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Language of God

spiral-galaxy-ngc1300-nasa-1600This post poses a thought. It’s one of those things that just goes,  “Click!” one day, as you’re praying/studying… something falls into place… with sort of an, “Of course!” feel to it… But, it’s really hard to put into words that would make sense to describe.

I offer this thought here for your perusal, your consideration, your comment. I do NOT present it as being “True to the exclusion of all other understandings or perspectives,” so if you don’t agree, think nothing of it. Feel free to cast it aside.

But…

This thought follows from “Christmas Trees and Solar Flares“, from the indivisible, unparsable nature of God as “I AM”. That “I AM”, is not only God’s Name, but also His Nature… “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One.” [Deuteronomy 6:4].

I was reading through John 10, as Don Merritt was teaching on the Gospel of John. I was arrested by the following verses, in Jesus’ teaching about His being the Good Shepherd.

“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it downI on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. [John 10:17-18]

I was arrested here. Alarm bells seemed to go off at the word “commandment”. Why? I wasn’t sure. But we see the Lord speak very carefully and clearly, repeating His key concepts, not to be misunderstood, that He will lay down His life by His own choice and His own authority. He speaks of sovereignty, of power, of His right to do this. But THEN, in the very next verse, His concluding verse of this thought, He says, “This COMMANDMENT I received from My Father.”

WHAT?

Now, I realize the obvious implication that in verse 17, He is making clear that no PERSON on earth… not the Sanhedrin, not Caiaphas, not Pilate, has the authority to take His life unless He Himself lays it down. But even so… this juxtaposition of “the authority and autonomy of Jesus”, laid alongside the “trump”, the “overarching authority of the Father”, exerted as a “commandment” to JESUS… jarred me somehow.

It wasn’t a sense that this was WRONG, exactly. No, the truth was there… it fit. But It was the “flavor” of the word “commandment” that just didn’t seem consistent with the heart of the Father in and around His relationship with Jesus, His Son. It was the “hard edges” of the word. The “starkness” of the imperative case. It just… well…. sort of went “clang” in my spiritual ear.

So, (as described in A Really Nifty Tool) I ran the word “ἐντολή (entolē)” to explore this “command” of the Father. As described in the earlier post there, the word is used in some form in the New Testament 67 times. Prayerfully exploring all the “flavors and nuances” of use, it seemed this word is used primarily to reflect the phrase, “utterance of God”… (or someone, “said”). Some of the referents are to what we would consider “Ten Commandments” and “the Law”, and the Spirit seemed to lead to consider these last. “Set them aside for the moment…” seemed the instruction.

Now, again, bear in mind there’s no irreverence here at all… but it’s almost as if God “calmly speaks Truth”, not in a monotone… but in a steady tone of grace, of love, of instruction… and we… man… “interpret” that tone according to whatever posture we hold at the time. Certainly we see this phenomenon among interpreters, translators, of the Bible. Moods and the emotional connotation of one version or another can differ widely according to era, culture, and denomination.

I’m thinking that, just as congregants so often “hear a sermon” according to their need, and what the Holy Spirit writes upon their heart… regardless of what the Holy Spirit had in our own  hearts when we crafted or delivered the message… Just as Scripture continues, time after time, to reveal new truths and insights to the mind and heart of God each and every time we read it, depending on where we find ourselves emotionally and spiritually in those moments… We are subjective creatures, creatures of consciousness. We interpret input according to our own perspective.

Jesus knows that and knew that, and we see Him speak accordingly many times in the Gospels. His discourses carry layers of meaning, according to the attitude and posture of the hearer.

So… what if God the Father… speaks/sings/loves/thinks/creates as the Constant I Am… and His language is simply… “Is-Ness”? For Him to “declare” anything at all… is for that simply “to be”. We may perceive that utterance, that declaration, as whatever we, in our own spirit, need it to be for His purposes of grace?

I started to wonder if when God speaks… He is simply revealing Himself? Always. If, when He speaks, He is opening Himself, teaching, communing with man?

Now… with this new “softened” perspective, Jesus suggested I look again at all those “commandment” verses, including those with reference to “the Law”.

And it was amazing. Suddenly, it seemed as if I could hear God just “teaching”, “instructing” on “how life works”! It was astonishing, amazing!

It’s hard to put this feeling into words. But for many MANY years, I saw “commandments” (whether “Do this!”, or “Don’t do that!”) as being “lines in the sand” drawn by God. He would “command” unpleasant stuff, or “forbid” attractive stuff… just as a “loyalty litmus test” of some sort. As if He commanded Adam and Eve not to eat fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil… simply to “test” them, because He knew that fruit was attractive, appealing, and tasty, and He wanted to see how strong the resolve of our ArchParents!

I remember an incredible day, many years ago, when (having always held this “loyalty check” view), God asked me what difference it would make if He WEREN’T this “model of a mean parent”? What if… His words to Adam and Eve were a well-intentioned WARNING. He said all that could be said at the time… Don’t eat the fruit there, death will result. A simple message. He cares for their needs after that.

It was astonishing to me, turned everything upside down. So… then… what about His “curses” to Adam and Eve when He expels them? What about the expulsion itself?

Again, what if we ascribe only love and benevolence to God? Not pique, temper, or retribution? Well, then we’d have to reinterpret His words, with a different, a loving, heart. Is there any problem with that? No, not really… the words change TONE, and therefore meaning, but they don’t change His words at all. Bearing in mind that particularly now, at the very beginning of the world, Adam and Eve know very little about “how everything is wired”, or “how things will work”. What if God is not being vindictive and petty, but simply explaining that because of what they had set in motion, and the nature of Creation as fashioned by God’s word and power, certain results had been set into motion?

What if all that utterance, in Genesis 3 from 16 through 19, is “statement of the case”? What if, rather  than a vindictive and arbitrary expression of temper  and pique, God’s words are statement (a grieving statement at that), pronouncing the simple Truth of what Adam and Eve had now set into motion? All authority and power, all the dynamic of this situation, are indeed vested in God. He alone, motivates all that is. But the “trajectory” of this arrow of time, has now been deflected from God’s original blessed will, into zones of shadow and “less than the blessed” of its original design.

What if… far from “cursing” them, He was “warning” them, “preparing” them, “blessing” them, for the tribulations to come?

The possibility totally blew my mind. Suddenly, I started looking at the WHOLE Bible, as though it represented the God revealed by Jesus. I could readily see everything God ever did and ever said, once MY heart was changed from “mistrusting His agenda” as petty or vindictive… and realized it is ALL Jesus’ heart. Rejoicing in compassion, grace, forgiveness… grieving with the unavoidable playing out of the Laws of Creation when man stacks the dominoes against ourselves.

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Anyway, there’s the thought…

It began as the discomfort of realizing that the word “command” implies both a threat (of punishment if a command is disobeyed), and the attachment of authority and force to one of two or more alternative choices. I could not imagine ANY circumstance wherein, after clearly defining and insisting upon His own authority and autonomy on the disposition of His own life, Jesus would then immediately follow that declaration with its utter negation in the next verse, by the word “command”. Since clearly Jesus isn’t wrong, and cannot be so… then the flaw in the understanding has to come from my interpretation of the Scriptural word used… the Greek word “ἐντολή (entolē)”. Once the homework was done, an entirely new layer of God’s heart seemed to open.

God… as I AM… speaks “Is-Ness” into Creation always. This is an ongoing, wondrous, revelation of Himself, Creation, and our relationships with Him, Creation, and one another. God’s utterances are not arbitrary or spontaneous. He speaks the IS, speaks Existence, only and always. And all of it… ALL… is redemptive, good, loving towards humanity. This, is as HE speaks.

However, how we HEAR… what we perceive as and when we sense Him speaking, will depend on our own subjective posture in that moment and circumstance. We may hear Him as “commanding”, or “threatening”, or “punishing”, or “warning”, or “comforting”, or “illuminating”, or “rejoicing”. He is always Revealing… but what we perceive will vary by our own attitude, need, and focus in those circumstances.

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This thought makes many things go, “Click! Aha!” for me…

But I am not so arrogant as to think that it must necessarily do so for you, or that if you utterly reject this as inconsistent with Scripture and your convictions, that you are wrong.  Not at all. And it’s my desire to be very gentle in presenting this thought, along with my interest in any comment or thoughts you may have.

What do you think?

More to come. This all has interesting prayer implications we will look at

Grace to thee — The Little Monk

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Christmas Trees and Solar Flares

sunNow Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God…

Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.” [Exodus 3:1-6, 13-15]

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“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. [John 17:3-12]

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What if… one day you awoke, got your coffee, sat down to share it in company with God, and He were to ask you…

“What is My Name?”

(Now, granted, that hardly seems a fair question when you’re still working on your first coffee… but nonetheless….)

So… here you have His question, and imagine that you haven’t just been prompted by the scripture passages that open this post. Your mind may go to the Isaiah texts… Mighty Counselor, Prince of Peace, Wonderful, Marvelous, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father… or you may think of Jesus’ words and names for the Holy Spirit… Teacher, Comforter, Paraclete… and so on.

For myself, that’s where my mind/spirit went… all these NameS for God. Coffee or no, it seemed as if all of them flew through me in the same moments. Along with all these descriptions of Him… love, truth, goodness, beauty, life, light, righteousness, justice, peace… all that… along with the simpler way Jesus commanded us to address God in prayer… simply “Our Father”, or, more accurately “Daddy”, “Papi”, “Papa”, or “Da”  (some affectionate diminutive paternal form).

Over the next few minutes, as Jesus unfolded some petals of the Rose He had for me that day, along with lingering echoes and after effect ripples for several days after… I came to look upon this question and these answers in a new way, and I thought I’d share them here, and see what you all think, and what your hearts may respond…

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All those “Names” (plural) for God, as noted in scripture are indeed true, good, and right. Yes.

However, when Moses asked the point blank question, God answered with a response of ultimate simplicity and unity.

“I AM who (I) AM.”

Now, that’s just a simple answer. Isn’t it?

But, wait a moment. It is SUCH a simple answer that we sometimes fail to give it much consideration. What does that really say? That’s what the Lord challenged me with, along this ponder. Just to stop a moment and consider what this really means, as I understand the English language.

“I… AM.”

What can be said about these two words? Well, they are the first expression of a “conjugation” of the verb “to be”. Remember? “I am”, “you are”, “he/she/it is”, “we are”, “you (ya’ll) are”, “they are”?  (I know, sorry about that, I don’t mean to trigger any unpleasant 8th grade flashbacks, but this will be meaningful in a moment…) And if you hold a moment, hovering over the concept of “to be” as an Infinitive… it really gets rather impressive. To be, to exist, in any time, in any manner, for any duration, in any form… EVER. Whether physical or not, spiritual, conceptual, potential or actual… ALL that covered by the infinitive “to be”. What’s more, GOD is the “I” form… the First Person Singular.

That was rather where this whole ponder led at its apex… “God is the Ultimate First Person Singular, who gives meaning to the verb “to Be”.

That is God is One, Whole, Undifferentiated, Indivisible, condition of possibility for Existence as a Whole.

We humanly tend to image the Father as a central Power Figure (“God”) like a wondrous Christmas Tree, and then hang all these Names on Him as characteristics…. reminds me of the ornaments hung all around the trunk.

This alternative is more like the Sun, center of our solar system. Composed of hydrogen, helium, oxygen, heavy metals, all sorts of stuff… burning in constant fusion and fission emitting light, heat, gamma radiation, alpha and beta as well… all those characteristics… but from the perspective of the Sun itself… it simply IS. It’s the Sun. It does what the Sun does, all at once, by its very nature. You can’t “parse it” and make any sense of it.

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That… is a tough thought to ponder. But the Lord brought me to realize that there is a huge and fundamental difference between the true statements that “God is Good”, “God is Counselor”, “God is Righteous”, “God is Loving”, “God is Merciful”… ALL these totally TRUE statements… but all of them “incomplete”. As soon as you specify a quality that God has, in a sentence, you grammatically exclude many other equally true statements. As human beings, we tend to bridge this gap with the words “if” or “but”. “God is Love”..BUT “God is Righteous”. or “God is Merciful” BUT “God is Just”. And so on.

The Lord preferred that I not “add to scripture” in this way. Let these true scriptural insights on the nature of God just stand on their own, and absorb the paradox without trying to reconcile it. And second, that I try to step back and embrace God’s actual SELF Definition… the “I AM”.

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Now, to draw this rather suddenly to a close… spend a bit of time just letting the universe and the word “God” expand to the very limits of the infinitive “to be”… and then let that set of petals lead to the second passage… that the Father gives this very name both to Jesus…

And…

According to John 17…

to us.

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More on this later… grace to thee! — The Little Monk

 
5 Comments

Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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