Updated: Jan 30
In 2003, when I was a neophyte believer in Nostradamus, I volunteered to speak about my findings on the prophet’s work to an organized group of “skeptics.”
The definition of “skeptic” has to be understood as including the definition: “A person who questions the validity, authenticity, or truth of something purporting to be factual, esp. religion or religious tenets.” This means any group of skeptics will always include atheists.
After my presentation was completed and during the question and answer period, I made a general comment that the future exposed by Nostradamus was of a Holy War, between Islam and Christianity, and that the United States would be attacked as a Christian nation.
One woman in attendance raised her hand and objected that the United States was not a Christian nation, because the founders were not religious leaders and the Constitution was written so that a nation was created with no religious affiliation.
Without thinking how her objection was way off the focus of Nostradamus, my emotions led me to immediately tell her (in a somewhat bellowing voice), “That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! The laws of America were Judeo-Christian based and the first thirteen colonies were English, made up of Christians of various Reformation sects, escaping the persecution of the Church of England. There were no Muslims, Hindus, or Jews who founded this nation!”
She did not wish to argue her point further, so the questioning then returned to focus on some things I had stated in my speech. When it was all over, the group applauded – I imagine because I was brave enough to present my views on something they completely did not believe in, but in a way that was logically addressed.
I am reminded of this past experience because of how Paul advised the Ephesians, “Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.” I attempted to address the false opinions that were commonly held about Nostradamus (the illogical), by presenting the truth of views that were based on plain evidence. I did so because this truth (the message of Nostradamus) was necessary for all Americans to know. After all, we are neighbors in this country, even if we are parts, sects and groups of differing views, making up the whole of our nation.
When I erupted at the woman’s question, I was angry – but I did not sin because I responded with the truth – and after I left the meeting I felt good about the whole experience, with no animosity towards anyone there. That was even though I knew everyone in that group saw me as another example of ridicule – some crazy person who will believe in anything.
Still, my willingness to stand before a group of people who disbelieved in me as much as I disbelieve in their worship of doubt was a necessary step towards my deeper understanding of Nostradamus. It was later that I came fully to the realization that Nostradamus was a true prophet of Jesus Christ.
That developmental path has led me to write sermons and preach before strangers waiting for their bus to arrive. My Nostradamus voice has lost it urgency; but my Christian sermons have found a place for that importance.
Still, this process in my life, which has now grown significantly over the past thirteen years, has led me to realize that our “neighbors” are not just anybody breathing air. We are not “members of one another,” as Paul wrote, such that all human beings collectively make up the “body” of the animal called “Man.” Paul meant more by stating that.
As Christians we are “neighbors” with other Christians. We are “neighbors” with other parts, sects and groups making up the “body” of the Judeo-Christian believers in the One God – Yahweh. Those who are not Christians are then not united with us. Non-Christians are not the “neighbors” of true Christians.
In the 2nd Samuel reading, where David’s son, Absalom, was leading an insurrection against his father, to take over the throne of Israel, his defeat needs to be seen in the light of a former neighbor, one who moved away from the neighborhood and ceased being a “member” of David’s Judah. Absalom did not seek to unite, but divide, then conquer.
Absalom led at least 20,000 soldiers against “the servants of David.” All who Absalom led were lost from the whole of David’s Israel. Because David still saw Absalom as a “member” of his household, he still saw his son and the army of Israel as “neighbors” and “members of one another.” David instructed his soldiers to deal lightly with Absalom, and when the battle was over he waited for news of Absalom’s fate.
When we read, “The Cushite [said], “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man,” the meaning was, “may death come to all who are not “neighbors” of David’s nation” The Cushite messenger did not see those left dead as “one” with his army.
If you listened carefully, we read that “the slaughter [“in the forest of Ephraim”] was great that day,” but “the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.” Israel [the enemy] and Judah [David’s “servants”] were “neighbors,” as “members of one another” – the nation of Israel. However, anger had set in and the two sides viewed each other with “bitterness and wrath and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.”
They had become enemies to one another.
Still, it was the forest that claimed more victims in this decisive battle. Absalom is said to have caught his head in a low branch of a great oak tree, where he hung suspended after his mule kept running. It can be assumed that many other soldiers died from such accidents, as the noise of battle struck fear in both man and beast.
Can you see the invisible branches that caught the Japanese at Hiroshima and strangled them with fear?
The symbolism of so many deaths coming by accidentally getting caught in tree branches can be seen as an indication that Israel could not split (branch out), as that would take it on a course short of heaven. Tree branches have mystically been seen as holding up the sky, by many cultures, thus they are symbols as spiritually uplifting links to heaven and the divine. As such, God protected David’s Israel from being overrun by Absalom’s Israel. The battle was fought there because God knew it would unify Israel under David, doing it in a way that limited how much killing by the sword was necessary.
In that same light, one can see how Jesus was amid a group of Galileans, some of whom were Nazarenes who recognized Jesus as just some local boy. That recognition turned that crowd gathered around Jesus into very forgetful people. After having Jesus miraculously feed them with bread and fish (they might not have been aware that was a miracle, although the disciples knew it was), they were now angered that Jesus said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
Just as Absalom led 20,000 soldiers who had forgotten that King David was king because of God’s will, they all died because they were not ready to commit to being servants of God. Jesus pointed out how Moses had led multitudes of Israelites into the Wilderness and God fed them with the manna from heaven, but they too all died because they were not ready to eat eternal bread and fully serve God.
None of those Galileans were ready to see Jesus as sent by the Father to be the living bread he said he was.
Likewise, none of those skeptics I talked to were ready to see Nostradamus as a Christian prophet, shown a future Holy War.
The Galileans saw Jesus as “the son of Joseph, whose father and mother they knew.” They concluded that children raised in Nazareth do not come from heaven, nor are they the offspring of God.
The skeptics saw Nostradamus as charlatan, because throughout history charlatans have regularly been uncovered; and skeptics deny that those claiming to have psychic abilities can prove them.
About this disbelief, which is based on faith in only the observable universe, Jesus quoted Isaiah – 54:13 – when he said, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Chapter 54 of Isaiah is a song called “The Future Glory of Zion,” which is believed to have been written in exile. Thus, the song focuses on the rebirth of that which had died.
Skeptics can only see proof that they allow God to expose to them – individually. But, they would have to convert from skeptics to believers, for that realization of God’s teaching to take place.
In the verse that follows the one Jesus quoted, Isaiah wrote, “In righteousness you will be established.” You cannot be established as worthy of heaven until you are taught by God. You cannot come to Jesus until you are taught by God.
This means that our “neighbor” is not someone who does not believe in God. While our “neighbor” is someone who claims to be Christian, we should not simply take that at face value. We should be “putting away falsehood,” so we “speak the truth to our neighbors,” because those who believe in Jesus as Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit are strong “members” of that body, but those who are only hanging onto Christianity because of the “free bread and fish,” they are like palsied “members.”
After all, Paul wrote, “Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.” To claim the values of Christianity without doing any of the works, this amounts to taking something without paying – thievery.
Oh look! Free eggs.
When we come across those who have indeed been taught by God, they have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Those Christians are the best neighbors, as they give strength and comfort to others of like mind.
That is who we need to seek out. We need to lay our eyes on and lend our mutual support towards those who keep our mind in Christ and our hearts open for God. That environment – that “neighborhood” – is what allows us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love.”
The world outside that sphere of influence is where we come in touch with anger and temptations to sin. If we focus on our families and neighbors, we will shine a light so bright the outside world will come to us. They will come and see neighborhoods that “let no evil talk come out of their mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that their words may give grace to those who hear.”
The saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.” Another way of saying that – we find today – is “And they shall be taught by God.” We lead them to the eternal water, but God will teach them how to drink.
Set the example and let God teach conversion. Once converted, a neighbor will start a new neighborhood elsewhere – one added to one whole body, connected as a Christian network of neighbors.
Still, just as Jesus told the Galileans, “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” there are many in the world who hate neighborhoods that they do not fit well among.
Nostradamus was led by Christ to see and write about a future when that hatred will become intense. There are evil groups who seek to take a pound of flesh through acts of revenge. They are like Absalom’s army, seeking to divide, then conquer.
The only way to avert that end is to light up the world with a massive network of truly Christian neighborhoods. However, in America now, as that objection made by that woman in a group of skeptics proves, we doubt that the United States of America was really set up to be a Christian nation.
That lack of commitment to a religion, to Jesus Christ, and to the One God of all, will find this nation in a great battle where “the forest will claim more victims than the sword.”
America and its Western allies – those who claim to be Christian by birth – will be led by Absalom-like leaders. America was founded without a king, claiming rights over righteousness, having learned nothing from God. The land tried to split, between 1861 and 1865, only to be reunified by force, with retribution creating many cracks in the armor carried by subsequent leaders. Thus, like the story of Israel, America will be killed by the many seeds of evil that our history shows we have long ago planted around the world. Those seeds have now grown into forests of hatred, great oaks with strong limbs that are no longer neighborly, as allied members one with another.
David, whose sinful acts had cursed his house, still felt strong emotions for his child-gone-awry, Absalom. This is how we hold fond affections for the founding principles that created our nation, even as the lack of God and Christ was always an intentional flaw. By not making a nation where state and religion are one, choosing instead to give birth to a nation of the people of equal heritage, there is no heavenly goal. By design, the people (who are always easily influenced by evil) were intended to shape our nation’s future course towards ruin.
Our hopes, like David’s, are that we will be dealt with gently, for the sake of our ideals: freedom, equality, and democracy. After the battle is fought, the answer to the question, “How well are those ideals?” will be, “Not well.”
In the alternate Old Testament reading, which was not read aloud today, the lesson is of Elijah running from a death threat made against his life by Jezebel. He stopped to rest under a shade tree, where he prayed, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”
Elijah was threatened because he had slaughtered all of Jezebel’s prophets, as instructed to do by God. The whole of Israel had become divided, where those new “members” were not “neighbors of one another.” Elijah was not told to be loving to that evil presence; and Jezebel and Ahab were not loving of Elijah.
An angel of the LORD came to him and told him, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”
Elijah was given spiritual bread and water, so he would not be hungry or thirsty until the evil presence had been ended.
We are at that same threshold now. We are exhausted because we are running for our lives, and we are without the nourishment of eternal bread from heaven.
“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” That is the strength God sent to Elijah and it is the strength we are offered today through Christ.
Still, we must fully understand that when Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me” this means, “they shall all be taught by God” first – filled with the Holy Spirit.
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