Thursday, April 21, 2016

Gospel message from Ben Hur: Words Of Balthasar the Egyptian Preacher

The following excerpt is from a favorite classical Christian romance novel of mine: Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ by General Lew Wallace  (1827-1905). Ever since I was a child I have always been engrossed in the classic tale of Ben Hur, especially Charleton Heston in the film adaptation. I have read the original novel on which the famous 1950s movie adaptation was based - first time as a teenager and then later just last year. The language is so sublime and beautiful, presenting the story of a young Jewish prince who has been betrayed by his childhood friend Massala, condemned as a slave on a galley ship, his family imprisoned, his fortune taken. This is the story of Ben Hur regaining his lost world but also finding redemption along the way in his encounters with Balthasar the Egyptian seer, one of the Magi, the Wise Men from the east. Nothing but revenge and destruction looms inside the mind of the broken-hearted Ben Hur who awaits the kingdom and redemption of Israel. Balthasar, a wise man who had turned into a preacher in Egypt enlightens the young prince of the true nature of the Kingdom of Heaven, and gives Hur a more accurate understanding of God's Redemption of His people, and all of mankind.

""The cause of my disquiet," Balthazar began calmly - "that which made me a preacher in Alexandria and in the villages of the Nile; that which drove me at last into the solitude where the Spirit found me - was the fallen condition of men, occasioned, as I believed, by loss of the knowledge of God. I sorrowed for the sorrows of my kind - not of one class, but all of them. So utterly were they fallen, it seemed to me there could be no Redemption unless God Himself would make it His work; and I prayed Him to come, and that I might see Him. 'Thy good works have conquered. The Redemption cometh; thou shalt see the saviour' - thus the Voice spake; and with the answer I went up to Jerusalem rejoicing. Now, to whom is the Redemption? To all the world. And how shall it be? Strengthen thy faith, my son! Men say, I know, that there will be no happiness until Rome is razed from her hills. That is to say, the ills of the time are not, as I thought them, from ignorance of God, but from the misgovernment of rulers. Do we need to be told that human governments are never for the sake of religion? How many kings have you heard of who were better than their subjects? Oh no, no! The Redemption cannot be for a political purpose - to pull down rulers and powers, and vacate their places merely that others may take and enjoy them. Of that were all of it, the wisdom of God would cease to be surpassing. I tell you, though it be but the saying of blind to blind, He that comes is to be a Saviour of souls; and the Redemption means God once more on earth, and righteousness, that His stay here may be tolerable to Himself.""

""Thy of the world; and thou dost forget that it is from the ways of the world we are to be redeemed. There is a kingdom on the earth, though it is not of it - a kingdom of wider bounds than the earth - wider than the sea and the earth, though they were rolled together as finest gold and spread by the beating of hammers. Its existence is a fact as our hearts are facts, and we journey through it from birth to death without seeing it; nor shall any man see it until he hath first known his own soul; for the kingdom is not for him, but for his soul. And in its dominion there is glory such as hath not entered imagination - original, incomparable, impossible of increase.""

""What thou sayest, father, is a riddle to me," said Ben Hur. "I never hear of such a kingdom.""

""Nor did I," said Ilderim."

""And I may not tell more of it," Balthasar added, humbly dropping his eyes. "What it is, what it is for, how it may be reached, none can know until the Child comes to take possession of it as His own. He brings the key of the viewless gate, which He will open for His beloved, among whom will be all who love Him, for of such only the redeemed will be."" 

General Lewis Wallace, Ben Hur: A Tale of The Christ, pg. 125-126

Earthly kingdoms are of no spiritual and religious avail at all. The governments that keep order in our towns and cities have their mundane function, whereas the Kingdom of God has supramundane one. The Kingdom of Heaven extends throughout the uttermost parts of this globe, we cannot see it, but it's hidden in its own secret dimension which our ordinary mind with its five mortal sense organs cannot apprehend and grasp.

The kingdom, though fully present and simultaneously yet to come, is not of the nature and substance of this world - world of death, decay, carnality, and transitoriness. This world is but of a nature of what Paul refers to as "basic and rudimentary particles of this universe" (Colossians 2:20), "beggarly elements" (Galatians 4:9), and "corruptible" (1st Corinthians 15:53). John refers to this order of cosmos as "passing" (1st John 2:17). The Kingdom of Heaven is our eternal home, a dominion "that will never pass away, and a kingdom that will never be destroyed" (Daniel 7:27).

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