Perhaps I need to re-consider my understanding of the term “Godly.” I suggest this because I have always matched that term to what is commonly understood about Christ. He was modest in manner and appearance, did not offer a defense when unjustly accused and beaten, a model of humility in spite of His identity.
When I was in the Old City of Jerusalem, I met a young man in a Judaica bookstore who was a Torah student. He was in his mid twenties, probably, and he was willing to answer my silly American Goy questions. When he asked me why I was so curious, I suggested that we worship the same God, and he wasn’t as quick to agree as I thought he would be. From his perspective, the Jews worship the one true God, Jehovah, but the Christians and the Muslims have altered that God with fiction, fabrication, or misunderstanding, until he couldn’t agree it was the same entity.
“Did you just put Christians in the same category as Muslims?” I was indignant but I tried not to show it. He conceded that a lot more violence has been accomplished in the name of Allah than in the name of Jesus, but he maintained that the Christians have turned the singular God into a plural Trinity, plus softened the image of Yahweh in the process, to match the characteristics of Jesus as described above. The last phrase is when I felt some conviction. Have I softened Yahweh into a man-made god-friend, instead of the Creator?
On a similar but different note, I found myself a little offended by the gaudiness of the decorations around the holy sites. “God isn’t ostentatious like that,” I thought. Mr. Twain, when he visited the Holy Sepulchre in the 1800s, used the following language:
“Over it hang some fifty gold and silver lamps, which are kept always burning, and the place is otherwise scandalized by trumpery, gewgaws, and tawdry ornamentation.”
So Mr. Twain and I agreed. The ornamentation over the years was certainly not something within the taste spectrum of Christ, as He was a simple carpenter, wearing plain clothes and sandals. He wouldn’t care for such showiness then just like He wouldn’t care for the over-the-top Christmas light displays which are the modern equivalent.
But then I was reminded of God’s directions for the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, in Exodus 25:
“They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it. 12 You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it.13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold.14 You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it. 16 You shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you.
17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. 18 You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. 22 There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.
If that’s hard to imagine, here’s a picture to match the description:
Awfully loud isn’t it? Garish even. But that’s what the Father called for. And then I was reminded of the description of heaven in Revelation 21:
18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
Suddenly, God became more of a GOD and less of a carpenter. More of someone I should bow to, and less someone with whom I should casually chat.
Suddenly, the fact that this God, Jehovah, demanded to be presented with the finest metals and jewels that He created, made me realize that I had unintentionally diminished Him permanently down to something I could relate to, rather than accepting the miracle of this GOD temporarily coming down to me in the humble form of a Nazarene. I had dismissed His Old Testament Majesty in my focus on the New Testament Jesus.
I have decided to stop criticizing the outlandish tributes to God. I recognized in myself the voice of the critic when Mary poured the expensive nard perfume on Christ in John 12:
5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and [the money] given to the poor?”
Even then, Jesus explained that we should be allowed to be extravagant on Him:
7 So Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep[the rest of] it for the day of My burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”
To make it worse, that voice – the critic – was Judas.
So, I am resolved to hold my criticisms of the gold and silver and the lights and the bling for God. I have to accept, again, as I did in Reflections 1, that God’s taste does not match mine, just as His judgment and sense of justice do not match mine. Once again, as stated in Isaiah 55:8,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
I’ve got to stop trying to mold Him into my image, and let Him mold me into His image instead. But I just can’t stomach the decor of Donald Trump. I won’t. I’m not Godly enough.