Friday, May 29, 2009

Sifted as Wheat

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
Luke 22:31

The process of threshing and winnowing grain contains elements of being crushed to break off hulls, then being repeatedly thrown into the air and wind tossed from high atop a threshing floor. Entire families take part in the harvesting work. It is a strenuous and repetitive process that separates the chaff from the grain.

Below, James Neil describes the continuing actions needed to further sift and prepare the grain for use:

"Wheat in Palestine, after it has passed through the exceedingly simple processes of threshing and winnowing on the open-air threshing-floors, comes into the market in a very dirty state. Dust, pebbles, short pieces of crushed straw, damaged grains, barley, and the seeds of wild plants (the bitter and poisonous “tares”), mingle largely in the measures poured into your sack by the professional measurer.

But they never trouble much about that in Palestine. Provided there is good wheat, and a due proportion of it, they take but little account of whatever else the sack may contain. And the reason is this — that the separation of the refuse from the grain is a regular part of household work at the time of breadmaking. The process, with which I became very familiar, was always carried on in the open courtyard of our parsonage home on Mount Zion.

The woman servant seats herself on the ground with her feet spread widely apart, taking in her hands a large but shallow sieve some two and a half feet across. Having placed a small quantity of wheat in the sieve, she commences by giving it some six or seven sharp shakes, so as to bring the chaff and short pieces of crushed straw to the surface, the greater part of which she removes with her hands.

After this the main part of the work begins, which is done with much skill. Holding the sieve in a slanting position, she jerks it up and down for a length of time, blowing across the top of it all the while with great force. In a word, she turns herself into a regular winnowing machine!

Three results follow. In the first place the dust, earth, small seeds, and small, imperfect grains of wheat, etc., fall away through the meshes of the sieve. Secondly, by means of the vigorous blowing, any crushed straw, chaff, and such-like light refuse is either blown away to the ground, or else collected in that part of the seive which is furthest from her. Thirdly, the good wheat goes together in one heap about the centre of the sieve, while the tiny stones or pebbles are brought into a separate little pile on that part of it which is nearest to her chest. The pebbles, chaff, and crushed straw thus cleverly removed from the corn, mainly by the angle at which the sieve is held and the way in which it is jerked up and down, are then taken out with her hands. Finally, setting the sieve down upon her lap, she carefully picks out with her fingers any slight impurities which may yet remain, and the elaborate and searching process of Biblical sifting is complete."

It seems that the Lord was warning Peter of coming persecution and suffering. But that process of being sifted would lead not to destruction (as Satan hoped) but would enable Peter to be increasingly purified and eventually sanctified as he was willing to endure to the end and complete the process. I'm guessing that these words can also be likened unto ourselves.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Faith and Fishing

I enjoy collecting information that helps me understand the background and context of the stories told in the Scriptures.
Here is one that I read many years ago, and when I was in Israel, I asked some local people about this. They assured me it was true, and said that the fish today is generally called St. Peter's fish. The unnamed person who wrote the material below referenced a book called "Light From an Eastern Window." by K.C. Pillai. I don't have the book, so I can't give a page number.

And when they were come to Capernaum , they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Matthew 17: 24-27

"In Western culture, the idea of finding money in the mouth of a fish is rather far-fetched, but not so in the East. In the middle east, there is a fish called Musht. It is about 6 inches long and has a large head with a bag under its mouth. This fish will pick up shiny and sparkling items like gold coins and jewels from the bottom of a lake or river, and hold them in the bag. [Note: Today those shiny items are more likely to be foil gum wrappers and coke bottle caps!] The Musht is very difficult to catch however. Some may fish in the waters for years and never catch one. Some men have become rich by hooking just one of them.

How do money and jewels end up in the water? Good question. That is another eastern custom. To them, part of praying is also making an offering to God. In order to give an offering in secret, and not receive the praise of men, valuables are often thrown into the water. This is how the Musht gets the money in its mouth.

Peter was a fisherman, and he knew how difficult it was to catch such a fish. He had probably never caught one before in his life. Yet he did not doubt Jesus or make an argument. He went out with his hook and caught a fish. That fish was a Musht, and it had enough tribute money in its mouth for both him and Jesus. This is what we need to do every day in our lives. We must believe God's Word, that He will bring it to pass. If God tells us to 'go fishing', we go get our fishing pole."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reproving Betimes

betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem them to be his enemy. D&C 121:43

Betimes means early, soon, quickly, in good time. It was a common word in Elizabethan English. Shakespeare used it frequently, as in Macbeth, IV, 3, 162:

"Good God, betimes remove
The means that makes us strangers!"

Since modern scripture is rhetorically linked with the King James Version, we can find similar usages of the word betimes in Gen. 26:31, 2 Chron. 36:15, and Job 8:5 among others.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Generous Measure

, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men
give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:38

When reading the verse above, it is helpful to know that in the Middle East, generosity was/is considered among the very highest of virtues. If a person was described as having that attribute, others would automatically assume that he possessed many many other excellent qualities. A miserly person was scorned by others. James Neil, a writer from the late 1800's, gives a wonderful description of the generous measuring process:

"Another sight that arrested my attention in Jerusalem was the measuring of wheat and barley. Each year in July or August all the dwellers in Eastern cities have to buy sufficient corn to last them for a year.

When it is brought to the purchaser’s door, a professional measurer invariably attends to find out and certify the true contents of each sack, who acts as a kind of impartial umpire between the buyer and the seller. He uses a wooden measure, like our own bushel measure but not so deep, called a timneh. He seats himself cross-legged on the ground, and upon the grain being turned out in a heap before him, begins to scoop it into the timneh with his hands. Next, he seizes the measure, when it is partly full, and gives it two or three swift half-turns as it stands on the ground, thus shaking it together and so making it occupy a smaller space. He again scoops in more corn and repeats the shaking as before, and does so again and again until the measure is filled up to the brim. This done, he presses upon it all over with the outstretched palms of his hands, using the whole weight of his body so as to pack it still more closely.

Then, out of the center of the pressed surface, he removes some of its contents, and makes a small hollow. He is about to erect a building on the top, and very naturally digs a foundation. With more handfuls of corn he now raises a cone above the timneh. With much skilfulness he carries this cone up to a great height, until no more grain can possibly be piled on its steep sides and that which he adds begins to run down and flow over. Upon this, the interesting and elaborate process is complete, the measure is regarded as of full weight and is handed over to the buyer. "Corn" (wheat) is generally meted out in this way, and is quoted in the market at so much per timneh.

I have been at great pains to find out the exact contents, by weight, of the Palestine measure. The experiment I caused to be made was with wheat of the best quality. I found that a timneh of such filled up to the brim, unshaken and unpressed and without the cone, weighs just thirty-seven pounds, and with the cone just forty-four pounds. When, however, shaken together, pressed down, and, flowing over in the manner I have described, it holds forty-eight pounds.

Give,” said our Blessed Lord, in graphic and vivid allusion to this professional measuring, “and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom [that is, into the capacious natural breast-pocket formed by that part of the loose Eastern kamise, or shirt, which is above the girdle]; for with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6.38; see also Matt 7.2 and Mark 4.24).

Observe, there is no less than eleven pounds difference in weight between a measure filled to the brim, as we fill it here, and one such as I have described filled according to the bountiful method of Bible lands, when it is “pressed down, shaken together, running over.” In this way 30 per cent, is added to its value! This is, indeed, good interest for our money, but thus liberally shall those be rewarded who have learned to imitate the example of their God and Saviour — who, blessed be His name, gave His own life — in the divine art of generous giving."

(Neil, Revd James., Peeps Into Palestine, Stanley Martin & Co. Ltd, UK, ~1913)

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Cast Down Soul

Why art thou
cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him,who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Psalm 43:5

Phillip Keller, in his classic book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, gives a striking picture of the care and gentleness of the shepherd. When David said, "He restores my soul," he chose language that every shepherd would understand.

"A sheep is built in such a way, that if it falls over on its side and onto its back, it is very difficult for it to get up again. In this position, it flails its legs in the air, bleats, and cries. After a few hours on its back, gas begins to collect in its stomach, the stomach hardens, which cuts off the air passage, and the sheep suffocates. This position is called a cast-down position. A cast-down sheep needs a loving shepherd to restore it.

To restore a cast-down sheep takes time. The first thing the shepherd does is massage its four legs to restore circulation. Then while calmly reassuring the sheep with his voice, he gently turns it over, puts his hand under the sheep's belly, lifts it up, and holds it so it can gain its equilibrium. When the shepherd feels that the sheep can stand on its own, he lets the sheep go and watches it take a few faltering steps. He has restored a cast-down sheep.

What a picture of what God does for us! When we are on our back, flailing because of guilt, grief, and grudges, our loving Shepherd reassures us with His words. With His tender hands He lifts us and carries us until we've gained spiritual equilibrium."

As we consider our own lives and our experiences with the Good Shepherd, we can gladly bear the same witness that Job gave:

When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person. Job 22:29

Friday, May 22, 2009

Eat Flesh, Drink Blood

When we partake of the sacrament each Sunday-symbolically eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Christ, we covenant to take upon us His name. Hebraically speaking, this has a meaning related to taking upon ourselves the qualities represented by His name. Along with many other titles, he is “truth”, “light”, and “love”--and we should strive to make those qualities a part of our nature as well.

His flesh-that is, his human nature was submissive to Heavenly Father’s will.

His blood- that is, the activating life force of his mortal body, was shed in a sacrificial way to bless us.

Typologically, our personal “flesh and blood” can also be dedicated to a submission of our agency to our Father’s will along with a life of consecration. As we partake of Christ's flesh and blood with this intent, it will literally cause us to be filled with His light and spirit.

Richard Wurmbrand saw a type of this in a scientific experiment that he wrote about.

“We become holy by feeding upon the right spiritual food.”

In an experiment it was found that worms that usually live in the darkness can be conditioned to leave this habitat and to prefer the light. As often as they would withdraw into darkness, they would get electric shocks, whereas if they came out in the light, they found abundant food. With time, these beings “put on a new worm,” to use the biblical expression.

Contrary to the habits of their species, from that time on they preferred the light to darkness. Then these worms were cut into small pieces and added in the food given to other worms: and, lo, these worms also changed their habits. They had increased, with the addition of the flesh of the new breed of worms, their Ribonucleic acid (RNA), the depository of memory. They would shun darkness and prefer light just as the beings upon which they had fed. Similar experiments have also been made with other animals.

If you wish to put on the new man, a man of righteousness and holiness, feed upon Christ. He has become flesh in order that He might become your daily food.

Quote From Richard Wurmbrand's devotional, Reaching Towards the Heights - May 15th. (

Thursday, May 21, 2009


But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:22

" In Jesus’ day the word raca was used so much that it appears in the Greek NT in that form, untranslated. In both Hebrew and Aramaic its fundamental meaning was 'empty.' The human dignity of one’s neighbor should not be disparaged. The Hebrew verb 'to curse,' lekallel, comes from the root kal or “light” (in weight).

In practice the humiliation of another is tantamount to cursing him. There is no-one who is “empty-headed” and completely worthless. George Lamsa, who speaks Aramaic as his mother-tongue, points out that rekiah suggests derivation from the root rak which means in both Hebrew and Aramaic 'to spit'.”

Lamsa also wrote, "This word was not translated into Greek. Perhaps the translator could not find a similar habit of spitting among the Greek people as among Semites or he may not have known the meaning of the word. During heated arguments and controversies, easterners often spit in each other’s face. Merchants and prospective customers, after long bargaining and arguments concerning price, spit in each other’s face when they fail to agree. Nearly all quarrels are started by spitting. One often says raka arek na bapek, I will spit in your face.

"In the East utter contempt for someone is shown by spitting in their was done to Jesus when he was subjected to the nocturnal interrogation. Worse than this, Jesus held, was to call someone a “fool.” This is a common insult amongst the Jews and the Arabs. Disagreements must always be settled while they are still fresh. They create an atmosphere in which, the Wise say, the Holy Spirit does not take pleasure."

(Santala, Risto. 1992. The Messiah in the New Testament. Jerusalem: Keren Avah Meshihit., pgs 168-169)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Buy without money

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah 55: 1

"This verse sounds like a vendor is giving away his goods for free. How else could someone buy without money and without price? This orientalism relates to how special days are celebrated in Eastern cultures. In Western culture for example, when someone has a personal celebration, we expect others to give us gifts. In the East, the custom is quite the opposite. Someone who celebrates a significant day (like the birth of a child) shows gratitude to God by giving to others. It is considered a gift to God to even provide a cup of water to someone who is thirsty.

In the marketplace, the vendor of water, milk, and wine will cry out the price of his goods, much like the hot dog vendor walking up and down the rows at a baseball stadium. He will announce that each drink is so much per jug. Those wishing to buy will know exactly what the price is when they approach.

If someone in the crowd is celebrating a special occasion, they will go to the vendor and purchase a certain amount of the goods. But instead of taking it home, he has the vendor change his announcement to 'come, buy without money and without price'. The people who hear this know what has happened, that someone has paid the price of the water, wine, and milk. Anyone with need can go and 'buy' without money. The benefactor stands by, and they can express their gratitude to him as their jugs are filled.

Isaiah's use of this orientalism was not just descriptive of everyday life in the market place, but he used it for its spiritual significance. Mankind has always come short of the glory of God. We were never able to be 'good' enough, make enough sacrifices, or follow the Old Testament law without making mistakes. Man cannot pay the price for his deliverance. That is why Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, came into the world. He paid the price for us by dying on the cross. Now we can 'buy without money', and drink of the living waters of Holy Spirit, because it has already been paid for. This is a great revelation of Isaiah 55: 1."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

According to our understanding

For my soul delighteth in plainness for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding. 2 Nephi 31:3

Not long ago, a young mother who had recently gone through a very bitter divorce shared this experience with a friend. Her four-year-old daughter had responded to the divorce with intense grief. She wouldn’t play, she wouldn’t eat, and she wouldn’t talk.

The mother was wise and was careful to never speak against the father in the child’s presence. The father, however, foolishly and cruelly demeaned the mother whenever he took his daughter for the weekends. This action caused the child to further withdraw. Naturally, the mother was greatly concerned as time passed and there was no improvement in her child’s emotional and physical state.

In desperation, she continued praying to Heavenly Father, begging for His help. Shortly thereafter, as she was making breakfast one morning, the mother was astounded when her daughter came shipping down the stairs with a big happy smile. She took her seat at the table and began eating without being coaxed.

This was a miracle. The mom said, “Honey, I am so happy to see that you are feeling better.”

The little girl said, “Heavenly Father talked to me last night and said that He didn’t want me to be sad, and that right now, my Daddy’s heart is like the Grinch’s – it’s two sizes too small. Someday it will be better. But right now, He wants me to be happy and just go outside and play.”

What an amazing Being we have for our Father!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Short Fuse

Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? Isaiah 2:22

His breath is in his nostrils” is an Aramaic idiom which means that he is impatient, hasty, or impulsive; this refers to a person who does not think things over, but acts without thinking. [We would call this person a "hothead."]

This idiom is still used among Aramaic-speaking people. When a man is hasty or impatient he talks with his breath in his nostrils. [Angry men have flared nostrils also.] Easterners consider impatient men dangerous. Leaders and judges who are impulsive are greatly feared and are considered impractical. Easterners generally think things over before they act, especially the wise men. They let a matter cool off for a while before they make a decision.

(Lamsa, George M. 1964. Old Testament Light. San Francisco: Harper Collins., pgs 620-621)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Learning to Fly

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
Deuteronomy 32:11

"Deuteronomy 32:11 gives a touching picture of the mother eagle teaching her young offspring to fly. She hovers over the warm, comfortable nest where the young birds have been so content and she begins to jerk at it and to tear it to pieces. She flutters her wings over the nest to try to agitate the eaglets, and she keeps on until she has them all stirred up and completely frustrated. She tears at the nest until it is so messed up, and she nips at them until they are so upset, that they are ready to get out of there.

All of a sudden, it doesn't seem nearly as desirable as it previously did! Finally, if they don't get out by themselves, she will kick them out of the nest with her powerful feet. They are so frightened and disturbed by this time they are frantic. They don't know how to fly, so they find themselves falling helplessly through space.

What does the mother eagle do to them? She swoops underneath them and catches them upon her broad back. Then she tosses them off again, and continues to repeat this procedure until they finally begin to flutter their wings and gradually learn to hold themselves aloft.

You see, the mother eagle knows that she must get her eaglets out of that nest, for if she doesn't they will never learn to fly, and they will eventually perish. Likewise God, by the sufferings and sorrows of this earthly life, is "stirring up our nest," so to speak to "teach us to fly" to our heavenly home. He sometimes has to make that nest pretty uncomfortable in order to make us willing to leave it."

(Zodhiates, Spiros. 1998. The Lord's Prayer. Second Revised edition. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers., pgs 345-346)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Spirit and the Dove

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Genesis 1:2

"The rabbinic interpretation of Genesis 1:2 was that the Spirit of God moved (or brooded) upon the face of the waters “like a dove.” With the Jewish mindset already associating the Holy Spirit with a dove, it was quite natural for God to use that motif in the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

The spiritual Jewish thought of that day would immediately draw a connection between the Spirit descending like a dove upon the Son (as the Gospels describe Jesus' baptism) and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, as depicted in Isaiah 61:1-3."


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Speckled Birds

Mine heritage
is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour
. Jeremiah 12:9

"Put very briefly, the nation of Israel had been in such constant disobedience to God that the enemies all around were turned against them by the hand of God. “Mine heritage” here refers to the nation of Israel. This is God speaking. God says: “Mine heritage is as a speckled bird.”

Jeremiah had been bird watching, and he noticed how often when a speckled bird was hatched and eventually the feathers came so they knew that it was a speckled bird, all the other birds in the nest, even the mother, refused to accept it. They all pounced upon that bird from every corner and pecked it to death.

Jeremiah says that is the way the nation of Israel is. Because of Israel’s disobedience and willfulness, God permitted all the nations of the world to come and peck at her as a speckled bird."


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Renewed Youth

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed as the eagle’s. Psalms 103:5

This fact in the life of the eagle is given as a promise to the righteous. The eagle lives to a very great age. As he grows old his beak becomes so long that he can no longer eat; then he flies away by himself to the top of a cliff and pecks and pecks on a rock until his bill falls off, after which a new bill grows in its place.

While without the use of his bill, the bird also loses his feathers because of fasting. After the new bill grows and he again takes food, new feathers start growing, so that he looks and appears like a young eagle, going forth in a new covering with youthful beauty and strength.

(Bowen, Barbara M., Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1944, pg 22)

Monday, May 11, 2009

People and Sparrows

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows
. Luke 12:6-7

"Why would Jesus mention hair when the subject is sparrows? Sparrows are little, peeping, brown birds that most people simply ignore. There are many species, but they are all little brown birds. Crack open a bird book some day, and look and see how the average birder identifies one sparrow from another. My bird guide even puts all of their heads on one page so you can’t miss them.

You tell sparrows apart by looking at the hairs on their heads! If we pursue that further we see that we can identify different people by looking at the hairs on their heads. Sparrows represent certain people, and God does not forget them either."

(Meyer, Allen R., Insects and Other Critters of the Bible, Bible-Student Resources, Claimont, Alberta, Canada, 1997)

Friday, May 8, 2009

We're all in this together

The following quote by Barbara Brown Taylor can relate to both our regular families and our ward “families.”

Be patient with yourself, and while you are at it, be patient with the rest of us too. You cannot follow a shepherd all by yourself, after all. You are stuck with this flock, or some flock, and everyone knows that sheep are, well, sheep. They panic easily and refuse to be pushed. They make most of their decisions based on their appetites and they tend to get into head-butting contests for no reason at all. But stick with the flock. It is where the shepherd can be found, which makes it your best bet not only for survival but also for joy.

Above all, understand that you belong here as part of the flock.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Clothed upon with righteousness

The apostle John identified the symbolism of fine linen as righteousness. Revelations 1:13 says, “ like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about...with a golden girdle.”

The English word garment (phonetically Mowpha’ath) is a rendition of the Hebrew which has these definitions: illuminative, to shine, and brilliance. Truly, Peter and John witnessed this on the Mount of Transfiguration.

In Revelation 19:8 John says, “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.”

From these scriptures we clearly see that white garments, in all their brilliance, typify righteousness and that both Jesus and the Church are arrayed in these. Scripturally speaking, being clothed with a garment represents taking certain qualities upon ourselves. How wonderful that this clothing is also associated with light, gladness, joy, and honor.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Esther finds favor with her king

When we understand the significance of the custom shown in this next verse, we can appreciate what a truly glorious and dramatic moment this is. What a reward for Esther’s fasting and prayers in behalf of her people!

The account records, “...when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter.... So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the scepter” (Esther 5:2)

F. J. Olsen tells us more about this event:

" The scepter in this verse has many different meanings in the original Hebrew text: “a scion, a rod, a staff.” Each had various uses. Two of these uses were the king’s issuing a command for debate and his signaling the execution of a royal order--a ruling of “so be it.” This scepter symbolized the power emanating from his throne. It is interesting and very revealing that Esther was in the inner court only moments when she was made welcome. In essence, she was invited to share the power and authority that only the king could wield. Further, no one, absolutely no one except the king, was permitted to touch this scepter.

The Hebrew word translated “touched” also carries the definitions of “draw near (nigh), join, and acquire.” There is a sense of intimate union in this word. The king is saying, “What is mine is yours.” He wanted Esther to know that all of his resources were hers."

When things look dark, perhaps this example can cheer us. As we exercise our faith and prayers and fasting during these challenging times, surely we will find in our Heavenly father a king whose unending resources are also available to us.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Three letter words

When studying the Old Testament, it is always helpful to remember that word meanings can change over time. This is no surprise--we have seen the same thing happen in our day. For example, the word gay meant something quite different to folks in the early 20th century than it does to most people today.

Here’s another word whose Biblical meaning had different connotations to the ancients than we have today.

Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha. Ps. 40:15

The word aha in our time is often written with an exclamation point after it (AHA!) to show that someone has had a “light bulb moment.” That definition won’t help you when applied to the times that word is found in the Old Testament

In the Bible, this little word is used as an expression to show contempt for the things of God. The Ammonites and other nations used this word against His people, His land, and His temple. It was a word that revealed their hatred of everything connected with the work of God. God noticed what the enemies of His people said and it brought his wrath upon them because they said it. (See Ezek. 26:2)

Welcome Back, Elder Mike

Our missionary comes home today. In less than 3 hours. YIPPEE!!!!

A quote from a prayer given by Dag Hammerskjold seems appropriate here:

For all that has been: Thanks!

For all that will be: Yes!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Open to suggestions

If anyone can tell me why my postings look perfect when I type them and then look so funky with different fonts, sizes, and spacings when they publish, I'd appreciate some helpful suggestions.

In the meantime, I'm sure hoping that everyone doesn't think I deliberately format them like that.

The Fatherless and Motherless

My youngest sisters were only 11 and 14 when my Mom died. Since my Dad had passed away six years earlier, they were orphaned and came to live with my family. The 11 year old later went to stay with another married sister and the 14 year old lived with us until she went away to college. She was -and continues to be- a truly great blessing to our family.

Seeing and experiencing firsthand the devastating loss of a mother at such early ages, I wondered why the scriptures described the condition of fatherless and widow, but never the state of being motherless. Surely, that loss was comparable to the others listed.

Below is the scripture and the commentary that prompted this post.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27

"Psalm 68:5 calls God “the father of the fatherless and an advocate of the widows.” Over and over again, Scripture entreats us to comfort, help, guide, protect, feed, house and otherwise support the fatherless and widow. Why?

In the days of the Bible, an orphan was any minor whose father had died, not necessarily a child who lost both parents. For this reason, we often see widows and orphans mentioned in the same Scripture passage. When a father died, the mother and children lost their means of livelihood. Sons stayed with their family clan, and the wife left her clan to be with her husband and his clan. If he died, all his money and property went to his brothers or clan – not the wife. So, if the clan did not keep her, she was destitute. She could not assume a man's role to work, administrate, negotiate, etc. A brother of her husband was to marry her by custom (e.g., Ruth and Boaz).

The motherless is not referred to in the bible since if a mother dies, the females of the clan would help raise the children.

Now, you see why God was the defender of the fatherless and widows and expected the Church to do likewise."

From ABBA FATHER: PART 2 by Clarence H. Wagner Jr.