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Jun 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 20, 2021

You clothed me with skin and flesh
and knit me together with bones and sinews.
You have granted me life and steadfast love,
and your care has preserved my spirit Job 10:11-12

Intro: When I first started reading all the way through the Bible,

I would dread coming to the Book of Job
– it seemed like I always got more depressed reading it, or bad things would happen
• but as I came to a better understanding of Job, I began to enjoy reading it
• I see Job as the hero of all who suffer–innocently
– Job stood up for himself – against his friends – against his culture
• he even stood up to God – of course, he didn’t win that one
◦ but he didn’t lose either
• his complaint here: “What’s the point of making and caring for me, just to tear me apart?”
◦ note the poetic description of his fetal gestation in verse 11

Job’s ordeal began with circumstances relating to possessions and family,
– but in the second round, the ordeal entered his body
• the Adversary’s challenge to God regarding Job had been:
Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life, But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face (Job 2:4-5)
– we have been itemizing body parts and their spirit dimension
• eyes, ears, mouth, head, neck and shoulders, hands and feet
• today I will talk the biggest body part of all: the skin and flesh

There are a surprising number of references to flesh in Bible

The first mention of it, connects the man and the woman
– remember, everything so far was affirmed to be “good”
while [the man] slept [God] took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh – from it God fashioned the woman – the man’s response, This at last is bone of my bones / and flesh of my flesh – then the storyteller adds a brief commentary, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Ge. 2:21-24) — the original intimacy
• the next mention of flesh, however set a limit on human longevity
My Spirit shall not [contend with man] forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years (Ge. 6:3)
◦ that was because all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth (6:12)
◦ God determined to make an end of all flesh [and] to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven (Ge. 6:13 and 17)
◦ after the flood God made a promise, an everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth (9:16)
– the Hebrew word for flesh is basar
• and already we can see it has a variety of meanings
In its broadest sense, flesh can refer to all animal life (Ps. 136:25)
– the shared existence of creatures with skin and hides, feathers and fins
• but it can refer more specifically to all human life (Ps. 65:2)
Yahweh is the God of the spirits of all flesh (Nu. 16:22; 27:16)
◦ or a specific group of people (Ps. 56:4)
basar is the bond of family relations (Laban and Jacob or Joseph and his brothers, Ge. 29:14; 37:27)

Flesh is the external part of the human body (Ex. 4:7; 28:42)
– and also what lies just below the skin
• so basar also means “meat” (Ex. 29:32)
– the law of Moses is very body-conscious – especially regarding what enters and exits the body
• this extends to the body’s coverings
◦ Leviticus 13-14, diagnosing a breach in body’s covering
◦ it moves outward through three layers progressively: skin, garments, and houses
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “No illness is mentioned more frequently in the First Testament or treated at greater length than leprosy in the flesh (Leviticus 13-14). Those who suffer from that illness are counted among the dead, because they have to live cut off from the living.”
• being the external part of a person, the flesh can be superficial and disconnected from heart
◦ a ritual in the flesh should also affect a change in the heart (Jer. 4:4; 9:25)

People in Scriptures were acutely aware of psychosomatic distress
– they felt their emotions in their flesh
For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart (Ps. 38:7-8)
When I remember, I am dismayed, / and shuddering seizes my flesh (Job 21:6)
My flesh trembles for fear of you (Ps. 119:120)
• regarding a positive psychosomatic response:
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure
(Ps. 16:9)
– the flesh defines the limits and boundaries of human existence
Staubli and Schroer, “[the] word basar is the only one among the many Hebrew words for the body and its parts that is never applied to God, and is frequently contrasted to YHWH as the very symbol of all that is mortal . . . .”
• so we read:
The Egyptians are man, and not God,
and their horses are flesh and not spirit (Isa. 31:3)
– the flesh represents human frailty, weakness, and vulnerability
• we are not to put our trust in the arm of the flesh (2 Chr. 32:8; Jer. 17:5)
• we were not built to be impervious to wounds and injury
Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? (Job 6:12)
[God] remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again (Ps. 78:39)
◦ an unavoidable fact is that flesh is impermanent – it dies
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it:
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever (Isa. 40:6-8)
◦ this is why our flesh longs for God
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Ps. 63:1)
– in the Proverbs, wisdom can bring healing to the flesh (3:8; 4:22)
and a tranquil heart gives life to the flesh (Pr. 14:30)

Jumping to the New Testament

Flesh and blood refers to what is purely human (Mt. 16:17)
– so flesh can give birth only to more flesh (Jn. 1;3; 3:6)
• in other words, there’s no human way to obtain the life of the Spirit
• being limited to the flesh, we judge according to the flesh (Jn. 8:15)
◦ that is, according to our limited human standards, criteria, perception
– flesh can also refer to descent from an ancestor (Ro. 1:3)
• Paul noted that not all flesh is the same (1 Cor. 15:39)
• So, like the Old Testament, flesh can mean:
◦ the body (2 Cor. 4:11; Gal. 2:20)
◦ all animal life (1 Cor. 15:39)
◦ all of humankind (Acts 2:17)
– the most radical statement about human flesh in scripture
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14)
• as such, Jesus could use his flesh as a metaphor–e.g., that it is like bread
And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (Jn. 6:51)
• what prevents us from taking this literally?
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63)

There is something I have come to see is of critical importance

It has to do with Paul’s teaching on life in the Spirit of God
– it is tricky, because he draws on spiritual wisdom,
• and that is not the same as rational knowledge
◦ it is not even the same as biblical or theological knowledge
• it turns out that flesh is one of the key themes in this teaching
◦ if we get stuck in the flesh, we cannot make spiritual progress
– think about this:
• our rational thoughts can bring us to knowledge of the Spirit
◦ but we cannot receive the Spirit through reason or the knowledge it yields

The way Paul uses flesh in this teaching; it is not a body part!!!
– however, it can influence what we do with body parts
For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members [body parts] to bear fruit for death (Ro. 7:5)
• this can be very confusing, because when we hear “flesh,” we automatically think of the body
• but Paul is using flesh as an analogy (as Jesus used bread as an analogy)
◦ the body can be demanding, adopt bad habits, and can be tricked
◦ these are characteristics of the flesh as well, only they are internal and mostly hidden
– in Paul’s dark use of the word, flesh is sort of like a psychological energy
• it is not a specific sin, but the source and potential of all sins
• the flesh it cannot be corrected, redeemed, or transformed
◦ it has to go – and that we can’t do by ourselves
But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh (Gal 5:16-17) Read more on this in Romans 8:1-11

Yesterday morning I was meditating on 1 Corinthians 12
– I had in mind all I had read up to that chapter
• I am going to share with you the last paragraph of my meditation

Ultimately, Paul’s intention was that through his teaching he could bring the Corinthians to a new consciousness of God, Christ, and the Spirit. This would result in their maturation from their infantile concrete thinking to their adult experience of God. In their mature spirit-consciousness, they would arrive at a love that would fuse them to God in Jesus and erase the ego needs that drive individuals to think they are superior to others, separated from them by their greater knowledge, charismatic powers, or affluence. Mystics realize that when they have nothing, at last, they have everything.

Conclusion: There’s so much more to this!

For now, here is what I suggest:
Let the confusion we have relating to our (sinful) flesh and body become a reminder
That when we think the problem we have
resisting temptation,
fully trusting God,
remaining consistent in prayer,
being always mindful of God,
when we think the problem is with our body,
let’s bring our awareness to a larger reality
and open a door to the Spirit

Jun 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 13, 2021

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him John 13:1-11 (Please read the entire text)

Intro: Jesus is doing something rather dramatic in this passage

Look at the verbs! He busies himself with the menial task of a slave
– Jesus is teaching his disciple through a living parable
• he’s not telling a story this time – not explaining a truth
• he is acting out a lesson
– in the Synoptic gospels, Jesus explains the difference of how hierarchy is ordered in his kingdom
You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:44-45)
• so here, Jesus shows them what that means
◦ you can be sure, Peter wasn’t only disciple that felt the impact of this lesson
• they would never forget the night Jesus washed their feet

In our Reflexion community we have a specific interest

Our shared spiritual journey
– ongoing progress in living more God-filled lives
• so let’s suppose you’re with us today,
◦ because you want to deepen or enhance your experience of God
◦ you want a greater awareness of him, greater sensitivity to his touch and to the sound of his voice
• so here you are, and I’m talking to you today about your feet!
◦ how disappointing! How ordinary and unspiritual!
– but if we cannot discern how we live to God through our feet,
• then it’s possible that we present our bodies to God in worship is just talk
Nicole Roccas, “In Orthodox Christianity . . . [we] sometimes burn incense, or use prayer ropes, or set certain corners of our homes apart for prayer. These rituals are not meant to be rote or mindless, but to nourish reverence and to remind us that we are incarnational beings—our bodies must learn to pray as well as our minds.”
• so the body part we’ll look for in scripture today is the feet

Being grounded begins with the feet

Pat Ogden, “The lower extremities of the body—feet, calves, thighs, and pelvis—provide our base of support and connection to the earth. As a somatic resource, grounding is the physical process of being aware of our legs and feet and their connection to the ground, and to directing our energy downward into the earth to sense the support of gravity. . . . To ground ourselves, we need to relax the tension in our bodies so we can let our bodies yield into the support of the ground beneath our feet, yet the muscles should maintain tonicity.”
– David was very much aware of his need to be grounded
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights (Ps. 18:33)
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip
(Ps. 18:36)
• feet that slip or avoid slipping occurs a lot in Job and the Psalms
◦ slipping destabilizes people, makes them vulnerable (Ps. 38:6; 94:18)
◦ so firm grounding would be feet set on a rock (Ps. 40:2) or level ground (26:12)
◦ feet can also be steadied by God (Ps. 94:18; 121:3)
• enemies can set a trap for David’s feet (Ps. 140:4)
◦ God plucked his feet from one of those nets (Ps. 25:15)
◦ then enemy’s foot is caught in their own net (Ps. 9:15)
◦ in the end, God put enemy under David’s feet (Ps. 18:38)
• David rejoices when feet stand w/in Jerusalem’s gates (Ps. 122:1-2)
– our bodies need grounding and support
• Barb takes courses to stay on top of advances in Physical Therapy
◦ a current course is entitled, “When the Feet Hit the Ground, Everything Changes”
◦ it’s about the biomechanics of the foot and ankle when standing, walking, or running
• similar course was entitled, “Chain Reaction”
◦ when the sole of the foot comes in contact w the floor, it sets off a chain reaction
◦ from the ankle to the knee, from the knee to the hip, from the hip to the pelvis,
• all the way up to the brain, which reads all this information,
◦ and makes adjustments to maintain balance and stability
Jon Kabat-Zinn–when backpacking with his family in the Teton wilderness, “With each step, the foot has to come down somewhere. Climbing or descending over boulder fields, steep inclines, on and off trails, our feet make split-second decisions about where and how to come down, what angle, how much pressure, heel or toe, rotated or straight. The kids don’t ever ask: “Daddy, where to I put my feet? . . .” They just do it, and I’ve noticed that they find a way . . . .”

Feet have a wide range of meanings in scripture

LORD has blessed you according to my foot (Gen. 30:30)
– that is, how he managed his uncle’s flocks
God keeps the feet of His godly ones (1 Sam. 2:9)
– in other words, he guards their steps
To have no resting place for the sole of the foot (De. 28:65)
– means endless wandering, to be homeless
a place forgotten by the foot (Job 28:4)
– is a lost or abandoned trail
stamping the feet (Eze. 6:11) can indicate intense frustration or anger
– the person who cuts off his own feet (Pr. 26:6) self-destructs
– if others try to trip up my feet (Ps. 104:4), they are trying to ruin me or catch me in their net
– the temple was no more than God’s footstool, the place of My feet (Is. 60:13)
– feet that run to do evil belong to people who do not exercise any impulse control (Pr. 1:16)
the wise son does not walk with them, but keeps his foot from their path (Pr. 1:15)
– similarly, God told Jeremiah that his people had not kept their feet in check (Jer. 14:10)
David, however, restrained his feet from every evil way (Ps. 119:101, NASB)
it helped that he turned [his] feet to God’s testimonies (Ps. 119:59)
– Jesus’ disciples were to shake the dust off their feet when leaving a town that rejected them (Mt. 10:14)
this may have been a way of affirming that they had not come there to take anything from anyone

The knees
to be born on someone’s knees refers to the first person to hold and care for the infant (Gen. 50:23; Job 2:7)
upon the knees to look upon is to cuddle a small child (Is. 66:12)
– knees could be weak or strong (Job 4:4; Ps. 109:24)
– knees knocking refers to panic or terror (Nah. 2:10)
– kneeling in prayer was a way to be at God’s feet in spirit (1 Ki. 18:42; 2 Chr. 6:13; Ep. 3:14)

Ankles
have not slipped means to limp or be unsteady (2 Sa. 22:37)

Heel
In most instances the heel is used in reference to someone being chased (Jdg. 5:15; Job 18:14; Hab. 3:5)
– in other instances it refers to a person attacking someone (Ps. 41:9)

There are also references to the sole of the foot
– the lowest part of the body, opposite the crown of the head (Job 2:7)
– the body part that has direct contact with the earth (De. 11:24)

All these reference have to do with what we experience through our feet
– what our feet feel — what our feet do — what our feet express
– referring to the feat in this way brings attention to physical ways we experience life in this world

Sometimes the foot can represent the person to whom it belongs
Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,
lest he have his fill of you and hate you
(Pr. 25:17)
– or it can refer to a person’s whereabouts
Go, make yet more sure. Know and see the place where his foot is, and who has seen him there (1 Sam. 23:22)
• the direction a person’s foot takes indicates
◦ behavior that is faithful (Job 23:11) or deceitful (Job 31:5)
◦ changing the foot’s direction changes behavior (Isa. 58:13)
When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies (Ps. 119:59)
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word (Ps. 119:101)
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path (Ps. 119:105)
◦ but feet that walk in darkness stumble (Jer. 13:16)
• wisdom can hold the foot back from the path of evil (Pr. 1:15)
◦ wisdom can also provide secure footing and protection (Pr. 3:23, 26)
• like the hand or the eye, the foot can cause us to sin (Mk. 9:45)
– moving from the moral significance of feet to the more practical:
putting on sandals can be preparation to move out (Ex. 12:2; Ep. 6:15)
◦ the same as being told to get on your feet (Acts 26:13)
• encounter with the sacred requires removing sandals (Ex. 3:5; Jos. 5:15)
◦ meditate on that! Why must we approach God barefoot?

Many times Jesus healed lame or crippled feet
– he sent this message to John the Baptist as proof that he was the Messiah (Mt. 11:5)
• invalids were placed at Jesus’ feet to be healed (Mt. 15:30)
• Peter and John were later used to heal a beggar’s feet and ankles (Acts 3:7)
– the foot can be a measurement (Acts 7:5)
• a step can refer to progress (Pr. 4:12)
◦ or one stage of a journey (Isa. 41:2) or a plan of action (Pr. 14:15)
◦ steps can also refer to keeping pace (Gal. 2:14, in step with the truth)
• a step down could signify humiliation (Eze.26:16)
– steps could be footprints, where someone had walked (Job 29:6)
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Pe. 2:21)

Many times people threw themselves at feet of another person
– this happened frequently with Jesus
• especially poignant are the instances of two women:
◦ every time Mary, the sister of Lazarus, appears in the gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet (Lk. 10:39; Jn. 11:2, 32; 12:3)
◦ then there was woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Lk. 7:38)
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Shroer, “With her actions of washing and drying, anointing and kissing Jesus’ feet the woman sets up a sign. She touches the human being and at the same time she touches the feet of God, who gives protection and mercy.”
– David prayed that the foot of arrogance would not step on him (Ps. 36:11)
Bruce Malina, Since ‘hands-feet’ refer to activity and power, to be set ‘under the feet of’ someone means to be subject to that person, to be under that one’s control . . . . Similarly, to put one’s foot on the neck of a person is to indicate total defeat . . . . The neck both holds up a person’s honor which is associated with the head-face (Isa 3:16), and is the channel of life because the breath-soul passes through it.”
• to be trampled by enemy was a severe humiliation (Isa. 26:5-6)
Staubli and Schroer, “The foot, much like the hand, had a symbolic power of its own in Israel: it was associated with subjugation, domination, and the seizure of others’ property. To ‘tread someone or something under foot’ was regarded even then as an act of the greatest humiliation. . . . Thus YHWH promises King David of Israel:
‘Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool’ (Ps 110:1).”
• Israel’s hope was to see God tread down their foes (Ps. 108:13)
◦ this, in fact, is God’s ultimate victory, first promised in Genesis
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel (Ge. 3:15)
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet (Ro. 16:20)
And [God] put all things under [Jesus] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church (Ep. 1:22; cf. 1 Cor. 15:25-27)

Conclusion: In 1 Corinthians Paul compares the Christian community to a body

We are all body parts – we belong to Jesus and to each other
– Paul tells us, the head cannot say to feet I have no need of you (12:21)
• the head may be top part of the body and the feet the lowest part
◦ but they need each other
• one person may be like the eyes, another like the ears, another like the mouth
but we all have to be the feet
◦ that’s the point Jesus made when he washed his disciples’ feet

Go barefoot when you can – and pay attention
Your feet have something to say to you
about the earth on which you are walking
about its Creator – about others who share it – & about yourself EXERCISE

EXERCISE:

I have left out several other aspects of legs and feet
– in particular, I have not mentioned walking
• walking with God is not a mere metaphor
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Ge. 3:8)
Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him (Ge. 5:24)

The idea of walking can be expanded so that it refers to the course of one’s life
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him (Col. 2:6)
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth, but if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:6-7)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love . . . (Ep. 4:1-3)
Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us . . . (Ep. 5:1)

Pat Ogden, “The way we walk speaks volumes about who we are and how we feel. Whether we shuffle, stride, saunter, glide, traipse, or trudge with heavy footsteps, we are telling the world how we feel today, how we feel about ourselves and what we expect from others. We may plod along, dragging our feet behind us as if we have very little energy, giving the impression that we are tired or depressed. We may walk with a hurried, rushed gait, leaning forward, eyes focused straight ahead, giving the impression that we are preoccupied, busy, harried, and have not time to spare. If we feel afraid to be seen, we may walk cautiously and hesitantly; if we feel uncertain, we may slouch and shuffle with our eyes cast downward. We may stomp our feet with every step if we feel angry or bounce with a spring in our step if we feel joyful. Our gait changes with our mood, but our characteristic style of walking, like all our physical habits, is formed over time from a variety of influences.”
“Our gait changes depending on how we feel, the environment, and who we are with. If we are with someone with whom e feel good and who treats us well, our gait may become more confident, arms swinging, posture more aligned, and head lifted.”

I used to take the most wonderful walks with a friend of mine
We spent our whole time talking about Jesus, scripture, and God’s work in our lives

So here’s the exercise I am suggesting for you:

Imagine that you are taking a walk with Jesus
He’s not scolding you, not giving you all kinds of instructions with each step
The two of you are simply enjoying each other’s company

Where are you?

What do you notice about your pace?
Fast, slow, unhurried

What do you notice about your stride?
Big steps? Small steps?
Is there a rhythm you both fall into

What is different about the way you walk when you’re with him?
How does it feel in your body?
How does it feel emotionally?

Does it feel different than walking by yourself?

Does it feel different than walking with someone else?
If so, what is the difference?

How important is it to you that you reach a destination?

What do you notice happening in regard to your relationship with Jesus?

Now, at your first opportunity, take a literal walk with Jesus
Relax, breathe, take it easy
Be mindful
Notice whatever Jesus points out

Jun 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 6, 2021

Intro: In a moment, I will ask you to read Psalm 17

It is a simple prayer–and there are other psalms like it
– poet is petitioning God for justice – he begins and ends with sedek
• he is going to bring a case into God’s court, as it were
• in the first movement, he argues his integrity
◦ in the next, he petitions God to intervene
◦ next, he presents details of what his deadly enemy has done
◦ then he suggests the sort of punishment they deserve
◦ at the end, he makes a confident assertion regarding the outcome
[now, please read Psalm 17]

– I did not choose this psalm for its message
• I chose it, because every stanza mentions a body part: ear, lips, face, eyes, heart, mouth, etc.
◦ it illustrates how scripture makes use of the body;
◦ the drama of life is played out from head to toe

The poet mentions God’s hand twice – he specifies the right hand in verse 7
– the subject of today’s talk is the hand/s – and it’s a huge challenge
Hans Wolff, “By far the most frequently mentioned extremity is the hand (yad). The part of the body that grasps and can be grasped . . . .” (yad appears 1600 times in the Old Testament!)
• in many instances, hand is an obvious sub-theme
See Job 1:10-12, where Satan claims that Job is an upright man only because God has blessed the work of his hands, but if God were to stretch out his hand, Job would turn and curse him. God puts all that Job had into Satan’s hand, but with a command that against Job he was not to stretch out his hand.
– another example can be found in 1 Samuel 24:4-20
• when reading the Bible, and you come to the word hand,
◦ take note of how it is used – is it a subtle theme?
• in scripture, the hand is the agency of mind and heart
◦ how we externalize our intentions and imaginations
◦ how we make creative changes to our world
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “Human action is concentrated in the hands. Action means ‘doing.’ Our doing gives information about our thoughts and desires; it is their expression. In our work we continue God’s creative task. Therefore doing/working is service to God. Work without reflection (heart) is only reproduction.”

In our English language, hand can represent variety of actions

If I have to hand it to you, I’m either handing you a literal object
– or I’m giving you a compliment; “You certainly know what you’re doing”
We can be dealt a good hand or a bad hand
– in a card game, or a specific situation, or in life in general
We can lend a hand literally,
– or by watching grandkids so their parents have a date-night
A handout can be cash we give to a panhandler
A hired hand is not an appendage,
– but someone who is paid to do a specific task

In the past year we have been reminded to wash and sanitize our hands
– more than ever before –
• we have been made aware that our hands can pick up more than the objects we grab

In the Scriptures, the hand is used to signify many different things

Of course, it is frequently the literal body part
– the tribe of Benjamin was famous for its left-handed soldiers (Jdg. 3:15; 20:16)
• but they could also be ambidextrous (1 Chr. 12:12)
In general, the right hand was favored (as in our psalm)
– the seat of honor was at the right hand of a king (Mt. 14:62; Heb. 1:3)
– priests were anointed on right ear, right thumb, and right toe (Ex. 29:20)
– God’s right hand is filled with righteousness (Ps. 48:10)
• and at his right hand are pleasures forever more (Ps. 16:11)
People are taken by the hand (Ge. 19:16; Mk. 8:23; Acts 9:8)
A person could die by the hand of someone else (Jos. 20:9)
– messages were delivered by the hand of servants (1 Sam. 11:7)
– and by the hand of God’s prophets (Hag. 1:3)
The main symbolic significance of the hand is power
(see Pr. 18:21, where “the yad [hand] of the tongue” is translated “power”)
If a hand fell upon someone, it could either
– harm them (Ge. 37:27; Ex. 9:3) or help them (Neh. 2:8)
To take someone one from the hand of another is a liberation
– the same with taking something harmful from the hand of someone (Ex. 2:19; Isa. 51:22)
To place a hand on one’s mouth is to silence oneself (Mi. 7:16)
Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but I will proceed no further (Job 40:4-5)
The hands can clap for joy and praise (2 Ki. 11:12; Ps. 47:1)
– the sound of clapping can even be heard in nature:
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together (Ps. 98:8)
For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isa. 55:12)
But clapping can also be a form of insult (Eze. 25:6)
– or a way to ward off someone else’s misfortune (Lam. 2:15)
– clapping can also signal a warning (Eze. 6:11; 21:14)
To shake the fist or wave the hand at someone can be a threat
(Isa. 10:32; Zech. 2:9)
Washing the hands could be declaration of innocence (De. 21:6; Ps. 26:6)
– Pilate’s futile attempt to absolve himself of Jesus’ blood (Mt. 27:24)
– the Pharisees’ ritual hand-washing did not cleanse their hearts (Mt. 15:1-20)
In my hand: to possess something (1 Sam. 12:5)
Into my hand: to be given something (1 Sam. 17:46)
Into your hand: to give something (Ge. 9:2)
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And having said this, he breathed his last (Lk. 23:46)
The work of the hands means something is handmade (Isa. 17:8)
– or it could also refer to manual labor (Pr. 12:14)
To open the hand is to give freely (De. 15:8)
If the hand falls limp, it signifies exhaustion (Isa. 13:7; 35:3)
To take a person’s hand can form an alliance
And when [Jehu] departed from there, he met Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him. And he greeted him and said to him, “Is your heart true to my heart as mine is to yours?” And Jehonadab answered, “It is.” Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.” So he gave him his hand. And Jehu took him up with him into the chariot. And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” (2 Ki. 10:15-16)

In ritual contexts, hands can be lifted in prayer (2 Chr. 6:12-13; Ps. 63:4)
– it is as if the person is reaching out to God
• reaching like this reveals the direction one’s heart is going
The hand can be raised to swear an oath
(most frequently it is God or an angel who does this (De. 32:40; Is. 62:8)
– but it can also be used to get the attention of an audience (Acts 13:16)
A hand on the head of a sacrificial victim transfers sin and guilt (Lev. 4:32-35)
The hand is used to bless – e.g., a child (Ge. 48:14-15)
– when parents saw what Jesus did with his hands, they begged him to touch their children
And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them (Mk. 10:16)
• with upraised hands, the priests pronounced blessings on worshipers (Lev. 9:22)
Laying hands on people can be done to impart healing (Mk. 8:23; Lk. 4:40)
Laying hands on people can be done so that they receive the Holy Spirit (De. 34:9; Acts 19:6)

I wanted to mention the arms and fingers – I’ll cut this short

– we’re must not put our trust in the arm of flesh (1 Chr. 32:8; Jer. 17:15)
• fingers represent more dexterity than the hand that grasbs
• fingers appear in the design and sculpting of idols (Isa. 2:8)
Staubli and Schroer, “In a human hand it is determined whether a piece of wood or stone will be used for plowing, grinding grain, or killing someone [or manufacturing an idol] (Num. 35:16-17).” (also, see Isa. 44:9-20)
Wolff, “When idols are not only called the work of men’s hands but expressly the work of their fingers as well (Isa. 2.8, 17.8), they are no doubt thereby being exposed not only as being the works of man’s own powers and capacities, but also as being the products of his art, formed by the fingers.”
– we see God’s finger when inscribing the law on the stone tablets (Ex. 31:18)
• and again in his artistry when creating the heavens (Ps. 8:13)
• we learn what God can do with just one finger (Ex. 18:19)
◦ Jesus told his critics that if he was exorcising demons by “the finger of God,” then the kingdom of God had come
Staubli and Scroer, [Lk. 11:19-20) “Jesus’ words rely on their knowing the Exodus passage, for only then can one understand why Jesus speaks of the finger of God in this context. He uses a typical rabbinic move, from the lesser to the greater: Moses, with the finger of God, conquered a political power and thus brought liberation; Jesus, with the finger of God drives out demons, and where that happens the reign of God is breaking in.”

I have left out so much I could say about the hand of God 🙁
– it shatters and pulverizes, but also wounds and heals (Job 5:18)
– it supports the life of every living thing (Ps. 104:28; 145:16)
– with it God measures oceans in his palm and spans the universe with hand (Is. 40:12)

Conclusion: A nineteenth century preacher told a story

A boy whose dad was a doctor, asked him,
“Why didn’t God make all our fingers the same length? Wouldn’t it be perfect if they were all the same length?”
– his father handed him an orange and said, “Grab a hold of this”
• when he did, all his fingers, and also his thumb, were even as if they were the same length
T. de Witt Talmage, “You see the Creator makes no mistakes. The whole anatomy of your hand as complex, as intricate, as symmetrical, as useful as Gould could make it.”

The human hand really is amazing
The deaf and mute speak with their hands, especially their fingers
The blind read with their finger-tips
We can love with both hands
His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me! (Song 2:6)
We can wound with our hand
Blessed be the LORD my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle (Ps. 144:1)
By shaking hands, we can build a bridge of communication
Enter a new relationship, a new partnership, or a new friendship

We can bless with our hands
Henri Nouwen kept a journal in which described his visit to Canada
– he went to meet the people at Daybreak, a home for adults with mental disabilities
– a few days before he was to leave, one of the residents was hit by car
• it was touch and go at first for Ray
• the morning that Nouwen left Canada for home, he visited Ray
◦ Ray’s parents were there too
Nouwen, “I showed Ray’s father how to make the sign of the cross on Ray’s forehead. He had never done this before and cried as he signed his son in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A father’s blessing is so healing.”

I would have thought only priests were qualified to do this
But whose blessing on a child’s life
could be greater than the parents?

A friend tells me that every time he passes my house,
he sends me a blessing
You can do that too – for your friends – for your neighbors
raise your hand toward their home and bless them with peace, with love, and with hope

Pray over your hands
imagine how God can use them

We need to realize, our hands are tools
God’s Spirit will train us in their best use
and he will empower them
to touch and bless the lives of others

May 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 30, 2021

Podcast

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The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of Man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” [please read the entire passage] Ezekiel 37:1-14

Intro: When I say “Arlington,” what comes to mind?

The Arlington National Cemetery began as a solution to a problem
– after the Civil War, cemeteries ran out of space for all the remains of dead soldiers
• Arlington was offered for those who could not afford a proper burial anywhere else
• it also provided space for the remains of more than 2000 unidentified soldiers
– a friend who flew helicopters in Vietnam was nearly shot down when evacuating soldiers from a “hot spot”
• he told me, that when it seemed he was going to die, his last thoughts were of relationships
• that’s why there’s a Memorial Day,
◦ so that we don’t forget those whose last thoughts were of us

Ezekiel’s vision took him to a cemetery of sorts
– only without any graves – just a desert valley strewn with bones
• his prophecy is not about an individual resurrection
• it’s about the resurrection of a nation
– the people of Israel were beyond hopeless
• they had no country, no government, no landmarks
◦ all of that had been erased from the map
• all they had was a memory of what they had lost
◦ they had their memories, they had each other, and most important, they had God
◦ starting with their remains–dead, dry bones–God would reassemble the nation
◦ beginning with a bare bones frame, next he would add materials for life and movement
• and then he would breathe his Spirit into them and bring Israel back to life

Why are we spending all this time exploring body parts in scripture?
– because this is a way of bringing awareness to how we live with God
Do not present your members [body parts] to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness (Ro. 6:13, 19; and 7:5)
• thinking about how God claims for himself our eyes and ears, nose and mouth, neck and shoulders,
• gives us more objects to remind us to watch for how God moves in our lives
◦ and how we move toward him
◦ what we allow in our eyes and ears, and out of our mouths,
and what we do with our hands and where our feet take us
– among our body parts, scripture could not ignore something so important as our bones
• the skeletal system is the internal structure that supports the body
◦ it is what enables us to sit, stand, walk, and so on
◦ in scripture, the bones are also an essential component of our inner life

In the Bible we find that people were very concerned about their bones

Even after death, their bones represented a shared experience with the community
Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Ge. 50:25)
– David paid respect to King Saul by providing his bones a dignified burial (2 Sam. 21:12-14)
• even for kings, to be buried in the tombs of their fathers was an honor (2 Ki. 16:20)
• to not be buried was a terrifying thought, and punishment (2 Ki. 9:10)
◦ a bone that was not buried was considered “unclean”
(and a source of ceremonial impurity; Nu. 19:16)
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Shcroer, “During life human bones are something like a barometer of health. . . . The more the bones are embedded in sound flesh, the healthier the person appears, and the more they show, the closer that person is to death (Lam. 3:4; 4:8; 5:10).”
– regarding bones “showing”:
Man is also rebuked with pain on his bead
and with continual strife in his bones . . .
His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen,
and his bones that were not seen stick out (Job 33:19, 21; cf. Ps. 22:17)
• good health is judged by the soundness of one’s bones
One dies in his full vigor,
being wholly at ease and secure,
his pails full of milk
and the marrow of his bones moist (Job 21:23-24)
• poor health is felt in the bones
The night racks my bones,
and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest. . . .
My skin turns black and falls from me,
and my bones burn with heat (Job 30:17, 30)
There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin (Ps. 38:3)

Sharing bone and flesh signified a bond with another or others

This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man (Gen. 2:23)
Staubli and Shroer, “Here and in many other places (Gen 29:14; Judg 9:2-3; 2 Sam 5:1; 19:12-13) flesh and bones express the closes relationship, such as is felt by members of the same tribe.”
– the bond Jacob shared with his uncle Laban (Gen. 29:14)
• the family connection Abimelech shared with the city of Shechem (Jdg 9:2)
• the affinity David had with the tribe of Judah (2 Sam. 5:1; 19:12-13)

Bones function with feelings and emotions of a person’s inner life

Job’s friend, Eliphaz, describing a nighttime vision
dread came upon me, and trembling,
which made all my bones shake (Job 4:14)
Staubli and Schroer, “The psalms have quite a bit to say about the terror that gnaws one’s bones, the dread of death that strikes a chill in the bones of those who pray (Pss 6:2; 22:14, 17; 31:10; 32:3; 38:3; 42:10; 102:3), and there are a remarkable number of sayings in the book of Proverbs that establish psychosomatic connections between one’s way of life or experiences and the state of one’s bones . . . .”
– examples of “psychosomatic connections” from the Proverbs:
trust and reverence in God
will be healing to your [navel]
and refreshment to your bones (Pr. 3:8)
the good that comes from encouraging, comforting, loving speech:
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the [bones] (Pro. 16:24)
• we’ve learned that prolonged stress or anxiety can affect bones
◦ excess cortisol in response to ongoing stress diminishes bone density
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh
but envy makes the bones rot (Pr. 14:30)
• the quality of life deteriorates from the inside-out
◦ envy and other negative emotions attack body’s internal structure
positive emotions can heal, negative emotions can harm,
A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Pr. 17:22)
grief overwhelms our body parts,
I hear, and my body trembles; / my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; / my legs tremble beneath me (Hab. 3:16)
Concerning the prophets [who were leading Israel astray]:
My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake . . . . (Jer. 23:9)
the emotional distress of sin and sorrow affects the bones:
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled (Ps. 6:2)
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away (Ps. 31:10)
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long (Ps. 32:3)
the relief of forgiveness can bring a joy that heals the bones:
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice (Ps. 51:8)
Pat Ogden, “Our sense of well-being is strongly tied into the core of the body, the spine, and the surrounding muscles, and particularly to whether the spine is aligned.” [Trauma or mistreatment in childhood can] “promote postural adaptations suited to unsafe, rejection, or critical conditions.”
“Posture has a powerful influence on emotions and well-being. Fixed postures, such as a chronically slumped spine or ‘military’ posture, can be viewed as positions from which only select emotions and behaviors can be possible.”

The bones speak, and like other body parts they have something to say

All my bones shall say, “O LORD, who is like you,
delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him,
the poor and needy from him who robs him?” (Ps. 35:10)
– David is listening to the basic framework of his body
• and his body’s core is telling him something
– to believe something down to our bones, is to be thoroughly convinced

The spine is what enables us to live an upright life

There’s a parallel between the body and God’s sacred tent
You shall make upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood (Ex. 26:15)
– upright has to do with the posture of the body and of a person’s character
See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes (Ecc. 7:29)
• in the Proverbs and elsewhere, the opposite of upright is crooked
• being bent over can happen as we age (Ecc. 12:1-3)
◦ but it can also be a punishment or curse (Ro. 11:9-10)
– in contrast to being bent, is our response to signs of God’s hand at work in the world
Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Lk. 21:28)
– previously, Jesus saw a woman who was bent over and could not fully straighten herself, so he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God (Lk. 21:28 and 13:11-13)
• in both passages, Luke uses the same word for “straighten [up]”
Pat Ogden, “Our posture is dependent on the core of the body–the spine and surrounding muscles. A strong but flexible core and aligned posture stabilizes us both emotionally and physically while also supporting our actions.”

Conclusion: Paying attention to our posture is a very easy discipline

If you find yourself rubbing the back of your neck,
– stretching your back or your arms or legs,
• you’re most likely responding to poor posture
• we forget about our posture when
◦ engrossed in writing, reading, working on a project with small details
◦ but the body will remind us when we’ve been treating it poorly
Ogden, “How we hold our bodies is rich with meaning, conveying to others our mood in the moment and providing hints as to how we feel about ourselves and the beliefs we hold. When we sit or stand slumped, upper back bowed, shoulders rounded, and head forward, we might appear detached, frightened, insecure, or compliant. Colloquialisms about being ‘spineless’ or having ‘no backbone’ testify that a collapse in the spine is associated with shame, low self-esteem, or difficulty with self-assertion. In contrast, when we have a rigid, tense ‘military’ posture, with head and shoulders pulled back, knees locked, and muscles tense, we might appear arrogant, intimidating, adversarial, or inflexible. Terms such as unbendable or ‘puffed up with pride’ describe a rigidly held spine and a core of the body characterized by inflexibility. But when we sit or stand tall yet relaxed, with our shoulders open and our chins level, we appear more focused, confident, and receptive.”

The Bible challenges us to live upright lives
– to carry ourselves with dignity, having nothing to fear and nothing to hide
• if we know that God is with us, our bodies will show it

Sometimes we cannot shake the emotions that rack our bodies
– we cannot rise to the fearless confidence that God is for us
• our rational minds resist the faith in our hearts
– one way to work at this is to move backwards
• instead of top-down, where we have to figure everything out in our heads before we can accept it with our heart,
• we work bottom up, where we carry our bodies as we would if “it all made sense”
◦ and all the help we needed had arrived

Developing a new habit of changed posture
will change our brains
will rewire them to what our bodies are saying
will reinforce our commitment to living upright
And quite possibly,
bring us to a greater awareness of God with us

May 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 23, 2021

Postcast

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And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey Nehemiah 9:29

Intro: I apologize for where we jumped into this passage

It’s not enough to give you the context, so–a brief explanation
– Nehemiah had taken charge of a massive project,
• rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and the spiritual renewal of the people
• for the renewal to occur they had to break with their past
◦ so he arranges a day for this long prayer, which is a confession of Israel’s sins
◦ it recounts a history of unfaithfulness
– the prayer tells a story, and like all stories, it’s build around a plot
• it’s easy to find the plot of a story, because it always involves a conflict
◦ some sort of tension and struggle takes place, creating suspense
• the conflict here is between a good God and his rebellious people
◦ Nehemiah’s goal that day was to surrender to God fully and end the conflict
◦ then to re-enter the covenant God made with them from the start
Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing . . . (Neh. 9:38)

I brought us here, because of the two body parts mentioned in verse 29
– as a reminder, we’re exploring a biblical spirituality of the body
• philosophy and theology separated the spirit from the body
◦ philosophy stopped talking about spirit, because it is unknowable
◦ theology mostly postponed discussion of spirit until it enters heaven
• but in scripture, the body is spirit as well as flesh and bone
◦ it has a capacity to experience transcendence, intuition
Blaise Pascal (I think every Xian should hear about his experience at least once), “. . . from about half past six in the evening until about half past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, not the God of the philosophers and the scholars. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace. The God of Jesus Christ. Your God will be my God. Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, save God.”
John Macquarrie explains that these are “words which try to express an ecstatic experience. Jesus Christ had become for Pascal the center of a mystical contemplation in which the truths of God and religion were opened to him in a way that he could not doubt. He goes so far as to say, ‘Jesus Christ is the goal of everything and the center to which everything tends. He who knows him knows the reason for everything.’”
◦ the invitation of scripture is for us to seek God, and to find him (Jer. 29:13)
– our bodies are limited–we cannot see, hear, touch, smell, or taste spirit
• so the body isn’t everything–but it’s enough!
◦ when God created the human body, stepped back and said, “It’s good”
◦ it was all he intended it to be, and nothing more or less
John of Damascus–an eighth century monk and theologian who argued the merits of sacred art, and icons in particular wrote, “I shall not cease to honor matter, for it was through matter that my salvation came to pass. Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable; nothing is despicable that God has made.”
• so today we’re going to consider the spirituality of our material neck and shoulders

There is not a great deal to say about the neck

It is the most vulnerable exposed part of the body
– Joshua had commanders symbolically affirm their dominance over their enemies (Jos. 10:25)
• the poet described his precarious situation as water rising to his neck (Ps. 69:1)
• Paul had friends who risked their necks for him (Ro. 16:4)
– in other passages:
• people who were haughty might walk with outstretched necks (Is. 3:16; cf. Ps. 75:4-5)
• the lover in the Song of Songs describes the beauty of his beloved’s neck (Song 4:4)
• the neck’s beauty is sometimes enhanced by necklace (Song 4:9)
• a gold chain could also represent royal position (Ge. 41:42; Dan. 5:7)
• the neck was a prime area for receiving affection
◦ greeting with kisses on the neck (Ge. 35:4)
◦ forgiving with kisses on the neck (Ge. 33:4)
◦ expressing love and joy of reunion with tears and kisses on the neck (Ge. 45:14-15)
– perhaps what we hear most often regarding the neck is when it was stiff
• not a muscular stiffness, but an attitude of stubborn resistance
◦ a vivid picture of this connects an internal condition with the external expression
King Zedekiah did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet . . . . He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD, the God of Israel (2 Chr. 36:12-13)
• the price Israel would pay for having a stiff neck was that a yoke would be placed their necks
therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you . . . . And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you (De. 28:48; Jer. 28:14)
• the most dire punishment Jesus’ pronounced was against anyone who harmed a child
whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to [stumble], it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Mt. 18:6)

I want to add the jaw to this overview, because neck muscles are attached to it
– God’s fierce devotion to Israel and their protection poetically described:
his breath is like an overflowing stream
that reaches up to the neck;
to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction,
and to place on the jaws of the peoples a bridle that leads astray (Is. 30:28)
• the same Hebrew word for jaw is translated cheeks
• and typically one or the other is receiving abuse
◦ the cheeks are struck (or a beard plucked from it)
◦ the jaws are hooked or bridled (Job 41:2; Eze. 29:4)
– a special case is that of Samson, when rushed by a troop of Philistines
• he found the jawbone of donkey nearby and used as a weapon
◦ he celebrated afterward with a poem worthy of a small child
With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.
. . . And that place was called [Jawbone Hill] (Jdg. 15-7)
• I find this ironic, because in this scene Samson is the one who is heehawing

The shoulders in scripture are what we would expect

They mostly have to do with carrying heavy burdens
– a water skin or water jar (Gen. 21:14; 24:15) or stones (Jos. 4:5)
• the only way the ark of the covenant was to be transported (Num. 7:9; 1 Chr. 15:15)
◦ also other nations who carried their idols (Is. 46:7)
• in Nehemiah, the nobles did not put shoulders to the work (Neh. 3:5)
– shoulders could also symbolize carrying responsibility
• for instance, the responsible leadership (Is. 9:6; 22:22)
◦ or responsibility for the spiritual welfare of God’s people
And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance (Ex. 28:12)
• this is one of my favorite images of the priests
• it’s how I imagine Jesus always interceding for us
◦ and the reason I pray for you every week
– like the neck, people could turn a stubborn shoulder toward God (Zec. 7:11)

God is the one who relieves the burden from the shoulders of his people
I relieved your shoulder of the burden (Ps. 81:6)
And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken (Is. 10:27)

There is one more step I want us to take in the Scriptures

The neck generally refers to the body part that surrounds the throat
– the Hebrew word for throat (nephesh) is stretched in many directions
• it can be what we know as the esophagus and refer to eating and drinking
◦ by extension, it can be translated appetite, hunger, and even greedy desire
• it can be what we know as the trachea and refer to breath, breathing, and life
• it is also translated “soul” and refer to all that is felt internally, or thought, or willed
nephesh can mean the person, the “self”
◦ but more on that in a later talk

The throat is one of those body parts that will tell you when something’s wrong
– for instance, when:
• it is tight or constricted–voice changes; nerves, anxiety
• you have a dry throat, itchy, or sore throat
◦ these can result from allergies or abuse
– the neck and shoulders will also tell us when something’s wrong
• with the jaw, these are the places where most of us carry the majority of our stress
Pat Ogden, “There are many ways our normal style of breathing can be less than optimal. Fear may cause us to hold our breath or breathe only in the upper chest, failing to fully engage the diaphragm to do its job. . . . Poor posture also contributes to poor breathing—if we are slumped, our lungs are compressed and do not have much room to expand as we [inhale]. We may habitually breathe shallowly if we experience depression. Fast breathing that emphasizes the inhale may contribute to panic or anxiety. The neck and shoulders, which should be relaxed during healthy breathing, may be tense and constrict more while inhaling our exhaling.”
• changing our posture can change our attitude

Our bodies tell us something about the burdens we carry
– listen to your neck and shoulders, your jaw and throat
• whose yoke are you wearing? Has God placed it on you
◦ did someone else lay it on you?
◦ are you going to let God lift it from you?

Conclusion: I want to bring all of this back to Jesus

Regarding the neck:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Mt. 11:29)
Regarding the shoulders:
When the shepherd has found his lost sheep, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing (Lk. 15:5)
We can reject a yoke,
but we can also accept one
We can choose to resist or receive
We can lug our stress around on our backs
or we can let Jesus carry us on his shoulders

Our bodies speak
We want to be the ones to write the script
so that our bodies tell the world
our God fills our lives with love and grace

An Exercise

Notice any tension in your neck, your shoulders, or throat.
Focus your attention on the area that is tense.
• With your fingers, gently explore the tension
• Is there a central point of tension?
(Usually there is one spot that is the tightest or most sensitive)
• Describe what the tension feels like
(Dull pain vs sharp pain, achiness, restricted movement)
• Try tensing the muscles in that area and then relaxing them
(Don’t do this if it’s too inflamed or painful)
Notice the difference in the way it feels when tensed or relaxed
• Ask the area of tension why it is so tight
Does it answer with a specific physical cause? “I turned my head too fast”
Does it answer with a specific psychological cause? “I’ve been under a lot of stress”
Does it answer with a specific emotion? “I’ve been feeling sad”

May 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 16, 2021

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.”
And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles . . . . Exodus 4:10-16; Numbers 12:6-8

Intro: Some of you will remember when Jake Caldwell who spoke at Reflexion awhile back

Jake has written a book, Tending the Body, which provides training to keep the body supple
“. . . who doesn’t want to be supple? Who doesn’t want to be able to move with grace and ease? Who doesn’t want to be free of tension and restrictions?” “Pain is a picture that the body paints in order to say something to us. . . . all pains can be read for their messages.” “What is the body saying when it limits our suppleness? . . . Whatever else the body wants, it certainly wants our attention.”
– this is what we have been doing in these Sunday talks
• giving attention to our bodies – but not just for suppleness
• we are discovering the spiritual experience of life in a body
Thomas Ryan, in Reclaiming the Body In Christian Spirituality, “There are many ways in our culture in which we do honor our embodied nature–from skin creams to fitness centers. But rarely do we pay attention to our bodies with the intent of opening ourselves to God through the experience we are having in our bodies.” “When we pay attention to what we are living in our bodies and how that opens us to the flow of grace in new ways, the result is renewal.”
– we began with the crown of the head, and now we descend to the nose and mouth

The word nose does not appear often in the Scriptures

When it does, most often someone is putting a ring in it (Ge. 24:47)
I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears . . . . (Eze. 16:11)
– if not a ring, then a hook or rope, to drag and control a person (2 Ki. 19:28)
• more often in scripture, we read of the nostrils
◦ this is the point at which we first received the breath of life
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creatures (Gen. 2:7)
• Helmut Thielicke said we are constantly being told that humans are animals
◦ which, he says, is true biologically, but we are more than biology
◦ the human person is one-part soil and one-part divine
◦ the divine breath this is what it is to be “alive and kicking”
as long as my breath is in me,
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils
(Job 27:3)
– nostrils, especially God’s, could propel a blast of air–as with a sneeze (Ex. 15:8)
• flared nostrils indicate anger
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, In the Old Testament “we read of an enflamed nose. This metaphor is based on the idea of angry snorting. . . . Of course the English Bible translations have ‘became angry’ or ‘was angry’ instead of a literal translation of the ‘enflamed nose’ expression, but in the process, as so frequently happens, the metaphorical and anthropological features of the saying are lost.”
• as sensitive receptors, the nostrils can become irritated easily
God says that people who say,
“Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”
These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all the day (Isa. 65:5)
– there are frequent references to what the nose does; i.e., “smells” (Lev. 1:9)
• it is not surprising to find the nose and mouth in same passage
◦ they give us a combined sense of smell and taste
How beautiful is your love, my sister my bride!
How much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
Your lips drip nectar, my bride;
honey and milk are under your tongue;
the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon (Song 4:10-11)
• in the sacred art of icon paintings, what seems like weird features, tell a story
Ouspensky and Lossky, regarding the way saints are depicted in icons: “An excessively thin nose, small mouth and large eyes—all these are a conventional method of transmitting the state of a saint whose senses have been ‘refined’ as they used to call it in the old times.”

The mouth is far more complex in scripture and recurs many times

Not only is the mouth mentioned many times, but also the articulators of speech
– how we form sound of words with the tongue, teeth, lips, and palate
• the mouth is a gift – an instrument with spiritual significance
mouth to mouth is the most direct encounter
◦ two vocal partners in speech – a conversation
◦ this is really where Moses walk with God began
◦ a statement, then a question; an answer, then an objection; the objection overruled, and so on
– kissing signified respect, reverence, even worship
• it was always an act of devotion that expressed intimacy
◦ so with greetings and good-byes (Ex. 18:7; Ruth 1:9)
◦ and so with the most intimate relationship
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine
(Song 1:2)

The tongue could be a study project in itself
(it appears more than fifty times in just Job, Psalms, and Proverbs)
– it is used literally: to drink (Jdg.7:5), stuck to the roof of the mouth (Ps. 22:15),
and parched with thirst (Isa. 41:17)
• tasting food and drink is literal, but also sometimes metaphorical
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! (Ps. 34:8)
◦ we also taste the future (Heb. 6:4-5) and taste death (experience it, Heb. 2:9)
• frequently the tongue can be weaponized
They make their tongue sharp as serpent’s teeth
and under their lips is the venom of asps (Ps. 140:3)
◦ having, as it were, a life of its own, the tongue can plot destruction and become a sharp razor (Ps. 52:2)
◦ a “tongue lashing” is a verbal whipping (Job 5:21)
◦ James 3 contains a poetic essay on the destructive power of the tongue
– but we also see the ambivalence of the tongue
A gentle tongue is a tree of life (Pr. 15:4)
The tongue of the wise brings healing (Pr. 12:18)
• in fact, the tongue can be “inspired”
The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me;
his word is on my tongue (2 Sam. 23:2)
My heart overflows with a pleasing theme;
I address my verses to the king;
my tongue is like the pen of a ready [writer] (Ps. 45:1)
• “tongue” can also mean a native language
◦ as the one human language was divided at the tower of Babel
◦ but in the New Testament the breach is repaired by “speaking in tongues” (a spiritual gift)
– I’ll have to stop myself here, because there’s just too much more to see
• but when you are reading your Bible, notice any references to the tongue
◦ and remind yourself of the importance of the words it produces

The teeth, like the tongue, can be used as weapons
My soul is in the midst of lions . . .
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords (Ps. 57:4)
Blessed be the LORD,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth! (Ps. 124:6)
– there’s an instance of people grinding their teeth in rage (Acts 7:54)
• and the famous gnashing of teeth in frustration and regret (Mt. 8:12)

The lips have the same capacity for harm as the tongue and teeth
– they can contain venom (Ps. 140:3) or nectar (Song 4:11)
unclean lips refers to everyday speech
◦ the lips require purification to be of use to God
strange lips refers to a foreign language
• and lying lips are an abomination to the LORD (Pr. 12:22)
The mouth and articulators are mostly about their function; that is, speech

The Book of Proverbs has plenty to say about speech
Staubli and Schroer, Countless sayings in the book of Proverbs are devoted to the beauty and balance of speech, the art of proper and timely speech and silence, and especially just and unjust speech. . . . Again and again they admonish to honest speech, warn against glibness, lying, and the use of too many words or hasty speech.”

In the Proverbs we learn:
timing:
For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven . . .
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Ecc. 3:1, 7)
appropriateness:
A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Pr. 25:11)
These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heartstrings of a friend.
The ill-timed truth we might have kept–
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say–
Who knows how grandly it had rung?
(from “The Fool’s Prayer,” by Edward Sill)

the cheapness and danger of flattery and “many words”
“Bad, bad,” says the buyer,
but when he goes away, then he boasts (Pr. 20:14)
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Pr. 10:19)
A man who flatters his neighbor
spreads a net for his feet (Pr. 29:5)
the value and blessing of right speech
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body
(Pr. 16:24)

The mouth and hand work together
– the hand moves things around in physical space
the mouth moves things around in mental space
. . . you have kept with your servant David . . . what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth and with your hand have fulfilled it this day (1 Ki. 8:24)
– more important is the connection of the mouth and heart
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Mt. 12:34, 36; see also Mt. 15:17-19)
• Jesus is reiterating the Beatitude, Blessed are the pure in heart
• our truest words do not come from the mind, but from the heart

I haven’t mentioned yet, the mouth of the LORD

What was remembered as coming from mouth of the LORD, was authentic and binding (Jos 17:4)
– like Jesus, our survival depends on what God speaks
man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (De. 8:3)

At Reflexion, we’ve been concerned to train our ears to be more sensitive
– because God often speaks to us, not with thunder clap or roaring tornado,
• but in his still small voice – no more than a gentle whisper

I also haven’t said anything about the mouth of babies

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength (Ps. 8:2)
Jesus quoted this verse, but from the Greek translation of the Old Testament
Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise (Mt. 21:16)
– their exuberance, heart-felt intonation, honest and innocent observation
– this brings us to the most important use of speech
• prayer – communication and fellowship with our God
• praise and giving thanks
◦ our bodies are receptors for God’s love, mercy, and grace
◦ but our mouths are for broadcasting his love,
for sharing his mercy and grace with others
I will bless the LORD at all times
his praise shall continually be in my mouth. . . .
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together (Ps. 34: 1 and 3)

Conclusion: One final thought

And it has to do with what the Scriptures say about “the full mouth”
– for instance, the mouth can be filled with laughter (Ps. 126:2)
– what I have in mind for you and I:
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it (Ps. 81:10)
• this is one of the most beautiful promises I know
◦ God does not simply say, “Open your mouth,” but, “Open your mouth wide

God is not stingy or miserly
He is generous with his children
If we hunger for more of his love and mercy
If we’re starving for more of his grace and goodness
If we cannot get enough of his presence
He tells us to open wide our mouths,
to stretch out our arms with open hands
so he can pour into us all that we are capable of receiving
If [we then], who are evil, know how to give good gifts to [our] children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Lk. 11:13)

May 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 9, 2021

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Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:31-37

Intro: If you’re familiar the with gospels, what you see here instantly,

This is a strange healing miracle
– more attention is given to Jesus’ “method” than any prior healing
• and, he has never before this instance included spitting
◦ we’re going to have to revisit these things in a moment
• for now we are only interested in the fact, this man deaf
◦ and that most likely explains speech impediment (my friends)
– we are examining parts of this human body that is “fearfully and wonderfully”
• today we’re going to see what the Scriptures say about our ears

As we’ve seen, the Bible begins with the literal organ or limb

In the Law of Moses, there are two graphic regulations in which the ear is used literally
– in a ritual of purification for the priest and for a leper who was healed
• a sacrifice was offered, and some of its blood was dabbed on the right ear of the priest or leper
– the other regulation applies to an indentured slave that had served his time
• given the choice to leave or stay with his master, if he chose to stay,
then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave for life (Ex. 21:6)
• this became a physical sign that he was a permanent slave by choice
– several times in Old Testament we find earrings:
• Aaron (Ex. 32:2); Gideon (Jdg. 8:24); (Eze. 16:12)
• typically they were simply accessories (“ornaments,” Ex. 33:4-6) to adorn the body
◦ but they could also be cultic – a charm, talisman, or amulet (Gen. 35:4)
– in the New Testament:
• Jesus healing deaf ears
• and Peter cut off the right ear of a guard who came to arrest Jesus

Many times the word ear refers to its function

To speak in the ears of someone means to be heard (this occurs many times)
Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears (Gen. 44:18)
– also, the ears can be used to signify receiving a message or hearing something said
For you bring some strange things to our ears (Acts 17:20)
– three times God announced that he would deliver a message
at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle (1 Sam. 3:11; 2 Ki. 21:12; Jer. 19:3)
– then, to give ear or incline one’s ears meant to listen or pay attention (Acts 2:14)
– then, the ears discern truth — they examine or test things
Does not the ear test words
as the palate tastes food? (Job 12:11)
– if with the eye we perceive, it is with our ears we understand
Behold my eye has seen all this,
my ear has heard and understood it (Job 13:1)
– ears can be “opened” (Job 36:10, 15; 1 Pe. 3:12)
• or “heavy” (Isa. 6:10), or “stopped,” “shut,” or “closed” (Ps. 58:4; Acts 7:57)
• also, ears can be open but still not hear (Isa. 42:20)
◦ in fact, having eyes and ears are no guarantee of sight or hearing (De. 29:4; Isa. 43:8; Jer. 5:21)
◦ so Jesus says, He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Mt. 11:15)
• God is more interested in ears being open than sacrifice (Ps. 40:6)
– in the Book of Proverbs, ears can be trained to be attentive to wisdom
• the ear is an especially useful organ for gaining wisdom
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
will dwell among the wise (Pr. 15:31)
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “Their knowledge was recorded in easily understood sayings that could be readily remembered in an oral culture dependent on hearing. The texts had to be right for hearing; otherwise they would quickly be forgotten. The tight form, the doubled character of almost all sayings [parallelism], and many other rhetorical tricks served as ‘ear openers.’”

The function of ears is to hear, and purpose for hearing is to obey
– Hebrew kawhab can be translated hear or obey (1 Sam. 15:22)
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (Jas. 1:22)
Staubli and Schroer, “Hearing and doing: this is perhaps the most important axis of the New Testament’s theology of the ears. Right hearing is proved in doing.” “Thus in the biblical tradition the art of listening, much like that of seeing, leads to genuine understanding, and understanding to action.”
– the great call of the Old Testament:
Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart (De. 6:4-6)
• perhaps it is helpful for us that in English we add only one letter to hear to get heart

The Scriptures have something to about God’s ears

And these passages frequently couple the ears with the eyes
. . . let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant (Ne. 1:6)
– God will incline his ear to his people’s cry for justice (Ps. 10:17-18)
• and he is asked to incline his ear to hear their prayer (Ps. 31:2)
• he not only sees the suffering of his people, but he hears their cry (Ex. 3:7)
– God speaks in the ears of his people and especially his prophets
Staubli and Schroer, “Ultimately it is God who opens and closes ears. The prophets are especially graced in this way. More than others, they are open to the power of God working among us; they are able to recognize God’s signs, hear and interpret God’s words.”
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens me;
he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear (Is. 50:4-5)

What I have to say next is going to be more intense

After last week’s talk, I felt disappointed
– it was too broad and general; it seemed to me that I had missed something
• Monday morning it came to me clearly, and that is what I want to share with you
◦ the Bible feeds us visual images and auditory sounds
◦ it does not give us mere data
that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you (1 Jn. 1:3)
• visualizing and hearing the truth creates for us a fuller experience
◦ and experiencing the truth is what this is about
– the Bible does this for us, because there is more to see and hear
• but not with the physical organs of seeing and hearing
[one of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians was] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened . . . (Ep. 1:17-18)
◦ this is because there are realities that
no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined
yet these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
• Jesus told Nicodemus that
unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3)
◦ Nicodemus wrestled with this; he could not comprehend it; he could not see it
◦ John’s gospel is about teaching us to see and hear!
All four gospels are about teaching us to see and hear!
All of scripture is about teaching us to see and hear!
Staubli and Schroer, “Jesus sought not only with miracles, but especially by telling parables, to open people’s ears for the message about the reign of God.”
◦ what made it so difficult was that people, like Nicodemus were blinded by their culture
◦ and that has happened to us too
Arthur Deikman, “The religious framework that formerly defined meaning has been replaced by a scientific world view in which meaning does not exist. . . . According to this view, human beings are complex biochemical phenomena, of considerable scientific interest but not essentially different from anything else that science examines.” “ . . . it is possible that the conclusions of scientific materialism are wrong. From time to time we sense a larger reality than the one science provides, a subtle perception pointing to a better, meaningful existence.”
“Western psychotherapy, in basing itself almost exclusively on the world view of scientific materialism, has impoverished its model of human consciousness and lost the meaning and significance of human life. . . . our intimations of a larger existence ordinarily find no support from the scientific culture but, instead, opposition.”

In our text, there are fifteen definitive statements
– I am going set them side-by-side with fifteen statements in the next chapter of Mark (8:22-26):
they / some people
brought / brought
a man with a disability (deaf) / a man with a disability (blind)
they begged him / they begged him
to lay his hand on the man / to touch him
taking him aside from the crowd privately / he took the blind man out of the village
Jesus put his fingers into his ears / after he had spit
after spitting / on his eyes
Jesus touched his tongue / he laid his hands on him
looking up to heaven / he asked him, “Do you see anything?”
he sighed / “I see people like trees”
Jesus said “Be opened” laid his hands on him again
his ears were opened, his tongue was released he opened his eyes
he spoke plainly he saw all things clearly
Jesus charged them to tell no one Do not even enter the village

• notice that three statements in each story have no parallel in the other story
◦ otherwise, we have the same story, but with two different disabilities
◦ and some of these features are not found anywhere in the Synoptic Gospels
• why did Mark tell these two almost identical stories,
◦ only that one has to do with ears and the other with eyes?
◦ because they were meant to be seen as bookends
– what is sandwiched in between them?

Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:14-21

• in Mark 6, Jesus fed crowd a crowd of five thousand
◦ the disciples were there, but they did not benefit from what they had witnessed
◦ after that, Jesus calmed a storm
And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened (Mk. 6:52)
◦ and that is exactly the problem! Our hearts are hardened too
• there was something about the feeding of the crowd that the disciples should have seen and learned
◦ now they are given a second chance when Jesus warns them of the leaven
• did you notice that in chapter 8, verses 17-21, every sentence Jesus spoke was a question?
◦ it was like he gave them a pop quiz
◦ by it, he exposed what they had not learned or discerned
◦ they looked, but did not see; listened, but did not hear

Then there is this healing of the blind man that came in stages
(again, this was unique to this story)
– the disciples, still blind and deaf, could have feared it was a chronic condition
• but the One who points out their disability is One who does all things well
• it may perhaps be frustrating for the teacher and the students,
◦ but spiritual sight and hearing comes in stages
– Jesus asked the blind man if he saw anything
• this is also unique in all the healing stories
◦ it also echoes the questions he asked his disciples
◦ in fact, Jesus has another question for them
Who do people say that I am? (Mk. 8:27)
• this time, they get it right
◦ then he told them plainly what would happen to him
◦ but Peter’s response proves, they’re no more prepared to receive this message than the warning about the leaven
◦ Peter’s eyes needed a second touch
his heart was still hardened
his mind was culturally controlled (by what he thought he knew about the Messiah)
For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mk. 8:33)
– our “mind set” has a lot to do with what we’re prepared to see and hear
Arthur Deikman, “According to mystics, the fundamental reality underlying appearances is not accessible to the senses. It cannot be described in terms derived from the ordinary world, but is accessible to mystical intuition. The perception of that underlying reality gives meaning to existence . . . .”
“Although it is helpful to understand that meaning and direction exist and that a larger self and world can eventually be perceived, intellectual understanding is no substitute for the actual experience of reality. It is the task of mystical science to bring people to that experience.”
And, it is the task of the gospels!

In the Synoptic gospels Jesus used parables,
In John’s gospel Jesus used “hard sayings” (Jn. 6:60)
– he did this to create for his disciples a new consciousness
• an opening of the eyes of their minds and ears of hearts
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it (Mt. 13:16-17)

Conclusion: I realize that a few of you that I know well, see more than I see and hear more than I hear

I’m grateful for the times you have shared with me
what you have seen and heard
Do not be discouraged for the times you do not see clearly
or hear plainly
We are disciples, we are still learning
Just know that there is MORE
more that Jesus wants to show you
more that Jesus wants to tell you
And the better we focus and pay attention
the sooner we will see with our eyes and hear with our ears
and understand with our hearts

Postscript
That the blind man did not see clearly at first is not difficult to understand. Oliver Sacks tells a story of a man who was blind from birth as a result of thick cataracts that covered his eye lenses. As a child, Virgil’s doctor believed that he had another eye impairment that prevented him from seeing. But later on, other doctors thought it might just be cataracts and that he would be able to see if they were removed.
Oliver Sacks explains that when the bandage was removed from Virgil’s eyes, he did not jump for joy. “Virgil told me later that in this first moment he had no idea what he was seeing. There was light, there was movement, there was color, all mixed up, all meaningless, a blur. Then out of the blur came a voice that said, ‘Well?’ Then, and only then, he said, did he finally realize that this chaos of light and shadow was a face—and, indeed, the face of his surgeon.
The rest of us, born sighted, can scarcely imagine such confusion. For we, born with a full complement of senses, and correlating these, one with the other, create a sight world from the start, a world of visual objects and concepts and meanings.”
We we do not remember, but we had to learn how to make sense of what we see in the first months of our lives. Sacks wrote, “It constitutes a huge learning task, but is achieved so smoothly, so unconsciously, that its enormous complexity is scarcely realized (though it is an achievement that even the largest supercomputers cannot begin to match).”
So it was that Jesus’ second touch was also a second miracle, that enabled the formerly blind man to comprehend what he saw clearly.

May 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 2, 2021

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Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. . . . The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. [the entire text fort his talk is Acts 9:1-18]

Intro: Paul will tell his story of this encounter two other times in the book of Acts

And he will share a condensed version of it again with the Galatians
• in 1 Corinthians he will argue,
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? (1 Cor. 9:1)
• that was the day Jesus stopped Paul in his tracks and turned him around
– but if not for his eyes, there would be no story
• if you look for visual clues in the story, words and sentences pop out
a light shone; others were hearing the voice but seeing no one;
getting up although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing;
he was without sight; Ananias was given a vision in which he was told him to look for Saul;
Jesus told Ananias, behold, Saul too had seen a vision;
Ananias went to so he could regain his sight;
Jesus was going to show Saul how much he would suffer;
Jesus had appeared to Saul—and so on
(notice also the similarity of Saul’s experience and what happened on his first mission (Acts 13:11)

We are discovering how biblical spirituality is centered in the body
– our body part last week was the face – today it’s the eyes
• today my talk is easy, because the spiritual potential of the eyes is obvious
• what concerns me is I’m afraid that I’ll overlook something
◦ eyes are mentioned 866 times in OT alone
◦ the root word for seeing occurs 1300 times 🙁

In the Bible, eyes sometimes refers to the literal organs of sight

For instance, in our story today, Paul’s eyes were literally blinded
– Moses reminded Israel of what they had seen with their own eyes (Deut. 3:21; 4:3, 9, etc.)
• sculptors who make idols carve eyes, that cannot see (Ps. 115:5)
• and typically eyes grow dim with age (Ge. 27:1; De. 34:7)
– with our eyes we read other people eyes
And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him (Lk. 4:20)
• they were not only listening to Jesus’ words, they were studying the person
• we also speak with our eyes – communicate joy and sorrow
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and body also (Ps. 31:9)
Pat Ogden, “Children are very sensitive to the quality of eye contact with their attachment figures. A sudden tightening or narrowing of the eyes can convey pain, aversion, disagreement, surprise or shock. Other ways of communicating with the eyes (i.e., glancing . . . blinking eyes, , , , eyes angled downward or upward, frequency, length and intensity of eye contact) all convey implicit messages. . . .
◦ those messages can affect us for a lifetime
Ogden, When small children try to get close to a parent (hug or be held) and the parent ignores or pushes them away “the child may learn to avoid making eye contact, reaching out, and stop seeking closeness. . . . If eye contact is not satisfying in infancy and childhood, we may have difficulty with eye contact in adulthood. Even as adults, we may expect to see similar criticism, disappointment, withdrawal, or rejection if that was what we perceived in the eyes of the people close to us growing up. We may also be anxious about making eye contact if we fear being seen ourselves, if we have beliefs like ‘I’m bad,’ or ‘If people see who I am, they will not like me’ . . . ”

In prayer, we typically close our eyes – an act of reverence
– the lowered gaze or sometimes bowing or bending all the way with the face to the ground (2 Chr. 7:3)
• sometimes a people bowed the head because they felt unworthy
for instance, the tax collector who would not even lift up his eyes to heaven (Lk. 18:13)
– Jesus, however, did lift his eyes to heaven (in his public prayers; Jn. 17:1)
• posture in prayer is not most the important part, but it is significant
◦ posture and gestures are ways to bring the whole self to God or to pray with whole self
◦ postures and gestures are meant to express what is in the heart

The eyes serve as a doorway to the inner person
– so the psalmist determined to be careful with where he looked
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless (Ps. 101:3)
• and he prayed
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things (Ps. 119:37)
– whatever enters the eyes, enters the mind and heart

Frequently, when the Bible speaks of the eyes it refers to their function

Staubli and Schroer, “Seeing . . . in the view of the First Testament is never merely a sense apprehension, an event without personal involvement or consequences. One sees something and acts accordingly.” “[when it speaks] of the eyes of God, what is in the foreground is never the form or physical function of the eye, but always the quality and dynamism of the gaze.”
– so to lift up your eyes can be both literal and figurative
• “lift up you on high” can mean, to focus attention on God (Isa. 40:26)
• the Hebrew word for eyes can also be translated:
◦ “sparkle” like wine (Pr. 23:31) or “polished” like bronze (Eze. 1:7)
– the eyes can also indicate vitality
• Jonathan ate honey and his eyes brightened: shine, like sun (1 Sam. 14:27-29)
◦ he was invigorated

The eyes usually stand for sight, and at deeper mental level, perception
God told King Jehu, you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes (2 Ki. 10:30)
– that is to say, Jehu’s actions were right according to God’s perception
– seeing is also coupled to knowing
• sometimes to know something we have to see it (Isa. 41:20)
• other times, we have to know something, then see it (Jer. 2:19)

The most important function eyes perform is spiritual

In fact, it may be that the eyes are the most spiritually sensitive organ of the body
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness (Mt. 6:22)
– so we have to take its role with extreme seriousness
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell (Mt. 2:29)
• a theme of seeing and believing runs all way through John’s Gospel
◦ but it comes to a startling climax in chapter 20
Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn. 20:29)
• Jesus said this for our sake; we who have not seen him in the flesh
◦ and it becomes the essential condition of our spiritual life
. . . we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18)
– there is a spiritual sight that looks beyond appearance
• it allows us to see the things of the world for what they are
For all that is of the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 Jn. 2:16-17)
• there is also is also a spiritual sight that looks through things
◦ what is invisible to our physical eyes appears to the eyes of our hearts
that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know the hope to which he has called you (Ep. 1:17-18)
◦ Elisha’s prayer for his servant
O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see (2 Ki. 6:17)
(you really need to read this whole story in 2 Kings 6!)

The ongoing problem with God’s people

Let’s take Samson as a parable – his name means “shine like sun” (cf. Jdg. 5:31)
But he did not know that the LORD had left him. And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes (Jdg. 16:20-21)
– his physical blindness was the result of already becoming spiritually blind
• at some point he stopped looking to the Lord,
◦ and did so until he could no longer discern God’s presence or realize that it left him
• the faculty of spiritual sight is like a muscle — if it is not used, it can atrophy
◦ what we fail to use, eventually becomes useless
◦ to God, Israel had become
a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not (Eze. 12:2)
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
Staubli and Shroer, “Seeing something always has consequences.”
◦ Eve saw the fruit was delight to the eyes
◦ Moses looked this way and that, then killed the Egyptian
◦ Achan saw and took what was not his (Jos. 7:20-210; and so did David (2 Sam. 11:2-4)
– I don’t want to be so engrossed in my worldly life, that I go blind to the presence of God
• there is a spiritual intuition that enters an open heart
• I know there is more to be seen in the every day scenes of my life,
◦ because others have seen it and written about it
◦ and being inspired by their insights, I want to gain such insights on my own

Conclusion: God’s first words to Moses were, I have seen, I know, and I have come (Ex. 3:7-8)

Sometimes men and women in the Scriptures were surprised to learn that God saw them
– for instance, Hagar in Genesis 16:13-14
He who formed the eye, does he not see? (Ps. 94:9)

Henri Nouwen, reflecting on the story of when Nathanael was brought to Jesus and discovered that Jesus had seen him when he was off sitting by himself, wrote:
“The story speaks deeply to me since it raises the questions ‘Do I want to be seen by Jesus? Do I want to be known by him?’ If I do, then a faith can grow which proclaims Jesus as the Son of God. Only such a faith can open my eyes and reveal an open heaven.”
“Thus, I will see when I am willing to be seen. I will receive new eyes that can see the mysteries of God’s own life when I allow God to see me, all of me, even those parts I myself do not want to see.”
God has not forgotten or overlooked you
he sees you, knows your circumstances and what you feel,
he knows what hurts or oppresses you,
and he has come to your rescue

O Lord, please open our eyes that we may see!

Apr 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 25, 2021

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Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”
So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was and said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as e did before. But the God of my father has been with me. Genesis 31:1-5

Intro: Years ago there was a billboard on PCH in Newport Beach

On it, was printed a giant photo of an Orangutan’s face
– the caption read, “Face it, you belong in the San Diego Zoo”
• someone had climbed up there and with a spray can written between Face it– and–you belong
◦ a girl’s name–so it read, “Face it, Judy, you belong in the San Diego Zoo”
• this is one of the ways we use face as a figure of speech
– other figures include, when we:
• “face the music” — we have to take responsibility for our actions
• take something “at face value” — we accept it as it appears
• “lose face” — we have lost the respect of others, so we then try to “save face”
• do an “about face” — we make a quick 180 degree turn
• we use the word “surface,” – the visible outer layer of a thing
◦ frequently the Bible uses face for a surface:
◦ “the face of the deep,” “face of all the earth,” “the face of the ground”
Hans Wolff tells us “[The face] is always called panim, in the plural, thus reminding us of the manifold different ways in which a man can give his attention,” and that events “are reflected in the features of the face” so that a “partner can be already addressed through the play of expression.”
Rabbi, Abraham Heschel, “A face is a message, a face speaks, often unbeknown to the person.”
• we even look at the “face” of clock so it can speak and “tell” us the time
◦ Heschel adds a lovely and intriguing thought:
“Is it not a strange marvel that among so many hundreds of millions of faces, no two faces are alike? And that not one face remains quite the same for more than one instant?”

By way of reminder, we are surveying the Bible’s messages regarding body parts
– we want to discover in what ways our bodies are spiritual
• they’re not merely a “shell” for the spirit
◦ and certainly not a prison we hope to escape
• we began last week from the top down with the head and hair
◦ this week we move to the face

Face is the hidden word in our English translation

Verse 2, literally reads:
And Jacob saw the face of Laban, and indeed it was not toward him as before
– I know that not everyone agrees with how I read this story
• I see two characters who are both tricksters,
• each trying to get the better deal from the other
◦ Laban wanted to marry off his oldest daughter
◦ and Jacob wanted to use Laban’s resources to build his own nest egg
– Laban had used a classic “bait and switch” scam
• when he was supposed to give Rachel to Jacob for the dowry he worked to earn,
◦ he brought Leah to his tent their wedding night
And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! (Ge. 29:25)
• meanwhile, Jacob used selective breeding to make the best of Laban’s flock his own
– eventually, when Jacob looked at Laban’s face, he saw it all
• he had become a persona non grata

Even before we say a word, our faces speak to others
– facial “expressions” refer to what our faces communicate
For instance:
• frustration, anger, disappointment
So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? (Ge. 4:5-6)
• shame
All day long my disgrace is before me,
and shame has covered my face (Ps. 44:15)
• dejection, despondency, depression
And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen . . . . And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food (1 Ki. 21:4)
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD (2 Ki. 20:2)
• a person’s rejection of someone
I will set my face against that person (Lev. 17:10)
• sadness
And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart” (Neh. 2:2)
• an emotional change of facial expression
Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad

This isn’t a rabbit trail–I promise
With apologies, I cannot help but add something that came to mind in preparing this talk, but I did not have enough time to address when I delivered it. In the verse from Nehemiah, King Artaxerxes connected his cupbearer’s facial expression to the sadness in his heart. Recently, this connection has been demonstrated through the neuroscience research of Stephen Porges and his team.
Porges had pioneered what he refers to as the Polyvagal Theory. At the risk of oversimplifying his work, he has closely observed the many connections and functions of the vagus nerve (number ten of the twelve cranial nerves). This busy nerve plays a major role in making adjustments in both the central nervous system (the brain and brainstem) and the peripheral nervous system (the body and its skin, muscles, organs, and bones). The vagus nerve activates three different responses to stimuli: the well-known fight or flight response (sympathetic system), the dial-down restful response state (parasympathetic system), and a freeze response that has not received as much attention as the first two systems. The freeze response, which can be triggered by sudden and extreme danger, is typical of reptiles but rare for humans. It occurs when the parasympathetic system drops into such a low state of rest, that the body is unable to move. The possible resulting behavior may be to freeze in one’s tracks, fake death, or faint.
Two of Porges’ findings include the Social Engagement System (the way the brain and body work together to optimize interactions between people) and the Heart-Brain Connection (how what we feel is transmitted from the heart and other organs to the brain and then distributed through the body). It turns out that the vagus nerve provides a direct link from the heart to the muscles that control facial expressions.
Porges explains, “In mammals, the brainstem regulation of some of the vagal pathways became integrated with the regulation of the face. This resulted in features of our physiological state being expressed in our face and voice. The adaptive function of this modification is obvious; as a mammal, we don’t want to engage another mammal if that mammal is in a physiological state of rage. . . . We want to receive the signal that it’s okay to come close. Mammals convey this information through facial expression and through prosodic features of vocalization.” “This linkage between the vagal regulation of the heart and the regulation of the muscles of the face and head enables us to see [indications] of physiological state in faces and hear physiological state in voices.”
For me, the value of this information is a better understanding of how we have been created to be able to connect and interact with others, that what we feel is how we appear, and we are also able to read how others feel. This increased awareness can help guide us to safety, and especially to the refuge that is available in the God who made us.

Another use of face in our present story comes later in this chapter
[Jacob] fled with all that he had and arose and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead (Gen. 31:21)
– to set the face is to make a determination to move in specific direction or perform a specific action
• so Jacob left Laban’s unhappy face behind
• he has jumped from the frying pan–but where will he land?

Jacob had unfinished business back home
Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim [two camps].
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, “Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.”
And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” Genesis 32:1-6

Jacob had fled parent’s home because older brother planned to kill him whenever their dad died
– so that now Esau is coming, and small army is with him, is not good news
• Jacob attempted a strategy to appease his brother
• he sent three generous gifts, but separately and in sequence
◦ it’s easy to see the psychological effect he hoped this would have on his brother

Jumping to verse 20,
For he thought, “I ma appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.”

Now this verse is simply too interesting to not take a close look
– in the Hebrew text, “face” is used four times, but translated into English only once
appease him is literally cover or atone his face
ahead of me is literally the face of me
(the face is the body part that goes first and the direction we’re moving, so it can refer to whatever is before or ahead of us)
see his face – so that in it, he can try to read his expression
accept me is literally lift up my face
– it is clear that the face plays a crucial role in this encounter
• everything Jacob does, turns on this one moment
• and in it he’ll learn his fate, which will happen the moment he sees Esau’s face

We were born with a capacity for facial communication
– even infants can read faces and express themselves through their faces
• researchers have shown this with various tests
Colwyn Trevarthen described research in which “a mother who was in the process of enjoying a protoconversation with a 2-month old [was required] to stop being expressive and to hold her face immobile, with a neutral expression, in front of the baby for a minute. This ‘blank face’ or ‘still face’ procedure provoked an immediate response from the baby. First, the baby became attentive and sometimes made attempts by smiles, vocalizations, or gestures to appeal to or stimulate a response from the mother, then the baby became withdrawn, avoiding the mother’s gaze, with signs of distress and confusion. The baby looked depressed.”
– paying attention to faces is a way to learn wisdom of the body
Pat Ogden, “Core emotions are supported by corresponding physical actions.” “Postures, facial expressions, and gestures outwardly express internal emotional states, communicating these to others.” “Research shows that basic emotions have reliable, distinctive facial expressions across cultures.” “Take a moment to think about the last time something embarrassing happened to you. You may have noticed a tight feeling in your chest or felt a warm rush of blood to your face that told you that you were embarrassed. Such signals are the body’s way of communicating our emotions.”
• among other motions we use facial expressions to set boundaries
Ogden, “Communicating a boundary is first and foremost a nonverbal capacity. Before we have learned to speak as infants, we could communicate our boundaries through vocalizations, facial expressions, and actions of turning away, shaking the head, or pushing away. Only later do we learn to say ‘no’ with words.”
• so much more I’d like to say (I’ll include in my notes)

From Laban’s face, to Esau’s–now fact to face with God
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered Genesis 32:30

In Scripture, God’s face:
– can refer to his presence (Gen. 4:14 and 16)
– is watchful — he says that what his people do is done, “before my face” (Hos. 7:2)
– is hidden (Ps. 13:1) – but the poets pray that he won’t hide his face (Ps. 27:9)
– is to be sought by us (Ps. 27:8)
– shines!

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his face upon you and give you peace
(Nu. 6:24-26)
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
(Ps. 4:6)
for not by their own sword did they win the land,
nor did their own arm save them,
but your right hand and your arm,
and the light of your face,
for you delighted in them
(Ps. 44:3)
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun . . . (Mt. 17:1-2)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6)

Conclusion: I’m going to suggest another exercise

Looking in a mirror, make following facial expressions:
joy
sadness
pride
shame
confused
amused
relaxed
tensed
pleasure
disgust
bored
surprised
anger
forgiveness
guilt
innocence
– if you’re unsure of what face to make, think of something that makes you feel these emotions
• like for disgust, remember or imagine something that turned your stomach
– if feelings come up, do not judge them
• for instance, if with a guilty expression you feel unhappy or worthless,
do not sink into the feeling, but respond to it with curiosity
• explore why it comes up with that particular facial expression

Jacob’s journey brings us to the heart of our journey
– look into, and read the faces of others – and respond appropriately
– listen to what your face is telling you
• focus your attention on its automatic expressions that normally go unnoticed

We were created to encounter God face to face
That encounter is given to us in the person of Jesus Christ
If we keep looking to him, we will learn what makes him smile

Apr 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 18, 2021

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Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

Intro: What I’m about to say may seem obvious, but consider it

Our lives would be radically different if we could see through God’s eyes!
– nothing in the world would worry or frighten us
• not one particle of beauty would escape our attention
• every single human person on the planet would be beautiful
◦ and you would see that nothing in the universe is more valuable than yourself
– this is what Jesus was trying to get his disciples to understand
• he was sending them on their first solo mission
◦ his instructions included preparing them for rejection
and if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that . . . town (v. 14)
Behold, I am sending your out as sheep in the midst of wolves (v. 16)
and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake (v. 22)
A disciples is not above his teacher . . . . If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household (vv. 24-25)
• it was possible that they would not consider themselves worth very much
◦ Jesus revealed to them their value to God through two illustrations
1. a sparrow could not die without God’s attention and concern
and disciples were of more value than many sparrows
2. the hairs of their head were tallied; every one of them

What is the significance of this illustration?
– God’s interest in Jesus’ disciples included minute details,
• things they would have never guessed God cared about
• this is where we will begin our survey of the human body
◦ from the top down
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, in Body Symbolism in the Bible, wrote “The human head has always been regarded as the top of the hierarchy of body parts, and therefore represents . . . the whole person.”
– Paul also saw a ranking of body parts (1 Cor. 12:23-24)
• stronger/weaker
• honorable/less honorable;
• presentable/unpresentable
Saubli and Schroer, “The crown and ornament of the head is the hair.”

The Bible shows more interest in hair than we might assume

It takes note of the twin babies, Esau and Jacob
– and the first to be born was hairy
• that fact plays into their stories later on
– both Daniel and John, visions of heaven, white hair
• perhaps to signify purity
– people expressed grief by shaving head or pulling hair out
• priests, however, were prohibited from doing this
– gray hair was a crown of glory (Pr. 16:31)

The law of Moses had specific laws regarding hair
– in Leviticus, a hair could be used in diagnosing a skin disease
• it was also used in offerings : a purification ritual and the Nazirite vow
• men, and especially priests, were not to trim their hair or beards
– in the Book of Numbers, there was the case of a wife suspected of adultery (ch. 5)
And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD and unbind the hair of the woman’s head . . . (Nu. 5:18)
• the significance of this act was culturally defined, and had to do with modesty and intimacy
Mary Douglas gives as an example, “what criteria women use to decide when it is and is not permissible to walk in the street in slippers and hair nets.”
appreciation for the beauty of a woman’s hair was an intimacy shared by lovers
Your hair is like a flock of goats
leaping down the slopes of Gilead (Song 4:1)
◦ undoing it might be a shaming ritual
◦ meant to make her feel vulnerable and transparent

Two men whose hair was a distinctive feature in their stories
– Samson, of course, whose hair represented his devotion to God
• and Absalom, the oldest son of David
Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighted the hair of his head [ and it was over two pounds] (2 Sam. 14:25-26)
• in the lives of both men, I see vivid examples, of how a person’s strength can also be their weakness
– prophet Ezekiel was told to cut his hair and use it in a street-theater prophetic drama (5:1-4)

I will just mention in passing, a terrifying story in 2 Kings (2:23-24)
– there may be a deeper meaning to it, but for me the lesson is,
• don’t make fun of bald men (I’ll leave it at that)
– in the New Testament, on two occasions women dried Jesus’ feet with their hair
• both Paul and Peter instructed women not to braid their hair
◦ we’re told it has to do with modesty and humility
• it was more likely meant to address the challenge of economic inequality
◦ hair braided with jewels was an indication of wealth — a status symbol
◦ in and honor/shame culture, the showy fashion of the wealthy would shame the poor

Last week we saw that body parts can speak in three potential voices:
– a literal voice, a figurative voice, and a spiritual voice
• we use hair figuratively: when we:
• describe hair-raising adventures, missing a target by a hair, or splitting hairs
– what is “a bad hair day”?
• at first, when you can’t get your hair to do what you want it to do
◦ then, it more generally came to mean a day when everything goes wrong

To treat our hair in a way that yields positive results, I suggest we learn a lesson from “the Teacher”
Go, eat you bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head (Ecc. 9:7-8)
– he is saying, “Dress and groom yourself as if you’re happy”
• we tend to feel better about ourselves, if we feel that we look good
◦ getting compliments after coming from the beauty salon or wearing a new shirt,
◦ lifts our spirits, makes our attitude more positive
• I’m not suggesting we attempt to adopt worldly criteria of beauty
◦ there’s a beauty that has nothing to do with body type
◦ the most beautiful people I know, their beauty is not about their looks
– we can groom our inner beauty
• but that may require a significant reorientation
Pat Ogden, “We remember the past not only in words, images, and stories, but also through chronic habits of tension, movement, and posture. Our bodies continually respond to what happens to us, how others treat us, and how we feel inside. . . . It takes a long time, but eventually the body’s repeated reactions become automatic, long-lasting patterns that carry the memory of a past that our minds have forgotten . . . or repressed.”
“When we translate the nonverbal language of these elements into words, we glean insights into behaviors that contribute to difficulties in our current lives and discover new avenues for changing outdated patterns.”

I’m going to jump from here to our next body part; the head

I don’t think I need to say as much about the head as I did hair
– the head is what stands out, because it is the most exposed part of body,
• it receives whatever a person has coming
◦ blessings (Ge. 48:14; De. 33:16), anointing (Lev. 8:12);
God’s loving kindness (Ps. 103:4)
◦ or guilt (2 Sam. 3:29); shame (Job 10:15); sins (Lev. 16:21)
• the head is covered: for protection (Ps. 140:7; Ep. 6:17)
Hans Wolff, “The head represents a danger point for the life of the individual (Judg. 9:53); that is why the bodyguard is called ‘defender of the head’ (1 Sam. 28:2, somer lerosi). To bow the head is an act of humiliation (Lam. 2:10). Conversely, raising the head means the end of the humiliation–a raising up, a recognition, or a restoration to office (Gen. 40:20; Ps. 3:3) . . . when it is not an attitude of arrogance . . . .”
◦ but the head is also covered in grief or despair (2 Sam. 15:30)
◦ and sometimes covered with dirt or ashes
– the forehead was especially important
• in some ancient cultures, people would mark or tattoo it
• in giving Moses the pattern for the garments of the high priest, he said,
You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the LORD.” . . . It shall be on Aaron’s forehead . . . that [the holy gifts] may be accepted before the LORD (Ex. 28:36-38)

What I find most significant for us this morning is the “lifting up” of the head
– this is used literally and figuratively (to “exalt” or “be raised up”)
• with the head lifted up, are able to see where we’re going
◦ then we don’t head off in wrong direction and hopefully make headway toward our goal
– our heads orient our whole body – turn your head and the body turns
• must be aware of this when driving or riding a bike
◦ if we turn our heads to look at something, we’re likely to turn the steering wheel that direction too
Pat Ogden, “All animals, including humans, have an innate ‘orienting reflex’ that is activated by novel stimuli: a new sight, sound, smell, person, or something we unexpectedly touched. When this reflex is stimulated, we instinctively and involuntarily focus our attention toward the unfamiliar stimulus, automatically turning our eyes or even the entire head and body toward it.”
• if we know this, we can choose to change our orientation by paying attention to something else
• emotion affects the body
Stanley Rosenberg, “A rotation of C1 and C2 [vertebrae] can put pressure on the vertebral artery, which supplies the frontal lobes and the brainstem, where the five nerves necessary for social engagement originate. From my clinical observations, I believe that it only takes on negative thought to bring C1 and C2 out of joint, affecting our posture and physiology”
◦ emotions affect the body, but we can turn it around so the body affects emotion
◦ we do this by noticing what our body is doing, and changing it (posture, movements, gestures)

Conclusion: The position and tilt of our heads are an untapped resource

Do you walk looking down? Why?
Are you studying something at your feet?
Are you trying to avoid something?
(like seeing other people)
Do you feel down?
Unworthy?
Walk with your head up
and you chin parallel with the ground
Reorient your head, and your whole self with it
Let God be your shield
and the lifter of your head (Ps. 3:3)

“Get your head in the game!”