Of Glory & Tongue

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

These were the words taken from a poem written by David, king of Israel, as (I imagine) he meditated on the world created by YHWH, the God he worshipped. The poem expresses how all things created and ordered by YHWH display the supreme weight of His majesty, splendor, power and wisdom. The weight of His glory is apparent in the things that have been made, as stated centuries later by Sha’ul of Tarsus in his letter to the community of believers in Rome.

Scripture narrates the story of Shlomo (normally anglicized as Solomon), son and successor of David, when visited by YHWH at Giv‘ōn. In a dream, YHWH asked the newly anointed king for any request as he embarked on his new responsibility, to which Shlomo requested wisdom. In granting him this request, YHWH gave him knowledge and understanding of philosophy, botany, zoology and other disciplines of what we today call science. One can infer that the greater the depth of understanding Shlomo had on creation, the more the glory of YHWH was revealed.

The complex history of the relationship between the European and native African cultural groups in Africa, is a long one, with the effects of this history firmly entrenched in our present reality. Well funded missionary groups came from various European nations, onto African shores preaching the good news of Jesus, and purporting to be bringing the three C’s, Christianity, Commerce and Civilization, to the “dark continent” of Africa. In the beginning, while the societal structures of the various African communities were strong, there was little conversion. Yet, with the increased colonial military expansion of the various European empires, the breakup of the structures resulted in increased displacement, both geographical and socio-economic. After this, though still a small number, there was an increased conversion to this message that the missionaries brought.

Those who converted to Christianity found not just the Jesus that was proclaimed, but a new lifestyle. When many started attending the missionary schools, they had to pick an English, French or Portuguese ‘Christian name’ which they were baptised into. Their dress code changed as the traditional garb was not considered modest for a Christian. They started learning English, Dutch, German, French and Latin, as well as European history, placing the origin of their missionary teachers as cultural centers of humanity.

And many embraced this. They started learning the ways of the European. Some started changing the way they built their homes from the round rondavels to the rectangular stone buildings. Many started dressing different, creating a visible distinction between the kholwa and the qaba. And as they became more assimilated in the cultures of their teachers and preachers, there was an increased relegation of the world they had known before. The newly adopted languages were the vehicles of knowledge and perceived superior wisdom, while the former languages had no place in centers of learning and trade.

The effects of this are still visible today, where in many African cities, the vehicular languages and norms of learning and trade are still based on the norms and patterns of the former colonial masters. It is a continent where a predictor of societal success and flourishing for the individual is not the inherent ability or capacity of an individual, but how well they have assimilated into English or French culture.

Fifty days after the passover festival during which Yeshua ben Yosef was crucified and resurrected, another pilgrimage festival was celebrated – Shavuot (or Pentecost in Ancient Greek). Centuries earlier, when the descendants of Israel were freed from slavery in Egypt, this was one of the feasts that was gifted to them, with the significance of celebrating the wheat harvest. It also came to commemorate the day when the Torah, a written record of the things YHWH had set in place, was given to the congregation at Mount Sinai.

Before the incarnation of Yeshua, YHWH chose the nation of Israel as the people among whom his dwelling glory, or His shekinah glory would be. He gave this community of Hebrews exact building instructions of a sacred tent in which His glory would dwell. When they moved in the desert, He moved with them. Where He rested, they rested too. From the tent, this glory was then manifest in the temple built by Shlomo, son of David, resting between the cast cherubim on the ark of the covenant.

When Yeshua was crucified, the curtain that separated the most sacred part of the temple where the manifest presence of YHWH dwelt, was miraculously torn. And during this festival of Shavuot, what appeared to be tongues of fire were seen resting on the gathered disciples of Yeshua, resulting in them declaring the great works of God in ancient languages from modern day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Libya and Italy. The mystery was being revealed that YHWH’s glory was to dwell with not only the Hebrews, but in the hearts of the nations around the world. His wondrous works and the weight of his majesty, splendor, power and wisdom was made manifest to all, and was to be communicated to all.

I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.

David poetically showed us how all creation “shouts” of the glory of the creator. When YHWH gave Shlomo wisdom and greater insight of that which YHWH had created, the glory-declaring shout of creation became louder as Shlomo revealed more of the created order to those in his nation, and visitors like the Queen of Sheba. During that distinct Shavuot, when the perceived tongues of fire rested on the disciples, they declared the great works of YHWH in many languages, revealing His glory and wondrous works to the nations of the earth.

Yet, the reality we have created is not ordered as such. In many of our cities around the continent, the glory of YHWH in His creation is explored in depth in French, Portuguese and English, while languages with centuries of history and presuppositions that can give us a greater revelation of His majesty, are relegated to second place. Humanity has created a world where the majesty, splendor, wisdom and power of YHWH are explored best through the culture and presuppositions of the ‘neo-elect’ nations of France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Yet, the redeeming work of Yeshua on the cross and acceptance as subjects of His kingdom has given us the privilege of restoring the disorder we have fashioned into the order He created.

We have a God-given imperative to develop African languages within the sciences and the arts, so that the various peoples, nations and languages around the continent have an opportunity to reveal the mysteries of His glory and His wonderful works, both in the things that He has made, and in the saving and restorative work of Yeshua.

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