In Numbers 12 we read how Moses’ own brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, reviled and slandered him before all of Israel and before the Lord. They attacked Moses and wanted him demoted.
And how did Moses respond? He didn’t; he was as quiet as a docile mouse. Moses didn’t fight for his honor; he didn’t let his pride get wounded and strike out. Instead, he let God defend him. Even though Moses had power and authority, he refused to use the power for himself. He chose to trust in God. And when the Lord punished Miriam, Moses asked for leniency and mercy.
Moses didn’t want his sister to suffer the full brunt of the law. This is meekness which he also showed during the golden calf debacle in Exodus 32. In a just and controlled anger, Moses rightly broke the covenant tablets at the horrible adultery of the people. Meekness is not shy to correct what is wrong; rather, it is bold.
Yet, Moses’ manner of correction was gentle, merciful, and seeking good. When the Lord was going to destroy Israel and told Moses to stand aside, Moses courageously stepped in between to intercede for mercy. Meekness eschews power, especially as the world uses power:
When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her—please.” (Num. 12:10-13)
If any mere human had a valid claim to be full of pride, it would be Moses. He had the special honor of intimately conversing with God on Mount Sinai and in the tent of meeting (Exod. 33); “the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Exod. 34:29). Yet, Scripture tells us that “the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3).
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By Bari Weiss — 2 years ago
Every day I hear from people who are living in fear in the freest society humankind has ever known. Dissidents in a democracy, practicing doublespeak. That is what is happening right now. What happens five, 10, 20 years from now if we don’t speak up and defend the ideas that have made all of our lives possible?
A lot of people want to convince you that you need a Ph.D. or a law degree or dozens of hours of free time to read dense texts about critical theory to understand the woke movement and its worldview. You do not. You simply need to believe your own eyes and ears.
Let me offer the briefest overview of the core beliefs of the Woke Revolution, which are abundantly clear to anyone willing to look past the hashtags and the jargon.
It begins by stipulating that the forces of justice and progress are in a war against backwardness and tyranny. And in a war, the normal rules of the game must be suspended. Indeed, this ideology would argue that those rules are not just obstacles to justice, but tools of oppression. They are the master’s tools. And the master’s tools cannot dismantle the master’s house.
So the tools themselves are not just replaced but repudiated. And in so doing, persuasion—the purpose of argument—is replaced with public shaming. Moral complexity is replaced with moral certainty. Facts are replaced with feelings.
Ideas are replaced with identity. Forgiveness is replaced with punishment. Debate is replaced with de-platforming. Diversity is replaced with homogeneity of thought. Inclusion, with exclusion.
In this ideology, speech is violence. But violence, when carried out by the right people in pursuit of a just cause, is not violence at all. In this ideology, bullying is wrong, unless you are bullying the right people, in which case it’s very, very good. In this ideology, education is not about teaching people how to think, it’s about reeducating them in what to think. In this ideology, the need to feel safe trumps the need to speak truthfully.
In this ideology, if you do not tweet the right tweet or share the right slogan, your whole life can be ruined. Just ask Tiffany Riley, a Vermont school principal who was fired—fired—because she said she supports black lives but not the organization Black Lives Matter.
In this ideology, the past cannot be understood on its own terms, but must be judged through the morals and mores of the present. It is why statues of Grant and Washington are being torn down. And it is why William Peris, a UCLA lecturer and an Air Force veteran, was investigated for reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” out loud in class.
In this ideology, intentions don’t matter. That is why Emmanuel Cafferty, a Hispanic utility worker at San Diego Gas and Electric, was fired for making what someone said he thought was a white-supremacist hand gesture—when in fact he was cracking his knuckles out of his car window.
In this ideology, the equality of opportunity is replaced with equality of outcome as a measure of fairness. If everyone doesn’t finish the race at the same time, the course must have been defective. Thus, the argument to get rid of the SAT. Or the admissions tests for public schools like Stuyvesant in New York or Lowell in San Francisco.
In this ideology, you are guilty for the sins of your fathers. In other words: You are not you. You are only a mere avatar of your race or your religion or your class. That is why third-graders in Cupertino, California, were asked to rate themselves in terms of their power and privilege. In third grade.
In this system, we are all placed neatly on a spectrum of “privileged” to “oppressed.” We are ranked somewhere on this spectrum in different categories: race, gender, sexual orientation, and class. Then we are given an overall score, based on the sum of these rankings. Having privilege means that your character and your ideas are tainted. This is why, one high-schooler in New York tells me, students in his school are told, “If you are white and male, you are second in line to speak.” This is considered a normal and necessary redistribution of power.
Racism has been redefined. It is no longer about discrimination based on the color of someone’s skin. Racism is any system that allows for disparate outcomes between racial groups. If disparity is present, as the high priest of this ideology, Ibram X. Kendi, has explained, racism is present. According to this totalizing new view, we are all either racist or anti-racist. To be a Good Person and not a Bad Person, you must be an “anti-racist.” There is no neutrality. There is no such thing as “not racist.”
Most important: In this revolution, skeptics of any part of this radical ideology are recast as heretics. Those who do not abide by every single aspect of its creed are tarnished as bigots, subjected to boycotts and their work to political litmus tests. The Enlightenment, as the critic Edward Rothstein has put it, has been replaced by the exorcism.
What we call “cancel culture” is really the justice system of this revolution. And the goal of the cancellations is not merely to punish the person being cancelled. The goal is to send a message to everyone else: Step out of line and you are next.
It has worked. A recent CATO study found that 62 percent of Americans are afraid to voice their true views. Nearly a quarter of American academics endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences. And nearly 70 percent of students favor reporting professors if the professor says something that students find offensive, according to a Challey Institute for Global Innovation survey.
Why are so many, especially so many young people, drawn to this ideology? It’s not because they are dumb. Or because they are snowflakes, or whatever Fox talking points would have you believe. All of this has taken place against the backdrop of major changes in American life—the tearing apart of our social fabric; the loss of religion and the decline of civic organizations; the opioid crisis; the collapse of American industries; the rise of big tech; successive financial crises; a toxic public discourse; crushing student debt. An epidemic of loneliness. A crisis of meaning. A pandemic of distrust. It has taken place against the backdrop of the American dream’s decline into what feels like a punchline, the inequalities of our supposedly fair, liberal meritocracy clearly rigged in favor of some people and against others. And so on.
“I became converted because I was ripe for it and lived in a disintegrating society thirsting for faith.” That was Arthur Koestler writing in 1949 about his love affair with Communism. The same might be said of this new revolutionary faith. And like other religions at their inception, this one has lit on fire the souls of true believers, eager to burn down anything or anyone that stands in its way.
If you have ever tried to build something, even something small, you know how hard it is. It takes time. It takes tremendous effort. But tearing things down? That’s quick work.
The Woke Revolution has been exceptionally effective. It has successfully captured the most important sense-making institutions of American life: our newspapers. Our magazines. Our Hollywood studios. Our publishing houses. Many of our tech companies. And, increasingly, corporate America.
Just as in China under Chairman Mao, the seeds of our own cultural revolution can be traced to the academy, the first of our institutions to be overtaken by it. And our schools—public, private, parochial—are increasingly the recruiting grounds for this ideological army.
A few stories are worth recounting:
David Peterson is an art professor at Skidmore College in upstate New York. He stood accused in the fevered summer of 2020 of “engaging in hateful conduct that threatens Black Skidmore students.”
What was that hateful conduct? David and his wife, Andrea, went to watch a rally for police officers. “Given the painful events that continue to unfold across this nation, I guess we just felt compelled to see first-hand how all of this was playing out in our own community,” he told the Skidmore student newspaper. David and his wife stayed for 20 minutes on the edge of the event. They held no signs, participated in no chants. They just watched. Then they left for dinner.
For the crime of listening, David Peterson’s class was boycotted. A sign appeared on his classroom door: “STOP. By entering this class you are crossing a campus-wide picket line and breaking the boycott against Professor David Peterson. This is not a safe environment for marginalized students.” Then the university opened an investigation into accusations of bias in the classroom.
By Cole Newton — 2 months ago
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all lived in tents, sojourners and foreigners in the very land that God promised to give to their descendants. Again, this is the very definition of faith. They lived their entire lives trusting in a promise that they never got to see fulfilled. All around the patriarchs were mighty cities with walls and fortifications to ensure their protection, even Lot (Abraham’s nephew) was pulled into the security and comforts of the cities. Yet these men of God chose to dwell in tents, ever wandering through the Promised Land that was not yet theirs.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
Hebrews 11:8-22 ESV
Proverbs 27:21 says, “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.” Because we naturally praise what we love and delight in, what a man praises is fitting test for determining what his heart truly loves.
In a similar fashion, the heroes that a society praises necessarily reveal what that society loves, delights in, or values as the highest good. Indeed, the present lack of any almost universally beloved real-life heroes is itself a sign of our divided worldviews. Of course, in the world of fiction, comic book superheroes had their moment of glory, which appears to have already faded away. Again, what values are being praised by heroism is the test for why these modern mythologies were so successful and are increasingly no longer so. I believe the baseline appeal of many of the most popular superheroes is their own hunger for fatherly approval, which reflects our society’s own groaning under fatherlessness. Interestingly, the more they attempt to engage in social issues, the less popular they become. Spider-Man’s futile struggle to hear the approval of his deceased father-figure uncle has already hit a cultural nerve that no single headline could ever capture.
Recently, I’ve been reading the tale of one of Rome’s heroes, Aeneas. His story was written by the poet Virgil at the commission of Caesar Augustus only a decade or so before the birth of Christ. Beyond pleasing Caesar, The Aeneid was immediately received as the heroic mythology of Rome’s foundations that Virgil intended for it to be. Indeed, it immediately became the essential text of a Roman education, just as Homer’s poems were used in Greece. Augustine said, “Virgil certainly is held to be a great poet; in fact he is regarded as the best and most renowned of all poets, and for that reason he is read by children at an early age–they take great draughts of his poetry into their unformed minds, so that they may not easily forget him” (City of God, I.3). Given how frequently Augustine cites Virgil, he knew that statement to be true by experience. Roman children were catechized through the Aeneid because the Romans viewed Aeneas as a mythological embodiment of Rome and what it means to be Roman.
Indeed, he is not the tantruming toddler that Achilles was nor is he the scheming liar that Odysseus was. Though the Greeks produced aesthetically beautiful art, even the Romans could identify the hopeless despair that undergirded it all. No, Aeneas was a hero marked by piety. His journey from the burning city of Troy to the Italy is not about his own glory and honor but about founding the Roman people, a people destined to “rule with all your power the people of the earth… to put your stamp on the works and ways of peace, to spare the defeated, break the proud in war” (VI.981-984). Aeneas carried the godly burden of establishing an eternal city that would bring enforce peace through all the world by breaking the proud in war.
We would do well to remember that the original readers of Hebrews lived under the seemingly all-encompassing shadow of Rome at the height of its dominion and with centuries of global rule still before it. As Jews, the city of Jerusalem also ever stood before them. The city of David and of the only temple to the living God on earth, a temple now abandoned by God after the final sacrifice had been made.
Two cities, each bursting with stories of its peoples’ heroes, vied for their affections. Yet both were, at best, only shadows of a truly eternal city still to come. Despite what the nonbelieving Jews may have claimed, the heroes of faith throughout the Old Testament had their eyes set upon that everlasting city. Indeed, for we who are of faith, the saints here in Hebrews 11 are more than our heroes; they are our ancestors. The Romans took great pride in being the children of Aeneas, but we are children of Abraham, the man of faith, and are blessed alongside him.
The Faith of Abraham & Sarah // Verses 8-12
In our previous text, the author of Hebrews began his survey of the heroes of the faith with three men of God who lived before (and in Noah’s case, through) the time of the flood. He now naturally moves on to the time of the patriarchs, which is recorded for us in Genesis 12-50. As we will see in the verses before us, the faith of Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph is recounted for us, yet the figure that appears most is Abraham, whom Paul rightly calls “the man of faith” (Galatians 3:9). In the first section of our text, we find three instances of faith: two of Abraham (vv. 8-9) and one of Sarah (v. 11).
Verse 8: By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
The event being described is found in Genesis 12:1-3:
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Notice that, as the author Hebrews makes clear, Abraham was not told where he was going. God did not inform him that he was going to travel hundreds of miles down to Canaan. He was simply told to go until God showed him the country where he would stop, and in one of the most amazing verses in the Bible, verse 4 says, “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him…” Abraham obeyed God. Rather like with Noah, God gave Abraham a command that could only be obeyed by faith. Only by an assurance of things hoped for and a conviction of things not seen could Noah build the ark and Abraham roam the earth until God showed him the land of Canaan.
Let this again be a reminder to us that true faith in God is evidenced by our obedience to Him. Again, our obedience does not earn or merit our salvation in any way, but our salvation will always produce obedience in us. Simply believing in God’s existence is not sufficient. As James 2:19 powerfully states, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!”
Verse 9: By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.
Here the author notes that Abraham did not merely embark upon a long journey of faith in obedience to God, he also lived the rest of his life (as did his son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob) without ever actually possessing the land that God promised to him. Indeed, the only plot of land that the patriarchs actually owned was a field with a cave in Machpelah that Abraham bought as a burial ground for Sarah after she died. Other than that, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all lived in tents, sojourners and foreigners in the very land that God promised to give to their descendants. Again, this is the very definition of faith. They lived their entire lives trusting in a promise that they never got to see fulfilled. All around the patriarchs were mighty cities with walls and fortifications to ensure their protection, even Lot (Abraham’s nephew) was pulled into the security and comforts of the cities. Yet these men of God chose to dwell in tents, ever wandering through the Promised Land that was not yet theirs.
Verse 10 explains how they lived this life of faith: For he was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
One glance at any of the Canaanite cities might have left one admiring how established they were, especially if compared to the tents of Abraham. However, by faith, Abraham looked beyond his present day and beyond what his physical eyes could see. Regardless of how steadfast they appeared to be, in reality, they were fleeting vapors that, if fortunate, may still have some ruins to be seen today. By faith, Abraham saw through the earthly display of permanence and set his gaze upon the City of God with eternal and everlasting foundations. He set his sights upon the eternal reality rather than upon the earthly shadows.
Verse 11: By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
By Greg Lanier — 1 year ago
James’s appeal to Scripture at the Jerusalem Council changes the course of history. God has spoken, and that changes everything. Stepping back, his use of the prophets has amazing things to teach us.
A Crucial Moment in the Early Church
Tensions were running high. The “who’s who” were all there, for the stakes were simply too enormous to miss this meeting. The mother city played host. The keynote addresses were set to begin.
It was AD 49, and on the docket was a pivotal issue that early followers of Jesus had to hash out for the explosive new movement to go forward. It had begun almost entirely with Jewish followers of Jesus. But recently, non-Jews (Gentiles) had been joining the movement in droves, upsetting the status quo and raising tremendous theological questions. What are we to do with Gentiles?
Do they need to convert to Judaism to be on the varsity team of early Christianity? Or, more seriously, do they need to adhere to Mosaic customs and laws in order “to be saved” (Acts 15:1, 5)? Would Christianity be gospel for some and gospel + law for others? The apostles and elders gathered in Jerusalem to sort it out, famously recorded in Acts 15:6–21.
Peter spoke first, recounting how the Gentile Cornelius’s household had experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit—like Pentecost 2.0—after Peter himself saw a vision from the Lord declaring all things “clean” (Acts 15:7–11, referring to Acts 10–11). Paul and Barnabas then “related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:12). But was this enough proof?
The decisive speech fell to James, the brother of Jesus. Yet his speech mainly quoted Scripture (Acts 15:13–18). Visions and miracles do not truly matter unless God himself has spoken authoritatively on the matter. The turning point at the Jerusalem Council was a passage from the Word of God.
Scripture and the Apostles
James’s appeal to the Old Testament (OT) comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with how the New Testament (NT) works. Nearly every writing of the NT engages verbatim with the OT somehow, and you can hardly drive through a chapter in some books (like Romans) without hitting the OT. Why? The apostolic writers were simply following Jesus’s instructions. As one of his last acts on earth he “opened their mind” to understand the Scriptures, so that through them they might witness to the whole world (Luke 24:44–47).
The NT authors apply the OT along three main veins:
Though OT literacy is waning,1 it is exhilarating to dive deeper into the use of the OT in the NT. It may not be easy, but it is always worth it.
So let us trace through what James does with the OT to solve the conundrum at Jerusalem. What is it about the OT that brings clarity—and changes the history of the world in the process? Let us follow three steps.
Step 1: Identify the passage(s)
The first (but often overlooked) step is to notice that an NT author is using the OT in the first place. Footnotes and study Bibles help, but quite often the writer plainly tells us.
Here James doubles down with “words of the prophets” and “as it is written” (Acts 15:15)—it is hard to miss that he is using the OT here. The citation reads like a single quotation and is presented like that in most English Bibles. However, James tips his hand with plural “prophets.” He is actually combining passages: