The Woman Who Could Not Be Bought Thursday, Mar 18 2010 

Song of Solomon

Love stories have captured the hearts of men and women since the dawn of time. Lovers are forever linked together, even centuries after their lives are over. The names of Romeo and Juliet, Marc Antony and Cleopatra, Dante and Beatrice, Hosea and Gomer, live on even now, eternally linked together.

The Song of Solomon is a love story. It may very well be the greatest love story ever told. Solomon was named by God Himself as the wisest man who ever lived! He knew as much about women as any man ever has. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. I think that qualifies him for nomination for a PhD in womanology.

Solomon wrote three books. He wrote the Song of Solomon as a young man. He then wrote Proverbs when in middle age. Later when he was elderly, he wrote Ecclesiastes.

He who wrote 1005 songs and 3000 proverbs, said this was the Song of Songs. Out of the 1005 songs he wrote, this was number 1. Is it feasible that he wrote a song for each of the women in his life? Possibly 1000 women and 1005 songs. We know this song was written to the Shunamite girl and we know she resisted his enticements. So, I suggest it is at least possible his modis operandi was a love song to each woman he courted.

Out of all the songs he wrote, he felt this was the Song of Songs. The question is why? I submit it was because he saw in this young girl the kind of love he wished Israel as a nation had for God. If somehow Israel would fall in love with her Shepard like the Shunamite girl loved her Shepard, then Israel would be blessed.

The story goes something like this. Solomon had a summer home. This we find in the Bible. While making the journey there one summer day he sees a young shepardess and a young Shepard under an apple tree.

That night Solomon sends for the young girl who is black by the sun and very poor. She has never had nice things or even shoes upon her feet. When she is brought to Solomon’s palace she is overwhelmed. When Solomon makes his intentions known, she is speechless and is given until tomorrow to make up her mind.

There are 140 women with Solomon at this time. While she lies upon her bed with her head spinning, she hears the young Shepard boy at her door. He has come looking for her. He is panicked at the thought of losing her to Solomon. He has braved the dangerous night to find her and take her home.

While lying on her bed, she hesitates and he moves on. Finally she rises and goes to the door, and can smell his lingering fragrance. She runs though the night city looking for him but he has gone.

The next day when she appears before Solomon, he makes his plea for her. She is torn between the pull of Solomon and all he can offer and her Shepard lover. Solomon makes a fatal mistake when he mentions the apple tree. When Solomon says that her mouth is like apples, she rises and flees. She runs from the summer palace and runs home.

The Shepard is disconsolate because he thinks she is lost to him. Then suddenly he sees her. She is running to him. Her garments are flying in the wind. Her hair is blowing free. The Shepard realizes she loves him more than all the allurements of money or fame. The time spent under the apple tree with him forged a bond between them that was as strong as death. She is reunited with her Shepard lover.

Back at the summer palace, the whole court of Solomon is aghast. The young girl just ran out. No one had ever done that before. They were stunned. They were stunned because the girl had the nerve to reject the King, but even more stunned by the King himself.

He just sat on his throne with a puzzled look on his face. For a long time he said nothing. Then he asked for a writing instrument and something to write on. They were amazed. Why, he was writing a song! A song of tribute to the woman who could not be bought. To the woman who was so in love with her Shepard, that nothing could influence her to give that love up for another love.

Slowly they began to see what the King saw. If only God’s people would love their Shepard that way. Solomon hummed the tune to The Lord is my Shepard. For the first time in his young life, Solomon understood true love. A love based on time spent together. A love that was not based on things, but rather on value of each other.

The wisest man of all the ages wrote a song about that and declared it to be the “Song of Songs”. A tribute to the love for a shepard that was forged under the Apple tree. A love so strong that even death itself could not sever it.

May God give us that kind of love for our Shepard!


Look at me Mr. Atheist, I am evidentiary proof there is a God. Wednesday, Mar 17 2010 

How To Answer An Atheist.

Most of us have encountered someone in our life who just does not believe in God.  It is difficult to witness to them because we have no common ground.  You offer your practiced, rehearsed, standard line of communication and they reject it wholesale.  You are left frustrated and feeling inept. The Devil taunts you as a poor witness of the grace and glory of God!

This blog is an attempt to give you some beginning bullets to initiate conversation and draw them into your conversation.

First of all I believe it is always polite to inquire what they believe.  Value their opinion even if you disagree.  God Himself gives that individual the prerogative to form an opinion even if it is wrong.  Should we do any less?  Listen carefully to their explanation and see if there is logic and reason in it.  Sometimes you can begin on their “turf” and get them to open up, and a door will open to you.  Be patient, they have spent a lifetime forming that perspective and usually are reluctant to surrender it quickly.

I have found if you listen long enough and show genuine interest, they many times, will in turn say something like, “what is your opinion?” Take that opportunity to share your genuine, sincere feeling about God.  Be passionate! If you do not feel it strongly, they will intuitively know it is not exciting or captivating.

Most professing atheists I have encountered are strong on reason and rationale. I believe it would be to your advantage to learn some scientific facts that support the Bible as a legitimate document.  About 20 years ago I read Josh McDowell’s books on Evidence that demands a verdict.  His approach provided me with good solid information to approach the Bible from a scientific viewpoint.  I have used this at times in personal conversation as well as in college classrooms.

I strongly believe you can put the Bible on any battleground and it will be victorious.  The Bible is the mind of God.  What argument or approach can finite man use, that God cannot show man to be a fool?

I worked on an archaeological dig in the summer of 1994.  At night there were classes by world class, and world renowned, archaeologists.  Each one I met was either an agnostic or an atheist.  They would lecture and make preposterous statements.  The other people were not inclined to challenge these professors because of their education.  I had no such qualms.  I will site just one example.  One particular professor from Penn State University made the statement one night that the majority of the stories in the book of Genesis are just fairy tales.  From the front row, before I thought I blurted out “Excuse me?”  You can imagine the quiet that fell.  All eyes turned to me.  How dare I question such a noted, learned authority as this?

I had stopped off at London for a week of vacation with my family before going to Megiddo, Israel, for the archaeological dig.  I saw the Rosetta stone at the British Museum.  I had viewed other archaeological displays. Into that silence with everyone looking at me, I calmly said, “If Abraham is a fairy tale, does that mean the Rosetta stone, and the code of Hannurabi are not credible as archaeological evidence?”

He was trapped.  If he said the Rosetta stone and the code of Hannurabi are credible, then Genesis is validated.  Abraham is validated. The Ten Commandments are validated.  The law of Moses is validated.   If he said no, it is not credible, then archaeology is not valid as evidence.  That world-renowned professor with his PhD backed up.  He turned red in the face and just looked at me.  I quietly said, “Sir you can’t have it both ways”, and smiled.  He merely nodded and continued his lecture.  But he was careful from then on because someone stood up to him and made him make accurate statements.

My point is, do not be afraid, and do not surrender because they are more educated or show condescension toward you.  You are a child of God and you have every right to your opinion.

One more example before you leave me today.  It was a geology class in college.  The study was the beginning of our universe.  The big bang theory, hot and cold diffusion, heavy planets and their orbits in our universe.  It was the whole enchilada.  We covered fossils, and the ages of the so called past.  Finally I raised my hand and asked the professor if I might ask him a question.  He said of course (with a smile!)

I asked him if it was true that I had as much empirical evidence for creation by God as he had for the theories he was promoting. He looked at me (with a frown!) and slowly nodded his head and said, yes that is true.

The Truth is neither of us has empirical evidence to support our view.  I have faith and he has supposition and theory.  Touché it is a draw.

Lastly I believe the most powerful tool you possess is your personal testimony.  Sincerely and succinctly tell them what happened to you.  No one, not even an atheist can argue with that! God has provided you with the most conclusive evidence mankind can produce.  Look at me Mr. Atheist, I am evidentiary proof there is a God.

The Apostle Paul used his personal testimony before Governors and Caesars. If it works in that arena, it will work when an atheist scoffs and sneers.  Hold your head up high. You are a child of God, and you have no reason to be ashamed.

Thanks for reading today!

(4) Jesus There Is Something About That Name Tuesday, Mar 16 2010 

Jesus…..there’s something about that Name!

In Genesis… He is the Creator…sun, moons, stars, worlds, man, animals, flora & fauna, cosmos, universes infinitive!

In Exodus… He is our Passover Lamb

In Leviticus… Our Law Giver

In Numbers…Our Brazen Serpent, high and lifted up

In Deuteronomy…Our “Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is One”

In Joshua…Captain of the Lords Host

In Judges…Our Faithful Judge

In Ruth…Our Heavenly Kinsman

I & II Samuel…Our King in the midst of Blessings

I & II Kings…Our King in the midst of Apostasy

I & II Chronicles…Our Restorer of a lost nation

Ezra…Our Faithful Scribe

Nehemiah…Our re-builder of broken down walls

Esther…Our Mordecai

Job…He’s the one who believes in us when our Friends flake out!

Psalms…Our song in every circumstance on life’s road

Proverbs…Our answer to life’s riddle

Ecclesiastes…Our wisdom

Song of Solomon…Our Shepard in the night!

Isaiah…The Son, Immanuel, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace

Jeremiah…Our weeping prophet

Lamentations…The Eulogy of a fallen nation

Ezekiel…The four faced man in life’s trial

Daniel…The fourth man in life’s fiery trial

Hosea…Our Rapah, our Husband, our Redeemer!

Joel…The Holy Ghost Giver!

Amos…The Shepard who gathers the broken pieces of our life and heals us.

Obadiah…The recompense to our enemies

Jonah…Our evangelist

Micah…Our light in the darkness

Nahum…Our judgment on unrighteousness

Habakkuk…Reviver of our work in the midst of our years

Zephaniah…The Re-gather of a lost nation

Haggai…Fruit Giver to a starving & barren nation

Zechariah…The Olive Tree and the Candlestick

Malachi…The echoing voice of God that reverberated for 400 years.

Matthew…Son of Abraham

Mark…Son of Man

Luke…Son of God

John…The Word which is; which was and which is to come.

Acts…The Holy Ghost

Romans…Our Justifier

I & II Corinthians…Our Sanctifier

Galatians…The breaker of the curse of the law

Ephesians…He who repairs our broken down wall of partition that kept us from God

Philippians…The Name at which every knee shall bow

Colossians…All the fullness of the Godhead bodily

I & II Thess…Our coming King

I & II Timothy…God manifest in the flesh

Titus…Our washing of regeneration

Philemon…Our deliverer from slavery

Hebrews…High Priest and our New Covenant

James…Our Faith that makes devils tremble

I & II Peter…He quiets the scoffers of all ages

I & II John…Our Love, or propitiation

Jude…Our contender for the faith that was once delivered to His saints

Revelation…Our Alpha, our Omega, our First and Last, our King, our Priest, our Lion our Lamb, our Savior, our coming King, our Judge, our redeemer, and The Almighty!

Jesus, there is something about that name!

The Incomparable Christ Monday, Mar 15 2010 

The Incomparable Christ

He came from the bosom of the Father to the bosom of a woman.  He put on humanity that we might put on divinity.  He became the Son of man that we might become the sons of God.

He left the region where the rivers never freeze, winds never blow, frosts never bites, flowers never fade; where no doctors are needed, because no is ever sick; where graveyards never haunt, death never comes, where no funerals are ever conducted.

He was born contrary to the laws of nature, lived in poverty and reared in obscurity; only once did He ever cross the boundaries of His own small country.

He had no wealth, training, or education, and whose parents knew nothing of the niceties of social tradition.

In infancy He startled a king; in boyhood He puzzled the wise; in manhood He ruled the course of nature.

He healed the multitudes without medicine and made no charge for His services.

He never wrote a book; yet all the libraries of the world could not contain all the books that could be written about Him.

He never wrote a song, and yet He has provided the themes for more songs than all earthly writers combined.

He never founded a college, yet all the schools of earth have not had the students that sat at His feet.

He never practiced medicine, yet has healed more broken hearts than the world has ever taken note of.

He never marched an army, never drafted a soldier, or fired a gun, yet no leader has ever had the volunteers who under His orders, made rebels stack arms and surrender at His command, never firing a shot.

He is the Star of astronomy, the Rock of geology, the Lamb and Lion of zoology, the Harmonizer of all discord, and Healer of all diseases.

Great men have come and gone; He lives on.

Herod could not kill Him; Satan could not seduce Him, death could not destroy Him and the grave could not hold Him.

He laid aside His purple robe for a peasant’s gown.  He was rich, but for our sakes became poor, that we might be rich.

How poor?

Ask Mary!  Ask the wise men!

He slept in another’s manger; He rode another’s beast; He was buried in another’s tomb.

All others have failed; He never!

The ever perfect one: the Chief among ten thousand; altogether lovely:

THE INCOMPARABLE CHRIST

(2) Jesus There Is Something About That Name Sunday, Mar 14 2010 

If you look for Him, you will see Him…

In Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Jesus is there. He was there in every chapter and every line.  You will see Him in the coats of skin that cover Adam and Eve’s sin.  You will see Jesus in the blood of Able that speaks of better things.

You will see Jesus in Moses’ face , sent to deliver his people out of Egypt.  You will see Jesus in the blood on the doorpost and lintel.

If you look for Him, you’ll see Him in the meal offering, for He is the bread of life.

You’ll see Him in the wave offering for He was offered up for our sins.

You’ll see Him in the drink offering, for He was poured out so I could be saved.

You’ll see Him in the feast of weeks and feast of the tabernacle.  He is my tabernacle, my outer court, my inner court, my holiest of holies.

He is my meal offering, my drink offering, my bread, my incense.

He is the door by which if any man shall enter in, he shall find green pastures.

He is the candlestick that lights my way into the presence of God.

He is my light, my bread, His blood is my wine, He is the veil; for when the Roman soldier pierced His side, the veil was rent in twain.

The rending of His flesh gives me access to the Father.  I have stepped behind the veil into the holiest of holies, because of Jesus.

Don’t look down your nose at me when I praise Him.  He is my “all in all”, my everything!

He is Aaron’s rod that budded, my high priest, my pot of manna, He is my ark of the testimony, He is my fulfilled law, He is my Sabbath, for when I am in Him I find rest and peace!  I cease from my labors and find rest.  “Come unto me all ye that labor… I will give you rest”.

He is my Shekinah glory, He is my glory of God.  He lights my dungeon.

He is my cloud by day pillar of fire by night, my brazen serpent in the wilderness – I had been bitten by sin, but He was lifted up and I am healed.

He is my tree that was thrown into the bitter waters of Mara, He changed my bitter life into sweet water, He is my rock, smitten on Calvary, whose gushing waters quench the thirsting of my life.

Jesus, There Is Something About That Name!

Tomorrow….The Incomparable Christ…see you then.

Jesus…..There’s Something About That Name Saturday, Mar 13 2010 

(For the next few days I will be posting about Jesus.)

Jesus…there’s something about that name!

His names are many.  The Messiah, Son of Man, Son of David, King of Israel, Savior, Servant, The Prophet, Son of God, and the Christ.  He was hailed and acclaimed as the being who held the highest spiritual status attainable in human form.  The perfect one,  the Avatar, God as man.

To some he was nothing more than an extraordinarily wise and compassionate teacher.  To others he was a political revolutionary who had divinity projected upon him by his followers.  To some he is just a myth, a legend; he never really existed at all.

No figure in history has provoked so much controversy and debate, nor inspired so much faith, as Jesus. Today the religion based on His teachings called Christianity, is the largest religion in the world.  1 Billion, 900 hundred million, on every continent, in almost every country.

The Mexican peasant in his hovel claims to be a Christian.  The Cardinal in Rome, in rich robes and elegant rings, claims to be a Christian.  The African learning English in a missionary school, is a Christian.  The New York business man signing papers in his office 30 floors above wall street, is a Christian.

Christianity has spread across the globe touching every culture and society on earth.  Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  He was sent to earth to save humanity from their ignorance, suffering, and sin.

What we know about Jesus comes almost exclusively from the gospels.  Jesus left no writings, so the gospels are the primary source of information about His life.

Matthew and John knew Jesus and followed Him.  Luke and Mark received their information from others.

There are all kinds of debate among scholars.  Some say none of these men ever really knew Jesus and did not even use their real names.  They question everything; they are skeptics.

In the time Jesus lived, there was a strong oral tradition of passing information from generation to generation.  This oral tradition was an art form.  People carefully memorized the information.  They worked hard at retaining the original facts and flavor.  This oral method of preserving information was how Homer’s Iliad and Oddessy were preserved.  It is more reliable than our modern journalism. Some prodigys memorized up to a million words by the time they were 12 years of age.

The earliest information written on Jesus that does not come from His followers comes several years after His death.  There are remarks by Josephus, who wrote around 90 AD.  Pliney the younger wrote about 112 AD, Tacitus wrote around 115 AD, and Seutonius wrote around 120 AD.

When you combine all these, Christian and non-Christian, we get a basic outline of Jesus life.  There are large gaps in Jesus life we have no information on.  We do know of His birth in Bethlehem. His birth was probably around 6BC, when Herod the great was King.  There is a brief glimpse when Jesus is 12, then nothing more until He becomes an adult.

Jesus was born in Palestine.  It had always been a troubled area, bathed in blood.  This area was shuttled back and forth between world powers, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Antioch Epiphanies, and Rome.  In 63 BC Pompey the Roman General captured Jerusalem.  The Romans allowed the Jews to retain their religion, and a figure head king (Herod). Then the Romans simply appointed a Governor to rule over Judea after Herod Archelaus was removed because of his cruelty.

Pompey was defeated in 63 BC, by Julius Caesar.  Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC.  Mark Antony came briefly to power, and then Octavian replaced Mark Antony.

Through all of this Herod and his line maneuvered and kept the title “King of the Jews”.  The Romans mocked, and smiled indulgently at this absurdity.

After Herod massacred the infants, Herod’s son, Archelaus, took the throne.  The night his father Herod the Great died, Herod Archelaus became tetrarch of Judea, Idumea and Samaria.  Another son Antipas was given Galilee and Perea.  Phillip became tetrarch of Trachonitis, Iturea, Batanea and Auranitis.  Caesar approved this.

Remember… Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod the Great, but when Herod Antipas imprisoned John the Baptist, Jesus simply left because Herod Antipas had authority only in Galilee.

These Herods were wicked men.  Archelaus inaugurated his reign the night his father died, carousing with friends, and slaughtered 3000 Jews in the Temple.  The Jews appealed to Caesar and Archelaus was banished.  So Judea was free of Herods.

Caesar said, okay I’ll appoint a ruler, so he appointed Quirinius Caponius, then Ambivius, Annius Rufus, Valerius Gratus, then Pontius Pilate.  Pilate ruled from 26-36 AD.  Pilate was so cruel Rome removed him 3-6 years after the Crucifixion.  It was his cruelty that led to his dismissal.

The Romans divided the area into Judea (with Jerusalem) and Galilee.  In the New Testament,  Judea was governed by Pilate; Galilee was governed by Herod’s family.  (This is the reason Pilate sent Jesus to Herod; Herod was the puppet king of Galilee).

The people of Palestine suffered terribly under both the Romans and the Herods.

The Psalms Friday, Mar 12 2010 

Psalms

God gave mankind the five books of the law and a grateful mankind gave back to God the five books of the Psalms.

  • Book 1 chapters 1-41
  • Book 2 chapters 42-72
  • Book 3 chapters 73-89
  • Book 4 chapters 90-106
  • Book 5 chapters 107-150

The collators of the Psalms took time to place these books in their current order to correspond with the first five books.

  • Book 1 relates to Genesis
  • Book 2 relates to Exodus
  • Book 3 relates to Leviticus
  • Book 4 relates to Numbers
  • Book 5 relates to Deuteronomy

God presented mankind with the law and a grateful Israel responded with a Pentateuch of praise in acknowledgment of God’s gift.  The psalms are a second Pentateuch, the echo of the first.  This may be pure conjecture, but the existence of this idea from ancient times shows that the five fold division attracted early support in history.

Placed in the center of the Bible, rising like a tune from the very heart of the Bible are these songs!  These songs wrestle with the deepest sorrow and ask God the hardest questions. These songs cry out to God and at other times shout for pure joy.  The God they sing of is not a distant God, but a God that is near and personal.

They span over a thousand years of human circumstances.  There is a psalm to match every human emotion and mood! They put your unspoken thoughts into words and form your unspoken conversation toward man and toward God.  They give backbone to the raging emotions of humanity.

Psalm 1 and 2 have been called the orphan psalms and are the introduction to the entire body of psalms.  God starts out with Blessed (happy) is the man who does not do certain things.

True happiness is not in unbridled liberty, but rather in the restrictions God places in our lives.  The more narrow the channel, the more raging the current.  No boundaries or limits allow a body of water to be one inch deep and forty miles wide.

Such is our lives.  When God’s boundaries are observed, our lives are happy and blessed.  When those boundaries are ignored or removed, we are a stagnant unhappy people.

The last 5 psalms are the great doxologies of the Temple.  They were written for and sung at the dedication of the repatriated temple.  There is not a single syllable of complaint or request in these last psalms.  They are pure undistilled praise.  Each one begins and ends with “Praise ye the Lord”!

The authors:

  • David 73 psalms
  • Asaph 12 psalms
  • Sons of Korah 9 psalms
  • Solomon 2 psalms
  • Moses 1 psalm
  • Roughly one third are anonymous

The psalms were used in the temple daily:

  • Monday psalm 48
  • Tuesday psalm 82
  • Wednesday psalm 94
  • Thursday psalm 81
  • Friday psalm 93
  • Saturday psalm 92
  • Sunday psalm 24

The subscriptions and superscriptions above and below the psalms are important. Many people do not even notice them. They add explanation and impact.  Here is a list that I have of the titles, subscriptions and superscriptions.

  • Aijeleth shahar- the day dawn
  • Al Alamoth- relationg to maidens (sopranos)
  • Al Taschith- destroy not
  • Gittith- the winepress (sang at harvest of grapes)
  • Higgaion- a soliloquy or meditation
  • Jeduthun- name of one of the 3 chief musicians
  • Jonath Elim Rechokim- the dove in the far off Terebinth trees
  • Mahalath- the great dance
  • Mahalath leannoth- the great dancing and shouting
  • Maschil- understanding or teaching psalm
  • Michtam- engraving, permanent writing
  • Muth Labben- death of a champion
  • Neginoth- smitings (like smiting  a string on an instrument to bring forth music)
  • Nehiloth- the great inheritance
  • Psalm
  • Selah- pause like a musical rest, can mean “what do you think of that?”
  • Sheminith- the eighth
  • Shiggaion- loud passionate cry, emotional outburst
  • Shoshannim- lilies, re: Passover feast

To understand the psalm adds greater meaning.  Example, when David sinned with Bathsheba he repented and said he would teach transgressors God’s ways.  Psalm 32 is the psalm David wrote for that purpose.  It is a maschil psalm, a teaching psalm, to teach the transgressor how to get back to God.

Putting words to music somehow imbeds them deeper into our memory.  Like a child learning the ABC song, these psalms were sung to drive the lesson deep into the learner’s mind.

How important are the psalms?  When dying on the cross, Jesus quotes from the psalms! (22.1,31.5).  In the disciples efforts to explain Jesus’ life, they quote the psalms more than any other book or part of the Bible.

On a personal note, I believe the 119th psalm was written by Daniel.  There is much speculation about this.  Some attribute it to Hezekiah.  My reason is the writer makes no mention of the temple, or the ritual law.  The writer has powerful enemies who could do him harm. He is a young man. He is in love with the word.  That picture speaks to me of someone in a foreign land without the formal religion to lean on.  The word was all he had, so that became the love of his life!  That speaks to me of Daniel.

May the Bible become that to each of us on our life journey.

Has there ever been such a brood of vipers? Thursday, Mar 11 2010 

The lives of the Herod family intertwine with the life of Jesus and the lives of His Apostles.  At times it is difficult to discern which Herod is being mentioned.  They are often just referred to as “Herod”.  Sometimes they are mentioned only a few verses apart, yet are different members of the family.

This blog today is for those of you who would like to be able to keep them separated in the scriptures.  It is not always easy because this brood of vipers were constantly writhing and hissing!

Here are their biographies.

Herod Antipater, the father of Herod the Great, is not mentioned in the New Testament, but ten of his descendants played major roles in the lives of Jesus and of the apostles.

The Herod family were Idumeans. That is, they were descended from Abraham through Isaac and Esau, rather than through Isaac and Jacob. They saw themselves as Jewish, participating in God’s covenant with Abraham, but their ancestors had not gone to Egypt with Joseph and returned with Moses and Joshua.

Herod Antipater formally converted to the Jewish religious practice of the descendants of Jacob. His family would not allow their portraits (graven images) on the coins they issued, they did not eat pork as they followed the Jewish dietary laws, and the women of the family were not allowed to marry men who were uncircumcised.

But the family also followed Roman social practices. They traveled to Rome frequently and commissioned buildings in the Roman style of architecture. Herod the Great sent his sons to live in the household of Octavian (Caesar Augustus) in Rome while they received their formal educations.

Members of the family sponsored athletic games in the Greek style, which were offensive to the Jews. And they also arranged marriages between uncles and nieces in the Roman fashion.

Herod the Great undertook great building projects in Palestine, including whole cities like Caesarea Maritima and Masada and the rebuilding of Jericho. Most important, he rebuilt the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. After he completed the work, he deeply offended the Jews of Jerusalem by placing an eagle, the emblem of Roman rule, on the Temple. His last act in life was overseeing the execution of the Jews who tore it down.

In Matthew 2, the wise men from the East asked Herod the Great where the King of the Jews was to be born. Herod was deeply disturbed, because he had earned the title, King of the Jews, from the Romans, and he was planning that one of his sons would inherit the title from him. Equally disturbing was the news that the child would be born in Bethlehem, the site of Herod’s summer palace.

Herod the Great ordered the slaughter of all boys under the age of two years, and Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt for safety. Joseph did not bring his family back to Nazareth until after Herod the Great’s death in 4 b.c.

After the death of Herod the Great, the Romans divided his kingdom between his sons, and none of them was called King of the Jews.

Herod Archelaus ruled Judea after the death of his father. In Matthew 2: 22, Joseph decided to take his family north to Galilee, because he was also afraid of Archelaus. Archelaus ruled badly, and the Romans removed him after ten years, replacing him with a Roman Governor.

His brother, Herod Antipas, was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. In the New Testament, he is called Herod the Tetrarch. Another brother, Herod Philip, was tetrarch of Iturea, Gaulanitis, and Trachonitis. Their cousin, Herodias, first married and divorced an uncle living in Rome, then married Philip, and then divorced Philip to marry Antipas.

When John the Baptist preached against this marriage and divorce within the family, Antipas had him thrown into prison. The daughter of Herodias by her first marriage is unnamed in the New Testament, but she is called Salome (a common name in the family) in later accounts. With her mother’s prompting, she requested the head of John the Baptist on a platter, and Antipas ordered John beheaded (Mark 6).

In Mark 8:15, when Jesus warned the disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod, he was talking about Herod Antipas. Antipas was also the fox that the Pharisees warned Jesus about in Luke 13: 31.

Antipas presided over Jesus’ trial in Luke 23, and with Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, determined Jesus’ death sentence. Jesus would not even speak to the murderer of John the Baptist! John and Peter refer to the decision of Antipas and Pontius Pilate to execute Jesus in Acts 4: 27.

Herod Agrippa I, King of Iturea, Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Galilee, and Perea, was the grandson of Herod the Great and the nephew of Philip and Antipas. He ordered the execution of James the Elder, and was so buoyed by the public response that he had Peter arrested and put in prison (Acts 12).

Herod Agrippa II was the son of Herod Agrippa I and the great-grandson of Herod the Great. His sister Bernice accompanied him at public functions, and Paul spoke before them in Acts 25 and 26, asking for his right to be tried as a Roman citizen. Agrippa seemed to enjoy talking to Paul, and he used the word Christian to describe him.

Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, was married to Felix, the Roman procurator. She may have argued for compassionate treatment of Paul by her husband (Acts 24: 24).

They were a brood of vipers down to the last one.


Will our Apostolic way of life survive? (The Talmud) Wednesday, Mar 10 2010 

The Talmud

I suppose at first thought, you might wonder why a note on the Talmud, when many other books of the Bible are not included yet.  There are a couple of reasons.

First, I wanted to include some things that give support and understanding on how God views our journey here on earth.

Secondly, I wanted to include the note on the Talmud because it supports our position on holiness in this present day.

The Torah is the Jewish name for the Pentateuch.  The Pentateuch is the first five books of the Bible.  The Talmud is the collection of commentary from Jewish Rabbis on the Torah.

Why would this be important to us as gentiles?  My answer is it provides such a beautiful example of how to survive in a world that does not understand us as Apostolics.  To live in our world, which views us as outdated and eccentric, is becoming more difficult as society drifts farther and farther from the principals of the Bible.

The Jew has survived in every century, in every culture, and in every continent.  The Jewish life is as strong today as it was 2000 years ago.  As Apostolics, we need to adopt some of the same principles to insure we do not lose our identity.

The five books of Moses can be written out in about 350 pages.  The Talmud now takes up 523 books in 22 volumes.  As the Jew was scuttled from empire to empire, the need arose for a protection from the blows without and the pressure from within.  The Talmud has provided that.  The Talmud has become the home of the Jew no matter where he lives in the world.  The Talmud has single handedly provided the survival of the Jewish person.

As Apostolics, it appears to me that we are in danger of losing our heritage of holiness.  More and more I see whole churches assimilated into our worlds culture and mores.  We need holiness and separation more than ever before.

The way we dress and live must not die with this generation!  As simple as it may seem, our standards are what will keep us separated from the world.  Simple things like sleeve length, and the distinction of dress between male and female, are critical to the survival of the Apostolic heritage.  It provides us with the cold concrete of protection from the blows that come from without.

In the Talmud, there are many issues that may seem insignificant.  But upon inspection the Talmud provided the Jew with answers to the baffling questions of life.  The Talmud has done more to preserve the Jewish way of life than any other factor.

This oral law that has been discussed over the centuries has kept the Jewish people uniquely Jewish.  It is my hope that our holiness standards will keep us Apostolic in a world that has lost all sense of direction!

The Rabbi’s have haggled over every phase of Jewish life!  They have argued over every word and comma.  In the process of mulling all this over, they created a mandate for survival in a hostile world.

When the world attacked, the Talmud was there to soften the blow and stiffen the will.  Other ancient cultures have faded from the earth, but the Jew has survived.  Can we learn a lesson from them?

The authors of the Talmud seemed to think that no issue was to small to discuss.  They would debate for months whether a person could wear a false tooth on the Sabbath.  A tailor could not take his needle in his hand just before the Sabbath because he might forget and go out with it. You could have candy in your mouth as long as it was put in your mouth before the Sabbath began.

They discussed for nine years one statement in the law; “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk”.  From this one issue came the whole idea of Kosher food and food that was not Kosher.

Our first response might be, that is foolish and insignificant.  But never forget it is the small things that have kept them as a people.  They have survived.

We need to appreciate the “small” things if we are going to preserve this Apostolic way of life.  Our standards of dress are important to our survival.  Our standards of what we watch and what entertainment we allow is important to our future.  Our survival depends on the small things.

I will be the first to admit that the Rabbis went to extremes to preserve the Jewish way of life.  However, it is beyond argument that the Jew has survived while other people have been assimilated and have vanished from the stage of time.

Our survival as a distinct people depends on the small things.  We must maintain our holiness and our standards of life.

When they become unimportant, you can write the epitaph of the Apostolic movement.

Were the 400 silent years silent? Monday, Mar 8 2010 

They are called the 400 silent years.  Interesting that the whole world was convulsing with worldwide change, yet Biblically it was silent. While the world heard marching armies and battle cries, heaven was mute toward earth. It is called silent because there is no recorded instance of God speaking to man during this time.

When Malachi laid down his writing instrument, there was not a voice from God until the days of John the Baptist.  When that stern Essene, John, lifted his voice for the first time to preach, 400 years of silence was shattered.  How heaven must have rejoiced!  God was again on speaking terms with His creation.

You are reading your Bible.  You finish the Old Testament.  You turn the page.  You continue to read, not thinking of the vast time and change that happened in the turn of that page.

Because we are familiar with the New Testament, we do not stumble at terms like Pharisee, scribe or synagogue.  But none of those or many other terms are used in the Old Testament.  Were you not familiar with the Bible, you would indeed be scratching your head saying what is a Hasmonean?  What is a Herodian? These and many other important Bible subjects and issues emerged during this silent period.

When the Old Testament closes, The Babylonian Empire has fallen and the Media Persian Empire has taken over.  Cyrus the Persian has allowed the decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  The Old Testament prophets have died, and there is a huge spiritual vacuum.

The writings of Daniel chart the course during these silent years and let Israel know all is on track as God predicted.  Without Daniel, would they have been able to persevere?  We do not know.

From the standpoint of world history, how do we measure the importance of the Greek Macedonian empire? The leader of Greece at this time was Alexander the Great.  He is called “the Great” for some valid reasons.  The cities the Greeks built, and the culture they exported to their conquered lands (Hellenism), was world changing.  Romans built upon the foundation Greece had laid.

This period of Greece was followed by the Roman Empire which lasted 700 years and had two pax romanas (empire wide peace).  Rome built the roads that missionaries would travel.  Rome brought peace so missionaries could travel in relative safety.  Yet all of Rome and Greece’s Hellenestic influence, is unmentioned or never referred to by God.  Heaven’s record and evaluation appears to be far different than mortal men.

When Paul begins his missionary journeys that would transform the known world, these issues of Hellenism would play a major part.  God placed these issues in the mosaic of time for all to be fulfilled when the fullness of time came to pass.

Cyrus the Persian was tolerant and allowed the repatriates to return to the land of Israel.  According to Ezra only 42,000 or so elected to return.  Babylon had been good to the Jewish merchants and life was plush.  They had no desire to endure the rigors of the journey back to Palestine!  Then after they arrived they would be required to live more primitive and frugal.  The majority said “no thank you”.

Their needs had changed as a nation.  Idolatry, that had been the albatross around the national neck for a thousand years, had finally been put away during the captivity.  The death of idolatry, as strong as idolatry had been, was final.  To this day none of us know of a single instance of a Jewish person who worships idols.

The Jewish people needed guidance.  Into this vacuum stepped the scribe.  Ezra was the forerunner of this elite group so highly esteemed.  They were to play a vital role in Jesus’ day.

In captivity they had no temple to worship at, so the Synagogue was established.  Any place ten Jewish males lived the Rabbi’s decreed a synagogue was to be built.  The Rabbi was the local leader of the synagogue.  Some Rabbis became famous and venerated among the population.

Here are some terms that play a part in the New Testament that are not in the Old Testament, but are there when you turn that page from Malachi to Matthew.

  • Scribe (mentioned in Ezra)
  • Synagogue
  • Pharisee
  • Sadducee
  • Hasmonian
  • Herodian
  • Essene (non biblical term)
  • Sanhedrin
  • Governor (Roman)
  • Tax collector
  • Zealot

All of these are important in the inter-testament period.

These are my definitions of them.

Scribe: became the leaders of the community.  Interpreted the law for the common man.

Synagogue:  House of worship for Jewish people all over the world. Visited every Sabbath.

Pharisee: Keepers of the law.  Very concerned with detail.  Jesus’ main opposition for three years.  Not powerful in the government, for they could not get Jesus arrested.

Sadducee: wealthy group as a whole, many of them members of the Sanhedrin.  Did not believe in the resurrection.  When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and offended them, Jesus was arrested and put on trial.

Hasmonian:  these were the Jews who wanted to merge with the Greeks and the Romans. They were ashamed of their Jewish heritage.  They dressed like the Greeks and Romans.  They even went so far as to reverse circumcision, so when they went nude in public like the Greeks, no one would know they were Jewish.

Herodians; these were a political group loyal to the Romans and the line of Herod who were puppet kings installed by Rome

Essenes: These were people who lived apart in communities like communes.  They ate, dressed and lived very sparingly.  John the Baptist was an example of an essene.

Sanhedrin: this was a Jewish council allowed by the Romans to adjudicate Jewish laws.  Rome did not want to deal with the petty issues of a conquered nation’s differences.  This group was comprised mostly of Sadducees, and consequently wealthy men.  History says the number was 70 who were on this council.  Maybe they chose the number from Moses’ day?

Governor; When Herod the great died he divided his kingdom into three parts.  He gave one of the parts to Archalaus his son who was extremely vial.  The night Archalaus inherited, he killed 3000 Jews to entertain his guests.  Rome removed him for his cruelty and replaced him with a governor.  There were several governors before the New Testament opens, but at Jesus’ trial the governor was named Pontius Pilate.

Tax collector: The Roman Empire lasted 700 years.  American has lasted about 250 years.  It is easy to see Rome was around a long time.  Their success in part was due to how they adjudicated the subjugated peoples they conquered.  As a rule they left the national laws and traditions in place and this contributed to their longevity as an empire.  They followed this policy with Palestine.  All Rome asked was the tax due the empire.  So they leased out the collecting of taxes to the highest bidder.  The tax collector kept whatever he could extort from the people.  As a rule the tax collectors were despised as rouges and crooks.  Matthew, Jesus’ disciple was a tax collector.

Zealot: maybe a more familiar term to us would be revolutionary.  A zealot was a person who wanted to over throw the Roman power over Palestine.  One of Jesus’ disciples was a zealot, lending credibility to the charges against Jesus that ultimately got Him crucified.

To the world at large the 400 years were not silent.  It was business as usual.  There was commerce and war, peace and revolution.  There was the siren song of time marching steadily forward.

Finally after 400 years of heaven’s silence, in a far flung corner of the mighty Roman Empire, a child was born and a son was given.  Heaven has never been silent since, and will never again hold it’s peace.

God was manifest!

« Previous Page