Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Shoes of Iron and Brass

Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be. Deuteronomy 33:25

Your shoes shall be iron and brass” is used metaphorically to mean “You will have plenty of good leather to make shoes.” In the East the shortage of shoes is one of the greatest problems.

Thousands of men, women, and children walk barefooted. Many workers cut grass and work in the fields barefooted. Only the rich and the princes have more than one pair of shoes.

Moreover, when the shoes are well made, the merchants say, “They are like iron,” which means they are durable. Then again, in the East, shoes are a sign of prosperity. Those who have shoes are well dressed and fed. The tribe of Asher was to have oil, food, and leather for shoes. And they were to be healthy and strong all the days of their lives. God’s blessings were to provide for all their needs. [Note: The verse above was part of Asher's tribal blessing.]

(Lamsa, George M. 1964. Old Testament Light. San Francisco: Harper Collins., pgs 280-281)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shoes and Reverence

Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
Acts 7:33

Eastern Christians and Muslims always remove their shoes when they enter a church or a house. To sit down uninvited when in the presence of a ruler or a high government official is a breach of etiquette. But to enter a church, synagogue or mosque with shoes on it considered sacrilegious. Therefore it is not permitted. This is because the people believe that in church they are standing in the presence of God.

Moses was born and reared in Egypt. He was educated in the knowledge of all Egyptian sciences and religion. When at the palace, he had sat in the presence of Pharaoh, attended national ceremonies, and worshiped at the Egyptian shrines and temples. Moses had seen men taking their shoes off and bowing before the emperor and before the images in the shrines…

Reverence to God is man’s highest expression of respect. God does not want man to bow and beg, but it is proper to revere God and to enter into his house and before his presence clean, both inwardly and outwardly. To remove the shoes is symbolical of the removal of the earthly things and readiness to accept things of the spirit.

(Lamsa, George. New Testament Commentary, A.J. Holman Co., Philadelphia: 1945, pgs 53-54)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gambling with Christ

A friend recently asked me to recommend some good books on the parables Christ taught. As I got to looking through my material, I re-found some material that I really like. Thanks for asking, Jackie!

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. Mark 10:21

"The invitation of Jesus is: "Follow me.": Looked at in the context of the immediate situation, it was abundantly clear that following Him was a dangerous thing. The orthodox were against Him; the Scribes, Pharisees and Rulers were out to eliminate Him. His cause looked like a losing one. He seemed to be inviting men to face death. He seemed to be saying,"Are you willing to sacrifice everything, security, safety, comfort, and possibly life, to follow me?" The willingness to risk is the price of entry into the kingdom.

Studdert-Kennedy has a poem which tells of the crucifixion of Jesus and how the soldiers gambled for his clothes beneath the cross. It goes on:

He was a gambler too, my Christ.
He took His life and threw
It for a world redeemed.
But ere His agony was done,
Before the westering sun went down,
Crowning that day with its crimson crown,
He knew that He had won.

In the middle ages there was a company of men called the parabolani, which means “the gamblers.” They gambled with their lives. Where there was plague, where there was trouble, where there was risk, wherever a man might take his life in his hands to help others, they were there. Certainly it means risk to unqualifiedly follow Jesus Christ. Few have accepted that risk."

Barclay, William. And Jesus Said: A Handbook on the Parables of Jesus, Westminster Press., Philadelphia:1970, pages 77-78.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shaking One's Clothes

And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.
Acts 18:6

Shaking the raiment and throwing dust and ashes on the head is a general custom among Easterners. When men wish to renounce or repudiate certain people or ideas or deeds, they shake off the outer robe from the front. This signifies that they are through. This custom is similar to the shaking of dust from the sandals. Some men take a little dust or a stone and throw it away, stating, “I have no part in it.” Where there are no sandals nor stones to be found, people shake off their outer garments as proof of repudiation. Moreover, when people relinquish certain responsibilities or disagree on important matters, they generally shake their garments, to signify that they will have nothing further to do with the matter in question.

Paul hitherto had obeyed the command of his Lord and the apostles. From the outset he preached first to the Jews. But when he saw that the Jews were stubborn, he changed his plans and warned them that he would begin to preach to the Gentiles, that is, Arameans, Greeks and Romans.

Hitherto, Paul had been sincerely seeking the Jews and the descendants of the Ten Tribes, preaching to them in the synagogue and in the homes of the converts. Even as a prisoner in Rome he first preached to the Jews in their synagogue. Paul was zealous to help his people to understand and accept the truth of Jesus’ gospel. Like Jesus, he sought his own, but they rejected him.

(Lamsa, George. New Testament Commentary, A.J. Holman Co., Philadelphia: 1945, pgs 131-132)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More About Signets and Sealing

Hebrew expression: hotam
Pronunciation: hoh TAWM
Strong’s number: 2368

The technology revolution of the past two decades has made the use of passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers) commonplace in homes and the marketplace. Verification of one’s personal identity is now essential for both accessing and protecting computer files, bank accounts, and credit cards. The seal served the same function in the ancient world, the equivalent of a signature or similar mark of personal identification.

The Hebrew verb hatam means to “affix a seal” to a letter or a document (as in Esth. 8:8; Dan 12:4) or to “seal shut” (used metaphorically in reference to chastity, Song 4:12; or referring to God’s control of the celestial lights, Job 9:7). The noun hotam is usually translated “seal(1 Kgs. 21:8) or a “signet ring(Hag. 2:23). Most often the “seal” was a small cylinder of stone engraved with individual and clan symbols. Typically, a hole was bored through the stone cylinder so that it could be tied with a leather cord and worn around the neck. We read that Judah gave his “signet and cord” to Tamar as a personal pledge (Gen. 38:18). The book of Job describes the dawn of a new day like clay spread out and imprinted under the pressure of a cylinder seal being rolled over its surface (Job 38:14). Elsewhere, the seal is mentioned in connection with witnesses to a business transaction (Jer. 32:44).

The “signet ring” was associated with nobility and royalty in the ancient world. Like the cylinder seal, the signet was a metal or stone ring engraved with writing and personal symbols. Affixing the royal seal to an object was an official act that placed the object under the king’s jurisdiction and the legal purview of the state (Esth. 3:12). The prophet Haggai’s reference to Zerubbabel as the Lord’s “signet ring” symbolizes the divine authority vested in Zerubbabel as the leader of the Hebrew community in Jerusalem (Hag. 2:23). Theologically, the signet ring hearkens back to God’s rejection of King Jehoiachin as His “signet” and the curse of the Davidic line (Jer. 22:24). Haggai’s blessing of Zerubbabel in this fashion has the effect of overturning Jeremiah’s earlier curse upon the house of David and restoring the promises connected with the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7).

The cultural practice of affixing seals continued into the New Testament era, most notably in the “sealing” of the tomb of Jesus by Pilate (Matt. 27:66). Theologically, Paul uses the symbol of sealing to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in marking the Christian formally and permanently as a child of God (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:3). The book of Revelation employs the imagery of breaking seals when opening the scroll of divine judgment (Rev. 6:1, 3). The writer also mentions the “seal” of God upon the foreheads of the righteous protecting them from divine wrath during those “last days (Rev. 9:4).

(Carpenter, Eugene E., and Philip W. Comfort. 2000. Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers,pg 173)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rings Showing Authority

And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.
Genesis 38:18

The articles most appropriate to a patriarch were, “a staff, a signet-ring, and bracelets.” Thus when Judah asked Tamar what pledge she desired from him, she replied, “Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand.” The ring was engraved with the name of the owner or with some emblem.

Both sexes wore rings, both for ornament and use. The one for use had seals or signets, and are much used today where the custom of sealing every document still prevails. A document without a seal would not be legal. A merchant’s letters and bills must be sealed.

The modern Egyptians wear the seal-ring on the little finger of the right hand. The ring is usually silver, with a carnelian or other stone, upon which is engraved the owner’s name. “Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph’s hand (Genesis 41:42).” “The king took his ring and gave it to Mordecai (Esther 8:42).” “It is turned as clay to the seal (Job 38:14).” In Egypt the granary doors were kept sealed, but not with wax. The inspectors put the seal of their rings upon a handful of clay and covered the lock.

The ring is still an emblem of authority in Egypt, Turkey, Persia, and other parts of the East. When Pharaoh placed his ring upon Joseph’s hand, it meant delegated power, and Pharaoh could have conferred no greater honor.

(Bowen, Barbara M., Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1944, pgs 51-52)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Hem of His Garment

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, Malachi 4:2

One of the best known miracles of healing that Jesus performed was the occasion when a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the hem of his garment (Matthew 9:20). The woman was, in fact, reaching for the tassels on Jesus' prayer shawl. In Hebrew, these tassels, which are attached to the corners of the prayer shawl, are called tzitzit. Why should she stoop to touch the fringe? Why not his arm, or his feet?

As the Atorah (prayer shawl) was placed over the head, it formed his own tent. Wings of the garment were formed when the arms were held out. [Note: It was common to pray with upraised arms in Jewish prayer.] For this reason, the corners of the prayer shawl are often called "wings." During the first century there were several traditions associated with the tzitzit concerning Messiah.

One was that these knotted fringes possessed healing powers. Certainly the woman with the issue of blood knew of these traditions, which would explain why she sought to touch the hem (the wings) of Jesus' prayer garment. The same word used in Numbers 15:38 for corner is used in Malachi 4:2 for wings. With this understanding in mind, an ancient Jew under the prayer shawl could be said to be dwelling in the secret place of the Most High and under His wings (Ps. 91:1-4).

The lady with the issue knew that if Jesus were the promised Messiah, there would be healing in His wings (fringes). That this was the opinion of many other people is revealed by the crowd who sought his healing powers, "that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole," Matthew 14:36. When one realized the significance of this concept to the first-century Hebraic mind, it becomes clear why this woman was instantly healed. She was expressing her faith in Jesus as the Son of Righteousness with healing in His wings and declaring her faith in God's prophetic Word.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Word Plays

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
Matthew 23:24

For centuries the Jews, like their surrounding Semitic neighbors, enjoyed making and hearing puns, or plays on words. …

In his condemnation of the inconsistency of scribes and Pharisees, Jesus charged them with “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel(Matt. 23:24).

Since in Aramaic the word for “gnat” or “louse” is qualma’ and the word for “camel” is gamla’, the pun provides added piquancy to the picturesque speech of Jesus: he is describing a Pharisee who, in view of Lev. 11:41 ff., which forbids the eating of things that swarm or crawl on the earth, is careful to strain out a qualma that may have fallen into his wine, but is quite unconcerned about gulping down a whole gamla!

Metzger, Bruce M. 1983. The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content. 2nd ed, enlarged. Nashville,TN: Abingdon Press., pg 138

Friday, March 19, 2010

Manna Miracle in Utah Valley

And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. Exodus 16:14-15

A similar miracle happened in Provo in 1855, concerning a substance much like manna. Here are accounts from four different pioneer journals detailing that event.

"As sugar became harder to find, the price went higher.

Our sugar was all gone, but about this time a man brought some in from California. I had waited with others for an hour and a half to get into the house where it was, and then could only have one pound of brown sugar, for which I paid one dollar.

With this kind of inflation around, the more resourceful turned to devising other means as a substitution for such an expensive item:

One winter before the sugar factories were brought into that valley [Utah county], sugar and honey were scarce, but they had had a bounteous harvest of squash. Freezing the squashes turned the liquid very sweet, so she and her mother cut squashes and put them out on the snow to freeze. Then they put them in pans in the house to thaw. The juice which drained from them was boiled to a syrup and this was used to sweeten their pies, pumpkin butter, which was used as a spread for their bread, and other desserts.

During this critical period of little product and outrageous prices, a wonderful thing took place with many of the Saints in Utah, which equaled, of not surpassed, the miracle of the “manna from heaven” with the Children of Israel in olden times. It was the day everyone would remember as a special act of divine providence, when “sugar from the Lord” came in a mysterious way.

“The Spring of 1855 opened under more favorable circumstances; still many of the Saints went without the comforts of life. Provisions were very high. Sugar, for instance, was worth a dollar a pound in Provo. In August, 1855, a memorable blessing was given to the people of Provo in the shape of a hard, white substance found upon the leaves of young cottonwood trees. We shook this substance, which was very sweet, into tubs of water and boiled it down without process, when it congealed into sugar about the color of our common brown sugar. The Saints in Provo made between three and four thousand pounds of this kind of sugar. I told the Saints that it was a direct gift from the Lord and they freely paid their tithing on it. Among other products, I took three hundred thirty-three pounds of this sugar to Salt Lake City to the general tithing office. On explaining the matter to President Brigham Young, whom I met at the door, he declared it was ‘sugar from the Lord.’ (Elias H. Blackburn)

George Washington Adam relates the following: He and his family were moving to St. George to raise cotton. They traveled as far as Provo, where they visited with the family of George A. Smith, and helped to gather leaves for the purpose of making sugar and syrup. They would gather the leaves, wash them in tubs, strain the water and boil down to form sugar or syrup. He took quite a supply with him to Dixie.

Mrs. Emmeline Baldwin, of Monroe, Sevier County, records the following in a history written by herself: “I remember in the early fifties, there was a white substance which came on the leaves of cottonwood and willow trees. It was sweet and people went and camped on the Provo River bottoms, where it was abundant, to gather it. They would break off the branches, wash off the substance in a vessel of water, strain it, and then boil it down. The sugar obtained was similar to maple sugar. It was put into pans, where it hardened into cakes.”

And Julia S. Ferrin recalls in her mother’s life: “It was also in this time that the Lord provided sugar in the form of a white sticky substance that came overnight on all of the shrubs and bushes around. The people broke off the bushes or limbs and dipped them in water. Then they made a sweet syrup by boiling it down. They used this in place of sugar. My mother learned to depend on the Lord in her early girlhood and she never let her faith die. Even in her old age she relied upon the Lord and asked special blessings.”

Heinderman, John; Joseph Smith and Natural Foods, Bonneville Books, Springville, UT; pgs. 147-149

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Throne of God is Forever

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom.
Hebrews 1: 8

"This verse in Hebrews is a quote from the Old Testament found in Psalms 45: 6:

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter.

If you read all of Psalm 45, you will see in the context that it is addressing an earthly king who is righteous. The use of God in verse 6 is a title referring to a man in an exalted position.

When Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, he knew that they would know and understand the record in Psalms. So Paul used the verse to address the son of God, Jesus Christ, because certainly Christ is in an exalted position, and he will be coming back as a King of Kings and Lord of Lords."

I liked this example because it clearly shows how intertwined the Old and New Testaments are. Paul took an idea from the Old Testament scriptures that most Israelites were familiar with and likened it to Christ. Thus he can reveal what the Psalm concealed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Children Like Olive Plants

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
Psalm 128: 3

"Unlike the palm tree, the olive tree stops producing fruit in its old age. This happens after about 50 years, but the tree doesn't die. Little olive plants sprout up around it. They produce fruit and grow until they hold up the old tree, supporting it from the wind and other elements.

In the East, children support their parents in old age, much like the little olive trees. To have children like olive plants around your table was considered a great blessing."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Flourishing Palms

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."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Treasures in Heaven

I thought this insight contained an interesting allegorical interpretation of familiar verses.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Matthew 6: 19-21

"These verses are not really talking about what to do with your money or jewels, or your stocks and bonds. The common Western interpretation is this:

Do not hoard your money and goods while here on earth. Moths and rust will get to your goods, and thieves will break in and steal your money. Rather, give your money to the church, or do good deeds, so that you lay up a store of treasure in heaven.

The Eastern interpretation has a deeper meaning.

Treasure = Thoughts. We are urged to keep our thoughts on spiritual things rather than on earthly things. The moth and rust represent fear and worry. If we think about earthly matters, fear and worry will creep in, and we will experience defeat and frustration. The 'thieves' represent 'doubt', which steal our thoughts. But if we think on spiritual matters, there is no doubt, worry, or fear.

Here is the literal translation of the above verses. Matthew 6: 19-21:

"Let not your thoughts be centered in material things where fears and worries breed defeat and frustration, and where the doubts break through and steal your thoughts: But let your thoughts be centered in the Spirit, where neither fear nor worry breeds defeat and frustration, and where doubts do not break through and steal your thoughts. For where your thoughts are, there will your heart be also."

The mind is a doorkeeper to the heart. Proverbs 23: 7 :

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.

By controlling your mind/thoughts, you guard your heart.

The New Testament epistles also exhort us to think on spiritual things. Romans 8: 5-6:

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

To think on spiritual thoughts is life and peace, and that is a true treasure."

Light From an Eastern Window by K C Pilai

Friday, March 12, 2010

Times For Prayer

Praying always
with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Ephesians 6:18

D. Sheets shares a thought-provoking idea regarding times for prayer:

"There are two Greek words for "time." One is chronos, which is time in general, the general "time in which everything is done". The other word, kairos, is the strategic or "right time; the opportune point of time at which something should be done".

A window of opportunity would be kairos time.
A well-timed attack in war would be kairos time.
When someone is in danger or about to be attacked by Satan, that is a kairos time.
What time is would be chronos time.
The Bible speaks of well-timed (kairos) temptations (see Luke 4:13; 8:13).
The Scriptures also inform us of strategically-timed persecution (see Acts 12:1; 19:23).

In Ephesians 6:18, the context of which is spiritual warfare, it says we are to "be on the alert...for all the saints" and "pray at all (kairos) times in the Spirit." He is not telling us to pray all the time, which would be chronos, but to pray at all strategic times (kairos).

In other words, we are in a war and if we are alert, He will warn us of the well-timed attacks (kairos) of the enemy so we can create a boundary (pata) of protection by praying. "

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Abraham's Trial and Seven Blessings

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
Hebrews 11:17

In one of his talks, C. H. Spurgeon notes seven blessings that came to Abraham through this trial of his faith.

"First, the trial was withdrawn and Isaac was unharmed. Second, Abraham received the highest approval of God or not withholding anything from Him. Third, Abraham saw God in a new light, as one who would be willing to sacrifice his own Son, Jesus, for the sins of us all. Fourth, More of God’s nature was revealed. He became known as Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides. Fifth, God confirmed His covenant with Abraham because Abraham proved himself faithful at all costs. Sixth, God reemphasized his promise to Abraham about his offspring. “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.(Gen. 22:17) And finally, God gave Abraham a distinct and personal blessing that has never been repeated.

And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Gen. 22:18 "

[Note: I have just finished reading E. Douglas Clark's amazing book about Abraham and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is breathtaking. The title is The Blessings of Abraham: Becoming a Zion People.]

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

That Good Part

But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:42

Jesus looked at Martha and said, "Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (see Luke 10:42). "Good part" is the word agathos. It’s contrasted to another word for "good" in Greek–kalos, which means something is "constitutionally good" or, in other words, made well. But kalos doesn’t necessarily imply any practical usefulness or benefit. It may simply look good. Nothing is wrong with it, but it may not have any practical purpose.

On the other hand, agathos–the word for "good part" that Mary chose–is a word that means "good and profitable; useful; beneficial." It is often translated "good works." The Lord is saying, "If you spend time waiting on Me, seated at My feet, it puts something in you. You will not only look good, but you’ll also be good for something." We often look good, but lack [the Spirit]. We must wait in His presence and allow [our service] to be born of relationship.

Sheets, Dutch. 1996. Intercessory Prayer. Ventura, CA: Regal Books. pg 146

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Little Romance-Possibly

Derry L Matheson has a web page with much useful information and it is fun to read. He shared the insight below through his email list.

And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted off the camel. Gen.24:64

"Some may find it interesting or maybe even a little romantic if they look at the common meaning of the word used when Rebekkah “lighted off” her camel at the sight of Isaac. The word as it appears in the Hebrew text is (lptv). This is the common word in Hebrew meaning “to fall”. (Root word is lpn or “he fell”.)

If the writer intended to indicate she simply “dismounted” the camel he would have used the Hebrew word that means “dismount” or “to descend or lower”: (dry). When it is spelled (lpt) it appears 21 times in the Old Testament. Nineteen times it is translated “fall or fell”. [See Ruth 2:10: The same word (lptv) is translated “then she fell”.] Only one time it is translated “lighted off” and the other time it is translated “present”.

So what did Rebekkah do? Did she “fall” off the camel at the sight of Isaac or did she “present” herself to Isaac after covering her face with a veil? I like to think she did both. Being a little romantic, I like to think she was so overcome by the sight of Isaac that she “fell” off her camel and then covered herself with her veil and “presented” herself to her future husband."

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Misuse of Drugs

Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
Revelation 9:21

"This verse refers to the misuse of drugs in connection with the occult. The Greek word pharmakeia, usually translated "sorceries," "witchcraft" or "magic arts," is here rendered by this longer phrase in order to focus on the fact that using potions and drugs is an essential part of the words meaning–as is clear from the derived English words "pharmaceuticals" and "pharmacy."

The usual renderings suggest to many people a setting so removed from the fabric of their lives that the text does not speak to them. The reason I employ this lengthy expression is that the Jewish New Testament is a product of the 1980's, when the Western world has seen an explosion of drug abuse, and I want readers to understand that this subject is dealt with in the Bible.

Spiritually speaking, there are four distinct categories of drug misuse: (1) taking drugs in order to explore spiritual realms, (2) taking drugs in order to engage in "sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts" while under their influence, (3) giving drugs to other people in order to gain control over them, which is another form of "sorcery, witchcraft and magic arts," and (4) taking drugs for pleasure.

The last is a misuse because the drugs in question–besides whatever temporary enjoyment they provide, and apart from their adverse medical and psychological effects–open a person to supernatural or spiritual experiences; but these experiences are almost always demonic and not from God, since the Holy One of Israel reveals himself through His word (Romans 1:16-17, 10:8-17), not through drugs. (I know of one instance where God overruled LSD and spoke to someone under its influence; he became a believer immediately, was instantly sober and never used drugs again).

Just as a virgin who has sexual intercourse can never again be a virgin, so a person is not the same after having taken mind-altering drugs. His range of experience has been broadened, but not every experience is edifying (1C 10:23).

From other New Testament passages where "pharmakeia" and its cognates appear, we learn that those who misuse drugs "have no share in the Kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:20), so that they remain outside the holy city, New Jerusalem;"....

So much for the Bad News. The Good News is that when a pride-filled, weak-willed, uncaring, despairing drug-user trusts [Jesus] the Messiah, God can turn him into a person of faith and right action."

Stern, David H. 1996. Jewish New Testament Commentary. Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications., pgs 816-817

Friday, March 5, 2010


My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
James 1:2-4

It is James’ conviction that trial is meant to produce character (1:2-4). Trial produces steadfastness, which in Greek is hupomone. Hupomone was far more than the patience which sits down and endures. It was the Greek word for “a masculine constancy under trial.”

It is the Christ-given ability to turn tragedy into triumph, always to see the glory beyond the gloom, always to be able to trace the rainbow through the rain.

Barclay, William. 1992. A Beginner’s Guide to the New Testament. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press., pg 81

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Encouraging Others

exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13

The root meaning has to do with coming alongside to give help. The writer is
saying. . .

Get alongside each other and help each other (MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews, Moody Press, 1983, pg 92)).’”

Depending on what the situation calls for, encouragement can be a gentle word, a hug, practical help, or a kick in the pants. Yet it is always done from alongside, never condescendingly.

NavPress Bible study, Hebrews, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO: 1989, pgs 54-55

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Speaking Circles Around

Mark McWhorter writes for young people, hence the simplified nature of this post.

These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

Titus 2:15

"Adults sometimes discuss very important topics. When discussing important topics a person should make sure that he has some understanding of what he is talking about. But sometimes a person will discuss something that he really does not understand much about. He will just keep saying the same thing over and over. He may change the wording but he really never changes the content of what he is saying. This is sometimes referred to as talking in circles.

At other times a person may know much more about the topic than the other person. The person who knows much more can discuss the topic from many different angles. He can bring many things connected to the topic into the discussion which the other person cannot answer nor even discuss. This is known as talking circles around someone.

In Titus 2:15, we read, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” The Greek word translated “despise” means “talking around.” We should make sure that we know the scriptures well enough that we will not let those who do not know the scriptures just talk in circles and confuse us.

We should also know the scriptures well enough that we do not let others talk circles around us. We should keep studying our whole lives so that we will always know how to answer those with false [scriptural] arguments."

Mark McWhorter, Copyright 2001, Published by The Old Paths Bible School

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bring My Bookbag

The cloke
that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. 2 Timothy 4:13

Beth ktavey in Aramaic means a “bookcase,” and not a “cloak,” as incorrectly translated in the King James and other versions. It is a small container made of leather in the shape of a saddle-bag. When on a journey, Oriental missionaries and religious men always carry their books with them for devotional and educational purposes.

They do not carry extra clothing or shoes, nor do they take their best clothing with them. They generally wear their everyday clothes. This is because styles never change. The same garments are worn all the year round. In some regions, during the winter months, people wear an extra garment.

There are a few exceptions to this. Rich travelers, with servants, and government officials sometimes carry an extra robe and embroidered official garments, but the missionaries take only what they are wearing. Travel is hazardous; bandits often rob men of their clothing and money. Those who are carrying much baggage are attacked first, as they are suspected of being rich. That is why Jesus warned his disciples not to carry extra clothes and shoes.

Paul had no extra cloak to be left behind, nor was he concerned about his clothing, especially on this occasion, when he was in Rome and Timothy at Troas. He would not have asked Timothy to carry a robe such a long distance. Christian converts in Macedonia and Italy who frequently visited him would have provided him with clothes if he had been in need.

What Paul asked, was that the bookcase, containing scrolls and books, be brought to him. He carried these books with him for study, for the instruction of his students and for devotional purposes. The scrolls contained the gospel writings, which Paul usually carried with him, and from which he preached and taught, just as the missionaries do today.

Lamsa, George. New Testament Commentary, A.J. Holman Co., Philadelphia: 1945, pgs 436-437

Monday, March 1, 2010

Being Perfect

That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Tim. 3:17

The command to be "perfect" is a frustrating one for many people. Below are some synonymous words for "perfect"[Strong’s # 739]-both adjectives and verbs- that broaden our perspective.

1. teleios = that which has reached its end. From telos, end. Lat. finis, nothing beyond; hence perfect, in the sense of initiated . See 1Cor. 2:6. Phil. 3:15.

2. teleioo = to make a full end, consummate.

3. epiteleo = to finish, or bring through to an end.

4. akribos = accurately, precisely, exactly, assiduously.

5. akribeia = accuracy, preciseness, exactness.

6. artios = fitting like a joint = perfect adaptation for given uses. Found only in 2Tim. 3:17.

7. pleroo = to fulfill, accomplish.

8. katartizo = to arrange or set in order, adjust, &c. It occurs thirteen times, and is rendered "mend" (Matt. 4:21. Mark 1:19); "prepare" (Heb. 10:5); "frame" (Heb. 11:3); "restore" (Gal. 6:1); "make perfect" (Heb. 13:21. 1Pet. 5:10. All the texts read "will perfect"); "perfected" (Matt. 21:16. 1Thess. 3:10); "fit" (Rom. 9:22). Passive "be perfect" (Luke 6:40. 2Cor. 13:11); "be perfectly joined together" (1Cor. 1:10).

9. exartizo = to equip, fit out (as a vessel for sea); i.e. ready for every emergency (found only in Acts 21:5 and 2Tim. 3:17).

10. hexis = habitude (as the result of long practice or habit). Found only in Heb. 5:14.