Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The stupidest question in the Bible. (Acts 1:6)

John Calvin said that this question had more theological errors in it than words:
Act 1:6 Elçiler bir araya geldiklerinde İsa'ya şunu sordular: "Ya Rab, İsrail'e egemenliği şimdi mi geri vereceksin?"
A few words:
  • Ya Rab -- O, Lord? [1]
  • İsrail'e egemenliği -- to Israel / the kingdom (think hegemony -- both derived from Greek)
  • şimdi -- now
  • mi geri vereceksin -- question mark / restoration / you will give
Let me insert an essay I wrote some 11 years ago!

The Stupidest Question in the Bible

It is hard to imagine a death more cruel than crucifixion. In order to breathe, the victim pulls himself up on spiked wrists, freeing his diaphram for the moment it takes to exhale, then sags back down again until the need for oxygen overcomes the excruciating pain of movement.

It is hard to imagine a regime more vicious than that of Rome, where the emperor fed his pet fish the flesh of costly educated slaves, where human beings slaughtered one another in arenas for the amusement of crowds, where madmen were adored as gods, as saviors.

It is hard to imagine a repudiation more total than that of the mobs in Jerusalem who begged the Romans to execute their messiah, screaming "Crucify! Crucify!"

It is hard to imagine a pledge of allegiance more clear than that of the same people crying out "We have no king but Caeser."

It is hard to imagine a prophecy less ambiguous than the verdict Jesus delivered, saying, "The kingdom shall be taken from you, and given to a nation that brings forth the fruits thereof."

It is hard to imagine a question more stupid than the one a mercifully anonymous disciple asked in Acts 1:6: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" Go figure. Asking the King who had just been repudiated and crucified if He would, as a fitting recompense, now make the repudiating and crucifying apostates the top dogs of the world. Do I detect a disconnect? A lapse of sanity? Or, just the power of presuppositions to shape our thinking despite the evidence?

It is hard to imagine a response more gracious than the one Jesus gave: "It is not for you, O men of Galilee, to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath in His sole disposition; but ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth."

Only the man who was also God could turn the stupidest, most insolent question in the Bible into words of empowerment; "Folks, what happens to people X, Y, or Z is none of your business; but do I ever have a job for YOU!"

Consider a parallel example. In John 22, Peter asked Jesus, "What shall this man do?" Retorted Jesus, "If I want him to hang around until I come back, what business is that of yours? YOU follow me!" Jesus then told Peter more than he'd asked for about his own personal future -- being bound and led to execution.

Savor the pun used by that lover of words and word play, Paul. In I Tim., Paul explained that younger widows should not retire at church expense, because they often stopped being busy, and became busybodies. (In my own life, I tend to be most upset about what others are doing when I am least faithful and diligent in my own calling!)

When we put all this together, what conclusions can we come to? Perhaps, worrying about the future of an anti-Christian socialist state in the middle east is a waste of time. Perhaps, worrying about imaginary conspiracies is even worse. Assuming that the devil's people have the world by the tail provides an excuse for personal mediocrity. Fascination with conspiracies does not, however, glorify the sovereign God, who considers nations to be drops in the bucket, small dust on the scales.

The experience of God's people over the last three generations will provide amusement to future generations, when they are not grieving the patrimony we wasted. In the name of "prophecy teaching," fundamentalists gave up prophetic teaching. In 1973, while the people at Grace, Talbot, and Dallas Theological Seminary were refining and re-drawing their multi-colored maps of the future, and playing the latest game of "name the antichrist," the Supreme Court of the United States legalized human sacrifice. The silence of the Christian response was deafening -- until God used the Catholic part of His family to prophetically denounce the abortion holocaust.

Is the Word of God a tool of divination? A sanctified ouija board? A source for speculation about safely remote events? Or, does it have something to tell each of us about our own personal destinies? A wise man said, "God will never whisper the meaning of your life into another man's ear." Could the aspirations we cherish in our secret hearts point to our predestined assignments? The spheres of action where we can hope to "do exploits?"

Suppose God's word equips us for excellence in myriad personal callings? If that is the case, then a technical writer would learn from Leviticus to use redundant explanations, to spell out each step each time, in order to minimize page turning. He would read Numbers as a military commander's database, and learn how to format information for maximum usefulness. His technical manuals would have a reference section, and a case study/tutorial; an "Old Testament" containing the principles, and a "New Testament" showing how they are lived out.

A geologist could learn from Genesis that geological processes are far faster than he'd been taught. Although the great god Chaos might need billions of years to create an ordered universe by accident, the purposeful God of the Bible could do it all in six enumerated 24 hour days. And then, re-arrange the face of the earth with a global flood. Given this information, the godly geologist would not be surprised by confirming events at Mount Saint Helens.

What other vocations is God interested in? Let me put it this way: what has God called YOU to do? Will you turn to His word for information on how to do it better? Or for hallucinatory thrill rides through an imaginary future?

O Lord, show me how to make my life count for You!


[1] O is vocative. Use it when trying to attract the attention of the party you are speaking to. When Winston Churchill was asked to provide the vocative case Latin noun for table ("O Table!"), he realized that he would never be an educated man! Oh is an intensifier, providing additional emphasis to the following word. Oh, no. Too much information!

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