Sunday, May 15, 2011

Prophetic Powers

On a day like any other day, Balaam pronounced a good oracle…. .but Balaam, I assure you, did not love the “the dust of Jacob” (Numbers 22:10).
“How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel!  Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the water.  Waters shall flow from his buckets and his seed shall be in many waters..” Numbers 24:5-7.  The poetry slavered over the top of Peor and suffered King Balak’s ears to hear no more.  He writhed.  Balaam had been hired to curse Israel!  And, alas, Balaam was willing yet limited by the One he sought to “put a word in his mouth,” Numbers 23:16.
Balaam was a weak man.  He hoped to attain both the honor of kings and gods.  His oracles were for hire.  Love had nothing to do with it.  Israel could live or die for all he cared.  Important to Balaam was Balak’s pocket book and the favor of a foreign god.  “Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” Numbers 23:12.  The statement rings with audacity as Balaam searches for an oracle that will garner Balak’s “silver and gold” (24:13) yet dares not offend an all-powerful god to do so.  Balaam, less perceptive than his donkey, has learned to play prophetic games.  “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,” he declares brilliantly, “the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered…” Numbers 24:3-4.  And the Almighty bends down and whispers in Balaam’s ear.  He utters a true blessing.  It funnels through the consciousness of the seer, breezing past bygone convictions and pouring out of his mouth with prophetic powers.  Balaam, the weak, speaks the mighty word of the Lord for Israel. 
It had nothing to do with love.  “God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?….The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them…” Numbers 23:19-21.  Words so powerful they are sung and proclaimed today on Christian lips.  These words were not, from the mouth of their human prophet, spoken with any love or admiration towards Israel.  The Almighty’s oracle of love passed over the deceptive lips of a foreign seer for hire.  Selah.
“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing,” 1 Corinthians 13:2.  Balaam was nothing.  Used by the Almighty.  Used and only used.  A conduit for one of the most beautiful blessings spoken over Israel in the Hebrew Bible.  He could have loved and been loved.  Love was so near.  Passing through his very conscience.   Prophetic powers and the presence of Yahweh did not provoke Balaam to live in the prophecy he spoke.  Balaam went home, nothing.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Love, Love, Love

I have been thinking about “love”.  Fancy that.  Above all, common in its overarching theme.  Everywhere one goes, love is spoken of, realized, discarded, sought, fought for and against.  Love, love, love.  Unsatisfied theologians have spent many a blue moon developing its simple, specific, broad and complex definition.  Love, love, love… .what are you?   What are you not?  
One speck of humanity discloses its goush and mash of melancholy malarky and sentimental revelations and we all go home a little sick to our stomachs while another groping soul espouses the length and breadth of love’s unfathomable intricacies and presses persistent hearts to dig deeper and climb higher.  Perhaps one day we will attain “love”.  I wonder that something so concretely and constantly spoken of from Genesis to Revelation could be either base or far removed.  It must be here, I think, close to the conscience.
Love must be humanly possible.  Oh no! one argues, God is love and therefore, in the flesh, we cannot apprehend its qualities!  But then, I am confused… .God, so high in the heavens has formed us and by one breath conceived our human hearts and that one breath perpetuates to this very day the human races upon earth.  Yet you say that love is no where near our human conscience?  
Love, I argue is so very near.  It is so near that it does not necessarily require a definition.  So near, that it defies the use of definitions to define it.  So integral to our conscience is love, that Christ could say “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) and expect this to serve as enough Law to produce righteousness in human action.  Truly, if I tell you to love this or that person, you know what I mean…
Paul’s ultra-famous “love” passage, known to us as 1 Corinthians 13, serves to stump our revelations of love.  Any fantasy that we might caress concerning our own concrete efforts to bring salvation to our neighbor is deemed, just as it is, merely fanciful.  We are told to be patient and kind and content and humble and hopeful and forgiving.  We are even told to shut our boastful mouths!  All of these are fruits of love.  Duh.  We are told to do all the things we know we ought to do if we mind our conscience.  It is neither simple or complex.  Neither broad or specific.  It is just love - the rendering of right actions towards another speck of humanity like ourselves.
Love, insists Paul, is the purposeful center of our motivations.  Everything we do must be out of genuine concern for our fellow humans…. .and I don’t think I have to tell you what that is or what it looks like.  You already know.  But what I also know is that one may do all the things considered productions of love and yet not possess this purposeful center of love.  “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,” says Paul, this is not a guarantee that I have done so because I love the ears of the hearers.  “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,” says Paul, this does not reveal that I use such power to edify those who depend on God’s revelation through me.  “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,” says Paul, and then I move them and the lame walk and the blind see and they leap with joy, am I a lover of humanity or a peacock reveling in self-glorification?  
Yes, love defies our definitions.  One would think that healing the lame is a sure sign of great love, yet, it may not be motivated by love at all.  We do not even need to be told this.  We know.  We know love so well that we must justify our choices to withhold it.  We must cover our tracks of false motivations when we misuse preconceived fanciful notions.  In the end, God knows.  He knows what we know.  He knows when we are lovers or deceivers with angelic tongues.
  What is love?  We can’t answer.  We just know.  And it comes with or without burning sacrifices, mountainous faith and angelic tongues….

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More Than Conduits

The agonizing twenty-second bray disputed his incessant kick.  Gaudy grey-haired stubbornness planted its footed faith on the rocky ground.  Mindless beast!  The sun-baked little seer fumed and ranted, kicked and abused his vehicle.  Ee-e-e-yo-o-ore! in another twenty second bellow and he was hurled into the vineyard wall.  “Ooo-a-a-aw!”  His left side winced under the weight of the beast; a foot pinned between it and the wall.  His right foot struck up behind the asses ear.  Profanities and hysterical hollers reverberated a vocal canal at least a mile ahead of the quirky scene.  The beast straightened and moved on.
A few hundred feet… .Thunk!  The party of two descended suddenly unto the dry earth.  The obedient animal could go no further.  The blood shot eyes of the seer squinted at his dumb companion in disbelief. “Fool!  Fool!  Fool!” He picked up his ousted body and took hold of a viney branch proceeding to whip her.  The ass hurled bewildered eyes at her master, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”  (Numbers 22:22-28)
My finger tips hover over the alphabetized ivory MacIntosh keys and I consider my powers.  Words are spelled and positioned to beguile the interested reader.  Songs, plays, articles, speeches and books are all written.  Messages are manufactured and presented in powerful words.  As my fingertips hover I realize that this power is not my greatest gift.  To study, learn and apply; to overwhelm audiences with artistry and recall God’s story for another generation… .a great gift, but not the greatest.  We are more then conduits.
From the mouths of asses and kings, from the pens of peddlers and prophets, words have addressed, assessed and rearranged our very hearts.  It is both wonderful and fearful.  God has granted humanity to share and re-share His thoughts in vocals and pages.  Yet, although such an honor, these thoughts are also written in His starry heavens and can be spoken by the dumbest creature among us.  He is able to conduct His message through any inanimate thing.
I consider, my great gift in this life is not to be His conduit.  Prophet, priest or king; painter, politician, or literary poet; preacher, healer or demon-chaser…. .or perhaps just an ordinary ass.  Every mouth is capable of proclaiming His message.  Every hand capable of recalling His works in written words.  Every anointed conduit may drive a disease or contaminated spirit away, however… .this is not our glory nor our eternal guarantee.  Asses will not inherit the kingdom…  
We have the guarantee that rests in His covenantal word, not ours.  Though I speak and write with these tongues, I rejoice, not that I am His conduit, but that He is my witness to what has been eternally written by His hand.  “…Do not rejoice… .that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven,” Luke 10:20.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lord, Lord

Finally ending the posts on Hosea....

“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you.” Luke 22:25. 
When Yahweh presented Himself as a potential Lord of Israel, He came on a knee extending a gift that was equal to respecting their human condition.  Does that bother you?  
I will make your descendants as numerous as the sands that shift and shake within the vibrant and volatile breezes of the desert.  You, Abram,  will be great. (Genesis 15).
A matter of custom was obeyed.  A sacrifice made.  A security, a treaty, a covenant.  A statement of mutual exchange.  Binding.  On both sides.  Neither party, not even Yahweh, could retract His part…. .and His part was the greater… .Abraham’s responsibility, so small.  
Binding.  The Son of God comes bound.  Bound by His own word to fulfill His own part.  He would serve our need with His life’s blood.  “Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves,” Luke 22:26.
The ba’al, the lord, on the other hand, comes with a contract so that you might sign your life away… .not that you might be mutually blessed.  A list of duties appears scattered across the page…. .they are arbitrary and confusing and discovered after you have worn out your soul with shouts.  The contract states that you must “humble” yourself, with all its formalities, and give and give and give and give…. .all sorts of carnality.  Your jealousies, your pride, your passions, your dreams, your destinies may all faithfully underly as motivations.  No one need know. You must simply come to the festival, the sacrifice and the worship of the lord.  Lord, Lord.  Lord, Lord.
All of Ba’als prophets cut themselves to get the answers (1 Kings 18:26-29)….
For who is the greater, one who reclines at the table or one who serves?  Is it not the one who reclines at table?”  Luke 22:27.
The great “Lord” reclines.  You are watchful.  You watch his face.   Is he happy?  Have you pleased him?  He is Lord, Lord!  He is high!  He is lifted!  All sorts of possibilities, multiple manipulations are available to engage and minister to his unrelenting desires.  Did I not obtain for you the desires of Your heart?  “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?”  Matthew 7:22.  Lord, Lord,  Ba’al, Ba’al, did we not make your name great?
Whom do we stand before?  The Lord at our feet gently washing?  Or do we prefer the high and mighty Ba’al, Ba’al?  For Ba’al, Ba’al we prophesy to get a hand out, we cast out demons to make our… .O, I mean, his… .name great.  We do mighty works to get a harvest of mighty works to make our famous and economical gardens grow.  We do to get.  “Depart from me you workers of lawlessness,” Matthew 7:23.  The Ba’als do not construct legal contracts of mutual benefits.  They woo our carnality with religious games and dishonest gain.  
The Son of God came bound.  He was called upon to serve a just and personal cause of mutuality - one that He did not have to honor except by the very demand of His own righteousness.  Lord, Lord did His part.  A just, clear, merciful contract.  Have we come the same?
How have we come to this Lord, Lord, Jesus?
“But I am among you as one who serves,” Luke 22:27.
Have we come like He?
Yahweh made an honest contract with Abraham.  Each one knew their part.  He is not a Ba’al.  He cannot be manipulated… .even by prophesy, driven out demons and mighty works of healing.  Even these things do not provoke Him to walk outside the lines of contract… .of covenant.  Be a servant.  Be mutual.  Do your part.  That is all.  There is nothing more beautiful, I believe, than honest service for the benefit of another whether or not you get anything in return.  Are you wanting something back for your miracles, your good deeds?  Than He is only your Ba’al, Ba’al.  

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