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THE NAKED AND THE LIVING
THE EXPOSITION OF EXPOSURE OF MAN
Naked of meaning, stranded in exposure, uncovered in comprehension, twenty first century man without God, bare or clad with merely imaginary robes the more to confuse his delirium, has little ground for comfort. The situation, violated and vulnerable, is like that of a ship, unable to stop, ungovernable, moving by momentum to an assured collision, naked of hope, clad with confusion, windswept with woes, soon to be exposed still further, as the very inward parts spill into the sea after the coming impact.
How must Israel have felt when, fallen kings of the earth earthy, with occasional reversions to righteousness in a long line of history, eventually oversaw the destruction of Jerusalem and the looting and eviction of the people, many sent to Babylon!
How does this present world feel, with fallen dictators and empires littering the earth, and new forms of assemblage and pretension, unhallowed and hollow, seeking to direct it, as it faces its own Babylon of endless sects, fallen hierarchical substitutes for the ONE MASTER, Christ, such as Rome, Moscow in USSR days, the religion of Mecca, with its violent beginning and lusts at the end on the part of destroyers infecting it like AID. Powers uncontrolled are available for little money to destroy, lurid imaginations uncovering endless lusts, and the predicted confrontation with Christ come ever nearer, as in sullen vainglory, this world continues its last spree! It feels exalted and abased, filled with useless hope and hopeless in endless betrayals.
In the case of Israel, there was an end that beckoned past the ruin, and eventually led to the rebuilding under Ezra and Nehemiah, after the predicted 70 years exile (as per Jeremiah 25). Its courage and perseverance, its prophets and its triumphs are recorded in those next-door neighbour books. Its solace was not BY action but with it; for God had already given His word of comfort.
"Comfort, yes comfort My people, says your God.
Speak comfort to Jerusalem and cry to her
that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned!"
Always from the time of Isaiah, this flash to the future, not only of coming destruction but rebuilding and restoration, was there (cf. Isaiah 13-14).
In Isaiah 40, it turns like the flashing wing of a turning aircraft, swiftly to the eternal rebuilding in Christ.
But what is the pith of this word 'comfort' ? In Harris, Archer and Waitke's "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament", the Hebrew term here is considered in some detail.
It is traced to the concept of a deep drawing of breath, as in a sigh, is parallel to the term closely related in its lettering, for compassion, as in Hosea 11:8, which is warm and tender, is used in the solace to relatives at a funeral, bespeaks sorrow and concern, sympathy and involvement, is found in a related form as repentance, but here indicates a deep, emotional, heartfelt comforting. Here then sorrow and empathetic awareness, for concern and solace are all blended. "How can I give you up Ephraim!" is to be seen in Hosea 11:8, followed by this, "My compassion is stirred."
In Hosea 11-14 there is a movement of divine desire, reflection on tender past provisions for Israel, expression of hope, a warm and stirred consideration with kindness, undeflected by judgment, but not avoiding it. In the end (13:14), amidst constant betrayal on the part of a falling Israel, God delivers His divine determination to PAY for the sins HIMSELF, to COVER death with life and to extradite the penitent (as in Hosea 14) with a ransom to be realised in Himself. This is seen in Isaiah 52-53 as paid in the coin of the coming of the Messiah, God in human flesh, sent for this purpose (Isaiah 48:16), from His trinitarian splendour.
Meanwhile, in Isaiah 40, we hear the cry, COMFORT, yes COMFORT My people! It moves on from the contemporary restoration to the eventual ground for ANY restoration, and exposes to the amazed eye of the reader, the call to tell Judah that HE is indeed coming, will take up lambs in His arms, while those who see must cry, BEHOLD YOUR GOD! In Isaiah 42, 49, 50-55 as we have seen, the details of His coming are revealed in various aspects, including the battering of His flesh, when He comes, in stark madness on the part of naked man, uncovered and seeking to uncover even God in his wild frenzy of hatred, self-will and passion.
A COVER FOR SPIRITUAL NAKEDNESS
The same undeterrable, inexorable passion in the heart of God is seen as in Hosea, where despite all this, God having issued His resolve, does it to the end. WHO HAS BELIEVED ? asks Isaiah 53:1. Nevertheless, those who receive Him as a sacrifice for sin, and hence have laid their sins on Him (53:4-10 cf. The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch. 9, Titus 2-3, John 6), become part of His family, their nakedness is covered (Isaiah 61:10), their harassment is soothed, their exile is ended, not merely in the case of Israelites, from their land, but from their Lord!
In the process of this redemption, now personal, there is the restoration of cover, so that nakedness no longer appears, as if man were exposed to any force, tragedy, circumstance or event without meaning, method or point (cf. Psalm 1, where to the wicked, the eventuations are compared to those for chaff blown by the wind, but where the way of those received in the Lord is known to Him!).
In Nahum 3, we see the concept of nakedness as an expression of improper exposure of the spirit to the universe and its ways, unkept and unkempt before God:
" 'Behold, I am against you,' says the Lord of hosts;
'I will lift your skirts over your face,
I will show the nations your nakedness,
And the kingdoms your shame.
I will cast abominable filth upon you,
Make you vile,
And make you a spectacle.
" 'It shall come to pass that all who look upon you
Will flee from you, and say,
"Nineveh is laid waste!
Who will bemoan her?"
" 'Where shall I seek comforters for you?' "
How wonderful then that this unseemly spiritual nakedness, this perilous lack of cover and comprehension, for conduct and for life, is met for the believers within Israel! (Isaiah 61:10) ...
"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."
Sin was covered with blood, signifying life poured out in sacrificial cover for justice, to meet it and to pay for it (Isaiah 53, Leviticus 17:11). Hearts were covered with grace, to enable life in the Lord, and all was covered with humility, as when even the angels had their feet covered (Isaiah 6), for to this one among mankind does the Lord look, the person who is "poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Isaiah 66:2).
Comfort comes with the divine compassion, action, redemption, cover, concern and commitment to His believing people, and with comfort comes action and with action strength as in Isaiah 40:
"The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
"Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint."
It is thus a matter of the REMOVAL of the sin which merely coats the exposed flesh, the RESTORATION of relationship with God by His redemption, the ENABLEMENT of His work by His power and the COVER of His people by His presence, concern and sympathy, consideration of need and provision of all that is required for company, companionship and conduct in His paths, together with Him.
DISCOVERING THE NAKEDNESS OF MODERN SECULAR MAN,
AND HIS SPIRITUAL PARALLELS
Modern man however is just as painfully oblivious of his state as was the secular or spiritually alien man in Israel of old.
What does he so often declare ? This, that it is a matter of chance or program. These conceptual teeth meet with nothing between them, when it comes to the will and the ways of man.
He is personal. Programs, some more automatic than others, provide a PLATFORM, while unplanned events (so far as HE is concerned) try him out, but it is man himself who seeks to resolve in himself both purpose and response.
To be sure, man is no criterion, nor however is he starkly inconsequential, nor simply subordinate to creation, to the world, to the universe, to society, to culture or any other created thing. To God, institutor of programs and persons alike, he is subordinate (man proposes, God disposes...); but his Creator has provided for this particular creation called man, a power to think, or if he so misuses it, to dissemble before the truth, to re-assemble, to plan, hypothesise, imagine - other worlds if need be - cranky objects of worship, such as himself, the rest of creation (naturalism) or some part (idolatry more specialised).
This both provides for his freedom, as creation, and mocks it, as perversion of created liberties; and it is a self-appointed mockery. It makes for emptiness, is sonorous since its base is by then hollow. Chance creates nothing, but is the mere name for system without purpose over it; and what the system IS is what it can DO. A system has to be created first however, with its laws and limits, its identifiable components and its conceptual bounds. That in itself is purpose implicit. What man so often deplores, while covering this sadness frequently in seeming cynicism, is the lack of purpose over the roof of his dwelling, controlling the universe, making it more comfortable; while what he insufferably seeks, is his own control of it, his own glory in it and his ownership of it.
Thus his deprivation coming from misused liberty becomes his frustration from exposure, not to a purposeless universe, but to one in which the purposes of its Creator are ignored, and hence come as accidents and collisions, as would happen for anyone crossing a perfectly well-planned highway with his eyes shut. It is not an absence of purpose but of sight, which is the question; and at that, not an absence of eyes, but of their opening which is the trouble and problem, as Christ exposed (Matthew 13:14-15). Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes, He declared,
"they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them."
In the field of that sickly and anemic theory of evolutionism, man has increasingly been unwilling to test his ideas, whether in the USA, in England or in South Australia (cf. That Magnificent Rock Chs. 1, 8). Exposed in their lifeless disorder and profusion of confusion (cf. Wake Up World! ... Ch. 6), they expose the lusts of man, ignoring the realities (op. cit. Ch. 16), as he freely puts himself in the dump truck of demolition, as if death were his heart's desire, inventing problems that are solved, and causing problems for which there is no solution. These ? they are of one kind only, those which are the friends of faithlessness, where remedy is despised and death is the intimate friend.
Program, as we noted, needs the command to institute (cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 7), and the purpose. Areas inaccessible to human purpose (foolishly propounded as 'chance' but in fact a divine reminder that man is no sovereign, though his thought is free, except for the chains of his own making), need the contrivance to institute them and to make them correlative to, but not controllable by man; and the spirit of man, his personal liberty, in principle requires above all, what is above all even to let him think about it, including his decision, whether or not, or how to think about our present topic. Were he merely a casual receptor-reactor, his imagination would have no truth to reach, since there would be none, so that all his theories would be divorced from truth from the start, despite his clamours that they are true.
Turning to what is valid, then, we find that truth must be both there and known, beyond man, for man to have any hope of declaring it. On this model, it is not.
SEEKING CLOTHES TO WEAR
Man's inveterate hankering to have 'the truth' - whether the 'truth' that there is no truth, that no one knows the truth, that he himself does/does not know it, or that there is objective truth, would be simply insane if it were not for the equally simple fact that the Creator, being man's source, truth is his option, provided the Creator makes Himself available to man's mind and spirit. In fact, as shown in SMR, He has done this, and this makes it quite non-insane of man to seek to speak the truth about the nature of things, himself, life, origins and destinies. It is merely an arbitrary wilfulness however which has him make models which deny the ONLY possibility of knowing truth, while affirming it. It is a symbol and symptom, both, of sickness. This is merely one of the many antilogisms in which man so readily involves himself, being unable, having contradicted God, to fail to contradict himself! (cf. SMR Ch. 3, Predestination and Freewill).
It is to this that the Bible speaks, reproving him for such avid and arid contortions (I Corinthians 1:18ff.):
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.'
"Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age?
"Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
As Hosea 4:1-6 puts it:
"Hear the word of the Lord,
You children of Israel,
For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:
'There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint,
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.
'Therefore the land will mourn;
And everyone who dwells there will waste away
With the beasts of the field
And the birds of the air;
Even the fish of the sea will be taken away.
'Now let no man contend, or rebuke another;
For your people are like those who contend with the priest.
Therefore you shall stumble in the day;
The prophet also shall stumble with you in the night;
And I will destroy your mother.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.' "
In other words, God missing, truth is missing; wisdom without God present, folly without truth is the imaginary reality, the false guide and the profound delusion. As it has been, so it is; and as it was to be, so it continues. God has said, and men scurry as if to obey the blight; but it is not ordained that any man should do this, merely foretold that this is the manner of what is to be for the uncontrite, those who hallow their own name, or race, and leave fallow the rich nutrients of truth, the word of the God who made us. Without handbook, by failure to read it, they become like illiterati, imagining themselves glitterati: spiritually illiterate, while glamorising the car without steering, which careers with a mindless speed, as if motion were notion, and action were direction.
From early times, God satisfied the knowledge of God by revealing it, since you cannot FORCE God to reveal Himself, though His works declare His power and knowledge. There is simply nowhere else to go: on the one hand, man's mind readily makes it clear who God is, and on the other, God's mind makes who He is apparent, His design with design, His purposes with flesh, His will for the world, His provisions for man, His values and His opportunities.
As the Psalmist is moved to write it (Psalm 94), the case continues to stand:
"They utter speech, and speak insolent things;
All the workers of iniquity boast in themselves."
That is, they imagine that
they can realise reality without its sponsor and creator for all of
creation. Yet this hope is vain. Non-gods are they, who seeking the
perquisites of God, fail to find them, since they do not uncover
themselves automatically; and where they point, these refuse to go (cf.
Let us continue with this Psalm.
"They break in pieces Your people, O Lord,
And afflict Your heritage.
They slay the widow and the stranger,
And murder the fatherless.
"Yet they say, 'The Lord does not see,
Nor does the God of Jacob understand.'
Understand, you senseless among the people;
And you fools, when will you be wise?
He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?
He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct,
He who teaches man knowledge?
The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are futile.
"Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord,
And teach out of Your law,
That You may give him rest from the days of adversity,
Until the pit is dug for the wicked.
For the Lord will not cast off His people,
Nor will He forsake His inheritance.
But judgment will return to righteousness,
And all the upright in heart will follow it."
No, then, man is not insane but merely deluded, showing by incorrigible instincts such as this one, to declare the truth about things, his origin rather than his madness. It is voluntary and the more vicious for that; and there is none who suffers more than he for this advanced ignorance, this debased sophistication, this unwilling waywardness, this crankiness of spirit and this headiness of posture.
If then he denies truth as available in his modelling, this truth is no less the exercise of an option as meaningless without an objective and available truth, as is any other comparable exercise of the liberty option within him.
Even if he should say, "I personally do not know the truth," he is advising us of something he could not objectively know unless absolute truth were bother there and available. For unless it is available, its being there does not provide it! How can you determine your relationship to something which is not there ? It is a meaningless proposition. If it is not there FOR a relationship, the postulation of positive or negative relationship to it is speech in the void.
There is no end to the futilities of speech and thought, the hassling antilogisms, when man denies God, available and knowable. Indeed, unless He is KNOWN, the truth is still absent. You could say, I think that is the truth, but I do not read it or study it! Yet if you do not for that reason know it, how are you helped in this impasse ? You might even declare, I have an idea of what it is, but do not care to study it! Yet this 'idea' may be true or false, and since God is personal, as with all other persons but far more so, voluntary failure to know the person is an excision of reality which makes acquaintance so superficial that the voids which led to the unwillingness are perfectly certain to distort the perception.
As always, there is only one way to know the truth, and that is actually to know God, His word the propositional clarity, His presence the light that makes the writing clear, the pith pointed, the power available and the precision perfect. Word and light blend as in a stained glass window, brilliant for what it is, and by what meets it. What then of the man who seeks to avoid contact ?
Therefore to such a man, one needs to cry, You do not know the truth, do not care to find it, yet act in terms of it ? You are lost. If you do not know it, then SEEK IT! If he says, 'yes,' then as in SMR Chs. 1, 3 , he is in principle able to find it (Jeremiah 29:12-13), though until repentance becomes part of the entry path for him, it is still impractical; for God being personal, and so too man, there is more than mere desire to entry! It is reconciliation that is required, which Christ having paid for, is free, but it is costly to the pride of man. Pride is not a logical problem of course, but it has logical consequences here!
If however the man says, 'No, for it is not there!' as man so often does, double-crossing his own thoughts, and stampeding when drawing near, in the opposite direction, then again, he acts in that superbly though gravely comic fashion of using what he states is not there, in order to state it.
AS TO GOD, COMFORT IS NOT TO BE FOUND IN ABSENTIA
Our comfort, our strength, is not to be found, our resource is not to be realised, except in our origin, in God, our builder, who has given us even the power to think (cf. Christ, the Wisdom and the Power of God Ch. 7) which, without Him, is stultified and either fluttering in futility or armed with arrogance, masquerading with vanity. His parameters for and meaning granted to thought are not merely correlative to its valid exercise, but requisite, as road maps for cars, and specifications for spare parts. All fits and works only in unison, the Maker and the made, the liberty of love and the comfort of being loved. When this is followed, all things follow (cf. SMR Ch. 5), and when it is denied, only confusion is available, glistening with the afterbirth of misconception.
Endless researches display but the end of a beginning aborted, and man becomes negatived on all sides, as he seeks for what is not there, whether in Mars, or in fossil records (cf. Wake Up World! Ch. 6, SMR Ch. 2), or in information sources for creation (cf.SMR pp. 252Hff.), or in social solutions, or in the realm of peace, in meaning (SMR Ch. 3) or in point, in validity (TMR Ch. 5), in priorities or in principles: omitting the basis of all things by a spiritually miscegenated 'faith', in this his latest century, this much-modelling and flitting man is finding no base for hope, and with this and the expense of endless negatives, a frustration which merely exacerbates arrogance and devastates hope. Wildness grows with this demeaning failure, and violence with that.
On the other side, peace is available precisely where it always has been available, where God is not groomed by man's imagination to become a verbal expression of his desire, the current whirl of religious froth, but taken as He is, as He has from the outset revealed Himself to be, with the redemption needed for man's sin - now so contorted and convoluted that a special reinforcement is needed not to see it - operative and received.
Comfort ? It is uncomfortable to stare a lie in the face and embrace it; but the unspeakable comfort lies in truth, because not only is one being realistic, but valid, and not only valid, but borne into a birth which is at once restoration and relief, the coming to be in the proper form from the creation (Colossians 3:10). There is the covering from manís nakedness, the clothing with the form and fashion that faith brings. It makes man better than at his beginning in this, that his destiny is part of the new covering, which not merely gives meaning and the light on his path, but the message of eternity, with light in his heart (John 3:16, I John 1:1-4, 5:11-12).
It is not super-men but actual men who are needed; not a super-race but a spiritual one (I Peter 2:9) which is the desideratum. It is found not by contrivance but by contrition, and not by philosophy's futile rovings and ravings, but from God's own mouth; and from there, is comfort indeed, for all our tendernesses are from this source, where mercy and truth have met together, where righteousness and peace have kissed (Psalm 85).