The Light Within You

“Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.   Acts 9:17-19

Among the people I grew up with, the ‘scales falling’ from some one’s  eyes referred to their conversion.  The heart was considered deceitful, above all things.  Before conversion, through the deceitful twisting of their own heart, a person would be blind to important facts that proved why God was good and why they needed to follow him.  At the moment of conversion, God would take over their heart with his Spirit and protect them from its evil attempts to portray reality its own way.   From that point on God would begin to make sense to them in a way he never had before.

A few months ago. I was reading in the Old Testament.  I came across this.

19 When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?  Deuteronomy 20

This was something God is supposed to have told the Israelites.   It sounds rather environmental friendly of him.  I don’t knock signs of environmentalism in anyone, particularly God, given his world destroying tendencies.  But here is the context.

…12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.

16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.  Deuteronomy 20

(In case you missed it- not leaving alive anything that breaths includes the women and children. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than being treated as plunder by a conquering army)

Theoretically- the Hittites, Amorites and related groups are being punished.  For their sin.  Their religions involved human sacrifice- child sacrifice even- and because of this, I was told growing up, they deserved to die.  Quite apart from the mental disconnect it takes to believe that murdering innocent children is somehow a just response to murdering innocent children, there’s another problem.

Its that footnote. Footnote [a].

  1. Deuteronomy 20:17 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.

The phrase comes from Leviticus 27.  The chapter is a list of the various things that may be dedicated to God and the rules for each type of object- fields, houses, people, clean or unclean animals.   With the instructions for each type of thing come instructions for ‘redeeming’ it: giving its monetary market value (this applies to the people as well) and keeping it for your own use. Then come verse 28-29.

28 “‘But nothing that a person owns and devotes[k] to the Lord—whether a human being or an animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the Lord.

29 “‘No person devoted to destruction[l] may be ransomed; they are to be put to death.

In case you were wondering here are foot notes [k] and [l].

  • Leviticus 27:28 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord.
  • Leviticus 27:29 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.

There is one other place where the phrase occurs, the story in Joshua chapters 7 & 8.

Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted[a] to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.  Joshua 7

Footnotes:

Joshua 6:17 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verses 18 and 21.

It would seem that, far from viewing human sacrifice- and child sacrifice!- as wrong, there are certain occasions on which God actually demands these things.  The sin of the Amorites, for which they were being destroyed, was to have sacrificed to the wrong God.

Here is the troubling truth.  Despite anything he or David ever said about God valuing humans, in practice, God doesn’t care about them.  For him, humans have about the same level of importance as houses, fields and animals.

And in certain circumstances, even trees deserve more consideration than we do.

I have never seen scales falling out of anyone’s eyes when they converted.   But I certainly feel as if, slowly and surely, something has been falling out of mine.   For my whole life so far, I thought of this God as good and loving.  Something had gone wrong, surely, that he treated us this way, but the fault was ours.

My whole life so far I have thought of this God as the light.  The Light of the World.

Now, a cryptic phrase of Jesus’ is making more and more sense.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6

If the Light within you is darkness, how great is that Darkness.

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2 thoughts on “The Light Within You

  1. I agonized over this same issue this summer. Crisis of faith. I found a ton of scholars who had struggled with the same issues, and even the early church struggled with it. I end up rejecting inerrancy saying that the OT (as well as the NT) is people trying to describe God (and sometimes failing horribly. But Jesus isn’t like the OT God, and I’m ok with him. Don’t know if everything about him is true, but he taught non-violence, unlike the OT God who is described as performing atrocities. Here’s a post I did on the issue this summer with a couple of options for dealing with the OT. Again, not trying to convert you, don’t know if I am sold myself. But there are some options within Christianity for not having a morally evil God. http://dkmz.net/anabaptists-and-the-ethics-of-jesus-the-neo-anabaptists-part-2/

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