Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Prince of Biafra

I am hoping over the next few weeks/months to bring Luther’s Baggage to the end of what I’m calling, Part 1. At that time I will go through a thorough job of proofreading, editing, and reshaping the manuscript to produce a copy that is ready for publishing on the Kindle. I am hoping to publish it toward the end of 2013. In lieu of the next installment, here are some comments on a quote from the book Steve Jobs:
“Even though they were not fervent about their faith, Steve Job’s [adopted] parents wanted him to have a religious upbringing, so they took him to the Lutheran church most Sundays. That came to an end when he was thirteen. In July 1968 Life magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra, Africa. (The cover’s headline states: Starving Children of Biafra War.) Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church’s pastor. “If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?”
The pastor answered, “Yes, God knows everything.”
Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, “Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those children?”
“Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that.”
Jobs announced that he didn’t want to have anything to do with worshipping such a God, and he never went back to church. He did, however, spend years studying and trying to practice the tenants of Zen Buddhism. Reflecting years later on his spiritual experiences, he said that religion was at its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. “The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.”
Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, pages 14-15.
This reminded me of a recent Torah Club commentary on God’s intervention in another part of Africa:

“The Biblical God saw the oppression of His people when they were in Egypt, Africa.

Exodus 3:7-11 “And the LORD said [to Moses]: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who [are] in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."
On a theological level, the passage speaks directly to the nature and person of the condescension of God. Though God is high and lifted up, transcendent and unreachable, He nonetheless deigns to descend into the world of men and take up their concerns and their grievances. He told Moses, “I have seen... I have given heed...I am aware... so I have come down. Exodus 3:7-8 
To descend into the world of men in order to take up their concerns and sorrows is within the very nature of God. Psalm 113:5-9 “Who [is] like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold [The things that are] in the heavens and in the earth? He raises the poor out of the dust, [And] lifts the needy out of the ash heap, That He may seat [him] with princes--With the princes of His people. He grants the barren woman a home, Like a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!”
Torah Club Volume 5 Depths of the Torah - Shemot page 370
To say that we don’t know very much about what goes on behind the spiritual scenes, is an understatement!  Because God does not (usually) prevent or stop injustice, wars, violence, sickness, disease, etc ., from happening throughout the world, many, like Steve Jobs, assume He must be irrelevant or non-existent. In the eyes of many, God is ‘non sequitur’ because there is a disconnection between the premise (God is good/God is love) and the conclusion (death, injustice still happens). I suspect that if God intervened every time there was a need, the whole world would be on hold.
The spiritual battle between Good and Evil runs hot and heavy, though to us it is silent and unnoticed. Consider this passage by Daniel the Prophet:  “Then he [angel Gabriel] said to me, ‘Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.  Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.” Daniel 10:12-14.  The prince of Biafra must have had a free reign in the 1960’s, as the princes of Syria, Iran, and a host of other countries are doing today. Earnest prayer from Daniel sent Gabriel on a mission, but its answer was delayed. Who are the pray-ers and doers today who stand against injustice, wars, violence, sickness, disease…? And who is praying on a higher level against the spiritual warfare that delays the answers? I know there are many people and groups (e.g., International House of Prayer in Kansas City) who are interceding. But so many of us, myself included, are so busy we barely fit in a good night prayer before we go to bed.
Even when we add the wisdom of the Torah and the Good News of the Gospel into the picture, there are millions of people who have been unable to know the Truth over time – based upon where and when they lived (e.g., South America in 1000 AD, Australia in 300 AD) or what their background was (e.g., Saudia Arabia in 700 AD, Japan in 1000 AD). How will the One and Only Biblical God sort all of this out at the final evaluation? Somewhere in all of the dogma, theology, and the tug of war between liberality and radical extremism is the hope that, as Rob Bell has written, Love Wins.

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