Meteorologists? Yes. Every one of us.
Suddenly, every body is a meteorologist. As Hurricane Matthew formed last week then strengthened and aimed our way this week, the www, social media in particular, was transformed into storm central. While we were looking for Mike Seidel or Jim Cantore in the backyard most of us were trying to out-think their predictions about the storm path and find reasons to hunker down and ride it out. You know, self-absorbed humans to the core. I mean, Harriet and I have an atomic clock on the wall of our condo. And, kids, this isn't our first rodeo.
It reminds me of what Jesus said to a group of Pharisees and Sadducees one day. They were testing him with threatening intent, wanting a sign from heaven as proof of his claims. He said,
When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the
morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know
how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs
of the times.
Matthew 16:2-3, ESV
Of course he was referencing a common proverb that has guided sailors and shepherds for more than two millennia. You know it---
Red sky at night, sailors delight.
Red sky at morning, sailors warning.
In geographical settings distant from water it was a shepherds idiom. In either instance it has been a bit of life wisdom passed from generation to generation to help mariners and people of the land predict and prepare for inclement weather. It's actual origin isn't known but that it existed in the New Testament era attests it's longevity. As to it's scientific accuracy, that's certainly above my pay grade. There's some evidence that the saying is a good predictor for storm system and cloud movement. But, I'll leave that to Bryan Norcross, Senior Hurricane Specialist at the Weather Channel.
Jesus wasn't talking about the reliability of a well known adage anyway. Or, the weather. His lesson here was aimed at their hearts, their prideful tendency to sit in judgement of of just about everything. To that point, he used the word "diakrinein" in describing their ability to interpret the sky. It means, in a broad sense, to judge or discern. They thought they knew how to judge just about everybody and everything. With self-centered spiritual arrogance, they were the life experts on literally every issue. As God's chosen they were morally and socially superior to everyone else. Well, that is, with one exception. They couldn't comprehend what was happening right in front of them. They were spiritually blind. You know, they had eyes but couldn't see.
So, Jesus was harsh with them, calling them them an evil and adulterous generation. They lived within a legalistic system designed and perpetuated by their fore-fathers. That system professed and pretended exclusive fidelity to God. Their refusal to see and accept the fulfillment of prophecy regarding the person of Jesus Christ was a spiritual adultery that positioned them as lovers of themselves and their legal system more than their faithful Father. No, Jesus wasn't commenting about the weather or axioms of the Middle Eastern world. he was talking about their prideful hearts.
There's a hint of this self-reliant attitude these days. We're the most educated and informed generation that has ever lived. The information super-highway streams mega-bytes of data into our smart devices by the nano-second. We have live pictures of just about reality imaginable, charts, graphs, estimates, forecasts, predictions, maps, satellite graphics, models, and, even more, opinions. Experts interpret and explain the weather, economic trends, cultural challenges, educational developments, sports, the shifting moral compass, national history, constitutional governance, world politics, the 2016 election of POTUS, and our dietary limitations, to mention a few. But, of a truth, we often know better, or at least, we think we do.
So, we're all meteorologists. And, political scientists. And, cultural interpreters. And, educational strategists. And, economic trend-setters. And, spiritual leaders. Experts at everything. Like the Pharisees and Sadducees of the first century we have our proverbs, educational superiority, social castes, technology, and slick ways. Just as clearly we can't often can't see our noses right in front of us.
The heart of this kind of spiritual blindness is our love for the approval of men. It is a common theme in the ministry of Jesus and through the Epistles, our craving for the applause and justification of other humans. There are dozens of texts which address this anomaly evident throughout redemptive history. For the sake of space and time I won't list them. If you'd like to review some of them, click here.
There's a subtle extension of the truth about our love for the approval of men In Jesus' words to the Pharisees and Sadducees that day. You see, the human we typically want to please most is the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I, the love of self. And, like it or not, the love of self defies the very first reality of our Christian faith. Jesus said---
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily
and follow me.
Luke 9:23, ESV
Those guys were, like us, meteorologists to the man. They could interpret the sky but not the signs of the times. Their spiritual blindness was the result of eyes that could not see. It was because they were in love with their own qualifications. Superior people don't need others.
And, just as clearly, they don't need God.