Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Ziggurat

"And she's buying a stairway to heaven." (J. Patrick and R. Plant, 1970)

Much can probably be conjectured about the meaning of Led Zeppelin's famous song. Certainly the line above speaks to the woman's conceit in believing she can bring heaven to earth; and this by constructing a ziggurat, or stairway connecting heaven and earth.

Her conceit is not unique to her, though.  It was the original conceit of humankind that resulted in the separation of humankind from the Creator--that is, Death.  The conceit was and still is heaven can be attained by trusting in creation instead of God.  The lie Satan proffered to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was just that: You will become god by trusting in yourself.

It was also the conceit behind one of the most famous of ziggurats, the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). The people banded together to bring heaven to earth by constructing a tower touching heaven.  This tower was a ziggurat, which they believed would allow them to bring heaven to earth.

God wants heaven to be brought to earth; this was His purpose in creation; heaven and earth would be His dwelling place with His image bearers (humankind) in an eternal relationship of holy love (Gen. 1:26-2:1-3).  God's purpose in creation was to establish a kingdom for Himself.  Humankind loused this up because of their aforementioned conceit.  Nevertheless, God will realize His purposes; God will bring heaven to earth.  But He must be the one who constructs the ziggurat.  God must do it; it is impossible for human beings.

We see this prophesied in a dream of Jacob:

"He reached a certain place where he decided to camp because the sun had gone down.  He took one of the stones and placed it near his head.  Then he fell asleep in that place and had a dream.  He saw a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens.  The angels were going up and coming down it and the Lord stood at the top.  He said, 'I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather, Abraham and the God of your father Isaac.  I will give to you and your descendants the ground you are lying on.  Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, east, north and south. All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using your name and that of your descendants.  I am with you! I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!'  Then Jacob woke up and thought, surely the Lord is in this place, but I did not realize it!  He was afraid and said, 'What an awesome place this is!  This is nothing else than the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!" (Gen. 28:11-17 [NET])

God would of course partially fulfill this by a covenant with the nation of Israel (the new name God would give Jacob at Peniel [Gen. 32:22-32]) through their exodus from Egypt, wondering in the wilderness, entering the Promised land, and the construction of the Temple, where God would dwell with them.

But God would completely fulfill His promise and restore His kingdom through the living ziggurat--through the person who would come out of Israel.  That person would be God Himself entering into Human history:

And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten and unique one from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 14)

God has restored His kingdom through His son, Jesus the Christ, so that through Christ we see God and consequently know Him and are known by Him, which is to dwell together no longer in a fixed place, but in the totality of heaven and earth made one in Christ.

Jesus is the ziggurat through whom God brings heaven to earth.  Indeed, this is what Jesus meant when he told Nathanael,

"Because I said to you that I saw you beneath the fig tree, you are believing?  You will see greater things than these."  And Jesus said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you [you is plural, here] you will see the heavens having opened up and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." (John 1:50-51)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Oddity

It was an odd thing--something for Ripley's.  Everyone thought so.  Both young and old and all those in between would stop and stare and wonder.  It stood bravely upright against the push of humanity from all sides--a silent yet colorful contradiction to the concrete, asphalt, grime, and litter that was the legacy of a race in lethal pursuit of ambition. "How could it be?" someone would say.  Another pointed out weeds sometime grow out of a crack in the pavement, as if to remind us of our delusions of beauty. Yet another would clarify, "This is no weed.  And there is no crack, either.  It has just come up as if it had pushed itself through the cement from somewhere deep below."  Everyone nodded in agreement, secretly enthralled by the loveliness shining before them they had been taught long ago couldn't happen. Some looked up and all around for a camera or other evidence of a hoax. Others brought themselves close and sniffed in a fragrance of indescribable splendor.  Still others gently touched the pedals, delighted to discover their softness exceeded their promise.  There were those, too, disquieted by the phenomenon.  "It's not natural!" someone opined in thinly veiled trepidation.  Many gave the flower a wide berth, suspecting it had been cleverly placed there to lure them into something.  The oracle remained steadfast in all its resplendent colors, day after day through inclement weather and sun.  The bloom never closed at night; and even gave off its own special light. It became a place for people to come together.  A happening where those who came with food or wisdom liberally shared with those who did not.  Those who couldn't recall the last time they had smiled, grinned and pointed.  Faces that for eons had mingled in nonrecognition, became as kin.  Before long the laughter and chatter around the flower challenged the din of industry that seemed to sulk.  The tints and hues of grays and blacks and soiled whites soon grew unbearable.  Slabs were cut away, and trees and planters and fountains installed. Gardens rose up alongside places that made light the revelry and camaraderie. And then it happened.

Song birds arrived and nested in the burgeoning trees, filling the air with a palette of melodies rivaled only by the creatures' varied colors.  It was an odd thing--something for Ripley's.  Everyone thought so.