August 12, 2006
When people discuss the Middle East, a term that comes quickly to the fore is Monotheism. It is seen as the home of the three great Monotheistic religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet the term Monotheism was only coined in the English language in the 17th Century. Henry More in 1660 is reputed to be the first person to use the term in writing in the English language. So it is a very recent term to describe a feature that many assume to be a foundational part of the Biblical record. Humanity has a penchant for labeling ideas. Of course those who study Monotheism have developed their ideas so that today if someone is really discussing the subject the labels are refined so that we have ‘inclusive’ or ‘exclusive’ Monotheism or hard or soft Monotheism. Writing in the 19th C, the British Prime Minister and social reformer and cleric, Gladstone, recognised that Islam or Mahomet as it was described then was in fact the only true Monotheistic religion.
Over the past decades, people have come to question the ideas of monotheism. Characteristic of this is a question posed by one NT scholar: Quote ex Paula Fredricksen:
. . . something of a puzzle to explain how a group of Jews, known best of all in antiquity for their absolute insistence on the oneness of God and their refusal to grant worship to any other, should come in the middle of the first century to worship the man Jesus of Nazareth, whom they call the Messiah. The question becomes even more puzzling when you consider that those Jews who believed in Jesus gave him titles apparently ascribing to him qualities and actions previously reserved for God alone. (Bible Review, December 1992, 14-15.)
Further study has lead some scholars to recognise that Monotheism by any of the various varieties by which it is known today has no place in Scripture. So they have created a new term to label the worship that the Eternal required of Israel: Monolatry. Take idolatry, remove the ID and place mon in front. The worship of only one God. As a starting point they take the First Commandment in Exodus 20:
Exodus 20:1-3 (ESV)
1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.In stating “thou shalt have no other gods before me” the Eternal recognised that there were other gods, but Israel was only to serve Him. The other gods are normally seen as idols, the work of the hand of a man. The Scriptures rail against people who worship such creations. In Exodus 12:12, the Eternal told Moses and all Israel that He was going to bring judgement against all the gods of Egypt. So Israel entered into a covenant relationship with the Eternal at Mount Sinai in a world in which other gods existed. Israel of course disobeyed the first commandment and forgot the Eternal their God. They worshiped Baal and all the other gods of the heathen nations.
But the translators play a trick on us – condition our minds. The ‘other gods’, or the ‘gods of Egypt’ are always presented in lower case type whereas in both Hebrew and Greek there never was a difference. Only upper case characters were used in Scripture. And to a listener, hearing the word read, no perceptible difference was obvious. So the translators sought to immediately identified were the true God is addressed as opposed to false gods. They have done a good job of identifying which is which for us. But in so doing they help us miss a major point of the first command. Is there another being we could worship rather than the Eternal? What we worship is in fact a god!
The Apostle Paul was educated as a devout Pharisee. Like others of his day, he believed that there was an alternative god who could be worshiped: a being that was so successful at his deception that he had blinded the minds of people so that they couldn’t recognise the true God who should be worshiped (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The Light of Christ’s Gospel
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
In Ephesians 2 Paul refers to this same individual as being the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). There is another being out there who seeks our attention and the worship of that being ends in destruction. The idea of Satan worship is not appealing to most, but he has an unlimited pantheon of gods to distract and keep us from the worship of the true God.
Why should we be aware of this?
Shortly we will be keeping the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement prior to observing the Feast of Tabernacles. Central to these days is an understanding that there is a ruler of this world who is to be replaced at the return of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and that being is to be bound for a thousand years and be restrained in a great abyss. Although we will gladly observe those days, how clearly are we aware that the world in which we live is ruled by this other god?
Case in point. Let’s return to the Middle East where a war is being waged between Hezbollah and the Israeli’s? Who is right in this conflict, the army of God or the Israeli’s? Which really is the army of God?
The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, gave a speech in Los Angeles a week ago in which he outlined the arc of terror. We, the west are the good guys who should prevail and Tony Blair set out various criteria by which the west could win the battle. So I ask the question again. Which really is the army of God? Either or neither?
Yes Jesus Christ will intervene on the part of the Jews at the very end, but only after they come to “look on him whom they pierced” and accept Him as the Messiah He truly is. Until then, both sides are waging a war between two elements of the Babylonian system.
Students of Prophecy love to look at the developments in the Middle East and portray the growing Islamic fundamentalism as being a representation of the King of the South. Often what is overlooked is that the King of South presented in Daniel chapters 10-11 is part of the Babylonian system just as much as the King of the North. We have warring factions within the Babylonian system which will be destroyed by Jesus Christ at His return. I’m not saying that the Islamic world is not or could not be the King of the South. In reality, Islam is the ultimate expression of the Greek philosophical traditions. Those elements shaped Islam as profoundly as certain ideas of Plato shaped what is called Christianity today. So Islam is clearly rooted in the Babylonish system of the this world. There is no good guy in the in the struggle between the powers of this world. Not even our own country. At best it could be described as the least worst in a very bad world.
Let’s look at some of the values that exist in this world today that are considered acceptable and see how satanic they really are
The Prophets who were used by the true God as emissaries and mouth pieces conveyed to us the values of God. They presented what was pleasing or unacceptable to God –literally allowing us to see how God sees the human situation. Notice what they had to say about this world.
Power: A great place to start. The world is in a struggle at this time between two rival power blocks. In reality Hezbollah and the Israelis are at best proxies for those two systems. How does the world establish power? By war on various levels. Society honors conflict. Look how many great leaders have been warriors or generals.
Toynbee quotation ex War and Civilization, 1950:
“Perpetual peace is a dream–and not a beautiful dream–and war is an integral part of God’s ordering of the Universe. In war, Man’s noblest virtues come into play: courage and renunciation, fidelity to duty and a readiness for sacrifice that does not stop short of offering up Life itself. Without war the world would become swamped in materialism.”
We may modify that in part today, but not by much. Had a look at video games recently? What about movies? We await Terminator 4! The irony is unabashed. We live in a state that prides itself on its social conscience and we have a Governor whose fame was developed in the portrayal of violence.
How many see the solution to the problems of inner city gangs in the reintroduction of some form of military discipline. National service, the draft.
The prophets were inspired to write in a world which had a clear view of power. In the gentile world, the king was divine – he was not able to be questioned.
The prophets repudiated the power of man as an object of adoration:
12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.”
For the land is full of adulterers; For because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil, And their might is not right.
The prophets questioned humanities infatuation with might or power.
God’s view is of a world at peace. Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:4
It is not surprising that at the Passover Jesus told the disciples that they were not to be like the gentiles and seek to rule over one another. The godly standard is one of serving one another. We are called to exercise power in our lives modified by the Holy Spirit so that it serves others rather than the self.
What is wrong with Power in this world. Power leads to Violence:
Hamas, an Arabic acronym, "Islamic Resistance Movement" but carefully chosen. In Arabic, 0 hamisa is used to convey being persistent in battle and in religion, hamaša to anger0
12For her rich men are full of violence, Her inhabitants have spoken lies, And their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.
Amos 3:10 (ESV)
10 “They do not know how to do right,” declares the Lord, “those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”
Even David’s service of the Eternal was limited because of his involvement in war and the blood he had on his hands. Even although the Eternal was with Him in those wars and David is presented as doing God’s service, yet He was not able to pursue his greatest ambition, the building of the temple. It was a though God was making a point about His work. Ultimately it is to be a work of peace not violence.
God intervenes in the power struggles of this world to bring His purposes to pass. In so doing, he maintains the ability to resurrect to life those who lives are taken. Such is not the case with human use of power.
In contrast to the violence of society consider the Godly standard:
Psalm 85:9-12 (ESV)
9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. 11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. 12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Isaiah 32:15-18 (ESV)
15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. 16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. 17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. 18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
Power within the hands of humans breeds arrogance and conceit. It becomes self centered, no matter how altruistic its initial aims may have been. We need to realise that the real power is that of God’s Holy Spirit, to change our minds, to serve one another, to seek for the well being of the other. Zechariah recorded the way in which matters are really accomplished:
Zechariah 4:6 (ESV)
6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
Education is seen as the route out of poverty, the path to a better life. It is the panacea of the ills of humanity. There is a certain validity to that. But it is education based on what?
The Apostle Paul spoke of the educated people of his day and showed that they rejected the knowledge of God.
Romans 1:18-23 (ESV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
It is a truism to state that today, education throughout the western world operates without any concern for God. Science is the study of the observable. What is accessible to the rational mind. Pursuit of physical knowledge on the one hand but without any sense of who created or formed the material or the mind of the scientist. No concept of the consequences of its studies and endeavors. Present situation in the UK trying to find a place to bury nuclear waste for the next thousands of years.
Humanities are also bereft of knowledge of God. How to ruin a good minister: Send him to a seminary!
Take history: History is not just the study of events, but rather the understanding of man’s experience of those events. It is human centered. Hence politics, economics, foreign affairs and warfare are the focus of history. But to God that is all irrelevant.
History to God is totally different.
If we were to write the history of Israel under Jeroboam II we would note that it is a time of unprecedented prosperity for Israel, an expanding economy, stability in terms of its foreign relations and peace. Israel was at a peak. In terms of this world, he would be considered a successful monarch. God’s view was that he was a disaster. Why? Godless. No justice, no seeking after God.
2 Kings 14:23-29 (ESV)
23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. 26 For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. 27 But the Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. 28 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he restored Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 29 And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, the kings of Israel, and Zechariah his son reigned in his place.
The Bible is a record of history, not from the eyes and observations of human beings but from the eyes of the creator Himself. How does he evaluate? Not in terms of economics or military prowess, but in terms of Godly character. How do the leaders measure up to the Godly standard. And nothing is hidden from God. Notice Isaiah’s comment:
Isaiah 26:20-22 (ESV)
20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. 21 For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.
We could take every profession and every element of human endeavor and show similar shortcomings in terms of human perception. This is not to say that people should not be educated, rather that we need to be very aware of the shortcomings of every form of education. It only ever sees the subject from the human perspective. And it is so easy for people to be blinded by their education so that they see themselves as a repository of all knowledge or the saviors of humanity.
The result that even education can breed its own arrogance!
So education needs to be tempered with an appreciation of a Godly perspective, whether it be a profession or a trade. How would our occupations be handled in the Kingdom of God? We rely on technology today to do our work. How will that be handled in the Kingdom? What will be the place of technology. The present levels of destruction caused by technology and the rapine plundering of the natural resources of the planet cannot be sustained indefinitely. What is more, a cursory consideration of all aspects of our society show a system that is out of keeping with Godly intentions for humanity.
As we approach the Holy Day season and prepare for the feasts, let’s never loose sight of the reason for those Holy Days. We keep them because this is presently Satan’s world. He will shortly be bound
Romans 16:20 (ESV)
20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Until that happens we need to be preparing for the kingdom by ensuring that our thinking is Godly thinking – thinking that is informed and shaped through the interaction of God’s Spirit and His Word. We need to be certain that we do worship and serve the true God.