My grandfather was a carpenter, and a very good one. Sometimes, when my father was down on his luck, as they used to say, we lived with my grandparents.
I loved my grandfather’s shop and the tools he had. I know that I must have been a nuisance because he built my own little shop in a lean-to shed that was attached to the garage. I spent many happy and a few productive hours in that little shed, but that is another story.
This story is about my grandpa’s shop. One day I was trying to put a hole in a piece of wood and was looking for something that I could force through the wood. Hanging on the wall I saw a tool shaped like an oversized copy of the compasses that we used in art classes in school. I learned later that it was a fine tool, a carpenter’s compass. But it seemed to this small boy to be just the thing for me. I took it down, set one of the metal points against my piece of wood and gave the other end a sharp smack with a hammer. The compass flew into about three pieces, of course.
I was ashamed and did not tell my grandpa. Instead, I threw the wreck under the bench and went on to something else. It is one of the things I still get pangs about when I think of it. A few days later he came into the house with the ruined compass in his hand.
“Bud,” he said. “You must learn to use the right tool for the job. You will never be successful at anything until you learn that. Unless you use the right tool, you will either break the tool or destroy the work.” He was a kindly and gentle man, and never spoke harshly to me, but I got the lesson.
As I have thought about it over the years, I realize that there are other lessons. You cannot know the use of anything unless you know what the thing is. This is especially true of Scripture: those who do not know it is the word of God will misuse it to the destruction of the church and the denigration of the glory of God in the people. It is true of man, what the body is and what the mind is. Because the Sadducees did not know the meaning of the law nor the truth about man of God, they could not get ethics right. Jesus said, “You do err, not knowing the Scripture nor the power of God,” when they asked a stupid question about the resurrection. [Mark 12:18ff]
Knowledge of Reality Is Necessary for Discernment. Why would law, judgment, and mercy trump tithing of mint, anise, and cumin? Wouldn’t it be necessary to know law, judgment, and mercy before you could even answer this question? A man may be uncomfortable eating a gnat. He might also have discomfort swallowing a camel, but the one should not be compared to the other. Jesus said that the cure for straining at gnats and swallowing camels is the knowledge of God Himself.
Every law does not carry the same weight, but how would you know without knowing the reality of things? How can I possibly know how to treat my wife if I do not know what a wife is and how she differs from all other women to me? If I don’t know this, how do I behave in the church, the bride of Christ?
Isaiah said that people should know the difference between killing an ox and killing a man; that sacrificing a lamb it not like cutting off a dog’s neck; that offering an oblation is not like offering swine’s blood, and burning incense to God is not like offering a blessing to an idol. [Isaiah 66:3]
And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. 1Kings 3:24-26
Solomon, the wisest of men. In this famous story two harlots quarreled over which of their babies died and in the night and who should have the living child.
Why was Solomon Smart? Solomon offered to cut the child in two. He was not smart because of this. He was smart because he knew the nature of a mother. He was not an ontological agnostic [OA] He knew that the real mother would rather give her baby up than have it slain. Not so the other harlot. She would have the baby destroyed rather than lose the quarrel. Solomon knew that it was possible to know reality
This seems very wise to the modern man to cut the baby in two. Both sides win. Both mothers get half a baby. The counselors congratulate themselves on their wisdom and tolerance.
Instead of trying to find out who the real mother is, just give both sides half. Thus the peace-keepers of the modern world do not believe that it is possible to know which is the true mother. Neither do they understand what a baby is. Half of a baby is not a baby; it is a piece of dead meat. You cannot nurse it; you cannot snuggle it; in a day or two you cannot even live with it. Some things cannot be cut in two without destruction.
Cutting the baby in two can be a denial of reality. Cutting the baby in two will not bring justice or healing. Sometimes it is hard to know the truth, but neither indifference nor laziness is wisdom or justice. Justice is achieved by restoring the baby to its true mother and that is what Solomon achieved. In order to do that he had to see reality. His offer to cut the baby in two was a desire to see reality, not destroy the baby.
If truth falls in the street and blocks the way, equity cannot enter. [Is. 59:14]
Justice is not often served to say there is wrong on both sides and attempt the baby division solution. Truth is truth and sin is sin and it is possible to know the difference. Solomon showed us the way. Putting on sheep’s wool does not transform the wolf into something besides a wolf. The good shepherd gives his life to gather the sheep; the wolf is like the bad harlot. He would rather destroy the church than see anything of Christ.
The way of the ungodly is one of foolishness, disobedience, deception, service to divers lusts and pleasures, malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. (Titus 3:3,4) This spirit is the devil’s best work in churches. It must be resisted by the godly or the church will be divided and ruined. The solution is the power of the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit. Grace needs to see clearly to confront reality, to resist the devil so that he flees. The biblical solution is, “Cast out the scorner, and contention will cease and the simple will be made wise.” (Prov. 22:10, 21:11] This baby cannot be divided; casting out half a scorner won’t do. We are not to give place to the devil. Jesus didn’t. Even Peter was rebuked by Jesus when he spoke for the devil.
“Buy the truth and sell it not,” is the way Solomon put it. In another place He said, “Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?” (Pr 22:20-21) Don’t cut up the baby. Find out who the mother is. She is the one who loves the baby and is willing to lose it if that will save it. We would not praise the policeman who counsels the lawbreaker to drive in the middle of the road. Sin requires repentance, not half-way measures. “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” (Pr 18:13 AV)
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
True knowledge about the nature of God is most definitely revealed in Scripture. We are told that He cannot lie and that He cannot deny Himself. This means that there are no contradictions in God, that He is light with no darkness in Him. He works are perfectly consistent with His being; He is therefore rational, completely so.
“Nobody can answer that question,” some people are very fond of saying, humbly of course. Though said humbly it is still an arrogant thing to say. Is my knowledge so vast that I know the extent of everyone’s ignorance? Have I read all the books, talked with all the saints in the world? Is it true that “if I don’t know it, nobody knows it”?
A Seemingly Good Excuse. It DOES seem to give an excuse, however. If nobody knows it, then it probably cannot be known, and I have an excuse for my ignorance. As is usually the case, self-conscious humility masks an unconscious arrogance. If I say “Nobody knows,” I am simply pretending to know what everybody knows. How could I know what nobody knows if I don’t know what everybody knows.
“I would not have you ignorant,” are the words of the Apostle Paul. He says we should not be ignorant of God’s righteousness, of the mystery of the blindness of Israel, of the presence of Christ with Israel, of spiritual gifts, of Satan’s devices, of the resurrection of the dead, of the judgment of God in the Flood, of the eternity of God. He calls us to the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, of the truth that is after godliness, and many such things. All these things are in the Bible—you can look them up, with many other things.
“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;” (Col 1:9) Seems like a pretty good prayer.
There is a light that lights every man that comes into the world, according to the Apostle John, who was not a fool [John 1:9]. In fact, John wrote in his first epistle that he and the other apostles had intimate knowledge of that Light:
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. –1John 1:2,3
John and the apostles were not ontological agnostics, which is the reigning religion of the modern world. The ontological agnostic [the OA] cannot not say anything about reality, but only can give you his view of it. “That’s my opinion and you have yours,” is the way he puts it, humbly, of course, for he really knows that he is humble, and those who are certain of things are proud and pushy. He wouldn’t dare be pushy and proud because his opinion is that pushy and proud are bad.
It seems very humble to him—did I already say that?—to think that the real truth about God cannot be known. There is so much strife and trouble when people get certain about God, and the OA hates religious strife. He doesn’t like people who are not OA’s and tends to shun their company. The better educated the OA is the more settled he becomes in his opinion that there is nothing true that can be said about God except that nobody should say anything about God, for he has heard many learned and profound lectures to packed classrooms about God and His infinite unknowability. The subject is very deep and only a very learned person could say so much about that of which nothing can or should be said.
“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” (Jer 9:23-24)
It is a good thing to glory in the knowledge of God and foolish to deny its truth, especially that God is active in the world in kindness, judgment, and righteousness. There are those who know these things for they seek for wisdom as for hidden treasures. [Proverbs 2] Others are willingly ignorant. [2Peter 3:5]
Very Religious. The OA is religious, of course, and feels awe at the great abyss in his mind that he calls God. He might tears in his eyes at the wonder of the utter void and bottomless grandeur of what he doesn’t know about God—the glory of undifferentiated meaning. As I said, he is very religious, muttering about mystery, myth, and humility.
Called to Non-Thinking? The call of the Gospel is for men to forsake their thoughts and their unrighteous deeds, but the Gospel is not a call to non-thinking or non-doing. Because God is often silent doesn’t mean that He has no Word. [Psalm 50:21]
Jesus assumed that a rational man would know that his soul was worth more than the whole world. Just as Nebuchadnezzar knew that his dream of the great tree in Daniel 4 was expected to make sense to him, so there are things revealed in the very being of man which man must understand. Jesus’ words and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream were expected to connect to things in a man that only a fool would deny. It is the fool who says there is no god, precisely because he is a fool and out of touch.
It just doesn’t make sense to gain the world and lose the soul. As Hamlet’s friend told him, “It takes no ghost from the grave to tell us this, m’Lord.” The Apostle Paul put it this way, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Ro 1:20 av)
What Are You Worth? Why wouldn’t anyone know that a man is worth more than a sparrow? Of course, a mind so steeped in idolatry that it can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw, might argue for equal rights for the sparrow, but the Lord doesn’t try to prove the obvious. He assumed that nobody but a fool would deny that a man is worth many sparrows. From this sensible concept He argued that the God that takes care of the sparrows will certainly take care of men who are worth more than sparrows. Only an OA would doubt the force of the argument.
In the same way, when our Lord was accused of practicing medicine arts on the Sabbath by healing a poor sick woman, He argued that this daughter of Abraham was worth far more than an ox. “Which of you,” He said, “would not get your ox out of the stall on the Sabbath and lead him away to watering?” He called them hypocrites, and they were, for they knew that the stupid stuff they were advancing as godliness was stupid stuff. Jesus’ words didn’t make the stuff stupid; He is the Light that exposes stupid stuff.
As if this were not enough, Jesus went after those who worried more about clothes than the body. How stupid is that? “Is not the body more than raiment?” He asked. Is not the body the instrument by which we connect to other minds? Shouldn’t we, therefore, take more care of the body than we do of our clothes? But you have to know what the body is, before you can figure that out. But with all their folly, didn’t even the ancient pagans know that the mind was more than the body?
And what of life itself? Are w given the great gift of life to stuff our bodies with food? Isn’t life more than food? Only by non-thinking can the Christian be stupid enough to say, “You cannot trust your thoughts,” and go through the motions of life without study of his Bible. Real study makes you think and meditate, but some really are convinced that those who think do not truly believe. Only the blind leading the blind would advise not thinking in the reading of the Bible.
Isn’t It Insane? Jesus said that a sensible man should know the difference between a gnat and a camel: that law, mercy, and judgment are more important than the tithe of mint, anise, and cumin. Jesus reveals sin as a kind of insanity, a suspension of reason, a mental sickness. It is precisely this suspension of thought that the Light came to change: to deliver man from the darkness corrupting his mind—this disconnection from reality.
Forsake Wicked Thoughts; Not Thinking. The unrighteous man is called to forsake his thoughts, but not to forsake thinking. The Lord told the man who buried his talent that he should have put the money out to usury. But wait! Didn’t the law forbid usury? He is faulted precisely for his rebellious ignorance. Blind obedience is not obedience, not for a man created in the image of God. It is a great fool who would strain out the gnats and swallow camels. Only those bereft of reason would do so. We are warned of being like horses and mules, whose mouths must be held in with bit and bridle. They need bits and bridles precisely because they have no understanding. [Psalm 32:9]
It is not true that man cannot know the nature of things. He can know what a pig is, what a cow is, and which one not to milk. It is childish not to know: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb 5:14)
Soundness of mind is the gift of the Spirit. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Ti 1:7). The Holy Spirit does not trade in madness. “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:” (Jer 5:21 AV)
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We will send A Basket of Figs free of charge to anyone who requests it. It is our desire that these little papers be used of the Lord to bear witness of the truth as it is in Christ. Our only request is that they be read: you do not even have to agree with everything! Unless otherwise indicated, Pastor Powell writes all articles, and they may be freely duplicated as long as duly credited. We do not solicit funds, nor will we give or sell our mailing list to anyone. All readers of this publication are invited to visit our website: www.trinityrcus.com. The website for Basket of Figs is http://basketoffigs.org where you will find back issues of Figs and other delicacies. Some of these may not be for your taste, but you can pick and choose, and download anything you like. For some you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which may be downloaded free at http://www.adobe.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org