Millennium Bug in Beulahville
The Day Yahshua Told Them to Ease On Down the Road:
The Tenuous Nature of Business and Government,
citing The Shepherd of Hermas
Dedicated to Audra Binion (Dietz)
Luke 13: 22. Through towns and villages he went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. 23. Someone said to him, “Sir, will there be only a few saved?” He said to them, 24. `Try your hardest to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed. 25. Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself standing outside knocking on the door, saying, `Lord, open to us,’ but he will answer, `I do not know where you come from.’ 26. Then you will start saying, `We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets,’ 27. but he will reply, `I do not know where you come from; away from me, all evil doers! 28. Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of Elohim, and yourselves thrown out. 29. And people from east and west, from north and south, will come and sit down at the feast in the kingdom of Elohim. 30. Look, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.”
Psalms 46:1. Elohim is both refuge and strength for us, a help always ready in trouble; 2. so we shall not be afraid though the earth be in turmoil, though mountains tumble into the depths of the sea, 3. and its waters roar and seethe, and the mountains totter as it heaves.
Yahweh Sabaoth is with us, our high tower, the Elohe of Jacob. Selah (pause).
4. There is a river whose streams bring joy to the city of Elohim, it sanctifies the dwelling of the Most High. 5. El is in the city, it cannot fall; at break of day El comes to its rescue. 6. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms are tumbling, when he raises his voice the earth crumbles away.
7. Yahweh Sabaoth is with us, our high tower, the Elohe of Jacob. Selah (pause).
8. Come, consider the wonders of Yahweh, the astounding deeds he has done on the earth; 9. he puts an end to wars over the whole wide world, he breaks the bow, he snaps the spear, shields he burns in the fire. 10. `Be still and acknowledge that I am El, supreme over nations, supreme over the world.”
11. Yahweh Sabaoth is with us, our high tower, the Elohe of Jacob. Selah (pause).
Isaiah 28:14. Hence listen to Yahweh’s word, you insolent men, rulers of this people in Jerusalem. 15. Because you have said, “We have made a treaty with Death and have struck a pact with Sheol. When the scourging flood comes over, it will not touch us, for we have made lies our refuge and hidden under falsehood.”
16. So the Sovereign Yahweh says this, `Now I shall lay a stone in Zion, a granite stone, a precious corner-stone, a firm foundation-stone: no one who relies on this will stumble. 17. And I will make fair judgment the measure, and uprightness the plumb-line.” But hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and floods wash away the hiding-place; 18. your treaty with Death will be broken and your pact with Sheol will not hold. When the scourging flood comes over, you will be trodden down by it; 19. every time it comes over, it will seize on you, for it will come over, morning after morning, day by day and night by night. Nothing but fear will make you understand what you hear. 20. For the bed is too short to stretch in, the blanket too narrow for covering.
21. Yes, as on Mount Perazim, Yahweh will rise, as in the Valley of Gibeon, he will storm to do his work, his mysterious work, to do his deed, his extraordinary deed. 22. Stop scoffing, then, or your bonds will be tightened further, for I have heard it: it has been irrevocably decided as regards the whole country by the Sovereign Yahweh Sabaoth.
The Common Lectionary
Often, I let the Common Lectionary decide what texts I should share with you. The Lectionary offers four Bible texts for each Sunday over a three-year cycle. There’re extra texts for Holy Weeks, Feasts and Holidays, so there are Bible lessons set by the Common Lectionary for just about every day of the year. Many ministers follow the Lectionary’s trail through the Bible, which unites them in preaching all the year long. Preaching the Lectionary forces us to consider most of the Gospel passages and much of the Bible over the three-year cycle. We learn a lot more as we are led away from pet passages and doctrines into the complete balance of Bible truth.
Though the Lectionary was set up ages ago, the passages always seem to line up with current events. There must be a supernatural power at work. Let me point out a few verses in this week’s readings that demonstrate what I’m saying.
In the Isaiah 28 (14) passage, Yahweh upbraids rulers because their trust isn’t in His providence and protection, but in the their deals – with insurance companies, with weather bureaus, with governments, with media, with religious and social organizations, with law enforcement and fire and rescue units, with doctors, hospitals, priests and pawnbrokers. In putting the fullness of their hope in these temporal and often ungodly institutes rather than in the One who rides the whirlwind is great folly.
A Deal With Death
Yahweh says they’ve unwittingly made a deal with Sheol (i.e. Death). The ruling parties think that when the evil days come, their ‘deals’ will save them. But all deals made with people and their institutions are very, very fragile because deception, falsehood and betrayal are basic characteristics of human nature, and human nature is the foundation of all human contracts. No matter how strong the contract or the company, if our heavenly Father isn’t in them, you may expect “deals” to be consummated in deception, destruction, even death. We’ve all been swindled by the establishment. We’ve all been hurt by the church. We’ve all been disappointed in man.
Yahweh uses the example of (so-called) “acts of god.” How can our deals with death stop the scourging flood waters controlled by heavenly forces and ultimately by Yahweh himself? No earthly power can affect heavenly forces, including weather, save prayer. Yahweh says,
Your deal with Death will be broken and your agreement with Hell won’t hold. When the whipping flood comes upon you, you will be overwhelmed by it all the same.
A wise older statesman of the faith once taught me that sometimes fear is our best teacher. Fear Yahweh and heed his voice or else the flood will wash away all alternatives!
O God! Hurricane Charley!
In our state this month, the 165-mile per hour hurricane Charley cut a swath from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic, killing twenty-two people, leaving four hundred thousand without power and uncounted thousands homeless. I heard that Charley will be the most costly disaster for the state since hurricane Andrew in 1992: the tab’s already up to eight billion dollars. Building a home on the coastline of the isthmus of Florida is like building on sinking sand. Eventually a hurricane is going to adversely affect you no matter how much insurance you have or how many deals you’ve made.
“Yahweh will rise like a storm to do his mysterious work. Nothing but fear will make you understand that.”
¿Why does it take threats and fear to get some people to act?
When the towers fell in New York, people all over opened to the eternal voice – for awhile anyway. But most quickly reverted back into the path of faithlessness. Grief turned to greed. Law became lawsuits. Money became god. Likewise, in central Florida, some grieved people are crying “O God!” Their possessions are destroyed, their businesses closed, their loved ones gone. But ultimately, they will blame “God” for taking what was theirs.
Others are crying “Thank God!” They see that their possessions and people have been spared while their neighbor’s haven’t, and they believe they’re blessed. But their acknowledgement of the Almighty will falter. They’ll later say they’re lucky or fortunate or protected. Some will say “God” kept them safe while he ruined others. Maybe that’s so. But no matter the attitude of the people toward G*d right now, they’ll neither heed his voice, keep his commandments or assemble with his elect. Why are people so unspiritual at the core? Why’s the devil such a foothold in the hearts of Americans? Why don’t we trust and obey the god who put us in business in the first place and bids us call him Father?
The Precious Cornerstone
In the middle of the doom and gloom of the Isaiah passage, there’s a valuable promise.
“I lay a precious granite cornerstone, a firm foundation.”
He bids all who are wise to make His foundation theirs. He’s the creator of a stable universe; his groundwork can’t be shaken, his abode can’t be moved, not by a hurricane, not by an earthquake, not by an asteroid, not even by Sheol, Hell, Death or a black hole in space. Those who build upon the foundation of this cornerstone, he continues, may expect fair treatment, uprightness and straight-talk – as straight as a plumb line – never a deception, never a cheap shot, never a deal gone sour, never a rip-off.
Unlike our great establishments built upon human ingenuity and weakness, his institution has no weak points – no betrayal, as in human contracts, no impermanence, as in human structures. Yahweh’s bottomland is eternal and solid and golden and clean, and his laws perfect and protective and providential and pure. Mans’ great temples and towers are destroyed by the ravages of weather, war and want, but His stand forever.
Now this cornerstone and it’s foundation are illustrated by the Apostle Paul in a way that we can simply understand:
Ephesians 2:19-22 paraphrase You’re no longer homeless strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of Yahweh, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Yahshua the Anointed One being the cornerstone. This building is the holy temple of Yahweh, into which you also are built.
Yahweh set the cornerstone in place upon the footer of his temple and, like a master mason, laid the prophets and the apostles as granite marble about the Corner.
He takes his treasure old and new
To build a solid home for you.
Yes, Paul explains, we have our own place in this grand design, if only we’ll take our place. Who’re you going to trust, you people of Elohim? The flood insurance company? Or the flood-proof tower in which your Father offers you everlasting shelter? We’re to trust the former some, but the latter far more.
The Shepherd of Hermas
In the earliest Bible we have, the Codex Sinaiticus (4th century), there’re a couple extra books after Revelation. One’s called The Shepherd. It was very popular in the first four centuries until the bishops lopped it out. The Shepherd has a wonderful allegory about Yahweh’s great tower that will keep you safe from harm forever. In the story, the Shepherd is the angel of repentance who’s trying to teach an ignorant but humble a young fellow named Hermas about Yahweh’s high tower.
In his vision, Hermas sees a great head mason inspecting Yahweh’s high tower so carefully that he strikes every single stone with his staff. When struck, some stones become black as soot, and some rough, and some cracked, and some break off, and some turn color, and some become uneven, and some are badly spotted; these are the defective stones that the head mason orders removed and placed by the side of the tower; other stones are put in their place (Shepherd 83:3-5). Then the head mason says,
“Clean these rejected stones carefully and lay the ones that might yet fit alongside the tower, but call for evil spirits (95:3) to come carry the rest away. As for these stones that might fit, I’ll trim the majority and fit them in somehow” (84:4).
Of course, Hermas wants to know why certain discolored and cracked stones are rejected, and in a thousand words too many, the angelic Shepherd tells him,
“The black stones were believers who quit, blasphemed Yahweh or betrayed his servants. For them, there’s no repentance nor redemption. The bald stones are hypocrites and false teachers. They claim the Sacred Name, but have no faith or fruit (96:1,2). Some stones are too entangled with thorns – so affluent, rich or consumed with business, entertainment, recreation or worldly affairs. Others will not associate with the servants of Yahweh and give them a hard time. They may yet repent, but few do (98:1). Then there are stones who are double-minded, having the Sacred Name on their lips but not in their hearts. There are stones who are faithful, but slow to learn and self-satisfied: they want to know everything but they know nothing (99:1,2). Finally, there are stones who are backbiters, murderers, the enraged, the bitter, the begrudged, the gossiper, and the group-splitter – those who might fit in, but won’t give up the demon that keeps them from fitting” (100:1,2).
The Shepherd finalizes his explanation by reminding the young Hermas,
“I AM the Angel of Repentance! Mend your ways while the tower is still being built. The Master lives among those who love peace, for peace is dear to him, but he keeps his distance from the quarrelsome and those destroyed by wickedness” (109:1,2). Now listen. “Do not trample on his mercy but rather honor him because, unlike you, he’s very patient in putting up with your sins. Repent, therefore, in a way that is beneficial to you” (109:5).
When the Shepherd advises Hermas to repent in a beneficial way, he’s trying to get the boy to determine what kind of stone he is – a white stone, perfectly cut, that fits right into the wall of the great high tower, or a black stone, a cracked stone, a rough stone, a cold stone. If Hermas is one of the latter stones, then he’s to examine himself as to why he is black or cracked, rough or cold, recount his thoughts and actions, and repent of whatever deficiency makes him that way, then, with the Shepherd’s help, reform.
As both Hermas and our psalmist proclaim, we want to be secure enough to announce that,
Yahweh Sabaoth is with us, our high tower. Selah.
This is where today’s Lectionary Gospel passage leads in. “Who will be saved? Only a few?” asked a man of Yahshua, the door of the tower, the cornerstone of the temple. “Only a few?”
Yahshua replies, “Try to get in if you will, for only a few will enter.” We wonder why only a few.
Think back to the time when we expected the Millennium Bug to shut everything down. After the power grid failed and the food and water ran out and law enforcement no longer got paid, there would be the haves and have-nots, and the have-nots would surely band into violent gangs setting out upon the countryside to loot and kill. It’s happening in many other countries and it’s happened right here not that long ago.
Those who were vigilant in the Millennium Bug days tried to store up enough to share with friends, neighbors and loved ones who may not have been so prepared. But why share? We share because we love – we want those we love to be safe through the evil days ahead. We even bought guns to protect our properties, provisions and people. Even the kind-hearted have been forced to arms.
Millennium Bug in Beulahville
Now let's experience our own vision with this story:
Soon after the Millennium Bug tears down civilization, gangs of wretched men come upon Yahshua’s strong tower in Beulahville to see if they can get in. Some just want a little shelter and food, while others are quite content to kill every living soul. Who could be sure about the intent of strangers and foreigners? The day of vengeance has arrived! Who can stand? Only those who’ve thoroughly prepared – or those upon whom mercy’s been shown – may endure in prosperity until the end.
One particularly violent gang prowls the Beulahville countryside looking desperately for a prize. These gangsters perceive a great high stone tower up ahead. It’s vast in diameter and spires upward to Heaven. The cornerstone and foundation are granite-solid. There isn’t a window in that mountain of stone, and only a very small, solid oaken door.
The gang boss boasts,
“This is that man’s palace – you know who – the Drunken Preacher! He’s built this old place up for many years. All this stone’s just an illusion. Inside is everything we’ll need to make out swell for the rest of the war. No problem gettin’ past that Drunken Preacher and his ilk of weak crybabies – no problemo. They’re only religious sissies, right? Sure, boys! I’ll butter that long-haired Preacher up and he’ll opener ‘er right up, don’t worry.”
Some of the boys don’t look so sure, but their boss says,
“Take my word for it! I guarantee it. Bonafide! Underwritten! If he won’t open it, we’ll just crack that little oaken door like a walnut. We’ll kill everybody inside and get it all, along with this high tower.”
They hide their weapons a bit down the road, then come knocking at the tower’s only door. The big mouthed boss cries out – “Jesus! Jesus, Jesus! Jesus! Oh, my Jesus! Open up to us! We need help out here. Men are dying.”
The boss snickers.
The answer from inside the locked door’s a surprise, “Sir, it’s too late, this narrow door is shut. And we don’t know you. Ease on down the road. Get going!”
“But you DO know us boys. Remember when we ate with you at the Golden Corral that one Sunday – I believe it was in 1998. Yeah! We had a wonderful conversation. You told us about this place and how we should invest in it for times such as these. Oh, we really should’ve done it then, but we had investments of our own. Do open for us now. Men are dying here. I guaranteed ‘em you’d help us out. You know I always keep my word!”
The muffled voice inside is heard to say, “1998? Well that was years ago. ¿Are you some kind of lunatic (Matthew 4:24 KJV)? I know who is mine, and I certainly don’t know you. Now get out of here.”
Then another of the gang, a green-toothed fellow, pipes up with the loud, braying voice of a jackass, trying a different approach – flattery.
“But we seen ya handin’ out tracts and tapes down at da chicken festival (last time theya was one) and we all took ya stuff and read ya tracts and listened to ya tapes and then, you’ll recall, we all told ya we was mighty impressed with what ya had. Yesss, I say – mighty impressed, we all was. You remember that, doncha? Course ya do, sah. Now, open the door a crack – jess a li’l crack?”
Again from inside, “Nahhhh –I don’t know any of you; get away, you bloody hoods. I do know exactly what you think you’ll do, for I know the hearts of all men. But if you try, I shall cast out the hounds of hell from this little gate upon you now! So GO AWAY!”
So the wretched cronies on the outside deliberate about the possibility of breaking in the door and taking what they want. Some are ready, and go for their weapons – one of which is a carpenter’s adze. “We’ll lay the adze to the root of this door and chop it out,” boasts green teeth.
But the smartest of the bunch, once an ecclesiastical politician but now a dried-up water trough, The Right Reverend Bishop Doctor Prettyboy, who should’ve already been inside owing to his great theological insight, biblical knowledge and people-pleasing personality, points out to the rest of the gangsters,
“I perceive there ain’t no winders in this tower, the foundation’s too firm and that there door’s not too dang wide. If’n we break in, boys, they’d surely get us comin’ one b’ one. We wouldn’t stand a chance, even if ya did give your word, Bubba.”
About then they here another voice from behind the door. This time it’s not addressed to gangsters.
“O my friends,” the voice quietly echoes, “In your lifetimes, the meek are made strong and the strong weak. Many who thought of themselves last are now first, and those who put themselves first are last of all.”
FinaleBut these desperados were first in one way. They were the first of many such malevolent bands that approached the tower in the seven lean decades of America’s future horror. And, like all that were to follow, they came too late and departed weeping and grinding their teeth, seeking victims, wasting lives, breaking commandments, blaspheming the Sacred and, in making their deals with death, they died – unknown, unheeded and unmarked.
Jackson Snyder, August 17, 2004