April 1… what is this day called?

So here we are with another of those dates that come round once a year. Some are global changing, even if we have the dates wrong – the ‘big’ dates: Easter, Pentecost, Christmas. Then there are the personal dates – birthdays etc… They seem to mean something if there is some kind of link to the growing number we experience and the development of who we are in becoming who we are. Then there are artificial dates, and this one is perhaps one of the better ones – April fool’s day.

Once a year it seems appropriate to have a day that reminds us how foolish we can be. Paul tied two aspects together within a sentence of each other. He was a fool and he was an apostle:

I have been a fool! You forced me to it… The signs of an apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works (2 Corinthians 12:11,12).

He was a fool, forced into it by the people who were not up for rating him, so he boasted in his transcendent experience of being properly in the third heaven. Should he have done that? I think even for Paul the jury was out whether he did the right thing or not. There are clear transcendent experiences, angelic visitations and other experiences that are very difficult to really work out what ‘happened’ – and that probably is not the question we should be asking as it makes what we understand, can touch, feel as being the only reality. Can we process the realities that are beyond that?

Even if Paul was OK in the ‘boasting’ that he puts out there, it is probably a sensible conclusion that he only mentions one of his experiences, thus it probably means we should be very careful in what we share, for the effect is that of exalting ourselves in the eyes of others – not really the ‘kingdom’ way to go! Paul indicates the way to go is to boast in our weaknesses: not the material that sells books!

Then off he goes to what he is sure about, his apostolic call, in spite of his weaknesses. That long term vision that manifests in the immediate. The immediate of the miraculous and the long term vision that accompanies ‘utmost patience’.

If we are open to being a ‘fool’, of recognising (at least once a year) that our maturity does not accord to our age, perhaps it might open up for us getting connected to our purpose and embracing that our contribution today is for the long-term future.

[Perhaps an aside: I am currently focused that perhaps we have been wrong to focus on ‘power’ and attribute to God ‘power’… Maybe it is presence not power that is the major attribute – did creation spring forth as a result of God’s creative power, or his creative presence – yes has implications for the ‘how old is creation’ question and a whole bunch of others. But if this is not an aside – Paul is present and the miraculous takes place… I know if this has any legs I have a lot of ‘power’ Scriptures to work through, but hey ho! Aside or not – April fools day maybe tells me to be present – warts and all – or maybe in Paul’s language – as a fool and as someone appointed within God’s order, even if that appointment is undefined or small.]

Well out of order person (to come?)

I am currently seeking to slowly (and I mean way slow) put together material on eschatology, a) insisting that a) no one agrees with me, b) stating that I am agnostic on certain aspects, c) holding to a considerable amount is past (both in terms of the first Easter Events and also the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD), and d) that all eschatology is deeply practical asking us to respond to the question ‘in the light of this how am I to live?’.

An area where I am agnostic is over a future ‘one-world-leader’ known as ‘the antichrist’. I observed something quite amusing the other day while perusing what is on YouTube that might interest me – videos on a certain former president of the USA as being ordained and anointed from on high (God looking down in 1946 and seeing this child as the one of destiny to save the nation) and videos presenting evidence why he is the antichrist that has been prophesied!! To save time I will give you my discernment – neither of the above. The fascination with the antichrist is of course something that has been around for a long period of time, with so many people put forward as ‘definitely the one – we need not look for another’.

To get to a fixed view on the antichrist one has to fit together Scriptures that are then claimed to speak of the same person although they use different language. In this post I am simply going to pick up on Paul’s language in 2 Thessalonians concerning the ‘man of lawlessness’. I cover this with some extra detail in an extended pdf article: Second Horizon.pdf.

I will simply pick up on what I consider is a translation error in this post, the part related to the text that I have emboldened below – see what you think.

Let no one deceive you in any way, for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.  He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned (2 Thess. 2:3-12).

First the reference is future – future for the readers, but now past for us. Future for the readers – into the ‘second horizon’ of the fall of Jerusalem and what Jesus termed the ‘abomination that causes desolation’, something that the ‘pagan’ Romans effected with their pollution of the Temple.

As for the translation bit – virtually every version has two ‘comings’ (parousia – often referring to the ‘second coming’ of Jesus, the word meaning presence or arrival and in the Roman context of the arrival of the emperor or imperial presence). By making it two ‘parousias’ it pushes the event to the future – our future.

A little bit of Greek in vv. 8,9, jump over and refer back:

ὃν ὁ κύριος Ἰησοῦς ἀνελεῖ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ καὶ καταργήσει τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ, οὗ ἐστιν ἡ παρουσία κατ᾽ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ ἐν πάσῃ δυνάμει καὶ σημείοις καὶ τέρασιν ψεύδους

Parousia occurs twice (παρουσία), the first one is often translated as being the parousia of Jesus who destroys ‘antichrist’ with the manifestation of his (Jesus’) coming, and the second one translated concerning the ‘coming’ (παρουσία) of antichrist who comes with the work of Satan….

However, and there is a HUGE however, the second parousia if translated ‘normally’ qualifies and describes the first parousia (supposedly the coming of Jesus…!!!!) so we would read the manifestation of his coming (τῇ ἐπιφανείᾳ τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ), which is the coming according to the works of Satan (οὗ ἐστιν ἡ παρουσία κατ᾽ ἐνέργειαν τοῦ Σατανᾶ)!! Hardly a reference to the coming of Jesus. No, no and no! The manifestation of the ‘man of lawlessness’ is that which comes according to the working of Satan

What we have is one coming – the coming of ‘the man of lawlessness’ who Jesus will destroy in the time or context of the manifestation of his parousia in the temple, that parousia that was in accordance to the working of Satan.

All the above a little technical, but I am pretty convinced about this being the only valid way to translate this section, and the change being only made because of a prevailing concept that this is future for us. Another example of assuming Scripture is somehow written to us. It was written in early 50s and fulfilled in their lifetime.

Whatever we make of a future one-world-ruler I do not believe at any level this passage can be pulled in to defend that view. Paul lived in the time of ‘the one world ruler’, Caesar in Rome who claimed to be ‘king of kings’… that rule manifested in 70AD with the desolation brought to the Temple. All indicating Caesar’s conquest according to what was visible, indeed a decade after the conquest an arch is erected in Rome to mark the deification of Titus (who conquered Jerusalem) and to mark the conquest over the Temple. The end of an era… and for those with eyes to see the breath of Jesus marked the end of that era and the continuance of another era, the one who is the ‘king of kings’.

I find so much eschatology twists Scripture to fit a system, but that is not my main objection (for I could be guilty of the same) but that it leaves us with speculation always looking to the immediate future with it always remaining future. I think – even if I am wrong with this passage – better that we seek to align with the breath of Jesus in a way that my breath also seeks to annul everything that opposes God and exalts itself. Otherwise I too might be deluded – even if I can prove I know the truth!

Wolves and lambs

Not exactly friends together… an invitation to partake in a picnic given to both of these animals would probably leave the lamb a little nervous – certainly if the lamb asked ‘who else is invited?’. Yet… Jesus said to his followers:

The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way; I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves (Lk. 10:2,3).

Quite an instruction!!! I wonder if the two animals that Jesus chose was based on his meditations in Isaiah:

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together (Is. 65:25)

The context of Isaiah is of a vision of the Messianic / eschatological age when shalom will be the environment that pervades, all things brought to a place of relational wholeness, which will include all of creation. Jesus is certainly highlighting the age-old prophetic critique of not trusting God for protection (hence why are you relying on Egypt etc. OT type critique) but perhaps he is also pushing those he sends out to be consciously living out the reality of the coming Messianic age – I think that when he goes on to speak about eating together (‘eating and drinking whatever they provide’) further suggests this is in Jesus’ mind when he gives the instructions. Those sent out are not hoping for a new age, they are living in it, an age when lambs and wolves do picnic together!

Maybe the ‘other’ remains a wolf, but our vision changes. We can eat with them and as we go in carrying shalom that shalom will rest on them:

And if a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on that person, but if not, it will return to you.

We have experienced shalom, that has to be what we carry self-consciously, we can meet those who are (perhaps) not as far along the journey but are already people of peace / shalom – they are ready to welcome a new environment, a new reality. We (lambs) eat with those who could turn out to be wolves, but as we find those who long for a new reality of extensive shalom the context of eating together (initiative taken by the lambs, the risk of vulnerability being their challenge, the provision for the picnic coming from the wolves…) the signs that the kingdom has indeed come near is manifest with ‘and cure the sick who are there’.

The instruction to those sent out has far reaching effects socially. It has to, for essentially we have all been formerly wolves, the mark of which is we ‘devour one another’ to satisfy our own appetites.

An interesting place – but why?

An amazing miracle in Joppa with Dorcas raised from the dead and ‘This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord’ (Acts 9:42).

Peter stays on in Joppa (modern day Tel Aviv) and Luke repeatedly tells us it is with ‘a certain Simon, a tanner’. It is here he has his vision of the sheet full of unclean animals coming down which eventually propels him (semi-reluctantly?) to make his journey to Cornelius’ house, where he makes his introduction with:

You yourselves know that it is improper for a Jew to associate with or to visit an outsider, but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.

A radical conversion for sure… but a) he has been in Joppa, the very place that Jonah left from so that he might not go to the ‘other’, the Ninevites, so Peter would have that narrative in mind, Joppa the place where in obedience to God we go to those we once thought were unclean; b) he is staying with Simon a Gentile (possibly a Jew, but handling dead animal carcases?), so is already visiting ‘associating and visiting an outsider’; c) as a tanner Simon is working with dead animals so Peter is staying with someone ‘profane and unclean’.

The vision comes and Peter interprets it as a test and holds firm to his tradition / convictions, with a strong ‘never have I…’

All seems strange to me, but illustrates that we are out of the box in Joppa, staying with an unclean Gentile, thinking we are doing so well, but there is further to go… Three people knocking on the door for us to respond to, waiting for us to come down from our place of revelation to connect.

Scripture is full of annoying narratives that don’t help us work out how we are to respond.

A positive – and challenging – translation

An old translation of Rom. 8:28 goes like this:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

This can indicate a kind of fatalism and acceptance of ‘all things’ as being a positive and therefore to be a welcomed experience to passively submit to. A much better translation (such as NIV) indicates that God works all things, that the all things are not initiated by God but that as we experience all things, God is deeply involved with us, God being the redemptive God. So in the NIV we get:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

It is not simply a better translation theologically but also linguistically. God gets in the all things with us, and refuses to accept a setback as simply coming with an inevitable negative outcome. There is no sugar-coating of the setback but there is a personal commitment (God becoming the subject of the verb ‘work together’) so that at the very least the presence of the Living God is with us.

However, recently I have come across a further push with regard to the verse. This takes it further than simply at a personal level, but into the cosmic level of bringing the whole of creation to a fitting conclusion, to the liberty experienced by those who have been set free from the powers of this world. (A little technical) it is all to do with how the ‘dative’ cases of ‘those who love God’ and ‘those called according to God’s purpose’. It can be as we have it ‘for those…’, in other words for us. Or it can be translated as ‘with those…’ If the latter, and it is the context that suggests this as the actual words used could indicate either translation. So using the ‘with’ (known as the instrumental dative) translation we have:

Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσι τὸν θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν.

Literally: We know that with those who love God all things s/he works into good, with those being called according to purpose. (So maybe something like:)

And we know that God works with those who love God toward what is good (for the whole of creation), [working with] those who have been called according to his purpose.

Maybe a little clumsy but the idea is that there is a partnership in the – wait for the big word – eschatological activity in the earth. Backing up in Romans, creation is in bondage in the same way that Israel was in bondage to the Pharoah of the day until they were set free. The ‘sons/daughters of God’ have found freedom, crying out with inarticulate sounds as the expression of freedom… but set free in order to be agents of freedom for creation. Christ as firstfruits of all creation releasing those who have responded to the freedom that comes through the resurrection to join with the groaning of creation, to engage the ‘all things’ that so often work to bring a yet further bondage… In partnership with God, and there is no hope without God, but in partnership with God, those who love God who are called according to God’s purpose line up alongside God… and even in the midst of all things something good is manifest. The future is not hopeless, creation is not doomed, humanity is not sentenced to nothing but bondage… freedom calls, and that freedom calls for partnership.

I think the shift of emphasis makes better sense of the chapter and remains as a challenge for us, but places redeemed humanity as the stewards of creation, as those who see the new creation and in seeing that come into partnership with heaven.

No regret

A small reflection on what a word might indicate.

As regards the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their ancestors, for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

‘Irrevocable’… carries such a sense of permanence. I have yet to come to ‘Israel’ and eschatology in my video series, and that will probably be way down the line maybe by the end of next year, but Paul seems to walk a challenging path of centring everything in Jesus, hence only has been one olive tree (not two ‘peoples’) but drops in some encouragement that although there is neither Jew nor Greek / Gentile (eschatological perspective) that there is a big ‘thank you’ from heaven because of the doorway opened for salvation of the world that came through the patriarchs. That is deeply encouraging beyond the Israel scenario – children are so blessed if there can be found a doorway from heaven to earth back somewhere in a generational line. God has wonderful soft-heart… Paul pushes this situation with children and an unbelieving spouse in 1 Cor. 7:

For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

God can find a way for inclusion that goes beyond personal faith – personal faith is so important, but we are not the final arbitrators regarding any in/out line!! No way. And Paul with regard to the Rom. 11 passage above is indicating a wonderful extension of grace that covers generations. Once we remove the need to determine ‘who is God’s people?’ we can live with ambiguity and keep the centre as Jesus.

And the word ‘irrevocable’ is somewhat intriguing. It only occurs here in Rom. 11 and again in 2 Cor. 7:

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.

‘No regret’ (ἀμεταμέλητος ametamelētos – translated as ‘irrevocable’ in Rom. 11)… now that might give us a little different approach to the ‘gifts and calling’ on Israel. Maybe Paul is indicating that God has ‘no regret’ in choosing Israel. I kinda think so… and maybe we should take a similar approach to things that have not worked out as they could have. What ‘could / should / might have been’ and did not come through as we thought… no regret. I would do it differently now – for sure!!! – but I am where I am because of all of that journey and into that God is committed to ‘work all things together for good’ – not the author of the failure of Israel, nor my failures / disappointments, but if we stick in there there is much more to come.

Not irrevocable… but definitely not wallowing in ‘what should have happenned’, the future with a ‘no regret’ sign posted on any looking back!! I guess that goes with a God who promises the day to come when there will be not a tear in sight. Gets my vote.

… and women

There are often a few words that appear in a text that makes one wonder. This morning I thought about Paul (Saul) and his persecution of believers in Jerusalem (Acts 8) immediately following the death of Stephen. The motivation was that fellow-Jews who had joined the ‘blasphemous’ sect that later became known as ‘Christian’ were endangering the nation as a whole. Israel was already under the judgement of God, evidenced by the control of the land being in the hands of the Romans and their puppet leaders. This was being compounded by Jews who claimed that a crucified person was none other than the promised Messiah. If this movement was not stopped in its tracks the punishment from heaven would be even greater. Hence he understood that to be zealous for God would mean he would need to stop the movement at all costs. If he did so then he would be assured that he was righteous. He was eradicating evil from among his people, and there was a strong model for this in the golden calf incident (Exod. 32) with the sons of Levi demonstrating their ‘zeal’ in slaughtering 3000 of their fellow-citizens of Israel. As a result the Levites become the priestly tribe. (Wow… there are just a few challenges in reading the OT are there not? And thankfully Pentecost changes the optic some with 3000 coming to life…)

Saul demonstrates his zeal and ‘righteousness’,

as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless (Phil. 3:6).

As zealous as the Levites who were ‘rewarded’ by God!

He does not worry about Gentiles who could claim whatever they wished about Jesus. They were condemned already – his concern was to cleanse Israel. So to do so he ‘entered house after house’. Allegiance to Christ was on a household basis, hence enter a house, and if they were following Jesus he would seek to eradicate that house.

That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison (Acts 8:1-3).

The spread of Jesus-aligned houses is remarkable, and the spread of the gospel likewise is remarkable, hence his request to go to Damascus to the Jewish community there to eradicate this blasphemous heresy.

And one very startling element in that final verse. He dragged off ‘men’ – that would have been enough in that culture. They were the ‘head’ of the household. Remove the head and problem dealt with. But this ‘heresy’ was different! Dragging of the supposed head would not be enough. The gospel liberated women, not simply through personal salvation, but liberated them culturally and socially. Paul had no option if this heresy was to be cleansed from Israel – the women had to be removed also.

‘Salvation’ was a total turn around socially as well as ‘spiritually’.

We are seeing this rise again in this era. Hence the digging in of some ‘Christian’ quarters to re-establish the hierarchy of so-called ‘Judeo-Christian’ values. Maybe we could use the term ‘Judeo’ values but I think the earliest evidence within the ‘Christian’ expression means we cannot really add the second adjective to the values.

Supporting Christian values so that there might be an establishment of them – now that is a challenge!

[Oh yes Paul writes about ‘head’ and all that within the so-called ‘household codes’… beyond this post, but against the background of the Graeco-Roman world he uses the common formula of his day that was used by philosophical and religious groups to show they were not overtly seeking to overthrow Rome. Not overtly, but subversively, Paul used the formula apologetically, but in them he sows something beyond hierarchy… Christian values.]

Interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures

I have begun to record a few introductory videos on ‘eschatology’ and once I get the material written that expands on the videos will begin to publish them. For many reasons I have to start with the New Testament and then seek to read back; starting with the older testament of course is where many of those who see ‘signs of the end-times’ begin. (And of course I think they have in one hand the current news-stories and try to make Scriptures fit to current events. That has long been the way with those who seem to think prophecy is simply history written ahead of time.)

I have noted a couple of things this time round as I have been making the introductions. First, that there does not seem to be within Scripture the thought that what is prophesied must have a literal outworking, there is no straight line interpretation. The extreme of this is when there are clear prophecies that are not fulfilled. So I think if we are trying to make a clear line connection we are forcing something the Scriptures avoid.

It also seems to me that given that prophecy is in the realm of promise that releases faith, rather than prediction that indicates fatalism, many of the OT prophecies are contextual, they speak of an incredible hope, thus encouraging a major faith leap, but that the ultimate promise will far exceed what has been prophesied.

The incredible passage in Isaiah 19, of which I quote a few verses below, surely indicates this:

On that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians.
On that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people and Assyria the work of my hands and Israel my heritage.”

The ‘fertile crescent’ with Assyria to the north and Egypt to the south and little old Israel sandwiched in between the two big powers is the background (oh and maybe I should add the two non-worshipping of God two powers, who were constantly a threat to Israel). Now the promise is crazy… Those two powers turning, so much so that we are left with – so who then is Israel, in the sense of God’s covenant people, for Egypt is ‘my people’ and Assyria ‘the work of God’s hands’! This was a prophecy of transformation beyond belief for the hearers (and another aspect I am drawing out is that the prophets spoke to the people of their day, they are not speaking to us, though the words remain for us).

A fulfilment. It is coming… But what is coming?

Is it the fulfilment in the sense of a straight line? Or the day is coming when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ – the fulfilment beyond beyond the literal prophecy. That is where I land.

Why do I land there? Because so many of the Old Testament books as they wrestle with judgement and hope they are looking for a conclusion beyond themselves. And when Jesus appears everything changes. For those who read my understanding of Galatians it is literally ‘everything we thought we knew will now get us in trouble if we stay at that level’. The law defined transgression, but after the coming of Christ to try and establish law would be to take the quick path to be a transgressor. Little wonder Paul is blind for three days. Three days as he has to make a major conversion, a major turn around that the death (as Jesus cursed?) and to the resurrection (but God has vindicated this Jesus).

I am not anticipating that everyone will agree with my interpretations, but for sure Jesus has messed everything up that was so clear. He did that so that whatever was promised to Israel could be embraced by one and all. The inclusion of Israel was so that Assyria and Egypt could be drawn in on equal terms to Israel. Inclusion not to exclude, but to include without boundaries. And that is good news for Israel for they can have a place too! ‘My people’, ‘the work of my hands’, and even Israel can have a place -‘my heritage’.

Temptations of Jesus – their loci

A little Latin in the title… got to go steady as I could get quite excited about my linguistic abilities! Anyway, back to earth, and that is the real point about this post: the temptations of Jesus take place not simply on earth but they are located in three different specific situations. The order that the temptations are reported differ slightly in Matthew and Luke, with the latter two switching order (Matt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-12). The first in the sequence they both agree on, that of economic temptation and it takes place in the wilderness. I term it economic but it is wider than that – it is the quick escape from the trouble one is in with personal economic benefit. Work – something that Scripture defines at its core separate to economic issues – was a creation mandate before and after the fall. The temptation is that of personal and wider benefit through an exploitation of creation that does not involve (biblically-defined) work. Biblically-defined work is not centred on monetary benefit – that is present in some aspects but not at the core.

It takes place in the wilderness, the god-forsaken place, the unfruitful place, the place of testing (where God tests us… and we put God to the test!). Jesus quotes Scripture in reply to the devil:

Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. The clothes on your back did not wear out, and your feet did not swell these forty years. Know, then, in your heart that, as a parent disciplines a child, so the Lord your God disciplines you (Deut. 8:2-5).

The connection of the forty days in the wilderness and the forty years is clear. The spies who went into the land and the majority came back with a negative report were present in the land for 40 days – as a result Moses said that the people would be in the wilderness for forty years. That process of being in the wilderness was to:

  • humble them
  • test them so as what was in the heart was revealed
  • to demonstrate that God would provide for them

SO THAT (and here we come to Jesus’ quote) they might know that bread was not the provision for life but God’s word to them on an ongoing basis.

We need bread, and are taught to pray for provision of bread for each day, but to set our hearts on basic provision when there is something much higher to go for. (I appreciate where there is real physical hunger and famine that a focus on bread for today is not wrongly placed. That is not the audience in mind with the Gospel stories.)

I label this temptation as economic – it is also into exploitation of resources without appropriate labour. Stones to bread is the start of an inappropriate business supply. It is not uncommon that those who set their vision toward ‘business’ will find themselves in the desert and with offers to progress that involve compromise. The economic is to humble, test and to find faith in the goodness of God with provision.

The second temptation (Luke’s order) is regarding political power. I have written in a previous post that the use of the term oikoumene has to be understood as the offer of the Imperial structures of the day being colonised to serve God! There is something so incompatible about Imperial rule (the top elite who promise blessing to one and all (who comply) but the flow of resources is in reality back to the ones at the top) and the work of the kingdom that comes to honour the least and the last.

This temptation takes place at the top of a high mountain. Beware of mountains! They might give sight, but we have to be careful what we do with what we see, and Jesus’ work was to raise the valleys and bring down the mountains.

Power to be and authority over the works of the enemy are the kingdom connection of power and authority; power to implement and authority over people is the parody used by Imperial structures.

The quote from Jesus (Deut. 6:13) is in the context of (I paraphrase) ‘once you were slaves, do not forget when you are no longer slaves and you have resources that you move away from the God who sets prisoners free. God’s focus in on those who are enslaved… do not enslave others’.

The third temptation takes place in the Temple – the religious sphere. Jesus suggests that if we respond to accolades in the religious house that we are putting the Lord God to the test (Deut. 6:16).

Some people focus on one of the above spheres – economic, power or religion. Jesus was subject to all three temptations, for Imperial rule will pull all three together. Backed by ‘divine’ authority / right (even when a regime is ‘atheistic’ this is present with the transcendent right of ‘no god’… but usually considerably more sinister when a belief in ‘god’ is present) there is a system of rule that will bring about a distinct divide between those who have and those who don’t: economic oppression. The wilderness we are tested; the mountain we are open to lust; and in the Temple we can domesticate god to be our servant.

Loads of sight

The first chapter starts with so much sight, with the repeated use of the terms ‘sight’ and ‘good’:

And God saw that it was good (Gen. 1:10; 1:12; 1:18).

Then we have the added words that ‘God blessed them’:

And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”… And God saw that it was good (Gen. 1:21-22, 25).
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:28).

And the final verse of the chapter reads:

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good (Gen. 1:31).

What an amazing start… turn a few pages and we read again about ‘sight’ but ‘good’ is absent:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humans was great in the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5).
But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord (Gen. 6:8).
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth (Gen. 6:11, 12).

Quite a fall!! A fall from ‘good’ to ‘wicked’, ‘corrupt’, with Noah as a hope. [We could also look at Genesis 11 and the ‘tower of Babel’ where God came down to see the situation.] Let’s jump back to Genesis 3 for a bit more on sight:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves (Genesis 3:6, 7).

I have referred to this original sin as being that of ‘consumerism’, of which our cultural use of the word is one example. It is consumerism described in succinct form: saw, took and consumed. Lose sight of the generosity of God (eat of every tree) and it can only lead in the wrong direction, and with the loss of sight come new, damaging sight.

How do we go from good (not perfect / mature but with all the potential to move toward maturity) to corrupt? It seems to be that shame has a big part to play. Their eyes are opened to sight of themselves as naked, in every sense of the word. I suggest that ‘glory’ is the opposite of shame (Paul in 1 Cor. 11). Loss of sight bringing shame was a doorway from ‘saw and it was good’ to ‘saw and wickedness was great’. Such a loss of sight leads to the statement that ‘all… have fallen short of the glory of God’. Fallen from that place of maturing toward true humanhood.

An aside

There are some parallels with the building of the tabernacle that Moses was the architect of, shaping it according to the pattern that he saw above. In three parts – holy of holies, the holy place and the outer court: one ‘tent’ with three parts, symbolising heaven (God’s dwelling place), the holy land of promise and the outer world. At the end of the construction of the tabernacle we read:

When Moses saw that they had done all the work as the Lord had commanded, he blessed them (Exod. 39:43).

It was a little bit of creation, a sign as to how things were – mobile so that wherever God led the people they could construct the image of the world; a sign that drew the presence of God… ultimately lived out in the Incarnation (he ‘tabernacled’ among us; Emmanuel); and that sign of the tent / temple thus became obsolete and was soon to disappear (Heb. 8:13, of the former covenant). And if we keep the trajectory going, to a whole earth without a separate temple.

New Creation

Genesis 1 –> Genesis 11 good –> corrupt via deceptive sight of a tree.

This takes me to the sight that Paul pushes us to have:

From now on, therefore, we regard (understand / know – using mental perception) no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew (knowledge as in experience) Christ from a human point of view, we no longer know (knowledge as in experience) him in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look (a stylistic use of a word to emphasise a new scene), new things have come into being! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation… (2 Cor 5:16-18).

Sight, sight and more sight! Away from categories so that the shame environment is removed. Inspired imagination that does not stop at a tabernacle / temple but where everything ‘old’ has passed away. That kind of sight would not take us back to a garden where God might show up at evening-time but an ‘outer court / outer world’ still continuing in existence. Yes, that world still exists… but it can exist far too strongly in our imagination / sight. God saw… and it was good. What a start. Eve saw… and what a fall. Paul encourages / provokes us to see what one day will be.