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BEWILDERMENT, BEDAZZLEMENT, BEDEVILMENT
OR THE BEAUTY OF
The Majesty of Love
rather than the Love of Majesty
The Holy Charge of History
and the Happy Charges Reversed of Deity
How wonderful is the God of foreknowledge, predestination, preparation, performance, of mercy and lovingkindness, of judgment and truth, whose word is above the heavens, directs the earth, brings spiritual rain to the repentant, believing heart and drought to the aridities of pride!
We have seen that history is necessary, indeed indispensable for the occasions of his instruction, the exposure of vice and of virtue, of faith and its flaws, of rebellion and its cause, of truth and its laws, of pride and of spiritual principles, of reality and of growth, of particularities and of perceptions by the light, that all should be seen and nothing hidden, all should be bidden and none excluded, that none should be lost whom love might find, and the annals of eternity should exhibit what the word of God declares.
By creation He has made known His wisdom,
by curse His kind on desecration,
by mercy His will for regeneration,
by test His mind against prevarication, equivocation and distillation of truth,
in order invest the truth into sight. Indeed, not only this, but to exhibit new half-truths, abominable disorders of the mind, spiritual inanities, creations of the desecrated mind of man, as the deplorable droughts of consciences, defiances of reason and rebellions of spirit which they are. So He acts. Meanwhile, that same set of beings, mankind, dares to use force to murder either truth or one another, mess with mercy as in Hebrews, till even the incarnate God wept at their folly and brought desolation to the city of truth, which had become the scenario of spiritual robbery, till they even dared to kill the foreordained Son of God, whose coming was humble as prescribed, that He might show to all men the way for man, and whose going was horrific, that He might show to all who look, the cost of sin.
If it is cost to this earth, then to the spirit of man much more! As to the earth, it trembles in its pollutions and prepares for the litany of disaster and the ceremonies of corruption to parallel man's own follies with a prepared script (Matthew 24, Revelation 6ff., Isaiah 2, 24), and in much these are already well advanced, not merely the material, but the moral, the psychic and the spiritual (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5). Further and further, its foulness of heart is shown up, despite its pretensions, by befoulment of this globe, and judgmental disasters to exhibit the cost of defilement the more, till man should at last repent as a race! But this he will not do (as the Lord foretold in Revelation 9:20), so then it is loss to this race.
Just as God created, step by step, each kind, atmospheric, celestial, terrestrial, in the waters and on the land and in the air, so in this the Gentile desecration, so carefully parallel to that of ancient Israel, almost as if done so on purpose! there is a defilement and a denudation which reminds one of Jeremiah 4:23ff.).
Why is this permitted ? Liberty has its role, will has its day, defilement in every imaginable revolt, distortion, constraint of folly, obsession of mind has its way. The obdurate may indulge their philosophic, political and military tantrums, the wilful their volitional vices, the generous their flair and the wise may display the way God has both made, protected and prescribed, with no change allowable for ever (Ephesians 1:10, Galatians 1, Revelation 22:18-19); but history has a time for its multitude of occurrences, and man a time to display, a time in which God exhibits truth in love, mercy in profusion and in profundity, and sin is put on display, like a pit of writhing serpents, caressing the wriggling morass with its incumbent lethalities.
What then ? It has its abhorrent ingredients, and its wonders.
If man were not free, then evil from him could not be; and if man were not created into a fervour of liberty which became for him a ferment of evil desire, then he could neither be personal nor profound, a lover nor a friend, meaningful spiritually nor understanding in heart. Now however, having fallen (Romans 5:1-12, Genesis 3), like a comet trailing a dirtied tail, so man drags a filthied tale of his rebellions against God. They arise, they mount, they spurt, they soar, they fail, they filthy the earth like radioactive, spent satellites, they set alight the ground, they spume poison. But man will not listen, and while many are saved by the grace of God by the Gospel, yet multitudes embrace ruin like a friend of great joy, met after a long absence. But alas, the presence is bane!
Just imagine the effrontery, impudence and literal impertinence, the profundity of the assault on the robes of history when Israel, delivered from being a nation of slaves, by marvels and miracles almost as if the world had a new face, such was their trail into the very entrance to the promised land, or near it, becoming a little impatient, took the law into their own hands. Thus, while their divinely chosen leader, Moses, was in the mountain in the presence of God seeking His mind and will, before their magnificent conclusion of the escape by the entry to the land accorded them, they made up a god, attributed their deliverance to this bit of moulded gold, ate, drank and flung caution to the winds.
What became of wisdom ? HOW was it that they were given this promised land ? Why, it was in judgment, they were sent (as seen in Genesis 15), after God had long been patient with the eminently corrupted races which had been occupying those lands. How then could they expect the God of all truth to suffer the similarities they were beginning to show to the very ones they had come to displace!
As to that, there are times, known to God and under His own control, for only He is omniscient, when a race becomes so corrupt in its sexual promiscuity, child abuse, perversion of body, mind and spirit, naturalistic gods, mysterious flummeries of idle thought by which God is removed even from serious thought, except in mockery, that extinction becomes mercy. Instead of one more horrifically mismoulded, mistaken, misled and abusive generation, the horror which faces each such seduced child, led into a culture of vice and folly, becomes greater than life! Though man may not make such judgments, God may and sometimes does. This was one such time, and Israel, sent to their new land were an instrument.
Imagine, having such a background, the scenario they were making. Thus, coming in the truth and patience of God to the fulfilment of such a mission into such a land as they were about to enter, having being delivered from famine through the miraculous career of Joseph, most timely, and from slavery through Moses, they now sought gratuitous blasphemy, lying deceit, calling a god like one of Egypt, their leader and casting off all restraint, drinking and dancing, naked of cover in the wilderness that came between them and their quest! Egypt ? the gods of that land, they could worship such!
In fact, Moses, at God's behest , had engaged in the confrontation of face with the imperial Pharaoh, but despite his courage, this would have meant nothing for deliverance, had not the very power of God brought his words to action in the plagues, and sea crossing into fruition both for a crossing and a crossing out of the pursuers! Did a god of Egypt bring them water from the rock, or manna from heaven! Such however is the intoxication which sin brings, that they were for a little as immune to fact as is our own land increasingly, parading monstrosities of thought in the place of the Maker of man!
In all these things, their multitudes of deliverances from all these potent and waiting disasters a matter of daily experience as the cloud and the pillar of fire led them, made literally to order, the order of God as was the creation: they then rushed into intemperate rebellion, while waiting for Moses for a few days! Such things must humble us, every one of our race, since our vulnerabilities can be so asinine, and our weaknesses so diminutive in feeling and so vast in implication! It is here that the Christian waits upon the God of pardon and power, and in history learns by experience the meaning of obedience, one of its great functions (cf. Hebrews 2).
Were they hungry in the desert crossing ? Not at this point. Thirsty ? not at all. They were impatient. They would not wait for the counsel of God. They asked the priest Aaron to use gold to make a golden calf, a very imitation of Egyptian follies with their naturalistic gods, and what then did they say of it ?
It is almost a recipe for deletion, like setting fire to one's own house. They addressed the idolatrous figure which had been made in the fire from the gold, This is your god, O Israel, they lyingly proclaimed in the face of the fact that a whole army of such gods had in their recent past been shown null by the God Almighty who had undertaken their deliverance from the land of polytheism. That was not enough. Let us hear these sacrilegious words. They are found in Exodus 32:4:
"This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt."
That lie ? It would resemble Jewish inmates of Auschwitz, such as were left when the Americans came, writing a book in which they gave an imaginary account of being saved by the Nazis from the invading Allies.
It was not merely untrue, a deliberate falsification, a verbal fraud, an outrageous insinuation, but a direct effrontery with a drunken seeming wildness, in which they were seemingly, simply sick of discipline, of movement, of action, of purity and of the athletic way of living with the Lord. They apparently wanted indulgence, a good time, a relaxed atmosphere, like the very old, but they were not old. They ate with the idol, cast off all restraint, rose up to play, an ominous word in that drinking atmosphere: indeed, they danced.
Natural spirits were evidently indulged to the uttermost, for they were set free, no bounds, drink in, idol out to watch, people up to play. What a scene, what a scenario! What a testimony to the other nations! Is this the spiritual nation then! This was rebellion, revolt and a trampling of truth by sheer desire. It involved capital punishment for treachery before God (cf. Deuteronomy 13). It was not only diversion, but subversion, in a matter that had already been one of life and death, in which they had ALL been delivered from death. It actively endangered the very lives of ALL as was so clearly seen by Moses (Exodus 32:9ff.).
Hence several thousand were killed, evidently in their wild, and moral abandonment, so frequently found in naturalistically idolatrous civilisations, like our own increasingly in this unblushing land (Exodus 32:25-29)
It is not a matter of simply excoriating ancient Israel for this, for what has it done that our own nation is not increasingly imperiously doing against the Lord, unrestrained increasingly in morals, casting off the clothing of commandments, the way of the everlasting covenant, the blood of the New Covenant, justification by faith and preferring incremental desolation by unbelief!
History has shown, laments as in Jeremiah's Lamentations have exhibited, sheer effrontery as the words from Sennacherib of Assyria have attested, long term judgments as on Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 50-51) and Nineveh (Nahum), on Egypt (Ezekiel 29:13ff.) and short term ones (as in Ezekiel 29:19ff., or in Jeremiah 25, where a precise 70 year exile was proclaimed) have accrued. The revolt, the patience, the continuation, the ruin, these have come like the seasons, some longer in indelibly cut memory, some shorter in sudden action, as at Hiroshima: though even that, it took a little time, and in it, much moral motivation was shown in the idea!
Responses come and go. Ezra and Nehemiah represented one variety of response: repentance (Nehemiah 9), industry and the fear of God which is clean, as shown in the rebuilding and the cleanness required in the process; while the failure of Israel, even AFTER the height of folly and depth of infamy in the lying golden calf episode, came as an aggravation. Surely there was not more ? But yes, it was after this, perhaps still with some of the lingering inflammation, that the people REFUSED to enter the promised land EVEN WHEN AT LAST THEY CAME TO IT (Numbers 14). Joshua exhorted them, but they WOULD NOT GO IN. Fear came like scorpions to the hearts of those who had SEEN repeatedly, dramatically not only the power of God but its brilliant timing!
They were called, they were enabled, they were led, they came to the point, the door lay wide open, courage was present in some, but their hearts would not listen. Is this not the tale of many a land, and is it to be for much of Europe and its descendants abroad ? Alas, Daniel shows the fateful way to be trodden*1 . What Napoleon fostered, Hitler furthered and a collection of European countries is yet for its sad day, to being to culmination. Such is the biblical prediction. Things move, they develop, they gear up, they increase their rations, delusions become compulsions, illusions become dictators first in heart, and then with heels. There is a final culmination just as there was an initial folly with Eve allowing the temptation to overpower her, doubting God and seeking by virtue of the very liberty of thought with which she was created, to consider that perhaps ... He was afraid of her power if she penetrated His domain, or concerned to keep her down. Adam ate of the same fruit.
There is a beginning and there is an end, and history enveloping both, shows the impacts of the things so many prefer to ignore, like those who seeing cancer at work, and its X-ray depiction, prefer to assume a certain disposition of ignorance, as if really, they did not know at all! (cf. Romans 1:17ff.).
intimations and exhortations,
opportunities and challenges,
accords of and with evil (as in World War II.
of the Allies with the prodigious inhumanities of the USSR), and
related calamities (as in the Cold War); there are
impenitent continuations of folly (as in Russia's invasion of Georgia, using a comparatively little upset to do far more, as if a god of some kind, as if the taking over of much of Eastern Europe after World War II in unspeakable pride and infamy were not enough for many centuries),
and there are results.
History has many things to show, and the word of God settles not only the perspective in which it is to be 'read', but the stringency of the results which God chooses to announce in advance, a continual check to man, and check-list for him, when reason returns and enquiry resumes. Often His mercies are prodigies of grace as you see in such outlines as those in Nehemiah 9, Ezekiel 20, Psalm 78, II Chronicles 36, and dark stars of absorption, as if grace were merely for the purpose of allowing more indulgence.
Freedom MEANS power to evil unless the heart is in the end fixed out of folly, a new life granted in terms of the clear response of the old and the foreknown appointment of eternity: as in the resurrection. In the testing interim, however, EVIL MEANS injustice, inequity, strangulation of virtue, abuse of children, educational mischief wrought on youth, war for young men, whether in commerce or in agriculture or in armies, wars that deplete the earth, diminish man's worth, trivialise the profound, and there are methods that use men and women as virtual slaves as shown in some of China's cheap labour factories, where it is a marvel for some, according to report, if they can even escape, mown down with penury, fined for leaving, kept in the way.
HENCE the evil is the RESULT of the abuse of the good, of the very spirit of man, for the lusts of flesh, of mind and of spirit, this last even reaching the depths of seeking to be God Himself as shown in II Thessalonians 2, as the outcome of the manic self-measurements of man at his most paranoid (cf. II Corinthians 10:12ff., 11:13ff.). In his boasting, the Gentile like ancient Israel with Moses, at the calf episode, invents gods, whatever their ideological format, things that supposedly do the job; and while they fail as follies unspeakable, not merely unwarrantable but illusory, mere dancing of unrestrained minds (cf. SMR Ch. 4 Extension, Ch. 3, The gods of naturalism have no go!, SMR pp. 867ff., Ch. 10), and become ludicrous (cf. Highway to Hell, Aviary of Idolatry): yet they are so deeply loved that it is like passion.
It is a love affair most disreputable, but in this case, hardly secret.
What then ? if man is to have liberty, evil is to have course ? What then, if God is to be loving, man must have freedom. But if man has freedom, evil has a way with it.
Hence God acts in this way and in that, at this time and at that, making judgments as in the flood, as in Egypt at the Exodus, as on Babylon and as at Tyre (cf. Ezekiel 26:12ff.), as on Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1ff.) and as on Israel (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 32), the last with an intricate particularity of provisions (as in SMR Ch. 9), which are now all but totally fulfilled.
But there is far more, and it is this which makes of it a a thing not merely readily understandable, but gripping like a novel, delightful like the ocean surf in its majestic power, colourful and beautiful like the rocks of the high cliffs, peaceable like the dove and merciful like the rains that dispel the deserved drought. ONE of the actions of God was to provide and then promote the resolution of the abuse of liberty, the liberty that begets love, if it will, and ruin, if it won't.
This, His historical action, was in line with His own heart and lovingkindness as shown in those profound words of Isaiah 63:14: "As the cattle will go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD will cause him to rest. So did you lead Your people, to make for Yourself a name of glory." This is based on the translation of that great scholar, Professor E. J. Young, found in The Book of Isaiah, Vol. III.
Such is what is found in the heart of the Lord, in His dealings in many historical volumes with the people of this race, now with this race or people or city or tribe, now with that. There comes the objective, there lies the provocation, and here comes the mercy ... and rest at last.
However, it was no simple series of outcomes of episodic mercy. There was a plan both beautiful and complete, composed and comprehensive, costly and outrageous in kindness, calamitous if neglected now even now (John 3:36, 8:24), at last, brimming with peace if accepted (Ephesians 2:17-22). It is greater even than the pardon shown to Israel in its calf-episode and all the folly that went with it; it has no bounds at all.
It is shown
early, in its negation,
in lament, for what might have been in Isaiah 48:16ff.:
"Come near to Me, hear this:
'I have not spoken in secret from the beginning;
From the time that it was, I was there.
And now the Lord God and His Spirit
Have sent Me.' "
Here we see the trinity in its glory, and the Word of God who speaks, sent on His divine mission of mercy, one which is traced in great detail in the following Chapters, 49-55, which embrace the Gospel of grace and show both its basis, prophetically, and the actions which are its firmament of discourse, centring on Isaiah 52-53. There, the wonder of God enduring shame in order to bring peace by sacrifice, Himself, and promoting, indeed publishing peace on this basis, is revealed. But first, consider the lament of the Lord as Israel turned from His vast mercies.
"Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
The Holy One of Israel:
'I am the Lord your God,
Who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you by the way you should go.
'Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants also would have been like the sand,
And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand;
His name would not have been cut off
Nor destroyed from before Me.
'Go forth from Babylon!
Flee from the Chaldeans!' "
The last two lines here refer to the fact, predicted by Isaiah 14, that in due time Israel would be invaded with consent of divine counsel, by Babylon, just as many former churches have been invaded to make of them mere synagogues of Satan, or something in that direction. There they would stay for a time (70 years, as Jeremiah predicted - Jeremiah 25), and then God would send a new King, Cyrus by name (Isaiah 44-45), who would allow them to return, as predicted. This all occurred. However, there was a patent danger, that now accommodating themselves to life in Babylon (as many do now to living in false churches - cf. II Peter 2), they would remain there BY CHOICE! Hence "Go forth from Babylon!", a message then as now in our new situation, many do not heed. However, some heeded it and rebuilt, as with Ezra and Nehemiah, and those who justly separate now (as in Romans 16:17ff., I Corinthians 4-5).
But let us return to the lament of the Lord preceding those last two lines.
Here is seen the yearning, the burning longing, the mobilisation in heaven for the deliverance of those who will believe on the earth (cf. Isaiah 53:1, Revelation 12), and the expression of the depth of the fall which now God is willing to cover. That last fact is seen in the coming Chapters, 49-55, to subsidise as to reconstruction, indeed cover completely for all who COME OUT of the realms of sins in its various forms, and TAKE IN the Lord.
These chapters of Isaiah show the Gospel forecast and its world-wide spread likewise, just as they show no less its (then coming) rejection by the nation of Israel! Here is one more case of the near-obsessive rejection which sin brings in its darkness, even when the light of truth is so bright as to seem glaring! This they did in the way predicted (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53), and they did it at the prescribed date for the death of the Messiah, given by Daniel some half a millenium before it happened, the Lord thus showing the majesty of His planning, and the promptitude and reliability of His performance (cf. Highway of Holiness Ch. 4).
As to this Gospel, as to this grace of God, as to this well-formulated mercy and highly personal action, there is nothing like it. In what way ? Why, in this: that God should in His illimitable purity and grace, love and kindness, even to those merely made in His image, contained in flesh, stoop to that level to redeem them. This He did in more than an episode, for it was in a LIFE starting as babe, shown in growth, exhibited in maturity, stripped of all dignity, exposed to mockery, displaying unlimited power, expressed in meekness, acting in dependence on His Father as man, this being seemly, moving with divine purpose in the Messiah as God to the Cross of Calvary for payment for sin. No more even this with some splendour, for it was accomplished in Him and through Him (II Cor. 5:17ff.) as hate paraded itself with a looting of truth by ironies unspeakable in contemptibility, yet spoken in history! Those lampoonings at the cross were a classic of unspeakable malice and malignancy, of the use of the human spirit to show its celestial moorings in thought, and infernal gallings in sin.
Here is the payment in pain adequate for all, death expressive of all, in mercy ample for all, in love undiscriminatory, but very discriminating, so that in entire liberty, man might come like those losing suddenly their mortgage on their own homes, here on their own lives through the indebtedness of sin. Here is the jubilee year, as shown in Isaiah 61's prediction, cited by Christ as Nazareth (Luke 4), where lands revert by sheer grace to the original owners. But this grace has place in meeting law, truth, and judgment! He became a curse that we might be free (Galatians 3), and like Israel of old, delivered from slavery to a binding of blinding sin, and so lifted to the heavenly places of KNOWING GOD! (Ephesians 1:3-4, Colossians 1:13).
It is this, but it is far more. Further, He has foreknown His own (II Timothy 2:19, Romans 8:29ff.), and while seeking all, yet knows these who are His, with a security of eternity, being beyond time and able to inspect its dealings and His healings in advance, as a novelist His own work, but with this additive: that He as God can penetrate all mysteries, so that all is manifest before Him (Hebrews 4:12-13). Hence none is lost, and love's only restraint is its own purity, which will NOT stoop to shock tactics, like an invading army; for that is not love's way, never has been or would be. In this way, those defamed by man may be received by God (Matthew 5:1-11), and the lying heart of bedevilled man is unable to reach to the sanctity of heaven, though fain would the devil have it so, who himself was cast out of it, a prime pride his weapon and ground of spiritual decease, whose diseases are manifest but still popular with man, like the calf of Aaron (cf. Revelation 12).
What then is this charge against the good Lord, against God Almighty, that in some way He has not done well ? Liberty MEANS capacity for evil, and evil is there; but HE intervenes at will, makes all things plain for and before all eternity, teaches principalities and powers in heaven and man alike, not by words only, but by deeds, not by episodes only but by plan, not by predictions verifiable in multitudes only, but by conditions of life and revitalised, even regenerated life, and by His own life as man on earth.
So is God blessed forever, innocent of evil, but willing to bear it, bringing in death as is the nature of sin to purity, which alone has peace, mercifully conferring His own life both for and to those who have loved His appearing (II Corinthians 5:17-21, II Timothy 4:8), for they become thus His children. Thus, bringing life eternal to those who receive Him, not as they think He is, in their bewilderment, bedazzlement or bedevilment, but as He is, the Lord of glory, God manifest in the flesh, the I AM of the Exodus, the Creator of heaven, earth and of man loves to the uttermost.
On this see:
Highway of Holiness esp. Chs. 3-4, 7-9, esp Ch. 8,
Outrageous Outages Ch. 1,
The Pitter-Patter ... Ch. 1 with Highway of Holiness Ch. 10
(comprehensive outline Babylon, Rome and Daniel-Europe ),
Biblical Blessings Ch. 2, and Ch. 1, cf. Deity and Design ... Ch. 2 as marked.