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" To the Unknown God "

"Who is He? How shall we name Him, when we offer sacrifice?" (Rig Veda)

"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols...Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you fear the gods; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your devotion, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One to whom you show reverence without knowing, Him I proclaim to you..." (~Ac17:16-23)

Periodically I have shared with readers bits and pieces of my musical past; sometimes expressing regret at some of the things I have performed; from catholic masses, to the work by Gustav Holst, "Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda".

Recently I burned a couple of music CDs for a subscriber, with whom I have periodic communication. He has been doing a lot of proofreading for the VW-Edition, and also is a musician; church organist/music-director. An old tape from his college music days; since he doesn't have a machine to play it on. And since I have also started into a project to archive all my 'old' tapes into MP3 format before they deteriorate any further, decided to reciprocate and burn for him a couple of CDs of selections from my professional music background. Lo-and-behold, 'discovered that one of the tapes has the Rig Veda hymns by Holst. (I haven't listened to those tapes in 20 years!) And also, tucked in the box was a program insert with the 'words' to those hymns.

I have mentioned this work in the past. It is some of the MOST BEAUTIFUL (emotionally haunting) choral music I have ever heard or performed. But if you recognize the name "Holst", you might remember that he also composed "The Planets"; from a mythological perspective. Thus, it seems 'fitting' to his apparent outlook, that he would also have set these ancient texts to music.

To keep this simple... the Vedas come from the Hindu religion of the regions of India, after migrating there from the regions of Iran, back during the times, approximately, that Israel was coming out of Egypt, and Moses was relaying God's Law to them, and they were conquering the land of God's promise to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You see, Satan always has seemed to be in a sort-of sync-step with God. When God would set up a new dispensation, satan would set up his own counterfeits. And Israel was condemned for their idolatry. "..they have been consecrated from the east, and are fortunetellers like the Philistines, and they clap hands in worship with children of foreigners.." (Is2:6) Perhaps these Vedas were part of Israel's idolatry "from the east"? These Vedas were collections of writings which the Hindus would read, pray and use as mantras. Israel had the Law as given through Moses. In more recent history Islam has its Koran. But concurrent with Israel's Torah, Hindu had their Vedas.

This particular "group" of hymns has three hymns: Battle Hymn, To the Unknown God, and Funeral Hymn. In the Battle Hymn they praise their gods, and call out, "Indra and Maruts fight for us!"

The Funeral Hymn is really rather 'spooky', now that I know what it's all about. (20 years ago it was "beautiful music" and the words, to my mind, were 'incidental') "Away O death, thy work is ended now...this mound we raise may part us from the dead." The words go on, speaking to the widow of the dead person, calling her to stand back up from the burial mound where she has cast herself in grief and tears, "Arise and join again the world of life."

Now, here's the spooky part: "Mother of all, a child to thee we bring, earth holy source, whence all our life doth spring..." Remember one of Israel's abominations? They followed the pagans around them, and offered 'live' babies into the fires of their gods, in sacrifice. (Le18:21, Jer19:5, Ezek20:31) This baby, "sleeping so calmly, on thy loving breast" is given to "mother...earth holy source" from where life springs; and also, "then forward O thou soul upon the road that leadeth thee unto thy new abode". As this soul is sent on its way by the sacrifice of this baby, to its "new abode", where at that place they know of the "dreadful judge whom thou must face".

Now, sandwiched in amongst their beliefs and sacrifices, they also are in darkness. It's a good thing I'm 'writing' this, instead of speaking. Every time this second hymn comes to mind, the words-and-music are so powerful, I cannot keep the tears from welling up. Paul was "provoked". I am moved to tears. And ever since I realized the Lord wanted this written, my heart has been -very- heavy with sorrow.

How do they address the "Unknown God"? "He the primal one, begetter of the universe, begotten in mystery, Lord of created things, Lord of heaven and earth." And here's the part that invokes such sadness to my heart, which in the music repeats over and over as a 'chorus':

"Who is He? How shall we name Him, when we offer sacrifice?"

This hymn goes on describing the creation, and the "god" who made all these things: "He whose word is eternal, giver of breath and life and power, sole ruler of the universe, swelling alone in his grandeur, to whom the gods bow. Lord of Death, whose path is life immortal! Thou alone canst fathom thy mystery, there is none beside thee."

"Who is He? How shall we name Him, when we offer sacrifice?"

Look at how Paul describes (the unknown) God to the Athenians, and notice the similarities to this hymn: "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth...and He has made from one blood every nation of men...in Him we live and move and exist.." and notice how he draws from their prior knowledge (possibly, even these Vedas? since these eastern religions also were incorporated into the Greek/Roman religions) "..as also some of your own poets have said..." (Acts17:24-28)

Some scoffers suggest that God is terribly "unfair" for judging those "who have never heard". But remember, they "are without excuse". Why? Everything they 'need' to know about God has been revealed to them, through the creation. (Rom1:20) These ancient Hindu texts show us how, even though they were worshiping their pagan deities, and sacrificing their babies to them, that they -knew- there was -a- God who is the "Most High" (Gen14:18, Is14:14), "to whom the gods bow" (Php2:10, Is45:23) and that "there is none beside thee". (Is45:22)

And yet, in their darkness, as they continue sacrificing to these 'other' gods, they go calling out:

"Who is He? How shall we name Him, when we offer sacrifice?"

Paul says of them, "..that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him.." (Ac17:27) But what? "..though He is not far from each one of us.."

Why do they not know who He is? Because they are "offering sacrifice" (of their babies) to mother earth, and worshiping the "created things" instead of the Creator. (Rom1:25) This makes as much 'sense' as for a person to be holding/caressing someone other than their spouse, but looking over to their spouse and saying, "I love you; I want you"! They are worshiping all the things God despises, but have the nerve to wonder why they can't reach to the Most High! The solution is easy...let go the 'stranger' and -go- to your spouse; and repent of your infidelity!

When man is disobedient, God "hides Himself". (De29:29) But when man is obedient, He "reveals Himself". This is why the words "obedience" and "faith" go hand-in-hand (Rom1:5,16:26) for "Faith without works (obedience) is dead" (Jacob2:20,26)

Mankind actually -knows- 'who' God is. Deep in their hearts they know He is the "Creator", and that He is the Most High, high above all other gods. He has written His Law on their "conscience". (Rom2:15)

Man does not know God because he DOES NOT -WANT- TO know Him. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, each one to his own way.." (Is53:6) That 'stranger' seems more 'exciting' and 'alluring'. That so-called 'witnessing' tract, the "Four Spiritual Laws" -LIES-. Man is -NOT- ever striving to seek for God. Yes, as some cutely cleverly say, in each unregenerate heart is a "God-shaped void". But man is not seeking after God: "Through the pride of his countenance the wicked do not seek after God; God is not in all his schemes." (Ps10:4)

Why is it so "hard" for people to be saved? "Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your Statutes." (Ps119:155) In this country, what little there is of God in public life, even that little bit they seek to strike away, citing "church vs state" issues. Thus, God's "Ten Commandments" are not allowed to be displayed in many public places; like courtrooms and other government buildings. So, how can they expect God to hear when the time comes that they call upon Him?

Indeed, the Funeral Hymn is correct. Sinful man's destiny is to appear before the "dreadful judge". "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb10:31) for He is a "consuming fire, a jealous Mighty God". (De4:24) God "..has established a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man (Jesus, whom they also reject) whom He has appointed."

God has been watching the sinner 'caress' the 'stranger', but is willing to take the sinner back (Jer3:1), knowing that the sinner didn't know any better, and that the attraction to the 'stranger' was so strong.

So, what is the nature of God's Grace, and His call to the sinner?

"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent." (Acts17:30-31)


Related Topic: "Who is God?"
Related Topic: "Heathen Proving God"

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