Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Names in Scripture

The following  is taken from a posting by Richard Fellows.

I thought it had some good ideas to ponder.

New names are given to people in all cultures and in all centuries, but the frequency and style of naming does vary. The practice is common among Buddhists, Bahais, and Muslims, for example, as well as popes and monks. In ancient Egypt Amenhotep IV became "Akhenaten", Nefertiti became"Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti" and Tutankhaton became "Tutankhamen", all receiving new names for religious reasons.

The Jewish practice of giving new names is shown in the Bible. In the OT we have several examples of individuals who received a new name. Abram-Abraham, Sarai-Sarah, Jacob-Israel, Joseph-Zaphenathpaneah (Gen41:44-45), Hoshea-Joshua, Gideon-Jerubba'al, Eliakim-Jehoiakim (2 Kings23:34), Mattaniah-Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:17), Solomon-Jedidiah (2 Sam 12:25),Naomi-Mara (Ruth 1:20), and Daniel and his three friends in the King’s court.

For our purposes it matters little how historic these examples are: they teach us about renaming in the Jewish tradition. Those who have commented on OT renaming are unanimous that the giving of a name was the prerogative of a superior (1) and in such cases it signified the appointment of the person named to some specific position,function, relationship or destiny.

(2)Eissfeldt writes: The naming of places and persons, and so too their renaming, is a privilege of high importance, not only in the Old Testament, but at all times and in all areas. Here we are concerned with a right which expresses the authority which the one who gives the name or who renames exerts over the one who is named or renamed. The way in which this right is revealed may differ: it may in one instance indicate conquest, and even exploitation of the one named or renamed, it may carry with it protection and patronage. ... the latter is undoubtedly the case in the word of Yahweh to Israel in Isa. 43:1 'Fear not! I have redeemed you, named you with your name, you are mine.' (Hebrew translation)

(1)Eissfeldt "Renaming in the Old Testament" in Words and Meanings p 70;
(2)The New Bible Dictionary p 862.The vocabulary of the Bible p 278; The New Bible Dictionary p 862; TheInterpreters Bible p 779 n 45; Lane, The Gospel According to Mark p 134; The JPS Torah Commentary on Genesis p124.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Words of Life

It has long been a custom in my ward for the Bishopric to give a Bible to each newly baptized child. I love seeing the faces of the children as they smilingly carry that precious book when they return to sit with their families.

In the time of Henry VIII in England, such a privilege was inconceivable. It was illegal for any citizen of England to own, or even to know scriptures that were translated into English. It was a serious crime and sadly, was often punished with extreme harshness.

In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs we can read the actual legal accounts of trials and their outcomes.

One Christopher Shoemaker, who was burned alive at Newbury, was accused of having gone to the house of John Say, and “read to him, out of a book, the words which Christ spake to his disciples.”

In 1519 seven martyrs were burned in one fire at Coventry, “for having taught their children and servants the Lord’s prayer and the ten commandments in English.”

The book of record of trials kept by Lonland, bishop of Lincoln, for the single year 1521, contains a list of one hundred names of persons charged before him with reading, or repeating, portions of the Scriptures in the English language.

Jenkin Butler accused his own brother of reading to him a certain book of Scripture, and persuading him to hearken to the same.

John Barret, goldsmith, of London, was arrested for having recited to his wife and maid-servant the Epistle of St. James, without a book.

John Thatcher was accused of teaching Alice Brown this saying of Jesus: “Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.”

Thomas Philip and Lawrence Taylor were arrested for reading the Epistle to the Romans and the first chapter of St. Luke in English.

So scanty was the supply of Bibles at this time, that but few of those who craved its teaching could hope to possess the sacred volume. But this lack was partly made up by the earnestness of those whose interest was awakened in the Bible. If only a single copy was owned in a neighborhood, these hard-working laborers and artisans would be found together, after a weary day of toil, reading in turn, and listening to the words of life; and so sweet was the refreshment to their spirits, that sometimes the morning light surprised them with its call to a new day of labor, before they had thought of sleep. Their highest aim was to possess for their own some portion of the sacred book.

It is related that one man among them gave a load of hay for a few chapters of St. Paul’s epistles. Some were known to have devoted the savings of years to this object. When it is considered that copying with the pen was as yet the usual means of reproducing books in England‑although Gutenburg’s rude press had been for a long time in use in Germany—it can be readily understood that the actual cost of a Bible must have been great. It required ten months’ steady work by a skilled copyist to write the manuscript, and a sum equal to two hundred dollars [or our equivalent of more than $2000] (an amount of greater importance then than now), was the common price for a single copy.

As I read of those sacrifices for the knowledge of scripture, I’m feeling overwhelmingly blessed, and thinking that where much is given, much is expected.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Burial of an Ass

James Neil was a minister who wrote in the early part of the 1900's about his travels in the Holy Land. He took delight in finding real life illustrations for Biblical verses and his folksy style engaged the readers of his day.

To be deprived of a proper burial was a sign of covenant cursing, and that is what Jeremiah alludes to with this prophecy against Jehoiakim. Neil's visual makes it come alive.

He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem Jer 22.19

"See how our horses start and sniff. It is that dreadful stench which has just saluted our nostrils. This is a land of the strongest odors, both good and bad. The fearful smell now comes from the carcass of some beast which has been left as usual to rot where it fell by the side of the road, if the beasts and birds of prey do not devour it first. Ah! there it lies just in front of us, an ass that has fallen under its two heavy burdens of small building-stones. The stones are left as usual lying unremoved in the middle of the road, where they have been upset. This is the allusion of Jeremiah when he declared of the violent death that should overtake the wicked Jehoiakim."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Strange Woman

To deliver thee from the
strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;... and forgetteth the covenant of her God. For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. Proverbs 2:16-18

The house of the strange woman inclineth unto death” (Prov. 2:16,18). Some Canaanite houses had a family burial vault underneath, reached by stone stairs. Literally, then, as well as figuratively, the unsuspecting Hebrew man who went in to a harlot was entering a “house of death”!

Booker, George., By The Way, ChristadelphianBooksOnline, Section IV

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Loving the Divine

"God has determined that divine things should enter through the heart into the mind and not through the mind into the heart. In divine things, therefore, it is necessary to love them in order to know them.

Blaise Pascal

French scientist, philosopher, and mathematician 1623-1662

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Flourish like a palm tree

The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing [green]
; Psalm 92:12-14

"The palm tree to which these verses refer is well known in the east. The palm has a perfectly straight trunk that grows to a height of 80 to 90 feet. Although it is so tall, the palm is never toppled over by heavy winds. The root system is so strong that, no matter how much the tree sways in a storm, it is never uprooted. Once the winds die down, the tree returns to being stately and tall. Also, the fruit of the palm tree is edible year round; it is always fruitful. [NOTE: This palm is not to be confused with the coconut palm, which most of us are familiar with.]

The analogy is very clear! The righteous are as straight and tall as a palm, with no kinks or crookedness. They cannot be uprooted, even by the strongest forces. And finally, the righteous are always fruitful. If we live our lives as righteous believers, we can be just like the palm tree."

from Light Through an Eastern Window by Bishop K. C. Pillai.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Fate of Moroni

The original source for this story is Charles David Evans in
"The Fate of Moroni, 1897." Archives Division, Church
Historical Dept.

I found it the book Fourth Nephi thru Moroni, From
Zion to Destruction from BYU Religious Studies
Center. Here is the quote:

At a meeting at Spanish fork in the winter of 1896,
Bro. Higginson stated that Thomas Marsh told him
that Joseph Smith told him that in answer to prayer
the Lord gave Joseph a vision, in which appeared a
wild country and on the scene was
Moroni after whom were 6 Indians in pursuit. He
stopped and one of the Indians stepped forward and
measured swords with him. Moroni smote him and he
fell dead; another Indian advanced and contended
with him; this Indian also fell by the sword; a
third Indian then stepped and met the same fate; a
4th afterwards contended with him, but in the
struggle with the 4th, Moroni, being exhausted, was

In another place I can't pinpoint at the moment, Joseph
said that these Lamanites had been tracking him for many
years. What a high price was paid by the Prophet
Moroni for his faithfulness. I am so grateful for his example.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thanking the Jews

But thus saith the Lord God:...they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me...? 2 Nephi 29:4

I think about the list below whenever I read those words from the Book of Mormon.

"The Jews had a tremendous reverence for Scripture. Their copying procedure were very detailed and meticulous. Samuel Davidson provides a listing of the regulations followed by the scribes: [1]

1. A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals,
2. prepared for the particular use of the synagogue by a Jew
These must be fastened together with strings taken from certain clean animals.
Each skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex.
The length of each column must not extend over less than forty-eight or more than sixty lines; and the breadth must consist of thirty letters.
6. The whole copy must be first-lined; and if three words be written without a line, it is worthless.
7. The ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other color, and be prepared according to a definite recipe.
8. An authentic copy must be from an exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least deviate.
No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him
10. Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene;
Between every new ... section, the breadth of nine consonants;
Between every book, three lines.
13. The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so.
Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress,
Wash his whole body,
Not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, [2]
17. And should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him.

Footnotes: [1] Samuel Davidson, “
The Hebrew Text of the Old Testament,” 2nd ed., London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1859, p. 89 as shown in “What Everyone Needs To Know About The Bible,” by Don Stewart, Dart Press, p. 62.
[2] Meaning that a new pen would be used every time the name of God was written, as opposed to a used pen newly dipped in ink."

Milligan, Jim. Old Testament Copying Procedures


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pleading With the Lord

The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand. And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.
1 Samuel 24:15-16

in the KJV does not mean to pray, supplicate, beg, or implore. It always has the sense of seeking a judgment, and means to argue for or against a cause, to urge the claim or state the case of a person. This KJV usage survives in legal terminology. "If ye plead against me my reproach" means "If you make my humiliation an argument against me" (Job 19:5). "There is none to plead thy cause" means "There is none to uphold your cause" (Jeremiah 30:13). "Plead for a man with God"—the verb here is the one which is translated "reason" in Job 13:3, "I desire to reason with God," and in Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together."

The word "plead" does not appear in the New Testament. The four Hebrew verbs which "plead" represents in the KJV have as their basic meanings contend, prove, judge, govern; and each may imply action as well as words. Proverbs 31:9 reads, "maintain the rights of the poor and needy." Isaiah 66:16 has "execute judgment"; Jeremiah 2:35, "bring to judgment"; Jeremiah 25:31 and Ezekiel 17:20; 20:35, 36; 38:22, "enter into judgment."

(The Bible Word Book, Bridges & Weigle, pg 261)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Locusts and Wild Honey

And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat [food] was locusts and wild honey. Matt.3:4

I thought a Biblical recipe might come in handy sometime, especially one that helps the entire family work together in preparing it.. Under the law of Moses, locusts were kosher. General C. M. Bisset, in his work entitled Sport and War in Africa, gives an interesting illustration of the use of these as food.

"About the year 1830, some dispersed natives from the interior of Africa migrated south to seek employment among the farmers. My father engaged one family, consisting of a man named Job and his two wives, with seven or eight children. Soon after their arrival a flight of locusts came from the interior, and night after night, whilst the locusts settled on the earth, the whole of this family, with great sandals of ox-hide tied on to their feet (very like Canadian snow-shoes), would walk about the whole night wherever the locusts were thickest.

The next day the locusts would again take wing; but where this family had been walking about all night you saw acres and acres of ground covered with swarms of disabled locusts that could not fly away, and the natives would collect them and bring them home in baskets; they would then break off the wings, pinch off the tail end of the body, and pull off the head, and withdraw the inside of the locust; thus the body and legs alone remained, the inside of the body being covered with fat. This portion of the locusts was then spread open upon mats in the sun to dry, and when dry packed away in huts raised from the ground and built on purpose. These people received a very good ration of food, yet this family preferred the bread made from these locusts to any description of food.

Their mode of manipulation was as follows: A basketful of the dried locusts would be taken from their store, and one of the women would sit down on the ground by a flat stone, and with another round stone in her two hands would grind or reduce the locust to flour, and therewith make thick cakes, and bake them on the coals or in the ashes, and eat this locust- bread with wild honey. Honey was most abundant in the country at this time, and I have seen Job, after a day's hunting, carry home leather bags full, weighing more than I could lift from the ground. Hence I believe it was thus that John the Baptist' lived upon locusts and wild honey' in the wilderness.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Spiritual Penmanship

For even hereunto were ye called because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2:21

“The word translated "example" in this verse is a figure of speech, suggested by the tried and true copybook method of teaching penmanship, where one traces letters for copying.

Through the original Greek language we see in this word a copybook like every student uses when learning to write. At the top of the page a specimen of beautiful numbers and letters are flawlessly penned. The page is a white, spotless sheet of paper prior to the student's effort to transcribe the copy. Every student has experienced the awkward attempts in the beginning to duplicate properly the writing at the top of the page, but it takes persistent determination and constant repetitive practice before success is achieved.

The application the apostle wanted his audience to draw is obvious and appropriate. Jesus is the beautiful writing at the top of the page. He is our copy-head.

Just as the young penman remains steadfast in the initial slow, arduous and awkward efforts of his labors to master the copy-head, so the Lord's children must continually "look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). The rational student does not throw aside his pen in despair and profess he cannot learn to write after completing his first, clumsy and imperfect attempts. He recognizes that with practice comes proficiency, and that eventually he will attain to a degree of success impossible to him in the beginning. The level of expertise he attains will be largely due to how closely he continues to look to the copy-head for guidance.”

www.studylight.org [I greatly condensed the original version.]

Monday, June 15, 2009

Love Without Wax

Let love be without dissimulation
. Romans 12:9a

In the LDS Bible footnotes for this verse, we can see that the original Greek word translated “without dissimulation” means “sincere” and “unfeigned.” Below is a short word study on the word sincere.

“The Greek words in the New Testament for character are interesting. Many times these words are translated "sincerity.”

"The English term "sincere" comes from the Latin; in fact, it is made up of two words every first-year Latin student learns. They mean literally, "without wax.” In the ancient world pottery was a necessity of life. It was not unusual for pottery to break when it was being fired, and, of course, a broken pot was hard to sell, unless you had some wax. A skillful, but dishonest potter, could use wax as a glue and put a pot back together, paint it, and sell it as new. That was fine, of course, until a person poured hot soup into the pot. So some potters of integrity began to advertise their wares as "sine cere," without wax, and they would encourage their buyers to hold the pot up to the sun or subject it to heat to try to detect any wax.

The original Greek word translated "sincere" is sometimes rendered "without hypocrisy." "Let love be without hypocrisy." This is another very picturesque term. It means literally, "to speak from down under," and its derivation is from the ancient theater. Actors didn’t normally dress their parts–they just carried masks which indicated whether they were playing a comic, dramatic, or melodramatic role. Every once in a while they would put the mask up to their face to remind the audience of the character being portrayed. When the mask was up, of course, they had to "speak from down under it." Hypocrisy, then, is speaking from under a mask.

Paul here demands of the believer a love that wears no masks, that sports no wax, a love that holds up under both heat and light."


Friday, June 12, 2009


And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria , and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease. 2 Kings 1:2

When the faithless Jewish leaders accused Christ of performing his miracles by the power of
Beelzebub [also a code word for Satan], I wondered about their accusation. Who was "the god of Ekron" with that name? What I learned when I did some research was revolting. According to one account, bowel movements were associated with worship of this diety. Don't ask. There was more, none of it suitable for this forum. But here's a bit of background that is useful.

Rick Renner tells us, "The name Beelzebub was initially used by the Philistines of the Old Testament to describe the god of Ekron. It literally meant, “lord of the flies” (2 Kings 1:2-6). Originally, it was spelled Baalzebub. As time progressed, the Jews altered Baalzebub to Beelzebub, which added an even dimmer idea to this particular name of the devil. The new name (Beelzebub) now meant, “lord of the dunghill,” or “lord of the manure.”

Two powerful and important images of Satan are presented in these two names. First of all, he is presented as Baalzebub, the “lord of the flies.” This is clearly the picture of Satan masquerading himself as the lord of demon spirits.

Secondly, he is presented as Beelzebub, the “lord of the dunghill.” By adding this twist to this name of Satan, the Jews told us something very important about the devil. Both he and his evil spirits, like nasty, dirty flies, are attracted to “dunghills” or environments where rotting, stinking, carnality pervades. This is the environment where Satan thrives best."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Idioms Everywhere

I think it is interesting to know the source of some of the phrases we use. Many Hebrew idioms translated into the King James Bible have become part of our daily speech.

“to fall flat on his face” (Numbers 22:31)

“the skin of my teeth” (Job 19:20)

“from time to time” (Ezekiel 4:10)

“sour grapes” (Ezekiel 18:2)

“under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:14 and at least twenty other occurrences)

“to lick the dust” (Psalm 72:9; Isaiah 49:23; Micah 7:17)

“a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14)

“to pour out one’s heart” (Psalm 62:8; Lamentations 2:19)

“the land of the living” (Job 28:13; Psalm 27:13; Psalm 52:5; Isaiah 38:11; Jeremiah 11:19; Ezekiel 32:23-27)

“to stand in awe” (Psalm 4:4; Psalm 33:8)

“to put words in his mouth” (Exodus 4:15; Deuteronomy 18:18; 2 Samuel 14:3; 2 Samuel 14:19; Jeremiah 1:9)

“to go from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7)

“like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rude Speech

But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.
2 Corinthians 11:6

When Paul admitted, according to the KJV, that he was "rude in speech," it did not mean that he was rough, unrefined, boorish, or discourteous. The word "rude" here goes back to Tyndale, and has the now rare and archaic meaning of inexpert, unskilled. It translates the Greek term idiotes . What Paul grants is that he is not a professional orator.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Feed My Sheep part 2

...Then he says to the rest of the sheep: 'Come along, eat of this. You are well and hearty. Now, what is the matter with you? O, now, you want to be loved.' And he has to pet and love him. Some sheep are like some people; you can't do anything with them unless you are loving and kissing them all the time. 'You know I love you. Now I will feed the rest of the sheep.

'...Now, come here, you poor old sheep, there is a piece for you. Just eat a piece for my sake. And now, you toothless one, come here, open your mouth, and I will help you.' And O, what patience and endurance is required of a feeder. If you take the word 'endurance' in the Bible you will get a better idea of what it means to endure to the end. A shepherd has to have the greatest endurance, especially at this time, when he has to feed his sheep. If he scolds them they get frightened and won't eat, and then they die. Some of them are so stubborn that you want to hit them with a club, but you have to be patient with them.

He comes to a sheep and touches him on the head, and some sheep don't like to have anybody pat them on the head. So he runs his hand down its back until he finds a place where the sheep likes it, and you will see the sheep put his head down to be patted. So he finds out the peculiarities and characteristics of each, and in that way he wins them all to him..., and he learns...how to feed the sheep, ...and has a word of comfort for them."
(Mtford 170-181)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Feed My Sheep part 1

All right, two more posts about sheep and then I'll move on to other topics. I promise.

"It is interesting to note that in a flock each sheep has a time of quietness and aloneness with his shepherd every day. Early in the morning the sheep would form a grazing line and keep the same position throughout the day. At some time along the way each sheep left the grazing line and went to the shepherd. The shepherd received the sheep with outstretched arms speaking kindly to it. The sheep would rub against the shepherd's leg, or if the shepherd were seated, rub its cheek against his face. Meanwhile the shepherd would gently pat the sheep, rubbing its nose and ears and scratching its chin. After a brief period of this intimate fellowship together, the sheep returned to its place in the grazing line.

What a blessing to be able to leave the cares of life for a brief period and spend time in the outstretched arms of the Shepherd, rubbing, as it were, our cheek against His face in intimate fellowship through prayer!...

"Jesus said to Peter, 'Feed My sheep.' ...He didn't say, 'Pasture My sheep,' but 'Feed My sheep.' You can be a splendid pastor, but a mighty poor feeder.

The sheep need to be fed when the pasture is limited, and we feed them with what is called koosbie, a pulpy substance, which...looks something like putty, and is very nutritious. We mix it with a little green grass, and we feed the sheep, and they do not like it, and we have to teach them to eat it. You have to be very careful in feeding it, not to give them too much, because they are likely to get sick and die, and you must be careful not to give them too little, or they will starve.

The shepherds always begins with the lambs, and that is why our Lord Christ said, 'Feed My lambs.' So here the shepherd gathers all the lambs about him, and he has a whole dozen or two lambs...He has them in his bosom and under his cloak, and the sick lambs come around him. His whole heart is with those poor lambs and kids and sheep. And O, how he kisses them and loves them! ...He would put any mother to shame by the way he loves them and takes care of them.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tasting the Truth

"'He maketh me to lie down' gives us a picture of repose. It is a picture of fullness and satisfaction. Sheep will not lie down when they are hungry. If you see a sheep lying down in green pastures, you may be sure the sheep is satisfied. Sheep do not eat lying down. If you put a tuft of sweet, tender grass under the nose of a lying sheep it will not eat it unless it first rises to its feet.

The rest of the sheep is not an idle rest. Sheep do not lie down to feed, but they do chew the cud. They bring up from the first stomach the grass they have eaten and chew it over and over and over again...The word 'mediate' is really 'ruminate,' and merely means chewing the cud...The shepherd is satisfied to have the sheep lying down chewing the cud, for he knows they are healthy, content, and growing wool. (Moyer 20-21)."

When we meditate upon the words of the prophets and the scriptures, pondering repeatedly the truths found there, we are like wise sheep who know that the nourishment gained from their food will not obtained by one quick chewing.

"Green pastures are literally 'pastures of tender grass.' ...The green pastures are the young, tender, tasty, and nutritious grass upon which the sheep feed. For us...the green pastures are the... Scriptures (Moyer 18-20)."

Joseph Smith taught that the truth is delicious. He said, "This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life, and so can you (TPJS 355).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

For His Name's Sake

Job compared the wicked to sheep who refused to stay on the path.

Wicked people rebel against the light. They refuse to acknowledge its ways. They will not stay in its paths (Job 24:13 NLT).

"Palestine is a land of paths. Some of them are winding and lead to green fields and brooks of waters. Others lead to narrow lanes of hedges of thorns and of briers; others to serpent's nests; others to dens of wolves. So the shepherd has to know all these paths and where they lead to; for if he did not know that they led to pleasant places he could not turn the flock back, but his flock would be dispersed and destroyed.

So he leaves his flock resting at noon and goes and finds out where the paths lead to. Often he gets very tired and footsore in going quite a distance and coming back. He has also encountered many dangers, pitfalls, serpents, etc., but 'for His name's sake,' [his reputation as a good shepherd] he will suffer any trouble and weariness as long as his sheep have been saved from the 'paths of unrighteousness.'

With the hireling it is different. He never troubles to find out where the safe and good places are, but takes his chances of leading them through any path that seems easy for himself. But should he come to where the wolves are, 'he leaveth the sheep and fleeth and the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep (John 10:12).' A hireling is never to be depended upon, but the good shepherd suffers all things to secure the comfort of his sheep. Hence the Psalmist so beautifully describes this phrase: 'He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake (Psalms 23:3).'" (Mtford 139-140, 142, 146)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Judas Sheep

There will be many seeking to lead us on dangerous paths.

"Frequently, human beings are in a condition of spiritual lostness. It is so very easy for sheep to be led astray. It is a principle which has been taken advantage of by those who would lead sheep to the slaughter.

In New Zealand, where 40 million sheep are sent to market, the sheep are led to the slaughter in the many freezing works by the 'Judas Sheep.' The 'Judas Sheep' is a big pet 'wether' (a castrated male) who leads the sheep from the bottom pen area, up the ramp to the top 'killing floor.' The poor sheep are totally unaware of what awaits them as they blindly follow on. Once up the top, the trap door is opened for the 'Judas Sheep,' and he trots away, and back down to the bottom pen area to lead another group of sheep to their destiny.

Let us learn this spiritual lesson: be careful who you follow. Follow the right lead, and be 'led by the Spirit,' in the right path, in the way that the Shepherd directs. The Good Shepherd will never lead us astray. He will never lead us into harm or hurt. Rather, through His Holy Spirit, He leads us in the paths of righteousness, into 'green pastures and beside still water' where He restores our soul (Bowen 19)."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Qualities of a Shepherd

"...it is helpful to know something about the ancient shepherds who roamed Judea. The shepherd was a peaceful person who avoided strife as much as possible; for his life was often fraught with danger.

Though many consider shepherding a masculine profession, it must be noted that female shepherds were also common in the biblical period. The shepherd needed to have a soothing personality and to know how to help his flock relax. In ancient days, the shepherd used to play his flute to help calm the nervous flock. Of all the ancient professions available to men, shepherding best enabled men to develop their maternal persona (Anderson 106)."

"The good shepherd could not look after the health of the sheep while standing afar. He had to be close at hand. His life experiences as a shepherd inspired him to see God as the Shepherd of all creation .

While some may not feel comfortable thinking of certain people as sheep and others as shepherds, our discomfort will likely disappear when we realize that the shepherding model revolves around the relationship between the shepherd and his flock. It is not a figure of strong over weak or "lords" over servants. Quite the contrary. The shepherd figure is one of love, service, and openness (Anderson 19)."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Beautiful Goats

All of the the posts this week come from some talks I gave at Education Week about pastoral imagery in the scriptures. This information has helped me so much in my understanding of Christ in his role of good shepherd. I hope it blesses you also.

There are many paths in Israel and also in life. It is difficult and bewildering to choose the path of peace and safety without guidance.

An authoress from the 1800's, who grew up in the Holy Land, shows how this principle was exemplified in the lives the shepherds. She writes:

"When I was a child we spent our summer months in the country districts, and that is how I became imbued with the life of the shepherds in Palestine. Often, in company with my brother, we used to go out with the shepherds or shepherdesses over the hills, and we wanted to take their place. And, speaking the Arabic language, we could imitate their voices and calls.

But the sheep were never taken in by our voices, and occasionally a great big long-horned he-goat would resent the imposition by a few well-directed butts, which would soon scatter us. At the head of the flock is this great long-horned he-goat. First came the shepherd, then the he-goat, then the flock. It seemed as if the whole flock had unanimously elected this long-horned he-goat to lead them... If they saw the he-goat shaking his head, a frightened look would pass over them. If the he-goat started butting a pretender, the majority of the flock would butt him, too.

If you turn to Proverbs 30:31, you will find him mentioned as one of the four things that are beautiful in going before the Lord; and still more prominently so in Jeremiah 50:8, where the prophet breaks forth and says: 'Remove out of the midst of Babylon and go forth out the land of the Chaldeans, and be as the he-goats before the flocks.'

Now, why does the prophet draw the picture of this noble animal? Because there have been instances known where the shepherd has fallen down some precipice and been killed. Then it has become the duty of the he-goat to gather the flock together and bring them back in safety...Be as the he-goats before the flocks (Mountford 41-45)."

Our priesthood "he-goats" have a weighty responsibility to lead in love and to model the care of the Good Shepherd. The rewards for their faithful service will surely be great.