A Season for War

The primary ascension text from the psalms comes from Psalm 110:1.  “The Lord says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”  The Psalm continues with the restoration of the Melchizedekian priesthood, and the worship of the people of God.  Melchizedek was, you will recall, a priest and a king.  But the Psalm concludes with a statement about the Lord shattering kings and judging the nations.  Indeed, he fills up the land with corpses, according to David.

It doesn’t get any better when Pentecost comes around.  Sure, the Spirit gives us good miracles like prophecy and visions.  But He also turns the sun to darkness and the moon to blood.  If you cry out you will be saved, it is true, but don’t forget that this is in the context of bloodshed.  Joel 3 continues the same line of thought as chapter 2, and it is all about war.

Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men.  Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up.

Joel 3:9

It doesn’t look good.  The prophet has critiqued the Gentiles for selling God’s people and the treasures of the temple.  That payment is about to returned upon their own head.  But then something surprising happens:

Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruning hooks into spears;
let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”Hasten and come,
all you surrounding nations,
and gather yourselves there.
Bring down your warriors, O LORD. 12Let the nations stir themselves up
and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
for there I will sit to judge
all the surrounding nations.

Put in the sickle,
for the harvest is ripe.
Go in, tread,
for the winepress is full.
The vats overflow,
for their evil is great.

Multitudes, multitudes,
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.

The LORD roars from Zion,
and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth quake.
But the LORD is a refuge to his people,
a stronghold to the people of Israel.

There’s a strange mix of fear and gladness.  The warriors show up for a fight, but they end up turning their weapons into farming tools.  But the LORD is still roaring.  We’re taking refuge, though there’s still a storm coming.

Joel ends his prophecy with good news for Israel, but there’s also warfare all the way.  “Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness.”  We could allegorize this and ask, “What’s the Edom in your life?” but the original is pretty clear.  The enemies of Israel are vanquished.  God takes vengeance.

When Peter says that Joel’s prophecy is fulfilled in Acts 2, you have to bring in all of this with it.  The end of the world is here.  The Book of Revelation unfolds throughout the Acts of the Apostles.

And I suppose it is still doing so in the life of the Church now.  Paul says that we fight the very powers of the air.  Angel war, or something.  Thankfully, Paul also tells us that this means we can’t use sticks, clubs, swords, guns, machetes, or voting booths.  We’ve to to get out our other weapons.

So Pentecost is about war.  Get out your flaming swords and get to it.  Oh, but by the by, you will most likely get killed in the process.  A few times, actually.  But that’s the way it goes.

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Why No Images?

In Acts 17, Paul explains why idols, statues, carvings, and paintings are all improper means of contemplating God.  He says in verses 24-29:

God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

Now Paul is saying this on this side of the Incarnation, and so that particular theological argument just cannot stick: if the mere fact of not approving of the use of visual aids in worship is anti-incarnational, then so goes Paul.  But I think there’s a better answer, and I think it is very incarnational.

So, what is Paul’s reasoning against the Greek use of images?  The answer is found in vv 27-29:

…So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

We do not find the Divine nature in gold, silver or stone, and I believe it is fair to say, not even in wood.

We find it in other people, the offspring of God.