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 | Leave a 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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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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#11 ~ Praising

Harnessing the Power of the Tongue

For the Glory of God

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

Lesson #11 ~ Praising

So why not post this lesson in the series on Psalm Sunday.  The children praising God in the temple gets a mention in my lesson.  So here goes.  This is what we are supposed to be doing with our tongues constantly, if we can stop complaining, gossiping, and cutting other people down.

I.  The Importance of Praise

            A.  At the temple.  In I Chronicles 23:25-32, David reorganized the Levites even before the temple was built so that every single day there would be praise to the LORD at the temple (at that point it was the tabernacle.  I Chronicles 25:1-7 explains this more.  In the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian exile, Ezra makes careful note that the reestablishment of the Levites to sing was according to the ordinance of King David, Ezra 3:10-11.

            B.  Praise is a sacrifice ~ Hebrews 13:15, along with our entire body, Romans 12:1-2.  One of the marks of a righteous man (or woman) is that they sing and rejoice, Proverbs 29:26.

            C.  God desires it ~ Psalm 69:29-33 ~ Praise pleases God more than animal sacrifices.

            D.  The goal is worldwide praise of God.  Psalm 117 ~ Israel was supposed to praise God, then Gentile nations were supposed to join in.  Paul pointed this out in Romans 15:8-12.

II.  Principles for Praising

            A.  Children do it best ~ Matthew 21:12-16

            B.  Sing New Songs ~ Psalm 40:3.  Praises that we have not yet sung are meant for others to hear so they can fear and trust in the LORD.  Come up with new ways to praise God.

            C.  Continuously ~ Psalm 35:27-28 ~ How often should your tongue be doing this?

            D.  From Psalm 34:1-3

                        1.  Praising the LORD and blessing the LORD go hand in hand.

                        2.  His praises should be in our mouth, not just in our heart.

                        3.  We should boast about God, not about ourselves.

                        4.  Praising God is easier for those who are humble because they are not prone to praising themselves.  The reason why many people do not praise God is because their conversation is centered around themselves.

                        5.  Magnify and Exalt ~ Basically, make Him great and lift Him up.

There are so many places you can go to research praise.  For some reason I chose this section of psalms (145-150) as the finishing touch for the lesson.  It seems so all encompassing.  Praise God!

III.  Psalm 145-150 ~ A Psalm of Praise.  This is most likely one long praise psalm to God.  There are no headings on the chapter divisions in between. 

            145 ~ Verses 1-2.  Every day, even forever and ever.

                        Verse 3.  Even though God is beyond our understanding, David still praises Him.

                        Verse 4-6.  Praising can be describing the things that God has done.

                        Verses 7-9.  Praising God can be describing His qualities.

                        Verses 11-13.  Talk about the greatness of His kingdom and the things over which He has power, see Psalm 96:10.

                        Verses 14-16.  Everything is dependent upon God.

                        Verses 17-21.  The LORD has a special relationship with those that call upon Him, fear Him, love Him, bless Him.

            146 ~ Verses 1-2.  Praise the LORD while you exist.

                        Verses 3-4.  Do not trust in people, no matter how prominent they seem.

                        Verses 5-6.  Trust in God who made all things.

                        Verses 7-10.  The LORD has a special love for those who are oppressed, hungry, imprisoned, blind, humbled (bowed down), foreigners, orphans, widows, all the people who are underprivileged and impoverished.

            147 ~ The psalm seems to alternate between acts that seem grand and acts that seem lowly.  Then it demonstrates the relationship between the two.

                        Verses 1-3.  He gathers outcasts and heals those who are broken hearted.

                        Verses 4-5.  He names every single star and His understanding is infinite.

                        Verses 6-7.  He lifts up the meek.

                        Verses 8-9.  He prepares the rain for the entire earth (grand act) so that He can take care of feeding every last animal, no matter how big or small (small act).

                        Verses 10-11.  He is not impressed with physical strength, but with those who fear Him and hope in His loving kindness.

                        Verses 13-14.  He defends and makes peace.

                        Verses 15-18.  He commands snow, frost, ice, cold, heat, wind, water.

                        Verses 19-20.  He revealed His words to the nation of Israel in a way that He did not reveal Himself to other nations.

            148 ~ The universal nature of praise.  The following are commanded to praise the LORD: 2- angels and all the host, 3- sun, moon, and stars, 4- highest heaven and waters in the sky, 7- greatest of animals, 8- all weather, 9- mountains, hills, and trees, 10- all animals, 11- rulers and all people.  When we praise, we join the universe in the neverending song of praise to Him.

            149 ~ This psalm highlights the special relationship that the LORD has with His people Israel and with all saints.  Praise can be describing the special relationship that God has with us and the unique things He has done for us, His people.  These items of praise are not necessarily universal.  They are sung in the congregation of the saints, the church, see footnote.

            150 ~ Where is the LORD to be praised?  And how?  In every place and in every way possible.

What is holding your tongue back?

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

Footnote:  See Hebrews 2:12 which quotes Psalm 22:22.  It translates the Hebrew word qahal (congregation) as the Greek word ekklesia (church).  Psalm 149 speaks of the qahal chaciyd (congregation of the saints).  This should be considered a reference to the church.

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The Final (eschatos) Frontier

Space, the Final Frontier.

You probably know the rest of the above quote by heart.  The idea behind the Star Trek monologue was taken from the idea that the surface of earth had been discovered and now there remained nowhere to go but into outer space.  The space exploration program was just beginning and Star Trek capitalized on the excitement of this new beginning.  Different quotes about endeavors were rephrased to come up with the now famous monologue.

What if I told you that there is something eerily similar in the scriptures?  There is a final frontier spoken of in the book of Acts.  Follow me on a little eschatological journey to undiscovered territory.

My blog has focused on eschatology for some time.  This is the study of the last things, or final things.  The Greek word eschatos is used throughout scripture to denote the last (final) days, the last (final) time, and the final frontier.  Hebrews 1:1-2 basically says, “This God who spoke to us in so many ways in times past has, in these last (eschatos) days, spoken unto us by His Son.”  Some people have this misunderstanding about the last days, thinking they will happen any time now.  The writer of this book stated that the last days began when God started speaking through His Son, Jesus.  The Messiah (the Christ) had stepped out of the pages of scripture into real time and space.  The final days had arrived!  I Peter 1:20 confirms that Christ was revealed in these last (eschatos) times for YOU.

A similar phrase is found in II Timothy 3:1.  Paul warns that “In the last (eschatos) days, difficult times will come”.  He then goes on to describe what you can read in the news every day.  People will be in love with themselves, disobey their parents, gossip, pursue money, have no self-control, and be reckless, careless, unloving, and conceited.  Sometimes when I see how much wrong is being accomplished by mankind, I’m glad that there is an end to all of this.  These are the last days.  II Peter 3:3-5 agrees that the last (eschatos) days will be characterized by people ignorantly questioning whether Christ will ever return.  They insist that the world has simply been continuing day by day with no changes since the beginning.  From the majority of the world’s point of view, God isn’t going to change things.  This can lead to either “It’s up to us to change things” or “We can get away with whatever we want.”  Both are mistaken.  Christ is going to come back and put a period at the end of the sentence for all this evil.

Here in these final days, God has spoken by His Son, and continues to work through those that belong to His Son.  However, these last days are characterized by evil.  Just look at the news.  Here in my town people are killing each other, hating each other, cursing each other out, thinking they are better than others, gossiping about others, well, you get the idea.  And it’s not just my town.  These things are going on in your town.  All the while we say things to avoid a need for God like, “He’s such a nice person.”  We should be kind, but the truth is that we are all sinful and in need of a Savior. 

But what about the very last day?  What about the eschatos day, the final day?  John 6:39-40, 44, 11:24, 12:48 all speak of a day when those who believe in Jesus will be raised up (see also John 5:28-29) to come out of their graves.  Those who have been born again will receive everlasting life from Jesus Himself.  We are living in the last days, but we are awaiting the last of the last.  We await that final (eschatos) day.

In the book of Acts, these disciples who walked and talked with the resurrected Jesus Christ went forward preaching the gospel.  They had a view of this earth that you may not have considered.  They esteemed the places on earth that needed to hear the gospel as The Final Frontier.  With the use of the word eschatos being linked to days and times to form our eschatology, we should also look at two key passages in the book of Acts.  These two verses are pivotal to understanding the last things, and the unique thing about this whole situation is that both verses are pivotal to understanding the preaching of the gospel in our present time.

Acts 1:6-8 KJV.  6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Acts 1:6-8 ESV.  6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Look at the progression of the dialogue.  The disciples ask about when Israel will be restored.  Jesus points them away from eschatos events, to eschatos preaching.  You don’t need to know when the kingdom will be restored to Israel.  But you will receive power to preach to the end of the earth.  That phrase “end of the earth” is literally eschatos ghay, which means final land, or final frontier.  You will preach the gospel and start out here in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, then ultimately to the eschatos, the final limits.  That should excite you if you are a disciple Jesus.  You get to boldly go where no man has gone before. 

The next instance of the word eschatos in the book of Acts is found in Acts 2:17.  Peter is preaching at Pentecost just after the power of the Holy Spirit has come upon them, just like Jesus foretold in Acts 1:8.  Peter quotes Joel, but it doesn’t quite look like the quotation as I have read it.  Instead of “It shall come to pass after this” or “It shall come to pass afterward”, Peter states, “It shall come to pass in the last (eschatos) days.”  Interesting.  Instead of the context of Joel, which is after the repentance of Israel, see Joel 2 in its entirety, the context in Acts 2 is “in the last days”, or in the final (eschatos) days.  This pouring out of the Holy Spirit as foreseen by Joel when the nation of Israel repents is the same Holy Spirit being poured out to give the disciples power to preach to the eschatos earth, or final frontier.  Let’s not discount the repentance of Israel just yet.  Peter will say more in Acts 3:12-26 about the repentance of Israel in relationship to the coming of Christ, the restoration of all things, and the blessings yet to be poured out upon his kinsmen.  But let’s not miss the point.  The Holy Spirit is being poured out in the last days, but to what end?  (Pun intended.)

Acts 13:46-47 KJV.  46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

Acts 13:46-47 ESV.  46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”

The third and final (ahem) use of the word eschatos in Acts is found in Acts 13:47.  The entire context of Acts 13 should be understood.  This is the first missionary journey to evangelize (good message) the world.  After preaching in the synagogue to the Israelites, they meet with resistance; but the message is welcomed by the Gentiles.  Paul and Barnabas quote Isaiah 49:6 which prophesied that “I have set You (understood to be Christ) as a light to the Gentiles to be salvation unto the ends of the earth.”  That phrase “ends of the earth” is literally eschatos ghay, the exact same Greek phrase as found in Acts 1:8.  The commission was given to the disciples by Christ in Acts 1:8, and we see it being fulfilled in Acts 13:47 by Paul and Barnabas.  They are going to the eschatos earth, or final frontier, to preach the gospel.  To them, anywhere anyone needed to hear the good news was the final frontier.

It seems that the apostles and disciples were not as concerned with eschatology in the same way that we seem to be concerned.  They did not sit around and come up with fancy charts and positions, but rather busied themselves with preaching to the eschatos ghay, the final frontier.  For them, the last things were happening all around them as they preached the gospel.  Once we understand this, we can go back to those scriptures and see them in a new light.  In these last days, difficult times will come.  This is all the more reason to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.  Anywhere that the message of Christ crucified needs to be proclaimed is the final frontier.  If you really believe we are in the eschatos kairos (last season, I Peter 1:5), or eschatos chronos (last time, Jude 18) or eschatos hemera (last days, Hebrews 1:2), or the eschatos hora (last hour, I John 2:18), where is your eschatos preaching?  If you really believe it, then your actions should show it, like in the Acts of the Apostles.  For them, they really were preaching to the final frontier.

Earth, the final frontier.  These are the acts of the apostles.  Their continuing mission: To make disciples of all nations.  To seek out opportunities to give the good message to all mankind.  To boldly go where no one has gone before with the preaching of the gospel. 

What are you waiting for?  Find a group of people who need to hear about Jesus.  Then go.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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#10 ~ Preaching

Harnessing the Power of the Tongue

For the Glory of God

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

Lesson #10 ~ Preaching or Prophesying

This lesson was a challenge to make it different and unique to the lesson on teaching.  Part of the process as I developed these lessons was taking all 12 of them at once and apportioning which subjects would be covered in which lessons.  Preaching and teaching are similar, but scripture treats them differently.

In this first section, I tried to properly define prophesying, which most people think a prophecy is a prediction of the future.  A prophecy can include a prediction of the future, but for the most part, a prophecy was a message from God.  Prophecy is pretty much preaching, or simply put, speaking for God.

I.  Prophecy, what is it?  Not necessarily foretelling, but always forth-telling.

            A.  Jeremiah 1:4-7 ~ Speaking for God

            B.  I Samuel 3:19-21 ~ God revealing Himself

            C.  Deuteronomy 18:15-22 ~ Signs may accompany the word to confirm they are from God

            D.  Revelation 19:9-10 ~ The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, see also Luke 24:27 Note:  this point is particularly important because a simple message like “Jesus is the Savior” is in fact a prophecy, a message from God.

II.  Insightful examples from scripture

            A.  Isaiah ~ Matthew 13:10-17, Isaiah 6:8-10.  Isaiah was told ahead of time that people would not believe his message.  Note:  before you give a message that you truly believe is from God, ask yourself, “Is it going to be okay if no one accepts the message?”

            B.  Jeremiah ~ Jeremiah 20:9.  If ever he decided not to speak God’s word, he could not contain himself.

            C.  Ezekiel ~ Ezekiel 3:26-27, 24:27, 33:22.  For a time, Ezekiel could only speak when God gave him a specific message.  He was unable to speak at any other time.

            D.  Eldad and Medad ~ Numbers 11:24-29.  People tend to look down on prophets who are speaking God’s message if they are outside a certain criteria, see also Mark 8:38-40, Luke 9:49-50.  Note:  This is especially true about people within certain denominations.  I’ll pick on Baptists since that is my denomination.  Many Baptists do not believe that any _______ (fill in the blank with a certain denomination) can speak God’s message, or if they do, they have a lot of it wrong.  That is simply not true.  Read the above passages.  God doesn’t need your permission to speak through anyone.

III.  The Beginnings of Prophecy  My point in this first section was to get students of scripture accustomed to looking for prophecy even if the word prophecy isn’t used.

            A.  Adam, the first prophet ~ Genesis 3:20.  Adam proclaimed his wife’s name to be Eve because she would be the mother of all living.  But this was at a time just before they exited the garden of Eden and Eve had no children.

            B.  Abel, his blood still speaks ~ Genesis 4:10, Hebrews 11:4.  The blood of Abel spoke of the greater sacrifice of Christ.  Note:  I would like to write a series titled The Gospel of Abel.

            C.  Enoch, seventh from Adam ~ Genesis 5:22-24, Hebrews 11:5, Jude 14-15.  Enoch was a prophet who walked with God.

            D.  Lamech ~ Genesis 5:29.  While Lamech’s words are not called prophecy, they speak for God, they tell the future of his son, Noah, that the curse of the ground would be addressed in some way.  This was fulfilled in Genesis 8:21.

            E.  Abraham ~ Genesis 20:7.  Abraham is the first person called a prophet in scripture.

IV.  Principles for the Church

            A.  Romans 12:6 ~ Prophecy is one of the spiritual gifts.

            B.  I Corinthians 12:4-11 ~ All spiritual gifts, including prophecy, are from the Holy Spirit.

            C.  I Peter 4:11 ~ Speak as if from the LORD Himself, so that He receives the glory.

            D.  Haggai 1:13 ~ It doesn’t have to be a long message.  Note:  Just so you don’t have to look it up, the entirety of Haggai’s message for that day was ,”I am with you,” says the LORD.  Imagine coming for a full sermon and getting that.  Would that be enough for you?

            E.  Acts 21:8-9, I Corinthians 11:5 ~ Includes women.  See also Exodus 15:20-21, Judges 4:4, II Kings 22:14-20, Isaiah 8:3, Luke 2:36.  Note:  I have tried to treat the subject of women teaching and preaching with great respect.  It should be obvious throughout scriptures that there were women who spoke for God.  This is not to be confused with whether the church should have women elders or pastors.  That is another subject.  I see people advocating for women elders and pastors, but quite often the passages that they turn to are those that prove that there are women prophets, which is a different role.  Below, I show that even though women can experience the gift of prophecy, it is different according to those scripture, see below.

V.  How preaching & prophesying is supposed to work in the church ~ I Corinthians 14

            A.  I Corinthians 14:1-25 ~ It should be in a way that everyone can understand.

            B.  I Corinthians 14:26-31 ~ It should be well regulated, one at a time.

            C.  I Corinthians 14:32-33 ~ The spiritual gift of prophecy will never get out of control.

            D.  I Corinthians 14:34-35 ~ Women have a different role in some way, see also I Timothy 2:9-15.  Note:  This is tricky and I almost hate to use that word because the Bible shouldn’t be tricky.  Women can give God’s messages.  Women have spoken for God on numerous occasions.  But these scriptures are still here outlining the role of women in some way.  

            E.  I Corinthians 14:36-38 ~ No one has a corner on the voice of God.

            F.  I Corinthians 14:39 ~ Earnestly desire to speak for God, to prophesy.  Note:  What do you earnestly desire?  Is it to be God’s voice?

            G.  I Corinthians 14:40 ~ It should be done decently and in order.  Greek word for decently is Euschemonos, a compound word literally meaning good scheme, or good habits.  The schema of a man was their entirety.

VI.  How can we speak for God?  Here I gave an overall picture of my lesson plan.  I started out on the negative side of the way we use our tongues.  Then the middle portion of lessons were about choices.  Then the final four lessons focus solely on using our tongues for the higher gifts.  Only 2 more lessons after this.

            A.  Put aside using our tongue for the things that we know displeases God.

                        1.  Lying

                        2.  Gossiping

                        3.  Complaining

            B.  Choose to use our tongues for God’s glory

                        1.  Blessing, not cursing

                        2.  Speaking wisdom, not speaking foolishness

                        3.  Building up, not tearing down

            C.  Pursue after the higher gifts

                        1.  Teaching

                        2.  Preaching

                        3.  Praising

                        4.  Evangelizing

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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#9 ~ Teaching

Harnessing the Power of the Tongue

For the Glory of God

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

Lesson #9 ~ Teaching

My attempt to include parents teaching their children was to show that teaching happens each day in the lives of people all over the world, not just in the pulpits or in classrooms.  For someone who is a parent or grandparent  to take these principles and apply them to the way they teach those that look up to them could make the lesson relevant.  Otherwise, I have a classroom full of people who are not teachers listening to me teach about how to teach.  Ugh!

I.  Teaching your children

                A.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ~ In your heart first, then teach them to your children.

                B.  Deuteronomy 11:18-21 ~ How often?

                C.  Psalm 78:1-8 ~ Do not hide things from your children.

II.  Styles of teaching

                A.  Jesus taught lecture and proverb style, Matthew 5-7.  The parallels between the teaching of Jesus and the poetry books is plainly seen in passages like Psalm 37 and Proverbs 3:1-10.  The reason Jesus affirmed these principles of the law and prophets is because He did not come to destroy the law and prophets, but to fulfill them, Matthew 5:17-20.  It makes perfect sense that Jesus would teach in a style similar to the law, the psalms, and the prophets.

                B.  Jesus taught parable style, Matthew 13:1-52, Mark 4:1-34.  The reason Jesus taught parable style is because many did not truly believe in Him, so the fundamental nature of His mission would have been misunderstood.  He taught parable style to conceal hidden meanings within common stories.  Those who did not believe would not understand the hidden meaning.  Those who believed would understand and be able to share the story without fear of being misunderstood, Matthew 13:10-17.  Parable style was also used in the OT by several, most notably by Nathan in rebuking David, see II Samuel 12:1-15.

                C.  With singing ~ Colossians 3:16

                D.  Large groups ~ Acts 2:42-47

                E.  Small groups ~ Acts 5:42

III.  Teaching in the Church

                A.  The purpose is spiritual maturity ~ Ephesians 4:11-16.  The teaching in the body of Christ is to equip the body of Christ to be mature enough to do ministry.   Note:  This cannot be stressed enough.  If it is not being done to bring believers to spiritual maturity, why is it being said?

                B.  Teaching is a spiritual gift ~ Romans 12:3-8.  Note also the difference (but also with a parallel) between office/function and the one possessing the gift.  Romans 12:4 states that not all members have the same praxis translated office/function.  Our English word practice comes from the Greek word praxis.  It basically means doing, so meaning the one who does the ministry, exhortation, teaching, etc.  However, in Romans 12:6 it states “having different gifts”, which is the Greek word charisma.  It has the idea of unique grace bestowed upon us for a reason.  So the teacher can be the one who (functionally) does it or the one gifted to do it.

Note:  I hope everyone understands the above distinction.  I explained more verbally, but basically it’s not too difficult.  Are you someone who functionally teaches?  If so, you have the office of teaching.  But, and this is a different question, do you have the spiritual gift of teaching?  There are people who teach, as in, they do it, and it works out fine.  There is a spiritual gift but not every passage in the scriptures that talks about teachers is talking about the spiritual gift, but the office.  Clear?  Good.

                C.  Not everyone will hold this office ~ I Corinthians 12:27-30

                D.  The teacher is held to a higher standard ~ James 3:1

Note:  The following section I included because the pastor (or elder) is called to be a teacher, whether or not they have the spiritual gift of teaching.  They hold that office.  This passage functionally shows what the pastor/teacher should be doing.  This was in the midst of a search for a senior pastor.  I was the chairman of the search committee.  I brought these things to the committee about the type of person that God wants to lead His people.  In analyzing candidates, we compared the person to scripture passages like this.  Do they match up?  It was quite insightful for me as a lay elder, also, so be reading how I should be functioning in the church.

IV.  The New Testament (aka New Covenant) Pastor/Teacher ~

I Timothy 4:6-16 & Titus 2:1-15.

            A.  Verse 6 ~ Constantly remind the church family (brethren = adelphos).

            B.  Verse 7 ~ Stay away from fables.

            C.  Verse 8 ~ Get some exercise in godliness.

            D.  Verse 10 ~ Work hard.

            E.  Verse 11 ~ The teacher commands and teaches, denoting authority.

            F.  Verse 12 ~ Leading by example.

            G.  Verse 13 ~ Give attention to reading, encouragement, and instruction.  

            H.  Verse 14 ~ Utilize your spiritual gifts.

            (Note also in verse 14 the wording of the council of elders.)

            I.  Verse 15 ~ Meditation, giving yourself entirely to these things.

            J.  Verse 16 ~ Pay attention to yourself and the teaching/instruction.

            K.  Titus 2:1-6 ~ Speak sound (healthy) teaching.

            L.  Verse 4 ~ Titus was to teach women to teach women.

            M.  Verse 7 ~ Leading by good example.

            N.  Verse 8 ~ Having excellent speech that cannot be condemned

            (cannot find fault with).

            O.  Verse 9 ~ Teach them not to talk back.

            P.  Verse 10 ~ Not motivated by money but displaying good faith.

            Q.  Verse 15 ~ Speaking, exhorting, and rebuking with all authority.

So there you have it, teachers.  A lesson for you to teach.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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The Messiah in II Samuel 23:1-7

The Messiah according to the last words of David

It started out as a quest to see what the proper translation of II Samuel 23:1-7 should be.  I thought there could be some reference to the true Messiah (Jesus Christ) contained in the passage but I was confused as to how so many translations could have such a wide range of differences.  I found a very helpful video by Dr. Michael Rydelnik.  My questions going into my quest were:  Is David talking about himself and then we can see a picture of Christ from there?  Is David talking about the Messiah and including himself incidentally?  Is David talking about himself and the true Messiah together and we have to separate the two where appropriate?

Because of Dr. Rydelnik, I got an inside look at why a huge swath of Bible interpreters are reading things into the passage that are not there.  I don’t know these languages, but what he brings out makes me want to question the reasons why interpreters do things the way they do.  This passage is quite significant to me because it links the Davidic Covenant with the Everlasting Covenant, something I have written about at length because of Jeremiah’s Covenant Revelation in Jeremiah 30-33.  But let me start you where I started: looking at the wide variety of differences in the translations.

First, in II Samuel 23:1, how is David referring to himself?  Is David saying he was raised up on high, or was he raised up by the Most High?  This is significant.  How could translators get this wrong (or right) at the very beginning?  Rydelnik starts even before this, though.  There is a little word that the ESV gets correct, the Hebrew word N@’um, which should be translated oracle, but for some reason in most other translations it is not.  This sets the tone for what the entire passage is about, because David is declaring what his oracle is all about.  So if we get what David tells us he is writing about wrong, then it follows we will simply be wrong.  So what is the oracle about?  Better yet, what does David tell us his oracle is about?

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Rydelnik concedes that the Masoretic text points to David as being the subject of the song.  However, there is a variant reading in the Septuagint, Vulgate, and other versions that the text is all about the Messiah.  The word for “on high” should actually be “concerning” according to these other readings.  Rydelnik points to the addition of vowels much later to the Masoretic text in such a way as to either translate that word to “on high” or “concerning”.  In order to translate, the person translating must look at the overall context to determine what the correct translation should be.  If someone comes to the text with the understanding that David was only writing about himself and nothing more, then that would steer them in one direction.  If the person translating believes David was writing an oracle about something else, like say oh maybe…. THE MESSIAH!, then that would steer us in another direction.  The vowels were added in 1525 AD, but Septuagint was translated before 200 BC, so which translation contains the more accurate intent of the original?

Before rendering this, let’s look at the second issue I was wrestling with.  What is this third title for David in verse 1?  Is he the sweet psalmist of Israel, the Hero of Israel’s songs, favorite singer of Israel, the Sweetness of the Songs of Israel, or the favorite of the Strong One of Israel?  Or, if we follow Rydelnik’s translation directly from the Hebrew, the delightful one of the songs of Israel?  The translations were nothing but united on this issue.  But again, one’s overall view of the passage will steer you in a number of directions.  If David is only writing about himself, (which doesn’t that seem conceited?), exactly how is he portraying himself?

Let’s back up a minute.  If this is the last public statement of David, if these are the final words to summarize what David has been writing about all this time, shouldn’t that be taken into account when translating?  Shouldn’t that be a part of the context?  So what if David says, “All those years, I was writing about me!”?  Does that fit the context of the entire book of psalms?  Now let’s look at Rydelnik’s  translation of this passage directly from the Hebrew with the Septuagint reading:

These are the last words of David
The oracle of David the son of Jesse
And the oracle of the man raised up concerning:
The Messiah of the God of Jacob
And the Delightful One of the songs of Israel

Note that I’m not sure where Rydelnik places the word “concerning” with regards to the poetry; whether at the end of the line or at the beginning of the next line so it would read “Concerning the Messiah”.  If David were writing about himself, then the translator is going to try to make the words fit around David as a person, hence “the sweet psalmist of Israel” or “the hero of Israel’s songs”.  If the Messiah is the subject matter, then “the Delightful One of the songs of Israel” is Who David has been writing about for his entire life.  Do you see how crucial this is?  And we haven’t even arrived at the most difficult issue yet.

David is saying, “It’s not about me.”  All my life I have been writing and prophesying about the Messiah.  He is the One about Whom I have been writing.  All those psalms have been revealing the Messiah.  This leads into a fairly undisputed portion, which David states that he has divine inspiration to write about this Messiah.  God revealed this to me.  His word was on my tongue.  My tongue is the pen of a ready writer (borrowed from Psalm 45).  The Holy Spirit has been speaking all of these songs through me, of which this is the final statement or summary.

This leads to my next major quandary in examining the text.  Was David writing about his own rule and reign in verses 3-4?  If so, then perhaps we can see a picture of the Messiah and His reign through David.  Or is David writing about a general principle that if someone wants to rule and reign, that these are the characteristics that they should have?  Or, perhaps, is David writing about the One, True Messiah?  The qualities exemplified here seem akin to Psalm 72, which is clearly Messianic.  The description seems a little too altruistic to be just a common set of principles to guide just any person who wants to be a world leader.  And did David really rule in this way?  But this was more of a minor issue as I don’t think leaning in one direction or the other here would rule out the Messiah.  The weightier issue is verse 5.  If we can determine the best translation of the beginning and the end, then this middle portion will fall in line.  So let’s move on to verse 5.

Here is where I was having the most difficult time with the translations.  Some of them are direct opposites.  KJV, NKJV, ASV, and YLT all state that David is saying here that his house is not so with God, as in, “hey all those awesome, superlative characteristics that I just wrote about, none of them are about me.”  NIV (which is unreliable to me in many instances) says almost the exact opposite.  In essence NIV renders it that if the opposite of those characteristics were true, then God wouldn’t have made the Davidic Covenant with him.  So NIV gives us the impression that David got that covenant because of how great he is.  The majority of the newer translations frame this as a question.  They translate the negative aspect of the statement as a question as to allow the answer to the question to be the opposite.  So basically, as in HCSB, “Is it not true my house is with God?”  By rendering this as a question, it says the exact opposite of KJV, NKJV, ASV, and YLT.  So who is right?  Again, Rydelnik comes to the rescue.

Dr. Michael Rydelnik shows that there is nothing in the Hebrew to suggest a question.  KJV has it right.  For not so is my house with God.  The dissenting translators have tried to make sense of the entire passage from a point of view that it is all about David.  When the passage is all about David, that he is the righteous king, then of course we have to change the meaning of the text to say that David is really a righteous ruler.  But that’s not what David said.  He said his house was not this way.  Take into consideration the positioning of II Samuel 23 to be after the revolt of Absalom.

When we finally get to the Davidic Covenant, which is equated with the Everlasting Covenant, if we have not understood the previous verses correctly, then we will not understand this correctly.  David says, my house is not this way with God, but because of the Everlasting Covenant, aka, the promise of the Messiah, on this basis we look forward to a Righteous King, and you can look at these other Messianic passages to see how they measure with this passage, see Psalm 72, Jeremiah 23:3-8, Isaiah 9:6-7, and especially Psalm 89:34-47, which I believe is post-exilic.

The final portion of verse 5 is fairly simple to understand in light of the previous verses which testify of the Messiah and the hope that He brings.  God’s promises concerning the Messiah ARE David’s salvation and desire/pleasure/delight.  There is one more nuance in the passage that Rydelnik brings out that might escape your eye.  This “growing” or (however the translators decided i.e. prosper, increase, bring to fruition, spring up, bring about), is really the Hebrew word for the Branch in Jeremiah 33:15.  What David is saying is that God will cause to Branch forth all his salvation and desire, as in, the righteous Branch of David branch forth.  Again, as above, there is no question here at the end of verse 5.  Those translations have it wrong.  It’s a declarative statement that God has not yet made it happen, but God will.  If we read it in context, God will one day cause salvation to Branch forth through the Messiah.

Perhaps I didn’t start out with the best questions.  But I sure ended with a better understanding of the text.  Now it’s time to really dig in and study this passage.  This perfectly explains why Peter believed that David was a prophet writing about the Messiah in Acts 2:29-31; namely because this passage states that David was a prophet writing about the Messiah in all the psalms.  Here is what I believe to be a good translation.

II Samuel 23:1-7
These are the last words of David,
The oracle of David the son of Jesse,
And the oracle of the man raised up,
Concerning the Messiah of the God of Jacob
And the Delightful One of the songs of Israel.

The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me.
His word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke.
The Rock of Israel said to me:
“The One Who rules the people with justice
Who rules in the fear of God
is like the morning light
when the sun rises on a cloudless morning,
the glisten of rain on sprouting grass.”
My house is not so with God;
Yet He has established an everlasting covenant with me,
Ordered and secured in every detail.
This is all my salvation and desire.
He has not yet caused it to Branch forth.
But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away,
For they cannot be taken with the hand;
But the man who touches them
Arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear,
And they are utterly consumed with fire.

Happy studying.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S.  A special thank you to my friend, Trond, for sharing the video.  You can watch it at this link here.

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#8 ~ Correction

Harnessing the Power of the Tongue

For the Glory of God

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

Overarching principle:

The goal of all speech in the body of Christ is spiritual maturity. Ephesians 4:15

Lesson #8 ~ Correction

The goal of my lesson was to caution people against correction.  We all do it.  We are all silently correcting the person that didn’t do things just right.  There are so many scriptures that speak to this issue, but there is a right way and a wrong way to offer correction.  If you see your brother in sin, and you offer correction the wrong way, guess who is in sin?  You are.  We have so much to say about how others need correction.  But are we willing to receive that correction as quickly as we dish it out?  It’s a fair question.  Try to go without correcting anyone either verbally or silently for 1 week.  See how far you get.

This first section I did a fill in the blank.  It shouldn’t be too difficult.  The passages give the words that need to be filled in.  Note:  Reconciliation and restoration are the goals for correction within the body of Christ.

I.  Correction ~ When should it happen?

            A.  Matthew 5:21-26.  When your brother has something against you.

            ______________________ is always the goal.

            B.  Matthew 18:15-20, Luke 17:3-4.  When your brother sins against you.

            ______________________ is always the goal.

                        1.  First step, one on one.

                        2.  Second step, 2 or 3 witnesses.

                        3.  Before the church with repentance and gaining your brother still the goal.

                        4.  Let them go.

            C.  Galatians 6:1-5.  When someone has fallen into sin.

             ______________________ is always the goal.

                        1.  Only the ________________ are qualified to give correction.

                        2.  In a spirit ___________________.

                        3.  Carefully _____________ yourself, otherwise you will be ____________.

                        4.  Doing it to ______ their ________.

                        5.  According to the law of __________ (_____ your neighbor).

                        6.  Not thinking you are _____________ when you are really _____________.

            D.  Proverbs 19:18, 29:17.  When raising children.

            _________ and ___________ are the goal.

II.  Wise People Love Instruction and Correction

            A.  Proverbs 9:7-10.  A mark of a wise man is love for those who correct him.

            B.  Proverbs 12:1.  Avoiding stupidity means submitting to correction.

            C.  Proverbs 19:20.  Becoming wise is a process that includes instruction.

                        1.  Listen to advice.

                        2.  Accept the instruction, the word has the idea of choosing.

                        3.  Gain wisdom.

            D.  Proverbs 19:25.  There are two different results that can occur when offering correction.

                        1.  Correcting a mocker (a fool) can be an example to others so they learn.

                        2.  Correcting a wise man will help him gain knowledge.

            E.  Proverbs 19:27.  Submitting to instruction is a lifelong process.

III.  The Rebuke

            A.  Proverbs 27:5-6.  The Rebuke is public and seen as an act of friendship.

            B.  Proverbs 28:23.  The Rebuke is contrasted with flattery.

            C.  I Timothy 5:20.  The Rebuke is for those who continue to sin, or those persisting in sin.

Note:  This is important because the rebuke is not for someone who messes up and repents.  This is reserved for people who persist in sin, have made it a habit, and refuse to repent.  Put your rebuke away until you learn the full matter, have considered your own spiritual walk, and know that this is an ongoing issue with your brother or sister.

            D.  II Timothy 4:2.  Preaching the word (in a pastoral sense) includes:

                        Greek word     KJV/ESV/NAS          underlying meanings

                        1.  Elegcho         reprove                   convict or find fault with

                        2.  Epitimao       rebuke          to award a penalty or tax with fault (to show honor)

                        3.  Parakaleo      exhort                  to call someone to your side

            E.  Titus 2:15.  The pastor/elder (Titus 1:5) has the authority to do this.

            F.  I Timothy 5:1, 19.  A rebuke against an elder has additional requirements.

IV.  Good Examples in Scripture

            A.  Abigail’s correction to David ~ I Samuel 25

Note:  I love this story because Abigail comes to confess to David that this is all her fault.  She essentially says, let the blame be on me.  Now please forgive me for my sin.  Huh?  I thought her husband was the jerk, not her.  No, she is willing to take the blame in order to avoid innocent deaths.  At this point it matters less whose fault it is and more that David see that he is acting foolishly.  It takes a wise person to assume the blame for someone else’s fault or sin.

            B.  The Corinthian now Forgiven

                        1.  Part 1 ~ The discipline – I Corinthians 5

                        2.  Part 2 ~ The repentance – II Corinthians 2:5-11

            C.  Paul stands against Peter ~ Galatians 2:1-14

V.  Bad Examples in Scripture

            A.  Saul ~ I Samuel 15

            B.  Asa ~ II Chronicles 16:1-12

            C.  The Sinful Nation of Israel ~ Jeremiah 44

Each of these examples, both the good and the bad, could take as long as you want.  This end section could be a series of lessons on each one.  I summarized them in order to encourage the people in my class to study on their own.  But depending on your style and whether or not this series of lessons is speaking to your audience, you could take these individual examples and really get into the meat of the passage.  The Corinthian rebuked and forgiven was a lesson that I taught when I taught through first and second Corinthians so most of the people in my class were already familiar with that. 

As always,

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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#7 ~ Speaking Wisdom

Harnessing the Power of the Tongue

For the Glory of God

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

Just a note before getting started on this post.  Each of these lessons in the series is prefaced by the above three verses.  These are key verses that I challenged the class to memorize.  This was in lieu of the Bible drill where we would look up 2-4 verses from the scriptures.  I asked them each week if they had memorized these verses.  They will help keep your tongue from sin.

Imagine how different your life would be if each morning you got up and recited Psalm 19:14.  Then, any time someone asked you a question, before answering, you said in your heart the contents of Proverbs 18:21.  Finally, if anything hasty wants to come out of your mouth, before saying what you originally wanted to say, you say or think Psalm 141:3.

Lesson #7 ~ Speaking Wisdom

Note:  For contrast I include the exact opposite of what we are called to do.  We are called to speak wisdom, so I included a section about speaking foolishness.  The Bible has quite a bit to say about this.

I.  Speaking Wisdom

            A.  I Corinthians 12:8 ~ Speaking Wisdom is one of the spiritual gifts.  “Word” is the Greek word logos which means spoken word.

            B.  Proverbs 8-9:12 ~ Wisdom is an ancient entity.  (Note: depending on how much time you have for your lesson, this section can be customized.  I summarized the passage, but if you break this lesson up, this section contains quite a bit.)

            C.  Job 28:12-28 ~ Wisdom cannot be found in a physical location, but only through the fear of the LORD.

            D.  James 3:13-18 ~ True Wisdom will always be accompanied by good works: purity/holiness, peacefulness, gentleness, compliant, merciful, without partiality, without hypocrisy.  Note:  The “smart” person who also complains, it not really wise.

II.  Speaking Foolishness

            A.  Psalm 14:1, 53:1 ~ The most foolish statement of all is that there is no God.  Note:  I have nothing against great scientists.  But if they do not acknowledge that there is a God, they are nothing more than fools.

            B.  Ephesians 5:3-4 ~ A list of foolish talk includes: sexually immoral talk, dirty talk, covetous talk, obscene talk, joking as in bad humor (the Greek word has the idea of good comeback).  Note: this last section on joking prompted some discussion.  It seemed that some in my class wanted to defend the idea of joking around as being a good thing.  We had already covered edification, which means everything we say must be for the purpose of building up others.  So if I am joking around with someone, and it’s not for edification, then what is the purpose really?  No fun?  What does the word of God say?  BTW, I was also setting them up for the next week, the lesson on Correction.  If they don’t want to be corrected, then they are not wise.  Ouch.

            C.  Proverbs 18:6-7 ~ Leads to arguments and fights, see also James 3:13-18.

            D.  Job 2:9-10 ~ Blaming God for evil in the world.

            E.  Proverbs 29:20, 21:29 ~ A hasty response.  Note:  Raise your hand if you have done this.

            F.  I Kings 12:1-24 ~ The example of Rehoboam stands out as a premier example of speaking foolishly.  He ignored the advice of wise men, he thought of himself and his friends, he did not want to serve others, tried to force his way upon others.  Note:  Again, depending on how much time you have for your lesson, this example could take 5 minutes, or 20 minutes.  You decide.

III.  Examples of Speaking Wisdom in the Scriptures

            A.  I Kings 3:3-9 ~ The example of Solomon

                        1.  Admitted that he was inadequate, that he did not possess wisdom.  Note:  Solomon had already displayed wisdom in dealing with several individual situations, i.e. Joab, Adonijah, Shimei.  Here he displayed humility.

                        2.  Saw the great need in the kingdom of Israel.

                        3.  Wanted to serve God and serve others with wisdom.  Note:  Seems like the exact opposite of his son, Rehoboam.

            B.  Exodus 18 ~ The advice of Jethro to Moses.

            C.  II Samuel 20:14-22 ~ Speaking a word of wisdom can save an entire city.

            D.  Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 ~ Sometimes the true wise man is not remembered.

            E.  Acts 6:10 ~ Stephen possessed extraordinary wisdom, yet it led to his death.

Note:  C, D, and E gave an opportunity to show the reality of those who are truly wise.  You can be wise, you can save a city, and a generation later, no one remembers you.  We don’t even know the name of the woman in II Samuel 20.  You could save someone’s life and they could say they are eternally grateful.  Yet your wisdom could soon be forgotten.  Don’t expect fame for speaking wisdom.  BTW, if you want real wisdom, find some small church where the preacher gets paid hardly anything but is true to the word of God and loves the people.

Wisdom by Jill Phillips

Humble yourself before the Almighty
That’s where you find true wisdom
Make it your first step, make it your last thought
Lying in bed when the day’s done

Hear it calling out your name
In the busy streets in the center of town
Who will turn their face to truth and then live it out

Wisdom is greater than any fleeting
Pleasure that money brings you
Answers will come to those who pursue
The pathway to life that few choose

Hear it calling out your name
In the busy streets in the center of town
Who will turn their face to truth and then live it out

Knowledge awaits you filling your arms
With more than they ever could grasp
Blessed are you who hunger for truth
And keep your eyes fixed on what lasts

Hear it calling out your name
In the busy streets in the center of town
Who will turn their face to truth and then live it out

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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