2 March 2010 (Shleshi/Bikkurim)
Down Labyrinthine Ways
The Futility of Running from Yahweh
Though the vast bulk of humankind hasn't realised it yet, there is no way you can hide from Yahweh (God). It doesn't matter whether you are a believer, a lapsed believer, or an unbeliever. Yahweh will pursue you anyway like a lover after His lost love. Those who have heard of Yahweh and know something about His Son are usually running away, not because they don't believe, but because they are afraid of Christian standards of behaviour and Christian discipleship.
Whatever negative attitudes you might have toward God or Christianity you will find that most of them is a fear about having to be reminded about the God you would much rather forget - a fear of having to let your lives be scrutinised and spring-cleaned by Him - a fear of what other people would say if you came out on the side of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). It is much more comfortable, much easier, to simply run away.
And there are a hundred-and-one escape routes in today's world but they are all blind alleys. Sex, music, drugs, alcohol, money, fame and many others are all advertised as ways to fulfilment. But it's never as simple as that, is it? What are the fruits in society of such promises? Suicide rates, abortion, mental disorders, broken relationships and divorce, sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) like AIDS, alcoholism, violence, murder, illiteracy, gambling, and broken homes have all exponentially increased. These things cannot be disputed. They are the cold facts of spiritually lawless life.
What solutions to these bleak conditions are being offered? In the space of two generations the world was turned upside down by a violent paradigm shift that is no better illustrated than in the following epitaph of the tomb stone of Sir Richard Gregory, one time editor of the scientific magazine, Nature:
Socialism in the form of 'National Socialism' (Nazism/Fascism) and 'International Socalism' (Communism) was responsible for the appalling bloodbaths of the 20th century. 'Democratic Socialism' is responsible for the social holocaust described in the statistics I cited. Gregory's father has little to be proud of.
My grandfather preached the Gospel of Christ
My father preached the Gospel of Socialism
I preach the Gospel of Science.
What of Science? Well, Gregory doesn't mean the kind of experimental, laboratory Science that I was trained in. I am a Scientist. I have taught Science all my life. And I still love Science. No, Gregory's "science" was not that kind of Science. What he meant by the 'Gospel of Science' was so called 'Scientific Humanism'. He is talking about an atheistic Philosophy of Life which masks itself as 'science' when it is not. But because we all derive a certain amount of comfort and certainty from the logic and mathematical precision of the laboratory, it is 'nice' to try and marry this to an anti-God philosophy to aid our escapism from reality. I am sorry, but Science and Philosophy are two entirely separate disciplines, one of which is based on repeatable experimentation and the other on mere speculation. Sir Richard Gregory's Gospel was not Science - it was religious Humanism.
We have been subjected to a constant bombardment of propaganda for a very long time now telling us that Science has killed off religion. This is just downright deceitful. For one thing, Western Science was originated by Christians and flourished in Christian civilization. Francis Bacon saw God's work in nature and His twin words in the Bible as the twin facets of self-disclosure. So did Kepler who revolutionised the astronomical prejudice of his day which were inherited from Plato. When he did his scientific studies he considered himself to be 'thinking God's thoughts after Him'. Galileo and Copernicus remained devout Christian men, convinced that their work glorified God, despite the provocation afforded them by the obscuratism of the authoritatian and neo-pagan Catholic Church of their day. Newton wrote in his Principia in the assurance that 'this world could originate from nothing but the perfectly free will of God'. He is said to have spent more time in Bible study than in scientific research.
There have always been both theistic and atheistic scientists. Science is not theistic or atheistic because is a discipline separate from religion and phlilosophy. So Science is no escape route for those fleeing God. Indeed, if pursued honestly, Science will reveal that there must be a Higher Intelligence that framed the Cosmos we lived in. It is perfectly possible to be a good scientist and a good Christian just as it is possible to be a good scientist and an atheist. No, I am sorry, but there is no 'Gospel of Science'. There is only the 'Gospel of Humanism'.
Another form of escapism, which was given a major boost by the Beatles, is eastern meditation. This stands in striking contrast to Christian mysticism which encourages meditation upon and communion with the personal God of the Bible, Yahweh, not in order to escape from the responsibilities of daily life, but in order to face them with love and compassion for others. Christianity has no use for any supposed communication with 'God' which does not transform the character of the worshipper and drive him out with Yahweh's own love and concern for people. The 'holy' men of India have for centuries been practicing a type of meditation which withdraws them from the concerns of daily life, and makes them parasites on the community, supported in their idleness by the gifts of the faithful. A Welsh journalist writing to a national newspaper on the subject put this point very forcibly:
Many people run away from the challenge of authentic Christianity by a very different path. They become conformists to the shreds of post-Christian deficiencies and good deeds, going to church occasionally for a wedding, funeral, Christmas and Easter. When they are asked why they go, either they don't know, they're forced to by parents, or they say, 'It makes me feel good'. This is not Christianity - it is laziness and a reluctance to face up to the living Messiah, and make a decision - like a man - for or against Him. Others try to excape the condemnation of their own conscience by acts of great generosity or going to work in a deprived area for a while. And admirable though this is, it is still escapism. Running away from Yahweh by trying to be decent is a very old expedient. Saul of Tarsus had been doing it for years before his own conversion. So had the poet Francis Thompson who spoke for many escapists when he wrote:
"No wonder that those who mediate feel peaceful, simple and calm. Disregard the world about you and you have nothing to worry about. It is this self-abstraction which is the product of meditation that has landed India in its present state of semi-starvation. Five thousand years of meditation have never ploughed a field or built a house."
And all the time he heard a voice:
I fled Him down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him down the arches of the years;
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
It was only when he had given in to the 'Hound of Heaven' that he discovered the mistake he had been making all the time:
All things betray thee, who betrayest Me,
Naught shelters thee who wilt not shelter Me,
Naught contents thee who content'st not Me.
There is no shortage of escape routes from reality, for reality seems to be a stimulant which we are only willing to take in small doses. We are adept at devising ways of avoiding having to face up too often to fundamental issues. But the most popular escape ropute from reality is the rat race. Go to school, get a job, get more money, get better prospects, get a car, get a house, get a spouse, and cram all the time you have left with entertainment. Get a family and a better house and a second car. Get promotion. Get a good pension and then fill your life up with as much as you can before you die. But whatever you do, don't allow yourself time to wonder what life is all about. It might be too depressing a thought. That is the way a great many people behave, though when you set it town in ice cold text it looks quite foolish, doesn't it? To turn ones back on human origin and destiny, human purpose and value, is surely escapism that verges on the frivolous. Yet those who adopt this irresponsible attitude to life are frequently heard to complain that the Christians and Messianics are the runnaways!
Thou dravest Love from three, who dravest Me.
This accusation is hardly new. Peter wrote:
Whatever the escape route from reality men choose, it will not do. The Elohim (God) of emet (Truth), the Elohim who is real, will not allow them to live a lie for ever. In the end illusions will be stripped away, and truth will catch up with us all. The psalmist knew he could never escape from Yahweh's presence, hide where he would:
"In regard to these [your former unbelieving companions], they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead" (1 Peter 4:4-5, NKJV).
David knew that one day Yahweh would confront those who have made lies their refuge. Their shelter would be engulfed as the hail of truth beat in upon them (Is.28:14-17). And those who have made the church, messianic assemblies and ministries their escape route from reality will likewise be exposed to the truth of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). As Peter put it:
"O Yahweh, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Yahweh, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from Your Ruach (Spirit)?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me,"
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
If every Christian and Messianic must face this reality too, then what of the rest? Peter continues:
"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of Elohim (God)" (1 Peter 4:17a, NKJV).
They too will be brought face to face with the inescapable Messiah. They too will be assessed by the Ideal Man from whom they have been running away. And what convincing excuses will they have to offer: 'I didn't believe You ever existed"? What utter nonsense. What culpable ignorance of the evidence! 'I don't think Your life was attractive enough, noble enough.' What manifest hypocrisy: it was rather that the standards of the Man of Nazareth were too high, too costly, was it not? Or shall the excuse be simply, 'I did not bother'? How do you think that will look to the Son of Yahweh, who became man for you, lived and died for you, rose from the dead for you in order to take over your life and make a new man of you? No, all excuses will wither and wilt before the truth, the love, the self-sacrifice of Yah'shua (Jesus). By our relations to Him we shall be judged, every one of us. There will come a final day of reckoning when it will be plain what answer we have returned to the question with which Pontius Pilate toyed, and tried unsuccessfully to evade: "What will you do with Yah'shua?"
"And if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of Elohim (God)?" (1 Peter 4:17b, NKJV).
If you mean to come to terms honestly with that question, I have a couple of suggestions. If you are not convinced that Yah'shua is the Truth, then read a Gospel slowly, thoughtfully, imaginatively and ask yourself whether you would expect Yah'shua (Jesus) to speak and act that way if He was mad, a deceiver, or alternatively if He was what he claimed to be. Read it, think about it, and pray to Yahweh to show you whether it is true or not. Above all, be prepared to follow Yah'shua if you are convinced about Him. Yahweh will not give His light to you for you to trifle with. Yah'shua once explained the point in these words, to people who were incredulous about His claims and sceptical about His person:
But many of you reading me will have already gone beyond this stage. You need no further convincing about Yah'shua. You believe about Him...but don't know Him. And you never will, until you yield your will to Him, and ask Him to take you and make you what he wants of you. Without that decision on your part He will not dream of invading the privacy of your personality. Yahweh respects your will even when you exercise it against Him. He waits for you to act. He has acted: He made you, he sustains you daily, He died for you, He is willing to come into your very being and share the future with you. He will if you will. Perhaps you could pray something like this:
"If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from Elohim (God) or whether I speak on My own authority" (John 7:17, NKJV).
If you said that honestly, and truly meant it, you will experience and know a change and pass through the gateway into the adventurous and immensely rewarding Christian life. Dare you do it? Or are you going to take the coward's way out, and continue running away from Messiah?
"Father Yahweh, I have been running away from You for a long time. I have tried to escape your challenge by going my own way. I admit I am to blame. I am rpepared for a new start, from now on giving my life to You, You who gave your life for me. Please come into my heart and life, as You promised You would, and I will follow You and obey You all the days of my life, in Yah'shua's Name. Amen."
 Michael Green, Runaway World (Inter-Varsity Press, London: 1975)