John T. Willis

Monday, January 01, 2018

A Prayer for National Victory after Defeat--Psalm 60

It is very difficult to interpret Psalm 60. The Superscription is very complicated and uncertain: To the leader: according to the Lily of the Covenant. A Miktam of David; for instruction; when he struggled with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and when Joab on his return killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. "According to the Lily of the Covenant" may be a well-known tune, but this is uncertain. The references to Aram-naharaim, Aram-zobah, and killing 12,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt apparently have in mind 2 Samuel 8:5; 1 Chronicles 18:5, but 2 Samuel 8:13 says David killed 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt, and 1 Chronicles 18:12 says Abishai son of Zeruiah killed 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt, but neither text has any reference to Joab.

Furthermore, the places mentioned in verses 6-7a (Shechem, Succoth, Gilead, Manasseh, and Ephraim) are in North Israel, while the places mentioned in verses 7b-9 (Judah, Moab, Edom, and Philistia) are in the South. Verses 5-12 are a duplication of Psalm 108:6-13, which may indicate that at least a part of this was originally a much earlier poem which was later incorporated into these two Old Testament psalms. If this is the case, originally this poem applied to the fall of Samaria in 721 BCE and was later reapplied to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE because of the similarity of these two events. Psalm 60 falls into four brief sections.

1. God's People beseech Yahweh to deliver them from their enemies. Psalm 60:1-5.
    a. The people ("we, our, us") implore Yahweh to "restore" them and "repair the cracks" in their land, even though he had rejected them, broken their defenses, been angry for them, caused the land to quake and totter, made the people suffer hard things, and given them wine to drink that made them reel [a common figure for defeat and destruction--see Jeremiah 13:12-14; 25:15-29]. 60:1-3.
    b. Even at that, Yahweh has shown his love to and concern for his people by setting up a banner for those who feared [honored, revered] him so that the scattered troops might rally around. Hence, the people pray that Yahweh will answer their cries, intercede, and give them the victory. 60:4-5.

2. A prophet, priest, or singer responds to the pleas of the people. Psalm 60:6-8.
    a. The poet reminds his hearers that God has spoken words of promise in the sanctuary [apparently long before this crisis]: Like a victorious warrior, Yahweh distributes his spoils and asserts his rule
over lands he has conquered. Here the language calls to mind the allotment of the land of Canaan to the Israelites under Joshua. God promises to divide up Shechem in North Israel and the Valley of Succoth east of Jordan. 60:6.
    b. As his possessions, Yahweh claims Gilead and Manasseh east of the Jordan River, Ephraim in North Israel west of the Jordan River, and Judah in the South. 60:7.
    c. Yahweh also claims his rule over Moab, Edom and Philistia in the South east and west of Judah respectively. Moab as Yahweh's "washbasin" symbolizes that the Moabites are to perform menial tasks for the Israelites. Yahweh casting his shoe upon Edom is a figure borrowed from the practice of passing a shoe to symbolize transfer of property. This calls to mind Ruth 4:7-8, which says that to buy something is to draw off one's sandal. 60:8.

3. The people again complain because Yahweh has rejected them. Psalm 60:9-10.
    Like verse 1, in verse 10 the people complain that Yahweh has rejected them and not gone out with them with their armies. This calls to mind Psalm 44:9 and the account of Israel's battle against the Philistines at Aphek in 1 Samuel 4:1-8. The idea may be that in spite of Israel's having carried the ark  with them into battle, the enemy triumphed. Possibly the individual in verse 9 ("me") is the king or commander-in-chief of the army. The "fortified city" of Edom (Petra? Bozrah?) may mean he wanted to escape there for safety with the remnant of the Judean army after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, or may mean that at this time the Edomites had joined the Babylonians in overthrowing Jerusalem and thus were the enemies of the Jews as in Psalm 137:7; Obadiah 10-12.

4. The people conclude confident that Yahweh will deliver them. Psalm 60:11-12.
    a. They ask Yahweh to grant them help against the foe, because "human help is worthless." They depend completely on Yahweh, not on any other source, human or otherwise. 60:11.
    b. Thus, they declare that "WITH GOD," they will do valiantly, because Yahweh alone is the one who tread down his foes. 60:12.

Share YOUR experiences and concerns and problems and issues and reversals with other people. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--16

In Luke 1-10, there are twenty references to disciples. Most of the texts also have parallels in Matthew and Mark.

1. Eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners--Luke 5:27-39 [parallel to Matthew 9:9-17; Mark 2:13-22].
    a. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to the disciples of Jesus, Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? Jesus responded, Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. vv. 30-32.
    b. The Pharisees and scribes responded: the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Pharisees fast and pray, but the disciples of Jesus eat and drink. Jesus responded by giving  a parable: While the bridegroom is here at the wedding, the wedding guests will not fast; but when the bridegroom leaves, they will fast. Here the bridegroom is Jesus. vv. 33-35.

2. Eating grain on the Sabbath--Luke 6:1-5 [parallel to Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28]. One Sabbath when Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads, rubbed them in their hands and ate the grain. Some of the Pharisees saw this and complained that they disobeyed the law. Jesus responded by reminding them that David and his companions ate the Bread of the Presence, which was not lawful. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.

3. Jesus called twelve of his disciples--Luke 6:12-16 [parallel to Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19a]. Jesus called his disciples and chose twelve whom he also named apostles. The names are listed here.

4. Many people come to Jesus to hear his words and be healed--Luke 6:17-19 [parallel to Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:35-39]. After choosing the twelve, Jesus came down from the mountain to a level place, where a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude from all Judea came to him to hear his words and be healed.

5. Blessings and Woes--Luke 6:20-26 [parallel to Matthew 5:1-12]. Jesus then looked up at his disciples and gave them certain blessings and woes.

6. Do not judge--Luke 6:37-42 [parallel to Matthew 7:1-5]. Jesus told his hearers not to judge. Then he gave a parable. If a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into the pit. A disciple is not above his teacher.

7. Jesus Raises the Widow's Son at Nain--Luke 7:11-17. Jesus' disciples and a large crowd went with Jesus to Nain, where Jesus raised the widow's son at Nain from the dead.

8. The Disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus if he is the Messiah--Luke 7:18-35 [parallel to Matthew 11:2-19]. The disciples of John the Baptist told John that Jesus had raised the widow's son at Nain from the dead. John sent two of his disciples to Jesus to find out if Jesus is the one who is to come. Jesus told them to tell John what Jesus had done in healing all the sick.

9. The Parable of the Sower--Luke 8:9-10 [parallel to Matthew 13:10-17; Mark 4:10-12]. When Jesus gives the parable of the sower, Jesus' disciples ask him what this parable means. Jesus responded by telling them that he would tell them the secret, but the purpose of parables is to hide Jesus' messages from the crowds.

10. Jesus calms a storm--Luke 8:22-27 [parallel to Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41]. Jesus got into a boat with his disciples. Jesus fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the disciples were afraid. Jesus woke up and stilled the storm and rebuked his disciples for their little faith.

11. The Mission of the Twelve--Luke 9:1-6 [parallel to Matthew 10:5-15]. Jesus called the 12 disciples and gave them power over demons and to cure diseases. The NRSV does not use the word "disciple" in v. 1.

12. Feeding the 5,000--Luke 9:10-27 [parallel to Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44]. When the crowds were hungry, Jesus told his disciples to make all the people sit down. Jesus blessed the five loaves of bread and two fish and gave them to his disciples to distribute it to the crowd. God greatly multitude the food.

13. Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah--Luke 9:18-20 [parallel to Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30]. While he was praying, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought Jesus was. Peter said he thought Jesus was the Messiah.

14. Jesus heals a boy with a demon--Luke 9:37-47 [parallel to Matthew 17:14-23; Mark 9:14-32]. A man came to Jesus telling him his son was seized by a spirit but Jesus' disciples could not cast out the spirit. Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy. Then Jesus told his disciples that he would be arrested, persecuted, and killed on the cross.

15. A Samaritan village refused to receive Jesus--Luke 9:51-56. When the Samaritan village refused to receive Jesus, Jesus' disciples James and James asked Jesus if they wanted to come down fire from heaven to destroy this village. Jesus rebuked them for asking this.

16. Jesus tells his disciples that they are blessed what they see--Luke 10:21-24 [parallel to Matthew 11:25-27]. Jesus thanks his Heavenly Father for revealing God's things to infants rather than to the wise. Then Jesus told his disciples privately that they are blessed what they see.

Not that in these chapters, there are references to the disciples of the Pharisees, the disciples of John the Baptist, to the twelve disciples of Jesus, to two disciples James and John, and to a larger group of disciples of Jesus.

Share YOUR beliefs and insights and understandings and perceptions and concerns with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis+

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Heart Loves and Hates--21

Love has a wide variety of nuances in scripture, as it does in all languages. One loves apples or chocolate or movies or a boyfriend or girlfriend or a nation or a color or a smell or a husband or wife or son or daughter or father or mother or Jesus or God. And the list goes on and on. The word "heart" in the Hebrew Bible appears four times connected with love.
1. In the first great commandment, Deuteronomy 6:5 says: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your heart and with all your might."
2. In Deuteronomy 13:1-3, Moses warns his people not to listen to or follow prophets and diviners who encourage the people to follow other gods and serve them. "You must not heed the words of those prophets of those who divine by dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul."
3. Deuteronomy 30:6 says: "Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live."
All of these texts indicate that to love God with all the heart means to love God with all one's being.
4. Song of Solomon 8:6 describes the feelings of the young bride toward her groom:
    "Set me as a seal upon your heart,
           as a seal upon your arm;
      for love is strong as death,
          passion fierce as the grave.
      Its flashes are flashes of fire,
          a raging flame."
This text describes the love of a person for her marital partner.

Like love, hate or hatred contains many nuances. As in all languages, one can hate food, the weather, an attitude, an action, a person, Jesus, and God. The list goes on and on. The Hebrew Bible uses four different verbs connected with hatred.
1. The Hebrew verb bazah, "to despise," appears twice in the Hebrew Bible.
     a. 2 Samuel 6:16. When David danced before the Lord with all his might, his wife Michal "looked out of the window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart."
     b. 1 Chronicles 15:29 repeats 2 Samuel 6:16.
2. The Hebrew verb sane', "to hate," occurs once with the heart in Leviticus 19:17: "You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin."
3. The Hebrew verb na'ats, "to contemn, spurn," occurs once with heart in Proverbs 5:12:
     Speaking to his student, the sage says:
     "And you say, 'Oh how I hated discipline,
           and my heart despised reproof!"
4. The Hebrew noun qarabh, "war," appears once with heart in Psalm 55:20-21 [Hebrew 55:21-22]:
     "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."
Hatred means strong disapproval toward an attitude, a feeling, an action, or a person.

Share YOUR feelings and actions and attitudes and concerns and belief with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, December 18, 2017

God is our Refuge and Fortress and Shield--Psalm 59

The anonymous composer of Psalm 59 was obviously an Israelite and probably a king or military commander in battle.  His enemies are several unnamed nations (see verses 5, 8). He compares them with vicious dogs. A recurring refrain or chorus appears in verses 8 and 14:
      "Each evening they come back howling like dogs
           and prowling about the city."
"The city" could be Jerusalem, but it could also be Samaria, because verse 13 describes Yahweh as the God who rules over Jacob, which might indicate the ten northern tribes. There is not enough information to be certain about these matters. Psalm 59 falls into three parts.

1. The poet begins by asking Yahweh from delivering him from his enemies. 59:1-7.
    a. The poet uses the verbs "deliver," "protect," and "save" to emphasize that he wishes that Yahweh will deliver the psalmist from his enemies, those who rise up against him, who work evil. One needs to pay attention to the different nuances of the verb "save." Some assume that "save" means that God saves human beings from sin. But the present context makes it very clear that "save" means that God delivers human beings from enemies who threaten them. Verses 1-2.
    b. The poet now describes his enemies. They lie in wait to kill him; they stir up strife against him; they run and made ready to destroy him. But the psalmist has committed no transgression or fault against them or against Yahweh. So he beseeches Yahweh to "rouse himself" and come to the psalmist's help and see what is happening. Yahweh of hosts is the God of Israel. So the poet beseeches Yahweh to "awake" to punish "all the nations" who oppose the psalmist and Israel and spare none of those who treacherously plot evil against the poet. Verses 3-5.
    c. The poet concludes with his recurring refrain or chorus: Each evening his enemies, "all the nations," come back howling like dogs and prowling about the city [Jerusalem or Samaria]. There they bellow with their mouths, with sharp words on their lips, for they say, "Who will hear us?" Verses 6-7.

2. The psalmist now turns to God, praising him for his power and beseeching him to defeat his enemies. Psalm 59:8-15.
     a. When powerful enemies ["all the nations"] oppose Yahweh and his people, Yahweh "LAUGHS," and holds them in derision.  The same term also appears in Psalm 2:4 with the same idea. Yahweh is in control over all creation, and it is futile for any person or church or nation to oppose Yahweh. 59:8.
     b. The poet "watches for" Yahweh, i. e., expects Yahweh to appear and do his heavenly work in difficult situations. He calls Yahweh "my strength" and "my fortress." This figure or metaphor is based on the common practice in the ancient Near East when people sought protection, they made a strong fortress for defense against enemies. 59:9.
     c. The poet is certain that Yahweh will "meet" him and "triumph" over his enemies. Yahweh will do this through his "steadfast love" [Hebrew chesed]. Yahweh is always reliable in being with his people. 59:10.
     d. The composer compares Yahweh with a "shield." He implores Yahweh not to kill his enemies or his people [Israel] might forget; rather, he asks Yahweh to make his enemies totter by Yahweh's power and bring them down. 59:11.
     e. He continues beseeching Yahweh to let his enemies be trapped in their pride because of the sin of their mouths, the wicked words of their lips, to consume them in wrath until they are no more because of the cursing and lies that they utter. When Yahweh does this, it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob. Here Jacob may mean all twelve tribes or the ten northern tribes. The context does not make this clear. 59:12-13.
     f. The poet concludes the second stanza in this poem by repeating the recurring refrain or chorus in verse 6. But the end of this refrain in verse 15 is a little different from verse 7, but the general meaning is the same.
         "Each evening they come back howling like dogs
               and prowling about the city [possible Jerusalem or Samaria].
           They roam about for food,
               and growl if they do not get their fill."
Obviously, the psalmist's enemies are self-centered people who are intent on getting whatever they want. 59:14-15.
3. The psalmist ends by declaring that he will sing aloud the praises of Yahweh. Psalm 59:16-17.
     a. Three times, he repeats the words "I will sing" [twice in verse 16 and once in verse 17]. He  declares that he will sing of Yahweh's might and "steadfast love" [Hebrew chesed, the same noun which appears in verse 10]. Yahweh will deliver his people ONLY because of Yahweh's steadfast love. 59:16.
     b. In verse 17, the poet calls Yahweh his "strength" and his "fortress." He praises Yahweh because Yahweh shows him Yahweh's "steadfast love" [Hebrew chesed] for him. 59:17.

When confronted with dangerous enemies, it is always best to turn to Yahweh to protection and help.

Share YOUR beliefs and decisions and confrontations and failures and successes with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Heart is Encouraged and Discouraged--20

The Hebrew Bible uses the word "heart" [Hebrew lebh and lebhabh] in connection with encouragement and discourgament.

1. There is one texts in which the word "heart" is used concerning encouragement. This is 2 Kings 14:10. King Jehoash of North Israel sent a message to Amaziah king of Judah telling him not to fight against North Israel. He said to him:
    "You have indeed defeated Edom, and YOUR HEART HAS LIFTED YOU UP [Hebrew nasa']. Be content with your glory, and stay at home; for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?"
    Obviously Amaziah's defeated of Edom encouraged him.

2. FIVE Hebrew verbs convey the emotion of discouragement.
    a. no'--"to restrain, make reverse." This verb occurs two times with lebh.
        1. Numbers 32:7--Moses said to the Gadites and the Reubenites: "Why will you discourage the hearts of the Israelites from going over into the land that the Lord has given them?"
        2. Numbers 32:9--Moses continued to tell the Gadites and the Reubenites that Moses sent their fathers from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. Then he said: "When they went up to the Wadi Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the hearts of the Israelites from going into the land that he Lord had given them."
    b. masas--"to melt." This verb occurs six times with lebhabh.
        1. Deuteronomy 1:28--In the wilderness, the Israelites complained about the report of the twelve spies that Moses sent into Canaan: "Where are we headed? Our kindred have made our hearts melt by reporting, 'The people [of Canaan] are taller and stronger than we; the cities are large and fortified up to heaven! We actually saw the offspring of the Anakim!'"
       2-3. Deuteronomy 20:8 [2x]--"The officials shall continue to address the troops, saying, '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.'"
       4. Joshua 2:11--Rahab said to the Israelites spies concerning the Canaanites at Jericho: "As soon as we heard of it [that is, the delivery of the Israelites from Egypt, and the victories of the Israelites over Sihon and Og], our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below."
       5. Joshua 5:1--"When all the kings of the Amorites beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites by the [Mediterranean] sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them, because of the Israelites."
      6. Joshua 7:5--When Joshua and about 3,000 of his men attacked Ai, "The men of Ai killed about thirty-six of them, chasing them from outside the gate as far as Shebarim and killing them on the slope. The hearts of the people melted and turned to water."

   c. masah--"to melt, dissolve, be liquefied." This verb appears one time with lebh in Joshua 14:8. Caleb said to Joshua: "My companions [the ten spies whom Moses sent with Joshua and Caleb to Canaan] who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God."

   d. kalah--"to waste away, be exhausted." This verb appears one time with lebhabh in Psalm 73:26:
       "My flesh and my heart may fail,
             but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

  e. ya'ash--"to despair." This verb occurs one time with lebh in Ecclesiastes 2:20:
       "So I turned and gave my heart up to despair
         concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun."

These five verbs are usually connected with mental decay. As the mind or heart feels inferior, it becomes discouraged. Unhealthy meditation cannot be severed from the emotion of discouragement, because this emotion can thrive only in such an atmosphere. The "heart" is the seat of emotions, but only as one relies on the other for sustenance.

Evaluate your feelings, your emotions, your experiences, your ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--15

Mark 9-16 contains 19 references to disciples, most of which are also in Matthew, and many of which are grouped together in paragraphs. Here we will look at each text in its context.

1-3--Healing of a boy with a spirit--Mark 9:14-29 [parallel to Matthew 17:14-21]. After the transfiguration, Jesus, Peter, James, and John came to the other twelve apostles, where Jewish scribes were arguing with them. Jesus asked them what they were arguing about. A man stepped forward, explaining that he had brought his son who could not speak, and the spirit dashes him down ; he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; this man asked Jesus' disciples to cast out this spirit from his son, but they could not. Jesus brought the man's son and cast the spirit out of him. When Jesus and his disciples went into the house, his disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast out the spirit. Jesus explained: "This kind can come out only through prayer." Disciples constantly have much to learn from Jesus. This is always the case.
4--Jesus foretells his death and resurrection--Mark 9:30-32 [parallel to Matthew 17:22-23]. Jesus went through Galilee with his disciples telling him that he would die on the cross and be raised from the dead.
5--After Jesus taught the biblical message about divorce, he and his disciples went into a house, and his disciples asked Jesus about this--Mark 10:2-12 [parallel to Matthew 19:1-9]. Jesus told them: "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
6--Jesus blesses little children--Mark 10:13-16 [parallel to Matthew 19:13-15]. People brought their children to Jesus so that Jesus could touch him, but Jesus' disciples spoke sternly to them. Jesus rebuked his disciples, and told them that to such as these little children that the kingdom of God belongs. Disciples always have much to learn. Disciples are learners from Jesus.
7-8--Jesus and the Rich Man--Mark 10:17-31 [parallel to Matthew 19:16-30]. A rich man came to Jesus asking him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told them to keep the Ten Commandments. He told Jesus that he had kept all these commandments. Does he lack anything else. Jesus said: Sell what you have and give it to the poor. The rich man was grievous because he had many possessions. Jesus told his disciples that it is hard for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus' disciples were perplexed at Jesus' message. Jesus told them that no one can enter the kingdom of God without God's grace. Disciples keep growing in faith by learning from Jesus.
9--Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus--Mark 10:46-52 [parallel to Matthew 20:29-34].When Jesus and his disciple came to Jericho, they met blind Bartimaeus, and Jesus healed him.
10--Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem--Mark 11:1-11 [parallel to Matthew 21:1-11]. When Jesus and his disciples approached the Mount of Olives, Jesus told two of his disciples to Bethany and find a colt that had never been ridden and bring it to Jesus. They did so, and Jesus rode on the colt into Jerusalem.
11--Jesus curses the fig tree--Mark 11:12-14 [Matthew 21:18-19]. Jesus left Betheny and was hungry. He came to a fig tree but it had no figs, so he cursed the fig tree. Jesus' disciples hear this.
12--Jesus praises the poor widow--Mark 12:41-44 [no parallel in Matthew]. Jesus sat beside the Jerusalem treasury and saw a poor widow casting in two small copper coins. Then Jesus called his disciples to him and told him that this poor widow put in more than all the other people who put money into the treasury. This poor widow put in everything she had. Jesus is trying to teach his disciples by her example.
13--Jesus tells one of his disciples that the Jerusalem temple will be destroyed--Mark 13:1-2 [parallel to Matthew 24:1-2.
14-17--Jesus prepares his twelve disciples to initiate the Lord's Supper--Mark 14:12-16 [Matthew 26:17-25]. On the first day of Unleavened Bread when the Passover Lamb is sacrificed, Jesus told his disciples where they were to go in the upper room and prepare for the Lord's Supper.
18--Jesus prays in Gethsemane--Mark 14:32-42. Jesus went with his disciples to go to Gethsemane and told them to sit there while Jesus would go further to pray. Peter, James, and John went along further with Jesus, and then Jesus went on alone to pray. When Jesus returned his disciple were asleep. Jesus was greatly disappointed because they did not realize the importance of this event.
19--Three women tell the disciples that God had raised Jesus from the tomb--Mark 16:1-8 [parallel to Matthew 28:1-10]. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome came to the tomb early Sunday morning and met an angel who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and they must tell the twelve disciples and Peter that Jesus would meet them soon.

All of these texts emphasize that true disciples are constantly learning. They are not rulers or leaders, but disciples, which means they are learners and followers and servants of Jesus. God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord is our only true leader. When we learn this great important message, we will become true disciples of Jesus.

Share YOUR ideas and concerns and experiences and questions and reversals with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Righteous Will Prevail Against the Wicked--Psalm 58

Psalm 58 contains on of the strongest imprecations [curses] found anywhere in scripture. It falls into four pericopes.

1. The poet begins by addressing "the gods." Verses 1-2.
     Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
          Do you judge people fairly?
     No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
          your hands deal out violence.
     a. It is obvious that the "gods" in verse 1 are invisible superhuman beings created by God and subordinated to God, but allowed to intervene in the world among human beings to cause sin and violence in the lives of human beings. These are wicked beings like those which Jesus described as the devil and his angels in Matthew 25:41. 1 Kings 22:19; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Psalm 82:1 gives descriptions of Yahweh sitting on his heavenly throne surrounded by his created angels, some righteous and some wicked. verse 1.
     b. These "gods" in verse 1 are clearly wicked angels because they devise wrongs in their hearts and lead human beings on earth into sin and bring violence.  verse 2.

2. The poet then moves to a description of wicked human beings motivated by the wicked angels described in verses 1-2. Verses 3-5.
     a. He says the wicked go astray from the womb and err from birth speaking lies. This hrdly means that they inherit original sin from their parents. Rather, this is an idiomatic term declaring they are quick to yield to the temptations of wicked angels mentioned in verse 1. verse 3.
     b. The psalmist compares the wicked with the venom of a serpent and a deaf adder which stops its ear refusing to hear the voice of charmers or of the cunning enchanter. In other words, the wicked cannot be turned from wickedness by divine warnings and exhortations, because they are intent on spreading their venom, that is, their sin. verses 4-5.

3. Because of their hardheartedness in being committed to sin, the poet prays fervently that God will utterly destroy these wicked people. His language is very strong (verses 6-9):
     O God, break the teeth in their mouths'
         tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord.
     Let them vanish like water that runs away;
          like grass let them be trodden down and wither.
     Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime;
          like the untimely birth that shall never see the sun.
     Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
          whether green or ablaze, nay he sweep them away!
These four verses contain six curses levelled against the wicked. The poet uses six figures in his prayer that God will destroy the wicked with quick and irreparable destruction. He prays that they will be like:
     a. young lions who have their teeth torn out--verse 6
     b. water that quickly runs off the land after a downpour--verse 7a
     c. grass that is trodden down and withered--verse 7b
     d. a snail that draws itself up into its shell--verse 8a
     e. a miscarriage--verse 8b
     f. a cooking pot that is quickly heated over a fire of thorns--verse 9

4. In bold contrast to the wicked, the poet concludes by proclaiming that ultimately Yahweh will deliver the righteous. Verses 10-11.
     a. The righteous will rejoice when God wreaks vengeance on the wicked. verse 10
     b. All human beings who are made aware of this situation will extol Yahweh for delivering the righteous and destroy the wicked. verse 11.

It is impossible for human beings in contemporary times  to know the motives and tone of voice of ancient speakers and writers. Therefore, it is quite possible that psalmists like the composer of Psalm 58 uttered curses against their enemies not for selfish motives to gleefully watch their persecutors suffer, but because they are totally convinced that these people were wicked and thus enemies of God.

Share YOUR insights and perceptions and beliefs and concerns and concepts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis