Today I thought of the simple lessons we learned in Sunday school 85 or more years ago. They would make a simple point about God the Father, or about Jesus, God’s Son. Or teach us a moral lesson about always telling the truth.
The props for the lessons were very simple. Sometimes an oak sand table was used to create a drama, or what was called a felt-o-gram to make a picture. Or our teacher, Elva Tisdale, told us a colorful Bible story. Or we absorbed timeless truths from the choruses that we children loved to sing.
Today I recall a character I first learned about as a child, Herod the Great. I heard the story, drawn from Gospel accounts, many times during childhood and can fill in some of the grim historical background that learned since.
Herod was outrageously wicked. But he was called Herod the Great for good reason. He built a magnificent seaport on the Mediterranean Sea and wisely named it Caesarea, after the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Herod also built a grand theater in Jerusalem and an amphitheater outside the city. He set in motion the rebuilding of the temple, an awe-inspiring place of worship for the Jewish people. Herod was an exceptionally skillful administrator and diplomat.
But he used his power ruthlessly. His conscience didn’t seem to function. His police were everywhere. Purges were frequent. His own wife, Mariamne, was marched off to execution because he suspected her of plotting against him. Her three sons, and five of his children from other wives, met the same end.
Herod even had all but two members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Jerusalem, murdered. Herod’s viciousness was on par with a ruthless figure of more recent times, Saddam Hussein.
So, when some mysterious figures called Magi arrived in Jerusalem coming from a land as far away as Persia, word spread through the city fast. The place must have buzzed. And Herod’s paranoia flared when he learned that these Magi said they had been divinely guided by a heavenly light to find the birthplace of a baby born to be King of the Jews.
Jesus was a miracle baby sent by God to be the redeemer of the world. How could he be safeguarded against a powerful sovereign who would stop at nothing to keep his throne secure?
Of course God in Heaven knows everything, including what was in Herod’s mind. I learned this as a child partly from a chorus that began: “He sees all you do; he hears all you say.”
Because God knew Herod’s intent, he sent a message to the baby’s human father, Joseph, by a dream: Get up right away and get out of town; head for Egypt; the murderous Herod intends to find and kill the child. Joseph obeyed, and the child’s life was spared.
The truth of the little choruses sung in Sunday schools so long ago concerning God’s omniscience has not changed. It is still a cornerstone conviction of orthodox Christians that God knows everything.
The psalmist, David, wrote, “Before a word is on my tongue / you know it completely, O Lord” (Psalm 139:4). Jesus said his Father sees the insignificant sparrow fall. He also said that his Father alone knows the future date for the end of human history.
And when we live every moment based on that conviction we are known as people of faith. We have a reliable moral compass. And we can live calmly and courageously, knowing that God sees all and he hears all.
Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory (via flickr.com)