This week we defined what it was the Jewish people hoped for. We read where the Jews saw the “sea” is the source of evil (Psalm 77, 114, 69, 93, etc.) We especially looked at Daniel 7 where four beasts that rule the kingdoms of the world, rose up out of the “sea” and exercised oppressive rule over the world.
So what did the Jews hope for? Quite simply, God! Which is not typically what we do today, is it? We like to put a face on evil, and pretend it is both apart from us, and something we can manage (or kill). But the Jews resisted this temptation. (And Paul urges Christians to resist putting a face on evil too! Eph. 6:12) They named the “sea” as the source of evil in the world. And you can neither manage or kill the sea! Neither can you pretend it isn’t there (especially if you live on the coast). You simply have to trust God and repeat over and over that “Mightier than the breakers of the sea, God on high is mighty!” (Psalm 93).
And that is the point – trusting God. Not our own devices, not our weapons, not our armies, not our guns, not our words, not our money, not our influence…. just God.
And this is precisely what the Jews hoped for – God. And they had little or no illusions of a “here-after” deliverance. They hoped specifically for a Messiah. A in time and history, with flesh and blood, redeemer, to come and set them free.
So, why have we “spiritualized” and “privatized” this hope? Instead of longing to see God save “us” we think more about God saving “me”. And instead of God offering real, in-time-and-history deliverance, we look for the time when we can get “our mansion over the hilltop”. We sing songs that say “When I die… I’ll fly away!”
You quickly get the impression that we have no hopes for God intervening in human history to redeem and deliver his people. But he has. And he is! So what happened? Greek philosophy happened!
Homer wrote that when Achilles tried to embrace his dear friend Patroclus, he flitted to and fro like a “psychai” or a ghost. Later in the Odyssey, Odysseus meets his mother in the land of the dead and she is but a “shade” or shadow, and “cannot be clasped”.
Plato, who invented the university, later built on this and said, “how will we get people to obey the law, serve in our armies, and be good citizens, if they believe that they afterlife is but of gibbering ghosts and a gloomy underworld? Rather the youth should be taught the true philosophy: that death is not something to be dreaded but a welcome friend that frees the soul from the prisonhouse of the body, to live blissfully as “psychai” forever on the Island of the Blessed.
Sound familiar? The sad truth is that “I’ll fly away” is wonderful Greek Philosophy, but it is terrible biblical theology.
I wonder, what do you believe happens when you die? This will be the starting point of our discussion this next Sunday. We will look closely at the scenes surrounding Jesus’ own death and resurrection to see what we can glean… but in the mean-time, what do you believe? What have you been taught?