Sunday, February 12, 2012

Three, no four sins of the prophets

The Hebrew scriptures have much to say about the sins of the kings, including the "good" kings like David. These tend to run to the Spirit of Babylon: pride, greed, and trust in Man as a political creature. In the latter half of the Book of Numbers, for the readings of Feb. 10-12, the Holy Book deals with the sins of the prophets - those who presume to speak for God.

In Numbers 16, Dathan - the character played so memorably by Edward G. Robinson against Charlton Heston's Moses in "The Ten Commandments" - leads a band of respectable types who insist that they, too, may speak for God, saying to Moses and Aaron: "You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord's assembly?"

Of course God is not with them, he is "with" Moses and Aaron, which everyone discovers when fire comes out of the prayer censors each rebel is holding and consumes them all, and the earth opens up and swallows the ringleaders. Dathan and Korah had assumed for themselves a "prophetic equality" that did not exist. Presumably they wished to use this equality to exert their own, unholy will over Israel. And the Lord tells Moses to take the bronze censors out of the smoldering, curled hands of the charred corpses and hammer them into sheets to overlay the altar! Talk about a memento.....Point One to the would-be prophets: you may think you are seizing religious power, but God always gets the First and the Last Word. 

In Numbers 21, Moses raises a bronze snake on a pole, and anyone who has been bitten by a poisonous snake and looks on it, will live. Did the Greeks borrow from Moses for their Aesculapius legend, hence the seal of the American Medical Association? Wikipedia doesn't seem to think so. And we also see a type of Christ being made sin (serpent) for us and raised up on a tree, so that all who look on Him in faith are made whole.....

But back to the sin of the prophets - one of the biggies, Balaam. A prophet-for-hire, he is asked by a pagan king Balak of Midian to prophesy against Israel, encamped in their hundreds of thousands across the Jordan River. Much as he would like to take Balak's money, he can't do it - God is giving him a word that is against Balak instead. Even Balaam's donkey can see the angel preventing Balaam from giving the false word to the proud but fearful king. Point Two: it is pointless for prophets to conspire with kings against the Word of God. His will will be done. Be smart and join the winning side, even if it makes the kings angry.

I do not hate what God does next - put an entire nation to the sword, except for the young girls. God is the creator and judge and He must do as He wills, and I would be like Dathan and Balaam to resist it or speak against it, be my motives ever so pure in my own eyes BECAUSE I am not as smart as God. Like the "man on the street" making superficial comments about complex legislative and judicial issues, I simply lack the inside knowledge and wisdom to make a right decision.

I DO hate when man commits genocide in God's name. Bad luck for native peoples everywhere sitting on valuable natural resources and being told that it is the will of the white man's God that they leave or die or both. The Americas could have been settled with justice, Europeans bringing progress and order without destruction. Samuel De Champlain did so in Acadia and New France.

And finally, beware the faithless coward in prophet's clothing. Of the 12 spies who went into the Promised Land, all 12 reported that the land was indeed rich and fine and was controlled by giants. They observed correctly. Yet all but Caleb and Joshua predicted disaster for Israel, which they compared to grasshoppers to be stepped on by giants. Point Three: trust the God of the Plagues of Egypt - God can use even grasshoppers to subdue a mighty people and deliver Israel.

And a a fourth big non-no for prophets, which I forgot: don't take credit for the power of God. In Numbers 20, both Aaron and Moses are severely punished because Moses not only didn't follow God's instructions about bringing water from a rock, but seemed to take credit for it, as if it was the power of his staff hitting the rock that brought forth the water. Though I speak with tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am nothing....

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