This may be the most important post I’ve ever written. I don’t say that lightly. Over the past five and a half years, I’ve had multiple blogs and, on average, posted daily.
You will find no prophecy in this post. No references to headlines, public figures or current events. No date calculations, speculations or scenarios.
My purpose here is simply to lay out some things that came to me in a grace-filled flash as I prepared (far too hastily) to lead a Bible study several weeks ago. (Thankfully the Holy Spirit bailed me out — again. He’s good with that.)
This may seem basic to some, contrived to others, but I suspect it will not be entirely that way to anyone. I urge you to ‘camp’ on it, pray, and see what emerges. If I’m effective at conveying what was handed to me, then you may begin to look at the world in a whole new (and amazingly integrated, awe-filled, God-fearing, joyful) way. Here goes…
I’ve always had trouble with the whole “word” thing as it relates to the Christian faith. If you’re honest, you probably have too. No need to be insecure about it. God can take it. As can his word. I’ve often wondered, for example…
Do I capitalize the word ‘Word’ the same way I do God, or Jesus or Holy Spirit or Lord? Does Word (or word) refer to the Bible? In which language? In which version? And when I use the term, does that then chain me to a narrow kind of literalism?
After all, we know that there are literally dozens of genres in scripture, many of which were intended to be poetic, symbolic, mysterious or simply inspiring. And even the literal historical ones are often meant to serve double duty via symbols, patterns, allegories, metaphors, parables and types. Or does The Word of God refer to Jesus? Directly, or just metaphorically? Or to both Jesus and the Bible, in some relationship? Is it only about words on a page and this man-God Jesus, or is The Word of God idea evocative of something much larger also?
In my ~8-year walk with the Lord, including deep, diverse and increasingly voracious reading and listening, I’ve found satisfactory answers to most of those questions individually, but never one holistic enough to take in the scope that seems to positively leap off the page from one the most awesome passages in all of scripture, John 1:1-5 –
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Oh man, I just love that one. Love it!! If I could sneak into a hospice ward and whisper anything into the ears of dying unbelievers, that would be it.
In lesson number 22* of “DNA From the Beginning, an animated primer on the basics of DNA, genes and heredity,” (i.e., the building blocks of all life) we read that:
The genetic code had to be a “language” — using the DNA alphabet of A, T, C, and G — that produced enough DNA “words” to specify each of the 20 known amino acids. Simple math showed that only 16 words are possible from a two-letter combination, but a three-letter code produces 64 words.
Talking about DNA in this way — as words, as an alphabet and as a language — is something very much in the mainstream of science, as sites like this attest. In the context of history however, DNA is a very recent discovery.
In the late 1940′s, the members of the scientific community were aware that DNA was most likely the molecule of life, even though many were skeptical since it was so “simple.” They also knew that DNA included different amounts of the four bases adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine (usually abbreviated A, T, G and C), but nobody had the slightest idea of what the molecule might look like.
Likewise, many today are “aware” in a vague way, that the so-called Judeo-Christian ‘ethic’, or maybe Jesus the man and his teachings provide generally positive, life-enhancing guidelines compared to the darker alternatives and maybe in some combination with other neat-sounding “spiritual” ideas, yet they’re skeptical of this whole Word of God thing because the cross and the prescription for accepting grace are… so simple: Repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, Peter speaking).
How can that simple set of actions be the source of all life? I ask in reply: how can the act of sexual intimacy between husband and wife be the source of a person? The planting of a seed in the ground in May the source of tomatoes in August? DNA.
Similarly, how can a simple alphabet, e.g., the Hebrew “alephbet”, be the source of this other, larger kind of spiritual, eternal life with the Creator himself?
In Genesis, chapter one, we learn that God speaks into being all Creation, including all life. The first mention of life comes in Genesis 1:11-13 (KJV), in which it’s hard not to see DNA, the “words” through which the variety of life forms are all expressed:
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.
Here’s a modern take on how man is seeking to preserve that seed:
Though they are taking extreme measures (and it’s hard to argue with what may well be good stewardship), it’s been observed (by Bullinger, among others) that antediluvian (pre-flood) mankind tried the same thing. The effort will only be effective if God wants it to be.
The word ‘seed’ (Strong’s H2233, pronounced zeh’-rah) shows up four times in Genesis — not unlike the four living men (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) who testify, in different ways, to the good news of the Word Himself, Jesus Christ. Not unlike the four compass points of the Israelite camp in the desert… or the four points of the cross which it likely foreshadowed.
Flash ahead a bit to God’s creation of humankind, and then… corruption, not only of God’s word (his instructions are twisted, by the serpent: “Did God actually say…?”) but there’s corruption of DNA implied also, possibly predating that encounter. Y’all know the story.
Genesis 3:14-15 (KJV) — And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go , and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
A brief but important side trip. My brother got leukemia five years ago. One day one teensy-weensy little piece of one strand of DNA in just one cell went bad — one little piece of a word of his literal lifeblood. It multiplied and finally, killed him… in the physical sense.
Matthew 5:17-18 (KJV, Jesus speaking) — Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Now if you have a knowledge of biology, you know that DNA goes bad all the time in millions of cells in our bodies and yet we don’t all get cancer and die from it. That’s because we have these amazingly complex, living systems to clean that stuff up and get rid of it. Eventually of course, they are overwhelmed and we die, but in the meantime, a jot of DNA broken here, or scripture misplaced or misused there and… no biggie. There are correctives.
Exercise, a good diet, plenty of sleep… Healthy churches and Godly pastors, the study of other parts of scripture, the Holy Spirit, and wise, mature brothers and sisters in Christ. They each play roles, respectively, in our physical and spiritual immune systems. (And yes, of course they are linked). They provide correctives to corruption until, in some parts of the body, they too are corrupted, weakened or overwhelmed.
He [Jesus] put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
For those who already pine for The Only One Who Is Truth, such corruption gets easier and easier to see, both around us and within ourselves. I’ve heard that a very healthy person may sense cancer or other disease much sooner than one who is not. This has certainly been true of my life as an endurance athlete. When I was at the peak of competitive fitness, running marathons, ‘ultras’ and Ironman triathlons, one tiny thing could be ‘off’ and I could tell within minutes of starting a workout.
I don’t mean any of that to sound elitist or judgmental, much less to condemn anyone. It’s just a fact. With eyes opened in Christ… with greater spiritual health and more ‘workouts’, one begins to see stuff… then more… and more… and more, not the least of it being one’s impossibly dirty, fallen, corrupted state compared to a perfectly Holy God.
It has been characteristic of my Christian walk, as it was of at least the first half of my athletic career, that I would think that the latest insight or “oh wow!” sense of God’s presence, or new insight into Who He Is is the ultimate — that I’ve plateaued. Some do, and I’ve been one of them. But each time I genuinely seek to obey and ask to be brought even closer, He has obliged.
The plain things remain the main things, and the main things the plain things. The basics remain the basis for salvation. Yet with the healthy growth of God’s seed of Truth in us, it is unnatural, even sickening to remain stunted, going round and round as malnourished Christian midgets on some circular track of obligation and ritual.
Sliding back to our main theme, Jesus unlocks the meaning of the ‘weeds’ parable, privately, for his disciples, in Matthew 13:36-43 (ESV):
He [Jesus] answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Awesome enough. The one sowing the good seeds (which I always interpreted as words once spoken but now on a page), is the Son of Man, Jesus himself. Now here’s the kicker that blasted me into the glorious, holistic thought that I tried to capture in the title to this post. In Luke’s treatment of the same scene (Luke 8:11, KJV) Jesus’ words are rendered:
The seed is the word of God.
Camp on that for a moment. Read it again. It has blown me away since I let it and its implications begin to sink in.
The seed (hark back to Genesis and DNA) IS the word of God. It’s both a metaphor AND a literal statement. And it’s Jesus HIMSELF, as well as his bon mots spoken while here on earth as well as the Father’s words of life-creation (DNA). They are ALL the Word of God. And they’re in perfect relationship to one another, as is the Godhead: both united and distinct. No words of mine can adequately convey this. The closest I can come it to think of Jesus (the Word of God) as the ultimate and infinite source of stem cells at every level of Creation.
One word gives precious physical life in this world. The other gives spiritual life in the eternal (which begins here and now). We must cherish BOTH forms of life for they are BOTH the word of God. It’s not all created human beings being precious and needing to be allowed to live OR children raised well (for example). It needs to be both. Yes that is hard. Politicians tilt at it from both sides and routinely, almost comically, fail. That should not be a surprise.
Most things are impossible without God. With Him though, crazy stuff like a twenty-year-old legally adopting and raising twelve desperately sick, abandoned kids in Uganda becomes not only possible but REAL. (Praise GOD!)
A third aspect (the Holy Spirit) provides the conditions for that new life to thrive, much as our physical environment does for our physical bodies. (No wonder the Holy Spirit is described in atmospheric terms, even as He is a person. No wonder then, that the many references to God being spiritual LIGHT also help us reflect on the necessity of physical light to the growth of plants, which in turn are THE essential, foundational building-block of all ecosystems and all animal life.)
I could go on and on. The implications are myriad. I haven’t even touched the digital nature of reality at the sub-atomic level and how that points to a Creator speaking and organizing “words” also.
A few parting thoughts…
Since the fall, humans have sought to control and manipulate our environment and our destiny. The seed vault video above is an example of preservation without such manipulation, but there’s much darker stuff going on too.
Here are two such items, culled from a secular science newsletter I received last week: Scientists crack entire genetic code of cancer. Denmark’s export: ‘Viking’ babies. Meanwhile, the biosphere defies our attempts to tame it: Rise in ‘background’ levels of antibiotic resistance. Which for anyone following the weather this winter shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The geo-sphere is also subject to God, not man’s hubris at shunting Him aside.
Here’s another more prophetic treatment on DNA that just happened to land in my mailbox this afternoon from someone who couldn’t have known I was working on this. I don’t agree with all of it; some of the claims and conclusions are a bit wild, but it’s well written and the directional thrust and some key facts are absolutely right-on. It deals with (among other things) chimeras… which for this astute audience should also remind them of Genesis 6:4 and Nephilim, but we don’t have time to go there today. This post is about God, not His short-timer, created enemy.
As with un-watered seeds, frozen embryos or or other raw DNA lacking an opportunity for expression, or living organisms that lack a growth-enhancing environment, the Word of God (as written down; i.e., the Bible) will seem not that much different from other stories, and little more than interesting legends of long-dead characters running around in the desert, unless and until it is nurtured by the Holy Spirit.
As such, I leave you with an excerpt that came to me from yet another brother who didn’t know what I was working on. It’s a bit dense, but read it twice and it will pay dividends. Andrew Murray, in his book “The Spirit of Christ” (penned ~100 years ago) writes, in chapter ten:
…the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Himself through Him, will teach us… Beware of misunderstanding these words. We always connect teaching with thoughts. We want the Spirit to suggest to us certain conceptions of how Jesus will be with us and in us. And this is not what He does. The Spirit does not dwell in the mind, but in the life. Not in what we know, but in what we are does the Spirit begin His work. Do not let us seek or expect at once a clear apprehension, a new insight, into this or any Divine truth. Knowledge, thought, feeling, action, all this is a part of that external religion which the external presence of Jesus had also wrought in the disciples. The Spirit was now to come, and, deeper down than all these, He was to be the Hidden Presence of Jesus within the depths of their personality. The Divine Life was in a newness of power to become their life. And the teaching of the Spirit would begin, not in word or thought, but in Power. In the Power of a Life working in them secretly, but with Divine energy; in the Power of a Faith that rejoiced that Jesus was really near, was really taking charge of the whole life and every circumstance of it; the Spirit would inspire them with the faith of the Indwelling Jesus. This would be the beginning and the blessedness of His teaching. They would have the Life of Jesus within them, and they would by faith know that it was Jesus: their faith would be at once cause and effect of the Presence of the Lord in the Spirit.
It is by such a faith–a faith which the Spirit breathes, which comes from His being and living in us–that the Presence of Jesus is to be as real and all-sufficient as when He was on earth. But why then is it that believers who have the Spirit do not experience it more consciously and fully! The answer is very simple: they know and honour the Spirit who is in them so little. They have much faith in Jesus who died, or who reigns in heaven, but little faith in Jesus who dwells in them by His Spirit. It is this we need: faith in Jesus as the fulfiller of the promise, ‘He that believeth in me, rivers of living water shall flow out of him.’ We must believe that the Holy Spirit is within us as the Presence of our Lord Jesus. And we must not only believe this with the faith of the understanding as it seeks to persuade itself of the truth of what Christ says. We must believe with the heart, a heart in which the Holy Spirit dwells. The whole gift of the Spirit, the whole teaching of Jesus concerning the Spirit, is to enforce the word: ‘The Kingdom of God is within you.’ If we would have the true faith of the heart, let us turn inward, and very gently and humbly yield to the Holy Spirit to do His work in us.
Have a blessed day, everyone!
UPDATE I: I was startled last night (in a good way) to find out that a portion of what I wrote about here may be echoed in a book (‘Enmity Between the Seeds’, by Bill Cloud) that I’d never even heard of, but now have on order. The Anchoress featured it in a post last month that I’d never read. I guess the Holy Spirit is at work. Not a surprise, but a pleasure to be reminded He’s active.
Her piece takes an advent slant, focusing on Mary. There is much of value to ponder in her post, though it’s no surprise that we disagree on a few things, as she does with Cloud. Brothers and sisters in regular families are like that also.
I’ll lightly jibe back though, in the same sibling spirit, that one needs to be discerning about which ‘Mary’ one is talking about and what is known (and not known) about her. The real one is clearly an amazing, critically important, saintly figure in Biblical history and Anchoress is right that we Protestants often step away from her so far as to give the impression that she was just the opposite. Our super-scripturally-grounded and mature Protestant pastor comments to this effect last month.
That said, I have had several firsthand experiences with what I can only call Marian impersonation. Each was slick but clearly satanic once I took the time to examine it more closely. These were not subtle judgment calls by someone with an anti-Mary bias. At first, I wanted to believe them. I’ll leave it at that.
As I put it to a friend a few weeks ago: If someone set out to impersonate your real mother for evil purposes, how would you feel? What if that evil person got away with it for centuries and deceived millions? That, my friends, is grace. Judgment will come eventually though. Truth is singular.
UPDATE II: I just noticed… the Spirit moved me to post this on… Epiphany!
UPDATE III: H/T to BFV for this bit out of Ephesians 3 (KJV), v13-17:
I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole FAMILY in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love…
The word “family” (caps & italics added) comes from the Greek ‘patria’, which occurs in scripture in just two other places (Luke 2:4 and Acts 3:25), each of them incredibly rich in meaning as it relates to this post.
It’s also worth noting that people (and other living things) are “named” with words of text, but also of DNA. Seeds, of course, are “rooted and grounded” as well. For human beings, love (which IS and is of God) provides our ultimate “soil”.
Which brings me to something I hope should be obvious from all of this, but bears clarification just in case. When Jesus was incarnated here on earth, he was formed from DNA that had been carefully shepherded through dozens of generations down to Mary as well as from DNA “written” directly by God the Father at the immaculate conception of Jesus. All of this so as to make Christ in His Perfect image.
Since God the Father/Creator wrote everything (including that lineage; the mathematical probabilities against Matthew’s genealogy alone being constructed by human hands are staggering) and since He is outside of time, Mary’s involvement does not detract in the least from the amazing nature of what God accomplished.
In fact it adds to it immeasurably, because not only did Mary have a choice AND a child, Satan had thousands of years to try and thwart her contribution arriving at that place and time… and yet he still failed.