Smoking ‘grass’ – the other type of course, however is not.
A very interesting practice or ‘instruction’ was reported on the news not too long ago. I first saw it on TV and subsequently read about it here on news24.com. The long and short of it was that the pastor of a church, north of Pretoria, was apparently telling members of his congregation that if they eat grass they will get closer to God. Was this an inspired idea?
It may be helpful to create the context first. As mentioned before, the children of Israel wanted a king, like their surrounding nations. This request was granted, but it would set in motion a series of events that would end in disaster. In 1 Samuel 8 the Lord tells Samuel that ‘they have rejected Me’ and then tells him to anoint Saul as their first king. Saul was succeeded by the David who famously killed Goliath the giant. After David his son, Solomon became king. Solomon built the Temple (aka Beit HaMikdash) the only building that housed the Shekinah (manifest presence) of God.
But after Solomon the kingdom split into two; a northern kingdom known as Israel and a southern kingdom called Judah. Jeroboam the first ruler of the northern kingdom. He feared that pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem as prescribed by the Torah would result in people of his kingdom returning to their old allegiance. He thus created alternative places of worship in the northern kingdom. He set up one golden calf in Bethel and the other in Dan. This was the beginning of the end for the northern kingdom and in around 722 BCE they were overthrown by the Assyrians. About 136 years later the Judah also fell, but to the Babylonians under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar. The temple was destroyed and the people were taken into captivity.
Psalm 137 recalls the painful memories of those being taken into captivity. As it is written: ‘By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps, upon the willows in the midst of it; For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, saying: Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ Of course there were warnings issued by prophets before this tragedy but as was so often the case, the prophets were mocked and even killed. Yeshua spoke about this and it is recorded in the Book of Matthew 23: 37: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!’
The Book of Daniel then takes us to Babylon. Many people must have heard of the Bible story of Daniel in the lion’s den and of his mates who were put into the fiery furnace. Historian Josephus wrote that the four men: Daniel, Shedrack, Mesach and Abednego were all members of Zedekiah’s royal family. Nebuchadnezzar was an incredibly powerful man, as is recorded in Daniel 2:36: ‘You are a king of kings, For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and he has made you ruler of them all.’ Daniel again was highly favoured by God. The God of Israel revealed things (dreams) to him which the ‘wise men, the astrologers, the magicians and the soothsayers’ could not tell the king. On occasion this mighty king fell prostrate before Daniel and said: ‘Your God is the God of gods’ and even promoted Daniel and his friends.
Despite this, Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image estimated to be about 30 metres tall. He also issued a decree that ‘all peoples, nations and languages’ should fall down and worship the image. Daniel’s friends refused and were thrown into the fiery furnace. The furnace was heated seven times more than its usual temperature. In fact the fire killed those who took them to the furnace! Nebuchadnezzar is reported to have spotted a fourth ‘man’ and praised the God of Heaven when he saw that his furnace could not harm them.
At a later stage, Nebuchadnezzar had a second vivid dream in which he is represented by a tree and again Daniel (named Belteshazzar by the king) was tasked not only to give the details but also its interpretation. Then in Daniel 4:28 we read the interesting fulfilment of the dream:’ All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace. The king spoke saying: Is not this great Babylon that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!
Verse 33: That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.
Former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, apparently claimed to be either a reincarnation of Nebuchadnezzar of a direct descendant of the ancient king.
Back to the instruction to people to eat grass: it will unfortunately not take us closer to God. All there is to say is that it is a silly re-enactment of a punishment of a self-obsessed man who thought he was untouchable.
So it may be in the Bible, but reading it in proper context we get a better understanding.