Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Truth by the Bucketload

We have a lot of truth available to us, almost surely more than at any previous period in human history. We certainly have everything we need for the purpose of pleasing God during this present era. We have truth by the bucketload. Truth by the truckload. Torrents of cascading truth.

But we do not have it all. Not by a long shot.


Relax, I’m not talking about revisiting the question of inspiration in the Apocrypha or credulously skimming pseudepigraphal volumes in hopes of finding hidden spiritual gems. Some of these ancient sources may indeed preserve words that originated with God, but sifting such gold out of all the inauthentic dross in which they now reside would be a task no scholar, however spiritual, could credibly presume to undertake.

No, I’m simply referring to other, missing books that are named within the canon of scripture itself. The fact that they are referenced in the word of God, of course, doesn’t guarantee their inspiration. Some could simply be passably accurate historical accounts. But the mere fact of their mention in the pages of holy writ is enough to make them of ongoing interest to some.

There, But Not There

They’re mentioned in the Bible, but except for a few spare quotes, we have no idea what they said:
  • What, for instance, is this Book of the Wars of the Lord referred to in Numbers? Doesn’t appear to be the book of Joshua, or any other Old Testament historical account. It would be neat to know.
  • What might be in the Book of Jasher, twice referenced?
  • How about the Book of Shemaiah the Prophet, or the Book of Iddo the Seer Concerning Genealogies? Some might not find them an interesting read. I would.
  • And how about that Epistle to the Laodiceans written by the apostle Paul? It was important enough to be read in Colossae too, or so Paul desired. That one was surely inspired, wouldn’t you think?
All in all, some writers take note of up to 22 books mentioned in the Bible that are … well … not in today’s Bible and, so far as we know, not to be found anywhere.

Too bad, really.

What Is It God Wants Exactly?

Or is it?

God knows what we need, doesn’t he, and he’s never been reluctant to make his will known when it was unclear. In the Garden of Eden, mankind didn’t need much in the way of God’s word. This is what they got:
“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
That’s it. One sentence. Precisely two verses.

Of course it’s not impossible — it’s even likely — that God revealed a good deal more to Adam and Eve verbally that is not preserved for us. God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would name them, and it seems logical to assume he gave Adam a few instructions first. But if he did, they’re not recorded. Genesis 2:16-17 is the only hard evidence we have of God communicating directly to man prior to the Fall.

Not much. But it was perfectly adequate to the situation.

A Better Sacrifice

How was it that Abel knew to offer a better sacrifice than his brother Cain? Yes, faith, I know. But Abel’s faith was not pulled out of empty air; it was responding correctly to some truth God had already revealed. Was it oral tradition? Intuition derived from the garments of skins given by God to his parents? We’re not told. But the knowledge was out there in the world somehow. God told Cain it was possible to “do well” and “be accepted” like his brother. Pleasing God was not out of reach for Cain or anyone else in his day.

The Challenge to Our Generation

How much did the enslaved great great great grandchildren of Jacob understand of Jehovah in Egypt? Probably not a lot. We have no evidence of a written record about Israel’s God to which they might have made reference. We get that in the Law. But then God sent them Moses, and that changed forever.

They had everything they needed in their particular circumstances.

So do we. Even without the Book of Jasher or the Laodicean epistle.

The challenge to our generation is not to find more commands to obey, more principles to follow, more about the character of God to motivate us or fresh, modern ways of looking at the old inspired texts. Rather, like everyone from Adam on, our challenge is to process, internalize and respond to what we already know.

That’s more than enough, don’t you think?

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