Ellis Washington
Symposium--The God of the night before
By Ellis Washington
December 30, 2015

Socrates (470-399 B.C.) was a famous Greek philosopher from Athens, who taught Plato, and Plato taught Aristotle, and Aristotle taught Alexander the Great. Socrates used a simple but cleverly profound method of teaching by asking penetrating, revelatory, and psychologically probing questions. The Greeks called this form Dialectic – starting from a thesis or question, then discussing ideas and moving back and forth between points of view to determine how well ideas stand up to critical review, with the ultimate principle of the dialogue being Veritas – Truth.

Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Madonna of the Village, 1938-42 –
oil on canvas;
Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano-Castagnola, Madrid, Spain

"Great art picks up where nature ends."

~ Chagall

"While Joseph and Mary were knocking on hotels looking for their blessing, there were three wise men coming with god, and spikenard and precious ointment and they were looking for them. And I want to tell somebody whose been looking for your blessing, if you just stand still, your blessing is looking for you."

~ Bishop Noel Jones, Dec. 6, 2015 Sermon – The God of the night before



Bishop T. D. Jakes



What is Distance? What are Circumstances? I think circumstance is the difference, the distinction between something close and something faraway? Isn't it amazing how something supposed to happen quick can take a long time due to mitigating or unforeseen circumstances? In today's Symposium we will discuss ideas presented in a sermon by Bishop T.D. Jakes, The God of the night before, based on the Nativity narrative of Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus Christ the Messiah according to St. Luke's Gospel.

The Bishop here will not address the biblical text in the traditional manner only, but with the psychiatric or psychological probing that Carl Jung or Sigmund Freud would be proud of – delve into the profound psychological depths of the narrative subjects to see what hidden meanings can be gleaned from the catastrophic societal upheaval no doubt generated when the archangel Gabriel first said to the Virgin Mary – "Hail, Mary, thou art highly favored..." Although the distance between the two words (Hail, Mary) are minuscule, yet their profound and prophetic fulfillment to Mary is tantamount to a vast chasm wider than the Grand Canyon – The distance between God's pronouncement of blessing and the Destiny of God's fulfillment is what we call LIFE.

It is the eternal, existential mystery of God's Word going forth through Time and Eternity finding fulfillment in frail creatures like us of dust, of mere flesh and blood which will be the subject of this Symposium.

Bishop T. D. Jakes: How would your life change if everywhere you got ready to go, you had to travel by foot? Imagine how much further and how much longer it would take to get to a simple distance like Dallas to Houston = 240 miles) if you had to travel by foot. It might be a trip you make once in your life. If you had to walk to Houston, you wouldn't go twice a year or three times a year or four times a year. You might go once in your life time.

Imagine how many stops you would have to make along the way. If you and your family got ready to go to Houston and you traveled on a donkey, how long would it take you to get there? So, then it's not just how far you have to go in your destination, it's the circumstances you have to travel with. Sometimes you are very close to your destination – closer than you think. Closer than you imagined. Closer than you would have believed possible. And the Enemy can't change the distance. It is as close as it is. When you're close, he can't stop you from being close. And the Holy Spirit will let you know when you are close. "You are nearer to your salvation than when you first believed." You are closer now than you've ever been in your life.

Have you ever heard those words from God? – "Don't give up – Don't give out – Hold on – The blessing is close – You're nearer to it – You're on the verge – You're on the edge – You're about to step into it." It's not the distance. The Enemy can't change the distance. He can't take the goal and move it back. In fact, the Bible says, "Forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching to those things which are before. We press toward the mark of the high calling of God." It's marked. It is where it is. And the Devil can't keep moving it back. But it does feel like that sometimes. It feels like Everytime you're on the verge of finally getting your hands around the thing you believe that God to do that the Devil says, "Nuh uh, no, I'm moving it back – Keep coming, I'm moving it back." He can't move it back, and it's not far.

If fact, it really wasn't far to go from Egypt to the Promise Land. It should have taken a few days, about three days. It ended up [being] 40 years. Isn't it amazing how something supposed to happen quick can take a long time? It's not like they kept moving the Promise Land for 40 years – It was always where it was supposed to be. The Enemy could not change the destination, but oh, how he can work with those circumstances. The circumstances whereby we travel is what causes our faith to be significant.

But imagine if you were Joseph and you had found a beautiful young lady that you had been seeing for some time and announced to all of your friends that she was going to be your bride. And you had begun to set in place the things that were necessary to endow her, to give her a dowry, to honor her, to recognize her, but before you could get to the wedding, she started picking up weight. I mean a lot of weight, all in the middle. She says,

Mary: "Joey, I've been meaning to tell you... I got some circumstances that have come up."

Joseph: "Circumstances, what do you mean?"

Mary: {nervous laughter voice} Ha-Ha-Ha! "You're not going to believe this. I been waiting on a good time to tell you... I didn't know how to tell you... Uuuhh... I'm expecting..."

Joseph: "Expecting what?!... A baby?"

Mary: "Yeah, but don't get this wrong, don't get this wrong. I know that there's never been nothing like this before, but this is the Lord's doing."

Joseph: {sarcastic} "Yeah, right."

Bishop T. D. Jakes: Joseph walked away from her and said –

Joseph: {dejected} "Umm, now I got to live with this. Everybody knows about it too."

Bishop T. D. Jakes: Have you ever loved and been angry at the same time? Isn't that a feeling? The kind of feeling where you want to slap somebody down the stairs, but then you love them so bad that you got to run down and catch them? So, Joseph said,

Joseph: Okay, I'm going to put you away privately through a bill of divorcement.

Bishop T. D. Jakes: And the angel has to speak to Joseph and say, "Fear not, that that is in Mary is conceived by the Holy Ghost." Now he's really confused cause now he trying to believe something that common sense says couldn't be possible. His faith and his reasoning are now in conflict. He has now told her that he's about to give her a bill of divorcement, now God has said that she's telling the truth. Now you have got to go back and tell somebody that you have already said, "I don't believe you – that maybe you are right."

And on top of all this conflict she is so upset, she has gone over to her cousin's house who's been shut up for months; who's pregnant too. You know, which is basically saying, 'I'm going home to mama.' Your friends are saying... Can you imagine what Joseph friends were telling him? "You ain't got to do this, man!" ... Conflicted.

Can you imagine what it'd be like to be Mary telling somebody the truth, and them not truly believing you? And now they are trying to go along with it but they have already exposed the fact that they were going to get rid of you. How comfortable are you with a guy who has already told you he was getting ready to get rid of you? And here they are, going down the road trying to deal with this issue and now on top of all of this, a new tax has come out. And in order to deal with the taxation you have to go back to the city that the groom is from to pay the bill.

Now we got a debt we weren't expecting, we got a baby we weren't looking for, we got a crisis that makes me look like a fool, and we got to walk to Bethlehem. They're walking down there by foot with a pregnant woman in the heat of the Middle East – No air conditioning, No fan, No music, No padded seats. She's pregnant on a donkey in the heat, travelling through the hot sands, inconvenience, with somebody you at odds with... on the night before Christmas. And all in the back of her mind, "Hail Mary, you've been highly favored amongst women."

Bishop T. D. Jakes: She's already pregnant and its already hot, she's about to go into labor. The relationship is not going good. She's pregnant... by the Lord. {Laughter} And you trying to deal with this and be respectable and trying to believe that God is somehow in this situation.

Have you ever had a situation that you were trying to believe God was in it? {Channeling the congregation} I mean, you know, God must be in this somewhere. I don't know where, I don't know how, I don't know what He's up to, but God has got to be in here. {To God} "Hello! Are you in there? Hello, God, where are you?

It always looks like that on the night before... God, where are you? ... And David warned us about this. He told us specifically – "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Lord, I wish he'd have told me how long the night can be. That's another thing I didn't picture right. I thought he was talking to me about 6 or 8 hours or something like that. That's not the kind of night He's talking about. He's talking about a looonnnggg night. This can be months and months and months of night like you are in Alaska... A night where you can lose your house and your car and your credit rating.

Things didn't look so good on the night before. The thing that amazed me, (and I'm into families and trying to understand families, and building the strength of families and all of that) – I would have thought that that the Lord would have come into a very functional, happy, robust, loving relationship. But the Lord picked a couple of folks who probably weren't even speaking.

Socrates: Can Christ be born in a dysfunctional situation? Can Christ be born in a family that's backed up with payments to the IRS? And can He be born in a relationship where communication has withered? Can He be born into a situation where the bills are high and can He be born into a situation where the provisions are not what you wanted them to be?

Psychological genius – Chagall: The Falling Angel (1923-47) – *Note in the midst of chaos and dystopia,
the peaceful allusion of the Madonna and baby Jesus at the Cross and the candle = Jesus, the Light of the World.

Bishop T. D. Jakes: {Resolute} He handpicked those circumstances. He handpicked them. Let's talk about where He could have been born. He could have been born in a Cathedral. He could have been born in the Synagogue. He could have been born in a mansion. He could have been born to rich people. He could have been born with servants and maids and attendants. He could have had 10,000 angels to take care of Him, but no – He is born without a physician, without a midwife, without a nanny, without a bottle, without anything. He is born out there with nothing and nobody on a dirty, dusty road where either Joseph or Mary got to bend over to cut the umbilical cord...

And He says, "Jehovah-Shammah." Jehovah-Shammah means, "I am there, I am present, I am there." In the midst of trouble, I am with you. I'm not the kind of God who just shows up when things are going well, but when all hell is breaking loose and the circumstances are adverse, and it seems like things are getting worse instead of better. He said, "I chose you!" ...

Mary and Joseph: Me?

Bishop T. D. Jakes: {Channeling God to the congregation} Yes, in your situation. Me and Fred not getting along. He said, "Yeah, that's why I chose you." My bills are back up. "That's why I chose you." I had to move back in with my mama. He said, "That's why I chose you." "My strength is made perfect in weakness." "I show off when all hell is breaking lose in your life." I chose you because I am not just the God of the morning, I am the God of the night before. I am not just the God of the victory. I am the God of the battle that preceded it.

Touch somebody and say, "He's the God of the night before." He's the God of the night before. I found out anybody will be there with you in the morning. Anybody will be there when things get right. Anybody will show up when you get the breakthrough. Anybody will be there when you get the car. Anybody will be there when you get the house. But I need a God who will walk down a dirty, dusty, lonely, frustrating, aggravating, irritating road with me.

Socrates: "I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean." Where did you get your inspiration for greatness and profundity, Bishop?

Bishop T. D. Jakes: When I was working sometimes 50 hours a week and sometimes pastoring after work and doing funerals on the weekend, and travelling for miles, and trying to get gas money and taking pop bottles and selling them to get gas to go teach Bible class... If I'd had known that it was going to be like this... [looking around at his magnificent mega-church – The Potter's House] ... If I had any idea that it was going to end up in Dallas, Texas at The Potter's House with 30,000 members and 350 people on staff, it wouldn't have been so bad. But the problem with the night is that when you are in the night you cannot see the morning. "Weeping may endure for a night... [but joy cometh in the morning]" I just wonder what God has in store for you in the morning? Hold on!

You see, while Joseph and Mary were knocking on hotels looking for their blessing, there were three wise men coming with god, and spikenard and precious ointment and they were looking for them. And I want to tell somebody whose been looking for your blessing, if you just stand still, your blessing is looking for you... Bad don't look so bad when good is in it.

Here come the wise men with gold, and silver and precious ointments and they said, "We've been looking for you all night." I don't know who this [sermon] is for, but it is prophetic. Your blessing has been looking for you all night long. And if you just "Be steadfast, and unmovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord" – You are not going to have to catch your blessing, your blessing is going to catch you and overtake you, and apprehend you! {Praises to God}

All of a sudden, as they left out the barn with all the frankincense and the myrrh and the gold and they started moving into their future, they said...

Mary: {reminiscing with Joseph} Do you remember the night before Christmas? We thought we wasn't going to make it – But look what the Lord has done.

Chagall – Peace Window (1964) – stained-glass window – memorial to Dag Hammarskjöld, 2nd Secretary General of the United Nations (1953-61)

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Ellis Washington

Ellis Washington is a former staff editor of the Michigan Law Review (1989) and law clerk at the Rutherford Institute (1992). Currently he is an adjunct professor of law at the National Paralegal College and the graduate school, National Jurisprudence University, where he teaches Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, American History, Administrative Law, Criminal Procedure, Contracts, Real Property, and Advanced Legal Writing, among many other subjects... (more)


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