IN THE BEGINNINGRead Now
The Lord was bored. He’d inherited his father’s mantle too young, unready to be king of heaven. There had to be something more to existence than the infinite void, the spirit chatter and inner contemplation that occupied him. He needed a project.
Perhaps, he mused, he could fill the void. Create something with matter, something he could see. Then when he set loose the Holy Ghost, exercised his omnipotence, it might be more worthwhile.
The project became an obsession. First he had to overcome the blackness of the void. So the Lord lit a figurative match, invented light, and divided it from the darkness. Then he made a firmament below heaven, and covered it with water. But the firmament was dull. Endless blue. So the Lord raised it in places, creating dry land. Now there was contrast, brown and blue, but the overall effect was still boring.
So the Lord created plants. Now there was a full palette of colours adorning his earth. Greens of all shades, vibrant reds, bright yellows, blues, pinks, whites and oranges. It was good, until the plants started to wither and die.
Something is missing thought the Lord. An ecosystem, perhaps. So he created day and night, the stars, sun and moon, along with the seasons, days and years. With them came the tides, rain, hot and cold, wind, seeds and falling leaves.
The plants grew healthier, more robust, but didn’t really thrive. The Lord realized they needed nutrients, pruning. So he created fish, whales and birds, animals and creeping things. Their excrement and remains fertilize the plants; the foraging animals trim them, and the birds carry their seeds to distant soil. Nature is in balance.
It was good at first, but soon became dull. Eat, sleep, fornicate, give birth and eat again. That’s all the animals, whales, fish, birds and creeping things did. As for the plants, some blossomed, some grew tall and sprouted leaves, all flourished, but it was a slow process.
The Lord grew a bit tired of it all. His project needed some pizzazz. He decided to create a being in his own image – a man – with free will, intelligence, emotions, a conscious and hands with opposable digits. His man would be able to both grasp things and invent them. Plus, the Lord would give him dominion over all other living things. That should be entertaining.
But the man, Adam, became despondent. The wonders of earth had become commonplace. He had no one to talk to; nothing to do.
So the Lord created a garden for the man. Within it he planted the tree of knowledge and told man not to eat its fruit. That, thought the Lord, should keep man occupied, balancing the desire to taste, to know, against the fear of disobedience, the unknown consequences. Plus, tending the garden would give man physical work to do. Just to be on the safe side, the Lord also tasked Adam with naming all the beasts and birds on earth.
Man’s happiness faded after the naming was done. Tending the garden gave him no satisfaction. The Lord finally grasped the problem. Adam had no helpmate, a bit of an oversight, really, given that the Lord had created two sexes, male and female, of all other living things. But he’d only created a male man. So the Lord created a woman, Eve, who soon took charge of tending the garden.
Perhaps woman was more inquisitive than man, or perhaps a serpent tricked her, but Eve did what Adam had not dared to do – she ate fruit picked from the tree of knowledge. Then she convinced man to eat it. Both saw they were naked, and hid from God.
The Lord was furious. He’d given man everything. All he’d asked in return was that man obey a simple edict. Well, he’d show man who was Lord. Make him pay for his disobedience, make woman suffer for hers. He’d drive them out of the garden, make childbirth painful, force man to survive by his own devices.
Years passed. Man and woman were fruitful and multiplied. The Lord sent the Holy Ghost down to earth, spoke to man directly, set edicts, demanded offerings. But his attention was also on other things. For the Lord’s sons were misbehaving, taking the daughters of men as wives.
When the Lord looked down on his earth, he saw it had become a wicked place. He was angry, furious that his people had forsaken him. He’d show them.
The Lord took time to plan his revenge. Then he told Noah to build a massive ark, to load it with a male and female of every nonhuman living species on earth. When Noah was done, the Lord flooded the earth. He looked down from heaven as men, women and beasts – all the animals, creeping things and humans not in the ark with Noah – drowned. Then earth grew boring to the Lord. Blue water, a tiny boat, the smell of rot. He turned his attention elsewhere.
Half a year later, as the flood waters began to recede, the Lord looks back down on earth. He sends a sign to Noah that it’s safe to quit the ark, tells him to be fruitful and multiply. Noah complies.
Generations are born, cities built. The Lord finally takes an interest in earth again. He speaks directly to Abraham, makes a covenant with him: “Go to Canaan and I will make you a great nation.”
The covenant works for a while, then Abraham runs amok in Egypt. Fearing for his life because his wife is beautiful, he trades her to Pharaoh in return for oxen, sheep, asses and maid servants. The Lord is furious and sends a plague on Egypt’s ruler. Abraham returns to Canaan wealthy.
When the Lord has regained his equilibrium, he thinks about what happened, about why his covenant with Abraham failed. Perhaps it was unbalanced. He’d promised to make Abraham a great nation. All he’d asked in return was to be worshiped and obeyed, for Abraham to settle in a new land, leaving his kin and home behind. The Lord convinces himself that the covenant would have worked if the cost to Abraham and his offspring had been higher, if it had been sealed in blood.
So the Lord makes a new covenant with Abraham, promising to make him the father of many nations, and to make a new and everlasting covenant with Abraham’s yet to be born son, Isaac. In return, Abraham is to circumcise all male children, plus he and his followers are to worship the Lord. Many foreskins are removed. The ground is soaked with blood.
Like its predecessors, the covenant fails. Perhaps it’s because the Lord decides to test Abraham, by telling him to sacrifice Isaac. The Lord isn’t sure why he does this. He’d been pondering the ultimate test of faith, decided it was to sacrifice one’s son, then acted impulsively. The Lord felt badly about it afterwards, even though he had stopped Abraham from yielding the killing knife. What had he been thinking?
History repeats itself. When the Lord looks down on earth, he sees wickedness and evil. He can’t take the goings-on in Sodom and Gomorrah, the rampant vice. The Lord loses it, decides to destroy both cities. But he feels a brief flicker of compassion. He’ll save Lot and his wife. Allow them to leave town before Armageddon strikes. Only Lot’s wife looks back on Sodom and the Lord is overcome by anger. He turns her into a pillar of salt.
Years later, when Isaac is a grown man, he calls out to the Lord, asking for help in a time of famine. The Lord remembers his covenant with Abraham, then makes a new one with Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, promising her that two nations are in her womb.
Twins are born, one dull, the keeper of his father’s flocks; the other intelligent and handsome, a deceiver who steals his father’s blessing and robs his brother of his birthright. Esau and Jacob.
Perhaps the deceiver is somehow more pleasing in the eyes of the Lord, or perhaps it is because Jacob has Isaac’s blessing. Whatever the reason, it is Jacob’s line that the Lord favours, Jacob the Lord speaks to. There are hiccups – he’s tricked into marrying a woman he doesn’t love; his favourite son, Joseph, is lost – but Jacob has a good life.
When famine comes, the Lord tells Jacob to fear not, but to “go down into Egypt, for there I will make you a great nation.” Jacob complies and discovers that Joseph has become a prince of Egypt. He prospers.
Many years pass. The Lord is growing up, turning away from childhood things. He’s unaware of Joseph’s death. Doesn’t realize that his chosen people have been enslaved by the Egyptians. He’s focused on heaven, on angels and demons, an attempted rebellion.
Centuries pass before the Lord looks down on earth again. He doesn’t like what he sees. Israeli midwifes have been ordered by Pharaoh to kill all Jewish boys. Fearing the Lord, they do not comply. He intervenes.
A Jewish child is born, placed in a basket, and hidden in the Nile. The boy, Moses, becomes a prince of Egypt. He’s pleasing in the eyes of the Lord. Speaking to Moses from a burning bush, the Lord says he will deliver the Israelites from Egypt and lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey.
The road to freedom is not easy. Pharaoh only lets the Israelites go after the Lord sends plagues down on the Egyptians and kills their first-born sons.
Moses leads the people through a parted Red Sea into the desert. There is no food, no water. They complain. The Lord sees his oversight, rains manna down from heaven. It helps, but doesn’t fully quell the discontentment.
The Lord is upset. After all he’s done for his people – the plagues and parting of the sea, the manna, their deliverance – many have no faith. He comes up with a plan – he’ll speak to Moses out of a thick cloud, allow the people to hear him. Then they’ll believe.
He mulls the plan over, decides that belief alone is not enough. There has to be a code of conduct, laws. The Lord tells Moses to ascend Mount Sinai, where he gives him stone tablets bearing the 10 commandments.
Moses is gone 40 days and nights. In that short span of time, many people turn away from the Lord. Aaron, Moses’s brother, moulds a golden calf for them to worship. The Lord is angry. He vows to consume them, and that he will make Moses a great nation. Moses reasons with the Lord. Reminds him of his covenants with Abraham and Isaac. And the Lord, older now, less impulsive, repents.
Time passes. The Israelites make their way to the promised land. They complain about this, grumble about that. Periodically the Lord loses his temper and metes out punishment, sometimes he repents. Eventually he forgives. The cycle repeats itself through generations, until the Lord needs a break. He allows Israel to be ruled by earthly kings – Saul, David, Solomon and their ever weaker offspring – lets the promised land be divided, then conquered.
The Lord has aged. He counts to 20 now before losing it, and he’s taken time to think things through. Being a god to be feared hasn’t worked, nor have his promises to make Israel a great nation. His castoffs, the offspring of Cain who escaped the flood, the descendants of Esau, are more powerful than his chosen flock. Many worship pagan gods. They’ve turned away from him, the god who created man from dust.
Being king of heaven is stressful. Lucifer has been acting up, fomenting revolt among the angels. The Lord’s wives are still mad at him about the loss of their earthly grandchildren in the flood. New arrivals aren’t satisfied with the place they’ve being allotted in the spirit world.
The Lord comes to a conclusion. He needs to become a loving god, one people will worship not out of fear, but for the offer of salvation, eternal life. And he needs to make the change in a visible and irrefutable way that will resonate with his people on earth for eons.
An answer comes to him from the early days of his earth project. He’d tested Abraham, asking him to sacrifice his son. Abraham proved himself worthy. What if the Lord offered his own son as a sacrifice to mankind? Would men worship and glorify him for generations?
The Lord has many sons, but one stands out in his mind – Jesus, a gentle boy who respects his father, who tries to put the needs of others before his own. What if the Lord sent Jesus to earth, as the child of a virgin woman, the son of God, then sacrificed him? Would that be enough?
He talks to Jesus, tells him what he’s thinking. Jesus does not refuse his father, but gently suggests that the plan won’t work. ‘Who would I be sacrificed to?,’ he asks. ‘Why would your chosen people care?’
The Lord thinks some more. Perhaps Jesus is right. Just being a loving god is not enough. He also needs to become a forgiving god. There can be no more fits of anger. He has to stop meting out punishment when his people turn away from him, stop making covenants he won’t keep. He remembers that Moses made him repent once. What if he allowed people to repent, to seek forgiveness?
He talks to Jesus again. His son says he’s on the right track, then offers a suggestion. What if the Lord’s sacrifice washed away people’s transgressions with the blood of his son, absolved them of sin? What if he extended this gift to all mankind? What if people could repent future transgressions, seek God’s forgiveness? Jesus thinks the plan would work, and he’s willing to give it a try, but only if the Lord promises to keep his new covenant for eternity, and not to interfere in earthly matters once the plan is underway.
The die is cast. Jesus is born of Mary, grows up, and begins his ministry. Crowds gather to hear his words. He enters Roman-occupied Jerusalem, on a road thronged with people waving palm branches. There he is betrayed, then scourged and crucified. He dies on the cross, is buried in a crypt. It should have stopped there. His ministry was small, his followers mainly common folk. There is no television, You Tube or internet to spread Christ’s gospel, no Twitter, but somehow it doesn’t matter. For Jesus rises from the dead. He’s seen by his disciples, lets them touch his wounded body, eats with them, and reminds them of the scriptures, saying that the repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations. He takes them to Bethany, where they watch him ascend into heaven, the ultimate risen spirit
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