Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"The Great Satan"

“For countries who hold to a strict religious code of conduct for {their} citizens … the filth that passes for American entertainment is extremely disgusting. This is true even to many Americans. This single fact alone is why many of the Muslim clerics call America, “The Great Satan.”

Dean & Susan Wheelock
Hebrew Roots
July/August/September 2001

Guides to biblical reference books

Surveys describing and evaluating available books help one know "where to look" for the best in Biblical helps.

The most comprehensive survey of recent biblical reference books is:

Commentary & Reference Survey: a comprehensive guide to Biblical and theological resources by John Glynn, 2003 by Kregel Publications. It is complete, concise and the single most useful such reference. It attempts to note the theological stance of each author and highlights what he considers to be higher quality references. Some he tagged as "liberal/critical" -- such as Wenham on Leviticus -- well, I didn't notice it.

Also recent is Old Testament Commentary Survey, third edition, by Tremper Longman III, published by Baker Academic and InterVarsity Press, 2003. A paragraph about each book. I personally appreciate the added perspective. The 1995 second edition includes more analysis of a wider range of reference books related to the O.T, such as atlases, whereas the newer one limits itself to commentaries.

New Testament Commentary Survey, fifth edition, by D. A. Carson, published by Baker Academic and InterVarsity Press, 2001. Erudite analysis. Information conveyed in long paragraphs.

The authors of these references seem to be aware that their keenest readers may be looking for the best in conservative [i.e. Scripture-honoring] scholarship.

I also happen to have a 1981 second edition of John Goldingay's Old Testament Commentary Survey ... useful for those, like myself, who often buy books used.

With any of these references it is important to read the author's explanation of how it was designed to be used. Typically much information is encapsulated in abbreviations, et cetera.

-- Jeffrey Caldwell

Monday, March 28, 2005

Bless those who curse you!

The concluding words of Peter's sermon at the Gate Beautiful help us understand what God considers blessing for those running afoul of the Judge: "When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways." (Acts 3:26).

Christ’s command: "bless those who curse you" (Luke 6:28) is truly not onerous. In such a case "May God bless you" is a prayer -- a prayer God commands -- for the persecutor to "see the Light" and turn away from his or her evil ways. Anyone "cursing" you -- perhaps by hurling false accusations -- hates you [at least at that moment and in that instance] and is not interested in receiving anything good at your hand, nor in believing that anything good could come from you. Often such hatred directed towards a Christian comes from one who supposes he or she "is doing God” – or at least the truth – “a favor!" In a person with any conscience, there may be an internal struggle over refusing -- or considering contemptible -- the message "God bless you"! It "makes people think" and nothing, in such a case, is more helpful that they might see the Light. I've seen good results, so I commend our Master's command to all: "bless those who curse you"! In obeying the command, you serve as God’s messenger! Anyone who chooses to refuse God's blessing from you, which God commanded you to give them, whether they realize it or not, displays an "in your face" attitude towards the rightful Ruler and Judge! God is freer to deal “fairly” with a rebel who has the temerity to be contemptuous to His face, as it were (Matthew 25:40).

As for myself, longing to be loved, it is natural for me to truly desire that one cursing me should come to "see the Light" and repent. I find it easier yet to imagine that repentance is the outcome our Father desires, and all heaven with Him. To "bless those who curse you" is actually, rightly understood, a "light yoke" and even a pleasant duty. In my experience "it makes people think" in a constructive way. And if they refuse to respond constructively, then the "heavy burden" they intend to lay upon you in cursing you – is laid upon them! Haters are perplexed if not vexed by the unexpected response. They "give up" overt attacks, concluding, I suppose, that the one "blessing" them is too perverse to influence in the manner intended by their "curses"! In such a case the Way gives his servant relief, even if cessation of attack is not as gratifying as an enemy's repentance. After a little while, if unable to get it out of their minds, they may repent.

So, it is wise and right and fair and constructive to "bless those who curse you"! Thereby one sees the Holy One "guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones" (Proverbs 2:8). Carefully keeping this command brings about fulfillment of the promise: "I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you." (Exodus 23:22). This "light yoke" perfectly illustrates the principle: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).

If somehow you misapply this command, blessing a person you think “curses” you but actually rebukes you in the name of YHVH, little harm done. If the one who seems to curse you is really working for God, the blessing is hardly wasted!

This command is also helpful, for us here far below, to be mindful that blessing is the end our heavenly Father really wants for everyone, no matter how far from the right way they may have strayed!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Health -- and holiness

"Health" is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, third edition, as follows:
1.The overall condition of an organism at a given time. 2. Soundness, especially of body or mind; freedom from disease or abnormality. 3. A condition of optimal well-being: concerned about the ecological health of the area. 4. A wish for someone’s good health often expressed as a toast. [Middle English helthe, from Old English haelth. See kailo- in Appendix.]
kailo- is the Indo-European root for “health” and other words. Looking into the roots of words is extremely edifying. God, originally, gave language, and insight may be derived from root words.
kailo-. Important derivatives are whole, wholesome, health, heal, holy, and hallow.
These are the important words from the same root – look at the company that “health” keeps!
kailo-. Whole, uninjured, of good omen. 1.a. HALE, WHOLE, from Old English hal, hale, whole; b. WHOLESOME, from Old English *halsum (>Middle English holsum), wholesome; c. (HAIL); WASSAIL, from Old Norse heill, healthy; a, b, and c all from Germanic *hailaz. 2. HEALTH, from Old English haelth, from Germanic *hailitho. 3. HEAL, from Old English haelan, to heal, from Germanic *hailjan. 4.a. HOLY, from Old English halig, holy, sacred b. HALLOW, from Old English halgian, to consecrate, bless, from Germanic derivative verb *hailagon. Both a and b from Germanic *hailagaz. [Pokorny kai-lo 520].
John, Christ's apostle, says:
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 2, NIV).
Holiness, wholesomeness and health are very closely related words. They all have to do with being perfectly – optimally – sound and whole! This word study lends credence to the belief that one should eat “whole” foods for health – rather than fractionated or highly altered foods, such as white sugar and white flour and partially hydrogenated fats.

Recent scientific research confirms that whole natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and wine have many health-enhancing and protecting qualities that industrially “refined” foods lack.
“If everyone ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, that alone would reduce cancer incidence by as much as 20 percent,” says Melanie Polk, director of nutrition education at the American Institute for Cancer Research. (Newsweek, Winter 2001, Special Edition, Health for Life, page 45).
Newsweek summarizes the findings of a 25-year study of 120,000 nurses by Harvard Medical School researchers in What the Nurses Know:
Eat Right. This one is trickier than it sounds. “The type of fat is more important than the quantity of fat,” says Manson. “There are good fats and there are bad fats.” Many “low fat” processed snacks (and most brands of margarine) are oozing with artery-clogging transsaturated fats, also known as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.” The nurse’s study exposed their previously unsuspected role as the deadliest form of dietary fat. Stick with natural snacks such as nuts and fruits. And remember that overdosing on sugar can be as bad as too much fat.”
Manson is one of the four main co-authors of Healthy Women, Healthy Lives, the book they wrote. Partially hydrogenated fats, produced by industrial processing, are unnatural, and unlike whole natural fats, have no nutritional value other than calories. Their “shelf life” is very long, and they're good carriers for flavors and colors, which explains their popularity with food processors. But for your health they are much worse than lard!
Macular degeneration “is the leading cause of blindness in those over 65. It’s devastating and irreversible. But you can help prevent it by packing your diet with a compound called lutein, which is found in dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach and collard greens. Lutein works in two ways. As an antioxidant, it absorbs the free radicals that damage the rods and cones in the macula, the supersensitive center of the retina. As a yellow pigment, it also absorbs energetic blue light before it can injure the rods and cones. “Lutein functions as internal sunglasses,” says Billy Hammond, professor of vision science at the University of Georgia.

Lutein also helps reduce the incidence of cataracts, which arise from a lifetime of free-radical damage to the lens of the eye. The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard found that those who dined regularly on two especially lutein-rich foods – spinach and kale – had up to 40 percent fewer cataract surgeries. Those who eat the most foods rich in vitamin C also reduce their risks, according to a new study from Tufts.” (Newsweek, page 46).
Your parents really have your best interests at heart when they enjoin you to “eat your spinach”!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Church's Responsiblity in Training our Children

This writer belongs to an infinitesimal branch of Christianity that keeps the Biblical annual holy days, but we do not keep them the way God commanded, to our shame.

“So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. Assemble the people – men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns – so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”

When it comes to training our children in the most important thing – proper respect for the living Word of God -- this is the most important command to the church as a whole! We have not obeyed it – a major reason for the shameful failures of our religious tradition. In neglecting this supremely important command and practice we have followed men following mere natural instincts, and not the Spirit of God.

It is needful for the church to support parents in their spiritual ministry of parenthood and children themselves in their own spiritual struggles. Our responsibility is to help Christ – by our service to Him in serving each other in accordance with His commands and yielding to the influence of the Holy Spirit -- “to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”. For this very reason He gave himself for us!

Children must be prepared for the day when they will “leave … father and mother” to establish their own families. For this preparation process, God wants strong, committed marriages dedicated to producing godly offspring.

Regarding marriage, Scripture says: “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel…”

God is seeking godly offspring! We have neglected to give nearly enough attention to this desire of His!

Anything we do to support godliness in marriage is good for children.

With regard to the “sowing and reaping” of our lives, we are enjoined: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

We "do good" in whatever we do to support parents to fulfill the command to raise children “in the training and instruction of the LORD." This includes encouraging children to respect and obey their parents, to cooperate in God’s good purpose for them.

Whatever prayer, encouragement, or teaching we can give to help a father attain the ideal of “with true dignity keeping his children in submission” is part of that good. Paul, Silas and Timothy sum up the ministry of Christian fatherhood: "...we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory"!

In the time of Moses, the nation was the congregation! What I say here is the responsibility of a Christian nation! Christians have not been serving God's commands well ...

Ideas for supporting the ministry of parenthood on the congregational level:

Planning and supporting special events that are wholesome for children such as carefully planned educational events, field trips, parties, etc.

Subsidize church camps and other special wholesome experiences for children.

An increased emphasis in Church libraries on edifying materials for children and to support the ministry of Christian parenthood. Our children are faced with a world overflowing with bad influences. We need to give more attention to specifically addressing and combating them. Middle age children are among the most eager patrons of libraries that include materials tailored to them.

References:

wording of quoted passages from The Holy Bible, New International Version, except as noted otherwise

Leviticus 23:1-44 -- "...the appointed feasts of the LORD..."
Deuteronomy 31:9-13 -- "...you shall read this law before them in their hearing..."
Titus 2:13b-14 -- "...Jesus Christ ... gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness..."
Genesis 2:24 -- "...leave ... father and mother and be united ..." in marriage
Malachi 2:15-16a -- "...he was seeking godly offspring ..."
Galatians 6:10 -- "...do good ... especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
Ephesians 6:4 -- "...bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
Colossians 3:20 -- "Children, obey your parents ... for this pleases the Lord."
1 Timothy 3:4 [Hendriksen] -- "...with true dignity keeping his children in submission..."
Colossians 3:21 -- "Fathers, do not embitter your children ..."
1 Thessalonians 2:l1-2 -- "... encouraging, comforting, and urging you..."

Seek Peace and Pursue It!

fearing the LORD

“To the Jews who had believed in him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” To know the the truth of the Holy One's words, we must “do” as the Holy One does, by His grace!

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge ...”. David says: “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord...” He then prescribes things for us to DO, confirming that knowing God is by experience.We grow in reverence for the Eternal by walking as Jesus walked, thereby tasting of his wisdom and love and suffering. The highest aspect of fearing the Eternal is: “seek peace and pursue it”! But David sings in Hebrew; the word for peace is shalom and its true meaning is richer than its English connotations.

In a Forerunner magazine article about peacemakers, John Ritenbaugh points out that what the Lord means by “peacemakers” in his sermon on the Mount is much more than current connotations of the English word ‘peace’ seem to indicate. To impart a fuller understanding of what the Word of God means by “peace” John quotes from William Barclay's Daily Bible Study Series, Volume 1, page 108:

“In Hebrew peace is never only a negative state; it never means only the absence of trouble; in Hebrew peace always means everything which makes for a man’s highest good. In the East when one man says to another, Salaam--which is the same word--he does not mean that he wishes for the other man only the absence of evil things; he wishes for the presence of all good things. In the Bible peace means not only freedom from all trouble; it means enjoyment of all good.”

In the light of this understanding “seek peace, pursue it” takes on the meaning that God intends rather than the poor substitute that too many settle for or even urge, mistakenly thinking ‘peace’ refers merely to the absence of active strife!

Regarding being ‘peacemakers’ Ritenbaugh notes: “Paul writes in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Undoubtedly, Jesus did this, but it did not produce peace at that time.”

Any pilgrim who sets his or her heart on being a genuine ‘peacemaker’ in this present evil world will come to sing with feeling: “Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but whenever I speak of it, they are for war”! The unseen spiritual powers of this present evil world are not interested in any person’s highest good and are bent on setting back anyone who seeks it!

Concerning the precept ‘seek peace and purse it’, John Ritenbaugh concludes: “far from being a simple task, complying with it will call upon our constant vigilance, self-control and earnest prayer.”

Genuine peace centers in agreement with God, who certainly wants everything that makes for every person’s highest good. Paul pleads with Christians at odds “to agree with each other in the Lord” -- the Lord’s will is our common ground! May each of us find the grace to seek and find out and as need be contend graciously for -- His will! When we speak and act with godly wisdom, the Eternal is pleased: “A wise son brings joy to his father”!

Ironically, pursuing genuine peace may well involve contending and confronting. It is entirely in the spirit of seeking shalom and pursuing it that Jude urges: “...contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”! When Messiah comes to wage war, it will be seeking shalom and pursuing it! For good cause those called to be holy are likened to soldiers!

References:

John 8:31-32 NIV unless indicated otherwise.
Proverbs 1:7
Psalm 34:10
Psalm 34:14b
Matthew 5:9
Psalm 120:6-7 REB
Philippians 4:2
Proverbs 10:1b
Jude 3
Forerunner is the thought-provoking magazine of the Church of the Great God.

Why I, a Christian, keep the annual holy days of the law of Moses

I aim to conform my belief and practice to the "faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3) by Christ and his apostles -- as revealed by the Holy Bible, which I regard as divinely inspired Scripture. That faith is “your most holy faith” says Jude (vs. 20).

Congregations founded by Christ and his apostles observed the annual holy days. The Holy Spirit was first given to those observing Pentecost, an annual holy day (Acts 2:1, Leviticus 23:16). Christ's disciples were observing it after his death, resurrection and ascension -- after intense personal encounters with Him in the forty days following His resurrection (Acts 1:3-5). It is also known as "the day of firstfruits" (Numbers 28:26)! Many years later Pentecost is still referred to as a notable continuing observance: "Paul ... hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost" (Acts 20:16). "I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost" (I Corinthians 16:8). Both of these references come after the council of Jerusalem, yet Paul writes to Gentile converts as if the annual holy days are a familiar aspect of their faith.

To the Gentile converts of the congregation in Corinth he refers to Passover and the days of unleavened bread (1 Corinthians 5:6-8, 11:20-34). "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). He seems to be writing just before the spring holy days. The annual feast days do not appear to be among things considered to "trouble... them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God" (Acts 15:19).

While the feast of trumpets isn't specifically mentioned in the New Testament, it is called to mind, notably reading: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

After the New Testament church had continued for many years the day of atonement is mentioned in passing (Acts 27:9) indicating its continuing observance.

Prophecy proclaims the feast of tabernacles being kept as a required observance by the people of all nations after the return of Christ (Zechariah 14:16-19) -- a key aspect of the culture of His kingdom! The feast of tabernacles was kept and obviously will be kept -- so it makes no sense that it should not be kept now! John says: "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.'" (John 7:2, 37).

Regarding the doctrine and practices of the early church we see through a glass darkly, but the annual holy days obviously play a part in the faith and practice of Christ and his apostles and their followers. There is no sign they repudiated them as “slavery to ceremonial laws” annulled by Christ’s sacrifice.

The proclamation inscribed on the Liberty Bell -- to be made on the day of atonement in the year of jublilee is: "proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Leviticus 25:10)! That hardly sounds like slavery to me!

Christians who treasure "the feasts of the LORD" (Leviticus 23:1, 4) find them overflowing with Christological significance. We rejoice in keeping them because of their meaningfulness to our faith and the edifying worship and Christian fellowship we find in honoring the LORD by observing them.

by Jeffrey Caldwell
Believers in Christ Church of God

Themes of the Divided Kingdom

the key to national success or failure

Under Saul, David and Solomon -- her first three kings -- Israel was a "united kingdom". From then on it was a divided kingdom: "Israel" -- the always apostate ten tribes who were carried away by Assyria in about 720 BCE and "Judah" -- which remained loyal to David's descendants, some good, some bad, which fell to Babylon in about 586 BCE.

Most of the history of the divided kingdom centers on response to the Enemy. The unlearned lesson seems to be: “worship the LORD your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies” (2 Kings 17:39).

What leaps out is the responses of the kingdoms to:

The life-giving influence of godly leadership – bringing God’s help and favor.

or

The destructive influence of leadership compromised – one way or another -- with counterfeit religion and its adherents – bringing God’s wrath.

The quality of leadership seems absolutely key to the fate of the nation. Over and over “your guides…turn you from the path” (Isaiah 3:12). On the other hand, godly leaders turn people back to the Way.

Often one king exemplifies both sorts of leadership -- such as Jehoshaphat or Joash or Jehu or even Manasseh.

Revival -- its nature and origin

In a revival large numbers of people are moved to re-orient themselves with a more appropriate attitude towards God. Large numbers of people are moved to attain a more mutually satisfying relationship with God. In a revival large numbers of people are brought into a relationship that holds more joy both for themselves and for their Maker!

In a revival large numbers of people are moved to more wisely “factor in” God in their thinking, are moved to open their hearts more widely to Him, and are moved to dedicate their very selves, heart, mind and body, more deeply to Him.

The “pre-revival” state of mind, it seems to me, can be summed up in the words “oblivious to His wrath”!

Before turning back to the Holy One or to Him in the first place, we tend to be oblivious to His Way and His concerns -- sometimes even -- oblivious to His very existence. As Ezekiel says, “they do not KNOW the Eternal”!

Sadly, all too often those who do not know our Maker and where He’s really at -- think that they do! They’re comfortable with their current understanding of God and comfortable enough with where they personally stand with Him. It is easier to think our standing with Him is “good enough” than it is to deal with even the thought that our Redeemer is displeased with us. When large numbers of people estimate that they’re in “good enough” standing with the Judge, but in fact, they aren’t, a revival is very much in order!

The “pre-revival” state of mind is complacent.

A revival always begins with the concerns and the will of “the unknown God” somehow coming to somebody’s attention, somebody who responds to the God as He really is, instead of as He is imagined to be. An outstanding example is the response of King Josiah when he heard the law of Moses read to him.

All good things come from God. He orchestrates circumstances to turn his children to Him or back to Him.

Pornography

the perspective of the Word

The root of the English word pornography -- the Late Greek pornographos – literally means "writings about prostitutes". Pornography is basically a focus on prostitution, or a form of it, which is certainly an adulteration of the exclusive and loyal bonds that the Maker of marriage intends. Pornography rarely if ever depicts explicit sexual relations of happily married couples. Almost invariably it wallows in and perversely exalts lust, promiscuity, incest, rape ... anything but marriage as our Maker intended!

"Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness" (Leviticus 19:29). When people allow their land to become full of wickedness, that land vomits them out. Nations decline and fall when morality erodes and more and more families disintegrate. A nation of disintegrated families is weak; a nation with stronger families will displace it. This sort of "fall" starts small and gathers steam over time. The phrase "lest the land fall to whoredom" shows how promoting prostitution brings a country down ... exerting an unhealthy influence on the whole.

Fox translates literally: "You are not to profane your daughter by making her a whore, that the land not go whoring and the land be filled with insidiousness."

Do not profane your daughter! Our Maker wants all people to be holy -- healthy and wholesome, as He is and intends each of us to be. He wants godly children -- they are for Him -- all things are created for His pleasure. Thankfully His pleasure is ours also. "Eden" signifies the delight He intends for us. He wants for us fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore -- not a short season of sinful pleasures leading to trouble!

Pornography is insidious! Its harm may not be obvious at first, but it works to bring us down rather than to raise us up. Its superficial allure is a trap that leads to disillusionment. It can never truly be fulfilling or satisfying – it leads one on and on to nowhere. Pornography leads us away from what is fair and wholesome. Pornography misleads.

Insidious: 1. "Working or spreading harmfully in a subtle or stealthy manner: insidious rumors; an insidious disease. 2. Intended to entrap; treacherous; insidious misinformation. 3. Beguiling but harmful; alluring; insidious pleasures.

The word insidious comes from a Latin word for "ambush" -- that's exactly what a porn store is to a man under hormonal influence with a deficit of good sense. The Latin word for ambush comes from another word that means "to lie in wait for" -- that's why they stay open 24 hours a day -- always available to tempt you and take your money at your weakest moment!

Resources:

The five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: a new translation with introductions, commentary, and notes by Everett Fox. 1995.

The American Heritage Dictrionary of the English Language, third edition.

The Pillars of the Temple

a godly society

Two massive bronze pillars stand before Solomon's magnificent temple (1 Kings 7:15-22). They're often thought of as free-standing, but may've supported a projection of the roof. They were probably hollow and were four fingers thick according to the Septuagint.

The one on the south side is Jakin, which "probably means he establishes" while the one on the north side is Boaz, which "probably means in him is strength" according to NIV marginal notes. Wiseman's commentary says "their purpose and significance is yet unknown".

At the coronation of young Joash, we find: "the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was" (2 Kings 11:14). The pillar shows up again at the renewal of the covenant by Josiah, the last good king: "The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD--to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant." (2 Kings 23:3).

The two bronze pillars are last seen being broken up and carried away to Babylon -- along with the king and the people of Judah (2 Kings 25:13-21).

Israel's government rested on a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people. There was a formal agreement between David and the ten tribes: "When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel" (2 Samuel 5:3).

After the death of King Solomon the people wanted to modify the the terms of the compact between people and king "before the LORD" when "Rehoboam" -- Solomon's son -- "went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king" (1 Kings 12:1).

The very first great covenant ceremony had been held in Shechem when Israel entered the promised land (Deuteronomy 27-28; Joshua 8:30-34).

Israel wanted an agreement they could live with more comfortably, which Rehoboam refused, so the ten tribes rejected him (1 Kings 12:1-20). The "people" had a sense of their own power and rights! Thus, after rejecting Rehoboam: "When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam" -- a rebel Solomon had tried to kill -- "had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David." (1 Kings 12:20).

Later, rule was wrested from Judah's Davidic dynasty for six years while wicked Queen Athaliah, daughter of apostate Israel's King Ahab and Jezebel, ruled the land (2 Kings 11:1-3). The pillar shows up again at her downfall when young King Joash was suddenly brought to the fore. "Jehoiada" -- the high priest who had sheltered the infant and toddler from her murderous designs -- "then made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people that they would be the LORD's people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people" (2 Kings 11:17). This took place with "the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was" (2 Kings 11:14).

I believe one temple pillar represents the king; the other the people. The two pillars of Israelite society in covenant relationship with God and each other were the king and the people. Like the temple's two pillars, the king and the people stand in the presence of the LORD, uprightly pledging a just relationship with Him and with each other.

Under God's rule and judgment the king and his subjects each bear responsibilities toward God and toward each other. Good King Jehoshaphat respects king and people "under God" by sending out his officials and the priests to teach the people from "the Book of the Law of the LORD" (2 Chronicles 17:9). He charges them "to administer the law of the LORD and to settle disputes" and to judge "not ... for man but for the LORD". He calls upon them to "serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the LORD" (2 Chronicles 19:4-10).

Paul speaks of : "God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Jude urges us "to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints ... your most holy faith" (Jude 3, 20). These verses allude to "a sacred trust" conveyed by God into the hands of the the people. Many New Testament epistles address groups of the the saints--few address individual leaders!

Paul says: "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me" (Gal. 2:9).

The LORD, the king and the people appear as key parties in the coronation of Saul at the inception of the kingship. "Then Samuel said to the people, "Come, let us go to Gilgal and there reaffirm the kingship. So all the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the LORD. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the LORD, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration" (1 Samuel 11:14-15).

Apparently concluding this kingship assembly, in the heart of his farewell speech, Samuel speaks of the LORD, the king and the people. The LORD had previously raised up deliverers for them, such as Gideon, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel himself:

"But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, 'No, we want a king to rule over us'--even though the LORD your God was your king. Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God--good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers." (1 Samuel 12:12-15).

Samuel's final words of warning: "...be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away" (1 Samuel 12:24-25).

The emphasis on the removal of the bronze pillars in 2 Kings 25:13, 16-17 -- concluding the account of Babylonian looting at the fall of the kingdom -- rings of Samuel's last recorded words -- "if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away"! They were swept away, as Samuel had warned (vs. 21).

I believe that one pillar before the temple stands for the king, and the other pillar stands for the people -- in a covenant relationship "in the presence of the LORD" and thus -- "under God"!

Reference:

1 & 2 Kings: an introduction and commentary
by Donald J. Wiseman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 1993.

The Testimony of God

for all to hear

In a letter from Christian Educational Ministries dated March 1, 2002, Ronald L. Dart offers this fine insight:

"If we call on God to give us His Testimony, what is it that He has to tell us that is of prime importance? As it happens, the Testimony of God, the only time God ever spoke aloud to an entire assembly of people, was that work of law we call “The Ten Commandments.” They were spoken from the mountaintop at Sinai and then written with the finger of God in two tables of stone and placed in a wooden chest. That chest was originally called, not the “Ark of the Covenant,” but “The Ark of the Testimony”!"

“Then put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you” – Exodus 25:16

Invisible: those things most needful for life

Nothing is more invisible than air – and nothing is more crucial for sustaining our physical life.

Next to air, no substance is more crucial for sustaining our life than water, an invisble liquid.

In fact, life as we know it would not be possible on this planet if air and water, those vital and ubiquitous substances – were not invisible!

So perhaps it is not so strange that the Eternal Creator who gives us life -- for us and for the time being – is invisible also!

The Word of God heard is a key aspect of the worship service!

suggestions for Scripture readers

Scripture reading is important!

Paul writes to a young pastor: “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13, NIV) – in his list of priorities, public reading of the Scripture comes before preaching, even as it comes before the sermon in our worship services.

Before anything else, announce the passage that you will be turning to, so that others, if they desire, may turn to it also to follow you, as is generally our custom.

After finding the passage yourself, as the reader you should at first look up, watching to see when the others who are looking for the right page and place have finished looking and are ready to read along with you. That may well take a minute or so. Watch and wait until they are really ready to hear. Avoiding haste and taking these moments will make it more pleasant for them and for you.

Since Scripture reading is so important, it is best to practice reading your chosen passage aloud at home until it is familiar enough to you to read it through without stumbling at all. It may be necessary to learn how to properly pronounce certain words, and to practice saying them. With study and practice you can read confidently, which is pleasant and worthwhile for you and for your congregation.

It is helpful to spend time dwelling on the meaning of the passage you are reading, turning it over in your mind, considering it, and seeing “the picture it paints”, as it were, in your mind’s eye. Ask for our heavenly Father’s help and inspiration to read effectively. Christ says, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Doing these things will empower you to read with more conviction and power, which will make your service more edifying for your congregation.

Public reading of the Word of God is more needful than the sermon, and more powerful – the proper purpose of the sermon is to exhort us to pay more attention to the living Word of God, Christ himself, who is much greater than us all! When His Word is read aloud confidently and with conviction, it is something like having Him with us.

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”
John 6:63 (NIV).

A Model for Worship Assemblies

congregational practices
in the light of the Holy Scriptures

We gather to worship on Saturday, the seventh day of the week, ordained as the Sabbath by the Holy One from Creation . The Holy Bible proclaims the Sabbath a day of sacred assembly for “proclamation of holiness”. The weekly Sabbath is observed throughout the Old Testament and kept by Jesus, his apostles and their early followers. Most Christians abandoned keeping the Sabbath to meet instead on Sunday only after all the apostles had died – under the influence of church authorities compromised under severe persecution.

We observe "the appointed feasts of the LORD" as revealed to Moses and kept by Jesus, his disciples and New Testament congregations.

We don’t observe holidays with pagan origins or trappings – such as Halloween, Christmas or Easter—which have no place in the “your most holy faith … once for all entrusted to the saints”. Along with Jesus and his apostles we uphold the law of Moses about worship: “See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it”.

Our worship service usually lasts about two hours and is ordered as follows:

A hymn of thanksgiving and praise , accompanied by piano playing , and then an opening prayer .

Scripture Reading and one or two hymns, and sometimes a special musical performance.

Inspired Speaking is usually a sermon, but may be two short sermons, or a discussion – for a period we try to hold to about 40 minutes or less. The Holy Bible is our wellspring of teaching and exhortation, aiming to help us stand firm in the faith. At the speaker’s discretion there may be a brief period for questions and comments after a sermon. Earlier in the history of our congregation, inspired speaking came after announcements and sometimes too many songs. With it at the beginning we no longer have a problem with people struggling to stay awake!

The major Song Service follows inspired speaking—the most opportune time to sincerely sing joyfully, thoughtfully, and enthusiastically.

Praise and Prayer gives an opportunity for individuals to publicly offer thanks and praise to God, or to make prayer requests or offer prayers.

In Church Commentary the Pastor reports news or correspondence, announces events of interest, and speaks about whatever else he, or others at his discretion, may be moved to share.

The worship service concludes with a brief song service and a closing prayer.

Most of the mature men and women of the congregation perform the various functions of the worship service as volunteers in rotation.

The worship leader each week is a volunteer, man or woman, who chooses and leads hymns and chooses and introduces those who give opening and closing prayer, and announces the Scripture reader, any special music, the Speaker, the Praise and Prayer moderator, and the Church Commentary period.

The volunteer for Scripture Reading chooses the passage, a coherent unit usually of a chapter or less.

An inspired speaker, when not the Pastor, as is often the case, is one who has accepted his invitation to serve. Most are elders of our congregation but some are members or leaders of other congregations.

A volunteer moderates Praise and Prayer.

We don’t collect money during our weekly worship service. Tithes and offerings are given privately to our treasurer. Offerings during worship services are taken up only on the seven annual holy days .

After the worship service refreshments accompany fellowship and there is a “potluck” meal on the first Sabbath of each month.

A small church library lends cassette tapes of inspired speaking, and edifying books, DVDs and videotapes, especially materials upholding divine Creation and the Deluge and refuting contrary teachings. Denial of the Genesis record, as Peter predicted long ago, is a major cause of scoffing and unbelief in these times.

Free literature is offered. Those who want them can get cassette tapes of our inspired speaking, which are mailed to members and friends who can’t be with us personally. They are offered online as mp3 files from our Web site. There is no charge for any materials we produce. Sometimes as a congregation we make a bulk or wholesale order of edifying books offered in the marketplace to either give away or resell to our members and others at our cost.

Anyone is welcome to attend , except drunk or unruly visitors . Occasionally our usual rented meeting room isn’t available or we may’ve chosen to meet elsewhere, so if you haven’t met with us before, or for awhile, it is safest to call us before visiting to confirm our location. If when you arrive we are not meeting in our usual room we may be elsewhere in the building complex; inquire at the main office. We own no property and have no permanent home, though we would like to have one!

When you visit, please sign our guest book!
-------------------------------
References and Notes:

The seventh-day Sabbath is day of worship from Creation: Genesis 2:1,3; Exodus 20:8-11; compare with John 1:1-14.

Sabbath is a day of commanded assembly: Leviticus 23:3. “Proclamation of holiness” is an alternate rendering of the original Hebrew mikra’ei kodesh, often translated “holy convocations”, that is, sacred gatherings. Especially it is the time to gather to hear the word of God. See The five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: a new translation with introduction, commentary, and notes by Everett Fox. 1995, Word Publishing, notes at Leviticus 23:3.

Christ and his apostles kept the Sabbath: Mark 1:21; Luke 4:16, 31-31; 23:56; Acts 18:4.

How the Sabbath was abandoned: From Sabbath to Sunday: A Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity by Samuele Bacciocchi, Rome, 1977. http://www.biblicalperspectives.com/books/sabbath_to_sunday/

"These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies" Leviticus 23:2. The whole chapter of Levitcus 23 is devoted to them. Our congregation observes the annual holy days on dates determined by the standard Hebrew Calendar. Some members sincerely hold to other Calendars. In disputable matters let no one lord it over anyone’s faith (2 Corinthians 1:24, Romans 14:4, 12).

The annual holy days were kept by New Testament congregations: Matthew 26:19; Acts 20:6; 1 Corinthians 5:8; Acts 2:1; 20:16; John 7; Acts 27:9. They were keeping Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16) the day the Holy Spirit came upong them!

"your most holy faith ... once for all entrusted to the saints": Jude 20, 3 (The Holy Bible, New International Version, all quotes here unless indicated otherwise).

“See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.” See Deuteronomy 12:32, 13:4; 12:29-31.

Opening hymn of thanksgiving and praise: Psalms 95:2; 100:2,4.

Piano playing: 1 Chronicles 15:16 and many other verses show that accompanying hymns with musical instruments is appropriate.

An opening prayer: His house is to be “called a house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7) so it is appropriate for prayer to be given a prominent role in our worship assemblies. However, prayers should neither be excessively long or ostentatious (Luke 20:47), which is not to the glory of God.

Scripture reading: Paul’s pastoral advice to Timothy is “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13), advice which we believe still holds (1 Peter 1:25).

Inspired speaking with emphasis on conveying Scripture, participation of the congregation in questions and comments: 2 Timothy 4:2; 3:15-17; 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 Timothy 4:13.

Participatory praise and prayer: Psalms 26:12; 35:18.

Sharing: "...all must be done for the strengthening of the church...": see 1 Corinthians 14:26.

A brief closing song and closing prayer: Matthew 26:30.

Most mature members of the congregation participate in worship service functions: 1 Corinthians 14:24-26; 12:7-10.

Collection of offerings as a portion of the worship service is limited to annual holy day services: Deuteronomy 16:16-17. Other tithes and offerings may be given freely to the congregational treasury, but are not formally collected. The temple and synagogues often had a box.

Visiting and eating together: Acts 2:42.

Peter predicted scoffers who ridicule the Genesis record of Creation and the Deluge: 2 Peter 3:3-7.

Religious literature offered without charge: Matthew 10:8.

Unbelievers and seekers are welcome: 1 Corinthians 14:24.

Things must be done in a fitting and orderly manner: 1 Corinthians 14:40; stay home if you're drunk: Galatians 5:21.