Food for Thought: Part III of Two Men who Prayed for Rain

Food for Thought

God has His terms that are represented by His “prescribed way of access.” To approach Him any other way is not only unacceptable to Him, but impossible. While we shudder to think of it, there is God’s way to Him, or the other way, leading only to idols. White or black: we cannot limp between two opinions when it suits us (1Kings 18:21)

Repairing the Lord’s altar depicted coming to The Lord on His terms by repentance or confession and restoring the areas of access we have neglected as has been the case – not with Elijah – but with Israel. God’s altar (or His prescribed way of access) had been neglected and was in shambles. In its place, they had substituted the idolatrous system of Baal. (Prayers of Elijah, bible.org)

Yet the humble obedience of a true prophet of God had made the way for God’s will to be accomplished. No longer did the people “limp between two opinions.” They had chosen God and disposed of Baal – everything was turned back around to righteousness. Now the people were to return to worshipping a God by His prescribed ways.

HONI OF THE CIRCLE MAKER FAME

In comparison to what will follow about Honi, the Circle Maker, it will seem that I have devoted an inordinate amount of space to Elijah in this research paper. However, remember as you read the following that all the information shared about Elijah originated in the Bible. Attempting to do the same with Honi presents a serious problem. Having seen the solid Biblical support to learn about prayer from Elijah, I want us now to look at Honi, famed character of the  “Circle Maker,” a book by Pastor Mark Batterson. According to Amazon.com’s description of this book: “It’s time you learned from the legend of Honi the Circle Maker – a man bold enough to draw a circle in the sand and not budge from inside it until God answered his prayers for his people.”

Immediately we run into an insurmountable problem. What is the origin of these “circle makings”? We cannot cite chapter and verse in the Bible for support as we can for the events in Elijah’s life because there are none.

Honi is not found in the Bible!

If this legend is not in the Bible, then where did it come from? Pastor Batterson tells us of Honi’s origins on pp. 21-22 of Circle Maker:

“I’ve read thousands of books ranging from spirituality to neurology to biography to astronomy. One of them is titled The Book of Legends. A collection of stories from the Talmud and Midrash, The Book of Legends contains the teachings of Jewish rabbis passed down from generation to generation. I had dug down 202 pages when I stumbled across a story that may well have been a buried treasure. It was the legend of Honi, The Circle Maker. And it forever changed the way I pray…It gave me a new vocabulary, a new imagery, a new methodology.” (Batterson, pp. 21-22).

Let’s begin by comparing this book with another you are all familiar with – the Bible – and quoting a highly familiar verse from that book:

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)

The origins of these two books – the Bible and The Book  of Legends are highly dissimilar. The Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God Himself. The Book of Legends is from the teachings of Jewish rabbis. One is The Torah, the other The Talmud and Mishnah.

The Torah, otherwise known as The Pentateuch, is the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Baker’s Dictionary of Theology states “The Hebrew torah originally signified authoritative instruction (Prov. 1:8); hence it most commonly means an ‘oracle’ or ‘word’ of the Lord, whether delivered through an accredited spokesman such as Moses, or a prophet or priest. Thus torah comes to have the wider sense of ‘instruction’  from God…. It is therefore a synonym for the whole of the revealed will of God—the word, commandments, ways, judgments, precepts, etc., of the Lord, as in Gen. 26:5, and especially throughout Ps. 119.” (Footnote from Ezra 3:2, Amplified Bible). (E.F. Harrison et al., eds.  The Torah is different from The Talmud and Mishnah in which the Book of Legends is found. While The Talmud and Mishnah does provide valuable insight from thousands of years of sages, [the Talmud] is not Scripture.  (What’s the difference, welightthecandles.wordpress)

This legend of Honi is a story from The Talmud and Mishnah which is a mixture of Jewish oral tradition and Levitical law. How then does the Bible itself view legends and fables?

The Amplified version states specifically “But refuse and avoid irreverent legends (profane and impure and godless fictions) and express your disapproval of them. Train yourself toward godliness (piety)”( – 1 Timothy 4:7 AMP)

 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. – Titus 1:14
– New King James Version (NKJV)

These traditions of the Talmud and the Mishnah were condemned by Jesus in Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7: 7-13. Mark 7:13 states that the Pharisees made the Word of God null and void because of their traditions. The strategic point here is that The Talmud is not the God-breathed inerrant Word of God. And yet the Talmud is the source of the Circle-Maker!

HOW IS THE WORD OF GOD VIEWED?

Expository teaching and preaching is relevant today for one simple reason: The Word of God is timeless. He Who Himself is the same yesterday, today and forever has given us His Word which contains the exact truths that man and his sinful heart still need to hear. Whether that man be born in the day of Abraham, 33 A.D. or the 21st century, His word is still “the Father Who has delivered me from the domain of darkness and transferred me to the Kingdom of His Beloved Son in Whom I have forgiveness through the power of His blood.” (Col 1: 13-14) It is still Christ crucified and the “simplicity of Jesus” (2 Cor 11:3). And as soon as we deviate from these simple and absolute truths and try to make the gospel “relevant” for today, we are teaching “another Jesus, another gospel and another Spirit” (2 Cor   11:1-4). That path is a dangerous one. The Lord loves His people with an everlasting love and is very jealous over them – His Bride – to keep them chaste. In His beautiful intercessory prayer for His people, Jesus beseeched the Father (John 17:17) “Sanctify them by the Truth. Your Word is Truth.” Truth is an absolute. It cannot be added to, subtracted from or mixed in with other so-called “truths” no matter how pleasing to the ear they sound:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 New King James Version (NKJV)

So there are two types of people: those who will not put up with sound doctrine and those who will:  Sound doctrine – what is that? It’s simply the teachings given to mankind by God through His Prophets. It is God’s written Word, His objective communication to humanity, containing information that comes directly from Him without the input of mankind. That’s what makes it sound doctrine. (McMahon, Mysticism)

Do you remember Elijah, re-building an altar because Jezebel had had all God’s altars destroyed; Elijah placing twelve stones to signify God’s covenant with the twelve tribes of Israel; Elijah using the salty water for the salt of the Covenant? Do you realize that if you took out your Bible dictionary and lexicon that you could find all these principles in your Bible – the Word of God?  And where in the Bible will you find precedent for drawing a circle in the sand? If then, this was not in God’s Word, nor was it done God’s way, which “God” gave these instructions? 

 

Works Cited:

Batterson, Mark. Circle Maker. Zondervan, 2016.

“What’s the Difference between Talmud, Mishnah, and Torah?” Candlelighters, 28 Feb. 2008, welightthecandles.wordpress.com/resources/whats-the-difference-between-talmud-mishnah-and-torah/.

McMahon, T.A. “Mysticism and the Coming World Religion – Part One.” Thebereancall.org, The Berean Call, 1 Oct. 2016, http://www.thebereancall.org/content/mysticism-and-coming-world-religion-part-one-0.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bed.html

The Prayers of Elijah (1 Kings 18:30-46).” Bible.org, bible.org/seriespage/prayers-elijah-1-kings-1830-46.

There is a free version of the Lexicon dictionary online at https://biblehub.com/lexicon/

Featured Image:

“Apple or Orange” by  ApprenticeOfArt available online at https://www.deviantart.com/apprenticeofart/art/Apple-or-Orange-175541898

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Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Michelle Arrington, Hannah Hall, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, Tracy Yoder, and J.P.Wilhelm. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.