Friday, March 26, 2010

Introductory Quote

This is the Day in which the testimony of the Lord hath been fulfilled, the Day in which the Word of God hath been made manifest, and His evidence firmly established. His voice is calling you unto that which shall profit you, and enjoineth you to observe that which shall draw you nigh unto God, the Lord of Revelation.

We are not sure where this quote comes from, but we do know that the Guardian chose to place it here as an introductory quote to this Book. We, therefore, feel impelled to look at it and see what gems we can find within it while looking at the Kitab-i-Iqan.

Why did the Guardian put it there? What is Baha'u'llah telling us? Or perhaps more accurately, what is God telling us?

In the first sentence, we notice that there are four key aspects that describe the nature of God's revelation to mankind.

First, it is noteworthy that Baha'u'llah is referring to this Day, and none other. Baha'u'llah stresses this twice in one sentence with the phrases “This is the Day” and again a few words later repeating "the Day". He reveals the nature and aspect of the revelation for this Day, telling us that the "testimony of the Lord hath been fulfilled", the "Word of God hath been made manifest", and "His evidence (is) firmly established". “This is the Day”, Baha'u'llah says, when these events occur.

If we wished, we could speculate on the reason for this, for the fulfillment of the long-awaited promise of such a Day. We could try to guess at some of the reasons for the appearance of this Day, a Day announced by all His chosen Messengers, but regardless of what we may consider valid reasons, this dispensation clearly demonstrates its qualities and attributes as being the long awaited and promised Day of God. Here, at the beginning of this quote, Baha'u'llah is giving us assurance of what it is we will find for ourselves when we investigate His claims and teachings.

Second, we see that “the testimony of the Lord hath been fulfilled” in this Day.

A “testimony” is a declaration of faith, sometimes referring to divine Laws. In this case, it can either refer to Baha'u'llah's open proclamation of His station, or an acknowledgement that He has revealed all the precepts of God. Whichever definition we choose to use, He is saying that the testimony has been completed. This is, of course, the most important aspect of His Mission: making His declaration, and bringing it to completion.

In addition to this, he also says that His testimony is “fulfilled”. When something is fulfilled, it means that it has been carried out or brought into realization. It can either be as a promise or a prophesy, but it must satisfy all necessary requirements upon completion. This fulfillment can refer to Baha'u'llah's testimony, the testimony of God, or the testimony of a previous Messenger of God. Whichever definition we choose to use, we have to recognize that it has been done.

Third, Baha'u'llah tells us that "the Word of God hath been made manifest".

What exactly is “the Word of God”? Well, let's review and acquaint ourselves with the Word of God with which we are already familiar. The Psalmist says, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path". In the Gospel of John he says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God". In the Qur'an, Muhammad describes the magnitude of the Word of God: "If the waters of the sea were ink with which to write the words of my Lord, the sea would surely run dry before the words of my Lord were spent, though we found another sea to replenish it". In the Bayan, the Bab describes His position as a Messenger of God, saying,"I am one of the sustaining pillars of the Primal Word of God". Baha'u'llah says, "The Word of God may be likened unto a sapling, whose roots have been implanted in the hearts of men".

So, one aspect of the Word of God is God speaking to humanity through His appointed Messenger, for humanity's guidance and betterment. That was easy!

Now, when something is made “manifest”, it usually means that it's readily perceived by our senses and easily understandable. When the Word of God is made manifest, it is made clear and plain, and openly declared for all to hear. All the Messengers and Prophets of God have fulfilled the calling of bringing the Word of God to humanity, but it has not always made it clear and easily understood. It has been delivered as parable, allegory, sometimes in veiled language, and, at times, simply straightforward. The difficulty has been deciding which is which. We have been left trying to piece it together like a puzzle.

Baha'u'llah, in His Writings, speaks plainly, although in an exalted style. In His Message, in His declaration, and throughout His life, He is very clear about the Truth He speaks. Perhaps this is why the Bab refers to Him as "Him Whom God shall make manifest".

The fourth phrase we wish to look at in this first sentence is “His evidence (is) firmly established”.

Evidence” means that there is permanent proof, or grounds for belief; that there is a sign, and that facts are formed. We know that the best proof or evidence offered by a Prophet of God is Himself, but after His passing, it is the effectiveness of His Word.

He also stresses that this evidence is "firmly established". This means it has fulfilled a function in an unalterable manner, established a fixed order and founded a strong institution.

We could ask how this is done, but Baha'u'llah has answered it in His own Writings. The subject of how "His evidence is firmly established" is, in fact, one of the main points of this blog.

Now we can move on to the second of two sentences in this quote: “His voice is calling you unto that which shall profit you, and enjoineth you to observe that which shall draw you nigh unto God, the Lord of Revelation.”

To start, we noticed the phrase, “His voice is calling you”. When God speaks, we don't always listen, to put it mildly. When we speak, God always listens and answers, but not necessarily in the manner we wish for Him to do so. For us to hear Him, we have to use our spiritual ears, which is not how we usually listen. Also, if His voice is calling us, then we must be distant, for you don't call someone who is standing right next to you.

But He is not just calling us. Baha'u'llah specifies that He “is calling (us) unto that which shall profit (us)”. Like any loving Father, He is helping us to learn, grow and mature.

If something is to profit us, it must have some benefit or be of some advantage to us. It will help us progress, and advance. Not only that, but it has to be of service to others.

He is not only calling us, but even going so far as to “enjoineth (us) to observe that which shall draw (us) nigh unto God”.

To “enjoin” means to direct or order to do something, as given by an authority. God is prescribing a path of faith for us, a course of action, but not just any course of action. He specifically wants us to “observe”, or obey, those things that will bring us closer to Him. He wants us to pay attention and watch, to understand what He says, and actually learn something from Him. This, we feel, is what is meant when He speaks through His messenger and says He is calling and "enjoineth (us) to observe".

Through our continued study of His Word, and our obedience to His Laws, we can move "nigh unto God". This is our goal. This is our objective. We want to be close to God.

Finally, He refers to Himself as “the Lord of Revelation”.

So who, or what, does this refer to? Baha'u'llah, or perhaps God? We feel it refers to both.

We can read it with Baha'u'llah in mind. He might be calling Himself the Lord of Revelation. After all, He is the Promised One of all ages. With this title, He may be hinting that all the other Revelations are under His domain. The Bab, we recall, referred to Himself as a ring upon Baha'u'llah's finger, and “He turneth it as He pleaseth, for whatsoever He pleaseth, and through whatsoever He pleaseth.”

But we can also read it as referring to God. Baha'u'llah may be drawing our attention back to our Creator, and reminding us that all Revelation comes from God, the Lord of Revelation.

To better understand this, let's look at what a Lord is, not to mention a revelation. If you play fantasy role-laying games, or watch a lot of science fiction movies, you might have a pretty good idea already, but we are speaking in religious terms here and want to make sure we get the right definition so as to better understand the sacred writings. We don't want to get overly concerned with semantics or interpretations that lead us on a wild goose chase, but are more concerned with that which will profit us and bring us closer to our God.

A Lord is someone in authority and control. They are a high-ranking Nobleman, often a Leader, a Master, or a Chief. They have great influence over people in their profession or calling.

A revelation, on the other hand, is a sudden disclosure of a message, or information, that was previously concealed. In theological terms, it is God revealing Himself and His Will to humanity through His appointed Messenger or Prophet.

So, what practical lesson can be learned from this introductory quote? How does it apply to our life?

Well, to put it simply, we are living in spiritually exciting times. We can see the testimony of God fulfilled, the Word of God manifested, His evidence organized and His proofs established in this Day. If we listen attentively to His voice, the voice of God, and try to learn from Him, we may be able to get front row tickets to His Presence. By taking the time to really try and understand what it is He is asking of us, and striving to live according to His teachings, we are drawn nearer to our Creator, "the Lord of Revelation".

By now we're quite sure your coffee (or tea) has gotten cold and the tea biscuit (or cake) you were munching on has dried up a little, but that's okay. Hopefully your heart has been touched by the Word of God and you've discovered a little bit of what you're in for with this blog. Our methodology is really not our own. No, this claim we cannot make. Much of how we glean what we've learned is from Baha'u'llah himself. They are His instructions. We are just doing our best to discover the gems in His writings. We are following His writings, word by word, phrase by phrase, like a diver plumbing the depths of the ocean in search of those pearls of great price.

We hold the presence of God as our objective and ultimate goal. But in the meantime we walk the path of faith, step by step, learning how to recognize a Messenger of God. We hope you will join us on this journey.