Over a Barrel

July 18, 2011 at 9:26 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 7 Comments
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The common expression “over a barrel” means that someone is in a compromising position. The phrase comes from a time when the method for rescuing a person who had almost drowned was to pull him from the water and start rolling him back and forth over a barrel. Sometimes this treatment did more harm than good!

over a barrel

The Bible application for the expression “over a barrel” comes from I Kings 17. The widow at Zarephath wasn’t drowning, though. She was starving. She only had enough meal and oil for her and her son to have one last little cake, after which she was planning on dying. Then, on top of that, the prophet Elijah, the man of God, stopped by and told her to get him some water – and to bring him a little cake while she was at it!

The lady could have become exasperated and angry, but instead she exercised her faith. She went and did according to the saying of Elijah. She heard the Word and heeded the Word.

As you read this, you are probably not starving to death, but does someone have you “over a barrel?” Financially, your creditors may have you over a barrel. Time-wise, your employer may have you over a barrel. When it comes to being starved for affection, your spouse, your family, or your friends may have you over a barrel.

The Word of God to the widow lady of Zarephath was, “Take what little you have, and by faith give it to Me.” We might say she was “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” but, sometimes, we have to get to that point in order to realize that we need God. Her barrel, which held the “meal” needed to make bread, was empty, but she herself was not empty of faith. As Christians, even when our material barrel is empty, we can still be filled with the Spirit of God, so we have no reason to complain. (Warren Wiersbe likes to say that empty barrels make the most noise.)

Elijah told the lady that the Lord had fixed it so that her meal and oil would not be completely exhausted. From that day on she never had more than one handful, nor less than one handful.

Certainly God was capable of filling her barrel of meal to the top and overflowing her cruse of oil, but, in a time of famine, word might have gotten out, and she might have been robbed. God is often gracious not to overburden us with superfluous blessings. We are in a battle and we need to travel light when we fight Satan. The armor of God has a sword for our hand, but there are no pockets or pouches in the armor for holding supplies.

Had God suddenly given the lady too much meal, it might have spoiled and become infested with worms. We face the same danger when we have a “surplus” of blessings, but the worm that infests us is called pride. When you find yourself “over a barrel,” by faith reach into the barrel of your eternal spiritual blessings in Christ. Many people are confused – they think the purpose of the Christian life is to get abundant material blessings. Jesus did not teach His disciples to pray, “Give us this day enough bread to last for a year, and a big mansion to keep it in, and a fancy car to drive it around in.” No, He told them to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.”

Pining Away

May 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Ezekiel | 2 Comments
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The expression “pine away” can be found in Ezekiel 33:10 (also Ezekiel 24:23, Leviticus 26:39, and Lamentations 4:9).

Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?

Ezekiel 33:9-10

The English word “pine,” as it is used in these Verses, is from the Latin word for “penalty” or “pain:” “poena” – like “subpoena.” Some translations use “waste away” or “rotting,” instead of “pine” away, but “pine” does a better job of capturing the connotation of the emotional pain described in these Verses.

Outside of the Bible, the expression “pine away” is used to describe the feeling of a separated lover, who feels not only physical pain, but emotional pain as well. It is a feeling akin to “remorse.”

God told Ezekiel to preach to the nation of Israel as a whole. Israel wanted to accuse God of being unfair, and of having dishonestly “fixed” scales. The Israelites blamed God for placing them under a “generational curse.”

God didn’t want their remorse – He wanted their repentance. Repentance is painful, but, when the burden of sin is lifted off, life becomes bearable again. An earthly lover may pine away for a lost sweetheart, but we never have to pine away for Jesus. He’s not far away – He’s as close as repentance. He’s as close as the Word of God. There is no reason not to spend time with Him every day.

Kick the Bucket

November 3, 2010 at 10:19 am | Posted in Common Expressions | 1 Comment
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This is one of the expressions we use when someone has died. It originated with the buckets that people would place under the wooden frames used to hang animals when their throats were cut. The animals’ feet would kick the “bucket.”

And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Acts 26:14, emphasis added

Kicking is associated with wild, stubborn, or disobedient animals in the Bible. Like ox-goads, pricks would prod or force the animals to go forward or go in a certain direction.

Did you “kick against the pricks” before you were saved? Was there a time when you were under conviction by the Holy Ghost, and yet you resisted coming to Christ?

Unless Jesus comes back first, we are all going to “kick the bucket” one day. When you look at the statistics, hopefully you won’t be surprised at the death rate these days: It is “one per person.” One time I met a man who told me he did not want to come to church because, “Me and God have a problem.” That was only true in a sense. What he really needed to understand is that he might have had a problem with God, but that God does not really have a “problem” with anyone. God is not a man – He’s not a human being like you or me – who sometimes gets into petty squabbles with other human beings. God loves you and wants to save you. Before you kick the bucket, make the decision to stop kicking against the Holy Spirit and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior.

A Leopard Can’t Change His Spots

October 4, 2010 at 11:39 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Jeremiah | 9 Comments
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Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

Jeremiah 13:23

The Bible uses the Ethiopian in this verse because Ethiopians were known to have dark skin. The point seems to be that those who are long accustomed to sin are going to find it impossible to break the practice. That is because, like the color of our skin, or like a leopard’s spots, it is part of our nature. We can’t, by force of will, change our skin color any more than a leopard can change his spots. We can’t do it, but Someone else can change our nature.

Ethiopians are mentioned a few times in the Old Testament, but there is one particularly well known Ethiopian in the New Testament. At the end of Acts Chapter 8 the Bible gives us the historical account of the ministry of Philip. He encountered an Ethiopian servant, riding in a fancy chariot, reading aloud. Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” He was reading what we refer to as Isaiah Chapter 53. The Ethiopian had already “opened” the Word of God. Philip could get right to the alleging and reasoning and sharing.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

Acts 8:35

Philip opened his mouth. The Lord Jesus, as referenced in Isaiah 53:7, kept His mouth closed. Part of the reason that He kept His mouth closed was to empower us to open ours. Philip, his tongue surrendered to the Holy Ghost, opened his mouth, but he did not start to entertain the Ethiopian with songs. He opened his mouth, but he did not simply begin to pray aloud for the Ethiopian. He opened his mouth, but He did not perform a drama or a skit. He opened his mouth, but he did not invite the Ethiopian out for a cup of coffee. He opened his mouth, but he did not politely inquire as to how the Ethiopian’s job was going these days. No, Philip opened his mouth and preached. And what did he preach? Ten easy steps for eunuchs to regain their self-esteem? How to speak forth the promises of God every day for three months in order to get out of debt? No, he preached Jesus!

When the Ethiopian saw some water, he said, “Hey there’s some water, what’s stopping me from just getting down right here and being baptized?” Just like the leopard who can’t change his spots or the person who can’t change his nature by washing in water, baptism can’t change our sin nature. But something else can. What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

“There Is Power in the Blood,” Lewis E. Jones

“Well,” says the weary wife of a wayward husband or the discouraged parent of a prodigal child, “I sure would like to see my loved one quit running the roads and settle down, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or a leopard can’t change its spots.” Don’t give up! The Bible says a leopard can’t change its own spots, but the blood of Jesus can wash them away.

If you feel discouraged over the long practice of a favorite pet sin, remember: The Word of God is a cleansing agent. Sin will keep you from the Bible, or the Bible will keep you from sin.

Holiness is not the way to salvation. Salvation is the way to holiness.

Don’t Beat around the Bush

May 24, 2010 at 11:57 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Common Expressions, Exodus | 9 Comments
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The origin of the expression “beating around the bush” is thought to be from when hunters would employee folks known as “beaters.” These beaters (sort of the bird-hunting equivalent of golf caddies maybe) would beat the bushes to scare up birds. They would “beat around the bush” until the hunter would raise his shotgun and “get to the point.”

The common expression, “stop beating around the bush,” reminds us of Exodus Chapter 3:

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.

Exodus 3:1-3

Moses had killed an Egyptian and fled from Pharaoh. God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and gave him a clear specific order. But instead of obeying right away, Moses started “beating around the bush.”

Sometimes we tend to do the same thing when God tells us to do something we don’t want to do. We don’t usually just say “No, God, I am in rebellion against You. Therefore, I flat-out refuse to do what You say.” Instead, we “rationalize.” The sin of rationalization, along with pride, may be our most frequent sin. I remember, as a kid, seeing a movie called The Big Chill. One of the characters, played by Jeff Goldblum, was explaining to his friends how frequently we rely on rationalizations. I’m sure this is a paraphrase after all this time, but he said something like, “Rationalizations are more important to us than anything. Try to get through a whole day without at least one big juicy rationalization.”

Here are Moses’s excuses or rationalizations – his “bush-beating:”

1. Who am I?

And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

Exodus 3:11

Moses says, “I’m not worthy, I’m a nobody,” and God basically says, “You’re right, but I will be with you.”

And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

Exodus 3:12

2. Who are You?

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13–14

Moses didn’t have a Bible, but today we can know if we’re really hearing from God by comparing what we hear to God’s Word.

3. How will I keep them from thinking I’m crazy at best, or lying at worst?

And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.

Exodus 4:1

God told Moses that He would give him what he needed to do the job. Moses yielded his rod to God. When he thought of it as his, it was just a crutch. But when he thought of it as God’s, God used it to do His work.

4. What if I can’t say it the right way?

And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

Exodus 4:10-12

When we realize that our rod isn’t really our rod, and our tongue isn’t really our tongue – when we yield them to God, He can use them.

5. How about somebody else?

And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.

Exodus 4:13-16

This fifth rationalization seemed to make God mad. However, He told Moses to take Aaron along with him, reminding him that he would be accountable for him.

Let’s not rationalize and beat around the bush with God. When it’s time to serve Him, let’s trust Him, believe His Word, bring along a friend, and work together for God.

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