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Standing in the Gap

March 14th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Here’s a mixture of what I was taught in Sunday School last week and what I thought of myself.

Ezekiel 22: 23-31 is the key.I use the English Standard
Version
:

23 And the word of the Lord came to me: 24 “Son of man, say to her,
You are a land that is not cleansed or rained upon in the day of
indignation. 25 The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is
like a
roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured human lives; they
have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in
her midst. 26 Her priests have done violence to my law and have
profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the
holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between
the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so
that I am profaned among them.
27 Her princes in her midst are
like
wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get
dishonest gain. 28 And her prophets have smeared whitewash for
them,
seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says
the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken.
29 The people of the
land
have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed
the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without
justice.

These prophets include most Christian pastors in America and Europe
today. They profane the holy and care about Man, not God. They blur
the difference between Christian and non-Christian, between God and
Man, between truth and falsehood, and between right and wrong. They
flatter the leading citizens in their congregation and excuse their
misdeeds. They criticize, if anyone, only people outside their
congregations.

This is obviously true of liberal Christians, but is equally true of
evangelicals. The evangelical pastor whose concern is simply to get
people to go to church– or even to “save souls”— is blurring
distinctions to do so, and flattering his congregation.

30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up
the
wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not
destroy it, but I found none. 31 Therefore I have poured out my
indignation upon them.
I have consumed them with the fire of my
wrath.
I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God.”

The “man in the breach” or “man in the gap” is what we should each
strive to be. Without him, the land is destroyed. Sodom did not have
twenty (was it?) righteous men, and so perished.

Ezekiel 13, entire chapter:

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the
prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy
from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ 3 Thus says the
Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and
have seen nothing!
4 Your prophets have been like jackals among
ruins, O Israel. 5 You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up
a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the
day of the Lord.
6 They have seen false visions and lying
divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not
sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.
7 Have
you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever
you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?”

Again, the prophets are pastors (and members) who go to their own
hearts (which usually means their self-interest and their cultural
biases) rather than the Bible or natural law for truth. They say that
what God wants is what they want. This is blasphemy as well as bias.
It is, of course foolish. Much better would it be if they took
Nietzsche’s course and admitted outright that they were beyond good
and evil and wanted to create their own values. At least they would
not be blasphemously ascribing their desires to God.

8 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered
falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you,
declares the Lord God. 9 My hand will be against the prophets who see
false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the
council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of
Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know
that I am the Lord God. 10 Precisely because they have misled my
people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the
people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash,
F57
11 say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There
will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and
a stormy wind break out. 12 And when the wall falls, will it not be
said to you, ‘Where is the coating with which you smeared it?’
13
Therefore thus says the Lord God: I will make a stormy wind break out
in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and
great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. 14 And I will break down
the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to
the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls,
you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the
Lord. 15 Thus will I spend my wrath upon the wall and upon those who
have smeared it with whitewash, and I will say to you, The wall is
no more, nor those who smeared it, 16 the prophets of Israel who
prophesied concerning Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her, when
there was no peace, declares the Lord God.

The culture builds a wall of prejudices to protect its self-
interest. The prophets put on the final touches, the paint. The paint
is a trivial part of the wall, really, and adds no strength, but it
makes it look nice.

The prophets also twist words. Confucius made a big deal of
“the rectification of names”, and he was right. The pastors and
other proclaimers of truth say that a situation is good when it is
not. Calling a war peaceful, a society virtuous, or a people happy
will not create peace, virtue, or happiness.

17 “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your
people, who prophesy out of their own minds. Prophesy against them 18
and say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic
bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of
every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls
belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? 19 You have
profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of
bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive
souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to
lies.

20 “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against your
magic bands with which you hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear
them from your arms, and I will let the souls whom you hunt go free,
the souls like birds. 21 Your veils also I will tear off and deliver
my people out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand as
prey,
and you shall know that I am the Lord. 22 Because you
have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved
him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from
his evil way to save his life,
23 therefore you shall no more see
false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of
your hand. And you shall know that I am the Lord.”

There are people, including even women, who are out to destroy
your soul. They want to consume your soul to magnify their own, in
the same manner as the devils in C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape
Letters
, or Mephistopheles in Faust, or, I think, as Neitzsche’s
liberated man with his Will to Power.

“Soul” here is from a Hebrew word that I think (I could be wrong)
means “life” as well as “soul”. Some souls *should* be killed. The
false prophets keep some souls alive that they should kill, as well as
killing souls they should keep alive. Note that this passage makes it
clear that some people’s souls are detestable. Not everybody should be
encouraged. The evil should be disheartened by the prophets.

Keep in mind that “Baal” is the Canaanite word for “Lord”. When false
prophets were calling on “Baal”, they were calling on “the Lord”. It
was just the wrong Lord.

People use God as a way to solve problems. This is like magic– which
is why magic is so criticized in the Bible. It is treating God as a
Means, not an End.

Pagan gods are treated this way routinely. Nobody thinks of loving
Zeus or the ancestor spirit as anything but weird. Rather, those gods
are powerful spirits not all that different from humans or from
gravity who must be treated carefully in order to manipulate their
behavior.

Roman Catholic saints are the same kind of petty god. You pray to St.
Mary, and she cures your flu. Many people wouldn’t dare use the
Almighty God for such a trivial purpose, so they pray to St. Mary
instead.

Works Religion is the same way. Fast, and God will do things for
you. Abstain from wine, and God must keep his end of the deal by
making you rich.

Isaiah 58:

1 “Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.

We should condemn sins.

2 Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.

Sinful people often are religious, and act as if they are righteous.
This is works-religion. Christians live a righteous life, and expect
God to pay them for it. But their aim is to satisfy their earthly
desires, and while they may go to church weekly, tithe, and not swear,
they still take advantage of their employees.

4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Lots of people do good deeds so they can get away with doing more bad
deeds too.

7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

We ought to look out for those in need. I don’t do that enough.

8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A good approach to reading the Bible: Ask of every passage: How would
I interpret this if my goal was to undermine it and defeat it and
reduce it to a “tame” meaning of complete blandness or something that
agrees with what I want to think anyway? Also ask how someone who
wanted to defend your culture would interpret it so as to defeat it.

The Christian life is a battle. Battles have real weapons and
casualties. The warrior hurts other people, and kills them. THey
wound him, and maybe even kill him, and kill his friends. Some people
are wounded and need medics. Some people are traitors. Ruses are used,
and ambushes, and cutting off of supplies.

I hear that boxers tend to think, unconsciously, “If I don’t hit the
other guy hard, he won’t hit me hard either”. Coaches know this, and
train it out of their boxers. Don’t think that if you hit a trained
enemy softly, he will hit you back softly. He won’t.

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