“Christ triumphs over death in the body of his flesh, which is renewed and reclothed rather than transcended and left behind. Thus the figure of Joseph raised by Pharaoh from the depths of prison clarifies a fundamental truth about God’s promise of new life in Christ: eternal life will renew rather than cancel or leave behind our created nature.” (Reno, Genesis, p. 262)
The second time Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt to buy grain, they are sent to Joseph’s house. This causes some comedic (to me, at least) dialog among themselves.
And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” (Gen. 43:18)(ESV)
They are worried about their donkeys. While they were certainly important and would allow them to carry back more grain than they could carry by themselves, its a strange bookend to their list of worst case scenarios. If they were assaulted and made into slaves, their pack animals would be as useful as a blind man’s pair of contact lenses.
“Reuben, what if they beat us and we become slaves?!”
“Not sure, Levi. I only hope the donkeys will come out of it alright. As long as they’re OK, we’ll be OK.”
Levi nods his head. “Yes, I hope the God of our fathers grants the donkeys safe passage through this situation. Everything rests on them!”
But what actually happens?
The brothers are welcomed. They are pampered. Their feet are washed and they feast with the second most powerful man in Egypt (or the world), drinking and being merry. And the donkeys they were so worried about are fed and taken care of.
This is one of those mirrors in Scripture that show us ourselves in high resolution.
In fear and doubt, we hold on to garbage scraps, not realizing that God has a feast prepared for us if only we would throw the scraps away. Scraps have no place at the table of God.
Or we cling to the worn, dirty rags covering our bodies. God is ready to dress us in royal robes and place a crown upon our head, and we ask “But what about my rags?” How pathetic we must look.
And yet he loves us. Not only that, he wants to flood us with blessings.
In Luke 18:18-30, after the rich ruler goes away sorrowful because he has many possessions, Peter boasts on behalf of all the disciples: “Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.” We have done what this ruler did not do. Aren’t we special?
And Jesus answers him: “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” Stop bragging. You are simply trading for treasure that is worth many times more than what you are giving up. What you gave up is nothing in comparison to what you will receive.
Paul seems to echo this in Phil. 3:8
I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ
We need to realize that, when we worry and cling to the things in this life for security – our houses, our savings accounts, our investment portfolios, our jobs, our government, our youth, western medicine – we are clinging to dung. We need to release our tight grips, before the grip becomes reality in true rigor mortis.
But when we relax our grip, we will be blessed beyond our wildest dreams. God even tells us to test him in this:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Mal. 3:10)
Like Joseph’s brothers, we are okay with being slaves just as long as nothing happens to our donkeys. God is ready replace your scraps with feasting, your rags with robes, and your sorrow with joy.
So let go of your scraps and rags. And don’t worry about the donkeys.
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Luke 12:22-31)
I’m not writing to scoff at Harold Camping’s Rapture date that has come and gone like the stink of a passing garbage truck. There are plenty of other people poking fun, and doing it better than I could. Everything that could be said has been said, twisted every way to expose every angle and to squeeze out another laugh. I admit I’ve laughed and I’ve chuckled. There might have been a guffaw or two.
Some have begun to offer the pastoral approach to help teach those who were misguided and other words of wisdom to aid in the cleanup. These words are needed.
But now that everyone has caught their collective breath, its time for some additional reflection. And to remind the laughers and the pointers, in the tradition of banal, elementary school proverbs, that when you point at someone, you have three fingers pointing right back at you.
There are four broad categories of scoffers and pointers that I noticed. What follows is what I imagine those three fingers are implying as they point in accusation at their respective owners.
1. The Establishment Media
While not direct scoffers per se, they made the whole feast possible by spending so much time telling us about it. With a wink and a smirk lurking behind the thin veil of their “neutrality” faces, they handed out invitations to the freak show and shouted out the meeting times from the rooftops. They never laughed in public, but you could tell they really wanted to.
You can’t blame them. It was newsworthy, and its their job. But a locomotive doesn’t need someone to get out and push once it gains some speed and momentum. Anyone who thinks a little bit of pushing can help, if only they are the ones who are doing the pushing, can rightly be labeled as someone who has an inflated sense of their own importance. Which, come to think of it, describes the establishment media pretty well.
2. The Atheist Blogosphere
Yes, there is a sphere o’ blogs whose name is based on something that they all don’t believe in. So even though they gladly curse His name and deny His existence, all of their thoughts and ramblings orbit the Truth, in some form or another. The poor things just can’t escape the inevitable. It’s like the moons of Jupiter formed a club whose core, foundational principle was denying the existence of planets.
And oh how they cackled in glee. Another chance to point and laugh at Christians and their silly doomsday scenarios.
One, most of these atheists are leftist progressives, and therefore hold to their own doomsday apocalypses and eschatons, which are also based on spurious and questionable mathematics. Just ask them about global warming or climate change, and they will get dead serious. Not serious enough to stop themselves from breathing and releasing more of the obviously deadly pollutant known as CO2 into the atmosphere, but hey, there are fair-weather Christians too. Not everyone has the same level of faith.
Since they tend be pretty gullible, there are many more examples that I don’t have time to expound upon. Chesterton said through his character Father Brown
“It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can’t see things as they are.”
But their gullibility helps lead into…
Two, most are also amateur evolutionary biologists. That means they go around quoting Richard Dawkins at each other. Evolution in itself is pretty funny, but then you get people extracting self-righteous morality from it, as many are in the habit of doing, and it becomes downright hilarious.
In a world where actions, including laughter and why we laugh, are reduced to simple chemical reactions in the brain, it really doesn’t matter what someone else’s chemical reactions are causing them to believe and do. Shake up a can of soda and open it, and you have a chemical reaction that is just as important as anything that happens in the brain. Well, maybe not. At least the can of soda has an ultimate purpose for it’s existence…
So they can claim that it gives them pleasure to mock and ridicule. I don’t doubt they know how to set off the right chemical reactions in their brains to tickle their funny bone. Any animal can do that. But based on their world-view, they cannot claim any sort of intellectual superiority over those they are mocking. They would just be comparing one meaningless set of chemical reactions to another. Different, yes. One set better than the other? Who cares?
3. Other Christians Who Believe in the Rapture
While they found it easy to scoff at the prophecy of Camping, they didn’t realize that the idea of the Rapture is pretty goofy in itself. You don’t have to put an arbitrary date on something to make it ahistorical and unbiblical. This is where a large swath of American Evangelicalism falls. It is characterized by extreme pessimism, an idolatrous gaze cast toward the physical nation of Israel, and a continuous lookout for signs in current events like a witch looking at the entrails of a slaughtered calf.
4. Other Christians Who Don’t Believe in the Rapture, but Still Maintain a Good Dose of Worldly Pessimism
A large minority of Christians take the pilgrim and citizen language of the New Testament, unknowingly filter it through Greek and gnostic philosophy, and then combine it with a dash of Enlightenment thinking. It treats the world as God’s Vietnam, getting worse and worse, descending further and further into darkness. His ultimate plan is to rescue the troops, whoever he can get out in time, and then napalm the whole place. The troops he was able to fit on the rescue craft will then live in disembodied bliss in s0me heavenly realm. The Bible says that Christ came to save the world and fulfill the promises of Abraham…except not really. He certainly gave it his best shot, though. Bless His heart.
This type of thinking is just as ahistorical and unbiblical as the Rapture and the bad theology that surrounds it. And the pessimism it encourages is just as corrosive. Why have kids? Why work? Why pay your credit card bills? Why do anything? The world is going to hell, despite God’s efforts, and regardless of anything I could possibly do. Its all going to burn anyway. With this conceptual scheme, the sooner you die after your baptism, the better.
Some ancient Stoics had similar ideas. To remain logically consistent in their framework, they committed suicide. Better to die sooner rather than later. Especially if things get unbearable, as they did for Cato when Julius Caesar’s victory was assured. I was reminded of the Stoic’s choice while reading the following snippet from an article in the LA Times, about people who quit their jobs or did other foolish things because they believed this false prophet:
Keith Bauer, a 38-year-old tractor-trailer driver from Westminster, Md., took last week off from work, packed his wife, young son and a relative in their SUV and crossed the country.
If it was his last week on Earth, he wanted to see parts of it he’d always heard about but missed, such as the Grand Canyon. With maxed-out credit cards and a growing mountain of bills, he said, the rapture would have been a relief.
If he is so eager to leave this world, the Stoic’s answer of suicide would seem to solve the same problems. What a relief! That may sound harsh, but it’s where this theological framework logically leads.
Instead of the battalions of God conquering the world (but not with the weapons of the world), we become content to hold down the fort while everything collapses around us, waiting for God to come to the rescue, even though he has already equipped us for every good work. Occasionally, we muster up the courage to open the gates and attempt to break the siege, but we always go back behind the walls to our spiritual ghettos.
This is where I used to fall. I laughed at the idea of the Rapture, even though my eschatology caused me to have the same outlook and attitude as many of those who hold to the Rapture. But at least I didn’t believe in the Rapture! I bore the same sour fruit, yet assumed I was a different tree. Now that’s true silliness.
Eschatology matters. We dismiss it sometimes, thinking, for some baffling reason, that the destination has no bearing on the journey. But it influences the path taken. It influences the mode of travel chosen. It influences the mindset of the travelers. In other words, it colors everything about the journey. This is one lesson we can’t afford to miss, and one this Rapture nonsense should drill into our heads.
Did you see other categories of mockers during this latest Rapture scare? Did anything cause you to step back and look at your own beliefs?
When Christians Would Be Utterly Insane, an expert from John Piper’s prayer:
It occurs to me to say, Father, that we Christians would be utterly insane to envy people who pitch themselves out of the window of sin—on top of a skyscraper—to enjoy a vapor’s exhilaration of the freefall of greed, or the freefall of drugs, or power, or fame, or sex, or job success—and then death. We would just be insane to envy the world.
As those bullies watched this moment they would realise that now, because of her Prince, she’s royalty.
What’s that you say? Am I checking my email, right here in the middle of church? Sir, I am insulted you would even ask that. How dare you!
By not owning vehicles, the Amish fulfill numerous dimensions of Gelassenheit. They maintain humility by not being caught up in the status-seeking of what kind of car they drive. They maintain the interdependence of a close community and resist the independence afforded by automatic mobility. They retain the human scale of living instead of the automotive scale. Thus, they have walkable communities instead of driveable suburbs.
In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of “higher education” to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled “alternative.” Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as “vocational consolation prizes,” best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of “shovel ready” jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.
During a scathing review of The End of Sexuality, Dr. Peter Jones dedicates a large section to the religious and cultural implications of homosexuality:
Homosexuality is not limited here to morals or the lack thereof. It is employed as the attempt to define the very nature of the cosmos as inherently divine. It is for this reason that the Old Testament denounces homosexuality in such strong terms, since it is a sign of pagan religion.
At the beginning of Genesis 28, Isaac finally blesses Jacob without having to be tricked, but still after being prodded by his dutiful wife.
And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughers of Laban thy mother’s brother. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.” (Gen. 28:1-4)
We have a reiteration of the promise coupled with the same “foreigner” or “stranger” language. The patriarchs must first be pilgrims in the promised land before they can inherit it, and this is our context for the New Testament use of similar language regarding the Christian’s current state.