Bible


So I have this tree.  This tree is a black walnut tree.  It doesn’t bloom and get leaves until June and begins losing it’s leaves in August.  At some point in July it grows black walnuts.  Sounds cool huh?  Walnuts in your own backyard.  Well it’s not so cool.  Because as soon as these walnuts come on the tree they begin falling off the tree all over the yard.  Needless to say, this tree makes a mess of my yard and the leaves and walnuts begin killing the grass.  Last year I got so frustrated with the mess I told my wife I wanted to cut it down this year.  So at one of our picnics I told my father-in-law that I wanted to end this tree’s life. 

My father-in-law knows a guy who would do it for us and would take the wood too.  It would be a quick easy clean up.  I had my mind made up…this tree was going to get whacked!  But then my father-in-law said, “Yeah  we can cut it down, no problem.  You’re gonna lose some shade though.  It’s a really good shade tree for your backyard.”  Why did he have to say that?  I had my mind made up and everything.  I looked around the yard to see how much shade it really offered throughout the day and sure enough it covers almost half the yard.  But it makes such a mess.  “Nope we’re cutting it down.” I thought. 

Then my niece overheard that I wanted to take this tree out.  “Oh my gosh, you can’t do that!” she said.  “I love that tree!”  And in fact I did recall that every time she comes over my house one of the first things she does is run to that tree with a book, climbs it, sits on one of its branches (it looks like it was made for sitting) and reads.  Her younger brother went into the same type of panic mode as well.  He’s a young boy and loves to climb it too.  But dog-gone-it I hate the mess it makes.  But it does provide some nice privacy as well from neighbors. 

Then I realized, I was so obsessed and focused on the negative characteristics of this tree that I failed to see and appreciate  gifts.  In fact, I underestimated this tree and took it for granted.  Maybe this tree isn’t so bad.  So what if I have to clean up a mess now and then.  I think I want that shade and I really do enjoy seeing the kids run to that tree as soon as they get to the house. 

But isn’t this how we are with people?  At times we get so caught up in what we don’t like about them that we fail to see and appreciate the gifts God has given them.  Instead of encouraging them in their gifts we often become jealous, envious, and at times even covet their gifts.  One of my gifts is a gift of learning and teaching scripture.  I can’t count how many times a week I am told by some Christian that “you can have all the knowledge in the world but it doesn’t really matter to God.”  I am constantly reminded that one doesn’t need to go to seminary to be used of God, as though I was not aware of that.  I have even mentioned to my wife countless times that being a seminary student is one of the most thankless things I have ever done because of the passive aggressive attitudes I get about it, FROM CHRISTIANS.  Yet I believe it has mainly been my wife and father and a few other family members and friends who have strongly encouraged me in this calling.  Usually from others though it is a smug dismissal.

But it has caused me to reflect on 1 Corinthians 12-14 where Paul addresses the fact that we have all been given various gifts from the Holy Spirit.  Those gifts come to us only by the grace of God.  Paul often uses anatomy metaphor to illustrate this sundry gifting.  The hand for instance has its own gifts which are far different from the eyes’ or ears’ giftings.  But do we ever get mad or jealous of the eyes because they have the gift of vision or the feet for walking.  No way!  Why?  Because we clearly understand that we NEED them and if they all work together the harmony creates a glorious and productive outcome. 

Am I ever jealous of another’s gifts?  I would be a liar if I said, “No.”  But I have tried to transform that reaction from jealousy to genuine excitement for that individual.  How can I be mad at or jealous of them because of what God has chosen to give them by his grace?  I can’t.   I think the remedy therefore is to be thankful to God and appreciate the fact that he has given the body of Christ an individual with such wonderful blessings as to edify the Church and its mission to the world.

Just like that tree, I have had to change what it is I am focusing on.  Am I distracted by the seeming weaknesses and being blinded to the precious gifts?  I think so.  But now I can’t imagine a backyard without that shade, privacy and special children playing on it.  So I will keep the tree and my cherished brothers and sisters I have in the body of Christ.  “Thank you Lord for the gifts you have given to us all in your wisdom and grace.”

Amen.

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Not too long ago I was driving home from work and all of a sudden my car was swallowed up by the shadow of a mammoth SUV/pick-up truck.  This thing was a gas guzzlin’ monster-beast of a truck.  We came to a red light where the beast-truck was in the right lane and I in the left.  As we sat at the light and I was diagonally behind him, I could hear him revin his engine…VROOM…VROOM!!! Then my eye caught a white bumper sticker on his truck that read in red and blue patriotic letters…”I can drive this truck because we can’t all be on welfare!!!” 

Suddenly the light turned green and rubber tires pealed-out leaving smoke everywhere.  As I coughed on this manly man’s dust I couldn’t help but think about Deuteronomy 15:7-11 and feel the heart of God aching.

 

7 If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour. 8You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. 9Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near’, and therefore view your needy neighbour with hostility and give nothing; your neighbour might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. 10Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land.’

With this passage in mind I don’t understand the attitudes and prejudices that people who can obviously drive gas guzzlin’ trucks have.  Now one might say, “Well, you don’t know if he was a Christian or not so how can you hold him to that standard?”

Well first…I don’t know if he was a Christian but I have met MANY Christians with that same exact disgust for those in need or on welfare. These are Christians who have gotten caught up in the American dream and love affair with capitalism more than the economy of God and the ethics of the kingdom. 

Secondly, God does hold the unbeliever to ethical standards.  Unbelievers are not given a get out of jail free card and dismissed from a standard because they don’t believe in it.  There are several places in the Bible where unbelievers are held accountable to ethical standards of God.

But for the sake of this post, let’s explore our own feelings about those in our society who are in need.  How about the elderly, the orphan, the widow, the immigrant, the family stuck in the ghetto, the disabled, etc the list is unending?  It is so sad the bitter and horrible things I hear said about these people…from CHRISTIANS!!!  We can tolerate the widow and orphan as long as the orphan grows up and “get’s a damn job.”  We have little use for immigrants, especially “illegals” (as we title them) regardless of the circumstances they may be trying to escape. If they are “legal” we say “they can stay as long as they learn to speak our own damn language!”  And “there are NO families STUCK in the ghetto, this is capitalism they need to go to college and go out and get a job!”

WHAT CARELESS IGNORANCE!!!

I have heard all of these things, even from elderly church-going grandmas.  HOLY COW!!! What terrific attitudes we have toward the needy.  The Old Testament get’s a bad rap on a lot of things, but especially on this issue…it does not have the often affluent evangelical capitalistic American attitude toward these people.  On the contrary, the Old Testament goes to GREAT lengths to help and provide for these folks. 

Now do I think there are some people leaching off the system and taking advantage of it?  Absolutely.  But we are not called to be their judge of intentions on those issues.  We will be held accountable for what we do when we are met with those needs.  They will be accountable for their own intentions…but even God allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  He provides for all…and a so are we called to do so. 

We all have certain types of people in our hearts that we have been conditioned to despise.  Who are they in your heart?  Are they black?  Are they white or asian?  Are they Muslim?  Are they drunk, poor, homeless, elderly, ghetto, white-trash, rich, catholic etc?  When those feelings and thoughts arise we need to repent of them and reject them.  We need to love those people and “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”  God loves them and so should we.  We are called to love our neighbor…they are our neighbor!

We are not to be “hard-hearted or tight-fisted.”  We are not to “entertain a mean thought” against them.  But we are to “give liberally and be ungrudging.”  We are not supposed to drive around with stupid bumper stickers on our vehicles and join the culture in abhorring these people and treating them as lazy, invisible, and pests to society. 

I pray for you and for me that we can overcome this bitterness we have for different groups of individuals and see them not as  the world sees them but as Christ sees them in Matthew 25.  Jesus identified with the needy and said when we minister to them…we minister to him.  When we feed the hungry, we feed him.  When we clothe the naked, we clothe him.  When we allow the customer to shop freely without spying on their every  move because they might be stealing, we allow Christ to shop freely.  You get the point. 

May we see every human being as created in the image of God.  May we see them as Christ sees them.  May we see them as Christ.

So I have a rather abstract thought for you today but it’s one that really got me thinking.  I’ve been reading a book called Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, by Dennis Okholm.  Don’t ask why I’m reading it, I just read everything that crosses my path.:) That is not always a good habit but it get’s me to look in books I probably would usually shrug my shoulders at. 

There is a chapter about “listening” in the book.  You know that action that most Americans are really poor at…especially in the Church.  Everyone wants to talk but few want to listen even though the proverb says, “Be slow to speak and quick to listen.”  Anyhow, in this chapter Okholm brings up the point that most of us listen to the external but not the internal.  That is to say, we fill our ears with music, conversation, TV shows, News, the sound of cars, jack-hammers, emergency sirens, constant chatter etc. 

We hear what we are trained to listen to.  To further this point Okholm gives an example of a naturalist walking down a city street at night with a friend who lives in the city.  As they are walking, the naturalist turns to his friend and says, “I’m surprised at all the crickets in the city.” 

The friend responds, “What crickets?  What are you talking about?”

“Can’t you hear them?” the naturalist asks.

“I don’t hear anything.”

As they continue walking down the busy city street the naturalist grabs his friend’s arm and they come to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk.  The naturalist drops a handfull of coins on the sidewalk and suddenly a whole group of people on cell phones, iPods, reading newspapers and magazines in the remaining sunlight, and talking to people next to them, come to a sudden halt to bend down and pick up the change and pocket it.

We have been trained to listen to the things that our culture has informed us is important.  But are we trained to hear the voice of our Lord?  Do we hear the voice within us?  Do we hear what is really going on inside of us?  Is there anything going on inside of us?  Is there anything there?

Okholm mentions Anthony Bloom, an Orthodox metropolitan, asking if we were alone as a Christian in prison, stranded on an island, or out in an national park for a couple weeks alone on a sabbatical, with nothing but our thoughts–would we get bored?  Would you (and I ask myself as well) get bored with yourself?  Or is there enough in you to be busy and deep in thought, reflection, and conversation with yourself and God?  Or does God bore you? 

I wonder if I have enough scripture in me to remember and recite in my thoughts to keep me busy pondering and meditating for weeks without a Bible in my hands.  Do you know any verses?  What about a chapter?  A book of the Bible?  I know of people who have actually committed the entire book of Ephesians to memory.  Those people would not be bored but would be delighted by the opportunity.

What about a work of literature?  A poem?  Is there anything inside of you that you could bring up?

And have you been trained to hear the voice of Jesus?  Scripture says, “My sheep know my voice.”  Ever wonder how that works?  Probably because the sheep are in the presence of the shepherd everyday, all day.  Do you listen for the voice of the shepherd?  Would you recognize it if you heard it? 

I for one am going to commit myself to putting more in me, so that I have something to withdrawal on a regular basis.  I think it would be a great exercise to go for a walk in a quiet park with NOTHING but myself and practice listening to what is inside and see if I get bored or not. 

Let’s train ourselves to listen to what is inside and not just what is external filling our ears constantly.  Let’s train ourselves to hear the voice of the Lord.  Let’s devote ourselves to times of quiet instead of turning on the TV or radio in the car.  We turn on the radio in the car like a crackhead grabs for his baggy.  We do it out of habit…we do it without thinking…we are at times wondering how that stupid thing got turned on.  Imagine a world without all that noise.  Let’s be blessed by the sound of silence…and listen for that still small voice.

 

I am finding that the book of Acts is becoming my favorite book in the Bible.  If you haven’t noticed already, the book of Jeremiah is my favorite OT book for many reasons.  One of the main reasons how ever is that as I read it I can feel the aching and hoping heart of God.  It is such an intimate book.  However, Acts is so powerful and exciting.  It gives valuable insight into the early Christian Church from the ascension of Jesus to the narrative of Paul under house-arrest in Rome. 

The book is commonly called the Acts of the Apostles which many scholars and ministers state may be a bit misleading.  Many claim that the true main character is in fact the Holy Spirit and perhaps the book should be renamed, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.”  I once heard how many times the Holy Spirit is referenced in Acts but I forgot and to be honest I do not want to take the time to count how many times he is mentioned from the concordance.  But if you want to do it for me and reply to this post–feel free:)  But the number of times is a lot and it dominates all other nouns. 

Given this fact, as I read through Acts I am always shocked when I come to the story almost in the middle of the book in Acts 19:1-7.

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. 2He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’3Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ 4Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— 7altogether there were about twelve of them (NRSV).

WHAT!?!  They never even heard?  Okay, maybe I can give these guys some slack because the Gospel was just beginning to be spread over those first several decades and these guys were all the way in Ephesus.  This city was in Asia Minor and was a long ways off from Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit was first given on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  Yet we must note that it was vital and essential to Paul that these gentlemen receive the Holy Spirit.  In fact, the reception of the Holy Spirit is one of six main features that seem to be the essentials for joining the Church and being part of God’s people.  Here they are: 1.Hear the core teachings of Jesus culminating in an account of Jesus’ death and resurrection; 2. Repentance; 3. Faith in God through Jesus Christ; 4. Baptism in the name of Jesus; 5. Forgiveness of sins; 6. Reception of the Holy Spirit. 

These six essentials are found throughout Acts in the conversion accounts.  They are not always present in every account but are frequent enough to be recognised by most scholars as being necessary.  So Paul takes this opportunity to inform these men of the Holy Spirit and he lays his hands on them and they do indeed receive.

What troubles me however is that I often visit many churches or come acrossed many so-called Christians who remind me of this passage.  I begin talking about the Holy Spirit and they look at me like I am telling them about my best friend’s roommates step-uncle who is twice-removed on his father’s cousin’s side.  I talk about the Holy Spirit and they respond in complete confusion. 

I have sat Sunday after Sunday in churches where the Holy Spirit is never mentioned once except maybe in a reading of scripture.  Why is this?  Would Paul recognise our churches as Christian churches?  Would he walk in and start talking about the Holy Spirit and the congregation respond, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  Now if this is one of the six features that we see dominating early Church conversions and recognition of one belonging to the people of God…shouldn’t we have him as a more dominant subject of our conversations, sermons, books, and experience?  I think so!

Let me start by saying this, “YOUR TESTIMONY AS A BELIEVER IS THE MOST POWERFUL TOOL OF EVANGELISM YOU HAVE IN YOUR ARSENAL.”   Piggy backing off of my previous article, it is apparent that the world is filled with Christopher Hitchenses.  That is, our faith as Christian believers is being challenged on a daily basis.  I have watched several of Hitchens’ debates against many Christians and people of various faith backgrounds.  He has debated theologians, scholars, authors, ministers, social activists etc.  As I have mentioned, overall, I think they have all lost the debates to Hitchens for various reasons.  Yet in the midst of all of these debates there was one debater, and one single moment that seemed silent but POWERFUL. 

During the debate between Marvin Olasky and Hitchens, Olasky says to Hitchens (my paraphrase), “I don’t know what teaching you have absorbed over the years that has made you believe the way you do.  But whatever the reason…I pity you.”  Olasky went on to say, “There is something that you and I have in common.  We were both married and then divorced.  In my first marriage, I was an atheist and did not know how to be a husband.  I was a bad husband.  It only lasted two years.  Then I got remarried but this time as a Christian.  Christianity taught me how to be a husband and a father.  I have been married for thirty years.”  WOW!

If you watch Hitchens, his demeanor changes and he seems taken back.  He even says something to the effect of, “Well said” to Olasky.  It may be the first time I have seen Hitchens like that.  Why do you think?  I think it’s because Olasky used, and maybe not purposefully, the most powerful element of Christianity we have.  EXPERIENCE!  No one can refute your testimony.  No one can dismiss your witness.  No one can reject your experience.  Why?  Because it is your proof that it is real, that something is going on here that no outsider can convince you with all their logic, reason, and rhetoric otherwise. 

What Olasky was saying was that he has experienced the power of the Gospel in his life and not even Hitchens in all of his brilliance can take that away.  Hitchens, I think, knows this too.  The Gospel has the power to change and transform lives and it has done exactly that.  Hitchens can’t convince the ex-drug dealer or alcoholic who came to Christ and was delivered that there is no power in the Gospel.  In fact, I know some of those people.  I have heard their stories how the impossible was made possible because they had an encounter with Jesus Christ of Nazareth. 

I work with a man who I knew as no more than an alcoholic bum.  God got a hold of him and flipped him upside down and then right side up. He went through a traumatic divorce during all of this and I thought for sure he would go back to drinking.  Yet the power of God that changed his life, identity, and desires stuck with him and he is still living strong for the Lord.  That’s an experienced reality of the power of God in someone’s life.  No one is going to tell that man there is no God and that Christianity is a flop.  I think he might just laugh at such a remark.

I am reminded of John 9.  I trust you have a Bible to look it up…if not you must be viewing this from a computer so you can search that passage on an online Bible.  If you need a Bible, email me and I will get one to you.  Okay back to John 9.  This is the passage where Jesus, rather sanitarily spits on some dirt and makes mud balls.  He smothers the mud onto some blind guy’s eyes and tells the man to go wash the germy mud off.  The man does and could see.  He was healed miraculously!  The Pharisees get their robes all in a bunch and get mad about the healing.  After much interrogation of both the blind man and his parents the blind man says one of the most profound things in scripture.  The Pharisees accuse Jesus of being a sinner and try to undermine him.  The blind man responds, “I don’t know if he is a sinner, but one thing I do know—I was blind but now I see.”  Wow that is awesome!!! 

The man was blind from birth.  Jesus heals him.  The Pharisees pout and have a hissy fit about it.  Who is really blind in this narrative?  Who?  Right…the religious leaders who should have known better.   These leaders were the intelligencia of their day.  You know…the guys who knew it all and were well studied in matters on many subjects.  But their whining and reasonable arguments did not matter a hill of beans to the blind man who could finally see.  HE COULD SEE!  Nobody was going to take that away from him…NOBODY! 

This is my argument against those who want to align themselves against the God of the Bible and Jesus Christ: all the bells and whistles of reason and logic don’t hold a match to what we have personally experienced as Christians.  I have so many testimonies I don’t know where to begin.  I know people who have so many testimonies it would take weeks to cover.  So while we sit around holding debates and theorizing about the God of the Bible and the reality of the risen Savior Jesus Christ being real or not—there are people all over the world experiencing his power NOW.  If you don’t believe me I will point you in the direction of many folks that are in the midst of it and seeing it move like wild fire across countries like China and Sudan.

For those of you who haven’t experienced it I say this…get out of your dead and dried up churches into a church that actually expects God to move and live.  If you haven’t been to church find one that expects God to be real and to move in their midst.  If you walk into a church that hands you a bulletin of how the service is going to go…walk back out… because they have obviously structured and choreographed God right out of the service. 

This may rub some of my Christian brothers and sisters the wrong way but listen.  There is a world that is hungry for the reality of God in this decaying world and they are depending on you to proof it to them.  Stop playing church for goodness sakes and start calling out for the fire of God to fall on you.  You don’t want to?  Then slowly wait for the day when your old church doors and windows are boarded up and ICHABOD is plastered across them. 

God is moving and waiting for YOU to jump in!  Throw off the chains of this culture that are holding you down!  Stop protecting your reputations and securities and get embarrassed for God!  Let him interrupt your controlled life and infuse it with the power of his Holy Spirit.  Does that make you feel uncomfortable?  Right…it’s suppose to. God wants to invade your life and fill it with his presence.  But you have to let him in.  Whatever is holding you back needs to be submitted.  Yuck, not that word again.  SUBMIT and YIELD yourself to God…I promise, you won’t regret it.

As you embrace him he will give you an experience, testimony, and reality that no one can ever take away. 

Blessings!

In John 8:31-38 Jesus describes to the Jews who had believed in him what true discipleship is exactly.  He says, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  There response however, always strikes me as being a bit ironic.  They say, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone.  What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free (NRSV)?”

Uhhh–what?  “Never been slaves to anyone”?  What about Egypt for starters?  What about all the times Israel and Judea were reduced to paying tribute to great empires?  What about the exiles?  What about being conquered by the Greeks and Romans?  Obviously Egypt is the strongest case but according to much of the extant literature of ancient times many Jewish leaders and rabbis thought exile was worse than slavery. 

Jesus doesn’t bring up the points that I just mentioned but perhaps he didn’t need to because he was making another point.  They were not free because they were bound in slavery by sin.  Sin is a horrible task master; the worst task master in fact.  Sin will drive you to do things that you don’t want to do.  It seduces you with lies and deceit.  It convinces you that its way is rewarding and fulfilling.  No matter how hard you try to resist its will…it fights against you and knows your weaknesses. 

Slavery has always been a part of our world.  Slavery plagued Africa and still does in some places far before Africans were enslaved by Americans and brought to labor for wealthy plantation owners.  Slavery existed among the Native Americans often a result of lost wars.  Slavery is an evil oppression.  But there will never be a more oppressive slavery than to that of sin. 

Thankfully, Jesus points to our emancipation from this slave master.  The solution is Jesus the Son.  Only Jesus can make us free.  And if he makes us free we are free “indeed.”  That is, absolutely free.  Yet there is a condition…we must continue in his word to truly be his disciples.  When Jesus says “in his word” what does he mean?  Does he mean the Bible?  Well yeah…sort of.  But I think it means to continue in his message, his teaching.  Obviously his teaching is recorded in the Gospels namely, and also in the rest of the NT.  But in addition, he is still teaching us through his Holy Spirit who leads us into ALL truth. 

“But what is truth?”  asked Pontius Pilatus.  We have to know what truth is to be free.  After all this is what Jesus says: “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  So if we are going to be free from the slave master SIN, then we have to know what truth is and know it intimately.  But to know the truth we have to continue in Jesus’ teachings. 

Well, a little later on John reveals what the truth is in 14:6.  Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the light; no one will come to the Father except by me.”  This passage is pregnant with meaning but it reveals one element that we are focusing on now.  Jesus is truth.  So when Pontius Pilate asks Jesus, “what is truth?” sarcastically and arrogantly; he was looking right at it.  Jesus is truth and only Jesus can set us free from the power of the slave master. 

Once we are free however we have some responsibilities in staying free.  1. John 8:31 “continue in my word”; 2. John 15:1-17 “Remain/abide in Me/Jesus/truth”; 3. Gal. 5:1 “For freedom Christ/truth has set us free. Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery [sin].”  What these passages communicate is an ongoing process of us committing our lives to continuing, remaining, and standing firm in Jesus and his teachings.  This daily process will keep us free.  

Therefore I encourage those of you who are struggling with sin to be persistent in pursuing Christ and his teachings.  Be tenacious about fleshing out the live of Christ and his teachings in your life.  This will strengthen you and purify those sinful desires from your life.  Those of you who feel pretty safe and comfortable in your freedom…do not take it for granted.   Be even more purposeful in your pursuit of Christ because the devil loves to trap us when we are feeling the best about ourselves and strong.   

Stand firm therefore like a Roman Legion!

Did you know that there are other accounts of the flood story besides the one we read about in the Bible?  Many scholars think that some of the alternative flood accounts in the ancient Near East pre-date the Noah’s ark story.  How does that make you feel?  Angry? Discouraged, perhaps?  I understand, I’ve had those emotions and reactions many times when I have come acrossed disturbing bits of information in my research.  Now let me add that not all scholars agree that alternative accounts pre-date the biblical account.  For instance, most scholars agree that before the Noah’s ark story was written down it was most likely passed down orally from one generation to the next.  This factor would make the biblical account older than originally thought.  However, it is still likely that the Mesopotamian account of the flood is an older account.  But note, older doesn’t always mean most accurate. 

Now there are other factors that come into play here but there is another point I wish to address.  Besides age, are there any other significant differences?  Absolutely.  But I will focus on one in particular.  In the Mesopotamian flood story, the main human character  is the legendary Atrahasis.  What causes the flood is the gods.  You see, the gods were getting annoyed at the humans because they were making so much gosh darn noise.  You know, babies crying, pounding of tools, talking, singing, and yelling.  If you stop and think of it, we humans do make a lot of racket.  So to solve this problem the gods decide to send a flood and quiet everyone. 

 Does it work?  Well of course, because mostly everyone is dead!  But the gods realize something in hindsight.  Oops, they forgot that if all the humans are dead their will be no sacrifices.  And if there are no sacrifices to the gods…you guessed it the gods go hungry.  The gods act on whims and fancies that are usually self-serving.  In fact, humans were created to do the work they didn’t want to do.  They are also fickle.  That is, they need humans.  In the case mentioned above, they need humans to sacrifice so that they can eat and be fed.  So when Atrahasis gets off his barge after the flood waters have receded, he offers a sacrifice.  As he does, the gods flock to the altar like starving hounds to a bloody prey. 

What does our God (Judeo-Christian) say about this?  Is he fickle too or in need of our sacrifices to sustain him?  Are the sacrifices for him?  I will give you some scriptures to look up first.  Isaiah 1:10-13; Jer. 6:20; Ps. 50:7-13; Mal. 1:10.  If you read these I don’t think I need to say more.  What I think these scriptures are doing is three things.  First, mocking the gods we just talked about.  Second, establishing that our God is nothing like them; he is not fickle or dependent on humans for anything.  Get it, he doesn’t NEED you/us.  Without getting too much into it–God initiated relationship by grace alone and established the sacrificial system by grace out of his mercy for us.  Therefore third, sacrifices and offerings are for us not for him.   

Regardless of whose account pre-dates the other…I think it is apparent that our God is the one true God, for there is no other.  If anything, the Mesopotamians may have reported the actual flood event first with their faulty interpretation and twist.  Then, the author/s of Genesis came along and said, “Uhm…it actually happened like this.”  If the biblical account is second to the Atrahasis story, it is correcting the errors.  Take comfort however, not in the date (which is uncertain) but the God/god.  Who will you choose to serve?

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