vila rica

COMENTÁRIOS DA LIÇÃO DA ESCOLA SABATINA

1º Trimestre de 2024 - O LIVRO DOS SALMOS


Your Mercy Reaches unto the Heavens

Commentary for the February 17, 2024, Sabbath School Lesson

 

The Destruction of Sodom"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever...to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures forever." Psalm 136:1-4, 10, NIV

What a strange juxtaposition, "His love endures forever," yet, he killed all the firstborn of Egypt, even babies who knew nothing of good or evil would have been among those firstborns. Why, when evil happens to us, do we readily blame the devil and his angels for being the instigators? But when our enemies are slain, even including innocents, we see it as the righteous judgment of God who loves us and hates our enemies. We even call it love. If we believe that God is the author of all life, then we are all his children. Why would we delight in his destruction of those children and call it love?

Recently, a 26-year-old Missouri woman, Mariah Thomas. placed her one-month-old baby in an oven and burned it to death. She told the police it was an accident.[i] In the social media comments, no one saw this as an act of love. Many saw it as an indication of mental illness and understandably so. But when we see passages in the Bible where God is described as destroying every man, woman, and child as with Sodom and Gomorrah or the Noahic Flood, or all of the first born as in the Egyptian Exodus why do we not question whether this is portraying the God of love that John the Apostle knew and portrayed in his gospel and epistles or is instead portraying some neo-pagan deity that thirsts for blood as so many of them did.

We are shocked at the woman burning her child to death in the oven, but that is a close parallel to what the worshippers of Molek did when they immolated their children before that idol to appease the wrath of their god.[ii] God declared this a capital offense.[iii] But this only confuses the issue. God who abhors this sacrifice nevertheless seems to have few qualms about sweeping almost all life from the face of the planet in a deluge, wiping out the populations of entire cities like Sodom, or all the inhabitants of Canaan during the Exodus. Is it any wonder that our ideas of love are also a confused chimeric construct? That is assuming of course that our ideas derived from the Bible and the Bible is not simply reflecting our own construct of what God is. Maybe it is our own mental failings that leave us with the image of God that humanity has preserved in the Bible. Initially in the Old Testament, God is responsible both for salvation and destruction, eventually the devil came to be seen as the one bringing harm to humanity.[iv] Instead of a schizophrenic being breathing fiery vengeance on one hand and comforting love and compassion on the other, it seems that the Israelites came to understand it really was two separate beings.

This still left a problem regarding God's character. If God is supreme, how could love allow the evil to go on, even when he did not directly perpetrate it? The book of Job tried to deal with that issue, but unsatisfactorily. The answer in that book was that one can do nothing about it except endure and trust God. Buttressing that point, Job ends up with far more material blessings after his ordeal than he had before. But that is like a mafia boss who slaps an underling around and then buys him a new car to make everything right. It makes God look narcissistic and condescending and lowers us to the level of sycophants who are only in the relationship for the rewards. Like true sycophants, we hate all the same people God hates and continually seek to curry God's favor by making it clear how we feel about his enemies. We do not hesitate to call a saint a sinner if we think God would agree. It was this attitude that allowed the religious rulers to condemn Jesus to death. They had no doubt at all that they were only doing what God desired them to do. There is irony in realizing that Jesus came because all have sinned and yet those he came to set free did not realize their bondage to ideas and practices that were the foundation of their desire to shed the blood of others to bring purity to the people of God. As a result, they shed his blood and that of his followers to protect the sanctity of what they had already polluted.

Jesus said we were to love our enemies, just like our heavenly Father does.[v] That creates a hostile work environment for those vested in hate and manipulation of others through fear. Repeatedly, in the Old Testament, God's people are admonished to have nothing to do with people groups that practiced idolatry. The destruction of idols was encouraged as well as the destruction of the people who made and worshipped them. However, while the Israelites destroyed the people and their belongings in Canaan, God was working behind the scenes to a different end. He rescued Rahab from Jericho and Ruth from Moab and from them descended King David and the Messiah. Had they decided to embrace the fear of the other and the desire for multigenerational vengeance promoted by the leaders of their day Salmon and Boaz would have married Israelite women and the representation of God as vengeful and unyielding would have continued. But it was as though God felt he needed Canaanite and Moabite DNA in the Messiah to show that he is Savior for all and not just Israel. Jesus modeled this idea when a Canaanite woman came to him asking for healing for her child.[vi] He knew that his disciples, as well as much of Israel, saw these Canaanites as others outside of the blessings of God and treated them as little more than dogs. But at the very foundation of his and her being was a bond from generations ago and he healed her daughter much to the astonishment of his Jewish companions who saw no such connection.

The entire world has fissured over this idea of otherness. We are faithful servants of God, and everyone else is not. We avoid the unclean contamination we could receive were we to embrace them as brothers and sisters. We have created detailed dogmas to keep ourselves on the path of righteousness. By way of contrast, those doctrines also show how sinful and perverse others are who do not subscribe to our dogma. All the better to stigmatize and ostracize them. This is the same thing they did to Jesus who ate like a glutton, drank alcohol, and hung out with the others that had been proclaimed unclean and untouchable.[vii] When it came to God's character and his relationship to humanity, Jesus demonstrated that God is not subject to our ideas of right and wrong, love and vengeance. Those who think he is, whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, or practitioner or not of any faith tradition are primary reasons for the divisions and hostilities that flare up among us, at times becoming open warfare, both symmetric and asymmetrical. People die in rivers of blood, denied the opportunity to discover the real character of God, a character of love. Myriads have turned their backs on God because they do not see the truth about God's character in the lives of those who profess to follow him. Sadly, instead of seeking him for themselves, they accept the testimony of those who proclaim fear, hatred and lies in the name of God as being valid as though God needed their approval and their construct to validate his existence.

There are those who still seek to understand God's true character. They eschew titles and accolades that are nothing more than humanity's recognition that they serve the popular construct of God. They admit that God is ineffable and inscrutable and are comfortable with that mystery. Anything less would lessen God into nothing more than a neopagan deity needing appeasement to justify the power and control of his followers in a world filled with chaos and paradox. Those who encourage such an understanding of God are like the Wizard of Oz, controlling things behind the curtain while representing a fantasy of their own creation. But all such magic, like magic everywhere, is based on deception, misdirecting us to look over there, so we will not see the truth. When we see the truth, we will finally become free. There and only there, not in the machinations of a human mind, will we find the mystery of God. When we discover how the smallest whisper of his voice can resonate across the entire universe in ways that seem inconsistent with everything we know about life, energy, and matter, we will find ourselves looking into the face of God, and when we do, his gaze will pierce our hearts with charismatic ecstasy as he engraves his image there, the image of love, restoring us to all that we were created to be.[viii] In the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed,[ix] forever leaving behind the fear, anger, hatred, and divisiveness our world has sold out to.