Rebelling For The Sake Of Heaven
Idolatry was one of God’s major headaches.
The fact that those to whom he revealed Himself through signs and wonders and a lavish display of care and loving kindness would nonetheless betray Him by stooping to stones and wood always left him seething.
Through the Prophet Isaiah He employed a comical denunciation of Israel’s perennial romance with idols. He decried the tendency to bow before a piece of wood – part of which had been cut to make fire to heat up the house and another part cut to make a stove to rustle up a meal! Isaiah 44:10-17
Frankly God needn’t have bothered with Isaiah. Rachel, Jacob’s wife, had offered her service to God in an incomparable display of the crass idiocy of idolatry. When her husband took his family and fled from his father in-law, Rachel went for her father’s jugular. Of all she could lay her hands on in support of her much abused husband, she ‘stole’ her father’s god; and that was just the beginning.
Her father, Laban, gave chase and caught up with Jacob. Why, in the name of all things precious, would you steal my god, he asked. Laban conducted a thorough search of all in Jacob’s entourage but could not find his god.
No god was ever made the butt of a joke as the one that became a cushion to Rachel’s tooshie.
But his god was there, in the one place that Laban could not look – underneath Rachel. Oh yes! She planted her buttocks on top of that before which her father bowed. She put her father’s headquarters in her hindquarters. Genesis 31:30-35
Imagine that in all the time her father was searching, poor Rachel’s gut was battling a wave of flatulence, her father’s god basked in all that savour. Peradventure it indeed chanced upon her in the manner of women – that was well before tampax and bodyform, well, you know where I’m going with that one.
Nothing any prophet, Isaiah to Malachi combined, had to say about the vanity of idolatry came close to that. No god was ever made the butt of a joke (I can’t help myself) as the one that became a cushion to Rachel’s tooshie. Rachel is God’s unsung heroine.
This, however, is no laughing matter. It goes beyond a god getting a stuffing. What Rachel did with her fundament cuts to the heart of a fundamental commandment in scripture: the charge to honour one’s parents and the attendant benefit of a long life if one did, Exodus 20:12 or the executioners’ clubbing if one rebelled. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 There is of course the added exhortation not to veer to the left or the right of the law. In other word, the law is the last word on the law.
The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.
There are times when scriptures encourage a debate on the ‘What-if’ type situations. Moses exhorted that:
“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God.” Leviticus 19:32
But Solomon introduced a caveat:
“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” Proverb 16:31
Moses spoke by the revelation of God. Solomon taught by the wisdom of God. Where might God be located between these poles?
The commandment to honour our parents is not conditional upon them being well-behaved or prudent. Heaven does not conduct any aptitude or behavioural examination as a pre-requisite to being blessed with children. It’s one of those blessings wired into our roots. Genesis 1:27-28
So what view would God take of Rachel’s rebellion? For an answer to this, let’s fast forward to Jerubaal.
Gideon had a calling upon his life. He was to deliver Israel from alien domination. But before that God needed him to attend to a problem closer to home. It was the little matter of the temple his father dedicated to the glory of an idol. He had divine commandment to destroy that temple. Judges 6:25-26
What about the fifth commandment?
Elihu had an answer. Remember the interloper who invited himself into the fruitless jaw-jaw between Job and his three strange friends. He said:
“I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion. I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgement.” Job 32:6-9
In other words there are times that the Holy Spirit might move one to negotiate a path contrary to divine diktats.
For instance thou shall not kill is an unambiguous commandment to respect the sanctity of life. But the sixth commandment was the last thing on the mind of Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, when he killed Zimri. What did God make of Phinehas’ violation of the sixth commandment. In a fiat of divine vindication, God blessed Phinehas for all eternity. Numbers 25:6-15 Why? Asked the Rabbis. Because Phinehas did it for the sake of heaven.
What to do when fathers and mothers in the Lord no longer follow the Lord?
Scriptures tell of divinely inspired acts that deviate from divine laws and established patterns of belief, where and when it is necessary to re-order the steps of God’s people. It is not the sort that got Aaron and Miriam into a spot of bother. They used the law as a cloak for envy.
Rebellion for the sake of heaven sometimes take less confrontational forms than that of Gideon or less unsavoury forms as that of Rachel. It could be as simple as taking down the brass snake that the fathers erected 2 Kings 18:4 – which had long served its purpose or has had its purpose subverted and currently constitute idolatry.
The law therefore is rarely an absolute. It is as violable as it is inviolable depending on how it is applied and by whom.
Jesus Christ said whosoever violated the law and taught others to violate it would be the least in the kingdom of God. But his every denunciation of the leadership of his time was a direct violation of a law which said:
“Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” Exodus 22:28
Jesus spoke truth to power for the sake of the kingdom. The leaders he condemned had long ceased to feed the flock of God but were busy whetting their appetite with the flock. When they were not leading the people into idolatry, they were constituting themselves into objects of worship. Acts 12:21-22
Our times are no different to the times of the prophets and that of the Lord Jesus Christ. In some cases, we’re in more confused straits. In most churches there are two main gods. The first is money and the other the Pastors. Of course there’s a third called Jehovah, but he’s mostly used to facilitate the worship of the two main gods.
Between the commandments to “touch not my anointed…” and “ye have robbed me…in tithes and offerings,” Malachi 3:8 the gods of the modern church piggy-back on Jehovah for conspicuous consumption and dominance.
How readest thou scripture?
And if ever any flock harboured a rebellious bone, then there’s the fifth commandment, the pièce de résistance in the inventory of thou-shalls and thou-shall-nots: honour your fathers and mothers in the Lord or die young.
What to do when fathers and mothers in the Lord no longer follow the Lord? Go back to the 11th commandment, to wit: thou shall not veer to the right or the left of the law.
So what to do? The Lord gave us a clue. In an answer to a question posed by a lawyer, Jesus said to him:
“What is written in the law? How readest thou?” Luke 10:26
How readest thou scripture?
That which is called Torah is narrowly translated as the Law, but it’s not entirely strictly a law code. It means guidance and spans Genesis (which is not a law code to Deuteronomy which is a recap of all events from Exodus to Numbers and a fore-telling of events beyond that time.
Within these, iron grinds iron and we’re invited to wrestle with the word much to the manner of Jacob and the angel. You could decide to lie back and have some ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’ enslave you with the word, or you could use the word to set yourself free.
The choice is yours.