Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The golem of Prague

In Jewish lore, the golem is a soulless humanoid made by cabalistic black magic. Lacking a soul, it lacks the faculty for speech. This tradition goes all the way back to the Talmud:

Raba said: If the righteous desired it, they could [by living a life of absolute purity] be creators, for it is written, But your iniquities have distinguished between etc.22  Rabbah created a man,23  and sent him to R. Zera. R. Zera spoke to him, but received no answer. Thereupon he said unto him: 'Thou art a creature of the magicians. Return to thy dust.' 

This captured the imagination of Jewish writers. The golem of Prague is the most famous example. According to legend, the chief rabbi created a golem to protect his people from their enemies. 

Although the story is fictional, it taps into genuine insecurity. The very fact that Jews were segregated in ghettos fosters a siege mentality. This is heighten by the fact that they were subject to violent persecution, based on blood libels and other malicious rumors.

And it combines with a sense of divine abandonment. You can pray that Yahweh will intercede to protect you, but what if he turns a deaf ear to your pleas? The Archangel Michael never comes to the rescue. 

One can imagine desperate Jews resorting to cabalistic spells to conjure a supernatural protector. Of course, that doesn't mean they succeed. It's just a last resort.

But this illustrates a larger issue. Charismatics have great expectations for divine intercession. And there's evidence for divine intercession throughout church history. Yet miraculous interventions seem to be oddly disparate. Why do they happen at one time, but not another? At one place, but not another? To one Christian, but not another? At one time of life, but not another?

For instance, you have devout Christians who languish in nursing homes. Forsaken, forgotten, and forlorn. They pray, but nothing happens. Whether they pray or don't pray seems to make no discernible difference. Nothing changes. Their lives are interminable. It's as if God has shunned them. 

This is the mystery of providence. A God who is intermittently present and absent. Unmistakably present in some situations, but inexplicably distant in our extremity. A God who hides himself (Isa 45:15). This is a common theme of the Psalter. 

1 comment:

  1. In my opinion, two good contemporary books that address these types of issues is Out of the Whirlwind by Mark Tabb and Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges. Both books blow out of the water the notion that obeying and trusting God always results in blessing in this world. I highly recommend both.