Thunker’s Weblog

Did You See That?
May 5, 2017, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, LDS, Mormon, religion

Robert Wheadon-126x150

Do you remember the old Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons?  Violence was rampant but the coyote never died.  (Thank goodness.)  Acme products abounded as Wile E. tried all sorts of devices and traps to capture his desired dinner.  He never did capture the Roadrunner, but I admired his tenacity.

One of the interesting things about that cartoon was the landscape in which the action occurred.  Set in what appears to be the American Southwest, the artistic technique of Perspective was constantly in use.  Perspective.  You know, the ability to express distance and space on a flat surface?  It’s how the Roadrunner cartoons could show huge heights and cliff drops, all of which Wile E. Coyote survived.

Perspective is the word we use to also describe our viewpoint in space and time.  This definition is especially useful in scripture study, as well.  In the scriptures we have the habit of taking a narrative and taking a broad brush to it, attaching values that may or may not be appropriate to the scripture narrative.

Let me give you an example.  Pete Enns, a bible scholar, related a story of an interaction many years ago with his then six-year-old daughter.  Dr. Enns was reading his daughter the story of the Exodus, of Israel leaving Egypt.  When he arrived at the part of the story where Moses parts the Red Sea, the Israelites escape the oncoming Egyptian army, and the Egyptian army is then drowned in the Red Sea, his young daughter asked a question.

“Daddy, why did God kill the Egyptians?  Weren’t they His children, too?”   Wow.  Talk about a perspective I had never contemplated.  And I’m glad I didn’t have to answer that question.  Narrative in the scriptures can be, and usually are pretty one-sided.  Take the Exodus example I’ve been using here.  The scriptural story rolls out in Exodus 1:8-14:

“8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.

9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:

10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.

11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.

12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.

13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:

14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.”

Typically, we would read this as, “Israel good.  Egypt bad.”  That is how the ancient writer portrayed the political climate and relationship between Egypt’s king and Israel.  In our 21st century perspective, we attach our values to scripture.  In this case, we would say slavery is a deplorable practice and the Egyptians deserved everything coming to them.

And yet anciently, slavery was an accepted way of life and did not hold the negative connotation it holds today.  Debts were paid through slavery.  If a person owed another and could not pay, the debtor could be enslaved for a period of time until the amount of his debt was paid in full.  Then he was freed.  Slavery could be a result of war, where conquered peoples would become slaves until freed.  Think Israel in 387 BCE being trucked off to Babylon only to be freed 50 years later and allowed to return to Jerusalem under Cyrus of Persia.  Slavery was a thing of that day.

Sometimes it’s an interesting exercise to think of a scriptural story from a different perspective.  In our Exodus example, imagine what the Exodus must have looked like from an Egyptian’s point of view.  What would the perspective have been from an Egyptian slave versus a Hebrew slave view point?

Life is never black and white and neither is history.

Which raises another question.  How do we avoid misreading what scripture is trying to teach us?  How do we discover for ourselves the truth that God is trying to convey to us through Holy Writ?  There are thousands of commentaries full of author’s interpretations.  More publications come out every year.  Don’t get me wrong.  Commentaries are great for providing context and historical background.  And yet these same commentaries are subject to the author’s training, belief and prejudices.  How do we know which perspective is what God really wants us to know.

I know of only one way.  It has three steps, but it is really the only manner for each of us to know spiritual truth.

1. Read the scriptures daily.  Just do it.  There’s no short-cut.  Just set aside time daily.

2. Pray.  Pray before reading.  Pray in your heart during your scripture reading.  Ask for God’s help in understanding.  Ask him to reveal to you the truth you need in your life at that time.

3. Ponder.  Think about what you have read.  Think about anything that jumped out at you in your reading.  Pay attention to thoughts that come to you as you think about what you have read.  The Holy Ghost, the testifier of truth, will bring thoughts to your mind and lead you to greater truths.

In John 15:26:  “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”

In 1 John 5:6:  “…And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.”

In John 16:13: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

It seems clear that truth comes from one source and that is from God through the Holy Ghost.  That is how we obtain a holy perspective.  Let’s read with a little more depth.  Let’s take a little more time.  Let’s find the treasures in the word of God.

Be kind.  Make good memories.  Come back soon.


4 Comments so far
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I have been preparing a SS lesson on Reverence is Necessary for Revelation. One of the scriptures cited is 1 Kings 19:12 about the still small voice. Our world is so noisy and agitated in many ways, that in order to hear God’s counsel to us takes quiet. So many of the OT prophets and Jesus himself many times went to a mountain to have peace and quiet to hear God’s voice. That was their temple. That is why the temple is so important for us today because it is a place of refuge from a tumultuous world by enjoying peace and reverence for spiritual communion with a loving Heavenly Father.

Comment by Sydney Wheadon

So well said. We all need a quiet, sacred space, be it temple, church or closet where can talk with and ponder the things of God.

Comment by thunker

The only way I know is with the Holy Spirit, and because we are varied, and our needs many and diverse, only He can divide the words in a multifaceted way. God wants us to seek HIM in reading the scriptures, and not only others. People can provide great insight, just as you have done, from this perspective.

Fear is what drove the Egyptians, and later fear fed greed. Also, this passage prefaces the perspective of the Egyptians: they did not know Joseph or his God. Time had elapsed, and as they say…you’re only as good as your last rodeo.

It’s interesting what we can glean from the mind of others. It amazes me that God can keep up with all of this. Being in my head is quite enough.

Comment by Not So Random Chick

I love your perspective. The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to bring us to Him. Despite all of humanity’s differences the purpose of the Spirit is the same.

Comment by thunker

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