far and wide, the world stage is set for some great emergence, some sort of great upheaval in human order and society. Nature itself seems to mirror this.
Asaph, our ancient Protester (Protestant?) is talking about the conscienceless ultra-rich and powerful oppressors of the underclasses of his time. He asks all the sorts of question which any person with a still functioning conscience and sense of justice and right and wrong would ask today. He might even have been looking at the oppressive rule of Israelite Kings as he wrote this, or at least at some of his oppressive officials who, like the bloatedly opulent Kings, were using their high offices and trade and business connections to grow richer and richer while oppressing, over-taxing, and gouging the poor farmers and laborers.
What the US brand of ultra-Evangelicalism most resembles historically is the fanatical Crusaders who believed that killing those who refused to accept Christ or opposed the preaching of His message was both just and essential if His Kingdom is ever to be brought into the world. There is none of the humility and self-understanding of being a fallible sinner that might even betray the Master that we find in the Apostles or the Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Fathers (and Mothers) of the ancient Church. There is no hint of the first believers who “turned the whole world upside down” and shook the foundations of the Empire itself by turning the other cheek, turning back to be crucified with his people, as Peter did, or heading to Rome to face the Emperor himself even if it meant death, as Paul did. There is no hint of “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you and persecute you, and so you will prove yourselves to be the children of your Heavenly Father”.
We think the “burglar” in this little parable is the bad-guy and the householder is the good-guy, but the whole context turns that on its head. The “householder” is the strong-man (as he is called in a parallel passage) who invaded the house and usurped the property of the rightful owner. It is the Satan who has done this to the beautiful world God created. The “burglar” is the rightful owner coming back to claim his own. That is why Jesus says “he will come like a thief in the night”.
The coming together of the Cosmic “evil one” and the human propensity to seek our own aggrandizement at the expense of everyone and everything else typically and periodically produce especially monstrous eruptions that leave the whole world reeling and the human race lying in a shambles. Shifting the blame, we point the finger at God as if the Deity is responsible for allowing us to behave demonically rather than exercising His omnipotence to prevent such horrors. The Accuser laughs all the while from behind the Oz-Curtain, and we fool ourselves that we are justified because God doesn’t just cut evil out of our hearts and kill the most monstrous perpetrators.
“Money is the root of all evil,” a saying of the Apostle Paul, must be understood as part of an even bigger picture: that humans have turned their faces away from the Creator towards the bewitching glitz of things that can never do more than give fleeting pleasure and simulated happiness (and yes, even fifty, sixty, or seventy years is fleeting beside eternity). Beneath the hunger for the glamour and shine and sense of being in control that real or digital bullion promises, there is the age-old original lie. “You will not die if you take it, but you will become as wise as God, knowing all about [and by implication controlling] good and evil.”
H₂O. Water. Water gives life. Life needs water. Science fiction and fantasy aside, everything we know about life requires water for it to exist, to come into being, to persist in being, to evolve, according to both the evolutionary and the creationist paradigms of life.
You may have seen episodes of science fiction series and films in which life somehow has come to be in crystalline or gaseous (not water-vapour) form. There is no evidence for that anywhere, and no science that can even propose it could ever happen. Such episodes have crossed from science and even science-fiction into shear fantasy.
As long as we have breath in our bodies, we have the opportunity to aim at becoming what we were originally intended to be. We can choose to use that breath, which in Hebrew also designates the living essence of who and what we are, to act like the Creator’s agents and image-bearers or to pursue what Solomon and every other great potentate and magnate has typically pursued in place of that.
If he was an up and coming new rabbi, one even recognized by the Immerser as someone special, why would he come back here to the backside of Israel? Why didn’t he go to the city and set up in the Temple Porticos like the other rabbis seeking to gather disciples and make a name for themselves? He would never get anywhere by spending his time up in the Galil among its uncultured peasants and yokels.
What in the name of the Blessed One did “baptizing with fire” mean? He could understand undergoing a ceremonial mikvah to symbolize a desire to live a pure life for Adonai. He hadn’t done mikvah yet, but he sometimes felt a tug in that direction. He was well aware of his faults and that, as an example of Adonai’s chosen people, he fell far short. About this baptism by fire he had no clue. It sounded downright unpleasant! But prophets were always rather cryptic.