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As a convert to Christianity from Hinduism, Bishop K.C. Pillai came to the Western world on a singular mission: to teach the Eastern culture of the Bible. Although Christianity is generally considered a western religion, the Bible itself was written and set in the Orient, and it must be viewed through the light of that eastern window. The Bible is filled with passages that perplex the Western mind, and yet they were readily understood by the Easterner. When the reader becomes knowledgeable of the oriental idioms, customs, and traditions of the Biblical setting, these Scriptures become clear. God called Bishop K.C. Pillai to reveal these Biblical truths he called Orientalisms. At the time of the Bishop’s early life, his native India had remained an isolated country for thousands of years. Therefore, the customs and manners of the people were still aligned with the Eastern, Biblical culture. For over twenty years, Bishop Pillai taught these Orientalisms, bringing great enlightenment to the Christian world. His crusade of imparting this light of the Eastern Culture carried him to numerous universities and seminaries, as well as every major denomination throughout the United States, England and Canada. Still today, his teachings remain the foremost authority on the rare gems of Biblical customs and culture. Bishop K.C. Pillai’s conversion to Christianity is a witness of God’s heart, as well as a lesson in one of the most significant Eastern customs found in the Bible. The Bishop was raised as a Hindu. When a Hindu child of the ruling class is born, a little salt is rubbed on the baby who is then wrapped in swaddling cloth. This custom invoked one of the oldest and strongest covenants in the Eastern world, the “salt covenant.” In this particular instance, the child was salted for a lifetime of dedication to the Hindu religion. The “salt covenant” is used in like manner throughout the Bible to seal the deepest commitment. As a result of the salt covenant it is difficult for Hindus to convert to Christianity. When they do, their family actually conducts a funeral service to symbolize that the individual is dead to their family, the community and Hinduism. Their family will carry a portrait of the “deceased” to the cemetery and bury it. Many times Bishop spoke of his “burial day” when he was disinherited by becoming a Christian; the only Hindu willing to break that covenant of salt in his community during that time. K.C. Pillai answered God’s call and served as Bishop of North Madras in the Indian Orthodox Church. Sent on a special mission to the United States, he spent the last twenty years of his life acquainting Christians with the Orientalisms of the Bible. The interest Bishop Pillai generated in the field has led to numerous further studies by other scholars in the field of manners and customs in the Bible, as well. His books and teachings continue to illuminate and inspire students of the Bible throughout the world. A solid understanding of Orientalisms is essential to “rightly dividing” the Word of truth, and Bishop K.C. Pillai’s works remain an indispensable reference.
To understand this verse, we have to picture the Eastern village in the morning. After the people rise up with the crowing of the cock, some of the men come to the center of the town and build a fire. The first man who comes, builds a small fire with his bundle of sticks, then another man comes and adds his bundle to the fire, and so on; and they all warm themselves by this fire. There is a great spiritual truth in this. A pastor preaches and warms our hearts with the fire of his message, but, like the men and their sticks, we should not warm ourselves unless we have contributed our share. No man in the East dares to warm himself by the fire unless he brings his share of sticks, but in the Church sometimes we want to receive the blessings without contributing. Paul followed this practice when he was shipwrecked, as we read in Acts chapter twenty-eight. The natives of the island kindly built a fire for the men, and Paul then went and gathered a bundle of sticks to lie on the fire. He was observing this custom referred to in the first part of Isaiah 50:11.
Now let us see what it is about; the sparks are mentioned next. You see, the farmers in the East live in the villages and must walk to their land in the morning in order to till the soil. They usually start out while it is still dark so they will be there by the time it is light enough to begin work. In order to light their way, so that they will not step on scorpions or snakes with their bare feet, these men take a rope made of coconut bark and light the end of it at the fire in the center of the village. They take their equipment on their shoulders and lead the oxen (if they have any,) to the field. They make the fire burn brightly at the end of this coconut rope by blowing on it, and in so doing, some sparks come off. That is where we get the "sparks" in our Scripture.
God is saying that if we walk in the light of these sparks, our own light, we shall lie down in sorrow. Is this poor man who is trying to keep from stepping on some thing dangerous by lighting his way to the field, condemned for this? No, not really, for God is using this familiar illustration from the everyday life of the people to teach them higher truth. He is saying that if we try to walk in the light of our own knowledge, instead of walking in God's light, we will lie down in sorrow. If we try to walk in our own light we shall lie down in sorrow, but in God's light, we have victory, joy and peace; we are more than conquers. God bless you.
Bishop K.C. Pillai, D.D.