Righteous Anger? Check Psalm 39.

Is there such a thing as righteous anger?

This was the question posed to me and it’s a good one.  I can’t find the phrase in the Bible but there are principles that can be applied.  So here is how I initially answered the question.

Quote>>>

In the Bible, God is described as being angry in several different passages. Jesus is also described as being angry. We know that God and Jesus are both righteous.  We get angry because we are created in the image of God.

But we are sinful, therefore God‘s commands reflect the fact that it is OK to be angry as long as we do not sin.  Ephesians 4:26-27 is the passage where this is found, and also makes sure to tell us that it should only be for a short time; “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” 

The short answer is yes there is such a thing as righteous anger.  But we need to be careful because we are sinful and so prone to unrighteous anger.  I believe that is why the commands in the Bible to be kind, loving, merciful, gracious, and forgiving far outnumber this one command to be angry.

>>>End Quote

That’s the short answer.  But this theme should be one worth exploring if you are someone who struggles with anger.  God gets angry, but what does God get angry about?  Jesus was angry, but what was Jesus angry about?  When I get angry, is it a righteous anger, or a selfish anger?  Psalm 7:11 has a very simple explanation for why God gets angry.  The entire Psalm gives us the context that God is angry at wickedness or sinfulness.  This theme is played out over many stories in scripture including the flood of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the unfaithfulness of God’s own people Israel.  Sinfulness makes God angry.

It would be so easy for us to think that whenever we get angry that it is a righteous anger because we are mad about someone else’s sin.  However, the Bible commands us to judge ourselves before we would judge someone else.  I Peter 4:14-19 instructs us how to handle suffering.  Peter warns us that much of our suffering could be caused by our own sinfulness and not because we are righteous.  Then Peter tells us that the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God.  The righteous person is scarcely saved.  If this is true, if we being righteous are just barely making it into the kingdom of God, how strictly we must judge ourselves before we turn our judging eye toward someone else that we would deem a wicked sinner.  Remember Jesus told a little story about a beam and a mote.

We tend to make excuses for our own sins but want to hold others accountable for their sins.  But, if their sins are inexcusable, why aren’t our own sins inexcusable?  Why aren’t we ready to confess to others, “I’m sorry, I did something wrong and I have no excuse but my selfishness”?  One of the prerequisites for being a Christian is that we confess rather than cover up our sins, see I John 1:8-10.  Why aren’t we just as angry and incensed about our own tendency to sin as we are when others sin against us?  Whatever answer you may have to explain this away is going to reflect a self-centered point of view, which, might I remind you, is one of the definitions of sinfulness.

Why do we get angry?  It’s not always about someone doing us wrong.  Sometimes it will be circumstances in general.  “That’s not fair!” we exclaim when something happens.  It may not be someone doing something against us, but instead a certain twist of fate that we just don’t appreciate.  It could be sickness, loss of job or something valuable, or maybe even the untimely death of a loved one.  We get mad because we think, “Why did it have to happen this way?”  For an answer to this type of question, let me ask you one question.  What about Job?  Remember Job?  In one day he lost all his wealth and all his children.  Was that fair?  And what was this for anyway?  God and Satan were having a conversation.  God says, “Take a look, he’s a righteous man.”  The devil said, “Take everything away and he will turn on you.”  God said, “Go ahead.”  And what happened.  God was right and the devil was wrong.  But that’s not all.  God and Satan had a follow up conversation.  Satan pushed the issue even further challenging God that if Job’s health were taken away, then Job would turn on God.  God said again, “Go ahead.”  Again, God was right and the devil was wrong.

How does this story make you feel about God?  God is up in heaven allowing the devil to do what he wants just to prove a point.  All the while, Job wanted some kind of answer from God.  Job knew that he had not committed a grievous sin for which God was punishing him.  But he wanted some kind of audience with God to get an answer for his condition.  Why God?  Why me?  Does this type of thing make you angry?  Or do you trust God?  Because you can’t have both.  You either trust God or you are angry with Him about your circumstance.  How often have you or I said or thought, “If I could just know the reason why this is happening, then I could deal with it.”  I’m sure Job thought that, too.  But that’s not faith.  Remember Romans 14:23, whatever is not of faith is sin.  Habakkuk is known for his brief statement, “The righteous live by faith.”  If you don’t live by faith, you are not righteous.

If you would indulge me, I’d like to give a scenario for Psalm 39.  In this Psalm, David finds himself outraged at a certain situation.  He almost sins with his mouth, but God prevented him from talking.  After David and God “had a moment”, God allowed David to talk once again.  What was it that made David so angry?  I have an idea so thank you for allowing me to entertain you with this story.

Psalm 39
I said, “I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence.”
I was mute and silent;
I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.
My heart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:

“O LORD, make me know my endand what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!      Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
When you discipline a man
with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
surely all mankind is a mere breath!           Selah

“Hear my prayer, O LORD,and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers.
Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more!”

David had an incident in his life where someone (or maybe a group of people) who is foolish and wicked was standing before David.  David wanted to lash out in anger over the situation, but God prevented him.  God supernaturally made David mute and did not allow him to speak at all.  When David finally regained his wits (when was the last time someone used that phrase in real life?) the response that flowed from his spirit was one of humility.  He asked God to allow him to remember his own mortality, the fact that he would one day meet his death.  He further asked God to deliver him of his sins.  Imagine, someone wicked, probably deserving of death, was standing before David, and after God stopped David in his tracks from sinning with anger with his tongue, David began confessing his own sins.  When was the last time you became outraged at someone else’s sins, but then ended up confessing your own sins?

I like to imagine what circumstances David was going through when he wrote individual psalms.  For some reason, I think of the time when someone came to David with news that King Saul had died.  You can read about this story in II Samuel 1.  The story of how Saul actually died is in the previous chapter, I Samuel 31.  In I Samuel 31 it is recorded that Saul killed himself.  But here comes a young man falling down before David saying he has news of the fate of Saul and Jonathan.  He tells David that Saul asked him to kill him, so he did.  He says he took the crown and bracelets from Saul’s body after he was dead and then presented them to David. 

David was full of all kinds of emotion.  His king was dead.  His best friend, Jonathan, was dead.  The armies of Israel were scattered.  Saul had tried to kill David multiple times but David had refused to stretch out his hand against the LORD’s anointed, and yet somehow he knew that one day God would judge Saul.  David no longer had to be concerned with Saul pursuing him, yet this man was his father-in-law.  Saul had called David his son at times.  It was all coming true that God rewards the wicked therefore we are not to take vengeance into our own hands.

Here is this young man confessing that he did the exact opposite of what David had been practicing.  David tears his clothes.  He is in mourning.  Yet the fate of this young man is left undetermined for a time.  Could it be that David had the Psalm 39 experience while he was contemplating what to do with this murderer of his king?  All types of things were running through David’s mind.   But before David could pronounce a righteous judgment upon this murderer, David needed to be reminded of a few things.  He needed to remember his own mortality.  One day David will die as well.  When will that be?  Who will strike David down in battle?  At the end of his life, after all the notable deeds, it will be just a vapor that has appeared for a moment.  In comparison to Almighty God, who are we really?  David also needed to be reminded of his own sinfulness.  If he pronounced judgment upon this man, does that mean that David is righteous and has never sinned?  No, of course not.  David’s first thought may have been, “How dare he!”  But then David (after God struck him speechless) thought of the times when he was tempted to strike Saul down.  He had cut his royal robe as an act of dishonor.  David was reminded that he had sinned as well.

Before David pronounced his first death sentence, he needed to be in a right place with God.  God struck him with the weight of the situation.  If out of anger David rushed over and struck him down, that would have been just as bad as what this young foreigner did.  The young man was not an Israelite, but he still needed to be treated with respect.  As King, David would not be pronouncing judgment upon others because he was more righteous than they.  In fact, David was just as sinful as God reminded him in that moment.  God reminded him of his sin so forcefully that David begged God to “look away that I might smile again.”  David confessed to God that he is also a foreigner in God’s sight, therefore no better than this foreigner.  God stepped in to correct David and it made his vitality dry up.  David held his tongue until God had “the talk” with him.  Now David could open his mouth and render judgment that would not be out of anger.

After David regains his composure, being reminded of his sinfulness, being reminded of his own mortality, David very simply pronounced judgment.  He only asked one question to which the young foreigner had no answer.  Why were you not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the one that God anointed?  David commanded one of his young men to execute him for the crime of murder, and that of murdering the king.  David very simply states, “His own mouth testified against him.  He admitted that he killed the LORD’s anointed.”  David has regained his equanimity.  He is not speaking out of anger.  He knows that he is sinful but must function as God’s agent in this instance.  This man’s life will end here.  David’s will go on, but for how long?  David must not be proud against this young foreigner.  One day David’s life will end as well.

The next time you get angry or want to lash out in anger at a situation, remember this lesson from King David.  He had it written down after all.  Let God have a moment with you.  Remember your own sins.  Remember your own mortality.  Remember that we as Christians are to live as if we are in a foreign land because we are not truly home yet.  Then, after God has convicted you of these simple lessons, then proceed with humility.  Be angry, but do not sin.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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The Christ in Christmas ~ 2022

Christ in Christmas

I take the funnies way too seriously.  Because Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, I was intrigued as to which comic strips would mention Christmas, but fail to mention Christ.  I typically do this with Easter.  I see who mentions things relating to Easter without mentioning Jesus, the Bible, or the resurrection.  Very few mention our Savior rising from the dead.

Christmas is a bit different though.  It has the name of Christ right in the name.  How can people all over the world be in love with Christmas but not know anything about Christ?  It’s one of the mysteries that I believe God has allowed because of the true nature of Christ.  When Christ, the Anointed One, came into the world, He came meek and mild.  He did not come proud, announced by the world powers.  As a baby laying in a manger (feeding trough), He became a picture of the humble Savior.  He maintained this humility all throughout His life.  Even in death He was humble, laying down His life for us.

Matthew 12:15-21 makes special note of the humble life of Jesus.  He had just won a debate with the Pharisees by healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.  They had been accusing Him of breaking the Sabbath.  He point blank asked them, “Is it against the law to do something good on the Sabbath?”  They had no answer, see also Mark 3:4.  Of course there is not one law in all of scripture that forbids someone from doing a good deed for someone else on the Sabbath.  Here is the interesting point.  When the Pharisees still opposed Him, plotting to destroy Him, He withdrew.  You read that?  Jesus withdrew from the confrontation.  He had just demonstrated to everyone that the Pharisees were wrong, and instead of flaunting His victory, He stepped aside, just as He had stepped aside from His place of glory in heaven to come to this sinful world.  In essence He was saying, “I’m not going to argue.  If you want your bad theology you can keep it.”  And this is the Creator of everything.

After Matthew described the incident, he points to Isaiah 42:1-4 which explains how the Messiah/Christ would come in a meek and mild way.  This would be so that Gentiles would learn to trust Him.  He would be so gentle that he would not cause arguments in the streets.  He would have such hope for those bruised that He would not break off a bruised reed.  A smoking candle with no flame might yet burst into flame once more, so He would not completely snuff it out.  Even though the Pharisees were plotting to kill Him, He would hold out hope for them, as He does to all.

All the nations love the Baby in a manger.  He’s unobtrusive.  He is not judging anyone.  He is meek and mild.  This was intentional.  This is so that the Gentiles can learn to trust Him.  We continue to set up nativity scenes and many of us do not understand the real reason why.  The name of Christ is all over the world right now in the name of Christmas.  God is sending forth the message in a meek, mild, and unobtrusive way so that we can see His humility and trust Him, believe Him, and put our faith in Him alone and not anything that we have accomplished.

For the record, I am not anti-Santa, or anti-Christmas trees, etc.  I am FOR presenting Christ as the Savior of the world.  But here is a demonstration in our Sunday funnies today of the world celebrating Christmas, but many of them without Christ.  Let’s start with those, and then move on to the strips that either hint or include the story of Christ.

9 Chickweed Lane ~ Christmas Tree.

Agnes ~ Gift, Lights.  (Earlier in the week Agnes did say “Glory to the Newborn King”, but that was only to get Oreo Double Stufs.)

Andy Capp ~ Christmas Booze, Christmas Tree, Snowman.

Archie ~ Merry Christmas, Christmas Tree.

Arctic Circle ~ Christmas, Presents, Santa.

Arlo and Janis ~ Merry Christmas, Christmas Tree, Stocking.

BC ~ A Star.

Baby Blues ~ Merry Christmas, Christmas Tree, Presents.

Baldo ~ Emergency Christmas Gift!

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith ~ The Twelve Days of Christmas, but all the lyrics and changed, Christmas Tree.

Beetle Bailey ~ Merry Christmas.

Between Friends ~ Merry Christmas, Christmas Eve, Santa, Reindeer.

Big Nate ~ Merry Christmas, Presents.

Blondie ~ Christmas Tree, Gifts.

The Born Loser ~ Santa, Presents.

Bound and Gagged ~ Silent Night.

Breaking Cat News ~ Christmas Morning, Gifts, Merry Christmas.

The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee ~ Christmas Tree, Gifts.

Cathy ~ Merry Christmas, Christmas Tree.

Close to Home ~ Christmas Tree, Gifts

Crock ~ Santa, Christmas Tree, Presents, Sleigh, Reindeer.

Cul De Sac ~ Christmas Present, Santa.

Daddy Daze ~ Christmas Tree, Wrapping Paper.

Deflocked ~ Santa.

Dennis the Menace ~ Christmas.

Diamond Lil ~ Christmas themed movies.

Dog Eat Doug ~ Santa.

Dogs of C-Kennel ~ Christmas Tree, Santa, Presents.

Doonesbury ~ Merry Christmas.

Dustin ~ Christmas Season, Christmas Day, Christmas Tree, Presents, Stockings.

Family Tree ~ Christmas.

The Far Side ~ Santa, Reindeer, Christmas Tree, Gift.

Flo & Friends ~ Christmas.

For Better or For Worse ~ Christmas Tree, Gifts.

Foxtrot ~ Christmas, Christmas Tree, Presents.

Frank and Earnest ~ Christmas, Christmas Tree, Present.

Frazz ~ Christmas.

Free Range ~ Santa, Reindeer, Presents.

Garfield ~ Christmas Tree, Christmas Presents.

Ginger Meggs ~ Merry Christmas, Christmas Tree.

Hagar the Horrible ~ Santa, Christmas Tree, Presents, Reindeer

Heart of the City ~ Christmas Tree, Stockings, Happy Holidays.

Heathcliff ~ Merry Christmas.

Hi and Lois ~ Christmas Tree, Presents.

Jumpstart ~ Merry Christmas, Christmas Tree.

Lio ~ Merry Christmas, Christmas Tree.

Lola ~ Christmas Tree, Stockings, Presents, Christmas Elves.

Luann ~ Christmas Tree, Presents.

Marmaduke ~ Christmas Greetings, Christmas Eve Mayhem, Christmas Tree, Santa inference.

Marvin ~ Christmas Gifts, Christmas Tree.

The Meaning of Lila ~ Jingle Bells rewritten complete with a drunk Santa.  Groan.

Momma ~ Merry Christmas, Santa.

Mother Goose & Grimm ~ Christmas Tree.

Mutts ~ Merry Christmas, Christmas Tree, Stockings.

Nancy ~ Christmas Present.

Non Sequitur ~ Merry Christmas, Santa, Reindeer.

Overboard ~ Santa.

Peanuts ~ Christmas Present.

Pooch Café ~ Santa, Gifts, Christmas Tree.

Red and Rover ~ Merry Christmas.

Rhymes With Orange ~ Santa, Reindeer, Presents.

Rose Is Rose ~ Christmas Tree, Holidays.

Sally Forth ~ Merry Christmas, Presents.

Scary Gary ~ Christmas Tree.

Sherman’s Lagoon ~ Christmas Tree, Presents, Santa.

Shoe ~ Christmas.

Specktickles ~ Santa.

Speed Bump ~ Santa, Reindeer.

Strange Brew ~ Santa, Christmas Tree, Stockings.

Take It from the Tinkersons ~ Christmas Tree.

Tank McNamara ~ Santa. 

Wallace the Brave ~ Christmas Tree, Presents.

Wizard of Id ~ Christmas, Christmas Tree, Santa.

Wizard of Id Classics ~ Christmas.

Zack Hill ~ Merry Christmas, Christmas Tree, Presents.

Zits ~ Christmas Tree, Santa.

Now onto the strips that mention Jesus or point to the story in some way.

12.  The Argyle Sweater ~ This strip has a very odd mention of the nativity scene.  Apparently, Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus are playing poker for three items in the middle of the table: Gold, Myrrh, and Frankincense.  Baby Jesus states that He just got another visit from the three kings, revealing his winner poker hand to be three kings, thereby winning the loot in the center of the table.  Well, okay.

11.  Bizarro ~ The scene where the angels appear to the shepherds, but mockingly speak of how we will celebrate His birth with Hollywood blockbusters.  This one doesn’t quite hit the mark for me.  If only it included just a little bit of the true story.

10.  Gasoline Alley ~ Joyous Christmas, Nativity Scene.  Kinda generic but better than nothing.

9.  For Heaven’s Sake ~ The Wonderful Mystery of Christmas, Packages, The Holy Bible, ran on Dec. 19th.  This one is good, but it doesn’t explain what the wonderful mystery of Christmas is, but it does mention the Bible, so there’s that.  Maybe someone will pick up a Bible and read it as a result of this strip.  Stranger things have happened.

8.  Daddy’s Home ~ Two angels are holding a banner that says “Peace on Earth. Good will toward men.”  That’s good, but the throwaway panel has Santa’s hand holding a Christmas ornament that looks like planet earth.  I’m getting conflicting signals here.

7.  Mallard Fillmore ~ Blessed Christmas, Quotation of Matthew 11:28.  A bible verse and wishing everyone a blessed Christmas.  That’s good, but a bit of creativity could have given us a bit more.

6.  Barney and Clyde ~ Jesus was born, Christians, Christmas, Pagan Rituals.  Interesting take in acknowledging Jesus and the fact that many today celebrate like pagans.  This one comes close.  I like it because I get a little snarky about Christmas as well.  But they do mention Jesus was born.

5.  Dick Tracy ~ Merry Christmas.  Now here is something clever.  Each panel has a character or set of characters and they are reciting lyrics to Christmas Carols.  There is “Silent Night”, which pictures Dick Tracy by a phone not ringing.  There is “O Little Town of Bethlehem” as an officer looks at a map, and some other clever portrayals.  Check it out.

4.  Crankshaft ~ “Forever and Ever, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”  A Church.  This was part of a storyline whereby they were travelling to see a performance of “Messiah”, and these are the lyrics now being sung.  See Funky Winkerbean.

3.  Funky Winkerbean ~ This also had a storyline whereby they were going to a church to watch a performance of “Messiah”.  The Crankshaft/Funky Winkerbean crew is in church listening to a presentation of “Messiah”, specifically the Hallelujah Chorus.

2.  Brewster Rockit ~ Christmas Tree, Star, Merry Christmas, and a reference to changing your perspective to find the star, as the star represents hope and light.  I really like this one.  Christmas is about hope and light.  If only there were a reference to Jesus, or the birth of Jesus, it would be my winner for today.

1.  Prickly City ~ Nativity Scene, God Bless Us Every One!  I pick this one as today’s winner.  The nativity scene is well drawn, a star is shining overhead, and an acknowledgement that blessings are coming from God as a result.  There could be a bit more, but sometimes simplicity works.

Oh, and by the way, Merry Christmas!  May the LORD Jesus Christ richly bless you as we remember the birth of the Saviour.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Prophets Quiz

 Prophets Quiz

How well do you know the scriptures?  I am including one quote from each prophet, many of them associated with Jesus.  Can you identify which quote comes from which prophet?  Rather than order them easiest to hardest, I have arranged them in a thematic order.  Hint:  Process of elimination, if you know that a certain prophecy is by Isaiah, then eliminate him from the list since he won’t appear a second time.  Also, expect a couple of curve balls.

1 ~ Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.

2 ~ Gather together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in the last days.

3 ~ But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.

4 ~ For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

5 ~ Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.

6 ~ Then I said, “I have been cast out of Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.”

7 ~ Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.

8 ~ I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?

9 ~ For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

10 ~ Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.   For I raise My hand to heaven, and say, “As I live forever, if I whet My glittering sword, and My hand takes hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to My enemies, and repay those who hate Me.”

11 ~ The Lord has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

12 ~ As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out My sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

13 ~ And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.

14 ~ Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as King and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

15 ~ For the day of the Lord upon all the nations is near; as you have done, it shall be done to you; your reprisal shall return upon your own head.

16 ~ And I will shake all nations, and the Desire of All Nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.

17 ~ The mountains quake before Him, the hills melt, and the earth heaves at His presence, yes, the world and all who dwell in it.

18 ~ The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

19 ~ But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; you shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

20 ~ Also I will set His hand over the sea, And His right hand over the rivers.  He shall cry to Me, ‘You are My Father, My God, and the rock of My salvation.’  Also I will make Him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.  My mercy I will keep for Him forever, and My covenant shall stand firm with Him.  His seed also I will make to endure forever, and His throne as the days of heaven.

21 ~ And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

22 ~ So may all Your enemies perish, O LORD! But Your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might.

And for a bonus:

He will guard the feet of His saints, But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.  For by strength no man shall prevail.  The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; from heaven He will thunder against them.  The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.  He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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The Fullness of the Gentiles

The Fullness of the Gentiles

Ask anyone to name the major end times passages in the new testament scriptures and I doubt anyone would say Romans 11.  And yet there it is.  Important end times events are recorded there especially in relation to Israel and the Gentiles.  In this study, let’s be extra careful.  Many people try to make Romans 11 to be about the relationship between Israel and the church, but the word church doesn’t appear anywhere in the passage.  Israel and the Gentiles are the topics, and so we must not stray.  The idea is there but I will use the word church only after other passages have been brought in.

The topic of the Fullness of the Gentiles should be one that intrigues us, especially if you are a Gentile and not an Israelite.  Gentiles are currently being saved by becoming Christians or Messiah-ones all over the earth.  A remnant of Israelites are saved even now, but the majority of the nation of Israel is in blindness to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.

According to Romans 11, God has a purpose for Gentiles being saved during this time.  The Apostle Paul writes that God has not cast away the people of Israel, but that there is a remnant according to the election of grace.  Gentiles are currently being saved to provoke the nation of Israel to jealousy.  This is a part of God’s overall plan to bring salvation to the entire world and it was forecasted way back in Deuteronomy 32:21.  Moses knew (or at least foretold) about the salvation of the Gentiles, see Romans 10:19 with 11:11-12.

10:19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

11:11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.  12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Now wait a second.  Is Paul saying that people like me, Gentiles, are only being used by God to get to His real people, the Israelites?  What happens after God gets Israel to turn to Him?  What happens after this temporary blindness is lifted from the nation of Israel?  Paul states that Gentiles should not fret, but rejoice at the thought that the nation of Israel would repent and turn to God, see Romans 11:11-12.  If God uses the failure and sin of Israel for our salvation, how much more will God use the fullness of Israel for our benefit?  Paul continues this thought by asking that “if the rejection of Israel means the reconciling of the world, what will the acceptance of Israel mean but life from the dead?”  Life from the dead?  Wait, is Paul linking the acceptance of Israel as a nation with the resurrection?  All of us are looking forward to our bodily resurrection, but what if the resurrection cannot happen until Israel repents and believes on Jesus of Nazareth as her Messiah?  See Acts 3:19-21 to see this general principle that the repentance of Israel prompts the coming of Christ.

Paul goes on to explain that Gentiles who belong to Christ are currently grafted in to the believing remnant within the nation of Israel in some way, see Romans 11:16-24.  In Romans 15:8-12, Paul summarizes that Christ came to Israel to confirm those promises made to them, and for this reason Gentiles should rejoice alongside the nation of Israel.  In Ephesians 2:11-12, Paul explains the mystery of Christ, that Gentiles who were formerly foreigners to the commonwealth of Israel are now benefactors; those who were formerly strangers to the covenants are now participants in those covenants made to Israel.  The reason why Gentiles can rejoice is because Jesus was faithful to the nation of Israel.  Why wouldn’t Gentiles want Christ to continue to be faithful to those covenant promises to Israel?

Thus far we have only laid the groundwork for the big event that Paul foretells in Romans 11.  It’s a pretty big deal called The Fullness of the Gentiles.  Paul links the end of the blindness of Israel with The Fullness of the Gentiles.  I do not equate The Fullness of the Gentiles with the times of the Gentiles mentioned in Luke 21:24.  The times of the Gentiles refers to Gentile dominion over the nation of Israel, specifically control over Jerusalem.  The Fullness of the Gentiles refers to the salvation of the Gentiles during this current time period of Israel’s blindness.  When this Fullness of the Gentiles comes in, then, Paul states, all Israel will be saved as Isaiah 59:20-21 is fulfilled.

Let’s look at Isaiah 59 as a whole.  The following is a brief storyline summary.  The LORD begins addressing the state of Israel by saying that His hand is not too short that it cannot save them.  The problem is that their sins have separated them from God.  Then Isaiah describes the sinfulness of the nation of Israel in quite graphic terms.  This summary is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:15-17 when describing how people living under the law are just as sinful as Gentiles living without the law.  When you read about this violence, immorality, spiritual blindness, vanity, and deceit, you might think of the world in general.  But these words were originally addressed to God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel!  God looked down on their pitiful state and saw that there was no one to save them, so He determined to bring salvation and righteousness to them.  Toward the end of the chapter, the LORD speaks of coming against His enemies to repay as a fear of the name of the LORD will be from East to West.  It doesn’t say who these enemies are.  Now let’s look at the event that Paul quotes and note the differences between Isaiah’s text and Paul’s text.

Isaiah 59:20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” Says the Lord.  21 “As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore.”

Romans 11:26 “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”

Notice the differences.  In Isaiah, The Redeemer comes TO Zion.  In Romans, the Deliverer comes OUT OF Zion.  In Isaiah, He comes to those who turn from sins.  In Romans, He Himself is the one turning away the sins.  In Isaiah, His covenant is given with His Spirit which remains upon them and on their descendants.  In Romans, His covenant is that He takes away their sins.

Notice the commonality.  Both use the term Jacob instead of Israel.  Both describe a perpetual salvation.  Isaiah describes descendants never losing the Spirit.  Paul states that all Israel will be saved.  In both cases, the covenant is with Jacob (Israel).  In Isaiah, the fear of the LORD is from East to West, denoting Gentiles learning to trust in this Savior, see also Isaiah 42:1-4.  In Romans, Gentiles are grafted in to the same olive tree.  Both passages convey the grand plan of God to bring salvation to the Gentiles but fulfill His promises to Israel.

Jesus had hinted at this in His earthly ministry, especially if you examine Matthew’s account.  Read Matthew 16:17-19, 21:33-44 especially verse 43, but then also notice 23:37-39.  Jesus promises to build His church.  The vineyard will be taken away from Israel and given to another people.  The LORD longed to gather His people, but they were unwilling, and now there will be a future day when the nation of Israel will fulfill Psalm 118:26 (see also 118:22) as they believe on their Messiah.  These gleanings demonstrate the transition away from the nation of Israel to the church.  This church at first will be completely Israelite in nature, but will eventually include all Gentiles just as they are, saved by grace through faith.

Romans 11:25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

There is a transition point that Paul is trying to convey in Romans 11.  Paul is foretelling the transition back to the nation of Israel when their spiritual blindness is lifted.  He links this event with The Fullness of the Gentiles.  This doesn’t mean Gentiles will no longer be included in the plan of God, but included on an even grander scale.  In verses 28-32, Paul reminds his readers that all of us were in unbelief at one point.  The nation of Israel in current unbelief is no different than any sinful person to whom God extends mercy.  God’s plan to show mercy to the entire world is irrevocable, nothing can stop it.  In our eschatological framework, we should include this event on our timeline.  God plans to lift the blindness of the nation of Israel and this should be a cause of great rejoicing amongst all Gentiles, read again Romans 15:8-12.  This should be linked with the second coming of Christ if we take literally the Redeemer coming to Zion, but also coming out of Zion.  As He comes to Zion, He comes to that believing remnant, those who turn away from sin, those who have repented.  As He comes out of Zion, He comes to turn them away from sin, to lead and pasture His people, see Jeremiah 23:5-8, Isaiah 11:1-11, and other related prophecies.  These are two aspects of the same event.

There are so many transitions that happen at the coming of Our LORD Jesus Christ.  This Fullness of the Gentiles in conjunction with the lifting of the blindness of Israel should be significant enough to get some attention.  It would seem that there would be some mention of it in the book of Revelation, and there is!  The language isn’t quite the same, but the full number of Gentiles, the nation of Israel, it’s all there in one chapter.  Just as the baton was passed from the unbelieving nation of Israel to the believing remnant within all nations, the baton will be passed back and we read about this in Revelation 7.  As with many of the transitions, such as the transition of persecution against God’s people to vengeance on behalf of God’s people (see II Thessalonians 1:4-10), the transition from Satan’s wrath to God’s wrath, the transition from great tribulation against the church to the wrath of God against unbelievers, this transition also happens at the sixth seal.  The sixth seal is opened in Revelation 6:12 and Revelation chapter 7 describes the results.

First, in Revelation 7:1-8, we see a believing remnant of Israelites, 144,000 total, sealed to remain protected through the wrath of God here on this earth.  The wind is not even allowed to blow, not one leaf of a tree be harmed until these 144,000 are completely protected by God.  (Bonus: read Psalm 46 with the mindset of this believing remnant being protected during this time.)  God has turned His attention back to His people Israel.  This should show us that the blindness has been lifted; Israel has repented, at least the first fruits.  Next, in Revelation 7:9-17, a full number of Gentiles, so full that no man can number them, is present before the throne of God.  God’s chosen Gentiles are in heaven while God’s chosen Israelites are on earth.  Here we have the fullness of the Gentiles as the baton is passed back to Israel.  Notice also the resurrection connection.  Paul had stated that “life from the dead” would occur at this time.  Revelation 7:17 is a clear reference to Isaiah 25:8 which is one of the most well known resurrection passages in the prophets, see I Corinthians 15:54.  It is further expounded upon in Isaiah 26:19-21.  Every indicator is that this is the transition point from the church back to Israel, and it occurs at the sixth seal.

Many people will not accept this position because they have a preconceived framework whereby the church has been removed well before the sixth seal.  They do not believe that the church would come out from the great tribulation because they do not believe God will allow the church to go through the great tribulation.  But where else in all of Revelation do you find in one passage evidence of The Fullness of the Gentiles, the believing remnant of Israelites, and the resurrection of the saints?  Combine this with the fact that at the cosmic signs in Matthew 24:29-31, the nations can see Christ coming in power and glory.  The cosmic signs in Revelation also occur at the sixth seal, see Revelation 6:12-17.  In both passages the nations are in terror, or mourning at this sight, because as we know, every eye will see Him.  Notice Revelation 1:7 uses the Greek word kopto used to describe intense lamentation which is the same word used in Matthew 24:30.

If the sixth seal is the point where Israel’s blindness has been lifted and the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, it only makes sense that directly before the sixth seal that the nation of Israel was provoked to jealousy by this nation that isn’t really a nation.  Just before the sixth seal, according to Romans 11, the Gentiles have successfully provoked the nation of Israel to jealousy.  How did it happen?  Let’s look at what is directly before the sixth seal.  That would be the fifth seal.  What do we see?  We see souls who have given their lives for the word of God and for their testimony.  They are crying out for vengeance to God.  The answer given to them is to wait until more of them are killed.  But that’s not quite what it says.  What does it say exactly?  Rest for a little while until their brothers that should be killed are “fulfilled”.  The Greek word used here, pleroo, is a root word for what Paul uses to describe the fullness of the Gentiles in Romans 11:25, pleroma.  The fifth seal is describing the fullness of the Gentiles in the midst of the great tribulation and the provoking of the nation of Israel to jealousy.  Then the sixth seal is that transition point spoken of in Romans 11:25.

If we want to experience the resurrection at the coming of Our Savior Jesus Christ, we must be ready to step out in faith and give our lives for the word of God and for our testimony that Jesus Christ is the LORD.  The fullness of the Gentiles is what provokes the nation of Israel to jealousy which is what prompts the return of Christ.  Believers should not be afraid to step out in faith and die for Israel’s Messiah.  When Israel sees Gentiles dying for their Messiah during this time of great persecution, they will be brought to this point.  The blindness will be lifted as they repent for their stubbornness, blindness, and sinfulness.  It will be the finest hour for the church, but it will cost many of us our lives.  Mark 13:9-11 tells us that the persecution is how the gospel will be preached to the entire world in such a short period of time.  We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God, Acts 14:22.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

Romans 8:35-39

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Posted in Eschatology, Fulfilled Prophecy, Pre-Wrath, Prewrath, Prophecy | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Socioeconomic Principles for the People of God

The Socioeconomic Structure of the People of God

I hate to be reactionary, but so many people are posting about what the USA is or is not doing and trying to quote scripture to prove the point that a certain subject is biblical or not biblical.  Many hot button topics are being bantered around with Christians of all brands throwing out vague principles hoping to influence people with scripture.  Here are just a few of the socioeconomic ideas that some people are either for or against and are going to the scriptures to prove their points:  Illegal Immigration, Debt Forgiveness, Socialism, Capitalism, Welfare, Charity, Abortion, Taxes, Personal Freedoms, and every other hot button topic you can think of.  Instead of throwing out vague principles, I am going to detail what the socioeconomic structure was for the people of Israel as outlined in the scriptures.

Some may say that these scriptures should not apply.  This was for Israel but not for other nations (is what they would insist).  Some say we should only use the New Testament Scriptures, which in and of themselves are vague which defeats the purpose of this post.  The New Testament gives general principles like “remember the poor” ~ Galatians 2:10, “those who have more should give to those who have less” ~ II Corinthians 8-9, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” ~ Acts 20:35, “work in order to have extra to give to those in need” ~ Ephesians 4:28.  These scriptures are helpful and should illuminate us as to our attitude toward those in need.  I think it’s quite notable that the first Gentile to hear the gospel from Peter in Acts 10 was chosen in part because of his kindness to the poor, see Acts 10:2, 4, 31.  That’s three different times the generosity of Cornelius to the poor is mentioned alongside his fear of God, his prayers, and fasting.  If you are not practicing these basic Christian principles of giving to the poor, there is probably not a whole lot of point in you reading the rest of this article.  It’s just going to make you mad.

Here is an examination of several different socioeconomic principles as outlined in the word of God for the nation of Israel.  Should these principles apply to nations today?  Is this in the plan of God?  When a nation is structuring its laws, most people believe that laws should restrain evil, see I Peter 2:13-14, Romans 13:1-7.  But what is evil?  Is it an evil practice for large corporations to put small businesses out of business?  Is it evil for a country to have poverty and not do anything about it?  So here are the principles, but how should a nation structure its laws remains something for discussion.

Debt Forgiveness

Every seven years, all debts within the nation of Israel were to be forgiven, see Deuteronomy 15:1-6.  The only two exceptions that I see in this passage are with foreigners and when the condition is met that there are no poor people in the nation of Israel.  Debt forgiveness is specifically designed to let poor people off the hook from their debts that they would acquire over the course of a seven-year period.  If the poor person was an Israelite, they would be debt free every seven years, not necessarily rich, but debt free anyway.  Note God’s displeasure with Zedekiah and the ruling rich at their apparent failure to follow this simple command in Jeremiah 34:8-22.

If a country were to adopt this as a law, imagine how the socioeconomic structure would change.  Huge corporations would be forced to change their practices.  Credit cards, loaning institutions, cash stores, most of these would no longer be profitable as they prey on poor people with no money.  How would this work for loans with liens on them in the case of a house or a car?  Where would the house go when the debt was forgiven since possession of the property was contingent upon full payment of the money?  Our laws would have to be completely rewritten if we were living out the socioeconomic structure of the people of God.  Debt forgiveness would be the center of the law rather than protection of the corporation who loaned the money.  What about those college student loans?  It seems to be a hot button topic lately, but how many are familiar with these biblical principles right here?

Mandatory Lending to the Poor

There are those who might say, “If I was living during that time, I would simply not lend to the poor because you knew you wouldn’t get your money back.”  Well guess what?  The LORD commanded that lending to the poor was mandatory.  It was against the law NOT to the lend to the poor, see Deuteronomy 15:7-11, which is immediately after the passage we just studied above.  It was considered wicked (see verse 9) to not extend a loan to a poor person simply because you knew it would be forgiven during the seventh year.  And don’t just loan the money, loan the money to him generously, or freely as it says in verse 11.  What was the definition of being poor at that time?  I’m not sure, but that is another subject for discussion: who qualifies?

Imagine the consequences of this affront to capitalism if mandatory lending to the poor were instituted.  Any poor person knew that they could get a handout.  They would not have to be afraid that their family would go without.  This would probably put a lot of financial institutions out of business.  The number of defaults on personal loans would increase dramatically and those institutions would no longer be profitable.  Every seven years they would undergo a complete loss of profits.  They knew this would be coming but would be powerless to stop the outflow of cash to the poor.  Most likely what would happen is that these large institutions and corporations would simply cease to exist.  Every day, ordinary people would be the ones with more money rather than the corporations.  Loaning money would be more neighbor to neighbor and between individuals with either understood terms of repayment or perhaps just a written note.  When the seventh year came, that person knew that it was not a loan but had been a gift.  All this would be understood up front and there would be no hard feelings that the person had given money to someone less fortunate than themselves and didn’t get the money back.  Perhaps some corporations would be able to function, but would have to have the backing of people who were completely fine with their money going to (gasp!) charity, or to students who were not going to be able to pay their debt even thought they attended school for a degree.  Remember back to the first principle, debt forgiveness was the rule rather than protection for the wealthy.

A Year of Rest

In the cycle of seven years, God also instituted a seven of seven rule.  After seven years of seven years, which equals 49, then there is one year set apart, the fiftieth year.  In Leviticus 25:1-7, each seventh year is a year of rest in some respects.  You were not allowed to sow (plant crops) or prune (maintenance the vineyards).  The crops that grew of their own accord were not allowed to be harvested in the same way as the other six years.  Instead, whatever grew on its own was food for you, for all your family, for your servants, and for foreigners.  So basically, no harvesting to store grain or sell it, but picking food for consumption was allowed.  Although not explicitly stated, it seems that this seventh year of rest correlated with the seven-year forgiveness of debts that was supposed to occur.

Can you imagine if you knew you would have every seventh year off from toiling in the field?  Extended vacations, childcare, maternity leave, equipment repair, all of these things could be coordinated with this seventh year.  If you knew you would have a good year off from the basic hard labor, you could spend time with your wife when your newborn baby arrived.  You could travel up north to visit those relatives that you hadn’t seen for, well, probably seven years.  Not just for you, but your servants could make these same plans as well.  Wouldn’t you want people who are employed by you to have those same benefits?  Oh but wait, how would someone exert their authority to show that the owner of the land is more important than they are?  The law determined all would benefit from the year of rest.  What would this mean for those in the restaurant business?  Or for those who run a hotel?  How about the mail or other delivery services?  One year of rest?  Who would do the work?  Quite a bit to think about here.

Property Reversion

What would be the practical ramifications to instituting a year of Jubilee within the laws of a socioeconomic system?  Wait, maybe not all of you are familiar with the year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25:8-55.  There was already debt forgiveness every seventh year.  But here in this fiftieth year there is something extra.  All properties were to go back to their original owners.  There were some exceptions.  If a house was within a walled city, then when it was sold there was a one-year period during which the original owner had the opportunity to redeem it.  If not, the transaction was permanent.  But all other property transactions were only until the year of Jubilee.  If a family was broke and needed money to live, they could sell the property to someone else who had the means to farm it for however many years until the Jubilee.  Then when the fiftieth year arrived, the family resumed possession of the family inheritance.  The property was theirs once again.  They would be back home.  Then it could happen again, sell it for the full fifty-year price and then fifty years later it would fall back into the hands of the family owners, or the nearest relative.  Additionally, if someone were so broke that they had to be sold as someone’s personal servant, in the year of Jubilee they could go out free.  There was no permanent slavery.  Remember, being a servant was more like a job being housed with your employer rather than being held against your will, see Deuteronomy 23:15-16. 

One of the practical implications to property reversion is spelled right out in the text.  There was a reverse inflation built into this system of socioeconomics.  It’s called deflation but we rarely see it.  Things would decrease in value according to the number of years as the year of Jubilee approached.  If a piece of property was sold two years after the year of Jubilee, it had 48 years of value.  It would continue to decrease in value because the years whereby someone could make money from working it were being diminished.  If it were only five years, then the sale price would be much lower.  If it were only one year, would someone even bother buying that field knowing it would be reverted the very next year.  In our capitalistic society, things tend to only go up in value, but have you ever questioned why?  Why don’t things ever go down in value?  Well, they do, but it’s the exception.  Generally speaking, inflation is the rule, not deflation.  Talk to your grandparents and ask them how much they paid for their house.

Let’s think about the consequences of corporations being allowed to buy up significant portions of land.  What happens when a business owner is trying to put another business owner out of business?  What if in fifty years, no matter what happened, they were both on even ground in terms of property ownership?  Like it or not, this was the socioeconomic structure commanded by God for His people.  There have been scandals here in the USA that have plagued us for decades.  We have seized land from native Americans, from black people, and many other situations.  The generational wealth that could have passed on to their families has been denied them.  I currently deliver mail in a wealthy neighborhood.  Many of the houses are on lakefront property.  Now that I am getting to know these people, I was surprised at how many of these lakefront homes were not purchased, but passed on from their parents.  And they received them from their parents.  Many of the rich and influential did not earn their status; they inherited it.  But if this happened across the board, every family would be going up in value at the same time, meaning they would stay the same in relationship to each other, meaning there would be no value increase within that socioeconomic system.  Every fifty years there would be a reset.  Everyone would be back at ground level and every business minded entrepreneur would be ready to start making their money all over again.  But they wouldn’t be able to amass ten times their wealth in terms of property and pass it on.  Every fifty years everyone would be back to square one and every family would pass on their inheritance.  Would you call this Socialism?  Capitalism?  Communism?  What would you call this system?  There is also the issue of servants being allowed to leave.  Anyone anywhere could walk out on their job situation.  The question is, where would they go?  See the above.  If your entire family was going back to the estate that they just got back, you could go back and try to make a fresh start.  I hope to write more on this later.

Before moving on, what do we have so far?  How would God want our laws to be written here in USA?  Debt forgiveness, mandatory lending to the poor, a year of rest, and mandatory property reversion.  Sounds like a poor person’s paradise and a millionaire’s nightmare.  But wait, there’s more!

Pentecost Recognized the Poor

I wrote about this in a technical fashion here.  I’ll just summarize it in this post.  Pentecost was a time to formally dedicate a portion of all crops to the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners, see Leviticus 23:15-22.  Basically, the Israelites were commanded not to harvest all of their crops, but leave the corners of the field and the fruits in the hard-to-reach branches and vines.  All that grain, all that fruit, was to be for the poor of various natures; whether wives who lost their husbands, children who lost their parents, or someone from another country relying on the generosity of the people of God.  Deuteronomy 16:9-12 commands that an entire feast be thrown at the expense of those who could afford it so that the poor could have their own personal holiday.  Boaz is portrayed as a godly man who followed this law in the book of Ruth, see Ruth 2 the entire chapter.

This is hilarious to me.  I see all these “you can’t tax a nation into prosperity” or “they are putting this burden on the backs of the working class” or “tax the rich” or whatever your view is type of post on social media.  Many times these posts are by people who claim to be Christians.  Yet do they understand the fundamental nature of the socioeconomic structure that God commanded in the Bible?  God commanded for anyone who was working to set aside a portion of what was growing so that others could come along and take it, just like that.  I can hear all the objections now.  But that’s my property.  Shouldn’t they pay some kind of access fee?  They are in a situation of their own making and now I have to foot the bill.  I can’t believe they are really out of work in this economy when everyone is hiring.  Can you imagine the griping if there were a national holiday whereby the poor got to celebrate at the expense of the rich (or working class) and it would kick off the entire growing season by stating that during this summer, a portion of all these crops will go to help the poor, needy, and foreigners?  Like it or not, this was the law.  God commanded that you will help the poor.

One Tenth

There was a strict law that ten percent of all crops that grew belonged to God, see Deuteronomy 14:22-29, Leviticus 27:30.  All these crops, or if it was exchanged for money according to the text, what was it used for?  The text states that it was for the Levites (people dedicated to serving God), foreigners, fatherless, and widows.  Therefore, one tenth of everything that they had was to support a system of people doing God’s work, and the rest goes to the poor.  This was above and beyond the crops left in the field for the poor.  This is one tenth of everything that gets harvested, also known as a tithe.

You wonder how these people could survive by giving their stuff away for free like that.  But there is a principle at work here that many overlook.  God blesses when we are generous to others.  Let’s look at some of these verses in the passages I have cited up to this point.  Deuteronomy 14:29, [the poor] “shall eat and be satisfied that the LORD Your God may bless you in all the work of your hand.”  Deuteronomy 15:10, “You shall surely give to him (the poor) and your heart will not be sad when you give to him because for this thing the LORD Your God will bless you in all your work.”  Deuteronomy 16:11, “Celebrate with your servants, with foreigners, and with widows, and remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt.”  Leviticus 25:54-55, “He will go free in the year of Jubilee because the children of Israel are My servants that I brought forth out of the land of Egypt.”  Deuteronomy 15:5-6 seems to be an overarching principle for all these economic laws.  “Only if you carefully listen to the voice of the LORD Your God and obey all these commandments, for the LORD Your God blesses you as He promised You.  You will lend to many nations but you will not borrow from them.”  Global prominence was promised, but only if they treated the poor and foreigners generously.  And all of this is linked to the very character of God.

Kindness to Foreigners

This is the one that is currently being thrown around in the media.  If I added just one word and put “illegal aliens”, what would your reaction be?  Most of us would probably have a kind heart toward the fatherless or orphans.  These are kids with no parents and this is a situation beyond their control.  They didn’t cause their parents to die.  And now they’re stuck with no one to care for them.  Our hearts go out to them.  It’s the same with widows.  When a wife loses her husband, and in those days the husband was usually the provider of the family, our hearts go out to these ladies.  A good portion of New Testament scriptures are dedicated to how we treat widows, see James 1:27 (fatherless are included in that one), I Timothy 5:3, Acts 6:1.  But illegal immigrants?  Suddenly we hear chants of “Go back to where you came from!”  “No one wants your kind here!” or everybody’s favorite “Build a wall!”

The laws concerning the poor specifically name foreigners in all of them.  So thus far, all of these laws to be generous and give to the poor include foreigners with God naming them in those passages.  I hope you have been noting each reference.  Deuteronomy 24:14-22 is another passage which concerns being kind to the poor, but a very special emphasis is placed here on the foreigners, or illegal aliens, which should not be overlooked.  Note: I don’t know whether these aliens were there illegally or not.  I just know the scriptures commanded generosity toward them.  Verse 14: You will not oppress a poor person or a foreigner.  Verses 17-18: You will not pervert the justice due to a foreigner, an orphan, or a widow, but remember that you were a slave in Egypt.  Verse 19: When you gather your harvest and remember one sheaf in the field, don’t go get it but leave it for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow.  Verse 20: When you shake your olive tree, only do it one time and leave the rest for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow.  Verse 21: When you gather grapes, only go through one time and leave the rest for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 is another straightforward passage.  Love the foreigner by giving them food and clothing.  Why?  Because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.  In this passage, it’s actually God who is loving the foreigners first!  Then after He loves them, then He commands us to love them.  Leviticus 19:33-34 commands that harassment toward a foreigner is illegal.  Instead of harassment, love is the command.  We remember the command to love our neighbor as ourselves, especially since Jesus quoted it.  But our neighbors are supposed to be people like us of the same nationality, right?  But this command states to love foreigners as we love ourselves.  Why?  Again, because you, the children of Israel, were foreigners in the land of Egypt.  This should be in our minds when we recite the number two command, to love our neighbors (even if they are foreigners or illegal aliens) as ourselves.

What if our laws favored immigrants and commanded generosity toward them?  I already see this every election cycle.  It’s the big scare.  People are afraid of foreigners coming to USA and changing who we are as a nation.  People are already upset about illegal aliens getting money for nothing.  In the news, members of a certain political party are sending illegal immigrants to other parts of the country instead of caring for them in their state.  Children of undocumented immigrants who were born here on foreign soil still have their status in question.  What if the law toward all these people was love and generosity?  What if we were commanded to give to them and expect nothing in return?  That was the law for the people of God.  Here are some common objections:  But they look different.  But they are probably criminals escaping their country.  But they should come here legally.  But our country is being overrun.  There are so many excuses not to incorporate God’s laws to be the law of our land.  The next time you look to the scripture for guidance on the subject of immigration, please read Leviticus 19:33-34, Deuteronomy 10:18-19, 24:14-22.

No Prostitution

Leviticus 19:29 is pretty straightforward.  Do not prostitute your daughter.  Deuteronomy 23:17-18 also spells out that this behavior of money for sex is simply not allowed.  That money is detestable to God.  The fact that this command is there shows that this practice of money for sex was an easy way for families to get ahead.  If a poor family had a beautiful daughter, or sometimes just any daughter, the temptation to get ahead was there.  God had to forbid this.  The marriage relationship as outlined in the law was the only place where sex was allowed.  The minute you place a price on sex, you have cheapened God’s design for marriage, and the woman to whom you just assigned a money value.

You may find this odd that I include this in what God’s plan for socioeconomics is for a nation.  The truth is that sex is a way for women to find security.  Whether they get paid cash for sex in outright prostitution, or if they are in a relationship with someone whom they feel can provide safety, either way, it’s trading their body for something of monetary value.  Sometimes they feel as if they have no other choices.  Their parents have made it clear that they are not welcome back.  Their only choice is to work in a society that favors men, or use what they possess (their bodies) to provide for themselves.  Abusive relationships are a harsh reality for women who have no economic means to provide for themselves.  “Why don’t you just leave him?”  It’s not that simple.  I hope my overall post has made one thing clear.  The economic state of a nation should be such that a woman should not have to tolerate an abusive relationship or resort to prostitution.  There should be enough financial assistance available for women to avoid this altogether.  Sometimes I get so disenfranchised with both Republicans and Democrats that I look around for another political party.  The Libertarians were intriguing at first, but they want to legalize virtually everything including prostitution.  I can’t support that.

What if this were the law?  What if any time a woman’s body were used to make money that it was declared illegal?  This could shut down more than just prostitution.  It could shut down all pornography, including websites, movies, magazines, and other literature.  Instead of capitalizing on the image of a woman, the government would shut down all such revenue.  A whole bunch of people would be out of jobs for starters.  If you wanted sex, you would have to get married.  Within the marriage relationship this would have to be the law as well.  Wives could not entice their husbands to do favors for them in exchange for sex.  That would be putting a price on sex.  Husbands could not pressure their wives either.  Do you realize the socioeconomic implications for incorporating this law into our laws?  Women would be valued and not cheapened.  All that money, billions of dollars per year, would not be spent there, but somewhere else.  Remember the great reset, the year of Jubilee?  This would have been an opportunity for women everywhere, no matter what their situation, to go back to the family estate and start over again.  The prostitute could have a new beginning.

All Human Life Is Sacred

The Noahic Covenant was where we first see the value of all mankind demonstrated by the decree of God.  Israel considered the book of Genesis to be just as much a part of the law as everything presented on Mount Sinai.  After Noah got off the ark, God made a covenant with Noah.  Part of that was a declaration that all mankind is created in the image of God, and therefore anyone who shed man’s blood is guilty and must have their blood shed.  In essence, if you kill, it’s the death penalty for you.  But what is the definition of a life?  Genesis 9:1-7 explains that flesh with blood in it has life.  We are not allowed to eat that because it is the image of God.  Beginning here, each civilization has the command from God to keep evil in check.  If someone kills by shedding blood, they are guilty and we are to execute them by God’s command.  This is spelled out more specifically in the Mosaic law which was given on Mount Sinai and preached in the book of Deuteronomy.  All life is sacred to God.

What if our laws were framed this way?  First, before we get to the sticky stuff, the death penalty would be the law for anyone who murdered anyone else.  Now, there were other laws concerning jealous husbands, accidental deaths, a city of refuge, and there always had to be two witnesses; so there were exceptions.  But the general rule was the death penalty; no overcrowded prisons, but a death row type of situation.  Numbers 35:29-34 outlines the consequences for not following this command.  There is a blood guilt which must be fulfilled otherwise the land is polluted.  Now let’s get to the controversial part.  Any shedding of blood is taking a life.  Unborn babies have their blood shed through abortion.  It’s the taking of a life.  Also, a pregnant woman is a life.  If there is a procedure that would save her life, and prevent a death, this is something we should be in favor of.  Then there are situations where doctors have to choose.  I don’t envy them.  According to these principles, the socioeconomic system of a nation should place a high value on every single human life, born or unborn, because the image of God is there with proof that there is blood flowing through that flesh.  When life gets cheap, the socioeconomic structure of a nation begins to falter.  Human life should be of the highest value within that system.  The reason why it should be of the highest value is not because we are so valuable in and of ourselves, but because we are made in the image of God.  We were created by Him to bring glory to Him.

To close this post, if you want additional study in the word of God, I suggest reading Psalm 112, which is a short read.  It talks about the characteristics of a godly person in relation to their treatment of the poor.  Another recommendation is the book of Amos.  It is a scathing rebuke against the rich during a time of prosperity in the northern kingdom of Israel.  The ironic thing is that Amos was a wealthy businessman.  He’s speaking from experience.  He knew the oppressive tactics used by his fellow upper-class merchants.

My whole point is this.  Before you form your opinion on whether or not God is in favor of your particular political point of view, why not study some scriptures from an objective viewpoint?  Maybe your view could be adjusted.  Instead of thinking that God would never be in favor of this type of behavior, study God’s word to discover the true character of God.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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God Prepares His People

God Prepares His People

Hey, aren’t those first nine chapters of First Chronicles a chore?  I distinctly remember on this read through, just before starting this book, thinking, “Well, here we go.”  It wasn’t a pleasant thought.  It was more like, this is a job to be done, a task to be endured.  And yet here of all places is where God decides to give me an insight that I have never read in any commentary or thought about in my own study of scripture.  Isn’t that just like God?  To give insight where you think everything is mundane and monotonous. 

Here is the insight in chapter 1 which made me pay special attention to the rest of this opening section which I usually sort of “tune out” while reading.  In I Chronicles 1:43 we read, “These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the people of Israel.”  Wait a minute.  Jacob and Esau were brothers.  Or should I write Esau and Jacob were brothers?  (because Esau was the firstborn.)  The nation of Edom (descendants of Esau) and the nation of Israel (descendants of Jacob) began within the same generation.  The descendants of Esau went to Mount Seir and began to formulate as all people groups do.  They organized government, established a system of authority with dukes, and had kings who reigned over them.  Here in this section, I count 8 kings who reigned in Edom in their early days as a nation.

This is how it’s normally done.  This is how people groups develop and survive.  But this wasn’t how God led His own special people that would change the world.  God established a covenant people through His promise made to Abraham.  Yet what did He do to prepare His people to be a blessing to all nations?  If you read Genesis 12:1-3, there are all these great things that God is going to accomplish through the offspring of Abraham.  But the roadmap to this greatness, as God lays it out in Genesis 15:13-14, is not the way that other nations are taking.  If you were told that your nation were destined for greatness, on what roadmap do you think God would lead your nation?  The plan in the mind of God was for the entire nation to become a people enslaved and oppressed.  They would not have a king of their own, but would have another nation rule over them for 400 years.  These other nations were developing in an autonomous way with their own kings, but the people of God were finding their identity as slaves.

When the nation of Israel came out of the iron furnace (see Deuteronomy 4:20, Jeremiah 11:4), their entire identity up to that point had been as oppressed slaves.  God established their new identity as being the people of God, see Exodus 19:5-6.  Then when Israel came up to the border of the promised land in close proximity to the nation of Edom, they were approaching a nation that already had a history of kings and a system of dukes.  Edom, with a 400 year head start, refused to help Israel in their time of need, see Numbers 20:14-21.  Moab also was a nation formed in the same generation as Israel.  Lot was like a son to Abraham before their parted ways.  Then Moab was his son, making Moab and Israel two generations removed from Abraham.  Moab had a king at this same time that Israel was approaching the promised land, see Numbers 22.  All these other people groups had kings, but Israel had no king.

This principle is not isolated just here.  This principle of God preparing people through oppression and humility is uniform throughout scripture.  Moses, the man of God, was not exalted to greatness at first, but was rejected by his own people.  “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?” Exodus 2:14.  Why does God use this way?  I believe one of the reasons is the way in which God wants to lead His people to greatness.  The children of Israel had their identity as being oppressed so they could be a blessing to others who are oppressed.  If you notice the laws which God established to govern His people, a good portion of them remind the children of Israel of their past identity.  Three times in the book of Deuteronomy we read the exact language “You will remember that you were slaves in Egypt, therefore I command you to do this thing.”  Give your servants the day off, give to the poor, free your slaves, forgive debts, do not charge interest, be kind to the foreigners in your land, look out for the orphans and widows; do all this because you were once slaves but now the LORD has redeemed you.  You belong to Him now.

This was the true greatness that God had in mind when He said He would bless Abraham and his offspring.  True greatness in the eyes of God is being kind to the oppressed.  True greatness in the eyes of God is forgiving debts, welcoming foreigners, and giving to the poor.  If you missed this, I suggest you read the book of Deuteronomy again.  And all of this would happen without a king.

This basic principle was to point them to the true king who would reign over them.  If you look at the structure of the book of I Chronicles, there is an anticipation for that king who would reign over the nation of Israel.  Saul was rejected for his breach of faith, I Chronicles 10:13, but David was the man that God chose, I Chronicles 11:1-3.  In I Chronicles 1:43, we see the comparison of Israel and Edom.  The nation of Edom had a huge head start over the nation of Israel.  But was the nation of Edom greater than Israel because they chose that way?  Not at all.  Because God led His people into slavery and out of the iron furnace, now God could exalt a truly great king, a man after God’s own heart.

This is the way to greatness: through humility and oppression.  It should come as no surprise that God would lead David down a path of rejection for many years before exalting him as the King over all His people.  Saul and many other leaders in Israel persecuted him and hunted him for his life.  I Chronicles does not document the full extent of the rejection, but instead focuses on the strength added to David while he was being rejected.  I Chronicles 12 documents the children of Israel who were brave enough to join David while he was still rejected by the leadership of Israel.  I Chronicles 12:1 mentions the time that David was in Ziklag.  If you read I Samuel 27:1 for the context, David was despairing for his life during this time.  Yet here are men of God pledging their loyalty to David in response to David’s humility.  I Chronicles 12:8 mentions the Gadites who joined David while he was in the stronghold, see I Samuel 24:22 for the context.  This is just after David spares Saul’s life for the first time.  Just keep reading through this chapter as David’s army grows mightier and mightier, yet he refused to put himself forth as the rightful king of Israel.  David chose humility and oppression in the wilderness.

I and II Chronicles is centered around David as the premier king who brought about peace by another way.  God exalted David because he humbled himself before God.  The same verse in I Chronicles 1:43 is found in Genesis 36:31.  But in Genesis, the entire story of how God would finally bring a king to Israel is not found.  So the Chronicler (I believe it’s Ezra) pulls together the metanarrative to demonstrate God’s overall plan to bring forth this premier king, or king of kings.  It is only in reading I Chronicles that the plan of God becomes evident, that plan being to bring forth a nation of redeemed slaves ruled by a humble king.

There is another metanarrative contained in scripture.  It is the plan of the people of God, those who find their identity as being slaves of sin.  There are people here who realize this world is under the oppression of the devil and long for true freedom, a world where people are not oppressed by sinfulness.  Instead of looking to others as the source of their frustration, they turn the scrutiny upon themselves and realize their own sinfulness is contributing to the evil in this world.  It is to these people that the King of kings came.  Jesus of Nazareth came in order to redeem them.  According to the established rule, He came in humility and was oppressed by His own people.  Yet in His rejection, many identify with Him rather than with the kingdoms of this world.  This is the kingdom that will rule all kingdoms and bring blessing to the entire world.  I invite you to choose humility and rejection in the wilderness.

May the LORD richly bless you in your reading of scripture, no matter how mundane and monotonous the passage may seem.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Stephen’s Sermon in Acts 7 (for the kids)

I have been teaching children again each week at church.  I love doing it.  Sometimes the simplicity of a lesson for children makes you reevaluate how you interpret a passage.  I found myself struggling with how to teach Acts 7 on a level that 1-5 graders would be able to understand.  Once God showed me the simplicity of Stephen’s sermon, it sort of revolutionized the way I look at that chapter.  I thought I would share this simple outline and some thoughts that I have about the history of Israel and how Stephen was applying it.

First, the similarity to how the Israelite leaders accused Stephen with how they accused Jesus is hard to ignore.  They falsely accused both.  The accusations had to do speaking against the temple.  Also, both possessed wisdom that could not be withstood.  Now, on to the lesson.  Let’s learn as children.

Acts 7:1-8
Lesson #1 ~ The Nation of Israel began with Abraham not Moses.

The accusations concerning how Stephen spoke of Moses and circumcision were addressed head on by Stephen in his opening statements.  The nation of Israel did not begin with Moses.  It began with “Our Father Abraham”, which Abraham means father of a multitude.  The God of glory told Abraham, “Get out from your country.”  There was no reward promised.  There was no hint at what would happen if Abraham obeyed.  Just leave your homeland and all your people.  Abraham left everything for this God.  When he finally arrived, he wasn’t proclaimed king over the land.  He wandered around as a foreigner in the land.  But God promised to give this land to Abraham’s children.

Now what does this sound like?  A man is asked to leave everything behind and he does it.  Remember the ministry of Jesus?  Jesus would walk up to people and say, “Follow me.”  They left everything to follow this man.  Do you remember the question of the rich young ruler?  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  The answer of Jesus was to take every possession that he had, sell it all, then give the money to the poor.  After that, follow Jesus and he would have treasure in heaven.  How is it that the call of Abraham looks so similar to the call of Jesus Christ?

Acts 7:9-16
Lesson #2 ~ Joseph saved Egypt and the children of Israel.

It’s such a familiar story we might tend to brush over this.  Joseph saved the children of Israel.  But wait, before he did this he was rejected by his own brothers and sold at a cost.  Stephen makes a very interesting statement in verse 13.  His brothers did not recognize him the first time.  Here is the one who is to save Israel, yet the children of Israel do not recognize him until the second time.  The parallel with Christ is hard to ignore.

Acts 7:17-29
Lesson #3 ~ The People of Israel rejected Moses.

Here we are finally to Moses.  Yet Stephen does not begin with the ten commandments, or even with Moses asking for his people to go free.  Stephen begins with the birth of Moses pointing out that he was schooled in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.  Moses was in the richest household in all of Egypt.  Yet Moses decided to identify with his slave brothers rather than enjoy the pleasures of Egypt.  He left everything behind to become a slave to be a part of the people of God.  Leaving everything behind again?  It makes you wonder how to define a true follower of Moses.

Moses thought that his people would understand that he was going to deliver the Israelites.  But instead the Israelites rejected him.  They did not want his leadership.  The great Moses revered by the modern day Pharisees was rejected first.  The accusation of the Israelite against Moses was basically, “I’ll turn you in for murder.  Leave me alone.”  Moses left in a state of rejection.

Acts 7:30-34
Lesson #4 ~ What is Holy Ground?

This surprised me.  The accusations against Stephen regarding the temple were because they viewed the temple as the holy place of God.  But what constitutes a holy place?  Here in this section, Stephen is including these statements of God for a very specific purpose.  The ground that Moses was standing on was holy ground.  But there were no buildings.  There was no gold.  There were rocks and bushes and one of them happened to be on fire.  What made this ground holy?  I asked this to the class and one 9 year old boy said, “Because God was standing there.”  Exactly!  It’s the presence of God that makes a place holy.

Acts 7:35-37
Lesson #5 ~ Moses Delivers Israel.

The very same Moses that was rejected by the children of Israel was the one that was their deliverer.  Moses had a prophecy that a prophet like him would arise one day.  What did it mean to be a prophet like Moses?  It meant you would be rejected first, and at your second coming you would deliver the children of Israel.  The Israelites had rejected Jesus, but this proved that He is the prophet like Moses.  I hope you are not missing this truth that Stephen is proclaiming to them.

Acts 7:38-43
Lesson #6 ~ The Children of Israel were more true to idols than to God.

This is the one lesson that I think the kids struggled with just a bit.  However, the first portion of it is quite easy.  While Moses was on the mount receiving the ten commandments, the children of Israel were worshiping a golden calf and breaking the ten commandments that they had already agreed to follow.  The children of Israel placed more value on gold than on God.  Here I am going to cross reference the words of Jesus to show where the priority of the Israelites were in His day.  They had a saying which Jesus quotes in Matthew 23:16.  They would say, “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor.”  Do you see what they did?  They placed more value on the gold than on God, see Jesus’ explanation in Matthew 23:17.  In short, the Israelites in Jesus’ and Stephen’s day worshiped the temple and the gold of the temple like an idol.

The quotation from Amos 5:25-27 sometimes confuses people.  Amos was pointing out in his day that there was a presence of idol worship which could be traced all the way back to the gods in Egypt.  How did those Egyptian gods make it all the way out of Egypt, through the 40 years in the wilderness, into the promised land, through the days of the judges, through the reign of David, and all the way to the days of Amos?  It was because the devotion that the children of Israel had to false gods was greater than their devotion to the one true God and Ezekiel preaches on this in Ezekiel 20:6-9.  Stephen is highlighting the devotion that Israelites have for worshiping the creation more than the Creator.  Something gold is more valuable to them than God Himself.

Acts 7:44-50
Lesson #7 ~ What is the Temple?

Stephen has been building his case and now he arrives at the true definition of the temple.  When Solomon dedicated the temple he confessed that the highest heaven could not contain God, I Kings 8:27.  Stephen’s quotation is from Isaiah who addressed the corruption of the temple in his day.  Isaiah 66:1-2 asks how man could really build something for God since God’s hands had made all things.  I sort of wish Stephen had quoted the end of Isaiah 66:2, but maybe it would have come across as haughty.  The question remains, how could these Israelites in Stephen’s day claim to have a place for God?  The greatness of God surpasses any temple and any gold they could come up with.  Their devotion to the temple blinded them to the greatness of God.

Acts 7:51-53
Lesson #8 ~ The Children of Israel have always persecuted and killed the true prophets.

Stephen’s case has been building.  Now he summarizes the whole thing by appealing the persecution of the true prophets of old.  Again and again, the Israelites had resisted the messages from the true prophets.  Elijah hid in the desert, fled for his life, and had to call down fire from heaven for protection.  What was his crime?  Standing against idolatry.  Jeremiah was thrown into a miry pit.  He cried out against the sins of Israel.  Micaiah was slapped on the face in public.  Hanani the seer was thrown in prison.  Now here is Stephen pointing out how he is being persecuted.  His statement cuts right to the point.  “I’m a true prophet and you are looking to kill me because I am a true prophet.”  He places himself in the same category as the prophets he has been quoting such as Moses, Isaiah, and Amos.

Acts 7:54-60
Stephen becomes the first martyr for Jesus Christ.

Who saw this one coming?  Just as the accusations against him were a lot like the accusations against Jesus, his death is a lot like Jesus.  Stephen is not resisting them.  He commits his spirit into the hands of God.  He asks for forgiveness for those who are killing him.

If you need long complicated explanations for things, you may be off track.  Sometimes the simplest explanations are the best.  Thanks kids.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Pentecost Before Jesus

The Significance of Pentecost before Jesus

Anyone studying Fulfilled Prophecy is bound to come across a discussion regarding the feasts of Israel.  Jesus was crucified on the Passover thereby fulfilling prophecies, Isaiah 53 for example.  Jesus rose again from the dead on the feast of first fruits, fulfilling yet even more prophecies, Psalm 16 for starters.  Paul writes about the parallel between the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the need to keep wickedness out of the fellowship in I Corinthians 5:6-8.

Out of the four spring feasts, it seems that Pentecost is the most overlooked of the four in terms of what it meant before Christ came and fulfilled it.  After all, what do these sacrifices fifty days after the first fruits have to do with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit?  These four spring feast are all linked together in terms of significance and in terms of how the dates are calculated.  There must be some connection here.

The three fall feasts get pulled into discussion regarding prophecy as well because many speculate that they will be fulfilled at Christ’s second coming.  The fact that one of them is called the blowing of trumpets causes quite a bit of speculation trying to link this either with the trumpet blown at the coming of Christ or the trumpets in relation to the wrath of God.  The Day of Atonement and Feast of Booths also get some discussion, mostly in relation to how God will save the nation of Israel.

But let’s talk about Pentecost.  There are a whole group of people out there claiming to be “Pentecostal”!  What was the significance of this before the Holy Spirit descended?  It seems like we can find every other feast in some type of language in the new testament scriptures except this one.  As previously mentioned, the Passover is expounded in I Corinthians 5:7 with the Feast of Unleavened Bread in I Corinthians 5:6-8.  The feast of first fruits is revealed in I Corinthians 15:20-23 in relation to the resurrection of Christ.  But where is the correlation between the original Pentecost and what happened on what we now call Pentecost Sunday?

Our study is going to be limited (which is a good thing) because there are only three references of this observance in all the scriptures, I’m not counting Acts 20:16 and I Corinthians 16:8.  The lengthiest is in Leviticus 23:15-22.  Deuteronomy 16:9-12 is a little shorter but contains additional language.  Exodus 34:22 only names the feast as the feast of weeks, since they had to count seven weeks.  What is confusing is that this passage seems to conflate the feast of first fruits with the feast of weeks.  “You shall observe the feast of weeks of the first fruits of the wheat harvest”.  That would explain why Exodus 23:14-19 mentions only the feast of first fruits and not Pentecost.  If all males were required to appear before the LORD beginning with the feast of first fruits (the first day of the week after the first Sabbath after the Passover) and stay until the seven weeks were fulfilled, that would harmonize Exodus 23:14-19 with Exodus 34:18-26.  Exodus 34:22 starts out naming it the feast of weeks of the first fruits and then down in 34:26 this section concludes with calling it the first of the first fruits of your land.  So the feast of first fruits and Pentecost are connected somehow.  Let’s look at that connection.

In Leviticus 23:9-14, we find a brief description of the first fruits.  The day after the Sabbath, meaning the first Sabbath after Passover, bring a sheaf (or a measurement) of the first fruits to God.  Remember this is the spring time when crops are just beginning to grow.  Each Israelite who grew crops was commanded to bring the very first of all that grew at that very time and present it to God.  This was a wave offering.  Wait, what?  They would come in with the first bundle of grain and simply wave it before God.  There was a meager offering to accompany this, a one year old male lamb, a little bit of unleavened bread, and some wine.  In verse 14 is the most important part.  No one was allowed to eat any of the food that grew on their land until they performed this certain ceremony.  This was a recognition that the LORD God was the provider of all crops that grew.  The Israelites were commanded to figuratively say, “God, this is all yours.  I am waving this before You to give you the credit for all that grows in my field.”  It is more like the presentation of first fruits, but it does say in Lev. 23:2 “these are my feasts”.  In essence, the feast of first fruits was a one time presentation which was supposed to determine the overall attitude of the nation all throughout the time that crops would be growing.  All these crops belong to God and He is a good God by providing for us.  Now that we have done this, we can eat food all year!

So let’s count.  The first day of the year commemorates a new beginning.  The fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover, beginning in the evening.  On the fifteenth day is the first day of the feast of unleavened bread.  That fifteenth day is a Sabbath whether it falls on the seventh day of the week or not.  But the day after the first seventh day Sabbath after the Passover is the day that the first fruits are to be presented.  So basically, it will be the first day of the week after the Passover.  Then from that Sabbath just before the first fruits, count fifty.  That day will be Pentecost and it will be on the first day of the week.  Note this has the meaning of a new beginning.

Now that we understand the original reason for the first fruits, let’s look at the original reason for Pentecost.  Pentecost also would be a Sabbath where no work was to be done, see Lev. 23:21.  This would mean two days in a row no work would be done.  The sacrifices required are greater in number and more diverse than the sacrifices for the first fruits.  The bread is doubled but this time it’s leavened.  This is to be made from the grain of the first fruits.  Then we have seven one year old lambs, a young bull, two rams, all with the prescribed accompaniments as outlined elsewhere in the law.  Then the requirement is a goat for a sin offering and two one year old lambs for peace offerings.  Then the priest, just like before, is to wave this before the LORD, another presentation that these things belong to God.  So far this seems like the same lesson, right?

Just as the last verse in the description of the first fruits provides the key for the significance, the last verse in the description of Pentecost describes the significance here.  Look at and read Leviticus 23:22.  This is not a random verse or change of subject.  This is the entire reason for the feast of Pentecost.  A portion of the crops in the field of every single Israelite belonged to the poor.  The Israelites were commanded not to take everything from the field but leave some for the poor and foreigners.  Foreigners were supposed to be eligible for free food.  Just as the presentation of the first fruits set the attitude for the entire year, the feast of Pentecost did as well.  This was a promise at the beginning of the year that out of everything that grows in the land, the Israelite who believes and trusts in the LORD as their God would set aside a portion of everything that grew to belong to the poor and foreigners.  If the nation of Israel recognized at the feast of first fruits that everything belonged to God, they must also recognize that God wanted a portion of HIS food to be designated for the poor.  There is no way around this.

Now let’s look at the four verses in Deuteronomy 16:9-12.  This passage is general as opposed to Leviticus, which we would expect from a sermon about Pentecost.  Here Moses preaches to the people that they are to count the days from when the crops begin to grow.  There will be a presentation to the LORD from what God has blessed them with.  Then for the feast of weeks (Pentecost), there is the command to rejoice along with several categories of people.  Basically, it’s time to celebrate.  But with whom are we celebrating?  It starts out fairly standard: sons, daughters, okay that’s family.  But then servants are allowed in the celebration along with Levites.  Well, okay, we’ll allow that.  But then it gets uncomfortable.  The Israelites are commanded to celebrate with foreigners.  Wait, with Gentiles?  Yes.  Now let’s really mess with the social distinctions.  Orphans and widows are to be allowed in the celebration.  This is sounding like God wants the poor and marginalized to be eating and drinking alongside the wealthy.  But wait, where are the poor getting their food from?  This is a nationwide celebration commanded by God at the expense of the wealthy.

Just as in Leviticus 23:15-22 the last verse provided the key to the reason for the feast, it is the same here.  God commands the nation of Israel to remember that they were slaves in the land of Egypt.  Who showed them kindness while they were oppressed?  When their burdens were too great, who took pity on them?  When there wasn’t enough to eat, who opened up their home and let them in?  The answer:  nobody.  Oh wait, except the LORD God heard their groans and freed them from Egypt with a mighty right hand, brought them into the promised land, and gave them all this food flowing from the land of milk and honey.  Now God is commanding, remember who you were.  You were slaves.  Have pity on those who have less than you.  You will be kind to Gentiles in your midst.  Fatherless, widows, poor, you will provide them a holiday for them to celebrate.  This was at the beginning of the year when crops were beginning to grow.  This was to set the tone for the entire year of farming.

We have looked at two passages to give us the reason for Pentecost from the old covenant perspective.  The first was to dedicate to the poor a portion of all crops that grew in their fields.  The second was to have a holiday for the poor to celebrate because the Israelites had once been poor slaves in Egypt.  This is what was supposed to take place.  Whether the Israelites were obedient remains to be seen.  We thank God for the book of Ruth which shows the godly testimony of Boaz.  Here is a man who feared God enough to allow foreigners and widows to walk onto his field and do exactly what God had commanded.  Here is a man who did not look at the profit line, but at the generosity of God.

When we come to Acts 2, this is not the first feast of Pentecost that has ever been celebrated.  But from here on out, Pentecost would have a new significance, mainly because of the arrival and baptism of the Holy Spirit.  But what are these disciples of Jesus being baptized into?  Let’s simply look at the text.  One of the immediate results of the Pentecostal experience is that the believers had all things in common, see Acts 2:42-47.  Anyone who was in need had their needs supplied by others because they were selling their possessions to meet needs within the fellowship.  Disciples of Jesus did not consider their belongings to be their own, but rather as belonging to the family at large.

Today in modern preaching from this text, I see so much emphasis placed on either A ~ the gifts of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, etc. or B ~ the doctrine of the apostles, fellowship, ongoing growth of the church through evangelism and salvation.  I see very little emphasis placed on the fact that when the Holy Spirit arrives, that the believer is baptized into a body, see I Corinthians 12:13.  That believer now belongs to that body and everything that the believer has now belongs to that body.  If we had the old covenant perspective that Pentecost is a recognition that out of everything that I have a portion will belong to the poor (those in need) then it would make for an easier transition in understanding that when I am saved, when I become a Christian, when I receive the Holy Spirit, that I am responsible for other believers who are in need.

The true Pentecostal experience is to be in a body of believers that truly cares for each other.  This care need not stop at the boundary lines of a country either.  II Corinthians 8 and 9 outlines the apostle Paul’s reasoning for taking up a collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem from Gentile churches in Macedonia and Greece.  Read through these verses with this in mind.  The object was not to make one faction poor or make another faction rich, but that there would be an equality, see II Corinthians 8:13-14.  As long as one family has an abundance and another family is in need, there is not a Pentecostal experience.

The two major internal tests that the early church underwent had to do with this very issue.  Ananias and Sapphira were in the midst of a culture that gave selflessly to the needs of the church.  They had a piece of property that could meet the needs within the church.  However, how would it look if they kept part of the money for themselves?  They decided to lie to the church so that they could have the appearance of the Pentecostal experience, but have some benefit for themselves.  You can read about this in Acts 4:31-5:11.  The testimony here from the inspired writing of Luke demonstrates that the power the early church had was in the unity of possessions.  There was not a single needy person among them because this was a congregation so united that every need was met.  The Holy Spirit ensured that the Pentecostal experience would not be interrupted by hypocrites.  The second major test was alleged favoritism as the needs were being met in Acts 6:1-7.  The favoritism was perceived to be because of ethnicity.  Of course, in the true Pentecostal experience, having a foreign accent or background should not be grounds for exclusion or being secondary.  The apostles confronted the issue head on.  The unity of fellowship should not be interrupted.  The result of their decision is recorded in Acts 6:7.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit through giving to the poor would continue.

Could it be that the fulfillment of the feast of Pentecost is recorded right in those scriptures where Pentecost is being described?  While another passage might state, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us,” the fulfillment of the feast of Pentecost was stated in terms that the early church easily understood.  A portion of all that we have belongs to the poor.  This is a feast for all the poor of the land to experience at the expense of those who can afford it.  This is the holiday of the kingdom of God.  The Messiah has come and now His kingdom plan is advancing.  Psalm 112 (part of the Great Messianic Opus of Psalm 110-118) foreshadowed this, that He would disperse to the poor through good, wealthy men who give.  Psalm 113 pictures poor people being raised up out of the dust alongside princes.  This is why James, Peter, and John were so explicit with Paul when he began his new ministry to “remember the poor”, Galatians 2:10.  The Pentecostal ministry of the Holy Spirit manifests itself through giving to the poor.

To close, I’m going to place the old testament scriptures alongside the new testament scriptures and see if you agree.  God’s word speaks powerfully all on its own without any commentary.  Praise the LORD!

Leviticus 23:21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.  22 ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.’ “

Deuteronomy 16:10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.  11 You shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide.  12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.

Acts 2:43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,  45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.  32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.  33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.  34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,  35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

Have fun and stay busy ~ Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S. This is going to run contrary to the ways of this world.

Posted in Eschatology, Fulfilled Prophecy, Giving to the Poor, Pentecost, Prophecy, The Kingdom of God | 1 Comment

#12 ~ Evangelism

Harnessing the Power of the Tongue

For the Glory of God

Key Verses:  Proverbs 18:21, Psalm 141:3, Psalm 19:14

Lesson #12 ~ Evangelism

So here we are, at the end.  Or is it the beginning for you?  When I finished teaching this series on controlling the tongue, I realized how much distance I had to go.  All the lying, gossip, complaining had to be left behind before I could aspire to the higher calling of the tongue, praising, preaching, and now, evangelizing.  I hope you have spiritually grown by considering the content of what I taught orally, but also wrote here and put on my blog.

Again, as in other lessons, this one could have easily been 2 or 3 lessons if I took more time and expounded passages like I Thessalonians 1:6-10 or Hebrews 10:23-31.  Feel free to customize this to the needs in your congregation.

I.  What is Evangelism?

                A.  Definition.  Evangelism comes from a transliteration of a Greek work which means good message.**

                B.  Evangelist is an office ~ Ephesians 4:11 (cannot find it as a spiritual gift)  Note:  This surprised me not being able to find the spiritual gift of evangelism.  My conclusion is that (instead of what I had previously assumed) it is not something for a few gifted people in the congregation to do, but the job of every Christian.

                C.  Philip the Evangelist ~ Acts 21:8, 8:4-8, 35.

                D.  Commands for Timothy ~ II Timothy 4:1-5.  It’s something we do.

                                1.  Preach the word (kerusso logos), be ready at all times

                                2.  Do the work of an evangelist (literally – make employment as evangelist), watching in all circumstances.

                E.  Always be ready ~ I Peter 3:15.  Sanctify the LORD in your hearts, be ready to give that answer.  We should prepare ourselves beforehand by making Christ holy in our hearts and being ready to give an answer for our faith.  If we are not ready to speak about our faith in Christ, have we truly sanctified the LORD in our hearts?  Note:  I just read this question again, ouch.

II.  How does evangelism (the preaching of the gospel) work?

                A.  The perpetual motion of the gospel ~ Romans 10:14-17.  There is a progression to the preaching of the gospel.  #1-  The person is saved.  #2-  The person that God saved is sent.  #3-  The sent person preaches the gospel (proclaims the good news.)  #4-  Another person hears.  #5-  The other person believes.  #6-  The other person calls on the name of the LORD.  #7-  The other person is saved.  #8- The other person is sent.

                B.  The nature of progressive revelation.  Isaiah 52:7 ~ What is the good news in this passage?  Compare with Psalm 96:10.

  • The message is progressive.  Isaiah 52:7 ~ The LORD reigns.
  • Matthew 3:1-3 ~ Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Prepare the way of the LORD.
  • Matthew 4:17, 23 ~ Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  The gospel is in the company of miracles and the calling of the disciples.
  • Matthew 10:7 ~ The 12 disciples are proclaiming and staying in the homes of individuals.
  • Luke 10:9-11 ~ The 70 are proclaiming and healing.
  • Matthew 28:18-20 ~ Commonly called the Great Commission.  Jesus sends forth His disciples and will not call them back until the end of the age, see Matthew 13:29, 24:3, 13-14, 29-31.
  • I Corinthians 15:1-4 ~ Now that Jesus has died for our sins and was raised from the dead, we include this when we preach the gospel.  This does not mean it is a different gospel.  It is the same gospel, that God reigns, see I Corinthians 15:24-28.  The way in which God will reign has been revealed through the LORD Jesus Christ, His death on the cross, and His resurrection, see Romans 1:3-5.
  • Acts 28:30-31 ~ At the end of Paul’s life, he still preached the kingdom of God and it included everything about Jesus Christ.  There are not two different gospels.  Note:  Sorry dispensationalists.  It just doesn’t work.  One gospel with different bits of information at different points in the unfolding of His revelation.

III.  Always from a position of weakness.

                A.  Sheep among wolves ~ Matthew 10:16-22

                B.  In the midst of persecution ~ Mark 13:9-13

                C.  You are going to sound like you are stupid ~ I Corinthians 1:17-30  Note:  I’m still laughing about this one.

IV.  Results of Evangelism

                A.  The results when people believe ~ I Thessalonians 1:6-10

                                1.  A new following.  We always follow something.  After the Thessalonians believed, they followed Paul & company, and more importantly, they followed Jesus.

                                2.  New afflictions.  Everyone has some amount of trouble in their lives.  The Thessalonians were now afflicted with the same afflictions that other Christians had, those of following Jesus Christ.

                                3.  New examples.  We all exemplify something.  We might be an example of someone who is self-centered, a drunk, a glutton, a gossip, etc.  Now they became examples of those that believe.

                                4.  A new message.  We all have something to talk about.  We talk about what excites us.  Hobbies, children, grandchildren, activities, our jobs.  The Thessalonians started talking about their faith.

                                5.  New activities.  They had served idols.  Now they served the living God.

                                6.  New expectations.  Everyone lives in anticipation of something.  “I’m really looking forward to…”  Complete the sentence that you have probably said to someone.  The Thessalonians were now looking forward to the coming of their Savior, Jesus Christ.

                B.  The results when people don’t believe ~ Hebrews 10:23-31

                                1.  Not mixed with faith, Hebrews 4:2.

                                2.  They fall back (waver).  True believers will not fall back or fall away, Hebrews 6:6.

                                3.  They stop assembling together as Christians.  This can happen in a number of ways.  Someone can stop coming to church altogether.  Or someone can come to church but not be part of what the assembly is supposed to do (confess sins one to another, sing with gratefulness in your heart, encourage other Christians, be accountable to other Christians, share your faith, giving, etc.).

                                4.  Sinning willfully.  Continuing in sin, something that has been pointed out, but the person persists in sin rather than repent, see also II Peter 2:20-22.

                                5.  Treating the sacrifice of Christ as if it is something common.

                C.  The Aroma as we evangelize ~ II Corinthians 2:14-17.  It is the same aroma.  To believers it smells sweet, but to unbelievers it stinks to high heaven.

V.  The Presentation

                A.  Humbly at no charge ~ I Corinthians 9:16-18

                B.  Gentle like a mother, loving like a father ~ I Thessalonians 2:1-12

                C.  With a life that matches the gospel message ~ Philippians 1:27-30.  This should be the creed of anyone who practices evangelism.

**Eu means good (euphemism = good sound, eulogy = good word) and angel means messenger.  When someone would evangelize (euaggelizo) , they were good messaging.  When someone would preach (kerusso) the evangelion (euaggelion), they were proclaiming the good news.  Here are some examples of kerusso evangelion: Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, 26:13.  Here are some examples of evangelize where the word for preach does not appear in the original Greek: Matthew 11:5, Luke 4:18, Luke 7:22, Luke 9:6, Luke 16:16, Luke 20:1.  We don’t have a word that means to good message someone, so the word evangelize is a transliteration.  It doesn’t mean to convert someone.  It simply means to give them the good news.  Gospel is an English word that means good news, but we never use it as a verb.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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The Uniqueness of Deborah

When DC Comics decided to kill off Supergirl in their series Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, it upset more than a few fans.  Kara Zor-El was introduced in 1959 as a way to capitalize on the popularity of Superman.  The problem was, that was the only reason for introducing a female version of Superman, for money.  There was nothing unique about her story and actually convoluted the story of Superman, that he was the sole survivor of Krypton.  DC Comics had a character floating around that they knew was only there to make money and wasn’t there to be a unique woman.  She was essentially a female Superman without her own identity.

DC Comics wrote an excellent storyline for her death.  Many fans felt that was the best Supergirl story they had ever read.  Of course, no one stays dead in the comics.  Years later, they brought her back with a unique story and as a unique character.  This was not simply a female version of Superman, but a girl with her own story.

This initial approach of DC Comics has caused me to question the way women have been treated over the years.  It seems that a hero arises, becomes popular, and then to cater to the women, a female version of that same hero is created to appeal to those who want a hero who is a woman in the same vein.  Say what you like, but in the comics, movies, novels, it happens quite frequently.

Men and women were created by God uniquely.  When God created woman, He was not making a female version of a man, He was making a woman.  Eve has her own identity.  Man and woman were created for each other, and thousands of years has borne out the fact that we cannot get along one without the other.  This does not mean that a woman is nothing without a man (or vice versa).  God has created each of us as individuals. 

Men cannot do what God created women to do.  Men cannot exceed in the ways that women exceed.  There is no need for women to compare themselves to men, or try to be a female version of a certain man.  Women have been created by God for reasons that He knows and that He reveals in His word.  This is not to say that men and women cannot do many of the same things.  Men and women can both be teachers, preachers, doctors, lawyers, athletes, etc. etc. etc.  But let’s not feel the need to compare between the two.  Statements like “Men are better athletes” or “Men are doctors but women are nurses” or “Only boys grow up to be astronauts” are sexist statements that have given men a bad name.

When we read about Deborah in the book of Judges, see chapters 4-5, we read about a unique judge of Israel.  Three judges had ruled before her, all men.  Joshua had been before that and Moses before that.  The patriarchy was strong.  The first judge was Othniel who judged Israel by leading them into battle.  Second, we have Ehud who, again, led the children of Israel into battle.  His story is unique though.  Left handed, snuck a dagger under his thigh, surreptitious assassination, then he led the children of Israel into battle.  Shamgar, also a warrior, judged Israel in pretty much the same way.  But now Deborah steps out of normalcy and into her uniqueness.

She will not be like any of the judges after her either.  She will be the only female judge.  She will also be one of the few that does not lead the children of Israel into battle.  Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon have no record of battle.  It is possible they did but it is not recorded.  Deborah specifically refrained taking active part in the battle when it was time.  So how could she be considered a judge over Israel?  Let’s look at her rise to prominence.

In her song (did I mention she has musical talent?) she sings about a time when the main roads of travel became empty and travelers took obscure roads instead, see Judges 5:6-10.  The oppression was beginning as Israel had chosen new gods.  War came as a result and Israel had no weapons.  It was during this time that Deborah “Quwm”.  This Hebrew word can be translated “stand up” or “arise”.  It has a very forceful intent.  It has the idea of establishing, confirming, and proving oneself.  There is a striking parallel between Deborah (a Mom) and these rulers over Israel riding on white donkeys, which was a symbol of prominence.  What were these people of prominence doing during the oppression?  Nothing, that is until Deborah gave the order.  What was Deborah doing?  Let’s look at Judges 4:4-6.

Deborah was faithfully giving the word of the LORD to anyone in Israel who would listen.  She had a regular place to preach (prophesy) underneath a specific tree.  Lapidoth is only known to us as her husband.  If it weren’t for Deborah, we would not know anything about him.  Deborah arises as a mother in Israel and as a wife.  Anyone who wants to hear from God, during this pagan chapter in Israel’s history, could come up and hear the words of Deborah as she taught under the palm tree named after herself.  She may have even sung to them after the pattern of Miriam.

Deborah saw beyond the current reign of Hazor into freedom for the children of Israel.  Her own children could one day be free.  She saw this.  She tried to convey this to the leaders in Israel, men physically stronger than her, but with faith weaker than hers.  They saw the chariots of iron led by Sisera, a man who struck fear into the hearts of many.  Deborah saw the faithfulness of her God.

What can we say about Barak?  He went.  He was obedient.  Yet he faltered.  He must have believed Deborah’s word because he obeyed, but something held him back from going by himself.  When Deborah tells Barak to lead the children of Israel into battle, he says he will not do it unless Deboarah accompanies him.  Deborah praises the leaders who responded to her call in her song.  In Judges 5:14-18, Deborah praises those tribes of Israel who risked their lives, especially Zebulun and Naphtali.  She seems to chide Dan, Asher, and those tribes of Gilead for not coming to take part in the victory.  Remember her song was after the fact, long after the victory had been won.  There is also a special curse for Meroz, some city or clan that boycotted the entire event, Judges 5:23.  Why didn’t you come to take part in the victory?  Were you afraid?

Notice her honorable mention of her fellow woman, Jael.  In Judges 5:24-31 she closes with a gruesome recap of how a woman outfoxed the most fearsome warrior in all those lands.  Sisera bowed down before this woman and lay dead at her feet; what a trenchant way to word what happened!  She was obviously gifted in poetry and speaking wisdom.  And then, oh then, she mockingly plays the part of Sisera’s mommy saying “Oh when is my baby coming home?”  And the women are answering, “Oh he is dividing the spoil right now, he is bringing you home a beautiful scarf.”  And then cutting to her outtake, “So let all Your enemies perish, O LORD.”  Youcha!  Her words have some bite!

Let’s step back to my original thought.  What if men were trying to market the book of Judges to women?  I could easily see them taking Deborah and completely reworking her character to make her into a female version of the other judges.  Let’s make her tough, give her a weapon, and have her march into battle.  They would eliminate all the years of her raising her children, speaking patiently to Israel, rebuking them for their idolatry, and marching alongside Barak with the entire tribe of Issachar as her personal bodyguards.  They would strip away her beautiful singing voice, her gift for writing songs, and her caustic wit.  In essence, they would take away the real reasons for her heroism.

Men, like it or not, there is a female judge who had all the authority of the other judges.  Ladies, like it or not, this female judge let the men do all the fighting.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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