A Pointed Preamble and a Dependent Decision

October 26, 2021 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Joshua | Leave a comment
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And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.

Joshua 24:1

This was the third and final of the assemblies that close out the Book of Joshua. The importance of holding this assembly at Shechem is that this is where God confirmed the great Abrahamic Covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12. Many centuries had passed between that promise to Abraham and its fulfillment in his heirs.

Joshua 24:2-13 would constitute the section of a formal covenant (especially a suzerainty covenant) known as the preamble, which was usually a recitation of the relevant history between the parties to the covenant, and that is what we have here, but it is more than that. It is a pointed preamble, highlighting the miraculous nature of God’s acts in choosing them – by His sovereign grace – and delivering them time and time again. God chose Abraham out of a land of paganism. God waited until Abraham was very old before miraculously giving him the promised son. God blessed Jacob over Esau. God parted the Red Sea. God used the pagan prophet Balaam in the wilderness. God continued to work toward the fulfillment of this promise all the way to the vicotry over the Amorites and the conquest of Canaan.

God’s people were not really a strong noble people who persevered. They were not aggrieved but hearty underdogs who pulled themselves up by their on bootstraps. They were vacillating, failing, murmuring, weak-willed people who had to be miraculously rescued and preserved by God time and time again in ways that left no doubt that He was the mightiest (and only real) God of all the false gods in the world.

Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 23:14-15

Joshua called for a decision, and he called for each and every person to make an INDIVIDUAL decision. Of course, it was the only rational decision, but still… it was a decision. Joshua had made his decision, but he said, “You make yours.” And it was not just a decision between God or no God. It was a decision between the real God and the traditional false gods (the ones that Abraham’s people worshiped back before God called him), AND between the real God and the new, cool, liberal gods which were worshiped by the Amorites and the people they had just conquered. Joshua didn’t believe this should be a hard choice, but he new that people are going to worship something.

Their initial answer sounded perfect.

And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods; For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:

Joshua 24:16-17

However, instead of banging the gavel and announcing “meeting adjourned” with a big smile, Joshua popped their balloon. In Verse 14 he told them to serve the Lord, and they said, “Okay, fine,” but then in Verse 19:

And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.

Joshua 24:19

Grace had brought them there, but they were still, and always would be, completely dependent upon God. That is also true for you and me.

Should We be Happy When a Terrorist Dies?

October 18, 2021 at 12:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: How do you feel about the death of Iranian General Soleimani? It seems like every American ought to be happy he’s dead.

Answer: I don’t follow all the news coverage closely enough to give any kind of authoritative opinion on how anyone “ought” to feel. I never really know how much of what is reported in the news to believe or disbelieve. Based on what I’ve read and heard, he was a really evil man and a terrorist, responsible for the deaths of Americans and others, and was actively plotting more deaths and acts of terror when he was killed. If all that’s true, then I can understand the sentiment of being relieved that he’s been stopped from committing more evil, and, in a way, punished for what he had already done.

However, I don’t really feel happiness when someone dies without trusting Christ (Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11). God can cause the most wicked, evil person in the world to repent, trust Christ, and be forgiven, and, even though it might be scandalous to say it, that should, I think, make us happier than hearing that such a person has been killed.

As an American, I appreciate victories over our enemies, but I am also forced to remember that, however many Americans Soleimani killed, or was responsible for killing, Planned Parenthood and the abortion doctors have killed more Americans than him just this week, and they are not being targeted with any drone strikes. Let’s not assume that America, as much as we love it, is always God’s personal instrument of righteous justice or vengeance. We have a lot of blood on our hands.

I want to be sufficiently patriotic, but I want to think and feel first and foremost how God would want me to think and feel about these sorts of things.

Someone serving in the military, or someone whose loved one serves, or someone who has lost a loved one to a terrorist attack might have a different view on this, I realize. I’m not trying to offend anyone.

On the Horns of a Dilemma

October 15, 2021 at 11:27 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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God’s law provided a place of r­efuge when a person committed manslaughter, so that he could not be harmed until the facts were heard.

He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death. And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee. But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.

Exodus 21:12-14

And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits. And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass.

Exodus 27:1-2

These were the instructions that God gave to Moses for building the altar of sacrifice. The altar was built with what we call acacia wood, and it had, at each of its four corners, a horn, like a bull’s horn, curving upward.

Many centuries later, when King David was on his death bed, this feature became relevant in an important Biblical narrative. The altar of burnt offerings had horns which could be seized in an attempt to claim sanctuary. This altar was kept in a tent or a tabernacle in anticipation of its being moved into its future home in the Temple, which David’s son, Solomon, would build. David learned that his eldest son Adonijah was going to seize the throne for himself and try to circumvent God’s promise that Solomon would replace David as King, so David went ahead and had Solomon anointed as King (co-regent) while David was still alive. Adonijah, along with those who had conspired with him to seize the throne, was celebrating when word reached them that David had beaten them to the punch and named Solomon as king. A messenger showed up at Adonijah’s coronation celebration and said this:

And also Solomon sitteth on the throne of the kingdom. And moreover the king’s servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, God make the name of Solomon better than thy name, and make his throne greater than thy throne. And the king bowed himself upon the bed. And also thus said the king, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which hath given one to sit on my throne this day, mine eyes even seeing it. And all the guests that were with Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way. And Adonijah feared because of Solomon, and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.

I Kings 1:46-50

Adonijah feared that his treason against his father the King, and against his own brother, the newly-crowned co-king, would mean his death, so he fled to a place that he thought would secure his safety. Sometimes in movies, a fugitive will run into a church, thought to be a safe-haven or a place of sanctuary.

There were cities of refuge for this purpose under the Mosaic covenant.

And it was told Solomon, saying, Behold, Adonijah feareth king Solomon: for, lo, he hath caught hold on the horns of the altar, saying, Let king Solomon swear unto me today that he will not slay his servant with the sword.

I Kings 1:51

This tactic did work. Solomon allowed Adonijah to live, and to go home, but when David ultimately died, Adonijah tried again. His co-conspirators included Abiathar, the high priest, and Joab, men who at times had been loyal to David, but had turned against him at the end. Joab, who was the general of David’s armies, had committed two murders many years ago, for which he had never been punished. When he learned that Adonijah had been killed for this second attempt to take the throne from Solomon, he knew that his number was up, and, perhaps remembering Adonijah’s tactic, tried the same thing:

Then tidings came to Joab: for Joab had turned after Adonijah, though he turned not after Absalom. And Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the Lord, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the Lord; and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him. And Benaiah came to the tabernacle of the Lord, and said unto him, Thus saith the king, Come forth. And he said, Nay; but I will die here. And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.

I Kings 2:28-30

To be caught on the “horns of a dilemma” is two face two alternatives, either of which has an unpleasant or undesired consequence:

Child: Can I have ice cream?
Parent: Only if you eat a vegetable.
Child: What vegetable are we having?
Parent: You can choose between broccoli and bruussels sprouts.

Or, in a more serious example, parents sometimes find themselves on the horns of a dilemma which looks something like this: We can spend more hours working to afford better things for our children, or we can actually spend time with them at the expense of providing some enjoyable things. Life would be simple if all choices were clear-cut.

We can see a couple of lessons about the predicament in which Joab found himself after fleeing to the altar and seizing the horns for protection.

1. When we have sinned, safety from the consequences of our sins is not found in a place.

I am thankful for the building we call the church. I am even more thankful for the “actual” Church: God’s people who meet together to encourage each other, to build each other up, to minister as a team, to comfort and pray for each other and with each other. Church is a Biblical activity. We are commanded to be a part of it and to participate in it.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

However, church itself is not our place of refuge when we have sinned against God. Joab was a military man. He was a man of war, a man of bloodshed, and a man of military opportunism. We could praise him for his loyalty to God’s anointed king, David – while it lasted. However, if your loyalty is to another person, more so than to God Himself, you are risking disappointment and discouragement, and are missing out on the joy, blessings, benefits, and security that come from having a true loyalty to God Himself first and foremost. There is no indication in the history of Joab’s public service, as we find it in Scripture, that he was a man who visited the altar regularly. There is no evidence of his piety or a meaningful and personal relationship with the Lord. At the end of your life, or at a time of crisis, a visit to a location associated with the worship of God is no guarantee of safety.

Church is a place and a body where we invest our lives, not a place to visit once in a while for appearance’s sake or as a last ditch desperate attempt to appease a God we only “knew” through second- or third-hand reports. Make sure you are no stranger to the altar where sins are confessed and forgiveness is granted. It can be a sweet place of intimacy and fellowship with the Lord for those who seek to know HIM, not only his human representatives or the accessories of his worship.

2. The ordinances of God are not a substitute for true grace and true faith.

The horns on the altar of sacrifice to which Joab clung were never intended as a superstitious talisman. They did not hold any magic power, any more than the pole designated as “base” does in a game of playground tag. The Lord’s Supper is no substitute for God’s grace. Baptism is not a substitute for faith in Christ. Church membership is no substitute for true salvation. Having a grandpa who was a faithful Chrsitian preacher or ten generations of great-grandpas who were all church deacons is no substitute for being born again as a child of God. We praise the Lord for His ordinances. They help us to remember Him, and they encourage us to examine our lives, but they do not infuse grace supernaturally, and a non-Christian who partakes of the Lord’s Supper, gets baptized, or joins a church commits a greater sin than one who admits these things are forbidden to him unless he surrenders to Christ. Joab, in a desperate attempt to keep from reaping the consequences of his sins, suddenly became very serious about getting to the altar. Did it work?

So Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up, and fell upon him, and slew him: and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness.

I Kings 2:34

There is a picture here of the Gospel, and there is a foreshadowing of the Person and work of Christ which was to come, as there is in so many of the Old Testament stories.

The person who lives in egregious sin throughout his life, as well as the person who is a religious hypocrite, is in line for God’s wrath, just as Joab was in line for Solomon’s wrath. God’s justice will be done on those who have broken His law. However, there is a place of refuge even greater and more secure than the horns of the altar, and the sincere sinner, who is truly sorry for his sins, may flee there, even in the last moment of his life, and find safety, pardon, and forgiveness.

Joab did not find it because he only wanted the opportunity to get out of trouble. People will not find in Christ a superficial loophole to escape God’s wrath, but they may find the bloody Cross, the real altar which the Tabernacle altar pointed to, with two “horns,” upon which the Son of God’s arms were stretched wide, and, on the horns of that dilemma, they my find a perfect and dying Savior who did not try to escape the righteous wrath of God, but suffered it in the place of those who truly believe in Him, and there they may humbly beg His forgiveness and receive His salvation.

Respect Your Elders

October 13, 2021 at 3:05 pm | Posted in II Samuel | 1 Comment
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There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.

Proverbs 30:11-13

Sadly, the generation described in Proverbs 30 is alive and well today.

The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.  

30:17 

Leaving a deceased person’s body unburied was the ultimate sign of condemnation in ancient Israel. Those who are foolish and proud enough to ignore and mock their elders are not even good enough to bury. In the Bible a lack of respect for elders is equated with a lack of fear of God.

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:32

In addition to showing a lack of fear of the Lord, failing to respect one’s elders is a wasted opportunity to gain wisdom. Mark Twain is credited with noting that, when he moved away from his father during his late teen years, he thought that his dad was old-fashioned and didn’t really know anything. However, by the time he reached his early 20s, he couldn’t believe how much the old man learned in just a few years. What happened?  Did his father really get smarter?  No, Twain just learned from experience that the older man had some valuable wisdom, after all.

And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.

II Samuel 19:31

Barzillai had helped David and his men by providing food back in II Samuel 17 while David was on the run from Absalom, his son, who was in rebellion. The events recorded in Chapter 19 took place after Absalom’s revolt has been crushed and David was on his way back home to Jerusalem. Barzillai was there for a kind of ceremony or honor to escort David across the Jordan River.

Now Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old: and he had provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim; for he was a very great man.

II Samuel 19:32

Barzillai was 80 years old which, at least here, was considered to be “very aged.” He was very old and very great. He was rich, but also had a great reputation (loyal to the king).

And the king said unto Barzillai, Come thou over with me, and I will feed thee with me in Jerusalem.

II Samuel 19:33

Barzillai did not want to go to Jerusalem. 

And Barzillai said unto the king, How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem?

II Samuel 19:34   

He began to reason with David.

I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good and evil? can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king?

II Samuel 19:35

“Good and evil” in this context are not so much moral judgments as they are quality judgments. At Barzillai’s age, he preferred his food to be bland. He would have like dining at Picadilly or Shoney’s instead of Jose’s Habanero Flamethrower Taqueria. However, although his tastes were bland, his response to David was very seasoned. Barzillai, he of the very old, hoary head, was “reasoned and seasoned,” and he serves as an example of the wisdom of the elderly.

Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the king: and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward?

II Samuel 19:36

Why SHOULD the king recompense him, or pay him back? Barzillai had provided for David, now David could provide for him for the rest of his life.

Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother. But behold thy servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do to him what shall seem good unto thee.

II Samuel 19:37

David, who wasn’t always known for being so amenable when he didn’t get his way, on this occasion responded by following the command of Levitcus 19:32 and rising up before the hoary head. He respected the decision of the older man.

And the king answered, Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which shall seem good unto thee: and whatsoever thou shalt require of me, that will I do for thee.

II Samuel 19:38

Chimham may have been Barzillai’s son, and Barzillai basically said to David, “I give him into your care – you do to him what seems good to you,” but David replied, “He will come to my palace and I will do to him what seems good to YOU.” Then he blessed and kissed Barzillai. 

And all the people went over Jordan. And when the king was come over, the king kissed Barzillai, and blessed him; and he returned unto his own place.

II Samuel 19:39

David honored Barzillai publicly and prayed that God would favor him and bless him. He managed to show respect to the older Barzillai, but he also respected his decision concerning how he wanted to end his life. David could have forced him to go, or he could have shamed him. He had him, in a sense, “over a barrel,” but he knew it was unwise to take advantage of an elderly person unfairly. It is a discouraging and sometimes infuriating thing to see a child or a younger person mocking or smart-talking an elderly person. We need to warn against this practice. Many times those who are advanced in years are wise and experienced. Listen to what they have to say: they are “reasoned and seasoned.”

The Good, the Bad, and the Godly

October 11, 2021 at 2:19 pm | Posted in II Corinthians | Leave a comment
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Paul, in defending his Apostleship and the integrity of his ministry, was almost forced into the position of giving out a litany of everything he had been through and suffered in the cause of Christ. II Corinthians 6:8-10 is a list of antitheses about how Paul handled blessings and adversity with equanimity. These are also images of the way people might think of him, measured against the reality of who he was.

By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;

II Corinthians 6:8

There were times when he was “honored” – held in high regard by others – especially by those whom he had led to Christ; other times he was treated as vile by his enemies and the enemies of the Gospel, including his persecutors outside the Church and false teachers “within.” Sometimes he was spoken of in truth and had a good reputation; other times he was vilified and falsely accused and was the subject of lying gossip. Sometimes the evil report was for good things, and the good report was because of a false report about him. Paul and his fellow-ministers were called deceivers even though they spoke the truth, and sometimes their truth was accurately reported in order to get them in trouble. You will have a tough time as an honest, truth-proclaiming Christian guarding your reputation in a world where your message is hated. We can’t worry too much about what people think of us. Let’s concern ourselves with what God thinks of us.

These next antitheses focus more so on that view:

As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;

II Corinthians 6:9

You may be unknown as far as fame and celebrity, but well-known when you can be pointed to as a scandal. By being personally “unknown” we can make God “well-known.” For Paul, the “dying” was more literal. His life was in danger every day. For us, we need to focus on spiritually dying to self. That’s where we find our true, abundant “life.” Being “chastened” can mean being lovingly disciplined by God directly, or it can mean some difficult circumstance allowed by God for some greater good, such as opportunities to demonstrate perseverance in the faith, or the development of humility. You may have heard the worldly cliche’, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and there is an element of spiritual truth in this – in our sanctification and in our “endurance of hardness” when ministry is hard.

The next three antitheses were exemplified by Christ, and are our goals in becoming like Him.

As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

II Corinthians 6:10

Joy will always be tinged with a little sadness this side of eternity, and, even in our moments of greatest sorrow, with the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we can experience some measure of joy in knowing the Lord and His over-arching plans for our ultimate victory in Him. We are not automatons – we will experience pain – but when we remember who we really are and Who we really serve, even our mourning turns to joy. This maybe be one of the spiritual truths underlying the biological fact that human joy can easily produce tears. It reminds us that worldly joy is not the highest joy. Christ Himself was tearful and joyful at times.

Both Paul and Christ were poor in an earthly sense, but they brought great riches to others. Ancient monarchs were only generous out of a prideful desire to be known for it. But, as heirs of a great and bountiful inheritance of spiritual riches, we have nothing truly valuable that can be taken away, while, conversely and paradoxically, we have “all things” so that the world can not tempt us with a credible bribe.

What the Old Need to Tell the Young

October 4, 2021 at 2:18 pm | Posted in Joshua | 1 Comment
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Joshua was feeling his age.

And it came to pass a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age. And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age:

Joshua 23:1-2

His purpose for this gathering wasn’t just to tell the people that he was getting old, or to merely give a farewell address. Instead, sensing his time was growing short, he wanted to try make sure that the legacy for which he had fought so hard survived into future generations.

And ye have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the Lord your God is he that hath fought for you.

Joshua 23:3

They had seen what God had done with their own eyes, and Joshua had seen it, too, but now he was passing off the scene, and he wanted to remind them that neither he, nor they, would be here forever. Therefore, there was an urgency for them, and there is an urgency for us today to pass on what we have seen and learned and experienced and personally witnessed to those who will come after us, but will not have personally seen it themselves.

Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them: But cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day.

Joshua 23:6-8

Can you hear the tone of urgency in these exhortations and warnings? When I coach little league I try to get my players to be hyper-focused in those moments while waiting for the ball to be hit into play. I want there senses heightened, and I want them to realize that this is a crucial moment, but it is hard for young children to maintain this type of focus for long periods of time. Alertness and vigilance can be exhilarating, but they are also exhausting. Part of us longs for routine, which can be enjoyed in relaxation, but that type of relaxation can be dangerous. This is true in the physical as well as the spiritual realm. A second-hand experience of God will promote laziness and laxness, but the danger of spiritual battle never really goes away. Joshua knew that a Canaanite party could be more dangerous than a Canaanite battle. The lazy lure of ecumenism or syncretism is often more enticing than the thrill of combat. We must do everything we can to make sure the next generation knows, loves, and obeys God, and knows the danger of worldly influences – and we must be urgent about it as we get older.

Look at Verse 6 again and you’ll see the standard for doing that:

Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;

Joshua 23:6

It’s not our traditions or our heritage necessarily. It’s the Word of God. This includes clear warnings and even threats about the consequences of leaving God.

Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God. Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.

Joshua 23:11-13

Joshua was not only a skilled warrior and a skilled leader; he was also a skilled preacher. There is plenty of positivity in Chapter 23. Joshua loved to talk about God’s faithfulness – how He has kept His promises, how He has accomplished victory – but he ends with stern threats rather than a “happily ever after.”

When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.

Joshua 23:16

As we get older we shouldn’t be the grumpy old men or the grumpy old women of our church, but we do need to remind younger people that, while there are tremendous blessings in obeying God, there are grave dangers in disobeying Him.

Corona and Cornea?

October 1, 2021 at 12:26 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight | 1 Comment
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Question: I saw an earlier question where you said that “corona” and “coronary” were not related, but what about cornea, that part of your eye?

Answer: Wow, y’all are right in my wheelhouse with these vocabulary questions. No, the “cornea,” that transparent and relatively tough outer covering of the eye, is not related to “corona,” which, remember, was from the Latin term for “crown.” The term “cornea” is etymologically related to the ancient word for “horn,” which was “corn,” as in “unicorn,” a creature wtih one (uni) corn (horn). Horns have a hard, bony texture, and the anatomist who named this part of the eye must have been trying to describe the texture of it, compared to the relative squishiness of the other parts of the eye.

And before you ask, no, the grainy produce we call “corn,” as in “corn on the cob,” is not related to the words “corona,” “coronary,” or “cornea,” either. It is from the old Norse word korn, which meant “grain.”

Professing Atheists Don’t Understand Authority

September 29, 2021 at 9:38 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Professing Atheist: I just don’t understand Christians. I’ve just learned many are very inhumane and don’t believe in or follow their 10 commandments. If they only followed their 10 commandments and treated their fellow human beings with respect it would probably be a halfway ok religion.

Christian: Sadly, that’s a common complaint. I’ve addressed that sentiment here, but it’s important to remember that no one can truly follow the 10 Commandments perfectly. They were given to show us that we are sinful, and that we deserve judgment, and that we therefore need a Savior.

Professing Atheist: No one has the right to judge me. Not even a bigoted god.

Christian: It’s more about the authority to judge than the “right” to judge. If you committed a crime, a validly-appointed judge or jury would have the “right” to judge you, so your assertion is not technically correct. However, the good news is that no bigoted god can judge you because bigoted gods aren’t real. Only the true God is real and He has the authority to judge all of us because we owe our very existence to Him. He’s no bigot. He judges everyone by the same just standards, and He has even made a way to forgive and pardon those who admit what they deserve and believe the Truth.

The First Rock Star

September 27, 2021 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Biblical firsts, II Samuel | 1 Comment
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One of the intereting things to note in the thrilling, true, and historical accounts of the first earthly kings of Israel, Saul and David, in the Books of I and II Samuel, is the role of fame (and sometimes notoriety) as Israel takes on a real “national consciousness.”  At first blush, it seems that Saul and David were, in some sense, the first “celebrities” of Israel.  This can be seen in the way the people made songs to highlight their exploits.  

And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick.  And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.

I Samuel 18:6-7

However, closer inspection shows that, at least in the case of David, “hero,” might be a better description than “celebrity.”  After all, David had done the great deeds the people ascribed to him by the power of God, and to the glory of God.

David’s son, Absalom, is another story.  Absalom can be more properly described as a celebrity, for his reputation and popularity were more manufactured than earned. 

But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty:  from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.  And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it:  because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight.

II Samuel 14:25-26

And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate:  and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou?  And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.  And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.  Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!  And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.  And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment:  so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

II Samuel 15:2-6

In his sermon, “And the Mule Walked On,” Lester Roloff called Absalom the first “hippie,” because of his long (I Corinthians 11:14), luxuriant, red, and heavy hair, which he publicly combed out and trimmed once a year as the people admired and swooned.  I think a better description of Absalom might be the first “rock star,” since his fame and popularity were based on vanity rather than substance.

When Absalom revolted and declared war on his father, King David, the Lord, in a classic case of “reaping what you sow” (or what you comb), arranged it so that Absalom’s hair got caught in the boughs of a tree as he rode underneath it on his mule.  The mule kept going, and Absalom hanged there, helpless and ridiculous, until his enemies came and turned him into a human piñata, ending his life. 

Let us remember Absalom, and be careful of seeking the praise of men over the approval of the Lord.

Changing Clothes for the Last Time

September 24, 2021 at 3:10 pm | Posted in II Corinthians | Leave a comment
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For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

II Corinthians 5:1

Paul’s focus on the eternal gave him great assurance, and helped him to see everything in the temporal through the lens of the eternal. Just as the Old Testament Tabernacle ministry was not permanent, the tabernacle in which we live our lives is dissolving. Our bodies are breaking down, losing stength, and starting to malfunction. This will discourage us and drive us to fear unless we remember that our earthly bodies will one day be replaced by glorified bodies. Those bodies will be indestuctible and incorruptible.

For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

II Corinthians 5:2

These groans might be audible or they might be inward. They might be groans of suffering or they might be groans of longing. The leaving of our earthly bodies and the leaving of our earthly home is something to look forward to rather than to dread.

If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

II Corinthians 5:3

This seems like an obvious idea. The only way not to be naked is to be clothed, but when a person dies, his earthly “clothing” (his body) is stilly lying there in the form of a corpse and his soul is no longer present. His soul has not escaped into an ephemeral mystery realm. No, the person’s soul has changed houses and changed “clothes.”

For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

II Corinthians 5:4-5

The Holy Spirit is like a deposit or a down payment on the Christian’s eternal life. He is not meant to reside in this world permanently in its present condition. He reminds us that we belong to another world, another Kingdom, another home.

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

II Corinthians 5:6

There is no intermediate state for believers: no probationary holding pen; no earth-wandering spirits; no purgatory; no reincarnation, no soul-sleep.

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