Where Is The Ark?

On Aug 14th, 586 B.C, a man named Nebuzaradan entered the just-conquered city of Jerusalem.  He was the commander of the armies of Babylon.  I wonder sometimes if the man had any clue how significant his arrival in that city truly was.  After all, he had conquered so many cities, so many nations, and there were so many kings that had been executed after he had proven himself to be a brilliant tactician with the world’s most powerful troops at his disposal.

I imagine that if he felt anything, it was relief at an overdue job finally done.  The Jews had rebelled – again – and they needed punishment.

He set fire to Solomon’s palace, Solomon’s temple, and every other important building.  He looted what few treasures were left in Solomon’s temple the last time Judah pulled this stunt.  They broke up the bronze sea and the pillars, and took all the bronze to Babylon – more than could be weighed.  They took the basins, censers, sprinkling bowls, pots, the golden lampstand, the dishes, the bowls used for drink offerings…

And the Ark?

Strangely – very strangely – the Bible falls utterly silent about what is considered the most important article of the temple.  So: where is the ark?

I did some research.  Turns out there’s a number of theories.  One is that a decade or two before Jerusalem was destroyed, the priesthood took the ark and hid it in a cave below the site of the Holy of Holies.  In fact, one archeologist claims to have almost made it to that cave, before the Muslims in Israel threatened violence to stop the digging.  I understand that this view is held by many orthodox Rabbis.

Another view is that Jeremiah the prophet took the Ark to the same mountain that Moses climbed before he died.  There, in a cave, he hid the ark, and then sealed up the entrance.  Again, some archeologists have gone looking, but since we don’t even know what mountain this Mount Nebo was, it’s kind of like taking a good section of the entire middle east and searching from scratch.  I understand that this account of Jeremiah is written about in the Maccabees.

Another, even more outlandish, theory is that the Ark was removed from Jerusalem much earlier, already in the days of Solomon.  The theory goes that Solomon and the Queen of Sheba had a child together, and that child, a man named Menelik, took the ark out of the temple and brought it to Ethiopia, where it now sits in the St. Mary of Zion church.

One more is that the ark was taken by God through divine intervention into a temple not made with hands, the heavenly temple, and that the apostle John saw it in his revelation from God (Revelation 11:19).

What I note about these stories and rumours is that not one of them has a shred of evidence to support them, and that all of them rely very heavily on speculation (especially the one about the Queen of Sheba).

I believe in the authority of Scripture, and thus, when Revelation says that John was shown the ark of God’s covenant, then John saw the ark of the covenant.  But John also saw a beast coming out of the earth, identified as the antichrist.  Christians today have correctly interpreted that part of revelation as symbolic.  When the antichrist is reveled, he will not crawl out of the earth, looking like a lamb, and speaking like a dragon (how does a dragon speak, anyway?)  Thus, I believe that when John saw the ark, that was supposed to symbolize something, not give him the answer to an archeological puzzle.  It probably symbolized the fulfillment of the covenant in Christ.  It certainly seems strange to me that a manmade object (made by Bezalel) would be literally, physically in a temple not made with human hands.

So what do I think?  I think that Ezekiel saw, in a vision, the glory of the LORD leave the temple.  When that happened, the temple became a pretty building with some flashy curtains in it.  It was no longer God’s house, because of the sin and rebellion of Israel.  That’s why when Nebuzaradan entered Jerusalem, the Temple burned just as well as Solomon’s palace did.  That’s why the bronze sea could be broken up and taken away.  That’s why the lampstand could be taken, the priests executed, the instruments taken as plunder.

As to the Ark, there are two possibilities in my mind.  The first comes from 1 Kings 14:25-26.  Shishak, king of Egypt, invaded Judah during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.  Apparently, he made it all the way to Jerusalem, but as it turned out, it looked like his objective was plunder, not conquest, because Judah’s monarchy and national sovereignty remained intact.  But “He carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace.  He took everything…”  If that’s the case, then possibly the ark was gone then already, though it seems strange that it wasn’t mentioned.

The other possibility comes to mind when Nebuzaradan came to Jerusalem and burned down the temple of the Lord.  Babylon was in Jerusalem, not for plunder, but for punitive destruction.  So they took everything made of gold, silver, or bronze.  But I imagine that when the soldiers stormed the holy of holies, and found nothing more than a wooden box with some strange bread, a budded stick, and a couple of engraved slabs of stone, they would have snapped the golden cherubim off the lid, and then left the box to burn up with the rest of the temple.

I favour the Babylonian destruction theory over the Egyptian plunder theory.  It’s just too weird in my mind that Solomon threw an enormous party to celebrate the ark’s arrival in Jerusalem, and then there’s no mention at all of the ark being taken away just a few decades later by the Egyptians.

Then there’s Jeremiah making mention of the ark in his prophecy that he made well before Jerusalem was destroyed, as if people were relying on the ark’s presence to save them from Babylon.

So to me, it is most likely that the ever-present quest to find the ark of the covenant is a vain one.  I think the ark was reduced to ashes and melted down gold on Aug 14th, 586 B.C.

~The Mage~

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Election Reform, Education, Taxation, Beer.

You know, I have a lot of respect for Tim Hudak, leader of Ontario’s provincial party.  It’s not that hard, since he’s challenging Dalton McGuinty in the next election, and, well, you can’t really do worse, can you?

I’ve admired what seemed to be his common sense approach to things like Dalton’s HST and his eco-fee (also known as blatant highway robbery).  I’ve admired his pledge to dismantle an enormous money-hole that’s been created in the healthcare system by a taxpayer-funded Liberal-Party-based regulatory body that does nothing, says nothing worth hearing, and is accountable to no one of importance.  I’ve admired his bold plans to turn Ontario back into a province that produces for the rest of the country, rather than accepts the “have-not” status that we’ve been assigned and just accepting the “equalization” (i.e: welfare) payments from the federal government (which, of course, came ultimately out of the Albertan taxpayers pocket).

He’s got a lot of good ideas, and he interacts well with the people.

Until…

Really, Tim?  We’ve got all these other issues to deal with, why would you take the air time on a microphone to make an issue out of the fact that Dalton McGuinty raised the praise of beer by a couple bucks a case?  People can’t buy their buck-a-beer anymore, and it’s all Dalton McGuinty’s fault.

You were doing so well, Tim.  Of all Dalton McGuinty’s sins, you could have promised change on anything.  You did promise change on a lot of things.  This one, frankly, makes you sound a little petty.  You sound like you’re running out of ammunition to use against Dalton McGuinty if you have to go after the way the man prices beer.

Stick to the real issues, please.

~The Mage~

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Stuxnet: Like I Always Said, Nerds Will Take Over the World.

This. Is. So. Cool.

A bad day in the life of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  It seems the Qur’an doesn’t say “Thou shalt install better anti-virus software, and employ hackers.”

A good thing too: nuclear radiation is bad for the skin.

Now, a lot of people seem to still deny that Mr. Ahmadinejad is trying to build nukes, and I’m sure those people would call this really cool worm some kind of act of cyber-terrorism.  I’m afraid that somewhere between a hidden nuclear plant under a mountain, the presence of uranium enriched far beyond what is needed for nuclear electric generation, the public denials of the holocaust, the calls for the destruction of Israel, the gross violation of human rights, the obviously rigged election, and so forth and so on, I’m afraid your ongoing faith in this man is misguided at best.

Therefore, I read with glee about the brilliance and creativity of this remarkable computer program.  We seem to be entering a new world of international conflict.  I particularly like the fact that it is bloodless, and indeed, that it delayed the creation of a very – very – bloody weapon.

And thus, we enter a new phase of war.  A phase in which hackers and nerds of the world are recruited and employed by governments, and war turns into a very advanced video game.

This is a wonderful thing.  Well, think about it: Iran’s nuclear plant has been sabotaged, and they can’t build a nuclear bomb for a while.  Some industrial equipment was destroyed, and here’s the really great thing: nobody is dead.

So who’s still complaining?  I think I like “War: Version 2.0″

~The Mage~

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I’m Out of Money. Give Me Yours.

I hope all my readers have read the child’s fable about the ant and the grasshopper.  In case you hadn’t, here’s a brief plot summary:

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

In what I’ll affectionately call “western civilization’s version”, everything is the same right up until:

Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.

The shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate like him are cold and starving.

CBC shows up to provide live coverage of the shivering grasshopper, with cuts to a video of the ant in his comfortable warm home with a table filled with food.

Canadians are stunned that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer while others have plenty. The NDP, the CAW and the Coalition Against Poverty demonstrate in front of the ant’s house. The CBC, interrupting an Inuit cultural festival special from Nunavut with breaking news, broadcasts them singing, “We Shall Overcome.”

Exiled Svend Robinson rants in an interview with Pamela Wallin that the ant has gotten rich off the backs of grasshoppers, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his “fair share.” In response to polls, the Liberal Government drafts the Economic Equity and Grasshopper Anti-Discrimination Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The ant’s taxes are reassessed and he is also fined for failing to hire grasshoppers as helpers. Without enough money to pay both the fine and his newly imposed retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government. The ant moves to the U.S. and starts a successful agribiz company.

The CBC later shows the now-fat grasshopper finishing up the last of the ant’s food though Spring is still months away, while the Government house he is in (which just happens to be the ant’s old house) crumbles around him because he hadn’t maintained it.

Inadequate government funding is blamed, and Roy Romanow is appointed to head a commission of enquiry that will cost $10,000,000. The grasshopper is soon dead of a drug overdose, and the Toronto Star blames it on obvious failure of government to address the root causes of despair arising from social inequity.

The abandoned house is taken over by a gang of immigrant spiders who are praised by the government for enriching Canada’s multicultural diversity. The spiders promptly terrorize the community.

The End.

In the spirit of complete disclosure, I didn’t write that.  Here’s my source.

But it still speaks to me about what socialism does to society.  I’m watching the results of that going full scale in Europe right now.

For those that have been living under a rock, allow me to clarify, just so I know we’re all on the same page.  The media said it started in Greece.  The government came out and said “We’re broke.  We’re out of Euros.  Our economy is on the verge of collapse.  It’s not our fault.”

The markets worldwide reacted with a sharp but short-lived decline.  The Eurozone bailed out Greece with an emergency loan that they were going to pay back in an impossibly short amount of time.  We believed them anyway, and now, of course, Greece is coming back and saying “Hey, uh, could you give us some more time on that?  We may not be able to come up with the money as quick as we thought.”

Meanwhile, we all thought “Wow.  Greece sure must have problems with balancing a budget.  I’m so glad we’re not like that.”

Next, Ireland’s government bonds became significantly less delightful on the market.  The Eurozone asked why.  It turned out that Ireland was also in financial trouble.  So the conflagration began.  Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and, most recently, Hungary.  Apparently, nobody in Europe can balance a checkbook.

What happened?  How did they all get into trouble?  What did they do wrong?

Please refer back to Western society’s version of the ant and the grasshopper.  People at the grassroots level decided to depend on the government, rather than their own hard work, to sustain them.  The state became God, and the people wanted everything, from their health care to their education to be “free” from the government.

In other words: what went wrong in Europe?  Socialism.

They failed to realize that “government money” is actually code for “taxpayer money”.  In case that connection did happen, then they failed to recognize that “taxpayer money” was actually code for “my money”.  They thought “taxpayer money” was code for “his money”, unless they were still stuck on “government money”.

This demand for “free” everything is founded in a sense of entitlement.  That sense of entitlement is based on an understanding of human rights.

Rights like the right to have cable television.  Or vacations.

With this worldview firmly entrenched in their minds, they lobbied their government to make policies accordingly.  Being democracies, the governments adopted the worldview.  After all, how better to get re-elected then to bribe the people.  Especially if you can bribe them with their own money.  Yes, people are that stupid.

So the programs increased, and in keeping with their promises to the people, the taxes to pay for them did not go up.  So now the money going out is greater than the money coming in.  That’s called deficit.  That’s called debt.

But oh well.  The debt is growing, and its growing at an alarming rate.  But it’s not like we’re bankrupt yet.  I’m not worried about 2010.  I’m worried about the election in 2009.  If I can be re-elected by sinking the country even further into debt, then why not?  What’s the worst that could happen?  After all, we use the Euro.  Our currency is everywhere.  There’s nothing we could do to the Euro.  We’re only one country.

Thus, Greece dug themselves deeper and deeper and deeper.  The people were happy because they were still getting their faces stuffed with “free” stuff that was bought with “government money” and given to them.  In order to administer all this, the government had to get bigger and bigger.  We need to pay all those government workers their union wages, as well.

Sadly, Greece wasn’t the only country thinking that way.  They most likely just thought of it first.  Ireland followed, then Portugal, now Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Hungary.

Meanwhile, “the ants”, known as Germany and France, were doing quite alright, even though they were using the Euro.  That’s because they figured out that if you spend more money than you have, you will eventually go broke.

In other words, Germany and France can add.  The other countries lost that ability somewhere between the “human right” to cable television and the “human right” to internet access.

But now that we know how they got here, how are we going to fix this problem?  I’m seeing lots of different ideas floating around Europe, but I’m noticing that not one of them is running along the lines of “spend less.”  I don’t know, I guess that one would hurt a few re-election campaigns.

Here’s one that is particularly entertaining.  We need a bailout fund so that when we spend too much money and go broke, the rest of the continent can bail us out.  After all, this is civilization.  We all take care of each other here!

If you’re nodding your head to that last statement, then you’ve lost perspective.  Go read the ant and the grasshopper again.

The one thing in there that wasn’t so funny was the suggestion to issue “collective debt” in the form of those E-bonds.

Let me translate that for you:  They want to take all the debt from all the countries, mix it all together, and then dole it out to all the countries equally, and then have all the countries borrow together.  That way, everyone’s debt load isn’t so bad, and they can continue borrowing.

Sound like a good idea?  Then go read the ant and the grasshopper again.

This is a plan that will do three things: 1) It will reward countries like Greece for their utterly absurd inability to spend wisely; 2) it will penalize countries like Germany and France for their ability to balance a budget; and 3) it will add zero accountability to the various governments to control their spending, thus delaying a serious problem for maybe a couple of years, at which time, not four or five countries, but Europe as a whole will crush itself under an unbelievable amount of debt.

But oh well.  That’s in a couple of years.  We like this plan.  It’ll get us re-elected.

We have got to learn from Europe’s insanity and abandon a worldview that includes socialism, and we need to do it yesterday.  I’m seeing some very ugly patterns in U.S and Canadian government spending programs that will eventually land us exactly where Europe is now.

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Function of Government

Ask not what your country can do for you…

Actually, go ahead.  Ask what your country can do for you.  After all, that was a very old catch phrase.  The new one is “We will guarantee your GM warranty.”

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what exactly it is that governments are supposed to do.  You know what I came up with?

Governments. Govern.

Yep.  That’s it.  That is what governments are supposed to do.  They govern.  As part of that, they pass laws which are good and orderly, but not laws that are overly intrusive.  They are supposed to pass laws that allow their citizens to live peaceful, quiet lives, in the pursuit of happiness, wealth, health, whatever.  Thus, laws like “Don’t use your gun to kill someone,” are good laws.  Thus also, laws like “You may not own a gun at all, unless you pay us a fee to register it so we can watch you like a hawk even though you’ve done nothing wrong,” are bad laws.  Very bad.  The one ensures safety, the other invades privacy.

As another example: a law that says, “We, the government, want hospitals to be willing to treat everyone,” is a good law.  A law that says, “We the government are going to pay for it all,” is a bad law.  Why does the government need to pay for health care?  That’s not their job.  Their job is to govern, not to pay your medical bills.

It’s not half as bad in the United States as it is in Canada.  In Canada, citizens look to the government for health care, education, babysitting, retirement pensions, social assistance, employment insurance, cultural development and support, funding for filmography, gun control, car control, property control, and recently, though this offer was rescinded, our federal government was going to pay to have a new hockey arena built in Quebec.

Sure, that offer was rescinded after enough people got angry about it, but still – that was considered?

As a result of all this, our national debt is growing by $135 million every day, and our total national debt now stands at $544 billion.

“But that’s lower than the States’ national debt!” one may protest.  Yay.  You think the States are closer to bankruptcy than we are.  How comforting to know that their economy will implode before ours will.

But you don’t even know that.  Sure, the State’s has a higher national debt, but they have ten times the people we do here in Canada.  Does the States have debt problems?  Yes.  Ours are bigger.  If you take our debt and divide it out to every man, woman, and child in Canada, we all owe about $16,000.  Very simple equation.  Now plug in the States’ numbers.  Trust me: we’re in worse shape.

This is all because our government has their hands in more and more that is none of their business at all.

Is there a solution.  Yes.  Privatize health care, education, and every other thing that our government should not be involved in.

“But wait! If you privatize health care, then I won’t be able to afford my medical bills!”

Get health insurance.

“But I can’t afford health insurance!”

Yes you can.  I know you can.  You know how I know you can?  Because you are paying health insurance premiums already.  Every province takes money away from you and uses it to pay for health care, in Ontario, it’s through insurance called OHIP, in Alberta, it’s called something else.  But it’s all health insurance.  So when we privatize health care, education, and everything else that we have no business being involved in, we can drop your income tax and you can afford the premium.

Notice I said drop your income tax.  I didn’t say drop it by x percent.  I said drop it.  All.

There is no reason why we cannot run our government and our military on a 10% HST from coast to coast.  Education, health care, electricity grid, traffic control, etc, all paid for privately (meaning they are run a lot more efficiently) through insurance, or through co-operatives.  And you can afford it because before we made this change, you made $50,000 and took home $33,000.  After we make this change, you make $50,000 and take home $50,000.

And the government lays off every single person in CRA.  That’ll save us billions right there.

“But what about the poor people?”

This 10% HST will have a prebate (not rebate – this comes before you spend the money) in it that will bring everyone back up to the poverty line.  Not just the poor people.  Everyone gets this.  Otherwise, people still need to apply for it, and then the government is still asking people what their income is, and that’s a question they have no business asking. Ever.

Meanwhile, we’ll stop paying $4 billion every month in interest on our national debt.  How?  We’ll pay it off.  All of it.  Overnight.  How?  We’ll reinstitute the statutory reserve, thus recreating the law that banks have to keep money in reserve (it lets the government control the money supply, instead of the chartered banks).  When we tell the banks that they have to hold x dollars in statutory reserve, they’re going to tell us “We can’t raise that kind of capital.”  Then we’ll create the money and give it to them for their reserve.  The money hasn’t entered the economy, so inflation won’t happen.  We’ve paid off our national debt completely, so we don’t owe the banks anything.  Done.  There’s $4 billion a month saved.

Then there’s the money our government is spending on their re-election campaigns.  Yes, that’s right.  They take money from you for that.  That is, the big parties do.  The small parties have to scrounge up funds through their own fundraising, but the big parties just take it from you, because they can.  Simple solution there: Stop it.  Done.

Then there’s the Human Rights Commissions: government-funded tribunals for people with hurt feelings to go sue someone if their case was so laughable that it would have been thrown out of any real court.  And your legal fees, if you’re the plaintiff, are paid for by the taxpayer.  Again, simple solution: Abolish them.

You know, I don’t just look at this as an economic issue.  I look at it as a moral issue.  The way our government is run now is nothing short of theft.  The level of irresponsibility present here is so mind-numbingly infuriating, mostly because I see it as a problem not only for today.  I have a son that will inherit all this nonsense if nothing is done about it now.

Government should govern.  It has no business doing anything else.

~The Mage~

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Wonderfully Hungry?

Once in awhile, in our walk of faith, we encounter someone who has taken the Christian title, and in the Name of Jesus Christ tells us something that is utterly absurd.  I have encountered someone who may very well be a true believer and I may need to defend these words to him personally in heaven one day.

But this guy is completely, absurdly, foolishly, unbelievably, and even dangerously off the wall.  He’s a medical doctor with a Ph.D.  That tells me that he’s far too educated for his own good.  And it’s showing.

This man believes that it is necessary for health and well-being to be in a perpetual state of hunger!  He claims to have had an out-of-body experience and a miraculous healing 11 years ago.  Now he talks to people, telling them that we’ve all been lied to.  He’s saying that the lie we’ve been told is that "hunger is starvation", and he talks about how that’s not so.

Duh.

But then he goes on to say that if we remain in a perpetual state of hunger, we will draw closer to God, be healthier, be happier, and be free of cardiovascular disease.  So be hungry and thus healthy.

This man is going to cause a lot of damage with this kind of ridiculous talk.  Why did God create us with hunger pangs?  So that we are reminded to eat!

With preaching like this (and it is preaching – this is not a professional medical opinion, no matter what he calls it), there are going to be people out there, perhaps who are insecure about their bodies, that will take this information and end up with an eating disorder like bulimia or anorexia.  Those are disorders that can kill.

So folks, if you’re hungry, eat something.  Food is a blessing, not an inherent evil.  Gluttony is a sin, but eating and being satisfied is not.

And hey, Dr. Chung, if I’ve offended you, then I truly apologize.  If I meet you in heaven someday, I’m sure you will realize that I was only so harsh because I wanted to protect people from such an absurd and dangerous idea.

Cheers.

~The Mage~

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Burning Infernos are God’s Possession

If fragment from the sun’s core the size of a head of a pin were to be placed on earth, its heat would destroy everything within 100 kilometers.
 
When I first heard that, my brain did two things.  First it went "Really?  That’s amazing."  Then it went "Well, of course that makes perfect sense."  We are, after all, some 146,000,000 kilometers away from the sun, and we can feel a significant temperature change between the sun and the shade.
 
Then it added that factoid to my ever-increasing trove of mostly useless knowledge.
 
You know it’s funny.  We have this habit of acknowledging that God created something like the sun, and then we somehow don’t trust His ability to take care of whatever pitiful little problem it is that we have.  Why do we do that?
 
Human nature, I suppose.  I’m reminded of 12 men who walked with a Man of great power.  They saw the dead raised, the lame walk, the blind see, and the mute speak.  Yet somehow they were still of such little faith that Jesus once said to two of them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!"  (Luke 24:25) You can almost hear the exasperation in his voice.
 
We are certainly no different, no better.  God’s power and might scream at us from all sides, and yet we thick-skulled people somehow just don’t get it.  Even when we do, we only get it for awhile, and then we forget.  God forgive us for this lapse in faith we experience.
 
Praise be to God that He does not leave us to our stubborn hard-heartedness.  Praise God that He dwells in us and continually works that faith in us.  We would be utterly lost without God’s constant guidance.
 
~The Mage~
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