Saturday, September 30, 2006

Frankincense and Computers

I was reading the book of Revelation in the Bible this morning and came upon the passage about the destruction of Babylon (Rev. 18:11-13), which says "the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her" because nobody is buying their products, which include gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth, citron wood, articles of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron, marble, plus cinnamon and spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, flour, wheat, cattle, sheep, horses and carriages, and the "bodies and souls of men."

For a passage about a prophesy that hasn't yet come to pass, I thought that list of merchandise sounded rather outdated. What about automobiles and DVD players and computers and television sets and so forth? We have those things now, so presumably the people in the last days will also have those things, or some better equivalent. Didn't God know about modern inventions when this passage was written?

Yeah, sure he did! The problem was that my perspective - as I began thinking about it - was just too self-centered. The Bible was written not just for me but for people across a huge (in human terms) span of time, and the mention of television sets, for example, would be incomprehensible for people just decades ago, not to mention a thousand years ago.

But on the flip side, the mention of linen and olive oil and cattle and so forth is completely comprehensible to us, and while some of these products may be old fashioned to us, we still know what they are, and if we don't (what is citron wood, anyway?) well, we can look them up.

In other words, God made it so people in years past could understand this passage, and so people today and tomorrow can understand it.

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