A Fair and Balanced Report on the Serpent: Part 1


The Star of Life has become the internationally recognized logo of emergency medical personnel. Yet a snake on a rod seems like a strange symbol for healing and life-saving services. How did this sinister creature have its image so remarkably reframed?

Subtle and crafty, the serpent was to become known as Eden’s infamous interloper and Master Botanical SpinDoctor. He could execute a disinformation campaign convincingly enough to sell ice to Eskimos. Or, fruit to those who lived among fruit trees. Or, dissatisfaction to those experiencing the highest quality-of-life index. He ever so carefully sowed seeds of doubt  using false reasoning and half-truths, drawing Adam and Eve into whimsical delusions of grandeur while simultaneously arousing undue suspicion toward their loving Benefactor.

“Why be satisfied with what you have, when you could be obsessed with what you don’t have?”

“Why enjoy communion with the God of the universe when you could be just like him all on your own?”

Not only did his message effectively stimulate discontent, but the messenger himself was probably quite convincing. Adam and Eve had been tasked with managing the Garden, which included naming the animals that dwelt alongside them. They probably called various creatures to themselves, just as we call to our household pets of today. But this one…he addressed them. He seemed more “evolved” than the others. He could speak. He could reason. And how could he possibly know about the singular prohibition that God had given them? If this animal had found a way to become human-like, then he might actually know the secret of how humans could become God-like. A credible, yet ultimately flawed, conjecture.

So serpentine whispers sown in the wind would reap curious thoughts. Curious thoughts would reap self-aggrandizing temptation. Temptation would finally reap an infraction of the only Law in existence at that time. And, the infraction of that Law would reap a whirlwind that would wreak havoc for millennia to come.

In the short term, however, the beguiled and busted humans were immediately demoted from management to labor positions: manual labor for the man and birthing labor for the woman. And they were cast out of the Garden. As the old saying goes, “Sin takes further than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and makes you pay more than you want to pay.” And sadly, sin also has corporate effect. Adam and Eve would not suffer its ill effects alone. The impact of this single act would reverberate throughout the ages and throughout the Creation. What started subtly would not end subtly.

So what was up with this rotten serpent? And why didn’t the Garden Manager (Adam) just smash in his slimy head with a garden hoe right from the beginning?

It all makes more sense if you are familiar with the prequel. This particular serpent was being innervated by a more malevolent being, unlike any ever encountered before by man or beast on Earth. In another time and place, Lucifer had thought himself equal with God. He had gathered a minority contingent of other angelic beings who ultimately failed in their attempts to usurp the power and authority of the Almighty. The consequences were disastrous. They become outcasts from heaven a.k.a fallen angels, a.k.a devils or demons. But Lucifer was as much a victim of faulty thinking patterns as he was a purveyor of them. He conceived that he might still emerge victorious somehow. Maybe a change of venue, maybe a change in species. After all, if you can’t get to Superman, you go after Lois Lane. Right?

trackMake your own tracks…Check out Genesis Chapters 2-3 to read about the initial interaction of mankind with the serpent. Isaiah 14:12-14, Revelation 12:7-9, and Jude 1:6 provide some good material regarding the prequel story. Stay tuned. Next week, the snake is going to make a comeback.

Birds of the Air


Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible waxes eloquent regarding this biblical scene and provides material far superior to my post. You can click the image to see a far superior icon.

Among Time Magazine’s Top 10 Most Heroic Animals we find a little homing pigeon called Cher Ami. This unlikely conscript saved the lives of nearly 200 American soldiers of the 77th Division’s “Lost Battalion” in France during World War 1. After being shot to the ground, this little bird took flight once again to deliver the critical message that dangled from his bullet-pierced, little leg (that eventually had to be amputated).

Mere pedestrians have long deemed their bipedal experience as merely pedestrian* and coveted the ability to soar. And one can only marvel at the hummingbird’s specialized hovering capabilities. Orville Wright stated that “learning the secret of flight from a bird was a good deal like learning the secret of magic from a magician.” Effortlessly and unknowingly, these tiny creatures employ the laws of physics to incite wonder in the minds of even the most brilliant engineers.

In the Holy Scriptures, we find birds serving in unique capacities due to their much desired gifting. Perhaps they were Cher Ami’s avian ancestors that served as divine couriers to Elijah. The mighty prophet who could invoke fire to fall from heaven (1 King’s 18:37-38) or conversely request that rain cease to fall (James 5:17) with a single prayer from his lips was required to passively sit and await the arrival of his daily bread brought to him by ravens. In Matthew 6:26 we find that birds are exemplary in their reliance upon God for provision, so it appears they were just passing the lesson along.

In “The Art of War,” Chinese military general and philosopher Sun Tzu (~544–496 BC) observed that “birds rising in flight [are] a sign that the enemy is lying in ambush.”  We also find cases of strategic birdwatching in the Bible. Though the historical characters of scripture could not fly, much could be inferred from a “bird’s-eye view.” While adrift on water as far as the human eye could see, Noah deployed a raven and a dove on surveillance and reconnaissance missions to determine if dry land and vegetation had resurfaced. (Genesis 8) Just as birds were used to indicate hope of a new Earth in Noah’s day, they likewise were utilized by Jesus to symbolically describe another time of renewed hope following worldwide calamity as described in Matthew 24:26-30: “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” (v. 28) In context, this passage simply indicates that one will not need to travel around looking for Christ’s return; His re-entry will be evident to all who simply look up (Luke 21:28). Perhaps he chose this more ominous bird to foreshadow the ultimate renewal of all things because His appearing will transpire in the midst of great turmoil and wrath. I’m open to hearing other possible explanations.

Doves, ravens, and even vultures get biblical press, but it is probably the sparrow that is most frequently referenced in both Christian sermon and song. Why so many “religious retweets”** regarding sparrows? Because of this encouraging contrast found in Luke 12:6-7:

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

As it turns out, we are the creatures to be envied after all.

*Yep. Pun intended.
**Agreed. That one was awful.

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

trackMake your own tracks...Research the many references to birds in the Bible. What does God tell us about himself through them?

Death by Exposure: Part 2

woman-at-wellTwo thousand years pass. Then from the promised progeny of Abraham and Sarah, yet another son of even more miraculous heritage is born. And his path is about to intersect with that of a woman reminiscent of Hagar in several ways. She is apparently disenfranchised, living on the fringes of accepted society. She, too, arrives at a well, but she purposely travels there in the heat of the day. This unnamed woman seems to be more concerned about a different type of exposure. She has a story, in fact, several. She’s a regular in the tabloids of her day, and at midday, traffic is low around this 1st century water cooler. But also like Hagar, she has a lone Observer who is about to engage her in an unusual conversation.

 John 4

7 Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

She had been exposed. He saw her and knew her. And she was quickly putting together clues regarding his identity, but he certainly challenged some of her assumptions during their interaction. Her particular preconceptions may sound foreign to us, but they can be easily refashioned into similar constructs held by those you know, or even by you. Jesus goes about setting the record straight though, in both word and deed.

The disciples had thought it highly unusual that Jesus would speak one-on-one with a woman. Much less a Samaritan woman. Much less a Samaritan woman of poor reputation. Jesus was already demonstrating what the Apostle Paul would declare to the Galatians:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:28-29)

After all, Abraham’s original promise had concluded with the words,“through your offspring, all nations will be blessed.” (Genesis 22:18) As a Samaritan, the woman’s claims of Abrahamic heritage through Jacob (Abraham and Sarah’s grandson) were probably considered dubious to pedigreed Jews anyway. We see that Jesus quickly diverted her focus from bloodlines and sacred locations. His response to this woman echoed the truth that Hagar had learned. That Abraham’s provisions were only temporal. She was going to need something more substantial. That’s where the well comes in.

Abraham’s blessing for all nations was also described as the Light of the World. Exposure to this Light is wherein expiation lies. For it burns with such great intensity that some who encounter it die immediately, only to be simultaneously refreshed by a peculiar Water that restores them to Life. The Light consumes everything, yet all that is finally lost is dross.

“No man has seen Your face and lived,
and that’s what I’m asking You;
for just one look upon Your face
and I’d be made brand new.”

“Is it easier to forgive sin or to open up my blind eyes?
I want to see you right now;
I need to see you somehow, or I’ll die.”*

The Light is both terminal and transformational. And it burns through figurative fig leaves that are suddenly no longer found to be necessary. Eve was the first woman to find that fig leaves have insufficient SPF.

*Lyrics from “Open Up My Blind Eyes” on Singer Sower by 2nd Chapter of Acts.

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

trackMake your own tracks…At the end of Chapter 11 of “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis, you can read about a ghost with a little pet lizard. Lewis’ friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, might have rewritten the haint to call the little creature “his precious.” See if you can determine how this story relates to the post above.

Death by Exposure: Part 1

Hagar was on the periphery of one of the most pivotal stories of human history. She was servant to Sarah, wife of Abraham. It had been revealed that Abraham and Sarah would miraculously conceive a son in their old age. And through this son, Abraham was to become the father of a nation — not just any nation, but the nation into which the Son of God would be born centuries later.

This glorious promise eventually degraded into a desperately devised work-around, however, as the patience of all parties began to wear thin. To keep the story short and discreet…Years went by, and no baby. Sarah suspects they must not have read the fine print. She wrongly concludes that God must need her strategic planning abilities. So, she offers Hagar as a surrogate. Abraham obliges. Hagar conceives. Sarah is jealous. A cat fight ensues.

Hagar runs away. But in the desert, she happens upon a spring. And at this spring, she meets an “angel,” or messenger. The messenger gives her advice (go back home) and provides some prophetic words about her son. He also tells her the reason for their encounter: “the Lord has heard of your misery.” (Genesis 16: 11) Suddenly, it seems there is a realization:

“You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13)

She is exposed. But she recognizes her audience. In that moment at the spring, she experiences a brief taste of the life to come when we will know as we are known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

The story continues though. Hagar indeed bears a son. But wait…Sara eventually births the child that was originally promised. Now there are two women, each with a son of Abraham — the patriarch through whom great inheritance and blessing will come. Things are about to get ugly again. Such are the scenarios that keep tabloids in business. But throughout the pages of the Bible we find that God’s plans are far more glorious than the people through whom they are implemented. He therefore continuously works out work-arounds of his own.

Eventually Sarah is ready to be rid of her servant and, interestingly, God assures Abraham that yet another nation will come from Hagar’s boy but that he will need to let them go. Abraham provides some bread and water for their journey, then Hagar and her young son wander into the wilderness. Abraham’s provisions run out, but new provisions are about to be given.

 Genesis 21:15-20

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob. 17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. 20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer.

Once again, there is One who is watching and listening. There is a moment of revelation, and Hagar’s eyes are opened to a well of water that would restore hope.

Copyright © 2014. The Literate Lyoness.

trackMake your own tracks…Read Genesis 15-17, 21:1-21 for the full biblical backstory on this post. Don’t email me yet though. Part 2 is forthcoming.