Fountains of the Deep

Andrew Fountain and I were having lunch. As always, our time was percolating with novel thoughts. Andrew is (excuse the pun) a fountain of knowledge about new ideas. We are pretty much on the same wavelength about most things. Except that he is usually riding the wave. I am usually just floating in his backwash. And so, midway into my burger, he was introducing me to a new concept. This was the idea that when God loosed the 10 plagues on Egypt, he was really acting contrary to the common job description for potential deities. He was creating chaos.

In the ancient near east, there was a fear that the primordial beings of the world would overthrow human life. Drown them out. These foundational forces, were often represented by the sea. Sounds silly to us with our scientific understanding of “natural disasters”. But anyone who has stood in the face of a hurricane, tsunami or significant earthquake is not worried about the underlying cause. Only about survival in the face of something massively unconcerned about human life. And in the ancient world, it was the gods who engaged these chaos beings and defeated them to maintain order. In Genesis One, Yahweh fulfills this same function, but with significant differences. The sea is no longer seen as any kind of primordial being, only a created substance. And further, the waters are held in check, placed within boundaries by Yahweh. If the gods were supposed to create order, he does it better.

But when it gets around to loosing his people from slavery, Yahweh does a quick 10 step reversal. He does so by letting loose the very items that the Egyptian deities were in charge of. To quote Shakespeare, “Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war!” He disrupts the very order that the gods of Egypt had imposed. (We’ll debate the theology of that some other century.) In short, he created chaos in the form of frogs, flies, fish and other discomforts. All to short-circuit the ungodly order that held people in thrall.

It’s a captivating thought. That the very God who creates order for the benefit of human beings, also disrupts that order sometimes for the same purpose. Sometimes the things that give stability and order to our lives are ungodly. They are things God wants to get at. So he throws a monkey-wrench into the smooth running machinery of our life. Just to get us out of our ruts, out of our “comfort zones”. To make us listen. To look at life a bit differently. Maybe even depend upon Him.

Anyway, that is the upshot of my lunch discussion. Not what I usually do while gnawing on a burger. Now what will we talk about over dessert?