Tuesday, September 14, 2021

THE HEART OF THE PROPHETS

When I read about the exploits of godly men in the Old Testament, my heart burns. These servants were so burdened for the cause of Yehovah’s name that they did powerful works that baffle the minds of most Christians today.

These saints of old were rock-like in their refusal to go forward without a word from Yehovah. They wept and mourned for days at a time over the backslidden condition in His house. They refused to eat, drink or wash their bodies. The prophet Jeremiah even laid on his side in the streets of Jerusalem for 365 days, continuously warning of Yehovah’s coming judgment.

I wonder, where did these saints get the spiritual authority and stamina to do all they did? They were men of a totally different type from those we see in Christendom today. I simply can’t relate to them and their walk. I know I’m not totally of their kind. I don’t know a single Christian who is.

This troubles me. The Bible says these men’s Old Testament exploits were recorded as lessons for us: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11, NKJV). Their stories are meant to show us how to move God’s heart or how to bring a corrupt people to repentance.

Were these saints a special breed? Were they supermen with a predetermined destiny, endowed with supernatural powers unknown to our generation?

Not at all. The Bible states emphatically that our godly forebearers were people just like you and me, subject to the same passions of the flesh (see James 5:17). The fact is their examples reveal a pattern for us to follow. Scripture says, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of Yehovah, and to do it” (Ezra 7:10). Long before God laid his hand on Ezra, this man was diligent in searching the scriptures. He allowed himself to be examined by it, washed by it and cleansed body and spirit. Ezra allowed the Scriptures to prepare his heart for any work God chose for him. That’s why Yehovah laid his hand on Ezra and anointed him.

These men allowed the scripture to build a character in them that caused Yehovah to lay his hand on them. That’s why He chose them to accomplish His purposes, and He is urging us to develop that same character quality today.

Wrtien by David Wilkerson 1931-2011) and edited by Bruce Lyon


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

HEBREWS 12:2

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Note: Let’s look at what Hebrews 12:2 really says;

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author - archgov archegos ar-khay-gos one that takes the lead in anything and thus affords an example, a predecessor in a matter, pioneer – and perfecter - teleiwthv teleiotes tel-i-o-tace’ - one who has in his own person raised faith to its perfection and so set before us the highest example of faith…..

Proper translation:

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus,  the pioneer and perfection of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Note: Only Yehovah is the author of faith. Jesus His son shows us, as the pioneer; the prince of our salvation what perfection of faith is! How? By his example of always being totally committed, to walking in covenant faithfulness, before his God and his Father Yehovah. He has truly shown us the way to everlasting eternal life!

MATTHEW 16:24-25

Let’s look at Matthew 16:24-25 and understand what it is saying to all of mankind: Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Let’s look carefully at what the Greek words that were translated into English, is showing us in these verses.

If any anyone - ei tiv ei tis i tis – will come after me, let him forget one’s selfaparneomai  - and take up his cross and follow – akolouyew – me.

For whosoever will preserve – swzw sode’ – his life shall lose it, and whosoever will put out of the way entirely – apollumi – his life for my sake shall find it.

Note: to forget one’s self is to reckon one’s self as dead – which is what one does when one is baptized, he/she walks into the water as dead to self and rises up a new creation in the lord Messiah Jesus. Paul says: Roans 6:11: Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus the Messiah our lord.

Note: To take up one’s cross is to realize that following the lord Messiah Jesus involves dying to self continually and living one’s life in obedient faithfulness to our God and Father Yehovah, which is extremely difficult in this sin sick world. The path we are to walk on is a narrow path which restricts us from following the way of this world influenced by the god of this world – Satan. It is not an easy path to walk on as there are all kinds of obstacles in the way that need to be overcome. To become a follower of the lord Messiah Jesus is a most difficult journey that requires a total commitment, to be his disciple, obeying his directions alone the way. The end of this path is entry into the soon coming Kingdom of God!

We need to realize that we cannot walk on the narrow path on our own strength. We are weak and don’t have the spiritual strength to do so. The wonderful news is that when one is baptized one receives the empowering presence of our God and Father Yehovah and that power enables us to walk on the narrow path that leads to life everlasting.

Matthew 7:13-14: Enter you in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.

Those who have died to self and willingly taken up the cross of self denial and strive to walk in faith obedience to all that God has set before them are among the few that have found narrow way, the strait gate that leads to eternal life! When we enter through the gate we will become co-rulers and co-inheritors with the lord Messiah when he takes his place on the throne of David at Zion.

Matthew 25:34: Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Friday, September 3, 2021

Heaping Burning Coals

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20

In Romans, Paul talks about how to deal with our enemies and those who have wronged us. He says many wise things about dealing with others in this passage:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says Yehovah. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21.

As we read this, one sentence sticks out to us that doesn’t make sense – about heaping burning coals on an enemy’s head. We wonder what Paul meant by this. It helps to know that Paul is quoting Proverbs 25:21-22: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and Yehovah will reward you.” Understanding this proverb will unlock Paul’s words as well.

That saying is in the middle of several proverbs that use physical images to describe emotional reactions. Right before it is the passage, “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or one that pours vinegar on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart” (Proverbs 25:20, RSV). The physical picture of discomfort illustrates that trying to make a person in mourning happy just distresses them more. Likewise, the passage about coals is about the emotional discomfort an enemy will feel when you waken his conscience about his conduct toward you. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia1 :

The word “coal” is often used in a metaphorical sense: 2 Samuel 14: 7 speaks of the “quenching of the coal” of a man, meaning the complete annihilation of his issue; while in Proverbs 25:22 kindness bestowed upon an enemy is called “heaping coals of fire upon his head,” since it tends to waken his deadened conscience and help him to realize his wrong. Sirach 8:10 compares the smoldering and easily roused passion of the godless man to the coal that is easily lighted and breaks forth into flame.

The picture of putting coals on a person’s head initially sounds like a picture of causing burning pain, but it really is not. Instead, it seems to be a picture of stirring up the coals of a fire to rouse it back to life again. It is a picture of stirring within a person a response of remorse, when they see your kindness in the face of their meanness. This must also be the sense of Paul’s passage – we cause our enemies to be remorseful for their actions toward us, and in doing so we overcome evil by doing good.

Written by Lois Tverberg and edited by Bruce Lyon

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

THE CROUWN OF THORNS -

Jesus, during his public ministry, faced a rather large amount of slander, ridicule, mocking, and insults that were cast His way. He was declared a drunkard and a glutton, a friend of tax-collectors and prostitutes, a transgressor of Mosaic law and Jewish tradition, with an evident "god complex" (i.e., "a delusional self-image based on uncontrolled narcissism and overblown arrogance"). In short, Jesus was not well-received by the religious elite of Judaism, and they were not averse to letting him know how they felt at every opportunity. The OT prophecies spoke of how the Messiah would be scorned, despised, and afflicted, and Jesus himself knew very well what he would be called to experience, especially as he neared the time of his crucifixion. As that day approached, Jesus pulled the twelve aside and told them in no uncertain terms, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which were written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged him, they will kill him" (Luke 18:31-33; cf. Matthew 20:17-19). When we think of the death of Jesus, we often focus upon the physical pain He experienced. We too often, however, fail to fully appreciate the magnitude of the emotional pain He suffered as well, as He was maliciously mocked. In some ways, it was just as painful, and perhaps even more so!

After going through the mockery of a trial, Jesus was given the death sentence. Once that verdict had been pronounced, and Jesus had been severely scourged, Pilate "handed Him over to be crucified" (Matthew 27:26). It was at this time that "the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him" (vs. 27). Although Jesus had experienced insults and slanderous accusations prior to this (e.g., Luke 22:63-65), and would experience more as he was led to the site of the execution and as he suffered upon the cross (e.g., Matthew 27:38-44), it was nevertheless in the Praetorium, surrounded by these soldiers, that the mocking reached new levels of intensity. Based upon the descriptive words used by the inspired writers of the four gospel records, most scholars believe the number of soldiers present in the Praetorium was at least 200, with the possibility of it having been three or four times that amount. In other words, Jesus had become the "entertainment" for these troops serving in the city of Jerusalem, and they took advantage of it. Their job was to ready the prisoner for execution, but they took it much farther.

Rather than simply and professionally doing the job assigned to them, they gave in to their baser, brutish natures, "delighting in cruel play and coarse scorn" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 17, pt. 2, p. 416]. "It was a form of blasphemous sport calculated also to express their contempt of the Jews" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: the NT, vol. 1, p. 514]. A number of sources concur, as we see in The Expositor's Greek Testament: "The soldiers engaged in a mockery of the nation in intention quite as much as of the particular victim" [vol. 1, p. 327]. These men "were part of the auxiliary troops Pilate had brought up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. They were non-Jews recruited from Palestine and other parts of the Roman Empire" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 777]. They were soldiers away from home, on an assignment among a people for whom they had little regard, and so this unexpected diversion of a rogue rabbi placed in their midst, who thought of himself to be a king, or a god, was much too good to pass up. "The occasion became one of amusement and fun to these men" [Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the Gospel according to John, p. 392]. "The soldiers were non-Jews, provincials, serving under Roman orders," perhaps bored, and so they gathered by the hundreds "to have some sport" [Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, vol. 1 - Mark, p. 280]. John Chrysostom (349-407 A.D.) of Antioch, famed as one of the greatest preachers of the early church, declared the following about these soldiers, "The devil was then entering in fury into the hearts of all. For indeed; they made a pleasure of their insults against Him, being a savage and a worthless lot" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, p. 587].

Again, their job was to prepare this prisoner for execution. Thus, while the "party" grew more vocal and more vicious (note the use of the Greek imperfect tense in the text, indicating repeated action: the continuing and progressive nature of their abuse), some of the men were undoubtedly clear-headed enough to get on with the task at hand. "These cruelties were doubtless perpetrated while a part of the band was engaged in preparation for the execution" [H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew, p. 537]. The nature of these cruelties may be found in Matthew 27:27-31, Mark 15:16-20, and John 19:2-3 (which I would urge the reader to examine before continuing). "Here we have humanity at its worst - a scene of vicious mockery. The Jews have mocked Jesus as Messiah (Matthew 26:67-68); here the Roman soldiers ridicule Him as king" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 572-573]. "They had heard of His claim to be a King, so they determined to deride Him with the mockery of royal honors, ... taking a fiendish pleasure in torturing and insulting Him" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15 - Matthew, p. 587]. "The soldiers mocked our lord by regarding him as a pretender to an oriental throne" [Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 1 - Mark, p. 280]. Thus, they strip Jesus of His clothes (what little He had on at this point) and dress Him up like a king. They place a "royal robe" around His shoulders, which must have caused quite a bit of pain because of the scourging He had just endured. It is said to be "scarlet" in Matthew's account, although Mark and John describe it as being "purple." "The ancients did not discriminate among colors as closely as we do" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 573]. It is possible this robe was the one that had been placed upon Him earlier when he appeared before Herod: "And Herod with his soldiers, after treating him with contempt and mocking him, dressed him in a gorgeous robe and sent him back to Pilate" (Luke 23:11).

In the right hand of Jesus they placed a reed or cane, which was meant to suggest the royal scepter of a king. And the crowning insult of this whole pathetic scene was when they wove together a crown (Greek: "stephanos" - a victor's crown) made of thorny branches from a nearby bush and forced it down upon his head. With this "king" thus arrayed, "they knelt down before him and mocked him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' They spat on him, and took the reed from his hand and began to beat him on the head. After they had mocked him, they took the scarlet robe off him and put his own garments back on him, and led him away to crucify him" (Matthew 27:29-31). As they beat Jesus on his head, keep in mind that as they did so, they were driving the thorns deeper into his scalp with every blow! "There must have been copious bleeding because the scalp is one of the most vascular areas of the body. ... The blows hitting his head from the staff drove the thorns more deeply into Jesus' scalp and caused even more profuse bleeding" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 777]. "Everybody would recognize the circlet as a crown, and what a bloody crown it was! Little trickles of blood disfigured the victim's face, not with the artistic elegance of so many of our painters, but with the stark hideousness of cruel reality" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel, p. 1247-1248]. "The crown of thorns evidently served a double function as intended by the soldiers: to mock and humiliate Jesus with a travesty of royal honor, and to increase the physical torture which was inflicted upon Him. One cannot suppose that the crown of thorns was gently laid upon His head; it was doubtless forced down with a cruel violence which emphasized their contempt for Him" [The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 1040], a contempt made even more obvious when they beat this crown further into His scalp with the fake scepter He had been holding. "It is difficult to imagine a greater demonstration of insensitivity and cruelty than the soldiers' treatment of Jesus" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 777].

Much has been written about this "crown of thorns" (although it should be noted that Luke never mentions it in his gospel account), far more than has been written about the robe or the scepter. There has been particular interest among scholars as to which thorny bush in the area was the source of this crown. The text says that the branches or twigs of this bush, plant or tree were "woven" or "twisted" together, which would imply they were somewhat pliable (some of the thorn bushes had branches that were rather brittle, thus they would have snapped if they were twisted and bent). "The Greek word signifying 'thorn' or 'thorn bush' (akantha), is not sufficiently definite to authorize any positive statement as to the kind of shrub or tree from which the crown was made" [Dr. Alvah Hovey, Commentary on the Gospel of John, p. 370]. "All attempts to define the botanical character of the thorns used for Christ’s crown are guesses" [Dr. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the NT, vol. 2, p. 277]. "The word used is too vague to enable us to identify the plant with certainty, but most writers have fixed on the Zizyphus Spina Christi, known locally as the Nebk, a shrub growing plentifully in the valley of the Jordan, with branches pliant and flexible, and leaves of a dark glossy green, like ivy, and sharp prickly thorns. This shrub was likely enough to be found in the garden attached to the Praetorium" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 6, p. 174].

There is a certain symbolism to our Redeemer wearing a crown made of thorns, for the latter has long been associated with sin and its curse. After the fall of man, God declared, "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you" (Genesis 3:17-18). "Thorns were the fruits of the primal curse, which Christ, the second Adam, was now bearing, and by bearing was now removing" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15 - Matthew, p. 587]. Jesus took on that curse, in a sense becoming that curse for us that it might be forever taken away. He bore the "thorns" (the curse) to the cross, so that plants (blessings) of a more helpful and pleasant kind might appear. For the redeemed, there is this promise: "Instead of the thorn bush, the cypress will come up, and instead of the nettle, the myrtle will come up" (Isaiah 55:13). In Jesus, the curse (the thorn bush) is gone; He bore it to the cross. We now have, through him, access to the paradise of God in which we find the tree of life!

"Therefore, Christ, being made a curse for us, and dying to remove the curse from us, felt and endured the pain and smart of those thorns. ... He answered the type of Abraham's ram that was caught in the thicket" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword].

As we look back on that scene, in which the wicked sought to mock, ridicule, and humiliate Jesus, making him look ridiculous by dressing and crowning him as a king, we see through the viciousness to the eternal victory our King gained for us. What a fearful price he had to pay, and how blessed we are that he paid it. "The Messiah redeemed us from the curse, ... becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13). Let me close with the following quote: "The emblematic significance, afterwards seen by the Church in the crown of thorns, is possibly hinted at in Hebrews 2:9 (‘for a short time he was made lower than the angels. But now we see him wearing a crown of glory and honor because he suffered and died'). As a sacrificial victim; in being led out to death, often wore a garland of flowers, so Jesus, in the eyes of God and his own disciples, even in suffering the deepest humiliation, wears a crown of glory. In the death of Messiah his called-out Assembly sees mankind crowned with life, because the law of sin and death was thereby abrogated, and the Kingdom of Heaven opened to all believers. The thorns with which a hostile world pierced the Savior's brows are an emblem of the sin of man, the curse of thistles and thorns having been threatened after the fall. But these wounds become the world's salvation. Through the sinful cruelty of man new life comes to a condemned world. God thus makes the wrath of man to praise Him. What was meant as derision is really a prediction of glory" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, vol. 1, p. 397].

Written by Al Maxey and edited by Bruce Lyon

Al Maxey is a prolific and gifted writer explaining to scriptures in a way to be understood by any and all: http://www.zianet.com/maxey

Reflective archive:  http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflect2.htm

He has written so many wonderful articles that would take you months to read all of them. I have know Al Maxey for many years and deeply appreciate his contribution to leading people to the way, the truth and the life!