Archive for October, 2013

Noah’s Ark as Temple

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2013 by ancienthopes

Adam with Eve was to expand the borders of the Garden to the whole earth, filling it with offspring, subduing the wild regions as well as the serpent, completing the Cosmic Temple which God had made. Instead, they failed and their firstborn Cain’s descendents spread moral corruption throughout the earth to the point where God was “sorry” for making humanity (“it grieved Him to his heart, 6:6). This does not mean that God made a mistake, or that He was incapacitated with grief and remorse as with human sorrow. This is an anthropomorphism to indicate that the transcendent God is, in fact, “emotionally” immanent as well as spatially immanent. This world’s pathos is God’s pathos; human tears are a symbol of something deeper and profound that goes on inside of the Godhead. His grieving heart is in direct contrast to the evil heart of mankind in 6:5.

The phrase “And God saw the earth and behold it was corrupt” (or “rotten,” Hebrew šāḥat, vv. 12-13) is set against Gen. 1:10 where He saw that “it was good.” There is a point known to God when judgment must come. Here He chose to wash the face of the earth clean by flood. Noah is to build an ark and fill it with animals. It is clear that the ark connects to the garden where Adam named the animals. What is also significant is all the detail that is given to its construction. The only other structure that is given such detail is the tabernacle and the Temple, both Solomon’s and Ezekiel’s vision. The ark therefore connects the Garden “Holy of Holies” of primal origins with the future tabernacle/temple in the mind of the ancients.

The ark is a temple, the remnant of creation goodness bobbing in the angry waves of the watery deep, the symbol of death and chaos. (That is why the long isle of the cruciform church where people sit/stand is called a “nave,” a word derived from the Latin “novis,” meaning “ship.”) Within is Noah, whose name means “rest,” thus associating him with the seventh day. He is, like Adam, a “first man,” and as such the priest of the temple. Outside the watery deep overcomes even the tops of the mountains, indicating that all boundaries of creation are broken, taking it back to its pre-created state where the Spirit/wind of God “hovered” over the face of the deep.

At the apex of all this drama is the significant phrase “And God remembered Noah and all the beasts …” (8:1). “Remember” does not mean that God had forgotten Noah; the word here means that at the right moment God intervened to save him and the temple-ark. The wind blowing over the waters takes us back to Gen. 1:2 with the spirit/wind of God “hovering” over the face of the deep. The word “to hover” is used elsewhere in reference to bird activity (Deut. 32:11). This connects naturally with the sending out of the birds, especially the dove twice, the second time after 7 days, again a reference to the 7 days of creation (8:6-12).

That the ark lands on “the mountains of Ararat” (8:4) is significant, for in the mind of the ancients, temples were built upon a mountain, or high place. When the doors of the ark are opened (8:13-19), the scene described is jubilant like Genesis 1with all the animals processing out into the world to “be fruitful and multiply.” Noah builds an altar completing the temple scene before the ark (8:20-22). Indeed, Noah is blessed himself with the same creation blessing given to Adam: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (cf. 9:1 with 1:28). As the Garden in Eden was the temple out of which Adam and his descendents were to spread out and subdue the earth, so now the ark was the temple out of which Noah and his descendents were to reclaim the earth.

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Seth’s Line: Winning When it Feels Like Losing!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23, 2013 by ancienthopes

The Garden in Eden, as we have established, was a Holy of Holies, and Adam was its priest made in the image of God, to “cultivate and keep/guard” it in the splendor of the seventh day with Eve his mate and helper. Together they were not to be confined to the boundaries of the garden, for we see that in 1:26—28 they were to have dominion over all the earth and to fill it, which is the court of the cosmic Temple. The idea is that their task was to expand the boarders of paradise, and like God in creation, bring order and rest to the unsubdued chaotic elements outside the garden. Adam failed to guard Eve and the garden from the serpent, was expelled, and lost his role as priest. As we have seen in the last post, Cain’s line filled the earth with moral chaos and violence, an evil reversal of God’s original design.

In the darkness of this reversal, we see that God preserved elements of the original creation in Seth’s line where it is emphasized that he was made in the image of Adam who was made in the image of God (5:1-3), and in association with Seth, “men began to call upon the name of the Lord” (4:26). Enoch, 7th generation from Adam, “walked with God,” which is a biblical metaphor for perfection (For the idea of perfection, see posts from Dec. 10 – Feb. 5). Noah, the 10th generation, was “righteous and perfect” in contrast to the expanding wickedness of the human culture pressing in on him, and like his ancestor Enoch, “walked with God” (6:9).

Noah’s name means “rest”, and his father named him with the hope that his son would be the means of restoring the rest of the 7th day, and thus re-establishing the divine plan to re-establish the garden on earth (5:29). It is significant here to point out that in 2:15 where it says that “place” Adam in the garden. Instead of the usual word for “place/put” (śîm), the text uses (nuaḥ) to “rest” (i.e. in place), which is shares the same root as Noah’s name, thus drawing a lexical link from Adam to Noah. In Noah, therefore, we see that God is working quietly in the demonic din of the moral morass and corruption brought about by Cain and his alternative culture, preserving the hope that God’s original intentions that the world will become the Holy of Holies will, in fact, come to past.

There are ten recorded generations from Adam to Noah, a symbolic number of completion. Within this span of time, evil reached its zenith, for “YHWH saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5). This is not a general statement supporting the universal total depravity of man. In its context, it means that the image of God in man became distorted to the point where judgment became necessary (6:7). The phrase “all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth” (6:12) suggests that human evil spilled over into the animal realm in a way of unholy mixtures (weir animals?). Noah alone held out. That he found favor (Heb. ḥēn, “grace”) in the eyes of YHWH is a Hebrew idiom meaning that he alone was pleasing to God.

As we survey this antedeluvian scene, we get the impression that evil is more powerful, or at least more successful, than good. No doubt Noah felt this way. Feeling that we are in a fight where it seems that we are hard pressed by chaos and evil is the natural feeling of every generation of godly persons since the fall. No doubt Satan in his arrogance, along with many of his evil minions, are under the illusion that they are winning. However this may be, we see that they are losing, and must be, for God will not lose His creation to Chaos.

Cain’s Alternative Culture

Posted in Uncategorized on October 15, 2013 by ancienthopes

God cursed Cain (4:11)! Nothing could be more serious! (It is critical to note that God did not curse Adam or Eve, for then the whole human race would be under divine curse.) Cain was warned of his anger, that he must fight the beast, but he chose not to deal with it. Murder removes the sympathy and connection one has by nature to the earth. Thus detached, one becomes a fugitive and wanderer. In response, Cain offers up a lament, but it is important to notice that it is not a confession. (Cain, like his parents before him, did not have it in them to repent.) His lament is very theological (4:13-14). Being no longer able to work the land separates him completely from any connection at all from Eden (2:15). In the creation model, this means that Cain can no longer be a functionary in God’s cosmic temple. The phrase “and from your face I shall be hidden” is a cultic/liturgical expression, for to see God’s face is the ultimate experience of worship. Cain lost his place in the cosmic temple! He “went away from the presence of the Lord … east of Eden,” here not a geographical place, but a symbol of alienation (4:16).

Cain is also fearful that justice will be served, be avenged for his act, and killed. It can only be seen as an act of grace to Cain that God placed a protecting mark on his forehead. God will avenge his killer seven fold. Can we see in this any hope for spiritual restoration? After all, why should God care about an accursed man? The text is silent on this, but we do see that in the end, Cain’s line, rather than profiting from this divine grace and patience, takes advantage of it. Lamech boasts to his wives that he has killed with ease and no contrition, and if God protected his murderous ancestor seven fold, why shouldn’t he be protected seventy-seven fold? The contrast between Cains’s lament and Lamech’s mockery suggests that Cain’s line has evolved into a culture of careless violence in just 5 generations.

This culture must be seen as an alternative existence to the one God originally intended, that of the cosmic Temple. We see that Cain’s line introduced the city to humanity, nomads herding cattle, musical instruments, and the forging of bronze and iron. In and of themselves these cultural inventions seem harmless and even helpful. However, in the context of Cain’s line we see that these innovations are pieces of a cultural mélange that forms a gloomy substitute to the Garden of Eden. Implicit are the dark sides of these motifs; cities where men unite against God, nomadic existence detached from the land, music that distracts the mind from God, and metals forged into weapons of war.

Cain’s alternative culture is the context for chapter 6 where angelic beings, obviously fallen, cohabited with women. This, of course, is an unholy mixture contrary to creation where every creature is to reproduce after its own kind in God’s holy Temple. Juxtaposed is the memory of the Nephilim, a powerful race of occult warriors, suggesting that they were the offspring of this unholy union. The wickedness is almost complete (6:5) but for one man Noah. When God first created in Genesis 1, He saw that it was good. Now God saw the earth, and it was corrupt (6:12) and filled with violence (6:11). Blood spilled in the sanctuary profanes it; evil progressed to the point where the Temple must be cleansed.

In this antediluvian world we see a pattern that will repeat itself over and over again: action/city building to technology/entertainment to war to demonic union and finally to judgment. It happens again in the postdiluvian world. It is the world we live in now, a culture of Cain-like existence. Yet, this culture is alien to the original plan, and therefore cannot be established, for God has created it for a purpose that cannot be overturned. Creation is the temple of God, and we must experience it as such to be whole, to truly be ourselves.

Living in a World of Our Own Imagining

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2013 by ancienthopes

Because we are made in the image of God, we have great internal powers, and here we want to focus on our power of imagination. None of us live in an “objective” world where we can, by our senses and reason, comprehend our surroundings and make absolute sense out of it. In fact, we live very subjectively in a world of our own choosing. There are many factors that go into the construction of our world view, not the least of which are external influences, but the most basic may be our own imagination and how it processes information. We all live, to one degree or other, in a world of our own imagining.

Beginning with Descartes and his famous cogito ergo sum, western humanity came to think that human reason was the most real thing about our humanity, and to doubt everything else. Out of this came the rationalism of the late Renaissance and the 18th century Enlightenment that conceived of the notion that the cosmos was a colossal cosmic machine that worked perfectly like a clock. Intoxicated with this image, the western world became optimistic with the faith that human reason and scientific method could unlock all of intricate secrets of its mechanisms. There are those to this day that still live with such a mechanistic world view; this image is enduring and persists.

However, there were those who could not live with such a soulless world as a machine, and rebelled. These were the 19th century romantics that wanted to get back to nature and revel in its deep, ultimately unexplainable mysteries. They did not want to explain nature, but to become one with it. For them, the ancient pagans had it right; nature was god, and they longed to live close to the gods like they envisioned primitive humanity lived. However, this idyllic vision gave way to Darwin and his merciless doctrine of the survival of the fittest. The new image for western humanity shifted from a well constructed machine to a terrifying jungle. This came to its ultimate expression with the great world wars of the 20th century. So, along with the machine image we have a parallel alternative image of the world as a jungle, and it is “every man for himself.”

However, a nuance entered into the psyche of man in this so-called “postmodern” day brought about by the atomic bomb. With the capability of destroying life completely from the face of the earth, the old pagan idea that nature was divine and lives on forever is no longer viable. The world now seems to western culture a machine grinding to a halt, or a very fragile jungle indeed. It seems to me that a third image has emerged out of an attitude “let us eat, drink, and be merry,” for there may very well not be a tomorrow, or the tomorrow we face is too terrifying to contemplate. We imagine that the world is a circus, and rush to the gates to be entertained so that we can forget ourselves and our fears. The clowns that at first amuse turn out to be devils behind the masks.

Given the failure of these ways of imaging the world, I ask, why not go back to the original Judeo-Christian image of the cosmos as Temple, and humanity, made in the image of God, as priests to God? Why not live in the Psalms where praise is sung to God, where, although there is deep sorrow, it nevertheless gives way to joy before a God who is bigger than all human ills? Is this sneered upon as mere fantasy? What makes it any less viable than the machine, the jungle, or the circus? Which image speaks to the depths of the human soul? Which rings truest to the highest of human ideals? The western world, with all of its sophistication and knowledge, has not come up with a cosmology more magnificent and profound than what Genesis 1-3 paints for us. Let us embrace our world as Temple, our role as priests, and worship as our great purpose in life!