Weep no more: Behold the Lion of the Tribe of Judah

So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”—Revelation 5:4-5

And so. Here we are, these closing moments of 2020, and haven’t they been roaring? Days without number, where we hear so much talk of god, and yet men and women of great stature and none, have forgotten God.

And they talk of their god’s — of oppression, of empathy, of kindness, of compassion, of love, of joy, of community, of beauty, of justice…and all of these are subject to some arbitrary ‘truth’, for everywhere there is this vainglorious exhortation of man, there is nothing good. Yes, this occidental humanitarian tendency to do ‘good’ — Schadenfreude — some have observed, and as one writer so eloquently put it: “where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe.”

And haven’t we been good students of this malevolent infiltration of the soul. But who am I to judge? Even so, I have my doubts: these dead works of human hands, are not the fruit of the spirit, though everyone is claiming to be a ‘Christian’ these days, as if it were some sort of talisman to stave off Jinns.

And as I have moved away from the interiority of racial terror, imagine my surprise to find a world that has become the mirror image of classrooms, in which I once taught the mundane virtues of anti-racist theory and practice. Though in its current incarnation,  anti-racism serves as a deus ex machina  for its priestly caste, whose mission field is a world on the brink of disaster, particularly for those of a ‘darker’ hue. For the most part, it consists of those well-intentioned secular evangelists and their progressive co-religionists, who would “…try to elevate their souls like someone who continually jumps from a standing position in the hope that forcing oneself to jump all day—and higher every day— they would no longer fall back down, but rise to heaven.”  It is as Simone Weil also observes, a humanism that presumes to attain, truth, beauty, liberty, and equality, which indeed, are of infinite value, but without the grace of God.  It is a thing of nought, a stone of stumbling and a snare that opposes human ingenuity in its refusal to recover wisdom as we pass through the valley of Achor—a place where God waits patiently to be gracious to us: “For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

And did you not know, have you not heard, when all is well with your soul, five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your [spiritual] enemies shall be at peace with you? — and that on mount Zion, there shall be holiness; there shall be freedom, and the people of God will possess their inheritance? At any rate, the persecutor within, convicted me of not wanting to teach students how to transgress anymore. But rather, as God’s providence would have it, in arresting and wresting me from my own transgressions, it transpires, I had been ordained for peace. It is the truth I came to learn from the Master Liberator himself: this is how I set captives free.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations (Isaiah 61:1-4)

 

And contrary to the boast of ancient kings, who say in pride and arrogance of heart, that has resonated throughout the ages:

“The bricks have fallen down,

But we will rebuild with hewn stones;

The sycamores are cut down,

But we will replace them with cedars.” (Isaiah 9:9-10)


—Though one who is of Greater wisdom than Solomon is with us — in this eighth Song of Ascent, the psalmist reminds us,

 Unless the Lord builds the house,

They labor in vain who build it;

Unless the Lord guards the city,

The watchman stays awake in vain.

 It is vain for you to rise up early,

To sit up late,

To eat the bread of sorrows;

For so He gives His beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2)

And it is a truly astounding paradox to me — one to which I once succumbed –that so many in proclaiming, “I am spiritual but not religious”, fall back into the very same yokes of religiosity they are claiming to have freed themselves from. It is also intriguing to observe, how these ever increasing forms of godliness have positioned themselves as battering rams against the revealed Way to the kingdom of God, as if, in this manner one might take even one step as it were, towards heaven. There is an ease in the free gift of salvation by grace, Weil writes, more difficult for us than all our human efforts, and in this sense it is true: grace is effortless. And yet, “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion.”

And did they tell you, that on the cross at Calvary responding to Jesus’ thirst, a Roman soldier offered him sour wine, which he refused to drink because it was rendered bitter by the infusion of wormwood [poison]? Beloveds, never allow the mob to render God’s perfect and unchanging justice barren: “so that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood;” (Deuteronomy 29:18; Hebrews 12:15).

And I wonder, did you know, that the bad news about the good news is this: contrary to popular belief, it is Barrabas who is the insurrectionist, not Jesus, who proclaims, “I am the resurrection and the life.” It is rare that anyone will die for a righteous person, but for a good person, someone might possibly dare to die. Paradoxically, In the eyes of the belligerent crowd, releasing Barrabas instead of Jesus, represents our own crooked human standard of justice. Nevertheless, this did not usurp the divine providence of God. Truly, this is good news. Jesus (in whom we become the righteousness of God), died for us as sinners even at that very moment all around him were sinning. This, i believe, is the scandalous and extraordinary gift of the love of God that surpasses all knowledge.

And so to Amos, and lions, and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who has set a plumb line in our midst, who recoils at our propensity to turn justice into wormwood, and religiosity into feigned worship — I wonder, will he pass us by?

And these are the words, Amos said: The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither:

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria,

Who oppress the poor,

Who crush the needy,

Who say to your husbands, “Bring wine, let us drink!”

The Lord God has sworn by His holiness:

“Behold, the days shall come upon you

When He will take you away with fishhooks,

And your posterity with fishhooks.

You will go out through broken walls,

Each one straight ahead of her,

And you will be cast into Harmon,”

Says the Lord.

For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel:

“Seek Me and live;

 But do not seek Bethel,

Nor enter Gilgal,

Nor pass over to Beersheba;

For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity,

And Bethel shall come to nothing.

 Seek the Lord and live,

Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph,

And devour it,

With no one to quench it in Bethel—

You who turn justice to wormwood,

And lay righteousness to rest in the earth!”

He made the Pleiades and Orion;

He turns the shadow of death into morning

And makes the day dark as night;

He calls for the waters of the sea

And pours them out on the face of the earth;

The Lord is His name.

He rains ruin upon the strong,

So that fury comes upon the fortress.

They hate the one who rebukes in the gate,

And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly.

Therefore, because you tread down the poor

And take grain taxes from him,

Though you have built houses of hewn stone,

Yet you shall not dwell in them;

You have planted pleasant vineyards,

But you shall not drink wine from them.

For I know your manifold transgressions

And your mighty sins:

Afflicting the just and taking bribes;

Diverting the poor from justice at the gate.

Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time,

For it is an evil time.

Seek good and not evil,

That you may live;

So the Lord God of hosts will be with you,

As you have spoken.

Hate evil, love good;

Establish justice in the gate.

It may be that the Lord God of hosts

Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Woe to you who put far off the day of doom,

Who cause the seat of violence to come near;

Who lie on beds of ivory,

Stretch out on your couches,

Eat lambs from the flock

And calves from the midst of the stall;

Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments,

And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David;

Who drink wine from bowls,

And anoint yourselves with the best ointments,

But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

Therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives,

And those who recline at banquets shall be removed. (Amos 2:6-7; 4:1-3; 5:4-15; 6:3-7)


Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment,
Because he willingly walked by human precept.
Therefore I will be to Ephraim like a moth,
And to the house of Judah like rottenness.

When Ephraim saw his sickness, And Judah saw his wound, Then Ephraim went to Assyria And sent to King Jareb; Yet he cannot cure you,Nor heal you of your wound. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, And like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue.

I will return again to My place Till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”

“They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, Then His sons shall come trembling from the west; They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt, Like a dove from the land of Assyria. And I will let them dwell in their houses, ”Says the Lord.(Hosea 5:11-15; 11:10-11)

For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:

And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. (Isaiah 29:10-14)


Photo credits: Dust Masks Worn During The Dust Bowl Photograph by Everet

Go tell it on the mountain

“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
“I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.—Psalm 2:6-8

Behold, on the mountains
The feet of him who brings good tidings,
Who proclaims peace!
O Judah, keep your appointed feasts,
Perform your vows.
For the wicked one shall no more pass through you;
He is utterly cut off
.— Nahum 1:15

Isaiah 52:1-12

Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.

Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.

For thus saith the Lord God, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.

Now therefore, what have I here, saith the Lord, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the Lord; and my name continually every day is blasphemed.

Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.

Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.

The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.

For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward.

Romans 10:8-15

The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Artwork: Makoto Fujimura

The Journey Of The Magi—T.S. Eliot

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou
be little among the thousands of Judah,
yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me
that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been
from of old, from everlasting.—Micah 5:2

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


—-

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
3

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6
‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (Matthew 2:1-14)

—–
Artwork: Magi from a nativity scene in Faras, Nubia.
Date: Late 10th-early 11th century
Source:Kazmierz Michalowski: “Die Kathedrale aus dem Wüstensand” (1967)

For the love of mammon and mediocrity

So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel.  And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. —1 Kings 18:20-22
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon—Matthew 6:24.

Elijah’s Mount Carmel Victory

20 So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. 23 Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. 24 Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.”

So all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.”

25 Now Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one bull for yourselves and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.

26 So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, “O Baal, [f]hear us!” But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they [g]leaped about the altar which they had made.

27 And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. 29 And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. 31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” 32 Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” 34 Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. 35 So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water.

36 And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”

40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there.



—-

The greatest danger to Christianity is, I contend, not heresies, heterodoxies, not atheists, not profane secularism – no, but the kind of orthodoxy which is cordial drivel, mediocrity served up sweet. There is nothing that so insidiously displaces the majestic as cordiality. Perpetually polite, so small, so nice, tampering and meddling and tampering some more – the result is that majesty is completely defrauded – of course, only a little bit. And right here is the danger, for the infinite is more disposed to a violent attack than to becoming a little bit degraded – amid smiling, Christian politeness. And yet this politeness is what our Christianity amounts to. But the very essence of Christianity is utterly opposed to this mediocrity, in which it does not so much die as dwindle away. Today’s orthodoxy essentially has its abode in the cordial drivel of family life. This is utterly dangerous for Christianity. Christianity does not oppose debauchery and uncontrollable passions and the like as much as it is opposes this flat mediocrity, this nauseating atmosphere, this homey, civil togetherness, where admittedly great crimes, wild excesses, and powerful aberrations cannot easily occur – but where God’s unconditional demand has even greater difficulty in accomplishing what it requires: the majestic obedience of submission. Nothing is further from obeying the either/or than this sweet family drivel. Consider what Christ thinks about mediocrity! When the apostle Peter, for instance, with good intentions wanted to keep Christ from being crucified, Christ answered: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me” (Mk. 8:33). In the world of mediocrity in which we live it is assumed that only crackpots, fanatics, and the like should be deplored as offensive, as inspired by Satan, and that the middle way is the right way, the way that alone is exempted from any such charge. What nonsense! Christ is of another mind: mediocrity is the worst offense, the most dangerous kind of demon possession, farthest removed from the possibility of being cured. To “have” religion on the level of mediocrity is the most unqualified form of perdition.

The advantages and benefits of earthly life are bound up in mediocrity. But genuine religion has an inverse relationship to the finite. Its aim is to raise human beings up so as to transcend what is earthly. It is a matter of either/or. Either prime quality, or no quality at all; either with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength, or not at all. Either all of God and all of you, or nothing at all! We clever humans, however, prefer to treat faith as if it were something finite, as if it were something for the betterment and enjoyment of temporal life. It is supposed to bring us meaning and fulfillment, happiness and direction. This kind of religion is nothing but a deception. If you were honest and if you would look at it more closely, you would see that this really is contempt for religion, a dangerous and culpable irreligion. True faith insists on being an either/or. To treat it as if it were like drink and food is fundamentally to scorn it. But this is precisely the way of mediocrity. (Soren Kierkegaard Spiritual Provocations, Ch. 4, “‘The Greatest danger’, pp.16-18)

Artwork Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Elijah’s challenge of “the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table” (1 Kings 18:19) is depicted in two scenes on the walls of the third-century C.E. synagogue at Dura-Europos in modern Syria.

Choruses from “The Rock”―T.S. Eliot

Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?
For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.
O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up?
For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.
Deuteronomy 32:3-6; 28-31

The more Christianity moves towards an importation of identity politics as a sort of addendum to the gospel, the more likely we are to end up with a Mishnah on cultural difference, which really is no gospel at all. The assumptions of ‘marginality’ as being essentially and unequivocally synonymous with racial ‘oppression’, belies the reality that not all cultures view themselves through such absolutist frameworks. It seems that the goal of kingdom citizenship is something entirely opposite to our earthly notions of ‘cultural citizenship’, that strives towards a simulacrum of gospel unity. This sort of striving, represented in the works-based righteousness that inspired the building of the tower of babel, remains a stark reminder of the limitations of the work of our own hands in contrast to the supernatural constitution of God’s kingdom―every tribe, tongue, and nation (see Joel 2:28-29; Zephaniah 3:8-13; the day of Pentecost Acts 2:1-13; 17:16-34, Revelation 7:9-17). “For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3). As for Christian building, Paul reminds us of our frame:

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.

10According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

16Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:9-16)

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-21)

Cultural relativism has used this deceit to gain power. The absolute relativists want to assert their sincere desire for dialogue UNTIL they become a majority. Then they often want to settle issues by either exclusion or coercion. They first argue for democratic fairness, but when they acquire their majority, they are tempted to turn immediately to a triumphalism that assumes that liberal justice has triumphed. From then on, dialogue about truth is forbidden, and about absolute truth is absolutely forbidden.―Thomas C. Oden

In the Church which was founded at Corinth, St. Paul had special difficulties of the kind I have mentioned. In that flourishing commercial city, which through its shipping and situation, maintained a vital connexion between East and West, numerous crowds of people flocked together from all quarters, different in speech and in culture. As they mingled with the inhabitants, they produced, by contacts and contrasts, new and ever new differences. Even in the Church, this differentiation endeavored to make itself felt in sects and parties; and a kind of pagan wisdom made a special attempt to force itself forward as a teacher of truth. In his first letter to this church, from which the text I read is taken, St. Paul strongly combats this tendency.”—Sermon from Upbuilding Discourses, Soren Kierkegaard (see 1 Corinthian 1:10-19)

Jesus has gathered not merely Romans and Greeks and Jews, but the descendants of those barbarous people who lived in the white-cliffed island beyond Gaul which men called Britain! He has gathered those savage people unto Him! And now how pleasing to see the Red Indian bowing with the pale-face at Jesus’ name—to see China, once hermetically sealed, now open to the Gospel, and Japan inviting our missionaries to instruct her! Also to see the dwellers in the South Seas and the black races of Africa stretching out their hands to God! Strange and uncouth in appearance and in tongue are many of the tribes of mankind, but they shall be gathered as surely as the more civilized! There scarcely remains any nation out of which the Lord has not gathered some to His Church and our faith is that before long the Gospel shall be preached throughout all lands!

It has not come yet. We heard the other night of nations which have never yet received a Christian minister. There is Tibet, for instance, lying with its millions without a word of Christ ever having been spoken among them! To millions upon millions of people, the name of Jesus is as yet an unknown sound—yet they shall be gathered out of all nations, kindred, peoples, tongues and shall unite in one great family! The Gospel of Jesus is cosmopolitan. It suits so well with our own latitude that one would think that our Lord was born an Englishman—but the same is true in reference to every land! His name was fitly mentioned by the Jordan, but it loses none of its music by the Thames, the Ganges, or the Orinoco!

Jesus belongs to all lands, whether they are scorched by tropical suns or frozen by the long winters of the poles. Jesus is a Man and a man is a noble name, nobler than Jew, or Briton, or Roman! He is “the Man,” the Man of men, man’s Man, the Man for men! Let all men worship Him, for He is the Hope of our race, the Restorer of our ruin, the Gatherer of the new people and He shall gather others beside those that have been gathered unto Him. “God has made of one blood all nations of men that dwell upon the face of the earth” and that one blood also has, at the back of it, another blood still more precious by which one blood He has redeemed from among men a multitude which no man can number!”—Charles H. Spurgeon (Sermon: “Others to be Gathered”)

The beauty of salvation in Jesus Christ [alone], is that it makes redundant the claim that my freedom or liberation is derived from human effort, whatever form that may be. The notion that by virtue of my ‘blackness’, I seek to be ‘included’ into a kingdom that has been freely given to me as a gift of grace, is deeply condescending and incommensurable with the gospel message of freedom from the bondage of sin. No human can consign freedom to another. Have you not heard, have you not seen — who the Son sets free, is free indeed! Thanks be to God, I don’t have to fight or beg to be ‘included’ into the kingdom of God, it is my inheritance.

The myopia of some western thinkers such as Hegel, who held the view that Africa is no historical part of the world, indeed, exemplify the pernicious ideological construct of primitivism, that continue to inform contemporary formations of racism and ant-black racism. Nevertheless, as Spurgeon demonstrates in his sermon Others to be Gathered In, assumptions about paganism are never a culturally specific phenomenon, but rather universally diverse in all of their particular geographical expressions. Under the banner of Christendom and the expansionist excesses of colonialism, various forms of [Western] cultural imperialism, amplified the ethnic and racial specificity of the pagan ‘other’, while surreptitiously masking the paganism of its own. However, Yahweh, since the time of our father Abraham until this present day, is calling a people of every tribe, tongue, and nation out of national and familial attachments to paganism. Transcendent to the deities by whom nations are being held culturally captive—the gods of nationalism, racism, tribalism, and identitarianism—God, is also calling his people out from thraldoms of cultural Christianity, in which these schisms have been instantiated.



—-
Choruses from “The Rock”

You, have you built well, have you forgotten the cornerstone?
Talking of right relations of men, but not of relations of men to GOD .
” Our citizenship is in Heaven”; yes, but that is the model and type for your citizenship upon earth.
When your fathers fixed the place of GOD ,
And settled all the inconvenient saints,
Apostles, martyrs, in a kind of Whipsnade,
Then they could set about imperial expansion
Accompanied by industrial development.
Exporting iron, coal and cotton goods
And intellectual enlightenment
And everything, including capital
And several versions of the Word of GOD :
The British race assured of a mission
Performed it, but left much at home unsure.

Of all that was done in the past, you eat the fruit, either rotten or ripe.
And the Church must be forever building, and always decaying, and always being restored.

For every ill deed in the past we suffer the consequence:
For sloth, for avarice, gluttony, neglect of the Word of GOD ,
For pride, for lechery, treachery, for every act of sin.

And of all that was done that was good, you have the inheritance.
For good and ill deeds belong to a man alone, when he stands alone on the other side of death,
But here upon earth you have the reward of the good and ill that was done by those who have gone before you.
And all that is ill you may repair if you walk together in humble repentance, expiating the sins of your fathers;
And all that was good you must fight to keep with hearts as devoted as those of your fathers who fought to gain it.
The Church must be forever building, for it is forever decaying within and attacked from without;
For this is the law of life; and you must remember that while there is time of prosperity
The people will neglect the Temple, and in time of adversity they will decry it.

What life have you if you have not life together?
There is no life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD .
Even the anchorite who meditates alone,
For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of GOD ,
Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate.
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbour
Unless his neighbour makes too much disturbance,
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.
Nor does the family even move about together,
But every son would have his motor cycle,
And daughters ride away on casual pillions.

Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore;
Let the work not delay, time and the arm not waste;
Let the clay be dug from the pit, let the saw cut the stone,
Let the fire not be quenched in the forge.

III

The Word of the LORD came unto me, saying:
O miserable cities of designing men,
O wretched generation of enlightened men,
Betrayed in the mazes of your ingenuities,
Sold by the proceeds of your proper inventions:
I have given you hands which you turn from worship,
I have given you speech, for endless palaver,
I have given you my Law, and you set up commissions,
I have given you lips, to express friendly sentiments,
I have given you hearts, for reciprocal distrust.
I have given you power of choice, and you only alternate
Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.

Many are engaged in writing books and printing them,
Many desire to see their names in print,
Many read nothing but the race reports.
Much is your reading, but not the Word of GOD ,
Much is your building, but not the House of GOD .
Will you build me a house of plaster, with corrugated roofing,
To be filled with a litter of Sunday newspapers?


[….]

CHORUS :

We build in vain unless the LORD build with us.
Can you keep the City that the LORD keeps not with you?
A thousand policemen directing the traffic
Cannot tell you why you come or where you go.
A colony of cavies or a horde of active marmots
Build better than they that build without the LORD .
Shall we lift up our feet among perpetual ruins?
I have loved the beauty of Thy House, the peace of Thy sanctuary
I have swept the floors and garnished the altars.
Where there is no temple there shall be no homes,
Though you have shelters and institutions,
Precarious lodgings while the rent is paid,
Subsiding basements where the rat breeds
Or sanitary dwellings with numbered doors
Or a house a little better than your neighbour’s;
When the Stranger says: ” What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”
What will you answer? ” We all dwell together
To make money from each other”? or ” This is a community”?
And the Stranger will depart and return to the desert.

O my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger,
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.

O weariness of men who turn from GOD
To the grandeur of your mind and the glory of your action,
To arts and inventions and daring enterprises,
To schemes of human greatness thoroughly discredited,
Binding the earth and the water to your service,
Exploiting the seas and developing the mountains,
Dividing the stars into common and preferred,
Engaged in devising the perfect refrigerator,
Engaged in working out a rational morality,
Engaged in printing as many books as possible,
Plotting of happiness and flinging empty bottles,
Turning from your vacancy to fevered enthusiasm
For nation or race or what you call humanity;
Though you forget the way to the Temple,
There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger.

IV

There are those who would build the Temple,
And those who prefer that the Temple should not be built.
In the days of Nehemiah the Prophet
There was no exception to the general rule.
In Shushan the palace, in the month Nisan,
He served the wine to the king Artaxerxes,
And he grieved for the broken city, Jerusalem;
And the King gave him leave to depart
That he might rebuild the city.
So he went, with a few, to Jerusalem,
And there, by the dragon’s well, by the dung gate,
By the fountain gate, by the king’s pool,
Jerusalem lay waste, consumed with fire;
No place for a beast to pass.
There were enemies without to destroy him,
And spies and self-seekers within,
When he and his men laid their hands to rebuilding the wall
So they built as men must build
With the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other.

[….]

V

O Lord, deliver me from the man of excellent intention and impure heart: for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite and Geshem the Arabian: were doubtless men of public spirit and zeal.
Preserve me from the enemy who has something to gain: and from the friend who has something to lose.

Remembering the words of Nehemiah the Prophet: ” The trowel in hand, and the gun rather loose in the holster.”

Those who sit in a house of which the use is forgotten: are like snakes that lie on mouldering stairs, content in the sun light.
And the others run about like dogs, full of enterprise, sniffing and barking: they say, ” This house is a nest of serpents, let us destroy it,
And have done with these abominations, the turpitudes of the Christians.” And these are not justified, nor the others.

And they write innumerable books; being too vain and distracted for silence: seeking every one after his own elevation, and dodging his emptiness.
If humility and purity be not in the heart, they are not in the home: and if they are not in the home, they are not in the City.

The man who has builded during the day would return to his hearth at nightfall: to be blessed with the gift of silence, and doze before he sleeps.
But we are encompassed with snakes and dogs: therefore some must labour, and others must hold the spears.

VI

It is hard for those who have never known persecution,
And who have never known a Christian,
To believe these tales of Christian persecution.
It is hard for those who live near a Bank
To doubt the security of their money.
It is hard for those who live near a Police Station
To believe in the triumph of violence.
Do you think that the Faith has conquered the World
And that lions no longer need keepers?
Do you need to be told that whatever has been, can still be?
Do you need to be told that even such modest attainments
As you can boast in the way of polite society
Will hardly survive the Faith to which they owe their significance?
Men! polish your teeth on rising and retiring;
Women! polish your fingernails:
You polish the tooth of the dog and the talon of the cat.
Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws?
She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget.
She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft.
She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
But the man that is will shadow
The man that pretends to be.
And the Son of Man was not crucified once for all,
The blood of the martyrs not shed once for all,
The lives of the Saints not given once for all:
But the Son of Man is crucified always
And there shall be Martyrs and Saints.
And if blood of Martyrs is to flow on the steps
We must first build the steps;
And if the Temple is to be cast down
We must first build the Temple.

Artwork: Tower of Babel, which is attributed to Pieter Bruegel


Out of Zion the perfection of beauty, God hath shined

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness,
That you may be saved.
How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?—Jeremiah 4:14

Your prophets have seen for you
False and deceptive visions;
They have not uncovered your iniquity,
To bring back your captives,
But have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions.
All who pass by clap their hands at you;
They hiss and shake their heads
At the daughter of Jerusalem:
“Is this the city that is called
‘The perfection of beauty,
The joy of the whole earth’?”—Lamentations 2:14-15

Matthew 23:7-39

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’

31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

Jesus Laments Jerusalem

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

Luke 23:26-31

Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.

27 And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. 28 But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’ 31 For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”

Psalm 50

 The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.

3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.

He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people.

5 Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.

And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah.

7 Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God.

8 I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me.

I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds.

10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.

1I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.

13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?

14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:

15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

16 But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?

17 Seeing thou hatest instruction, and casteth my words behind thee.

18 When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.

19 Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit.

2Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest

thine own mother’s son

21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an o ne as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.

2Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.

2Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.

Ezekiel 16:1-43


God’s Love for Jerusalem

1 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, 3 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: “Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born.

6 “And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ 7 I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare.

8 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord God.

9 “Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk. 11 I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. 12 And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. 14 Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” says the Lord God.

Jerusalem’s Harlotry

15 “But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it. 16 You took some of your garments and adorned multicolored high places for yourself, and played the harlot on them. Such things should not happen, nor be. 17 You have also taken your beautiful jewelry from My gold and My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images and played the harlot with them. 18 You took your embroidered garments and covered them, and you set My oil and My incense before them. 19 Also My food which I gave you—the pastry of fine flour, oil, and honey which I fed you—you set it before them as sweet incense; and so it was,” says the Lord God.

20 “Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, 21 that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire? 22 And in all your abominations and acts of harlotry you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, struggling in your blood.

23 “Then it was so, after all your wickedness—‘Woe, woe to you!’ says the Lord God— 24 that you also built for yourself a shrine, and made a high place for yourself in every street. 25 You built your high places at the head of every road, and made your beauty to be abhorred. You offered yourself to everyone who passed by, and multiplied your acts of harlotry. 26 You also committed harlotry with the Egyptians, your very fleshly neighbors, and increased your acts of harlotry to provoke Me to anger.

27 “Behold, therefore, I stretched out My hand against you, diminished your allotment, and gave you up to the will of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28 You also played the harlot with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; indeed you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. 29 Moreover you multiplied your acts of harlotry as far as the land of the trader, Chaldea; and even then you were not satisfied.
30 “How degenerate is your heart!” says the Lord God, “seeing you do all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot.

Jerusalem’s Adultery

31 “You erected your shrine at the head of every road, and built your high place in every street. Yet you were not like a harlot, because you scorned payment. 32 You are an adulterous wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband. 33 Men make payment to all harlots, but you made your payments to all your lovers, and hired them to come to you from all around for your harlotry. 34 You are the opposite of other women in your harlotry, because no one solicited you to be a harlot. In that you gave payment but no payment was given you, therefore you are the opposite.”

Jerusalem’s Lovers Will Abuse Her

35 ‘Now then, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord! 36 Thus says the Lord God: “Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotry with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children which you gave to them, 37 surely, therefore, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved, and all those you hated; I will gather them from all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. 38 And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy. 39 I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your shrines and break down your high places. They shall also strip you of your clothes, take your beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare.

40 “They shall also bring up an assembly against you, and they shall stone you with stones and thrust you through with their swords. 41 They shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; and I will make you cease playing the harlot, and you shall no longer hire lovers. 42 So I will lay to rest My fury toward you, and My jealousy shall depart from you. I will be quiet, and be angry no more. 43 Because you did not remember the days of your youth, but agitated Me with all these things, surely I will also recompense your deeds on your own head,” says the Lord God. “And you shall not commit lewdness in addition to all your abominations.



Ezekiel 28:1-24

The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, 2 “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord God:

“Because your heart is lifted up,
And you say, ‘I am a god,
I sit in the seat of gods,
In the midst of the seas,’
Yet you are a man, and not a god,
Though you set your heart as the heart of a god
3
(Behold, you are wiser than Daniel!
There is no secret that can be hidden from you!
4
With your wisdom and your understanding
You have gained riches for yourself,
And gathered gold and silver into your treasuries;
5
By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches,
And your heart is lifted up because of your riches),”
6 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god,
7
Behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you,
The most terrible of the nations;
And they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom,
And defile your splendor.
8
They shall throw you down into the Pit,
And you shall die the death of the slain
In the midst of the seas.
9
“Will you still say before him who slays you,
‘I am a god’?
But you shall be a man, and not a god,
In the hand of him who slays you.
10
You shall die the death of the uncircumcised
By the hand of aliens;
For I have spoken,” says the Lord God.’ ”

Lamentation for the King of Tyre

11 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 12 “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God:
“You were the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The sardius, topaz, and diamond,
Beryl, onyx, and jasper,
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.
The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes
Was prepared for you on the day you were created.
14
“You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
15
You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
16
“By the abundance of your trading
You became filled with violence within,
And you sinned;
Therefore I cast you as a profane thing
Out of the mountain of God;
And I destroyed you, O covering cherub,
From the midst of the fiery stones.
17
“Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor;
I cast you to the ground,
I laid you before kings,
That they might gaze at you.
18
“You defiled your sanctuaries
By the multitude of your iniquities,
By the iniquity of your trading;
Therefore I brought fire from your midst;
It devoured you,
And I turned you to ashes upon the earth
In the sight of all who saw you.
19
All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you;
You have become a horror,
And shall be no more forever.”
Proclamation Against Sidon
20 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 21 “Son of man, set your face toward Sidon, and prophesy against her, 22 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, I am against you, O Sidon;
I will be glorified in your midst;
And they shall know that I am the Lord,
When I execute judgments in her and am hallowed in her.
23
For I will send pestilence upon her,
And blood in her streets;
The wounded shall be judged in her midst
By the sword against her on every side;
Then they shall know that I am the Lord.
24 “And there shall no longer be a pricking brier or a painful thorn for the house of Israel from among all who are around them, who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord God.”


There came one who spoke of the shame of Jerusalem
And the holy places defiled;
Peter the Hermit, scourging with words.
And among his hearers were a few good men,
Many who were evil,
And most who were neither,
Like all men in all places.—T.S. Eliot (Choruses from the Rock)

Artwork: The Holy City’, a colourful picture by Thetis Blacker

Who has believed our report?

The Pharisees and Sadducees thought they too, were religious experts. Throughout the gospels we see Jesus consistently exposing their insidious doctrine as being merely the commandments of men (the Mishnah –Oral Law). Of these human precepts, which were additional to the Torah, Jesus warned his disciples — “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”

“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ (Matthew 15:6-9)


He referred to this “leaven” as the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees (see Matthew 26:5-12)

On one of many occasions throughout the gospels, the Pharisees and Sadducees, seeking to put Jesus to the test, required that He would show them a sign from heaven:

“He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.” (Matthew 16:1-4)


Jesus is the ‘heavenly scholar,’ and often as He tabernacled here on earth, the multitudes–the Pharisees, the Scribes, and Roman rulers were left astonished by the authority of his teaching. Here, Jesus is making a very clear distinction between His Father’s doctrine and that of the Pharisees (first to his own relatives, and then the Jews):

“Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?”

Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” (John 7:14-18).

As Jesus’ disciples stood before the elders, scribes, and rulers of the Sanhedrin, Annas, the high priest and Caiaphas, asked of them, by what power had they taught the people and preached in. Filled with the holy spirit, the disciples proceeded to proclaim, that they had healed a helpless man, by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:11-13)


Now is the hour, when the Father is looking for those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth — for Israelites [ Christians], in whom there is no deceit.

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”

Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:47-51)


—-
Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfil the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God. (John 12:38-43)

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Thou brakest the heads of Leviathan (Psalm 74)

For thus the LORD has spoken to me: “As a lion roars, And a young lion over his prey (When a multitude of shepherds is summoned against him, He will not be afraid of their voice Nor be disturbed by their noise), So the LORD of hosts will come down To fight for Mount Zion and for its hill.–Isaiah 31:4

Psalm 74

O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?

2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.

3 Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.

4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.

5 A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.

6 But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.

7 They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.

8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.

9 We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.

10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?

11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.

12 For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.

13 Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.

14 Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.

15 Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers.

16 The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun.

17 Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, that the enemy hath reproached, O Lord, and that the foolish people have blasphemed thy name.

19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever.

20 Have respect unto the covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.

21 O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name.

22 Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.

23 Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.

Isaiah 27:1-5

In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong,
Will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
Leviathan that twisted serpent;
And He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.

The Restoration of Israel

In that day sing to her,
“A vineyard of red wine!
I, the Lord, keep it,
I water it every moment;
Lest any hurt it,
I keep it night and day.
Fury is not in Me.
Who would set briers and thorns
Against Me in battle?
I would go through them,
I would burn them together.
Or let him take hold of My strength,
That he may make peace with Me;
And he shall make peace with Me.”

Micah 5: 7-15

Then the remnant of Jacob
Shall be in the midst of many peoples,
Like dew from the Lord,
Like showers on the grass,
That tarry for no man
Nor wait for the sons of men.
8And the remnant of Jacob
Shall be among the Gentiles,
In the midst of many peoples,
Like a lion among the beasts of the forest,
Like a young lion among flocks of sheep,
Who, if he passes through,
Both treads down and tears in pieces,
And none can deliver.
9Your hand shall be lifted against your adversaries,
And all your enemies shall be cut off.

10“And it shall be in that day,” says the Lord,
“That I will cut off your horses from your midst
And destroy your chariots.
11I will cut off the cities of your land
And throw down all your strongholds.
12I will cut off sorceries from your hand,
And you shall have no soothsayers.
13Your carved images I will also cut off,
And your sacred pillars from your midst;
You shall no more worship the work of your hands;
14I will pluck your wooden images from your midst;
Thus I will destroy your cities.
15And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury
On the nations that have not heard.”

The Lord’s Prayer and a Prayer of Penitence

“God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
20Behold, I have received a command to bless;
He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
21“He has not observed iniquity in Jacob,
Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.
The Lord his God is with him,
And the shout of a King is among them.
22God brings them out of Egypt;
He has strength like a wild ox.
23“For there is no sorcery against Jacob,
Nor any divination against Israel.
It now must be said of Jacob
And of Israel, ‘Oh, what God has done!’
24Look, a people rises like a lioness,
And lifts itself up like a lion;
It shall not lie down until it devours the prey,
And drinks the blood of the slain.”
—Numbers 23:19-24


The Model Prayer

5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.

10
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11
Give us this day our daily bread.
12
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.


For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:5-14)

—-

James 4:1-3; Jude 1:11

Where do [wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

2 Peter 2:4-17

Doom of False Teachers

4For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 5and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8(for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— 9then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, 10and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of [c]dignitaries, 11whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.

Depravity of False Teachers

12But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, 13and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, 14having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. 15They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.

17These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

 —

Numbers 25:1-2; 31:

Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.

And Moses said to them: “Have you kept all the women alive? 16Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord

—-

Psalm 106:24-29

Then they despised the pleasant land;
They did not believe His word,
25But complained in their tents,
And did not heed the voice of the Lord.
26Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them,
To overthrow them in the wilderness,
27To overthrow their descendants among the nations,
And to scatter them in the lands.

28They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor,
And ate sacrifices made to the dead.
29Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds,
And the plague broke out among them.

—-

Hosea 9:9-10

But the prophet is a fowler’s snare in all his ways—
Enmity in the house of his God.
9They are deeply corrupted,
As in the days of Gibeah.
He will remember their iniquity;
He will punish their sins.

10“I found Israel
Like grapes in the wilderness;
I saw your fathers
As the firstfruits on the fig tree in its first season.
But they went to Baal Peor,
And separated themselves to that shame;
They became an abomination like the thing they loved.

Revelation 2:14-15

But I have a few things against you [the compromising church], because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

—-

Isaiah 63:7-19

God’s Mercy Remembered

I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord
And the praises of the Lord,
According to all that the Lord has bestowed on us,
And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,
Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies,
According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.
For He said, “Surely they are My people,
Children who will not lie.”
So He became their Savior.
In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the Angel of His Presence saved them;
In His love and in His pity He redeemed them;
And He bore them and carried them
All the days of old.
10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit;
So He turned Himself against them as an enemy,
And He fought against them.

11 Then he remembered the days of old,
Moses and his people, saying:
“Where is He who brought them up out of the sea
With the shepherd of His flock?
Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them,
12 Who led them by the right hand of Moses,
With His glorious arm,
Dividing the water before them
To make for Himself an everlasting name,
13 Who led them through the deep,
As a horse in the wilderness,
That they might not stumble?”

14 As a beast goes down into the valley,
And the Spirit of the Lord causes him to rest,
So You lead Your people,
To make Yourself a glorious name.

A Prayer of Penitence

15 Look down from heaven,
And see from Your habitation, holy and glorious.
Where are Your zeal and Your strength,
The yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me?
Are they restrained?

1Doubtless You are our Father,
Though Abraham was ignorant of us,
And Israel does not acknowledge us.
You, O Lord, are our Father;
Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.

17 O Lord, why have You made us stray from Your ways,
And hardened our heart from Your fear?
Return for Your servants’ sake,
The tribes of Your inheritance.

18 Your holy people have possessed it but a little while;
Our adversaries have trodden down Your sanctuary.
19 We have become like those of old, over whom You never ruled,
Those who were never called by Your name.