Should the Bible be taken literally or figuratively? The answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” Parts of the Bible are to be taken literally, while others are intended to be figurative.
Jesus Himself said that the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35). He also said that He sometimes spoke using figures of speech (John 16:25). Is that not the epic challenge of humanity?—to accurately understand the many varied teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
The Mystery of Eden
When contemplating the garden of Eden, our attempts to grasp its imagery are often met with frustration. How could the devil embody himself in a serpent and speak to Adam and Eve? I do not know.
What I do know, however, is that the story of humanity’s crash (I prefer “crash” over “fall”) establishes truths, principles, and patterns that influence our species to this day. If we can focus on the concepts being communicated—and lessen our efforts to comprehend physical details—we will go a long way toward finding the peace that transcends reasoning.
The Cosmic Rebellion and Defeat
A concept called “near and far prophecy” helps us unwrap a somewhat cryptic picture painted the Scriptures. In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, we find prophecies addressed to two contemporary kings—the king of Babylon and the king of Tyre. Upon closer reading, however, we can also see a “far” application: the downfall of Lucifer himself.
Lucifer was once a great guardian angel who surpassed all others in glory. At some point, the once-mighty creature decided that he deserved to be seated on heaven’s throne. Lucifer sought to unseat Him who was truly worthy and become the object of all angelic worship. Bad idea.
Blinded by pride, Lucifer thought himself to be equal—no, superior—to the God who had created him. A rude awakening followed as heaven’s King thoroughly humiliated the treasonous angel and his co-conspirators. Down from heaven they were thrown, bitter from the shame of public humiliation and intent to destroy all that is good.
The Roots of Unrest
We can find considerable insight to Lucifer’s demise by addressing a short passage from Isaiah:
Shining morning star,
how you have fallen from the heavens!
You destroyer of nations,
you have been cut down to the ground.
You said to yourself:
“I will ascend to the heavens;
I will set up my throne
above the stars of God.
I will sit on the mount of the gods’ assembly,
in the remotest parts of the North.
I will ascend above the highest clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
Isaiah 14:12-14 (HCSB)
If we were to condense this passage into one short sentence, it might read, “I will ascend above God.” And because Adam and Eve joined the cosmic rebellion, the “I will ascend!” mantra has been embedded into the human psyche. Every human is born with an innate desire to ascend above the throne of God.
For a finite creature to even attempt to supplant Infinity is nothing short of exhausting. Make no mistake, as appealing as personal pride might seem, it is the corrupt seed from which the poisonous roots of unrest sprout.
From Lucifer’s motivation as found in Isaiah 14:12-14, at least four destructive roots sprout:
- Self-centeredness – from the desire to be at the center of all things
- Self-sovereignty – from the desire to be the ultimate authority
- Self-glorification – from the desire to rise above all
- Self-sufficiency – from the desire to be dependent upon nothing
When, as a two-year-old, my daughter screamed, “I can do it by myself!”, she was merely echoing the natural cry of the human heart. And when all the toddlers at her birthday party proclaimed, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”, they were only doing the same.
When, you or I, as adults, find ourselves overrun with anxiety, we are reacting to circumstances in which we desperately seek to be in control but know we cannot be. And when we seek to navigate the tumultuous waters of this world without depending upon God or humanity, we proclaim ourselves to be of the same fabric of our fallen ancestors.
Taking these four human tendencies toward self-deification and multiplying them by several billion people, we can see how our planet has come to be filled with so much unrest. Everyone wants to rise above God’s throne, but there is only room for One. And most truly, only One is worthy to occupy that lofty place.
The Sabbath Brings Us Back
Experiencing genuine peace and rest comes not from trying to deny our worrisome state, but from returning to God’s original design. And that is exactly what the Sabbath is intended to do—to bring us back. In its wise simplicity, the Biblical Sabbath is designed to sever the power of every root of unrest.
Looking out over our world, I see people trying all kinds of techniques to find peace and rest apart from God. And the truth is that some of them work on a limited basis. In the end, however, we cannot change who we are without returning to our Creator’s design.
Not only did the Lord establish a pattern for rest after He created our universe, and not only did He establish the Sabbath concept in wake of Israel’s exodus from slavery in Egypt, He also paid the steepest of prices so that we might enter into His rest.
If we want more than a momentary peace, if we want a rest that lasts for all eternity, we will look to Him for wisdom.
*Bob Santos has authored several books, and this post is drawn from an upcoming work titled The Search for Rest.