Annual Christmas Comic 2015! Merry Christmas from GFTM!

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Merry Christmas!

–Steve & GFTM Blog

Click on the comic to enlarge it….

ChristmasComic_2015

Read past Christmas comics: 2014, 2013+, Early 2000’s

New from GFTM Blog: Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.

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Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 4) The Ark in Action!

*Is “The army that carries the Ark before it is invincible”? Should Indy have listened to his friends’ warnings about the Ark?*

Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

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LET THE BODIES DROP

So, Indiana Jones goes on one heck of an adventure to find the lost Ark, but in the Bible the Ark itself participated in some adventures.

CANAAN

When Israel left Sinai and were nomadic in the wilderness, we’re told,

So they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey. And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them three days’ journey, to seek out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the Lord was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp.

And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” And when it rested, he said, “Return, O Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” (Num. 10:33-36)

After Moses’ death, Israel, led by Joshua, set out to conquer Canaan, the Promised Land. Crossing the Jordan was an important milestone as the beginning of their conquest of God’s promised land, so just like God showed Israel a miracle by parting the Red Sea as they fled from the Egyptian Pharaoh, God showed he was with them by drying up the Jordan and allowing Israel to cross on dry ground. The Ark played a prominent role in this event.

As the feet of the priests carrying the Ark entered the Jordan, the water was cut off. The priests stayed within the dry riverbed holding the Ark until all of Israel crossed, and once the priests’ feet exited the river, the water flowed again. (See Joshua 3-4.)

Later, against the famous walled city of Jericho, Israel marched around the city outside its walls for seven days, once a day, led by seven priests with horns before the Ark. Then, after marching around the city seven times on the seventh day – according to the instructions of the LORD – the priests blew the horns, the Israelites let out a great shout, and the walls of Jericho fell and the city was conquered. (See Joshua 6.)

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But some of the people of Israel disobeyed God and took loot from Jericho, which they were commanded not to do. Thus, later, God allowed them to lose the battle of Ai. When Joshua, in grief and dismay, goes to the LORD in prayer, he “tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening” (Joshua 7:6).

Later, when Joshua renews the covenant between God and Israel, the people stood on opposite sides of the Ark as Joshua read to them all the words of the law given to them through Moses. Then, the Ark with them, Joshua and Israel continued on to conquer Canaan.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones’ colleague Marcus Brody tells the U.S. army agents, “The army that carries the Ark before it is invincible.” Brody is both right and wrong.

Yes, Israel is invincible because they have God’s favor and blessing with them represented by the Ark, but when Israel turns away from God’s ways, God turns away from them. Israel was still carrying the Ark with them at the defeat in Ai, yet because God wasn’t with them, they lost. The Ark has no power within itself; it’s not some magical object like we’d find in a movie with wizards. The power of the Ark is from God. This is a biblical truth Brody overlooks. The Nazis and Indy’s archenemy Belloq make this same theological mistake in thinking they can use the Ark’s power independently from God, and they pay a horrible price for this at the end of the movie.

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Further, Brody also says, “The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions.” I found nothing in the Bible about the Ark doing any sort of mass destruction like this, nor anything like “lightning – fire – the power of God” shooting from the Ark at Israel’s enemies as depicted in the drawing in the book Indiana Jones shows to the army intelligence agents. The Israelites defeated their enemies with standard ancient combat weapons and techniques. The only exception (and the closest example of mass destruction associated with the Ark) is the falling of the walls of Jericho.

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THE PHILISTINES

But the warnings Indy receives about messing with the Ark do have a biblical basis. Brody says to Indy in a private conversation that his search for the Ark “is not something to be taken lightly.” Indy’s friend in Cairo, Sallah, echoes a similar warning, saying the Ark is “something men were not meant to disturb.” Indy doesn’t appear concerned, but he should be.

In the book of 1 Samuel, Eli served as high priest in the tabernacle in Shiloh where the Ark was housed. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were wicked and exploited their positions as priests. When Israel lost in a battle against the Philistines, they promptly called for the Ark to be brought to the battlefield.

As soon as Hophni and Phinehas, as priests, brought the Ark into the army’s camp, the Israelites let out a great shout of joy. They knew victory was assured. The Philistines heard the shouts and were afraid and said, “A god has come into the camp… Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness” (1 Sam. 4:7-8).

It wasn’t uncommon for pagan armies to carry idols of their gods into war, but the pagan Philistines are a bit confused here. First, Israel believed in an invisible God, and no idols could be made of him (and even if they tried to make an idol to their invisible God, the making of idols was forbidden by God anyway). Secondly, Israel only had one God, but you can understand why the polytheistic pagans would have their facts mixed up, thinking Israel had “gods.” After all, the Israelites were the weirdoes of the Near Middle East, claiming there were only one God – and an invisible one at that! Yet, notice what the Philistines got right: they fear Israel’s God because they know what he did to Egypt during the exodus. If you really want to see the wrath of God, read Exodus.

But all that fear may have served the Philistines well because, after all of the shouting and woe, they actually win the battle! Hophni and Phinehas – the corrupt priests – are killed. And the Ark is captured. Upon hearing this news, the wife of Hophni lamented, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured” (1 Sam.4:22). The thing is, because of the corruption of the priesthood, God’s favor had already left Israel before the Ark was captured; this is the exact reason why the Ark was captured! Hophni’s wife makes the similar theological mistake as Hitler, the Nazis, and Belloq make in Radiers. Again, the Ark is not a source of power itself, but the source of the power of the Ark is God.

Now, this is where the fun begins.

The Philistines take the Ark to Ashdod and set it in the temple of their god Dagon, beside Dagon’s idol. This was nothing unusual. They had defeated their enemy and captured their God, so they would place their enemy’s God in subjugation to Dagon as a gift for their victory. But when they enter the temple the next day, Dagon is lying facedown before God’s Ark! So, the Philistines stand Dagon up again. The next morning, Dagon is not only prostrate before God’s Ark again, but his head and hands have been broken off!

(This reminds me of a small scene I love in Raiders: when the Ark is alone in a room of a cargo ship and the Nazi swastika on the crate containing the Ark mysteriously burns off.)

Then, God turns a heavy hand against the people of Ashdod and they are afflicted with tumors. So, they panic and move the Ark to Gath, and the people of Gath are now inflicted with tumors. So, they sent it to Ekron, but the people of Ekron weren’t messing with it; they gathered all of the lords of the Philistines and said, Send it back to Israel!

The Philistine priests and diviners said to send it back with guilt offerings, hoping God’s wrath would turn from them. They also told them to put the Ark on a cart led by two milk cows that have never been yoked before. If the cows carried the Ark back to Israel, then they would know Israel’s God had done these things to them – it wasn’t a coincidence.

The cows straight-away carried the Ark back to the Israelites in Beth-shemesh, but even there some Israelite men were struck down in the presence of the Ark because of their sin. (See 1 Samuel 4-7.)

Indy should heed his friends’ warnings.

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MOVING THE ARK AIN’T EASY

After the Ark’s return from the Philistines, it stayed in Kiriath-jearim in the house of Abinadab for 20 years (1 Sam.7:1-2). When David was king of Israel, he wanted to move it into his city, the City of David (Jerusalem), so he had a tent made for it. But they ran into a problem transporting the Ark.

They chose to move the Ark on a cart, celebrating along the way, but the celebration was brought to an abrupt end. A man named Uzzah had reached out to steady the Ark on the cart, and he was immediately struck dead! Understandably, David was afraid but also angry and dismayed. So, David abandoned his mission and moved the Ark to the house of Obed-Edom. After three months of no incidences with the Ark, and actually the house of Obed-Edom reported they were blessed during those three months, David decided to try to bring the Ark to Jerusalem again.

Again, David transported the Ark, along with all of Israel celebrating, David himself dancing “with all his might” (2 Sam. 6:14), but this time accompanied with some sacrifices and peace offerings. And David brought the Ark successfully into his city.

The record of this in 2 Samuel 6 gives no insight into why Uzzah was killed for touching the Ark. Considering what we know from Scripture about God and the Ark, we can make some informed guesses. If the Ark represents being in the presence of the one and only most holy God, death due to our sin should be expected when encountering God. Or perhaps the Israelites were sinning by not giving the Ark (and, thus, God) its proper reverence; maybe they were taking what they were doing lightly (like Indiana Jones).

When we turn to the parallel account of this event in 1 Chronicles 15, we find our answer; we get details we don’t find in the account in 2 Samuel. Before trying to move the Ark a second time, David gathered priests and Levites, the only people who are allowed to handle the Tabernacle, Ark, and other religious objects according to God’s commands, given way back in the day to Moses (and recorded in Exodus). David says to them,

“You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.” So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord. (1 Chronicles 15:12-15)

Exodus 25:12-14 says,

You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them.

So, in David’s second attempt, he brought the Ark into Jerusalem with proper reverence and in obedience to God’s directions, and the city celebrated as the Ark was brought into their presence.

NEXT: So, where did the Ark go??

Indiana_Ark

Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

New from GFTM Blog: Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.

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Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 3) What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

In the pervious articles we answered: What is a covenant and the Ark? We also learned about the ancient Jewish Tabernacle and Temple and even sacrifices (and not the type in the Temple of Doom). Before we get back into Indy and Raiders, it’ll be helpful to understand what all this ancient Jewish ritual is about…

Read Part 1: Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 1) What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 2) What’s the Ark Anyway?

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SO, WHAT’S ALL THIS OLD TESTAMENT STUFF ABOUT ANYWAY?

As Christians, we interpret all of the events written of in the Old Testament in the light of the revelation of God through Jesus Christ, who came not to abolish the Old Testament, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). In other words, the whole of the Old Testament is foreshadowing Christ and preparing Israel, God’s chosen people, for his coming – and through this God will bless the whole world (as we saw in God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. Read more in Part 1.)

The Book of Hebrews (especially chapters 8-9) in the New Testament helps us to understand the significance of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple), the rituals, and the Ark in light of Christ’s work.

The Tabernacle/Temple (and rituals) are a “shadow of the heavenly things” (Heb.8:5). In other words, they are physical representations of spiritual realities. The Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle/Temple represents coming into God’s presence, but there is a separation between God and his people, symbolized by the veil. This separation is caused by our sin, and the “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Thus, to enter into the presence of the Holy God will kill us. To atone for sins, the High Priest makes a blood sacrifice as a substitute, enters the Most Holy Place, and sprinkles the blood on the Mercy Seat above the Ark.

Hebrews 9:22 tells us, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” But Hebrews 10:4 also tells us, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” So, why does God make Israel do all this? To point to our need for a sacrifice that can truly take away sin and reunite us with God — to point to our need for a savior — to point us to Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death on the cross. Thus, the answer to the mysteries of the Old Testament is revealed in Jesus Christ.

Jesus said at the Last Supper, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20), and Hebrews 9:15 calls Christ “the mediator of a new covenant.”

Remember, covenants can be mutually binding, and God made a mutually binding covenant with Israel after freeing them from slavery in Egypt in Exodus 19-24. God promised to protect and bless them, and Israel said,

“’All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood [of the peace offerings] and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.’” (Exodus 24:7-8)

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But Israel didn’t keep up their end of the deal. Israel rebelled against God; Israel turned from God’s moral law; Israel worshipped other gods. Like a cheating wife, Israel broke their vow, and, thus, the contract was null and void. So, God removed his protection and blessings. He allowed them to be taken into exile; he allowed Jerusalem, even his own Temple — the very way Israel had access to God — to be destroyed.

But he didn’t forget his promises in his earlier covenants, and in his mercy, he promised a new covenant. The writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah’s Old Testament prophecy:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)

And Hebrews 9:11-14 says,

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent [Tabernacle] (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Christ is our perfect high priest who gave his body — a perfect temple — and became our perfect sacrifice. And in this new covenant, one has only to believe in what Christ did for them and they’ll enter into God’s presence no longer fearing death.

Thus, there’s no more need for the Tabernacle/Temple, the high priest, the sacrifices, or the Ark. The work is finished by Christ’s work, not our own.

Jeremiah 3:16 even spoke of this day, a day when the Ark will not be needed anymore:

And when you have multiplied and been fruitful in the land, in those days, declares the Lord, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind or be remembered or missed; it shall not be made again.

NEXT: The Ark in Action! Let the bodies start dropping!

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Other related GFTM articles:

Making Sense of Old Testament Laws (Part 1 of 2) Are OT laws arbitrary, offensive & silly?

Making Sense of Old Testament Laws (Part 2 of 2) Why do Christians follow some OT laws & not others?

Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 1) What’s a Covenant?

 Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 2) What’s the Ark Anyway?

 

Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 2) What’s the Ark anyway?

The Ark of the Covenant… Last article we answered, “What is a covenant?” so now let’s answer, “What’s the Ark?” Is what is said in Raiders about the Ark accurate to the Bible?

Read Part 1: Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 1) What’s a Covenant?

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WHAT IS THE ARK?

In the book of Exodus, after freeing the Israelites from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God gives Moses “the Law.” This includes civil, moral, and religious laws, including the 10 Commandments. In the section of Scripture where God gives Moses specific instructions about the design of the tabernacle, which is essentially a portable temple (the Israelites were nomadic at this time and lived in tents), God also gives the specifics on how to build the Ark of the Covenant (See Exodus 25-26).

The directions, preserved in the Bible, are specific and give the precise dimensions. It was to be made of acacia (shittim) wood and completely overlaid with gold. There were to be gold rings in the corners so golden staves could be inserted into the rings and the Ark could be carried by the priests and Levites. This is the only way the Ark was to be carried (and this is an important detail to remember when we talk later about a man named Uzzah).

In Raider of the Lost Ark, we see Indy and Sallah use staves and the rings to lift the Ark from its stone container when they find it in the Well of Souls. Because of the specific details in the directions, the Bible must’ve made a good guide for the prop designer(s) of the Ark for the Raiders movie. (See Exodus 25:10-22; 37:1-9; Deut. 10:2-5)

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On the top of the Ark, sits the Mercy Seat (or Cover). Two winged cherubim spread their wings towards each other, “overshadowing” the Mercy Seat (Ex.25:20). Recorded in Exodus 25:21, God says, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”

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WHAT’S IN THE ARK?

The “testimony” God gave Moses (written on stone tablets) were to be kept in the Ark (Ex. 25:21; Deut. 10:2-5), but other objects were also kept in the Ark.

In Exodus 16:32-34, God commanded Moses that some of the manna God provided from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert to be kept in a container. In Numbers 17, to show that Aaron had God’s authority behind him, God made Aaron’s staff sprout and “put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds” (Num.17:8).

Both of these important artifacts from Israel’s history must’ve been placed in the Ark for safe keeping later, because in the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament, the Ark is described as containing “a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant” (Heb. 9:4).

It must’ve been decided to keep these additional two things in the Ark many generations later, because even during the reign of King Solomon the Ark only contained the stone tablets: as the Ark was placed in Solomon’s newly built temple in Jerusalem, we’re clearly told, “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 8:9).

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So, Indy and the Nazis should’ve expected to find more than just the tablets of the 10 Commandments in the Ark. When Belloq opens the Ark at the end of the film, all he finds is sand. Had the stone tablets disintegrated? Or had they been removed – along with the container of manna and Aaron’s staff? Were the writers of Raiders even aware that the manna and staff should also be in the Ark? Did they leave that part of biblical history out for the sake of simplicity in the plot?

 

WHERE WAS THE ARK KEPT?

Within the holy Tabernacle, Israel’s portable temple, there was a special place called the Most Holy Place. A veil separated it from the rest of the Tabernacle. This is where God’s presence would reside among his people, and, thus, the Ark was to be kept there (Ex. 26:33-34). So, in a way, Indy’s arch-nemesis Belloq is right when he calls the Ark “a transmitter. It’s a radio for speaking to God.”

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The Tabernacle

The Most Holy Place was to only ever be entered once a year on the Day of Atonement by the high priest of Israel alone. For anyone else to enter into the presence of God meant certain death, and the high priest could only enter after completing all sorts of rituals to atone for his sins and to be ritualistically clean. Then, and only then, could the high priest enter the Most Holy Place with the blood of the goat sacrificed for the sins of all of Israel, where he would sprinkle some of the blood over and in front of the Mercy Seat of the Ark. (See Leviticus 16.)

(There’s a popular idea that the Israelites would tie a rope around the ankle of the High Priest before he entered the Most Holy Place so if he died, they could drag him out. The lack of historical evidence leads many to believe this practice may simply be a legend.)

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Inside the Tabernacle with The Most Holy Place

The Book of Exodus ends with the tabernacle being completed and the glory of the LORD filling the Tabernacle (Ex.40:34). Several generations later, we see the glory of God again fill the more permanent structure in Jerusalem when Solomon completed the building of the first Temple (2 Chronicles 7).

Later, in the New Testament, we will learn what all this represents.

NEXT: Rituals, tabernacles, sacrifices, & the Ark… So, what’s this Old Testament stuff all about?

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Read Part 1: Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 1) What’s a Covenant?

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Who wants to buy me this??

 Other GFTM articles related to entertainment & TV:

The Walking Dead Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4

Breaking Bad

Preachers of LA Part 1 & Part 2

Bible Secrets Re-revealed! Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, & Part 7

Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 1) What’s a Covenant?

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From time-to-time, we at GFTM like to interact with popular movies, TV, and culture, such as in our previous articles about Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. In this series, I wanted to interact with a classic from my childhood, one of my all-time favorite movies, and easily one of the greatest action/adventure movies ever made: Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Watch the 1981 trailer here.) Having watched it again recently, I couldn’t resist.

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EVER GO TO SUNDAY SCHOOL?

In the movie, Indiana Jones – professor of archeology, expert on the occult, “obtainer of rare antiquities,” and “man of many talents” – is commissioned by U.S. army intelligence agents to find the lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. Apparently, Hitler had a thing for finding supernatural artifacts, and he believed that by possessing the Ark, his Nazi army would be unstoppable.

Frankly, Hitler had bad theology. But we’ll get into that later.

In Indy’s meeting with the army intelligence agents, we’re given the back-story of the Ark. (Watch the conversation here.) We’re told the Ark contains “thee” 10 Commandments, the actual stone tablets carried down from Mount Sinai by Moses, “if you believe in that sort of thing.” The Ark was carried by the ancient Israelites into battle, and it was kept in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. But then is disappeared from history.

One possibility, Indy explains, is the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak took the Ark when he invaded Jerusalem in about 980 BC. He then took the Ark to the ancient city of Tanis and placed it in a chamber called The Well of Souls. A year later, Tanis was “consumed” by a year-long sandstorm and disappeared. As Indy’s colleague Marcus Brody says, Tanis and all traces of the Ark were “wiped clean by the wrath of God.”

Indy shows the agents a drawing in a book with Israel’s enemies in disarray before the power of the Ark. When asked about a beam of yellow light shooting from the Ark, Indy explains it as “lightning – fire – the power of God or something.”

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This is the picture from the book shown in Raiders

Brody says, “The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. The army that carries the Ark before it is invincible.” This is not something we wanted Hitler to get his hands on.

Indy takes a little jab at the agents when they seem unknowledgeable about the Bible, asking them “Any of you guys ever go to Sunday School?”

But how well does what Indy and Brody say about the Ark line up with the Bible?

 

INDIANA JONES and THE TEMPLE OF BLOG

In this series, we’ll be looking at what the Bible tells us about the lost Ark, even what the Bible tells us about some raiders of the Ark. We won’t be talking about The Temple of Doom, but you’ll learn about the Temple of God in Jerusalem where the Ark was kept. We won’t discuss the Last Crusade, but you’ll learn about Israel’s crusade into the Promised Land with the Ark. And we certainly won’t be talking about The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but hopefully you’ll learn something about the Kingdom of God.

(For the record, I normally only acknowledge 3 Indiana Jones movies and pretend the 4th movie doesn’t exist. Honestly, shortly into the 4th movie, I wished it had gotten lost like the Ark long before I ever saw it.)

Here’s some stuff we’ll explore in this series:

  • WHAT IS THE ARK?
  • SO, WHAT’S ALL THIS OLD TESTAMENT STUFF ABOUT?
  • THE ARK IN ACTION
  • MOVING THE ARK AIN’T EASY
  • SO, WHERE DID THE ARK GO?
  • SKEPTICS, LEGALISTS, & THE SUPERSTITIOUS in RAIDERS
  • DON’T LOOK, MARION! FACE-TO-FACE WITH GOD’S WRATH

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WAIT, FIRST, WHAT’S A COVENANT?

Why is the Ark called the Ark of the Covenant? What’s a covenant? And what is THE Covenant?

Before we even talk about the Ark itself, these would be helpful questions to answer.

Essentially, a covenant is a sort of binding agreement – similar to a vow or contract – between two or more parties. Sometimes it’s one of mutual obligation, but it can also be a one-sided obligation. Often covenants were made between a king and a group of people. Marriage can be also considered a covenantal relationship both on a personal and legal level.

Long before Moses and the exodus from Egypt, God called upon Abraham (Abram at the time), the forefather of Moses and the Israelites, and made a covenant with him.

 

God called Abraham, saying, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

 

In his covenant, God promised to grant Abraham and his descendants land (Gen. 15:9-21) and that Abraham’s descendants will be God’s people and he will be their God:

When Abraham was ninety-nine years old (and still called Abram), God appeared to him and said,

 

“I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations… And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.” (Gen. 17:1-9)

 

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Sometimes, God would remind his people of these covenant promises or renew them or even make new ones.

Over 400 years later, when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God appeared to Moses and said,

 

“I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant… I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” (Exodus 6:2-8)

 

And after freeing Israel from slavery, God made a new covenant with Israel. This one was one of mutual obligation: God will protect Israel and bless them, and Israel would be loyal to God, being his representative people on earth, and live by his guidance and law (See Exodus 19-24).

To seal the covenant, Moses “took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood [of the peace offerings] and threw it on the people and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:7-8).

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2 MORE THINGS ABOUT COVENANTS

Let me close with two last final facts dealing with covenants:

(1) Now, the thing with mutual obligation covenants is if one party doesn’t keep up their end of the agreement, the contract is null and void. As you’ll see later, Israel didn’t uphold their side of the contract.

(2) In the New Testament, Jesus took up a cup during the Last Supper on the night before he was crucified and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20).

But we’ll talk more about both these things later.

(By the way, if you’re hoping to get a GFTM series about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and what the Bible tells us about the “Holy Grail,” you just got it. The verse above is basically all the Bible has to say about the “Grail.” The Holy Grail is considerably more folklore than Bible. Fortunately, there’s a lot more we can learn about the Ark of the Covenant from the Bible.)

NEXT: What is the Ark?

My favorite idol

My favorite idol

 

Christians & Marijuana – Part 4 – On Dependency, Legalization & Glorifying God

Is marijuana addictive? Can you not be addicted but still “mastered” by something?Should marijuana be legal? What about separation of church & state?

READ: Part 1 – On Medical Marijuana & Alcohol

READ: Part 2 – On Recreational Marijuana & the Brain

READ: Part 3 – The Main Event: Marijuana vs. Alcohol

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Who is the Master?

Finally, as we wrap up this series, we must not forget 1 Corinthians 6:12:

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”

In fact, while we’re at it, let’s throw in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24:

“‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”

Even if marijuana were legal everywhere, and even if someone is not convinced that the Bible explicitly forbids all recreational use of it, is there anything profitable concerning marijuana outside the realm of the superficial?

Does it glorify God?

Is marijuana helpful in growing spiritually or emotionally?

More importantly, are you “mastered” by it?

Advocates of marijuana argue that it’s not addictive, but several studies argue otherwise, including a twenty-year study by the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland.[1] If you pay close attention, sometimes even ardent marijuana advocates let their guard down and admit that marijuana is addictive by saying it’s “less addictive” than alcohol.[2]

But say the advocates are correct, and marijuana addiction is rare and no stronger than addiction to, say, caffeine; in fact, maybe “addiction” is even too strong of a word — perhaps marijuana is simply habit-forming.

First, an unhealthy habit, though preferable to full-blown addiction, is still not an ideal situation. One has to carefully consider this unhealthy habit: Are you being “mastered” by it? Does it honor your God-given body? Does this habit honor God?

Secondly, those who fight for the legalization of recreational marijuana – whether writing articles, campaigning, or attending rallies – are showing that they are likely mastered by marijuana by that very act. Think about it: There are far more important things a person can be giving his mind, time, and energy to than fighting for his “right” to smoke marijuana.

Let’s be frank about it: Of all the problems in our world – from poverty to injustice to corruption – if the best use of one’s time is fighting for the legalization of recreational marijuana, then that person has to earnestly rethink his priorities, and what that person is ruled by is clear – and it’s not his love for God or neighbor.

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Legalization

Considering all that has been explored in this series, I believe one can make a moral case against the use of recreational marijuana. But what about legalization? Shouldn’t people have the right to do what they want with their bodies? Doesn’t the criminalization of marijuana waste law enforcement money and manpower?[3] Isn’t there a separation of church and state?

According to the Christian worldview, immorality is linked to what is destructive, and if something is destructive, Christians should stand against it. It’s our duty and right as citizens in a democracy to raise our voices against what is destructive with the goodwill of our fellow citizens in mind.

Likewise, if something is destructive to an individual, it’s destructive to society because no one lives in a vacuum. Where enforcement and penalties for marijuana use and possession certainly need to be carefully reassessed, it doesn’t logically follow that difficulty in enforcing a specific crime means that the crime should be decriminalized.

What About Separation of Church & State?

Furthermore, screams of separation of church and state misunderstand the First Amendment, which only prevents the government from establishing a government-endorsed religion or church. Thomas Jefferson himself made this clear in his letter to the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut in 1802; creating a government completely free from all religious influence is not the First Amendment’s purpose.[4]

The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 

In fact, in the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence we find these famous words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Talk of the endowment of rights from “their Creator” is not atheistic, secular jargon. And self-evident truths of the rights of all humans cannot be found in random, mindless, materialistic forces, but are the result of all people being made in the image of God. In fact, the only right that is self-evident from atheistic naturalism is the right of the fittest to survive and pass on their genes. So, where did the Founding Fathers get this idea that all people are created equal? Genesis 1:27 reads,

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

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Moreover, it’s simply impossible to completely separate religious belief from public policy in a democratic country that also guarantees freedom of religion. Everyone’s personal beliefs – whether religious or not – influence their ideas about public policy. Neutrality is impossible; even to claim to have no position is to hold a position.

Christians are often rightfully called hypocrites when they act negatively in conflict to their beliefs, such as if they show hatred towards their neighbors. On the other hand, Christians are rarely criticized for not acting positively according to their beliefs, such as not working for the benefit of their neighbors. Christians should work to influence the law for the benefit of their neighbors or else be rightly labeled hypocrites just as much as self-professed Christians who hate their neighbors.

And so…

Though all issues surrounding marijuana aren’t black-and-white, Scripture gives guidance and clarity to our thinking, as well as condemns all things that cloud our judgment.

With that, we’ll end this series with one last biblical concept that should guide our thoughts about marijuana and all that we do:

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

(1 Corinthians 10:31)

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[1] Sean Williams, “A 20-Year Study on Marijuana Use Yields 5 Surprising Finds,” The Motley Fool, January 11, 2015. Accessed January 2015. http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/01/11/a-20-year-study-on-marijuana-use-yields-5-surprisi.aspx

[2] “Know Your Limit,” Consume Responsibly, 2014. Accessed January 2015. http://www.consumeresponsibly.org/limit/

[3] Jamuna Carroll, ed., Marijana: Opposing Viewpoints, (Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2006), 126.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Politics—According to the Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 33, Epub Edition.