and then he must bathe and dress in holy garments after he has sacrificed to remove his sins.  He must carry a pan of embers on which to place incense.  The smoke must billow up so the mercy seat is obscured or the sight of God will kill him where he stands.

Next I remembered something my pastor said.

 Atonement will be made for you on this day to cleanse you, and you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord.   Leviticus 16:30

Atonement will be made for you.  This is not something a person could do for himself.  It required no action on the part of the Jewish citizenry.  They were commanded to sit still and remember who they were before a holy and just God.  No convocations.  No assemblies.  Stay home.  Sit still and humble yourselves.  Be thankful for the forgiveness you did not deserve.

But this time reading through the section something else struck me.  The goats.  Yup, you have 2 goats.  Aaron is to cast lots between the goats.  One will be for God and the other goat will be the scapegoat.  The goat which God chooses will be sacrificed for sin.  But whose sin?

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It’ll be okay, honey.  Go take a nap.

Take a Nap

L’Shanah tovah, everybody.  It’s Rosh Hashanah and we celebrate the beginning of the year 5778 on the Jewish calendar.

This Rosh Hashanah is particularly stressful for me.  I’ve got some stuff going on at home with fast approaching deadlines, we’re going on vacation, the High Holy Days are upon us and I’m very involved at my congregation.  Oh, yeah and the dentist appointment, the hair appointment, the eye doctor and working full time.  The result?  When I get stressed, I don’t go to bed on time.  My cat (aka Demon Spawn) wakes us up during the night because he cannot physically go more than a few hours without being petted.  The stress of everything going on right now with all those impending deadlines and the chaos of the previous couple weeks (yeah, dealing with the insurance company) have left me ragged and exhausted.  So yesterday I woke up sick.  Not germ-ridden sick, but tired and stressed sick.

This type of situation always brings me back to one of my favorite stories in the Bible.  I love Elijah mainly for one reason.

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When Theology Walks the Earth

When Theology Walks

I love reading theology.  It’s better than anything else in the world.  But I have to keep reminding myself that as abstract as the discussions get, I am discussing something concrete.  In fact, the most concrete thing in all of existence.  There is nothing more concrete than God.  Which is odd, because we know he is a spirt.

There is something in man that longs to touch God, which is probably why the worship of idols is so entwined with the history of mankind.  You can’t touch or see a spirit but you can touch and see an idol.  You can pick it up and take it with you anywhere you go.  The original ‘God in a Box’.  God-to-go.  I think what we forget is how much God longs to touch us.  That’s what the rabbis didn’t take into account.  That’s why there was no room in their theology for Yeshua.  Here was God, looking like they looked, reaching out to touch them.  They were prepared for the God of Sinai, descending in cloud and flame.  They were totally unprepared for the God who came to Elijah, not in the wind or the earthquake but as a quiet whisper.  Yeshua was God whispering to us because Sinai is too overwhelming.  Sinai frightens us and causes us to run from God.  Elijah did not run from the whisper.  The whisper made Elijah realize how human he was.  I think he wept when he wrapped his mantle around his face.

This is a constant tension in religion.  God, the creator of the universe, a spirit enthroned in light above the heavens.  God, the creator of the universe, a man touching the leper, his dirty feet washed by the tears of a scandalous woman, his heart broken by the hardness of those who should have welcomed him.  Who is God?  How can these two total opposites be true?

But it was there all along.  God the Spirit creating man and then coming down in the cool of the evening to walk with the two creatures he had made like himself.  Not just like himself in their reasoning ability or their souls but in their physicality.  Because God, when he walked with them, took on flesh and bone.

And that is the purpose of theology.  It should cause us to stand slack-jawed in amazement that we have a God so big that both can be true.  We need the abstract discussions but we need to remember he is a person.  He will walk among us again.  Theology will touch us, laugh with us and still be beyond our ability to describe.