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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Idolatry, Social Injustice and Religious Ritualism

  What the Prophets Said and Application to Today



This post is adapted from an essay required for BIB105 Old Testament Survey with Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.  It has been edited for emphasis as it attempts to answer the questions below within a 750 to 1000 word word-count.

In what manner do the prophets speak to the following 3 issues: idolatry, social injustice, and religious ritualism? Cite examples of the prophets speaking to each of these issues. Knowing what the prophets had to say about these issues, what practical applications can be drawn from those teachings for today?


Through the centuries, the peoples and nations of the world including God’s chosen people have made images and idols for worship.  Though “all nations relate to God under the terms of the Noahic covenant established after the flood which stipulated that judgment would fall on those who practiced violence and bloodshed,”[1] they did as they pleased anyway.  They abused the poor, orphaned, widowed and needy.  Some nations were so cruel in their treatments of others that they were both hated and feared.  God’s people themselves had forgotten God in their hearts though they continued to ritualistically carry on their religious rites and exercises.  The prophets spoke to both God’s chosen people and the Gentiles.   

They spoke of many things but 
judgment to come on those who practice idolatry, social injustice and religious ritualism as introduced above 
is a common theme.  

In the Ten Commandments God made it clear that “You shall have no other God’s before me[2] and “You shall not make for yourself an image…. And bow down and worship it.”[3]  In spite of this, all throughout Jewish history we see the Jews walking in direct disobedience to these commandments.  Isaiah prophesied “As my hand seized the kingdoms of the idols, kingdoms whose images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria – shall I not deal with Jerusalem and her images as I dealt with Samaria and her idols?[4]  In 2 Kings chapter 17 it explains that the Assyrian exile of Samaria was God’s judgment on his people for turning from Him, worshipping other God’s and following the religious practices of the nations the Lord had driven out.[5] 
 
Proper care and concern for the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, and the needy were addressed in the Mosaic Law.  The wealthy were given the responsibility of care for them.  Instructions were given as to how they should be treated.  However, as God’s people turned their back on him, they turned their back also on those they were to care for.  The prophets called this social injustice. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Need A Good Soaking? I Do

      Soaking…sounds like a bath doesn’t it.  Something you need to get into to make your stressed body relax and let your mind take you out of the real world to some imaginary place.   You expect to hear “Calgon…. take me away!!!!” …. but that’s not the soaking I’m interested in. 

     The word soak or a variant of it is found in Psalm 65:10 in the Christian Standard Bible version, it states:
    You soften it with showers and bless its growth,
soaking its furrows and leveling its ridges.

     This scripture is speaking of the earth, the land.  It’s easy to understand that this soaking is such that it changes the very landscape.  Furrows and ridges are brought down.  However, many have probably not heard of the Christian Standard Bible version so let me assuage any concerns.  Whether you look to the King James, the Amplified, the American Standard, the English Standard or the New International Version, you will find drench, and soften with such an understanding that the furrows and ridges are settled by an abundance of water.  So, for my purposes I have no concerns over using the word soak for it means to slake the thirst of, to satiate, to satisfy, to water abundantly.  A land that is softened by showers and whose furrows are soaked to the point of leveling the land is truly a land whose thirst for water has been satisfied. 

     So, let me ask the question that this is pointing towards, 
Are you satisfied? 
Has your thirst been slaked?
Satiated? 
Do you feel abundantly watered? 
Or do you feel like a land that is waiting for that rain, 
waiting for those showers to fall?

     There have been many times in my life that I have felt like my life was a dry desert, a wilderness in which nothing grew well but weeds.  Where I felt I was either deaf and incapable of hearing God or else he just wasn’t speaking to me.   

The problem is, I would never shut up!  

     It was ingrained in me that prayer was just me talking to God but that is so wrong!  Prayer is a conversation, a dialogue but we have turned it into a monologue.  When we are done talking we shut down, walk away and then wonder why God isn’t talking to us.   
 
copyright Voice From The End of Town
Truth is – God doesn’t have a problem talking to us…. we have a problem listening.  


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wise and Diligent or a Lazy Man of Folly?



Have you ever just stopped in your studies of the word and reflected on a word or two? Have you ever done a word study?  It can be very powerful and enlightening to do so.  Word studies allow us to carefully uncover the meaning of a word but not just for its overall meaning but its specific meaning in the context we find it.  This allows us to find parallels, words with equivalent meanings that open the scripture up to us. 



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Teachings of Hebrew Wisdom On Diligence and Laziness

The dictionary defines diligence as “steady application in business of any kind; constant effort to accomplish what is undertaken; exertion of body or mind without unnecessary delay or sloth; due attention; industry; assiduity.”[1]  It also defines laziness as “the state or quality of being lazy; indisposition to action or exertion; indolence; sluggishness; heaviness in motion; habitual sloth.”[2] Laziness is different from idleness in that idleness is “a mere defect or cessation of action, but laziness is sloth, with natural or habitual disinclination to action.”[3]  Hebrew literature is therefore filled with praise for the diligent and warnings for the lazy and slothful.  The Bible states “The diligent will take control, but the lazy will be put to forced labor.”[4]  In this passage it tells us that those who are hard-working will gain control but the lazy will end up as slaves.  Proverbs also tells us that “Lazy hands bring poverty, but hard-working hands lead to wealth.”[5]  In essence, the hands of the diligent are blessed with the fruit of that diligence and the hands of the lazy are cursed by their laziness.  “The lazy person craves, yet receives nothing, but the desires of the diligent are satisfied.”[6]  Hebrew literature teaches us that the lazy and slothful person may want but can’t get anything because he won’t work for it but what the diligent desires he can have.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

I Called Her Mom




copyright Voice From The End of Town
My mother holding our first child.
On November 17, 2003, my mother went home to be with the Lord.  This November it will be 15 years since she died.  I started this post two years ago but could never find the right words until today.
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In the church building where her funeral was held I was asked if she had been an important woman in the community or the city because her funeral was attended by ~300 people.  My mother wasn't a councilwoman or mayor or anything that society would have thought important.  She was just….my mother.  

She began to take me to church when I was three months old because she made a promise to God although she did not become a Christian until 5 years later.  She eventually did just about every job you could do in the church.  The only thing she didn't do was pastor the church, but I suspect she could have done that too.

            Everyone else that knew her knew her as a soft-spoken sweet woman but that’s not the woman I knew.  Her standards for me were high, too high as far as I was concerned.  The list of things that I could not do were higher, and the correction never seemed to end.  


Sit up.  Put your knees together. Stop slouching. Don’t rock! Don’t bite your nails!


These were just the normal kids stuff.  But the correction went beyond that.  Bad grades were unacceptable, and F’s were terminal, so I got the belt.  Back talking was not even remotely going to be allowed but it seemed that anything beyond ‘yes ma’am’, ‘no ma’am’ would get me popped too.  I’d be lying to say that I didn’t know the back of my mother’s hand VERY well.  I can still hear her voice saying sternly, “don’t look at me in that tone of voice!”  I truly believed that I was adopted.  I could see that my parents loved my brothers but while my father lived in the home, he was non-existent, and my mother was a tyrant!  As far as I was concerned, I had to be adopted, they wouldn't treat their own child this way. My school years were littered with more evidence as my brothers learned to drive, and get jobs while mine consisted of school work and housework.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What Does the Time of Samuel Teach Us?

            During my Old Testament studies, I was required to write several essays for an Old Testament Survey course.  As part of the overall dynamic of this course, we were always to look for and consider the value of the Old Testament for our lives.  This essay was confined to four specific questions that must be answered:

 During the time of Samuel, why did the people of Israel desire a king? Why was Saul chosen, and, ultimately, why was he rejected? What attribute did David display that made him a better king than Saul? What sin did Solomon commit that ultimately led to the division of Israel after his death?




Israel desired a King

During the time of the Judges the Bible states that “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.”[1]  As you read further in the book of Judges you see that the people of Israel had truly turned away from God and “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”[2]  By the time that Samuel was old enough to step into the station and position of Judge, Priest and Prophet the people of Israel had already gone through multiple repeated cycles of “apostasy, distress and deliverance.”[3]  Israel’s heart was no longer after God.  The elders of Israel told Samuel that he was getting old and the sons he had appointed as leaders were not following his ways.  This was therefore a good reason for him to give them a king when in truth all they wanted was to be like all the other nations.[4]  In this statement they rejected the Lord God of Israel who had brought them out of Egypt, who had parted the Red Sea, the one who had made them a nation.  Even after being warned what this king would do, what he would take and how he would oppress, they still desired a king.  Israel wanted someone to lead them and fight their battles.  They turned their backs on the covenant and on God.  Samuel prayed and was instructed by God to give his people what they wanted.    

Saul: Chosen and Rejected
Samuel was directed to the right place to meet and anoint Saul the one the Lord spoke of who would lead and govern his people as their king.  Saul was handsome and stood taller than everyone.  On the outside he looked impressive and when introduced to the people they agreed with the choice.  However, he was not God’s true choice
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