This is the third of those four paragraphs that ask us to consider the past when looking at the present day events.
In the first of these four paragraphs, we were reminded that all the divine Messengers were denied when They came. In the second, we were asked to "ponder... and reflect upon that which hath been the cause of such denial..." In this third paragraph, we are asked to "ponder... those holy words" and "examine the wondrous behaviour of the Prophets".
It is fascinating that He is likening the causes of denial and the Words of the Holy Prophets, saying that both are "innumerable and beyond the ordinary comprehension of man".
Baha'u'llah refers us to the first of many stories from Sacred scriptures, the Surah of Hud, the eleventh Surah of the Qur'an. The story of Hud is quite simple, in summary, while the Surah itself is filled with wonderful references and allusions. Hud was a Messenger sent by God some time after Noah. His people had forgotten the lessons learned from the Flood, and so Hud was sent to warn the people to stop worshipping idols. Despite His warnings, they continued to worship them, and so a drought was sent as a further warning. When this had no effect, a large storm was sent, from which only Hud and a few believers emerged.
Obviously, there is a lot more to the Surah than just this quick summary. Among other things, it cautions us to ensure that our inner beliefs are in harmony with our actions, and not to try and fool God. But don't take our word for it, go and read the Surah for yourself.
Here Baha'u'llah is reminding us to study the Words of God, to dive deep into them and really strive to understand their meaning. But, just in case we think this is an easy in to heaven or paradise, or whatever we want to call it, He reminds us that it is not a guarantee. Note the use of "perchance", similar to that of the word “haply” in the first paragraph. Continually He reminds us that we must make an effort, but that alone is no guarantee of success.
He also refers to the "children of negation and falsehood", and how they have uttered "defamations and denials". No matter what our path is, we can relate to this in the history of our own faith. There have always been those who have fit this appaling mantle, and we would never want to be identified with those people. Instead, we would rather be identified by those virtuous traits shown by "the wondrous behaviour of the Prophets".
There is also another scale hidden within this paragraph:
- heedlessness and doubt,
- faith and certainty,
- and then divine knowledge.
Another scale that is hidden within this is found in the descriptions of the above attributes:
- the abode of heedlessness and doubt
- the nest of faith and certainty
- the pure waters of ancient wisdom
- and the fruit of the tree of divine knowledge
Finally, there are also a couple of more references that hint back at religious history. Of course there is the obvious reference of Hud, one of the Messengers referred to in the Qur'an, and the inherent reference to Noah within that Surah.
Beyond that, there is a reference to Eden with the Tree of Knowledge, and the bread descending can refer to both manna in the desert with Moses, and Jesus with the Last Supper.
It seems that Baha'u'llah is beginning to draw us through religious history, starting at the very beginning, hinting at the concept of the progressiveness of religion that He will expound so well later on.
Now while all this may still seem a bit dry, we do need to keep in mind that Baha'u'llah is helping us get rid of unneccessary baggage in our religious thought. He is helping us clarify what we know, and how we know it.
And, for our part, it was very exciting to discover some of these themes developing in the Text. We hadn't noticed them on our first read through (or even by the seventh), but now, every time we see a new one, we practically jump out of seats for excitement. What you are seeing here is the end product of our consultation, and you are, unfortunately, missing out on the development aspect of all this. Hopefully, when you begin to study this Text with your friends, you will find other gems that we have missed, and see new shores of that Ocean that we have not yet walked.