Saturday, April 7, 2012

El Shaddai

Humans have been asking the questions of the universe for as long as there has been recorded history.  Why am I here? Is there something more? Is there justice in this world?  Why is good punished and evil rewarded?  What's beyond this existence? 

These are good questions.  

Source (from Google Images):
Ancient Egyptians believed that after death, the god of the dead, Anubis, weighed the human heart against a feather.  If one's heart was light, it balanced and one could go to the afterlife and have all the things for which one had prepared to live comfortably.  If not, then one would be tormented and not be allowed to live that full life.  So there you have it:  Heaven... and hell.  

Most every religion has that concept. We don't see justice happening here; it is comforting to believe that someday it will be meted out.  

Jesus, though, turned that concept on its ear. He didn't focus on deeds.  He focused on motives. Heart.  Intimacy with God. All the good deeds in the world were not enough to gain entrance into His kingdom. He held people to a higher standard than even the law they were trying so hard to obey.

In the gospels, true, Jesus spoke twice as much about hell as He did about heaven.  However, the good news (gospel) that He preached had to do with avoiding the former and ending up in the latter.  And the sole criterion on which this would be based was nothing like what the religious people of the day said.  No, it wasn't based on whether you obeyed the law and did all the religious requirements of ritual, sacrifice, dos and don'ts.  It was based on a relationship into which God Himself would provide the only key.  That key was the sufficiency of the death of Jesus to meet the requirements of justice, not only for the wrongs of the whole world but for our individual wrongs.  

So the simple equation of "doing good = heaven" and "doing bad = hell" is a bit simplistic.  In a sense, the Egyptians had a bit more balanced view (pardon the pun) because it was the HEART that was weighed in the scales, not the deeds. 

The hinge-point of the scale is that God is just and that sin's penalty (death) must be paid.  Our hearts will always outweigh our own efforts to overcome the rampant selfishness that resides there.  But the death of Christ on our behalf is enough.  It is all-sufficient, no matter how heavy our hearts are.  All we need do is place them into His keeping and the scale will balance... for He is the great El Shaddai : the all-sufficient One, the God who is Enough.  

The more we realize how great this enough-ness is, how deep His grace runs, how wide and high His love is, the more we will desire God to search us, know us, and reveal Himself to us.  Then it is no longer about good deeds and bad deeds, but about knowing Him.  

And that is the whole point.

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