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JUDGMENT, LAMENTATION AND THE LOVE THAT LIVES
Today, we plan to complete our studies in Elijah and Elisha, the messages, the depths they deliver, their relevance to our contemporary times. In the process, we shall see the logical harmony of the concepts employed and their complete parallel with those of the New Testament, though the theocratic base made for some diversified applications. It is this consistency in intimacy, each perspective with the other, over time and each in its place, which is so striking a testimony to the immutability of the speaker, developing the completion of the scenario from the first, and sowing the seed for later crops, just as they were indeed predicted, each correlative with the other, each program in concert with both the other and the outcome, and all with the predicted consummation.
FIRST, we consider the ARROW OF THE LORD, the WORD OF GOD, that finds its place! (II Kings 1, II Chronicles 21).
SECONDLY, we ponder the fact that MOCKING MERCY IS FATUOUS FUN (II Kings -25).
THIRDLY, we reflect that GOSPEL MERCY IS URGENT BUSINESS (II Kings ,29, Luke 10:4).
FOURTHLY, we look at further developments with the SHUNAMMITE woman, prayer, relief and the typology of Christ found there.
FIFTHLY, we come to the sad
situations for some in unbelief, where MERCY MUST WAIT (II Kings 8:7-15).
ARROW OF THE LORD, THE WORD OF GOD
Here you have Ahaziah, son of Ahab, the sickly king who seeks advice from a foreign god. Elijah is sent to intercept the messenger, and gives the death sentence, that is, the intimation that the king will die. Unimpressed, the king sought to kill Elijah with squads of 50 soldiers, the first two of which were, like the sacrifices at Mt Carmel, met with celestial fire. GOD WOULD PROTECT his servant, till his work was done. As one put it, I am immortal till my work is done!
The third captain sought
mercy and gained it. Elijah then confronted the King - "Is it because
there is no God in
Then suddenly a LETTER FROM
ELIJAH, the very prophet who had condemned his father, Ahab after the murder of
Naboth for the sake of his vineyard, the very one who
had so slighted Jehoram as evil in the battle against
see, Elijah it was who brought the message of doom to Ahaziah
in the second year of Jehoram of Judah, and Elijah
did not ascend to heaven till some time after that, so it appears Jehoram had just nice time to slaughter his brothers, and
for Elijah to write him a letter, perhaps just before he went. THIS LETTER (II
Chronicles ) it is which hits Jehoram like a
MOCKING MERCY IS FATUOUS SIN
II Kings 2:23-25 gives a fascinating episode in which some youngsters mock Elisha and are savaged by bears as a result. The situation closely resembles that in which Elijah brought down fire both on the sacrifice at Mt Carmel and on the captains of 50 sent to capture him. It is NOT that the servants of God do not suffer, many in fact being killed. It is that WHEN there is still work for them to do, and their task in the love of Christ is not sufficiently performed, God uses His own ways to protect them. It is like a book: it must be finished. Sometimes this is early in their lives, as in Josiah's case, as a MERCY (cf. Isaiah 57:1), for then they may be spared from some great judgment to come. In my own life, I was once in a school boarding house as a house master for some 18 months, and then left that accommodation. A couple of weeks later it was suddenly burnt down. In this way, I saved all my writings!
Moreover look at the situation at that time with Elisha. He had just been used to save a water supply with salt, a symbol of blessing through cleansing, and now some lads, perhaps Army cadets (as we say sometimes 'lads', or 'the Army boys') were trying to make his ministry seem ridiculous, just possibly mocking the 'going up' (ascension) of Elijah, whom Elisha had first served. "Go up, baldy!" Not thus would God suffer His ministry to be abolished as ineffective; and the same zeal applies now to His word, written, the Bible as in Galatians 1. If ANY ONE teaches ANOTHER GOSPEL, says Paul, let him be ACCURSED. It is the ONLY WAY for man. It continues unchecked, to reach to the depths for sinners, answering questions meeting challenge.
It is always unwise to mock
God, and though His servants do not avenge themselves, His work may bring
exposure of the evil, as it continues. Elisha as a
prominent and indeed fighting prophet (in the spiritual sense) in a declining
nation nearing its doom, was not going to be ridiculed
from the scene. The hand of God operated on the situation, delivering to
contempt, the contemptuous and extending His mercy to all who sought Him truly.
GOSPEL MERCY IS URGENT BUSINESS II Kings 4.
Here we come again to the lad whom Elisha brought by the power of God, as a blessing to the Shunammite lady, some 12 months after he spoke. Working
with his father in the field, the lad found trouble in his head, possibly
sunstroke, and was taken to his mother where he died. Perhaps to spare the
father the shock of losing that well-loved son, the lady at once sent a servant
to the prophet Elisha, saying, "Drive, and go
forward: do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you" - II Kings 4:24. Elisha sends Gehazi more swiftly
ahead, saying, "Get yourself ready, and take my staff in your hand, and be on
your way. If you meet anyone, do not greet him; and if anyone greets
you, do not answer him: but lay my staff on the face of the child" - II Kings . Obviously, speed was of the essence,
just as it is with the Gospel which brings from SPIRITUAL death to spiritual
life, now (II Corinthian
Accordingly, Christ told
his disciples this: "Go your way: behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.
Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals: and greet
no one along the road … Heal the sick there, and tell them, 'The
(Bold in each case added for parallelism purposes.)
the dead boy raised symbolises the dead sinner
brought to life, so the speed of Gehazi symbolises the need to present the Gospel while it is near
through your mouth and life, to others. Urgency seems less now
? than for cancer ? Yet far worse than cancer is
what people are to be found doing to their eternal loss, and they need the
diagnosis of the Gospel and its remedy URGENTLY. Artificial ?
It is NOT artificial to seek urgently to give artificial respiration to the
the fashion of this world is passing away" and it will be no more.
MORE ON THE SHUNAMMITE WOMAN -
Relief, Prayer, the Typology of Christ in two ways… II Kings 8:1-6.
Compare Ephesians 3:20, Mark .
The crisis was real. Blessings from above descended on this thoughtful woman. Elisha even told her of an approaching famine in the land, so that she left for another country till it was over. On her return, she was in real danger of not being able to establish that the land was hers, or to regain it. It so happened, in the Lord's good providence, that just as she was coming to seek recognition of her land, after her long years abroad, that the King (Joram it seems) had been asking Gehazi to recite to him some of the great works of Elisha. Telling the king how the prophet had restored the dead to life, he found that very same woman of Shunem before him, seeking her land back from the king. "This is the woman," said Gehazi to the King, "and this is here son whom Elisha restored to life." What a moment!
Touched, the King ordered that her land be restored to her, and the income from it over the years of her absence, be given to her also!
In this you see a) removal of obstruction (the present users and their reluctance) b) presence of construction (the king's power is used for restoration).
So in prayer God is able not only to remove OBSTACLES to godly living, but to build opportunities (Ephesians , Mark ). Expect good things from the Lord AS and IF you are serving Him with all your heart (Matthew , and see with this, Luke !). The Spirit of God is indeed given to the Christian, enabling him to act as one; and to those who obey Him, God grants the power for the need!
Observe too that the whole
episode of the lady of Shunem is a parallel to
Christ. Thus HE as the Son of God was divinely GRANTED, DIED (being murdered).
HE was RAISED from the dead. HIS kingdom is to be RESTORED to Him (like her
land to her), and the SON will be seen in this at His return (Zech. 14:5, I Thess. ), just as her son was with her when
she met the King. The case also reminds us of Christ as a babe, sent to
WHERE MERCY MUST WAIT (II Kings 8:7-15)
Now we come to another
sort of end: that on earth of Ben-Hadad, enemy king
Out comes Hazael from the Syrian King (yes, that is the name God gave to Elijah at Mt Carmel) with many camel loads of gifts. Ben-Hadad wants to know this, Will he get better ? Elisha declares to Hazael, tell him, 'You may certainly recover!' This is the message. However this is the HEALTH DIAGNOSIS. In fact, Elisha tells Hazael, the Lord has shown him that the king is to die. How then ? It is in fact to be at the treacherous hand of his 'servant', Hazael. He went back and after delivering the true prognosis for the disease, he did worse than the disease, and killed the his master himself, using a wet cloth to prevent the sick king from breathing.
Thus was fulfilled the
Lord's word to Elijah for the appointing of Hazael as
king. It would be, and indeed was he who became one of the punishments for
rebellious and truculent
Consider Christ, who is
here portrayed or typified, in one sense, for He also in Luke 19:42ff., Matthew 23:37ff. is seen
weeping over the coming devastations to hit
Here you see a fascinating combination. On one side, is the judgment of God, to be brought about; again there is the mercy, for those who walk into it; and then again, there is the suffering of God's heart, as He surveys the ruthless removal of mercy by those who reject His salvation, like people who REFUSE anti-radiation clothing in a prohibited area. Further even more than this, there is the suffering of Christ Himself, who gave Himself a ransom on behalf of all, but by no means in the place of all (Matthew 20:28 - 'many'); for those whose actual place HE takes, who come in faith to Him, ARE HEALED (Isaiah 53:4-6). So does justice insist on its due, mercy persist in its plea and ransom come where it belongs.
Elisha met a very concerned Hazael,
wondering at such sorrow; just as the world wonders at the love of Christ. Hazael hardened in time, no doubt, as the world does. It is
folly to trust in it, "for the fashion of the world is passing away" (I Corinthians ).
THE UNFATHOMABLE MERCY THAT LIVES WHERE CHRIST IS
It was this which Christ provided, His death retrospectively and prospectively effective to cover the sin, the ransom price for it, the just desert of it, for all who receive Him in truth and sincerity as Lord and Saviour. Do you see how these things cohere like clouds and sky, sunset and horizon, all one glorious spectacle and spiritual scene ? Judgment is the necessity of reality; mercy is the grace of God who being personal, brings into the reality of what He has made, the wonder of His kindness. Forgiveness is the result of mercy, but it comes not with push but prayer, faith and repentance. Suffering is the result of justice, either to the race or to the individual.
If it reaches an
individual, it may be for testing, for sentence or for correction (cf. Amos 4,
Job 1). If there were no sin, there would be no suffering; for there would be
nothing to challenge or to test. That is, this is so except for Christ, who
suffered in love, to show mercy and produce forgiveness that could stand, so
we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgiven us our sins and to
cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1). We who are Christians may also sometimes suffer
for others, in the love of Christ, the better to show it and to apply it (cf.
Colossians ), thus making in our own contemporary world, not a new
Thus it all coheres, the love, mercy, pardon and power of God, who in Elisha, as in us (Ephesians 1:19, Acts 5:32), is well able to fortify us with His power, as He accepts us with His pardon, so that we in His love may present in life and word, His way which is the only path of mercy. Mere talk of mercy is not at all to the point; the WAY FOR MERCY to come, like a stream coursing down from the mountains, this is the necessity (cf. Jeremiah 2:13-14). GOD has placed that stream on earth in and as Christ. Now by His Spirit, He sends anew the understanding, the power and the grace which enable His servants to bring waters to new places, marshy places and deep places (Mark 16:15).
When it is done, then He ceases. Until it is done, this application of His gospel, this mercy bought and paid for, this pardon provided and public: the power proceeds. It is nearly time. The signals are all in place (Luke cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5, SMR Chs. 8-9), and it is well to receive that mercy IN TIME (cf. Isaiah 55:6)
The earth will soon be
voided, not of the wicked, but of the people who are the Lord's, where love
rules and truth is its own testimony (cf. SMR Chs. 1, 3, 5, 8-10, TMR Ch. 1,
5, 7). These His children, the children of light gone, judgment sets in. Do
you see the pattern here ?
It is then that the pride of man, glorying in his gifts, instead of repenting of their misuse, glad in the self he did not create, and creating havoc with it, asserting autonomy and attesting bellicosity with his own soul, with the spirits each with the other, with his world and with his destiny, is found out.
All that, it is near. It all speaks. It is the response which is now important. SEEK the Lord WHILE He may be found. Is there any sin ? Get rid of it. Is there some desire which, whilst not evil, is plaguing you, some effort, some ambition which is LORD of your life, leaving to Christ second place ? It is not a possible life: except you forsake ALL you CANNOT be My disciple! He said (Luke 14). This too, it is all coherent and perfectly composed. How could you have a God who was a subject of your own will! Is God to be given orders ?
Is the creator of order in man's trilogy, his synthesis of matter, mind and spirit, to be given lessons from ignorance and shown the way from the lost ? Is God to learn from you ? Is HE to be a politician accepting a place on your electoral terms ? Not likely. Not possible. As Paul in entire consistency put it, "For do I now persuade men, or God ? Or do I seek to please men ? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ." Is man to be persuaded by being pleased ? or is God to be obeyed by showing His GOOD pleasure (Ephesians 1:5). Those who seek to please man are manipulated, or manipulating, and the very word signifies it.
Are you to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4 - Christ to the Samaritan woman) and yet worship your own goals, giving them the pre-eminence ? There cannot be two firsts, mutually antagonistic. It is SIN in your life which has to yield to SANCTITY, and CHRIST in your life, who if there are all, is ONE MASTER (Matthew 23:8-10). There is and CAN BE no other. God is not able to be compared, or collated or compromised (Psalm 89:6), for as David puts it,
"Whom have I in heaven but You ?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" - Psalm 73:25-26.
The eternal source of all systems, is not available to be systematised by the erratic hearts, inordinate wills and bloated minds of those who are recipients of one of His creative insertions into a universe made to be equipped with time, surveyable from the first, and before it, performing as planned, but with that marvel of freedom. What IS available is the cogent, the functional, the effective way to return to a life in which freedom, though godly in its institution, is not made into a god! That is merely one of the all but innumerable options short of God, like an infinitude or very nearly one, of short-circuits, to divert the current, deplete the power for necessary purposes and bring confusion to the planet.
The great prophets provide a great contrast. It was so in the days of Elijah and Elisha (cf. Jeremiah -17). The power however came where the Lord was served, as dramatically with Elijah so often, with Elisha, with Jeremiah; and as empathetically, as they suffered for their labours, but proceeded, not without tears (Jeremiah 9:1ff., I Kings 19:4, II Kings 8:11-12), certainly not without knowledge (II Kings 8:10), but with valour.
It still does. Now the very children and church of the living God, which is defined by His word and not vice versa (the creator is the author of man and His text to him, not vice versa!), to these is the power to prevail (Revelation 12:11): not in military intervention à la Bush, nor yet in the clammy contradictions of truth, for philosophy never ceases to whirl like children perpetually on the merry-go-round, since those who follow its vagrancies, decline to stop the ride. The 'ride' was stopped long ago by the word of God, which solves all the convulsions and contortions of philosophy with the simplicity of truth which, however deep, is straightforward and clean, without contradiction (cf. SMR Ch. 5, Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 11).
Meanwhile, the heady mixture of religious narcotics, their code read from the heart of man or worse, spread by the hand of man, man's invention as an invention, not God's provision as Creator: this was abhorred by God in the days of the prophets; it still is. A total mixture is in the pipe-line, the World Council of Churches one of its preliminaries (Revelation 13, esp. where the devil is seen as a spiritual contortionist, and many follow his twisted words: contrast Proverbs 8:8). Nothing changes. Only the names of the saints, the servants, the redeemed messengers of Divine Royalty change, those on the earth at any given time. The testimony of the millenia does not change.
Book does not change. It predictions do not change; what changes is the world
while, like some wild dog, it rushes to fulfil them!
There, it is irony! But in the word of God there is iron (cf. Jeremiah -29). It strikes sparks when hit; it
does not alter. It prevails in its way, which includes the whole suffering mass
and morass of deluded and deceived man, now rising as predicted, like a storm
(Matthew 24, Luke 21). Like Elijah and Elisha it is
our lot to show them the truth, and seek many to find the only Lord, who is
GOD: Jesus Christ, foretold in word so clearly from David on, and indicated
long before; that same LORD whom Elijah demonstrated at Mt Carmel, who later
demonstrated Himself ON the Cross by refusing to come down. It is rather WE,
who must go up - in faith to Him, freed by His death, liberated into life.
One of the things that is brought home to the wandering heart, that brings relish to the happy heart in Christ, that stirs the depths with its joint profundity and simplicity, is this.
As we study Elijah and Elisha, we find a strong, indeed overwhelming commitment to the WORD of the LORD, to the LORD of
the WORD and to the OUTCOMES of the word of the living God!
The LORD, He is GOD! declares Elijah. That is indeed the import of the prophet’s very name. It is not some other, some Baal. Perhaps, he declared incisively, stirring the hardened fat in the hearts of the false prophets, perhaps your god is out hunting, asleep, in conversation. Stir him up! Wake him up! (I Kings ).
This is not the school-boy humour of the pedant at large; but the jibing of rejoicing truth, exposing to the bone the lustful excesses of romancing religion without reality, fuzzy fealty that wanders. Since the LORD IS God in fact, therefore there are results. Let us look back to an earlier and crucial test.
One result was this: the prophet proposed a highly pertinent a practical test ? By all means. At Mt Carmel ? But of course. One prophet against 400 false ones ? what more fitting, for as Elisha was to articulate it from the Lord, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" - II Kings . After all, the offering was precisely what had been mutilated in thought, spirit or form, in diseased sacrifices or in merely formalistic intent. If it were done RIGHT after so long a time, then God would consummate it with fire Himself.
As noted earlier, Hezekiah expanded the concept later, for the prayer of Hezekiah, when confronted by an Assyrian army was strikingly similar to, and perhaps a development from the words of Elisha (II Chronicles 32:7 cf. II Kings ). Let us hear it:
In the case of Elisha and his servant (II Kings 6:17ff.), there was a vision of the heavenly host in support; in that of Hezekiah the point is made plain in direct language; but it is one principle that they espouse. The reason on which this principle is based is this, that is there is ONE GOD, who being a Spirit, is NOT subject to the petty contrivances, the military and militant protestations and projectiles of man, nor is He attainable by their furies and furores, except of course ONCE, when He came as one of them. Even this, however, it was planned so that in an elaborate and incisive irony, the more they fought Him in the flesh, the further His plans were fulfilled in the Spirit.
In Christ (II Cor. 5:17ff., John ), in the form and format of man, yet without sin (II Peter 2:22ff., Philippians 2), God came to conquer, not with arms but with a veritable armada of grace. He could remove the arms of man if He so desired, and make his puny and futile folly apparent as an armless race; but He does not do. His tests are more spiritual than that would be.in Christ, that stirs the depths with its joint profundity and simplicity, is this.
As we study Elijah and Elisha, we find a strong, overwhelming indeed commitment to the WORD of the LORD, to the LORD of the WORD and to the OUTCOMES of the word of the living God!
The LORD, He is GOD! declares Elijah. That is indeed the import of his very name. It is not some other, some Baal. Perhaps, he stirred the fat in the hearts of the false prophets, perhaps your god is out hunting, asleep, in conversation. Stir him up! Wake him up!
This is not the school-boy humour of the pedant at large; but the jibing of rejoicing truth, exposing to the bone the lustful excesses of romancing religion without reality, fuzzy fealty that wanders. Since the LORD IS God therefore there are results. One was this: a practical test ? By all means. At Mt Carmel ? But of course. One prophet against 400 false ones ? what more fitting, for as Elisha was to articulate it from the Lord, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" - II Kings .
As noted earlier, Hezekiah expanded the concept later, for Hezekiah’s prayer when confronted by an Assyrian army was strikingly similar to, and perhaps a development from the words of Elisha (II Chronicles 32:7 cf. II Kings ). Let us hear it:
"Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid of the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him
With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles."
In the case of Elisha and his servant, there was a vision of the heavenly host in support; in that of Hezekiah the point is made plain in direct language; but it is one principle. The reason is there is ONE GOD, who being a Spirit, is NOT subject to the petty contrivances, the military and militant protestations and projectiles of man, not attainable by their furies and furores, except of course ONCE, when He came as one of them; but even this, it was planned so that in an elaborate and incisive irony, the more they fought Him in the flesh, the further His plans were fulfilled in the Spirit. He came to conquer, not with arms - He could remove the arms of man if He so desired, and make his puny and futile folly apparent as an armless race, but He does not. His tests are more spiritual than that would be.
He came to suffer; to silence the claims and clamours of justice in its war on sin; to meet with mercy the place of pardon, by His own blood. If, says Paul, "the rulers of this age" had known, "they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" - I Cor. 2:8. They would not, as if paid employes, have forwarded His so strange work (Isaiah 29:14 with 28:21), which though it lead to judgment, starts with the judgment on HIMSELF (as in Ezekiel 34, come as the Good Shepherd, God Himself! cf. Hosea 13:13). "Death," says He, "I will be your plagues. Grave, I will be your destruction." (That is in fact 'hell', the separated gloom of everlasting darkness, in the severance from the light, occasioned by the grave where the life eternal is not to be found, being rejected by men.)
Caiaphas even went so far as to make a strangely resonant statement, though one wholly diverse in spirit, to that of the actual plan of salvation, declaring it "expedient ...that one man should die for the people!", perhaps the most supreme irony of all. Alas, he meant it as a sacrifice of power for security; but the words, though not the heart, tuned well with the reality; for Christ was sent and came a sacrifice of love for the repentant, the contrite. He came to collect the lost found, the believers who would abide by Him, because they came to be in Him, and in Him because called, just as He was sent, and coming found them.
The irony is brought out neatly. In fact, the above priestly quotation has two words excised, and in full it reads, most revealingly, "it is expedient for us that one man should die..."! Sin is speaking, but its formula, though foul in perspective, and clammy in heart, is correct in external form.
What then is to be found here ? This. It is as Jeremiah said (-13):
"Who is the wise man who may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it?
"Why does the land perish and burn up like a wilderness, so that no one can pass through?
"And the Lord said, 'Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, nor walked according to it, but they have walked according to the dictates of their own hearts and after the Baals, which their fathers taught them, therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: 'Behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink. I will scatter them also among the Gentiles, whom neither they nor their fathers have known. And I will send a sword after them until I have consumed them.' "
The issue is simple, the matter direct, in re dei is not at all prolix or difficult. GOD IS, and HE HAS SPOKEN and DIRECTED and SHOWN WHAT IS GOOD, and it was formulated even in law, provided in words to be understood, not complex or contrived (cf. Proverbs 8:8), and there is no excuse, nor need any explanation be tediously given. What HE DIRECTED, the law of goodness, the principles of life enunciated for man, they were not kept. The covenant, the agreement freely entered into by the people, as you see so clearly in the last chapter of Joshua, was breached to the point of idiocy, not mental, but spiritual. It is like a student simultaneously thumbing the nose, waggling the fingers in the ear holes, shouting abuse and (if arms were multitudinous enough) and throwing refuse while kicking in class. It is not a genius who is needed to display that this is rebellion, raw and lusty, rambunctious and a matter of illusion of power, effusion of self-will, profusion of immorality coming like some race driver down the track, seeking to surpass all and win the cup of revolt.
Indeed, the New Living Bible gives some conception of the sense of Ezekiel 8:17 in this way:
“Have you seen this?” he asked. “Is it nothing to the people of
that they commit these terrible sins, leading the whole nation into idolatry, thumbing their noses at me and arousing my fury against them? Therefore, I will deal with them in fury. I will neither pity nor spare. And though they scream for mercy, I will not listen.” Judah
Let us however pursue the text of Jeremiah 9, beyond the last quotation of it:
"Thus says the Lord of hosts:
'Consider and call for the mourning women,
That they may come;
And send for skillful wailing women,
That they may come.
Let them make haste
And take up a wailing for us,
That our eyes may run with tears,
And our eyelids gush with water.
For a voice of wailing is heard from
‘How we are plundered!
We are greatly ashamed,
Because we have forsaken the land,
Because we have been cast out of our dwellings.’
"Yet hear the word of the Lord, O women,
And let your ear receive the word of His mouth;
Teach your daughters wailing,
And everyone her neighbor a lamentation.
For death has come through our windows,
Has entered our palaces,
To kill off the children -no longer to be outside!
And the young men - no longer on the streets!
"Speak, Thus says the Lord:
‘Even the carcasses of men shall fall as refuse on the open field,
Like cuttings after the harvester,
And no one shall gather them.’
"Thus says the Lord:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,' says the Lord."
It is no mere code; it is more than this, not less. It is no simple assemblage of orders. It is more than this, not less. It is a translation from the heart of God of fundamental, lively principles, put in propositions, exhorted with heart, backed by power, exhibited by example, shown in the suffering of the prophets, culminating in the death of Christ, the LORD of GLORY Himself, God manifest in the flesh, meeting the inevitable. Why this ? It is because God is neither mocked nor mutable, and HE WILL NOT CHANGE. Hence love did what law required, and law exhibited what heart desired and Christ died, the just for the unjust to bring us to God.
What then do we find in this ? MORALITY is one of the things that we find. It is neither adventitious nor meretricious when it comes from meta-religion (cf. A Spiritual Potpourri Ch. 15, *1). It is an expression of what is lovely, what is true, what is real, what endures because of this, what is dear to the heart of God, what is lively, expressed as the MORAL LAW of God. Men may call it 'morality', their own thoughts, because of their tired old cultures, hearts a-flutter and empires falling, while seeking to promote or promulgate their conceptions of duty or responsibility, often fluted with self-will, invaded by desire and inflated with pride, misused by the arrogant (as in Matthew 23's exposition from the lips of the Lord), abused by the manipulative. Men may therefore in turn react and deny, derogate or deride, but when it is the word of the Lord, the law of God, the wisdom of the Ancient of Days which is in view, the case is clear.
Build on your own morality plays (on words, on ideas of philosophy, or anti-ideas of anti-philosophy if you have a heart for the irrationality of seeking to give grounds from irrationality for what is to appeal to reason!), but this comes and go like the tides, signifying, if not nothing, nothing to the point. It is the word, the law, the licence, the principles of God which mean, and mean precisely what they say. He has in patience brought in patterns, examples as in Elijah and Elisha, fortressed with power, shown with function, provided in pity, exhibited through suffering; pronouncements as in Jeremiah, precise in kind, deliberate in outcomes to be made visible all too soon for the feckless follies of the deluded who made their hearts as adamantine, granite and godless; He has produced foci as in Isaiah, highlighted like the search-lights of World War II seeking the enemy planes which dropped the bombs of unbelief on the witless or the woeful.
Yet the planes were not in this case those of the enemy, but of the Lord, laden with goodness, showing the Christ in His suffering, holding it aloft, roaring through the air of history with this publication of peace, this provision of pardon, this avenue of grace, this testimony to truth: Christ crucified, the Lord of glory condescending to the gory. Flag of the immutable, prince of peace, incarnation of deity, He took it and showed it, and declared,
NOTHING could move. It had to be thus, for thus was the mind of God, expressed in words, declaring the plan of salvation, far more important than the plan of creation, though the two are indissolubly and intimately united. Thus consider it: If to create is a vast work of wisdom and power, then to redeem is an imponderable work of love and heart, of suffering and payment to meet justice' dues, of rigorous realism concerning truth and vigorous virtue meeting morality, righteousness and truth.
It is necessary to KNOW GOD, and this is not obtained by ignoring His words, despising His face when incarnate or deploring the utterances of His lips. It is so necessary that Christ died, not to remove the way of truth, but to cover its brach; just s He rose to declre pardon and justification, while enabling godly life in His presence (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 4:25-5:2).
Negatively, THAT IS WHY
Look further at Isaiah 30 just noted (The Living Bible rendering, inset serving for quotation marks in this case):
Now go and write down this word of mine concerning Egypt, so that it will stand until the end of time, forever and forever, as an indictment of Israel’s unbelief. For if you don’t write it, they will claim I never warned them. “Oh no,” they’ll say, “you never told us that!”
For they are stubborn rebels. They tell my prophets, “Shut up - we don’t want any more of your reports!” Or they say, “Don’t tell us the truth; tell us nice things; tell us lies. Forget all this gloom; we’ve heard more than enough about your ‘Holy One of Israel’ and all he says.” This is the reply of the Holy One of Israel:
Because you despise what I tell you and trust instead in frauds and lies and won’t repent, therefore calamity will come upon you suddenly, as upon a bulging wall that bursts and falls; in one moment it comes crashing down. God will smash you like a broken dish; he will not act sparingly. Not a piece will be left large enough to use for carrying coals from the hearth, or a little water from the well. For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to me and waiting for me will you be saved; in quietness and confidence is your strength; but you’ll have none of this.
“No,” you say. “We will get our help from
; they will give us swift horses for riding to battle.” But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you! One of them will chase a thousand of you! Five of them will scatter you until not two of you are left together. You will be like lonely trees on the distant mountaintops. Yet the Lord still waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love; he will conquer you to bless you, just as he said. For the Lord is faithful to his promises. Blessed are all those who wait for him to help them. Egypt
O my people in
, you shall weep no more, for he will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. He will answer you. Though he give you the bread of adversity and water of affliction, yet he will be with you to teach you - with your own eyes you will see your Teacher. And if you leave God’s paths and go astray, you will hear a voice behind you say, “No, this is the way; walk here.” And you will destroy all your silver idols and gold images and cast them out like filthy things you hate to touch. “Ugh!” you’ll say to them. “Be gone!” Jerusalem
The matter is clear in any rendering, so vigorous is the word, and this may help the sense of the contemporary by its idiomatic rendering.
It is not the
'meaninglessness' of the vast proliferation of sufferings which is the point.
THAT is precisely what happens when in any system, there is skew (cf. Psalm
1:5-6). It brings vibrations here, rupture there, leakage in the other place,
danger at this point, unreliability at that. Do it with dams and what happens
when it pours in torrents ? What happens in
Thus the moral midgetry of trying to make situational ethics, moral relativism, 'meaningless' life and the like, is not only irrational (cf. SMR Ch. 3, esp. pp. 295ff.), declaring in a system of no truth, where reason is not to come, what is the truth; or in an arena of no meaning, that there is no meaning, so that THIS meaning is prescribed, showing where knowledge is to be evacuated that this is the case, that it IS evacuated, as if this itself were not knowledge! Thus the 'meaningless' assesses meaning, and declares its presence or absence by the power of assessment, itself the very criterion of meaning, though allegedly it does not exist!
As so often in these affairs, the speaker is always the exception: HE knows that no one can know; knowledge buds where it is eschewed; meaning arrives by the cart-load, though it is not there, and the characteristics of the system are clarified, though the capacity to do so does not exist!
The speaker himself, he is SO very meaningful that he is an expert in its assessment, a criterion of its discernment and a judge of its very essence. If however he/she personally COULD NOT MEAN anything, since all is assumed meaningless, then the concept of ascribing the nature of the meaning of anything of necessity would be a vain exercise. Meaningless things do not have meaningful occupations, let alone in a universal capacity! Able to read meaning like a book, such are its very kings and courtiers, alight with its glow, possessed of its functions, akin to its composition, detectors and analysts of meaning, its very summit and eye.
How could what is itself meaningless become not only an arbiter of meaning, a most august emplacement and survey operator, but find from what also is meaningless (all the rest) what it likewise lacks, meaningful capacity; and embracing all with its meaningless mind, determine the truth of the matter, though having no office in the field, no one to staff it and no comprehension to offer!
It is easy to see how such unhallowed antinomies can lead to paranoia, as is predicted for the end of the Age, on the part of the ‘man of sin’ (II Thess. 2), and this, it fits like hand in glove with the current pathos of the arrogance, in naturalism. Since this is becoming more and more rampant, so is the foundation for the final pathology coming into place before our very eyes.
What then of such practitioners ? If they COULD mean anything, then they could mean supra-cosmic, ultimate 'meaningful assessors', meaning meters, with their embracive capacities surveying the whole universe and providing a very fount of meaning by their mere being; and so abort their theory by enunciating it*1. That is not meaningless which excels in the meaningful, casting the shadow of its imaginary grandeur over all things.
To master the foundations of meaning, indeed, is to become possessed of absolute truth in its assumed absence.
It is worse even than this manifest self-contradiction. It tempts providence, it contests reality, it asks like Israel of old, for more and more, as it understands less and less through rupture of logic and avoidance of evidence, vitiation of verification and contempt for testimony.
Situations indeed alter cases where and when the underlying principles are applicable differently, not because they vary, but because the case does. It is so in science. You have principles and you have cases, and when you apply them to the case, the result is different according to the precise applicability of this or that law or principle, the relevance to the field of which, you must DISCERN. You do not alter anything by feeble thought, or mutant ideas; you find by fixed law the to-be-determined result of its DUE and TRUE application WHERE IT BELONGS, and does so precisely. The case of morality is not different.
The LORD has created a material aspect to the universe, and it goes so. It is not altered by thinking subjectively but by checking its proceedings in the light of the operational pursuits and proceedings, as also and crucially, in complementarity with the word of God, who has been kind enough to provide many things, such as the background to the chief 3 laws of physics (as shown from Professor Tom Barnes, cf. TMR Ch. 1 in these two locations). You look at the law of God, found in nature, nurtured in His word (naturally, since the supernatural God both made nature, powerless to be without Him, and His written word, these as conspiratorially intimate as left and right hand), and you apply it.
Sometimes you have to THINK hard, because some case requires a degree of perception, whether in science or in human morality, physical or moral law, to find the precise intercepts of principle and practice. That is how it should be, for as the Lord says via Proverbs 25:2, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter."
Within Revelation 1:4-8 you see both the relevance of this and the perspective. Let us therefore observe these things there.
"John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'
"I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me
a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the
Last ...' ”
(bold added for indication of the aspect here held in view).
In fact, you find this sort of objective relish, dynamic drive, austere sense of reality, unimpedable and remorseless yet desirable and just perspective in Shakespeare. It is not for nothing that his fame is so vast, nor is it merely verbally gained. Whether you are in the toils and turmoils of Othello's passionate pride and lust, in the meticulous metaphysical meddling of Hamlet in his divided mind, in the insane and unsolaced sadness of Lady Macbeth as her end drives on over the red-mud of her past, again and again you find it: MORALITY ? No MORAL LAW! There is indeed a providence that shapes our ends rough hew them though we may!
It is not a sense of the merely fateful, far better than that. Nor is it a mere, mechanical seeming flight into the brick wall of justice: it is more personal than that. It is far from being a law exposition without mercy, for does not mercy drop like the tender rain, as we find in the Merchant of Venice, which with Julius Caesar, constitutes a virtual travelogue of moral law from the bard.
It is rather than man has LIBERTY to offend truth, but NONE to amend it. He has LICENCE to secure folly, and a measure of power in the mighty; but there is no LAW to suffer it, and ONLY MERCY can defend it. In that delightful little work, The Gospel in Shakespeare, you find such a list of Shakespeare's approach to gospel truth, in so many utterances that it almost makes of him a preacher. It is not only that these things are deeply imbued into him, but that they cannot cease from coming out. In pity, there is tender mercy; in folly, there is passionate distemper, like a log rolled in the furies of the river waters as they thrust in tumult to the head of the Niagara Falls.
Outcomes are seen from incomes; inputs become outputs; and in the midst, there is thought, very deep thought, there are openings, there are opportunities, there is mercy which must be grasp, as opportunities wrap themselves like life buoys about the preoccupied players, sometimes ignored, sometimes taken.
So is Antonio delivered; so is Ophelia doomed; so is Hamet distilled in vain, and so does Richard II find the winter of discontent, that just as he wasted time, so does it waste him; yet for all that, King Lear is not left entirely, nor is Cordelia in the end without her victory, heavy though the payment for her extreme reticence.
On this, however, one wishes here merely to touch. The thrust is this: that MORAL LAW is from the lip of the LORD, whose whole face was mutilated,
"See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him -
so marred was his look beyond that of man,
and his appearance beyond that of mortals -
So shall he startle many nations,
because of him kings shall stand speechless;
For those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.
(Isaiah 52:13-15, New American Bible which here seems better to preserve the sense of proportionality than some renderings.)
THAT is HOW MUCH MORAL LAW, the fidelity to reality, matters.
In Elijah and Elisha you see in DEED very often, as in Isaiah and Jeremiah, yes in Ezekiel in WORD and deed, the bundle of life, not shorn of moral truth, not without meaning, but so intensely meaningful that suffering and shame can come now fast, now slowly, but always come EXCEPT there be repentance.
Here there is to be found this added and vast thrust on EXHORTATION, on EVANGELICAL OPPORTUNITY on the NECESSITY OF MERCY, on the COST of its production to man in the prophet, yes and eventually in the Lord who in the crisis of cost, met it with loss, one turned to glory in the completion of the work of salvation as so long planned, penned and at last performed. That He did it at the date displayed hundreds of years in advance is merely ONE aspect of the precision of things (cf. Highway of Holiness Ch. 4).
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul (Psalm 19). The mercy of Christ is incalculable, proffering pardon to all. The law remains, holiness never alters, its highway (Isaiah 35) always sound and accessible to the children of light, the toll gate of entrance being free, because redemption flows on arrival, from the resources purchased in the Cross. The beauty of this cover is that it is not cover-up, but discovery, for the Spirit of God convicts of sin, as of righteousness, moving from the one, to abandon it to the Payor, Christ, and to the other, to embrace it as love does, with delight, the heart stirred with desire because, where conversion is actual, it is now the Lord's, regenerate in reality, engendered in love, refined in discipline, wrought in patience, taught in the word, caught in nothing, for love ? does it not disdain the petty advances and approaches of spiritual harlotry ?
Holiness is found in the rebuff of the relics of the flesh and the adoration of the Lord of life, one flowing, as love always does, in streams of understanding, made beautiful by the presence of the Creator-Redeemer, sent FROM heaven and bringing many TO heaven, with Him.
- a discourse of the relative on the absolute,
- when the absolute is assumed not to be there;
- a strange contrivance of confusion;
- an assessment
- of the subjective on the objective,
- of the naturalistic mystic on what is missed;
- a foray of the sceptical into the intimacies of faith,
- a necessary but suppressed presupposition of a personal, communicative, rational creator disclosing intent to a being constructed in His image, hence able to receive this select, directed communication, but in this case
- minus acknowledgment, verification, validation or interface,
- a skirmish of reflex reality,
- exposing merely the thrust of desire, insatiable for perspective, asserting it without warrant or opportunity,
- mixed with the futility of self-contradiction.
Indeed, here is a very congeries of contradiction, a muted mysticism, flames without fire, unquenched thirst without water, an articulation for a purposive supernatural without attestation of His mind!
As to that, even if someone confessed His being, there still could not be a meaningless action from the Almighty, though it might well seem so, just as in a school the actions of the Headmaster might seem so to the most outrageously alienated of his students, unable to read, comprehend or realise in the slightest degree, the actual aims of the teaching staff (cf. Psalm 1:5-6 and the contrast in view there!). For such an action by God, you would need the disintegration of mind from spirit, of intention from cogitation, of purpose from procedure, as if He were a mere creature, subject to disorientation or desire to escape into dream; and even then, escapist dream is not meaningless, but an abstraction from reality because of aspiration, frustration or the like; and with God, the power to perform is unable to be restricted, since what He is, He desires; and what can limit Him!
Nor is such a contradiction uncommon in other allied fields, all having the savour of the frustration of what is on the wrong way, aspiring in multiple formats for the fruits of the right, valid and effectual way (cf. TMR Ch. 5).
Thus we gain the nihilistic noetic of the one who declares there IS no truth; and this is TRUE! a correct absolute assessment of things! the one who is sure there IS no such thing as meaning in the universe, and that is the meaning that it must bear from his own meaningful declaration; he who is sure there IS no morality, and the views to the contrary are immoral, reprehensible, misleading and corrupt; the one who declares that in the end, knowledge is vain, and nothing can be known, and that this is what he has found and knows; that there IS no justice, and it is this which offends that true justice which inheres in his/her bosom; that there IS no design, while it is sheer objective excellence of his/her own design which makes it conceivable that such a statement could be correct, the equipment for discerning such a thing being valid; that there IS no validity, it all whirls and so forth, when it is assumed that THIS statement is valid; that there IS no reason, and here are the reasons for that view ... and so on, and on and on.
This is no mere category or litany of the intellectually licentious, bending to the lusts of the mind, moodiness and misascription in dour, sour moments. This outline of the silly sequences of invalid thought has a purpose. What then can our purpose be ?
The point here is that it is precisely such a LOOKING for things, or USE of things even when they are denied in theory, that one would be inclined to PREDICT on the basis of the biblical picture of man MADE in God's image, God being Spirit, and hence, made fit for fellowship with God Himself. As naturally as a car runs downhill with the brake off, so man runs into the assurances and assumptions at the WORKING level, even when he denies them at the theoretical level, so creating his own antinomies. This being so, and the other part of the picture being precisely to this effect, that man from birth is now alienated from God (Psalm 51, Romans 1-2, Ephesians 2, 4), asleep in the warm harms of rebellion, ignorance and assertiveness, holding down the truth like a wrestler, one would have strong ground for predicting of man, almost predicating of fallen man, that such incontestably invalid assertions would come.
He is torn. NATURALLY (it is the nature of his construction, creation, purpose, design) he is inclined to ASSUME in practical terms, that he has access to truth, or should have, similarly to justice, to beauty, to morality, to justice and so on. It is the way he is made. It is the outcome of the talent he has. When distaste for the sublime spirituality of his Creator infects his unsolaced soul, then rationally ruinous mouthings pour forth, would be EXPECTED to pour forth from is wounded being, acting as if he knew or could comprehend what he SHOULD be able to do, but is precluded from doing through his rejection of the divinely appointed way of it, knowing God Himself. Hence the collision between inchoate concept and instinctively assured practice. His heart refuses to endorse what he does anyway!
Why ? IF our construction makes us apt to fly, and we refuse to follow the course, what is
likely ? Illicit flying. If our construction makes us apt to understand and deal in truth, justice, knowledge, meaning and purpose, and our rebellion - that is, of the race without Christ - makes man unwilling to discourse aright on a sure foundation, then discourse on an impossible foundation would be likely to follow, rather than inertia. This comes from the additional consideration that man is observable intensely energetic in exceedingly many cases. What one would expect, then, one finds; and thus does illicit philosophy and antiphilosophy write the more clearly its own doom, in its very squirmings, attesting a verification of the principles which it detests.
Indeed, the Almighty is the very zenith indeed pinnacle and foundation alike, of the meaningful. Even if someone confessed His being, there still could not be a meaningless action from the Almighty, though it might well seem so, just as in a school the actions of the Headmaster might seem so to the most outrageously alienated of his students, unable to read, comprehend or realise in the slightest degree, the actual aims of the teaching staff (cf. Psalm 1:5-6 and the contrast in view there!). The meaningless ? For such an action by God, you would need the disintegration of mind from spirit, of intention from cogitation, of purpose from procedure, as if He were a mere creature, subject to disorientation or desire to escape into dream; and even then, escapist dream is not meaningless, but an abstraction from reality because of aspiration, frustration or the like; and with God, the power to perform is unable to be restricted, since what He is, He desires; and what can limit Him!
See on this theme also It Bubbles... Ch. 9.