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The Witch of Endor’s Nature

At the end of their encounter with Samuel, the witch moves to comfort Saul.  She wasn’t, by human standards, evil.  What we see is a woman that, despite having fear of Saul in the beginning, does nothing to show malice towards him.

Saul, by God’s earlier command, ordered all witches to be executed.  He promises nothing will happen to the witch when he approaches her, and then affirms it when she discovers who he is.  She could have ridiculed him after she delivered the message to him, she could have ushered him out of her home as politely as possible.  But what she does is hospitable- she encourages him to let her give him something to eat.  And even presses the issue when he refuses, until he gives in.

The Witch showed empathy and kindness.

This simple act was an invaluable piece of the story for me.  Imagine struggling with the idea that you can be a good person by man’s standards, and still commit incredible evil in the eyes of God…all under the feeling that you are doing this thing for another person.

I didn’t set out to be special.   When I was Pagan, I sought the path out because I wanted nothing more than to help people around me.  When I got acquainted with the story of the Witch of Endor, I felt like this was the same reason she pursued her line of work.  She wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, the very nature of her being was to help others.  If the situation didn’t work out for her client, she probably had to detach herself from the situation with the belief that it was because they choose to do something, or fate had already rolled the dice outside of the client’s favor.  She probably didn’t understand her role in all of it.

My heart goes out to the Witch of Endor.  I wonder how she would have reacted if God revealed to her what her role really was in all the unsuccessful stories.

Although we never hear from the witch again, her personality stuck with me.  Knowing that she was a good person by man’s standards, helped me to see that I wasn’t evil for engaging in witchcraft, I was engaging in evil called Witchcraft.  It doesn’t seem like much of a distinction, I’m sure.  But it was important to draw that line as I journeyed towards accepting YHWH as my God.  Once I could make that distinction, I realized I wasn’t so far gone that God wouldn’t at least give me a chance.

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So You Want to Talk With the Dead…

The story of Saul and the Witch of Endor played a significant role in my coming to terms with the difference between what God calls evil, and what Man calls evil.  

After my encounter with an Angel who revealed to me that even though I would be set for life as a Pagan, if I continued down that path I was doomed to cause more harm to those I encountered, I saw a LOT of myself in the witch of this story.  And it was so painful.  Here’s a woman that helps others, but God had commanded that she be executed for these very acts of kindness.  So, for the rest of the month of October, I’m going to focus on some things I learned because of this story.

This week, I want to talk about how the Witch of Endor can be used to address the issues surrounding Modern Necromancy (also known as Mediumship).

Just last year, I met another woman that thought talking with the dead would bring her comfort.  A complete stranger, she approached me in an Ace Hardware store and started talking religion.  Finding out that I use to be pagan, she caught up with me outside in the parking lot and started asking questions about Quija boards and whether or not she was using one correctly.

Many Christians will tell you that you’re opening a door to the demonic, and that it will plague you.  I know quite a few Pagans that will say the same to anyone who isn’t actually trained in how to properly open and close spiritual doors.  My approach to this discussion is different.  My approach, however, relies on 3 key takeaways from the Witch of Endor on Necromancy:

  1. You never know who is actually coming through the veil.

In the story, the witch is not the one which identifies the entity as Samuel.  She says she sees gods coming from the ground and describes an old man in a robe.  It is Saul who accepts that the medium has woken Samuel up from his slumber.  I haven’t covered Sirach yet, but a cursory look reveals that when the Book of Sirach was written, some believed it was Samuel as well.  In reality, there is no evidence proving it was or wasn’t Samuel.

The realm which harbors divine and demonic beings is not the same as the physical realm.  In that realm, what occurs in the physical realm, and God’s declarations, can be made well-known knowledge.  That is, the demand “tell me something only you and I would know” is impossible to apply.

In the case of this story, it is entirely possible that the entity which spoke through the Witch to Saul was not Samuel, and was aware of God’s plans to destroy Saul.

2)  Truth is a greater temptation than a lie.

Let’s run with the theory that it was not Samuel, it was a demon.  Then why tell Saul the truth of what was going to happen at the next battle?  It maintains the Witch’s reputation.  This, in turn, gives a demon the ability to challenge the faith of more people.

One of the problems in modern Christianity, is that a lot of denominations deny that anything not of God is real.  For them, it’s not “Anything a demon can do, God can do better”, it’s “Anything a demon does is a parlor trick, or a human lying about their experience.”  This denial makes it that much easier to convince those on the fence about Witchcraft that God’s been lying to them this whole time.  But a study of the Old Testament will reveal that God hasn’t tried to hide the fact that other beings can perform miracles without Him- even Christ affirms this when he explains that not all who say “Lord, Lord” will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

For the record, though, it doesn’t mean you won’t get lied to by a demon.  Whatever suits the entity’s purposes, is typically what you’re going to get.  They’ve been at this game far longer than any man on earth has been.  

3) Knowing isn’t what changes things.

Even if it was Samuel, knowing the truth of God’s declaration changed nothing. Not Saul’s fate, and not even Saul’s heart.  When one seeks out a medium’s help, the real work isn’t getting the answers- it’s work to let go of whatever caused you to seek them out in the first place.

You may think I’m telling you this because my model works.  In truth, it’s because of the #3 that I acknowledge both my model and the “you’re opening doors you cannot close” models can be equally futile.  It didn’t work with the woman that came to me about using a Quija Board, or asking how she could have a Shamanic Journey to determine that a foe was truly in Hell where he belonged.

In order for my model to work, you need time to invest in communicating with the person in pain.  An established rapport, not a chance encounter.  Possibly even the help of a therapist.

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Can you be a Christian and still be possessed by a Demon?

Questions like these intrigue me.  Although the answer is “no”, it doesn’t focus enough on the qualifying statement that one must be Christian to be immune. 

Luke 11:17-26
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore, they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Basically, when the unclean spirit was cast out, the person they inhabited never decided to sell their house to God.  They left the “For Sale” sign up, and the demon already knew it was great real estate before.  But what does it mean to sell the property to God?  Just like a Real Estate transaction, when you sell the property to God, you’re signing a contract that is completely drawn up in the Bible.  If you violate the contract, God makes decisions on what to do next.

In Saul’s case, God sent an evil spirit to plague him.  From the descriptions, it’s more than simply an annoyance like what we see with Satan tempting Christ in the desert, and more direct than what happened to Job.

Saul believed that God existed, even had encounters that directly proved this because of Samuel’s guidance.  Belief simply wasn’t enough to make him immune to the affliction.

You might be thinking “Well duh, Alethea, a Christian is someone that follows Christ- not someone just believes that God and Christ are real”.  I get that, but that is not how we treat it.  The Christian community has a problem with accepting that someone has converted to Christianity simply because they said a Prayer of Acceptance with them.  Look at all the revivals you or others have attended, watched on YouTube or heard of from missionaries.  The Christian Community has watered down what it means to be Christian because we measure a revival’s success by the number of people that show up to pray the Prayer of Acceptance.

I can’t count how many people I’ve heard say that the Prayer of Acceptance is all you need, and from that point forward you are always saved.  If you don’t end up changing your ways, then you weren’t sincere and the Holy Spirit never entered your life which is why you’re experiencing turmoil, etc, etc.  All of these are excuses to try and make “Once Saved, Always Saved” a truth.  It also leaves the door open for wanton sinning in the hands of someone who doesn’t have the strength to prevent a relapse.

So let’s go back to the question, and reframe the answer: Can a Christian be possessed by a Demon?

Only so long as you’re holding up your side of the contract are you immune.

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The Christian Vote?

There is a full month before the American Elections…and I still don’t have a clue what I’m going to write down for my Presidential candidate.  Yeah, that’s right, I’m going to do a write-in.  But my vote isn’t really the topic today.  It’s the Christian Vote that I want to discuss.

I can understand the value of believing that the Christian Voice in politics is important, it’s just not realistic.  Democracy wasn’t a Christian concept, it was a Greek creation.  In fact, it was so non-Christian, that for hundreds of years Christians valued a Monarchy system because God put it in place with Israel….AT ISRAEL’S INSISTENCE.

God didn’t want to give Israel a ruler, because God was their ruler.

1 Samuel 8:4-9

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

Throughout the history of the Nation of Israel, God only saw a handful of actual kings over them favorably by the time they died.  And God set all of them up to rule.  With each one, God’s intention wasn’t to give Israel an excuse to backslide…and yet many of them did exactly that.  God didn’t give them a pass, proving that the person in charge wasn’t the primary shareholder of your accountability to God.  It’s on each individual believer to decide whether or not they’ll follow God’s law.

That last part, it’s the crux of my argument that there is no Christian Vote, there is only Individual Accountability.  And Daniel is my primary evidence.

Many vocal Christians refuse to acknowledge a Democratic candidate based solely on the topic of Abortion.  Abortion shouldn’t be a part of the discussion, though.  Temptation is all around you, the test is whether you reject the temptation and follow what God wants.  We live in a world where we are amongst those which do not follow God- and so was Daniel.

Daniel was tested by man.  Man told him he had to disobey the First Commandment.  Despite the ramifications, Daniel pressed forward- and publicly too- obeying God over the King’s forced Decree.  And for his human crime, King Darius was forced to put him in a Lion’s Den.  For his adherence to divine law, God spared Daniel and proved to King Darius that Daniel was a righteous man.

Similarly, Jesus lived amongst the Gentiles, mostly ignoring them to communicate with the Jews- it was only after his resurrection that the Gentiles were given a door into his ministry.  Early Christians were forced to live in anti-Christian communities, yet they persevered- because the head of state doesn’t matter.   

It’s nice to have a truly Christian leader in charge of the nation, but it’s not always realistic.  What is important, however, is that you vote based on the whole of whether or not you feel a person is going to be able to lead us in a direction that allows you the most freedom to hold yourself accountable to Christian ethics. 

In my opinion, that means rejecting anything which would eliminate our Constitutional Republic.  Most candidates do not threaten this, and therefore the Presidential discussion should come down to the big hitters: Foreign Policy & Economy.  Social Reformation must happen at the community level, you cannot expect a President to do it for you.

In closing, let me impart to you the importance of not shaming your fellow Christian into voting for the “Christian Vote”.  There is no “Christian Vote”.  The idea of a “Christian Vote” is simply an excuse to shrug off Personal Accountability.  No one has the right to say “The Devil/President/Pastor made me do it”, it just doesn’t hold up in the Divine Court of Law.

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Judith: Keep it? Or Axe it?

This is a hard one for me.  If we based this purely on the historical evidence, Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon, which ruled Southern Mesopotamia; while Assyria was over Northern Mesopotamia.  There are other historical inaccuracies that scholars have pinpointed, and as such this is more than likely akin to a story not unlike the ones we create for Christian Fiction today.

But as I mentioned in one of my commentaries, that doesn’t necessarily mean it should automatically get axed from the canon.  After-all, if we did decide to get rid of it- we would need to consider taking out books like Ruth, Esther and Job.  All three of which made the cut for the official Jewish and Christian canons, but do not seem to have enough evidence pointing to their historical accuracy.  None-the-less these stories provide us with incredible insight on how to live as Christians even when we are not able to hear God’s voice.

Job tends to get a pass, because tradition holds it was written by Moses.  Esther is considered a short-time prophet by Jewish tradition.  And Ruth is a story of Conversion to the Jewish Faith.  Judith’s story may be written off simply because the story mirrors already existent Jewish stories like Deborah, Jael and Esther.

At its core, I cannot find anything wrong with the reading of Judith.  Even with the slight criticisms I’ve given it throughout this exploration, it doesn’t really have anything wrong with it.  Instead, the criticisms only lend to further personal exploration of our own motivations, and whether those align with God.

In one of the criticisms I gave, for example, I pointed out that Judith seems a bit presumptuous.  But I can think of times in the Bible where it might seem the same way with other Biblical figures.

As for the one time it is believed that the New Testament quotes from Judith, this isn’t the only reference to it.  Here are the 3 times you see the same mirrored words:

Judith 16:17
“Woe to the nations that rise against my people! the Lord Almighty will requite them; in the day of judgment he will punish them:
He will send fire and worms into their flesh, and they will weep and suffer forever.

Mark 9:48
where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.

Isaiah 66:24
And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me:
for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Given these three instances, it’s fairly apparent that Mark is derived directly from Isaiah, and that Judith simply alludes to Isaiah.  Isaiah being written approximately 100 years before Nebuchadnezzar was king.

VERDICT: I could go either way with this book.  If you’re looking for a historically accurate Bible, then Judith and a few others shouldn’t be included in your Bible.  If you’re looking for a Bible that helps you find ways to live the way God wants you to, then you might choose to include this book amongst your canon.  Whether you include it or not, the most important thing is to remember that the story shouldn’t be treated with the same respect as one attributed to a Prophet.

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Exploring Judith (Ch.13-16)

In Chapter 13, Judith manages to get into Holofernes bedchamber and says a silent prayer to God.

Judith 13:4
O Lord God of all power, look at this present upon the works of mine hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. For now is the time to help your inheritance, and to execute your enterprizes to the destruction of the enemies which are risen against us.
 

Afterwards, she swings her sword twice in order to behead Holofernes.  Securing this head inside of her meat sack, Judith returns to Jerusalem where they all gather around a fire and Judith makes her speech.

Judith 13:14
Praise, praise God, praise God, I say, for he has not taken away his mercy from the house of Israel, but has destroyed our enemies by mine hands this night.
So she took the head out of the bag, and shewed it, and said unto them, behold the head of Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, and behold the canopy, wherein he did lie in his drunkenness; and the Lord has smitten him by the hand of a woman.
As the Lord lives, who has kept me in my way that I went, my countenance has deceived him to his destruction, and yet has he not committed sin with me, to defile and shame me. 

The people rejoice, and Ozias tells her that she is “above all women upon the earth”.  This description is used in Judges to describe Jael, who killed Sisera in a similar fashion (though, she took a nail to his temple).  It invokes a sense of history repeating itself, and God using the same tactics in order to create a kind of “signature” that it is, in fact, His work.

But a couple of things could be the truth behind this tale.  Judith may simply be drawing upon stories of Jewish heroism and manifesting them in the current situation.  Or it could be that she was guided by God as she believes.  Of course, it could just be a fable intended to help facilitate a revival in Jewish pride following Israel’s return from exile.

In Chapter 14, we see Judith calling for Holofernes head to be hung out somewhere where it will be apparent that their leader was taken out.  A method of deterring the enemy from advancing- or at the very least killing morale.  She goes on further to tell her fellow tribesman to arm up, but not to attack until the Assyrians run.  The next morning, Judith’s predictions about the Assyrians proves accurate, and the whole lot of them grow fearful when they realize that it was Judith who had taken Holofernes out.  With no one to lead them, they rent their cloaks and cry out.

Scattering to the four winds in Chapter 15, the Israelites hunt down the fleeing Assyrians and utterly destroy them.  After all of these things, Judith is visited by the High Priest Joacim and praised for her actions.  Chapter 16 concludes this book with a song about Judith.

Hmmm…so should it be axed from Canon?  Or should it be kept?  Guess we’ll explore that question next week.

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Exploring Judith (Ch. 12)

Chapter 12:1-5
Then he commanded to bring her in where his plate was set; and bade that they should prepare for her of his own meats, and that she should drink of his own wine. And Judith said, I will not eat thereof, lest there be an offence: but provision shall be made for me of the things that I have brought.  Then Holofernes said unto her, If your provision should fail, how should we give you the like? for there be none with us of your nation. Then said Judith unto him As your soul lives, my lord, your handmaid shall not spend those things that I have, before the Lord work by mine hand the things that he has determined.
Then the servants of Holofernes brought her into the tent, and she slept till midnight, and she arose when it was toward the morning watch, 

Judith shows her devotion to God, while using this same tactic to deceive Holofernes.  This Jewish Tradition was passed down to the Gentiles in Acts.

Acts 15:29
that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled…

Daniel and his friends, forced into a situation where they didn’t have much of a choice, did what they could to adhere to this law by asking for a Vegan diet. 

Two things come to mind when I think of Judith’s situation here.  First, a good reason to not accept food from Holofernes is because she couldn’t be sure that the food wasn’t sacrificed for other gods before it was brought before her.  Second is that the Jewish people lived by a very strict set of rules for how food could be prepared.  

Today, we might not consider the sacrifice in the same light.  When we pray over food, we are asking God to bless it.  The spirit of the law to abstain from “things offered to idols” is in effect- even if they were prayed over and a different deity was asked to bless the food on the table.

With regards to preparation.  Acts liberates us from the health laws (minus the part where the animal cannot be strangled), but there are many who still adhere to these Health Laws.  More strict Orthodox Jews go as far as to have two sets of cooking utensils so that milk and meat never meet.  While I was staying at a Hostel in Hakuba, Japan, our hosts told a story of how a touring Jewish family had brought their own cooking materials so they could have their meals in a Kosher manner.  That’s dedication, and I can’t help but feel this may be similar to what Judith was trying to uphold while she was in the camp.

Even by the end of this chapter, after Judith has spent 3 days in the camp- each night washing herself and praying to God for guidance- Judith is invited to dinner where she eventually comes into the company of Holofernes to drink and eat- but she only eats what her maid had prepared for her.

Judith 12:19-20
Then she took and ate and drank before him what her maid had prepared. And Holofernes took great delight in her, and drank more wine than he had drunk at any time in one day since he was born.

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Exploring Judith (Ch.10-11)

In Chapter 10, Judith, in all her beauty, approaches the camp of Holofernes and gets them to bring her into Holofernes tent.  It’s not even that crafty how she manages to accomplish this, it just happens.  It’s possible the story is brief, but if it’s really how things went down…maybe God really did get her through the gates!

Or perhaps I have this idea in my head that after so many years of warfare by this point, I just can’t see how something so simple was over looked during this timeframe.  Today, if someone from the enemy’s side approached a military camp, we wouldn’t take them to see the person in charge of the group- they would undergo a few days (minimum) of investigation by the intelligence troops.  Back then, maybe the equivalent would have been that she was tied and bound to something to vet her story.  And by then, the elder’s oath would have been taken up on.  So either, ancient people were really this incompetent, God got her in without issues, or this story isn’t actually true and was written as a sort of novel to encourage the faith.  

If it’s the latter case, that doesn’t necessarily rule it out as canon- after all many are not sold on the idea that Job was a true story.  It’s believed by some that the Book of Job was written by Moses to encourage faith, and explain God.  Inspired by God the same way that the Greeks believed much of art was inspired by Muses.  In this form, a that encourages the faith is no different than our modern fictional stories which do much the same and/or inspire a particular morality within people.

In Chapter 11, we see that Judith is sly.  It’s like she took ideas from Balaam, who stood against Israel during Moses’ life and used those to talk her way into Holofernes favor.  Lying is not really forbidden by God, in fact we know that God uses a lying spirit to convince Ahab to go into battle against Ramoth Gilead (spoken of in 1 Kings 22).  So Judith’s subterfuge alone doesn’t necessarily violate God’s laws.  The Commandment reads “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor”, not “thou shalt not lie”.  Though, by this point in the story, it’s still a curiosity whether or not she is in violation of “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain”.  At the very least, she does maintain that she’s not really looking to change gods though, and she even manages to get Holofernes to admit her God is a god- which is in stark contrast to how he reacted when Achior spoke on the matter a few chapters earlier.  In fact, Holofernes goes so far as to say he’ll convert if she gets God to help them out.  

We’ll see what happens.  I won’t pass judgement on this book until we get to the end.

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Exploring Judith (Ch. 8-9)

Chapter 8 is where the story really begins.  Judith is a widow who is constantly fasting, and apparently has a good reputation for being a wise woman.  So she pulls the elders aside and admonishes them for making a pact with the governor- either God saves us, or we surrender when God doesn’t, and they give a timetable for when this should be accomplished.

Despite Judith making a clear case, the elders have found themselves in a position where they have made this pact, and feel they can’t do anything now to impact the situation one way or another.  Having put the problem on God, they feel the only option is to get Judith to pray for rain. 

In some measure, I can see this line of thought being influenced by the sacrifice Jephthah makes in Judges 11.  He makes a promise to God that if he is able to claim victory over his enemy, then he’ll offer as a burnt offering the first thing that he sees when he gets home…and that ends up being his Daughter.  At a later date, I’ll talk about this story, but for now one of the interpretations of that story is that once you create a contract with God, you cannot back out of it.  The scholars which believe Jephthah actually offered his daughter as a burnt offering believe that it’s entirely possible God hates oath breakers more than human sacrifice.

Back to the story, Judith has her own idea.  Possibly inspired by another story in Judges, the story of Deborah and Jael.  She tells the elders that the Lord will visit Israel by her hand.  In Chapter 9, she prostrates herself before God and prays that what she has said will come true.  She makes grand statements, pleading that God’s might will shine through and illustrate that only God can and does protect Israel.

There are certainly interesting points to bring up.  On the surface, she seems to be mirroring Hezekiah, who asked similar things.  But the difference is that she determines before God speaks anything that she’ll be the hand of justice.  Hezekiah asks for God’s deliverance, and seeks God’s answer before really doing anything.  In her defense, she doesn’t seem to have a high priest or prophet which can tell her God’s plans.  But the predetermined nature of her request puts her at the center of this story, rather than God at the center of it.

Then you have the difference between her and Deborah.  Deborah was a prophetess.  We are led to believe, by virtue of the title, that God was the one who told her Sisera’s life would be taken by the hand of a woman.  Furthermore, despite the fact that Deborah went into battle with Israel, it wasn’t actually Deborah who would take the life of Sisera, but instead a woman he believed his ally, Jael.  The orchestration by God to have someone other than Deborah exact justice would be further evidence of Deborah’s prophecy, rather than one which could be seen as a self-fulfilled prophecy.

So far, Judith’s story is playing out as though she’s pushing God to bend to her will, rather than following His.  But she’s not the only one in this town that is doing so- the elders seem to be following after the will of the people as well. Instead of turning to God first, they are orchestrating man-centered demands and ultimatums.  It’s such a subtle difference that it would be difficult to discern, I’m sure, if it had been included in the canon.  Who knows, perhaps there is more to the story that will redeem it?

For now I leave you with these things to consider: 

Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain is about saying attributing God’s will for something you believe it to be, and it’s also about your heart.  Hezekiah seems to be earnest in his request that God do something about his enemies, because Hezekiah loves God- he also had garnered favor with God by working to restoring the faith.  But here, the elders seem to demand God affirm Himself through a miracle of some kind.  And while Judith at least makes the effort to be pious, she seems to presumes much about her standing with God, speaking to Him and the group, as though she’s on par with a prophet.

*picture by Anthony VanArsdale 

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Exploring Judith (Ch. 5-7)

Chapter 5 recounts the story of the Israelites from Abraham until the time of this story.  The servant which summarizes the Israelites’ life draws a conclusion at the end for his master to consider.

Chapter 5:17-21 

And whilst they sinned not before their God, they prospered, because the God that hates iniquity was with them.  But when they departed from the way which he appointed them, they were destroyed in many battles very sore, and were led captives into a land that was not their’s, and the temple of their God was cast to the ground, and their cities were taken by the enemies.  But now are they returned to their God, and are come up from the places where they were scattered, and have possessed Jerusalem, where their sanctuary is, and are seated in the hill country; for it was desolate.
Now therefore, my lord and governor, if there be any error against this people, and they sin against their God, let us consider that this shall be their ruin, and let us go up, and we shall overcome them.  But if there be no iniquity in their nation, let my lord now pass by, lest their Lord defend them, and their God be for them, and we become a reproach before all the world.

Holofernes’ (the man in charge of the conquest) men determine that they the Israelites should not be feared.  In Chapter 6, Holofernes speaks up saying,

Chapter 6:2-8

And who art you, Achior, and the hirelings of Ephraim, that you have prophesied against us as to day, and have said, that we should not make war with the people of Israel, because their God will defend them? and who is God but Nabuchodonosor?  He will send his power, and will destroy them from the face of the earth, and their God shall not deliver them: but we his servants will destroy them as one man; for they are not able to sustain the power of our horses.  For with them we will tread them under foot, and their mountains shall be drunken with their blood, and their fields shall be filled with their dead bodies, and their footsteps shall not be able to stand before us, for they shall utterly perish, saith king Nabuchodonosor, lord of all the earth: for he said, None of my words shall be in vain. And you, Achior, an hireling of Ammon, which have spoken these words in the day of your iniquity, shall see my face no more from this day, until I take vengeance of this nation that came out of Egypt.  And then shall the sword of mine army, and the multitude of them that serve me, pass through your sides, and you shall fall among their slain, when I return.  Now therefore my servants shall bring you back into the hill country, and shall set you in one of the cities of the passages: And you shall not perish, till you be destroyed with them.

The Israelites saved Achior from further torture, and Achior was able to tell them what had happened, and what Holofernes declaration was.  The people of Israel praised God and asked that He magnify Himself to those who would mock Him.

This scene reminds me of a similar situation in Isaiah 37.  The King of Assyria pronounces that God will not save them from his conquest, because no other god had done so before of their own tribes.  Hezekiah pleads with God to not let the King of Assyria mock Him.  Isaiah returns the message to Hezekiah, assuring him that God is on the side of Israel, and He will cause the Assyrian Army to go back home.

In Chapter 7 we see a strategy developed by the tribe of Esau.  It’s a brilliant plan, by cutting off the water to the city, the people would lose strength and would not be able to fight.  By the end of the chapter, after only about a day, the majority of the city is willing to give up because of this.

Although Esau made up with his brother Jacob, it’s disturbing that we can still see the feud spiritually entwined between these two brothers inside this story.  After-all, who knows best how to disrupt you, than those who are family?

As I work through this story, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the prophecy regarding Esau and Jacob plays out.  Because previously God declared to Rebekah that the “older will serve the younger”.

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Exploring Judith (Ch1-4)

Chapter 1 & 2  describes Nebuchadnezzar as a prideful war lord, that had to fight his way to power because no one took him seriously prior to his violent decree upon all flesh which did not obey the commandment of his mouth.  These go into his conquests leading up to the main story.  In Chapter 3, we are told that Nebuchadnezzar sought to be elevated to the status of god over the land, and his footmen destroyed the gods of the land to see this come to fruition.

Throughout these chapters, Nebuchadnezzar’s speech certainly sounds as though he’s trying to speak in similar words as God has throughout the Bible.  It’s very clear that the author of this book wants to make certain we know just how arrogant Nebuchadnezzar was.

In Chapter 4, we see the people of Judea and Jerusalem come together in order to ask for God’s protection.  They put on sackcloth, throw ashes over their heads, get their servants to join in, fast, sacrifice and pray.  This event illustrates a beautiful understanding of what can happen when a large religious community comes together under the banner of a singular belief system.

We actually see this a few times throughout the Old Testament.  There are times I read of these kinds of events, and I wonder what it would be like if all of Christendom came together to do this- regardless of our denominations.  We have such diverse ideas within the various sects that we’re rarely ever on the same page.  During all of this COVID stuff, I’ve seen people individual churches call for prayer, some denominations doing so- but then even their entire congregation seems to push it to the side.

Sometimes I wonder if the people in the Old Testament were the same way.  It says “all of Israel/Judea/Jerusalem”, but really I wonder how many actually engaged in it.  How many people hid out thinking it was just a show and nothing really came from doing these things.

Still, it would be nice to have someone so revered within the Christian Community that Catholics and Protestants alike would feel compelled to join together as one voice and ask God for the miracle we so desperately need.  Could you imagine Christians across the world coming together within the same 24hrs, at every corner of the planet, in prayer for God’s aide on a singular problem we can all agree needs God’s miracle?

I think the Bible makes it clear that when it’s something that impacts the whole community, then more than a singular church within the community needs to be involved in the intercession.  Even a Prophet could only intercede so much to ask God’s hand be stayed.

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The Saints Are Alive

Thoughts after reading Proven Truth: How Paganism and Idolatry Started in the Church

This post, in no way, is intended to admonish the author Giselle.  It is simply the thoughts that came to mind as I read through her work.  More specifically inspired by the following exert:

“One of the ‘Apostolic Fathers’, Emperor Julian of the Western Empire, had a problem with the worship of the martyrs — those who died because of the prior persecution. They were raising them to the level of Jesus. He noted that people were worshiping the tombs of the Peter and Paul in Rome. He quotes Jesus where he said in Matthew 23:27…

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” Matthew 23:27 NLT

“He was basically saying that tombs are unclean. Stop worshiping them!
“Worship of saints and martyrs still goes on.”

-Giselle, 2020

I do not disagree with Giselle on the point of contention regarding the practice “Intercession of the Saints”, however, many who argue on this are missing a key point on the subject: The saints are not considered dead.  According to practitioners, they are alive in Heaven.

Clearly, a different approach is needed to dispute this.  Though, the most simple answer (at least in my mind) has a gapping hole in the logic.  When I considered this topic, my first thought was “Well this is simple, they can’t be alive, because Enoch, Elijah and Christ are the only ones we know who were taken up to Heaven…”. They were full body experiences, that is- even if we had their exact DNA sequence on file somewhere, we would never be able to find their bones…because they are not here on Earth.  Using this logic would force us to acknowledge that since the New Testament, there have been no confirmed cases where someone was taken up to Heaven while they were still drawing breath here on this Earth.  The Catholics might have a case with Mary, but the story of Mary’s Assumption is dodgy.

This sounds like a great argument…until you consider the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Unless the disciples mistook Enoch for Moses, my argument goes out the window.  And it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have been corrected by Jesus if this is the case- as one of the disciples (Peter?) specifically asked to create a tabernacle for each by name.  There’s a thin line that Jesus just ignored the comment out of hand, not really thinking too terribly on the matter- but still the passages describing Moses being there throw a wrench into the discussion.  

Why?  Because Numbers actually tells us that God buried Moses somewhere in Moab.  Meaning his bones are somewhere still on Earth.  Unless God resurrected him prior to Christ’s death on the cross, and brought him into Heaven in the same fashion as He did Christ.

One of the reasons I’m working through the Apocrypha, is so I can see if there is anything else which supports the narrative of “Intercession of the Saints”.  The “strongest” argument I am aware of comes from Tobit, where Raphael is described as praying for two of the characters prior to assignment to assist them.  And if you’ve read my analysis of this book as I was working through it- you’ll know that I cannot possibly include it as evidence in support of “Intercession of the Saints”.

Maybe there is evidence for it, I’m don’t like to make decisions until I have all the information in front of me.  But if there is none at all, I’m afraid that the kinds of arguments which ignore the practitioners belief these Saints are still alive only illustrate Protestant ignorance to the discussion.  And this ignorance will only serves to push practitioners of “Intercession of the Saints” further into ungodly practices.

Together, I believe we Christians can find a stronger argument to dispute Intercession of the Saints.  But it takes effort and time.  And if we find, at the end, that we’re actually the ones who are wrong, that the Catholic faith had it right this whole time…we have to be willing to turn towards it and accept our own spirits were leading us away.

I’ll admit it if it turns out the evidence is strongly in their favor…but until then I’m an unabashed Protestant.

In case you want to look over my notes on Tobit, you can find each entry here.

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Cain, Ham and Racism

I wonder how many of you would be surprised to learn that Cain, is not just a controversial figure in the Bible, but he also used to inspire racism against two peoples: Those who are Jewish and those who are Black.

We all know the story, right?  The Bible says that after God confronted Cain about Abel’s death, He sent him into exile and told him that the Earth would not yield crops for him.  But Cain had a strong fear that others would kill him for what he had done, so God showed him a mercy by putting a mark upon him which would identify him as someone not to be killed by another, lest God’s wrath come upon the murderer.

But Cain’s story doesn’t really start here.  Not in terms of how Christianity has used him to feed racism amongst Christians.  It really begins in the Garden, as God is confronting the Serpent for making Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit.  He tells the Serpent that He will divide the seed of the Serpent and the Seed of Adam from one another, and the man’s seed would take out the Serpent.

Interpretations of what happen in the Garden are not all the same.  There are people which believe this is about Cain and Abel’s births.  Where the first tradition holds that both Cain and Abel are Adam’s children, this other tradition holds that they are Fraternal Twins with two different fathers.  That the “Forbidden Fruit” is a euphemism meaning that Eve first had sex with the Serpent, and then Adam had sex with the serpent.

In case you didn’t know, it is possible to have twins with two different fathers.  It’s called Superfecundation (Cocozza, 2018).  Which makes this an unfortunate piece of the puzzle- science holds up the theory, and thus encourages this version of the what it means to “partake of the forbidden fruit”.  To the people which believe this, it’s not much longer before the child which is the Serpent’s is revealed.  With Cain’s inability to please God and his subsequent murdering of Abel, everyone suddenly realizes that the seed of the Serpent (or Satan) is Cain.

So let’s go back to Cain’s “mark”.  In one tradition, his mark was the pigment of his skin, and it is used to condemn Black People.  The other tradition states that all his children inherited his curse that the land would not yield to him.  This version of the story is used to condemn the Jewish population, stating that they are not actually the Jews in the Bible, but rather “Kennites” (Descendants of Cain).

I thought about going into who the Kennites actually were, but I’ll get into that on another day.  For now, I want to talk about this problem of Racism in Christianity.  However, to get to that point, we have to have some real hard talks.

First, let’s first try to erase this notion of Cain being the father of an entire race living today: The Flood.  The whole point of the Flood was to get rid of all the evil people and start fresh.  God left only Noah and his Family to inherit the Earth.  It’s pretty clear from the Biblical account that if Cain’s line was nothing but evil, they wouldn’t have survived the Flood.  It’s a simple as that.

But even if this wasn’t the case (as some Christian faiths insist that “world” meant “known world” rather than the whole Earth), the curse of not being able to yield crops seems to have no bearing here either. Jewish people cultivate their own crops in Israel, and have a fairly rich agriculture. I’m sure I’d have some people point out that Zimbabwe has difficulty with their agriculture- to which I’ll see your Zimbabwe card with the US South during the years of slavery. It wasn’t the white people largely tending to the crops- it was Black Slaves who made the market what it was. Clearly both these cultures have the capacity for Green Thumbs. I, on the other hand, don’t. Maybe the curse of Cain came down the White Line? Except that I have plenty of family on both sides that can grow their own small gardens…so there goes that theory as well.

So the next theory comes about- Alright, the Flood and Green Thumbs didn’t work, so let’s try that the Black population comes from Ham.  This one was used by Brigham Young, of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, to try and keep the Black Man down.  His argument was that if we didn’t keep Black Slaves, we would be going against God’s Will when He cursed Ham’s descendants.  This same racism was echoed around the country.  And later on, it became a point of scholarship to blame racism against Black persons on Rabbinic Racism (Goldenberg, 1997).

In some minor defense of the LDS, in 2013 they denounced the Curse of Ham as an excuse to prevent Black Men from obtaining a priesthood, but isn’t well known by their membership.  But this denouncement came about about 40 years after a leader in the Mormon Church had a revelation given to him by God that no race or skin tone should be withheld from the priesthood.

I don’t need a personal revelation.  And honestly if you’re one of those people who believe that God wants you to continue a feud with either the Black or Jewish population, I hope you’ve stuck it out this far.  

EXHIBIT A:

Ezekiel 18:19-20

Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Your actions are your own.  You can choose to follow in the footsteps of your ancestors, or you can choose to become righteous before God.  Every person on this planet has their own choices to make.  They are not bound by a curse made a few millennia ago- the only “bloodline curse” upon anyone are those which are self-fulfilled due to racism.

EXHIBIT B:

Acts 10:28

And he (Peter) said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

Upon Christ’s resurrection, the rules changed.  Gentiles (meaning anyone that isn’t a Jew) were afforded an opportunity to enter into God’s Kingdom in a way they had never been given before.  So even without the declaration in Ezekiel, we have evidence in the New Testament that racism is not just ridiculous- God doesn’t want it.  The whole point of allow Gentiles in was to fulfill a prophecy given in Genesis that God would use Abraham’s line to bring the world together under God’s Divine rulership.

If God judges a human being by their personal character and not by their ancestors- or even by the people they communicate with- by what excuse do we, mere humans, have to do so?

Oh, and by the way, this same argument debunks all Arab racism as well. Although the feud between Ishmael and Isaac seems to be forever going on in the Middle East, there are plenty of people on both sides that have proven Jewish and Muslims can get along when they decide their ancestors and those actively fighting have nothing to do with them.

Citation

Cocozza, P. (2018).  One set of twins – two fathers: how common is superfecundation?  Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2018/dec/11/one-set-twins-two-fathers-how-common-is-superfecundation

Goldenburg, D. (1997).  The Curse of Ham: A Case of Rabbinic Racism?  Retrieved from https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~dmg2/comsalz3%20as%20publ.%20with%20additions.pdf 

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Baruch 6: Keep it or Axe it?

There’s not much point in talking about the rest of this chapter piece by piece. All the author does is come up with ways to prove that the gods of the Chaldeans are not real. What’s sad, however, is that the same things could be said of God today. If we believe the Bible, then what they saw of God vs. the gods is no different than what the average person sees of God today. It’s a bad measuring stick.

In Modern America, God isn’t seen as withholding rain, or giving it- we can explain these things through meteorologists. In Modern America, there are plenty of people who do not show respect for God but claim to be Christian. In Modern America, we can explain away how some people end up with money and how others do not. We don’t see God dishing out what is modernly referred to as “karma”. We can explain how some people live and others die using science. Every proof Baruch 6 uses…is applicable to our experience of God today.

I believe, personally, that Baruch 6 has it wrong though. I believe that the spiritual world is a lot more complicated than “give this” or “give that”. I also think that Baruch 6 may possibly be ignoring or unaware of actual evidence that proves the Chaldean gods aren’t just the 3D images the author believes them to be.

Much like the rest of this book, Baruch 6 is an interesting study of how Jews understood the spiritual world when it was written, but I cannot justify it as canon. Jerome of Stridon didn’t consider this canon either, but included it at the insistance of Rome. Today, many scholars agree that there is no way this was written by Jeremiah, nor was it written during his lifetime.

VERDICT: Axe it.

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Exploring Baruch 6 (Pt. 2)

Baruch 6:12-15

Yet cannot these gods save themselves from rust and moth, though they be covered with purple raiment.  They wipe their faces because of the dust of the temple, when there is much upon them.  And he that cannot put to death one that offendeth him holdeth a scepter, as though he were a judge of the country.  He hath also in his right hand a dagger and an axe: but cannot deliver himself from war and thieves. 16 Whereby they are known not to be gods: therefore fear them not.

Baruch 6:20-23

They are as one of the beams of the temple, yet they say their hearts are gnawed upon by things creeping out of the earth; and when they eat them and their clothes, they feel it not. 21 Their faces are blacked through the smoke that cometh out of the temple. 22 Upon their bodies and heads sit bats, swallows, and birds, and the cats also. 23 By this ye may know that they are no gods: therefore fear them not.

I wonder if the practice described here is similar to what we see in some Catholic churches outside the United States, or in the Hindu religion of India.  Adornment of flowers, jewelry and other offerings are placed upon statutes (idols) to show their outward love for the avatar the statute represent.  If that’s the case, then the author of this letter has misinterpreted what they are seeing.  The point isn’t that the avatar they represent will take care of idol by which man uses for their worship.  Nor would man perceive the statues themselves as being the deity, but rather a representation by which they can illustrate their devotion to them.

The author of this letter clearly didn’t believe that the gods of other nations had any real exists beyond the imagination of it’s followers.  Or if he did, he sought to diminish them through this letter.  It’s not a bad strategy, but it only works as long as you can maintain an insular community.  Once exposure gets out as to the truth of the devotion, choices start getting made based upon the perception of differences between deities and devotional practices.  

Case in point: a lot of people are moving towards spiritual models that embrace the concept of ritual and mystery in favor of the loose “I believe” models.  In fact, I’d say that it because traditions which call upon a more mystical experience that we have Word of Faith ministries, people embracing Catholic models of devotion and even a significant number of people leaving Christianity for Pagan traditions.

Christianity could pick up some ritualistic practices that are absolutely Abrahamic in nature by taking time to set up a space where they simply contemplate God on a regular basis, and pray.  But it has to be set away from church in order for it to really take hold.

Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting point to make about the assumption of other religions.  Even the assumption that is made about us.  Where I do take issue with Catholic Mariology and Intercession of the Saints (a topic for another time), I can’t ignore that the lack of understanding what we are looking at is at the heart of addressing Mariology…I imagine it’s the same with this passage.  A lack of truly understanding what the gentiles were engaging in, was part of the reason it was so difficult to combat.

I think if I was writing this letter, I’d have probably put more focus on the history of how previous prophets had proven God stood higher than any of the nations’ gods.  Maybe made some points of how God is more virtuous by comparison, and encouraged the captives to keep the scripture in their heart.

But who am I to say that would have worked?  I guess we all write in accordance with what sounds more convincing to us.  How would you have addressed the captives if you were trying to encourage them to maintain the faith?

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Exploring Baruch 6 (Pt.1)

(Also known as the Letter of Jeremiah)

So following what I said a couple weeks ago about slowing down, I figured I’d go ahead and run through the last chapter of Baruch and see where we end up.  This chapter doesn’t have any references linked as “positive” to the New Testament, so we’ll be able to skip that portion of the discussion when I get to the conclusion.  So I’m going to meander about this chapter and see if there’s anything worth commenting on before I take on whether it should be included in canon.

Baruch 6:2-6

Because of the sins which ye have committed before God, ye shall be led away captives into Babylon by Nabuchodonosor king of the Babylonians.  So when ye be come unto Babylon, ye shall remain there many years, and for a long season, namely, seven generations: and after that I will bring you away peaceably from thence.

Now shall ye see in Babylon gods of silver, and of gold, and of wood, borne upon shoulders, which cause the nations to fear. Beware therefore that ye in no wise be like to strangers, neither be ye and of them, when ye see the multitude before them and behind them, worshipping them.  But say ye in your hearts, O Lord, we must worship thee.  For mine angel is with you, and I myself caring for your souls.

Today, we live in an age where we are surrounded by sin.  If were in an insular culture that adhered to God’s laws, it would be a great deal easier for us to abide by those rules.   I don’t know if this letter should be considered canon, I’m just now starting in it (as I have everything else), but what I do know is that in this portion of the passage there is a lot of truth for Christians in America.

Fundamental Christian Americans often try to impose their values upon American Politics.   Things that come to mind are: Wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade, standing against same-sex marriages, insisting that Christian Prayer becomes common-place in politics, that our nation’s leader has to be Christian (and even then, only if they agree with a particular set of Christian beliefs), that sex education shouldn’t be part of the school system, the list goes on.  Just because America has a large population of identifying-Christians, doesn’t mean America is a Christian Nation.  In fact, a founding father who may or may not have been Christian, made that abundantly clear with his letter to the Danbury Baptist- which is were we get the term “separation of church and state”.  The exact wording he used was 

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship,” (Jefferson, 1802) (emphasis mine).

Just as it was in early Christianity and for the Jewish people during the Babylonian exile, we live amongst people which are not of Christian origin and commit all kinds of sin that God is against.  It’s not hard for us to find evidence of violations against each of the 10 Commandments in our society, and at least two are considered completely acceptable by many Christians (the Biblical definition of adultery- coveting your neighbor’s stuff and the Biblical definition of adultery).  

From the onset, this letter seeks to remind the captives that they will be amongst non-believers, but that doesn’t give them an excuse to violate the law themselves.  This isn’t much different form what Paul says in Romans 13:1-2 :

God is the One who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power. So those who refuse to obey the law of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow.” 

Think about the implications here- God allowed the governments to pursue those things which even He considers sinful.  So what right do we have to force Christian doctrine (which isn’t even completely agreed upon across the board- for example, many Christians support our LGBT brothers and sisters, and are even pro-abortion, believing that the Bible does not condemn them) over an eclectic approach that best suits the population?

The argument for that might be: God is notorious for Mass Punishment.  Well, yeah, in the Old Testament.  But there isn’t actually a legitimate example of Him delivering mass punishment in the New Testament, unless you count Revelation…which either has or has not come to pass.  As we haven’t had a recorded prophet go on record to illustrate God delivering Mass Punishment since Christ’s Resurrection, we’re left with a strong lack of evidence supporting God’s use of it.  This passage, combined with the evidence in the New Testament should make it pretty clear: Your sin is your sin- God will deliver His judgement when He decides to.

I kind of went on a tangent there, but to circle back: Be responsible for your own actions before God, those around you are responsible for theirs.  And do not mistake this truth: We all fall below God’s standards, so what’s the point in judging your neighbor?

CITATION

Jefferson, T. (1802) Letters between Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists.  Retrieved from https://billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/primary-source-documents/danburybaptists/

P.S. Hope you all are finding something fun to do this Independence Day! I know it might be hard for many of you, but keep your spirits up.

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Statues, St. Louis, White Jesus, Black Jesus…..

This topic…it really needs to be addressed.

Exodus 20:4 is the most difficult commandment of the 10. It seems pretty clean cut…until you realize that God literally commanded Moses to create a graven image so that people would look upon it and be healed:

Numbers 21:5-9

And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

We also have the Ark of the Covenant that has Cherubim adorned atop of it.

To recap what the exact wording of this commandment is:

Exodus 20:4-6

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

The first part is is basically- you personally can’t have them. The second part seems to come down to “if you see them, you aren’t to give them any reverence”.

So then why does Moses get special permission to have Israel go against both of these points by having the Ark and the Brass Serpent? Honestly, I’ll probably never understand that point. What I do know, is that in 2 Kings 18:4, King Hezekiah is credited with destroying the Brass Serpent because it had become a thing of worship. And that’s all I really need to know in order to continue this conversation with you. Maybe in the future I’ll revisit this complicated commandment and work it out. But for this moment in time, the Spirit of the Commandment is more important than the Letter.

America is really getting deep into whether or not we should be eliminating historical monuments. There are Catholics upset with the idea of changing the name of St. Louis because St. Louis (to them) is a Saint in heaven. And Christians across the board are upset over the imagery of Jesus Christ being erased or transformed into someone they don’t recognize.

If I’m being completely honest- if you’re one of these people that are getting upset over what happens to these things, and you identify as a Christian…you sound like you’re revering someone/something other than God. You can try to write off what I’m saying, but if you were to really examine your attachment to these things- and be honest about it- I’m sure you’d find that you’re attaching way too much value to the image over the story.

Getting rid of images doesn’t erase the story. We still have a recount of the Golden Calf preserved in the Bible, but no Golden Calf to look upon and say “hey, that’s what got God angry at Israel, and then Moses begged him to spare Israel despite it’s creation!” because it was destroyed. It’s also true that keeping the images around doesn’t necessarily propogate the story either. No one knows what the Spinx was for. Dozens of theories, but that’s all they are. We add plaques to help keep up the story…but that can all be written in a book or passed down via oral tradition. You’ll probably get more out of a book or oral format too, a plaque only has so much space to record information.

And St. Louis? Should not a people inquire of their God (Isaiah 8:19)? The stories of Saints are preserved in Catholic tradition and books. And while we can absolutely learn something from their stories, they shouldn’t be so adamantly held onto that the renaming of a city should become a point of contention based solely upon their holy status.

Holding onto these things, rather than working on yourself and manifesting God’s Word in real time, is exactly what the 2nd Commandment was warning us against. If God wants to save the name of St. Louis, He will. Who knows, maybe He’s just not invested in saving it, and will let the people decide. If God wants to save the White Jesus images, or wants to change them to Black Jesus images, He will. Who knows, maybe He’s just not invested in saving it, and will let what happens happen. What I will say, though, is I’m about 97% sure that God doesn’t give a damn about the historical statutes- and neither should you.

We are all of God’s Creation, and Christ’s hope was that we would all love each other. The struggle to achieve that worldly love takes a great deal of time. If burying and destroying pieces of art which represent a horrible past and are believed to contribute to the overall stagnation of progress needs to happen, then let’s cast aside those things which have become society’s idols.

Hope you all enjoy your 4th of July. 🙂

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Baruch: Axe It or Keep It?

The last chapter of Baruch is sometimes treated as it’s own book- The Epistle of Jeremiah.  Because of this, I’m going to keep it as it’s own study away from the rest of Baruch.

In my last entry I mentioned that by the time I got through Chapter 5, I had flashbacks to Jeremiah 14.  I would like to say that my Google-Fu is great, but I know it’s horrible.  So in looking, I didn’t find anyone else who linked the two together.  But the history of Baruch is interesting in and of itself.

Many scholars seem to believe that it’s a joining of 3 different documents (2 if you take out the Epistle) put together during or after the Maccabean era.  Which would make it a later composition than the original, and most likely corrupt from whatever was originally put together. Still, I can’t shake the striking similarities of what was said in Jeremiah 14.  That in and of itself challenges the idea that Jeremiah’s scribe was the one that wrote either portion found between 1-5.  Let’s go back over the verses that I thought at the beginning of this journey might affirm Baruch (there were none in the Pauline, James or Jude books).

Luke 13:29 

They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.

Baruch 4:37

Lo, thy sons come, whom thou sentest away, they come gathered together from the east to the west by the word of the Holy One, rejoicing in the glory of God.

These two verses, again, were looked at with a lazy eye.  I’m probably going to find that this is the case multiple times throughout my exploration of the Apocrypha.  But I’m willing to acknowledge where I’m making mistakes.  And along the way, hopefully make it a grand standing point why we can’t just take one verse and turn it into a sermon!

Let’s got around these verses, shall we?

Baruch 4:30-37

Take a good heart, O Jerusalem: for he that gave thee that name will comfort thee. Miserable are they that afflicted thee, and rejoiced at thy fall. Miserable are the cities which thy children served: miserable is she that received thy sons. For as she rejoiced at thy ruin, and was glad of thy fall: so shall she be grieved for her own desolation. For I will take away the rejoicing of her great multitude, and her pride shall be turned into mourning. For fire shall come upon her from the Everlasting, long to endure; and she shall be inhabited of devils for a great time.

O Jerusalem, look about thee toward the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from God. Lo, thy sons come, whom thou sentest away, they come gathered together from the east to the west by the word of the Holy One, rejoicing in the glory of God.

Context is everything.  By adding 6 verses, we can look at context clues and actually figure out what is being talked about- Jerusalem.  Not only that, but it’s talking about being comforted.  This is completely different in Christ’s painting, which reads:

Luke 13:23-30

Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”

And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”

Christ’s story is one of despair.  It’s even worse if you consider it from the prospective of someone who didn’t get the opportunity to get into the gate.  You’d see people that were righteous before God altogether, and realize you didn’t make it.  That’s bound to break any soul.

By reading the context clues, we can see that Christ wasn’t actually referencing Baruch at all.

So Should We Axe It?  Or Keep It?

If I’m right, and let’s face it I can’t find any other scholarly piece (let alone another amateur like myself) that links the two, and Jeremiah 14 is actually talking about the pieces which were used to compose Baruch there may be value in reading this book purely to know what it was God was so angry about.  But for the average Christian, and student, I believe it we should Axe It.

I’ll return to the Apocrypha later and continue this series when I’m up for it. For the time being I’m going to meander through a few other topics that have grabbed my interest recently.

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Exploring Baruch(Ch.4-5)

Chapter 4:6-7

Ye were sold to the nations, not for your destruction: but because ye moved God to wrath, ye were delivered unto the enemies. For ye provoked him that made you by sacrificing unto devils, and not to God. 

The word for “Devils” is δαιμονίοις, or in roman letters “daimoníois”.  I can’t help but think that if this book had been translated into Hebrew it would have been replaced with “’eliyl”.  Why do I think that may have been the case?  Because it happened in Psalm 96:5

For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.

The difference between the two is the difference between “idol” and “demon”.  It’s noteworthy, because Hebrew has a word that could have been put in place of dæmon- you can find it as H7700 (shed) in the Strong’s Concordance.  This word is used all of 2 times, once in Deuteronomy 32:17 and once in Psalm 106:37.  There are other words which may be used to replace a form of “dæmon”, but in context to the sentence “’eliyl” seems the most likely.  At least from a literary prospective.

That may not seem important.  But I find value in the difference because the two words bear very different understandings of who the people were sacrificing too.  If you sacrifice to an “’eliyl” it’s like sacrificing to a dead orange tree.  That tree can’t give you anything now that it’s dead.  But if you sacrifice to a “dæmon” it can give you something, even if minor, in return.  To continue with the live orange tree analogy, the living tree can still act in the capacity of giving you oranges and it can clean the air.  Although limited in scope, when compared to God, it’s still giving you the illusion that it has the power to do something for you.  Which is why the distinction is important.  Because an “’eliyl” centered system isn’t as dangerous as a “dæmon” centered system;  “’eliyl” has no will of it’s own, and cannot influence the thoughts of man- “dæmon” on the other hand, can.

By cutting demonic forces out of the equation, it makes it a great deal easier for Christians to follow something not God under the guise that it is God.  Knowing that influence is real, and not just imagined, brings the spiritual war we face throughout our lives into reality and out of theory.

Chapter 4:36-5:9

O Jerusalem, look about thee toward the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from God.  Lo, thy sons come, whom thou sentest away, they come gathered together from the east to the west by the word of the Holy One, rejoicing in the glory of God.

Put off, O Jerusalem, the garment of mourning and affliction, and put on the comeliness of the glory that cometh from God for ever.

Cast about thee a double garment of the righteousness which cometh from God; and set a diadem on thine head of the glory of the Everlasting.  For God will shew thy brightness unto every country under heaven.  For thy name shall be called of God for ever The peace of righteousness, and The glory of God’s worship.

Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high, and look about toward the east, and behold thy children gathered from the west unto the east by the word of the Holy One, rejoicing in the remembrance of God.  For they departed from thee on foot, and were led away of their enemies: but God bringeth them unto thee exalted with glory, as children of the kingdom.

For God hath appointed that every high hill, and banks of long continuance, should be cast down, and valleys filled up, to make even the ground, that Israel may go safely in the glory of God,  Moreover even the woods and every sweet smelling tree shall overshadow Israel by the commandment of God.  For God shall lead Israel with joy in the light of his glory with the mercy and righteousness that cometh from him.

Remember in Chapter 3 how I brought up that God told Jeremiah not to pray for Israel?

Jeremiah 14:11-12

Then said the Lord unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.

Yeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhh, I am suddenly having flashbacks to that same chapter.  Which continues with-

Jeremiah 14:13-15:1

Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.

Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.

Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.

And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.

Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.

If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not.

Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!  We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.

Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.

Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O Lord our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.

Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.

I think I understand why the Jewish people rejected this book.  After having read the whole of it, this sounds like the very piece that God was referring to in the Jeremiah passage.  Once we get into Chapter 4 and 5, we start to see how the prayer suddenly turned from one that was “Let thy will be done” centered, to a prayer that pretends to know that God will overturn His what He has willed.  In the end, it’s very human centered, and not centered upon righteousness.

And looking back at prayers I’ve heard from various pastors over the years, I can’t help but see a parallel.  If you do X, God will return X with Y (Y being anything other than forgiveness).  It’s more prevalent amongst Word of Faith ministers, but it’s still there with so many others.

We can’t know the mind of God unless He tells us.  In fact, I’d go as far as to argue that’s the whole point of the Captivity going on for so long.  Even if people lived in righteousness, God didn’t start bringing the Nation of Israel back together until 1948.  And even then, their country is struggling to determine who is and isn’t part of the family.  There is just enough room to argue that God hasn’t completely healed them, and their efforts are their own.  Which, I recognize is no small matter.  

Just in case anyone has the question on their mind: God is the one in control of Israel’s future.  I believe that anti-Semitism has no place in the world, and anyone (especially Christians) who support such feelings towards them does not have a relationship with God at all.  If you identify as an anti-Semitic Christian, you really need to work on your relationship with God.  Truly, if you identify with any form of racism, you should work on your relationship with God.

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Exploring Baruch (Ch.3)

Chapter 3:4-6

O Lord Almighty, thou God of Israel, hear now the prayers of the dead Israelites, and of their children, which have sinned before thee, and not hearkened unto the voice of thee their God: for the which cause these plagues cleave unto us.

I wonder what they mean by “dead” here.  In the previous chapter they mention that the dead cannot praise God, nor give Him righteousness.  It would be difficult for me to believe that in the same book two vastly different beliefs are present.

This passage may be something which can be used to support the theory of Intercession of the Saints.  But I’m not so quick to draw that conclusion.  Christ is quoted in Matthew 8:22 saying 

Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead

Christ’s quote is intended to be metaphoric, not literal.  It’s possible, this too, was intended to be metaphoric.  I think this is a better understanding than a theory it may have anything to do with Intercession of the Saints based on the context clues of the sentence.   The way the sentence is structured, it sounds as though they are talking about those which have sinned, but still haven’t done as God asks of them.  This would preclude anyone that has died in righteousness, and would fall into the category of metaphor.

Chapter 3:5

Remember not the iniquities of our forefathers: but think upon thy power and thy name now at this time. For thou art the Lord our God, and thee, O Lord, will we praise.

This verse reminds me of Moses-

Exodus 32:7-14

And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:

Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?

Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.

Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.

And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

The Baruch version is clearly much shorter in its plea.  But verse 6 seems to be encapsulating Moses’ point that if others see them as being forsaken, it will only detract from God’s glory.  I’d argue that it’s a vain attempt, as Moses held a very special relationship with God.  It would be one thing if it was the heartfelt plea of a prophet, God may be willing to hear a Prophet out.  But this whole book was the plea of a nation, not Jeremiah himself.  Though, even then, God explicitly tells Jeremiah not to pray for them-

Jeremiah 14:11-12

Then said the Lord unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.

Baruch 3:9-10

Hear, Israel, the commandments of life: give ear to understand wisdom. How happeneth it Israel, that thou art in thine enemies’ land, that thou art waxen old in a strange country, that thou art defiled with the dead, 

The chapter takes an interesting turn from here.  It begins to address the nation of Israel, and recounts all the reasons they are in their predicament.  It begins to explain why Israel should turn be loyal to God, and turn away from their sins.  And it recounts their own sins.

In many ways, this reads like a fantastic Sunday Service.  It begins with a prayer, opens up like a state of the union.  Wonder what Chapter 4 holds for us.

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Exploring Baruch (Ch.2b)

Chapter 2:17

Open thine eyes, and behold; for the dead that are in the graves, whose souls are taken from their bodies, will give unto the Lord neither praise nor righteousness:

This verse has some interest to me.  It is reminiscent of Ecclesiastes 9:5

For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

But something that strikes me as odd is a story written about 3 times in the New Testament.  In the Gospels, we see a scene where Christ talks to Moses, who did in fact die.  Unlike Elijah, who is also in the same scene on the mountain, Moses wasn’t taken up into heaven. 

It is possible that it wasn’t until the second temple that the disposition of your soul in the afterlife just didn’t get attention, and therefore it may have been a widespread belief that once dead, you were always dead – which was why it was so significant that Enoch and Elijah were taken into heaven alive, just as the Risen Christ was taken into Heaven alive.

But there’s a wrench in this theory.  King Saul approaches a witch for the explicit purpose of being able to talk with Samuel, which leads me to a strong argument that perhaps there was a belief during the first temple of what happens to your soul after you die.

I do not have an answer, but for now I wonder if this verse assumes a belief that these souls are specifically those which God has deemed wicked, and decided to destroy for their inquities rather than allow an chance for redemption.  The concept of hell, at least in my limited understanding as of the writing of this entry, didn’t really surface until the second temple.  But that’s a topic I’ll explore at a later date.

Chapter 2:18-20

But the soul that is greatly vexed, which goeth stooping and feeble, and the eyes that fail, and the hungry soul, will give thee praise and righteousness, O Lord.

Therefore we do not make our humble supplication before thee, O Lord our God, for the righteousness of our fathers, and of our kings.  For thou hast sent out thy wrath and indignation upon us, as thou hast spoken by thy servants the prophets, saying,

This sentiment is echoed in the Hebrews 9:27

“…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement…”

If Baruch had been included in the Protestant Old Testament, I would think this would make the case by itself that prayer for the dead is useless.  What is of interest, however, is that the Catholic Church which does include Baruch practices prayer for the dead on the basis of a belief in Purgatory (which I have yet to find any real evidence for. Maybe it’s in one of these Apocryphal books?).

What makes these verses so invaluable to us today, however, isn’t really that they tell us praying for the dead is a moot point- but that they are taking responsibility for their actions and the actions of the whole.  This is taking responsibility continues throughout the rest of the chapter, with additional acknowledgements of what God asks of them in order to be restored.  At the end, this portion of the prayer concludes with the promise God gives them if they turn back to Him.

Chapter 2:34-35

And I will bring them again into the land which I promised with an oath unto their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they shall be lords of it: and I will increase them, and they shall not be diminished.   And I will make an everlasting covenant with them to be their God, and they shall be my people: and I will no more drive my people of Israel out of the land that I have given them.

God gave an entire people a promise.  But He didn’t given every individual an individual promise in the Old Testament.  Even in the New Testament, we only have one real promise- if we walk in God’s ways, love Him and love our neighbor, we can go to Heaven.  That’s what it really means to have believe/trust in Christ.  It’s not just about knowing that Christ died on the cross for your sins, it’s about understanding what that sacrifice tells you to do in order to fully demonstrate you believe.  If you’re not leading your life in the way God asks you to, it’s not belief, it’s not trust.  That’s just book smarts.

What do you need to take responsibility for concerning your own contribution to the derailment of righteousness? Take this opportunity to consider those sins and what you can do to overcome them in the future.

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War Against Benjamin & This Week’s Riots

Once upon a time, a Levite had a concubine. While coming back home, he stayed with a kind man who allowed him to stay in his home in Gibeah. While there, the residents demanded that the host send out the Levite so they could rape him. But the host sought to protect the Levite, and instead he offered his daugther and concubine. When they people refused, the Levite turned over his own concubine and allowed them to rape and abuse her all night. The next morning, the concubine was found by the Levite dead.

Upset with the results, he took her home, cut her to pieces, and sent them out to each of the Tribes of Israel. Israel came together and determined of their own will that they would go against Gibeah drawing lots.

At first, Israel tried to give the Benjaminites a chance, by insisting they give up the people responsible for what happened to the concubine. But the Benjaminites refused. So Israel had no further choice but to turn to God for advice. In the beginning, Israel looked like they couldn’t win. But God kept telling them to go at it, until finally they saw their breakthrough, and God struck Gibeah Himself.

Israel, shortly after, was torn. They suddenly realized what havoc they had reigned upon a fellow family member. And over what? A concubine? So they sought to remedy the situation and gave them wives to replenish.

This story (Judges 19-21 if you want to read it in full) has some real aggravating elements to it. The Levite and the host (assuming you believe they have two separate origins, some believe they are the same story told differently) took a cue from Lot’s story in Sodom and Gomorrah. But missed the key fact that the 2 angels protected Lot’s daughters. To the angels, the women weren’t “just women”, they were God’s creation and worthy of just as much protection as any man. Even if the Levite was upset that his concubine seems to have played the role of a whore, that doesn’t negate his responsibility to her. Not once in this story, does the host or the Levite turn to God for help to prevent the sons of Belial from committing an unspeakable crime.

Another aggravation is that God seems to punish everyone in this story, but there isn’t a clear understanding as to why. We could come up with theories about why Israel didn’t prevail in the beginning, but none of those justifications can be solidified as fact.

The War against the Benjaminites wasn’t for nothing. It sent a strong message that Israel wouldn’t stand for this kind of evil in its land. And they wouldn’t allow for systematic protection of such evil.

Per the title, you’re probably wondering how this has anything to do with what happened last week and this past weekend.

I respect many of our men and women serving the Blue Line, but I’m not so niave as to believe that there isn’t a tribal problem along that line. The Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd (and similar) cases are clear evidence that there are problems. Being a part of any group (be it career, cultural or otherwise) is just like being a Benjaminite in this story. They feel a sense of duty to protect the sanctity of whatever it is they stand for. That’s just another feature of this story in Judges that is so aggrevating…we don’t get to hear what Benjamin was actually doing to rectify the situation. Had they launched their own internal investigation? Were they really just responding to what looked like a real threat and figured Israel was so out of their minds that they wouldn’t actually be satisfied by fulfilling their request?

Without information, we can’t know enough to formulate an opinion. But with what little information we have, there’s something to be learned in the aftermath of the war against the Benjaminites. Something applicable today. After all this rioting and looting against civilian targets (don’t confuse my words as condemning everything, a police precinct was a perfectly valid target- private businesses/property are not), those who committed such crimes against their fellow American brothers and sisters, should consider what they can do to rectify the situation and restore what they have taken from those that were innocent in all of this.

If you are amongst those who participated in the looting and rioting against private businesses/properties, and claim to be a follower of Christ, you should feel the same shame as the Israelites did- because this isn’t who we are called to be.

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Exploring Baruch(Ch.2a)

Chapter 2:1-5

Therefore the Lord hath made good his word, which he pronounced against us, and against our judges that judged Israel, and against our kings, and against our princes, and against the men of Israel and Juda,  To bring upon us great plagues, such as never happened under the whole heaven, as it came to pass in Jerusalem, according to the things that were written in the law of Moses;  That a man should eat the flesh of his own son, and the flesh of his own daughter.  Moreover he hath delivered them to be in subjection to all the kingdoms that are round about us, to be as a reproach and desolation among all the people round about, where the Lord hath scattered them.

Thus we were cast down, and not exalted, because we have sinned against the Lord our God, and have not been obedient unto his voice.

God created a lengthy contract in Leviticus with the Israelites.  In chapter 26:14-46, God tells Israel the horrors they can expect if they go against him.  Amongst these horrors is that God will force them into a situation where they eat the flesh of their sons and daughters (Leviticus 26:29).  Towards the end of the chapter God tells them that the only reason they will not be eradicated from the face of the Earth is because He made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This is echoed again in Deuteronomy 28:53

And you shall eat the offspring of your own stomach, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom Adonai your God has given you; in the siege and the distress by which your enemies will oppress you.

And Jeremiah warns Israel they are about to be brought under this curse in Jeremiah 19:9

I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh in the siege and distress inflicted on them by their enemies who seek their lives.’

Ezekiel also issues the statement this curse will be upon them in Ezekiel 5:9.

It may seem strange to think that Israel would have been laid so low as to become cannibals, but the Bible does confirm at least one case of it of in 2 Kings 6:24-30.  This, of course, is during Elisha’s ministry, and not at the time of Jeremiah.  Telling us that the Book of Baruch’s account is not the first time this curse was brought upon Israel.  Lamentations echoes Baruch in the telling of what happened due to the Siege of Jerusalem.

Lamentations 4:10

‘The hands of the compassionate women Have cooked their own children; They became food for them In the destruction of the daughter of my people.’

If you’re up for the read, this article takes a more in-depth look at the curse and even links it to a practice in Near East punishments.

Chapter 2:6-10

To the Lord our God appertaineth righteousness: but unto us and to our fathers open shame, as appeareth this day.  For all these plagues are come upon us, which the Lord hath pronounced against us  Yet have we not prayed before the Lord, that we might turn every one from the imaginations of his wicked heart.  Wherefore the Lord watched over us for evil, and the Lord hath brought it upon us: for the Lord is righteous in all his works which he hath commanded us.  Yet we have not hearkened unto his voice, to walk in the commandments of the Lord, that he hath set before us.

Let thy wrath turn from us: for we are but a few left among the heathen, where thou hast scattered us.

In basic training mass punishment was par for the course. I sometimes wonder if that idea came from some general reading the Bible and thinking “God’s model of mass punishment seems to have worked, maybe we can replicate it in our training!”.

It does tend to work in Basic, actually.  It’s a good visual aide for the impact that one person has on the capability of the rest of the team.  With a national prayer like this, it stands as an eye-opener for the people to see how their own actions impact the rest of the whole.

I know quite a few people (non-Christians) that look at God with disgust because He doesn’t have to choose to do these things, but He does anyway.  Admittedly, God’s version of mass punishment upsets me.  I don’t rejoice in it at all.  But I don’t ignore it either.  Nor do I believe that the way to turn people to God is to tell them of the unspeakable evils He’s willing to cast down upon us for our depravity.

I’ve come to accept God’s Mass Punishment Strategy as something very similar to the way the Military uses it.  When I think of “Without God, the world has no reason to be morally upstanding” I don’t think of it the same way that most Christians I know of think of it.  But more in the same thought process of an American standing on the side of the Second Amendment.

An Atheist will point out to you that if you need God to be morally upright, then you aren’t morally upright.  I don’t disagree.  But what are the moral values you need to hold?  The first commandment Christ tells us is that we should love God completely, because God outlines how to best follow the second of Christ’s commandments to Love your neighbor.  While you can choose to follow those same morals without loving God, and be morally upright (not to be confused with spiritually upright, which is founded upon the first commandment to love God in conjunction with the second), you contribute to the trap that brings immorality into the world.  Or another way to put it:

If a bad apple is not removed in a timely manner, it can contaminate the rest.

That’s the crux of God’s Mass Punishment Strategy.  He’s in a completely different league of His own.  In order to bring His people back into line, the only real option available to Him is to take extreme measures or give up and leave us to our own devices.

We don’t have to like it.  That’s something I think is very important to know- we don’t have to like it.  Moses didn’t, and because he loved both God and his people, he fought against God for them more than once.  But I do have to accept that these things are within God’s nature, and all I can do is pray for God to take away such evils from amongst us.  Even if He won’t hear me, I should try anyway.  Just as this book attempts to.

I’m going to skip the next few verses, as they are more of the same “we messed up, please turn back to us”.  Most of the chapter is, but there are some interesting points along the way.

I’ve actually written a great deal more than I expected to for this chapter and will need to break it up a bit over time.  So I’ll stop here for today, and leave you with the following meditation topic:

How do you cope with the things you believe are absolutely abhorrent in the Old Testament?  If you haven’t really thought about those things, I recommend you do- because you can’t really love someone if you ignore the things you find faults.  Joshua told Israel to make a decision in Joshua 24:15

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”

God doesn’t want you to believe He is the evil one.  But it is clear that God also doesn’t want us to be ignorant of His nature.  For Joshua continues in verse 24:19-20 –

‘But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord , for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.”’

So take this time to really consider your answer to this question: How do I reconcile the decisions of God I find abhorrent?

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Exploring Baruch(Ch.1)

Baruch begins about 5 1/2 years after the Chaldeans took Jerusalem into Captivity.  This book is considered a long national prayer which confesses sins.  We’ll pick up in this chapter at verse 6.

Chapter 1:6-12

They made also a collection of money according to every man’s power: And they sent it to Jerusalem unto Joachim the high priest, the son of Chelcias, son of Salom, and to the priests, and to all the people which were found with him at Jerusalem, At the same time when he received the vessels of the house of the Lord, that were carried out of the temple, to return them into the land of Juda, the tenth day of the month Sivan, namely, silver vessels, which Sedecias the son of Josias king of Jada had made, After that Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon had carried away Jechonias, and the princes, and the captives, and the mighty men, and the people of the land, from Jerusalem, and brought them unto Babylon.

And they said, Behold, we have sent you money to buy you burnt offerings, and sin offerings, and incense, and prepare ye manna, and offer upon the altar of the Lord our God; And pray for the life of Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, and for the life of Balthasar his son, that their days may be upon earth as the days of heaven: And the Lord will give us strength, and lighten our eyes, and we shall live under the shadow of Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, and under the shadow of Balthasar his son, and we shall serve them many days, and find favour in their sight.

Nebuchadnezzar was painted in a very negative light in the Bible, though modern history treats him far more kindly. Despite all of this, the story opens with a prayer for Nebuchadnezzar’s prosperity. 

Given that Baruch is believed to have been written by Jeremiah’s scribe, it should be no surprise to find this within the text.  For we see in Jeremiah 29:7

And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

Paul acknowledges this in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Chapter 1:13-22

Pray for us also unto the Lord our God, for we have sinned against the Lord our God; and unto this day the fury of the Lord and his wrath is not turned from us. And ye shall read this book which we have sent unto you, to make confession in the house of the Lord, upon the feasts and solemn days.

And ye shall say, To the Lord our God belongeth righteousness, but unto us the confusion of faces, as it is come to pass this day, unto them of Juda, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,And to our kings, and to our princes, and to our priests, and to our prophets, and to our fathers:For we have sinned before the Lord,And disobeyed him, and have not hearkened unto the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in the commandments that he gave us openly: Since the day that the Lord brought our forefathers out of the land of Egypt, unto this present day, we have been disobedient unto the Lord our God, and we have been negligent in not hearing his voice.

Wherefore the evils cleaved unto us, and the curse, which the Lord appointed by Moses his servant at the time that he brought our fathers out of the land of Egypt, to give us a land that floweth with milk and honey, like as it is to see this day. Nevertheless we have not hearkened unto the voice of the Lord our God, according unto all the words of the prophets, whom he sent unto us: But every man followed the imagination of his own wicked heart, to serve strange gods, and to do evil in the sight of the Lord our God.

How often do we pray and say “we have sinned” or “I have sinned”?  I don’t actually know, I’m asking because I really don’t know how often you or others do.  I, myself, say it often in regards to myself and on occasion I find myself saying it about America or the world when I’m lamenting about the state of humanity.  I feel wretched for the things I’ve done historically, like I can never really escape it.  It’s probably at the root of why I started this blog, so that maybe with more focus on God’s word, I can come to terms with myself by coming to terms with the fact that God still loves the tribes of Israel despite their own historical sins of the past.

What makes this passage so much more important to me, is that the people have accepted God’s Will, but still want to make things right by offering prayer.  

Just think, how easy would it be to turn away from God when He’s angry.  We have all kinds of literary works that deal with this very trope, though less as it concerns a deity and more focused on the human-to-human psyche.  But I think they bare a lot of value in terms of our ability to cope with God too.

It’s in our darkest times that we hear ourselves saying “God please help us”, but I wonder how often we think “God I accept your will”.  Admittedly, it wasn’t until about a year ago I started to acknowledge “God I accept your will”, even if I said it during prayer.  Israel, in this prayer, acknowledged something that has taken me years to acknowledge.  I wonder if it’s because of a difference in upbringing.  Or if it’s something we have to struggle with until we get it.  Maybe even those which drew up the prayer for Baruch to read before God didn’t quite understand it either, but acknowledged it was spoken of by the Prophets.

What about you?  Have you taken the time to really consider what it means to accept God’s Will?  Christ asked that the cup be taken from him, but he would accept God’s Will if it was not (Matthew 26:39), and long before him, Job 2:10

Will we recieve good from God, but not also recieve evil?

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Tobit: Keep it or Axe it?

After having read the Book of Tobit, I’ve had some time to think about what I’ve looked at.  I know I said I was leaning towards it being a work of fiction, but now it’s got me wondering.  One of the things I have a hard time wrapping my head around is the story of the Bronze Serpent.  At Mt. Sinai, Moses tells the people “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”  (Exodus 20:4), yet God directs him to fashion a bronze serpent for everyone to look upon.  This eventually leads to the people worshipping it, and Hezakiah has to break it in half to get people to understand it’s taking the place of God.  We also see that God directs Israel to craft the Ark of the Covenant with images from heaven adorned on top.  Both go against the second commandment, and they are both done in Moses’ life after the commandment is given.  So I’m going to do one more test before I make a decision: Examine the NT references to Tobit.

After looking over the whole of the New Testament, only 4 references come up.  This includes Jude, James and Paul’s works which were excluded from the list I did on “Axed Canon”.

Matt.. 7:12 Tobit 4:15 
Rev. 8:3-4 Tobit 12:12,15
Rev. 21:19Tobit 13:17
Rev. 19:1Tobit 13:18

Matthew 7:12

 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Tobit 4:15  

Do that to no man which thou hatest: drink not wine to make thee drunken: neither let drunkenness go with thee in thy journey.

I almost placed this one in the “iffy” section because it’s loose.  After poking around a bit, though, it seems I can actually mark this off as not having anything to do with Tobit.  Both of these verses are informed by the Old Testament.  You can see Christ’s words reflected in Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Revelation 8:3-4 T

hen another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.

Tobit 12:12,15  

Now therefore, when thou didst pray, and Sara thy daughter in law, I did bring the remembrance of your prayers before the Holy One: and when thou didst bury the dead, I was with thee likewise… I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.

1 Enoch also tells us that the Angels offer up prayers for men on earth.  It may not seem like an important point, since 1 Enoch is considered a false document (and just for the record, I do not believe it should be counted as canonical; an interesting read, but not inspired), but 1 Enoch is directly quoted in Jude 1:14-15.  Which shows that it had a fair amount of popularity and the imagery would be recognizable by people in the early church.

1 Enoch 39:5

Here mine eyes saw their dwellings with His righteous angels, And their resting-places with the holy. And they petitioned and interceded and prayed for the children of men, And righteousness flowed before them as water, And mercy like dew upon the earth: Thus it is amongst them for ever and ever.

But this isn’t the only point to make.  Another point is that there is a strong belief that what is reflected here on earth, is also replicated in heaven.  And to this end, we can see that the scenery inside of the Heavenly Temple looks an awful lot like the Earthly Temple. 

So in further consideration of this, it is possible that Tobit confirms the scenery Revelation, but it is equally plausible that a reference to 1 Enoch has a stronger connection to the Revelation verses.

Revelation 21:19

The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,

Tobit 13:17

And the streets of Jerusalem shall be paved with beryl and carbuncle and stones of Ophir. 

Chapter 13 is a Tobit are from a prayer, which accounts what God has done and will do.  In Isaiah 54:11-12 we read:

O you afflicted one, Tossed with tempest, and not comforted, Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, And lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, Your gates of crystal, And all your walls of precious stones.  All your children shall be taught by the Lord, And great shall be the peace of your children.

Because this is a prayer, and Tobit is not marked as a Prophet, it is more likely that he was recalling the words of Isaiah rather than being the catalyst to affirm Revelation.

Revelation 19:1

After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!

Tobit 13:18

And all her streets shall say, Alleluia; and they shall praise him, saying, Blessed be God, which hath extolled it for ever.

In examining this one, I realize I probably should have combed through my “positive” list with a more keen eye.  Though, in my defense I simply compared the verses without any knowledge of their context.  One could easily say that combing through these more intricately after I read the books would have been inevitable even if I hadn’t thought of it until writing this entry.  Though, if I had actually paid attention to these two verses, I’d have realized they are far too generic to be considered a reference, and would have written it into the “Iffy” box originally.  Though, now that I have  taken into account the context, I can say confidently that these are talking about two different groups anyway.  Revelation talks about Heaven’s voices singing Alleluia, whereas Tobit is referring to Jerusalem on Earth.

I started the study into Tobit with the assumption that the council which established the Old Testament Canon was actually paying attention to what they were and were not letting in.  But in knowing that Tobit was allowed to be part of the canon, even if it wasn’t considered as valuable as other books in the Bible, has really discouraged me.  Even if it wasn’t regulated to the same importance of better works (such as the first five books) but rather “ecclesiastic”, the allowance for anti-Judaism themes should have disqualified it from the get-go. This book is of historical interest, in that it tells us things about what the author and people of the author’s time believed. And there may even be some things that can still be gained from knowing the author’s beliefs in parallel to modern traditions. But the value ends there.

Sadly…I guess this really was just an ancient version of “Touched by an Angel”. Axe it.

I think I’ll take on Baruch next.

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Exploring Tobit (Ch.12-14)

In Chapter 12, Tobit tries to honor his promise to Raphael, by giving him the money he was due, and then extra.  It is finally at this point that Raphael reveals who he is.  He starts out by telling them that they should praise God for everything, and it seems he also wants them to spread the word that God has done great things for them.  And he gives them additional advice on how to live righteously.  The advice picks up in verse 7-

Chapter 12:7-10

It is good to keep close the secret of a king, but it is honourable to reveal the works of God. Do that which is good, and no evil shall touch you.  Prayer is good with fasting and alms and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with unrighteousness. It is better to give alms than to lay up gold:  For alms doth deliver from death, and shall purge away all sin. Those that exercise alms and righteousness shall be filled with life:  But they that sin are enemies to their own life.

Following this, Raphael reveals that he’s been following their story for a while, and was the one that brought up Tobit and Sara’s concerns to God.

Chapter 12:11-15

Surely I will keep close nothing from you. For I said, It was good to keep close the secret of a king, but that it was honourable to reveal the works of God.  Now therefore, when thou didst pray, and Sara thy daughter in law, I did bring the remembrance of your prayers before the Holy One: and when thou didst bury the dead, I was with thee likewise.  And when thou didst not delay to rise up, and leave thy dinner, to go and cover the dead, thy good deed was not hid from me: but I was with thee.  And now God hath sent me to heal thee and Sara thy daughter in law.  I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.

This is the first time we hear of Angels presenting prayers to God.  It’s also the first time that we see any form of prayer in heaven offered up for those on earth.  The second time is in Revelation 8:3-4

Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints ascended before God from the Angel’s hand.

Depending upon which date you give Tobit (the 8th Century BCE, according to Catholic tradition; or 2nd -3rd Century BCE), this may be the earliest mention of Raphael at all.  If we put it into the earlier date, however, 1 Enoch is a strong contestant for the mention of Raphael first.  The most we have, is that based on the earlier date of Tobit, 1 Enoch is written around the same time.  In 1 Enoch, Raphael “is set over all the diseases and all the wounds of the children of men” (1 Enoch 40:9).  Although the only Archangel noted for offering prayers for men on earth is Gabriel, one might conclude from 1 Enoch 39:5 that all the Angels do this, and that would include Raphael.  But this doesn’t exactly confirm that Raphael is offering up the prayers of the saints.  The only possible confirmation that Raphael is one of the angels offering up the prayers of believers on earth is in Revelation, which doesn’t name the angel performing the rite.

Chapter 12:20-22

Now therefore give God thanks: for I go up to him that sent me; but write all things which are done in a book.  And when they arose, they saw him no more.  Then they confessed the great and wonderful works of God, and how the angel of the Lord had appeared unto them.

By no means am I at the scholarship level.  But if I were, based on the evidence I have in front of me, my hypothesis would be that 1 Enoch was written first, and Tobit was a fictional piece written with the knowledge of 1 Enoch in mind.  Part of my the hypothesis comes from this passage.  If the family was intended to write of this story in a book, then the book should date to the 8th Century when it was fresh.  The number of inaccuracies that scholars have found suggest that the book wasn’t written by an eyewitness even to the time it is said to have taken place.

For now, I’m going to skip Chapter 13, and post at the end for you to all contemplate on your own.  In Chapter 14, Tobit tells Tobias to leave Ninevah because he believes that God will destroy Ninevah.  This warning to Tobias follows after Jonah’s warning to Ninevah. 

Although we know that the people at Ninevah avoided destruction, I can’t help but think of an earlier verse in this book where Tobit tells Tobias not to pour bread over the graves of the unrighteous.  From the account in Chapter 14, we can see that Tobit very much understands and accepts the destruction which God sought to bring to Ninevah.  The book ends with a sense of Tobias and his family living happily ever after with his father-in-law Raguel.

Chapter 13 Tobit’s Prayer

Blessed be God that liveth for ever, and blessed be his kingdom.  For he doth scourge, and hath mercy: he leadeth down to hell, and bringeth up again: neither is there any that can avoid his hand.  Confess him before the Gentiles, ye children of Israel: for he hath scattered us among them. 4 There declare his greatness, and extol him before all the living: for he is our Lord, and he is the God our Father for ever.  And he will scourge us for our iniquities, and will have mercy again, and will gather us out of all nations, among whom he hath scattered us.

If ye turn to him with your whole heart, and with your whole mind, and deal uprightly before him, then will he turn unto you, and will not hide his face from you. Therefore see what he will do with you, and confess him with your whole mouth, and praise the Lord of might, and extol the everlasting King. In the land of my captivity do I praise him, and declare his might and majesty to a sinful nation. O ye sinners, turn and do justice before him: who can tell if he will accept you, and have mercy on you?

I will extol my God, and my soul shall praise the King of heaven, and shall rejoice in his greatness.  Let all men speak, and let all praise him for his righteousness.

O Jerusalem, the holy city, he will scourge thee for thy children’s works, and will have mercy again on the sons of the righteous.  Give praise to the Lord, for he is good: and praise the everlasting King, that his tabernacle may be builded in thee again with joy, and let him make joyful there in thee those that are captives, and love in thee for ever those that are miserable.

Many nations shall come from far to the name of the Lord God with gifts in their hands, even gifts to the King of heaven; all generations shall praise thee with great joy.  Cursed are all they which hate thee, and blessed shall all be which love thee for ever.  Rejoice and be glad for the children of the just: for they shall be gathered together, and shall bless the Lord of the just.  O blessed are they which love thee, for they shall rejoice in thy peace: blessed are they which have been sorrowful for all thy scourges; for they shall rejoice for thee, when they have seen all thy glory, and shall be glad for ever.

Let my soul bless God the great King.  For Jerusalem shall be built up with sapphires and emeralds, and precious stone: thy walls and towers and battlements with pure gold.  And the streets of Jerusalem shall be paved with beryl and carbuncle and stones of Ophir.  And all her streets shall say, Alleluia; and they shall praise him, saying, Blessed be God, which hath extolled it for ever.

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Exploring Tobit (Ch.10-11)

Chapter 10:1-7a

Now Tobit his father counted every day: and when the days of the journey were expired, and they came not, Then Tobit said, Are they detained? or is Gabael dead, and there is no man to give him the money? Therefore he was very sorry. Then his wife said unto him, My son is dead, seeing he stayeth long; and she began to wail him, and said, Now I care for nothing, my son, since I have let thee go, the light of mine eyes.

To whom Tobit said, Hold thy peace, take no care, for he is safe. But she said, Hold thy peace, and deceive me not; my son is dead. And she went out every day into the way which they went, and did eat no meat on the daytime, and ceased not whole nights to bewail her son Tobias, until the fourteen days of the wedding were expired, which Raguel had sworn that he should spend there. 

I know I’ve felt this kind of worry in my own heart.  I had a dear friend that would go off the grid for months at a time.  She was homeless, and I couldn’t help but worry about her.  It wasn’t until after her death I realized I probably should have been a great deal more worried.  All those times she ran, she was running from human trafficking.  Today, my worry is towards my husband who rides a scooter (on par with the power of a motorcycle) everywhere.  When he’s not home on time and hasn’t told me he’s going to be out for more than an hour longer, I get worried.

But unlike Tobit and Anna, I can look up where my husband is via the “Where’s my iPhone” app if it gets too late.

This trial is huge for them.  Tobit promises God will keep Tobias, and now he’s probably feeling like God didn’t see fit for that to be the case.

Chapter 10:7b-12

Then Tobias said to Raguel, Let me go, for my father and my mother look no more to see me. But his father in law said unto him, Tarry with me, and I will send to thy father, and they shall declare unto him how things go with thee. But Tobias said, No; but let me go to my father.

Nice to see that Tobias was thinking about his parents.  The fact that he wanted to go back speaks volumes of the family ties they had to one another too.  

Chapter 10:11- 13

Then Raguel arose, and gave him Sara his wife, and half his goods, servants, and cattle, and money: And he blessed them, and sent them away, saying, The God of heaven give you a prosperous journey, my children. And he said to his daughter, Honour thy father and thy mother in law, which are now thy parents, that I may hear good report of thee. And he kissed her. Edna also said to Tobias, The Lord of heaven restore thee, my dear brother, and grant that I may see thy children of my daughter Sara before I die, that I may rejoice before the Lord: behold, I commit my daughter unto thee of special trust; where are do not entreat her evil.

I didn’t really have a father that could give me away.  I actually had three candidates (godfather, uncle, stepfather), but my family made me feel absolutely terrible about choosing between them- to the point I almost asked a teacher none of them knew to perform the rite.  Of course, he lived states away and on such short notice it wasn’t likely he could make that happen.  Then, I had this brilliant idea, my mother could give me away at my wedding!  It’s kind of cool to see Edna as the one that says “I commit my daughter” in this story.

Chapter 11:1-6

After these things Tobias went his way, praising God that he had given him a prosperous journey, and blessed Raguel and Edna his wife, and went on his way till they drew near unto Nineve.  Then Raphael said to Tobias, Thou knowest, brother, how thou didst leave thy father:  Let us haste before thy wife, and prepare the house.  And take in thine hand the gall of the fish. So they went their way, and the dog went after them.  Now Anna sat looking about toward the way for her son.  And when she espied him coming, she said to his father, Behold, thy son cometh, and the man that went with him.

We’re back at the fish gall…But, I have to give Raphael some credit here.  Pretty cool that he thought to have Tobias get rid of the whiteness before his new wife Sara arrived.  That way Tobit will be able to see his new daughter.

You know, I’m going to harp on this a bit more. For the life of me I cannot figure out how this tidbit got past the councils which established them as valid canon. Prior to this chapter, I didn’t look to see what others had said about this book. The most I found was that it was excluded because protestants were anti-Catholic. But it seems I’m not the only person that had concerns about the fish parts. In the book “Table Talk of Martin Luther”, which documents a number reconstructed of conversations he had, Dr. Justus Jonas brings this very concern “May ridiculous things are contained in this book, especially about the three nights, the liver of broiled fish, wherewith the devil was scared and driven away.”  To which Martin Luther retorts “Tis a Jewish conceit; the devil, a fierce and powerful enenmy, will not be hunted away in such sort, for he has the spear of Goliah; but God gives him such weapons, that, when he is overcome by the godly, it may be the greater terror and vexation unto him.”

Another person that brought up concern was William Craig Brownlee in “Letters in the Roman Catholic Controversy” where he says “They [books of Apocrypha] were not sent of God: they nowhere affirm this: their writings have none of the evidence of their divine mission, as prophets: they abound with puerility, filthiness, errors, and glaring contradictions.  Let me only direct your attention to the fictions about the angel’s grave recommendation to make smoke out of the heart and liver of a fish, to frighten away devils out of men!” (I reserve the right to determine for myself the disposition of the other Apocryphal books).

It’s of note, that Jerome of Stridon even wondered why there was an insistence upon getting Tobit translated into Latin, after the Jewish people had cut it from their own canon. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why such a blatant display of pharmakeia would be considered viable for the Christian canon. Though there may be some saving grace in the consideration of the Early church that neither Melito nor Cyril of Jerusaleum included it in their own canonical lists.

Chapter 11:7-8

Then said Raphael, I know, Tobias, that thy father will open his eyes.  Therefore anoint thou his eyes with the gall, and being pricked therewith, he shall rub, and the whiteness shall fall away, and he shall see thee.

There are a few stories where people were blind and they were able to see again.  Each time through prayer, spoken word or laying of hands, with the exception of Christ using mud.

The next few verses are about Anna, Tobit and Tobias being reunited; and Tobit’s eyes being healed.  It goes on to speak of how everyone rejoiced that God had restored their family, and added to them.  

Both of these chapters speak to familial ties.  I didn’t really give a contemplation in the last two entries, so I’ll pick it back up here:

How do you feel about your own family?  What does it mean to Honor Your Father and Mother to you?  Whereas this story is of a family that clearly loved each other, maybe yours isn’t quite the same way, so how can you reconcile the commandment to honor your parent(s) if they were horrible examples of what it means to be [a] parent(s)?

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Exploring Tobit (Ch.7-9)

Chapter 7 Recap

Chapter 7 is basically how Tobias and Raphael meet up with Raguel and discuss Tobias’ soon marriage to Sara.  Raguel knows Tobit and is sad to hear that he’s gone blind, but is excited because it means there is someone that his daughter can marry.  Raguel is also very up front about the misfortune that follows Sara.  But having been encouraged by Raphael before coming to Raguel’s home, Tobias still agrees to the marriage.

Moving onto Chapter 8-

Chapter 8:1-3

And when they had supped, they brought Tobias in unto her.  And as he went, he remembered the words of Raphael, and took the ashes of the perfumes, and put the heart and the liver of the fish thereupon, and made a smoke therewith.  The which smell when the evil spirit had smelled, he fled into the utmost parts of Egypt, and the angel bound him.

I know a ranted a good bit about this in Chapter 6, but I’m going to harp on it more.  This whole scene really makes Raphael look bad.  In Angelology, Raphael isn’t just any angel, he’s an Archangel.  If Christ was made a little lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:9) wouldn’t that mean that Raphael could have easily dealt with Asmodeus no problem?  First, it doesn’t appear as though Raphael was the one that ultimately dealt with the demon.  Another Angel seems to have locked him up, hundreds of miles away.  Then there’s the fact that Raphael had Tobias rely upon, what looks like, pharmakeia to deal with the demon.

In thinking more on this, there is a singular tradition in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 16) that talks about how David soothed an evil spirit which was placed upon King Saul with his harp. The spirit didn’t leave Saul alone though. It came upon him several times, and is acknowledged as having been directly sent by God. Then, in chapter 18, we find that David can no longer calm the evil spirit because Saul’s hatred for David causes him to have to leave. Since the spirit keeps coming back, it’s evident that only God can get rid of it permanently. Which, in the story of Tobias does happen here- some far off angel takes out Asmodeus. However, I’ll reiterate here that a harp and animal parts are very different things; and even then if there is an animal that would have been considered approprirate it would have been one either a ram, goat, sheep or doves, as these are the only animals permitted for sacrifice under Mosaic law.

Okay, I’m off my soapbox…for now.

Chapter 8:4-8

And after that they were both shut in together, Tobias rose out of the bed, and said, Sister, arise, and let us pray that God would have pity on us. Then began Tobias to say, Blessed art thou, O God of our fathers, and blessed is thy holy and glorious name for ever; let the heavens bless thee, and all thy creatures. Thou madest Adam, and gavest him Eve his wife for an helper and stay: of them came mankind: thou hast said, It is not good that man should be alone; let us make unto him an aid like unto himself. And now, O Lord, I take not this my sister for lush but uprightly: therefore mercifully ordain that we may become aged together. And she said with him, Amen.

This is actually a beautiful prayer, in my opinion.  Tobias leads Sara in prayer before they consummate the marriage.  I’m actually quite curious if Sara’s previous husbands had entered into prayer before consummating the marriage.  The prayer acknowledges the incredible importance placed upon a marriage from the beginning.

What I find even more important here, is that despite the fact that Tobias has heeded everything Raphael has said- even going as far as to convincing him that Sara was promised to him, Tobias didn’t just take his word for it.  He placed the decision into the hands of God.  Trusting in God’s decision, rather than trusting the word of a stranger who seems to be right about and know things he probably shouldn’t. 

The rest of the chapter is about how Raguel finds out that Tobias is still alive, and rejoices praising God.  It also tells us that the wedding feast was 14 days long.  In Chapter 9, Tobias asks Raphael to go to Gabael and grab up the money they set out to get in the first place, because he’s going to be stuck at the wedding feast until the 14 days are over.  Raphael does so, and brings it all back.  Once he does, it ends the chapter by saying that Tobias blessed his wife.  Not really sure what that means, did he give her a gift?  Or did he say a prayer of blessing?

In an earlier chapter I mentioned that I heard this story about a Catholic who sent out his angel (Columbo, btw, he named his angel Columbo) to go and do something.  In some respects, I have to wonder if the basis for that idea comes from this story?  I don’t know, and I certainly hope that is no the case.  I should note, that I haven’t really found much in the way of Catholic philosophy that supports this notion of being able to send your angels out, so it may be a minority belief.  In either case, the story here of how Tobias asks Raphael to make the rest of the trip isn’t the same as what we see in the story of a man asking his guardian angel Columbo to go out and do something on his behalf.  In the case of Tobias, he is still addressing Raphael as Azarias by this point, indicating that he hasn’t figured it out yet.  With the disguise still up, and Raphael apparently not wanting to give up his position, he carries on as though he’s another human being.

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Exploring Tobit (Ch.6)

Chapter 6:1-5

And as they went on their journey, they came in the evening to the river Tigris, and they lodged there.  And when the young man went down to wash himself, a fish leaped out of the river, and would have devoured him.  Then the angel said unto him, Take the fish. And the young man laid hold of the fish, and drew it to land.  To whom the angel said, Open the fish, and take the heart and the liver and the gall, and put them up safely.  So the young man did as the angel commanded him; and when they had roasted the fish, they did eat it: then they both went on their way, till they drew near to Ecbatane.

The heart, liver and gall?  Whaaaaa?????  Serious talk, in the Book of Enoch, the Fallen Angels are condemned because they teach man arts they should not engage in.  Armaros and Baraqijal both taught things regarding enchantments.  This…this sounds like enchantments.  Though, perhaps, more specifically “pharmakeia”, which is translated as “sorceries” or “witchcraft” in the Septuagint.  Up to this point, Raphael hasn’t revealed himself as Raphael (doing a word search, he apparently reveals himself towards the end of the story…I’ll get there eventually).  Seeing this in the text has me concerned.

Chapter 6:6-8

Then the young man said to the angel, Brother Azarias, to what use is the heart and the liver and the gal of the fish?  And he said unto him, Touching the heart and the liver, if a devil or an evil spirit trouble any, we must make a smoke thereof before the man or the woman, and the party shall be no more vexed.  As for the gall, it is good to anoint a man that hath whiteness in his eyes, and he shall be healed.

And here it is.  Even if the Book of Enoch is considered a pseudepigrapha, the general beliefs of what evils the fallen angels introduced to the people seem to hold up.  In looking up information about this book after reading this, I find that the dating is in question due to several inconsistencies with the actual history.  It is entirely possible that this story was passed down by oral tradition and evolved with time.  If the scholarship date (as opposed to the Catholic date) holds true, that means this story was recorded in writing well within the timeframe of the second temple- which is the same time we find the Book of Enoch.

That it was written in the same timeframe of the Book of Enoch is important, because of how the Book of Enoch frames the things which the Fallen Angels taught.

Enoch 9:6 

Thou seest what Azâzêl hath done, who hath taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were (preserved) in heaven, which men were striving to learn.

I cannot find the copy of Enoch I had from 2005, but I do remember this verse having a connotation that man was suppose to figure out these things in their own time, and that one of the the sins of the fallen Angels was simply giving it to them rather than letting them discover it.  This puts Raphael in a precarious situation, being that in the Book of Enoch, he’s fighting against this very sin.

Now one could look above and simply say “Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh, but God told Raphael to scale the whiteness from Tobit’s eyes, so isn’t that giving him permission?”.  No, because in the 66 collection of Biblical literature, witchcraft and sorcery are prohibited, and Israel is even told not to let a witch live.  Furthermore, if we look at every other example in the 66 book canon, we find that if an Angel is sent to bring about a sign or wonder, it’s not to actually perform it.  But rather, to let them know that God is going to make it happen. 

Things that might be deemed “magical items” in the Old Testament, or even the things which Christ uses (such as mud to heal eyesight), are more there to encourage faith.  Moses staff, for example, was more for him than it was for anyone else.  Even in Aaron using the staff, it was to encourage them that God was working through all of it because God had been the one to say He’d use that staff to bring about signs.  Aaron’s rod was for a visual sign to Israel of his status as God’s representative.  The Bronze Serpent…well I still have problems with this one (I’m sure I’ll do a series on the 10 Commandments at some point and explain this further), but in either case it seems to have been similar to the Passover demonstration of faith.  A “work” which forced them to acknowledge their sins which brought about the snake bites in the first place; and could later be considered a foreshadowing of the way we use the Cross today.  And finally, the mud Christ uses in John 9 to heal a man’s eyesight is reminiscent of how man was formed from clay.  None of these “magical items” are animal parts though.

That said, there was a prescription for specific parts of a lamb, ram or bullock in offerings.  The caul above the liver, kidneys, specific cuts of fat, the rump, right shoulder in some combination depending on the specific animal and reason for sacrifice.  We don’t see gall (the word used here in Tobit is χολὴ ).  In all instances of the word “gall”, or it’s alternate “bile”, used in the Bible, it is considered negative.  There is no positive connotation to it.

The use of bile for healing is more reminiscent of Chinese Medicines, of which Carp bile is said to have been used for the eyes.  The linked article shows that such medicine may be traced as far back as 11th Century BCE. Knowing this, we can look at the additional information and find that trading with China picked up around the 2nd Millenium BCE. Given that Catholics place Tobit in the 8th Century BCE, it wouldn’t be much of a leap to believe the idea of using bile for eye problems came from the Chinese in this story. Of course, we may not need the Chinese. A 1550 BC Papyrus, known as “Ebers Papyrus” is a collection of Egyptian folk medicine that outlines the use of different animal parts (heart of a mesa bird, liver of a swallow, and various animal dungs and biles). As the problems of possessions arose within the ancient world, it would make sense for some sort of pharmakeia be developed to counter it.

If we take into account everything else written in the rest of the Bible, an Angel of the Lord would have no use for this kind of stuff.  And even if the credit is given to God for providing the medicine, knowing that the medicine will work every time doesn’t really bring God the glory in the long run.  It would be simple enough for me or anyone else to look at this passage and believe I don’t need God, I just need the fish bile.

To the credit of Tobit, however, I cannot find any reference prior to this writing that links a fish heart and caul to driving away evil spirits. But it seems to me that an Angel of God need only speak with the authority of God to call a demon out of someone’s life.  What use is there in using smell to drive an evil spirit away?

Chapter 6:9-12 

And when they were come near to Rages,  The angel said to the young man, Brother, to day we shall lodge with Raguel, who is thy cousin; he also hath one only daughter, named Sara; I will speak for her, that she may be given thee for a wife.  For to thee doth the right of her appertain, seeing thou only art of her kindred.  And the maid is fair and wise: now therefore hear me, and I will speak to her father; and when we return from Rages we will celebrate the marriage: for I know that Raguel cannot marry her to another according to the law of Moses, but he shall be guilty of death, because the right of inheritance doth rather appertain to thee than to any other.

If I were Tobias, I’d probably be suspicious of the fact that the stranger I found to accompany me now wants me to marry someone.  Was he coming out to find me when I found him?  That just feels strange.

Chapter 6:13-14

Then the young man answered the angel, I have heard, brother Azarias that this maid hath been given to seven men, who all died in the marriage chamber. And now I am the only son of my father, and I am afraid, lest if I go in unto her, I die, as the other before: for a wicked spirit loveth her, which hurteth no body, but those which come unto her; wherefore I also fear lest I die, and bring my father’s and my mother’s life because of me to the grave with sorrow: for they have no other son to bury them.

I can’t blame Tobias for being leery of this situation.  This tale is turning into one where Tobias has to learn how to trust that God is in control of all things.

Chapter 6:15-17

Then the angel said unto him, Dost thou not remember the precepts which thy father gave thee, that thou shouldest marry a wife of thine own kindred? wherefore hear me, O my brother; for she shall be given thee to wife; and make thou no reckoning of the evil spirit; for this same night shall she be given thee in marriage. And when thou shalt come into the marriage chamber, thou shalt take the ashes of perfume, and shalt lay upon them some of the heart and liver of the fish, and shalt make a smoke with it: And the devil shall smell it, and flee away, and never come again any more: but when thou shalt come to her, rise up both of you, and pray to God which is merciful, who will have pity on you, and save you: fear not, for she is appointed unto thee from the beginning; and thou shalt preserve her, and she shall go with thee. Moreover I suppose that she shall bear thee children. Now when Tobias had heard these things, he loved her, and his heart was effectually joined to her.

If you were Tobias, wouldn’t you be questioning “how do you know about my father’s request that I marry only of my tribe?”

But more than that, I can’t help but look at the situation and think “this isn’t placing trust in God to resolve the problem, it’s putting trust in mystical practices”.  Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that even Christ said that some exorcisms of demons requires fasting- but there is a big difference between using fish organs and depriving yourself of food in obedience to God.  Fasting is Biblical, fish organs has no Biblical evidence.

I could stop here, as I’m 95% confident there is nothing in the rest of the story that would cause me to include this book in canon, but rather as a historical curiosity of what some persons in Judaism believed; however, I am now curious just how much is right or wrong in this book.

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Exploring Tobit (Ch.5)

Chapter 5:1-6

Tobias then answered and said, Father, I will do all things which thou hast commanded me: But how can I receive the money, seeing I know him not? Then he gave him the handwriting, and said unto him, Seek thee a man which may go with thee, whiles I yet live, and I will give him wages: and go and receive the money.

Therefore when he went to seek a man, he found Raphael that was an angel. But he knew not; and he said unto him, Canst thou go with me to Rages? and knowest thou those places well? To whom the angel said, I will go with thee, and I know the way well: for I have lodged with our brother Gabael.

I am immediately reminded of the series “Touched by an Angel” reading this verse. But in truth, it’s not the first time in Judaic history.  Probably the most well known time is when angels are sent into Sodom and Gomorrah to judge them.  One might look at this passage and immediately throw it out.  But I would encourage people to remember that in Hebrews 13:2 we are told: 

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Whether or not this story could be considered one of those incidents has yet to be seen.  For all we know, this story could be a much earlier version of “Touched by an Angel”.  

Chapter 5:7-12

Then Tobias said unto him, Tarry for me, till I tell my father. Then he said unto him, Go and tarry not. So he went in and said to his father, Behold, I have found one which will go with me. Then he said, Call him unto me, that I may know of what tribe he is, and whether he be a trusty man to go with thee. So he called him, and he came in, and they saluted one another.

Then Tobit said unto him, Brother, shew me of what tribe and family thou art. To whom he said, Dost thou seek for a tribe or family, or an hired man to go with thy son? Then Tobit said unto him, I would know, brother, thy kindred and name.

Then he said, I am Azarias, the son of Ananias the great, and of thy brethren. 

Admittedly, this is the point where I start to question the situation.  I’m sure many of us know that in Revelation 21:8, we are told that the liars have their place in the “Lake of Fire”.  And if it’s not Revelation that you recall, you may recall 1 Timothy 1:10, where liars are listed as one of the reasons the law was established.  So the question I have to ask here is…Doesn’t Raphael’s lie make him unholy?  And therefore this undermines the whole story?

As much as I want to easily take this passage and use it as a means to throw the whole story out the window, I’m reminded that God did, in fact, send a lying spirit amongst the prophets to persuade King Ahab to go into battle.  Even the prophet Micaiah, whom God entrusted the truth to, lied in front of King Ahab, until King Ahab insisted he tell the truth.  The narrative is too long to really include in here, but you can read the story yourself in 1 Kings 22:1-37

That said, King Ahab’s situation, and even that of Sodom and Gomorrah seem very different from each other.  In King Ahab’s case, he had done so much unrighteousness that God planned his demise.  And in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was an infiltration mission.  Furthermore, in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, if you read the Samaritan version, you find that the people in the cities knew full well who the angels were.  Nor do we ever see them falsifying their identities to Lot or his family.  So why did Raphael specify he was a son of Tobit’s friend?

I can think of stories where this happens outside of Christianity, such as folklore surrounding specific kinds of supernatural creatures.  The only one relating to a god I can think of, however, is in Arjuna’s Dilemma. This story comes from the Bhagavad Gita, and tells of how Krishna disguises himself as a human in order to help with the Arjuna’s war.  Later on in the story, he reveals himself to be the god Krishna and through the revelations Arjuna is given by Krishna, he decides to continue with the battle.  Knowing this, I’m suspicious…but let’s continue.

Chapter 5:13-16

Then Tobit said, Thou art welcome, brother; be not now angry with me, because I have enquired to know thy tribe and thy family; for thou art my brother, of an honest and good stock: for I know Ananias and Jonathas, sons of that great Samaias, as we went together to Jerusalem to worship, and offered the firstborn, and the tenths of the fruits; and they were not seduced with the error of our brethren: my brother, thou art of a good stock. But tell me, what wages shall I give thee? wilt thou a drachm a day, and things necessary, as to mine own son? Yea, moreover, if ye return safe, I will add something to thy wages.

So they were well pleased. Then said he to Tobias, Prepare thyself for the journey, and God send you a good journey. And when his son had prepared all things for the journey, his father said, Go thou with this man, and God, which dwelleth in heaven, prosper your journey, and the angel of God keep you company. So they went forth both, and the young man’s dog with them.

You know, Raphael was sent to clear up the whiteness in Tobit’s eyes…Why not just do that now, tell Tobit that Tobias has a journey ahead of him, and he’s going to take him on the journey?  Tobit has already shown that he is willing to accept God’s judgement at this point.  No other story in the Bible really has this convoluted of an exchange between an Angel of the Lord and the person receiving the message.  I mean, I get it, God’s ways are not my ways, but God does seem to have a distinct fingerprint in how he does things…am I missing something?

Chapter 5:17-22

But Anna his mother wept, and said to Tobit, Why hast thou sent away our son? is he not the staff of our hand, in going in and out before us? Be not greedy to add money to money: but let it be as refuse in respect of our child. For that which the Lord hath given us to live with doth suffice us. Then said Tobit to her, Take no care, my sister; he shall return in safety, and thine eyes shall see him. For the good angel will keep him company, and his journey shall be prosperous, and he shall return safe. Then she made an end of weeping.

I could take this in two different ways.  On the one hand, this seems to suggest that the concept of a “Guardian Angel” was present within the Second Temple timeframe.  Christ, himself, alludes to this idea in Matthew 18:10 –

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

On the other hand, maybe Tobit realized that Raphael was lying about his identity and understood he was actually an Angel of the Lord?  This second theory is hard for me to wrap my head around though, because Anna didn’t realize it and there is no narrative that lets us know that Tobit had this understanding.  It also seems like Tobit was acknowledging three persons: “Azarias”, God, and an Angel which he seems to have nothing more than faith is present.  Given that there is no real evidence to support that Tobit recognized Raphael as an angel, then my default is to believe that Tobit believed in the presence of a Guardian Angel.

And that’s an interesting thing unto itself.  In modern times, people believe that they can command the Angels.  Not long ago, I was given a CD to listen to where a Catholic spoke of a story about how he sent an angel out to make sure someone he loved was going to arrive safely.  Now, he admits that he didn’t actually see the Angel do so, but rather that he had faith the angel did.  Even in this scene where Tobit acknowledges the Angel, he’s not sending him out, but rather it illustrates that Tobit has faith that an angel will be with him.  At no time does it say that we command angels.  Judge them (1 Corinthian 6:2-3), yes, but even that seems to be a in regards to a future date, and not in the here and now.  I mean, seriously, your (and mine) test is still ongoing and won’t be complete until death.

Hebrews 9:27

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this is judgement.

Not even Jesus commanded the angels while in this life.  It is made abundantly clear that only the Father commanded them.

Matthew 26:53

Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

I had actually intended to get through chapter 6 in this journal entry, but then I got on a tangent at the end.  So I think this more than enough for you to chew on today.  If you’re up for something to ponder, I think it would be worth considering how well you know the Bible itself.  There are 66 books, not including the Apocrypha we are working through, packed full of information that helps us know and understand God.  It’s a lot of information to take in too.  But without knowing and understanding these things, how could we possibly determine whether the being we have encountered is of God or of another being.  We want the truth to be that when we encounter God we’ll know for sure it is Him, but if you don’t know the difference it wouldn’t be hard to be fooled. Ezekiel and Christ both had teachings which pointed out how easy it is for us to convince ourselves of falsehoods.

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Exploring Tobit (Ch.4)

Chapter 4:3- 4

And when he had called him (Tobias), he said, My son, when I am dead, bury me; and despise not thy mother, but honour her all the days of thy life, and do that which shall please her, and grieve her not.  Remember, my son, that she saw many dangers for thee, when thou wast in her womb: and when she is dead, bury her by me in one grave.

Having realized he needs to give his final will and testimony because he believes God is going to grant him death (I haven’t read the rest of the book, so we’ll see…), Tobit gives Anna her due recognition.  Provided that Tobias would do as Tobit said, he would be honoring both his mother and father by fulfilling Tobit’s wishes. 

Chapter 4:5-11

My son, be mindful of the Lord our God all thy days, and let not thy will be set to sin, or to transgress his commandments: do uprightly all thy life long, and follow not the ways of unrighteousness.  For if thou deal truly, thy doings shall prosperously succeed to thee, and to all them that live justly.  Give alms of thy substance; and when thou givest alms, let not thine eye be envious, neither turn thy face from any poor, and the face of God shall not be turned away from thee.  If thou hast abundance give alms accordingly: if thou have but a little, be not afraid to give according to that little:  For thou layest up a good treasure for thyself against the day of necessity.  Because that alms do deliver from death, and suffereth not to come into darkness.  For alms is a good gift unto all that give it in the sight of the most High.

This reminds me of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Tobit doesn’t just acknowledge his fellow kinsmen here, but says “any poor”.  It’s also a recall to God telling Israel to treat their neighbors with kindness because Israel too was once in a foreign land.

Chapter 4:12

Beware of all whoredom, my son, and chiefly take a wife of the seed of thy fathers, and take not a strange woman to wife, which is not of thy father’s tribe: for we are the children of the prophets, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: remember, my son, that our fathers from the beginning, even that they all married wives of their own kindred, and were blessed in their children, and their seed shall inherit the land.

Hey! Perfect timing!  I recently saw someone ask “Where in the Bible does it say you can’t marry someone outside your race?”  For the record, it doesn’t.  But I can see someone taking this verse to mean exactly that.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob didn’t take wives outside their kindred because they’re father’s couldn’t trust anyone else and told them to find a wife amongst their kindred.  It’s completely understandable though, they knew that they could get a wife that would be faithful to God if they went to their own kindred.  And the proof is that God warned Solomon not to take wives from the locals because they would turn his heart to other gods.  In a time of captivity, Tobit’s words weren’t about racism, they were about preserving his son’s heart to God.  And we can see that being the case in the next verse-

Chapter 4:13

Now therefore, my son, love thy brethren, and despise not in thy heart thy brethren, the sons and daughters of thy people, in not taking a wife of them: for in pride is destruction and much trouble, and in lewdness is decay and great want: for lewdness is the mother of famine. 

Basically “I’m asking you to do what I believe is right for you, if others can keep their faith and have a wife outside of their kindred it’s not your place to judge them”.  This remark probably comes from a contemplation of Mose’s wife whom God reprimanded Aaron and Miriam for chastising Moses because he had a wife that wasn’t Hebrew.

Chapter 4:14-18

Let not the wages of any man, which hath wrought for thee, tarry with thee, but give him it out of hand: for if thou serve God, he will also repay thee: be circumspect my son, in all things thou doest, and be wise in all thy conversation. Do that to no man which thou hatest: drink not wine to make thee drunken: neither let drunkenness go with thee in thy journey.

Give of thy bread to the hungry, and of thy garments to them that are naked; and according to thine abundance give alms: and let not thine eye be envious, when thou givest alms. Pour out thy bread on the burial of the just, but give nothing to the wicked.  Ask counsel of all that are wise, and despise not any counsel that is profitable.

“Pour out thy bread on the burial….” (some versions include “or wine”) This verse is a curious thing.  In my head, the first picture I had was of the Egyptian and Greek traditions which buried dead with things to take to the next life.  But upon further investigation it looks more like a funeral feast that we can see hinted at in Jeremiah 16:6
“Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort that them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or their mother.”

From the Jeremiah account, it doesn’t seem like God is particularly against the tradition of a Funeral Feast, but He does seem to say it’s a privilege. And this isn’t the only time we see this echoed, Ezekiel prophesies the same thing (Ezekiel 24:15-27).

If we look at this verse from the prospective that it’s about a funeral feast, then what we can understand of this is that Tobit is telling Tobias not to celebrate nor mourn the wicked and feels a bit reminiscent of God’s words to Laban as he approached Jacob to find his household scrolls/gods in Genesis 31:24-
“And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.”

Chapter 4:19-21

Bless the Lord thy God alway, and desire of him that thy ways may be directed, and that all thy paths and counsels may prosper: for every nation hath not counsel; but the Lord himself giveth all good things, and he humbleth whom he will, as he will; now therefore, my son, remember my commandments, neither let them be put out of thy mind.

 And now I signify this to they that I committed ten talents to Gabael the son of Gabrias at Rages in Media.  And fear not, my son, that we are made poor: for thou hast much wealth, if thou fear God, and depart from all sin, and do that which is pleasing in his sight.

Contemplation: While I was in Iraq, I often contemplated the idea of what I or my friends could leave behind to our families.  At the time, I didn’t have a child, nor was I married.  I knew I would leave that particular tour fine (I was what you might call a “FOBBIT”, I never left the wire), but future tours (which I never saw) were on my mind.  When I got back to the states, I actually had found a neat book fashioned after those children’s books that have recorded noises.  Each button corresponded to a page, and you could record a short message to go with it.  Where a letter is beautiful in it’s delivery- the voice is something far more precious in communication.  And video even more powerful.  Today, we can chose to record our voices, a video or write our thoughts for those that we leave behind.  So for today’s contemplation take a page from Tobit and consider what kind of advice you would give to a person you wanted to entrust your legacy to.

If you’re up for it, feel free to share some of your wisdom in the comments below.

(side note, the image is actually from Jacob blessing Isaac; couldn’t really find anything depicting this chapter)

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Exploring Tobit (Ch.1-3)

Good Morning!  My commentary on Tobit is going to be a bit different from how I did the commentary on a copyrighted book.  This time, I’m just going to let you read the book as I go along, and you can see my thoughts.  But I’m not going to quote it all, or we’ll be here all day.  So to recap up to this point, Tobit is telling us about his life up to this point.  He secretly would bury the dead from which king Sennacherib had killed and just left out in the open, and when he was discovered he ran away.  Later when Sennacherib is replaced by his son via a coup, Tobit, his wife Anna and their son Tobias are able to return to the city.  After he buries another person, and is discovered he runs away afraid and goes blind because sparrow dung got into his eyes.  His wife Anna ends up taking on the role of providing for the family and receives an extra gift for her time- a small goat.  Tobit is furious because he thinks she’s stolen the goat, and she tells him off.  And that’s where we are in the story. 

Name: Tobit

Religious History: While his tribe was sacrificing to Baal, he was trying to do what was right and made an effort to visit Jerusalem during festivals- per his mother’s insistence.

Family: Mother Debora, orphaned by father, and tribe Nephthali

Setting: Nineveh, under Assyrian Rule

See, 2 chapters verses a paragraph and short bio!  Let’s pick up at Chapter 3 where the story starts to take off.  I think I’ll divide this up, and have some sort of contemplative exercise attached.  When I get to the end, I’ll include my final thoughts though.  We’ll see how I personally feel about this book being considered scripture.

Chapter 3:1-6

Then I being grieved did weep, and in my sorrow prayed, saying, O Lord, thou art just, and all thy works and all thy ways are mercy and truth, and thou judgest truly and justly for ever. Remember me, and look on me, punish me not for my sins and ignorances, and the sins of my fathers, who have sinned before thee: For they obeyed not thy commandments: wherefore thou hast delivered us for a spoil, and unto captivity, and unto death, and for a proverb of reproach to all the nations among whom we are dispersed.

And now thy judgments are many and true: deal with me according to my sins and my fathers’: because we have not kept thy commandments, neither have walked in truth before thee.  Now therefore deal with me as seemeth best unto thee, and command my spirit to be taken from me, that I may be dissolved, and become earth: for it is profitable for me to die rather than to live, because I have heard false reproaches, and have much sorrow: command therefore that I may now be delivered out of this distress, and go into the everlasting place: turn not thy face away from me.

So I’m going to level with you: I don’t like Blind Tobit.  Because he reminds me of myself in many ways (not that I ever asked God to take away my life from me).  I hate feeling defeated, but man isn’t this something many of us have felt?  There is something to be taken from this prayer other than his defeat though- he recognizes that the captivity he is in is because of his fathers, but more than that he’s saying that he believes he hasn’t learned from his ancestors and thus committed many of the same sins.  Since I skipped the first two chapters, you missed that he was eating bread of the Gentiles after he was taken away from his home and into Nineveh.  So as he’s speaking this prayer, he’s probably got all sorts of things on his mind from how he just got done treating his wife, to the fact that he’s been told he’s not suppose to be eating with the Gentiles.  And with the blindness?  That’s got to be a sign, right?

Chapter 3:7-10

It came to pass the same day, that in Ecbatane a city of Media Sara the daughter of Raguel was also reproached by her father’s maids;  Because that she had been married to seven husbands, whom Asmodeus the evil spirit had killed, before they had lain with her. Dost thou not know, said they, that thou hast strangled thine husbands? thou hast had already seven husbands, neither wast thou named after any of them.  Wherefore dost thou beat us for them? if they be dead, go thy ways after them, let us never see of thee either son or daughter.  When she heard these things, she was very sorrowful, so that she thought to have strangled herself; and she said, I am the only daughter of my father, and if I do this, it shall be a reproach unto him, and I shall bring his old age with sorrow unto the grave.

Asmodeus is considered a prince of demons in some Judeo-Islamic traditions.  The theory is that Asmodeus is actually a deva named Æshma from the Zoroasterian tradition dating back to somewhere between 1500-1200 BC.  The first time we see mention of Asmodeus in Judeo history, however, is in Tobit.  Later, a couple centuries after Christ, Ashmedai (his Hebrew name) is connected with King Solomon in the Babylonian Talmud.  So it’s here in Tobit, that we can see a real manifestation of what the demonic are capable of. 

Which is important to note, because I’ve heard people say “Yeah, but a Demon cannot kill”-not that I need Tobit to prove my point on this one, Job’s story proves demons can kill too.  Much like the very real demonstration Christ give us with the Legion of Demons being cast into the swine, Tobit’s story carries with it the reality that the demonic are real.

Chapter 3:11- 15

Then she prayed toward the window, and said, Blessed art thou, O Lord my God, and thine holy and glorious name is blessed and honourable for ever: let all thy works praise thee for ever.  And now, O Lord, I set I mine eyes and my face toward thee,  And say, Take me out of the earth, that I may hear no more the reproach.  Thou knowest, Lord, that I am pure from all sin with man,  And that I never polluted my name, nor the name of my father, in the land of my captivity: I am the only daughter of my father, neither hath he any child to be his heir, neither any near kinsman, nor any son of his alive, to whom I may keep myself for a wife: my seven husbands are already dead; and why should I live? but if it please not thee that I should die, command some regard to be had of me, and pity taken of me, that I hear no more reproach.

Sara’s grief is understandable.  Something that I find commendable between the two prayers presented here is a “God I leave the decision to you”.  Sara’s prayer, however, is less about personal pity though- she’s seeking to also honor her father through it all.  Notice how she puts some focus on the thought that her father only has her, and therefore it is only through her that their family might be redeemed?

Chapter 3:16-17

So the prayers of them both were heard before the majesty of the great God.  And Raphael was sent to heal them both, that is, to scale away the whiteness of Tobit’s eyes, and to give Sara the daughter of Raguel for a wife to Tobias the son of Tobit; and to bind Asmodeus the evil spirit; because she belonged to Tobias by right of inheritance. The selfsame time came Tobit home, and entered into his house, and Sara the daughter of Raguel came down from her upper chamber.

This story, at first, seemed like it was a first-hand account of what happened in Tobit’s life…but it went from first person, to third person within the same chapter.  If I was an editor, I’d probably take this book back to the author and tell him to pick a point of view and stick with it!  So far, it looks like this is going to be a love story though, should be interesting.

But I digress, God dispatches his angel (a named Angel) to help both of them.  It’s something to note that we don’t see named Angels (of God) until Daniel in the 600 BC timeframe, and those names are Gabriel and Michael.  So Raphael would be the third named Angel in Catholic canon.  It is only worth noting because there are those which would point out to you that an Angel will never reveal their name, out of respect for God that they may not become the object of worship.  While we should never worship an angel, it would be a flaw for us to write off someone’s experience solely based upon whether or not an angel’s name was revealed to a believer.  All elements of the encounter should be analyzed.  Now, I haven’t really dove into the truth of angel names, so take this with a grain of salt, but the lack of an “el” at the end of a name may be indication that the angelic figure isn’t actually from God.  But I’ll explore that topic at a later time.

What shall we choose for a topic of contemplation from this chapter? Since the main focus of this chapter seems to be on the prayers of these two people, I think that may be a good topic for each of us to contemplate: How do their prayers relate to you?  Can you see yourself at all in them?  If you’re up to it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  Sometimes it helps to know that we aren’t the only ones that have gone through a rough time, and I think that’s one of the most powerful messages in the Old Testament.

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Axed Canonical Books

In my last blog I started to talk about the problem of Protestant Canon, being that Protestants deleted books from the agreed upon texts during the 4th century.  The second problem is where we get our Old Testament canon and translation from: The Masoretes.

It might surprise you to know that the Masoretic Text (which is used for the KJV) was developed a few hundred years after Christ’s resurrection.  It seems to have formed over the course of the 7th to 10th centuries AD.  But the Old Testament texts which were used to establish the Christian Canon were formed from the 3rd Century BC until about 50 BC.  With just a little bit of reasoning, we can reach the conclusion that by using the Masoretic texts as our basis, we are actually at the mercy of translators which had a prejudice against anything that would affirm the Christian faith.  But not only that, the Masoretes recognized they were receiving a corrupt text from the get-go. But I’m not going to harp too much on this, as I believe this author does a much better job at making the case than I could.

The point is, Protestants adopted the Hebrew canon and rejected the Catholic canon. Though, an interesting fact is that these books, now part of the Apocrypha, were included in the KJV for 274 years.  We may be all able to agree that the early church past the Apostles and perhaps extending that to the first generation following them were not perfect, but there is value in considering the books we’ve removed from canon (know that this is the first time I’ve explored the concept, I have yet to actually read the Apocryphal books).   But I can understand why some people might be skeptical. So let’s look at the 7 books and see if we can find reference to them in the New Testament, minus Pauline letters, Jude and James. In excluding these, we are getting the closest representation of what Christ would have validated. Paul, although an apostle, had his own education as a Pharisee, and therefore may have included scriptures which Christ may not have if we asked his advice.  Since this list I found is fairly long, and I’d rather you form your own opinions, I’m going to give you two different lists organized according to my personal opinion: “Positive” and “Iffy”. The Positive will be a list of those I find very obvious references, and the Iffy list will be those which seem more like someone trying to make connections where they may not be.

*Wisdom 2:16 seems to be another prophecy confirmed
**Sirach 39:29 & Wisdom 16:22 may not be a direct reference, but God does tend to repeat Himself so as to show His fingerprint, therefore I’m confirming these two.
*Could be a reference to the book, or possibly to Solomon’s Wisdom of which he was famous for

As we can see from the above charts, the only two books, in my opinion, we cannot see quoted in the Gospels, Acts, Revelations and 1 & 2 Peter are either of the Maccabees.  But, there is a hint at Maccabbees in John 10:22 when Christ attends the Feast of Dedication. It doesn’t say that Christ participated, it just says that this was the time of year certain events took place.  But what we don’t see is Christ speaking out against the festival, which- again in my opinion- affirms the celebration for a miracle of God, and therefore affirms the story of the Maccabbees.

Knowing that so many of these have at least one reference to them, reading these books and adding commentary will be my next blog project.  Perhaps by exploring these different books we can find more examples of positive and negative worship to compare in modern times. I hope it’ll be an insightful journey.

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Only the Bible?

Have you ever wondered just how big the Bible would be if books had been added with time?  The Samaritans only have 5 books- the books of Moses.  The Jewish Tradition has 24 books of canon, plus the Talmud which focuses on helping best understand the canon.  The Greek Orthodox Bible has 79 books, the Catholic Bible 73, and the Protestant 66.

I think as we keep moving forward in time, determining what should and shouldn’t be added to scripture becomes a problem.  The Samaritans play things safe by maintaining only the first 5 books of the Bible, and keeping up with their oral tradition on how to interpret the scripture.  If you’re up for an interesting “commentary” (I’m really not sure I can call it a commentary, not in the traditional sense at least) on the Samaritan Bible, I recommend Memar Marqah by John MacDonald, with the caveat that it’s not regarded as the best translation it could be.  It’s understandable that they wouldn’t either, after all their tradition holds that the schism occurred as early as Eli (the very one that took in Samuel), so their shared history really seems to end somewhere in Judges.  Traditional Judaism wouldn’t include the New Testament because they do not regard Jesus Christ as the Messiah, but it’s a pretty good bet that when they have someone who is recognizable as a Messiah they would add books about him into their canon.  It may even be reasonable to say that if God were to send another major prophet in accordance with Deuteronomy 18 prophet, they might add their story as well.

But what about us?  Why do we consider canon closed, and won’t be open ever again?  The Bible never says Canon is closed, that’s an opinion people have come to.  That isn’t to say that it’s necessarily wrong, but it’s important to realize that as it stands, we do not have a verified prophet which has said “God says the canon is closed”.  One, as many who believe in cessation do, could point to 1 Corinthians 13:10:

“But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away”

However, “perfect” has never been defined.  Protestants have simply assumed that “perfect” means “The Bible”.  By the time that Paul had written to the Corinthians, there was already at least one written account of Christ’s story: Matthew.  That is, Matthew is regarded as being written in 41 AD by Eusebius (whom lived during the 3rd century), while the first Epistle to Corinth was written in 57 AD. 

Even if we were to take into account that the gospels may not have been written until after 57 AD, it would be wrong for us to assume that “perfect” refers to a Bible, as that would mean that the early church wasn’t doing their due diligence to write down the account of Christ’s life for future generations.  57 AD would be a full 24 years from the latest date we have of Christ’s crucifixion.  You might find that some people use Jame 1:25 to affirm that the this Corinthians verse means “The Word”, or “Bible”, but James was written by James not Paul, and although we could say that the two were teaching the same thing it would be inaccurate to assign exact meaning between the two.  “Perfect” in Corinthians could easily mean the second coming.  Perfect could mean “understanding” which can fail with time (just look at the Old Testament, God had to send several Prophets because people kept falling away from the last prophet’s instructions).  It is my stance that this verse simply cannot be used to justify that canon is closed.

The second verse often quoted is one that if it applies to the Bible, then every Protestant would be condemned to hell.  

Revelation 22:18-19

‘For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.’

I am, personally, of the firm belief that this verse only relates to Revelation.  Why?  Because the Bible hadn’t been put together yet.  It wasn’t until after this book is written (said to have been 95 AD) that we see the first collection of a New Testament written- and by a heretic no less.  His list comes from around 140 AD, and ends up being the catalyst for discussion on what should and shouldn’t be considered canon.  For the next couple hundred years the discussion continued until about 397.  In 350 Cyril of Jerusalem created his own list of 60 books, omitting the Book of Revelation. It is believed that the Council of Laodicea approved Cyril of Jerusalem’s list in 363, but it has been highly disputed.  At the Council of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397) the 26 books of the New Testament were affirmed, and Revelation was added. This is about 200 years removed from the writing of Revelation. The list of canonical Old Testament books, however, is a bit more difficult to contain within a paragraph, so here’s a chart:

For reference, Melito’s Canon was recorded by Eusebius in the early 4th century, but Melito himself died in 180, meaning that if Eusebius copied his canon it would be from the second century.

Moving on, let’s say that John was given the revelation that this book would be part of a larger text, just for argument’s sake.  Then in truth, all Protestants which do not regard the original 73 books of the Bible confirmed by the Council of Laodicea, or even perhaps we should refer to the Muratorian Fragment as the earliest canon (said to have been written originally circa 170AD).  These are much closer dates than the current Protestant list which was created redone by Martin Luther in the 1500s.  In truth, what is and isn’t scripture is not universal.  It would be arrogant for anyone to claim that they know for a fact what should and shouldn’t be canon (either NT or OT) without God specifically coming to us and saying “Axe that, include this, that one is okay to read, but it’s not really scripture, etc”.  All we really have, is guesswork- good guesswork, but guesswork none-the-less.

Where I do not believe that these two verses support Solo Scriptura, I do believe that the best argument in favor of Solo Scriptura (Scripture Alone) is that it is safe.  It becomes very obvious that when we see people try to add to the scripture, it becomes very simple to add heresy to it.  Although I do not believe God condemns anyone which lives by Solo Scriptura, I am in the Sola Scriptura camp.  There is a difference, Sola Scriptura lets you check everything against scripture, whereas Solo Scriptura tells you that the only thing you need is the Bible.

To me, Solo Scriptura encourages the dangerous line of thought that sign gifts have ceased altogether.  Not because I want to believe sign gifts continue, but rather that by saying such we may miss something vital God is telling us.  Israel has provided us an example of just how easy is to fall away from God, and how simple it is to not recognize God’s Prophets.  By completely shutting out the idea that sign gifts will never come into the world again, we are setting ourselves up for failure.  But to take a healthy approach to the topic, and run what you find against Scripture (Sola Scriptura) or Scriptural Tradition (that is, the Bible outlines ways we can verify when we are still not sure – such as asking for a Fleece) seems the more responsible way forward.

With all of that said, should the Bible be larger? Should we have continued adding books over time? I think the early church had it right to consider the canon closed by the time they started ruling on which books should and shouldn’t be included. Though, I have to question whether or not Luther was right to get rid of some of the books he did. I think my next blog will be to look over whether or not books he axed should be considered worthwhile reading.

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Prophets Handbook – EXHAUSTING

I’m just going to stop reading this book here.  It’s spiritually exhausting to read through anymore of it.  Maybe there’s some good points if we get further into the book, but with so much wrong in the beginning there is no amount of good that can balance it out.  As I went through all of this, I figured I would wait to see if two other key points I wanted to address earlier were included in later chapters.  But now that I’m putting the book down, I’ll take this opportunity to address two of those points:

  1. A prophet’s purpose is to profit the church (as in, bring in financial greatness to the church). 

That is NOT what the word “profit” means in this context.  While it is true that tithing is asked for in the Bible, we really should understand that tithing wasn’t really about lining God’s pockets.  It was established because the Levi Tribe, of whom were to inherit God in place of land.  The Levites were given the task of being in charge of spiritual life, so that was their job.  Essentially, what God was telling the rest of Israel was that they were to take care of the Levites by paying them for their service.  From there, the Levites had to be faithful to their responsibilities with those finances, as well as use it to help keep their own lives up (such as providing food for their families).

Today, tithing is intended to maintain this tradition.  Whether a prophet is present should make no difference.  A prophet’s purpose is to call people out of sin and encourages them to Christ by edification, exhortation and comforting the Body of Christ.  This is how it “profits” the church, not in financial terms, but in spiritual terms.  

  1. “It is defeating to use a prophet with less experience and expertise than the number of years a church has been in existence” (pg. 28)

Well everyone!  There you have it!  The solution is simple, if you follow what Paula says here!  All you need to do is go to a Catholic Church.  They are in no need of prophets because the church has been around and had experience for well over a thousand years.

I’m sure she didn’t think the wording in this sentence through.  I’m sure she means more like “less experience than the pastor”, which still isn’t a good measure.  Eli, for example, had a LOT of years on the very young Prophet Samuel, who was (according to tradition) called at the age of 11.  Jeremiah was, traditionally, 17.  And tradition holds that Christ was 12 years of age when he was found in the Temple teaching God’s Word.

You may say that Christ gets a pass, after all he was the son of God which makes him very unique.  But we cannot ignore Jeremiah and Samuel.  Clearly God isn’t an ageist, so we shouldn’t be either.  You don’t get to choose whether God wants to say something.  You can only choose to believe it or ignore it.  

Now, that doesn’t mean you simply accept what a proclaimed prophet says.  As always, you should test their veracity to know whether God truly has put this word into the mouth of the individual.  That will be the most difficult thing for everyone, especially today.  If you choose to believe that sign gifts have ceased, and a true prophet arises, you risk denying God.  If you choose to believe that sign gifts have continued, and a false prophet arises, you risk allowing the false teachings to infect the people who hear the false prophet.  Therefore, the only position we can ever truly take is to ask for God to confirm whether the individual speaks for Him.

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Prophets Handbook- THE CONTROVERSY OVER OFFICE VERSUS GIFTING (pg.139)

Here’s yet another thing that Paula and I can agree with: Those which believe in the continuation of sign gifts never seem to take the time to vet the person claiming to be a Prophet of God.  But we start to disagree at the point she talks about how man is in charge of the prophet’s education.  Just as was the case with Saul, who became Paul, if God wants the prophet educated by man, He’ll be the one to make it known and that prophet (as long as they aren’t like Jonah) will seek out education by the person(s) God appoints.

But we must always be on guard to discern whether the individual is sent by God.  Where having a gift to be prophetic does not mean you are a Prophet of God (as is the case with False Prophets), it also doesn’t mean that you can repurpose it for God’s purposes.  Only God should be in control your gift.

Let’s take an example from my own life.  Apart from my testimony of being visited by an Angel of the Lord, I received a prophetic dream.  

On 22 July 2010, I had a vision of a plane crash, right after I had “attended” a wedding in the desert, and was given an exact date for plane take off: July 27th Eastern Standard.  I wasn’t given an exact time, but EST was important to vision.  I told my husband and a friend about it the day I had the vision, because I was a little freaked out by the whole thing.  Days later, I walked into a store which was airing the news.  Sure enough, there was plane crash north of Islamabad.  And the time it took off? 2141EST July 27.  The kicker, was that the news station mentioned there was a newly wed couple on board who were going on their honeymoon.  You can read the early story below:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jul/28/pakistan-plane-crash-islamabad-airbus

Now we could say that there are elements in this story which don’t match up, for example the plane didn’t crash in a traditional desert, it was in a forested area.  But the interpretation of a prophecy just needs to be understood.  In common military vernacular, all of the Middle East is considered “Desert”, of which Pakistan is a part of that area.  Too many elements of the prophecy are right on the dot, that I can’t discount it as a legitimate prophecy….

But I don’t believe it was from God.  Despite the visitation I received in May 2001, by July 2010 I still had not fully walked away from pagan things.  And, the person that conveyed the time stamp (EST) in my vision, was the very woman that had been possessed the night God made His presence known to me.  Now, the only argument one could make to me that this WAS from God, is if the point was to call my attention back to Him.  And maybe that is the case, but frankly, I cannot rely upon that being the truth of the matter.  God didn’t once make Himself known in this vision, nor did this vision do anything but cause me panic.  It wasn’t a catalyst to turn me 100% towards God, that still took another 7ish years.  So I until God tells me it was sent from Him, I’m going to assume it came from a different source.  And that’s something worth addressing.

I could easily have become a False Prophet after that vision.  I could have pursued it, tried to find out how to replicate the conditions which caused me to see it so that I could become this great prophetess.  I could have even falsely claimed these visions were coming from God…just like Edgar Cayce did.  My definition of “God” would have become synonymous with the agnostic word “god” or the more modern approach that all gods are the same God, as opposed to God meaning “Yahweh”- whether I intended for that to be the case or not.  Remember, the Pharisees and Sadducees believe they were worshiping Yahweh, but Jesus told them they were in fact worshipping Satan.  THAT could have been me.

But instead of doing this, I set it to the side.  Taking the position, that if prophecy was intended to be my gift, then I would receive it without doing anything on my own.  Much later, however, when I finally decided to accept Yahweh as my God, I made the foolish mistake of listening to a pastor that believed the prophetic could be cultivated if you just listened for God.  But I learned, I believe by the Grace of God, that this approach was a massive mistake.  

So that vision of the plane crash in Islamabad, I had to reject it.  I feel that this is so important for the rest of you to hear from me: I rejected this gift because it was a false gift.  I was allowed the vision as a test, and whether I failed or succeeded …well I don’t know.  Only God can say, because only He knows what the parameters of the test were/are.  But because I went through the test, I can say with conviction: If you have had prophetic dreams and/or visions, you need to really consider where they are coming from.  And if it turns out that the truth is you are on a path to be a false or foolish prophet, then you also need to reject this gift and ask God for guidance and strength to follow Him.

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Prophet's Handbook-LEGITAMATE COMMISSIONING (pg.131)

Not much to say about the sections from the last one to this one, except that it could have been condensed significantly.  But in this little section, Paula and I can certainly agree on the modern practice of commissioning people to the Great Commissioning.

Some churches go to great lengths to train those they are going to ordain, while others just invite any parishioner out that is willing to come out.  They may not even fully understand the theology of the ministry to address questions, or in some cases might not be confident enough to speak.  Think about the door-to-door Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness’s you’ve encountered over the years.  I’m not sure about your own experience-I actually engage them- but I’ve had some which were quite good at explaining their theology, and others that tried to get away fast because they couldn’t answer my questions. You can usually tell the difference between someone who just has issues with speaking to strangers and those that genuinely didn’t know the answer to the question.  Not knowing the theology of the church can be very damaging to it.  But more importantly, not knowing the truth of what is written in God’s Word is damaging to those which wish to follow Him.

That’s what we need to keep in mind when we make a decision to ordain someone for a position within the church: Do they know scripture?  How well do they live up to it?  And do they spend time with God?

PRELUDE TO APOSTLESHIP(pg.138)

Paula believes that the Christian Chain of Command runs like this:

Godhead

Apostle

Prophet

Evangelist

Pastor

Teacher

^ This is based on Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:29.  Alright, I can see how she came to this conclusion.  But if an apostle isn’t present, the chain of command looks different.  

“The pastor functions as its governor when the church is not answering to an apostle.  In this context, the pastor is over the prophet.” -Paula Price

The Apostle Paul never said any such thing.  Though, I can see how Paula might arrive at this conclusion.  Paul tells us that the Prophets are subject to the Prophets.  But the pastors, not having divine communication like the Prophets, would be at a disadvantage.  The Greco-Roman world was full of false prophets, and as a result it was a simple matter to become a false and foolish prophet amongst those which follow God (much like it is today!  Seems that problem never goes away…).  Paul’s message throughout his ministry is less about squelching God’s words to the people via God’s Prophets, and more about encouraging the pastors to test whether or not the Prophet was a true prophet.

But Paula’s whole idea of what a prophet is seems to predicate on a Programmer-God, rather than an active Leader-God.  And again, I can’t help but wonder where she got this idea that God programs every prophet with a word He wants disseminated during the prophet’s timeline.  It simply isn’t supported by scripture.  The Prophets aren’t trying to figure out what God is saying to them, God reveals exactly what He wants done.  Even if it’s that their role is to confound the masses (such is the example of Isaiah).

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Barabbas or Christ?

I figured we could all use a break from my book club, so what better day to do that than Easter Sunday?  Every year for the last 2 years I’ve made it a personal challenge to find something new and beautiful in the Easter and Christmas stories.  This year, I’ve chosen to look at the scene where Pontius Pilate puts a decision to the crowd to choose Jesus Christ or Barabbas for the Pascal Pardon.

Over the years, this piece of the story has been used by a lot of Protestant groups to demonize the Jewish people both historically and in modern times.  By seeding racism from this incident, I feel like there is so much missed.

Let’s start with the obvious- racism (all of it, not just anti-Semitism) is dumb.  If you’re using this incident (or any other scripture, for that matter) as a reason to hate on the Jewish People, get over yourself.  Historically, we Gentiles were just as evil as they were, and at times worse.  It’s not a matter of whether or not Gentiles knew that God exists either.   Let me give you 3 examples:

  1. Balak readily affirms that YHWH exists, and asks the Prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites.  When that doesn’t work out, Balak convinces Balaam to help him make Israel blaspheme against God.
  2. Jezebel was made very aware of God’s presence, and maintained her treachery until the end.
  3. Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, watches his own father go through hell because he had gotten arrogant and God decided to put him in his place.  But when Belshazzar takes over, he gets very arrogant and throws an unspeakable feast- which God makes an appearance in and writes upon the wall.  The night after Daniel delivers the interpretation, Belzhazzar is killed.

The Bible tells us mostly about the Israelites, but there are stories and hints around the evils of gentiles too.  No race gets a pass.  None.  So throw that racism to the 4 winds and look at this scene with a different set of eyes.

Everything had to align so that God would be glorified in such a way that no one could argue He is King above all gods (Psalm 95:3)

Matthew 16:21-23

‘From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”’

Peter didn’t want this for his friend.  But Jesus rebuked him.  Christ later, in Gethsemane, asks for God to change His mind, but that if He will not God’s will be done.  All of this to make a point- nothing, absolutely nothing, could be done to change what the future held for Christ- except God.

This isn’t the first time that God has put things into motion so as to assure an outcome.  In Egypt He literally took away Pharaoh’s free will:

Exodus 7:3&5

“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt…And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them”

God sends a lying spirit into King Ahab’s prophets so that Ahab will go into battle:

I Kings 22:19-23

‘Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord : I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord , and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’ Therefore look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you.”’

Finally, we know that in order to fulfill what God had set into motion, the people of Christ’s time were shut off from the truth: 

Matthew 13:10-15

‘And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’’

If you recall, during Isaiah’s time (Isaiah 6:9-11), God didn’t want Israel to repent of their sin because He didn’t want them to be healed.  But here, it’s not about not wanting them to be healed, it’s about ensuring that the world would be healed through Christ’s sacrifice.  

So you see, this exchange scene has two very important messages.  The first is that the people who were seeking to crucify Christ were intended to do exactly as they were doing.  God set everything up, and one could easily argue that He was convicting their souls to do exactly this, just as He had done with Pharaoh.  Thus, we cannot hold anyone in this crowd accountable for their actions prior to the crucifixion, only their actions after Christ had risen and was proclaimed by the Apostles.

The second story here, is the exchange itself for someone who was considered a criminal.  This exchange is at the heart of what Christ came to Earth to accomplish- exchanging His life for the life of sinners.  In effect, it was a very public display of Christ’s ability to give us all another chance at redemption even when the odds seem against us.  Whether Barabbas took it or not, we are not told.  His decision doesn’t really matter though, what matters is the option bestowed to him.  Though, I must admit, if Barabbas didn’t take his second chance to turn his face to God, perhaps that would have driven home this point of Christ’s love for all of us, and a testament to God’s ever-inspiring grace and patience.

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Prophet’s Handbook – PROPHETS AS AGENTS (pg.123)

“The person needs not be neither feared or trusted until God does.” – Paula Price on a prophet which hasn’t had a prophecy come true yet

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that God ever will if the “prophet” has been proven to not be speaking on behalf of God.  The only time that God’s prophets would have been seen as failing in the Bible, was in the story of Ahab- and that’s because God specifically put out a decree for them to lie so that Ahab would get destroyed.  They were justified by Micaiah’s testimony, and only after Micaiah had delivered the same message as the rest of them.  But again, I note- it’s the only incident we ever hear about.  So up to this point, God made sure that all of these prophets were known to be trustworthy.

The reason I suspect that God wouldn’t ever honor them in the future, is because they have already done wrong by trying to rally people on behalf of God.  It’s not that these people cannot repent, but rather the fact that they have already put themselves in a very precarious situation.  Furthermore, Jesus Christ acknowledges that people can perform wonders and even prophesy accurately without being sent from God in Matthew 7:21-23.  Thus, by saying “until God does” puts us in a very dangerous position ourselves.  It means that we could easily take a sign or wonder that comes true, and was not from a Man of God, as being from a true prophet…after we have already seen another sign or wonder fail.

Let us not allow ourselves to be fooled, but instead test all the spirits.  Speaking of which, I think I’m far enough into the book to bring up a concerning pattern in Paula’s book.  She keeps talking about prophets as representatives to other deities.  While I’m sure that we can all agree that other deities are said to have their own prophets, God tells us that if prophet tells you to follow after other gods, they are not to be followed, but are there to test you. 

As Christians, we should have no part with other deities.  It’s one thing to bring them up so that we know by comparison their treachery.  I can even see a value in comparing their methods against Christian methods for being prophets, if you were going to take it that far.  But what I am seeing time and time again with Paula isn’t a comparison.  It’s almost like she wrote the book just as much for them, as she did Christian prophets-without trying to be obvious about it.  And honestly, this bringing up of other deities in this manner is a massive red flag for me.

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Prophet’s Handbook – AGENTS AND OFFICERS – WHAT THEY DO (pg.121)

In this section, Paula brings up intercession, which gives me a fantastic time to ask you all a question (not intended to be an admonishment):

When you pray on behalf of your community or a country, what are the elements of your prayer?  Do you ever ask God to forgive them?  For example – if you’re one of the Christians vehemently against Abortion, when you see Democrats fighting for abortion rights, do you ever turn to God and say “Lord, forgive them for they do not know what is right.  Forgive those that seek abortion, for they have not understood You wisdom…”

God doesn’t have to listen.  When Jeremiah went to God to interceded for Israel, God decided not to honor Jeremiah’s intercession- because it didn’t serve His purposes to get Israel back on track.  But God did listen to Moses.  God tended to listen more when it concerned individuals though.  Like when people asked that a prophet entreat the Lord to remove something from them.  Jeroboam is an example of this, where his hand shriveled up and the Unnamed Prophet asked God to remove it from him.  Another example was Job praying on behalf of his four friends.

Intercession is more than praying against demonic forces, it’s also praying on behalf of each other, and making a case to God for His mercy.  It may be the circles I find myself in, but oftentimes I find Christians which think of intercession in terms of “help this community through their time of need” or even asking that God will intervene to turn people towards him (Revivals), rather than in terms of asking God to forgive others for the way they are turning the masses from Him.

God’s decisions are His own, but if we have a community of people speaking forth this kind of intercession, I can’t help but wonder if it would be of benefit to our nations.

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Planning a COVID19 Easter Communion

It’s been on my mind. In my family, I’m the sole Christian which understands the value of Communion. My son is too young to understand and value the Eucharist, and my husband is Agnostic. And without a church I haven’t had communion for a very long time. In a previous piece, I wrote that the early church wanted an ordained person to administer the Eucharist. But I’ve been reconsidering this as I contemplate the Passover Meal.

Passover was done within the family unit, not as a community. If we go back to the story of the plagues there is a key point that we have to acknowledge in order to figure out the importance of the Passover: From some of the previous plagues, it was made very apparent that God didn’t have to have the Hebrews preform their own ritual to protect them from a plague. That is to say, the flies didn’t get into Goshen, Israel’s cattle was protected from disease, and the Hail didn’t extend to Goshen. There may have been more plagues which didn’t, but only these three are confirmed has having not been a problem in Goshen. Then why did God ask Israel to carry out a Passover ritual?

Most people point out that it was meant to be a foreshadowing of Christ’s story. While I do believe there is truth to that, I don’t think the explanation goes far enough. I think it was about weeding out who was and wasn’t faithful. If you didn’t perform the Passover Ritual you would lose your first born because God wanted faith and obedience; if you did perform it then you showed the world that God kept his Word. It was a 100% win-win strategy on God’s part. And so God told Israel that this would become an official celebration recreating the Passover Meal so as to remember what happened in Egypt. And later on, He would use that same formula to bring salvation for the whole world.

The Passover Seder can be done as a community or as a family, and if they are suppose to be our model then it should also hold true that as long as someone serves in the capacity of Christ’s role at the Last Supper, then the Eucharist this year can also be performed at the household level. Removing the idea that you have to follow along with a televised version of the Eucharist in order to ensure an ordained individual is administering the Eucharist.

Per Paul’s description of Marriage, that husbands are the head of the family, this would mean that the person who should stand in the role of Christ for the ritual would need to be the husband. If we look to the original Passover Seder, the answer for a family which shares in their Christian walk together, the answer to this year’s Easter Eucharist can be found with some ease….

Though…I’m still not sure about someone in my situation. The sole Christian in the household. If, as I believe, the Passover was about stepping out in faith and obedience to God, then it would be wrong to look at the situation as though it’s completely hopeless for someone in a similar situation to me (maybe you live alone or cannot be with family for some reason). In contemplating this, and looking at the way that the Passover has been treated over the years, I wonder if there is a way to modify this ceremony for an individual. It’s something I am still contemplating myself, but if I do it might look like this:

Read the Passion of Christ through the Resurrection (All of Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, or John 11:45-John 20) in front of an alter made of earth (per Exodus 20:24-25) with wine, unleaven bread, a candle and frankincense (to burn), and a small non-flammable bowl with optional woodchips for tender.

Offer a prayer of repentance with the burning of the frankincense (symbolizing the gift Christ was given at his birth, but also to mirror the saints in Revelation 8:4).

Finally, after having repented, take communion with the following form of speech:

Ask God, the Father, to bless the bread.

“Jesus, my Lord and savior, during the Last Supper you broke bread with your disciples (break bread, and lay the portion you’re not going to eat in the wooden bowl) saying ‘This is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me.’ (don’t eat yet)

Ask God, the Father, to bless the wine.

“After blessing the wine, you spoke again to your disciples saying ‘Drink from it, all of you (pour some of the wine onto unleaven bread on altar, leave enough for a single sip) For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.'” (don’t drink yet)

Lord, in honor of your sacrifice for me and the world, I hope you will allow me to join you at your table, that I may accept your sacrifice (After eating the bread and drinking the wine, light the remnants on fire. For God told the Israelites that what was remaining should be burned up, rather than left behind).

That last part seems kind of silly though, for God also said that the lamb should be eaten completely, and if there is anything that remains it should be burned up. One could easily eat all of the unleavened bread, even if it was the size of a slice of Naan bread, and only pour out enough red wine to accommodate a sip, rather than a cup. The reason I’d choose to have left overs, however, is to symbolize the communial meal that we share with Christ when we partake in Communion.

By reading what Ignatius said historically (that only an ordained minister should administer the Eucharist), I’m still not certain whether or not the above described ceremony would even be viable in God’s eyes. But when I take into consideration that the Israelites had to find a way to contend with the lack of a clergy caste that could accommodate their religious lives several times over throughout the Old Testament, then it seems to me that it is possible God will accept the effort in extraordinary circumstances. COVID19 seems like one such circumstance, and so I’ll need to contemplate this further over the next couple of days and ask for God’s wisdom.

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The Flaw of “God determines when you’re going to die”

I’m sure you’ve seen some form of this message going around:

“Sorry to break up the panic, but the Coronavirus will not take anyone out of this world unless that’s the good Lord’s plan for you, and you’re not gonna change that no matter what you do or what you buy.”

Let me ask some very simple questions: Do you think that God’s plan was for Abel to die? Do you think that if God was such a micro-manager as to determine everything about your life and death that He would have established any of the 10 Commandments, let alone “Thou shalt not kill”?

We are so eager to want God to acknowledge us that we are quick to say “God has a plan specifically for me”, when in reality the Bible doesn’t say that. It affirms that He has plans for specific people, and then a general plan for all His people. There is a huge difference between:

“Moses, you’re going to lead these people to the Promised Land” and “Israel, my plan for you is to just follow my commandments and Moses, do that and everything will be hunky-dory. Through you, all I’ll be able to show the world that I am the only God of this world”. All that is required, is the majority can manifest God’s desires.

Yeah, I know, that sounds kind of prideful of God. It’s not, His Will is that humanity lives righteously, and for that to really take off He has to be at the center of it…lest we fall prey to the darker side of our flesh. But that’s for another discussion.

In either case, it also means that God allows for us to make our own decisions. Maybe there are some people He will protect, maybe there are some that He will decide needs to die, but overwhelmingly the thing that keeps coming to my mind when I see this kind of sentiment is: Didn’t Christ already address this? Something about not tempting the Lord? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what he said:

Matthew 4:5-7

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’and,‘In their hands they shall bear you up,Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”

God gives us free will. God gives us an opportunity to follow Him, and by doing so He will see to it that everything works together for your good, in both this world and the next. But don’t be so arrogant as to think that God planned out whether you’ll fall prey to this virus or any future calamity. If he intervened on every little thing, then His gift of Free Will would mean nothing- and neither would your decision to follow Him.

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Tampa Pastor that Disregarded the COVID19 Quarantine

I think it’s normal for people to recall the faith of Biblical heroes like Daniel when they think about this whole mess. Daniel who defied the government and praised God anyway. I think it’s normal for people to think “this is the time that I can step out in faith and show my devotion to God”. But in this madness of COVID19, it is Christ’s words which speak the most to me:

Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

You can love God even when you’re away from your church brethren, but you are not showing love for your neighbor by hosting or participating in large gatherings during this crisis. Daniel didn’t have a large population with him to praise God either. He did it alone, and in defiance of a government that told him to worship another. You can do this alone too, sitting in the contemplation of what it must have been like for the Israelites in exile to find their own ways of preserving their faith. You aren’t being told to worship another, you’re being asked to show love for your neighbors.

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Hobby Lobby’s COVID19 Letter?

Have you read it yet? I did, and the only indication that I have found that Mr. & Mrs. Green are using a “vision” (really more like an “impression”) to justify staying open is the word of a random individual on Twitter. What I read, was less a justification, and more an encouragement…

That doesn’t at all give this letter a pass. I’ll grant that we don’t have other letters alongside it to see if there has been other kinds of communication going on between the stores and if we did we might see a larger picture. At the very least the generic statement on their website states that they’ll obey what the respective states have to say on the matter. But, like Hillary Clinton said a few years ago “you need both a public and a private position”.

So if I see someone trying to provide an uplifting message in this whole thing, why would I have problems with the letter itself? So glad you asked!

Let’s start with the fact that his wife felt three words were placed upon her heart. I won’t pretend to know anything about whether or not God did this, but such prophecy does no good to the unbeliever, and therefore really ought not be passed along to the masses in the way that Mr. Green did. If we assume that it was real, and not merely of her own heart, then this revelation should have been given to the Church if not kept to herself and/or family- not to the whole of Hobby Lobby. If we reject it, then the use of God’s name in this way is a vain matter.

It seems harmless, trying to encourage people that God is in control. But really what does that mean? God has sent evil to correct the ways of His people, God has sent evil to test His People. God has control, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to go in your favor. Speaking to a massive group of people which do not understand YHWH as though He is going to protect them completely ignores the damage it will do when so many people die and they do not understand what the words “God is in control” really means.

Jeremiah 6:13-14
‘For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. ‘

I’m not saying this is the case with Mrs. Green (I reiterate, I do not know her, and cannot make a judgement of her revelation), but truly we all need to take inventory of the things we speak in God’s name. Are we proclaiming something which is of our own hearts? Proclaiming that which God has not spoken? Unless we know the truth of what Prophecy is. Is it ACTUALLY glorifying God, or does it serve only to elevate our own status as Christians? The only way to really know is if we can be brutally honest with ourselves.

And just in case anyone out there is thinking “Whoever works for that company knew what they were getting into”, let me say this: Everyone deserves a job, shaming anyone because their local Hobby Lobby was willing to hire them lacks compassion.

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Can You, as Non-Clergy, Oversee Your Own Eucharist?

There are a lot of things I wanted to investigate before I took on research of the Eucharist/Communion.  But with COVID-19 threatening to disrupt Easter celebrations, upon which the Eucharist is a foundation sacrament, I’ve decided to jump the list.  I’m not going to cover everything, just one question that came to mind when a friend told me her church was suspending physical attendance for 2 weeks and going to e-church: Do we need a pastor to administer the Eucharist?

We can probably take a good leap and assume that God didn’t intend for the Early Church to address an electronic age two-thousand years removed from them.  But I think we can probably find some answers to this question.

In looking for answers to this question, two articles of evidence came up.  One comes from the Bible, and the other comes from a first century, very early second century, Christian named Ignatius.  From both accounts, it looks like you cannot partake of the Eucharist on your own. 

So the first account we have comes from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

‘But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.

I have to quote this in full, otherwise it loses something.  At first it just looks like Paul is saying you can’t get together to have food as a community (which seems to go against the grain of Christ’s examples where he is feeding hundreds), but Paul is talking specifically about the Lord’s Supper as a very sacred rite.  Thus, the advice is to eat at home so that when you come to the receive the Lord’s Supper, you’re only there to receive food which satisfies the spirit.  Despite Peter’s first epistle (chapter 2) which seems to make it sound as though we can all oversee the sacrament, Paul makes a point to illustrate that there are those which are genuine- and by proxy we can surmise that not everyone within the church should be considered eligible to head up the rite.  Another point here, is that it seems very apparent that Paul is stating this is a communal rite, not something you simply do at home.  Though from various points in the New Testament, it does seem as though it was permissible for ordained persons to deliver the sacrament inside someone’s home.

One other thing to note about 1 Peter, however, is that there is some dispute as to who the letter was written to.  If, as some suggest, the letter was explicitly for Jewish converts, then the language in 1 Peter 2:5 may be referring to the fulfillment of Exodus 19:6, where God tells all of Israel that as long as they keep to His laws He will make them a “kingdom of priests”.

Paul doesn’t make any explicit mentions of who can or cannot oversee the holy rite, that tradition seems to be affirmed by Ignatius.  Ignatius is said to have been a student of the Apostle John.  If nothing else, he is confirmed as being a man teaching righteousness by well-known a student of John named Polycarp.  So one could surmise that Ignatius’ words reflect what the Apostle John was teaching.

In Ignatius’ letter to the Smyrneans, chapter 8, he states:

“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.”

In case you’re not sure of whether or not this document should be considered legit, I wasn’t either so I looked into it.  Of the pieces I came across, I found that this one was a strong enough argument to at least take 7 of Ignatius’ Epistles into consideration.  Of course, I am sorely aware of the fact that it gets difficult to judge authenticity when we are relying upon expert appraisal rather than carbon dating- let alone the fact that it would be difficult to find a copy dating far enough back.  But we have what we have.  ANYWAYS-

Ignatius lays it out that this sacred rite should be performed by someone who has been ordained.  I don’t think this is bad advice, actually.  If we take Paul and Ignatius together, what we get is the conclusion that the person who has been ordained to perform these sacraments at least are believed to have the kind of soul which searches themselves before overseeing a rite.  

So now we get to the “creative” solutions.

The friend I mentioned in the beginning of this sent me a message about how her church is dealing with the Eucharist.  She’s Episcopal, and they have a prayer (from what I can tell, it’s intended to be said in unison with others) in place of the Eucharist:

“My Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.  I love you above all things, and long for you in my soul.  Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.  As though you have already come, I embrace you and unite myself entirely to you; never permit me to be separated from you.  Amen.”

Such a prayer is one creative solution to overcome the problem that you may not be in the presence of someone who can perform the Eucharist rite.  But what about the practice by those which take the Eucharist via a Televised (or live stream) rite?  Maybe? 

If we take into consideration that the Centurion in Matthew 8 believed Christ could heal his servant without being at his home, and then include that Christ told his Apostles that they would be able to do all he does and more, we could extend that to a live stream.  That is something you’ll need to search your own soul to determine.  As for me…in doing this piece, I’ve come to realize I do not have that kind of faith in modern clergy to command the same level of blessing as Christ or his first century Apostles.

I guess the good thing about so many places shutting down, is that a lot of us will have plenty of time to reflect upon ourselves before we can take the sacrament though!  Thereby adhering to Paul’s words “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself”

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COVID-19 & Your Relationship with Christ

“If you claim to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and are afraid of getting the coronavirus, then you should rethink your relationship.  Fear is not faith, and if you know your Bible, without faith it is impossible to please Him.  Rev. 21:8 refers to those who will end up in the lake of Fire, the first one mentioned is fearful.  Something so little can have great consequences.  Matt. 25:25, because of three little words “I was afraid”, the man was casted into darkness.  God is all-powerful and knows how to keep those who are committed unto him.  Do what you can and He will do what you can’t.” -Unknown

A friend sent this to me today, saying she cannot understand this kind of logic.  Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand this logic- but I’m 100% against it.  Understand, the basis for my understanding is Scriptural, it’s not founded on my own observation of the world around us.  But before I get into how this logic is unsupported, let’s just clear up the two verses the original author cited.

Rev. 21:8 – Yes, this verse certainly states that the fearful will have no part in the Kingdom of Heaven, and will suffer the second death in the Lake of Fire.  But the author has forgotten that we should all have a healthy fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 7:1).  This fear spoken of in Revelations isn’t fear in and of itself, it’s fear which keeps you from God.  Of the 3 temptations Satan tried with Christ was the temp tation to test the lengths God would go to keep Christ alive.  To which Christ replied “Thou shalt no tempt the Lord thy God” (Luke 4:12)

Matthew 25:25  – This verse is about a servant that was given some money and was expected to invest them.  That was the whole point, the servant with the one talent wasn’t intended to just keep ahold of the talent for safekeeping, but instead to reinvest it, that way he could help his master grow financially (even if it was just by a singular talent).  Fear may have been the catalyst by which the servant excused his actions, but it was disobedience which ultimately cost him in the long run.

Satan, during the temptations, quoted scripture, and he tried bending it to his will.  But Christ made it clear that to do anything stupid was an affront to God.  Trusting in God’s plan is one thing, being a Christian and ignoring the wisdom of scientists which are asking for caution during the Corona Virus is like throwing Christ’s words into his face.

So what could I provide you with that could possibly prove my point?  God caused leprosy to fall upon Miriam, and when Moses asked that God take it away from her, God made the comment that it was common practice for the people to put their sick outside of the camp, thus that should be the way that they would deal with Miriam.  Another point to make, is that God doesn’t always protect His own from horrific ends, Manesseh killed many of God’s prophets (Jeremiah 2:30).

Alright, I got it, you’re probably going to say something about how that’s all old testament, and not new.  That’s fine, look at the Black Plague.  Many believers were caused to fall ill and died from it.  The Catholic Church even organized and called for people to pray against the Black Plague.  Something that as recently as Wednesday, The Cathedral of St. Paul was doing as well.  You can read up on that story here:

https://www.al.com/life/2020/03/cathedral-leads-procession-with-medieval-prayer-against-epidemic.html

Protestants might counter with “well, they were Catholic”.  Let’s not demonize 14th Century believers, when in the 21st Century we have over 32K+ denominations on the planet.  We have no right.  And unless someone can point to a legitimate prophet which stated this virus was coming to punish us for our sins (not Sylvia Brown, who’s 2010 prophecy didn’t come true [don’t let the reports fool you, she specified that it would come from exotic birds, no such thing has happened), it would be a dangerous thing to assume such.  Afterall, Job points out to us that God’s choices are His own.  We have no way of knowing whether this plague is a test, a punishment, or simply something God has decided not to intervene on.

Here’s what I will say, however.  With things like this, there is a great opportunity to call us towards prayer.  For all we know, The Cathedral of St. Paul’s efforts may be in vain, but they are stepping out in faith and trying to intercede for the people, maybe we should be too?  Though, we should always retain the understanding and wisdom that God’s ways are higher than ours, and accept that His Will shall be done. 

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Introduction to the Commentary on “The Prophet’s Handbook” by Paula Price

I had come across “The Prophet’s Handbook” at a random local bookstore which has since shut down.  At the time, I was being told that I was called to be a prophet by my church, and I was looking for something that could help me better understand what they were saying.  At the time, however, I just didn’t have the spare change to get the book for the price it was being sold.  When I went back for the book, I couldn’t find it and decided that instead of trying to get it on Amazon, I’d just wait until it came up in the bookstore again.  

A couple of years later I finished writing “A Wicked & Adulterous Generation” and thought about all the things the book was missing.  As much as I wanted to include everything in the book- and I had a fair amount of room to do so- I just couldn’t bring myself to add anything extra.  Then, it occurred to me: “What if someone needs encouragement to walk away from anything spoken of in the book?  To seek God?”.  Sitting there contemplating the question in a Books-A-Million, I found “The Prophet’s Handbook” and three other books that deal with prophecy.  

As I picked up these books and thumbed through them, I remembered a prayer I had made after reading a book by Heidi Baker called “Compelled by Love” (this is not meant to be an endorsement, in time I may revisit the book and discuss it, for now I don’t remember enough to be for or against it).  The prayer was a request- that if God could use me to do so, I wanted to be a voice to those that had been deceived by witchcraft traditions both inside and outside of the Church.  This made me wonder whether God was pushing me towards that direction.  I’ll be honest with you- most of you believe you know what God wants you to do in terms of ministry, but after my encounter with God’s Angel I do not.  Yet here I am, taking a chance on something and believing that God’s Will will be done.  Seeing this as a possible sign, I studied all four books I found.

These weren’t the only books I found though. Earlier in the week I had been at a Barnes & Noble and found about 3-4 books that had the name Hamon attached somewhere on the front cover.  Each of the books I looked at either was by Bill or Jane Hamon, or they contributed at Forward or introduction in some combination to the book.  Of the books I ran across in Books-A-Million, I noticed that “The Prophet’s Dictionary” by Paula Price had a Forward by Bill Hamon.  I don’t make it a rule to draw conclusions about a person’s beliefs or values based on their affiliations, or even their financial contributions to a campaign.  Interactions we have are often far more complex than the prejudices we assign.  The exception to that rule, however, is on the front cover of an academic or spiritual book.

When you decide to pair up with another author for one of these two projects, you are typically stating that you believe they can and want to communicate the same message you want to.  This is even moreso the case when you send your work to someone and ask for a Forward or Introduction.  The statement is that you care about their opinion either as a peer or your superior on the matter.  Since “The Prophet’s Dictionary” was published only 2 years after “The Prophet’s Handbook”, it is likely that “The Prophet’s Handbook” was already agreeable to the Hamon Prophetic teachings.  Following this logic, I figured I would simply select one of the books in this author family and see how it measures up to Scripture.  Of all the books I had in my gotten my hands on, the one that seemed to outline the Hamon theory of Prophetic Ministry was Paula Price’s “The Prophet’s Handbook”.  

So here we are.  At first, I wasn’t going to call attention to the author of any book I decided to review.  I figured I could pull out generic information from each book and write a blog that supported or debunked the basic belief.  However, after entering prayer, asking God to reveal to me the truth, and then reading the first chapter- I realized it wouldn’t be right for me to hide who the authors are or the people which very publicly in support of their views.

What I write about in this blog isn’t intended to hurt the author’s or their supporters.  I have no knowledge of what is in their hearts, and can only they earnestly wish to both know and do God’s work.  What I hope will happen, is that these individuals will find these entries and take the time to re-evaluate what the Scripture says.  There are 66 books in the Bible, trust me- it’s hard to keep up with all that information and sew it together.  I’m certainly not perfect, and there are plenty of topics I don’t have figured out.  But on this topic, of how witchcraft practices and traditions are taking us away from Him, I don’t believe God has led me astray.

I’m not going to ask you to purchase a book that I already know I would never recommend after having read the introduction.  However, in the interest of full disclosure, each entry I post will be titled by the main header of each section (and page number it begins on next to it) so you can follow along.