Thursday, July 30, 2009

Re: "right religion," more scripture re: truth

I quoted Jesus in the previous blog posting regarding his teaching that God IS truth, and that all humans who believe therefore have a heritage and a right to the truth, truth which is validated through the perfect sanctity (servant to God) of Jesus.

Here are some more Bible passages regarding the topic of truth. The first set of writings are the earliest, from the Book of Psalms. Young people, think of this analogy, even though it's not a perfect comparison, but it will resonate with you. Realize that the Bible is like a blog that has been added to by different people living centuries, even thousands of years apart, where each writer does not see what the previous has added, yet all of the additions are perfect in accuracy and relate to the same one true God. That is how the Bible was "constructed." It is an assembly of writings created independently (except for the first books which were given to Moses and his fellow priests and successors directly by God), yet they retain total consistency. Why is that? Well, for two reasons. One is that the Bible is comprised of real people who lived in real times in history and who were participants in real historical events in a real geography (much of which still exists today in the Middle East). So even different people who are not in communication with each other will, of course, write about the same events and places. Secondly, each book that contains revelation from God is, of course, coming from the same consistent source which is God, who is unchanging through all eternity. In other words, God doesn't tell some guy who lived three thousand years ago one thing and then tell some other guy something else or something inconsistent several hundred years later.

So here are passages about truth from the Book of Psalms, which is a collection of psalms, many of them authored by King David, and others having more ancient or more recent origin. Thus the people who composed and uttered most of the psalms would have lived around 2700-2900 years ago, and the psalms were compiled and put into a collected written form much later. So here is the inspired word of God, through the psalmists, about the subject of truth, as spoken nearly three thousand years ago.

Psalm 57:3, 10

He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.

For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds.

[Commentary: This is a psalm by David, who was afflicted and under pressure from enemies at the time. Notice that David trusts that God will both rescue him through might (allowing David to be victorious) but also because God knows the entire truth of all matters. Some translations of this passage use "faithfulness" instead of "truth." This is because to the biblical mind faith and truth are virtually the same, because God is truth and thus being faithful to God is being faithful to the truth!]

From another psalm by King David:

Psalm 86:15

But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

[Commentary: This is another example where faithfulness is sometimes used in the translation rather than truth. Read this translation: "But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity." This is important for you to understand, the mindset of the psalmist and those who then ascribe what was oral, spoken history into writing. All the faithful in those times would have understood, culturally, that when speaking of God, the words "truth" and "faithfulness/fidelity" are virtually interchangeable. See, it is too easy for people who wish to dismiss the validity and perfection of the Bible (and be somewhat scorning of the intellect of those who penned the scriptures) to say, "Look, 'they' even 'disagree' about the 'translation.'" That's not true for the most part and that is bogus. Why? Because as you can see here, modern people have a huge gap in definition between truth and fidelity, which is fine, but they don't understand that thousands of years ago among God's people, their speech and mindset reflect their knowledge and belief that God/truth/faithfulness are virtually interlocked and interchangeable words and concepts!]

This psalm is by an author other than David. So once again you can see the consistency of the view even among different authors of God as being the truth and thus also THE faithfulness.

Psalm 91:4

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shall thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

[Commentary: "With his pinions he will cover you, and under his wings you shall take refuge; his faithfulness is a buckler and a shield." I use several Bibles, including some quite old ones, probably to the frustration of those who look up the scriptures that I cite, ha. Here I am showing you that you do not need to fear or doubt because of 'different translations.' Understand that by looking at a few translations you start to hone in on better understand of the gestalt of the overall concept that the biblical mindset of these authors is trying to transmit through all these years and to vastly different cultures who no longer understand what was commonplace understanding back then. By using, consistently, several authentic Bibles that have translations by various authoritative traditional scholars, you can zero in on what the biblical authors were actually thinking in context, rather than be dismayed that the translations are 'different.' So here notice that the psalmist views God's truth as a physical protection, in this analogy of God as kind of super eagle.]

Thus between seven hundred and a thousand years before the time that Jesus lived, when Jesus said that the truth shall set you free, the cultural mindset of faith recognized that God IS the totality of perfect truth, truth that provides, therefore, both faithfulness/fidelity and also spiritual and physical protection in the world.

In case you are not sure how truth provides physical protection, think of being thirsty while hiking and you must drink from a stream. One person tells you the water is safe to drink while the other tells you that it has toxic pollutants in it. That's an obvious example where knowledge of the truth saves one's life, or costs one one's life. Therefore the people of God during biblical times certainly recognized that the authentic true God is the source of all truth and would never mislead or lie. False prophets of false gods can and do "make mistakes," do not possess the truth, and also are fully capable of lying for base purposes (such as money or ego).

The Book of Proverbs, like the Book of Psalms, is a collection of oral, spoken sayings, many uttered by King Solomon, which was collected and inscribed in separate sections that were put together at some point. Thus they reflect ancient teachings, from the same time as the Book of Psalms, even though they were inscribed later and in the care of several authors' hands to assemble.

Proverbs 23:23

Get the truth, and sell it not-wisdom, instruction and understanding.

[Commentary: Now, there are two cultural context things you need to understand in order to grasp this passage about truth. The first is that line 23 is embedded in a section that is advising the young man or woman to pay attention to their parents for religious instruction. Yes, if you read 22-25 both the father AND the mother are mentioned as those to be valued and heeded for their wisdom. Now, remember this is in the times when all of the people of Israel are faithful to the one God, and thus parents could be trusted to transmit only truthful knowledge and nothing bogus. So you cannot read this passage today, unfortunately, and assume that it is endorsing whatever baloney your parents may believe! This was an exhortation for orthodox believing children to believe and respect what their orthodox believing parents taught them about the People of God's faith. So in that context it still applies, of course, today, but unfortunately children have to discern whether their own parents have gone far afield into untruth and bizarre beliefs.

The second cultural context is to understand what the phrase "sell it not" means. This is not a phrase that means that a person could not write a book about God and sell it for money. NOT that anyone would have done that nor would it be viewed as righteous, since both the Old and New Testament make clear that God's word is free. I'm just telling you that this particular phrase is not a reference to that hotly contested modern topic, since it would not have even crossed the mind of someone from biblical times to "sell" God's word in any form. Rather, this is an admonishment to not abandon (sell) one's learning about God from one's parents in return for doing something else (like sinning). So the young person is being told to not only receive his or her parents' orthodox knowledge of the one true God but also to never let that knowledge go.]

The Book of Isaiah is written by the great prophet Isaiah. We know the exact date that God called Isaiah to be his prophet, in the year 742 BC (before Christ). Thus we know for a fact that Isaiah received his call to be God's prophet exactly 2751 years ago. How cool is that! As I've pointed out the Bible is written by real people during real historical events, and Isaiah tells us he received his calling the same year that King Ozia, a king of Judah, died. Here is a passage where Isaiah is warning that a huge fall is coming due to the sinfulness of the people, and refers specifically to the people's lack of concern for, yes, the truth. Sound familiar to today?

Isaiah 59:1-4, 14-15

Lo, the hand of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Rather, it is your crimes that separate you from your God, it is your sins that make him hide his face so that he will not hear you. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt; your lips speak falsehood, and your tongue utters deceit. No one brings suit justly, no one pleads truthfully; they trust in emptiness and tell lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth malice...Right is repelled, and justice stands far off; for truth stumbles in the public square, uprightness cannot enter. Honesty is lacking, and the man who turns from evil is despoiled.

[Commentary: Take the time to read the entire section, 59:1-15 and you will see a detailed picture of the breakdown in truthfulness and honesty throughout the Israelites and how this has led to estrangement from God, one that he will follow with severe punishment (which ends up being, years later, the fall to and captivity by Babylon.) How can someone not be moved, and alarmed, by the image that "truth stumbles in the public square?" 2700 plus years ago Israel was falling due to widespread tolerance for dishonesty, lying, faith in empty things, while those who remained truthful in everyday matters are pummeled. This is exactly the situation that modern society is in today. Truth does indeed stumble in the public square and the honest man or woman is robbed, mocked and ruined (what the word "despoiled" means).

Do you see how the commentary and thoughtful reading of Psalms and Proverbs about truth prepares you to better understand "what God is doing?" See, we have seen that God IS truth, and that when one trusts in God and receives from him the truth, one has both faithfulness between him or herself and God AND a physical protection. Thus, when people start being untruthful among themselves, they naturally, then, draw away from knowing God and also start to lose God's protection. This is why the sins of lying and false witness are so very dire; they are not "minor" sins. People who start lying to each other become deaf to God and lose not only the truth itself but also God's protection, as God will not protect falsehood.

Here is a somewhat artistic image to help you to understand that statement that I've made where God is truth and will not protect falsehood. Think of God as being a beam of light falling on an object, let's say a table. The top of the table glows in the light, and under the table is a shadow. It's not like the light, in this case God, arranges so that a separate entity, the shadow, is created and "protected," like equal rights for shadows, LOL. Wherever the light falls there is light. A separate entity, a table, that blocks the light creates shadow. That is a law of physics but it is an apt artistic image to understand that God is all light (truth) and that the light does not possess an agenda to create and maintain x number of shadows, etc. Likewise, God will not create, endorse or protect lies and the agendas of people who lie to each other. Isaiah, listening to the actual words of God as they are spoken to him, describes this perfectly and completely in this passage, and the proof, witnessed years after Isaiah, demonstrates the fall of the People of God who had become liars. Just because an individual person or even a whole generation is not smited on the spot does not mean it is not coming.

Seven hundred years later, the Apostle John wrote this about Jesus:

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And we saw his glory-glory as of the only-begotten of the Father-full of grace and of truth.

[Commentary: Do you see how there is a building treasure of understanding as one works through the entire Bible with the intention of truly understanding God and comprehending the cultural context in which the words were written? You might have once read this very passage and not realized the profound implication of John's reporting that they witnessed that Jesus was full of both grace and also of truth. Modern eyes and ears think that saying Jesus was full of truth meant that you could believe everything that he said and did. In other words, this is viewed as just an attestation (and of course an important one) that this is fact and not fiction. But you would miss the entire point of God=Truth that every pious Jew of any learning would have possessed at this time! Grace comes from God and only God. Modern people think that anyone can tell the truth. But John is referring to not humans telling the truth, but that Jesus is filled with God's Truth. Jews would have gasped at those words and realization at that time. Now, of course John wrote his Gospel years after Jesus had died, resurrected and ascended and, in fact, John lived to an ancient one hundred years of age, and he wrote this Gospel at the request of the Christian elders at the time. We can be sure of two things, though. One is that during the time of Jesus' life you can see in scripture and also safely assume that there was frequent use of the word truth in association with Jesus, and that he meant not the truth of humans but the Truth of God. The second is that even those many years after Jesus the Jews would continue, even after the destruction of the Temple, which John lived on long after, that Jews and Christianized Jews would have immediately grasped the full implications of Jesus being full of Truth.]

NOW, you can really understand what Jesus meant when he said:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life."

Jesus does not mean human truth; he means the Truth of God fills him. This would have rocked all who heard him. And now you can recapture that understanding, that this is a huge attestation, not simply a human truth telling statement.

I hope that you have found this helpful!