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BEYOND THE CURSE
Creation and Curse: Wonder and Woe
Bewilderment and Blessing
The Curse Could Not Be Worse as an Instructor in
Except its Pangs
The fact is that it is not usual, nowadays, to think in terms of creation. However absurd the contrary is, it is propagandised into place and logic is assigned to the niceties no longer in vogue. Sometimes, as if by afterthought, this is shamefacedly done with some attempt to use logic while it is dispensed with, thus exposing the petty follies of self-contradiction, by which alone creation may be avoided. Then the mind of man is sacrificed to his lust!
All this has been shown in great length, both in The Shadow of a Mighty Rock (SMR) and in That Magnificent Rock (TMR). Today, our task is a little different. To be sure, we have already dwelt on the spectacular folly of
That folly, curse-worship, incidentally, is rather like that of a bad student who, being caned, then follows the judicial practice and oppresses younger students without justice and without cause! THAT! It is merely a total moral depravity deserving condign punishment, or ready repentance. But let us return to the curse and the proclivity of many to worship it, whether in terms of survival of the fittest, that delusive substitute for thought about creation as we have often enough shown (cf. That Magnificent Rock Chs.1,7), or self-fulfilment or other irrational and delusive egotisms.
It is time to think. Since the Creator created with spiritual creativity, and made that passing parade of programs and series called matter, made likewise the instinctive marvels called fauna, and the expressive membranes called flora, alert with beauty, filled with wonder; and then made man, discerning - or better, capable of discernment; logical - or better, able to be logical; spiritual - or rather with potential for spirituality, with facility for worship, in folly or truth: then it is pure and simple madness to limit Him with the petty thoughts of creatures. HE is the Creator of all.
As to God: His power to create power is unlimited; His power to express Himself in each and several of these modes separately, or jointly, is as it were, child's play. I do not mean that it is superficial, but it is like waves that roll - a matter of exercising what He has. NOTHING is, as a matter of fact, too hard for the Lord (cf. SMR Chs.1, 10.).
We make our vineyards, our
beautiful gardens, our complex machinery, and talk with our superb oratory - or
some might think so: but when it comes to the Lord, we often tend to act as if
He were somehow a poor midget in marvels. The opposite is the case. WE are
minors; HIS is magnificence that MADE ALL we have in equipment.
The Curse is that of the Creator, who is Almighty: Its Scope is Sovereign and Majestic
WHEN therefore man sinned, what would you expect? Some tap on the wrist, some tut-tut; WHEN man crossed swords with God, would you expect the blade of the Almighty to break! WHEN His prized fellow, man, infinitely less but capable of talking with the Eternal God, fell into lust and lively appetite for the forbidden, for, in fact, a place in a seat akin to that of God who made him (Genesis 3:5-6), would you imagine that the universe would continue as if ITS Creator were some sort of mist or misfit? What opened the eyes of the first sinners was SPIRITUAL LUST no less than rebellious disobedience. The one followed the other as the waves the shoreline.
What then WOULD YOU EXPECT when man sinned? A nothing? On the contrary, you would expect something like the divorce of a princess (and we all know what THAT can mean!); but on an INFINITELY greater scale, since one of the parties is infinitely greater than we are.
THEREFORE, when we read that "THE CREATION WAS SUBJECTED TO VANITY, NOT WILLINGLY, BUT BY REASON OF HIM WHO SUBJECTED IT IN HOPE" , in Romans 8:20, it is as if a missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle is suddenly found and in place. SINCE man chose to strive, to seek ambitiously, to enjoy and seduce his own spirit into some sort of imaginative folly that seditiously sequestered the facts and subjected them to empty thought, and this at the first: SO God made the whole environment a mocking image of this mannish fellow, this hard-to-heat maestro. HE SUBJECTED IT, just as man had succeeding in subjecting himself - TO VANITY. THIS is what the word of God says in Romans (cf. Genesis 3:17ff., and subjected the very mode of man's birth to danger and pain).
NOT ONLY SO, it says much more. In the following verses in Romans, we learn that
a) this EMPTINESS includes a further dimension, namely "BONDAGE OF CORRUPTION" (). That is, the universe and the earth in particular, and man in his unredeemed state, can run down and die, and writhe and be in anguish, and find the emptiness oppressive, the vaunting, the competitive harshness, the brashness, the exploitation of power, indeed what Habakkuk calls, the fishing for men with nets.
Habakkuk? He WAS distressed as you read in Habakkuk 1. It is as if men fish for men with nets of violence, oppression, exploitation, he seems to protest. "Why," the prophet exclaims, "do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous, therefore perverse judgment proceeds."
God replies that He is going to work a wonder, and here we see in its overall Biblical context the coming of grace in the face of the Messiah (Habakkuk3:13 and surrounds). Meanwhile, WAIT! "The vision is yet for an appointed time!," (2:3), and "though it tarries, wait for it" (cf. II Peter 3:9).
"Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith" (2:4). WHATEVER the case now, he hopes and waits and expects and trusts in the depth of God whose plan has its own programs, ways and phases. Indeed: "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" - . The God of justice tests, but in the God of all mercy there are results. Judge nothing before the time; and in the meantime, do not imagine yourself HIS superior, for that is simple madness of effect without cause, and folly with self-applause!
b)This BONDAGE OF CORRUPTION, then, is found in men and it is found in the whole creation. GOD HAS ACTED TO SUBJECT, it says. His mimicry of man, or if you like, His rebuke to man includes one startling but just element. SINCE that is how man wants it, THAT is how it will be. Since man fell, man will be immersed, though not inescapably, in the fallen. Since he preferred iniquity, he will see it, but not without scope to act uprightly and seek the Lord in his distresses. As there is a way IN to the curse, from the commencement, so there is a way OUT. To WORSHIP THE CURSE however is no part of wisdom. It merely shows the settled character of sin, that man prefers it and will NOT revoke it, in repentance and the following of what is righteous.
Where then are we initially? Since strife and ambition derailing righteousness and truth is mankind's pandemic desire, then IN violence and strife let him be immersed. GOD CURSED THE EARTH, we read in Genesis 3, and this is NO MEAN MATTER. If a conductor cursed an orchestra, or a painter his palette, that would have - shall we say - a very significant effect.
When however God Almighty, maker of man and mind and matter and spirit and beauty and terrestrial magnificence and space and time, CURSES the earth, the atomic bomb is merely a symptom. Thus the whole writhing morass of disillusioned distancing from wonder, of dismal, dulled or brittle dis-enchantment, of the distancing of delight in drabness or superficial outcomes and outlooks, comes on to the scene. Nowhere does it create advances in design (cf. SMR Ch.1), however designing may be the advances of man, corrupting himself, his environment, his mind and his future even while he glories in his delusively imagined omni-competence.
Man's imagined "majesty" ("You shall be as gods" was the advertising line swallowed from the hook of the devil, as shown in Genesis), thus became a glory in the dust. Because of flaunting and vaunting, man's real strength and wonder became cursed to the ground, and he was caused far more closely to inhabit and watch the ground. NATURE trembled into conformity. Many thereupon decided to worship the ground or its trembling, calling it evolution, properly evolutionism! Romans 1 - cf. Jeremiah 2:27-37, -13, Amos 4:6-12 - ends with some account of earlier approaches to the same end!
In reality, the Creator has the earth, the spatial platform with its fauna and flora as subjectible before Him, as to us is a toy. Indeed, it is like an essay, easily revised. He has decided to remove the panoply of protection. Now came a somewhat UNCOVERED situation, where earthquake and famine, where disease and epidemic, where fever and folly, where subtle stratagems and merciless seeming artifices could be found. Just as in man in folly, so in Nature in subjection it came (cf. Isaiah 24:3-6 *1, Amos 4), it descended. YET ... that is not all. It is little more than the introduction.
c) It was "SUBJECTED
IN HOPE", we
further read in our context in Romans 8. Mischief was done, and might was the
response; yet WONDER remained, and far mightier yet was the remedy to this
despising of man's flaunting and vaunting and vaulting and vice. "YOU WENT
FORTH FOR THE SALVATION OF YOUR PEOPLE, FOR SALVATION WITH YOUR ANOINTED",
says Habakkuk. II Thessalonians 2 gives more of this good measure. Isaiah 52-53
provides the answer: EMPTY man would find his FORM filled with the glory of
God, and (Isaiah 9, Psalm 45,72), the most High would Himself come (Psalm 102,
Ezekiel 34, Micah 5:1-3, Isaiah 48:16, Zechariah 3:9, 2:8) to man's place, to
give him new face and place and grace. (Please excuse the assonance, but in the
presence of the asinine, assonance can be a repetitive reminder.) Nature is
filled with the curse, so let words echo the grace.
The Anti-Curse: The Yet More Prodigious Act of Majesty: in LOVE
Therefore God emptied Himself of magnificent glory of FORM in order to assume the FORM of a man (Philippians 2). Not the fact, but the form, it is stated, is what was emptied: just as we distinguish between the embryonic and mature forms of man, but each is our kind, so God took the form of vulnerability, where the curse could impact, where the vice could afflict, and ascended visibly in the midst of lowness, to the heights. Thus He showed that EVEN HERE, and EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THIS EMPTINESS, He could remain full of grace and truth (John Chs.1;7), saying, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58); and, redeeming by His death, could and did follow a plan in which the very vice and ambition of man would be forced to co-operate in the provision of the sacrifice without which no justice would rule, but in which pardon might be found.
HE would be BETRAYED visibly by this, as before invisibly in Eden, inside the heart of man. NOW the vice and folly would be exposed in the impact on His awe-inspiring majesty, made available to teach and to help, in love, on the valueless, empty strategy of self-fulfilment and lying self-aggrandisement, of man. THEY KILLED that form which He took. HE THUS EXPOSED THEM as in a laboratory experiment. You LOVE yourselves do you? Then LOOK at what you do! even to HIM who helps you!
No wonder this, that if the princes of this world had understood the benevolent death to EMPTINESS with all its striving, vice and sin, to be what Christ was accomplishing, using the judgment of man to void the judgment for as many as received Him, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory (I Corinthians 2:7-8). They however, being empty too, did just that. God however arose, as is natural, for as Peter says, "Death could not hold Him!" He took His form and with the Creator's ease, though not without the travail of suffering the judgment, He arose. The body broke death, just as the body endured it.
Accordingly, in His plan,
now the emptiness is numbered, and its days are measured; so that the creation
is indeed subjected IN HOPE. The irony will go; the beauty, still present in
many dimensions, will be once more total. Holiness will cease to be merely the
matter of millions who love the Lord, and will then be seen where it always is,
proceeding from God and in the very atmosphere and tenor of all things; for the
garbage will be gone. As He came, He will come again, this time without sin
(endured in penalty bearing for those who come in faith to Him as Lord and
Saviour), to that manifesting of salvation in which the very bodies of His
redeemed will show, as His showed the sin of man, so in this case, the glory of
The Residues of Wonder that Remain, Before Redemption is Realised
Even now in Nature, as Paley was at pains to show, and many more show, such as vast and elaborate Canadian volumes on Nature and its Lessons - Character Sketches, Vols.1 &2, dealing with hundreds of cases: there is courage, and caring, and love and tenderness and beauty and wonder and many excellent characteristics appear. Yes, this is found IN NATURE! It is MANY-SIDED, even now preserving much of its pre-curse nurture.
Thus still to be found are the mother's solicitude, the father's self-sacrifice, the wonders of programs as in ants, the marvels of co-operation as in bees, the exuberances of distance flights with precision by birds innumerable, the love and faithfulness of the dog, the modesty of the young deer, the magnificence of floral beauty and the intricacies of its designs which display the glory of God and far surpass the requirements of nature - as do our own brains, for what in Nature can demand understanding ...far less create it! Indeed, man's soul is so advanced that it even allows systematic (and perhaps proud) MIS-understanding which may well contribute to the removal of this globe, which is after all rather useful to live on.
Nature is what ? It is
wonder, cursed; it is exuberance, pressed with emptiness; it looks for the
scrap-heap yet came from the artist. It is what it is - and this is precisely
what the Bible depicts. "The earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits
for the revealing of the sons of God" (8:19). The rocket is still base-bound in much; but
the count-down is proceeding. It is all planned; indeed before the first the
last was known (Acts 15:18, 145:3-13, Ephesians 1:4).
What Nature Mirrors includes Sin's Image: But God Requires Repentance
The shocking little devices some creatures use on others, in nature, how does it compare in human 'nature' or better, human sin: to the oppressive use of power on the part of some rich entrepreneur, who lowers prices long enough to crush opposition, competition, and then raises them when the competition is nil, through the collapse of the competitor in poverty. Perhaps then our 'hero' is found buying up cheap, the remainder of what once competed, in order to enhance wealth!
Is not emptiness on display, to revolt the sensitive and to bring groans to the just (cf. Romans 8:23)! So God mocks the folly of man and surrounds him with it (cf. Psalm 2:4ff., 50:17-22).
"You thought I was altogether such as you!" He derides.
"But I will rebuke you and set them in order before your eyes." He then brings on the prospect of judgment. This, in the end, will no more be a mere emptiness VISITED on the creation
That opportunity will pass and soon be over. Judgment according to truth will become acridly accurate, final and complete. Fulfilled will be the paralleling in environment of the emptiness of man while preserving much of its grandeur to remind man of His glory who made it, and of the HOPE each person on earth still has to return to it (Romans 1:18-28).
The current environmental limitations on the curse, including its use to illustrate the qualities of man, this kindly opportunity for an awakening to himself will merge into a horizon, filled with storms. These will strike like aircraft: the day of the spiritual Pearl Harbour is coming.
Too late then the ignoring of God's object lessons in 'Nature', where sloth, industry, folly, disregard are all shown, together with virtue, care, concern, sacrifice and co-operation. A grand palette is there now from the great Artist, illustrating to the blinded eyes of the race of mankind, plus and minus, with no small smudge of the curse amidst the delights of superabundant beauty and grandeur. The teaching however is not for ever. No, in the end, judgment is the correlate of sin unrepented of: as the second is chronic, so the first is eternal (Mark 9:42-50, Daniel 12:2).
As in the one case, man will not even receive the free gift of God, accomplished in agony, so in the other will come the very mirror of reality: judgment being according to truth. But if ever mercy and tenderness and solicitude were known or shown, here and now it is.
Those who forsake it,
forsake their own mercy (Jeremiah 2:13,19, 8:7-9, Jonah 2:8). They also forsake
justice, for they still align themselves with rebellion, insisting on their own
plan, program and their own following of emptiness; for without God, NOTHING is
possible to polluted man, except more pollution. ALL his works are then
polluted by the pride or rebellion or unrealism of self-exaltation against the
Almighty. And HE? HE has HUMBLED Himself, though without sin, for those who are
sinners. What then can one expect of sinners who will NOT EVEN humble
themselves to receive pardon, and that accomplished in ignominy on their
The HOLY HOPE that ENLIVENS LIFE, IN THE LORD
Without God, emptiness! Man is GIVEN UP to such things, Paul says (Romans 1:20-25, Ephesians 4:18-19), just indeed as we see the creation is SUBJECTED TO EMPTINESS. But each is subjected IN HOPE.
"FOR THE CREATION ITSELF ALSO WILL BE DELIVERED FROM THE BONDAGE OF CORRUPTION INTO THE GLORIOUS LIBERTY OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD. FOR WE KNOW THAT THE WHOLE CREATION GROANS AND LABOURS WITH BIRTH PANGS TOGETHER UNTIL NOW... WE ALSO WHO HAVE THE FIRSFRUITS OF THE SPRIIT, EVEN WE OURSELVES GROAN WITHIN OURSELVES EAGERLY WAITNG FOR THE ADOPTION, THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODY. FOR WE WERE SAVED IN THIS HOPE, BUT HOPE THAT IS SEEN IS NOT HOPE, FOR WHY DOES ONE STILL HOPE FOR WHAT HE SEES? BUT IF WE HOPE FOR WHAT WE DO NOT SEE, WE EAGERLY WAIT FOR IT WITH PERSEVERANCE" - Romans 8:22-25.
It is indeed in this
context that Paul at once proceeds to develop an understanding for his readers
of the deep nature of prayer.
BEYOND THE CURSE
In this way, we come to Revelation 22:3-4, in heaven itself, where the brilliance of the beauty of the Lord is shown freely, for "there shall be no more curse", and "they shall see His face"; and accordingly, "there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (21;4). In a little, as this day comes, we see the millenium in its righteous thrust in the earth (Revelation 20, Isaiah 65:17-25).
Then all His, in all things
and in all ways, are beyond the curse. Neither environment nor spirit, irony
nor illustration remain. It is gone, and gone altogether.
The BENIGNANT ISSUE OF THE MATTER
The issue of the matter, as Paul puts it? The prodigious character, from OUR perspective, of the subjection of the whole creation to emptiness is merely an item on the divine agenda. That is not to say it was a careless use of power; on the contrary, it objectified the spiritual realities of the rebellion of man, and in turn this would lead on, as the Lord knew (Revelation 14:3, Ephesians 1:4, Galatians 4:4-6, 3:10-13) to HIS
coming to take the OBJECTIVE GUILT and OBJECTIVE PENALTY of man. It would lead, as He showed in His prophecies so numerous (SMR Chs.8-9), to His being crushed by its burden, since death follows sin more surely than night follows day, for it is ensured by Him who made both and is beyond each (Romans 6:23).
It led likewise to His resurrection, for how will you be raised if you are not first dead (Romans 1:1-4, Luke 24:39), and to God, even death is subject (Acts 2:23-24); yes, and impotent before His splendid innocence, even when in the vulnerable form of a man; for He, even when subject to such a self-imposed limitation of form, was still sublimely free (John 8:29, I Peter 2;23-24, Hebrews 2;14-16)..
Thus exposed is the POWER of God always superb and adequate; and obviously is and must be one of the chief criteria of FAITH in Him (Romans 10:9), in the place of that inward emptiness, vanity or that super-emptiness, man without God: one's mere foolish, striving self. This would set itself up as its own splendour and its own hope, or else its own spectacle, its own determinant - this which neither chooses its birth or its death! But such is the emptiness of man, that many attempt so to do, careering to the heights of folly; and only by the grace of God do any find Him.
Yet if a man seek with all the heart, SURELY he will find Him (Jeremiah 2:34, 17:10. 29:13). God has all things in control, and would have all men to be saved; but surely, few come, and these in the wonders of His foreknowledge, are His (Romans 8:29ff.). Without superiority they come in contrition to Him; for a humble and a contrite heart HE will not despise. As mere RECIPIENTS of grace they come (Ephesians 2:1-10), for He from the first would have no other. As true in their coming, as false in their going in Eden, they approach the most High. The elevator is Christ, the most High who became man that we might return to the bliss of God, the freedom and the glory, the majesty and the wonder OF GOD, not MAN (I Peter 3:18)!
THIS is the manner of it both proper and prescribed for man:
not manipulation, but
not masquerading, but being driven by guilt and just longing - as the Spirit and the Word convict, and convince ... to God;
not mandate to manoeuvre, but worshipping in spirit and
not pride of place, but gift by grace.
Indeed, it is MANDATORY FOR
MAN; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we MUST
be saved (Acts 4;11-12). Avoiding the issue gives no voidance; the truth
A PERSONAL NOTE
the Curse! There is the blithe blessing
of eternity which invades time.
Snatching those chosen -
easily found in the troop who come
by faith without works to the Saviour,
who are born by His power,
as their sins are borne
by His blood to their oblivion:
He takes them home.
At home there is no more curse. That is what His word says. THEN back with the Father of Lights, the King of Eternity and the Beginning and the End of all Creation, through His incarnate word which has lassoed us if you will, and brought us back to our stables: then the pastures are green because the life is uncursed.
Curse on the earth has provided much excitement and opportunity for horror, grief and folly unspeakable. Without curse, it will be as if a passing shadow has gone, a whirlwind of grief is dead and a surging oceanic thrust has subsided. Life then will no longer be subjected to the trials and conditions which constitute at once a rebuke to sin in general, and a refinement to that which seeks the Lord, an instruction and a warning. No more the terror of the unexpected assaults from 'nature' in seeming disregard; for this is the 'objective' allowance for the objectionable folly of imagining that God has forgotten. Instead the wonder of the divine protection will be as apparent to all as now it is to the saints whose lives are kept for the purposes of God who Himself used sacrifice, and for whom no sacrifice in Christ, is too much.
Then the garden situation will be brought to a conclusion far surpassing its first test conditions with Adam and Eve; for now will redemption make the floor and the Redeemer make the light and the beauty of holiness will be in the air as the frangipane blossoms, teeming in their multiplied thousands, waft the consciousness of care and wonder through the surrounding atmosphere. The conditions of perfection, having been achieved through strong labour on the part of the Son of God, sent in love from the Father, will be realised.
When we were children, we were accustomed to sundry little things, including the little minds which grew, with the bodies, and the understanding which took wings, only to fly at limited altitudes, yet to fly. So is this life now; then it will be matured in something more than strength and knowledge. The heart will no longer be the place of potential invasion; for the morning star will then arise in our hearts (II Peter 1:19), for those who are His: and the Lord, He will be known as we are known, for He shall see Him as He is, and see Him face to face.
As to the curse ? It has
served. Better a temporary, temporal reminder than an eternity of rebuke;
better a stark and if necessary sharp invasion of desperate dreams with the
testimony of reality, even if pride falls and vanity is fractured. Then?
...Then, it will serve no more in heaven, for heaven is a haven of happiness
where holiness will be as natural as air to the lungs: so will it be to the
heart. Nor will it be partial, as if sin were in some recess; for there is no
more pain or suffering. The former things, the curse amongst them, are then
passed away. In our next Chapter, we turn from the deliverance from the curse,
to the One who secured it, and here blessings abound like flowers in Spring!
*1 Isaiah 24:1-6,17-20 shows the Creator
inflicting divine but ordered desecration on the earth, because of sin. Now
arises consequential and discretionary judgment alike. Though in and for mercy
the world remains for the time (Isaiah 24:14ff., 30:18, 55:6-7, II Peter 3:9),
yet "the curse has devoured the earth".