Friday, April 25, 2014

Psalms 115 -- May our live be a credit to you God.

Psalms 115

The Psalmist makes a promise—well, more than a promise—a commitment! My life is about you God! Read this Psalm and notice how from the first verse on the Psalmist tips his hand to the purpose of this prayer.
Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.
Why do the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but cannot walk,
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.
All you Israelites, trust in the Lord
he is their help and shield.
10 House of Aaron, trust in the Lord
he is their help and shield.
11 You who fear him, trust in the Lord
he is their help and shield.
12 The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
He will bless his people Israel,
he will bless the house of Aaron,
13 he will bless those who fear the Lord
small and great alike.
14 May the Lord cause you to flourish,
both you and your children.
15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
16 The highest heavens belong to the Lord,
but the earth he has given to mankind.
17 It is not the dead who praise the Lord,
those who go down to the place of silence;
18 it is we who extol the Lord,
both now and forevermore.
Praise the Lordg [1]

I wonder if I can with integrity make the complete promise of verse one—“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory”

I know this verse is my deep desire. When I accepted Christ as my personal savior I promised him my
life, but do I keep that promise? I suspect that in truth I am rarely 100% committed to dying to self,
but I want God to know I am trying to learn to be totally about him. He is worthy of all glory!

Today God may I make my life totally about you and may you receive all the glory!

[1] The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 115:1–18). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Psalms 113 Why Praise God

Psalms 113
This Psalm raises an amazing question and a command. The question is “Why is praise of God so important?” The command is, “Praise the Lord.” Read the Psalm below paying special attention to verses 2 and 3.
Praise the Lordn
Praise the Lord, you his servants;
praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord. [1]

Now reread just verses 2 & 3

Let the name of the Lord be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.

Obviously, one reason we praise the Lord is because he deserves it! However, I believe something else happens when we praise God—we naturally begin to fall in love with him more and serve him more earnestly. It is a simple concept because what we think about we do. If we spend all day “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets” we are going to naturally fall in love with God. I think perhaps these verses are listed a command not only to bless God, but also us.
What can we praise God for today?

[1] The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 113:1–9). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Psalm 112--Passing on God's blessing to the next generation!

Psalms 112
Read the following Psalm, but pay special attention to verse 1 and 2.
Praise the Lordq
Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
who find great delight in his commands.
Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.
10 The wicked will see and be vexed,
they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing. [1]

Can it be true that?—Our actions actually directly bless our children with God’s blessing to the point they are mighty and upright! It is true. Read verses 1 and 2 again.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
who find great delight in his commands.
Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed. [2]

I am convinced that generational blessing are passed on by God. In fact, especially in the Old Testament God blessing descendants of Godly people is almost an assumed point it happens so often. Of course each child decides whom they will serve, but children of people who service God passionately are able to pass on a spiritual heritage and blessing that is promised in scripture.
Have you considered that your selfless service to God out of obedience today is blessing your children, your grandchildren, even great grandchildren that may not be born until decades from now? It is a promise of God to those who love him!

[1] The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 112:1–10). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[2] The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 112:1–2). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Matthew 23--What did Christ die for?

During Easter week I am taking a short break from the Psalms to consider the last week of Jesus life. Below is one of the most fascinating descriptions of the church Jesus every spoke. Pay especially close attention to verse 15.

Matthew 23--Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries r wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14]
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. 
16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

The above description of the Pharisees sadly is just alive today as it was when Christ spoke it. However, now we are more apt to see it among "solid Christians." Christ dies to stop sin and Christians seek to live in freedom, but the tendency among many is to add so much junk to the those we try to lead that they literally shutter under the load. We do this to ourselves, our family, our church. We do it with actions, attitudes, and often just by applying the rules a specific church added to the Bible. Perhaps we should not only consider the cross, but the fact that Jesus only died for sin--not burdens we put on one another. How does this scripture apply to our lives today?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Matthew 22:32

Matthew 22:23-33

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

The above words were some of the choice words Jesus used during his last days or even hours of freedom while he walked this earth. Soon he would be arrested, killed, and suffer for our sins. At such a time, each word Christ spoke become more important -- they seem to be geniusly  chosen as only the Holy Spirit can do to perfectly illustrate the primary messages of Jesus.

Matthew 22:31b-32 " ... have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.

Jesus is quoting from Exodus 3:6, and he is stating the reality that we have a living and eternal hope. The word Jesus used for living or life comes from the Greek word "ζάω (zaō): live, be alive, live again, resurrection life." I followed this word through its use and forms in the Bible and elsewhere. I kept coming back to one simple reality, "With God we have life."

This statement regarding life is interesting for several reasons. One, the Sadducees, who were present, did not believe in an "after-life" and that is why it is claimed they were so "Sad-U-See." Jesus' claim of life in God may have insulted their beliefs. Perhaps, they felt the Scripture was being used against them when Jesus quoted Exodus 3:6. It was a portion of the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament), which they accepted as truth. Maybe to some it provided a fresh chance to consider the possibility of life in God. More importantly, "What does it mean to us?"

No matter how the original listeners responded, Jesus was in reality alluding to so much more than the Saduceees were hearing or were willing to consider. Jesus knew that in a few days He would die and three days later would rise from the dead so that God's promise of being the "God of the living" would be reality. Jesus was about to make it possible that each of us could have eternal life!

I think I am perhaps most excited about the word "life" or "God of the living" for two reasons.

1. If a living organism stops developing, it becomes sick, decrepit and dies. With God, we never stop developing because our lives are eternal. This means we serve a God who is still building us, making us better, wiser, more experienced. We serve a God of the living; our bodies may be aging, but we have not even touched our real potential compared to eternity.

2. God not only says we are living, but He is "our God." That means that we are not only "alive," but we have a God of amazing power, strength, character, creativity and love, who chooses to call us His own. That means we have someone in charge of us who can and does do amazing things in us and through us; best of all, He has not even really started with us, considering how long eternity is.

Tomorrow's Scripture is from Matthew 23.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Psalms 69 --- God today protect me and others from evil!

Psalms 69 deal with the struggle we all face because we live in a world that does have people who hate us. Sometimes, they hate us for our race, our looks, our career, our religion, jealousy, and the list goes on. Reach Psalm 69 and pay attention to the direct words the Psalmist writings in verses 22-28.

      1 Save me, O God,
         for the waters have come up to my neck.
      2 I sink in the miry depths,
         where there is no foothold.
         I have come into the deep waters;
         the floods engulf me.
      3 I am worn out calling for help;
         my throat is parched.
         My eyes fail,
         looking for my God.
      4 Those who hate me without reason
         outnumber the hairs of my head;
         many are my enemies without cause,
         those who seek to destroy me.
         I am forced to restore
         what I did not steal.

      5 You, God, know my folly;
         my guilt is not hidden from you.

      6 Lord, the LORD Almighty,
         may those who hope in you
         not be disgraced because of me;
         God of Israel,
         may those who seek you
         not be put to shame because of me.
      7 For I endure scorn for your sake,
         and shame covers my face.
      8 I am a foreigner to my own family,
         a stranger to my own mother’s children;
      9 for zeal for your house consumes me,
         and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
      10 When I weep and fast,
         I must endure scorn;
      11 when I put on sackcloth,
         people make sport of me.
      12 Those who sit at the gate mock me,
         and I am the song of the drunkards.

      13 But I pray to you, LORD,
         in the time of your favor;
         in your great love, O God,
         answer me with your sure salvation.
      14 Rescue me from the mire,
         do not let me sink;
         deliver me from those who hate me,
         from the deep waters.
      15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
         or the depths swallow me up
         or the pit close its mouth over me.

      16 Answer me, LORD, out of the goodness of your love;
         in your great mercy turn to me.
      17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
         answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
      18 Come near and rescue me;
         deliver me because of my foes.

      19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
         all my enemies are before you.
      20 Scorn has broken my heart
         and has left me helpless;
         I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
         for comforters, but I found none.
      21 They put gall in my food
         and gave me vinegar for my thirst.

      22 May the table set before them become a snare; 
         may it become retribution and a trap. 
      23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, 
         and their backs be bent forever. 
      24 Pour out your wrath on them; 
         let your fierce anger overtake them. 
      25 May their place be deserted; 
         let there be no one to dwell in their tents. 
      26 For they persecute those you wound 
         and talk about the pain of those you hurt. 
      27 Charge them with crime upon crime; 
         do not let them share in your salvation. 
      28 May they be blotted out of the book of life 
         and not be listed with the righteous. 

      29 But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
         may your salvation, God, protect me.

      30 I will praise God’s name in song
         and glorify him with thanksgiving.
      31 This will please the LORD more than an ox,
         more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
      32 The poor will see and be glad—
         you who seek God, may your hearts live!
      33 The LORD hears the needy
         and does not despise his captive people.

      34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
         the seas and all that move in them,
      35 for God will save Zion
         and rebuild the cities of Judah.
         Then people will settle there and possess it;
         36      the children of his servants will inherit it,
         and those who love his name will dwell there.

The New International Version. 2011 (Ps 69:1–36). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

It is interesting first how honest the Psalmist is. He wrote what he felt. I wonder if we mince to many words with Jesus and sometimes just need to say what we really believe--he knows anyway:).

This Psalm raises another question worth asking--"How do we separate forgiveness and love from protection, justice, and even just ending evil? This Psalmist clearly prays for an end to evil. Maybe we forget that real love wants a world based on Christ--not just tolerance. However, the Psalmist put this justice in God's hands.

I recently read an article from pastors talking of how the "take out church bullies." I agree that at times we should act to stop evil, but I wonder if we spent more time putting issues in God's hands what would happen. I am amazed at God's great ability to not only show grace, but also to protect his people.

God today protect me and others from evil!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Psalms 68

Psalms 68

I usually post the entire chapter we are looking at in a day, but some of the Psalms make that tough because of length. Today we start in verse 11 of Psalms 68. Focus especially on verse 13 and 17.

      11 The Lord announces the word,
         and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:
      12 “Kings and armies flee in haste;
         the women at home divide the plunder.
      13 Even while you sleep among the sheep pens, s
         the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
         its feathers with shining gold.”
      14 When the Almighty scattered the kings in the land,
         it was like snow fallen on Mount Zalmon.

      15 Mount Bashan, majestic mountain,
         Mount Bashan, rugged mountain,
      16 why gaze in envy, you rugged mountain,
         at the mountain where God chooses to reign,
         where the LORD himself will dwell forever?
      17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands
         and thousands of thousands;
         the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.
      18 When you ascended on high,
         you took many captives;
         you received gifts from people,
         even from the rebellious—
         that you, LORD God, might dwell there.

      19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
         who daily bears our burdens.
      20 Our God is a God who saves;
         from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.
      21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
         the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.
      22 The Lord says, “I will bring them from Bashan;
         I will bring them from the depths of the sea,
      23 that your feet may wade in the blood of your foes,
         while the tongues of your dogs have their share.”

      24 Your procession, God, has come into view,
         the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
      25 In front are the singers, after them the musicians;
         with them are the young women playing the timbrels.
      26 Praise God in the great congregation;
         praise the LORD in the assembly of Israel.
      27 There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them,
         there the great throng of Judah’s princes,
         and there the princes of Zebulun and of Naphtali.

      28 Summon your power, God;
         show us your strength, our God, as you have done before.
      29 Because of your temple at Jerusalem
         kings will bring you gifts.
      30 Rebuke the beast among the reeds,
         the herd of bulls among the calves of the nations.
         Humbled, may the beast bring bars of silver.
         Scatter the nations who delight in war.
      31 Envoys will come from Egypt;
         Cush will submit herself to God.

      32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,
         sing praise to the Lord,
      33 to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
         who thunders with mighty voice.
      34 Proclaim the power of God,
         whose majesty is over Israel,
         whose power is in the heavens.
      35 You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
         the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

         Praise be to God!

Two key verses strike me as really putting this Psalm into a unique category. First, I am fascinated with God's words in verse 13--

13 Even while you sleep among the sheep pens, s
         the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
         its feathers with shining gold.”

These imply something amazing! A sheep pen has many characteristics, but most importantly in the Bible it implies we are under a shepherd. Perhaps this verse would be still be accurate in context if it read, "Even while you sleep you are under my care--my glory goes before you and I am fighting on your behalf."

Verse 17 really sums up what verse 13 sets up. It states,

17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands
         and thousands of thousands;
         the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.

This verse reveals the nature of the problems and concerns we face in this world. No matter how much we fear problems they are small compared to the mighty power of God and He is on "our side." In fact, even while we blindly sleep is glory goes before us.  The battle is over--The King has one--even if the enemy is still figuring that out and so are we!

Friday, April 4, 2014

No to Noah

This is a space I normally reserved for my thoughts, but the article below was so well done and so impresses me that I decided to include it today. I find it a combination of being sad and scary--sad that so few Christians have picked on these issues and even scary that it can slip through. 

By Dr. Brian Mattson
In Darren Aronofsky’s new star-gilt silver screen epic, Noah, Adam and Eve are luminescent and fleshless, right up until the moment they eat the forbidden fruit.
Such a notion isn’t found in the Bible, of course. This, among the multitude of Aronofsky’s other imaginative details like giant Lava Monsters, has caused many a reviewer’s head to be scratched. Conservative-minded evangelicals write off the film because of the “liberties” taken with the text of Genesis, while a more liberal-minded group stands in favor of cutting the director some slack. After all, we shouldn’t expect a professed atheist to have the same ideas of “respecting” sacred texts the way a Bible-believer would.
Both groups have missed the mark entirely. Aronofsky hasn’t “taken liberties” with anything.
The Bible is not his text.
In his defense, I suppose, the film wasn’t advertised as such. Nowhere is it said that this movie is an adaptation of Genesis. It was never advertised as “The Bible’s Noah,” or “The Biblical Story of Noah.” In our day and age we are so living in the leftover atmosphere of Christendom that when somebody says they want to do “Noah,” everybody assumesthey mean a rendition of the Bible story. That isn’t what Aronofsky had in mind at all. I’m sure he was only too happy to let his studio go right on assuming that, since if they knew what he was really up to they never would have allowed him to make the movie.
Let’s go back to our luminescent first parents. I recognized the motif instantly as one common to the ancient religion of Gnosticism. Here’s a 2nd century A.D. description about what a sect called the Ophites believed:
“Adam and Eve formerly had light, luminous, and so to speak spiritual bodies, as they had been fashioned. But when they came here, the bodies became dark, fat, and idle.” –Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies, I, 30.9
It occurred to me that a mystical tradition more closely related to Judaism, calledKabbalah (which the singer Madonna made popular a decade ago or so), surely would have held a similar view, since it is essentially a form of Jewish Gnosticism. I dusted off (No, really: I had to dust it) my copy of Adolphe Franck’s 19th century work, The Kabbalah, and quickly confirmed my suspicions:
“Before they were beguiled by the subtleness of the serpent, Adam and Eve were not only exempt from the need of a body, but did not even have a body—that is to say, they were not of the earth.”
Franck quotes from the Zohar, one of Kabbalah’s sacred texts:
“When our forefather Adam inhabited the Garden of Eden, he was clothed, as all are in heaven, with a garment made of the higher light. When he was driven from the Garden of Eden and was compelled to submit to the needs of this world, what happened? God, the Scriptures tell us, made Adam and his wife tunics of skin and clothed them; for before this they had tunics of light, of that higher light used in Eden…”
Obscure stuff, I know. But curiosity overtook me and I dove right down the rabbit hole.
I discovered what Darren Aronofsky’s first feature film was: Pi. Want to know its subject matter? Do you? Are you sure?
If you think that’s a coincidence, you may want a loved one to schedule you a brain scan.
Have I got your attention? Good.
The world of Aronofsky’s Noah is a thoroughly Gnostic one: a graded universe of “higher” and “lower.” The “spiritual” is good, and way, way, way “up there” where the ineffable, unspeaking god dwells, and the “material” is bad, and way, way down here where our spirits are encased in material flesh. This is not only true of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, but of fallen angels, who are explicitly depicted as being spirits trapped inside a material “body” of cooled molten lava.
Admittedly, they make pretty nifty movie characters, but they’re also notorious in Gnostic speculation. Gnostics call them Archons, lesser divine beings or angels who aid “The Creator” in forming the visible universe. And Kabbalah has a pantheon of angelic beings of its own all up and down the ladder of “divine being.” And fallen angels are never totally fallen in this brand of mysticism. To quote the Zohar again, a centralKabbalah text: “All things of which this world consists, the spirit as well as the body, will return to the principle and the root from which they came.” Funny. That’s exactly what happens to Aronofsky’s Lava Monsters. They redeem themselves, shed their outer material skin, and fly back to the heavens. Incidentally, I noticed that in the film, as the family is traveling through a desolate wasteland, Shem asks his father: “Is this a Zoharmine?” Yep. That’s the name of Kabbalah’s sacred text.
The entire movie is, figuratively, a “Zohar” mine.
If there was any doubt about these “Watchers,” Aronofsky gives several of them names: Semyaza, Magog, and Rameel. They’re all well-known demons in the Jewish mystical tradition, not only in Kabbalah but also in the book of 1 Enoch.
What!? Demons are redeemed? Adolphe Franck explains the cosmology of Kabbalah: “Nothing is absolutely bad; nothing is accursed forever—not even the archangel of evil or the venomous beast, as he is sometimes called. There will come a time when he will recover his name and his angelic nature.”
Okay. That’s weird. But, hey, everybody in the film seems to worship “The Creator,” right? Surely it’s got that in its favor!
Except that when Gnostics speak about “The Creator” they are not talking about God. Oh, here in an affluent world living off the fruits of Christendom the term “Creator” generally denotes the true and living God. But here’s a little “Gnosticism 101” for you: the Creator of the material world is an ignorant, arrogant, jealous, exclusive, violent, low-level, bastard son of a low level deity. He’s responsible for creating the “unspiritual” world of flesh and matter, and he himself is so ignorant of the spiritual world he fancies himself the “only God” and demands absolute obedience. They generally call him “Yahweh.” Or other names, too (Ialdabaoth, for example).
This Creator tries to keep Adam and Eve from the true knowledge of the divine and, when they disobey, flies into a rage and boots them from the garden.
In other words, in case you’re losing the plot here: The serpent was right all along. This “god,” “The Creator,” whom they are worshiping is withholding something from them that the serpent will provide: divinity itself.
The world of Gnostic mysticism is bewildering with a myriad of varieties. But, generally speaking, they hold in common that the serpent is “Sophia,” “Mother,” or “Wisdom.” The serpent represents the true divine, and the claims of “The Creator” are false.
So is the serpent a major character in the film?
Let’s go back to the movie. The action opens when Lamech is about to bless his son, Noah. Lamech, rather strangely for a patriarch of a family that follows God, takes out a sacred relic, the skin of the serpent from the Garden of Eden. He wraps it around his arm, stretches out his hand to touch his son—except, just then, a band of marauders interrupts them and the ceremony isn’t completed. Lamech gets killed, and the “villain” of the film, Tubal-Cain, steals the snakeskin. Noah, in other words, doesn’t get whatever benefit the serpent’s skin was to bestow.
The skin doesn’t light up magically on Tubal-Cain’s arm, so apparently he doesn’t get “enlightened,” either. And that’s why everybody in the film, including protagonist and antagonist, Noah and Tubal-Cain, is worshiping “The Creator.” They are all deluded. Let me clear something up here: lots of reviewers expressed some bewilderment over the fact there aren’t any likable characters and that they all seem to be worshiping the same God. Tubal-Cain and his clan are wicked and evil and, as it turns out, Noah’s pretty bad himself when he abandons Ham’s girlfriend and almost slays two newborn children. Some thought this was some kind of profound commentary on how there’s evil in all of us. Here’s an excerpt from the Zohar, the sacred text of Kabbalah:
“Two beings [Adam and Nachash—the Serpent] had intercourse with Eve [the Second woman], and she conceived from both and bore two children. Each followed one of the male parents, and their spirits parted, one to this side and one to the other, and similarly their characters. On the side of Cain are all the haunts of the evil species; from the side of Abel comes a more merciful class, yet not wholly beneficial -- good wine mixed with bad."
Sound familiar? Yes. Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, to the “T.”
Anyway, everybody is worshiping the evil deity. Who wants to destroy everybody. (By the way, in Kabbalah many worlds have already been created and destroyed.) Both Tubal-Cain and Noah have identical scenes, looking into the heavens and asking, “Why won’t you speak to me?” “The Creator” has abandoned them all because he intends to kill them all.
Noah had been given a vision of the coming deluge. He’s drowning, but sees animals floating to the surface to the safety of the ark. No indication whatsoever is given that Noah is to be saved; Noah conspicuously makes that part up during an awkward moment explaining things to his family. He is sinking while the animals, “the innocent,” are rising. “The Creator” who gives Noah his vision wants all the humans dead.
Many reviewers thought Noah’s change into a homicidal maniac on the ark, wanting to kill his son’s two newborn daughters, was a weird plot twist. It isn’t weird at all. In the Director’s view, Noah is worshiping a false, homicidal maniac of a god. The more faithful and “godly” Noah becomes, the more homicidal he becomes. He is becoming every bit the “image of god” that the “evil” guy who keeps talking about the “image of god,” Tubal-Cain, is.
But Noah fails “The Creator.” He cannot wipe out all life like his god wants him to do. “When I looked at those two girls, my heart was filled with nothing but love,” he says. Noah now has something “The Creator” doesn’t. Love. And Mercy. But where did he get it? And why now?
In the immediately preceding scene Noah killed Tubal-Cain and recovered the snakeskin relic: “Sophia,” “Wisdom,” the true light of the divine. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.
Okay, I’m almost done. The rainbows don’t come at the end because God makes a covenant with Noah. The rainbows appear when Noah sobers up and embraces the serpent. He wraps the skin around his arm, and blesses his family. It is not God that commissions them to now multiply and fill the earth, but Noah, in the first person, “I,” wearing the serpent talisman. (Oh, and by the way, it’s not accidental that the rainbows are all circular. The circle of the “One,” the Ein Sof, in Kabbalah, is the sign of monism.)
Notice this thematic change: Noah was in a drunken stupor the scene before. Now he is sober and “enlightened.” Filmmakers never do that by accident.
He’s transcended and outgrown that homicidal, jealous deity.
Let me issue a couple of caveats to all this: Gnostic speculation is a diverse thing. Some groups appear radically “dualist,” where “The Creator” really is a different “god” altogether. Others are more “monist,” where God exists in a series of descending emanations. Others have it that the lower deity “grows” and “matures” and himself ascends the “ladder” or “chain” of being to higher heights. Noah probably fits a little in each category. It’s hard to tell. My other caveat is this: there is no doubt a ton of Kabbalistimagery, quotations, and themes in this movie that I couldn’t pick up in a single sitting. For example, since Kabbalah takes its flights of fancy generally based on Hebrew letters and numbers, I did notice that the “Watchers” appeared to be deliberately shaped like Hebrew letters. But you could not pay me to go see this movie again so I could further drill into the Zohar mine to see what I could find. (On a purely cinematic viewpoint, I found most of it unbearably boring.)
What I can say on one viewing is this:
Darren Aronofsky has produced a retelling of the Noah story without reference to the Bible at all. This was not, as he claimed, just a storied tradition of run-of-the-mill Jewish “Midrash.” This was a thoroughly pagan retelling of the Noah story direct from Kabbalist and Gnostic sources. To my mind, there is simply no doubt about this.
So let me tell you what the real scandal in all of this is.
It isn’t that he made a film that departed from the biblical story. It isn’t that disappointed and overheated Christian critics had expectations set too high.
The scandal is this: of all the Christian leaders who went to great lengths to endorse this movie (for whatever reasons: “it’s a conversation starter,” “at least Hollywood is doing something on the Bible,” etc.), and all of the Christian leaders who panned it for “not following the Bible”…
Not one of them could identify a blatantly Gnostic subversion of the biblical story when it was right in front of their faces.
I believe Aronofsky did it as an experiment to make fools of us: “You are so ignorant that I can put Noah (granted, it's Russell Crowe!) up on the big screen and portray him literally as the ‘seed of the Serpent’ and you all will watch my studio’s screening and endorse it.”
He’s having quite the laugh. And shame on everyone who bought it.
And what a Gnostic experiment! In Gnosticism, only the "elite" are "in the know" and have the secret knowledge. Everybody else are dupes and ignorant fools. The "event" of this movie is intended to illustrate the Gnostic premise. We are dupes and fools. Would Christendom awake, please?
In response, I have one simple suggestion:
Henceforth, not a single seminary degree is granted unless the student demonstrates that he has read, digested, and understood Irenaeus of Lyon’s Against Heresies.
Because it's the 2nd century all over again.
Some readers may think I'm being hard on people for not noticing the Gnosticism at the heart of this film. I am not expecting rank-and-file viewers to notice these things. I would expect exactly what we've seen: head-scratching confusion. I've got a whole different standard for Christian leaders: college and seminary professors, pastors, and Ph.Ds. If a serpent skin wrapped around the arm of a godly Bible character doesn't set off any alarms... I don't know what to say.