The Measly and the Mighty

NOSELESSIn Psalm 135, a vivid contrast is painted in broad strokes that compares the almighty and robust God of King David to the puny and powerless idols of the Canaanites. The Psalmist describes the inept and impotent gods: They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.

A recent viewing of some photography reminded me of this Psalm. The photographer had captured the image of some artifacts that portrayed their gods with smashed ears and crushed noses. I wondered if these ancient scars were the work of vandals or mischievous imps.

After reading Julia Wolkoff’s article on the subject, I found my answer: The ancient Egyptians, it’s important to note, ascribed important powers to images of the human form. They believed that the essence of a deity could inhabit an image of that deity, or, in the case of mere mortals, part of that deceased human being’s soul could inhabit a statue inscribed for that particular person.

By smashing the ears and crushing the noses of these images, the perpetrator thought he was castrating the idol and nullifying its power.

My worship and prayer aren’t focused on a toothless god who can be rendered impotent by the hand of man; my devotion is to the Omnipotent God who is great, above all gods, and the One who does whatever He pleases.

The God who is the focus of my attention is the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah: I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose (Isaiah 46:9-10).

The $27,673 of Christmas

business_library_12_days_of_christmasIt may be a “man thing,” but shopping is usually at the bottom of my I-just-gotta-do-it list, and it will never find a place on my bucket list.  According to the PNC Wealth Management Christmas Index, if you were to go on a shopping spree based on the classic song, The 12 Days of Christmas, the gifts would cost you $27,673.

One gift that didn’t make the list is so uniquely spectacular that Paul said, “Thanks be unto God for his indescribable  gift (II Corinthians 9:15).”  This is the gift that the prophet Isaiah spoke of over 700 years before Jesus was born:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace                                                                                    ~Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah’s prophecy would be fulfilled in the words of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

So you see, the real price of Christmas is not the sum total of  $27,673, it is the Son total of one life that paid the price of salvation—”You get what is coming to you when you sin. It is death! But God’s free gift is life that lasts forever. It is given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23 ~NLV).”

Peter encouraged a group of severely persecuted Christians to recognize and give thanks for the presence of Jesus:

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.  You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  ~1 Peter 1:3-5

If you see Christmas as a series of sales Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, you denigrate it to the status of meaningless merchandise.   The onus is on us, you and me, to keep Christ foremost in this season of giving.

As you prepare for your celebration of God’s miraculous gift, I encourage you to remember that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17).”

A Theology of Spitting

Even though the days of cane pole fishing have been replaced by high tech fishing gear, I can still remember fishing with those glorified sticks and a piece of string. Most of these memories include a short little pudgy man with a smiling face and big heart. Edgar was his name, and he was my Grandpa Lacy.

Grandpa and I would sit on the river bank by an old stone bridge and watch the muddy water gentle flow downstream. After baiting the hook, Grandpa would chuckle and say to me: “Before you toss your line out, make sure you spit on that fishin’ worm for good luck.”

Since I was just a kid who wanted to catch some fish, I eagerly spit on the worm; and, I did this with no thought to the origin or efficacy of this tradition. As I grew older, my curious mind would reminisce about the river bank days and the lore of spitting.

In biblical days, some people believed that spittle was representative of more than just good luck and catching fish—they believed it was a window to the soul. This could be one of the reasons that Jesus used His spittle when He performed some miracles like the one in John 9: “Jesus saw a man who had been blind from birth . . . He spat on the ground and made some mud with the saliva. He smeared the mud on the blind man’s eyes and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.” So the blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing.”

In the Bible, blindness is symbolic of spiritual darkness. This man’s physical condition represented his spiritual need—his eyes were unseeing and his soul was blind. Jesus healed the one, so He could save the other.

When questioned by the religious authorities about his prior condition and his present and miraculous healing, the man simply said: “All I know is that I was blind and now I can see.” This man knew that the healing of his body and soul was more than good luck, it was the good Lord at work.

When Jesus began His public ministry, He went to the synagogue and read from Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to tell them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read (Luke 4:18-21).”

Notice two of the phrases from above:
• He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind
• The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

Jesus came to restore sight to the unseeing eyes and the blind souls of the people seated in the synagogue, to the blind man in John 9, and to you and me as well.

Praise God for His goodness, grace, and mercy!