Biblical Flatulence – break like the wind, people!

I love the Bible’s use of language. There are figures of speech in there that sometimes make me stop and just admire the word-craft going on. One metaphor that it returns to often is childbirth.

“Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:19-22.)

Jesus effectively uses the image of labor and birth to explain that they can expect to be quite grieved for a while, but their later joy will eclipse their anguish just as a mother’s pain is supplanted by the joy of holding her child. Joy overwhelms when the child comes.

The Bible doesn’t always use this metaphor so positively, though:

As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, Lord. We were with child, we writhed in labor, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to life. (Isaiah 26:17-18.)

“We gave birth to wind.” Sounds empty and meaningless, doesn’t it? As the passage says, they were unable to bring salvation or life to anyone. Their efforts were completely fruitless. Besides the rich salvation doctrine contained in this passage (more on that later), I love this passage for its imagery.

Here is a man, Isaiah, using birth as a metaphor. He tries to imagine what childbirth is like, but he’s never experienced it himself. He talks of writhing in labor, and I can almost imagine what he probably thought of at the time because I’ve done some really intense abdominal writhing in my life – bleeding ulcers back when I was in law school, food poisoning that has kept me doubled over in cramps, a digestive tract that once decided to shut itself down for days so that I could neither sit nor stand nor lie down. Too gross? Then try this.

Isaiah said they experienced abdominal writhing like a woman in labor and then gave birth to wind. As I said, I’ve had that type of intense abdominal writhing too; giving birth to wind is the only thing that brought relief, let me tell you! (Think about it a moment … it’ll come to you if you haven’t already gotten there … crampy feeling … cramp, cramp, doubled over with abdominal CRAMPS … and then making wind as intensely as a woman giving birth … got it? I knew you would!)

Graphic (and I use the term in all its meaning) created by my friend Jeanni Prinsen of Little House on the Circle fame

Graphic (and I use the term in all its meaning) created 7/2/14 by my friend Jeannie Prinsen of Little House on the Circle fame

Yes, flatulence makes its way into God’s word. God’s awesome.

Salvation Imagery, Salvation Reality

His awesomeness isn’t confined to inspiring wonderful uses of language, of course. Our God is an awesome God and in him is the only place we find salvation. You see, that’s what Isaiah was really getting at with his vivid imagery. God’s people thought they could work salvation on their own, but they couldn’t. Their intense efforts on their own had no more lasting effect that passing gas.

But we don’t have to rely on ourselves for our salvation. Salvation is found in God himself. As John discovered in his vision of the heavenly throne room:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10.)

It’s God who brings salvation to the earth, it’s God who brings the peoples of the world to life, it’s God in whom we find salvation and nowhere else. Peter made that clear:

“Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12.)

Isaiah was right, we can’t create one bit of salvation. Peter was right, salvation is found in Jesus alone. John was right, people from every nation will belong to Jesus.

And, of course, Jesus was right. When that day comes we will have joy inexpressible.

***

[I originally ran this post the first week I had this blog up and running. (It’s a testament to my readers’ fortitude that they stuck with me after that.) My favorite comment that day was from Aimee Byrd: “Okay, just had to read part of this post to my husband because I knew he would love the fact that you found something in Scripture that references passing gas.”]

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43 Responses to Biblical Flatulence – break like the wind, people!

  1. Aimee Byrd says:

    Well, once I got how much my husband enjoys this article out of my head, I began thinking of how futile our laboring is if not in the Lord. I know very well the pain of labor, as well as “forgetting” that pain when you have the joy of life in your arms. As says in Philippians, it has been granted to us to believe, and also to suffer for Christ’s sake. I love to think of faith as a gift, but hardly ever think of suffering in that way.

    • Tim says:

      It still cracks me up that you got Matt laughing by reading this to him, Aimee. And on suffering as a gift, I don’t know. But if it means being like Christ because we suffer for him who is the Suffering Servant himself, then I can start to understand that gift a little bit. But still not much of an understanding comes to me on it.

  2. Deanna Ratz says:

    Tim, this might just be one of the best blog post titles I’ve ever seen!! 🙂 Seriously, you excel at being simultaneously funny and profound, and I appreciate the reminder that to labor without God’s power is to labor in vain!

  3. Jeannie says:

    You’ve just inspired a new appreciation for Scripture among ten-year-old boys (and Spinal Tap fans) everywhere! 🙂

    Seriously though, that’s an amazing confession by Isaiah. He knew God.

  4. KSP says:

    Yeah, what Deanna said. Wow. 🙂

  5. Very few blogs can talk about farting in the Bible and actually pull it off…

    Way to go, Tim!

  6. nmcdonal says:

    Am I allowed to preach this, now?

  7. Judy says:

    Giggling…I have been told that I am adept at connecting all sorts of events, experiences and entities to God, but this particular connection has never occurred to me. (My husband, who never fails to crack up over bathroom humor, might have thought of it.)

    • Tim says:

      If you read this to him (as Aimee did for her husband Matt, so you’re in good company there), please let me know his reaction, Judy!

  8. As a fart is fruitless and just brings stench to the world, so I pray that I will not be as a fart in regards to spreading the gospel of Christ to others. Very beautiful entry.
    That is terrible that you had bleeding ulcers! Ouch.

    • Tim says:

      I love that personal application of the Word, Victoria! Awesome sauce!

      And yeah, those bleeding ulcers … I should blog about that some day.

  9. A fart is not useless. Not being able to fart is A Very Bad Thing: my bowel quit for six days, once upon a time. I was twelve weeks pregnant with our second child and had had an emergency appendectomy. Hey! Fun times! And then my bowel quit. No farting, no pooping, nada. While twelve weeks pregnant, my belly quickly ballooned until I looked eight months pregnant!

    My bowel did start working again, and I was finally released from the hospital. Soon thereafter, I was with a group of people, and someone let rip a real stinker.

    “DA-AD!” said his daughter.

    “I can’t help it,” Dad replied.

    “Better out than in!” was my own response.

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  11. Ruth says:

    Wow, needed a cheer-today, and this certainly did it, had a good laugh and realise I belong to the ‘wind brigade’ too! IBS, stress, abdominal surgery, 4times, allergies, and to top it all off, sons who thing wind noises are music! Biggest laugh, my MIL has been popping little noises for years, and never seems to notice, keeps us amused!
    Seriously though, a great post on the productive, and unproductive pains of life, and how life is about getting down and getting dirty..or smelly…not rose room freshener.
    Not sure how to fit c-sections to labour, but there sure is pain, and wind a plenty.
    Some how that sounds like some of the lesser sermons I’ve listened to!

  12. Pingback: Preaching, Half-Truths and Straw Man Arguments | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  13. culture@danrathje.com says:

    It’s amazing how the human mind can create meaning out of the most abstract words. We do this with vision too. Our brains are wired to connect the dots, per se, even if they’re not there. In fact, the entire world as we know it, is completely abstract. Our brains piece it together. Molecular structures are mostly void. Only 1/millionth is physically solid (a nucleus, electrons, protons, etc.). The rest is completely void. The world we see around us from a molecular point of view—the trees, our houses, the streets we drive on, our parent’s, our children, our very own selves—are mostly void! It’s our brains, having adapted to this world, have an amazing capacity to piece things together. Albert Einstein among many quantum mechanical physicists discovered this almost over 100 years ago. Is this not amazing too? I love your perspective on this biblical phrase. It teaches us that we need to stop and consider the concept of “meaning” more than the very thing we think we see. Sometimes we need to reconsider our thought’s too. Have we gone too far in trying to attach meaning to everything? Have we used meaning in a way to gain power over those that have different ideas of what things mean? I know this appears to be very abstract, but that is the very world we live in, breath in, communicate in, think about in. Stop and think about the consequences if we have it all wrong! Our environment is overstressed, and we will soon feel the consequences of assuming the world is a gift to Adam and Eve. The world around us, the planet we call Earth is in trouble beyond the comprehension of the average person. Populations are outgrowing their habitat. The environment is contaminated with the most deadly poison there is, heat. People underestimate the danger we are passing on to our grandchildren. Their world will know hunger like never before. They will see crime like never before. They will see suffering like never before. I’m sorry if I sound apocalyptic. I’m no Jesus. No. I’m a common person in the same situation as you are. But I wish the world would listen—for a change—to those who have the data. Jesus is not the only messenger. We need to listen to our scientists, too.

    • culture@danrathje.com says:

      I do not intend to disrupt anyone’s joy or compassion of life. I’m just someone who’s been a little closer to global problems than most. At this juncture in life, we need to snap our fingers and refocus for a while. Acting on this things later is not an option. Thank you for considering my concerns.

      • Tim says:

        I completely get what you’re saying. When I read the account of Eve and Adam I don’t see the world offered to them as a gift, but rather that they are given the responsibility to steward the world wisely. We fail in that wisdom often and the earth has suffered for it.

        • culture@danrathje.com says:

          Thank you, Tim. I’ll be honest, I don’t spend much time surfing religious blogs. But when I saw a thread about passing wind in scripture, I chuckled. That passage could be taken many ways, but you found humor in it, and then so did I. My comment was much more serious. I’m not sure why I decided to post it on your site, other than latching onto the idea of meaning as completely subjective. It’s probably apparent that I spend most of my energies on the side of science; And yes—when considering the meaning of life—I sadly believe there are sides in this debate. And it’s not often these sides can intersect. Linguistics and semantics are in such a space where we can. The rest of my comment was me hogging some air time about my compassion for the earth and future generations. I am glad to read your response.

        • Tim says:

          It struck a chord with me, but perhaps that’s because I majored in Environmental Studies for my bachelor’s degree.

        • culture@danrathje.com says:

          On that note, I’ll leave with one more suggestion; Let’s all do a little more than we normally do to make the earth healthy again. If everyone did just this, imagine the positive impact for our future generations. Better let me go, or I’ll start on my Buy American rant, too.
          —Happy and safe holidays! (A phrase we can share without too much deliberation over syntax. Ha!)

  14. Pingback: Women? Ha! Who needs ’em? | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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