HOW TO OUT-ARGUE EVERYONE

I don’t know who sent this to me but I’ve had it a number of years and I read it every so often. It really is very funny; very funny indeed and…um…yet…um…well, it’s…it’s very funny. [I did not know who wrote it and I explicitly said so when I posted it quite a while ago. Someone  missed my opening sentence and thought I was plagiarizing and informed me that humorist Dave Barry was the author. Wish I’d written it.] Here it is; enjoy it!

I argue very well.
Ask any of my few remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties and church-gatherings. I sense that they feel a bit inferior to me so their weak grins and brief remarks before moving off are really the price I have to pay for their respect.  As a sign of their great respect (and to give someone else a chance to be right for a change) they don’t often invite me when they get together. I’m humble enough to understand that; anyway you can’t expect people to continue to act maturely when I’m always able to prove them wrong.

You too can win arguments. There’s nothing magical about it. Simply follow these rules: 

Drink Booze. 
Suppose you’re at a party and some hotshot intellectual is expounding on the economy of Peru, a subject you know nothing about. If you’re drinking some health-fanatic drink like grapefruit juice, you’ll hang back, afraid to display your ignorance, while the hotshot enthralls your date or your wife.
But if you drink several large martinis, you’ll discover you have strong views about the Peruvian economy. You’ll be a wealth of information. You’ll argue forcefully, offering searing insights and possibly upsetting furniture. People will be impressed. Some may even leave the room because they can’t face the power of your arguments.

Make things up.
Suppose, in the Peruvian economy argument, you are trying to prove Peruvians are underpaid, a position you base solely on the fact that you are underpaid, and you’ll be hanged if you’re going to let a bunch of Peruvians be better off. Don’t say:  “I think Peruvians are underpaid.” Say: “The average Peruvian’s salary in 2004, dollars adjusted for the revised tax base, is $1,452.81 per annum, which is $836.07 before the mean gross poverty level.”
NOTE: Always make up exact figures.
If an opponent asks you where you got your information, make that up, too. Say: “This information comes from Dr. Hovel T. Moon’s study for the Buford Commission published May 9, 2005. Didn’t you read it?” Say this in the same tone of voice you would use to say, “You left your smelly socks in my shower.”

Use meaningless but weighty-sounding words and phrases.  Memorize this list:
“Let me put it this way”
“In terms of”
“Vis-à-vis”
“Per se”
“As it were”
“Qua”
“So to speak”

You should also memorize some Latin abbreviations such as

“Q.E.D.,” “e.g.,” and “i.e.” These are all short for, “I speak Latin and you don’t.”

Here’s how to use these words and phrases.
Suppose you want to say: “Peruvians would like to eat more meat more often, but they don’t have enough money.”
You never win arguments talking like that. But you will win if you say: “Let me put it this way. In terms of meat-eating, vis-à-vis, Peruvians qua Peruvians, they would like to eat it more often, so to speak, but they, as it were, don’t have enough money per se. Q.E.D.”
Only a fool would challenge that statement.

Use snappy and irrelevant comebacks.
You need an arsenal of all-purpose irrelevant phrases to fire back at your opponents when they make valid points. The best are:
You’re begging the question.
You’re being defensive.
Don’t compare apples and oranges.
What are your parameters?
This last one is especially valuable. Nobody, other than mathematicians, has the vaguest idea what “parameters” means.

Here’s how to use your comebacks:
You say, “As JFK said in 1965…”
Your opponent says, “JFK died in 1963.”
You say “You’re begging the question.”
Or
You say, “Nigerians, like most Asians…”
Your opponent says, “Nigeria is in Africa.”
You say, “You’re being defensive.”

Build a reputation before you get into an argument. This will intimidate your potential opponents (which is really everyone you meet).
You can do this by never admitting ignorance on anything.
If someone says something of interest that you never knew, make it appear to be old news. You can do this by saying things like, “Well, of course!” Or “That’s goes without saying.” Or “That’s what our first grade teacher used to drum into us.”
Your opponents will soon notice this about you (so will your few friends) and they’ll all be impressed. The proof that they’re impressed is when you notice that they stop telling you anything.
You can also build your reputation by topping every experience they’ve ever had.
If they’ve been involved in a tragedy, tell about a worse one you were in.
If they tell a funny story, tell a funnier one.
If they’ve seen a lovely sight somewhere, you tell them of something lovelier.
And don’t forget to begin each telling with, “That’s nothing, we were up in………..”

Keep this up and they’ll begin to look at you with awe in their eyes.

Closely related to this point is this: Don’t let your possible opponent (which is really everyone you meet) have his/her moment of glory.
If they’re telling a moving experience and you sense that others are impressed, short circuit the whole thing by changing the subject abruptly or your potential opponent might gain an advantage.
If you don’t think that’s appropriate you can always say, “Hmm” in a skeptical tone. That works well, especially because it casts vague doubt on the story without being specific.
Your other possible opponents (which are really everyone you meet) will notice this and fear your wisdom.

You can build your reputation as a debater by refusing to be intimidated.
It doesn’t matter that you’ve never been to Peru, or that your opponent only came back from there yesterday after living with Peruvians 32 years, having worked in local government, ditch-digging, newspaper editing and plantation work.
Remember your opinion’s as good as his so jump in with both feet, armed with your phrases and bag of tricks.

One final word, you now know how to out-argue anybody but don’t try to pull any of this on people who carry weapons.

19 YEAR-OLD WILLIE McBRIDE

John Greenleaf Whittier was hardly Jesus Christ but he can hardly be blamed for that—not even the blessed virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother, was Jesus Christ. There never has been nor will there be a human life as filled with all the graces of the Holy One as the life of the Lord Jesus. Still, there have been other lives that in great measure, each in their own way, have reflected some aspect of the life of Jesus as He reflected God. Whittier was such a person.

He was of Quaker background, poor, hard-working and on rocky Massachusetts soil that exhausted and finally took the life of John’s father. The son was little educated, characteristically unwell, longing to marry and enjoy a family of his own but rejected in marriage and unlucky in romance he remained celibate until his death at eighty-five, weary and having given all he could give.

He was a man of strong convictions, especially in the area of social justice and he became a friend of the noted abolitionist and editor, William Lloyd Garrison. Having missed happiness he found a cause and into that cause he threw all his mental and emotional energy, in a ceaseless fight until he could fight no more. In his closing years, having done what he could do and tired of being at war with the world and now recognizing that all humans are caught up in same struggle against the evil powers, he extended his sympathy to all of them. As he lay dying in a friend’s house with a few people around him among the other things he said he said this: “Give my love to the world.”

It simply isn’t possible nor would it be right to ignore the evil that men do. However complex human life is, surely there is something missing in us if nothing can make us angry! The sadness, poverty, loneliness, deprivation, injustice and oppression cry out for someone to take it all into account and deal with it.

Do we not at times long for some person or persons to rise up in the hell-holes of the world and put a stop to cruelty that’s celebrated, brutality that beggars description? Have we not seen the weak and helpless raped and ravaged, hurt and humiliated and spoke a curse on the powers that have been let loose in homes near us and nations away on the other side of the world?

If someone rose up in Somalia or North Korea or south Dallas [name the place yourself] and brought justice, peace and prosperity to those enslaved by brutal leaders and their militia or by unemployment or heartless landlords or husbands–would we not sing his or her praises? Would we not nominate them for the Nobel Peace Prize? Would we not look at one another and now know what we always sort of knew–that there are things that matter more to us than who won the Super Bowl, what baseball or basketball or soccer team made records? If some righteous, strong, wise, loving one rose up and put a stop to carnage and agony wouldn’t we love it? Don’t we sometimes and in a focused and sustained way long for, even pray for and would vote for such a person?

Whittier, just another human like the rest of us, came to see that the entire world is in the grasp of evil powers to which it is captive and that’s what led him to say: “Give my love to the world.”

And there was the young man on the cross; the young man who felt at a depth no other human has felt, as no other human understood. In his dying he saw his own people Israel, the blind being led by the blind, heading for a 70 AD ravine and beyond.

He saw the evil, was experiencing it at that very time; injustice, envy, fear, self-serving power-brokers, religious and political–all this he saw and said, “Father, they don’t know what they’re doing; forgive them.”

But they did know what they were doing and they meant to do it and there lay the evil of it all. And yet, he knew they didn’t know what they were doing; he knew they were creating a nightmare that they would end up living through, again and again and again.

On his way to that hill where the powerful ones hurried him to be got rid of, he said to sad and sobbing women, “Are you weeping for me? Save your tears for yourselves and your children–this is only the beginning. These are the good times and the truly bad times are ahead.” [Luke 23:27-31]

He had had his own crying time. There was that time when he sat on a hill looking down on the city when he sobbed his heart out, chest heaving, eyes streams and voice breaking, “Oh Jerusalem, if you only knew…” [Luke 19:41-44]

But he saw more than Israel in it’s tragic ignorance. From his exalted position he saw the history of the entire human family. That day he prayed not only for Israel–it was a prayer for the entire world. “Forgive them; they have no idea what they’re doing.”

What nation in its sinful ignorance has not created its own conscious nightmare? Glance at history! China, Russia, England, Europe, Ireland, America and South America–where has there not been civil war, ceaseless oppression of the vulnerable?

There were those who at the time said that WWI was “a war to end all wars.” But now, a hundred years later we see that Eric Bogle’s The Green Fields of France  (You Tube) only echoes the truth that history forever shoves in our unbelieving faces. He has an imagined visitor speak to an imaginary [but real] nineteen year-old soldier, Willie McBride, who lies buried far from home; one of millions on both sides. The visitor to the graveyard has this to say as he finishes his talk with the boy:

Well Willie Mc Bride I can’t help wonder why
Do those that lie here know why did they die
And did they believe when they answered the call
Did they really believe that this war would end war

Well the sorrow the suffering the glory the pain
The killing the dying was all done in vain
For young Willy Mc Bride it all happened again
And again,and again,and again,and again

Christians see the cross of Christ [as part of a larger Story] as the most momentous event in human history and I understand–I really do–why many think that’s a scandalous thing to say. But we can’t help it, it’s where we stand and we believe with Christ that his death is sentence being passed on “the world” [John 12:31, NJV]. “The world”–a name for the sinful and insane re-structuring of reality without the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ–it’s the dynamic reality that enslaves and blinds the human family to the truth that true and full life is found only in relation to God.

It’s there that evil is exposed as it is nowhere else! [Can’t you see that that must be scandalous in light of the horrors of history; horrors that are taking place at this very moment in homes and cities and countries? This young man, dying two thousand years ago is in and at that relatively painless dying experience the supreme judgment on the world’s inexpressible cruelty and moral lunacy? Do you wonder why people roll their eyes and walk off disgusted and stupefied? Of course we help them to react this way because we so often give them the impression that it was the great physical suffering of Jesus that is the important thing. The truth is, His physical suffering was nothing compared with what multiplied millions have suffered and are suffering even now. The true message lies in who it is that suffers what He suffers and why He does it.

    It was there on that public hanging-tree that Jesus said: “Give my love to the world!”

   That’s the Church’s business!   

The good news is this: the cross wasn’t the end of the Story! It wasn’t a sad, helpless young man they hanged there. He was sad beyond our knowing but he was anything but helpless if you believe what he himself said. Then God vindicated him by raising him from the dead and when he exposed “the world” for what it is and triumphed over the death-bringing satanic power that pervades that “world” he was giving humanity the assurance that all wrongs will be righted [Acts 17:31].

Think noble things of God!

THERE’S MORE, NOT LESS, MORE

Disease and death are so ugly and brutal. Maybe a terminal ward where everyone is a little child has an added pathos. Because I believe that every little child anywhere in the world is a servant of God I find consolation in knowing that however things appear there’s more in it than meets the eye and when the world is better we’ll clap our hands over our mouths in enlightened astonishment.

Like everyone else it guts me to see them suffer and die.

The raging fever is real, the gasping for air is real, the incubators, straps, tubes, leads, needles, pumps, drips—they’re all real. The silent screaming, the wide-open mouths and the tiny toothless gums, the jerking, twisting, the shrill crying or the silent panting—all real.

There’s no point in denying the reality of all that!

But what if what we see is not all there is?

What if there’s more (not less!) to what we see than what we see?

Would you not want to be able to believe that there was more?

One day outside Jerusalem there was a young man hanging on the public gallows. The spit, the sweat, the blood, the jeers, the taunts, the treachery, the hypocrisy, the race hatred—all real. The thirst, the loneliness, the sense of abandonment, the grief of a mother and friends, the injustice, the evil—all real.

But there was more!

In all that—not simply after it—in and through all that there was more.

There wasn’t less than that! There was more!

John 12:31: SENTENCE WAS BEING PASSED ON THE WORLD! SATAN WAS BEING KICKED OUT!

In the Mel Gibson movie, Christ, badly beating, not allowed to sleep, falling one more time, His mother runs to Him and He says, “Look, mother, I’m making everything new.” Using Revelation 21:5.

Without denying a bit of the ugly and brutal in it there was the wondrous in it, paid for in enduring anguish and pain.

There is more in the disease and death of a child! Let’s not reduce the child to an object of pity. Sadness we should feel but we should learn from them.

It speaks profound truths to the world, into which we have brought anguish, agony and loss, and what it says is said to us at a heartbreaking cost!
And what does it say?

ANGELS “HAVING SEX WITH WOMEN.”

I’m not sure if this is worth the time and space. Walk away if it’s not your kind of piece.
Does Genesis 6:1-2 teach us satanic angels “had sex with women” (which is how I’ve heard it phrased again and again)? Well, whatever those verses teach us they don’t teach us that anyone “had sex with women.” They tell us someone (“sons of God”) married women and had children by them (6:2,4).
This is a far cry from painting the picture of satanic angels manufacturing human bodies and “sleeping with women/” If these were satanic angels it seems they had more virtue than a host of humans today since they had the decency to get married. 
The picture of evil angels having a night out on the town with women is more bizarre but surely easier to swallow than seeing them settling down to marriage and raising a family.
Maybe, after all, though it still leaves us wondering, the more conservative view is correct: “sons of God” is a reference to godly people giving way to ungodly ways. (The context certainly suggests some evil involved and the implication may be, and I take it to be, that they were committing polygamy. See Genesis 5:19.)
The Jerusalem Bible renders 6:2 this way, “the sons of God, looking at the daughters of men, saw they were pleasing and married as many as they chose.” The NJB retains that reading and several other versions seem to agree though the language is a bit ambiguous. Note Genesis 4:26 that is suggestive of existence of a godly line.)
Psalm 82:6 has an equivalent expression (“you are all sons of the Most High”) which Jesus seems to use to refer to human rulers. See John 10:34-35. It’s clear enough that in the psalm God is rebuking wicked rulers of the vulnerable and dependent, The psalmist may be using mythological speech (God calling the gods into a council meeting to expose their wickedness in oppressing the vulnerable but being worshiped instead of abandoned). I take it that Jewish apostate human rulers are the embodiment and instruments of evil forces worshiped as “gods”.
And Luke 3:38 has the Greek equivalent used of Adam who was a “son of God” (the word “son” is in 3:21 ). If this is a legitimate use of the phrase then perhaps it can refer to some in the line of the godly that behaved in an ungodly fashion. Note again Genesis 4:26
(When people tell you that the phrase “sons of God” MEANS angelic beings tell them that a word or phrase MEANS what the writer MEANS IT TO MEAN. In the end, CONTEXT is king and not doubtful lexical claims. Because a word or a phrase is characteristically used in one way does not mean it isn’t used in another. We hear of “agape” MEANING godly love, God’s love for us and our love for Him and our fellow-believers. We find it used that way all over the place (1 Corinthians 13, the books of John). So we’re told that’s what it “means”. But Paul uses it of Demas “loving” the world in 1 Timothy 4, 1 John 2 uses it of people who would “love” the world. Jesus uses it of people who would “love” only those that “love” them (as pagan did) and implicitly rebukes them for such love. The word “agape” means what a writer means it to mean and context, near and remote, determines that, though we can’t get to the bottom of some questions.)
No one’s sure about the derivation of “Nephilim”. Some say it is “the fallen (ones)” and have fallen angels in mind but the passage doesn’t call the sons of God Nephilim, that’s the name given to the alleged offspring. . I say “alleged” because the text doesn’t expressly say the Nephilim were the offspring; it says the offspring were “the heroes of old, men of renown” (6:4). It’s perhaps an open question whether these two groups are to be identified or perhaps I’m being too cautious and missing the obvious.
In any case, there’s this interesting sidelight. This was all before Flood behavior and presumably (since all humans died but eight) the Nephilim were dead. But Israel came across the Nephilim (Numbers 13:33)  in Canaan and we’re given their tribal connections. If we’re to take the stance that Nephilim are the offspring of satanic angels and women we’d have to suppose that these marauding predators who believed in marriage (!) must have been active more than once. And on we go like a string of Hollywood movies.
It’s possible that the Nephilim were the mighty men of renown in Genesis 6:4. It may even be likely. If this is true, the Nephilim were men and men who gained for themselves a great reputation as heroic (whether good or bad we aren’t told). There is the suggestion in Numbers 13:32-33 that the Nephilim may have been very tall men. See Deuteronomy 1:28. Joshua 11:21 says Joshua defeated the Anakites and the record makes no big deal about it. Apparently they were simply tall men rather than half angel/half human aliens.
I’ve taken a fair amount of space on this question mainly, I think, to suggest how tricky texts like these can be. To read them, make sweeping assertions and then use them to build a far-reaching theology of Satan and satanic angels is precarious indeed.  it says the offspring were “the heroes of old, men of renown” (6:4).

OUR SCANDALOUS FAITH

I’ve borrowed what follows from a little book I wrote called The Dragon Slayer (Amazon has it).

The cross of Jesus claims that the true measure of sin is not how we feel about it or how repulsed we are by it or even how much agony it has cost us when others have sinned against us. As I see it, this is one of the places at which the cross appears in its most scandalous light.

God does not hold us responsible for not being God. And when he teaches us (as he does throughout the Bible) that He sees sin more clearly than we do He does not hold us in contempt because that’s true. He understands we can’t know it as He does because no one is holy as He is holy and it is only the holy one who truly sees sin for what it is. So when we feel and speak against it as we do—limited though our sense of it is—He is pleased with the genuineness of our renunciation. Just the same, He insists on our believing that the true and full measure of human sin is seen only in the cross of Christ.
But think how difficult that is for millions to believe. Let me focus on the astonishing evil that exposed itself during the Hitler & Stalin years. There must be thousands of books that rehearse the crimes that leave us speechless until we feel we must say something if only to keep from saying nothing. And who can forget the images that we’ve seen on television and in the movies? Haven’t we at times been on the verge of rising to stick our boot through the television set in irrational fury? And haven’t we now and then shouted at God, “How could you let this go on?” This is how we who are spectators feel, so how must it have been for those who were actually enduring it.
Now try telling those people that the true measure of sin is not the crucifixion of the Jews and other nations by the Nazis at Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald or the Stalin murder of millions, and elsewhere. Tell them that the true measure of sin is revealed in the crucifixion of a young Jew on a cross outside Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago. Tell them that and see their response!
Tell that to those who know what has happened in the gulag prison system down the years where on Solzhenitsyn’s conservative figure, 68.7 million people have died after prolonged crucifixions. Tell it to the multiplied millions who lived in the dark nights of Papa Doc, Pol Pot; tell it to the people in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, Africa, North Korea and the numberless oppressed, ancient and modern.
Tell them that that the New Testament teaches that the comparatively humane death of Jesus of Nazareth is the true and full revelation of Sin. In unison they will tell you that you’re deranged.  And they’ll feel insulted beyond measure because it will look like you’re minimizing the awesome magnitude and depth of their loss and the twisted malevolent evils that confound adequate description.
But that’s not what the New Testament is doing. That’s not at all what the cross of Christ does! It doesn’t make less of human suffering—it makes more of it! We see all that as moral evil and the cross says it’s more than that—it’s sin!
When my child is raped or my family tortured I want you to tell me that my feelings matter and that my pain is a measure of the sinfulness of sin. But I want you to tell me it’s worse than that! I want you tell me that if there’s a God that He thinks it’s worse than that. I want you to tell me that there aren’t enough words in the entire world or enough passion in the whole of humanity to damn it with. When my personal pain is multiplied by tens of millions and we stand in speechless rage and utter bewilderment at the sights and sounds of it we want someone to say, “Yes, the eternal God agrees with you. It’s as bad as you feel. Your devastation and your ceaseless fury-filled protests are a measure of it all. But it’s worse even than that.”
That’s what Christians mean to do when they say the cross of Christ is the true measure of sin. Minimize the world’s hurt and the oppressor’s wrong? God forbid! And the cross forbids!
When Judas betrayed Christ that night something more profoundly serious had happened than a friend turning against a friend (Luke 22:3-6). A “world spirit” was defying eternal holiness and God’s aim to bless a world. Spiritual hosts of wickedness in all their forms were weighing in against holy loveworlds were colliding. Cosmic corruption and pollution was showing itself and coming to focus in that specific moral crime and in that specific person. That’s what Luke meant when he said Satan entered Judas! At the cross it was more than religion and politics and realism in a deadly mix doing away with an innocent man (as they have so often done). It was satanic evil against God himself. It was Satan screaming, “You will not redeem them.” It was human evil as part of a corruption that reaches beyond the stars. The monster that swelled in the nineteen twenties and forties in Europe until it blocked out the sun is beyond our comprehension. As inexpressibly vile as these crimes are in and of themselves, they are only the ulcers generated by a galactic predator that has ravaged worlds seen and unseen. Sin!
At Calvary, Christ was saying to every sufferer down the ages, “What has happened to you is more sinister than you know. It is part of creation’s self-destruction; it’s part of creation’s sinful alienation from its God and you in your awful agony have exposed its hind quarters.” But we could never have known this except via the cross of Christ for that is where the alien power fully exposed itself. We could stutter something legitimate about moral evil but we couldn’t see it as “sinful” because the word “sin’ only makes sense when God enters the picture.
Make less of our astonishing cruelty and inhumanity? No, Golgotha is Auschwitz and Africa and Cambodia, Syria, North Korea and every other hell-hole seen through the eyes of God. We don’t mean to diminish the sickening savagery when we speak of the cross. We have another agenda in mind.
If He is such a lover of humans why doesn’t He do something about itnow? God could answer that perfectly legitimate question, He has the answers but we couldn’t grasp the complexity of the situation. That’s not a dodgeit’s the truth (compare John 16:12). We know from our own experience that we’re faced with a host of specific questions that we can’t wrap our minds around even when most of the facts are before us. But even if God explained everything satisfactorily that wouldn’t be enough; it’s not explanations we want when we’re in agonywe just want it to stop! What He asks for, and He knows how great a thing He is asking for, is for us to trust Him that He will right all wrongs—He asks us to trust Him. In the meantime He has made it clear in Jesus Christ who came and shared in His own life some of what the tortured millions have suffered, that He sees and will not forget what is going on. I am one of the countless who have been called by God to give the plundered and abused of the world a gospel and it’s this—THIS IS NOT HOW IT ENDS! THIS IS NOT AS GOOD AS IT GETS FOR YOU. HE NOT ONLY DIED FOR YOU, HE AROSE IN TRIUMPH OVER ALL YOUR ENEMIES. THOSE WHO OPPRESS AND TORMENT YOU HAVE MADE AN ENEMY OF HIM.

(Holy Father, convince us that You love the entire human family and deliver Your people from our self-centered search for more “rights” while millions of our brothers and sisters in this human family suffer so terribly. More and more deliver us from Sin that we might give the hurting world hope and a song to sing. Remind us that Resurrection follows the Cross. Our prayer in Jesus’ name.)

I KNOW YOU KNOW BUT I WISH YOU KNEW…

It will always be so. As long as there is sin that would completely destroy the life of a nation there will need to be a faithful remnant to be a witness to what Sin will bring, a witness to what faithlessness will rob us of and a witness to who we drag down with us when we turn from God. We affect the innocent and bring trouble down on the heads of the righteous. One day if we’re very fortunate we will look at such people, people warm and righteous, and we will realize that their suffering is a result of their being identified with us who are not in God. This happened at some point in the Babylon exile. Please see Isaiah 52:13—53:12.
The righteous had opposed Israel’s treachery and its addiction to the gods and called on the people to trust in Yahweh. But, still, the nation went into captivity and the lovers of God were taken with the guilty. Their homes were burned, their children died, their wives were raped and they were beaten. If God cared and they loved God surely He would have spared them such a “crucifixion”. The guilty thought the faithful people were afflicted by God for their sins (Isaiah 53:4) but it dawned on some that the righteous shared the agony of national punishment due to the guilty  and that they suffered it for the guilty nation’s benefit (compare Amos 4:8-13 with its 5 times repeated “Yet…”) And the punishment that was aimed to bring them (the guilty) back to God and peace fell on the righteous and the innocent. God wasn’t punishing the innocent (babies) or the faithful. The faithful felt the pain along with the guilty.
The guilty noted (where it was seeable) how the righteous endured the oppression resulting from their unfaithfulness of Israeland the Gentile forces. And they began to muse and (who knows?) some prophetic voice may have explained to them the truth about the grace and patience of these righteous men and women; men and women who took the mistreatment like sheep being sheared. And in some (for Isaiah 53 is confessional) there came the realization that without the righteous the nation would be swallowed up in darkness. They understood (some did) that it was inevitable that the righteous would suffer along with the unfaithful nation if they maintained their identity with the guilty nation that triggered the exile. (See Romans 8:3 for identity.)
They also sensed that by the empowering God the righteous would see fruit for their suffering and be satisfied. The faithful would be vindicated and their faith well placed. The righteous were a gift of God to the nation (see Isaiah 42:6; 49:1-9 and note the “us” in Acts 13:47) and to all the nations.
These faithful ones were the mold in which Jesus of Nazareth was foreshadowed and it was how He came to be. The sinless One on whom the nation’s hope rested is the one they jeered at and then in their thousands came to understand that the deliverance they looked for was to be found in the very Person they thought was afflicted by God.

I’m getting old and feel the difference but what did I expect? When by faith I came up out of the baptismal water with the living hope fulfilled? Did I expect to be exempted from the hurts that are being experienced by the entire human family? Did I expect to be taken to heaven in an immortal and glorious body at that point? Did I think it was all about me and mine? Was I to be taken from a needy world and was my family to escape all trouble? (John 17:15)
No, our Master has made it clear—suffering and then the glory, that’s how His Body is conformed to the image of its Head (Romans 8:17-18, 29) and it’s how it comes to experience (attain to) the resurrection (Philippians 3:10-11). Our suffering as Christians is the same but not the same as the poor sufferers of the world. Even our death is not the same as theirs though it is the same (see John 6:50; 11:26—”Do you believe this?”). By His grace we are in the world but not of it and it’s sad that their suffering and death is not like ours though it is very much like ours and so often exceeds ours in the depth and dimension of pain.
I wish I knew—deep down, intellectually and emotionally, who I am for I know it would have a transforming effect on whatever pain I endure along with my fellow-humans. I wish you who might read this and who hurt deeply but have given yourself to Him—I wish you could know who you are and the wonder of what He and His Father are doing in and through you. We’d rather they did know but it’s all right that non-Christians currently don’t know; maybe in the end what counts most is that you know. People like you and the Lord Jesus and all the faithful down the years, for all your differences have a lot in common.

(Holy Father, as you have promised we pray through Jesus Christ in confidence and ask you to keep your suffering people near your heart and their hearts near to your own. For your glory, for the glory of the Lord Jesus, for themselves and for all with whom they have influence. This prayer in the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.)

LOVING THE “BENT KING”

This is a long piece but I hope you are able to get a few minutes to read it. I do. But don’t begin it until you are free to do it. God bless us all in such matters.
In his extended poem Saul. Robert Browning has David called to play his music for the wayward king Saul who is in the dark abyss of depression and feelings of abandonment. David’s music, we’re told, had soothed Saul in times past (1 Samuel 16:23) and if ever Saul needed help he needed it now.
The love of David for Jonathan, son of Saul, is well known to Bible readers, but David’s deep feeling for Saul is not given the notice it calls for and merits (see 1 Samuel 24 and 2 Samuel 1 as parts of the story). Browning uses the biblical text and his own depth of imaginative insight and gives us a lesson we need to hear again and again. I hope you can read what follows with patience. In a world as mad and bad as this one is and can be, the existence, depth and selflessness of human love at its best says something the whole creation needs to hear.
David’s met by Abner who tells him the king is in a dreadful state and that he and the men haven’t eaten a bite since he went into his tent. Nor would they eat or drink until David came back out to say the king was alive and well because he has been three days in the black tent in the middle of the camp—in complete silence. The troops know a struggle is going on between Saul and the Spirit of God.
David first prays and then enters, creeping in on his knees, praying as he goes, into the great darkness. He speaks into that darkness, “I’m David, your servant.” Not a word or a sound, only deep darkness. Then his eyes make out something even darker, an upright—the center beam of the tent and then, blackest of all, he makes out the huge figure of Saul. A beam of sunlight suddenly gives some light and David sees him there, propped up against the central beam with his arms draped over the cross beam—like one crucified, covered in sweat, head drooping, like a king-serpent, cut off from his own kind while he’s waiting to shed his skin.
David begins to play the kind of music he plays for His sheep—the kind that calms them; then music that charms the birds and other animals, even crickets. Then he played happy music, the kind they play at harvest when friends enjoy one another and expand each others’ hearts and then came the kind of music they play as they bear a man to his grave. The kind that goes along with the praise they proclaim as they walk saying, “The land has none left such as he on the bier.” Then there was wedding music and music that men do hard work by when they have to get their shoulders under huge stones when building. And more, there was the praise music as when men go to worship, led by the Levitical singers,

up to the altar in glory enthroned. But I stopped:
for here in the darkness Saul groaned.

For a moment David’s silent, listening, then the tent shakes “for mighty Saul shuddered”, but after that only his head moved. David begins to play again, speaking of the joys of human life, the rock-climbing, swimming, bear-hunting. He sings of love of family and the joys of it, the love of boyhood friends and then of the king’s coming to glory and being monarch of the nation. And at that point, carried away by the beauty and truth of it all, and anxious for Saul to drink it in and end his night, he calls out the king’s name—Saul!
The whole tent’s brighter with the singing but the figure in the center is like a dark mountain that’s the last thing in the valley to be hit by the rising sun’s light. But not so dark that David can’t make out the scars the king bears, scars he received in the nation’s defense. Saul gives a long shudder, then silence again, but now he’s aware of who and where he is. He has heard all the words and in great sadness:

He said, “It is good;” still he drinks not:
He lets me praise life,
Gives assent, yet would die for his own part.

David understands that the king knows something he doesn’t know. That all David has sung, while it’s true, and lovely and joyous—it’s not enough. There’s got to be more. Life’s joys aren’t enough to take the awful sting out of living much less out of dying.
David imagines himself lying in a little rock fissure while he’s out tending his sheep. The rocks on each side hem in his view of the sky and narrow it down to only a sliver while high above him flies an eagle. What can he see? From that height, what can he see? Much more than David! David as a shepherd boy knows so little of life, and there’s so much more. Now convinced of that, he takes up his harp and begins to sing again.
He tells the king he’s right not to put too much stock in life as it is on the physical level, “it’s good” but it’s not enough, and people grow tired of it and feel empty. But this life and the praise the king will get in future years from a grateful nation is God-given! God gave it!
And as he sings, Saul moves, fixes his hair , adjusts his turban, wipes off the sweat with his robe, fixes his tunic and stands erect; looking now like the old Saul “before error had bent” Then, weak, with his back against the central post he slides down to sit on the ground right close to David, his huge knees hemming the boy in. And then, without a word, slowly, he lifts a hand and puts it on the boy’s head with “kind power” and pushes it back so he can look long in his face. David’s heart is bursting with love for the man. He hears himself say he would give anything, anything if he could make the king well, if he could give him not just longer life—but new life! If love could do it, love would. His mind leaped to God and the thought startled him and he could play no more nor sing.
                           Can David out-love God and so what?
Shocked into silence by the new and daring thought, he reflects on creation, admitting it’s more than he can fathom, it far outreaches all his wisdom, it exposes all his limitations. And what of God’s love—did it not surpass his? He thinks of his own love for Saul, Saul the bent king. He thinks how gladly he’d do whatever it took to make him right. And in this, does the creature do better than the Creator? Does he compare himself with God and out-shine God? It’s true he doesn’t have God’s power to execute, but does he think he has out-willed God? Does he will Saul good more than God? Does God have more power but less good will toward sinners than David? No, God out-wills him as well as out-powers him.
Should David then in all the lesser matters trust God and when it comes to what matters most “distrust” him? Is it too good to be true? Should he, now having seen so much go “thus far and no farther?” Would God make Saul and not love him? And if He loved him, would He not redeem him? David would! Could God be less than David in loving? Perish the thought! When the truth sinks in, he begins to weep. His own weakness doesn’t prevent him from willing Saul’s redemption though his weakness depresses and frustrates him. Still, it suddenly dawns on him, “tis not what man does which exalts him, but what man would do!” So David’s service is perfect; weakness doesn’t change his purpose.
Could I wrestle to raise Him from sorrow,
grow poor to enrich,
To fill up his life, starve my own out, I would….
Oh, speak through me now!
Would I suffer for him that I love? So
wouldst thou—so wilt thou!

Knowing then that God felt as he felt, Browning has David long for the incarnation of that character, purpose and power (compare Psalm 27:8).

O Saul, it shall be
A Face like my face that receives thee; a
Man like to me,
Thou shalt love and be loved by, forever;
a hand like this hand
Shall throw open the gates of new life to thee!
See the Christ stand!

All this came to David with stunning power and since it was so profound a revelation, involving the Creator of all things in a “covenant” based on His very own character, David feels that the whole of creation must have been affected.
He stumbles His way home in the night and feels there’s a host of creatures as well as a universe watching Him, like a nation famished for news on how the war went.
As He walks home it’s getting close to dawn and creatures stand, awe-stricken at the revelation, flowers stare in awed astonishment, winds whisper and brooks quietly murmur in hushed voice—all, joining together in responding to the “new law” (which was really an old law) given to David, “Even so, it is so!”
All of this comes to us in stunning power too for we now know that what Browning has David long for has actually taken place in Jesus of Nazareth: God’s character, purpose and power has shown itself in a face like our faces; the face of one who is not only able but has the will to bring new life to all of us no matter how far we’ve gone astray.

(Holy Father, this moves us and makes us want to be more like you but it seems to call us too high though we constantly long for such heights. At least, Holy One, enable us we pray, to love in such a Christlike way our beloved ones whom you have given to us to protect and love and who are within our reach.  And perhaps in so loving them we will grow to feel more and do more for those who are not our special ones with whom you have blessed us. Hear our prayer because we ask it in the Lord Jesus and in His Spirit.)