Sunday, March 15, 2009

 

Standing in the Gap

Here's a mixture of what I was taught in Sunday School last week and what I thought of myself.

Ezekiel 22: 23-31 is the key.I use the English Standard Version:

23 And the word of the Lord came to me: 24 “Son of man, say to her, You are a land that is not cleansed or rained upon in the day of indignation. 25 The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured human lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. 26 Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. 28 And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.
These prophets include most Christian pastors in America and Europe today. They profane the holy and care about Man, not God. They blur the difference between Christian and non-Christian, between God and Man, between truth and falsehood, and between right and wrong. They flatter the leading citizens in their congregation and excuse their misdeeds. They criticize, if anyone, only people outside their congregations.

This is obviously true of liberal Christians, but is equally true of evangelicals. The evangelical pastor whose concern is simply to get people to go to church-- or even to "save souls"--- is blurring distinctions to do so, and flattering his congregation.

30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. 31 Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God.”

The "man in the breach" or "man in the gap" is what we should each strive to be. Without him, the land is destroyed. Sodom did not have twenty (was it?) righteous men, and so perished.

Ezekiel 13, entire chapter:

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ 3 Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! 4 Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. 5 You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord. 6 They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. 7 Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?”

Again, the prophets are pastors (and members) who go to their own hearts (which usually means their self-interest and their cultural biases) rather than the Bible or natural law for truth. They say that what God wants is what they want. This is blasphemy as well as bias. It is, of course foolish. Much better would it be if they took Nietzsche's course and admitted outright that they were beyond good and evil and wanted to create their own values. At least they would not be blasphemously ascribing their desires to God.

8 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God. 9 My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord God. 10 Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, F57 11 say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. 12 And when the wall falls, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’ 13 Therefore thus says the Lord God: I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. 14 And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord. 15 Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is no more, nor those who smeared it, 16 the prophets of Israel who prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when there was no peace, declares the Lord God.

The culture builds a wall of prejudices to protect its self- interest. The prophets put on the final touches, the paint. The paint is a trivial part of the wall, really, and adds no strength, but it makes it look nice.

The prophets also twist words. Confucius made a big deal of "the rectification of names", and he was right. The pastors and other proclaimers of truth say that a situation is good when it is not. Calling a war peaceful, a society virtuous, or a people happy will not create peace, virtue, or happiness.

17 “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own minds. Prophesy against them 18 and say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? 19 You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies.

20 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against your magic bands with which you hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear them from your arms, and I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds. 21 Your veils also I will tear off and deliver my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand as prey, and you shall know that I am the Lord. 22 Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, 23 therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the Lord.”

There are people, including even women, who are out to destroy your soul. They want to consume your soul to magnify their own, in the same manner as the devils in C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters, or Mephistopheles in Faust, or, I think, as Neitzsche's liberated man with his Will to Power.

"Soul" here is from a Hebrew word that I think (I could be wrong) means "life" as well as "soul". Some souls *should* be killed. The false prophets keep some souls alive that they should kill, as well as killing souls they should keep alive. Note that this passage makes it clear that some people's souls are detestable. Not everybody should be encouraged. The evil should be disheartened by the prophets.

Keep in mind that "Baal" is the Canaanite word for "Lord". When false prophets were calling on "Baal", they were calling on "the Lord". It was just the wrong Lord.

People use God as a way to solve problems. This is like magic-- which is why magic is so criticized in the Bible. It is treating God as a Means, not an End.

Pagan gods are treated this way routinely. Nobody thinks of loving Zeus or the ancestor spirit as anything but weird. Rather, those gods are powerful spirits not all that different from humans or from gravity who must be treated carefully in order to manipulate their behavior.

Roman Catholic saints are the same kind of petty god. You pray to St. Mary, and she cures your flu. Many people wouldn't dare use the Almighty God for such a trivial purpose, so they pray to St. Mary instead.

Works Religion is the same way. Fast, and God will do things for you. Abstain from wine, and God must keep his end of the deal by making you rich.

Isaiah 58:

1 “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.
We should condemn sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. 3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.
Sinful people often are religious, and act as if they are righteous. This is works-religion. Christians live a righteous life, and expect God to pay them for it. But their aim is to satisfy their earthly desires, and while they may go to church weekly, tithe, and not swear, they still take advantage of their employees.

4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Lots of people do good deeds so they can get away with doing more bad deeds too.
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
We ought to look out for those in need. I don't do that enough.
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. 13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A good approach to reading the Bible: Ask of every passage: How would I interpret this if my goal was to undermine it and defeat it and reduce it to a "tame" meaning of complete blandness or something that agrees with what I want to think anyway? Also ask how someone who wanted to defend your culture would interpret it so as to defeat it. The Christian life is a battle. Battles have real weapons and casualties. The warrior hurts other people, and kills them. THey wound him, and maybe even kill him, and kill his friends. Some people are wounded and need medics. Some people are traitors. Ruses are used, and ambushes, and cutting off of supplies.

I hear that boxers tend to think, unconsciously, "If I don't hit the other guy hard, he won't hit me hard either". Coaches know this, and train it out of their boxers. Don't think that if you hit a trained enemy softly, he will hit you back softly. He won't.

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