John T. Willis

Sunday, February 26, 2017

God is Above the Heavens--Psalm 57

Psalm 57:7-11 is equivalent to Psalm 108:1-5. The historical setting of Psalm 57 is unknown. The superscription is: "To the Leader: Do not Destroy. Of David. A Miktam, when he fled from Saul, in the cave." All the superscriptions in the Psalms are later additions, and come from different people who want to connect a psalm with some historical event. The superscription of Psalm 57 is somehow related to David and his men hiding in a cave near En-gedi just west of the central part of the Dead Sea. Saul went into this cave to relieve himself, and when Saul was relieving himself, David cut off the hem of Saul's garment. After Saul left, David called out to Saul telling him he could have killed him, but refused to do so because Saul is the Lord's messiah or anointed one. 1 Samuel 24. But if Psalm 57 actually belongs to that event, no one knows with certainty. Read the content of Psalm 57.
Psalm 57 naturally falls into two sections indicated by the recurring refrain or chorus in verses 5 and 11:
      "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
            Let your glory be over all the earth."

1. Psalm 57:1-5 is a confident cry for help in a time of severe trouble.
    a. "Destroying storms" encounter the psalmist. In the center of that difficult situation, the psalmist beseeches Yahweh to be merciful to him. The psalmist takes refuge in Yahweh during the destroying storms; he takes refuge in the shadow of Yahweh's wings. This is a striking figure of an eagle or a hen protecting her young when threats arise. 57:1.
    b. The psalmist cries out to God Most High, confident that God fulfills his purpose for the psalmist. He is sure that God will send his steadfast love and faithfulness from heaven above and save him. God will put to shame his enemies who attempt to trample on him. His enemies are like lions that greedily devour human prey, whose teeth are spear  and arrows and their tongues sharp swords. 57:2-4.
    c. In this first stanza, the psalmist declares: "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens. Let your glory be over all the earth." He envisions Yahweh as the universal God over all creation. 57:5.

2. Psalm 57:6-11 is a song of praise and thanksgiving to God for delivering the psalmist from his troubles. 57:6-11.
    a. The psalmist explains to his audience that his enemies set a net for his steps and he was bowed down. They dug a pit in his path, but Yahweh intervened and they have fall into this pit themselves. 57:6.
    b. Because of Yahweh's presence and protection, the psalmist says confidently: "My heart is steadfast." He will sing and make melody. Singing is vocal singing, and making melody is music intoned by musical instruments of various kinds. This is exactly the same language as that in Ephesians 5:19, where Paul instructs Christians to sing with their voices and to make melody with instrumental music by means of psalms, hymns, and spiritual song all with the heart, since vocal music and instrumental music are useless unless the worshippers express their thoughts from the heart (see Amos 5:21-24). Speaking to himself, the psalmist continues: "Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn." 57:7-8.
    c. The psalmist declares he will give thanks to Yahweh among the peoples and sing praises to Yahweh among the nations. He will do this because Yahweh's steadfast love is as high as the heavens and his faithfulness extends to the clouds. 57:9-10.
    d. Finally, the psalmist concludes by repeated 57:5: "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens. Let your glory be over all the earth." True worship always exalts Yahweh. 57:11.

Share YOUR experiences and worship services and expressions of faith and love and compassion with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--14

Mark 5-8 contain 17 references to disciples. Most of these also appear in Matthew. Thus, in this blog, we will deal only briefly with the repetitions.

1. Mark 5:24-34 relates the account of the woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years [parallel to Matthew 9:18-26]. Mark contains this detail not in Matthew in Mark 5:31: "And his DISCIPLES said to him, 'You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, "Who touched me?"'" Mark does not relate how Jesus responded to his disciples, but he did heal this woman.
2. Mark 6:1 relates the detail not in Matthew 13:54 that Jesus left the house of the leader of the synagogue and came to his hometown [Nazareth] and HIS DISCIPLES followed him.
3. Mark 6:29 is like Matthew 14:12, relating that the DISCIPLES of John the Baptist heard about the beheading of John the Baptist, and they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
4. Mark 6:35 is like Matthew 14:15, stating that Jesus' DISCIPLES came to Jesus and suggested that they go into the villages nearby to buy some food.
5. Mark 6:41 is like Matthew 14:19, telling that Jesus' DISCIPLES told them to set before the crowd the loaves of bread and the fish.
6. Mark 6:45 is like Matthew 14:22, relating that Jesus made his DISCIPLES to get into the boat and go ahead to Bethsaida.
7. and 8. Mark 7:2, 5 is like Matthew 15:2 when the Pharisees criticize Jesus' DISCIPLES for not live according to the Law of Moses by eating with defiled or unwashed hands.
9. Mark 7:15-17 reports that Jesus told the parable: "There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile," his DISCIPLES asked him what this meant. Jesus told them simply that what defiles people is a corrupted heart: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.
10-13. Mark 8:1-10 is like Matthew 15:32-39: (1) Jesus told his DISCIPLES that he has compassion on the great crowd; (2) Jesus' DISCIPLES responded by asking Jesus how they could feed such a great crowd; (3) Jesus fed the crowd with seven loaves of bread and a few fish and gave them to his DISCIPLES to distribute to the crowd; (4) After Jesus fed the 4,000, he got into the boat with his DISCIPLES and left.
14-15. Mark 8:27 is like Matthew 16:13, relating that Jesus traveled with his DISCIPLES to the villages of Caesarea and asked them, "Who do people say that I am?"
16-17. Mark 8:33-34 is like Matthew 16:21, 24, according to which Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that he would be arrested and killed in Jerusalem, when Jesus turned and looked and his DISCIPLES and rebuked Peter: "Get behind me, Satan!" Then Jesus told the crowd with his DISCIPLES, "If anyone wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." This is another biblical text which emphasizes that DISCIPLES are FOLLOWERS, not leaders!!!

Share YOUR beliefs and concerns and questions and interactions and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


Monday, January 16, 2017

The Heart Fears--Part 3

[continued from previous blog]

12. The Hebrew noun donag, "wax," appears once with heart in Psalm 22:14 [Heb. 22:15]:
       "I am poured out like water,
              all my bones are out of joint;
Obviously, this is a simile indicating fear.

13. The Hebrew verb yare', "to fear," occurs once with heart in Psalm 27:3:
       "Though an army encamp against me,
               MY HEART SHALL NOT FEAR;
         though war rise up against me,
               yet I will be confident."
This context show that "my heart" means "I."

14. The Hebrew verb nua`, "to shake, move, be tender," appears once with heart in Isaiah 7:2:
       "When the house [dynasty] of David heard that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim
                                                                              [North Israel],   
For the heart to shake means that the heart fears.

15. The Hebrew verb ta`ah, "to flutter, reel," occurs with heart once in Isaiah 21:4. The prophet says:
      "MY HEART REELS, horror has appalled me;
           the twilight I longed for
           has been turned for me into trembling."

16. The Hebrew verb mug, "to melt, faint," appears once in Ezekiel 21:15:
      "Therefore HEARTS MELT and many stumble.
            At all their gates I have set the point of the sword.
        Ah! It is made for flashing,
             it is polished for slaughter."

17. The concept of standing in awe of Yahweh, reverential fear occurs with heart connected with two Hebrew words.
      a. The Hebrew verb pachadh, "to fear, breathe, pant," appears twice with heart.
           1. Psalm 119:161 says:
               "Princes persecute me without cause,
In this context, "my heart" is equivalent to "I."
           2. Assuring Yahweh's people when they are in Babylonian exile, the prophet says:
               "Then you [Yahweh's people] shall see and be radiant;
                  because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
                      the wealth of the nations shall come to you." Isaiah 60:5.
      b. The Hebrew noun yir'ah, "fear," appears twice with heart.
           1. The  prophet says in Isaiah 63:17:
                "Why, O Lord, do you make us stray from your ways
                   Turn back for the sake of your servants,
                        for the sake of the tribes that are your heritage?"
           2. Yahweh contains this promise to his people through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 32:40:
                "I will make an everlasting covenant with them,
                  never to draw back from doing good to them;
                  so that they may not turn from me."

Cowardice is that fear which comes from a lack of courage and determination, and suggests an improper mental exercise of evaluation and consideration. On the other hand, reverence  is fear that is motivated by an appreciation for that which is superior to the individual, and suggests contemplation, meditation, and submission. In all these texts the "heart" is the seat of intelligence and sensitive emotions.

Share YOUR fears and thoughts and reversals and concerns and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


I am not Afraid; What can Mortals do to Me?--Psalm 56

The superscription attempts to connect Psalm 56 with the Philistines seizing David at Gath. But elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible there is no reference to such an event. Apparently, the closest to this is 1 Samuel 21:10-15, according to which some of the soldiers of Achish king of Gath accused David as a traitor against the Philistines; David pretended that he was a madman, and Achish released him. The recurring theme of Psalm 56 is:
             "In God, whose word I praise,
                     in God I trust, I am not afraid;
               what can flesh [mortals] do to me?" (56:4, 10-11).
Psalm 56 falls into three brief stanzas.

1. The composer of Psalm begins by pleading to Yahweh, "O Most High," to be gracious to him.
     a. The reason for this is that people have trampled on him, foes oppress him, his enemies trample on him all day long, many fight against him.  56:1-2.
     b. The psalmist declares that when he is afraid, he puts his trust in Yahweh. He praises Yahweh's word. He declares he is not afraid, what can flesh do to him? 56:3-4.

2. The psalmist describes his enemies. 56:5-11.
     a. The psalmist explains that his enemies seek to injure his cause all day long. All their thoughts are against him for evil. They stir up strife, they lurk, they watch the psalmist's steps, they hoped to have his life. 56:5-6.
    b. The poet beseeches Yahweh to repay his enemies for their crime; cast down the peoples in wrath. 56:7.
    c. The composer declares that Yahweh has kept count of his tossings. Metaphorically, he asks Yahweh to put his tears in Yahweh's bottle to be a record. I f Yahweh does this, his enemies will retreat in the day when the psalmist calls, assured that Yahweh is FOR him. 56:8-9.
   d. The psalmist intones the recurring refrain or chorus in 56:4: the psalmist praises Yahweh's word; he trusts in Yahweh; he is not afraid; What can a MERE MORTAL do to me? 56:10-11.

3. The psalmist promises:
     a. He will perform his vows. 56:12a.
     b. Render thank offerings to Yahweh. 56:12b.
     c. Joyfully, the psalmist proclaims that Yahweh has delivered him from death and his feet from falling so that the psalmist may walk before God in the light of life. 56:13.

Share YOUR experiences and concerns and anxieties and cares and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Heart Fears [Part 2]

[Continued from previous blog]

8. The Hebrew adjective charedh, "trembling," appears once with "heart" in 1 Samuel 4:13. When news came from the battlefield at Aphek, a message came back to Shiloh telling Eli that his two sons had been killed, the Israelites had been defeated, and the ark of the covenant was captured by the Philistines. "When he arrived, Eli was sitting upon his seat by the road watching, FOR HIS HEART TREMBLED FOR THE ARK OF GOD. When the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out."

9. The Hebrew verb naphal, "to fall, lie," appears once with "heart" in 1 Samuel 17:32. When Saul and the Israelites were afraid of Goliath the Philistine, "David said to Saul, 'LET NO ONE'S HEART FAIL BECAUSE OF HIM [Goliath]; your servant [David] will go and fight against this Philistine."

10. The Hebrew verb muth, "to die," occurs once with "heart" in 1 Samuel 25:37. When Abigail told her husband Nabal that David was successful, "HIS HEART DIED WITHIN HIM; he became like a stone."

 11. The Hebrew verb masas, "to faint, grow fearful," appears six times with 'heart."
       a. Hushai the Archite warned Absalom that David is a dangerous warrior, saying: "Then even the valiant warrior, WHOSE HEART IS LIKE THE HEART OF A LION, WILL UTTERLY MELT WITH FEAR; for all Israel knows that your father [David] is a warrior, and that those who are with him are valiant warrior."
      b. The poet in Psalm 22:14 says:
           "I am poured out like water
                 and all my bones are out of joint;
             MY HEART IS LIKE WAX;
                 IT IS MELTED WITHIN MY BREAST."
      c. Ezekiel gave this message to his people in Babylon in Ezekiel 21:7:
          "And when they say to you, 'Why do you moan?'
            you shall say, 'Because of the news that has come.
            EVERY HEART WILL MELT and all hands will be feeble,
            every spirit will faint and all knees with turn to water.
            See, it comes and it will be fulfilled,' says the Lord God."
      d. Nahum 2:10 says:
          "Devastation, desolation, and destruction!
                 HEARTS FAINT and knees tremble,
            all loins quake,
                 all faces grow pale."
     e. In the oracle concerning Babylon, Isaiah 13:7 says:
         "Therefore all hands will be feeble,
     f. In an oracle concerning Egypt, Isaiah 19:1 says:
         "See, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud
                 and comes to Egypt;
          the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
[To be continued]

Share YOUR fears and anxieties and problems and frustrations and concerns with others. Let me hear from You.

John Willis 


The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--16

There are several passages in the Gospel of Mark referring to disciples. Many of these appear also in Matthew and Luke. Here, I will only mention these passages and not repeat what we have already discussed.

1. At Levi's [Matthew's] house, Jesus ate with many tax collectors and sinners. The Jewish scribes and Pharisees approached JESUS' DISCIPLES and challenged them to allow Jesus to eat with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus replied that he came to call sinners and not the righteous. Mark 2:13-17. See Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32.
2. One sabbath, some of JESUS' DISCIPLES plucked grain in the field on the sabbath day. The Jewish Pharisees rebuked Jesus for allowing his disciples to do this on the sabbath day. Jesus responded: "The sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the sabbath." Mark 2:23-28. See Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5.
3.Jesus departed with HIS DISCIPLES to the Mediterranean Sea and a great multitude from Galilee followed him. Jesus told HIS DISCIPLES to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. Mark 3:7-9. See Matthew 12:15-21.
4. After presenting several parables, Jesus did not speak to the crowds except in parables, but he explained everything in private to HIS DISCIPLES. Mark 4:30-34. See Matthew 13:31-32; Luke 13:18-19.
5. In the middle of a large crowd, a woman suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years touched Jesus' cloak. Jesus said, "Who touched me?" HIS DISCIPLES told him that many people were pressing in on Jesus and surely many people touched him. The woman with the hemorrhages fell before Jesus, and Jesus healed her. Mark 5:24-34. See Matthew 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56.

All these stories appear in Matthew and some in Luke. It is unnecessary to repeat all the details.
[To be continued about Mark].

Share YOUR insights and dreams and aspirations and imaginations and events with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Confidence in God to deliver one from enemies--Psalm 55

Like most Psalms. the author and historical setting of Psalm 55 are unknown. The few clues about the situation assumed in Psalm 55 are these: this psalmist was living in Jerusalem because he alludes to "the city" in 55:9 surrounded by walls in 55:10 in which the "house," that is, the temple, was situated according to 55:14. A large number of wicked people (55:3, 11, 18) oppress the psalmist and his friends (55:20). This is a well-organized ban of ruffians, who carefully plan deeds of violence and strife in the city (55:9), who constantly roam the city walls in search for opportunities to cause mischief and trouble (55:10), and who practice oppression and fraud in the marketplace (55:11, 23). Every generation has included people of this character. This psalmist's best friend, his "equal," his "companion," his "familiar friend" (55:13, 20) has betrayed him and his companions, and had broken their covenant of friendship by casting his lot with malicious oppressors (55:20). The psalmist can remember when they had conversed together on the most intimate matter, when they had enjoyed each other's fellowship in God's house [the Jerusalem temple] (55:14). But now he realizes that all this show of friendship and loyalty was nothing but a sham. His friend was using an external show of religion and of communion to promote his own selfish goals and personal gain, and therefore he would not hesitate to betray his friend's confidence in him if this was to his best interest.
           "My companion laid hands on a friend
                     and violated a covenant with me:
             with speech smoother than butter,
                     but with a heart set on war,
             with words that were softer than oil,
                     but in fact were drawn swords" (55:20-21).
A person should be able to open his/her heart fully to his/her Christian brother/sister, but unfortunately there are those even in the church today who do not hesitate to betray a brother's/ sister's confidence to promote their own interests. Psalm 55 falls into two parts.

1. The Psalmist beseeches Yahweh to intervene and deliver him from his enemies who plot his destruction. Psalm 55:1-11.
     a. The psalmist begins by imploring Yahweh to hear his prayer and not hide himself from the psalmist's supplication. He beseeches Yahweh to answer him. 55:1-2a.
     b. This psalmist says he is troubled and distraught by the "noise" and "clamor" of his wicked enemies. They bring trouble on the psalmist and in anger they cherish enmity against him. The psalmist's heart is in anguish, the terrors of death have fallen on him, fear, trembling, and horror overwhelm him. 55:2b-5.
     c. The psalmist wishes he could escape far away from this terrible circumstance. He would like to fly away like a dove, rest, and lodge in the wilderness, a shelter from the raging wind and tempest. 55:6-8.
     d. The psalmist beseeches Yahweh to confuse and confound the speech of his enemies. His enemies cause violence and strife in the city; they go around on its walls to cause iniquity and trouble;  in the marketplace, his enemies cause oppression and fraud. 55:9-11.

2. This psalmist declares his confidence that Yahweh will deliver him from the schemes of his best friend who has betrayed him. Psalm 55:12-23.
    a. The psalmist says he could cope with the atrocities of his enemies,  but in this situation his "equal," his "companion," his "familiar friend" with whom he kept pleasant company and who walked together in the house of God [the Jerusalem temple] with the throng of worshippers, has stabbed him in the back, he has betrayed him vehemently. 55:12-14.
    b. Because of this, this psalmist implores Yahweh to let death come upon his vicious enemies and go down alive to Sheol, the grave because EVIL [SIN OF THE HEART] is in their homes and hearts. 55:15.
    c. Thus, this psalmist turns to Yahweh for help and deliverance. He is certain that Yahweh will hear his voice and intervene. God, who is enthroned from of old, will hear his cry and humble his enemies, because his enemies do not change and do not fear [revere, honor] God. 55:16-19.
    d. This psalmist's best friend, his "companion," laid hands on him and violated a covenant with him. The way he did this is pretending to be his best friend, when in reality he planned to destroy his so-called friend. 55:20-21.
    e. Finally, the psalmist turns to his audience and then to God. He beseeches his audience to cast their burdens on the Lord because he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be moved. Then affirms that God will cast down his wicked enemies into the lowest pit because they are bloodthirsty and treacherous. This psalmist will trust in Yahweh. 55:22-23.

Every generation produces churches here and there in which so-called Christians will betray their fellow-worshippers. This is sad, but true. Be prepared to face this reality.

Share YOUR experiences and losses and anguishes and betrayals and reversals with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--15

Matthew 27 and 28 contains SEVEN references to disciples.

1. After Jesus died on the cross, a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph was a DISCIPLE OF JESUS, and went to Pontius Pilate to bury the body of Jesus. Matthew 27:57-60.

2. After Jesus was buried, the chief priests and the Pharisees convened before Pontius Pilate and said: "We remember what they imposter [meaning Jesus] said he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise again.' Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise HIS DISCIPLES may go and steal him away, and tell the people, 'He has been raised from the dead," and the last deception would be worse than the first." Matthew 27:63-64.

3 and 4. Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb of Jesus, and God opened the tomb; an angel told them that Jesus was raised from the dead, and told these two women: "Go quickly and TELL HIS DISCIPLES, 'He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him.' This is my message for you." So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to TELL HIS DISCIPLES." Matthew 28:7-8.

5. The priest and elders of the Jews "devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, 'You must say, "HIS DISCIPLES came by night and stole him away while we were asleep." Matthew 28:13. Here the Jewish leaders lied about what the disciples of Jesus did.

6. Commanded by the angel in Matthew 28:7, "THE ELEVEN DISCIPLES went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed him.When they saw him, they worshipped him. But some doubted." Matthew 28:16-17.

7. At the mountain in Galilee, Jesus told the eleven disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded YOU. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20.

This last text in Matthew 28:19-20 makes very clear that the way people make disciples of all nations is:  
    a. To baptize people of all nations in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
    b. To teach these baptized people to obey everything Jesus has commanded.
 In order for anyone to be a disciple, that person must be baptized in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that person must learn what Jesus has commanded and obey those commandments. This requires a constant study of the Bible and a committed heart and life to God's commandments.

Share YOUR experiences and thoughts and insights and concerns and discernments with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

The Heart Fears [Part 1]

The Hebrew Bible uses the word "heart" in connection with NEGATIVE FEAR: cowardice, anxiety, faintheartedness; and POSITIVE FEAR: standing in awe, respect, revere, honor.

Describing NEGATIVE FEAR, the Hebrew Bible uses 16 Hebrew words derived from 13 different roots.

1. yatsa'--"to go out, depart."
    When Joseph's brothers received Joseph's grain, after they left, one of them saw his money at the top of the sack. Genesis 42:28 says: "He said to his brothers, 'My money has been put back; here it is in my sack!' At this THEY LOST HEART [Literally, their heart failed them] and turned trembling to one another, saying, 'What is this that God has done to us?'"

2. rakhakh--"to be tender, weak, soft."
    a. Deuteronomy 20:3 says that the priest shall speak to the army troop of Israel preparing for battle: "Hear, O Israel! Today you are drawing near to do battle against your enemies. DO NOT LOSE HEART, or be afraid, or panic, or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you."
        Deuteronomy 20:8 says the officials are to continue to address the army troops: "Is anyone afraid or DISHEARTENED? He should go back to his house, or HE MIGHT CAUSE THE HEART OF HIS COMRADES TO MELT LIKE HIS OWN." A similar term meaning "irresolate" appears in
2 Chronicles 13:7.
    b. When the Syrians [Arameans] under Rezin and the North Israelites under Pekah approached Jerusalem to overthrow Ahaz king of Judah, Yahweh sent Isaiah the prophet with this message to Ahaz: "Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and DO NOT LET YOUR HEART BE FAINT because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah" (Isaiah 7:4).
    c. Encouraging Yahweh's faithful people of Judah, Jeremiah declares:
        "DO NOT BE FAINTHEARTED or fearful
               at the rumors heard in the land--
          one year one rumor comes,
               the next year another,
          rumors of violence in the land
               and of ruler against ruler" (Jeremiah 51:46).

3. The Hebrew noun morekh, "weakness, faintness" appears once with "heart" in Leviticus 26:36: God through Moses tells his people that if they reject and disobey God, "As for those who survive, I WILL SEND FAINTNESS INTO THEIR HEARTS in the lands of their enemies, the sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall though no one pursues."

4. The Hebrew adjective raggaz, "trembling," appears once with "heart" in Deuteronomy 28:65: Yahweh through Moses gives this warning against the disobedient: "Among those nations you shall find no ease, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There THE LORD WILL GIVE YOU A TREMBLING HEART, failing eyes, and a languishing spirit."

5. The Hebrew noun pachad, "fear, dread," appears once with "heart" in Deuteronomy 28:67: Yahweh through Moses gives this warning against the disobedient: "In the morning you shall say, 'If only it were evening!' and at evening you shall say, 'If only it were morning!'--BECAUSE OF THE DREAD THAT YOUR HEART SHALL FEEL and the sights of your eyes shall see."

6. The Hebrew verb charadh, "to tremble, be terrified" appears twice with "heart."
     a. 1 Samuel 28:5 says: "When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, AND HIS HEART TREMBLED GREATLY."
     b. Elihu, one of Job's young friends, give a long speech in Job 32-37. In Job 37:1, he says:
         "At this also MY HEART TREMBLES,  
                 and leaps out of its place."

[To be continued]

Share YOUR fears and anxieties and concerns and reversals and prospect with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, December 26, 2016

Prayer for Deliverance from the Ruthless--Psalm 54

Psalm 54 is very brief. The author and historical setting is unknown. The Superscription connects this psalm with the Ziphites telling Saul that David is hiding among the Ziphites (1 Samuel 23:19-20). But this is a later addition in an attempt to connect Psalm 54 with a historical event connected with David. Psalm 54 contains no reference to this event. Psalm 54 falls into three parts.

1. The psalmist beseeches Yahweh to save him. Psalm 54:1-3.
     a. The poet addresses Yahweh as God. He asks Yahweh to SAVE him by God's name. Here God's name means God Himself. He beseeches Yahweh to VINDICATE him by his MIGHT. 54:1.
     b. The psalmist implores Yahweh, "Hear my prayer," "Give ear to the words of my mouth," meaning this prayer which is Psalm 54. 54:2.
     c. The composer beseeches Yahweh to save him BECAUSE the Insolent have risen against him, the RUTHLESS seek his life. They have no interest in God, but only to destroy this psalmist. 54:3.

2. Speaking to his audience, the psalmist extols Yahweh as his helper. Psalm 54:4-5.
    a. The poet proclaims that Yahweh is his HELPER. The hearer or reader immediately thinks of Psalm 121:1-2. The poet explains that Yahweh is the UPHOLDER of his life. 54:4.
    b. The psalmist confidently declares that Yahweh will repay his enemies for their evil. Then suddenly, he addresses Yahweh directly: "In YOUR faithfulness, put an end to them [my enemies]." 54:5.

3. The Psalmist give thanks to God for delivering him. Psalm 54:6-7.
     a. The psalmist continues to address God directly. First, he promises that he will SACRIFICE a freewill offering to Yahweh. He will give thanks to Yahweh for this is good. To "give thanks to God's name" is to "give thanks to God Himself." 54:6.
     b. The psalmist give God thanks because God has delivered him from every trouble, and his eye has looked in triumph on his enemies. 54:7.

God's people are surrounded by enemies. The proper Christian response is not to retaliate, but to pray to Yahweh to intervene, overthrow his enemies, and deliver his faithful people.

Share YOUR experiences and concerns and anxieties and fears and journeys with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--13

Matthew 24 and 26 contain THIRTEEN references to DISCIPLES. There is no reference to DISCIPLES in Matthew 25.

1. Matthew 24 relates several events and teachings about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Here we will not go into great detail. The whole discussion comes from a couple of questions to Jesus from his disciples.
    a. As Jesus came out of the Jerusalem temple, his disciples pointed out to him the buildings of the temple. Jesus told them that every stone of the temple will be torn down. After they came to the Mount of Olives, his disciples asked him privately WHEN will this be and WHAT WILL BE THE SIGN OF JESUS' SECOND COMING AND THE END OF THE AGE. 24:1-3.
    b. Jesus told them that no one knows when this will happen. There will be many people who claim to be the Messiah which are not true. There will be wars and rumors of wars; nations will rise and wall. This is just the beginning of birthpangs. The wicked will persecute and kills Jesus's followers. Some will fall away. Others will endure to the end. The good news of the kingdom of God will be proclaimed throughout the world. 24:4-14.
    c. Just as lightning comes from the east and the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then he will gather his elect from one end of heaven to the other. 24:15-31.
    d. About the day and hour of Jesus' Second coming no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but ONLY THE HEAVENLY FATHER. The point is: Everyone must be prepared, because the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Every true disciples of Jesus must work faithfully until Jesus comes again. 24:32-51.

2. Matthew 26 relates ELEVEN references to Jesus' DISCIPLES. All of these text allude to THE TWELVE, or THE THREE [Peter, James, and John]. In almost every case, Jesus' DISCIPLES misunderstand Jesus or bluntly reject and abandon Jesus.
    a. After teaching his parables in Matthew 25, Jesus told his disciples that in two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be crucified. 26:1-5.
    b. At Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman poured costly ointment on Jesus' head. Jesus' DISCIPLES became angry about this because this is a waste. Jesus rebuked his DISCIPLES, telling them that this woman prepared Jesus for burial by pouring this ointment on his head. Her gracious gesture is the heart of the gospel message. 26:6-13.
    c. On the first day of Unleavened Bread, Jesus told his DISCIPLES to prepare the Passover. Jesus will keep the Passover at the house of an anonymous man, and Jesus' DISCIPLES prepared the Passover as Jesus told them. Jesus told Judas Iscariot that he will betray Jesus. Jesus took a loaf of bread, broke it, and gave it to his DISCIPLES, and for the very first time initiated the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist. 26:14-30.
    d. Jesus told his DISCIPLES that ALL of them will DESERT Jesus. Peter strongly said he would never desert Jesus. All the DISCIPLES chimed in an agreed with Peter. 26:31-35.
    e. Jesus took THE TWELVE to Gethsemane and told them to wait until he returned. Then he took Peter, James, and John further into the Garden of Gethsemane, and left them there as he went farther to pray. After fervent prayer to God the Father, Jesus returned and found that THE THREE were asleep. Jesus sternly rebuked them, returned to pray two more times, and each time, they were sound asleep. Jesus sternly rebuked them for not praying for him in this serious moment. 26:36-46.
    f. Judas Iscariot brought the Jewish elders and chief priests to arrest Jesus to crucify him. Then ALL JESUS' DISCIPLES DESERTED HIM [JESUS] AND FLED. 26:47-56.

These texts are consistent with other texts in the Bible about DISCIPLES. DISCIPLES are followers, servants, slaves of God, but certainly NOT LEADERS!!! Jesus' DISCIPLES often have good intentions, but when the rubber meets the road, all forsake or desert Jesus. All of Jesus' DISCIPLES are weak and frail at best. God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord is able to work in and through and in spite of Jesus' DISCIPLES. The function of DISCIPLES is humility, humility, humility, service, service, service, certainly NOT LEADERSHIP. God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord is our only dependable LEADER.

Share YOUR fears and failures and anxieties and uncertainties and desertions with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis