Suddenly, countless gleaming jewels of all different colors covered the surface of the earth. Each one in turn told the Story in a different way. Their multi-colored glow grows brighter and brighter.
The one who stood to the East said:
-I see the tree a bounty of seeds has born. -The fruit is sweet yet hemmed about with thorns. -Broken o’er creation again is the new light of day. -Brightening more brilliantly, chasing night away. -The Man also, he is reborn -With joy he bears suffering and scorn. -His re-creation has made him play and sing -To his Creator for all things new making. I . . .
The one who stood to the South said:
-I see the world still fallen down so steep. -Injustice’s wounds have run so deep. -Still there is something which smacks of injustice -To self, so that others may become rich. -The Man also, is failing and broken. -He toils to heal deep wounds unspoken. -He chooses to make himself nothing -That through his poverty others might have life abounding. I have . . .
The one who stood to the West said:
-I see death here still takes its toll. -Like a great tide it’s waters still roll. -And yet each death like a crushed leaf. -Bears the promise of life that spells death’s defeat. -The Man also, his days are few. -His death is like to the Man who knew. -Yet, in his end, he bears witness -Of the life beyond which he meets with bliss. I have seen . . .
The one who stood to the North said:
-I see the powers of the world are crumbling -They thrash and clamber to scramble out from tumbling -Into the chasm opening beneath to finish him off -As a new kingdom eternally takes its place built on solid rock. -The Man also, rejects power as futile. -He takes his stand while the earth sinks around him. -He opens his arms to receive the penitent -And the power and riches of the new Kingdom, he shares . . . enough!
Then all four looked and recognized something in their midst and each in turn said:
-I see a tree sprung up from the ground. -I see lifeless limbs bear the grief of those standing around. -I see lightning split death’s silent sky at the ninth hour. -I see on display the prize and ends of all wealth and power. -The Man also, is bringing new life . . . by dying. -The Man is weak . . . yet showing enormous strength -The Man is finished . . . yet eternal in his impact -The Man is powerful . . . yet makes himself nothing.
They said all together: “This does not make sense.”
Then it went deep into the center of it all, and the four saw the transformation:
-Can it be? It is as it was from the beginning -Can it be? The poor are clothed in raiment of splendor -Can it be? The dead are raised to life everlasting -Can it be? The wealthy and powerful of earth are defeated -See the Man also! He makes all things new! -The Man in his weakness is made strong -The Man has died once, now lives forever. -The Man is worthy of all honor and power.
They all together hushed for a long moment.
Then they said:
-We have seen enough.
Then the Man rose up to the One who was above them, and sat at His right hand, and said:
– I have seen Your life and it is good – Each day begins with light and hope – Each tree bears fruit and sweetly carries – The glory of the tree for a while tarries – The Man also, his life is good – Each birth is a bright sunrise of hope – In his offspring Heaven’s joy is sweet – And the prime of his life is sacred. I have seen enough.
And the one who stood to the South said:
– I have seen frailty and emptiness and loss – Poverty sweeps the world like a flood – Broken relationships twixt all things bringing sorrow – And when all is done, if it matters none can know. – The Man also, is weak and fraught with loss – His injustices strip him of his dignity. – He fights his neighbor and both are filled with sorrow – His life is fleeting, and if it matters none can know. I have seen enough.
And the one who stood to the West said:
– I have seen the end of all things. – The Past: the receiver of all that lives in time. – I see Darkness deepening where once was light. – The stop is sudden. then all is silent night. – The Man also, his end is near – His works may out last, but only for a time. – His heart is dark staring into that night – The end is inevitable whether wrong or right. I have seen enough.
And the one who stood to the North said,
– I have seen both wealth and power. – They course through the world like a poisoned flower – They rob the weak many and feed the rich few. – They kill the righteous and boast against You. – The Man also, is drunk with wealth and power – He raises his glass, toasting himself man of the hour. – He squashes the poor and praises the brutal – He slaughters the righteous and wars against You. I have seen enough.
And the One who was above them said, – “There is still more.”
The governing bodies of America are shifting Like tectonic plates underground. One presses from New York city skyscrapers The other presses from the Appalachian Mountains The molten center is in our capital.
One rises with Nature and Nature’s God The other builds a tower to the Heavens One rules by Constitution One rules by Progress They clash over one man.
His feet trample the mountain grass He’s empowered by the wheels of progress Yet the mountain people praise him And the city-dwellers raze him. Why?
He accepts the boundaries of stone And breaks the bands of silicon. He pushes back on man’s frailty Establishes natural rights fruitfully. A volcano is not self-centered.
Betwixt these moving forces mold A new way through the new and old One must accept God’s quiet voice. As we are led to the defining choice. A choice that may not be either or.
New growth must retain the life of the old. What is that life, and where is it hidden? Ask the quiet voice. It will tell. Listen.
Recently, a friend of mine told me that he believed the church should prioritize Paul’s teachings over Jesus’. Another friend told him that can’t be right. After all, if Paul learned from Jesus, we should prioritize Jesus’ teachings right? I believe this is a wonderful question and I believe the answer can be found by comparing the Old Testament Law and Prophets.
In seminary I learned that the Old Testament has three sections (Torah or Law, Prophets, and Writings) but the last two of those sections are exposition or explanation of the first section. One professor put it this way. “The Old Testament is the Torah and the rest of it is exposition of the Torah.” Another way to say this is that the Torah gives us the definition, the boundaries, the seed of what is to come, and the rest of the writings (The prophets and the writings, or just “the Prophets” for short) just explain how it happened in real life. Example: In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, “You are going to go into exile, and God is going to bring you back.” (Deuteronomy 29-31). Read 2 Kings 17. You’ll see why He sent them into exile, and read Nehemiah and you will see what happens when God brings them back. Again, I will say it. The Old Testament = Torah + Exposition of the Torah.
Now if this is the case, which should we prioritize in the Old Testament? My answer is this: The Old Testament is set up in such a way that you need both of them to make sense of it. If you just prioritize the Prophets, chances are you’re not going to have much guidance to understand the plot of what’s happening. Why after all, did Elijah shut up the heavens in 1 Kings 17? (The Prophets) Because in Leviticus 26:18-20, God said he would shut up the Heavens if the people disobeyed. (The Law). If however we just prioritize the Law, then we will get lost in semantics and not know how it is rightly to be applied. Example: Leviticus 25 said you should give your land rest every 7th year. (Law) but we see in the Prophets what happened to the land when the land was NOT given rest every seventh year. (The Prophets) Within the Old Testament God does not leave us in the dark but gives us not only the seed of the tree, but also what the tree looks like when it is full grown. The seed of the Tree is God reaching out to love Israel. The Tree itself is God being faithful, and the people of God being faithless. We need both of these to rightly handle the word of Truth. We also need to use both rightly so we don’t get the cart before the horse.
Now, this wonderfully simple pattern of understanding God’s word couldn’t possibly be the pattern for the New Testament could it? What major sections of the New Testament are there? The Gospels and the Writings (History, Epistles, and Prophecy) In essence, we have a repeated pattern of the New Law and Prophets.)
Does it work the same way? Is the New Testament, the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament exposition on the Gospels? Yet again, we find that God’s Word in the New Testament not only gives us the seed, but also the Tree. It shows us the Teachings of Jesus in their powerful demonstration and the proof of their truth, and then we are given in the writings what those teachings applied looked like in historical and instructive ways. Paul applied the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6 during the sermon on the mount about worry when he wrote tot he Philippians, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” But Jesus’ teachings about how to treat your neighbors would not make as much sense to us who are not Jewish unless Paul and Luke expounded on them for us who are the nations outside of Israel.
So then, which do you prioritize? The teachings that directly apply to the nations (The New Testament Prophets) or Jesus’ words themselves (The New Law)? I see how I would lean personally, but once again, I must keep the whole in perspective. Just as the Torah is expounded in the Prophets, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word, so the Gospels are expounded in the Writings, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word. Both have a relationship that must be rightly kept in humble interpretation of each other.
But still there is one more layer to peel back, which I find rather wonderful and sobering
Now that we have a canon of Scripture, the Church is interpreting the Scriptures to the World in every culture, tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We have, in both Testaments, the pattern of the house, and now we are responsible to enforce, to explain, to bring into reality God’s Word as it is revealed through both Testaments. The question left to us is how is this Scriptural revelation of God going to brought to full expression in the world. Or to put it in another way:
What is the Kingdom of God today? Our blueprints are established, and the writings of the Prophets both old and new have shown God’s way of bringing His word to fruition. It is the power and leading of His Holy Spirit that brings God’s kingdom here on earth among his people. And this Kingdom is going to be the final testament to the nature and character of the God we serve before He comes again.
What a tremendous privilege and responsibility!
To show it visibly, I came up with this Analogy of the Testaments. Can you solve the analogy?
The rule of humor is you give two similar things one after the other, and then the third, you bend slightly to get a laugh. May the church not make God’s Kingdom the biggest cosmic joke that will make those watching to mock our God! Instead, may we be led and empowered by the Spirit to make of the church what the Spirit seeks to make of the Kingdom of God.
I see him scrambling to the top of the building. The lightning flashes all around him, but does not strike home. He is the only hope they have for power Because the rest of the people stay inside the lower building praying And he is the lightning rod.
The classic architecture white and sturdy Bears him up as he slowly reaches the highest point. He had passed the gates and open field He was admitted at the door of the house and allowed to serve He submitted his appeal to the Highest office in the land.
The wizened Ruler had stared back at him incredulous “What makes you think you could restore power? Don’t you believe that your God can help you out without your sacrifice? Let me give you the power you need, you can stay alive. Just be my servant, and I will give you everything you want.”
The young man had looked him in the face Unwilling to surrender that charge which he had carried thus far: A lightning rod in his hand connected to his darkened home. He told him, “The power is not yours to give.” “I go to seek the One who is ruler over you.”
With permission, he had broken forth into the rain like hail. His charge in hand, his clothes drenched with Heaven’s tears Now at the top, he stretches himself upwards And blazing from the sky above the connection is made Power without limit surges through his brittle frame.
The prayers of the people are answered with self-sustaining light All the house is enlightened by the revelation of Heaven’s power The young man knew what this would cost him, And now charred and scorched like a rag in the ashes He crumples to the roof and rolls off to the ground far below.
When the Ruler looks out the window, he sees something good: A power above that could not be rivaled And one young man who gave his all. So that others might live in the light of life He closed the curtains and made a call.
“But there’s no happy endings
Not here and not now
This tale is all sorrows and woes
You dream that justice
And peace win the day,
But that’s not how the story goes” ~Nick Urata — Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”
My response: What? Yes it is! Haven’t you heard the Gospel?
Cynic: Pipe Dream.
Me: How Love is the Supreme Ethic?
Cynic: Child’s Play.
Me: It wasn’t child’s play for Jesus who died on the Cross to make it so.
Cynic: Too long ago.
Me: *remembers Legend of Bagger Vance, where Matt Damon’s tells his beloved that their love life was “too long ago.” And the girl says, “No it wasn’t. It was just a moment ago.”
*Considers that this is the very reason for the Church today: to bring Christ’s death on the cross into the here and now. This is the message of the Lamb’s unsealed scroll in Revelation: the only thing that will bring repentance is when the impenitent world sees the followers of the lamb imitating the same loving sacrifice of the Lamb, giving their lives for others.
*Looking lovingly at the Cynic and says, “No. No it wasn’t. It was just a moment ago.”
A young mountain grew taller and taller. The rocks grew stronger and stronger. The mountain took its shape, and started oozing with lava out the sides. One part of the rock split from the pressure, and the weakness of the stone. Another part of the rock split with a burst of flame and lava, and so another rock sculpture was being formed. The wind and rain beat against the rocks, and lightning struck from stormy clouds, and some rocks broke from the mountain. Some rocks refused to bend and be consumed, and they were covered over by the new waves of the same lava which formed the whole mountain. The shape of the mountain now was becoming a monstrous mass of various peaks and crags, but no single mountainous shape.
Then, all of a sudden, up the original central shaft, a burst of fire exploded from the top of the mountain. It spewed such a mighty and rapturous noise of New Earth, that the sidelong peaks crumbled and fell inwards toward the center, and the lava from the top filled in the crags and shapes with its blessing, until at last, it stood: a mountain reaching the heavens, filling the whole earth.
In prayer I saw You
I knelt at the altar
Weak, in pain, sick
And weeping from anxiety
You said, “It will be beautiful.”
“What will be?” I asked.
“My ministry through you.
Do you want to see it?”
My heart struggled
I felt so lacking in will.
I felt no desire
Only the tendrils of Your grace
Still holding me
At length I said, “Yes.”
Though it was not fully my own will.
Then He said, “Go ahead and look up.”
I looked up at the ornate covering of the altar
And looked through them.
I saw a grey landscape before me
Surrounded in white mist
And the path was delved into the ground
Like a trench waist then chest high.
On either side a wall of shallow ground.
And I saw You.
You were white clad
Though I could not see Your face.
Your arms were outstretched.
Hands open, above the trench.
I suddenly felt this aching truth
Leap with tears from my heart.
Not only was my path on either side marked out for me
You moved onward on the path facing me
You invited me forward.
The single truth is hard to put in words.
I found myself longing to go towards you
Weeping with longing to be in Your arms.
All the while You guided me forward.
The way forward was simply getting close to You.