Christian Living

To the Victor goes the Narrative

I recently finished reading a biography on Alexander the Great by Jacob Abbott.  This historical accounting of the famous (infamous?) Macedonian king that conquered the known world by the time he was about 26 years old, was an enlightening read.  Histories of the past do not have the scrutinizing citations that we find today in many scholarly works (sorry no Chicago Manual for Writers 16th ed. back then).  And so, Abbott cautions his readers to use some discernment while reading the details of Alexander’s life that have been passed down to us through the annals of time.  One of the things that Abbott says early on in the work bears repeating:

  • “We must remember, too, in reading the accounts of these transactions, that it is only the Greek side of the story that we hear. The Persian narratives have not come down to us.”1

Why is this important, and why does it need repeating?  Abbott’s point is that to the victor goes the history, or narrative.  The one’s on top control what is said, and what is to be remembered.

In this, I am reminded of two things:  First, of Jeroboam king of Israel (Ephraim); Second, our current predicament in the U.S.

First things first…

After the death of Solomon, the 3rd king of Israel, the kingdom was split in two.  There was the kingdom of Israel in the north, and the kingdom of Judah in the south.  Judah retained the capital city of Jerusalem, and Israel’s capital eventually became Samaria.  God judged both of those kingdoms for covenantal unfaithfulness but the first to fall was Israel.  The Assyrians sacked them around 721 B.C.

Before that time came, the Lord sent many prophets to Israel to preach the Word of God to them…that which they had by and large dismissed.  Hosea was one of God’s prophet’s that was sent with an indictment against them.  You may remember Hosea, or you may not, but he was the one God commanded to marry a woman of loose moral values.  Either she was a whore before Hosea married her, or she was one after…we’ll have to let commentators argue that one out.  Doesn’t really matter, though, because how Gomer treated Hosea was a living illustration for how Israel treated the Lord.

They had abandoned the covenant.  They had forgotten the One who bore them on eagle’s wings, delivering them from servitude giving them special status among the nations of the earth.  In short, they no longer remembered the voice of the Lord.  The result of such a state is told to them (us) by Hosea:

  • “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hos 4.6).2

The “knowledge” to which God speaks through Hosea is His Law-Word.  All that God has revealed is instruction for the good of those who love Him, but to abandon what He has given is to court the rejection of God—i.e. death.

Well, what happened? What caused this predicament?  How did the people forget who God is and what He had done? These are questions that need asking.

When the kingdom was split in two, the Lord selected two kings to rule.  Rehoboam, Solomon’s son became king of Judah (cf. 1Kgs 11.13, 43; 12.1); whereas, Jeroboam I3 became the king of Israel (1Kgs 11.30-39; 12.1-24) in fulfillment of what God had spoken (see 1Kgs 12.15).

However, this is where things get interesting…

Jeroboam had been promised as a reward for faithfulness to God’s Word a kingdom like David’s (1Kgs 11.37-38), but no sooner had he received the kingdom by the Lord’s providence Jeroboam I rebelled. How so?  He established a whole new competitive religion.  He changed the capital from Jerusalem and had the people go elsewhere (Bethel and Dan) . He changed the religious festivals that God had established as reminders of what He had done and what He would eventually do through Messiah. He set up whole new priesthood/prophets and dedicated new high places (i.e. temples) with an altar to offer sacrifices upon (cf.1Kgs 12.28-33).

Why did Jeroboam I do this? He feared that he would lose the kingdom he had received and the loyalty of the people.

  • “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah’” (1Kgs 12.26-27).

In order to protect what he had acquired, he devised wicked plans in his own heart to rewrite the narrative, and in so doing led the ten northern tribes into sin.

As a result, there was not one righteous king in the northern kingdom of Israel for the duration of her history.  Hosea’s prophetic indictment against them was fulfilled when Assyria destroyed them, but I highlight this historical event for one purpose: He who is the victor controls the narrative.

Why is the Narrative important?

The narrative has a direct bearing on the people’s (nation’s) mindset.  In the book of Deuteronomy the Lord tells the children of Jacob (Israelites) to be mindful of what He has revealed to them, to be careful to keep His instructions, and to remember all that He has done for them. They were commanded to teach these things to their children throughout their lives, at every opportunity that presented itself (cf. Deut 6.7).  The people were given the figurative expression of posting God’s Word everywhere:

  • “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut 6.8-9; cf. 11.20; italics added).

Notice the symbolism used in this text.

  • First, they are to bind them on their hand and head (i.e. between the eyes). Why? So that the Word of God not only governs their thoughts/perceptions of reality, but also in the manner in which they act/live.  The children of God’s activities are to be controlled by a godly mind (i.e. worldview of thought and action).
  • Second, they are to bind them to the doorposts of the home. Why? Because the home is to be devoted to God’s governing through godly parents, and then the children as they image (honor) mom and dad.  God values the family unit highly and seeks first to protect and guide it from falsehood.
  • Third, they are to bind them to the gates. Why? Well the Hebrew term ( שַׁעַר sha`ar (shah’-ar) noun) translated gates normally refers to the gates of the city.  It was the elders (overseers/judges) of the city that sat at the gates, and as civil leaders they led the rest of the people.  This speaks of God governing the civic areas of life.

Why did God emphasize applying His Word in such a way? Some might say, well because of what is said earlier in the chapter:

  • “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut 6.4-6).

Yes, it is true that we are to love the Lord our God above all else, but how do we do that?  With our mouths? Yes, but is that all?  With our lives also?  Yes, but privately or publicly? The answer is publicly and privately.  The reason God stresses binding His Law-Word everywhere is because He is all about controlling the narrative.  He is all about His people controlling the narrative.

Relationship to the Great Commission…

Think about this for a moment (seriously give this some careful thought!). When Jesus sends His disciples out to the nations what does He command? After baptizing them in the Name of God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), which speaks of identity, what else does He say?

“Well, we are supposed to make disciples, right?” Okay, how? By “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28.20a), he says.

Which means what, precisely? To be obedient to the Law-Word of God, to be governed by every precept, statute, principle, etc. that His Word touches upon.  In essence, Jesus is saying to control the narrative.  Control what is taught and what is believed about being His disciple.

There are those in Western society that want Christianity to stay privatized (at least until they get total control and then they want to end it).  Faith is never a private issue.  A popular saying today is that “we need to keep religion out of politics,” but what is meant is Christianity.

It is impossible to keep religion out of any discussion.  Everybody is religious, because everybody has a system of beliefs that they adhere to.  That is the general definition of religion: “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”4

The Press, the Intellectual elites in control of the majority of our Universities and Colleges, Hollywood, Political pundits, Public Education, etc. all have and are controlled by a religious narrative that is hostile to the Christian faith.  Even sectors of the Evangelical Church understand this with their foolish language of Wokeness, Intersectionality, etc. and are aggressively trying to control the narrative by telling Christians to shut their mouths.

And here’s the thing “darkness” will always appear victorious as long as we allow others to control the narrative, to control the language, to control what is acceptable speech and what is not.  What bothers me the most is that I notice many Christian ministries are afraid, or they dance very carefully around, hot-button issues.

Before I go on a rant, let me give one example and then I’ll close my thoughts for a bit…

What is abortion? Who is the true victim? What are so many “Christians” afraid of saying what it really is—murder.  What type? In the 1st degree.  Who is at fault? Mommy, possibly daddy, and the doctor who is the paid assassin.  Why don’t professing believers say that?  The short answer is this, because we have allowed non-believers who are living on borrowed capital (Historically in this nation, and ontologically in this world) to set the narrative.

My question is what are Christian disciples, who are being instructed by the biblical narrative, supposed to do in this world? “Oh,” but you say, “Jesus never spoke on abortion?” He didn’t? What Bible are you reading (see Exod 21.22-25)? I hope and pray you aren’t just focused on the red letters, for the same Lord who said the Red Letters likewise spoke in the black letter portion of your Bible.  What part? How about all of it; He is the Lord of both covenants; He is the Lord of the Law; He is the Lord of the beginning, because He was in the beginning…for He was with God and is God.

Just by way of reminder…He is also the victor5, and I don’t believe He’ll be pleased upon His return finding those who bear His Name acting as if He is NOT.

_________________________

ENDNOTES:

1 Jacob Abbott, Makers of History: Alexander the Great, Vol 6 (Akron, OH: The Werner Company, n.d.), 98.  This work was written in the early 20th century.

2 All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

3 So as not to confuse the reader a “I” (1st) was placed by this Jeroboam’s name, for when Hosea gives his indictment against Israel and her king it is Jeroboam II that he is referring to.

4 “religion,” def 4, Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.

5 Cf. 1Cor 15.54-57; 1John 5.4: “For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Prov 24.6).  Is not our Heavenly Father our counselor? Is not the Christ our counselor? Is not the Holy Spirit our counselor? Yes…He is.

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