Why The Flood?

Why The Flood?

The movie “Noah” is now in the theaters. It is difficult to produce a movie based on a biblical story and make it appealing to a wide, secular audience, so I understand some cinematic liberties were taken. I guess some people are upset because it shows Noah getting drunk after the flood, but that really happened (Gen 9: 20-21). It happens to be the first time either vineyards or wine are mentioned in the Bible. I’ll probably take a pass on going to see it since my taste runs more to comedies and cartoons. The last movie I saw was the Lego Movie, and before that was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs II, not to mention Frozen.

But let’s answer a different question: why did God send the flood anyway? And what difference does it make today?

The story begins in Genesis chapter 6.

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Gen 6:5-8)

Man’s wickedness was so great, that even his imaginations and thoughts were evil, ALL THE TIME! And notice that the reference is to the thoughts of the heart, not the mind (see “Your Heart“). All of man’s affections and desires were captivated by his own evil thoughts and imaginations. But Noah was different. It has been said that mercy withholds punishment that is deserved and grace provides blessing and happiness that is not deserved. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Unlike what the movie portrays, God actually spoke to Noah and gave him instructions, and when he does he provides more information about why he has come to this destructive decision:

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark … (Gen 6:11-14)

The earth was filled with violence. This was the main reason that God decided to destroy the earth. Man exhibited his violent nature right from the start. After Cain and Abel were born, Cain turned in rage on his brother and killed him. God said to Cain, “the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” It was the first human blood shed, but not the last, and now the earth is filled with blood and violence. So God tells Noah that he will destroy the earth.

Even with this depravity before him, God is merciful and patient. Noah spent a hundred years building the ark, and during that time was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5), telling all who would listen about the judgment that was coming. Noah’s grandfather was Methusaleh, the man who lived longer than anyone else. His name means “his death shall bring judgment” and if you add up the numbers in Genesis chapter 5 you will see that he died the same year as the flood. So 969 years before the flood, a child is born and given a name that predicts that God’s judgment is coming, but then God lets him live longer than anyone else. God is indeed gracious and merciful!

So what does this have to do with us today, other than maybe spending an afternoon at the movie theater to see a story loosely based on the scriptural account? Well, Jesus made a prediction that mentions Noah and his times.

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is [in your midst]. And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see [it]. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after [them], nor follow [them]. For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one [part] under heaven, shineth unto the other [part] under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed [them] all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two [men] in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two [women] shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two [men] shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body [is], thither will the eagles be gathered together.

“As it was in the days of Noah… so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” The days when the Lord shall come again will have the same character as there was in Noah’s day – a world full of violence. Now there have been many times in history that were particularly violent: the days of Genghis Khan, the “eastern front” in Russia in World War II, the concentrated violence of the nuclear weapons exploded in Japan, and the destructive nature of communism in the 20th century that led to the deaths of perhaps 100 million people. But I marvel at the nature of violence that currently surrounds us. Obviously there are places in the world that are suffering from war and revolutionary resistance, but here in our peaceful nation we are surrounded by it as a means of entertainment.

In the first place, we can watch all the contrived violence we want at the movies and on TV. Not like the “old days” when the bad guy was shot and he clutched his chest and fell over. Now we have exploding heads and disembowelled teenagers. Video games are becoming more realistically violent at the behest of those who play them; the more violent, the more successful they are. And one of the most popular memes on the internet is the “epic fail”, which tend to show people getting hurt or vehicles being destroyed in various ways. And this violence is not meant to shock or cause moral outrage, it is for entertainment!

The character of our age appears similar to that of the days of Noah. The judgment may well be upon us. So what is the solution, what can one do, where is God’s grace? Here’s more verses from Genesis.

And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation…
For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him…
And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights…
And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in. (Gen 7:1,4-5,10-12,16)

When I read this passage in Sunday School, I ask the kids, “Where was God when he said this to Noah?” Obviously, he had to be in the ark or else he would have said “Go into the ark.” Deliverance from judgment is not obtained by our own efforts, but by responding to an invitation from God, an invitation to be with God. I don’t know what is portrayed in the Noah movie, but notice that Noah didn’t shut the door, God did. Noah and his family and the animals entered the ark, and the door still stood open. Anyone else could have joined them, but no one did, and God finally shut Noah and his family in. The way of deliverance was now closed, and everyone else who had refused the invitation perished.

Jesus Christ offered the same invitation when he was here:

“Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28)

He invites each and every person to come to him. When the door of the ark stood open, there was no more work to be done, Noah had finished it. It was as simple as walking through the door. The same is true today. Christ’s invitation rests on a work that is completed, his death on Calvary. And he also said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

Judgment is due. It may not be today or next week, but it is inevitable. There was only one door to the ark, and there is only one door to eternal life, the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the last verses in the Bible still offers the invitation to all:

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Rev 22:17)

The door is still open, will you come in?

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Your Heart

English is a language that is full of nuance. The meaning or concept behind a statement can change depending on the tone in which it is spoken (for example, sarcastically), or on the emphasis that is given to different words. I’m not sure if other languages are like this, but it lends a versatility to English that can be very useful.

When my children were young, it was always difficult to get them to do what they were told. I know this is not unusual, but with my oldest daughter (you can find her here) every direction I gave was met with a “discussion”, i.e., an argument. I remember one day I had reached the end of my rope, so I said to her, “Clean your room. Clean your room. Clean your room. Clean your room.” I then explained what I meant by each of the ways I said the same sentence.

Clean your room. Of all the things you can do to your room, clean it.”
“Clean your room. Of all the rooms that can be cleaned, clean yours.”
“Clean your room. Of all the things you have that can be cleaned, clean your room.”

There is a statement in Proverbs 23:26 that can be stated in the same manner:
My child, give me your heart.

My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.
My child, give me your heart.

I am going to look at this from the point of view of a person who has accepted Christ as Savior, who is born again, and has been made a child of God.

My child, give me your heart.
To whom do we belong? Each of us is a child of our parents, but here is a reminder that each of us is God’s child as well. In fact, his claim on us takes precedence over earthly relationships. He sent his only Son to die for us, to pay the price of freedom, to redeem us out of our slavery to sin. 1 Cor 6:19-20 says, “ye are not your own… Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

My child, give me your heart.
What is my relationship to God? I am his child. I am not just a servant or a hired hand or a friend, but I am, in fact, his child. “But as many as received him, to them gave the power to become the sons of God, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13). We not only belong to God, we have been born again into a heavenly relationship with Him. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

My child, give me your heart.
We have a heart full of desires, and God wants it. How will he get it? Will he steal it from us without any input from us? Will he bribe us for it, buying our affection with gifts and promises? I suppose he could do those things or maybe others to gain our heart. But he won’t. He wants us to give it to him. Without any strings attached, he wants us to just hand it over to him. He wants us to give him all our affections, our desires, our longings, our love, without any thought from us that we will gain anything in return. Why would we do this? Because that’s what he did for us.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16.

He gave the greatest gift ever given to show his love for us. He sent his only son to become a man to win our hearts, and our response was to crucify him. Yet this was so he could create in us a new heart, one that would love him unconditionally (Ezek 36:26).

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
(Eph 2:4-7)

By the way, he doesn’t want us to lend it to him just for a while so we can have it back to turn our affections towards other things – he wants us to give it to him.

My child, give me your heart.
Of all the people and things we could give our heart to, he wants us to give it to him. Well, what does this even mean? It sounds kind of poetic and not very practical. How do I give my heart to anyone? Well, in a simple sense, what do you spend your time doing? You work to make a life for you and your family, to make sure they are well provided for, that you have time to enjoy the life you have built up. You have ambitions about what you will do with your life to be productive, to leave a positive mark on the world. There is nothing wrong with these things. God has left us here in order to be good stewards of the time and talents that he has given us (see Matt 25:14-29). But there is something else to consider.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
(Matt 6:19-21)

Our heart will follow wherever our treasure is. If we value the things of God, if we view our life from an eternal, heavenly perspective, even the treasure we gain here on earth will only reflect the treasure we are gaining in heaven: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Cor 2:9)”

My child, give me your heart.
When all is said and done, it is still my heart to do with as I please. Even though he paid such a high price to make it possible for me to even have a clean heart, he has left it under my control. It is up to me to give it to him or not. We all have a tendency to keep track of those around us and evaluate their behavior according to our sense of right and wrong. We always have a lot of advice for other people to follow as to the best course of action for them to take, especially as it relates to important, essential things. In fact, I am doing that right now, telling you how you ought to relate to God and eternity. But let’s look at the verse. God wants my heart. Yes, I know he wants your heart, too, but he wants mine. So this section is for me. I need to reconsider where my heart is, bring it back from wherever I have given it, and give it God.

My child, give me your heart.
Of all the things I have to give, God wants my heart. I can give him my time, my treasure, my talents, but he wants my heart and the love that is in it. He wants it all directed towards him. Most people are familiar with the “love” chapter from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. It is commonly read at weddings to express the feelings of the bride and bridegroom for one another. But read it again as if it is the love in your heart that is being spoken of and then make sure you have given it to God.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, [and] is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love never faileth: but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall fail; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these [is] love.

My. Child. Give. Me. Your. Heart.

O the bitter shame and sorrow
that a time could ever be,
when I let the Savior’s pity
plead in vain, and proudly answered:
All of self, and none of thee!

Yet he found me: I beheld him
bleeding on the accursèd tree,
heard him pray: Forgive them, Father;
and my wistful heart said faintly:
Some of self and some of thee!

Day by day his tender mercy,
healing, helping, full and free:
sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,
brought me lower, while I whispered:
Less of self and more of thee!

Higher than the highest heaven,
deeper than the deepest sea;
Lord, thy love at last hath conquered;
grant me now my supplication:
None of self and all of thee!

Theodore Monod, 1874

ST. PAUL

No, not the St. Paul from the Bible, the greatest of the Apostles, who was converted on the road to Damascus. The city St. Paul on the Mississippi river in Minnesota. One of the Twin Cities, along with Minneapolis. That’s where I was born back in late December of 1952. So this post is just some stories of where I got started, and some early memories and influences.

So I was raised by Indians in a garden where there were huge thunderstorms and we ate White Castle hamburgers. I guess I should clarify that.

I was baby number six for my parents, after one girl, one boy, and then three girls. Since I was a baby boy (instead of one of many girls), I became my Mom’s favorite. You can just ask my siblings about that. When I came home from the hospital, my Mom now had a newborn, a one-year-old, a two-year-old, a five-year-old, a six-year-old, and a ten-year-old. It was too much. She reached out to the church and she was connected up with a home for abandoned (perhaps troubled) girls. She chose a 16-year-old Indian girl named Jeri to come and live with us and help with the children. Evidently Jeri thought I was the cutest thing and carried me everywhere, to the point that they say I didn’t walk until I was two because I didn’t have to! Incidentally, to give you an idea of what times were like in the “mid-century” era, my parents had friends who would no longer come to visit or even associate with them because we had an Indian living in our house.

The house stood on a double lot, and in the “side back” yard was a flower garden that had been started by the previous owner of the house. The flowers were peonies, but not just any peonies. These flowers had won first prize at the Minnesota State Fair several years running and they were HUGE! So my mother would go outside in the morning to weed the garden, and she would sit me down next to her under the flowers. So I was raised in a garden. My earliest memory is of that garden. I remember watching the earthworms in the black, soft dirt, and the ants on the flowers. My mother told me (probably much later) that the ants helped the peonies to open up and bloom, so we always left the ants alone.

There be four [things which are] little upon the earth, but they [are] exceeding wise:
The ants [are] a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer. (Prov 20:34-35)

My first word was “flower”. My Dad worked for 3M as an engineer making magnetic tape, so we had a tape recorder even back then. I was getting a bath in the kitchen sink, my Mom floated one of the peonies in the water, and I said, “flower”. My Dad got his tape recorder to save the event for posterity, but to add some interest he took the flower away! I immediately started to cry and didn’t stop until he put it back. Maybe he had a bit of a mean streak. Unfortunately, we lost the recording in a fire we had at our house in the mid-60s.

My Dad had an upright piano that he used to play and he’d sing old songs for us while we sat next to him on the bench to sing along. Also, our house had a big wraparound screened-in porch and we would keep a couch on it in the summer. Now if you’ve never been in the Midwest, you’ve never heard a real thunderstorm. I liked to sit out on the couch with the rain pouring out of the sky and listen to the huge peals of thunder echoing off the neighborhood houses. I wasn’t scared because my Dad told me that it was just the angels pushing a piano down the stairs. That made perfect sense to me, so to this day I love thunderstorms. I remember the first time I heard the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The first verse captures what I feel in a thunderstorm.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Then there is White Castle, the home of the Perfect Food. After church on Sunday we would sometimes trundle off to White Castle and get a “sack” (that’s a “bag” to you non-Midwesterners) of hamburgers and head over to Gramma Wanschura’s house. I was so impressed that I could eat four hamburgers! At the time you could get them “with” or “without” (onions). I think now they just make all of them with onions. Even then you could watch them make the burgers, which was really cool. It was located at “Seven Corners” in St. Paul but I couldn’t figure out if any of the current Castles is the one I ate at. There’s not one near me now which is probably a good thing since I would weigh another 100 pounds more. I do know where the nearest ones are, though (Howell, Eatontown, and Edison near the Menlo Park Mall). So if you’re near any of them, feel free to pick me up a sack.

I was about four and a half when we left that house and moved to another one on the east side of St. Paul. But that’s a story for another day…

A Matter of Degrees

It’s coming up on Sunday and time to go to church meeting. But you’re not feeling very motivated to go. Mostly it’s because of some of the people there. You know how it can be, the bossy sister who always has unsolicited advice, the brother who seems to only see people’s faults (especially “the young people”). Maybe it’s just you, or maybe just your congregation. What to do?

Back in the days of Moses, God set up his seven feasts in Jerusalem. In particular he said, “Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD (Ex 23:7)”. Everyone had to leave home and go to Jerusalem to keep the feasts. Psalm 120 through Psalm 134 are each denoted as “A Song of Degrees,” and it has been suggested that these psalms were sung by the children of Israel as they went up to Jerusalem and then up to the temple. The first one doesn’t sound very promising:

Psalm 120 [A Song of degrees.]
In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.
Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, [and] from a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?
Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.
Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, [that] I dwell in the tents of Kedar!
My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.
I [am for] peace: but when I speak, they [are] for war.

“I’m OK, it’s all those other people!” You can hear the conversations: “Those men from Gad think they’re really something. And don’t get me started on the Judeans. They act like they’re the only ones who know what God wants. Boy, it’s going to be long trip.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? After being away from God’s people for any length of time, even a week, we can begin to dwell on a lot of negative aspects of our experiences with them.

But we can turn our eyes to the Lord as the next Psalm reminds us:

Psalm 121 [A Song of degrees.]
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help [cometh] from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

You get to the church/chapel and you head inside and you see your brethren and sisters and think about why you’re there. The next psalm takes a different tone:

Psalm 122 [A Song of degrees of David.]
I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.
Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:
Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.
For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls, [and] prosperity within thy palaces.
For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace [be] within thee.
Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.

Why are you there? For “the testimony,” “to give thanks unto the Lord.” In spite of any misgivings, you can take up the attitude in the last two verses, “For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace [be] within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.” After all, it’s not “my” church or even “our” church, it is “the house of the Lord.” It’s what Paul wrote to remind Timothy, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Tim 3:15)”

The next one takes it a bit further. Psalm 123:3 says, “Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.” Turn your critical eye upon yourself, and you will see again that we need the Lord’s mercy because of our OWN shortcomings. Jeremiah wrote, “[It is of] the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. [They are] new every morning: great [is] thy faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23)” Even as believers we must depend on God’s mercy to keep our heart right.

Psalm 124 ends with, “Our help [is] in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Three psalms back it was MY help that came from the Lord; now it is OUR help. Psalm 126:3 says, “The LORD hath done great things for us; [whereof] we are glad.” What an improvement! Instead of “I am this” and “they are that,” it is all of us together, recipients of God’s goodness and grace, and together we are glad. When we get to Psalm 133, look how different things are:

Psalm 133 [A Song of degrees of David.]
Behold, how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity!
[It is] like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
As the dew of Hermon, [and as the dew] that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, [even] life for evermore.

Now we remember why we’re here! To give thanks to the Lord for what he has done for us, and to enjoy the fellowship of the saints. It’s good, it’s pleasant, it is precious! We can turn our eyes away from ourselves to the one who alone is worthy. So we can end with the last psalm in the group:

Psalm 134 [A Song of degrees.]
Behold, bless ye the LORD, all [ye] servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.
Lift up your hands [in] the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.
The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.

I’ll bet by then you can hardly wait to come back next week!

Life is hard…

You’ve all heard this expression in one form or another: “Life is hard, and then you die.” I would like to point out a different perspective from a familiar Bible passage.

Psalm 23
[A Psalm of David.]
The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Note the last verse and contrast it with the our current saying:

“Life is hard.”
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

“Then you die.”
“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

David had a view different from that which is common in our cynical world today. Because he had a divine shepherd he knew that his experience would be one of goodness and mercy. If you read about David’s life in Samuel and Kings and Chronicles, you’ll see that his life wasn’t always rosy. He had to hide in caves from King Saul who was trying to kill him, his own son Absalom rebelled against him and tried to steal his kingdom, and because of David’s own sin his little baby boy died. Even in all this he knew that the Lord his shepherd was guiding everything in goodness and mercy. And where was it all leading? David knew his own death would only bring him to an even better place, to be right at home in the house of the Lord, forever. It seems to me that what David had is much better than anything contemporary society has to offer.

But here’s a detail that is not readily apparent. (This is the Bible geek part.) The form of these two phrases includes a construction that is no longer in general use. Remember your grammar lessons? “I am; we are; you are; he, she, or it is; they are.” “I shall; we shall; you will; he, she, or it will; they will.” The second conjugation is the way to express an event or action that is going to take place in the future without any emphasis, though we seldom use the word “shall” any more. However, if you want to emphasize that the event will certainly take place by deliberate action, you reverse the conjugation: “I will; we will; you shall; he, she, or it shall; they shall.”

To illustrate the difference, here’s a (perhaps a bit grisly) example. Imagine two people on the edge of a bridge. One is hanging on, about to fall off, and the other is a BASE jumper with a parachute. The first person would say, “I shall fall, no one will save me!” It is a description of what is about to happen as a matter of course. The BASE jumper would say, “I will jump, no one shall stop me.” This is a statement of intention, of the certainty that he will make the event come to pass.

David doesn’t say that goodness and mercy WILL follow him, he says that they SHALL follow him, without any doubt. In the same way he is certain about what comes after this life is over. He doesn’t say “I SHALL” dwell in the house of the Lord, he says “I WILL” dwell in the house of the Lord forever. How does he know this? Because (see verse 1 in the psalm) he has the Lord as his shepherd.

I have come to understand David’s view of life and eternity. God wants everyone to be certain of eternal life like David was. “[God] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Tim 2:4-6)” Each of us has the opportunity to choose between the two sayings. Jesus Christ died on the cross and was raised from the dead and is now seated in Heaven. Anyone can accept him and the work that he has done and be delivered from the literal “dead end” of their own sin and from the indifference of the world around us, and instead “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

I have a Shepherd, one I love so well.
How He has blessed me tongue can never tell.
On the cross He suffered, shed His blood and died,
That I might ever in His love abide.

Following Jesus ever day by day.
Nothing can harm me when He leads the way.
Darkness or sunshine, whate’er befall,
Jesus the Shepherd is my all-in-all!

What to Eat?

Having been raised as a Catholic, I never quite understood why we couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. I guess after Vatican II that was limited to Lent, and the rest of the year it was OK. Anyway, here’s some Bible food trivia.

Adam and Eve and everyone up to the Flood were vegetarians:

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. Gen 1:29

But after the Flood, Noah and his descendants were omnivorous:

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. Gen 9:3

So the Biblical view is that it is OK to eat animals, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

The Weaver

The Weaver
Benjamin Malachi Franklin (1882-1965)
U.S. Library Of Congress, Washington DC, Card # 20060727210211

My Life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.