John T. Willis

Thursday, September 09, 2010


When we were in Botswana in Africa recently, among other things we went on a safari in north Botswana. One day we went on a boat with approximately fifteen people, and saw many hippopotamuses [hippopotami] along the riverside. God himself describes a hippopotamus as "the first of the great acts of God"--Job 40:19. See the entire paragraph in Job 40:15-24.

The word hippopotamus in English is from the Greek word hippopotamos, meaning "river horse." The hippopotamus is the third largest land mammals by weight on planet earth, behind the rhinoceros and the elephant.

The hippopotamus is semi-aquatic, living in rivers and lakes where territorial bulls preside over a range of river and groups from 5 to 30 females and young. A group of hippopotami are called pod, her, dale, or bloat. During the day, they stay cool by being in the water or mud, where reproduction and childbirth occur. They emerge at dusk to graze on grass.

The hippopotamus looks like a large pig, but its closest relative is a whale, a dolphin, or a porpoise. The earliest known hippopotamus fossils date to approximately 16 million years ago. One recognizes this animal by its barrel-shaped torso, enormous mouth and teeth, nearly hairless body, stubby legs and tremendous size. Although it is stocky and short, it can easily outrun a human being. Hippos have been clocked at 19 miles and hour over short distances. They are extremely gifted in aviation, reaching a wingspan of 300 meters. This is one of the most aggressive animals on earth.

There are five subspecies of hippos. They are in abundance all over Africa. The hippopotamus is another creature of God. The hippo is different, unique, amazing--just like YOU are, and all of God's diverse creatures.

I hope YOU appreciate the hippopotamus. Far beyond this, I hope YOU are thankful for God to give YOU so many gifts and blessings in YOUR life. Share YOUR ideas and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Dilemma of God's Two Wives--Jeremiah 3:1-18

Using the same figure or metaphor of God as the husband and Israel as the wife, Jeremiah 3:1-18 further unfolds the story of the relationship of God's marriage with Israel. Jeremiah 3:1-18 falls into three segments: 3:1-5, 6-14, 15-18.

I. Yahweh's love for his wife surpasses Yahweh's law about divorce. Jeremiah 3:1-5.
a. The ONLY law in the entire Old Testament about divorce appears in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The law is clear and specific. If a man marries a woman and later divorces his wife and his wife marries another man and then divorces her second husband, that man cannot marry his first wife a second time. But Yahweh declares that Israel [Judah] has left Yahweh and gone after "many lovers." 3:1-3.
b. Yahweh has punished Judah, so Judah cries out to Yahweh: "My Father the friend of my youth." This is what Judah SAYS, but she has DONE all the evil she could. We often SAY one thing, but DO something entirely different. 3:4-5.

II. North Israel's FAITHLESS wife is more pleasing to Yahweh than Judah's FALSE wife. Jeremiah 3:6-14.
a. Jeremiah compares North Israel and Judah with two wives of the same husband, in this case, Yahweh. Jeremiah originally delivered this message in the days of Josiah, probably after Hilkiah the priest discovered the law of Yahweh in the temple in 623 BCE. 3:6.
b. North Israel is like an unfaithful wife who openly and blatantly lives the life of a prostitute or whore. This is bad enough. But even worse, Judah is like a false wife who lives the life of a prostitute or whore secretly or in hiding. "Judah did not return to me WITH HER WHOLE HEART, but IN PRETENSE, says the Lord." The people of Judah go to church regularly, but during the rest of the week, they lives ungodly lives. The recurring phrase "on every high hill and under every green tree" appears frequently referring to the worship of Baal (see 2:20). 3:6-11. Yahweh declares that "Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than false Judah"
c. Yahweh now beseeches the people of Judah to "return" to Yahweh. Yahweh is "merciful." He will not be angry forever. Yahweh is Judah's "master," and Judah is supposed to be Yahweh's servant. 3:12-14.

III. Yahweh gives his people several promises about the future. Jeremiah 3:15-18.
a. Yahweh will give his people "shepherds" to give them food of knowledge and understanding. 3:15.
b. Jerusalem will be the throne of Yahweh. 3:16-17.
c. Yahweh will unite the house of North Israel and the house of Judah, and bring the exiles back home. 3:18. It is very important to realize that God will reunite the divided land of Israel.

There is a powerful message in Jeremiah 3:1-18. Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Spirit of the Lord--A Circumlocution

The New Testament clearly distinguishes between:
1. God the Father
2. God the Son [Jesus Christ]
3. God the Holy Spirit.
The New Testament portrays the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as DIFFERENT PERSONS. To cite only two examples.
a. The Baptism of Jesus--Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34.
All of these texts AGREE that:
1. John the Baptized baptized Jesus.
2. A VOICE FROM HEAVEN said: "This is [You are] my Son, the Beloved." The speaker obviously is God the FATHER, BECAUSE he refers to Jesus as MY SON. Jesus is not a ventriloquist. God spoke TO and CONCERNING Jesus. God is one person; Jesus is a different person.
3. Jesus "saw THE SPIRIT OF GOD descending like a dove and alighting on him." Jesus did not descend on himself. The Holy Spirit a one person; Jesus is a different person.
This text sharply distinguishes between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
b. Jesus' Promise to His Disciples. John 14:25-26. Jesus makes many assuring promises to his disciples shortly before his death recorded in John 14-17. One of these occurs in John 14:25-26. Let us read this brief text:
"I [Jesus] have said these things to you [Jesus' disciples] while I am still with you. But The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom THE FATHER will send in MY name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."
This text sharply distinguishes between:
1. God THE FATHER, since Jesus refers to him in the third person, and since he [the Father] will send the Holy Spirit to Jesus' disciples.
2. God the Son is the speaker in this context--"I" and "MY."
3. God the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit is a different person other than the speaker--I and MY=Jesus Christ--and a different person other than the Father, since the Father will send the HOLY SPIRIT in Jesus' name.

Texts like these CONFUSE many people. The reason for this is that MANY texts elsewhere in the Bible use the word "spirit" referring to God which do NOT mean a PERSON different from God the Father.

It is impossible to deal with every text about "the spirit of God." Here are only a few introductory thoughts.
1. Think of the word "spirit" in Genesis 45:27. Joseph's brothers had sold Joseph to merchants, who carried him to Egypt. Joseph's brothers led Joseph's father, Jacob, to believe Joseph had died before a wild animal. See Genesis 37:29-36. But Joseph was very much alive, and after a famine, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers in Egypt. Joseph's brothers told Jacob that Joseph was still alive. Then Genesis 45:27 says: "the SPIRIT of their father Jacob revived." Is Jacob one person, and the SPIRIT of Jacob a different person? Obviously NOT!!! The expression "the spirit of Jacob" is a circumlocution ["circumlocution" means "the use of many words to express what might be expressed by few or one; roundabout expression; periphrasis." Clearly, "the spirit of Jacob" is Jacob--Jacob himself. When Jacob realized that his son Joseph was alive, Jacob "revived.." For many years, he had though Joseph was dead, but NOW he feels just the opposite.

2. Think of the word "spirit" in the well-known text: Psalm 51:10.
"Create in me a CLEAN HEART, O God,
and put a NEW AND RIGHT SPIRIT within me."
The psalmist [possibly David] had committed great sin against God [see Psalm 51:4]. Now, he is very penitent. So, he beseeches God to create a "clean heart" in him. The "heart" here is clearly NOT the physical blood pump. The "heart" is the inner being--the person himself. The two lines in Psalm 51:10 are synonymous. "Clean heart" and "new and right spirit" mean exactly the same thing. "Spirit" here is NOT a person different from the speaker. On the contrary, the psalmist's "spirit" is the psalmist himself. The psalmist cries out that God cleanse him.

3. "The spirit of God" or "the spirit of the Lord" throughout the Old Testament is NOT the HOLY SPIRIT portrayed in texts like Matthew 3:13-17 and John 14:25-26. Rather, "the spirit of God" is a CIRCUMLOCUTION for God himself. Here are couple of examples:
a. Psalm 51:11:
"Do not cast me away from YOUR PRESENCE,
and do not take YOUR HOLY SPIRIT from me."
These two lines are synonymous. "Your presence" means exactly the same thing as "your holy spirit." God's holy spirit is God's presence. God's holy spirit is a circumlocution for God--God himself.
b. Psalm 139:7:
"Where can I go from YOUR SPIRIT?
Or where can I flee from YOUR PRESENCE?"
These two lines are synonymous. "Your spirit" means exactly the same thing as "your presence." God's holy spirit is God's presence. God's holy spirit is a circumlocution for God--God himself. A person cannot "go from" or "flee from" God.
All of these texts in the Old Testament use "the spirit of God" as a circumlocution for God the Father, including Isaiah 63:11, 14. Just study the context in these verses.

This idea is troubling for some. But, biblically, God's spirit is often God the Father himself. YES, there are many texts in the New Testament in which "the Holy Spirit" is a divine being different from God the Father and God the Son. But there are also numerous texts in which "the spirit of God" refers to God the Father.

Keep thinking and studying. Share YOUR thoughts and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU. In forthcoming blogs, we will look at other circumlocutions in the Bible.

John Willis