So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”
Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan. Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring.
- Genesis 46:1-7
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
- John 20:11-16
“Experience by itself proves nothing. Experience proves this, or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it.”
- C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock
The two selected Scriptures show different responses to God (Jesus) revealing Himself. For Israel, there is no question that he is talking to God and that Joseph will be waiting for him to arrive in Egypt. Israel does not go through the fleecing process that Gideon went through before he believed that God was really telling him what he heard. Yet, when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene in the flesh, she had no idea who Jesus was until He said, “Mary.”
We might often get “messages” that we misinterpret, as Ebenezer Scrooge said, a potato that had gone bad. But God has a way of making Himself known to us. The fleecing process is not a bad idea though. I have heard people who were called to leave everything behind to go on a mission, and they went through a sort of fleecing (Judges 6, with the wet fleece on dry ground and the dry fleece on wet ground).
But the title relates to an old Jerry Clower story about how we can get the same information and have a totally different concept of what the message was. It ties into the C. S. Lewis quote, in a way. It totally relies in this story to the preconceptions each has to the same experience.
This is my version of the Jerry Clower story.
The Music Appreciation Class
There was an elementary school teacher in Amite County, Mississippi, that wanted to expand the education of her students. Who knows where these children might go in life, and they might need to have some experience with the finer things of life. She brought in a vinyl record of classical music and her small record player. She had all the children close their eyes and picture in their minds what the music was illustrating.
Well, the children did as they were told and after the piece of classical music was played, she asked the children to open their eyes. She asked for volunteers to tell what they saw in their minds.
One of the little girls raised her hands. She said, “I saw birds singing their songs in the trees. I saw a babbling creek with water crashing from one rock to the next. I occasionally saw a fish jump from the water. I saw a doe frolicking in the forest, and she came to the creek’s edge to take a sip of water.”
The teacher thanked the girl. She was so pleased with her response. She wondered how the boys in the class did, so she did not ask for a volunteer. She picked a boy who sat in the middle of the classroom.
He said, “I didn’t see none of that. I didn’t see anything at all, but I heard it when the dam busted.”
The children each heard the same music, but they got different experiences based on their preconceptions, and the likes and dislikes of young boys and girls. To the girl, it was a tranquil and idyllic scene, but to the boy, the change in music from one movement to the next, in his mind, was a flood that would destroy that idyllic scene.
We may be much older than those children, but our responses to such experiences are still based upon our preconceptions.
And what I have read in several theologian’s books is that for the Christian, we see God in everything. Each new experience reinforces our belief. But for the non-believer, each new experience adds to the complexity of the world, with more and more hopelessness. Each experience is seen through the mindset of the one experiencing it. Yet, it is not a preconceived notion that is not directed for the Christian. Instead, it is God showing us the way to greater understanding of His creation and the attributes of God Himself.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.