Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's about time!

     Do you know what is great about having a massive head cold?  Well, actually not that much.  I got hit this past weekend with some strain going around (NO, not that H1N1 flu thing) that made my head feel like a balloon.  I had to skip worship at Living Waters too...which stinks, because that is my favorite time of the week.  All I want to do is sleep and get it out of my system...and it's been 5 days of it!  I actually had to work for 4 days straight with this cold, and out in some rather unpleasant weather at that.  Nope, not that much fun.  But it did give me time to dwell on stuff...especially while sitting in bed and thinking...which I did a lot. (Stupid cold)
   BTW: Have you ever noticed that when you have a Cold, even if you take any type of meds for it, if you go outside in bad weather, your nose still runs like Niagara Falls?  YUK!  Such has been my life over the past few days


      A guy is talking to God and he asks Him a question.  "God, what is a thousand years like to you?"  God answers, "A thousand years to me is like a minute to you."  The man asks God a second question.  "God, what is a million dollars like to you?"  God answers, "A million dollars to me is a like a penny to you."  The man asks God a third question.  "God, can I have one of your pennies?"  God answers, "Sure, give me a minute." 

     Humans count a day as a 24 hour period.  That being the Earth's rotation on it's axis.  It takes the earth a bit more than 24 hours to to spin around and watch a sunrise & sunset.  It takes the earth roughly 365 days to rotate around the sun.  That's how we measure a year.  This is how humans measure time.  But try thinking about time from God's perspective for a bit.
    "In the beginning" is the opening stanza of the Bible.  If it says in the beginning, what was there before the other words, before time began?  That's a hard thing to wrap your mind around.  Well, the answer of course is God.  Which says something about the God of the Bible that makes Him very different than all the other so-called gods out there.

     There are many people who take every word of the Bible, especially the creation stories, as being  literal.  In other words, it means exactly what it says, with no metaphor, allegory, or room for nuance.  I can assure you that if you read the Bible this way you will get yourself into all sorts of trouble theologically.  First and foremost,  you will be yanking the Bible out of it's cultural context.  If you do not read it in it's context, you are simply reading it wrong.
     I can prove that too.  If you take the first creation story as being literal, as in word for word literal, then you have to say that the God of this story needs to take a nap from time to time.  How does the story end?  God rests.  Do you really & truly believe that God actually needs to rest, or at least that he actually did rest for a whole 24 hour period?  That directly contradicts other areas of Scripture that says that God never grows weary, tired or rests.   
     When you read this story in it's cultural context, all sorts of amazing things pop out.  The first readers and listeners to this story would have understood instinctively all sorts of stuff that we have lost in our so-called modern age.
     First of all, it is important to understand that the first 5 books of the Bible were written under the stewardship of Moses.  He probably didn't write the whole thing himself because he was a busy guy.  But he certainly had the final edit to them.  These first 5 books are also known as the Torah (Hebrew for the Law.) Before they were written down, these were oral tales and poems told by the ancients.  It is interesting that to this day, the Beduin, who still live much like these ancient peoples in the deserts of Arabia, believe that story telling as poetry is the highest art form.
     The context in which these creation stories were written were to a people who had been enslaved for hundreds of years in Egypt.  As such, they were surrounded by pagan deities.  The Pharaoh himself was considered to be a god.  This first creation story was designed to teach the Hebrews about the one true God, and it is a direct assault on all of the other creation stories and false gods that were out there at the time.
     Check this out, both the sun and the moon were worshipped as gods.  The name of the sun god in Egypt was Ra, or even Khepri or Mut.  The name of the moon god was Khons.  All of the ancient peoples worshipped the sun & moon as gods & goddesses.  
     Now take a look at Genesis 1: 14-19.  The writer of this story says "And God said, let there be lights in the the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark the seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.  And it was so.  God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.  He also made the stars."
     Do you notice what's missing?  The words Sun & Moon are absent.  Why?  Because the words for them are the names of pagan gods.  Even many of the stars were considered to be gods.  The writer wants to point out that there are no other gods other than this Elohim he is writing about.  Like I said, this story is a direct assault on the pagan worldview of the day.

     Now, something else that this story tells us about this God, He exists outside the boundary of time.  As I stated earlier, we measure time buy the 24 hour rotation of the earth...sunrise and sunset.  Did you notice that this is not created until the 4th day?  You see, we need time.  God doesn't.  He created time for our benefit.

     Think about this for a bit.  Humans are linear creatures.  But we are trapped by time, and not even in a full dimension of it.  We can only move forward in time.  We can't go backwards.  We can't go up, down, right or left in time.  We can only go forward.  So we only have a half-dimensional view of time.  Back in the day, even the pagan gods were considered by their worshippers to be trapped in time.  Some of them even got old and died.  All of them could be killed by other gods.
     What if there was a being that had a three dimensional view of time like we have of space?  Well, that would be God.  Remember the name He gave to Moses when he spoke to him from the burning bush?  God said His name was I AM.  Not I WAS, but I AM.  It is almost as if God exists in the eternal present.  
     God has at least a three dimensional view of time.  I'm not sure how many dimensions are out there, but He probably has a decent understanding of them too.  So with this in mind it is easy to see why God will refer to Himself as the Alpha & Omega, the beginning and the end.

     The comfort that I take in this is that God already knows what I will be up to tomorrow and even next week.  He knows both the sins and the victories of all my tomorrows.  He isn't surprised by anything that I do.  That is why he can extend forgiveness to me over and over again.  He already knows what dumb stuff I will get myself into down the road, even when I don't have the foggiest idea.
     I can't fully grasp any of this.  I know that I have freewill.  But at the same time, God already knows my choices.  God is completely in control, yet I am a free agent.  Funky!  God's sovereignty is really something else.
     This is why I believe that all of the things that happen to us, be it good or bad, and from choices we make or simply by random chance, are tools that God uses to teach us.  He already saw them coming.  We probably didn't.  So He uses them to help us understand and make sense of the world, ourselves and Him.

     Oh yeah, another observation from this creation story.  Apparently, one of the central themes of this story comes with the creation of these various lights.  The purpose of these lights are to serve as signs that mark the days, seasons and years.  How many days in a week?  Seven.  How many Jewish festivals were designated under Moses?  Seven. (I may be off on that, but I'm pretty sure.) Under Moses, every seventh year was to be a Year of Jubilee.  All debts were to be forgiven and such.  In Revelation, how many lamp stands are there in the throne room that represent that the spirit of God?  Seven.  How many churches in Asia did God ask John to write Revelation for?  Seven.
     Some people get a little nutty about numerology in the Bible.  But various numbers did have a particular significance to them.  Seven is considered to be the number of perfection.  Isn't it interesting that the seventh day of the week should be the sabbath.  God models for humans what that day should be like.  He creates for six days.  Then He rests.  Jesus said that the sabbath was made for man.  It's a day to stop material pursuits and just take it easy and have some fun.
     (Oh, it should be pointed out that the sabbath is actually from Friday sundown to Saturday's not Sunday.)

     Anyway, rolling about in bed while trying to sleep this cold off gave me time to think...I wasn't able to do much else.  So all of this is what I thought about.  I certainly had the time on my hands.  And now it's time for a shower.



1 comment:

  1. Nice job, Joe!

    It's amazing how much time we have to think about things, especially when we are under-the-weather, so to speak.

    I, myself, was sick this last week. Was clobbered with the flu (no, not the H1N1 flu thing) late last Friday night and I missed 4 days altogether! Only 2 of those were actual work days, but gees-louise! It was all I could do to travel between my bed, the bathroom, and my couch in the living room... Achy all over, a fever, and I didn't eat for 3 days! Finally, I was able to keep ginger ale down... Eventually some saltines...

    It always amazes me, because it's almost as if God will use something like a major head cold or the flu as the means to intentionally slow us down. Forcing us to take the much needed time to rest, so He can get - and have - our undivided attention.

    Once I was done needing to carry my bathroom wastebasket to each room with me, and I laid down and curled up in my blanket, God and I had some really good talks.

    It's awesome, the clarity that a person has when you have a fever... and even as much so, once the fever has broken...

    We are in our most pure form, when we are weakened by fever and sickness. When our bodies are worn out, and we believe that we can't possibly need yet another box of kleenex to ward off the constant drip that just won't go away, we can't hide any part of ourselves from God.

    I like that. All we can do is be straight up. Honesty at its best.

    I really hope you are feeling much better these days. :)

    Push the liquids. Rest well. You'll be good as new, in no time! :) (is "no time", less than 24 hours???!)

    Take care, dear friend.