Divine compulsions and human manipulation

And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.

Luke 14:23, New American Standard Bible (throughout)

Here we find a mission for the disciples which calls for them to compel people to come to the Lord’s dinner. Surely the plan is not to hold people hostage or to threaten or bribe them to comply with our invitation. This episode is not the only instance of the Lord compelling his disciples to perform certain actions. There is also that episode where the Lord compels the disciples to cross the lake. Compulsion is not a black hole of mission necessities.

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.

Matthew 14:22, NASB

Compulsion aptly defined

This is perhaps the best description of what it means to be a fisher of men.  What must be involved in this compassion has to be taking of certain liberties and opportunities to maneuver the person to the point that they find the invitation irresistible. Understanding the elements a fisherman brings together to catch fish is helpful; namely the nets, the baits, the hooks, the location, the time of day, and the patient waiting.  In extreme cases a catch may need the help of other  fishers.

When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.

Luke 5:6-7, NASB

We know that Jews, Christians and Muslims come to faith as children often without a conscientious choice. They are literally compelled by their parents to follow the rules of the community. Even if the parents are patient and look for opportunities, etc.  children are not mature enough to make decisions about lifestyle and attitude.  Children in our societies are not allowed to drive,  drank alcohol, or marry until they reach a certain age, so it is highly suspect that juveniles – four, five, six and seven year olds – can call themselves by religious labels such as Christian, Muslim, Hindu etc.

Faith that is imposed is defiled by  shortsighted humanity.

Triple I Hannukah, Kwanza, Christmas

After the year-end festivals wind down all the celebrants will return to their tiny coops and carry on the tradition in blissful isolation, ignorance, and insensitivity.  Festivals are like the grandparents who move in, do not die, do not recognize the passage of time except to mark their fleeting arrival and departure.    There is no festival or fast that has transformed any of the nations, weak or powerful, into the lighthouse or harbour of which everyone dreams.  Festivals are all juvenile exercises, elementary as  agricultural fixtures, essential as seed time and harvest.  I am not picking on year end festivals, because all the festivals have this character; fleeting, juvenile and poverty-stricken.

Tiny coops of culture

What is Kwanza in July? Is Christmas meaningful in the northern hemisphere spring time or Passover in October?  Sun and Moon mark the festivals, there are no spiritual necessities,and absolutely anyone can observe and celebrate the festivals.  Many people are desperately trying to convince themselves and the world that their culture is a spiritual refuge and Treasury. Desperate indeed! If we think our culture is anything more than a tiny coop, then should not the states and regions mired in violent “dialogue” be a loud bang in every ear? What culture prides itself on killing its wayward citizens instead of reclaiming them?  Look around and you will see the families and tribes that are ready and willing to abandon family members who do not conform and then choose one of them to be your home, but please do not tell us your culture is grounded in love, justice, and mercy.

Coops vs wide open plains

When the disciples of the Most High God become analogies of domesticated animals, kept in zoos and digital cages of human design we have a problem.  We should not think that the display on television of Christian worship, discussion and celebration are examples of what Christ intended.  Even our Islamic friends must admit that there has to be some other rhetoric floating around other than what we see on television, and then again, there are the actual documents that we have to reckon with, Quran and Bible.  We, Christians and Muslims, find ourselves often having to explain to people what is happening in the world versus what is the common perception.  The Western configuration of states is a real problem for religions, and the founders of the American state recognized it. Despite the shenanigans in both eastern, western, northern and southern nations it is clear that religion should never become a functional weapon in any state’s armory.

Whence the festival?

I can tell you that if a festival or celebration has no hooks to the next best thing it is a shallow exercise.  People celebrate independence year after year, and still the impression that independence saturates no nation lingers. People have done little with their independence beyond empowering the rich and the mighty at the expense of the poor and those with little influence.  Nations obsessed with independence are terrified of migrants and people with opinions true Independence it’s not recognition.   

Whither the festival?

Our most experienced and expert expositor of the Gospel and Biblical matters assured us that his -Jewish – pedigree was not worth a cracker crumb.  Paul of Tarsus was no raving lunatic patriot, and while he may be faulted for condescending to certain rituals of his former religion, he was adamant about the value towards a spiritual reckoning of festivals, food, drink and laws of cleanness and uncleanness.

“However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.”

Galatians 4:8-11

Isolation is a virtue

Judging by the nationalists now permeating all of the capitals on the planet one has to think that most people are either moronic racists or incapable of recognizing a quacking duck as a duck. Does any leader of any nation need to say he puts his nation first?  Do people really need high walls and fences to recognize and confirm their country’s integrity or are they simply paranoid anti-immigrant fascists and racial supremacists?

Ignorance is the treasure of lazy people

People in every nation are perishing because of the lack of knowledge or vision. The nations that deny their famine are many;  in fact the ones that do not deny are hard to find.  The people with the most rules and regulations are mired in corruption and deliberate misanthropy more than most.

Insensitivity dies with every sunrise

Many of us keep making sure we put our heads down at night having forgiven our fellow man when he’s wronged us.  It is worth it to consider what we can do so we can work the next day with a clean slate. I need to do justice, I need to be ready to love, ready to do mercy, ready to walk humbly without God and fellow man. You do not carry you around grudges and revenge from day to day and call it justice.

Certified grace with every sunrise

With the certainty of evil every day (Matthew 6:34) and the brazen incidents of sinful and criminal behaviour breaking out in broad daylight there is no doubt that our survival through each night, when malicious agents prefer to operate, is due to intense, invincible and incomparable care and generosity. While we are sleeping evil lurks but there is one who does not sleep as the mourning, weeping, groaning Zionite reminds us.

“They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”

“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

I would rather celebrate any old weekday than the festivals of our cultural heritage and religious traditions.

Flat on his face

There is quite a dramatic story told in the apocryphal book Bel and the Dragon, in which the idol routines of idol worshiping Babylonians are exposed. We, by accurately addressing the claims of the apostolic fathers of the Church of Christ, expose the belly-slithering operations of the Idol worshippers of our times. It does not take long to follow the courage banner and draw the line between snake-oil salesmen and genuine followers of truth, justice, and humility. Despite the flashes of hope that have lit our path from time to time in the Americas and wherever true religion rises, some people seem unable to stop themselves from majoring in minors or mouthing the same silly fables of the idolatry of a Christian nation ankle-deep in bigotry. Another idol demise comes to mind from the days of Samuel and the exposure of Dagon, one of the gods of the Philistines. Instead of making the world better place the great images raised as beacons for a great many generations are no heroes, because they are flat on their faces.

“Now the Babylons had an idol, called Bel, and there were spent upon him every day twelve great measures of fine flour, and forty sheep, and six vessels of wine.” (Bel and the Dragon 1:3, KJVA)

Just the mention of love, beauty, and justice suffices to silence Dagon

“Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon. When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him.”

1 Samuel 5:1-4, NASB

While the priests who officiated at Bel’s shrine were able to convince the Babylonian king, and we assume, the people, that Bel the idol consumed the food they lavished upon Him daily, Daniel knew the truth about Bel’s appetite.

… for under the table they had made a privy entrance, whereby they entered in continually, and consumed those things.” (Bel and the Dragon 1:13, KJVA)

Flat on its face with no legs

Let us not forget that Israelite worship turned out to be worse than Canaanite abominations, and that is why we do not hesitate in the 21st century to proclaim that Anglo-Saxon civilization is worshiping a god that is flat on his face. The threat of police brutality and foolish national pride does not move the vast majority of Christians. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is one of a precious few who have exposed the modern Bel, Getting on TV and radio with the thieving watchmen who can do no better than sell books, promise people prosperity and freedom is no achievement to write home about. The attempt to imitate ancient or modern Israel is already flat on its face. The election of corrupt people like the 45th president and MAGA mob only goes to show the modern Dagon flat on its face, it is the icon of a society going nowhere, because it has no legs. Let us by all means remember Dr. King, Senator Warnock and the late John Lewis by distinguishing ourselves from the merchandising evangelical idols of our times.

When a prophet misleads

Let no one depend on the words of a prophet. They are capable of lying and fabricating. Moses is commended for his faithfulness in all of his affairs, and yet we see that he was not allowed to enter the promised land because of personal misbehavior, namely, unfaithfulness. What can we say about the many prophets who are unfamiliar with God’s word? What can we say about those who do not know the languages in which the sacred texts were written? What good is a prophet who is incapable of properly interpreting the written word? The sin of the prophet gets multiplied infinitely to the extent that everybody becomes engaged in foolishness.

Dire circumstances result from lying prophets

“Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men, Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows; For every one of them is godless and an evildoer, And every mouth is speaking foolishness. In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away And His hand is still stretched out. For wickedness burns like a fire; It consumes briars and thorns; It even sets the thickets of the forest aflame And they roll upward in a column of smoke. By the fury of the Lord of hosts the land is burned up, And the people are like fuel for the fire; No man spares his brother.”

(Isaiah 9:17-19, NASB)

Not only does foolishness proliferate, but compassion is removed from the heart of people who believe lies and glorify things that do not matter. It is easy for a prophet to ignore the fact that scriptures are the safeguard of truth, that an impression, from any source, does not suffice for good feeding of the mind. Prophet can not just jump up or fall down and say they had a vision or something landed in their spirit. We have seen that people have relied on the phenomenon of a person falling to the ground as proof that the spirit of God is at work. We have also seen that the vision assumed to be behind prophetic expressions is assumed to be reliable because the person with the vision has an extraordinary experience of something that looks like death or supernatural strength.

Let no one depend on his fellow man. We are living in an age when people have access to the word of God, and it is laziness and neglect to be personally unfamiliar with God’s written word.

Two mountain theology

“Jesus keep me near cross” may feel like emotional affect or fear, to be specific, but the words of this famous song of an extremely powerful attitude to possess. What else is there in the world of spiritual security to which we desire to be near? Obedience, loyalty, ace performances, ruthless judgment? Since the cross is the symbol of love, and knowing that love is the greatest virtue, we realize that there are options offered to us, namely, other virtues. This is where the analogy of two mountains from the book of Hebrews becomes helpful to me. The comparison between Golgotha where Christ died and Sinai where God gave the Ten Commandments confirms that there is no competition.

“For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind,” (Hebrews 12:18, NASB)

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,” (Hebrews 12:22, NASB)

The thing that typically eludes most readers and observers is the fact that by resorting to Sinai in search of morality, people completely ignore Calvary or Golgotha as the source of divine love, which we all have to admit is (a) God’s display of his righteousness and (b) his declaration of the highest virtue possible. Are we willing therefore to deny that God’s love, a divine dimension of love, is actually deposited in the heart of the convert? This gift of love is not merely motivation, this gift of love is empowerment. So while the cross lends itself to two mountain theology and to a scene of a criminal act by a government against an innocent man and the anguish of loved ones, near the cross means something grander than a symbol. “Near the cross” elicits something so appealing as to silence us with awe that we should be so endowed. Maybe we can say reverential fear brings us to say “Jesus keep me near the Cross” but it is more likely that it is the attractiveness of such a love that rivets us to the Lamb of God.

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.

1 John 3:1a

The nexus of idolatry and temptation

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”

1 Corinthians 10:13-14, NASB

What does idolatry have to do with people being tempted and God’s faithful keeping power? The short answer is that people are quickly attracted to the nonsense answers of life’s most pressing problems. Adam and Eve thought that fig leaves would cover their problem. Moses allowed his anger to rise to the surface instead of being a patient father to the people. A Jewish people have tried to please God by following regulations concerning food and drink. Basically we know that idols are useless inventions by humans. Perhaps the most shocking piece of idolatry in the modern era is the application of Jesus’s blood to anything other than transgression, sin and iniquity.

The foolishness of miraculous escape from temptation

Temptations are opportunities for us to become stronger in our trust of God’s grace. Temptations are not occasions for the use of miracle power. Whether we are hungry as the Lord was during his temptation by the devil, or whether we are being challenged in our seat as heirs of God as Jesus was when he was tempted by the devil, or whether we are being invited to worship someone of your vanguard, as Jesus was when he was tempted by the devil, neither idols or miracles are of effective use. Stop deceiving yourself. Endurance is not miraculous; it is spiritual fruit, and the engagement of our minds with our faithful God.

Deck the whores with bows of folly

Good king Wenceslas is not my neighbour; there isn’t a good King in sight in any direction. Heaven has lots of music but, sadly, no bells. Santa may have no presents for the naughty people, but God has, and the proof is in every single day. Somebody has a truly messed up view of God, gifts and good will. The healers of the human mind would like to tell us that Christmas time is the time when there is a rise of loneliness and feelings of isolation and thoughts of suicide,. Oh that people need to feel lonely and isolated them and to be suicidal having normal losses of life. Have you read job recently? “Suffocate me” he begged (Job 7:15). Death is not even a Christmas time phenomenon and is such a long way off from the truth that lonly a precious few knew, it brings us to the large drama of Babylon and her daughters, receiving bows of folly.

A truly global agenda

Decking the halls with bows of holly and kissing under mistletoe sounds like loads of fun, but the real christmasy stuff is presents, giving and receiving; at least that’s what they say. Have you ever wondered why are people who are not Christians run around every year saying “Merry Christmas”? All the festivals are mere public service advertising. Christmas is a real holiday behind which there is no holy day. Passover, an actual holy day from Israelite antiquity, becomes a holiday in the Gentile world thousands of years after the historical exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt, and no-one dares intimate that there is an international movement towards nations becoming Mosaic. Talk about smoke and mirrors! Neither nor Moses has any reason to try to have the nations accept his teaching as a blueprint for civic life. I tell you, people are way more interested in living than in dying condemned without a second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh break. How easy must it be to find one of Babylon’s many daughters, pretending to be a nation of Mosaic-based law, even if one has difficulty find the grand harlot herself.

We will not bow to the popular gods of culture

“But even if [God does not deliver us from your death sentence], let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Daniel 3:18

Three Hebrew young men in exile in Babylon watched the whole exiled nation get ready to compromise their profession of being God’s people by bowing to a image erected by the Babylonian king. The Hebrew nation was not the first or last nation to bow down and worship the foolishness of humanity. We are witnesses to wholesale bowing to the folly of proud nations who we know full well are chasing the wind and playing the harlot. Moses saw it coming (Exodus 34:15-16, Deuteronomy 31:16). Israel did it (Numbers 25:1, Judges 2:!7, 8:27, 8:33, 1 Chronicles 5:25), and the clients are practically every comer and passerby Ezekiel 16;15, 26, 28).

Bows of folly

Boughs of holly mean something significant to someone, naturally, but they are not going to rescue the human race from its death wish. We have seen the judgment of “the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” (Revelation of John 17:1-2, NASB). Her narcissistic boasting “I’ll never be a widow” and her brisk business comes to an end, because no-one buys her merchandise any more. Bows of folly, central to the popular church propaganda, continue as if people are blind to the race to the bottom by capitalist democracy in bed with the religious fascism of Protestants and Catholics, all slandering Yeshua.

Important word order mindlessly reversed

“I will give heed to the blameless way. When will You come to me? I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.” (Psa 101:2, NASB)

“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” (Psa 101:2, KJV)

Zooming in on the third clause (101:2c) in the Hebrew text we see that “heart integrity” comes before “within my house”

אֶתְהַלֵּ֥ךְ בְּתָם־לְ֝בָבִ֗י בְּקֶ֣רֶב בֵּיתִֽי׃

For the life of me, I cannot find a reason for anyone to put domestic movement ahead of inner integrity. Should not the manner of David’s walk come before the location of his walk? If the priority of David’s way of life is where he is (or the legacy of his family) he is at risk of not conducting a wholesome lifestyle outside his home or apart from family legacy.

I say let our location be secondary to the way we conduct our lives, so that no matter where we are wholeness of heart can be expected from us.