Two thousand years after the most seismic event in the social stratosphere, society is being treated to a sideshow of epic proportions, involving the same powers as were duly dominating the world or terrorizing it two millennia ago. The world-ruling powers are, by definition, people who have been exposed to a wide variety of human aspiration and customs. They have demonstrated that humans can find a common place when they want to. Christ’s world was dramatically outstanding. It included Persians, Italians, Syrians, Greeks, and Romans. If the whole truth is told, the Babylonians were there too, because Abraham came originally from Mesopotamia. The tribal sideshow includes a parade of prophets, mystics, monarchs, elected heads of state, and even a church with all the government apparatus of a state. So let me drill down into a previous post – https://eejoseph.com/2022/02/05/a-very-big-deal/ – to further define the full range of futile political and religious interest in any prophet, priest, or king before Christ or since.
Drilling down into the remains of biblical facts
If the believer senses deadlock it is because political parties and religions sects are being transformed into cults of personality; it is because exceptionalism and a gridlock of obscene financial competition have swamped the exercise of faith in God. There are social constructs and irrelevant personal claims that people mistake for faith and spiritual matters and especially personal authority. It is not attractive. For a lot of people a political solution is the common comfort. Some people are able to select their leaders in a secure and trustworthy environment, while others have their leaders imposed on them by heredity or violent coups or bogus elections. Others hope they have a figure who can give them unfailing reliability and security. It is not funny what questions people raise when the eyewitnesses to the unveiling of a securely hidden solution is at issue. A human being can be just before God without taking credit for the outcome. There have been ancient kings recognized as shepherd-king, but we have never seen a saviour-king like the LORD Christ Yeshua. The kings of the earth may attach themselves to their heroes, swear allegiance to a mystic of one sort or the other, but none of them dare deny that they are just human, fallible and ultimately unreliable.
The big idea about Christ
Not a single leader has demonstrated, before or after Christ’s brief public life, the material significance of Christ’s life and teaching, which, by the way, still eludes even Christians and those who have, by their traditions, rejected the natural (a) love of humanity (b) the commitment to justice and kindness and (c) the common-sense virtue of humility. You do not have to believe in any God to be human, and humans are equipped from birth to love one another, be just and kind, and be humble. Humans, however are not spiritual beings, despite the evangelical rabbit hole. Since our “cultures” accept nothing but the best and confess zero tolerance for immorality and lawlessness we have to admit that David and Solomon, the two most honourable monarchs of all time, are miniscule examples of what a king should be and do.
David and Solomon are miniscule because they are both dead. Solomon gets a seat of respectability because of his actual and legendary wisdom. There is no throne we would give to Solomon due to his flagrant forays into literal idolatry, thereby distancing himself from the first commandment in Israelite thought. David, on the contrary, gets all kinds of accolades and a permanent throne because of his honest songs about his own experience and that of his people, despite being denied the opportunity to build the temple in Jerusalem on account of “blood on his hands”. David is a king who is recognized as a prophet, and I will tell you, there has been no prophet, priest, or king whose contribution to human development and destiny was not either paltry, arrogant, questionable or bogus, when compared to Yeshua of Nazareth, and still, in the year 2022, there is no prophet, priest, or king who is a genuine big deal. Not one.
The facts are in the historical record for anyone to read. They are often hidden behind centuries of shoddy and shady approaches to interpretation and discipleship. God does not need anyone’s opinion, tribal or national practice to form the foundation of his kingdom. They do not know they are kidding who grap headlines by mounting a prophet, an apostle, or a witness to resurrection from the dead (or some other miracle) as proof of their authority, Christian documents are not about a prophet’s authority: they are the authority.
Straight through to the facts via questions
- Do we believe in all the prophets?
- Who knows that many prophets are false?
- Do we believe in the witnesses who wrote the New Testament?
- How does opinion get formed without reading?
- Are not tribal and national practice solely responsible for destabilizing societies?
- Was there ever a culture that met the global necessities of governance?
Honest and conscientious answers
- I do.
- No. Only faith in God truly matters
- Through authoritarian operatives like parents, prelates and despots.
“Step right up, candidates for king of the hill”
Maybe our Persian brothers might want to nominate Cyrus, and we could not blame them. Gee man! How many individuals are named in prophecy, as Cyrus was, decades before their birth, and destined to expose the irrational insistence of ethnic purity? Do not fool yourself: even if all of the religions that claim to have a vital thing with the Lord Christ conquered or dominated all the planet’s governments and countries we would simply have more embarrassing righteous zealots fouling up things for the next generation just as men and women have always done. The big idea about Christ can hardly be considered without Abraham and he had little in common with murderers and misogynist extremists. Western and eastern reflections on Abraham and Christ have failed to capture the enduring wholesomeness of the father of the Jewish people, and way too many reflections, including nominally Christian ones, end in Anti-semitic rants and sometimes in death chants. Abraham is the indisputable icon for prophet and father, just man and believer. God’s Anointed person for the blessing of all human families even more clearly demonstrates the case for a big, unprecedented, spiritual and global deal by means of the following characteristic elements.
- The alien magi at Christ’s birth (6 BC)
- Christ’s recognition of the extraordinary faith of foreigners and outsiders (AD 30-33)
- Christ’s open arms to Samaritans
- Christ’s treatment of women
- Fourteen language groups attending the Feast of Weeks (ca. AD 36) witnessing the church’s birth
- The intensive mission to the Gentiles by the (Jewish) followers of Christ all the way to Rome
Politics and tribalism
Those six characteristic elements of Christian revelation should suffice, but the thing we call faith is daily being confused with great-sounding slogans and cute memes. If you are a smart ass, you can ask closed questions until you arrive at the “nothing to see here” junction. The futility of a lot of searches for the big deal comes from the very structure of society. The judges and priests of ancient Israel, for example, were just the kind of operative that would not recognize Christ as a candidate for priest, king and even prophet. They were judge, jury, executioner, and impartial public servant, and they had reason to believe that they would be God’s servants as long as there were descendants of Aaron. It seems unlikely that the levitical priests or the prophets of Israel were just standing by to turn the keys over to a nobody from Nazareth. In the same way, the prophets and their disciples were not all that quick to discuss any limits on how they delivered their Master’s messages. How big their error in this matter is (against the backdrop of persistent missteps, Matthew 22:29, Mark 12:24, 27, Hebrews 3:10) is the subject of Christ’s own evaluation of all who preceded him. Perhaps a shaman from a Pacific island or a necromancer from the Arabian Peninsula will have a reason to be exempt from this evaluation. The western democrats who would like us to believe that World War II was fought to ensure succeeding generations rights and freedoms will find a reason too. That war, the ballot box, the right to life and freedom of expression are all sacred idols. Once we begin to talk about sacredness of secular things how can we not see the worship of an idol (false god) increasing every year as we memorialize the sacrifice of thousands of service men and women? As important as the liberation from Nazi and Fascist tyranny was it is a meagre god, and maybe the descendants of those who fought are estranged children of that non-god.
“All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” John 10:8, NASB
Prophet, priest, and king paradigms
The functions that help us to identify where Christ should excel are his assignment as spokesman, his inheritance of David’s throne, and his mediation as the redeemer of mankind. Talking about Christ as another prophet, priest, or king, misses the mark by a wide margin. This saying about “all who came before me” does not present Christ slandering the prophets, priests and kings. If they were all perfect – or at least mature – messengers at least one of them might have been designated saviour of the world. There is no question that all humans are sinners, or that every prophet knows he is a servant in God’s messaging business, and does not live forever. Imagine if you can, how it is now fashionable to find something good to say about the destroyers of human lives, the publishers of misinformation, and the sellers of miracles, but have nothing to say about their evil ways and behaviours. Who dares to imagine that God has nothing to say to humanity about the abuses of authority, the theft of property, and the destruction of almost all that is precious?
Let’s just get a prophet
If you want to turn the authority to review civic laws and policy over to another human just like us, go right ahead. You had better make sure he or she is wiser than Solomon, and do not complain when he feeds you the imaginations of his people and culture. Moses predicted that he was not always going to be consultant number one. So Moses is not the hope of the world. Why anyone from any country would be jealous of Moses, and be ready to protest God’s choice of one human family to be the repository of his most consequential intervention is symptomatic of the human condition that we have utterly failed to remedy.
A daring deceptive and deep dive
If one of Abraham’s descendants is going to have the authority to review and implement whatever has been spoken by the prophets he had better also be more than a mere talker. If we are to make anything of God’s interest in rebellious and failure-prone human beings it would be clear that his intervention should be something other than those popular death remedies for unacceptable behaviour. The person who will review Moses, and display what the condition and consequence of prophecy are, can only be the Author and Finisher of all of God’s lifesaving instructions. The idea of the “prophet to replace the prophets” has to have something refreshingly distinct from the former, and inventions of every kind, such as objects of veneration (altars, statues, and buildings) are simply mere superstition. He cannot be just a spokesman/prophet, because if he were, he would, as all representative heads are expected to, have to also represent what they spoke about. Diving into the prophetic arena is a popular distraction. Prophets who call attention to themselves instead of God and God alone confirm that their commission is bogus.
Into the talk abyss
Kings, prophets and priests will have run amok if the people to whom they are assigned put them on a pedestal without absorbing the content of their message and duties. One universal given for persons gifted to serve in one of the three arenas (prophet, priest, king) is rejection by their native communities. Acceptance of a prophet is a shaky foundation when it comes to absolute virtues. Still there are many who think that all we need is a good prophet (as opposed to a bogus one) to authenticate the sects and movements of Christianity in the modern era. The rabbis and imams, and gurus are all talkers. No prophet or priest or king can claim with facts a fulfilled function for all humans. It is simply not their business. When we venture into the world of practical consequence we see all the ugliness of our ancient ancestors: tribalism, xenophobia, murder of innocents, abuse of widows and orphans, and an open door to trample on the rights of individuals. They provide no guarantee of personal integrity and steady spiritual growth. Catching the idea of what God is looking for means seeing how he invested mankind with one mouth but two ears, a pair of hands, and a pair of feet. There were prophets throughout history who may have done more than say what God says, but few will get any medals for doing what God wants to do with humanity. Even a prophet like Jonah, a man equipped with a child’s understanding of God’s majesty, gets commended anything more than incidental talkers and not the best listeners.
Jonah gets credit
The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.Matthew 12:41, NASB
Who is not a robber or thief?
Not only was Christ distinct from local predecessors, he was on a different mission from all of the world’s rulers. For an exhaustive list – all who have preceded Yeshua – of thieves and robbers one would have to look way beyond Israelite ancestors, prophetic and priestly forebears, to all the neighbouring equivalents. If a person thinks his fate depends on what the authorities of his community have said and practiced there is no room at all for God to monitor human affairs and intervene with finality. Prophets, kings, judges, and priests cannot be the final authority without catastrophically bringing the house down. If the prophets, priests, and kings were neither robbers nor thieves maybe they were secret Baal-worshippers, murders, liars, and coveters. The prophets and all their contemporaries had to have a reason to plead for mercy in God’s court, and we would have to believe that the murder of an innocent man is of no consequence, as happened to Christ, while the blood of goats and bulls can be credited with being at the core of divine character and atonement.
Misplaced confidence and self-interest
Good and faithful pastors, courageous prophets, and countless other graced individuals who have had God’s commendation and our appreciation can all be found in possession of things that do not belong to them. Every single one has taken the shine off of God’s glory with their misplaced confidence that they had the last word. Neither Christ nor any of his disciples have tried to maintain the illusion that all who came before Christ were something other than the real Mccoy. “Thieves and robbers” is not a finding of a grand jury in pursuit of a criminal charge. All the caretakers of humanity, such as the world empires and the local leaders, whether they are kings or prophets or priests does not change the fact that they failed in the quest for righteousness, and helped themselves liberally to the proceeds. That failure is confirmed by the now-impossible daily sacrifices for sin and the annual cleansing of the sanctuary (Leviticus 16:16)
1) Woe to those who enact evil statutes And to those who constantly record unjust decisions, 2) So as to deprive the needy of justice And rob the poor of My people of their rights, So that widows may be their spoil And that they may plunder the orphans.” Isaiah 10:1-2, NASB
As I live,” declares the Lord God, “surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock;Ezekiel 34:8, NASB
The prophets of Israel, the best by far of the lot anywhere on the planet, have been known to be:
- a lot of hot air (Jeremiah 5:13
- victims of their bias (Jeremiah 14:13)
- publishers of lies in God’s name (Jeremiah 14:14)
- silly (Hosea 9:7)
- reckless and treacherous (Zephaniah 3:4)
“Thieves and robbers” still defines those in authority in many religious bodies and in secular leadership. When leaders in the 21st century are busy picking the pockets of their congregants, and when ambitious politicians have not yet found a law to end discriminatory policies or guarantee access to collective security and prosperity, we know we are at the end of a rope on a tiny ledge overlooking a steep cliff. The phrase – my predecessors are all thieves and robbers – should now be interpreted to include those who have come after the Messiah. The brazen racial discrimination, financial scams, and shady fundraisers run by religious groups, deserve special attention. Theft and fraud are rife. What Yeshua said about thieves and robbers is not outrageous because of possible slander of all his predecessors (not just kings, prophets, priests, saviours). It is not outrageous for egocentrism: he was in a class by himself, even as people from the exceptional tribe of Judah are evaluated. He is unlike anyone in the highly esteemed house of David. While he seems the same as his peers, his zeal over the horrible abuses in the temple as Isaiah (56:7) and Jeremiah (7:11) saw, no true prophet of God would protest being called a thief or robber.
My successors are all thieves and robbers
Apparently, rugged and robust honesty is exceedingly rare. Moses could not honestly tell the Israelites that their esteemed practices and judgments, which he himself had taught and enforced, would never end. He did not have to. It was near the end in his life that he discovered that a prophet would arise who would have the final say on all matters (Deuteronomy 1818-19 and Acts 3:22-23). We do not need to track down the lives of the apostles and other church leaders to see if they ever stole or robbed. That they performed their missions successfully and admirably and were touched by pride and hypocrisy and the common barriers that deny God the glory of being effective in their daily lives is no secret. Falling short (the expression from Romans 3:23) is no stranger to any believer, be he or she prophet, priest, king, rabbi, or imam.There would be no point to God being merciful and pursuing humans with goodness and forgiveness.
Peer to peer
For a big deal view of Christ as distinct from thieves and robbers take a look at his seven letters to the Asian churches in Revelation 2-3. Christ is such a huge deal that any mention of God that comes without a descendant of David is going to be a symptom of theft and robbery. The thief and robber is in possession of things he claims as his own, which are the exclusive property of the one who sends him. That covers all humans who have claimed to be all that God demands. Christ is such a big deal that the mountains and fortresses of government, science, and religion can only become valleys and ravines. Christ is such a big deal that secular powers were going to abandon the common human causes and pursue a path of theft and robbery in defiance of the big deal that Christ represents.
Time’s up: change must occur
Christ is such a big deal that anyone who runs into Christ’s forerunner can not be unconvinced that the status quo was in bad shape. Change, return and repentance have to be the goto response to what God has to say, or there would be no point to fatherly love. I do not have to present any evidence to show that none of the religious movements have made a big deal of God’s intense fatherhood. I guess if God is just a Creator there needs to be no personal relationship with him. If God is not a father there is no need for either emotional or rational experience to adorn the relationship. Life’s highest target is most certainly not just doing as we are told.
No matter where you live on this planet there are few communities which have not felt the consequences of an imperial and colonial power, and even fewer that have not had several gods, and there is none where God is actually acknowledged as a father to whom people can relate along the lines of human parenthood. This absence of a caring and paternal figure also leads to men rejecting the brotherhood of all humans, because there are no absolute bonds between men in even a little village. Yahweh makes a big deal of his people as sons (see the opening of Isaiah’s prophecy and verse 5 of chapter 56), and persistently calls Israel, all the people, “son” (Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 32:19, Hosea 11:1). Along with the intrigue of the Roman (or other similar authorities), the local puppet kings, the shaky alliances between the religious factions, the return from exile with a persistent xenophobic policy, and the presence of an armed insurgent faction, all add up to convincing evidence that time was up, and a very different Judea needed to emerge. It was a mix from which everyone knew society needed to break. As Christ’s herald and the lone voice in the desert might have said “Who alerted you”?
Christ stumps everyone. That is why his contemporaries peppered him with what they thought tricky and entrapping questions. How can Christ be no big deal when he shows no interest in replacing anyone’s prophet, priest or king? What might he be up to, really?
- Let us say that he is an unimaginably huge deal because a different Judea did not emerge, just as John the Baptist said (axe at the tree’s root, etc.)
- He is a big deal when he predicts his death and and attempt to silence and murder his disciples
- Christ is a big deal because his mission revolves around his death and that is a universal reminder of what living creatures owe one another
This debt finds no satisfaction in any thing we can bring to the table. A wise man’s perspective points us towards “[doing] righteousness and justice [which] Is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3, NASB) An ancient judge, seer, and priest, Samuel, offers his view, as if the first humans were any less victims of their ability to choose than we are.
“Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”1 Samuel 15:22