Friday, September 2, 2011

Hidden from the Wise

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Background
At this point in the Gospel storyline, Jesus is on a roll of condemnation. With disdain, Jesus described the generation of people living in His time as a bunch of fickle, unsatisfiable children (Matthew 11:16-19, Luke 7:31-35). He then condemned Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum for not being convinced to repent by His miracles; miracles which would have made Sodom repent so much so that they would have still existed to that day. There is one more bone to pick.

Hidden from the Wise
The portrait of Jesus many Christians would like to present is full of light, love, and mercy. There are certainly verses to support such an ideal being. However, those who consider all of Jesus' words honestly are forced to face the fact that Jesus had a darker side, dwelling in hate and vengeance, such as what we will see in this study.

In Matthew 11:25-26, like Luke 10:21, we find Jesus saying these interesting words:
"I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." NIV

What exactly did Jesus mean here? This is a little difficult to discern, because in the context immediately surrounding these verses neither Matthew nor Luke provides much insight. It appears to be an island; a little anecdote which neither author could fit in to an appropriate location.

And it is no wonder there is difficulty. The verses, if literally true, meant that only young children seemed to understand Jesus' message. However, while there were children involved, it seems that the majority of people who were following Jesus were adults. So “little children” is more likely to be a metaphor for something else than referring to actual children.

What are “little children” like? Innocent and na├»ve, lacking a broad wisdom of the world, not yet educated. To people with these qualities, God has revealed the hidden things. Or, as I have seen some skeptics paint it by playing off the contrast from “the wise and learned,” that only the stupid, or perhaps rather, the more gullible, believed Jesus. But this skeptical slant goes a little too far, because God has no problems with wisdom, as long as it is the right kind of wisdom, like the Proverbs 1:7 kind:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. NIV

God's kind of wisdom is the Psalm 19:7 kind of wisdom:
The Law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. NIV

So let us take a quick look at the other side of the equation. Who are “the wise and learned” supposed to be? We do not know what these hidden “things” are, but the implication is that they are related to God and Jesus, which in turn would imply that “the wise and learned” are people like the Pharisees and scribes, and perhaps their disciples, who had studied the Scriptures to the point of having their own understanding and knowledge of God and His prophesies. As we know based on Jewish customs and recorded concepts in the Gospels, that learned class had sometimes extrapolated well beyond the Scriptural text in their version of understanding God.

Now that we have a sense of who Jesus was speaking about, let us take consider the meaning of Matthew 11:25-26 and Luke 10:21. Jesus is praising God for finding pleasure in hiding these “things” from people who have devoted great effort into studying God, while instead revealing them to people who have not studied about God much.

While the use of “little children” appears metaphorical, the act of God hiding the hidden “things” from “the wise and learned” is decidedly not a metaphor. Jesus is not saying “thank God these people cannot figure out the truth on their own.” Jesus is instead saying “thank you, God, for preventing these people from understanding the truth,” because the act of preventing their understanding was a “good pleasure” for God. To revel in the fact that certain people cannot understand God is an act of hate, not love.

Contrary to Matthew 18:14 and 2 Peter 3:9, God and Jesus are not only willing that some would perish, but they actually derive pleasure in the thought of some perishing in their ignorance; an ignorance held upon them by God Himself. It is God's thirst and pleasure for vengeance without a chance of Salvation which seems to be hidden from many, otherwise wise, Christians today.

If you think that last statement is a bit overreaching, consider the history of confusion bestowed by God:

7 comments:

  1. And, in a case of preemptive confusion, God forbade Adam and Eve from eating of the Tree of Knowledge, in an attempt to prevent them from gaining moral knowledge. What a jerk.

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  2. Good point about the Tree of Knowledge, Ahab.

    I think this clearly demonstrates that the idea of God being a loving father, one who only applies discipline when necessary and does not find pleasure in it, is wrong. God is not a good parent, for what good parent finds "pleasure" in their child's suffering?

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  3. It's nice to see that you've acknowledged the use of metaphorical language here. It seems you always take the literal interpretation by default, and I'm always saying, "Metaphor! Symbol!"

    I don't make the connection between your statement and the supporting examples you give there at the end. Despite innumerable declarations and demonstrations of his love and his desire that "all be saved" (1 Tim 2:4), you claim that God takes pleasure in vengeance, and then cite 7 examples of this vengeance. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying these complex stories, here are my brief explanations for each, respectively: 1) As Satan and Adam had already done, people were once again trying to become equal with God. This time he said no. 2) Pharoah agreed to let God's people go, and then chose to bring them back into captivity again anyway. God defended his people, as he had promised to do. 3) God asked his people to trust him completely. They would not. He forced them to. 4) God helped his people clear out the land he had promised to them. 5) People prayed for God to confuse their enemies. I would, too! I'm not a big supporter of the success of my enemies. 6) Confusion was part of God's curse, along with other bad things. There were blessings, and there were curses, depending on Israel's actions. 7) God protected a great man who was going through an incredible amount of suffering. I don't see the "thirst for vengeance" that you see in these examples. Of course you're not going to view these stories as I do, but I at least want to show that not everyone sees these as demonstrations of "God's thirst and pleasure for vengeance."

    To support your point to some extent, God did say, "Never take your own revenge.... Vengeance is mine." (Romans 12:19) He doesn't want his followers to take matters into their own hands, as so many Christians do. *He* will ultimately judge and punish accordingly. Even so, he wants *all*--every last person, no matter how evil--to ask for, and receive, forgiveness. Such willingness to forgive is, to me, remarkable.

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  4. Thanks Mr. Wallflower, but you seem to have forgotten to defend a very important part: If God really wanted everyone saved, why would He take "pleasure" (Jesus' word, not mine) in hiding things from the wise and learned? Without a defense on that point, your rebuttal is a bit lacking.

    I think you missed the point of my cross-references, and I can see why. I did not fully explain what I was doing. If God bestows confusion on someone, it explicitly divorces them from there better senses, which in turn severs their link to their own true free will. Even though they may still continue to act as independent agents, the actions they choose could not be construed as what they would do if they were not confused.

    For example, it was God who hardened Pharaoh's heart (as the Bible explicitly claims multiple times, such as Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8, 14:17). (I still do not understand how you resist admitting to that fact when it is so blatant in the text.) God hardened Pharaoh's heart to justify the plagues, and then to get him to pursue the Israelites, ultimately for the Egyptian army's destruction.

    Had God not hardened the Pharaoh's heart, who knows? Maybe the Pharaoh would have just let them go? Maybe the Pharaoh would have repented? But we cannot know, because God trumped Pharaoh's free will.

    Now, whether or not that whole Exodus show was pleasurable for God, I guess, is up for debate. Yet, if Jesus' words are accurate here, it could suggest that the Egyptian massacre made God happy.

    Finally, as far as wanting all to be saved, check out the next post and see if you can still hold that position. ;-)

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  5. Here are my yeahbuttals, starting from the top:

    Yeah, but you're incorrectly assuming that Jesus was referring to salvation in these passages.

    Yeah, it does divorce them from their better senses, but of course God knows if such confusion would prevent a person from choosing salvation, and certainly would not interfere in such a case.

    The text implies that God hardened Pharoah's heart a few times out of the ten, while Pharoah hardened his own heart the others. You claim that God hardened Pharoah's heart "to justify the plagues," which is, of course, your cynical take on things, and not something said or suggested in the text itself. I might be willing to accept that God hardened Pharoah's heart in order to get the Egyptians to pursue the Israelites at that moment instead of later on--to deal with the problem right then and there in a dramatic way and be done with it. I'm certainly *not* willing to accept what you seem to want to suggest: that Pharaoh was going to let them go for good, that he was going to *repent* of his sins and make the God of Israel his god. I strongly disagree with that, firstly because God is willing to accept repentance from anyone at anytime, and secondly because Pharoah's actions made it very clear where he stood on the issue. He was not a fan of God any more than you are, and he *really* wanted the Israelites as his slaves in order to increase his power and wealth. He had made up his mind and wasn't about to change it.

    Okay, I'm looking forward to it. If I wasn't so exhausted I would read it now. But then I would want to comment on it, and two hours past my bedtime I would still be typing away. So, tomorrow.

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  6. @Mr. Wallflower
    - If you take a close look at the text of the post, I never claimed that hidden "things" had to do directly with Salvation. I have drawn that link implicitly, but not fully explained that link. Per the Gospel accounts, the overwhelming majority of the scribes and Pharisees were not won over to believe in Jesus. As these very verses imply, the fact that they were "wise and learned" proved to be a stumbling block in understanding what God was doing through Jesus, which, in turn, implicitly made it difficult for them to accept Jesus as the Messiah. That is the implicit link between understanding the hidden "things" and the possibility of Salvation. If you think that implicit link goes too far, please let me know.

    - Do you have any Scripture to back up the position that God "certainly would not interfere" in a case of Salvation? I can think of several to the contrary... But maybe that's a debate for another time. ;-)

    - Just to clarify the Exodus thing, keep in mind that:
    -{God said He would harden Pharaoh's heart twice before any plague was given, thereby tainting any account of the Pharaoh's heart hardening with the possibility that God was responsible (Exodus 4:21, 7:3)
    -{God explicitly hardened Pharaoh's heart before the plague of hail (Exodus 9:12), the plague of locusts (Exodus 10:1), the plague of darkness (Exodus 10:20), and the final plague on the firstborns (Exodus 10:27)
    -{God implicitly hardened Pharaoh's heart before the plague of blood (Exodus 7:13), the plague of frogs (Exodus 7:22), the plague of gnats (Exodus 8:15), and the plague of flies (Exodus 8:19), as can be seen by the addition of the phrase "just as the LORD had said" as NIV renders it.
    -{That is mentioned involvement in God hardening the Pharaoh's heart in 7 of the 10 plagues, but Exodus 11:10 goes one step further to imply that God hardened Pharaoh's heart every time.
    -{God was involved in hardening Pharaoh's heart for the first and the last plague.
    -{Back before the plagues God said that He "will harden [Pharaoh's] heart so that he will not let the people go." (Exodus 4:21)
    -{While I agree with you, in principle, that the Pharaoh was not favoring the idea of letting the Israelites go, any sane person would have let them go after a few of those plagues.
    -{Finally, and importantly, the original request was not to let the Israelites go free, but rather to let them worship God in the desert for three days (Exodus 3:18)! God used the God-influenced rejection of that request to justify freeing the Israelites.

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    Replies
    1. Wise fool. I am not sure that iam understanding the entire point. Anyway, God is God and will do what do ever he pleases ( too late to look up scripture now). Also God is, well God,so he knows everything including if person will repent or not. So well, bottom line is he knows, he knew and did what he did because well he is God...lol. Scripture says when people hurt his people it will be like touching his eyes, so to have taken pleasure in saving his people by eliminating the enemy and letting the world know that he delivered them is not at all far fetched nor do I see it as some big bad act? wouldn't you take pleasure in seeing someone who molested or killed your children? ( last part was just an example)

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