LEGENDS, VISIONS, AND GREATNESS

By Jim Jordal

“When legends die, vision also fails; when visions end, there is no more greatness.” (author unknown)

Mary and I discovered this quote from Native American wisdom at the Crazy Horse monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Many pictures of prominent Native American chiefs and some of their great wisdom appeared on a large wall in the monument hall, where you can also look out a large window to view work being done on the mountain containing the monument of Chief Crazy Horse astride has war horse. The above quote came from an introductory film there.

It’s difficult to escape the sense of power pervading the wall, since the color pictures of great chiefs done by several artists almost universally depict great strength of character and a deep-seated sadness over what eventually became of Native American legends, vision, culture, values, and leadership.

Think a minute about some powerful legends and visions of our faith. One that comes immediately to mind is that of the Exodus after 400 years of travail in Egyptian bondage. Is this legend still active in our society? Does it have visions attached to it? Or has it faded into an interesting story with no direct connection to modern society?

The original account of the Exodus was loaded with miraculous deliverance and great examples of faith, forbearance, and certitude in its leaders. The collective memory it implants in the participators and future generations is emotionally powerful since it shows them who they are and how God has actively intervened in their existence many times before. Constant repeating of the legend around campfires and in educating the young generates the vision, which is an understanding between leaders and active citizens as to how best to maintain the legend and its application to the welfare of society. But few seem to realize that there was great meaning and intent by God in creating the circumstances surrounding the Exodus. God allowed the people to suffer sufficiently so that the memory of their ordeal would be ever fresh in their minds and would create the deep-seated resolution that these things must never occur again. So the memory of oppression created the legend of the Exodus that in turn created visions for the future of freedom and prosperity.

But the Israel people did what they were historically prone to do, and that was to conveniently forget their national memory as they grew into a great nation with power enough to oppress anyone resisting them. With no national memory of the legend of God’s miraculous liberation, the visions necessary for creating a new nation based upon liberty and justice rather than control and injustice tended to slide away. The values associated with the Exodus lived for a while as our Founding Fathers built the new nation, but then were largely replaced by the new ethics of greed, conquering, military might, and imperialism---which created the confused and chaotic nation we now live in. The contrast between Exodus liberation and the new corporate oppressions taking over the nation have been lost, as has much of the national greatness that follows when Exodus values of liberty and justice are integrated into our national character.

 The biblical legends supporting the grand vision of God’s plan for his earthly kingdom become lost as we frantically grope for light when there is only darkness. God laid forth the operating system for his kingdom in his great Jubilee structure revealed first in Leviticus 25, then repeated through the entire Bible. But Jubilee seems relegated to the back burners of Christian preaching and teaching as we focus almost entirely on the three legs of basic Christianity: doctrinal correctness, personal piety, and sexual purity.

Today, America has a strong, vital, miraculous series of legends on the founding, building, and settling of our nation. But we gradually lose this Divine gift under our competitive system of “everybody grab what they can while they can.” As we lose these legends we also begin to lose the visions as to the national greatness that is possible, but only under God’s Jubilee ethics.

IS SUSTAINED NATIONAL PROSPERITY POSSIBLE?

By Jim Jordal

 And he [God] will judge between many peoples, And will decide concerning strong nations afar off. They will beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, Neither will they learn war any more. But they will sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; And no one will make them afraid…    Micah 4:3-4 WEB

These two Bible verses set forth part of what will happen in the end times as formerly warring nations “beat their swords into plowshares” and no longer fight one against another. The people delivered from the scourges of war and the political struggles of one power bloc against another will “sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; And no one will make him afraid.”

This sounds as if peace and prosperity have finally come to dwell among humans. They will no longer be afraid as they sit happily in their own possessions and with their own source of sufficient resources to be productive and happy.

However, we still must deal with today and the broken, chaotic excuse we now have for government. Whatever ideas for peace and prosperity that do rise out of this mess usually suggest nothing new and everything old as we prepare to step back by several generations into the failed ideas of that time. What we desire is sustained prosperity, peace, and freedom to live our lives to the best of our ability. What we get is endless wars, periodic depressions, and about one/fourth of our people who simply cannot make it in this society.

The road to sustained national prosperity does not go through an exploited and stripped environment; privatized medical, educational, and social security systems; or a crippled governmental regulatory power, contrary to what the Trump administration offers us with its plans for unwinding scores of important regulations protecting the public against corporate exploitation.

Sustained national prosperity is possible, but not under present policies. Some economists now foresee a virtual tsunami of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation with rising unemployment in surface transportation and clerical service jobs. These jobs will not be replaced by increased tariffs on foreign goods, or better education, or the controlling of immigration, or, for that matter, any existing governmental policies. They will be lost forever unless a solution both profound and workable is found.

That type of solution does exist, but it involves that we once and for all learn that God’s ways are superior to ours. If we choose God’s way--- and we will after our resources and panaceas have withered away--- then we can bring victory out of the dust of defeat and failed policies.

God’s way involves Jubilee justice of the Old Testament, brought back to life by Jesus in his first sermon in Luke chapter four. Under God’s system we would return to the Jubilee concept that the earth belongs to God, not just those people having enough power and influence to conquer it for themselves. It would involve us accepting that the earth and its envelope of atmosphere belong to God, who gave it to us for our use, not our despoliation. If we all “own” the earth, then there ought to be some financial return accruing to us as shareholders.

Economists call it “rent seeking,” or the attempt by owners to gain a greater share of existing wealth without creating new wealth. In the Western world today this process has played itself out as large corporations seize almost the entire earth envelope as their so-called “free” goods. They now use and exploit for themselves “commons” areas really belonging to the people. They use air, water, infrastructure, electro-magnetic waves, governmental structures and court decisions, English common law, copyright protection, and many other entities that benefit them even though they do not belong to them. They belong to the people, who should receive their fair share as dividends due to owners, not welfare checks due to indigents.

 If these blessings of God were recognized as part of the public commons, if people were ranked as shareholders rather than welfare problems, and if corporations were to pay fair returns for their use of these benefits, then we would have trillions of dollars available to end poverty and institute economic Jubilee justice. Think on it!

JESUS BRINGS GOOD NEWS

By Jim Jordal

 The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the year of Jehovah's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that he may be glorified.                            Isaiah 61:1-3 ASV

In these three Bible verses uttered about 700 years before the Advent, the prophet Isaiah predicts for all eternity what is the God-given mission of the Jesus who is to come.

In fulfillment of his Divine mission, Jesus will:

   1. “Preach good tidings to the meek,” often translated as the “poor.”

   2. “Bind up the brokenhearted.”

   3. “Proclaim liberty to the captives.”

   4. “Proclaim the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”

   5. “Proclaim the year of Jehovah’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God.”

   6. “Comfort all that mourn.”

In case you’re worried, the “advent” of Donald Trump will not and cannot change the will of Almighty God. So why all the excitement and open fear among the media and even the most powerful of citizens? And why all the dread even among Christians who ought to know better? Donald Trump can do nothing unless the Lord allows him the power and influence to do so. So instead of becoming paralyzed by fear, let’s begin to ask, not what is Donald Trump doing, but why and to what end? And, believe me, God has very good reasons for everything he does.

It is time for the blessings of deliverance listed above to begin happening, not only with individuals, but with nations. But when someone openly suggests that we take action on some of these good and necessary ideas from God’s list it’s too often resisted by entrenched political authority with the words, “That’s too radical for common people,” or “It will cost too much.” And equally sad is the prospect that religious authorities will often claim the clear word of God to be too extreme or too upsetting to receive serious consideration.

And so we labor onward, with gospel limited only to receptive individuals and denied to nations. We push the great things promised here on earth into heaven, and relegate those blessings intended to have literal fulfilment here on earth into the ethereal and elusive spiritual realm.

But the kingdom blessings listed above are real, not ethereal; are for this earth rather than heaven; and apply to nations as well as individuals. So let’s look at just one, the promise that Jesus will preach good tidings, or gospel, to the meek, or poor. This one often draws the refutation that it could not possibly mean the literally poor in earthly goods and money because Scripture quotes even Jesus as saying “the poor you have always with you,” and besides, “they are poor because of their own flawed behavior.” So the power of this promise becomes lost in the spiritualization of its meaning into merely the poor in spirit---not the poor in this world’s goods--- who will profit from the gospel.

The beauty of gospel or good news is that it is universal in scope, application, and outcome. As Scripture proclaims, God’s word will do what it was sent to do because it was paid for at Calvary and is irrevocable in the Divine plan. When God seems to act counter to his word, it is usually because he has become so disgusted with our wayward sinful behavior that he decides to punish us. But always lurking above the struggle are the immortal words, “I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b).

 

WHY JUBILEE?

By Jim Jordal

“I have written for him the great things of my law, but they were counted by him a strange thing” Hosea 8:12

The context of this passage indicates that it was written to Ephraim, one of the 12 sons of Jacob and considered by most to represent the 10 tribes taken into Assyrian captivity (from which they never returned) in 721 BC.  Whether you consider yourself an Israelite descended from the so-called Lost Ten Tribes, as many Mormons today do, or by adoption (Galatians 3), you are among the people to whom this lament was written.

God relates that he gave his people the “great things of my law,” or the national blessings bestowed on peoples who would simply do what God said. That law included the Jubilee provisions of Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15, promising renewed peace and prosperity for those nations following Jubilee economic and social justice.

God then laments that these “great things” were counted as a strange thing. These Jubilee provisions were never seriously implemented by Israel, and were soon replaced by a series of judges and kings, some of whom helped the people and others who built dynasties to themselves.

Jubilee is the name given to that portion of God’s law dealing with human economic and commercial behavior and relationships. It was the planned economic system for the newly-freed people of Israel following their 400 years of slavery in Egypt. And it is a prominent part of the set of moral principles under which the returned Christ will rule his earthly kingdom.

Why mention this now? Because as time passes it becomes increasingly obvious that political, economic, social, and religious systems of the secular world order are in a state of decline, if not actual collapse. No matter what we do to modify these systems we still face the same results---chaos, revolution, defeat, and a general public sense of hopelessness and apathy. We seemingly cannot overcome the human tendency to abuse power, amass wealth, and then to use that newfound power to ensure enduring blessings of privilege, with little or no willingness to share our benefits with those less fortunate.

Today we endure ignorance and disregard by national leaders for the laws of God and an even worse marginalizing and discounting of these same laws by the very people charged with bringing them to the public attention---the clergy and their ecclesiastical institutions. The modern church has become sidetracked by excessive formalism and tradition on one hand, and total obsession with personal salvation, individual piety, and sexual purity on the other.  This sad situation has now reached the place where it’s unusual to hear anything about justice beyond the never ending pleas for charity. It’s as if the generic church has lost the ability to speak out on the “great things” of God’s law, with a consequent virtual disintegration of national justice and decency for people, their necessary institutions, and the earth itself.

William Gladstone, a noted Prime Minister of Britain during the 19th Century, said: “Nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right.” I would add that neither can it be religiously or spiritually right. Evil is evil, no matter how we attempt to hide it behind expediency.

Martin Luther added, “If you preach the gospel in all its fullness, with the exception of those events pertinent to your times, you are not preaching the gospel at all.” The true gospel ought to have something to say about the crucial issues of our time, like war, financial oppression, ecology, and the evident decline of world systems of social control.

By continuing to ignore God’s Jubilee system of justice both the nation and the church earn God’s displeasure. In the past such malfeasance could escape Divine retribution because the time was not yet right. But, as God said to Abraham in Genesis 15, “the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete,” indicating that God was not yet ready to act against injustice.

But today we live in a different age. We are the people “upon whom the ends of the ages have fallen.” How much longer will we avoid the “great things” of God’s law in favor of religious pablum that may make us feel good, but has little substance?

JUBILEE APPLIED TO ECOLOGICAL ISSUES

By Jim Jordal

 God planted a garden eastward, in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground Yahweh God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food…..A river went out of Eden to water the garden…. God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.                                                                                  Gen. 2:8-15 WEB (emphasis mine)

The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and live as foreigners with me.                                 Lev. 25:23 WEB (emphasis mine)

 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.                      Psalm 104:24-27 KJV

The ideological struggle over global warming has placed the earth and its predatory human inhabitants in a new light: What will we do when and if the earth gets too (warm, poisoned, crowded, irradiated, murderous, or what have you) to support life? What happens when rising oceans flood coastal cities, including much of the eastern seaboard? Where will we get food when productive farming areas turn to desert, or are swallowed by burgeoning cities overrun with hungry and increasingly violent inhabitants? And what good is food if the air and water are poisoned beyond recovery?

As you probably realize by now, my main goal in writing is to present the seemingly lost concept (especially in modern churches desiring to hear only “good” things), that God is shaking as never before our arrogant, godless institutions of government and society until they either collapse or return to the biblical concepts of Jubilee and its role as “operating system” for the coming Kingdom of God on Earth.

We seem constitutionally unable to accept the truth that the earth belongs to God, not us. It is his to use to nurture the people he created, not in a use-it-till-it’s-gone manner, but in a dress-and-keep mode as Genesis says so as to allow it to regenerate itself in a manner that should last forever. This is man’s curse---the hubris (outrageous arrogance) that allows us to use God as a never-angry servant who wills us good no matter what we do.

Simply, that’s not the God of the Bible---it’s our invention of God as we would like him to be. The God of the Bible assesses punishment for violation of his law, along with plenteous forgiveness for those who repent. But our present religious posture is to ask for and expect divine deliverance coupled with little or no willingness on our part to change toward God’s way.

In fact, it’s unfortunately true that some more conservative ecclesiastical churches have actually encouraged ongoing corporate rape of the earth with their belief that what happens to the earth is irrelevant because it will soon be incinerated. Some have even gone so far as to declare that the now-fading but still damaging “supply-side” economics is the closest humans have yet come to God’s intent for the earth. (In case you’ve forgotten, supply-side economics is the now- ridiculed belief that general prosperity is best achieved by manipulating tax and inheritance policies so as to greatly increase incomes at the top of the economic scale where its owners will invest it in new productive facilities thus providing more jobs and more income for workers and the general public). But, as experience has shown, the pipe downward to the working and middle classes is plugged by the many legal strategies for  siphoning off money, so that very little of what crosses the path of Wall Street and the upper socio-economic classes ever reaches Main Street.

This issue is what much of the election excitement is about. So don’t worry, God knows how to get what he wants and what the people need.