1 Samuel 5-6 / Isaiah 51 / Revelation 12-13
Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
and who seek the LORD:
Abraham and Sarah were a people who heard something that none of the other humans heard, so it establishes a precedent as a copy, intended for those in whom the same circumstance might arise. They lived in a country and amongst a people to whom the idea of one God was as unique and ridiculous as our message is. To the humans all around them there were many gods (like today), not one God. And this one God started speaking to one ordinary man, telling him to get up and go away from all those humans he lived amongst, with whom he had grown up and from whose culture he had learned how to be one of them. However, all of a sudden he was called to go away from all of that to go to some desolate place where all that didn't exist. To become a nomad with no country of his own with only the promise of something better from this one God who was speaking to him.
They overcame him (the dragon, serpent, devil or satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
The devil according to John is that which would cause one to want to shrink from death to save his life. A peculiarly benign thing it seems, compared to what the devil has been made into by the whore and her liar daughters, totally exploitable by the merchants and other commercial and cultural leaders to their constant gain. Actually the devil is quite banal and not very exciting compared to what the humans want it to be. The irony is of course that it is them and their desire to preserve, to shrink back from anything that threatens their precious little lives as good animals ought, driven by the need to survive the best they can by a force that is ubiquitous among them and seems to come from nowhere but they don't even recognize that it's there. It comes from inside them and it's born into them in the mode of the first humans who first had the seed of death planted into them when they chose it over what had the seed of life in it. God had offered it to them but they refused, instead choosing the lie that looked good to the eyes and appeared to be able to give them something God hadn't offered—because it wasn't in their best interest. But they chose it anyway because they loved the lie more, so they were given over to it.
God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (choosing to preserve their life, to remain being defied as an animal—an ordinary human constantly driven by instincts to survive and self-preserve).
I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mortal men,
The cowering prisoners will soon be set free;
For I am the LORD your God,
who churns up the sea so that its waves roar—
I have put my words in your mouth
and covered you with the shadow of my hand—
The message for the true sons, for whom all the accounts were preserved (to serve as copies), is not to stay in Egypt, Babylon or Assyria while continuing to co-mingle with them, staying integrated into their way, customs and culture and remaining one with them that way. It's always come out from them and be separated from them. God's purpose is definitive and His will is distinct for His distinct people. It is generic and flexible for those who want to be generic, to think He wants any and every generic human to be His own.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
His chosen people aren't so dull and milk-toast that they can ever just integrate into the human society around them because God lives in them and He is not one of them, nor can He ever be one with the humans. He is infinitely higher than the human, and can only be one with a higher body, one that isn't of human stock any more. It is being purified for a purpose other than what it was before, like anything that was to be used in the Tabernacle needed to be purified before being put into place there.
As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.
I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
The culture and way of the humans is developed out of their incessant requirement to accommodate their own needs and promote their own selves without a regard for God because they don't know Him. The sons must be taken away from that culture, because its indifference toward Him and their promotion of their own ways will always have a negative effect on one who is destined to become separated from them. It's not their fault that they're ignorant, but that doesn't mean we should be hanging around participating in what used to define us, what they've forever determined is life, and living. The sons know that there is life as the humans understand it, and another life, as the Son understood and delineated it.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
It's not by our own will or power that we're able to break free from the humans and become separated from them, although that desire should be growing in us as part of our cooperative effort toward being receptive to hearing and comprehending what the teacher is saying. It is because of His word in us and our desire to comprehend that we're able to hear, understand and respond to the voice of our Father with a willing "Yes, I choose you," which the Father loves.
Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.
By God's word all things are formed. When He speaks, He causes things to happen. When He says something, it's done. When He decides that something will be, then it is (even if it takes a long time). When He decides to put His life in one of the humans, by His word it is so, and His word causes it to happen, then it to grow and prosper in that one. He says, "You are mine," and it is so. The word speaks inside us to accomplish that, and to transform us so that we can become complete—not half-hearted, wishy-washy or double-minded.
And the cows went straight on the way, on the way to Beth-shemesh, on a single road they went, lowing as they went, and they veered neither right nor left...and the cows they offered up as a burnt offering to the LORD.
The purpose was put into the cows to accomplish God's will. Whether cows or humans it doesn't matter because they both meet the same end—loss of consciousness, into the ground, food for the worms, enriching the soil and making it better for the "life" that is appointed to replace it. This passage is another encapsulation of the purpose of God in the earth. The only reason the present creation exists is for that purpose. These cows, with their calves locked up in the stalls, normally instinctually driven to get to their calves and feed them, "Going strenuously against nature: their udders full of milk for the calves they have been forced to leave behind, mark with maternal lowing their distress over the journey they cannot resist." (Alter, The David Story, 1999, p. 32)
The cows were being driven by a power that was stronger than the instinctual nature that was in them to do what they wanted to do more than anything, what was put in them and drove them to fulfill the identity that defined them as cows. That power, the intention that was planted in them, the desire of God to make them go against what was in them to do was something extraordinary, especially in their state of maternity. This isn't merely about the Israelites getting the Ark back; it is about God accomplishing His will, and the means He uses to do it. This is the same process He uses to make some of the animals into sons, which is that purpose.
That's what the account points to, the better and lasting reality for God's sons. Just like the cows and all the other animals, including the humans, there is an instinctual nature that drives them to fulfill the destiny that is created in them by that nature's dictates—to define them as a cow and not a squirrel. It isn't something that can be grasped and held on to, or controlled. All of the animals which haven't been chosen to become a genuine son to God can happily continue along their way in life as the animal they are, fulfilling whatever cravings are in them according to the opportunities they have to do that. The two cows are two witnesses, the representation of the sons whose lives are taken over by the power of the word of God in them to accomplish His will in the earth, to get what He wants from it before He destroys it.
The instincts of those cows represent our own instincts, what we're defined by as the particular animals we are, formed and solidified by the natural process of growth and definition as per the dictates of this creation. Our instincts, what we're driven by nature to do, is the nature that was formed in us as we became mature animals. The power of the word of God is the declaration of His will, that out of this pool of creatures He has decided to claim the ones He wants for Himself, while the others are free to be whatever animal they are, until they are called to go back to the ground from whence they came.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.
Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have my law in your hearts:
For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
Is this salvation for Abraham's physical descendents, the physically circumcised sons of Israel? The true sons of Abraham are those who like him, hear the voice of the Father inside them and respond to that voice instead of the instinct that is there to just be and remain animals. They were effectively changed from an animal driven by instinct into a son driven by the voice of the Father to unbecome the humans they once were (on the inside in the secret places where the humans can't observe this phenomenon, so they can't approve it or deny it because it's not for them). Isaiah declares just how much the natural creation means to God as it vanishes and wears out according to His plan. Even more, Isaiah speaks about how much the inhabitants of it, the humans who rule it mean to Him, who die like flies and are devoured by worms. The sons have His law and word in their hearts, which can never be taken away. It is the thing that seals them up and makes them ready to be redeemed from the earth, just as the firstborn Son was.
The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
There is a concrete way that we actually can seek to be like God's firstborn Son who was snatched away to Him because of his obedience. We say no to the cravings and the fear that is instinctually in us because we come from the stock of the humans. As we are given the ability to see it for what it is, that gives us an ability to detach ourselves from it as our only option for how to live and what to choose, how we are defined. Not to become smug and self-righteous, but as children who are beginning to be able to recognize and love their Father because they see what He has chosen them to come away from, to say, "We don't want to bond with our Father's enemy anymore, as we did in the past when we were ignorant and unable to see anything. We don't wish to give it the benefit of luring us into the shadows and tricking us into believing the lie that is evident on the one hand, yet so hard to deny on the other—that whatever it wants us to do is good for us, or will benefit us."
We know our Father has told us it is bad for us, for reasons we don't necessarily need to be aware of. He didn't tell the human and his helper all the reasons why he shouldn't eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; He just said not to do it, and He wanted the human to believe that He knew best, and trust his Father that He did. God says to us, "Don't touch the stove because you will get burned," or "Don't eat that fruit because there is the seed of death inside of it—you will most certainly die if you do." But we don't believe Him and we do it because we can't help it, and we suffer. We do it again and again until we actually begin to learn and be fundamentally changed in a place deep within us so we don't have to think about not doing it anymore, we just don't because we're different.
When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
I will be his Father, and he will be my Son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.
There is a danger that because we see our Father as good and loving, we can begin to think that we can do whatever we want to do, and because He loves us and is forgiving He'll think it's alright to do as we please. That's man's way, though, and was the snake's tactic. "Surely God loves you and wants you to be wise...He wants you to have all these good things." Our good teacher tells us the truth, even though we may not be able to comprehend it fully, being infants who can't understand everything. What we know not to do (the negative) is for a good reason, a small but necessary aspect of the transformation, so we can continue to grow up and be healthy and alive, becoming a mature, responsible son who can be trusted with the Father's treasure (the positive).
While it is true that our Father loves us and forgives us, He also wants us—and expects us to learn—to say no to what will hurt us even if we want it so bad because we're just ignorant. This is truly suffering for us because we have to say no to our big love and betray our self so it does not continue to have power and be a stronghold in us, but begins to whither and die. Just as the cows were lowing along the way, going against what they would rather do, our Father wants us to not look like mere animals, but sons who aren't driven by their former nature. It's easier to integrate than to separate ourselves from what keeps begging us to satisfy it—the needs and cravings of the animal nature.
This is all a matter of encouragement. Nobody will be able to stand up against the schemes of the devil all the time. We will fail, but as we get closer to God, becoming more mature and aware, our perceptions change—not because of, "No, no—do not touch this or that," but because of, "Yes, yes—I love my Father and want to choose Him over what's easy and appealing for animals to choose."
The Lord's personal, individual covenants with us is for the Father's sake primarily (the family), and ours secondarily (members of it). In a real family, everyone knows each other in a familiar way. He doesn't change His mind like the shadows that move all day long, but is steadfast like the sun, coming up every day producing the shadows. He is constant, like the movement of the earth, perfectly turning and flying through space at the same speed every second of every day, since the beginning of time to the end. It, like He, never stops to take a rest, never speeds up or slows down, but is constant, unchanging and steady, gathering up His sons quietly and surely from the generations of men that come and go.
In the beginning was the Word (the intention of the Father to have a family of sons with Him where He lives), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (the intention was wrapped up in and would be fulfilled by His own Son, something so sure and close to Him it was a part of Himself). He (the intention of God that he would save His family and become its head) was with God in the beginning.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Once He decides to do something then by His intention (word) He accomplishes it—it comes to pass. When He puts His word in one of the humans to accomplish His will in the earth, to make that one His own son, it is a sure thing. It will take time to change him from undependable, selfish beasts to sons of God who are steady like Him; unwavering oak trees with strong roots that won't get blown over by any wind or storm that comes along.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.