Monday, April 19, 2010

The Pillars of the Earth

"He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world." (1 Samuel 2:8)

No doubt the original readers (listeners!) of this passage thought of actual pillars beneath them holding up the ground they were standing on -- although, I suppose that many of them knew the limits of their knowledge and probably took this as the word-picture it was almost certainly meant to be in the first place. After all, they'd never seen those pillars, and the pillars are not the point of the passage. God's control and creative activity are the point, that as creator he continues to care and rescue the poor and needy.

I have a different word-picture now for the pillars or foundations of the earth. I think of the elements: of carbon with its low-temperature four-bonding ability; of hydrogen as a charged proton skittering from water to water; of oxygen with its electron-gathering ability and propensity for bonding; of magnesium (surrounded by the porphyrin life-preserver) giving a green hue to leaves; of manganese with its high charge state and water-splitting power (the elemental axe?). These are the condensed bits of creation that guide life, the 21st-century pillars of the earth. God set them in place, and they show His power and His care; after all, through them God gave us this arena for choice and love, and so I'd say they are indeed good things. Life rests on these small stones of nuclei and electrons. They might not be what was imagined by Samuel or Joshua, yet they testify to the same truth: we are here as creations dependent, not independent, and each of us reflects the image of God, who rescues those who need it.

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