Two quotes attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. are dear to me. Holmes, a Union officer, was badly wounded and left for dead at Antietam, in the American Civil War. This brush with death was possibly the background to the first quote. He was in his nineties and a Supreme Court Justice when interviewed by a reporter who asked: what's your secret to success in life? I imagine Holmes leaning over towards the younger man as if sharing a secret, imparting this golden nugget of wisdom: my secret is that at an early age I discovered I wasn't God!

I'm always reminded of this wisdom when meeting people – virtually or in real life – who have yet to learn that they're not God.

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Ancient idolatry was based on a simple, implied premise: I am God. Therefore: the gods I imagine are in my image, with my foibles and failures, weaknesses and wants. They're just more powerful than me, but I, too, am God, a source of all life and wisdom, hence an arbiter of right and wrong, good and evil.


Pharaoh was an excellent example of the "I-am-God" syndrome, saying: "the Nile is mine, and I made myself" (Ezekiel 29, 3). The Biblical story of the Exodus from Egypt emphasizes: "You shall know that I am God!" The Exodus taught pharaoh – and all of us – we are not God. Humanity is created in the "image of God", not the other way around. The first of the Ten Commandments declares: "I am God, your Lord, who took you out from the land of Egypt and the house of bondage. You shall not have other gods" – and you shall realize you're not god! The universe contains forces greater than us, wisdom deeper and more all-encompassing than ours, how much more so the source of the universe is greater than us! We have to remember that together with our wonderful, charismatic character and creative endeavors – we also must know humility.

The ancient "I-am-God" syndrome was somewhat revived during the "Renaissance" that Western Europe experienced. Although earth was no longer the center of the universe – humanity was, man again was a god, who could know through instinct, human rationality or feelings, what was right and what was wrong. Some play God and decide what's true in the Bible and what isn't, what's good and what's not. Essentially they placed themselves above not only the Bible, but above all collective wisdom on morality and goodness. Incidentally – this modern world gave us man-made God-less religions, such as communism and fascism, which killed tens of millions of people and aided in plunging the world into two world wars.

When some church's special commission declares, after much "learned" investigation, that one cannot read into the Bible a Divine promise of a certain land to a certain people – that's not an example of the "I-am-God" syndrome. That's just an example of "I-am-illiterate"!

However when someone claims that citing the Bible as the Jewish nation's "deed" to the Holy Land isn't valid, because God's commands are all fine and dandy – as long as they conform to morality, we ask them: "Who is to determine what is "moral" and what is not?" Their answer: objective, rational, humanistic thinking.

Yeah, right.

What they actually mean is: "I decide". This is once again the "I-am-God" syndrome. They would rewrite the Bible to conform to their ideas of morality, because they haven't yet learned that they aren't God.

I've tried to show in the first five parts of this series that Jewish sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is absolutely in line with universal principles of morality. Above and beyond that: to me it's elementary that the Bible is in truth our deed to this land. I'm comfortable relying on the Bible and Jewish law, a moral system that doesn't change as often as you change socks; a moral system that has succeeded in keeping an entire people vibrant, creative and always contributing to the world; a system that is a universal standard of morality, not easily dismissed even by secularists.

Btw – the other quote: Holmes supposedly said to President Lincoln, who was peering over the parapet at the Confederates: "Get down, you fool!"
 
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