Just coincidence? Or hand of God?
- 2 Samuel 18:5–9, 15, 31–33
- Ephesians 4:25—5:2
- Psalm 130
- John 6:35, 41–51
A couple of years ago, I took it upon myself to read the Bible, from start to finish, SLOWLY. Without any hurry. Without trying to read 3 chapters a day and 5 on Sundays and finish within 12 months. Simply cruise through it slowly, and let it take as long as it takes…
Intent on reading it again for the first time.
Did I make it all the way through to Revelations yet? No… still chugging along, slowing. Getting side-tracked along the way. Enjoying the scenery and where the winding roads take me.
But, during this time, I re-read these verses from Samuel that we have in our lectionary today.
I wasn’t struck by the choices that David had to make between his public persona – King of Israel – and his private persona – father of Absalom. I wasn’t moved by the grief of a father, upon hearing that his wayward son had been killed. And I wasn’t even intrigued by whether Joab had done the right thing or not in slaying Absalom, the traitor.
No, the verse that caught my eye was 2 Samuel 18, verse 8.
… and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.
At the end of Samuel we read, verse 31:
“… The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”
But there is no mention made that God’s hand played a role in winning this battle. I’m pretty sure that this wasn’t an “enchanted forest”, like the one in Lord of the Rings, where the trees talk, and walk around, and where vines reach out, tangling themselves around your legs, and pulling you to the ground.
There were probably just uneven ground, where horses would stumble, throwing their riders into oncoming immovable objects, broken branches, sharp as swords that would slice through you if you ran into them, vines and debris under foot that would cause you to stumble and fall.
And yet… all of this contributed to the defeat of Absalom’s army. He outnumbered David’s men. He had the favour of the people. He should have won… but he was out-done by a forest.
And more than that, I find it particularly intriguing that David’s first instructions to his commanders was:
Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.
We read in verse 9 of Absalom’s undoing:
He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in mid-air, while the mule he was riding kept on going.
Notice that even the tree followed David’s instructions: “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.”
Yes, Absalom was brought off his high horse, in the most humiliating way – hung out to dry by his pride and joy: his head of hair. Ironic – The very source of his pride, brings about his down-fall. (I wonder if the angels were laughing).
But he’s not killed by this – he’s killed by human hands. By a person that takes the choice into their own hands to put an end, once and for all, of this rebellion.
So, was this all just coincidence? Or was God’s hand directing the battle and the slipping banana skins under the rebel’s feet?
As I’ve said many times before, I find it so easy to find God in the woods and forest. There I find it easy to sit, at peace, in solitude and quiet, and commune with God. To hear the birds singing praise and odes to joy. To listen to the quiet running of the streams and brooks.
But there’s a greater challenge: We don’t live in the mountains. I don’t always have time to get to Summit park or Parque Metropolitano, or better yet, further out of town and away from everything.
Monday to Friday I spend a good eight to ten hours a day confined inside an office, under fluorescent lighting. No mountain vista, no deep oceans to contemplate, no soaring eagles to admire.
Where’s the supernatural in my life?
I haven’t seen any burning bushes like Moses.
I haven’t watched a wind come up and blow at gale force for a couple of hours, strong enough to move water out of the way, so that I can walk across on dry land and then when the wind stops the “tidal wave” that comes swelling back in as the water recovers its normal boundaries.
Just another mundane Monday morning?
So, maybe we need to start looking for God in the ordinary places. A little closer to home, perhaps.
For me, as many of you know, the past few months have been fraught with health challenges. To re-wind a little and give you the bigger picture:
- For the past 10 years I have suffered from what I thought (mis-diagnosis it turns out!) from IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This was brought on by a horrid bout of food poisoning or Montesuma’s Revenge that I got in Nevis… yes, I can still vividly remember that night and the next day!
- About 2 or 3 years ago I was diagnosed with Insulin Resistance, which is a common problem which plagues men & women, when they are accidentally starving their bodies from bad eating habits. In order to ensure your body is getting the right amounts of sugars and not rapidly digested sugars, the doctor’s recommend a whole-wheat diet, with a switch over to whole-wheat pastas, bread, and cereals. I learnt to eat on schedule, with controlled portion sizes and to avoid highly processed foods.
- But about 5 weeks ago, after 5 years of trying to get pregnant to no avail (“assisted conception techiques”, 4 artificial inseminations, 2 in vitro), my doctor sent me to test for Coeliac Disease (allergy to gluten). It turns out that’s exactly what I have. Good-bye whole-grain pasta/bread/cereals. Welcome back easy to digest carbohydrates…
- So, after those positive results, I went in for an endoscopy, and the biopsy came back positive for little monsters: helicobacter pylori. So, I was sent on a round of 15-days of antibiotics and treatment to kill my internal monsters. The side-effects of these anti-biotics have drawn on every ounce of my strength to carry on.
- One of the effects of helicobacter and Coelic Disease is that my iron reserve levels are through the floor and my B12 is almost non-existence. So, to add injury to insult, injections for 10 days. I’m black and blue…
Even though I feel that I should know better, I couldn’t help but ask – WHERE is God in all of this? Why am I being put through this?
I have felt totally like Absalom, hanging in a tree by my hair; knocked of my high horse, the one that has always enabled me and given me the strength to “push through” any obstacle along the way.
This time round, I have felt defeated. I have felt that “I can’t go on”.
But the Spirit speaks to me and says “there’s a lesson to be learned here” – search for it. And as I started looking, I fell across (as one usually does accidentally) the Hand of God in my health and well-being. I was looking at the characteristics of vegetables & fruits, to see which ones would boost my immune system and which would rebuild my reserves of iron, B12, Omega 3, etc.
And I tripped over “The Doctrine of Signatures” – the relationship between us and God – how God placed a signature on each plant indicating what it was useful for. Without realising it, I started reading articles on how the qualities of plants are often reflected by their appearance.
Is this just coincidence?
- the seeds of skullcap – they resemble small skulls – and the herb is known to be effective in the treatment of brain and nervous system disorders.
- The hollow stalk of the garlic – resembles our windpipe – useful for throat and bronchial problems.
There’s a whole area of science dedicated to “Teleological Nutritional Targeting” – every whole food has a pattern that resembles a body organ or physiological function, and this pattern can indicate to us the benefit the food provides to us.
Here are a few better known examples, and some that may simply astound you:
- Sliced carrot – resembles the human eye – the pupil, iris and radiating lines… and we all know that if you eat your carrots you’ll be able to see better in the dark!
- Try some heart food!
- Tomatos – with their four chambers and blood-red colour. They’re loaded with lycopine – essential for the functioning of the heart and blood.
- Grapes – the cluster often resembles a heart, with each grape looking like a blood cell
- Beetroot – excellent for cleansing the blood. A fantastic source of iron, helping you to produce haemoglobin
- Need some brain stimulation?
- Walnuts – open them up and there you have it: left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. These little nuts will help you develop more than 3 dozen neuro-transmitters for brain function
- Having kidney problems?
- Look no further than your kidney beans.
- Need to strengthen your bones?
- Bones are 23% sodium – and so are these food items that look a little like bones:
- Bok choy
- Bones are 23% sodium – and so are these food items that look a little like bones:
- Having female problems? How about looking for some vegetables that resemble the womb and cervix?
- Avocado – interesting detail – it takes exactly 9 months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit!
- Problems with your ovaries?
- Try olives
- Need to improve sperm count and mobility?
- Try figs – they are full of seeds and hang in twos when growing.
You cannot imagine how the list continues…
This isn’t just a formula for healing – it’s a spiritual quest. The expansion of our spiritual quest will lead us to a complete cure, if only we would listen and open our eyes to see.
If we would return to the study of plants, we would learn that they are so much more than just the nutritional attributes that we focus on. They are each unique, created for a purpose, as only our Great Creator could have designed.
Coincidence? No. I don’t think so. Definitely the Hand of God!
It has been stated that this generation is the first to suffer from “Nature Deprivation Disorder” – a lack of regular, intentional interaction with nature is causing a definable syndrome in children and adults. Perhaps we overlook the importance of creation in our understanding of God and ourselves. When we look to nature, God’s handiwork is evident – order, variety, colour and even a sense of humour.
Throughout human history we have seen God’s reflection in nature. The same way that we can feel that we are at one with all creation, the creatures that walk the earth, the plants, and air, the water, and earth itself. And most importantly, a Oneness with that Spirit which permeates all and binds all together and gives life to all – a Oneness with God.
The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship. The noblest ministry of nature is to stand as the apparition of God. It is the organ through which the Spirit speaks to the individual, and strives to lead back the individual to his Creator.
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the word of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. … 
Job 12, verses 7 to 9 instructs us:
Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
St. Francis of Assisi is rumoured to have said:
Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.
According to Genesis we were put on this earth to be its stewards – to look after it and care for it. Nature is not independent of its Creator. Each day, creation looks to God for provision: they seek their food from God.
Hosea has warned us:
Hear the word of the LORD, … because the LORD has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.”
How often have we failed in our responsibilities before God? Everything that we say & do affects the balance of the earth – the natural, the human and the supernatural.
The most important part of our example of our relation with the Creator is in our actions. What we have learnt will be reflected in what we do: how we live our lives, day to day.
Our reading from Ephesians provides us with some solid instructions to show that we have a special relationship with our Creator – that we allow the Spirit to control our lives:
Don’t grieve God – don’t break His heart. The Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life. Don’t take this gift for granted.
- Suddenly you will find, you are walking in the Spirit – and this means no more lies, no more pretences. We are all connected to each other. Tell your neighbour/brother/sister/work-mate the truth –When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.
- Watch carefully the way you talk. Let nothing cruel, degrading, hurtful or dirty come out of your mouth. Instead – say only what helps. Each word out of your mouth should be a gift; gentle & sensitive
- Go ahead and be angry – but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. Don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. You have to let it go. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God, in Christ, forgave you.
 Psalms 19