Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Micah 2-3 and My Own Article on "Continuing Revelation" (Part 2)

Micah 2 –People lie awake at night thinking of evil things to do. “When you want a piece of land, you find a way to seize it. When you want someone’s house, you take it by fraud and violence” (2:2). The Lord will repay these evils with dire punishments. “You will no longer walk around proudly, for it will be a terrible time” (2:3).  Others will be placed in charge of them.

The people have no ears to hear any of this. They would prefer the words of false (optimistic) prophecy. But Micah does not leave the people without hope. He does predict that there will be a restoration someday. “Someday, O Israel, I will gather you; I will gather the remnant who are left. I will bring you together again like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture” (2:12). The land will someday be restored and a leader will lead them out of exile. “Your king will lead you; the Lord himself will guide you” (2:13).

For the Old Testament prophets, the idea that the Lord was ultimately their one and only true leader was deep. The idea that an entity called a “state” with a “King” or “Absolute Ruler” was troublesome from the start. They finally got a good balance between the need for a centralized state and a king, but the king was never a god. God was god. His rule was what we were to look to.

Micah 3 – The leaders of Israel “are supposed to know right from wrong, but [they] are the very ones who hate good and love evil” (3:1-2). Then when these same leaders cry out to the Lord for help, they are foolish to expect that He will answer them.

The prophets who fill the ears of the people with false prophecies in hopes that they will be rewarded with food and other rewards, but they will be put to shame. Micah, though, says, “I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the Lord. I am filled with justice and strength to boldly declare Israel’s sin and rebellion” (3:8). Jerusalem is being set on a foundation of murder and corruption. Because of them “Mount Zion will be plowed like an open field; Jerusalem will be reduced to ruins!” (3:12).

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism -
“Continuing Revelation”
Part 2
One of the best vehicles modern Friends used to get across the Quaker idea of continuing revelation was a story George Fox’s wife told in her introduction to the 1694 edition of Fox’s journal. Margaret Fell Fox and her first husband, a prominent judge, lived on a large estate in northwest England, Swarthmore Hall. The Fells were known for the hospitality they typically extended to traveling preachers of all kinds, so Fox and a friend of his stopped by and met the lady of the house. Judge Fell was away. Margaret Fell went to hear Fox preach at her local church and was moved by his plea that people needed to experience Christ in their own lives and not rely so exclusively on the Scriptures or others’ interpretation of Scripture to define the truth about Christ. She recorded the words Fox addressed to the congregation:

“You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?” This opened me so that it cut me to the heart; and then I saw clearly we were all wrong. So I sat me down in my pew again, and cried bitterly. And I cried in my spirit to the Lord, “We are all thieves, we are all thieves, we have taken the Scripture in words and know nothing of them in ourselves” (Quoted in Faith and Practice, sec. 19:07).

The truths contained in the Scriptures were truths that we could know in immediate and personal terms. They were truths we could embody in words of our own. God was alive and guiding men and women today just as he had guided them in Moses’ time, in the prophets’ time and in Jesus’ time. It was one thing to recognize the Scriptures as authentically recording the words and truths opened to godly men and women in former times, but it was quite another to deny that God could speak in and through people in other times and places.

God’s revelation cannot be limited to a prescribed form of words, whether scriptural or creedal; it continues and sometimes even changes as our understanding of God’s will evolves. The example most often given of this is the change that occurred when Friends in the eighteenth century decided that slave-holding was inconsistent with Christian profession and would henceforth be prohibited for members of the Society of Friends. God did do new things in history—not contradictory things, but things that revealed the underlying order and coherence of his will. It is clear from reading the Scriptures that there was a time in history when the holding of slaves or participation in slavery systems was not understood by even holy men and women as being fundamentally inconsistent with God’s redemptive plan. But such an understanding did come to pass, and Friends were among the first to grasp it.

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