A number of years ago I spent a couple of days with a hiking club in the rural Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
On the first night of the back-breaking, blister-producing trip, a few of us sat around the fire and a sangoma joined us – one of SA’s few white witchdoctors.
He was dressed in typical traditional garb and wore amulets and charms to ward off various spirits. He asked us if he could throw some herbs into the fire to cleanse the air of evil spirits.
Most people around the fire were very keen as (I guess) they thought that any kind of cleansing from any kind of spirit could only be a good thing.
Apparently, he then purified the air of evil spirits.
A number of things interested me about that evening:
1. The witchdoctor, unlike so many people today, acknowledged (like the Bible does) the existence of the spiritual world
2. The witchdoctor naively thought that some strange smelling smoke could drive away evil spirits
The Bible teaches that Satan and the demons are powerful beings and couldn’t care less about which herbs you throw on the fire. One needs someone more powerful than Satan to bind him or overcome him.Cf. Mark 3:27
3. The witchdoctor gave me insight into the typical, worldly religious worldview
Many people think that they, like the witchdoctor, can control or manipulate the spiritual realm by performing certain rituals, saying certain words or wearing certain charms. This is the essence of religion.
The Tibetan Buddhists’ life consists of constant religious observances to obtain a better reincarnation. The believer is constantly spinning prayers wheels, going on pilgrimages, meditating, prostrating, using prayer beads and going on monastic isolations. All this to build up merit to improve their karma to gain a better reincarnation, and – if possible – nirvana.
This kind of devotion is not uncommon.
The religious systems of our world are all schemes to obtain merit with God.
Whether you’re Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, a spiritualist, or whatever, you seek – by your own works – to get God to credit your salvation account.
Religion is spelt D.O. You DO things to get God’s approval.
I mentioned in my previous post that God used Old Testament Israel in “Holy War” in a very specific time and a very specific place. The command to “devote to destruction” is no longer applicable because in Christ there is no one nation or ethnic group that can lay claim to be God’s special people or instruments of God’s judgment. Now, in Christ, God is calling people from all the different nations of the world. The commands applicable for us today is to do no murder; to love our enemies; to care for the vulnerable and foreigner; and to pray for those who persecute us.
However, Christians can learn much from the fact of Holy War in the Old Testament:
You may be excused for thinking that Isaiah 56:1 sounds a bit Islamic. God tells his people, “Maintain justice and do righteousness”.
Islam teaches that a Muslim earns Allah’s favour by doing good deeds and keeping the five pillars of Islam – testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and taking a pilgrimage to Mecca. You do righteousness in order to hopefully be righteous. Is this what Isaiah is teaching?