23rd Elul, 2015
Scrooge and Donald Trump (August 11, 2015)
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is, to say the least, one of the most compelling characters in all of literature. One of the fascinating observations some have made is this: unlike all the other characters in “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come remains very much unchanged from the original descriptions of him. “The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. […] It thrilled him [Scrooge] with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the mask there were eyes staring at him.”
He’s a gloomy, mysterious presence, that’s for sure. So – OK, he certainly is spooky… what does that have to do with Donald Trump (as in the title of this essay). To quote another creepy character in popular culture (the Wicked Witch of the West) – “All in good time, my deary. All in good time.”
The climax of the Ghost’s appearance is when he shows Scrooge his own gravestone. Scrooge is, at this point, a broken man (as any of us would be in we saw our own name etched on the stone with a freshly chiseled date of death). Dickens wrote:
For the first time the hand appeared to shake. “Good Spirit,” he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: “Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!”
Scrooge wanted to know if these future visions must be so, with no possibility of any changes, or could events occur differently if Scrooge genuinely repented?
We all know what happened: the old miser Scrooge did indeed change because of his experiences that Christmas Eve night. And the sad events he saw were, indeed, altered – he lived a long life afterwards, Tiny Tim did not die, and he kept Christmas better than any other man in London.
There are Biblical events that actually occurred like Scrooge’s encounter with the third Ghost. Yahweh often gave warnings to His own people – sign after sign, prophet after prophet – and yet His people Israel did not repent. All too often, these predictions of the future came true exactly as Yahweh had spoken. Because the people, Yahweh’s Chosen People, with whom He made the Abrahamic Covenant, and promise after promise, refused to repent; they chose judgment instead. From Elijah, to Isaiah, to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, all the way to Malachi, Elohim announced judgment, and judgment came. Always… every time…
Oh, no, wait – there was that one prophet that the people he pronounced judgment on that DID repent – and they DID get off the hook. Elohim “relented” because the people repented.
Which prophet was that?
No, it wasn’t Hosea, or Amos, or Obadiah, or Micah, or Zechariah, or Joel, or Habakkuk. It was the prophet Jonah. Yes – the guy who, like Gepetto and Pinocchio, got “swallowed by a whale” – actually, it was a large fish Elohim had designed to do exactly what it did for the disobedient, run-away prophet. It swallowed him and allowed him to get a free ride back to Israel so he could get on with what Yahweh had called him to do: prophesy Yahweh’s coming judgment on a sinful nation. But, this time, the nation he had been called to declare the coming outpouring of Yahweh’s wrath because of their sin wasn’t Israel or Judah. He had been commanded to preach doom and destruction to the Ninevites.
Who were the Ninevites? Well, they were the people who lived in the big city (at that time) of Nineveh. Nineveh, as all should remember, was “the capital of Assyria.” So – what does that have to do with anything? There were three problems, as far as Jonah was concerned: one – they were Gentiles; they were not Yahweh’s Chosen People, but “the world.” Two – they were Assyrians. Why is that significant? We’ve already established that they are Gentiles. Well, Assyrians were not just a random group of Gentiles – they were the original terrorists. The Assyrians were characterized as aggressive fighters who were so cruel to the people they conquered that other nations would surrender, rather than risk being objects of their brutality. Hezekiah and the kingdom of Judah feared being attacked by the Assyrians because of their ferocious reputation. Elohim defeated them (tall 185,000 of them were killed in one night by the “angel of the Lord”) to show His power and because Hezekiah turned to Him in their time of great distress. It’s not that the Babylonians, or the Persians, or the Romans didn’t have reputations for cruelty to their conquered foes – they did. After all, the purpose of crucifixion was not just as a means of execution – it was a means of terrorism. Their goal was to terrorize any would-be criminals or rebels into submission. They usually crucified their victims (including the Son of God) alongside public roads out of or into town, just to let everyone in that town know who was in charge and what would happen to them if they didn’t behave. It’s just that the Assyrians were first.
The third reason is because Jonah knew Yahweh was loving and merciful, so if they DID actually repent, he knew that He would spare them. He hated the Ninevites for both racial (they were Gentiles) and spiritual reasons (he suspected – rightly – that the gracious Yahweh would NOT destroy these savages if they repented).
Which they did. It’s really an amazing story – these blood-thirsty, idol-worshiping, immoral Gentiles actually did what Jonah was afraid they would do: they LISTENED to him! OK – they listened to Yahweh, who spoke through Jonah. And, just as he feared – Yahweh spared them. The Ninevites were led by their king, who showed his genuine repentance by putting on sackcloth and ashes. These people, famous for and proud of their wickedness, honestly repented. And Yahweh didn’t fulfill the prophecy – Nineveh was spared, at least until years later during the time of the prophet Nahum.
You know what really must have bothered Jonah, besides knowing that the merciful, gracious, long-suffering Yahweh would bless these nasty people that Jonah hated? It probably also galled him – and Jewish prophets and Jewish people throughout time – that the Ninevites repented at the preaching of the lousy preacher, Jonah, but the Northern kingdom of Israel did NOT repent when prophets from Elijah and Elisha, to Hosea and Isaiah (and, I’m sure, Jonah himself) preached judgment on them for years and years. Not only did they steadfastly refuse to repent, but they were followed in lack of repentance by the southern kingdom of Judah. They were worse – they had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel (from Babylon), and a lot of other prophets preaching to them over and over again – and, again, despite the blessings of Elohim for so many years, they stiffened their necks and refused to repent.
One of the manifestations of Yahweh’s judgment that we are already under is the fact that the two candidates that are apparently being put forward by the media and the “powers-that-be” are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Judgment for sure!
We need a revival! “If these shadows are not changed…” May Yahweh have mercy on this nation!