One of the great delights of sharing life with my wife is her voracious reading appetite. She tells me about some books, she summarizes others and occasionally recommends one for me to read. This she did recently with Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley in the early 19th century.
In her introduction, Shelley contemplates the ‘nature of the principle of life’ and suggests that ‘galvanism’ might reanimate a corpse. About 30 years before Frankenstein was published, Luigi Galvani had discovered that electricity stimulated a muscle to contract. In chapter five, Frankenstein, “…collected the instruments of life…” so that he might infuse “…a spark of being into the lifeless thing…” In Boris Karloff’s 1931 movie classic, a bolt of lightning animated the creature.
While the Torah conceals the nature of the ‘breath of life’ that God breathed into Adam (Genesis 2:7), today we understand that our bodies function by means of electrical currents traveling through cellular protein ion channels. The beating of our hearts; the warm sunlight we feel upon our arms; our ability to see; all this and everything else functions because of tiny electrical currents coursing through our bodies.
Walk across a carpet then touch a metal doorknob. The resulting crackle and spark prove our body’s ability to convey electricity.
The Hebrew word used today to mean electricity is CHaSH-MaL found in Ezekiel 1:4 and 1:27 which ancient Jewish wisdom explains as a powerful force that God put into the world that can be activated or switched off. Electricity’s power began to be understood in the mid-18th century with the invention of the Leyden Jar, a glass jar lined inside and out with tin foil. An electrical charge can be built up on the inside foil which eventually jumps to the outer foil with a crackle and a spark.
If you know that both gold and tin foil are excellent conductors of energy and that wood and glass are not, the Leyden jar sounds very much like this:
They shall make an ark of acacia wood…coat it with pure gold, inside and outside…
In this Thought Tool I am not going to discuss why God wanted the Ark of the Covenant to possess these electrical properties. I do want to explain that electricity was not invented while God’s attention was distracted. Electricity is part of God’s blueprint of creation and His plan for life.
Indeed, electricity can restore life. In the medical emergency of a person’s heart ceasing to function effectively, a small electrical shock is administered by a defibrillator to stimulate the heart back to regular rhythm.
Scripture records two parallel events of a prophet restoring the dead son of his landlady back to life. In I Kings 17:21, Elijah prayed then stretched himself out over the boy three times, and Elisha prayed then lay upon the boy in II Kings 4:34.
The Bible conceals the miracles’ details and I am not claiming that the prophets’ bodies emulated the paddles of a portable defibrillator but I am emphasizing that the enormous wonders of human life depend upon a tiny invisible force called electricity that God put into His creation.
Similarly, the amazing structures of our families and of systems that allow us to earn a living all depend on many tiny and invisible spiritual forces. Just like electricity, these small spiritual forces need to be generated appropriately, conducted down correct channels and insulated from others. They include forces like gratitude, faith, discipline, vision and communication. Just like electricity they have disproportionate consequence.