Tag Archive | Galatians

My Favorite Super Bowl Commercial: What Do I Tell My Daughter?

Super Bowl LI has passed into the history books as one of the greatest games of the series.  It ranks as that in my opinion, with the New England Patriots staging the greatest comeback in the history of the game.  That, however, is not what made the event so monumental for me.  It was one of those much-anticipated but often disappointing Super Bowl commercials that surprised me by grabbing my heart and wrenching it into an emotional mess.  Oddly enough, it was an automobile commercial.

This jewel of an ad from Audi of America addressed an issue often considered a progressive or liberal cause.  Christian and Messianic conservatives tend to relegate this issue to a lesser status than sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, or even national defense.  The issue is equal pay for equal work, the call to end wage discrimination against women.  The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) explains the problem this way:

American women who work full time, year round are paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to men — and for women of color, the wage gap is even larger.  It’s long past time to close the gap.

According to my favorite Super Bowl commercial, Audi agrees.  The ad ends with the words, “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work.  Progress is for everyone.”  Yet it is not the end of the ad that captured my attention, but the beginning.

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Israel 2016: A Lesson in Being Peculiar

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;  (I Peter 2:9 KJV)

The Church of All Nations, traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Church of All Nations, traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.

The meaning of “peculiar” has changed somewhat since the publication of the King James Bible four hundred years ago.  In 1611 it meant special, set apart, treasured – in other words, holy.  Today it means odd, strange, or out-of-place, which is why the New King James uses the word “special” instead of peculiar.

The point of this language, both in I Peter and in the Torah passages Peter references (Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 26:18-19), is that YHVH has designated the people of Israel as His own possession.  As such, Israelites will think, eat, speak, dress, and act differently than the rest of the world.  The fact that Peter draws on the Torah for his exhortation to First Century followers of Yeshua testifies to his belief in direct connection between them and Israel.  Paul agrees, which is why he says that we who take advantage of the grace offered through Yeshua’s redemptive work are adopted or grafted into the covenant people of Israel and become part of Abraham’s seed (Ephesians 2:8-13; Romans 11:16-27; Galatians 3:29).

As sincere Christians in traditional churches, we already had some measure of distinction from the world as we tried to speak kindly, treat one another nicely, refrain from vices, go to church regularly, and study the Bible.  All of that established us as different from “unchurched” people.  Observant Jews are also distinctive from the rest of the world in that they dress and eat differently, observe the Sabbath and the Feasts of the Lord, and make a concerted effort to take care of one another.  So what happens when sincere Christians start looking like observant Jews?

That is a lesson we learned yesterday in our walk around Jerusalem.  As Hebrews, we wear tzittzit in observance of the commandment in Numbers 15:37-41.  Many of us have also adopted the Jewish custom of keeping our heads covered, either with a kippa or with a hat of some kind.  This is normal in Jerusalem, where many varieties of tzittziyot and head coverings – as well as other dress – come together in an eclectic Jewish blend.  What made us peculiar even here, however, was what we did.

American Hebrews gathered in the Garden to study the Bible.

American Hebrews gathered in the Garden to study the Bible.

In our wanderings, we made our way to the foot of the Mount of Olives to read and discuss some scripture passages at the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane.  That in itself is peculiar:  why would these “Jewish” people want to go to a site associated with the Christian Jesus?  The garden is in the courtyard of the Church of All Nations, a Catholic church and a regular stop for Christian tour groups.  As we gathered on the edge of the garden and discussed the various events associated with the Mount of Olives, we received many puzzled looks from the groups who filed by us.  The quizzical looks continued when we left the garden as Arab vendors and Jewish pedestrians wondered the same thing:  why are these “Jews” going to a church?

The answer, of course, is not that we are trying to be Jewish, but that we are finding our own way in this appreciation of the whole Word of God.  

It is a peculiar journey.

(For the curious, the passages of interest included II Samuel 15 and Zechariah 14, which we discussed in the context of King David’s story prefiguring the life, ministry and second coming of Messiah Yeshua, the Son of David).  


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2016.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Remembering ALL Our Roots

This is a season of reflection at The Barking Fox.  Part of the reason is getting settled at last in our new home in North Carolina.  There is no hiding the fact that I am a Southern boy, with roots growing to a depth of 200 years in Alabama and nearly three centuries in the Carolinas.  Hopefully I will have opportunity to explore those roots and share any findings that would be of interest to others.

bfb160918-keith-greenWhat has reminded me of a central part of my roots has been the opportunity to listen to worship music that has ministered to my soul for as long as I have been on this earth. Recently I shared one of those songs by the late Keith Green.  Now I share another:  an old hymn made new again as I pondered its meaning.  

In the Baptist Hymnal on my bookshelf its is called There Is a Fountain.  The lyrics come not only from Scripture (Zechariah 13:1), but from the life experience of William Cowper, an Englishman who penned these words in the same era that my Scottish-American ancestors began their contribution to the history of this continent. 

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away
Wash all my sins away
Wash all my sins away
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away

Ever since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die
And shall be till I die
And shall be till I die
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die

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A Jewish Question for All of God’s People: “We were given the Torah, but have we received it?”

Jesus was perhaps the greatest Torah teacher of his day.

Think about that for a moment.  We do not often consider the fact that Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) taught from the Torah, and that he was recognized by Jewish leaders as a great teacher.  It began in his youth, when at the age of 12 he astounded the doctors of the Law (Torah) in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52).  When he entered into public ministry, the teacher of Israel himself came to inquire of Yeshua about spiritual matters (John 3:1-21).  His greatest oration, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29), was in fact an extensive midrash on the Torah and its application in daily life.  That is why Yeshua stated early in that sermon that he had not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it – meaning to teach it correctly and live out its full meaning (Matthew 5:17-20).

This should lead us to the conclusion the Torah was given not only to the Jews, but to all of God’s people.  In fact, the Torah applies to every person on earth, or at least it will when Messiah reigns from Jerusalem.  How else are we to understand such passages as this one from Isaiah?

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.  Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”  For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.  (Isaiah 2:2-4 NKJV, emphasis added)

Notice the key to Isaiah’s oft-quoted prophecy:  universal peace does not happen until after the nations of the earth submit to the judgment of YHVH’s Messiah and learn and obey the Law (Torah) which he shall teach.

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Pictures for Pondering

These illustrations are the gleanings of meditation on the Bible over the last year. Many of them made their first appearance on the ubiquitous Bible App, made available by the nice people at YouVersion. Hopefully they will provide some inspiration, or at least inspire some deeper investigation into the Word of God.

Mt6_33

 

Rv19_11-12
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Finding Israelite Identity in the New Covenant

©Harper Collins Christian Publishing. Used by permission.

ReverendFun.com.  © Harper Collins Christian Publishing.  Used by permission.

Language is a perilous thing.  It can unite us, but quite often it does the opposite.  That, by the way, was God’s intent.  We know that from the story of how He created the different languages of the earth as presented in Genesis 11:

Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.  It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.”  And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.  They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”  The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.  The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language.  And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”  So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.  (Genesis 11:1-9 NASB, emphasis added)

Ever since then that curse of language has been with us.  And, by the way, so has the curse of nations.

Curse of nations?  Yes, it does seem to be a curse.  It would seem that the Lord did not intend for humanity to be scattered and separated across the face of the planet in competing factions.  Nevertheless, nations were His idea.  The story of the Tower of Babel explains why.  You’ll notice that mankind also had an idea of uniting themselves as one people, but their idea was not the same as the Almighty’s.  They wanted to be a single, unified power that could challenge YHVH for sovereignty over this planet.  Since these people lived in the generations immediately after the Great Flood, we can suppose that some of them harbored a little resentment at God’s destruction of the pre-Flood civilization.  Maybe they thought they could do things better than their ancestors, perhaps by building a strong defense that could ward off any further Divine intervention in human affairs.  Now since our God does not change (Numbers 23:19; I Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8), and since the eternal governing principles of the universe which He established do not change (Psalm 119:44; II Kings 17:37; Matthew 5:18, 24:34-35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33), He had to do something about this blatant rebellion.  There can only be one God, after all. 

The problem with sin is that it seeks to create many gods – in fact, as many as there are human beings on the earth.  That is at the heart of Satan’s insidious deception spoken to our mother Eve:  “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Genesis 3:5 NASB)  Tragically, the way our Creator dealt with the deception before the Flood was to destroy humanity.  I would surmise He had little choice in the matter since all of humanity apparently was united as a single people, most likely under satanic leadership (not unlike the world we are anticipating at the end of this age when Messiah returns).  To make sure He did not have to make a complete end of the human race this time around, the Lord God created nations and then scattered them across the earth.  If they were divided in language, they would soon be divided in every other imaginable way, and the resultant wars and rumors of wars would ensure that a united human empire would not arise to defy the Living God until the end of days.  In the meantime the Living God could go about the process of cultivating His redemptive work in human hearts while they remained in the nations.

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When Brothers Don’t Get Along

On December 4, 2015, the B’Ney Yosef Region 35 Conference convened at Camp Copass in Denton, Texas, for the purpose of bringing together people in the central part of the United States to seek YHVH’s direction about His Kingdom work at this time.  The initial concept was to continue in the spirit of the First B’Ney Yosef National Congress in the interest of building Ephraimite (Israelite) identity among believers in Messiah Yeshua.  The Holy Spirit quickly expanded that concept into a call for repentance within the Hebrew Roots/Two House movement and reconciliation with other parts of the body of Messiah, particularly with our Christian brethren.  That was the motivation for this address which opened the conference.

BFB151204 MNF-IThe best boss I ever had was the man under whose supervision I served the last time I was in Iraq.  He was also the most profane man I have ever met.  The name of Jesus Christ was for him but one weapon in a formidable arsenal of expletives.  Not a single day passed that some outrage did not fall from his lips, causing my ears to burn and my heart to wonder how long I would have to endure such offense.  And yet I continued in his service, not merely because I had no choice (both of us, after all, were soldiers assigned to serve together), but because God gave me grace to look beyond the offense to see and benefit from the substantial qualities he possessed.  Those qualities included an encyclopedic knowledge of intelligence functions and procedures based on decades of hard experience.  He possessed as well a dogged determination to persevere through all opposition and achieve success in whatever goal he or his superiors established.  That determination sprang from his undying loyalty to the United States of America, and to his belief in the ultimate good of our mission in Iraq.  Yet none of that would have mattered in the least had this man lacked the greatest quality of all:  he regarded every person as having intrinsic value, and as a potential ally in achieving the goals set before him.  He may have spoken roughly, and even in private moments vented his frustration and anger, but he never diminished the value of the human beings in his charge, nor of those under whom he served.

We had occasion to work with military and civilian officials from a number of services and agencies.  Whether they were Army like us, or Marines, Air Force, or Navy, they were all “great Americans” in my boss’s opinion – if for no other reason than because they had volunteered to wear the uniform and be deployed to a Middle Eastern war zone.  He could not call our British, Australian, and German colleagues “great Americans”, but he did hold them in high esteem – while at the same time recognizing that the highest priorities for each of them were the interests of their own nations, not those of the United States.  The true professionals among us, regardless of nationality, recognized this.  We knew that at times there would be questions we could not ask and answers we could not give, but whenever and wherever possible we helped one another.

That “great American” description did extend to the civilian intelligence professionals we encountered.  Those men and women represented nearly all of the 16 agencies of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  The ones you would expect were all there:  each of the agencies of the military services, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the State Department.  Our office dealt mostly with the CIA, whom my boss lovingly called, “Klingons”.  Like our foreign counterparts, they, and all the other intelligence agencies, had their own priorities which were not necessarily the same as ours in the Department of Defense.  Their vision of how to support the national interests of the United States sometimes clashed with ours, and the means and resources at their disposal often put them at an advantage over us.  We had much reason to distrust them, but we had even more reason to work with them – just as the Start Trek heroes found reason to cooperate with the Klingons to defeat their common enemies.

We laugh at the description of the CIA as Klingons, but long before I arrived in Iraq I understood exactly what my boss meant.  Early in my tenure in Washington, DC, I had occasion to work with the CIA on a joint project.  Most of the people with whom I worked were intelligence analysts, people not very different from myself.  They were well educated, often from privileged backgrounds, highly academic (a reflection of the CIA culture), and professionally courteous.  As part of our project we had to consult with a different type of CIA employee.  This person was not an analyst.  Intelligence analysts look at information from various sources and put it together in different ways to understand what it means.  They are the friendly face of the CIA.  There is another face, however, and it is not very friendly.  That face belongs to the operators, the men and women who go about the difficult business of collecting the information.  They are consummate professionals, very good at what they do, but they are not the kind of people you would want in your social circle.  Quite often the name by which they introduce themselves is not the name their parents gave them at birth.  In the course of their duties they will have to do some questionable things, and perhaps even some very unpleasant things, to acquire information their agency has commissioned them to gain.

This was the kind of person with whom we met in that office on the CIA campus in Langley, Virginia long ago.  He was an impressive man, and one whom I admired for his courage and devotion to his country.  I could tell without asking that he had suffered much personal loss in service to the nation, and that my own poor service paled in comparison to his.  Yet we could not be friends, and we would have difficulty working together as colleagues.  His world was one I could not enter, and my world was one he would not find comfortable.  Nevertheless, my work could not continue without him, and without me his work would have no meaning.  That is why I have never forgotten the man, although our paths have never crossed since that day.

BFB151204 US Intelligence CommunityWhat would happen if this vast intelligence community in the service of the United States of America ceased to function as designed?  What if the various individuals and organizations within it forgot that they were all Americans, and instead placed their own personal agendas, or the name and reputation of their own agencies and services, above the interests of the country?  That is not a rhetorical question; I can tell you what would happen.  I have seen it.  What happens is a fragmentation of the national intelligence establishment. 

For the most part that establishment consists of good, honest people trying to do the best they can with limited resources and time.  They have a tendency to focus exclusively on the work right in front of them, whether it is office administration, counterterrorism analysis, national technical means of information collection, the number of tanks in the Russian Far Eastern Military District, or poppy production in Afghanistan.  They forget that there is a wider world out there, and that their work is but one small piece in a very, very big puzzle.  It does not take much to convince them that their piece is the most important.  Once convinced, it is but a small step toward competing with others to gain a greater share of attention and resources.  Having entered that arena, it is nothing to begin pushing others aside in ever more aggressive ways, taking resources and people away from them so that one’s own piece of the puzzle grows in size and importance, and the competitors’ pieces shrink, or disappear altogether.  In time the picture that emerges is distorted at best, magnifying certain things to the extreme, diminishing others, and ignoring important bits that would otherwise tie together the seemingly contradictory reports from various sources.  That is the picture which goes before high level decision makers like the commanders of our forces in the Middle East, and even the President himself.  Is it any wonder, therefore, that we have national disasters such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001?

My lesson from this should be clear.  National defense is a team effort.  I know my part of the effort, and my job is to do it to the best of my ability.  I do not know most of the millions of others involved in the effort, nor do I understand what they do.  I could not do what most of them do, nor could most of them do what I do.  Very few of them could be considered my friends, and most of them would probably never want to associate with me anyway.  Nevertheless, we need each other:  every warrior, every clerk, every mechanic, every technician, every lawyer, every cook, every aviator, every logistician, every sanitation worker.  If we do not find a way to cooperate, then this living, breathing organism we call the National Defense Establishment will fail, and with its failure the United States of America fails.

Is this any different from the living, breathing organism known as the Body of Messiah?

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Fox Byte 5776 #3: Questionable Consolation

The arrival of Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner of Titipu. From the 2008 production of The Mikado by the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society.

The arrival of Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner of Titipu. From the 2008 production of The Mikado by the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society.

Pompous people lend themselves so readily to ridicule.  Unconsciously, of course.  By their very nature they would not stoop to the indignity of common humor since it punctures the mirage of superior respectability they strive to maintain.  That is precisely what makes it so easy (and so much fun) to lampoon such persons – albeit usually without their knowledge since they generally are the ones who wield power.  Whether it is the official in high office, the wealthy heir, or the elderly matron, such people disapprove of anything or anyone that upsets their self-imposed definition of what is right and proper.  Such definitions tend to be myopic at best, as well as inflexible, brittle, and hilariously easy to dispel.  Doing so brings amusement and some measure of relief to the oppressed even though it likely will not result in appreciable change, or perhaps even notice by the butt of the joke.

Which explains why the operas of W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan are still appealing.  The best of their works feature masterful caricatures of England’s increasingly ossified Victorian society of the late 19th century.  Perhaps the best of the best is The Mikado, a farce set in Imperial Japan, but featuring decidedly English characters and situations.  This is apparent from the opening scene when a chorus of Japanese gentlemen strut haughtily about the stage singing of their lofty status.  We soon learn that Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of the town of Titipu, has a dilemma:  the Mikado, Japan’s emperor, has decreed that since there has been no execution of a criminal in Titipu for quite some time, an execution must take place within a month.  It just so happens that Ko-Ko is himself a condemned criminal on reprieve from execution and is next in line for the chopping block.  He is “consoled” by two noblemen, Pooh-Bah and Pish-Tush.  Pooh-Bah explains that his family pride calls on him to take Ko-Ko’s place, but his desire for self-preservation prevents him from doing so.  Pish-Tush takes a different approach with this empathetic offering:

I heard one day a gentleman say
That criminals who are cut in two
Can hardly feel the fatal steel,
And so are slain, are slain without much pain.
If this is true, it’s jolly for you,
Your courage screw to bid us adieu.

Ko-Ko is not amused with either man’s offering, which leads Pish-Tush to confess the truth:

And go and show
Both friend and foe how much you dare.
I’m quite aware it’s your affair.
Yet I declare I’d take your share,
But I don’t much care.

That is not unlike the lamentable comfort of Job’s friend Eliphaz:

Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?  Or where were the upright destroyed?  According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it.  (Job 4:7-8 NASB)

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Reverse Replacement Theology?

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these thing shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33 KJV)

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these thing shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33 KJV)

One of those songs I recall singing in church as a youth begins like this:

Seek ye first the kingdom of God

And His righteousness;

And all these things shall be added unto you,

Hallelu, Hallelujah!

(“Seek ye first”, by Karen Lafferty, 1971)

It is a good song taken directly from Scripture.  This particular chorus is from Matthew 6:33, as rendered in the King James:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these thing shall be added unto you.  (Matthew 6:33 KJV)

Like so many things in my Christian upbringing, I do not recall a succinct explanation of this instruction by Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ).  Perhaps it was assumed that we would absorb the meaning in our Sunday School classes or in our own study of the Bible.  Even the Biblical instruction I received in my Christian school never included a full disclosure of what the Kingdom of God is, or a definition of righteousness.  This is not to say that my Christian upbringing was without value; I owe an incalculable debt of gratitude to the teachers, pastors, and counselors who labored lovingly to help me become a disciple of Jesus and to impart their love of the Word of God and the God of the Word.  However, there were some holes in my education, particularly regarding the specifics of certain key terms in my Christian vocabulary.

Righteousness was one of those terms.  Simply put, it is being right according to YHVH’s standards.  Moses provides the details in the Torah.  The rest of the Bible elaborates on that foundation, providing examples of how God’s people succeeded or failed in meeting those standards.  When we get to the Apostolic Writings (New Testament), we see those standards demonstrated by the example of Yeshua, and then we find commentary by the Apostles.  Consequently, even though I cannot recall anyone giving me a definition of righteousness when I was young, it was easy enough to figure out what Yeshua meant when He commanded us to seek it.

But then there is that problematic term, “Kingdom of God”.  What exactly is that?  The Bible tells me about the Kingdom of Israel and about the Kingdom of Heaven, but in my church upbringing it seldom occurred to me that the two might be the same.  And in fact they are the same.  Much Christian teaching has attempted to separate the two, but doing so leaves the Kingdom of God as nothing more than a nebulous, over-spiritualized concept.  The Kingdom of Israel, on the other hand, is a concrete, definable, knowable entity, and all the people of God are part of it.  It matters not whether they are Jewish or of Gentile background.  The terms of the New (or Renewed) Covenant tell us that YHVH has executed this agreement only with the people of Israel and Judah (see Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:8-11).  Isaiah 56:4-8 explains that foreigners will join themselves to the Lord and come into His Temple, the house of prayer for all nations.  Paul tells us how this will happen, explaining in Romans 11 how non-Jews are “grafted into” the olive tree of Israel along with Jews, and in Ephesians 2 how faith in Messiah Yeshua makes these former Gentiles part of the Commonwealth of Israel.  As if there were any doubt, John records the proclamation of the angel at the end of this age that the kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15).  With that kind of Scriptural foundation, no wonder the ancient carol proclaims, “Born is the King of Israel!”

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Fox Byte 5775 #51: Nitzavim (You Are Standing)

נִצָּבִים

Famous literary figures with identity issues. Top row: Oedipus Rex (Bénigne Gagneraux, The Blind Oedipus Commending his Children to the Gods), Beauty’s Beast (illustration by Walter Crane), The Frog Prince (illustration by Paul Meyerheim), Rapunzel’s prince (illustration by Johnny Gruelle). Bottom row: Hansel and Gretel (illustration by Arthur Rackham), Sleeping Beauty (illustration from Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories), Snow White (illustration by Alexander Zick), Cinderella (illustration by Anne Anderson).

Famous literary figures with identity issues. Top row: Oedipus RexBeauty’s BeastThe Frog Prince, Rapunzel’s prince. Bottom row: Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella.

The worst fate a person can endure?  That would be loss of self.  It is not the same as selflessness, a desirable state of humility which YHVH honors.  Loss of self means removal of what defines a person as a person.  We see this in loved ones who slip slowly away through the ravages of progressive dementia.  Little by little they forget who they are until in the end there is nothing left of them but the memory carried in the hearts of those who once knew them.  It is a tragedy as old as humanity. 

Some of our best stories spring from this loss of identity.  Nearly 2,500 years ago Sophocles dramatized this phenomenon in Oedipus the King, a tale of a man whose birth was accompanied by a prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother.  The parents attempt to circumvent the prophecy by ordering the infant slain, but to no avail.  Oedipus is saved and brought up by foster parents, completely ignorant of his identity.  Eventually he fulfills the prophecy.  When at last the secret of his identity is revealed, his mother commits suicide and Oedipus puts out his own eyes.

This motif of hidden identity and forgotten knowledge manifests not merely in classic Greek drama, but in every literary form.  It appears even in fairy tales, where protagonists like Beauty’s Beast and the Frog Prince lose their humanity.  Rapunzel’s prince retains his identity, but he wanders in blindness.  Similarly, Hansel and Gretel lose their way in the forest despite their best efforts.  Princesses also succumb to identity loss, as we learn from Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.  Even Cinderella’s true station in life is a mystery to her prince.

The fairy tales generally have happy endings, or at least the Disney renditions make them so, but that is not the case in every tale of this sort.  One might say this identity issue is a perpetual human condition.  We make it worse by ignoring our history, severing the connection with our fathers and mothers of ages past.  This ignorance, whether self-inflicted or imposed by other forces, is the foundation of George Santayana’s famous warning, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.  It is also a reflection of prophetic truth uttered by two men of God in the 8th century BCE:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.  (Hosea 4:6 NASB)

Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.  (Isaiah 5:13 NASB)

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