Epiphany 4 :: God's power or human folly?

2011 Scotland Trip 50

Flower in rampart

“…any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”

Harsh words from the Deuteronomist. Yet much needed words, even if we may not agree with the that-prophet-shall-die bit. God knew that throughout history there would be many who would claim to speak in God’s name—or on behalf of other gods—words that are meant to harm others, words that incite others to fear, hatred, or violence.

How many wars, how many pogroms against “undesirables,” how many acts of ethnic cleansing have been instigated by people claiming to do so on behalf of whatever god they bow down to and worship? As people of the Bible, we ourselves must tackle those passages in scripture which claim God’s role in—indeed, God’s commanding of—the annihilation of whole towns in Canaan. Were such actions God’s will or were they the product of false claims of Divine guidance by the victorious in order to justify mass slaughter? Our understanding and interpretation of the biblical account is crucial here.

And here is where the life, mission, and ministry of Jesus can help.

When confronted with evil spirits, this man who called God his “Abba,” daddy, did not use force or violence. He simply commanded the spirits to leave. The power of God in Jesus—the “authority” by which he taught—is a greater power than that of evil, of sin. His actions—healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, making people whole—were motivated by love, the love of God for the people of God. And the words he spoke were words of hope. No prophet he, this man Jesus, but the very voice of God. Indeed he is the Word of God which brought all things into being at creation. What he speaks, God speaks. 

And so if we want to know whether someone speaks God’s word, all we have to do is ask, “Is this true to the God which Jesus has revealed to us? Is this God’s power, or human folly?”

Something to ponder:

Which contemporary voices speak of God?

Link to RCL Lectionary for Epiphany 4, Year B

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