And Jehovah answered me, and said, Write the vision,

and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run that readeth it.
(Habakkuk 2:2 - ASV)

Last Updated

  16 March


Watson's Web
Biblical and Prophetic Perspective For Our Times

For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words,
of him shall the Son of man be ashamed,
when he cometh in his own glory,
and the glory of the Father,
and of the holy angels.
(Luke 9:26 - ASV)

I have set Jehovah always before me:
Because he is at my right hand,
shall not be moved.
(Psalms 16:8 - ASV)

Mark can be reached here.  

Contents On This Page

- 1 Samuel Part 25
- 1 Samuel Part 24
- 1 Samuel Part 23
- 1 Samuel Part 22
- 1 Samuel Part 21
- 1 Samuel Part 20
- 1 Samuel Part 19
- 1 Samuel Part 18
- 1 Samuel Part 17
- 1 Samuel Part 16
- 1 Samuel Part 15
- 1 Samuel Part 14
- 1 Samuel Part 13
- 1 Samuel Part 12
- 1 Samuel Part 11
- 1 Samuel Part 10
- 1 Samuel Part 9
- Hello World!
- 1 Samuel Part 8
- 1 Samuel Part 7
- 1 Samuel Part 6
- 1 Samuel Part 5
- 1 Samuel Part 4
- 1 Samuel Part 3
- 1 Samuel Part 2
- 1 Samuel Introduction
- Job Conclusion Part II
- Job Conclusion Part I

- Our Place
- Schisms
- Seal Number Three
- Wicked Counsel
- Hewn Down
- In Praise Of Humility
- A Matter Of Trust
- Malak Elohim (Angel Of the Lord)
- The Fearlessness Of Faith
- Lawfare And Spiritual Warfare
- A Curse


16 March

1 Samuel Part 25

As they went up the ascent to the city,
they found young maidens
going out to draw water,
and said unto them,
 Is the seer here?

(1 Samuel 9:11 - ASV)

We left off last time and Saul and his servant could not find their animals and consequently had decided to go and ask the Prophet (seer) if he could help them find them.

They find some young women who were at the well drawing water and asked them where he was. This was customary of the women in those times as they would go and get water for the family or the farm. I suspect the local well was the place where young men and women would meet to flirt with one another back in those days. But that was not what was on their minds right now, they were on a job to go and find their animals and the seer could help.

And they answered them, and said,
 He is; behold, he is before thee: make haste now,
for he is come to-day into the city;
for the people have a sacrifice
 to-day in the high place.
(1 Samuel 9:12 - ASV)

They came to the right place and the women were most helpful and let them know that if they hurry, they can catch him for there was to be a sacrifice on that day. Samuel was probably just coming off of his duties as the local circuit judge and had come to fulfill his duties as Priest. We don't know what feast it was and remember, the ark was no longer in the Tabernacle because of the Philistines. Samuel's place is still of the greatest importance here. It is quite possible that it is only Samuel that provides the real link between God and his people. He appears to be the only one God recognizes and being his representative in those days.

As soon as ye are come into the city,
 ye shall straightway find him, before he goeth up
to the high place to eat; for the people
will not eat until he come,
because he doth bless the sacrifice;
and afterwards they eat that are bidden.
Now therefore get you up;
for at this time ye shall find him.
(1 Samuel 9:13 - ASV)

This passage is rather interesting in that we note that some will feast that were bid to come. Samuel was key as no one would eat until he blessed the sacrifice.

And they went up to the city;
 and as they came within the city, behold,
Samuel came out toward them,
to go up to the high place.
(1 Samuel 9:14 - ASV)

Sometimes it's little things I notice in scripture that enlighten me. Saul could have said, "Let's not bother him today, he's clearly too busy to deal with us and our little problem. C'mon, let's go and track along those hills yonder and see if the animals are there....". But no, they were determined to get to the seer, even if it was a feast and sacrifice day.

Now Jehovah had revealed unto Samuel
a day before Saul came, saying,
To-morrow about this time I will send thee
a man out of the land of Benjamin,
and thou shalt anoint him
to be prince over my people Israel;
and he shall save my people
out of the hand of the Philistines:
for I have looked upon my people,
because their cry is come unto me.
(1 Samuel 9:15-16 - ASV)

The Lord had already revealed that he would send someone to be King ('prince over my people'). This is so often the case with prophets. The Lord often tells them things in advance. Sometimes they are meant for general consumption, other times private, but the Lord here revealed his plan to Samuel so that he would be prepared. The KJV uses the phrase 'in his ear' to describe the method of divine communication. The word had the connotation of hearing (241 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary). The distinction here is probably to distinguish it from a vision or a dream. Here the Lord spoke directly to his servant Samuel.

A key part of this is that Israel was clearly still having a lot of problems with the Philistines and this king, whom the people wanted, would be the one to free them from their yoke. A man from the tribe of Benjamin was going to show up and Samuel's job was to anoint him King.

It is so important to make this clear distinction again. Samuel did not choose Saul. God did. Samuel was merely the instrument God used to 'seal' Saul's rulership. This is the office of a real prophet, He does not do things presumptuously, he does not 'take authority' that is not his to take (like choosing Kings). No, he is merely an instrument to do the will of God, even if the purpose of God's actions are not clear or he may not be personally in agreement with. Remember, Samuel was deeply hurt by the people's desire for a King. But Samuel had his orders from the God he served and there is no mention of any hesitation on Samuel's part to do what the Lord required.

And when Samuel saw Saul, Jehovah said unto him,
Behold, the man of whom I spake to thee!
this same shall have authority over my people.
(1 Samuel 9:17 - ASV)

The Lord was speaking directly to his prophet again and the word was, to paraphrase it, 'That's him, That is the man I told you about yesterday. This is the man who will be king'. I do think it noteworthy that Saul seems to have been one of those people who took little notice of public affairs. Clearly he had never seen Samuel before.

The final stanza of the last verse is a bit peculiar. Translators use the word 'authority' over my people. But the word is less clear. It is the word 6113 In Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary. Yes, it can mean reign but it also has the connotation of restraining or stopping.

 Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate,
and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer's house is.
And Samuel answered Saul, and said,

I am the seer; go up before me unto the high place,
for ye shall eat with me to-day: and in the morning
I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that
is in thy heart. And as for thine asses that
were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them;
for they are found. And for whom is all
that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for thee,
and for all thy father's house?
(1 Samuel 9:18-20 - ASV)

We see here clearly that the two had never met before as Saul did not recognize the seer by face. Samuel gave him an answer, realizing who this man was and would be and gave him his instructions, paraphrasing it 'Hang around for a while and have dinner with me and you can leave in the morning, I will tell you what you want to know, and don't worry about your animals. They have already been found'.

The phrase that he would tell him 'all that was in his heart', indicates that he would reveal more to Saul than just his lost animals. What is noteworthy in this passage is that when they go up to the High Place, he was to go before Samuel. This was a tremendous act of honor and may have been done to prepare the people and Saul for what was getting ready to happen.

In the last stanza of verse 20, Samuel remarks on the honor that shall be bestowed upon Saul and his fathers house. Once again, this appears to be done to prepare Saul for greatness so that he could prepare himself mentally before the formal anointing. Sure Samuel could have told him he as going to be king. But Instead, he was giving him some hints that something very special was getting ready to happen to him. Being King was probably the last thing on his mind as Israel had never had a king, and his apparent ignorance of Samuel seems to indicate a considerable lack of political knowledge on Saul's part. One almost gets the impression that Saul may have been seen as kind of country 'bumpkin' and though from a good family, he just was not with the 'in crowd' in a political and social sense. These little acts seem to be made to prepare both the people and Saul for the changes ahead.

We will continue our look at Samuel next week, God willing!

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10 March

1 Samuel Part 24

Now there was a man of Benjamin,
whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel,
 the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath,
 the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite,
a mighty man of valor. And he had a son,
 whose name was Saul, a young man and a goodly:
and there was not among the children of Israel
a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders
and upward he was higher than any of the people.
(1 Samuel 9:1-2 - ASV)

The last chapter ends with a very important spiritual milestone in the history of the apostasy of Israel. It was a time when they rejected God as being king of his people and wanted a man to take his place, like all the nations around them. The deeper spiritual issue was one of rejection. Rejection of God's rulership and provision. They saw how everyone else was doing it and wanted to mimic the idolators in the region. The Lord knew the hearts of the people and where their attitude would eventually lead them.

Well, the Lord would fulfill his word and give them a King, since that is what they wanted. That man was going to be Saul. Saul did not come from the line of the tribe of Judah, but rather from the tribe of Benjamin.

His father was known as a mighty man and quite probably a man of property and who may have had his own troop of men. Saul was a good looking man and quite tall. By the description, we can deduce that he was basically the most handsome man in the kingdom. Add to that he was taller than anyone else, he looked the part. The men could look up to him, the women would swoon and clearly had the bearing that makes a person appear to be a king. If this were a Hollywood movie, Saul fit the bill of an A-list actor who was known for playing romantic, heroic leads. The name Saul means asked (7586 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary). A fitting name as a king was what Israel had asked for. God was giving the people everything they desired, but not what was best for them. But they got a good looking, notable man - the son of a man with a great reputation ruling over them.

And the asses of Kish, Saul's father,
were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son,
Take now one of the servants with thee,
 and arise, go seek the asses. 
And he passed through the hill-country of Ephraim,
and passed through the land of Shalishah,
 but they found them not:
then they passed through the land of Shaalim,
and there they were not:
and he passed through the land of the Benjamites,
but they found them not.
(1 Samuel 9:3-4 - ASV)

This is a passage about an incident of lost asses. This was hardly anything of note and something that probably happened quite regularly to many animal herders in those times. Why is it covered here? Because of the divine appointment that is to follow. At times we may seem like we are on a wild goose chase and wonder why we have to go here or go there, take care of this annoyance or that errand but sometimes, there is a divine appointment in the most mundane of matters. This will prove to be one of them. The search for the sheep will lead Saul to his destiny. Saul may have been looking for his animals, but he was going to find something much more important.

When they were come to the land of Zuph,
Saul said to his servant that was with him,
Come, and let us return, lest my father
leave off caring for the asses, and be anxious for us.
And he said unto him, Behold now,
 there is in this city a man of God,
and he is a man that is held in honor;
 all that he saith cometh surely to pass:
 now let us go thither; peradventure
he can tell us concerning our journey
whereon we go.
(1 Samuel 9:5-6 - ASV)

This apparently was no minor search. According to some commentators, this was a mountainous region. They covered quite a bit of ground and nothing turned up. Saul here proposed to go back home because his father may cease to worry about the animals and rather start worry about Saul.

But Saul's servant has an idea. There is a man of God he knows of who lives nearby whom they can ask about the whereabouts of the animals. Here we can ascertain that when this question was asked, they were near the city of Ramah, where Samuel lived. Samuel as we read, had an excellent reputation, not only as a man of God, but as one of honor. Men of God in those days still were highly regarded and respected. As we find later, this becomes less and less the case as the years wear on. Some would later be told to be silent, some imprisoned and others killed. When a nation that once respected God gets to that point, God's judgment is often not far off.

Then said Saul to his servant,
But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man?
for the bread is spent in our vessels,
and there is not a present to bring to the man of God:
what have we? And the servant answered Saul again,
 and said, Behold, I have in my hand
the fourth part of a shekel of silver:
that will I give to the man of God,
to tell us our way.
(1 Samuel 9:7-8 - ASV)

Saul here asks what can we give him if we go to him? This may seem a bit out of place, a man of God giving his word for a gift, but not totally. There are several reasons that this could be so. This may have been the custom of the times rather than paying for a prophecy; where a person of inferior social rank does not go to a superior without some kind of gift.

It was customary and perhaps could be taken as a slight if it was not done. So Saul was concerned about what kind of gift was to be given, since they were out of bread. What could they give Saul? Saul's servant, again has a good answer, he has a little pocket money he can give Saul. The problem of the gift was solved.

(Beforetime in Israel, when a man
went to inquire of God, thus he said,
 Come, and let us go to the seer;
for he that is now called a Prophet
was beforetime called a Seer.)
Then said Saul to his servant,
Well said; come, let us go.
So they went unto the city
where the man of God was.
(1 Samuel 9:9-10 - ASV)

Here the author of the book lays out the interchangeable nature of the terminology between seer and prophet. They are basically the same thing but more and more, the word prophet is used to describe such men, though the word seer did not fall into total disuse. Yet this passage may have been placed in the book later by scribe to help avoid any confusion. Some think Jeremiah or Ezra may have done it. But the word seer is appropriate because they often see things that others don't. Seers were important because remember, in those days there was no frequent vision (1 Samuel 3:1).

This whole passage seems almost unnecessary, but in it we find something most interesting. That God uses men, often unbeknownst to themselves to be of use to him. Saul's servant was indeed fulfilling God's purpose by guiding Saul to the man of God. He could not possibly have known that it would lead to his master becoming King. Yet he fulfilled God's purpose by advising Saul. How many times has someone not even knowing it, helped us on our way to God's purposes? Even children can be used of God in this manner! While the context may not fit exactly, the passage out of Zachariah comes to mind 'For who hath despised the day of small things?'... (Zechariah 4:10a).

God's detours can lead to great things!

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2 March

1 Samuel Part 23

and he will appoint them unto him for captains of thousands,
 and captains of fifties; and he will set some to plow his ground,
 and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war,
and the instruments of his chariots. And he will take your
daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
(1 Samuel 8:12-13 - ASV)

We left off last time when Samuel had just begun to tell the people what to expect when they get their new king. The people were not going to go into this without being solemnly warned about what it would mean.

In short, this was the system of governance that was widespread in the region for centuries. It is what the Israelite nation had to live under as slaves in Egypt. This is what they were crying out for, lusting for if you will; to be like the nations around them. They no longer wanted God ruling over them.

And he will take your fields, and your vineyards,
and your oliveyards, even the best of them,
and give them to his servants. And he will take
 the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards,
and give to his officers, and to his servants.
And he will take your men-servants,
and your maid-servants,
and your goodliest young men,
and your asses, and put them to his work.
 He will take the tenth of your flocks:
 and ye shall be his servants.
1 Samuel 8:14-17 - ASV)

Samuel goes on to describe just what a king will do, all of the burdens he will put upon the people. The last stanza is most telling, where Samuel warns them that they will be his servants. The word for servant has the connotation of being in bondage. In short, Israel was exchanging their service to God for that of a king. But what is not mentioned here in this warning section are the dynastic wars and succession issues and conflicts that often plague monarchy's. Who rules? Who will follow?  - 'Should 'we' kill the king so that his successor comes to the throne who will put 'me' in a high position?'-  This is the problem that besets monarchies then and even now.

Samuel is warning them and basically telling them in today's vernacular, 'you won't be able to say you were not warned when these evil's befall you'.

And ye shall cry out in that day
because of your king whom ye shall have chosen you;
and Jehovah will not answer you in that day.
1 Samuel 8:18 - ASV)

Another warning is clearly stated by the Lord's man. One day you're going to regret this decision, cry out to the Lord but he won't be in a listening mood... at all.

I read this whole passage like this (in a more colorful fashion) - 'If you want to lay on that bed of nails you may do so, but when the devil comes and sits on your stomach loaded with a bag of bricks on his lap, don't come crying to me, you made your choice'

But the people refused to hearken
unto the voice of Samuel; and they said,
Nay: but we will have a king over us,
 that we also may be like all the nations,
and that our king may judge us,
and go out before us,
and fight our battles.
1 Samuel 8:19-20 - ASV)

The people just would not listen, being afflicted with what can only be called 'hard head syndrome'. Godly counsel and sound advice are not heard. They wanted what they wanted and clearly were not concerned with the ultimate price.

But in this passage we can see why Samuel was so hurt, they wanted a king to judge them. Judge was Samuel's job. The people may have thought that Samuel had too much of an interest in keeping things the way they were and forgot all the hard work he had done and the miracles the Lord had done for them. They may have thought Samuel was just conjuring up images of disaster to keep his job. But the Lord knew their hears, they were not rejecting Samuel, but the Lord (8:7).

But despite all the warnings and pleadings, they just were not going to listen.

And Samuel heard all the words of the people,
and he rehearsed them in the ears of Jehovah.
1 Samuel 8:21 - ASV)

So after he sounded the people out, he went to the Lord and told him what they said. Here Samuel was acting as intermediary. Of course the Lord knew what was said, but the response of the people had to come through 'official channels' - that being the Lord's prophet and judge, Samuel. We see this kind of divine order throughout the Bible, even with the angels who watch and report to the Lord.

And Jehovah said to Samuel,
Hearken unto their voice,
and make them a king.
And Samuel said unto the men of Israel,
Go ye every man unto his city.
1 Samuel 8:22 - ASV)

The Lord was going to grant their request. So Samuel, being a dutiful servant of the Lord does as he is commanded, he listens to the people and prepares to anoint a king over them.

It seems clear that this is not what Samuel wanted, but was obedient to the Lord, his God. But as stated in an early section, this is going to mean a whole new form of government, from a theocracy to a monarchy. But my own view is that Samuel is not totally blameless in all of this. I won't denigrate the Lord's most trusted and faithful servant, but keep in mind that it was the corruption of his sons that helped bring this all about.

So Samuel dismisses the assembly of people and tells them to go home, you want a king? You'll get one.

Yet even in this act of semi-rebellion, there will be some good come out of it. Eventually, the Messiah will come and will be a king; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and bring in his own Monarchy both to Israel and the world - Jesus Christ. 

Even in our rebellion, God can eventually bring good.

We will continue our look at the book of Samuel, next week, God willing!

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23 February

1 Samuel Part 22

And Jehovah said unto Samuel,
 Hearken unto the voice of the people
in all that they say unto thee;
for they have not rejected thee,
but they have rejected me,
that I should not be king over them.
(1 Samuel 8:7 - ASV)

The prophet, any prophet, they too have feelings and clearly after all the years of serving the people of Israel, this was a cold slap in the face to Samuel, Israel no longer wanting him to judge them, but rather have a king like the idolatrous nations around them. This was something deeper than just a personal 'hurt'. No, Israel's desire was going to totally upset the political and social order and move the nation out of a theocratic regime into a monarchical one. So Samuel's sadness was probably on multiple levels. But in the above verse, the Lord comforts his servant and lets him know that the problem does not ultimately lie with him. It lies with the fact that they have rejected the Lord from being their king. Always trust the Lord to get directly to the root of any matter, should he choose to reveal it to us. Here, he revealed this thing to Samuel, who brought the matter before the Lord in prayer.

The Lord's answer however, does not address the behavior of Samuel's sons, who were clearly quite corrupt. Why is this? I can't say for sure, but the reason Israel gave for the change in rulership may have been in reality, merely an excuse, and not a reason and the Lord saw this. The real issue is that they wanted to be like the heathen around them and have a king.

According to all the works
which they have done since the day
 that I brought them up out of Egypt
even unto this day,

in that they have forsaken me,
and served other gods,
so do they also unto thee.
1 Samuel 8:8 - ASV)

The Lord then goes on to explain to his servant why this is so. God knows the heart and ways of his people. We notice from this passage that God clearly sees that idolatry is very much with Israel. They may or may not be paying lip service to the Lord, but what they did in secret was also known to the Lord. It was a pattern of rebellion he had long put up with from his people, since the days he brought them out of Egypt. In short, what the Lord was telling Samuel was that they had rejected the Lord, not Samuel.

Now therefore hearken unto their voice:
howbeit thou shalt protest solemnly unto them,
and shalt show them the manner of the
king that shall reign over them.
1 Samuel 8:9 - ASV)

You want to punish someone? Sometimes the best way to do that is to give the exactly what they are asking for. This is what is going to happen to Israel. God was going to give them their desire. But since it was not a godly one, there was going to be considerable trouble found in conjunction with what they wanted. Once Israel rejected God's government, something else was going to come in its stead. There was a long pattern of rebellion against God (as noted in the Lord's response) and now it was about to give rise to something that is laid out for us in the books of Kings and Chronicles, as well as the prophets - a pattern of rebellion, idolatry and wickedness, both by many of her kings and her people. God sometimes does grant requests like this one, but more out of exasperation than because it is the best thing for us.

Consider the young women who has fallen head over heals in love with someone and prays and prays for that someone to marry her. God see's that this man is no good and will leave her, break her heart and mistreat her if they ever get hitched. But the woman wants what she wants and won't stop until she gets it. God may indeed grant the request of that women, and bring her a lifetime of sorrow, tribulation and pain. In this case the saying 'be careful what you wish for' is applicable. The young woman may get her answer, but woe to her if she does... "with cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks". This is one reason why when we pray we should always add on to it 'thy will be done' and yield ourselves to the divine will and not desires based on our fallen human nature.

So the Lord is going to lay it out to them what a King is going to be like. He is not going to sugar coat it at all. But he is going to warn them and make sure they go into this thing with their eyes wide open. This is an answered prayer that will be a teaching lesson rather than the blessing they thought it would be. We should be careful what we ask of God. He is listening.

And Samuel told all the words of Jehovah
unto the people that asked of him a king.
And he said, This will be the manner of the king
that shall reign over you: he will take your sons,
and appoint them unto him, for his chariots,
and to be his horsemen; and they shall run before his chariots;
1 Samuel 8:10-11 - ASV)

So Samuel begins to lay out to the people, according to the word of the Lord, just what they are asking for and just what they are going to get. He left out nothing, but was obedient to the Lord in relaying to the people what they can expect.

Prophets and leaders who serve the Lord often have unpleasant duties to perform. They must often relay a message that the hearers may not want to listen to. Is this not how the Lord charges his prophets (see Jeremiah 1:7)? Yes it is and Samuel was doing his duty before the Lord. That duty is often being the bearer of not so great news, warnings and even threats from the Lord.

So he begins to lay out all of the things kings will do once enthroned.

We will continue our look at the book of 1 Samuel next week, God willing!!

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16 February

1 Samuel Part 21

And it came to pass, when Samuel was old,
that he made his sons judges over Israel.
(I Samuel 8:1 - ASV)

As we left off last time we found that things were good under the Judgeship of Samuel. The Philistines were no longer the threat they once posed and there was peace. Peace is good, but when there is too much of it, people forget, become complacent and forget the God who brings it to them. There was peace in the realm but as we shall see, that is not going to be enough for the children of Israel. They want something else. What is that? We shall see.

In verse one, Samuel was getting old and his sons were judges. This is also what Eli did with his sons. Both seemed to be creating a hereditary 'judgeship'. This is not wrong in and of itself but a father can be blind to the faults of the sons he loves and may have great difficulty in correcting them or even removing them from an office for which they are ill suited. Physical features may be hereditary, but faith often isn't.

 Now the name of his first-born was Joel;
and the name of his second, Abijah:
they were judges in Beer-sheba. 
And his sons walked not in his ways,
but turned aside after lucre,
and took bribes, and perverted justice. 
(I Samuel 8:2-3 - ASV)

Here we have the names of his sons. We do not have the name of his wife. His sons were probably placed in this position to help Samuel in his old age. It may not have been easy for him to travel the circuit, so in Beer-sheba, they acted in his stead. Beer-sheba is located on the southern border. This arrangement may have existed because it may have been too far a journey for Samuel in his old age.
So Samuel's sons turned aside to do evil in their jobs. They took advantage of the situation and betrayed the trust that was placed in them. Bribery, perverting justice - these things were completely contrary to the purpose of being a judge and the Mosaic law. They, like Eli's sons before them, did evil in the sight of the Lord.

This is so typical of so many people. The fastest way to find out the character of a person, any person is to give them a lot of money or give them a lot of power. Very quickly the inner person shows itself and too often, what is displayed is often as ugly as can be. This is so sad. It is not clear how long his sons judged nor is it clear that Samuel was aware of these things. But being a judge and having such responsibility, he should have known and made it is business to know.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together,
and came to Samuel unto Ramah; and they said unto him,
 Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways:
now make us a king to judge us
 like all the nations.

(1 Samuel 8:4-5 - ASV)

This is one of the saddest points I think in the Old Testament, no not the saddest, but one of them. Here God has given them peace on all sides and now they want a king. Now on one level their desire for change is understandable, given the behavior of Samuel's sons. But to desire a King? This was a mistake, perhaps a better request would have been that he appoint a new Judge, for this was the political-religious order that the Lord had established. But there was an underlying wicked intent here.

Israel was to be set apart and different than the neighboring nations. God wanted it that way. But clearly the people did not, for if we look at the last verse we see that Israel did not want to be that special nation to the Lord. They wanted to be like everybody else.

This I think is such a telling passage and it is one that is not often remarked upon. I will try and do that here. When we come to Christ we are set apart, we are to be different and something special to God. As a consequence of that, God often uses unusual ways for us to demonstrate our faith in God. It may be the work we do or our living arrangements. We sin greatly, I think when we try and be like the world. When we try and keep up with the Jones' and do things 'like everybody else'. This is a sin individually as it is collectively. This is the sin that Israel sinned here. The nations did not have the Lord ruling over them. They had kings. This is what Israel wanted, to be like the world, to dependent on anything except the Lord and to look to something other than the Lord for strength and salvation from their enemies. Here, they wanted a King.

This is a sin in our lives when God gives us a seemingly humble job to do and can't buy the things we think we should have and for us to look about and compare what God provides for us with what the lost man has. Perhaps one has a job as a janitor or waitress and you don't make that much money. God knows your needs, but let not the lust for being like everyone else be what drives you. Being like everyone else means that you must rely on everything other than the Lord when things go awry. You want God's protection in times of trouble? Then do what he asks you to do and be where he wants you to be, even if that place is not the greatest, from a worldly perspective.

Think on God's servant Nehemiah. He left the Kings palace to go and live in Jerusalem and had to sleep with a sword by his side in a very dangerous situation. He could have stayed in his soft job giving cups of wine to the emperor, but he didn't. This is often what service to God means. It can often mean difficulty, it can mean being a social or political outcast, it can mean meager wages, it can mean trouble on every side. But it also means God's divine protection as you do the will of God. What? You think running this site is a picnic? That I have not had a load of trouble from others just for doing this humble site? People I have known for years have belittled me and my work here. But to me this is a positive signpost. If such don't like what I am doing, I must be doing something right in God's eyes! It is kind of like making sure you are heading north... by knowing where south is and going in the opposite direction! So to those of you who have been hurt like this by others - don't be discouraged if your old buddies or certain of your family members treat you like dirt, people you have helped and served then turn on you - such as those who don't know Christ or once knew him and fell away. It may hurt a bit at first, but like a hangnail, once you get rid of it, the annoyance goes away. It's a hard lesson, yes it is. But learn your lesson, learn it well and don't be a student who needs a remedial course in the 'university of emotional bumps and bruises'. Then you can press on in Christ! This is just part of any true walk with Christ - there is a cost and often the first thing that needs to go are many of your relationships. As we move into these most dangerous end-times, this is something that I feel led to make plain to all who know the Lord and who reads this. Turn your back spiritually on this world. You and it are heading in opposite spiritual directions.

Israel wanted to be like the world.

Love not the world,
neither the things that are in the world.

If any man love the world,
the love of the Father is not in him.

(1 John 2:15 - ASV)

Without digressing much here, this is one of the main problems I see with mainline Christianity. It tries too much to be like the world, rather than being something wholly different. Watch a modern so-called Christian and one who makes no such profession and you will be hard pressed to find any difference at all. This kind of worldly mimicry is I think, one of the key stepping stones to lukewarmness and later apostasy. Christians who really want to walk with Christ would do well to make a clean break spiritually and mentally with the morals, fads, fashions and ways of this increasingly decadent and godless world.

But today's fascination with the world can be seen in the way Christian celebrities are the focus of so many believers. This is the way the world works, famous people more and more set the social agenda. This is what is happening to modern Christianity. Like the world they are getting their direction from people who often have little to no real spiritual foundation or growth, they just have fame and a pretty face and people hang on to their every word.

These things ought not to be so, but they are and these trends see no signs of abating. But he who seeks to be like the world will eventually get exactly what he wants as well the very same fate as those who love this present world.

But the thing displeased Samuel,
when they said, Give us a king to judge us.
And Samuel prayed unto Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 8:6 - ASV)

As the verse makes clear, Samuel was most upset about this request. It is not clear why, but the following verse may give us a hint. It was that he felt like all these years of work serving Israel, they were now rejecting him. This had to have hurt Samuel deeply. So as any man of God does, he comes to the Lord in prayer.

We will get to the answer to that prayer in the next section, God willing!!!

Brother Mark

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9 February

1 Samuel Part 20

So the Philistines were subdued,
and they came no more within the border of Israel:
and the hand of Jehovah was against the Philistines
all the days of Samuel.

(1 Samuel 7:13 - ASV)

So the Philistines who had pretty much had the run of Israel were now brought low, humiliated (3665 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary). For the time being, they did not trouble Israel. The reason? God had raised up a leader who listened to and obeyed him and whom the people listened to and respected. In this, there is a blessing and in this instance, the blessing was that the enemies of Israel could not trouble them any more. This does not mean that the Philistine presence was completely removed. As we shall see they were still a nuisance later on.

But this seems to have been the result of the people's rebellion against God being their king and wanting a man to rule over them instead, as we shall see in the coming chapters. The key to understand here is that this deliverance of Israel gave them release from their oppressors. Samuel's judgeship was key to this peace and this clearly is the main thrust of the text. But one aspect of this that should be kept in mind here. That as long as Samuel was judge (leader of the people) things were good. Samuel was still around when Saul reigned, but in those days, Samuel was no longer leader of the people, but was only a prophet, magistrate and perhaps at least in some respects, high priest.

So in short, what this passage is saying that as long as God's first choice of leadership was in place, they had no problems with the Philistines. When the second choice arrived (King Saul) problems began to appear, as we will see later in the study. Samuel's title of Judge remained even after Saul became King, but he was no longer the de-facto ruler of the people, that was to be the King's job.

And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel
were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath;
and the border thereof did Israel deliver out of the hand
of the Philistines. And there was peace
between Israel and the Amorites.
(1 Samuel 7:14 - ASV)

So the Lord was with Samuel and the people here and gave them peace from their enemies. It also appears that there were significant military conquests involved here as well because the cities mentioned above (Ekron and Gath) were Philistine cities as we noted in the previous passages. Each were hit pretty hard when they brought the Ark to them. The passage also makes clear that peace existed with the Amorites as well. So Israel had subjugated the Philistines and there was peace with the Amorites. It may even be possible that Israel and the Amorites worked together to deal with a common foe, the Philistines. The Amorites were one of the more powerful military powers in the region in those days.

And Samuel judged Israel
all the days of his life. And he went from
year to year in circuit to Beth-el and Gilgal,

 and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all those places.
And his return was to Ramah, for there was his house;
and there he judged Israel:
and he built there an altar unto Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 7:15-17 - ASV)

Samuel was in reality what we now call a circuit Judge. He would go from place to place to judge cases that needed to be heard. In the above passages, the cities where he held court are mentioned. The idea seems that those who were close to these cities could come at certain times of the year and have their cases heard. This was the key purpose of such judges. This is the kind of Judge we often see in those old Westerns when law and order in some places was something that was not all that common.

Samuel was the pivotal figure here in these days and it was his faith and relationship with God and God's favor upon him that set him up in this position and gave Israel peace.

The last passage shows us where he lived. Samuel was not one of the prophets who lived in the wilderness or roamed around as some wanderer with a staff in his hand and a hairshirt. No, he had a home that he lived in and it was in Ramah. It is here he also built an alter unto the Lord. It is not clear where else if anywhere, that religious rituals were being performed for Israel. Eli's house was gone, Shiloh was a waste and this may have been the central place of worship. We just don't know the make up of worship at that time. What is known is that Samuel did build an altar here and did offer sacrifices to the Lord, having served under Eli for many years, he knew exactly how this was to be performed. But Samuel was about to fall into the same trap that Eli fell into and we will get to that in the following sections, God willing.

2 February

1 Samuel Part 19

And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel
were gathered together to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines
went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it,
 they were afraid of the Philistines.
(1 Samuel 7:7 - ASV)

After Samuel gathered the people together at Mizpah, they repented and then consecrated themselves to the Lord there. The Philistines heard of it and decided to nip the threat they perceived in the bud. We don't know the whole situation here, but I strongly suspect that the Philistines had occupied Shiloh and other parts of Israel for many years, so their gathering to Mizpah would hardly go unnoticed. Runners were probably sent to Gath, Ashdod, etc., to tell them what was going on and the Philistines armed for war, perhaps thinking that some kind of rebellion or invasion may have been at hand.

This time, when Samuel gathered Israel it was for repentance and a coming back to their God. But this may or may not have been known or even believed by the Philistines who only knew they were gathered together and under a leader (Samuel).

But the Israelite's were very afraid of them, this was because of what happened at the battle of Eben-ezar, years before. They lost the battle and the Ark then.

And the children of Israel said to Samuel,
Cease not to cry unto Jehovah our God for us,
that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.
(1 Samuel 7:8 - ASV)

It's amazing what a little trouble can bring about. Look at the change of heart, those who had just gotten rid of their idols now are crying out to God to save them from the dreaded Philistines. What is interesting about this is that Samuel was not known as a warrior, he was a prophet and Judge and they clung to him for leadership in this time of woe. Here they knew that their salvation would not come from men at arms, but from the Lord of Hosts.

And Samuel took a sucking lamb,
and offered it for a whole burnt-offering unto Jehovah:
and Samuel cried unto Jehovah for Israel;
and Jehovah answered him. And as Samuel was
offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines
drew near to battle against Israel; but Jehovah
thundered with a great thunder on that day
upon the Philistines, and discomfited them;
and they were smitten down before Israel. 
And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah,
and pursued the Philistines, and smote them,
until they came under Beth-car.
(1 Samuel 7:9-11 - ASV)

Once Samuel prays and offers a sacrifice to the Lord (one that was acceptable to him), the Lord answered the prayers of the people by scattering the Philistines. This is the result of an episode of successful intercessory prayer. The thunder seemed to have been enough to scatter them in fear. This probably was not the kind of thunder that is associated with rain, but seems to be something very different as hardened warriors would hardly be frightened of a thunderstorm. Whatever it was, it allowed the Israelite's to beat them in battle and peruse them to Beth-car. The site, the Bible Atlas (.org) has a map of where that probably is on a map, if you are interested. Beth-car means house of pasture or house of the lamb.

Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between
Mizpah and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer,
Hitherto hath Jehovah helped us.
(1 Samuel 7:12 - ASV)

Samuel, who was now the de-facto leader of Israel erects a stone of remembrance, so that people will remember what God did for them here.

How often do we forget the Lord's salvation! He saves us time and again, pulls us out of traps the enemy lays for us and protects us and often from our own stupidity and folly, yet what do we do? We often forget the Lord and his past wonders for us!! We should set reminders around us of what God has done for us because if we don't, we might very well forget.

How did the Psalmist put it?

That they might set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep his commandments,
 And might not be as their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that set not their heart aright,
And whose spirit was not stedfast with God.
(Psalms 78:7-8)

Bless Jehovah, O my soul,
And forget not all his benefits:
(Psalms 103:2 - ASV)

It is a constant and fatal failing in us all when we forget God's past salvation! We must never ever do that. Give thanks to God for the things he did for you yesterday, a year ago, 20 years ago... never forget God's past acts of love and salvation towards us.

We will continue our look at Samuel next week, God willing!!

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26 January

1 Samuel Part 18

And the men of Kiriath-jearim came,
and fetched up the ark of Jehovah, and brought
it into the house of Abinadab in the hill,
and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 7:1 - ASV)

The men came down and got the ark as they were bid by the people of Beth-Shemesh. We don't know much about Abinadab. Many believe that he was probably a Levite, as they were the only ones anointed to priestly functions. This was the opinion of Josephus. Nor can we be certain as to why the Ark was not taken back to Shiloh. Commentaries offer speculation, but nothing that gives a clear explanation. The explanation that seems to make the most sense is that the Philistines probably still occupied the city after the last battle, and this is why it could not rest properly in the Tabernacle. But the text does not offer any clear explanation. But I think there probably had to be some clear extenuating circumstances because the people now knew first hand what it meant to show it and the Lord any form of disrespect. Eleazar was set apart and sanctified with the awesome task of watching over the Ark.

And it came to pass, from the day that the ark
abode in Kiriath-jearim, that the time was long;
for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel
lamented after Jehovah. And Samuel spake unto all
the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return
unto Jehovah with all your heart,
then put away the foreign gods and the
Ashtaroth from among you, and direct
your hearts unto Jehovah, and serve him only;
and he will deliver you out of
the hand of the Philistines.
(1 Samuel 7:2-3 - ASV)

Weather or not this was initially intended to be a temporary arrangement or not, the Ark's sojourn in the town of Kirath-jearim lasted twenty years. Just because they brought the Ark back did not mean that the Philistines ceased to occupy Israel. Whatever was going on, the Philistine threat and presence still existed even after they brought back the Ark of the Covenant.

But Samuel was still around and after two decades, he makes an appeal to the people, who clearly began to long for a return the good old days and now wanted to return to the Lord. Now clearly there was no other 'leader' of the people as the old Priesthood of Eli's house was 20 years gone. But Samuel was clearly now the spiritual leader of the people and thus he began to speak to the people about what they needed to do if they wanted the Lord to dwell among them as he did before. Here Samuel seems to take on the role of prophet, priest and judge of Israel.

If they are serious about coming back to the Lord, then they had to turn to him with all of their heart. The first thing it meant was to turn away from and get rid of all of those foreign gods. Two are mentioned specifically, Baal (Baalim) and Asthoreth. Baal, being associated with sun worship (male) and Ashtoreth being associated with the moon - (female). If they would put those Gods away from them, then the Lord would deliver them. But they had to dedicate the national religion back to the Lord and to him alone.

Then the children of Israel did put away
the Baalim and the Ashtaroth,
and served Jehovah only.
(1 Samuel 7:4 - ASV)

It took them a while, but now they decided to go back and worship the Lord - only. Clearly this was not happening before, otherwise Samuel would not have had to rebuke them here. So for 20 years, they were probably still worshiping these other gods. But now their hearts had changed. It is amazing what years of chastisement can bring upon a people and how they slowly begin to change their attitude. How long it lasts is another matter entirely.

And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpah,
and I will pray for you unto Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 7:5 - ASV)

After there were clear actions (not just words) of repentance - the putting away of these foreign gods - Samuel said that he would then pray for them to the Lord. The name Mizpah means watch tower or look out. It was a place used when there were great events or emergencies in the times of the Judges (see Judges 20:1).

So Samuel, after these acts of repentance prayed for the people. Here he is acting as an intermediary between the people and God, a priestly function. Now when Samuel prayed, things happened. There are some people whom God has given special favor in prayer and Samuel, by his life dedication to the work of the Lord was one of those.

And they gathered together to Mizpah,
and drew water, and poured it out before Jehovah,
and fasted on that day, and said there,
We have sinned against Jehovah.
And Samuel judged the children
of Israel in Mizpah.
(1 Samuel 7:6 - ASV)

At this great gathering, they did a few things in the assembly. First they drew water and then poured it out. The meaning of this is not clear. I know of no parallel for this ritual in the OT. Some look at this passage differently imputing that they poured out their hearts as if it were water as a sign of penitence and sorrow (see Psalms 22:14). All of this may have happened on the Feast of Tabernacles. Thus the children of Israel also fasted and confessed and repented of their sins against the Lord.

It is at this time that Samuel is formally called a judge. He may have had the stature of one before this, but it is here that he is actually called one. Here his role seems to be three fold, to be a civil judge, that is a magistrate of people's complaints, to marshal the nation to arms and to intercede on behalf of the people to God.

We will continue our look at Samuel, next week God willing.

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19 January

1 Samuel Part 17

And the Levites took down the ark of Jehovah,
and the coffer that was with it,
wherein the jewels of gold were,
and put them on the great stone:
and the men of Beth-shemesh
offered burnt-offerings
and sacrificed sacrifices
the same day unto Jehovah.
And when the five lords
of the Philistines had seen it,
 they returned to Ekron the same day.
(1 Samuel 6:15-16 - ASV)

The Priests get the Ark from off of the cart and the gifts and move them to the great stone. What this stone was (exactly) is not clear to me. But they offered a sacrifice to the Lord here. It apparently is of some note to those who lived in those days.

The Lord, here may not have been as pleased as they thought about this. In the previous passage from last week. We saw that the Israelite's had sacrificed those animals that brought the Ark back to Israel, in spite of the animals clear natural inclinations. I don't believe the Lord was too pleased with this, not just out of pity for the animals, but these were female cows and this was forbidden in the Law (see Leviticus 1:3 and Leviticus 22:19). They also did it in a place they should not have (Deuteronomy 12:5-6). Their sacrifice, while made with good intentions (to give thanks to God) was nevertheless not within the parameters of what was acceptable to God.

Brothers, there is a right way to do things and a wrong way and this is a key lesson for then and now. Those of us who wish to be acceptable to God must learn the right way to do things and to make sure we do them.

The Philistine Lords who followed the cart saw things went well and returned to their home.

And these are the golden tumors
which the Philistines returned for a trespass-offering
unto Jehovah: for Ashdod one, for Gaza one,
for Ashkelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one;
and the golden mice, according to the number
of all the cities of the Philistines belonging
to the five lords, both of fortified cities
 and of country villages, even unto the great stone,
whereon they set down the ark of Jehovah,
 which stone remaineth unto this day
in the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite.
(1 Samuel 6:17-18 - ASV)

By the way, the name Beth-Shemesh means roughly house of the sun. It was originally a Canaanite town and may have been one of the ancient Heliopolis' that populated the region in those times. This great stone again, is a bit of a mystery to me, but the word translated stone is the word Abel and given its meaning could mean a stone of lamentation, as some commentators note; perhaps so named for what is about to come to pass in the narrative.

And he smote of the men of Beth-shemesh,
because they had looked into the ark of Jehovah,
he smote of the people seventy men,
and fifty thousand men; and the people mourned,
because Jehovah had smitten the people
with a great slaughter. And the
men of Beth-shemesh said,
Who is able to stand before Jehovah,
this holy God?
and to whom shall
he go up from us?

(1 Samuel 6:19-20 - ASV)

The Lord clearly was not pleased with the kinds of curiosity that had overtaken the people of Beth-Shemesh. I think this is a clear lesson for all of us. There are things that the Lord has kept secret. He has revealed some things to us, but others he has hidden. Still others he shares with those whom he loves and trusts. Some things are just not for the masses and others are reserved for those who are anointed to carry out certain tasks. Did not Christ keep many of the meanings of his saying in parables? There was a purpose behind it (Luke 8:10ff). Some things he is going to tell us and others he is not. Some things are for our eyes to see and our minds to comprehend and others are not. There are things that are secret (Deuteronomy 29:29) and trying to find out those secret things can land us in a world of trouble, witness what happened above.

But there is a spirit about today that I call the 'peeping tom' spirit. People get into other people's private affairs and even put webcams around their homes to get a peek at what is going on. Corporations make billions spying on people and getting into their personal business. It's the same spirit - the spirit of nosiness, the busybody and the tattle tale. Here God makes it clear what he thinks about those who stick their nose into his business.

God was pretty harsh with this people. The key difference between what the Philistines did and what they did was simple. The Israelite's knew better - their law told them what they should do and should not do. With knowledge comes responsibility. Why not just poke around the Holy of Holies just for kicks? The Jews knew better. Those who take such liberties are playing with the fire of the Almighty there is no way they cannot get burned. The curiosity that these men displayed was not only unwise, it was completely irreverent.

Then they became sore afraid of the Ark and wanted it to be taken away. But how? Who can do it? And where? Their curiosity now changed to deep reverence and probably outright fear and dread.

And they sent messengers to the
inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying,
The Philistines have brought back the ark of Jehovah;
come ye down, and fetch it up to you.
(1 Samuel 6:21 - ASV)

So they sent messengers to one of the frontier cities - to the City of the Forests (the meaning of Kirath-Jearim). It used to be called the City of Baal (Kirjath-Baal - see
Joshua 18:14). It is surmised by some commentators that since Beth-Shemesh was situated on a plain and Kirjath-jearim was on a hill, it was a safer place for the Ark. The phrase 'come ye down and fetch it up to you' is in keeping with this idea.

I notice one thing missing from this passage and that is any mention of the reason why they wanted them to take it and what had just happened to them.

We'll see how the men of that city respond in the next update, God willing.

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12 January

1 Samuel Part 16

and take the ark of Jehovah, and lay it upon the cart;
and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him
for a trespass-offering, in a coffer by the side thereof;
and send it away, that it may go.
 And see; if it goeth up by the way of its own border
 to Beth-shemesh, then he hath done us this great evil:
 but if not, then we shall know
that it is not his hand that smote us;
it was a chance that happened to us.
(1 Samuel 6:8-9 - ASV)

We left off last time and the religious establishment inside Philistia were explaining their proposed solution on how to end the plague that literally threatened the continued existence of the nation. They laid out the procedures they should take from the exact method of transport to the type of gifts that should be given; a situation made necessary because of their making off with the Ark of the covenant.

Again, there clearly was a very healthy respect for the God of Israel now. Here the Philistine Priesthood makes it clear that this was also a test to see if this was indeed the hand of the God of Israel or no, that was heavy upon them. If there was any doubt in their minds, this would settle it.

And the men did so, and took two milch kine,
and tied them to the cart,
and shut up their calves at home; 
  and they put the ark of Jehovah upon the cart,
and the coffer with the mice of gold
and the images of their tumors.
(1 Samuel 6:10-11 - ASV)

They took the advise of their religious establishment and did as they were bid.

Look at how God works. It really is amazing how he got both the heathen to turn and respect him as well as chastise his own people. Clearly he did not want the Philistines to gloat simply because they won a battle that God was determined to see Israel lose.

God knows how to get people's attention. In this case both Israel and Philistia.

And the kine took the straight way by the way
 to Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway,
lowing as they went, and turned not aside
to the right hand or to the left;
and the lords of the Philistines went after them
unto the border of Beth-shemesh.
(1 Samuel 6:12 - ASV)

The cows went to where they were supposed to go without anyone guiding or steering them. God can and will speak to animals. We saw that in the book of Jonah. Of note in this passage is that the lord's of the Philistines also went to make sure that the cows would do what they were supposed to (and perhaps to make sure the gold treasures were not absconded with by others).

And they of Beth-shemesh were reaping
their wheat harvest in the valley;
and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark,
and rejoiced to see it.
(1 Samuel 6:13 - ASV)

This had to be a sight for sore eyes! The Philistines were returning the Ark. It was probably completely unexpected.

And the cart came into the field of
Joshua the Beth-shemite, and stood there,
 where there was a great stone:
and they clave the wood of the cart,
and offered up the kine for
a burnt-offering unto Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 6:14 - ASV)

They were overjoyed and offered up a thank offering to God for this event. They sacrificed the cows that brought the Ark. Was the Lord pleased with all of this?

We will find out in the next installment, next week God willing!!

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 5 January

1 Samuel Part 15

They sent therefore and gathered together
all the lords of the Philistines, and they said,
Send away the ark of the God of Israel,
and let it go again to its own place,
that it slay us not, and our people.
For there was a deadly discomfiture
throughout all the city; the hand of God
was very heavy there.
(1 Samuel 5:11 - ASV)

We left off last time the Ark was moving from Philistine city to city with the same disastrous results upon the people who dwelt in those cities.

Something of interest is noted in the Pulpit Commentary that I think should be mentioned. They remark that what appears to have transpired between Israel and Philistia was in essence a 'religious war'. That when Israel brought the ark to the battlefield, it in essence became a religious war and one where from the battlefield side of things, Israel was soundly defeated. It also notes that with Eli dead, the reigns of government probably fell upon Samuel. But Israel's loss here is particularly noteworthy as it remains etched on the history of the nation for years to come - see Psalms 78:60-64 and Jeremiah7:12; 26:9.

This had to be a most trying time in Israel.

Well, whatever 'victory' the Philistines thought they achieved was hardly a religious one, God was making himself plain to them. Their gods were no gods and the Lord - he alone is God. The Philistines probably had no idea why God forsook Israel and frankly as we see from the previous passages, they had other things on their mind - like surviving this plague the God of Israel had brought upon these powerful cities. The war trophy they 'won' was going to cost them the life of their very nation if it was not returned to where it belonged.

They finally saw the light, moving the ark about from city to city was not the answer, the answer was to send it back to Israel!!

And the men that died not
were smitten with the tumors;
and the cry of the city went up to heaven.
(1 Samuel 5:12 - ASV)

This was a deadly plague. It was killing people and those that were not dead were in pain. This verse shows us just how deep the suffering was. There had to be wailing, crying and all manner of lamentations because of pain as well as relatives and friends who were dying or dead.

And the ark of Jehovah was in the country
 of the Philistines seven months.
And the Philistines called for the priests
and the diviners, saying, What shall we do
with the ark of Jehovah?
show us wherewith
we shall sent it to its place.
(1 Samuel 6:1-2 - ASV)

This went on for many months. It took them a while to figure out that the situation was not going to change until they did something. It should be noted that the word 'country' in verse one could be rendered 'field' and that it is possible that because no more cities would receive the ark, it rested on an open plain.

So given the situation and the clearly religious nature of the plague that was upon them, they called for their soothsayers and religious establishment to tell the leaders what they should do. "How should we send this Ark back?", seems to be the thought here. The way it is phrased is not so much if but how should they do it. They were probably afraid that whoever they sent might wind up dead on the way or they might do it in some way that makes matter worse.

The answer they give is quite wise given the circumstances. But remember, their key god was now smashed up in their temple as a direct result of the ark, so they probably had a developed a very healthy respect for the God of Israel. Even healthier than before - remember at the battle the Philistines were most concerned when they saw the ark arrive at the battlefield. Who knows, maybe some of these priests who advised the kings had prayed a (secret) prayer to this awesome God of Israel who in turn them gave them wisdom to speak before the leaders. What was going on in Philistia had to have a profound effect on all, particularly the priesthood. I suspect this or something similar is what happened because the answer the religious leaders give is particularly wise.

And they said, If ye send away
the ark of the God of Israel,
send it not empty; but by all means
return him a trespass-offering:
then ye shall be healed,
and it shall be known to you
why his hand is not removed from you.
(1 Samuel 6:3 - ASV)

They must show they realize they sinned - this is the meaning of a trespass/sin offering (817 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary). They must make one to the Lord to be healed from this thing. Moreover, they can know by this that it really is the Ark and their theft of it that is the cause of the plagues and not some coincidence.

Then said they, What shall be the
trespass-offering which we shall return to him?
And they said, Five golden tumors,
and five golden mice, according
to the number of the lords of the Philistines;
for one plague was on you all, and on your lords.
Wherefore ye shall make images of your tumors,
 and images of your mice that mar the land;
 and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel:
peradventure he will lighten his
hand from off you, and from off your gods,
 and from off your land.
(1 Samuel 6:4-5 - ASV)

So the Priests tell the rulers what to do. It's interesting that nowhere except here is there a suggestion of the plague of mice. We don't know if this was just your regular field mouse or something more vicious, like rats. A plague of rats is no small matter!

Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts,
as the Egyptians and Pharaoh
hardened their hearts?
When he had wrought
wonderfully among them,
did they not let the people go,
and they departed?
(1 Samuel 6:6 - ASV)

Now the Priests who were clearly familiar with the Jewish Exodus made it plain that if they want to be stubborn about it, they have an example of one who was also stubborn against this God.

If these priests and even the leaders had any lack of respect for this God before, they certainly did not now.

Now therefore take and prepare you a new cart,
and two milch kine, on which there
hath come no yoke; and tie the kine to the cart,
and bring their calves home from them;
(1 Samuel 6:7 - ASV)

The priests here show the leaders how to do this thing with proper reverence. First they were to make a new cart, not just borrow one used for other purposes. No, they would make a new one and also use two un-yoked kine (probably a mark of respect). But there is something else here of considerable note. The priests clearly wanted to make sure that the leaders knew that this was God directing the animals. The animals would not have a yoke and their young were to be left behind. The natural inclination of the animals would be to go back and look out for their young. But so they know that the God of Israel was behind this, when the cows left, they would go to Israel and deliver the ark instead. In short, unless God guided these animals, they would return to the fields.

This was a big test and the priests who said this were taking a big risk. In those days those who gave kings bad advice often came to bad ends themselves.

I just suspect that after Dagon fell down and all these disasters befell the people, that some of these priest may have (in secret) rent their clothes and cried out to the God of Israel to see what they should do, but that is just my own personal suspicion. When God moves in such a way and there is no remedy at hand that man can think of - many do finally come to their senses.

What about today?

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15 Dec

1 Samuel Part 14

We left off last time with the Ark of the covenant creating havoc among the Philistine city of Ashdod and on their god, Dagon.

They sent therefore and gathered
all the lords of the Philistines unto them,
and said, What shall we do with the
ark of the God of Israel? And they answered,
Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried
about unto Gath. And they carried the
ark of the God of Israel thither.
(1 Samuel 5:8 - ASV)

So the men of Ashdod were in a quandary, they did not know what to do with what they thought was a great war prize, but now was a serious burden on and threat to their city. They had to be most concerned about what was going on, with their god smashed up and everyone ill. So now they had to decide what they were going to do with it. They decided to carry it to Gath, another one of the cities of the Philistine Pentapolis. This would be kind of like carrying it from New York to Chicago; a new city, but the same nation. The result?

And it was so, that, after they had carried it about,
the hand of Jehovah was against the city
with a very great discomfiture:
and he smote the men of the city,
both small and great;
and tumors brake out upon them.
(1 Samuel 5:9 - ASV)

Moving the ark from 'NY to Chicago' resulted in the exact same conditions, their were serious health issues (tumors/hemorrhoids) once the Ark arrived. The word translated discomfiture in the American Standard Version is the Strong's word 4103 (Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary) and it also means a tumult, confusion or even destruction. In short, there was a panic in the city over the ark and what it was doing to the city.

So they sent the ark of God to Ekron.
And it came to pass, as the ark of God
came to Ekron, that the Ekronites
cried out, saying, They have brought about
the ark of the God of Israel to us,
to slay us and our people.
(1 Samuel 5:10 - ASV)

I get the impression what while these were all Philistine cities, there may have been significant rivalry between them and this is why they sent the Ark from one to another, with the same disastrous results.

What may have added to their confusion was that the god they prayed to was all smashed up in their temple because of the Ark. So not even their religion/god could help them. From Ashdod to Gath and now Ekron disaster struck. The Ekronites had clearly heard what was going on and they were scared to death of the Ark coming to them.

Brothers and sisters, don't let anyone tell you that God cannot and will not curse people, places and things. He can and will. This episode was to teach the Philistines a key lesson as to the power of the God of Israel and that they should not gloat over their victory over Israel. Israel's loss was not about Philistine military power or their god Dagon, but it was about the sins of Israel and the abominations of the Priesthood symbolized by the house of Eli.

I see in this an important lesson. I believe that one day, God is going to allow many a Church to fail, fall into disrepute, get destroyed in natural disasters and many pastors to be killed. This will be for the same reasons he allowed disaster to fall upon Israel. The sins reached to heaven and was a serious stench before God's throne. God did not want his name associated with the sins of Israel or Eli and he does not want his name to be associated with many of the abominations going on in many Western churches today.

Understand, I know many pastors are doing right and really are trying hard to serve God in these most difficult times. But many more are not, they simply do not have any desire to obey the Lord in all things and thus, lead their sheep astray. Religion is entertainment or a game or a way to have social position or a way to make money with such pastors and Church leaders. God and serving him in spirit and in truth is not within the purview of their understanding.

But the heathen who just won a 'victory' over God's people have found that in reality that their 'victory' had a cost that none of them even remotely considered.

I think of the book of Revelation and the days when the saints of God are killed for not serving the beast system, not taking his mark and not worshiping his image. The devil's servants may think they have won some great victory over the Lord when they start beheading his people in mass executions (Revelation 13:15; 20:4). But look at what he brings upon them in those days, which I do not think are so very far off.

 And I heard a great voice out of the temple,
saying to the seven angels,
Go ye, and pour out the seven bowls
of the wrath of God into the earth.
And the first went, and poured out
his bowl into the earth; and it became
a noisome and grievous sore
upon the men that had the mark of the beast,
and that worshipped his image.
And the second poured out his bowl into the sea;
and it became blood as of a dead man;
and every living soul died,
 even the things that were in the sea. 
(Revelation 16:1-3 - ASV)

The Philistines were merely a tool God used to chastise his own people. The beast system is merely a tool God will use to try us, to refine us and later to glorify those of his who endure to the end. Indeed, those days will be sent to try all who dwell upon the earth (see Revelation 3:10). The Philistines however had something working in their favor, God was not finished with them. But for those who take the Mark of the Beast? God is indeed finished with them in a most eternally permanent fashion.

  And another angel, a third, followed them,
saying with a great voice, If any man worshippeth
the beast and his image, and receiveth
a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand,
he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God,
which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger;
and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone
in the presence of the holy angels,
and in the presence of the Lamb:
and the smoke of their torment goeth up
for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night,
they that worship the beast and his image,
and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.
Here is the patience of the saints,
they that keep the commandments of God,
 and the faith of Jesus. 
(Revelation 14:9-12 - ASV)

So let us focus in on the awesomeness of God and the power, wisdom and righteousness of his ways. He has a plan brothers and while the devil and his children will one day dance on the graves of Christ's followers and claim some demonic victory, be assured that God has a recompense for those who attack his people and try and do them wrong.

The Philistines had a 'victory' over Israel, but it was not one that brought them any comfort. Nay, rather it only gave them tribulation, sickness and death. Troubles that they had no idea were possible before they went into battle.

Let us pause and consider that brothers and sisters!!

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8 Dec

1 Samuel Part 13

Now the Philistines had taken the ark of God,
and they brought it from Eben-ezer unto Ashdod.
(1 Samuel 5:1 - ASV)

The location of Eben-ezar is not clear, but some place it at or near the the modern town of Kafr Qasim. So the Ark was taken from the battlefield and to one of the five key cities of the Philistines, Ashdod. The others are (FYI) Askelon, Ekron, Gath and Gaza. So after they won the battle they brought the Ark to one of their key cities. This was a monumental event and the Psalmist talks about it.

For they provoked him to anger with their high places,
And moved him to jealousy with their graven images.
When God heard this, he was wroth,
And greatly abhorred Israel; So that he forsook
the tabernacle of Shiloh,
The tent which he placed among men;
And delivered his strength into captivity,
And his glory into the adversary's hand.
He gave his people over also unto the sword,
And was wroth with his inheritance.
(Psalms 78:58-62 - ASV)
The Psalmist (Asaph) wrote on the events above and again, it should be stressed that the Lord was sore displeased with both the house of Eli and Israel at that time.
And the Philistines took the ark of God,
and brought it into the house of Dagon,
and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod
arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon
was fallen upon his face to the ground
before the ark of Jehovah. And they took Dagon,
and set him in his place again.
(1Samuel 5:2-3 - ASV)
So the Philistines brought the Ark of the Lord back to their home and set it in their temple where their god, Dagon was located. This was almost certainly some kind of idol or graven image. This idol was known to look like the head or face of a man along with arms and hands, but with the body of a fish. According to Fausset's Bible Dictionary, this god corresponds to a female version called Atargatis, which is has a woman's body but a fish's tail. It is according to them, where we get the whole idea of mermaid's from.

So they set the Ark in their temple where Dagon was and when they got up in the morning, the Dagon idol had fallen prostate before the Ark.

This had to be unnerving to the Philistines, though their immediate reaction is not recorded here. They did however set the idol back on its pedestal. Perhaps, they thought it might have been some kind of coincidence that his happened to their deity.

And when they arose early on the morrow morning,
behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face
to the ground before the ark of Jehovah;
and the head of Dagon and both the palms
of his hands lay cut off upon the threshold;
only the stump of Dagon was left to him.
(1Samuel 5:4 - ASV)

This time the same thing happened, only worse. This time the hands (power/strength) of the god were cut off. This clearly shows that their god had no power, it was broken and smashed up right in his own temple before the Ark of the Lord. The idols made by men have no power and never will. This is what is demonstrated in this passage. It's also interesting that the Philistines did not attempt any mischief to the Ark. They did not try and destroy it or deface it. As we saw in the earlier passages, they had a healthy fear and respect for it and the God it represented (1Samuel 4:8).

In fact, it may not be an overreach to say that their respect for it allowed it to be placed in the place they considered sacred, the temple of their god. So when they saw this, it had to have a big effect on them. They had triumphed over Israel on the battlefield and this may have made them conclude that their god had triumphed over the God of Israel. That is, until this happened.

Keep in mind that anyone who came into the temple could trample on the remains (rubble) of their god which was now located on the threshold.

Therefore neither the priests of Dagon,
nor any that come into Dagon's house,
tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod,
unto this day.
(1Samuel 5:5 - ASV)

So this episode had a profound effect on the religious life of the Philistines. They did not want to step over pieces of their 'god' and defile him.

But the hand of Jehovah
was heavy upon them of Ashdod,
and he destroyed them,
and smote them with tumors,
even Ashdod and the borders thereof.
(1Samuel 5:6 - ASV)

The word tumors is often rendered emerods (hemorrhoids) in other versions. So the Philistines were having a rough time of it. Nothing but trouble since the day they captured the Ark; their god smashed up, the people with hemorrhoids; others destroyed. The Lord was dealing with them. Sooner or later they would put two and two together and figure out that the Ark did not belong with them.

And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so,
 they said, The ark of the God of Israel
shall not abide with us;
for his hand is sore upon us,

 and upon Dagon our god.
(1Samuel 5:7 - ASV)

The Philistines it seems may not have known the God of Israel, but they did have a key thing working in their favor. They had common sense. They understood the power of this God and respected him enough to make sure that the Ark did not remain with them in Ashdod.

But this was an important war prize and one that clearly they wanted to keep. So they decided to take it to another one of the key cities of the Philistines, this time to Gath. We'll get to that part of the book next week, God willing!!

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1 Dec

1 Samuel Part 12

We left off last time just after the Ark of the covenant was captured by the Philistines and Eli's wicked sons were killed. The Lord was most annoyed with their behavior and other than the warning they got from their father Eli, it is not clear the Lord even bothered to send a prophet to them to warn them. Folks, there are some categories of sin that really make the Lord angry and put people in the category of those who are not and will never be appointed to salvation, but are reserved for judgment. There is a category of fallen angels to whom this applies - see 2 Peter 2:4.

In Thessalonians we see the same theme in the last days, where a spirit of deception falls on men whom God has reserved for judgment (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Why? They, like Eli's son's had pleasure in unrighteousness. They were having good time doing that which deeply displeased the Lord and did not want to be bothered with what God had to say about it.

And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, 
and came to Shiloh the same day,
with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.
And when he came, lo, Eli was sitting
upon his seat by the wayside watching;
for his heart trembled for the ark of God.
And when the man came into the city,
and told it, all the city cried out.
(1 Samuel 4:12-13 - ASV)

The news of what just happened at the battlefield was just now getting to Shiloh, where Eli had his seat. A man came running up clearly in distress. As all of us Bible students know, a person with rent clothes and dirt on his head is one that is showing distress. He was in the army that was routed. Eli was deeply concerned about the commotion, but did not quite yet know exactly what happened, but we note that his concern was a godly one. The passage does not describe worry over his wayward sons. No, he was concerned about the Ark of the Lord. I think this speaks volumes about Eli. He had some issues, but they seem mostly to stem from his indulgence of this sons and his abdication of his own responsibilities to control his sons who were also Priests serving under him. But he seemed genuinely to love and esteem the Lord. Once the calamity of the day's events were relayed to the people, they cried out. The word means like a cry of agony (2199 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary). Clearly there was no little commotion because of the report.

And when Eli heard the noise of the crying,
he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult?
And the man hasted, and came and told Eli.
Now Eli was ninety and eight years old;
and his eyes were set, so that he could not see.
(1 Samuel 4:14-15 - ASV)
Eli hears all the noise but clearly did not know what it was all about. He was blind and may have been like most older people, hard of hearing as well. So he asked what's going on.

And the man said unto Eli,
I am he that came out of the army,
and I fled to-day out of the army.
And he said, How went the matter, my son?
And he that brought the tidings answered
and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines,
and there hath been also a great slaughter
among the people, and thy two sons also,
Hophni and Phinehas, are dead,
and the ark of God is taken. And it came to pass,
when he made mention of the ark of God,
that Eli fell from off his seat backward
by the side of the gate; and his neck brake,
and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy.
 And he had judged Israel forty years.
1 Samuel 4:16-18 - ASV)

The long and short of it is that the soldier runs down the days events to Eli, tells him of the fate of his sons and the Ark, Eli fell back in shock and died after breaking his neck. He was a Judge of Israel for 40 years. Now a judge was not just a religious figure, he also had political and 'moral authority' power as well. Remember, there was no king in those days.

Some think that he was basically a weak ruler who let things deteriorate under him. Moreover he may have been afflicted with a spirit of indecision and even moral cowardice. Eli, may not have been a wicked man, but he lacked the key quality of any leader; to bring order and discipline to those he has charge over. In this with this Priest-sons, he was an abject failure.

And his daughter-in-law, Phinehas' wife,
was with child, near to be delivered:
and when she heard the tidings
that the ark of God was taken,
and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead,
she bowed herself and brought forth;
for her pains came upon her.
1 Samuel 4:19 - ASV)

The passage is self explanatory. She heard all of this awful news, her husband was dead and also her father in law, the battle lost and the ark taken, she had her baby and as the following passages tell us, she died.

And about the time of her death the women
that stood by her said unto her, Fear not;
for thou hast brought forth a son.
But she answered not, neither did she regard it.
And she named the child Ichabod, saying,
The glory is departed from Israel;
because the ark of God was taken,
and because of her father-in-law and her husband.
And she said, The glory is departed from Israel;
for the ark of God is taken.
1 Samuel 4:20-22 - ASV)
She brings forth a son and names him Ichabod. Meaning the glory has departed. Clearly it was meant to be a sign to Israel as to the horrible day and the defeat of the army and capture of the Ark. I think the passage also shows that in her dying breath, Phineas' wife may have been a good woman who on some level genuinely feared the Lord. But when the Lord judges a house, that is what he does and clearly he was getting rid of the House of Eli. In one day, Eli, Hophni, Phineas and his wife die.

In this chapter we have seen a great deal transpire. But basically it is merely the fulfillment of what the Lord promised to do because of the sins of the house of Eli.

But this passage shows a side of God's character that we just don't hear much about in today's 'easy beleivism' Christianity. Yes, we serve the same God as Samuel did. He has not changed and yes, people can go too far. We gentiles who are often being spoon fed 'baby food' spiritually would be wise to remember the admonitions of the Apostle Paul.

for if God spared not the natural branches,
neither will he spare thee. Behold then
the goodness and severity of God:
toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee,
God's goodness, if thou continue in his goodness:
otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
(Romans 11:21-22 - ASV)

Yes, there are two sides to God's character. But this part of God is hardly a mystery. He lays out to us all the things that please him as well as what angers him. How God deals with us is based mostly on our own behavior.

Yes, to the modern world full of touchy-feely emotionalism and populations that more and more are wholly lacking in character, these things seem like an anachronism. But God allows man to go his own way so that he can eat the fruit of his own doings. This is what he did with Hophni and Phineas and it is what he will do to this generation as well. Those who continually mock the Lord and spurn him will pay dearly for it. Pastors and Priests who behave in the way those two men did, let them beware - God see's it all. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING. Ministers will give account to the judge and he will be most exacting and if you have any doubts about it...

... ask the house of Eli.

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17 Nov

1 Samuel Part 11

And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.
Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle,
and encamped beside Eben-ezer:
and the Philistines encamped in Aphek.
(1 Samuel 4:1 - ASV)

Verse one should be clearly linked up with the last passage of chapter three, where the Word of the Lord came to Samuel (discussed last week). Samuel is acting under the direction of the Lord and gives the command to all Israel.

Now before we move forward let us remember that there was no king in Israel. The political order was probably not very firm. It was the age of the Judges and Eli was old, feeble and could not control his sons. So this was probably seen as an opportune time for Israel's foes to gather. One of those foes was the Philistines. God also used them to chastise Israel when they went astray (see Judges Chapter 13).

We don't know the exact location of the site, though some put it near at the city of Kafir Qasim.

So Samuel gets a word from the Lord and Israel prepares for battle. Now, before we move on let us keep a key aspect of all of this in mind. The Lord's purpose. What was the Lord purpose here? Is it what we think it is or has he already stated it for us and we have forgotten it?

Let's continue.

Samuel, who was now known as a prophet now commanded some authority with the people, enough to get them to come out to fight against the Philistines.

And the Philistines put themselves
in array against Israel: and when they joined battle,
Israel was smitten before the Philistines;
and they slew of the army in the field
about four thousand men.

(1 Samuel 4:2 - ASV)

The Philistines put on their battle gear and prepared to fight Israel. Israel then marching to the command of the great prophet goes out to.... victory?


Israel was defeated. They lost the battle and lost 4000 men in the process. This was a sound defeat and remember for a small nation like this the loss of so many men was very significant.

And when the people were come into the camp,
the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath
Jehovah smitten us to-day before the Philistines?
Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of
Jehovah out of Shiloh unto us,
that it may come among us,
and save us out of the
hand of our enemies.
1 Samuel 4:3 - ASV)

The Israelite's were confused and confounded. Why did the Lord do this? What happened? Why did he forsake us? So they asked for the Ark of the Lord to be brought forth. This was a symbol of their special relationship with the Lord. The problem is that the people had begun to look upon the ark as a kind of  'charm' or a magic talisman, rather than a symbol of the covenant (which has privilege AND responsibilities) they had with God. But it was the evil living of the people and their sins as evidenced by men like Eli's son's that separated them from this God they now only call upon when they are in trouble. So they wanted the ark of God with them as their 'protection' from the Philistines.

So the people sent to Shiloh;
and they brought from thence
the ark of the covenant of Jehovah of hosts,
who sitteth above the cherubim:
and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas,
were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
(1 Samuel 4:4 - ASV)

So they sent a message to bring the Ark to them to Shiloh where the Ark was. But with the Ark were the spiritual twiddle-dee and twiddle-dum of Hophni and Phineas, two men with whom the Lord had a very special controversy. The people thought that by bringing the ark to where they were, that was going to save them. This we see from the following verse.

And when the ark of the covenant of Jehovah
came into the camp, all Israel shouted
with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.
(1 Samuel 4:5 - ASV)

There was great joy when they saw this as they thought their troubles were over. Surely the Lord would protect them now that the ark was with them! The problem is that while the Ark was holy, two abominations were in charge of it. Men whom the Lord had pronounced a curse upon (1Samuel 3:13) and whose sins would never be forgiven (1 Samuel 3:14).
And when the Philistines heard
the noise of the shout, they said,
What meaneth the noise of this great shout
in the camp of the Hebrews?
And they understood that the
ark of Jehovah was come into the camp.
And the Philistines were afraid, for they said,
God is come into the camp.
And they said, Woe unto us!
for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.
 Woe unto us! who shall deliver us
out of the hand of these mighty gods?
these are the gods that smote the
 Egyptians with all manner of plagues
in the wilderness.
(1 Samuel 4:6-8 - ASV)

When the Philistines figured out what was going on they were very afraid. They had heard about the God of Israel and were most unnerved by this turn of events. In military purely terms, the bringing up of the ark was a massive morale booster to the Israelite's, but it was a real challenge to the morale of the Philistines. The fame of God's deed's in the past for the Israelite's were well known. Men can fight other men, but not the dreaded God of the Israelite's. They had heard of the exodus, the plagues on Pharaoh. They probably could not think of worse news to hear.

Be strong, and quit yourselves like men,
O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants
unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you:
quit yourselves like men, and fight.
And the Philistines fought,
and Israel was smitten,
and they fled every man to his tent:
and there was a very great slaughter;
for there fell of Israel thirty
thousand footmen.
1 Samuel 4:9-10 - ASV)

But the Philistine commanders rallied their troops and gave them a good reason to fight. You want to be a sold off in an Israelite slave market with your wife and kids? Then quit ye like men and fight!! That is what they did and won a victory over Israel.

It was a slaughter and they lost 30,000 men. All that cheering was for naught. The ark was not a magic talisman or rabbit's foot to wear around Israel's collar. It was something that was a great honor to possess but also one that carried with it great responsibilities. As the book of Judges showed, Israel demonstrated a pattern of being very lax in those responsibilities and that laxness was clearly represented here in the person's of Hophni and Phineas. The Ark for Israel in those days? It's kind of like a very evil man carrying a Bible with him thinking it is going to protect him. The Bible in and of itself won't protect you from anything. The God of the Bible if one obeys him, can.

And the ark of God was taken;
and the two sons of Eli,
Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
(1 Samuel 4:11 - ASV)

The ark was taken and Eli's son's were now dead. This is just as it was foretold they would be on the same day (1 Samuel 2:34).

Now we see that the purpose of the Lord was already revealed in chapter three. He was going to deal with Eli's house and clearly he was none too pleased with how Israel was behaving in those days either. So Samuel's call to Israel was perfectly in keeping with the Lord's will. It was just not in keeping with what Israel wanted or expected.

But keep in mind something here. The last verse in chapter three said that the Lord revealed something to Samuel and how it was revealed (by the Word of the Lord). What is missing? We are not told what that word was. We can get a hint from the previous passages as they related to Eli's house, but the passage just does not say what it was. Second, the Lord did not promise anyone a victory here as no such promise is recorded. Samuel, may have known exactly what was to come to pass, yet he was faithful, even knowing that by obeying the Lord, his stature in the eyes of the people could suffer considerably because of it. He called Israel to battle and they lost. This certainly could open him up to charges of being a false prophet. Sometimes the job of a prophet is most difficult and many men of God have been castigated for being a false prophet because things did not turn out the way the receiver of the message wanted or thought it would.

We will continue our look at the book of Samuel next week, God willing!!

10 Nov

1 Samuel Part 10

And Samuel lay until the morning,
and opened the doors of the house of Jehovah.
And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision.
(1 Samuel 3:15 - ASV)

We left off last time and the Lord was had given Samuel his first word. When the Lord speaks to us in such a fashion we cannot mistake it. We note that Samuel heard an audible voice, a voice so clear he thought it was Eli who called him.

So the Lord had a word that was for Eli but delivered via his servant Samuel. Keep in mind that Samuel though young, could not have been unmindful of the antics of Eli's sons. He lived with Eli and his family and surely knew what transpired.

So Samuel lay in the bed till morning, probably awake considering what just happened to him. The word for him to deliver was not a good one and it was probably not one that he wanted to transmit at all, Eli being so close to him.

Samuel did what he was commanded to do, though hardly with any joy. This is the burden of any prophet or bearer of God's message - including those who preach and teach the gospel. He has to be a bearer of news and often carries with him information that is most troubling and difficult to carry that few will believe or want to believe. At least not until they find that what the prophet said was true and they are facing the ax, the hangman's rope or are wandering in some wilderness because their homes and communities have been blown to bits. They were warned about those things when they refused time and again to repent, stop doing evil and rather start doing right. Often the message of a prophet has to go and deliver his unwelcome message to are those in authority, or it could be a person he respects (like here), or to a nation or people.

So Samuel got up out of bed and opened up the temple doors, which was clearly one of his daily tasks. But he was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. Yes, that is the correct translation, he was frightened of this word.

The unwritten part of this is that Samuel had not yet shared it. He did his duty in the Temple but had not yet shared this thing with Eli. Now I don't think for a second that Samuel was going to disobey the Lord and not tell him, but I also think he was probably thinking about how to tell Eli - when and how, not if.

The problem is solved for us in the following passages

Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel,
my son. And he said, Here am I. And he said,
What is the thing that Jehovah hath spoken unto thee?
I pray thee, hide it not from me: God do so to thee,
and more also, if thou hide anything from me of
all the things that he spake unto thee.
(1 Samuel 3:16-17 - ASV)

Sometimes problems like the one Samuel had on how and when to tell Eli work themselves out. When God wants to get the message to someone, he will make a way. Remember, Samuel was very young and certainly had a lot of respect for Eli, so telling him would not only have been difficult emotionally, but he probably felt it would seriously overstep the bounds of their relationship. The problem was solved here, Eli specifically requested that the word be revealed to him.

And Samuel told him every whit,
and hid nothing from him. And he said,
It is Jehovah: let him do what seemeth him good.
(1 Samuel 3:18 - ASV)

Samuel was obedient and gave him the word of the Lord... all of it. Eli, having served the Lord for many long years submitted to God's will. This word was hardly a shock to him as he had already gotten a similar word before. This is a mark of a man of God, he submits to God's will. Remember Job (vs 1:21).

It is not an easy lesson. What happens if you get sick... cancer and the doctor tells you have about a year left... chemo is out of the question and there is nothing they can do? How are YOU going to react - not Samuel, not Job, not Daniel, not Moses... but YOU? This is a test. A major one. How are you going to react? Curse God? Try and 'get back' at him by withholding your service or your offerings? Throw a temper tantrum? How you react shows your level of spiritual maturity; if you are in infant, a child, an adolescent, young adult or full grown in Christ. Eli having served God long, submitted. He had his faults, clearly, But he was not going to rebel against the Lord.

And Samuel grew, and Jehovah was with him,
and did let none of his words fall to the ground.
And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew
that Samuel was established to be a prophet of Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 3:19  - ASV)

Samuel was being known as a prophet by all Israel. His words were well respected. The phrase 'fall to the ground' probably means were never useless of vain. Like an arrow, it always hit its mark and never just fell to earth. It may also mean that when he uttered a prophecy, it always came to pass.

It was clear that the years when they apparently had no prophet of the Lord in Israel around (see vs 3:1), they did now or would soon as Samuel came of age. The phrase Dan to Beersheeba represents the utter northern parts of Israel to the southern part.

And Jehovah appeared again in Shiloh;
for Jehovah revealed himself to Samuel
in Shiloh by the word of Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 3:21 - ASV)

The Lord once again appeared to Samuel by his word. Now I have long suspected that this passage may be referring to Christ. Why? Because the Lord spoke to Samuel by the Word of the Lord. Who is the word of the Lord?

 In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. 
The same was in the beginning with God. 
All things were made through him;
and without him was not anything
made that hath been made. 
In him was life; and the life
was the light of men.
(John 1:1-4 - ASV)

Take that view for what it is worth, but Christ, as we see above was (existed) back then and was fully part of the Godhead. It may have been he who delivered this message to Samuel.

Samuel is about to embark on some of the important tasks of his prophetic ministry in the following passages.

We will continue our look at Samuel, next week, God willing!!

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3 Nov

1 Samuel Part 9

In that day I will perform against Eli
all that I have spoken concerning his house,
from the beginning even unto the end.
For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever,
for the iniquity which he knew,
because his sons did bring a curse upon themselves,
 and he restrained them not.
(1 Samuel 3:12-13 - ASV)

We left off last week in the middle of the Lord's very first direct message to Samuel. It was a hard one and one he had to deliver to what was almost certainly his 'second father'. But deliver it he did (in upcoming passages) and I think passed a very important test for any true prophet and man of God (including the office of Pastor). That being delivering a hard message to people we like or perhaps are a bit afraid of. Being a prophet is one of the most difficult and thankless jobs God gives to his servants. But Samuel even before he was born was set upon the path of a life of dedicated service the the Lord.

Something of note in the above versus is that Eli knew of these things. So Eli knew what was going on and he did not put a stop to it, which was the responsibility of his God charged office. He failed and let considerable evil go on under him. The Lord marked it.

The Lord here tells Samuel of the word he has spoken against Eli and his house and it is indeed a fearsome judgment. Why do I say that... are not all judgments by the Lord, brother Mark? Yes they are, but some more so than others. What sets this apart are two phrases the Lord uses in the above passage. 

The first that he is going to Judge his house forever. The word forever (5769  in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary) should really make us sit up and take notice. This is an eternal judgment. This is not going to be forgiven. God was very angry.

I think it important to spend some time on this and the following passage. Just because God is not rebuking and chastising people on a daily basis does not mean he does not see great wickedness and sin. He see's it. God's patience with us is to give us space to repent, consider our ways and repent. What was going on in Eli's house had gone on for years, perhaps decades. God saw it all. He was neither blind nor impotent and believing so is the key mistake recalcitrant sinners make when they commit sin with impunity - knowing what they are doing is wrong and doing it anyway. Now what Eli's sons did was not only sinful, it was blasphemous and abominable. So this is no little sin in God's eyes. By their actions, they put the Lord and those who are in his service in considerable disrepute in the eyes of the people. The religion of the Lord was being connected in their minds with the very great wickedness of Eli's sons.

Then there is the fact that they were warned once before by the man of God in Chapter two. Nothing changed. So now the Lord repeated his warning. This may have been because of the eternal nature of God's judgment on the House of Eli.

My own view is that what they did was very much akin to or the same as the only unpardonable sin we have in the New Testament. It is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It too carries with it an eternal curse.

 Therefore I say unto you, Every sin and blasphemy
 shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy
against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.
 And whosoever shall speak a word against
the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him;
but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit,
 it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world,
nor in that which is to come.
(Matthew 12:31-32 - ASV)

Let us dispense with this notion of God being some eternal 'forgiveness machine'. He isn't. Forgiveness while freely granted to people who repent, is a divine privilege and offered to us because he loves us so. God will forgive - he wants to forgive our sins and have us walk in the light. But there are times and things that God will simply not forgive and these are two examples. A third? The mass rebellion of the angelic host against God eons ago. God has put no plan of salvation in place for them.

For if God spared not angels when they sinned,
but cast them down to hell, and committed
them to pits of darkness,
to be reserved unto judgment;
(2 Peter 2:4 - ASV)

Yes God's creatures man or Angel can go too far and put themselves on the list of the damned. Note I said they put themselves on that list by their actions, Eli's son's and these angels; their actions demanded a powerful punishment from the Lord. In each instance it is almost as though they were taunting God.

Why the harsh divine reaction? I cannot say for sure, but I strongly suspect because of examples. He wants to set an example to the future (men and angels) what some sins will mean and that if you think God will change his mind and forgive you a few years later so just go ahead and sin, you are pitifully mistaken. It's kind of like 'don't go down that road or you will be lost forever and God himself will make sure of it'.

I think such accursed people are treated so for our example so we don't make the same mistake and commit such abominations and presumptuous sins against the Most High God. If I had to put all of this in simply and bluntly I would say this - don't mess with God, his honor, his messengers or his Holy Spirit. Doing so is an act of spiritual suicide with eternal consequences.

Eli's sons messed with God's honor and probably his Holy Spirit and thus we see the kind of curse that falls on them.

And therefore
I have sworn unto the house of Eli,
that the iniquity of Eli's house
shall not be expiated with sacrifice n
or offering for ever.
(1 Samuel 3:14 - ASV)
Here the Lord reiterates the eternal nature of this judgment, lest there be any mistake or doubt about what the Lord is going to do. He is going to eternally curse Eli's house and there shall never be any forgiveness for it or them. No sacrifice, no offering shall cleanse his house of their crimes before the Lord.

Sacrilege - brothers, this is one way to get on God's eternal bad side. To profane his temple, his Spirit, his ways in a stubborn and blasphemous manner. This will buy a soul a one way ticket into hell fire.

This is what Eli's sons purchased with their actions, a one way, non-refundable, non-negotiable, non-disposable ticket into the flames of the Judgment of the living God.

I hate to talk on this negative subject, but these things in the Old Testament are put here for our examples. This example I think is meant particularly for men who are put into any kind of office or place within the Church. We would all do well to heed it be we Deacon, Priest, Bishop, Pastor or Prophet.

God is watching.

We will continue out look at this book next week, God willing!

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25 Oct

Hello World!

It has been a while since I have written anything here on the public page that was not straight Bible commentary.

I assure you all this site is still very busy with events of the day as they effect believers and biblical prophecy. Issues recently covered over the past few weeks?

- Various Items
- Biological Watch
- 1 Kings Part 4
- Persecution Watch
- China Watch
- 1 Kings Part 3
- Middle East Watch
- Health Watch
- 1 Kings Part 2
- Tech Watch
- Prophetic Update
- 1 Kings Introduction
- Law News
- Persecution, the SCO and Beyond

Each of these issues are covered from a practical, biblical and prophetic perspective. I realize the frustration many of you have with not being able to access much of this material. I really do. On some level I share it. On another, I have to do as I am bid by my God who has straightly charged me about sharing too much of my material on the public site.

Please understand I am not bragging or getting puffed up because frankly, I am not real wild about this ministry God has given me, but I will humbly and consistently obey the Lord. I have had many people tell me just how darn good my analysis is and this from people who have long worked in important positions. But as you all know this landed me on a hit list of some pretty powerful people in government. I admit I was somewhat disobedient in that God had been warning me about a few things; one thing in particular - that was sharing my analysis with the wrong people, bad people and evil people. So I had to come correct and do as God commanded. Splitting the site up like it is between public and private is the result of that gentle divine rebuke.

But as you all can see takedowns, censorship, and other less legal methods of censorship are being practiced with reckless abandon here in the so-called 'free nation' of America.

Before those of you who think that freedom (and a free press) is some bad word or that you can take away one man's freedom and not destroy your own, let me ask you a question and then give you the answer to it.

Q: What do you call a person who is not free?

A: A slave

In our times, truth is being censored so that false narratives and evil policies can be pushed forward by powerful forces in our world. This is true in Communist China as it is becoming true in America today. If you speak truth to power, they have a thousand and one ways to get you and get you they will unless God himself steps in and stops them. In case you were wondering, framing, false imprisonment and death are also forms of censorship. If you don't believe me, go and do a news search on what is happening to journalists in Mexico and how many have been killed. These brave men and women are not getting killed for traffic violations, or spitting on the pavement. They said or were going to say something someone did not want said, so censorship took the form of a hail of bullets.

But God made it clear to me a few years ago that the focus of the site would change... before it did. The Church has a big, big problem and it is not just the pitiful lack of discernment in the issues of the day, but just plain old Biblical knowledge. Basic Christian doctrine is being tossed out for the fluff of politics. A great many Christians (so-called) are just utterly Biblically ignorant. And poking around the web, I see that decent Biblical studies are not that easy to find. Some pastors have some decent and at times, excellent things. A few bloggers are doing right, but Biblical Christianity is dying because in far too many places, it just isn't being taught.

Now I am no teacher of Bible studies. I am just a blogger. But I have been a Bible and Bible Prophecy student for most of my adult life (with a several year lapse in my early adulthood). I know the scriptures well and what I don't know, I can easily find out. Moreover, I know I have sharp analytical and detail oriented mind. It is one of the gifts God has given me. I have gifts and each of you have them too. Some are natural and others are spiritual, but whatever your gifts have, you should develop and use them to God's good purposes. Now my God given and blessed brain works like this - I get the facts (not propaganda or emotional/political claptrap), I ferret them out and dissect them, I dispense with emotion and analyze those facts. Then and only then do I come to any conclusion - firm, tenuous or non-committal conclusion - I don't know or I am not sure is often a perfectly honest and legitimate result of detailed analysis. Additionally (I think this important too) I am unconcerned with the opinions of malicious detractors, the ill-informed, the brainwashed or my enemies. At times, I find such opinions mildly entertaining and I certainly don't spend any time worrying about them. It is this intellectual aloofness that helps one keep one's eyes on the facts and not let social, political or employment considerations dissuade one from pure intellectual and/or spiritual honesty - in short, TRUTH, a bad word in these days of incessant propaganda and systematic censorship.

Brothers and sisters, I think this is very important in these times because I am here to tell you that propaganda is so pervasive and so effective that I think in many cases in this once great nation, the condition is irreversible in a hundred million minds. Call it brainwashed beyond repair. These kinds of people don't want the truth or anything resembling it if it does not feel good or put money in their pockets. Thus falsehoods more and more prevail in our nation today.

Our Lord warned us of a time of enormous deception; a delusion of enormous power. The first step to falling for any delusion is thinking you can't be or haven't been fooled. The second is being willing to accept a comfortable lie in place of an uncomfortable truth. Once that happens, it all goes downhill from there.

You are going to make enemies when you know and seek after truth - hard truths and uncomfortable truths. On this I would say that a man is known by his friends and his enemies. There are some folks on this earth whose enmity is something I can wear proudly. That sounds like kind of a hostile attitude to take, but think about it. I don't want the devil as a friend. I would not want to party with Hitler, Goebbels and Goering. I don't want a buddy who is selling dope to kids. There are just some folks whose love and friendship I would find contemptible. As a Christian, I know that if the world loves me, I am doing something wrong. If the world thinks I am a wonderful person, then I have missed God somewhere along the way. If you serve God and are not attacked from time to time, you had better make sure you are walking the walk and not just talking the talk.

If ye were of the world,
the world would love its own:
but because ye are not of the world,
but I chose you out of the world,
therefore the world hateth you.
(John 15:19 - ASV)

We are going to be hated by all men one day for our faith in Christ (Mark 13:13). They are going to kill us quite, quite dead for our faith in Jesus. Stop trying to get around it and thinking it is only for those believers on far off lands. It is going to come here one day too.

But that is OK with me. God has something better for me in his Kingdom and I don't want to spend any more time down here with what humanity is rapidly becoming than my God has ordained and I am useful to him. I am not going to trade eternity with a God who really loves me for another year or two dealing with some of the nut jobs running this freak show called earth.

So God wanted me to shift focus for the public site. I don't want to sound insulting (truly) but from here on, it is milk and mush on the public page and meat and bread for the private as it is a very small group of older people who have walked the walk, got the scars and are never going to look back. They will pray. They can get past the fake news, false narratives and get some background on the issues of the day that many in power will take great pains to keep out of the public consciousness. This group will pray wisely rather than doing so amiss (James 4:3). This is important because these are days when popular narratives are often constructed to demonize our friends and praise our enemies and the average person (and Christian) simply has no clue because no context and no deeper background is given them... and God help anyone who tries to provide it!

I think I said this a few years ago, but it bears repeating. God was adamant that I no longer cast peals before the swine. At first I took the passage of scripture as a suggestion, then I realized it was a commandment and the threat of the swine I was trying to help turning on me was not an idle one (Matthew 7:6).

The internet is changing and frankly I had to change with it. America is changing and I had to make adjustments for her continuing spiritual descent.

Finally, some of you wonder why I have kept this site so basic looking. No cool looking menu's, no big databases, no beautiful pictures... just basic text. I will tell you and you other bloggers out there, take note.

I do this because this site has in the past been under various levels and kinds of cyberattack. I won't get into the methods only to say that now, I have kept this site as basic as I possibly can and keep it functional. Complex scripts, massive databases, easy to use content management systems? They can be very, very useful, but with some there are always those vulnerabilities that creep in or perhaps in some cases, are designed with. As this site is a one man show, I just don't have time to deal with a lot of tech issues. Having had to deal with such issues in the past and knowing how time consuming they can be (depending on the issue), I just would rather not deal with them. So this site has adhered to the KISS principle in site management. Simple - dead simple is much harder to hack and mess with. Not impossible, never impossible, just far less of an attack surface to exploit.

Look, I have been blogging over 20 years and have a lot of experience that ONLY comes from running your own site for a long, long time - on my own with no staff (none).

I will close by saying this to my brethren in Christ Jesus.

You should consider carefully how you and who you interact with online, particularly the tech services you use. Do you know one of the ways people get into trouble that you often don't hear about? I will tell you - blackmail and extortion.

Do you know who the tech company you do business with is sharing data with? If you have an important job and are trusting a major firm with your emails, texts, pictures and other personal data, I can only say this - in some instances you don't know (exactly) who many of these companies are sharing data with because they don't tell you.

Read the stories about how some countries hostile to the US are getting US citizens of their ethnic origin to go to work for them while working in the US or tell them to come back home. They often are not shy about warning them of their family members back home suffering horribly if they don't comply.

So I ask you all to be careful. A deer in the headlines is just two moving headlamps away from becoming roadkill. So please do not become roadkill and think twice before you venture across the 'digital highway'.

This is a brutal world and brutal people use the internet too. Keep that in mind while you surf, share and interact online.

God bless and keep all of you who love our Lord and serve him in Spirit and in Truth and may you each walk in love, peace and joy in Christ.

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20 Oct

1 Samuel Part 8

And the child Samuel ministered unto Jehovah before Eli.
And the word of Jehovah was precious in those days;
 there was no frequent vision.
(1 Samuel 3:1 - ASV)

Now we leave off the coming judgment of Eli's house and deal with the young child, Samuel and his call. Samuel was growing up and was learning the ways of the Lord. Again this is in total contrast to Eli's son's. Clearly the Lord had not lost confidence in Eli as he allowed this special child to be instructed by him. This says a lot about Eli. He made some dreadful errors of judgment with his sons. Nevertheless, he was an upright man and clearly was a man who did the will of the Lord. Commentators think Samuel was about 12 years old at this time and was able to do many of the basic functions of servant in the temple.

Then the author notes an important aspect of those times. The word of God was precious (rare), it was not heard much at all. Prophets must have been very scarce and the fact that the man of God who came and spoke to Eli before had no lineage, name or any other reference to who he was, is noteworthy. In short, there were hardly any prophets. The phrase no open vision probably means no vision that was published or promulgated at large. In short, there were no generally recognized prophets whose word was spread about and was trusted. Why this was is not clear from the passage, but was probably due to a general decline in the religion of the Lord.

The verse seems quite anticipatory of God getting ready to make a change to that situation. That there may not be a prophet around now, but Samuel's call was designed to solve this problem.
And it came to pass at that time,
when Eli was laid down in his place
(now his eyes had begun to wax dim,
 so that he could not see),
and the lamp of God was not yet gone out,
and Samuel was laid down to sleep,
in the temple of Jehovah,
where the ark of God was;
(1 Samuel 3:2-3 - ASV)

This passage is pretty self explanatory. Eli was going or was completely blind. He was getting ready for bed. The Lamp of God is something the Lord had commanded in his temple in the book of Exodus (27:20) that it should always be burning. Samuel was also in bed. This helps us to better understand the exchange that is to come. Eli is asleep in his place and cannot see anymore. Samuel is in another part of the Temple dozing off and suddenly he hears someone calling him. Since Eli was infirm this was probably a regular occurrence. When Eli needed something, it was probably usual for him to call on Samuel for assistance.
that Jehovah called Samuel;
and he said, Here am I.
(1 Samuel 3:4 - ASV)

Samuel gets his first call from the Lord. Clearly he did not know the Lord yet. He knew his ways and was taught of Eli but he did not have any personal relationship with the Lord yet. Samuel answers, but not to the Lord...

And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I;
for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not;
lie down again. And he went and lay down.
(1 Samuel 3:5 - ASV)

Samuel thought it was Eli who was calling him so he came running to him only to find out it was not him.

And Jehovah called yet again, Samuel.
 And Samuel arose and went to Eli,
and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me.
And he answered, I called not,
my son; lie down again. Now Samuel did not
yet know Jehovah, neither was the word of Jehovah
 yet revealed unto him.
(1Samuel 3:6-7 - ASV)

This happened yet again and here we see why there was confusion, he did not know the voice of his God... yet.

And Jehovah called Samuel again the third time.
And he arose and went to Eli, and said,
Here am I; for thou calledst me.
And Eli perceived that Jehovah had called the child.
Therefore Eli said unto Samuel,
Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee,
 that thou shalt say, Speak, Jehovah;
for thy servant heareth.
So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
(1 Samuel 3:8-9 - ASV)

Eli after three occasions finally figures out that the Lord was calling Samuel and told the boy what he should do and how he was to respond.

And Jehovah came, and stood,
and called as at other times, Samuel,
 Samuel. Then Samuel said, Speak;
for thy servant heareth.
And Jehovah said to Samuel,

Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both
 the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle.
 In that day I will perform against Eli all that
I have spoken concerning his house,
from the beginning even unto the end.
(1 Samuel 3:10-12 - ASV)

So this time, Samuel knows what to do. Now what is interesting is that the ASV says the Lord stood and called. The word stood is probably better rendered presented himself or perhaps revealed for if the Lord had come and actually stood before Samuel in previous occasions, he would hardly have needed to go and run to Eli about what he wanted. The word in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary is 3320. Samuel follows Eli's instructions and then proceeds to hear the word of the Lord.

This had to be a hard word for Samuel, for Eli was like a second father to him. He taught him everything he knew about the Lord and how to care for the Temple. Yet his very first word from God is a pronouncement against him. Now this is a 12 year old boy and the Lord is going to use him but in so doing he is going to test him. Will he like Eli, prefer human relationships to his divine responsibility? This is what Eli did. Will Samuel make the same mistake?

The word is a harsh one. It was mostly a confirmatory prophecy of what the Man of God had already pronounced against Eli's house (1Samuel 2:27). Clearly nothing had really changed and consequently, the word was going to be fulfilled, from beginning to end. What God is going to do is going to make people sit up and really take notice. The phrase God uses is to make their ears tingle. The word means to rattle or to make the ears red with shame or as with teeth to make them chatter with fear. The Lord here is making it plain that what what he proposes to do will be no little thing.

We will get to the rest of God's first word to Samuel in the next section, next week, God willing!!

13 Oct

1 Samuel Part 7

But Samuel ministered before Jehovah,
being a child, girded with a linen ephod.
Moreover his mother made him a little robe,
and brought it to him from year to year,
when she came up with her husband to offer
the yearly sacrifice.
(1 Samuel 2:18-19 - ASV)

Here the behavior of Samuel is contrasted to Eli's wicked sons. This young child was already wearing the Ephod worn by Priests. This was probably a kind of girdle that covered the shoulders that was used by certain members of the Priesthood, particularly the High Priest. This was most unusual to have a child wear it, but shows that Eli was not going to go against the Lord's will who performed such a miracle for Hannah and who had dedicated this child to the Lord. This child would be brought up correctly and in such a way that clearly signified a life of dedicated service to the Lord. It is noteworthy that it was Hannah's faith and prayer that brought this all about and because of the mothers faith in God that Samuel came to be. How many powerful men of God owe their ministries and godliness much to godly mothers who trained them up in the ways of the Lord from an early age? We have to remember this as well, that Samuel could not perform these functions in the Temple were he not born into the Tribe of Levi (see 1 Chronicles 6:1-27).
Moreover his mother made him a little robe,
and brought it to him from year to year,
when she came up with her husband
to offer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli blessed Elkanah
 and his wife, and said, Jehovah give thee seed
of this woman for the petition which was asked of Jehovah.
 And they went unto their own home.
(1 Samuel 2:19-20 - ASV)

Here we see the mothers continuing love and influence over Samuel. The word robe here is one that is like a long tunic, perhaps like one worn by kings or prophets. From this, we can surmise that something special was expected of Samuel and service to God. This expectation was due to much more than ordinary motherly hopes; she knew it was the Lord who provided this child and she could not have been unaware that dedicating a person as a Nazarite for life was not only unusual, it was exceptional.

As we can note from the passage, Hannah and her Husband remained faithful to the Lord and kept his sacrifice. Something here that I note is that Hannah did not go back on her promise to the Lord. She kept it. She could have, after a few years passed thought twice about her promise and begun to prevaricate and even doubt it was the Lord who did this thing for her as the enemy so often does with us, "...yeah, hath God said?" or "God didn't do that for you! That was just luck or fate or providence!" How many souls have gone astray after the Lord did many miracles for them after heeding the hissings of the serpent in their ears! How many blessings have been lost by taking the devil's advice and forgetting the things God has done for us! Too many. Hannah and her husband were not that way. Yet Hannah may have now wanted a child to rear and be in the home with her, but this she did not have as her child was ministering in the Temple.

Eli, the High Priest gave them both a blessing because of her faith in God. It was faith and obedience (keeping her word to the Lord) that got her this blessing from the Lord. Do you want a blessing from the Lord? Two things are essential, faith and obedience.

And Jehovah visited Hannah, and she conceived,
and bare three sons and two daughters.
And the child Samuel grew before Jehovah.
1 Samuel 2:21 - ASV)

God continued to bless Hannah and if she wanted children around the house to raise, she got her request. She who was once barren and wept to the Lord about it now has a house full of children! See how the Lord does those who come before him humbly in faith and trusts fully in him!

Now Eli was very old; and he heard
all that his sons did unto all Israel,
and how that they lay with the women
that did service at the door
of the tent of meeting.
1 Samuel 2:22 - ASV)

Eli was getting up there in age, some commentators figure he was about 90 when the events described happened. He was probably having a very hard time overseeing things in the Temple and taking care of day to day affairs because of his age. Eli was probably relying in his sons to take over things when he got old, but this simply was not possible, not with their wicked behavior. They had turned the Temple of the Lord into a brothel!! The women referenced here may have been spinners, weavers or those who did washing who worked adjacent to and in conjunction with the Temple and its affairs. But frankly, we cannot know for sure, but it does appear that Anna (from the NT - Luke 2:37) was one of these women. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary thinks they were some kind of ascetic or holy order of women who ministered outside of it. The Book of Exodus speaks of such women (Exodus 38:8).

This is a tragic affair and it is sad that Eli's rebuke or even discovery of this did not occur earlier. These two men had done enormous damage to the reputation of the Lord and his Temple with their behavior. It is not improbable that these two men got their examples from some of the foreign gods that were en vogue in the region at the time, like Ashtoreth. The worship of these foreign gods was nothing new, it was an issue Moses had to deal with during the Exodus and the practices of the priests of these gods were probably not unknown to Eli's sons.

And he said unto them, Why do ye such things?
for I hear of your evil dealings from all this people.
Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear:
 ye make Jehovah's people to transgress.
If one man sin against another, God shall judge him;
 but if a man sin against Jehovah,
who shall entreat for him?
Notwithstanding, they hearkened
not unto the voice of their father,
because Jehovah was minded
to slay them.
1 Samuel 2:23-25 - ASV)

Eli clearly had a soft spot for his sons. But here he rebukes them for the things he has heard. What is unclear is weather or not he was just now hearing about these things when he was old, or weather he had heard such things in the past and did not mark them. I suspect that he probably heard of these things and did nothing or very little, but now they probably had grown more brazen, knowing that dad would be gone before too long. He appeals to them rather than sternly rebuking them. He says that their job was to intercede for those who sin, how can this happen when they behaved the way they did? How can God forgive and help his people when the Priests are steeped in wickedness? This is the gist of his argument. Clearly they were not going to listen to dad; that old fuddy-duddy who was clearly 'behind the times'. Nope, they were going to return to the tabernacle and get them some more 'sweet stuff' from the women in the spinners tent!

Oh the recalcitrant heart, the hard heart and mind that will not repent! They get locked into sin and abominations and will not let go of it. This was the case here. Here were men who were supposed be of God and doing his work and look at their activities!

Well, as we see in the last passage, the Lord see's it all. He is not unmindful of the wickedness of men, not of men who make no religious profession, not of those who serve him or of those who claim to. He see's it all and we make a horrible error when we think the actions of such people will not require a most severe recompense from the Lord.

This appears to be one of those divine 'hardening of the hearts' that come upon some whom the Lord has made up his mind to deal with. Remember Pharaoh and the way he behaved? Both have gotten the Lord pretty angry and as such, he had already made up his mind what he is going to do. He is going to deal with these two men in a way they will not live long enough to profit from, he is going to slay them!

This is a side of God's character that is lost on many of the west's Christians. They don't know this side of God's character. Listening to some of these preachers you get the impression that God is some eternal wish granter ... just rub your Jesus lamp and he will grant your wishes, or is merely the 'forgiveness rubber stamp' - commit any sin you want, he will forgive you. They seem to think that he has no unique personality of his own. They don't seem to realize that God has called us to know him and his ways... all of them, not just the love and forgiveness side of him, but the other side as well. How did the Apostle describe our God?

for our God is a consuming fire.
(Hebrews 12:29 - ASV)

This is a rather frightening characterization of God, but it is apt. It is this holy and fierce side of God's character that is missing in NT believers because they are usually only taught the love and grace side of his character. There is another side to God and the passage above gives us a strong hint that it is a no nonsense side to his makeup and a you had better pay attention to it, part of God. He was going to take both of the sons of Eli 'out', he was just that angry.

I am always reminded of the incident of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts. That incident alone should show us all that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New. Sacrilege, blasphemy, attacking God's people will win a person a one way ticket to death and hell fire. I hate to talk so hard about these things, but God is not joking about hell. He is going to send the fallen host of angels there; those angels (this is who it was created for; see Matthew 25:41) who rebelled and brought so much pain, suffering and destruction to creation as well as every man and woman there who refuses to repent and continues on in their sins and abominations to that place... guaranteed. That unrepentant habitual liar, that murderer, that rapist, that fraudster, that blasphemer... well, let me tell you, God has not forgotten about you. No sir. Such are very much on his 'to do' list. Eli's son's were about to face the God they mocked with their behavior in a most unpleasant fashion. Hophni and Phinehas did not know it yet, but they were dead priests walking.

And the child Samuel grew on,
and increased in favor both with Jehovah,
and also with men.
Samuel 2:26 - ASV)

Clearly the author here wants to contrast the lives and behavior of Samuel, with Eli's sons. God clearly had his hand on Samuel's life.

In closing this section today on this book, I think it wise to point out this important fact. None of us is indispensable in God's work. When ministers begin to fail and don't do right, God can and will raise up someone who will. We see this here. The Lord knew about Eli's sons even if Eli did not, or pretended not to. God saw it and made other arrangements for the office of High Priest. He was not going let Eli's son's run his Temple - they would probably expand its use as a whore house.

So we see that Hannah's barrenness was a part of God's purpose. To get her to come to him and request a son whom God would use to get his temple back in line. God knew Hannah and her husband were godly people and could be trusted to do his will. Hannah could not have known this when she was in distress, she just knew she was being mocked for being barren. God often uses our afflictions for reasons we have no idea about and may never know this side of heaven. This is why we should mark Hannah and how she dealt with her problem which had no human solution - she came to the Lord in sincere prayer.

We will continue our look at this book again Next week, God willing!!

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3 Oct

1 Samuel Part 6

Jehovah maketh poor, and maketh rich:
He bringeth low, he also lifteth up.
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust,
 He lifteth up the needy from the dunghill,
To make them sit with princes,
And inherit the throne of glory:
For the pillars of the earth are Jehovah's,
 And he hath set the world upon them.
(1Samuel 2:7-8 - ASV)

We continue our look at the book of 1 Samuel with Hannah continuing to glorify God and his power and righteousness in her prayer. God has the power to bring low, and lift up, make great and humble. It is in God's power and fully within his divine prerogative to put a a man on a throne or in a homeless shelter, should he choose to do so. Look at David, who would one day be anointed by Samuel, whom Hannah bore. David was a lowly shepherd and God put him as King over his people. God can protect and he can destroy; help or hinder; bless or curse. In this prayer Hannah, having received from God her humble request acknowledges this about the Lord.

Yes, God can put a man low or lift a man out of the dungheap. Look at what he did to Job. He was rich, became poor and then was made rich again. God was in it all.

 He will keep the feet of his holy ones;
 But the wicked shall be put to silence in darkness;
For by strength shall no man prevail. 
They that strive with Jehovah shall
be broken to pieces; Against them will
he thunder in heaven: Jehovah will
judge the ends of the earth;
And he will give strength unto his king,
And exalt the horn of his anointed.
(I Samuel 2:9-10 - ASV)

Yes, Hannah clearly knew her God. This is amazing in many ways because remember, there were no Bible texts for ordinary people to read in those days. The Holy books were kept by the Priests. There was no 'Bible Store' to go and buy the law nor internet to download it. Yet and still from the preaching and sermons she had heard and her own experiences, she knew the Lord, his power and his glory.

She knew that to strive against the Lord is utter folly. Paul learned this when he was asked if it was wise to kick against the goads (Acts 26:14). He was fighting God's power in those days. A man who fights against God and his purpose has lost before he even begins. The final stanza acknowledges God's power in judgment and that God will give strength to his king. This is a most interesting passage and one that is powerfully prophetic. Why? Because at the time she prayed this prayer, there was no King in Israel and no anointed one who reigned. The word Anointed is the same one we use for Messiah (4899 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary).

Yes, brothers God does keep the feet of his saints. He watches over them and guides them. How did the prophet Isiah put it?

and thine ears shall hear
a word behind thee, saying,

This is the way, walk ye in it;
when ye turn to the right hand,
and when ye turn to the left.
(Isaiah 30:21 - ASV)

Brothers, let those of you who seek, honor and obey the Lord know that he knows who you are and your situations. He will guide you in his way and in due time. Hannah learned this as she had to wait for a child, but what a child she had and what a blessing that child was to Israel!!

And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house.
And the child did minister unto Jehovah
before Eli the priest.
(I Samuel 2:11 - ASV)

This prayer obviously took place at Shiloh and Elkanah's wives probably went with him. The passages indicates that at some point in time, Samuel was left at least partially in the care of Eli, who let the child minister in the Temple. His tasks probably were probably commensurate with his age and abilities, he may have lit the candles or did other menial tasks in the Temple. Clearly he was to learn the ways of the Priesthood from a very early age and he had Eli, the High Priest as his teacher. We can see why Samuel was later in life, such a mighty man of God. Blessed are the parents who raise up a child in the ways of the Lord. Even if they one day depart from him in early adulthood, they often come back later in life.

Now the sons of Eli were base men;
they knew not Jehovah.
(I Samuel 2:12 - ASV)

Now the scriptures give a bit of contrast which will become clear later. Eli's sons were base men. The KJV translates it more accurately as sons of Belial. It means worthless or wicked person. Their names were Hophni and Phinehas. I think if we had to find a word that is in our common vernacular to describe them we would probably call them 'scumbags'. They did not know God and had no regard for him or his ways.
And the custom of the priests with the people was,
that, when any man offered sacrifice,
the priest's servant came, while the flesh was boiling,
with a flesh-hook of three teeth in his hand;
and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot;
all that the flesh-hook brought up the priest took therewith.
 So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.
Yea, before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came,
 and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh
to roast for the priest; for he will not have boiled
flesh of thee, but raw. And if the man said unto him,
They will surely burn the fat first,
and then take as much as thy soul desireth;
then he would say, Nay, but thou shalt give it me now:
and if not, I will take it by force.
And the sin of the young men
was very great before Jehovah;
for the men despised
the offering of Jehovah.
(1Samuel 2:13-17 - ASV)

What this was was rank rebellion against the commandments of the Law which gave instructions on how this was to be done (Leviticus 7:31-35; 7:23-25). In this kind of thing one gets the impression that they not only did not regard the Lord, but openly scorned him.

But the effect on the people was very significant. People despised the offering of the Lord for this very reason. How many times have people been turned off from Christianity in our times by pastors who live like kings, while taking money from the humble and the poor? This does indeed turn many people off from religion in general and Christianity in particular. What this does is give the enemy an opportunity to disparage Christ, his followers and the gospel message. It opens up God to blasphemous remarks by reason of those who claim to represent him. How many souls would have come to God if it were not for many of the 'serpents in the pulpit' that have existed in Christianity.

Brothers, there is a powerful lesson here for those who serve God in any capacity. Weather it be from the pulpit or the pew, we must honor God in what we do and what we have and what we give. The people here were willing to give their offering to the Lord, but when they saw how those who represented him were acting, they held it in disrepute.

Men can only rebel against God for so long. He will only bear with the sins of Church leadership and laity for so long. We must not take God's forbearance for granted. Provoking God to anger is a most unwise thing to do. This is exactly what these to men were doing.

  Where your fathers tried me by proving me ,
 And saw my works forty years. 
Wherefore I was displeased with this generation,
And said, They do always err in their heart:
But they did not know my ways; 
As I sware in my wrath,
They shall not enter into my rest.
(Hebrews 3:9-11 - ASV)

These men tried God just as the ancient Israelite's did. How do you think our God feels about some of the things going on in the Church today? Brothers I think he has or is in the process of forsaking a great many of them. He does not want to be associated with many of them in any possible way. I want to digress here just for a moment because I think it important.

That God would not let the rebels in the days of Moses enter his rest is very significant. In the times of Samuel, it was at Shiloh that the Ark was kept. Shiloh also means a place of rest or tranquil. This was where Eli ministered as well as his sons committed their abominations.

Yes, brothers God set his ark there, but those who were put in charge of it and ministering to God and his people sorely displeased him. The prophet Jeremiah warns the people what happened to Shiloh and what would happen to them if they did not repent.

But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh,
where I caused my name to dwell at the first,
and see what I did to it for the wickedness
of my people Israel. And now,
because ye have done all these works,
saith Jehovah, and I spake unto you,
rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not;
and I called you, but ye answered not:
therefore will I do unto the house which
is called by my name, wherein ye trust,
and unto the place which I gave to you
and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.
And I will cast you out of my sight,
as I have cast out all your brethren,
even the whole seed of Ephraim.
(Jeremiah 7:12-15 - ASV)

Jeremiah uses the fate of Shiloh to describe what will happen to his generation. The kinds of sins that these men committed - they are not forgotten by the Lord. He see's the things going on in the Church and with her ministers.

But he also knows that none of his ministers is perfect. Let us be wise and discern though in our times when we see men of God 'fall'. I have seen many times people who are accused of various crimes and sins and know that the enemy has targeted them for destruction sometimes by evil elements operating in government or by other enemies of the gospel. Sometimes their sins are real, other times they are set ups or clearly exaggerated. But some ministers are honorable enough to step back and rather than let the Gospel be mocked, they decide it is better not to let a demonically inspired controversy undermine God's purpose. Today, the devil and his ministers live to set up minsters for sexual sins and other things that make a negative splash in the headlines. Hell's ministers cackle with glee when this happens. This is one reason I don't like to post those 'scandal' stories that are often found on the web.

Sometimes the scandals we hear are real, others are not.

Yet what these men did was real and there was no excuse. The result? God eventually disassociated himself from Shiloh. I wonder what he is going to do with modern day Laodicea? Perhaps spew it out of his mouth/vomit it up - (Revelation 3:16)? If he did these things to Israel, the natural branch, what in the world do you think he will do with the wild olive shoot (gentiles - see Romans 11:20ff)) whom he has graciously allowed onto the tree of salvation?

What these two priests did was a deep affront to God and I don't think it requires further comment.

We will pick up this commentary next week, God willing!

Blessing to you all in Christ!!

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20 Sept

1 Samuel Part 5

And Elkanah her husband said unto her,
Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him;
only Jehovah establish his word. So the woman tarried
and gave her son suck, until she weaned him.
(1 Samuel 1:23 - ASV)

Elkanah was not going to argue with his wife over this and seems to have deferred this matter into her keeping. Clearly Elkanah saw that the hand of the Lord was in this. For now, he had a male heir by the woman he clearly preferred. So Elkanah went up to offer sacrifice and to give thanks to the Lord. Elkanah, we can see was a man of faith in God. In times of what was certainly increasingly religious depredations (as we shall see) and apostasy, Elkanah kept faith with his God and did not wickedly depart from him. He wants God to establish this miracle that has come about, '...only Jehovah establish his word'.

And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her,
with three bullocks, and one ephah of meal, and a bottle of wine,
 and brought him unto the house of Jehovah in Shiloh: and the child was young.
And they slew the bullock, and brought the child to Eli.
(1 Samuel 1:24-25 - ASV)

This was a woman, yes even household that kept their word. Particularly to the Lord. This is something I have always striven to do. Be a man of my word. It's a rare thing these days. People, particularly Americans are so flippant about their word, so nonchalant they rarely keep it. My rule of thumb has been this - if someone in these troubled times promises to do something, expect him to do the exact opposite. This rule of thumb naturally does not always work, but it does often enough that I tend to remember it when someone makes a commitment to me. How did the Psalmist put it?

Lead me, O Jehovah,
in thy righteousness because of mine enemies;
Make thy way straight before my face.
For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;
Their inward part is very wickedness;
Their throat is an open sepulchre;
They flatter with their tongue.
(Psalms 5:8-9 - ASV)

That has been my experience. It was one of those things that foreigners I knew have noted and made very plain to me when I lived overseas when they were commenting on my countrymen. Keeping one's word says volumes about a man's character. The fact that Hannah did not lie before the Lord and was determined to fulfill the thing she promised shows a woman of character - character so lacking in our modern world. Hannah was not waiting around, procrastinating and making excuses to fulfill her word. She got right to it.

The fact that she brought three bullocks is probably significant. Some commentators think three were used because only two were required for the annual offering and the third would have been a special thank offering. Others think one was for a burnt offering, one for the vow and the other a peace offering.

The key is that she did as she had vowed and went up to Shiloh and brought with her the sacrifice and the child for dedication. They offered it up and then presented the child to the High Priest, Eli.

Blessed is the man who keeps is word to the Lord. Vows are forbidden to us Christians, but keeping one's word is not. To do otherwise is to be false.

But in so keeping her word, she not only got herself a son that she so desired, but also one of Israel's greatest men of God, Prophet and Judge who was to guide Israel through some difficult and rapidly changing times.

And she said, Oh, my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord,
 I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto Jehovah.
For this child I prayed; and Jehovah hath given me my petition
which I asked of him: therefore also I have granted him to Jehovah;
as long as he liveth he is granted to Jehovah.
And he worshipped Jehovah there.
(1 Samuel 1:26-28 - ASV)

As Hannah brings the child before Eli, she has to remind him of the incident that her presence in the tabernacle has brought about. Who the 'he' (1931 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary) is in verse 28 is not clear (who worshiped). We do not know for certain that Elkanah was with Hannah when this occurred, but he may have been. So the 'he' could refereed to either Elkanah or Eli, who thanked the Lord for hearing her and his prayer. Remember Eli also requested God do this thing for her (1:17).

Here Hannah lifts up her voice in praise and prayer to the Lord.

And Hannah prayed, and said:
My heart exulteth in Jehovah;
My horn is exalted in Jehovah;
 My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies;
Because I rejoice in thy salvation.
There is none holy as Jehovah;
For there is none besides thee,
Neither is there any rock like our God.
(1 Samuel 2:1-2 - ASV)

Hannah gives thanks to the Lord for what he has done for her. She was clearly very happy that the Lord had taken away her shame and given her this gift she so very much desired. In this she was enlarged over those who scorned her; those who were her enemies. This is one of those uncommon Psalms/prayers that are recorded that were made by women (think Miriam, Deborah and Mary).

This is as much a Psalm of thanksgiving as it is one of praise and prophecy. Clearly Hannah knew God and had put her faith fully in him. In that he has done this miracle for her, she lifts up her horn and voice in praise to his name and his ways. In times of growing religious apostasy, she acknowledges that only the Lord, he is God.

Talk no more so exceeding proudly;
Let not arrogancy come out of your mouth;
For Jehovah is a God of knowledge,
And by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty men are broken;
And they that stumbled are girded with strength.
(1 Samuel 2:3-4 - ASV)

Hannah knew humble circumstances and what it meant to be mocked and laughed at. She also knew that it was folly to be proud and arrogant when God sits on high. Hannah could not have forgotten the verbal stings and harsh words spoken about her to her face and behind her back because of her barrenness. They spoke in pride and arrogance against a humble daughter of the Lord who put her trust in him.

God knows how to raise up the humble and abase the proud, let the arrogant man beware!! God can break the bows (arms) of the mighty. This is a word for anyone, anywhere who puts his faith in arms of warfare of any kind or in his money bags. God can and often does break them and cause those who think they are strong to stumble and fall.

I cannot begin to tell you how the Lord looks out for me! I stand today only because of the power and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! God has protected me in this very humble ministry and kept me by his power ALONE! So I know how Hannah feels - I give thanks always for his grace, love and power to protect his saints from the power of their enemies, both temporal and spiritual!

When was the last time you thanked the Lord for the times he saved you and protected you from your enemies?

They that were full have hired out themselves for bread;
And they that were hungry have ceased to hunger:
Yea, the barren hath borne seven;
And she that hath many children languisheth.
Jehovah killeth, and maketh alive:
He bringeth down to Sheol, and bringeth up.
(1 Samuel 2:5-6 - ASV)

Hannah here acknowledges that God can raise up and humble, strengthen and even humiliate the proud. There are those who once 'had it all' and now had to work for others just for sustenance. The barren woman who had to bare shame all of her life, she can bare children - remember Sarah!

God knows how to bring the proud and arrogant low, brothers and sisters... don't you even worry about it!! He can take that loud mouthed, blowhard who has been mocking and castigating you and put his mocking behind in a homeless camp, should he so choose. How did Hannah prevail? She put her trust in the Lord. That is how you and I prevail when our enemies rise against us. God will vindicate our trust in and obedience to him, in his way and in his time and to his Glory!

We will continue Hannah's prayer of thanksgiving next week, God willing.

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13 Sept

1 Samuel Part 4

And Hannah answered and said,
No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit:
I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink,
but I poured out my soul before Jehovah.
Count not thy handmaid for a wicked woman;
for out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation
 have I spoken hitherto.
(1 Samuel 1:15-16 - ASV)

Eli's accusation at Hannah was incorrect. He made an assumption he should not have and impugned her character with his words. Eli, who was acting as High Priest, his words clearly troubled Hannah. So she, with great respect towards his office, explains her problem and corrects his assumption that her presence in the Temple derived from lingering at the wine cask.

She also did not want to be reckoned with the daughters of Belial. The reference to Belial (wicked woman) is that to a reckless, worthless and wicked person. It is not impossible that Eli thought she might have been a hooker who may have come into the temple or stood without from time to time. This problem will be described later (1Samuel 2:22). So Eli's original thought was probably based on previous experiences with women who wandered in drunken looking for business. No, not this time. The Law and religious life at this time was probably not being practiced by many or even most Israelite's at the time. So Eli's assumption while wrong, was probably not unfounded when based on such experiences.

Hannah had come into the temple of a broken heart and to earnestly seek the Lord about her problem.

Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace;
and the God of Israel grant thy petition
that thou hast asked of him.
(1 Samuel 1:17 - ASV)

Eli answers her kindly and accepts her gentle corrective rebuke. Again, this was probably not a common thing for such a woman to come into the temple as Hannah did, wholly to seek the Lord and place a supplication before him. So Eli blesses her and hopes that God will hear her prayer. It is not clear if his words were merely a blessing or a prophecy.

And she said, Let thy handmaid find favor in thy sight.
So the woman went her way, and did eat;
and her countenance was no more sad.
(1 Samuel 1:18 - ASV)

Having found favor with Eli, she hopes that it will continue. She was clearly encouraged by her prayer and the kind words spoken by the High Priest. Oh what a good and kind word of encouragement can bring, particularly when spoken by an anointed man of God!! Hannah was indeed encouraged.

And they rose up in the morning early,
and worshipped before Jehovah, and returned,
and came to their house to Ramah:
and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife;
and Jehovah remembered her;
(1 Samuel 1:19 - ASV)

Let's remember that the whole purpose of them being in Shiloh was to go up to worship the Lord (1Samuel 1:3). So they arose that morning, worshiped the Lord and then went back home. Today, we don't talk much about these kind of pilgrimages. The Christians in earlier ages did perform them.

So husband and wife slept together and God indeed did hear Hannah's prayer.

and it came to pass, when the time was come about,
that Hannah conceived, and bare a son;
and she called his name Samuel,
saying, Because I have asked him of Jehovah.
(1 Samuel 1:20 - ASV)

Yes, the Lord hears the prayers of the humble soul who puts his faith in him. Yes, he does. I cannot tell you the times God has heard my prayers. Indeed, I got an answer to one of mine (prayed with the group of insiders) on the day I wrote this (which was back in late 2019).

Well, back to Samuel...

The name itself means 'heard of God'; Shema El (8085, 410 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary). Hannah clearly did remember from whom this blessing came and named her son accordingly. Unlike so many who get something from the Lord, Hannah did not forget her prayer nor her promise to God.

And the man Elkanah, and all his house,
went up to offer unto Jehovah the yearly sacrifice,
and his vow. But Hannah went not up;
for she said unto her husband,
I will not go up until the child be weaned;
and then I will bring him,
that he may appear before Jehovah,
and there abide for ever.
(1 Samuel 1:21-22 - ASV)

In the following year after the Lord heard Hannah's prayer, the annual pilgrimage to Shiloh was to be made. Clearly this was a pious house. But Hannah did not go by reason of the infant. The last phrase in verse 21 'and his vow' is not clear. There is no mention of any vow regarding the child in the narrative made by Elkanah. But this may refer to the law on women and vows found in the book of Numbers 30:3ff. Thus, the vow to the Lord may have been obligatory on the husband. I confess I am no expert on these nuances in the Mosaic Law and make no claim to be. But my cursory reading of the passage is that if the husband did not repudiate the vow or remains silent regarding it, he is bound by it. 

Hannah's unwillingness to go to Shiloh was not excuse making. Her intention was to take him later and dedicate him there to the Lord and there he should always serve the Lord.

We will continue our look at this wonderful book as God wills.

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6 Sept

1 Samuel Part 3

And her rival provoked her sore,
 to make her fret, because Jehovah had shut up her womb.
And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of Jehovah,
so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
(1 Samuel 1:6-7 - ASV)

This is the result of Polygamy. There is always going to be enmity. John Gill (1697-1771) in his exposition of the Bible notes that this was the same thing that happened to Socrates, who also had two wives. So here, the barren wife was always being provoked by the wife who could bear children. This provocation seems to be more than just a few snide remarks, but the words used here seem to indicate that she was loud and boisterous with her complaints and taunts. The word for provoke is 3707 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary.

She may have been quite haughty and used violent words to her. The description seems to indicate that they may have had some heated quarrels. This went on for years, not days or weeks. Hannah had borne these reproaches for a long, long time. Hannah probably cried herself to sleep many times and often would not even eat.

People can be so cruel. One can see the true spirit of people when you give them a blessing or more particularly, some money. You want to know what people can be? Give them some money or some power or merely hold the promise of it out if they do some kind of evil or treachery. You'll often see the real person then. Here, Peninnah had a blessing that the Lord had withheld from Hannah and rather than just be thankful and kind; gentle and generous with Hannah, there was this cold hearted taunting and provoking. Instead of sympathy and kindness, Peninnah showed contempt for the less fortunate.

Hannah suffered, but her travails did not go unnoticed by her husband who truly loved her and did his best to comfort her as in the following passage.

And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Hannah,
why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not?
and why is thy heart grieved?
am not I better to thee than ten sons?
(1 Samuel 1:8 - ASV)

Clearly these two shared a special love for one another and Elkanah did not want her to fret. What the passage seems to indicate is that Elkanah may not have been aware of the deep animosity or perhaps, was only now becoming aware of how deeply hurt Hannah was over the taunts of the sharp tongued woman. It seems clear that what is happening here is that Hannah had the special love of the husband that Peninnah did not and this aroused her jealousy. So she threw Hannah's barrenness in her face whenever she could. The idea of the last stanza may be that to say that no matter how many sons the other bore, his special love for Hannah was not diminished.

This is a troubled, tumultuous household. But his can be expected when someone departs from God's divine order. We don't know why Elkanah decided to marry two wives. There may have been a shortage of men in those days. Or, perhaps slightly more likely is that Hannah was the first wife who bore no son, so he married Peninnah in order to get a son (not totally unlike Abraham). Then came marital/domestic chaos.

So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh,
and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest was sitting
upon his seat by the door-post of the temple of Jehovah.
And she was in bitterness of soul,
and prayed unto Jehovah, and wept sore.
(1 Samuel 1:9-10 - ASV)

We don't know the circumstances of her eating. It may have been the daily meal for which she had finally partaken or it could have been some kind of feast that was ongoing. But whatever it was she did not stay long, she ate and then decided to leave. She went to the House of the Lord and Eli the Priest was there, sitting upon his seat. The word for seat has the connotation of a throne or perhaps seat of judgment.

Who was Eli? He was a direct decedent of Aaron (via his fourth son). He also appears to have acted both as Judge in Israel and probably as High Priest. So here she is in the tabernacle crying her eyes out before the Lord about the way she had been treated. God hears the prayers of those so afflicted and in trouble (see Psalms 50:15).

And she vowed a vow, and said, O Jehovah of hosts,
 if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy handmaid,
and remember me, and not forget thy handmaid,
but wilt give unto thy handmaid a man-child,
then I will give him unto Jehovah all the days of his life,
and there shall no razor come upon his head.
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before Jehovah,
that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; o
nly her lips moved, but her voice was not heard:
therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken?
put away thy wine from thee.
(1 Samuel 1:11-14 - ASV)

Now, in NT times, vows for us are forbidden (Matthew 5:34). But back in those days, they were not. They were a solemn pledge. Here the vow is that Hannah would keep her end of an agreement with God. She is making a promise to God that if he will hear her prayer and grant her a son, she will in essence, dedicate him to the Lord and his service.

The idea of the razor not touching his head was to set him apart as a Nazarite. These were special men who dedicated a set period of time to a specific purpose for God, usually not longer than 100 days (Eaton Bible Dictionary). The laws concerning Nazarites can be found in Numbers chapter six. They often set their own time period for this service and during it, they would not shave, thus marking them out. They were not hermits, just dedicated to a purpose. The practice carried on long after those days. Even in the Gospels (Luke 1:15) and the book of Acts (21:23ff) we see this custom still practiced. 

Hannah here dedicates this potential son (she had not received it yet and had to wait upon him by FAITH) to the Lord's service for his whole life. This is unusual in that these vows were usually not lifelong binding.

But during her prayer Eli was keeping an eye on her, thinking she had been lingering at the wine bottle too long and wandered into the temple in an unsanctified fashion. He incorrectly rebukes her, not that he should not have rebuked her if she had been drunken, but that he made an assumption that he should not have. We should not make negative assumptions about people. It's easy to do, but often we can be dead wrong, as Eli was here.

We shall continue our look at Samuel as the Lord wills!!

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29 Aug

1 Samuel Part 2

Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim,
of the hill-country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah,
the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu,
the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite:

(1 Samuel 1:1 - ASV)

Here begins the genealogy of Samuel and a look at his family. Elkanah was his father and he is said here to be from the Tribe Ephraim, but his ancestry from Zuph would make him a Levite. Kiel and Delitzsch's Commentary on the Old Testament gives a good background to this genealogy for those of you interested. I will not bore you with it here. The name of place Ramathaim-zophim means two high places (Ramathim) where as Zophim means watchmen or watchers. It was probably a location of two hills where men stood watch against foreign invaders. But it could also mean that it was a place of the prophets. Of note, the fact that this book begins with the pronoun 'Now' (or 'and') has led many to believe that this book in reality is a continuation of the Book of Judges. Also of note is that some seem to think that Samuel's father represents the fifth generation of settlers that came out of Canaan.

This city is usually known as Ramah and is where Samuel was born (Samuel 1:19-20), worked (Samuel 7:17) and died (Samuel 25:1).

and he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah,
and the name of the other Peninnah:
and Peninnah had children,
 but Hannah had no children.
(1 Samuel 1:2 - ASV)

Now on to Elkanah's marital situation. Polygamy was not strictly forbidden (Deuteronomy 21:15). But Abraham's experience should tell us all that the practice is fraught with all manner of trouble. Often it's the 'two against one' syndrome. Someone winds up out in the cold. The names of his wives were Hannah and Peninnah. Hanna's name means favored. Peninnah's name means pearl.

Verse two begins to describe the source of strife and trouble in this polygamous arrangement, it was the fact that one had children and the other did not. So while Polygamy is certainly frowned upon today and is illegal in most countries, back then it was practiced. We should remember that there are passages in the NT that suggest (though not necessarily proves) that some Christians may have had more than one wife, but that this marital situation precluded people from certain offices in the Church (1Timothy 3:2; 3:12; Titus 1:6). Keep in mind that Paul recommends that people remain in the situation where they were called. (1Corinthians 7:20ff). Understand here, I am not endorsing polygamy in any way shape or form. I am only saying that firm and incontrovertible scriptural commands against it in any and all instances will be difficult to find. My personal view is this - Marriage is trouble (1Corinthians 7:28); polygamy... double trouble!!!

And this man went up out of his city from year to year
 to worship and to sacrifice unto Jehovah of hosts in Shiloh.
 And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas,
priests unto Jehovah, were there.
(1 Samuel 1:3 - ASV)

So Elkanah was a pious man. We don't know if he had any office in the Priesthood, but what we do know is that he was not like many others who worshiped other gods, but he served the Lord. Shiloh was the place of worship because this was where the Ark of the covenant was. Males were to attend the major feast days of the Law (Deuteronomy 16:16), but many probably did not do that. There was probably considerable religious disorder in those days. In short, most probably did not observe this requirement, but Elkanah did, marking him out as a man who truly revered the Lord.

Of note, the name of God Lord Of Hosts appears for the first time in this passage. The term clearly is a reference to an army or military numbers but some think it also denotes his command over the hosts of heaven as well. Such a meaning would have particular significance to those who worshiped the hosts of heaven as this title demonstrates that he is Lord over them as well and should be the true object of worship and veneration. 

The last part the verse introduces two priests of the Lord and the name of their father, Eli. Eli's sons were notorious as we will see as we move through the book.
And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed,
he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons
and her daughters, portions: but unto Hannah
he gave a double portion; for he loved Hannah,
but Jehovah had shut up her womb.
(1 Samuel 1:4-5 - ASV)

This here is about the offering to the Lord that he was making and not about any inheritance. Elkanah was making this offering in accordance with the old Law (Deuteronomy 16:10-11). He gave to the Lord offerings regarding Peninnah and her children, but with Hannah, he gave a 'worthy' one. Many modern translations translate this a 'double portion'. The double portion is clearly indicative of a very special love he had for Hannah. But Hannah was barren. This barrenness will be a key part of the next few verses of the narrative so let's leave off here and continue on with this in the next section.

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22 Aug

1 Samuel Introduction

I thought that I would begin a look at an old time prophet who came long before the major and minor prophets we have in the Old Testament. I am going to take my time with this book like I did with Job.

I hope you get a lot out of it and remember this all of you -  God will fulfill his words, but he usually is in no hurry to do so. We humans are the ones constantly in a big hurry and impatient. God isn't. He see's the end from the beginning. We do not. Let us always remember that and wait patiently on our God. God has his own plans that he often simply does not share with us fallen and sinful humans.

This is a very old book. It was written long before Rome was founded but may have been complied later. The book is also referred to by some as the first book of the Kings. It covers the establishment of the monarchy and the acts of her first king, Saul and David's rise to the throne. But we call it the book of First Samuel because he is one of the key people both in the book and in the events therein.

Scholars are not certain of the authorship. Because it contains the events of his life, it may have been written by Samuel. Some think so. But it may have been written by Nathan the prophet as he is known to have written some history of the Kings (see 1Chronicles 29:29). Other theories exist that it may have been written by Ezra or even Jeremiah. Though some have opined that Jeremiah may have merely been a compiler. But this is all conjecture. We don't know for sure who wrote it, but it seems to me that the first part of the book that dealt with Samuel's life, who was not a King, and the fact that the book is largely a history of Kings - this may lend some credence to his authorship, at least the first several chapters. But I think that Samuel's authorship or at least his strong influence on perhaps an unknown writer is clear in that it shows how Samuel was really a key instrument of God in the formation of the Kingdom of Israel. His ministry marks a transition from the times of the Judges to the times of the Kings. Samuel is considered the last of Israel's Judges, who was preceded by Eli of whom we will talk about in the parts of the book that deal with him.

Beyond the life of the ministry of the Judge/Prophet Samuel is the important spiritual and religious transition of Israel described in the book, from a tribal state with judges set up over them to one of a monarchy. This is a very important transition for reasons that will become apparent. Israel - God's vision of Israel, was that she was to be a nation of citizens who were close to God and served him. In short, he wanted them to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:5-6) But in their lust to be like the world around them, they wanted a King.

But the book is a fascinating read in that it's history is rich with faith, tragedy, disobedience, hope, despair, war, hero's, villains and much more, given to us in a rich prose that is not only spiritually enlightening, but also quite engrossing and dramatic. The story moves quickly but is detailed enough where the narrative is clear but it never gets bogged down in too much detail, (though my comments may at times!).

So on that note, we will start to look at this book probably next week. I will try and have an update for you on it (most) every week as we move through the rest of the year.

In loving and humble service to the Living God and his son Jesus Christ,

Brother Mark

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16 Aug

Job Conclusion Part II

We will finish up the study in Job today with a final look at suffering.

Some commentators have stated that one thing that Job seemed to have been lacking in his character was that until the Lord spoke to him face to face, he simply had not fully submitted to the will of the Almighty, whatever that will may be. We must not be too hard on Job as the religious thought and theology of those days was very rudimentary, as we saw in the lengthy debate in the text. They all thought that if you did right, good came your way, without exception. The whole idea that God would allow such evil to befall Job not because he was evil, but in essence because he was righteous and good was beyond their theological understanding. Nor could they comprehend a key principle that we in the New Testament era probably take somewhat for granted.

And we know that to them that love God
all things work together for good,
even to them that are called
according to his purpose.
 (Romans 8:28 - ASV)

Yes, all things including sufferings; they work together for our good. But as with all promises like this, there is a condition. In order for such things, even the troubles we endure to work for our good we have to love God, and be called according to God's purpose. So this does not hold true to the lost and those who know not God. In short, God allows these things into our lives to test us, mold us, guide us, help us and teach us.

But Job was deeply beloved of God so this trial taught him some important lessons. Not least of which according to some commentators, the character trait of submission to God's will, even if we don't like the situation we are in or must suffer. If belong to him, God is in it. He was involved in Job's ordeal and allowed it. Job thought God had forsaken him and without any cause was punishing him. He could not have been more wrong.

This is the fallacy of looking at things the way they appear to the natural mind and our human eyes. As we saw in Job, there is a spiritual world which our natural mind cannot see or comprehend but deeply effects our lives. It was Satan's accusation that brought on Job's troubles and Job was utterly unaware of the controversy that took place in heaven. This is often how things go for us down here. But we must remember that we as saints, are involved in spiritual battle with the Lord's enemies and like any warrior, he is going to have to fight and take a few 'hits' from time to time. There is no way around it if you are in the thick of battle.

Paul lays this theme out again and again in his letters. Paul was no stranger to sufferings.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort;
 who comforteth us in all our affliction,
that we may be able to comfort them
that are in any affliction, through the comfort
wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
 For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us,
even so our comfort also aboundeth through Christ.
 But whether we are afflicted,
it is for your comfort and salvation;
or whether we are comforted, it is for your comfort,
which worketh in the patient enduring
of the same sufferings which we also suffer:
and our hope for you is stedfast; knowing that,
as ye are partakers of the sufferings,
so also are ye of the comfort. 

For we would not have you ignorant,
brethren, concerning our affliction
which befell us in Asia, that we were
weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power,
insomuch that we despaired even of life:
yea, we ourselves have had

the sentence of death within ourselves,
that we should not trust in ourselves,
but in God who raiseth the dead: 
who delivered us out of so great a death,
and will deliver: on whom we have set
our hope that he will also still deliver us;
 ye also helping together on our behalf
by your supplication; that, for the gift
bestowed upon us by means of many,
thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf.
(II Corinthians 1:3-11 - ASV)

Paul knew what it was to suffer and face death. He faced it many times. He also knew despair. But Paul knew his God and the path he had set him on and he was by no means ever going back. He pressed forward in full confidence in the God who raised Christ from the dead.

Yes, this is all New Testament. Job and his friends did not understand these things. But we do.

But suffering is hard. But as hard as it is, God wants us to as much as we can, be joyful in difficult times.

Count it all joy, my brethren,
when ye fall into manifold temptations; 
Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. 
And let patience have its perfect work,
that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.
 But if any of you lacketh wisdom,
let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally
 and upbraideth not;
and it shall be given him.
(James 1:2-5 - ASV)

The word translated temptations can mean a trial or adversity or temptation. James is telling us to count it joy. How did the early Church look at persecution? They were doing God's work, but had to stand trial for their actions and were beaten for it.

 And to him they agreed:
and when they had called the apostles unto them,
they beat them and charged them
not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
They therefore departed from
the presence of the council, rejoicing
that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor
 for the Name. And every day,
in the temple and at home,
they ceased not to teach and
to preach Jesus as the Christ.
(Acts 5:40-42 - ASV)

Yes, it can be hard to rejoice in such circumstances, particularly when your back is covered in bruises and welts, but this is what the early Church did when facing persecution and hardship.

Job's story is one of faith, endurance but also one of human failings and God's ultimate mercy to those who keep faith with him. Job was not ever, ever going to forsake his God. No matter how confused and hurt he was during his trial, he was going to maintain his confidence in God.

This to me is the key message of Job. We don't understand why things are the way they are. Why am I writing on the internet like this? I don't particularly like it, but it is what I have been commanded to do. God has had my back through many trials and attacks against me and this very humble ministry. There are times when God just wants us to wait on him in very difficult circumstances. This is what Job had to do and thus we have the phrase 'patience of Job'. Waiting like this can be very difficult and in and of itself, can be a serious trial of our faith.

Some of you have lost jobs, incomes, been dissed by your families, hated, mistreated at work, mocked by your Church buddies, have to deal with health issues, family issues, financial issues. Sometimes these things last a long time, longer than we want or expected. Remember Job. Sometimes, all God really wants to do is to get us to be totally dependent on him. It's a lesson that was and is hardest for me for I love independence and freedom. Having to rely totally on anyone for anything is contrary to this part of my nature. But God has had to teach me humility in this and to depend totally on him. I can tell you this - sooner or later, he will one day teach it to you as well, if you are to be of any use to him.

So let us remember Job and how he suffered but also remember why he suffered (the devil) and that God allowed it and that God, after having taught Job a thing or two (like submission and humility), blessed him twice as much again. Why? Because he loved and respected his servant Job.

I exhort you all to aspire to be that kind of servant, one that God loves and respects. A person who can honestly be called in the corridors of Heaven, the Friend of God.

Friends will go the second mile for one another. This is what Job's faith demonstrated during a trial for which he was utterly confounded as to the reason for it. He stood by his God.

Can you do that? Will you?

Time will tell, though I think many of you will pass with flying colors and stand before God with great shouts of joy and thanksgiving on the day of our Salvation and look at the trouble we had to endure as very light compared to what God has in store for all who love him.

Here ends this commentary on the book of Job.

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8 Aug

Job Conclusion - Part I

Yes, that exposition took a very long time and I am sure many of you may not have gotten much out of it. I did. It had been many years since I studied that book with any depth. I discovered many nuances about the book that I had either not known or had long forgotten, while doing this study.

One thing I will never forget. When going though the most difficult trial of my life years and years ago,
Job 13:15 (as read in the KJV) was the verse that kept me going. It is the passage that any saint who is facing serious trial and even death should never forget. That even if the Lord should require our lives, we must continue to put our trust in him.

In the New Testament, this thinking is laid out for us (Revelation 2:10; 12:11). But in the times of the Old Testament and before, which is when this book was almost certainly written, such a sentiment was not well known. As we moved through the book we saw the simplistic theology of Job's friends and their refusal to face facts on suffering, prosperity and poverty that stared them in the face. No, the wicked are not always punished in this life and no, the righteous are not always rewarded. Job knew he was innocent of any crime that could have caused him to deserve his fate, but could not convince his friends. He only had his confidence in God to sustain him.

There may come a time in our lives when we are faced with similar circumstances. How do you think that foreign pastor feels when he is given a heavy sentence for preaching the gospel? When these things happen, sometimes the sheep scatter and the shepherd is left all alone. How does one deal with this? Or with those who are in the Church who begin to mutter harsh things against such a pastor and begin to malign and slander him for being a 'criminal' while he sits in chains for serving the Lord? Like Job, such a pastor is being punished by the devils ministers for doing right. For Job, he too was being punished by the devil and his ministers for doing right - serving God and pleasing him. This is the way the devil operates. He will reward those who do great wickedness and punish those who do right. Look at the rewards that organized criminals have. The money, the mansions, yachts, sexy women and other toys the devil lays out for his children. Herein lies a major fallacy in much of today's western religiosity and prosperity teachings.

We tend to measure the success of a pastor by the size of his Church, the amount of money in the Church coffers and the number of attractive, wealthy people he can get into his pews on Sundays. We measure things materially - not spiritually. We can all be somewhat guilty of this. You can almost hear the thinking..."He doesn't have a big new car and runs that old ramshackle church on the wrong side of town. He must be 'off' in his doctrine". We make a horrible mistake when we look at the material goods as a measure of a man's godliness. It is the same basic mistake that Job's friends made. They saw Job's circumstances and immediately assumed he had committed some horrible sin.

Let us keep in mind that the Lord gave Satan a free hand to deal with Job to see if he would curse God. All the horrors that Satan could conjure up were thrown at Job and even in this most horrible affliction, he maintained his faith and kept his walk with God. What Job endured and the way he came through it, shows a remarkable man of God. God was correct when he praised Job so, in the court of heaven! This in many ways was a test of Jobs faithfulness. His motivation for serving God and his faithfulness. Another word for this kind of faithfulness is loyalty. God was testing Job's loyalty. Now let me ask you this - are you loyal to God and Christ Jesus? Will you withstand your trial or do like Peter did when he denied the Lord (Matthew 26:34)? Who is it that is with Christ at the end of this age? What words are used to describe them (Revelation 17:14)? Look at it like this. God is looking for people he can depend on to assist him in running things once the devil is locked up and his followers/assistants are sent packing. He wants to see who he can trust. Will you be among them, or will you be like those angels who turned and later rebelled against God? The simple question is - can he trust you?

I think another important thing we can also take away from Job is this - when we suffer, we often have to do it alone. Those around us can be hindrances. Job's wife who exhorted him to curse God and die and his friends whose accusatory tongue he had to deal with for the weeks or months of his ordeal - they were no help to him, "...Miserable comforters are ye all."
(Job 16:2b)

We have all heard the saying 'grace under pressure'. That is what Job displayed and something we must all strive for as well. That when trials come we must be ready to endure sufferings as Job did, patiently, in faith and a determination to stand with God, no matter what. Can you do that? This is going to be a lesson that we may all have to ask ourselves as the system of Antichrist rises and persecution becomes more significant in our world. Many in far off nations understand this. We Americans? Most of us do not. Perhaps in a book level understanding, but not in a 'fires of trial' level of understanding. As this new system continues to rise before our eyes, however we may all obtain a healthy dose of both levels of understanding.

One thing I have learned to do when under trial is to detach myself as much as I can from my temporal circumstances. I try and move my mind into positive things, peaceful things and hopeful things. Here I find Paul's advice to be most telling.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue,
and if there be any praise, think on these things.
(Philippians 4:7-8 - ASV)

This helps. Be positive, even in midst of your trials. I try hard not to dwell on my problems, no matter how hard they are. Try and keep your mind free from the worries of your particular trial. Another thing? I try my best to stay way from negative people. Folks who are always negative, critical, argumentative and hateful. When I see them coming, I try and make sure they don't see me as I head in the other direction!

Now some of these things are much harder to do if one is in prison or in serious pain. But for many of us, the other trials we must deal with, these things can be done and often help refocus the mind back on God, the source of our strength, rather than the trials we must face.

I find that we must often make our face like flint (Isaiah 50:7) and despite all the 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' that we must endure (as Shakespeare put it), we must push forward toward our goal in Christ. Yes, our inheritance in God. What did God say to his friend, Abram (for his name was not yet changed)?

After these things the word of Jehovah
came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram:
 I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
(Genesis 15:1 - ASV)

It is God himself who is our reward, to be welcomed into his family as one of his sons - that should be our primary goal and what we need to focus on when we are going through the fires. What we have to endure down here in this present age is not worthy of comparison for what God has in store for us.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared with the glory
which shall be revealed to us-ward.
(Romans 8:18 - ASV)

But let none of us ever forget that our Lord showed us the path to life is not strewn with roses and flower petals, but that it is marked with sacrifice and yes, sufferings.

But we behold him who hath been made
a little lower than the angels, even Jesus,
because of the suffering of death crowned
with glory and honor, that by the grace of God
he should taste of death for every man.
For it became him, for whom are all things,
and through whom are all things, in bringing
many sons unto glory, to make the author
of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
(Hebrews 2:9-10 - ASV)

Yes, brothers, the book of Job is certainly for us today. While it is one of the oldest books known to man, it is still very relevant for us today. Particularly for us Christians who live in this age, where more and more of us must suffer for our faith.

We will look at the final part of the conclusion to Job next week, God willing!

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27 May

Our Place

For the body is not one member, but many.
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand,
 I am not of the body; it is not therefore
 not of the body. And if the ear shall say,
Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body;
it is not therefore not of the body.
If the whole body were an eye,
where were the hearing?
If the whole were hearing,
where were the smelling?
But now hath God set the members
each one of them in the body,
even as it pleased him.
(1 Corinthians 12:14-18 - ASV)

Let us look at something that we all who know the Lord should be asking ourselves from time to time. What is my place in Christ? What is my job in the body and in the Kingdom?

It is easy to get down and a little depressed because we are not all 'great men of God', duly praised by the corporate Christians and Social Media storms. We can perhaps feel a little useless if we are not the big 'rock star' whose name is bantered about the media as some 'Christian light' and not getting the praise and attention they do. It is easy to wonder why we have not been chosen to be a big name pastor or evangelist; a famous musician or famous humanitarian, parading our 'good works' for all to see. It is easy to feel kind of insignificant and even, well... useless to God.

But we should never feel that if we are indeed walking with Christ. Fame and a million Social Media followers does not make a true man or woman of God. A Christian 'idol'? Yes, in many cases. But it is hardly proof of a man who has been born again, broken and is in the process of being remade into the image of Christ - who was exceptionally humble. Such true men of God know the value of true humility and don't seek fame for fame's sake. They seek Christ for Christ's sake. This brothers and sisters, is a tell tale sign of those who are in the public eye who are really Christ's or those who are just in it for themselves or for the 'others' they are secretly working for - a major problem in Christendom today.

But we must not let fame and fortune, the masses pointing and telling each other what a 'wonderful' person that person is to become our guide. Such things happening to us quite frankly, is not a very good sign.

Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!
for in the same manner did their fathers
to the false prophets.
(Luke 6:26 - ASV)

Let us be careful and never let ourselves become 'fame seekers'.

The better way to go is to find out what God wants us to do, find out where he needs us and then go there and do that.

Let us say that you are a talented Christian musician and singer. I mean you are really good, and famous musicians and agents have told you as much. You have been offered a major contract with a label and all the marketing and support those people can offer to launch your career. Yet God wants you out on the mission field. He tells you to forsake your dreams of fame and fortune and to go and preach the gospel in the Congo. What is that person going to do? This is the kind of test the Lord will often place before those who really want to serve him. It is really in some ways, a test of motivation. What are you placing first, your career and your future as a major 'Christian' artist or God and his kingdom?

Does the world really need yet another 'Christian' singer/pop star making records today? I would say that it needs another one like a person needs a third hand or a 6th toe on each foot. So one has to ask oneself what is their real motivation for seeking such a career? I say this not to denigrate artists and those people who are famous that God has called to such things, but to show you the mentality and outlook that we must all take if we are to be of any use to God and his kingdom. We have to put him first and as often as not, it will entail some kind of sacrifice on our part - away from self and towards Christ. We must not love ourselves more than our place in Christ and we must not love this world, its pomp or glory or the trinkets the devil will surely put in our path that would lead us away from our mission in Christ.

One thing the Lord has been speaking to me about privately is that I need never concern myself with what others think about me. Not friends, not family - not anyone but God and to a lesser degree, what other true believers in Christ think. This is so important particularly in these times where such contempt for the gospel and Christians is growing, we just have to cease concerning ourselves about what the world thinks about us. I would go so far as to say this - if the world, lost souls, unsaved family and associates all think you are wonderful and great, you are probably on very shaky ground, spiritually. Let me ask you this, could a real Christian have been acceptable to the residents of Sodom? Were they praised when they lived in Nazi Germany? No. So as our world now is more and more taking its moral cues from the spirits of darkness, let us consider carefully whom we should please - God or man; the God of all things or the King of Sodom; Jesus Christ or a future Adolph Hitler? These are key questions because I don't see the world getting any better, spiritually or morally speaking, but worse... much worse.

So what is your place in Christ? Are you chosen to be a deacon? A pastor? A prophet? An interpreter of tongues? A missionary? An evangelist? A scribe? How is God using you? How will he use you in the future? You may be little more than the forgotten pastors assistant today, but if you are faithful, you may find yourself standing before the God of all things being given a special charge from God, as Moses was. Or be called to be a prophet like Samuel or Elijah; or be called to lead a nation not yet created for God's people in these end times. I don't know where your job is and I don't know where God will eventually lead me. But this I know, what he has given me to do today, that I will do. The rest will be revealed due course.

May God bless and keep each of you in Christ and guide each of you into the ministry that best serves his kingdom.

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14 Apr


One would have hoped that during this time of conflict and war, that the Church could be a real instrument for healing, peace and some kind of reconciliation. But sad fact is, that the seeds of this current war could be seen germinating in the Church a few years back. There was a schism, many of you may remember back in 2018, involving Ukrainian Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. For those wanting a quick take on this, Wikipedia's entry is pretty good (2018 Moscow–Constantinople schism).

One could see a serious problem back then. I won't get into the politics of all of this. Rather, what I do want to say today is that what I see is a very serious problem with what calls itself Christianity today. It's a problem that has been with the Church for a very long time. In my perusals into history, I do like to look into the history of Byzantium. This is where Orthodoxy really comes from, the Eastern half of the Roman Empire. As you all know, there as a much earlier schism between east and west long ago. The Eastern Church refused to be ruled by the Pope in Rome (the West), the two excommunicated each other and the schism continues to this very day, though the mutual anathema's were reversed back in the 1960's. Nevertheless, the split remains. This is known as The Great Schism.

Even within the Church in Russia, there a serious crisis brewing within it.

One of the big problems today in my humble view is that the Church, or what calls itself the Church is too tied in with the temporal political order. This is very true in Russia, where the Orthodox Church has long been closely tied in with the Government. This was true during both the Czarist era as well as the days of the old Soviet Union. Many of the priests were really spies for the government. Just before the Bolshevik revolution, a Father G. A. Gapon (1870-1906) was a very popular working class hero, but it turned out that his movement was heavily influenced by the Russian secret police. The Church in Eastern Europe during the communist era has a long history of this kind of thing. But truth be told, such things are not completely unheard of here in the west. The Church is a power in any society and consequently those who run state security will often have their eyes on the Church and any religious group, person or entity that they cannot control, intimidate or otherwise co-opt.

Look at how China is dealing with Christians. Look at some of the things going on in Russia to Christians who worship outside of the State approved Orthodox Church. Great change can be fomented with religion. But we must not mistake temporal political change wrought by the administrative Church for God's will. The Church may claim to speak for God, but I think we all can see in our times, that this is not often the case, much of the Church having lost its spiritual way. 

I have long seen much of the modern Church and its administrative, political, and financial structures as being probably the greatest impediment to many believers being able to act in concert with God and the Holy Spirit, rather than the passing political whims of the temporal state and the temporal desires of religious leaders. I think this has been a key problem with the Church since the days of ancient Rome and Christianity's general acceptance in Roman society. As time passed, a high office in the Church could be a path to weave ones way into political power. A low born person could move up the hierarchy, get some influence and as you all know, the Church became very rich in the Dark and Middle ages as well as during the Renaissance. Religion was big business. Need I remind you of the splendid wealth some Churchmen possessed back in those days?

But you see, I think a key missing ingredient the Church has today is independence from temporal state affairs. Mind you, it cannot ignore key issues going on around it, but it should do so with an eye towards the Kingdom of Heaven and the will of God, not the desires or dictates of the State. Christ was very clear that he called us out of this world. Yet much of the Church too often appears to be not just too close to the world, but married to it. It is supposed to be the future bride of Christ and instead, spiritually speaking - parts of it are 'available' for state use.

I think this is why there are some of these schisms. The Churches in a great many places are just too close to the state, so they follow state policy - consciously and unconsciously - rather than building up the brotherhood in Christ for his kingdom, they too often build up the state, often for godless activities.

But not all schisms are bad. When a body of believers decide to leave a denomination because of key doctrinal issues based solidly on scripture, and wish to hold onto scripture, this is not a bad thing. For we Christians are duty and honor bound to serve God first, not the Church first. Churches are run by men and men are often mistaken, corrupted, compromised or just plain evil.

Now back in the Middle ages, ordinary people could be excused for following the Church when it went in the wrong direction. Why? Because there were no Bibles in the hands of people. Only the Church and its priesthood had the Bible. The people had to rely on Church interpretation of scripture. This put tremendous power in the hands of the Church to interpret or deliberately misinterpret things in order to serve the state, the king or the emperor. In return for the favor of the Church, the state rewarded the Church with wealth and power.

But today, the Bible is translated into most, but not every language. People can read the scriptures for themselves. Men and women who have been born again and have the Holy Spirit within them (probably not such a great number today) can read the Bible, get guidance and use their discernment as to what is right and what is not and if their Church is really doing God's work or not.

More importantly with this great gift of being able to read the scriptures, comes greater responsibility. We cannot claim ignorance when the Church goes off the rails and we continue to condone those actions by silence or by continuing membership in a Church that no longer follows the commands of Christ; or is more concerned about its status within the state, than its status with God.

So these days, I don't see many Church leaders as being true representatives of Christ or God, but many rather being state sponsored interlopers who have interjected themselves for the advantage of state or self-centered policy.

So where are the true apostles, the true workmen, those who are truly dedicated, not to their respective nations, racial groups, or social-cultural subsets, but rather are dedicated to God, Christ Jesus and his work? How did Jude put this most important theme? Contending, not for the state, but for the faith.

Beloved, while I was giving
all diligence to write unto you
of our common salvation,
I was constrained to write unto you
exhorting you to contend earnestly
for the faith which was once for
all delivered unto the saints.
(Jude 1:3 - ASV)

These are times when there are various ways some men within the Church are departing from the faith, the basic and fundamental faith delivered to us by the Apostles. Not just on points of doctrine, but I think also in fundamental priorities. Serving God, Christ and spreading the true gospel as delivered by the Apostles, living righteous and humble lives - these things should be priority number one. But since the days of Ancient Rome, those priorities have been slowly eclipsed by the things of this world. In short, I just think too many Churchmen are in love with this world, rather than the Kingdom of Heaven.

Love not the world,
neither the things that are in the world.
If any man love the world,
the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world,
the lust of the flesh
and the lust of the eyes
and the vainglory of life,
is not of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passeth away,
and the lust thereof:
 but he that doeth the will of God
abideth for ever.
(1 John 2:15-17 - ASV)

So where do I think the real root of many of these schisms come from? Men who have other priorities than Christ. Often, they just want more power for themselves or more of this world's pomp, wealth and glory.

So brothers, I write this piece today so that we are not shocked at many of the schisms that are taking place within the Church. In the end, there will be two groups - those that serve Christ and do his will and commandments and those that do not. The name 'Church' won't mean a thing. There will be Saint's and Ain'ts. Let you and I make sure we are Saint's because only the Saints are going into the Kingdom.

The others, ain't.

Blessed are they that wash their robes,
that they may have the right to come to the tree of life,
and may enter in by the gates into the city.
Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers,
and the fornicators, and the murderers,
and the idolaters, and every one that loveth
and maketh a lie.
(Revelation 22:14-15 - ASV)

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8 Apr

Seal Number Three

And when he opened the third seal,
I heard the third living creature saying,
Come. And I saw, and behold, a black horse;
and he that sat thereon had a balance
in his hand. And I heard as it were
a voice in the midst of the four
living creatures saying,
A measure of wheat for a shilling,
and three measures of barley for a shilling;
and the oil and the wine hurt thou not.
(Revelation 6:5-6 - ASV)

God's grace and peace be upon you all who are reading this and who truly serve the Lord.

I am sure you have all been following the news and consequently. I will not burden you with repeating what you already or should already know. Things have not yet gone, but seem on a very serious trajectory to spinning out of control.

But let us look at the above passage. We see what is in store for the world when the seven seals are opened. What is listed above is the opening of the 3rd seal. Now before I begin I am not at all saying that this seal has been opened. What I am saying is that sky high food prices will be a key factor in the last days.

Let us look at a couple of things here. First the color of the horse is Black. This color is often used to signify calamity (see Lamentations 5:10; Jeremiah 14:2; Ezekiel 32:7, etc). Clearly what is going on is a major famine and it probably is the direct result of the previous seals/horses - conquest and war. Again, it is not my intention to impute this passage to events now transpiring, but I suspect we are close enough to those seals being opened up that we need to take note of what saith the scriptures for the last days.

The prophetic imagery above shows that food is being measured. This may very well indicate some kind of food rationing (a balance). People only get one quart of wheat for a days wage. What about the other necessities of life? Exactly... what about them how can people get by when all they earn just goes for food? This is a time of bare sustenance existence. Something has happened to make this come to pass and the order of the seals indicates (but does not necessarily prove) it is war.

I have been scanning articles on the web and come away with a real concern being echoed in the world's power centers for not just a serious rise in the price of key agricultural commodities (wheat, fertilizer, etc) but also that this kind of price rise could lead to unrest and perhaps even a new spate of turmoil in poorer nations by a genuinely angry populace seeking enough to eat at prices they can reasonably afford.

I have been reading about how some US farmers are scrambling for fertilizer. The fertilizer issue existed before the current crisis and now will only worsen. Do your own news searches on the topic and see what you find.

Things are not good right now on the food front... this before the current crisis. Head on over to the Food Security Cluster and read their reports on Haiti, Yemen, etc. Go over to the Famine Early Warning System and read about the situation in Ethiopia and parts of Nigeria, to name a couple.

This is nothing many of you don't already know. Food prices are going to rise unless some solution is found and I don't see one on the horizon; not even close. This will deeply effect the poorest and most vulnerable. Famine in Afghanistan? Well, perhaps not yet, but there are warnings about it. The UN Secretary General told the world recently that millions are still at risk in Afghanistan, according to news reports. Thanks to donors, a catastrophe was averted, but the deeper problems remain and will surely rear their head once again soon.

Also on the food and famine front is a warning no one should ignore. The chairman of one European chemical company warned the west what could very well happen to the German economy. Already, according to the articles I read, that company has already reduced the production of fertilizer. This is not a good thing. He warned of an economic catastrophe and compared it to the end of WW2.

Brothers and sisters, these are some difficult times and this crisis is going to cause a lot of problems all over the world. Many of those problems may be things that hit people out of the blue. They just won't realize how much their jobs and livelihoods are going to be vulnerable to the economic backlash heading their way. It could get very ugly, particularly in Europe. Think about things like Diesel. Most trucks use it. How does food get from A to B? I will tell you. Trucks. I read a story recently that talks about the possibility of rationing diesel fuel. This could be devastating on jobs, production and yes food distribution.

Well, all I can say is this. We need to keep our eyes open on this whole affair. Things have been bad in some parts of the world, but look to worsen considerably. For we who live in the US, it is not time to hit the 'panic button', but for those who live in places around the world already food insecure... well, let us pray accordingly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I think God has been most patient over many long years as the western world continued its spiritual and moral descent and mostly for the sake of his many saints who live within those borders. I don't think he will sit still much longer without some kind of real chastisement; Covid-19 being I think a preliminary kind of attention getter for the world. This is why I think we saints who live in these times and within the US and west need to make sure that we are doing what God would have us do, so that our names are written down in that book of remembrance (see Malachi 3:16) I mentioned the other day (for insiders) - so that the Angel of the Lord, who bears the Lord's sword and shield can protect us from those who would do us harm. We do not know what the Lord has planned for the US, Russia, Ukraine; Eastern and Western Europe or the rest of the world. But the 'sin meter' and 'wickedness scales' in many places are reading into the red zone, so let us be wise and take heed.

Brothers, what this nation needs is a spiritual awakening, followed by sincere repentance. But I don't see that happening until the discomfort level rises most significantly in the US. Yes, we as a nation need to repent. I read a little piece over at the Christian Post about John Perkins, the Christian minister and Civil Rights activist - he has a message for America. You may want to check it out.

God bless and keep you all in Christ!

Brother Mark
FYI - We will probably continue our look at the Book of Job, later this month, God willing!.

Note: These are opinions and comments often based on fast moving events. Things change and so can the information as well as the basic narrative. Please make allowances for inadvertent errors, omissions and/or a basic change in the facts as presented in the major and alternative media on which these comments are based.

Additionally, this is not any kind of professional medical, investment, financial or any other kind of advice and should not be construed as or acted upon as such.
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4 Mar

Wicked Counsel

Moreover the Spirit lifted me up,
and brought me unto the east gate
of Jehovah's house, which looketh eastward:
and behold, at the door of the gate
five and twenty men; and I saw in the midst
 of them Jaazaniah the son of Azzur,
and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah,
princes of the people.

And he said unto me, Son of man,
these are the men that devise iniquity,
and that give wicked counsel in this city; that say,
The time is not near to build houses: this city is the caldron,
and we are the flesh.
(Ezekiel 11:1-3 - ASV)

The prophets were having a hard time getting the people to believe and prepare for what God had in store for them. Some of the reasons for this were false prophets and evil counselors among the people. The prophets were saying one thing and the evil advisors; those who carried what we will call 'the Devil's narrative', said another. People by and large, when they are in a reprobate spiritual state, listen to the devil. This passage is very interesting as it is part of a larger vision of Ezekiel's vision of the Glory of the Lord and the cherubim (chapter 10).

This word appears to be broadly addressed to the militarists in Israel, the super-patriots - the kind of folks who are always calling for war, if I can use a modern analogy. The idea seems to be that they believed that city was militarily impregnable and that God was with them... he would not let the city fall.

This was the opposite of what God's true prophets were warning the people. The reference to the caldron appears to be an oblique reference to what Jeremiah said in his prophecies (Jeremiah 1:13). The idea was that like food that is boiled in a pot they would not leave the city until they died. These men may have seen themselves as we kind of now look back at the Alamo. But unlike the Alamo, these were people whom God had pronounced a weighty and most unpleasant judgment upon. They were going to build houses and live securely despite what the 'doom and gloom' prophets told them... or so they thought. Only unlike the movies, there would be no calvary charging in that will bring overall victory to the cause. God had other plans and he was going to carry them out.

Therefore prophesy against them,
prophesy, O son of man. And the Spirit
of Jehovah fell upon me,
and he said unto me, Speak,
Thus saith Jehovah: Thus have ye said,
O house of Israel; for I know the things
that come into your mind. Ye have multiplied
your slain in this city, and ye have
filled the streets thereof with the slain.
Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah:
Your slain whom ye have laid in the midst of it,
they are the flesh, and this city is the caldron;
but ye shall be brought forth out of the midst of it.
Ye have feared the sword;
and I will bring the sword upon you,
saith the Lord Jehovah.
(Ezekiel 11:4-8 - ASV)

God had other plans for this wayward and wicked people. When God has had enough, he has had enough. They had their plans, but God knew them all. God calls them out over all the innocent people they killed; God's prophets they killed... God remembered. He was not going to forget... this was an outstanding 'account' that God was getting ready to collect upon... and as is noted in Chapter 10, this particular action was particularly noteworthy for the glory of the Lord had arrived on the scene. I just don't think the Israelite's knew just how angry God was with them, though he had warned them time and time again.

Have you ever been around someone who never listens and never learns? Who is so contrary they almost seem learning disabled? People whom it seems that the only way they ever seem to learn is when serious misfortune or near unendurable pain hits them? For example - you tell them over and over again to drive more carefully. They don't listen and then one day they are laid up in the hospital all cut up and may not ever walk again after an accident in which they were fully at fault. Ever known anyone like that? I have. Watching their behavior would make a good comedy movie were not the results of their hardheadedness often so tragic. They not only won't learn, they simply and stubbornly refuse to.

This was the state Israel was in. Warning was not going to help. God had sent enough of this prophets to warn them. So, God had a different school to send his people to - we will call it the school of the unholy sepulcher... the place where the spiritually unfit and the morally recalcitrant get taught their final lesson... that does not do them a bit of good after having 'learned' it - their 'diploma' is engraved on their headstone.

Would not listen
would not learn,
so my new instructor
is named the worm

where their worm dieth not,
and the fire is not quenched.
(Mark 9:48 - ASV)

They were afraid of war. Well, now God has pronounced the judgment of war upon them. Brothers, war can be a horrible judgment. I was listening a bit last night about the last days of the Civil War and General's Sherman's march to the sea. In it the author recalls Sherman's words 'war is hell'. He is right and the longer quotations (easily found on the net) are most worthy of the read.  Wikiquotes has a page that can be found by searching on Letter To the City of Atlanta Sherman 1864 wikiquotes  and find that letter to Atlanta on that page.

Many people don't understand that, except via the images we see on TV, which often are very heavily censored. Solders, particularly those in the Army, Marines and Special Forces - who served in battle - they know what war is. Those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other unnamed places in combat... they know that war is nothing to be played with. They can tell you stories... if you can drag them out of them of friends who were standing next to them one minute cracking jokes and the next minute parts of them were scatted all over the battlefield. They can tell you of rape, people shrieking and groaning in pain with wounds that would make most people's stomach turn just looking at them; of murder, children running screaming for pain and loss... I could go on and on.

Today in the western world... this new generation... I don't think really understand this... not really. Far too many think war is a new show they can watch on cable news or a new video game and often don't factor in the enormous suffering war brings on others. In short, to them war... it is something that happens to other people. But when war comes close to home, it's a different story and this is what was getting ready to happen in Israel. Those who remained there could talk proud, make patriotic noises, beat their chests in defiance and arrogance, but war was coming and their defeat was guaranteed. So to anyone anywhere who is calling for war let me say this.... be careful what you wish for, you just may get it... right on your front doorstep and not live long enough to realize what a horrible mistake you made when calling for war in the first place. War is hell.

And I will bring you forth
out of the midst thereof,
and deliver you into the hands of strangers,
and will execute judgments among you.
(Ezekiel 11:9 - ASV)

They said they were in a 'cauldron'. Well God was going to pluck them right out of it and then execute judgment upon them for their sins. God knew their plans and their thoughts.

Ye shall fall by the sword;
I will judge you in the border of Israel;
and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.
This city shall not be your caldron,
neither shall ye be the flesh in the midst thereof;
I will judge you in the border of Israel;
and ye shall know that I am Jehovah:
for ye have not walked in my statutes,
neither have ye executed mine ordinances,
but have done after the ordinances
of the nations that are round about you.
(Ezekiel 11:10-12 - ASV)

These words are self explanatory. They had their plans, and God had his. They refused to walk in the way God commanded when he gave Israel the land, so now it was time for them to be ejected from it. They refused to listen to God and his prophets and instead followed after the ways of the heathen.

And it came to pass,
when I prophesied, that Pelatiah
the son of Benaiah died. Then fell I down
upon my face, and cried with a loud voice,
and said, Ah Lord Jehovah!
wilt thou make a full end
of the remnant of Israel?
(Ezekiel 11:13 - ASV)

Pelatiah, was mentioned in verse one above. He was one of the ones this was directed at. As his personal name was mentioned, he was probably one of the more prominent leaders. While Ezekiel was prophesying, Pelatiah drops dead. Even Ezekiel is moved by this sudden death. When God want's to drive a message home this is one way he does it (see Acts 5:1ff). We can see that Ezekiel is not one of those people itching for judgment to fall on his people; just the opposite, he seems to be a rather reluctant witness of God's words. We see this in Ezekiel 3:14.

So the Spirit lifted me up, and took me away;
and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit;
and the hand of Jehovah
was strong upon me.
(Ezekiel 3:14 - ASV)

Some commentators think that Ezekiel was angry as he shared the Lord's displeasure with Israel. I don't think that is the way this passage is meant to be understood at all. I think Dr. John Gill in his commentary (Dr. John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible) gets it right when he says Ezekiel was angry to have been given this job and have to go and give all of these horrible prophesies to Israel. Ezekiel had to know what often happens to God's prophets. Nevertheless, God was dealing with Ezekiel powerfully and he went... he was hot with anger about having to do this job... but he went.

We will leave this passage off for now.

What is God telling us in this passage? That pride, arrogance, good military defenses and patriotism are no replacement for getting and staying right with God. Israel may have had a good military, good fortifications and high morale, but that wasn't going to help them with the battles that were coming. They were going to be fighting both the enemy and God, who was siding against Israel. Israel was spiritually defenseless and she was going down. She was like a man in the ocean who was encumbered with the weights of wickedness and cement of sin trying to wade ashore. They aren't going anywhere but to the bottom.

Anyone who wants to forget about God should beware, he may one day forget about you. just when you need him most!

You cannot fool or trick God. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Let no nation, church or person think that they can get away with long term recalcitrant sin, particularly after they have been warned and warned again about it. Such an entity is living on borrowed time...

... and those 'interest payments' on sin and evil can indeed add up substantially.

Let we who know our God remember to whom we belong and to mind the business of our God and his Kingdom. Doing this will keep us from becoming entangled with deceptions and troubles that beset the kingdoms of this world. Let us also be careful about who we take advice from be we President or a prisoner; a banker or a truck driver. Let us all be wise in whom we seek advice or counsel.

FYI: This piece was written on January 25th of this year and posted for insiders on that day.

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11 Feb

Hewn Down

And even now the axe also lieth
at the root of the trees: every tree therefore
that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down,
 and cast into the fire.
(Luke 3:9 - ASV)

This theme of cutting down those tree's that did not bear good fruit to God is echoed by both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:19).

This is a hard word. It's something that we Christians in our age need to chew on because such words are not the typical 'baby milk' that is fed in many Churches today. God demands fruit from his trees. He cares for them, tends them and makes sure they have what they need to grow.

But he expects something in return. Fruit. This was the theme that Christ made clear in the Gospel of Luke in a parable.

And he said unto the vinedresser,
Behold, these three years I come
seeking fruit on this fig tree,
 and find none: cut it down;
why doth it also cumber the ground?
And he answering saith unto him,
Lord, let it alone this year also,
till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
and if it bear fruit thenceforth,
well; but if not,
thou shalt cut it down.
(Luke 13:7-9 - ASV)

The vinedresser here is acting as a kind of priest or intermediary for this unfruitful tree. He is trying to save it from becoming firewood in the masters hearth. So he asks the owner to wait just a little longer, he is going to try one more thing...

Now brothers, when I look at what is happening in many of the modern Churches in the west and some of the craziness, sinfulness; the divisions, the unscriptural doctrines being taught, the controversies and the worldliness, I cannot help but wonder how much longer God is going to put up with a tree that is not bearing much or any godly fruit. Something must be done. I read recently where a poll was taken and that said many Christians did not believe in the Holy Spirit. Now how can you be saved and not know who the Holy Spirit is? It's work is essential in the act and process of Salvation. Yet we have large numbers of Christians who are clueless about it at best or don't believe in it at worst! These people really think they are saved. Well, that is like saying one can drive a car and not know what a steering wheel is! Today, there is less and less sound, Biblically based doctrines in our Churches... and these views on the Holy Spirit are very dangerous. Why? To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is the one unpardonable sin (Mark 3:29). You cannot blaspheme against anyone but God. These so-called Christians really need to understand some of the very basics of Christianity and clearly, many simply don't.

Many of you are not going to like what I say here, but I think one of the greatest obstacles to getting people saved, truly saved is many of the Churches - or rather much of the corporate (administrative and legal structures of the) Church. I say that because so many of them say the right words (though today that is not so true), when it comes to salvation, but they just don't live it. One of the things that kind of sent me off the rails of my walk with Christ when I was younger was the way Christians acted and behaved and the consistent mistreatment I got from other so-called Christians. I was really on fire for God and when I pulled back the 'curtain' and saw what was really going on, I became very disillusioned and were it not for God recalling me many years later, I would have certainly lost my soul.

My point is that one can be wayward for only so long and then comes the time of decision - repent or the ax will fall - individually and collectively (the Church).

I think this is a major spiritual issue right now - the state of the Church and I would not be surprised if God and his holy angels and counselors have not been discussing this issue with increasing regularity and concern. I suspect he has as it regards western Christendom.

I am reminded of an exchange the Lord had with the religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees and scribes. They had become a hindrance to people getting saved. They were in the way.

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! because ye shut
the kingdom of heaven against men:
for ye enter not in yourselves,
neither suffer ye them
that are entering in to enter.
(Matthew 23:13 - ASV)

These were the religious leaders of Christ's time. They claimed to be speaking for God. But they weren't. Christ had a long list of sins, crimes and spiritual omissions for these religious hypocrites and told them in plain simple language, that they were children of hell (Matthew 23:15). Christ was not talking to the pagans of ancient Rome or the worshipers of Baal, but to the religious leaders of his own time and nation. They were a big, big problem; thinking they had a map to heaven when in actuality, had a chart to hell. They were on that road and took those who listened to them there as well.

My deep concern is that this is pretty much where much (though certainly not all) of American, yes even western Christendom is at right now. That God is not pleased with the trends in the churches, not pleased with the lack of fruit that is coming off the tree.

My point in writing this brief piece today is to say this. I think the time of separation in the Church is already underway. Those who hold to solid biblical teachings I think are or are in the process of moving out of Churches that refuse to teach sound doctrine and continue to walk stubbornly into great spiritual error. The problem is so many of the newer believers, the ones who have no real grounding in the word of God, these are like young saplings who could be in the gravest of danger from this phenomenon.

But God is most gracious. He is not wanting to destroy the Church. But that may mean that while he won't destroy it, he may very well chastise it and such chastisement may turn out to be quite severe, depending on where the Church is at, spiritually speaking. How God deals with different Churches is laid out for us in the book of Revelation, chapters two and three. Here is how those seven letters were prefaced.

I John, your brother
and partaker with you in the tribulation
and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus,
was in the isle that is called Patmos,
for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day,
and I heard behind me a great voice,
as of a trumpet saying, What thou seest,
write in a book and send it to the seven churches:
unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna,
and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira,
and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia,
and unto Laodicea.
(Revelation 1:9-11 - ASV)

Each Church had its issues, some good and some not good. The Lord lays out what they are to do and what is ahead for them. So it is not wise for us to think that God is going to deal with all Churches, denominations and congregations in the same way. He won't. Each will have to deal with their own challenges, the consequences for their own sins and the reward for their own abundance of good fruit. God see's all, no one is going to pull the wool over the Lord's eyes.

But the real questions is at what point does a person, church, or denomination get itself hewn down? When does God cut down the unfruitful tree and pluck it up by the roots? That tree that did nothing but take up precious resources?

This is what he did with Israel. He got tired of their sins and of warning them about them. Finally he had had enough.

At what instant I shall speak
concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom,
to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it;
 if that nation, concerning which I have spoken,
turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil
that I thought to do unto them.
And at what instant I shall speak
concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom,
to build and to plant it; if they do that
which is evil in my sight, that they obey not my voice,
then I will repent of the good, wherewith
I said I would benefit them. Now therefore,
 speak to the men of Judah,
and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
saying, Thus saith Jehovah: Behold,
I frame evil against you, and devise
a device against you: return ye now
every one from his evil way,
and amend your ways and your doings.
(Jeremiah 18:7-11 - ASV)

God showed great patience with ancient Israel. As we also see, he showed the same kind of patience with the Church. Six times in the letters to the seven Churches Christ used the word repent to get them to change course (Revelation 2:5; 2:16; 2:21; 2:22; 3:3; and 3:19). I cannot help but wonder what the Lord would have an apostle write to the Churches of the west today - to the Lutheran, the Baptist, the Catholic, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Adventists and the Orthodox. What kinds of words of praise and rebuke would he have for them today?

I do not know, but I cannot help but wonder - have God's holy angels begun getting in line to get their tree axes sharpened?

Let us pray that if they are, we are not part of the field that that is targeted and that those who are targeted, fully understand the danger they are in so that they may repent before the ax hews down the tree. 

Let us also pray for the pastors across the western world that are doing right and have kept faith with God in spite of all the evil pressures from inside and outside of the Church that would lead them off course. That they may continue on preaching and teaching the word in ways that please our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That the sheep learn to turn their backs on false teachers and preachers and turn their faces towards God and sound doctrine as found in the scriptures.

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13 Jan

In Praise of Humility

The reward of humility
and the fear of Jehovah
Is riches, and honor, and life.
(Proverbs 22:4 - ASV)

Today, let's talk very briefly about being humble.

Let us always be humble. Mankind? Brothers and sisters, not one of us has any right to be proud and lifted up about who we are or what we do. Not the rich and famous, not the powerful, not the beautiful and not the mighty. Humility, true humility comes from knowing who we are in the overall scheme of things - in God's eyes, but also in light of the great expanse of the universe and eternity. When one looks at the sons of men from this perspective, we are little more than a puff of smoke, which exists for a very short time and then disappears.

As Christians, humility - true humility must always be a key part of our walk. When we come to God in prayer, we have to do it humbly, not with any kind of pride and certainly not spiritual pride. We must come to God even as King Josiah did, when he inquired of the Lord. God had determined to bring evil upon his people for forsaking him. But the king found favor in God's eyes. Why?

But unto the king of Judah,
who sent you to inquire of Jehovah,
thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith Jehovah,
the God of Israel: As touching the words
which thou hast heard, because thy heart
was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God,
when thou heardest his words against this place,
and against the inhabitants thereof,
and hast humbled thyself before me,
 and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me;
I also have heard thee, saith Jehovah.
Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers,
and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace,
neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that
I will bring upon this place, and upon the
 inhabitants thereof. And they brought
back word to the king.
(2 Chronicles 34:26-28 - ASV)

The King pleased God and this is how we have to behave when we come to the Lord. We have to be humble and totally honest with God, knowing that we are made from the very dirt that our feet walk upon.

I tend to think that some of the greatest obstacles to personal happiness and contentment are pride, arrogance and worldly ambition. It's also a key obstacle to any kind of relationship with God. Humility - deep and sincere humility on our part is a key part of that relationship.

But he giveth more grace.
Wherefore the scripture saith,
God resisteth the proud,
but giveth grace to the humble.
(James 4:6 - ASV)

And whosoever shall exalt himself
shall be humbled;

and whosoever shall humble himself
shall be exalted.

(Matthew 23:12 - ASV)

We have all heard these versus before, but let us always keep them in our minds as we walk our daily walks with Christ. To be humble, kind, unassuming and helpful when appropriate. We should spend less time trying to be attention getters to a lost world and rather becoming an attention getter in God's eyes.

The way to get God's attention is 180 degree's different than the world's way. With the world you have to have money, fame, good looks, be 'popular' with the 'in crowd', say and do popular and trendy things. People do it to be acceptable to onlookers. But with God, he is looking for that quiet, faithful soul who is noted for his humility towards God and his righteous life. The person who has a quiet, holy and humble life in faithful service to God... this is the person that gets God's attention. God will set his hand over that person and watch over him and guide him in the paths that lead to life.

But we must be humble enough to receive the Lord's instruction and learn from him. God will set those whom he loves often on a very different life path than that of others. Often this is a quieter and humbler path, the one that does not have so many people on it. It may be a path that leads one from the Corporate Board room to a quiet place in the country and drives that person into the prayer closet instead of a steady stream of corporate merger negotiations. Or perhaps to the mission field, instead of performing in front of the theatrical footlights.

Too many men and women expect that God is going to put them on some pedestal and make them some new Christian celebrity or some 'great man of God' in the eyes of the the world or Christendom. Somehow deep down inside, I suspect many think that God should be honored to have them serving him and expect to be rewarded appropriately with importance, fame and fortune.

Before God can use, really use such a person such thinking has to be done away with and they must learn to take the back seat and an unrecognized part in things. This humbler mindset must become second nature to them. In short, they have to be broken of that kind of me first or I'm important kind of thinking.

In our times particularly, we should not be seeking great things for ourselves. I think of Jeremiah's faithful scribe and how the Lord set him straight about seeking great things for himself.

And seekest thou great things for thyself?
seek them not; for, behold,
I will bring evil upon all flesh,
saith Jehovah; but thy life will I give unto thee
for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
(Jeremiah 45:5 - ASV)

Now Baruch had connections to the Royal Court as his brother was the King's chamberlain. So he may have had some secret aspirations. What they were we are not privy to, but clearly God saw something in them and wanted to gently correct Jeremiah's faithful scribe. If he was looking for a place at court, God here dismisses that clearly in Jeremiah 45:4 where he tells him he was going to break down and pluck up his people. Getting a high position in a court that was going to go into exile wasn't a very practical aspiration, considering the plans God had in store.

This is why we should always find out what God wants us to do and be where he wants us to be. It's better to live a humble life in a quiet cottage with God's love and protection than in a million dollar penthouse suite in a huge metropolis that God has marked down for destruction.

So it should be with us. In a world heading for God's holy judgment, how valuable do you really think being 'important' is in this increasingly wicked world? Who wants to fight and claw their way to the top of a dung heap that is about to be cast into the fires? That is how I view those people who are ambitious in the things of this world. The real issue I think is that deep down inside, they are still very much in love with this world and the pomp, glory and wealth that the system has to offer. More in love with those things, than with God.

Brothers, it behooves us to always be humble in all we say and do. God really does not like pride; but rather a humble, thankful and obedient heart.

Before destruction the heart of man is haughty;
And before honor goeth humility.
(Proverbs 18:12 - ASV)

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9 Dec

A Matter of Trust

This brothers and sisters is going to be one of the most important things for each of us in the last days - who do you trust? In these days of false prophets, controversial pastors and questionable politicians, it is often going to be a serious choice for many of us. This matter of trust may be one that causes us to leave our jobs, move, change churches or even the country we live in. Who do you trust? Officials in government? Bureaucrats with long titles? Pastors with many university degree's? Public Health officials? Hollywood Stars? Who should you trust? In times of crisis who should you believe?

You see when one gets to belief systems, you are hitting at the root and target of any propaganda campaign because almost all propaganda is targeting those core belief systems. The MSM wants you to believe and trust them, alternative media wants you to believe and trust them, the government wants you to believe and trust them, etc. They are all trying to gain your trust when many of them simply don't deserve that trust. How many times have officials lied to us?

Liars are real. Hitler lied his way to power and then used his lies to kill millions. But many Germans trusted him. They really believed him and in his party. I think the real problem is not so much that people believed him, but that it was convenient to believe him, or at least pretend you did - and with others, they wanted to believe him even though deep down inside, they had their doubts. But with many in both groups, I think fear and cowardice were at the root of their 'belief'.

In these days of massive propaganda, fake news, lying narratives put forward by corrupted governments, we just have to be careful about whom we believe. A government with a long and often negative track record... I think it wise to be most reticent before we put much faith in such a system. Why not? Simple. Believing a lie, any lie, no matter how small is the first step on a long road to the city of deception. It may be paved with the most beautiful lies, layered in gold and platinum, with beautiful people smiling at you giving you gifts as you head down that road, but in the end you will only find you have been fooled, surrounded by people who took the same wrong turn you did when they listened to the lie and continued down the path of deception.

I can remember one time I had a conversation with someone who was struggling with their faith. They asked me why did God demand faith. I suspect they seemed to think it was a 'cop out' for God not coming down and performing some magic tricks to get people to believe in him. I said, you have to go back to the Garden of Eden.

They looked at me kind of funny and with a high degree of incredulity, but I just said, Yes, because that is where it all began. They wanted me to continue, so I did.

I told them, that when God put man and his woman in the garden, he gave them a specific commandment.

And Jehovah God commanded
the man, saying, Of every tree
of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day
that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
(Genesis 2:16-17 - ASV)

This is basic Christianity 101, but I think it key. God gave Adam a commandment and the man (and later his woman) had to obey the commandment, but at the root of that obedience is the idea of belief. They had to believe God was sincere in what he said would happen. It is the same today, if God gives us a commandment we have to believe God about that commandment and the consequences for disobedience. It comes down to a matter of faith... do you believe God, will you trust him or will you disobey and show unbelief in what he just told you to do? This was a test for Adam that God was giving him - Do you believe and will you obey the Lord, your God?

This I think is a key aspect of a rather enigmatic statement Christ made in the Gospel of John about spiritual blindness to the Pharisee's. One has to know what God commands and once one does, there comes spiritual responsibility.

Jesus said unto them,
If ye were blind, ye would have no sin:
but now ye say, We see:
your sin remaineth.
(John 9:41 - ASV)

One has to hear what God has to say, believe in what he says, and then do as he commanded. This is the essence of that key ingredient in the Gospel, faith.

Faith was broken in the Garden as you all know. How? By the devil planting the seeds of both doubt and deception in what God had commanded.

Now the serpent was more subtle
than any beast of the field
which Jehovah God had made.
And he said unto the woman,
Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat
of any tree of the garden?
And the woman said unto the serpent,
Of the fruit of the trees of the garden
we may eat: but of the fruit of the tree
which is in the midst of the garden,
God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it,
neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
And the serpent said unto the woman,
Ye shall not surely die: for God doth
know that in the day ye eat thereof,
then your eyes shall be opened,
and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.
And when the woman saw that
the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired
to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof,
and did eat; and she gave also
unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
(Genesis 3:1-6 - ASV)

The devil had a plan and he executed it with his usual demonic skill. He found the weak point, exploited it, caused doubt to arise, and then sprung his trap with the lie - Ye shall not surely die.

The key? The woman ceased to believe God and chose instead to listen to and believe the devil. Again it was a question of whom to believe. Eve and later Adam made the wrong choice and ceased to believe God. But God was indeed true to his word and every human who lives has died since then. God does not forget his word and always carries it out.

I really wanted to get to belief systems today and the whole idea of faith because of the vicious and pervasive information war that is being waged all over the planet on a whole range of key issues today. Who and what we believe will invariably dictate how we behave and the choices we make. If you believe you can cross a bridge without incident and need to, chances are you are going to go across, but if you believe that if you cross it, it's not going to hold up, you probably won't. This is a basic and yes, an oversimplification of a most important aspect of human behavior - belief.

Taking hold of Christ and his work on the cross requires faith. We have to hear the word of God, believe it and then obey it. Christ's work restores the faith-trust relationship with God that was destroyed in the garden and why God demands it from all of us.

This is how I explained the need for faith to this person some 25 years ago. In our times, we must always examine and reexamine our belief systems and make sure they are on and remain on the firm foundation of God's word and keep faith with God. I can tell you this brothers and sisters from my personal experience - God honors faith. Put your trust, your whole being in God's hands - and this can often entails some degree of risk or even danger - and God will honor it. That has been my experience.

So in our times, let us always be skeptical of anything and anyone before we believe what they tell us. Trust is a good thing, but it can be a most dangerous one, even suicidal if it is placed in the wrong person, group or system. To me, trust is one of the most precious gifts one can give to another and it should not be given away to just anyone... not if you want to live a long and happy life (!).

God bless and keep you all in Christ!

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16 Nov

Malak Elohim (Angel Of The Lord)

These words in Hebrew mean Angel or Messenger (4397 in Strong's Hebrew Bible Dictionary) of the Lord. Other times in scripture the phrase Angel of Jehovah is used. These are beings created by God who serve him in the spiritual and temporal realm. Their job for the most part is to execute the will of God. They are 'deputized' by the Lord to carry out specific tasks for which they are both commanded and empowered.

These beings can bring comfort to the despised (as Hagar was when Sarai pushed her out of the house), they can bring in powerful messages to God's servants (as with Joseph in the NT - Matthew 1:20) or they can bring interpretive messages to prophecies as with Daniel, Zechariah and John the Revelator. They can also prepare a lowly person to become a great warrior or servant of the Lord, as with Gideon. If there is an important task for one of God's people to do, you can be pretty sure there is an angel around to help that person carry out that task.

Brothers, I honestly don't think I would be alive today were it not for the angel's that God sent to protect me. If we serve the Lord and fear him, he will indeed send his angels to look out for us.

The angel of Jehovah encampeth
round about them that fear him,

And delivereth them.
(Psalms 34:7 - ASV)

If you serve God, you have powerful protection. Protection that has probably protected you many times in the past in ways you were never aware of. These angels can be powerful spirits. God has in the past shown me (in the spirit) both the demons that were arrayed against me and the angel that was sent to protect me.

God I think wanted me to understand what was happening from another perspective; the real battle lines that were not seen by the naked eye or natural mind. Sometimes we have to see things in this other way in order to get a resolution to our own particular woes and know how to pray and approach a problem.

These angels can warn us of impending danger. (Matthew 2:13) They can also bring words of encouragement (Zechariah 1:13).

These angels that protect us and those who obey the commandments of the Lord, some of them are very, very powerful. Remember when Hezekiah was afraid when he heard the King of Assyria was coming against him? The Lord had other plans.

For I will defend this city to save it,
for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.
And the angel of Jehovah went forth, and smote
in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred
and fourscore and five thousand; and when men
arose early in the morning, behold,
these were all dead bodies.
So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed,
and went and returned,
and dwelt at Nineveh.
(Isaiah 37:35-37 - ASV)

While Hezekiah may have been afraid, in reality there was nothing to worry about. God had his angel at the ready to deal with Sennacherib, whose army was no match for one single, solitary angel of the Lord.

I write this brief piece for each of you today so that no matter what you are facing, God knows about it. If you belong to him, God can set his angel about you and if it is necessary, God can send that angel reinforcements.

Brothers, I know many of you are worried about what is happening in our world. Some of you are worried about your jobs, your livelihoods, your kids, the price of necessities and your future.

Just know that what you are facing is something that God knew about long ago. Do you serve the Lord? Chances are excellent that your angel knows of your situation and is either busy at work on your behalf or standing by awaiting orders from the Most High God.

You are not alone.

And when the servant of the man of God
was risen early, and gone forth, behold,
a host with horses and chariots was
round about the city. And his servant said unto him,
Alas, my master! how shall we do?
 And he answered, Fear not; for they that are
with us are more than they that are with them.
And Elisha prayed, and said, Jehovah,
I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.
And Jehovah opened the eyes of the young man;
and he saw: and, behold, the mountain
was full of horses and chariots of fire
round about Elisha.
(2 Kings 6:15-17 - ASV)

Whatever your situation, I just wanted to remind each of you the powerful angelic protection that you have as a 'fringe benefit' of serving God and placing your faith in his Messiah, Jesus Christ.

You are not alone in what you are facing, today or in the future.

Keep faith with God. I have found that he can always be depended on, not necessarily to do what we want, but to bring a situation to a resolution that is best. We may think we know what is best, but in reality it is God that knows what is best for us, those around us and his Church.

So if it seems as though God is about to throw you into the fiery furnace like the three young men in the book of Daniel, just remember there was another person in that flame that protected them who had the appearance of one of the son of the gods (Daniel 3:25). Despite any fears those three had, there was never any real reason to be afraid. God had their backs!

...for he that toucheth you
toucheth the apple of his eye.
Zechariah 2:8b - ASV)

In closing know this - God has not gone to sleep. He knows about you and your situations. I believe it best to fret not yourself, but trust in God in all things, obey his voice, even when it sometimes does not seem to make sense to your natural mind. What? Do you think it made sense for Naaman to go and wash in Jordan to be cured (see 2Kings 5:10ff)? It didn't. He could have missed his blessing if he had chosen to listen to his natural reasoning rather than the words of the Lord and his prophet.

So brothers, be encouraged, have faith and stand strong!!

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12 July

Fearlessness of Faith

Grace and peace to each of you and may God bless and keep you all in these troubling, confusing and disconcerting ties.

Today's update is not about current events. Its about how we all must deal with the troubles that come our way and the strangeness of our times.

As you all know, I read a lot of things from a wide variety of sources. Left, Right, Christian, secular, US and foreign. I often get information overload reading so much. But one thing I have noted in the past year and a half since the 2020 election and Covid's spread across the globe. It is the incredible amount of fear-mongering and half-truths being spread not just by the 'unofficial', the dissenters and others, but by officialdom and semi-officialdom as well. The fear, misdirections, half-truths and disinformation are real. They are not a figment of yours or my imagination. A lot of money is being spent to influence opinion and the government has hardly been innocent in this battleground, duly spreading fear and contributing significantly to the deep and troubling divisions in the country.

Fear is a powerful emotion. Fear and hate are two powerful tools an adept propagandist and liar uses when he wants to spread his poison into your mind. The tentacles of this kind of propaganda, when it is run by governments and their secretive agencies can be very significant. These forces have 'influence' in many of top line establishment news and even in many alternative news sites. With some of these sites and sources, I see them as kind of a 'fake opposition', designed specifically to control forces; racial, social or political groups who they know will have problems with some policies at some time in the future. These state run or state connected forces operate on all sides of the political spectrum. They deal in social, racial and gender based news sources and blogs. In the US they use these tools often ostensibly to counter foreign propaganda. I want to stress the word ostensibly because today, it appears that there is little real control over these forces and their efforts to ride roughshod over the basic rights of ordinary, hard working, law abiding Americans who have more than a few inconvenient questions about some of the things going down in the country today. 

My point here today is to school you in the university of faith. When the demons of fear and hate start to preach their horror and brimstone driven sermons, we must not take the bait. Many Christians and their sites are just dripping with fear based stories. Horror, dread and scary stuff just oozes from the computer screen once the proper URL is entered in. Let us be careful of such sites, forces and people. They may or may not be operating from the best of intentions but the key to remember is that fear is not faith. We must not allow ourselves to be inundated with all of the stuff on the net, the scary, the wacky, the hateful or the deceitful.

Some of you are worried about Covid. Some of you were worried about Biden becoming President, the left is worried that Trump might return to the White House. My question is - where is the faith of God's people and of those who constantly spread fear and dread into cyberspace?

You see, I think many of these so called Christians have lost sight of some important truths. That the devil is running this planet for he is the prince of this world. Why should we be shocked when he shows his true colors? Authoritarianism? Yes, this is what the devil is working towards and his servants in this world are helping - some knowingly, most not. One of the first things the devil wants to do is to destroy truth tellers so that the big lie can be told unchallenged. This is why we have seen so much censorship in this world. The official lie must never be challenged. This is the first rule in any authoritarian, non-free, political system. I think we can all smell the stench of such a system in the west, however faintly.

This is why we must always be on our guard for the devil will certainly throw his darts at us in the form of various falsehoods and in these times, we can all see just how dangerous such lies can be. Ask the Jews of Nazi Germany how the lies spread about them by the party about their very membership in the human race put millions in the gas chambers. The devil knows how to lie and he knows how to get people to believe them. If you don't think you can be fooled, you have been already.

But we who know the truth need not fear such lies. We must remember our place. Then we must remember the place of those who have rejected God's truth. Brothers, this is just going to be hard for a lot of you. You are just going to have to toughen up and realize that many of them are just going to go walking blithely into a multitude of traps that you and I can see, but they cannot and in most cases, simply refuse to.

We cannot save the world. We must not try. We can only preach the gospel, live our lives in love and hope and let the world do what the world does best - rebel against God; sometimes in lesser ways, other times in greater. When God wants to warn the world of what it is doing, he will raise up a or many prophets.

With many Christians particularly a lot of blogs and news sites, I think they get frustrated because they are trying to do the impossible. They are trying to 'teach the dead to sing'. No matter how hard you try, with the best of intentions you will only get silence out of a corpse. So it is with the world. This world is lost. It will always be lost. Those who are part of this world are and will be lost. You cannot teach it to be a Christian because it knows not Christ. The corpse must cease to be a one if it is ever to learn to sing. When we are born again, we come out of this world and are alive to Christ, we have the potential to 'sing', though with many this never develops into anything but a failed potentiality. We are no longer of this world, but have been given the power to become sons of God.

I realize that many are deeply concerned about the trends in the nation and world. Don't be. These things must needs be. Cease to do the 'freak out' thing and worrying yourself and others half to death. We as Christians must walk in this world; we must traverse the land of Sodom, the valley of Gomorrah, the high places of idolatry and false religion and the minefields of lies. We cannot get distracted by the sins of others nor be enticed by the temptations the devil will put in our path to divert us from our steady course. Nor can we live in fear and dread for what may or may not happen. If you serve God, I mean truly serve him, you are in his hands. If not, you are going to be cannon fodder for the devil, who hates mankind only a little less than he hates God.

Are you walking with God? Is your pathway directed by him? Have you dedicated the rest of your life here on this earth to his service? Then these words should encourage you.

After these things
the word of Jehovah came unto Abram in a vision,
saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield,
and thy exceeding great reward.
(Genesis 15:1 - ASV)

What were the first two words the Lord spoke to Abram here? Fear not! This vision took place right after a major battle where the King of Sodom was involved and Abram would not take so much as a shoe lace from him. He did not want it said that the King of Sodom made him rich. Abram knew that some gifts have too high a price. There are some things that are better not taken. In today's world there are some jobs we just should not do. They may be perfectly legal and even somewhat respected by the world, but that does not mean we should take them.

For Christians - ever thought about taking a job as a check out clerk at the local grocery store at $20k a year rather than a job at some big corporation that censors Christians, finds ways to harass believers, pushes things on society that they know God hates for a salary of $100k a year? It is not an easy decision, but one that may in the long run, spiritually speaking, turn out to be by far the best. All that glitters isn't gold and even if it is, what lies underneath all that flash may be dangerous or even lethal, spiritually speaking. This is one of those things you must truly seek the Lord about in prayer before making such decisions.

Remember Lot? When there was strife between Lot's herdsmen and Abram's the two separated. Lot chose what looked good on the surface (Genesis 13:10) to move to. But this was where Sodom was before it was destroyed. While it may have looked good on the surface, let us never forget that Lot only eventually escaped that place with his life, and even then only after Abraham interceded for him. His wife didn't make it. Lot saw something that glittered but later, it turned into brimstone when the Lord got finished with it.

Then God tells Abram that he is his shield, that being his protection. God will protect you if you are his and serve him honestly and honorably. God had a mission for Abraham. In order for him to get that protection, he like we do, have to stay the course on what God wanted him to do. He was on his way to the promised land - a land that God would show him. We too are on our way to the promised land. If we stay the course, God will help keep us on course and protect us. God protected Abraham and he will protect you and me as well.

So to those of you who serve God, I write this brief piece today so that you cease to worry and wonder about the lost world. There are some things you can fix and there are things you cannot. A wise man knows the difference and concentrates on what he can change rather than getting worry lines in his forehead about things he cannot.

Our jobs are simple - to live the gospel. Most people are not going to believe or accept it and in time, we will be badly persecuted here in the west for our faith. But some will come to the cross, but only some of those will do what the scriptures command - endure to the end.

Brothers hear me out on this - most souls will not make it. They are just going to be lost. Many of your families, friends and loved ones... they are going to be lost. They chose it and remember this - no one deserves heaven. God has granted us this great salvation by his grace and love. As a race, mankind is lost, reprobate and vile. We don't see ourselves that way... while we commit unspeakable crimes one upon another. We wallow in our moral filth and claim to be righteous; our hands stained with the blood of our brother, lips dripping hate and lies and pockets holding dishonest gain.

No brothers, every soul that is lost will be lost because of his own choosing. Every soul that is saved is there because of God's grace.

I have always looked at this salvation thing like this. There is the divine harvester. He is looking only for the choicest parts of the harvest. Only the very best gets into his barn. He gets rid of the rest. It simply is not good enough to meet his standards. He sells off the refuse and the devil is more than willing to take it.

So it is with salvation. We are special to God, very special and he has taken a lot of time and effort to build us up into what he wants us to be.

Let us remember that and that we have no part in this world, its ways or its fate. He who remembers this on a daily basis will find he is less likely to make key mistakes in these troubling times.

and I will bless them that bless thee,
and him that curseth thee will I curse:
and in thee shall all the families
of the earth be blessed.
(Genesis 12:3 - ASV)

May the blessing of Abram (Abraham) be upon each of you who truly and faithfully serve the Lord and have kept the faith in good times and in bad and not denied the name of the Lord Jesus Christ nor are ashamed of the Gospel.


Note: This piece is not any kind of professional financial or career advice and should not be construed as or acted upon as such. This is merely personal commentary and a 'food for thought' piece for Christians as we navigate these troubling and difficult times. This site's full disclaimer policy can be found at the bottom of this page.

2 June

Lawfare And Spiritual Warfare

Navigating the future in the west I don't think is going to be easy. When Churches are not allowed by law to congregate while others are is a problem. One that needs to be explored.

During this pandemic, Churches have done right I think so far by obeying authorities during the pandemic but also by using the courts to deal with authorities edicts restricting worship. But what about when perhaps some future edict goes directly against our great commission or the commands of scripture? What then? This is no little matter, because such days may not be so very far away, given the political landscape and some of the other things being slowly moved legally and administratively against Christians in the west. 

Are there any examples in scripture about this? Are there examples of 'lawfare' in our Bibles? Men who used the law subtly to entrap God's servants? Yes. I will just use one today, because I think it most apt.

Daniel was a man greatly beloved of God and who served the Emperor Darius. He was very good at his job and no one could find any occasion against him. He was wise, most efficient and the emperor had a lot of respect for him. So much so that he was to be the number two man in the Kingdom, above all the other administrators.

Then this Daniel was distinguished
above the presidents and the satraps,
because an excellent spirit was in him;
and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.
Then the presidents and the satraps
sought to find occasion against Daniel
as touching the kingdom;
but they could find no occasion nor fault,
forasmuch as he was faithful,
neither was there any
 error or fault found in him.
(Daniel 6:3-4 - ASV)

Daniels' enemies were looking for something... anything they could use against him. But could not find anything. Man, do I personally know what that is like! Well, if they can't find anything - create something against them. Here is what went down with God's servant, Daniel

Then said these men,
We shall not find any
occasion against this Daniel,

except we find it against him
concerning the law of his God.
(Daniel 6:5 - ASV)

This is lawfare in the age of the Medes and the Persians. Lawfare based on religion. And not unlike today, the deeper ramifications are spiritual in nature. Perhaps it would help to look at this like the spiritual stronghold of Babylon was coming against a man of God. What was the 'hook' this stronghold used to entice these men to come against God's man? Jealousy. In order for the devil to get people to act he has to have some kind of 'hook' to pull them in the direction he wants them to go. So these princes of Babylon were hatching a plot against Daniel. They realized it had to be against his religion and his God after having looked everywhere else.

Then these presidents and satraps
assembled together to the king,
and said thus unto him, King Darius,
live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom,
the deputies and the satraps,
the counsellors and the governors,
have consulted together to establish
a royal statute, and to make a strong interdict,
that whosoever shall ask a petition
of any god or man for thirty days, save of thee,
O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.
Now, O king, establish the interdict,
and sign the writing, that it be not changed,
according to the law of the Medes and Persians,
which altereth not.
(Daniel 6:6-8 - ASV)

Like most good administrators, they were clever. They created this law, which only had temporary effect (30 days) and during this time, no one could could come to any God and pray... except of course to the emperor himself. Here they show that they understood a few things. First that such a law if for an extended period could cause social unrest; second, it was OK to come to the King. Here they appealed to the Kings vanity, who now would be the exclusive 'god' to whom the people could come to in order to make any petition. This was a firm law and one that could not be revoked. The penalty for breaking it was death by lions den.

Now this is one crazy law, but one cannot think for a second that men in power in any age are not capable of putting such laws into action. Here the motive was for one reason alone, to kill Daniel. They shifted the whole religious and legal landscape of the empire to kill one godly man. Make no mistake, a truly Godly man who yields himself to God is someone that the devil will take the greatest pains to try and destroy.

Wherefore king Darius
signed the writing and the interdict.
(Daniel 6:9 - ASV)

This is rather sad. Why in the world did Darius sign this? He had to realize this would effect Daniel, his most trusted servant? We don't know. But it is not impossible that Daniel was 'out of the office' that day, perhaps out tallying the grain supply or inspecting the royal armory. These administrators probably waited until an ideal time to spring this on the king. Perhaps after the emperor had a few glasses of the special Persian vintage of wine and some Persian dancing beauty did her little performance for the court (this is not unheard of in scripture - see Mark 6:22ff). However they did it, they were able to get the king to sign this stupid law.

And when Daniel knew
that the writing was signed,
he went into his house (now his windows
were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem);
and he kneeled upon his knees
three times a day, and prayed,
and gave thanks before his God,
as he did aforetime.
(Daniel 6:10 - ASV)

Here is the thing, once he knew it was signed Daniel did not change a thing. Knowing the danger and certainly knowing his enemies had arranged this trap, he continued to serve the Lord and prayed like he did before - even though it had become a crime, punishable by death.

Daniel had to navigate this legal and administrative jungle with all of these administrative and legal snakes, crocodiles and piranha out to devour him. How did he do it? In this instance, it was a head-on approach. he was not going to be frightened out of serving God. He was not going to be scared out of praying to the Lord. He went in his room turned towards Jerusalem, got on his knee's and prayed. In short, Daniel, with his actions was saying 'pass all the laws you want, I am going to serve the Lord'. This was faith for Daniel knew that he moment he got on his knees he was according to the law, a dead man.

These days, many Christians are relying on political parties, non-profit legal organizations and others to protect their rights from bad laws that attack Christians. Certainly these organization are for the most part, doing excellent work and have done much to protect us. But we must never forget that this is ultimately, not a political or legal battle, but a spiritual one. This was the secret that Daniel knew and his enemies did not.

Then these men assembled
together unto the king,
and said unto the king, Know, O king,
that it is a law of the Medes and Persians,
that no interdict nor statute
which the king establisheth
may be changed.
(Daniel 6:15 - ASV)

On the surface, it looked like Daniel's enemies had won a major victory. They run to the king like a group of tattle-tale school children, probably unable to contain their joy in their news that Daniel was now committing a capital offense.

But the king realized that he made a major error in signing that decree and did what he could to fix things. But his administrators were adamant, they wanted Daniel, or what was left of him after the lions were finished, under six feet of dirt... no if's, no and's and no but's. They had the King as well as Daniel in a trap.

The King did not appreciate this as we see and administrators and lawyers often do make big mistakes. This was a major political mistake they made - tricking and entrapping the king. They probably thought they were indispensable.

We know the rest of the story. God sent an angel to protect Daniel from this unwise and unrighteous edict and the wicked men behind it. Daniel came out of the den unharmed.

This is not what happened to Daniel's enemies.

And the king commanded,
nd they brought those men that
had accused Daniel, and they cast them
into the den of lions, them, their children,
and their wives; and the lions had
the mastery of them, and brake
all their bones in pieces,
before they came to the
bottom of the den.
(Daniel 6:24 - ASV)

Despite all that his enemies had planned against God's man, Daniel prospered (Daniel 6:28).

I have gone over this passage for a reason. As we watch the generational shift in the country as well as attacks on religious liberty, we must understand that we are indeed in a kind of jungle. We have enemies who are lying in wait for us as we traverse the dangerous landscape. They want to do us harm, even kill us. But we who know our God can depend on him to look out for us. To protect us from the wickedness of those who would do us harm. Sometimes God has to let our enemies get so far, so he can beat them back. Let them do their wickedness so they have no excuse when they are thrown into the lions den, as they would do to God's people.

This is the boomerang effect and at times, I have seen it at work. What people try and throw at God's people can sometimes comes right back around at them. The key is to never take vengeance yourself, keep faith with God and keep your eyes and ears open to what is going on and more importantly to what God wants you to do.

Also remember that Daniel was willing to pour out his life for his God and such a call may be made upon us one day.

And they overcame him
because of the blood of the Lamb,
and because of the word of their testimony;
and they loved not their life
even unto death.
(Revelation 12:11 - ASV)

For one day, all hell will break loose and that great dragon, Satan will be given enormous authority here on earth. He will make war on we who follow Christ Jesus.

And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman,
and went away to make war
with the rest of her seed

that keep the commandments of God,
and hold the testimony of Jesus:
(Revelation 12:17 - ASV)

I beheld, and the same horn
made war with the saints,
and prevailed against them;
(Daniel 7:21 - ASV)

And it was given unto him
to make war with the saints,
and to overcome them:
and there was given to him authority
over every tribe and people
and tongue and nation.
(Revelation 13:7 - ASV)

The war will certainly start off with legal aspects to it. You can't worship, you can't congregate, you can't witness, you must bow down before the emperor, etc. The devil will make sure that in such a war, laws are passed to do just that - attack Christians for that is his primary purpose, to make war against the saints. This is clearly what happens with the Mark of the Beast. A law is passed making taking the mark compulsory along with the worship of an image. The penalty will be death. It will be lawfare but with a specific spiritual or rather, demonic purpose in mind. But God as well will be working his own purpose in this - he is going to allow it. It will test the whole world as well as his saints. Those saints who are here will have to go through it but God will spare others of this great trial which will come upon the whole world (Revelation 3:10).

There will be different ways for different people on how to navigate the coming jungle. Paul when being questioned used his wisdom to confound his interrogators by asserting a resurrection when the council was divided about that issue (Acts 23:6ff). God will show us what to do if we put our trust in him fully. He has done that with me and at times he is very specific about what I am to do. He will do this with you if you are truly walking with him and have chosen to be in his service. But for many, if not most of us who are alive when the mark is instituted, we must steel ourselves for death. The spirit distinctly says that this spirit of anti-Christ will have power to overcome us (in the body). But we ultimately do overcome by the blood of Christ and the word of our testimony.

In conclusion, I see lawfare as intensifying as anti-God forces move more and more into the corridors of power all over the world. False religion, anti-religion and others will work on behalf of the devil and in nine cases out of ten, won't know who their ultimate employer is. We must prepare our hearts for it. The devil is deadly serious about his attacks on we who are of Christ. It is only when he is given authority that he can come after us in full.

Today as we can see, persecution is more a regional phenomenon. We in the west are harassed, but rarely feel the brunt of the kinds of persecution that is felt in many parts of the world. That one day is going to change. When and how I cannot say, but you can be certain that if God warned us about persecution, we must be prepared for it and not try and kid ourselves that persecution only means for someone else.

So as we move through the jungle of our times let us recognize that there are many predators out there who will seek our harm and even our lives and when possible and practicable, let us avoid the traps the devil and his imps will lay for us in the days ahead.

God bless and keep you all in Christ!


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20 Apr

A Curse

Now Jehovah said unto Abram,
Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred,
and from thy father's house, unto the land
that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation,
and I will bless thee, and make thy name great;
and be thou a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee,
and him that curseth thee will I curse:
and in thee shall all the families
of the earth be blessed.
(Genesis 12:1-3 - ASV)

This is one of those subjects that are often best avoided in polite 'Christian' society. But the idea of a curse is a very serious affair and frankly, I am not so sure many 'generic' Christians really believe in and or understand just how serious it is.

In the above passage, God had called out Abraham for a very specific purpose. He was going to use Abraham's obedience and faith as a key instrument to bring salvation to mankind. Obedience because Abraham (at that time Abram) had to do something, he had to get out of his native land and away from his family and go to a place that God did not specify exactly but would reveal at the proper time.

Then he gives him a powerful promise. Anyone who blesses Abraham will be blessed and anyone who curses him will be cursed. As we noted in the last part of Samuel, we see how God does indeed protect his people when they are on a divinely appointed mission. God was going to protect his servant and that he did many times in his long journey.

A curse brothers is a horrible thing. It can entail all manner of evils, illnesses, pain, or poverty. It's something that is a sign of great divine displeasure. The reality of a curse is clearly maintained all through the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses) and there are many blessings and cursing within those pages. A curse is almost always based on a person's behavior.

And it shall come to pass,
when all these things are come upon thee,
the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee,
and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations,
whither Jehovah thy God hath driven thee,
and shalt return unto Jehovah thy God,
and shalt obey his voice according
to all that I command thee this day,
thou and thy children, with all thy heart,
and with all thy soul; that then Jehovah
thy God will turn thy captivity,
and have compassion upon thee,
and will return and gather
thee from all the peoples,

whither Jehovah thy God
hath scattered thee.
(Deuteronomy 30:1-3 - ASV)

I think of the long history of the people of Israel. I think of their first exile to Babylon, but also what I consider the far more important exile which took place after the Romans came in 70 AD. Israel was scattered all through the world. For centuries they wandered and lived as foreigners and 'outsiders' in just about every place they went. Some European nations had periods of time where they expelled the Jews, hated them and treated them with deep contempt. This went on for nearly two millennia. How did Moses prophecy what would happen to the Jews if they did not do as God had commanded them, the God who did all manner of miracles for them and freed them from their slave chains in Egypt?

And thou shalt become an astonishment,
a proverb, and a byword,
among all the peoples
whither Jehovah
shall lead thee away.

(Deuteronomy 28:37 - ASV)

The whole chapter of Deuteronomy chapter 28 describes the blessings and curses that will befall Israel, wholly dependent in on their obedience to or rebellion against God's commandments. When Israel entered into the covenant with the Lord, I just am not so certain they took the Lord at his word and that God has a long memory... the longest in the universe. It is not a mistake that we Christians should repeat. Let Israel's travails be a clear example to us. God will keep his word and deal quite harshly with those who reject him, his word and his ways. Particularly those who entered into covenant with him. Once we have been born into the Kingdom of God by the work of the Holy Spirit, we have entered into a new covenant; a new 'contract' signed, if you will, in the blood of Christ.

We must also remember that God will do his part in the work of salvation, or in any divinely appointed task he has assigned us, but that we must do ours as well. One thing we must do is to keep our faith - mental belief coupled with actual obedience.

It's not talked about much but the NT does have a curse mentioned for those who turn away from God.

For as touching those
who were once enlightened
and tasted of the heavenly gift,
and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
and tasted the good word of God,
and the powers of the age to come,
and then fell away, it is impossible
to renew them again unto repentance;
 seeing they crucify to themselves
the Son of God afresh, and put him
to an open shame. For the land which
hath drunk the rain that cometh oft upon it,
and bringeth forth herbs meet for them
for whose sake it is also tilled,
receiveth blessing from God:
 but if it beareth thorns and thistles,
it is rejected and nigh unto a curse;
whose end is to be burned.
(Hebrews 6:4-8 - ASV)

The principle is not at all dissimilar to what we saw in Deuteronomy 28; there is the blessings that comes from God and then there is the clear prospect of a curse. All depending on the 'fruit' that the 'ground' bears.

By their fruits ye shall know them.
Do men gather grapes of thorns,
or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree
bringeth forth good fruit;
but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,
neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit
is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Therefore by their fruits
ye shall know them.
(Matthew 7:16-20 - ASV)

We must lay these things to heart and not ignore them or think them of little account - the divine 'accountant' is coming and he is a most exacting fellow, he expects a spiritual profit; a basket of good fruit for all the investment he has made and brothers, he had better get it! See the parable of the fig tree in a vineyard (Luke 13:6ff).

How is it that the prophet Malachi talked about the Priests in his time? God was sore upset with his religious representatives. The men who were supposed be guiding Israel. You will see below what God thought about them.

And now, O ye priests,
this commandment is for you.
If ye will not hear,
and if ye will not lay it to heart,

to give glory unto my name,
saith Jehovah of hosts,

then will I send the curse upon you,
and I will curse your blessings; yea,
I have cursed them already,
because ye do not lay it to heart. Behold,
I will rebuke your seed,
and will spread dung upon your faces,
even the dung of your feasts;
and ye shall be taken away with it.
And ye shall know that I have sent
this commandment unto you,
that my covenant may be with Levi,
saith Jehovah of hosts.
(Malachi 2:1-4 - ASV)

Some of you may say that is only meant for the priests under the old law. You would be mostly correct. This is not a generalized threat to all of Israel, only to the priests, the House of Levi.


But ye are an elect race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people for God's own possession,
that ye may show forth the
excellencies of him who called you
out of darkness into his marvellous light:
who in time past were no people,
but now are the people of God:
who had not obtained mercy,
but now have obtained mercy.
(1Peter 2:9-10 - ASV)

Yes, we true Christians are a priesthood as well. Again, representatives of God. So let us take such words as we find in Malachi with seriousness. The old Levitical priesthood was one that was not eternal, it was passed on from generation to generation. We are part of something much more permanent and yes, important. Therefore, our responsibility is also that much greater. We must not spurn God's word or hold his words and commandments in light regard. That is the way to very great error. We must not pollute the gospel message any more than the priests were not to pollute the offerings to the Lord (see Galatians 1:8-9).

We who serve God, let us keep faith with him in all things so that we may obtain the blessing and not anger the Lord and incur his displeasure. Or worse, his curse.


These times? Brothers I see a nation and world heading into a curse. Right now I think God is trying to get our attention but that phase is not going to last forever. I look at our nation and the things going on and I am shocked at the trends in it.

America is changing and its spiritual moorings with God are being slowly unhinged as the nation continues its spiritual drift. Sex-sin is in, God is out; drugs are in, Church is out; false narratives and fake news are in and God's truth is out. I suspect we are a nation that if it does not change its ways, will receive from the hand of the Lord one thing in particular... a curse. I hope and pray that does not occur. Americans have certainly received a great many blessings from God's hand and have been in a great many ways, the envy of the world. But how has the country repaid him?

I hate to write on such a negative subject, but this morning I kind of got a most troubling word from the Lord that I am not going to share, but it did have to do with the whole idea of the curse.

[Note: This piece should not under ANY circumstances be construed (or deliberately misconstrued) to be against Israel or the Jewish people. Too many men in Church history have abused the scriptures and twisted them to incite hatred of the Jewish people. This site is absolutely against any form of hate, including and especially anti-Semitism. Jesus Christ was a Jew and I am and will continue to be one of his followers and maintain a love for the Jewish people as I am commanded to love all men.

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