John T. Willis

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day

Every year, the United States and several other countries celebrate Valentine's Day on 14 February. This day celebrates love and affection between intimate companions. Originally this was called Saint Valentine's Day, which is named after a martyr named Saint Valentine or Rome, who was martyred about 269 A. D., and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 500 A.D. Saint Valentine was a priest in Rome. After he was martyred, he was buried onthe Via Flaminia. His relics are at the Chruch of Saint Praxis in Rome, and at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland. Pope Paul VI deleted this celebration in 1969, but its religious observance is still permitted. Lovers ordinarily show their love to their companions by presenting flowers, offering confectionary, and sending greeting Valentine cards.

In recent times, the symbols for Valentine Day include heart-shaped outline, doves, and figure of a winged Cupid. The first recorded association of Valentine's Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules (1382 A. D.) by Geoffrey Chaucer. This included a poem honoring the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. They married at age 15. Ophelia mentions Valentine's Day ruefully in William Shakespeare's Hamlet (1600 A. D.). John Donne used the legend of the marriage of the birds as the starting point for his Eipthalamion celebrating the marriage of Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England, and Frederick V, Elector Palatine. The verse "Roses are Red" echoes conventions which can be traced as far back as Edmund Spenser's epic "The Faerie Queene" in 1590 A. D.

Leigh Eric Schmidt reinvented Saint Valentine's Day in 1849 A. D. Esther Howland first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace in 1847 A. D. in the United States. The United States Greeting Card Association and other agencies estimate that people send valentines to family members, lovers, children, and friends approximately one billion in number. There are valentines of all kinds. One is an anthropomorphic valentine written about 1950-1960 A. D., saying: "I am PLUM crazy about you--Valentine."

Different countries give slightly different names. Here are a few examples: France and Spain: "Saint or San Valentin"; Portugal: "Lover's Day"; the United Kingdom: "Saint George's Day"; Sweden: "All Hearts' Day"; Finland: "Friend's Day;"Turkey: "Sweethearts' Day." In China, Korea, Japan, and Singapore, it is very popular to give chocolates of all types for lovers and friends. On the other hand,some Islamic countries strongly oppose and ban the tradition of Valentine Day, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran.

I hope YOU enjoy Valentine's Day. God's love is all around us, and he wants us to share his love with others.

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

John Willis

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jeremiah's Third Complaint--Jeremiah 15:5-21

Of the six complaints of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 11-20, the third appears in 15:5-21. This paragraph falls into three parts, which we will discuss briefly in this blog.

I. Yahweh declares that he is about to punish his sinful people because they are hard-hearted. Jeremiah 15:5-9.
a. Yahweh through Jeremiah expresses deep frustration over the persistence of God's people ongoing sins. Yahweh asks: Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem? After all, Jerusalem, the people of God have REJECTED Yahweh and GONE BACKWARD. So Yahweh is "weary of relenting." Frequently, Yahweh have given his sinful people another chance. But obviously they are not sincere. So, Yahweh will certainly punish them. 15:5-6.
b. Yahweh declares: I have winnowed this sinful people like one winnows thresh with a winnowing fork. I have destroyed my people. I have brought a destroyer against them. I have made anguish and terror fall on them. Although Jerusalem has "borne seven," he will give them to the sword. 15:7-9.

II. Jeremiah complains severely because Jeremiah faithfully proclaims Yahweh's message, but his persecutors insult and threaten him, and Jeremiah feels that Yahweh has forsaken him entirely. Jeremiah 15:10-18.
a. Jeremiah wishes he has never been born. Jeremiah says: I have neither lent nor borrowed anything, but my opponents curse me. Yahweh intervenes and assures Jeremiah that he has done good for Jeremiah all along during his career. An enemy IS coming from the NORTH, the Babylonians. Yahweh promises Jeremiah: I WILL bring the Babylonians into the land of Canaan and take them into captivity. 15:10-14.
b. But Jeremiah continues to complain. He begs Yahweh to visit Jeremiah and bring down retribution on Jeremiah's opponents. Jeremiah says to Yahweh: I "ate" the words you gave me and they were a joy and delight of my heart. But I could not rejoice with merrymakers in Judah, but sat alone. 15:15-17.
c. Jeremiah declares that he is in great pain. Then he proclaims that Yahweh to him is like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail. Yahweh promised that he would be WITH Jeremiah, but when Jeremiah trusted in Yahweh, Yahweh did not keep his promise. 15:18. This same figure appears in Job 6:15-20.

III. Yahweh rebukes Jeremiah for this complaint. Jeremiah 15:19-21.
a. Yahweh's response is that Jeremiah's complaint is unacceptable. Yahweh declares that Jeremiah has "turned" against Yahweh. So, Yahweh invites Jeremiah to "turn back" to God. If he will, Yahweh will take Jeremiah back and again become Yahweh's "mouth" or prophet. What Jeremiah had said was "worthless." Yahweh insists that his thoughts and words must be "precious" if they are to be acceptable to Yahweh. 15:19.
b. This "call" or "commission" is like Yahweh's original call in Jeremiah
1:18-19. IF Jeremiah repents and turns back to Yahweh, Yahweh will make Jeremiah "a fortified wall of bronze," and his opponents will not prevail over Jeremiah. Yahweh assures Jeremiah that he will be WITH him to save and deliver him from the wicked and the ruthless. 15:20-21.

Some of our complaints are acceptable; some are not. We can learn great truths from texts like Jeremiah 15:5-21.

Share YOUR ideas and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Trouble in River City

Willson and Franklin Lacey wrote the story called The Music Man. The plot of this story is about a con man Harold Hill, who poses as boys' band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to naive town people before running out of town with money. In River City, Iowa, prim Marian the librarian sees through Harold Hill, but when Hill helps her younger brother, Marian falls in love with Harold, and Harold falls in love with Marian. In 1957, Meredith Willson made this into a broadway show produced by Kermit Bloomgarden, which ultimately won five Tony Awards. This became a film in 1962, and a television remake in 2003.

In the story, Marcellus tells Harold that a new pool table was just delivered at River City's local billiard parlor, and Harold convinces River City parents of the "trouble" that will be caused by that new pool table. This leads to the song: "Ya Got Trouble"--Trouble in River City.

When I read this story and hear this song, I cannot help but think of the story of Achan at Jericho in Joshua 6-7. God commands Joshua and the Israelites to utterly destroy the Canaanites at Jericho [in keeping with God's command in Deuteronomy
7:1-5], and leave the spoil or booty on the ground because Yahweh won the victory and he alone receives the spoil In Joshua 6:18, God says:
"Keep away from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object of destruction, bringing TROUBLE upon you."

However, Achan, of the tribe of Judah, breaks faith in regard to the devoted things. He seizes a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels. God responds by punishing the Israelites by causing the people of Ai to defeat the Israelites. When Joshua is upset, Yahweh tells Joshua to cast lots to discover who sinned. The lots ultimately fall on Achan. (Joshua 7:10-21). Achan confesses his sin. Then God commands Joshua to take Achan and all his possessions, including the booty, into the Valley of Achor. Then Joshua said to Achan:
"Why did you bring TROUBLE on us? The Lord is bringing TROUBLE on you today."
Then all Israel stoned Achan to death and raised over him a heap of stones = a cairn.

Therefore, this place is called "the Valley of Achor." The Hebrew word achor means TROUBLE. This is the Valley of Trouble because Achan sinned against God and God punished Achan and his family. Human trouble brings divine trouble.

This is the way God works in human lives.

Share YOUR thoughts and ideas with other. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, February 07, 2011

The People of God react to a Drought--Jeremiah 14:1-15:4

The following paragraph in the Book of Jeremiah is about a drought that occurred during the lifetime of Jeremiah. No one knows exactly when this occurred, but it must have happened before the fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BCE, because in this paragraph Yahweh is announcing through Jeremiah that the Babylonians will overthrow Judah because of the sins of the people of God. Jeremiah 14:1-15:4.

This paragraph consists of a dialogue between Yahweh through Jeremiah and the people of God who react or respond to Yahweh. Thus, this paragraph falls into five parts:

I. Yahweh through Jeremiah explains Judah's mourning because of the drought. Jeremiah 14:1-6.
a. Yahweh came to Jeremiah concerning the drought. 14:1.
b. The drought is extensive, and affects people, animals, and vegetation: Jerusalem's nobles and farmers; the doe and the wild asses in the fields, and the ground, the grass, and the herbage. Judah mourns, her gates languish, they lie on the ground, the cry of Jerusalem goes up, the ground is cracked, the people cover their heads, the doe forsakes her newborn fawn, the wild asses pant, and their eyes fail. 14:2-6.

II. The people of God repent. Jeremiah 14:7-9.
a. Suddenly the speakers ["our, us, we"] address Yahweh directly. These are undoubtedly the people of God speaking in response to Yahweh's declaration about the drought in 14:1-6.
b. The people of God admit or confess that they are guilty of their "iniquities" and "apostasies." They confess: "we have sinned against you." 14:7.
c. Then, they plead with Yahweh "not to forsake" them. They attempt to flatter Yahweh. They extol him as their "hope," their "savior," their "mighty warrior" in time of trouble. They do not want Yahweh to be a "stranger" or a "traveler," but to be "in the midst of" his people. 14:8-9.

III. Yahweh replies: You are counterfeits=hypocrites; therefore, I am about to punish you. Jeremiah 14:10-18.
a. Yahweh proclaims that he sees clearly through the fake words of his people. In reality, they "have loved to wander" and not restrained their feet. God does not accept them; he will punish them. 14:10.
b. Before Jeremiah can attempt to offer a prayer of intercession in behalf of God's people, Yahweh strictly charges Jeremiah: "Do not pray for the welfare of this people." They go to church and fast and offer sacrifices, but this is mere veneer. God will bring SWORD, FAMINE, and PESTILENCE on his sinful people. 14:11-12.
c. Jeremiah turns to Yahweh and observes that the prophets of Israel announce that sword and famine will NOT come upon the people of God. Yahweh responds: these prophets are prophesying lies. I will bring sword and famine on my sinful people. 14:13-16.
d. Yahweh tells Jeremiah to tell these people: Weep and cry and mourn, because sword and famine are coming. 14:17-18.

IV. The people of God respond a second time, insisting they are truly penitent. Jeremiah 14:19-22.
a. Again, the words "we, us, our" indicate the speakers are the people of Israel in the days of Jeremiah.
b. The people of God first attempt to persuade Yahweh to yield to their pleas. They ask: Yahweh, have you totally rejected Judah? Do you loathe Zion? Why have you struck us down? We are seeking peace and healing, but you bring terror on us. We openly declare that no god but YOU can bring rain on the devastated land. We set our HOPE in YOU. 14:19, 22.
c. Then the people of God freely acknowledge their sin. "We have sinned against us." We are guilty of wickedness and iniquity. Thus, we beg you not to break your covenant with us. 14:20-21.

V. Yahweh rejects the pleas of his people because of sin long standing sins of the wicked king Manasseh. Jeremiah 15:1-4.
a. Yahweh responds to Jeremiah: Even if Moses and Samuel interceded on behalf of his people, Yahweh will still bring upon them PESTILENCE, SWORD, FAMINE, and CAPTIVITY. 15:1-2.
b. Yahweh will appoints four kinds of destroyers against his sinful people: the sword, dogs, birds, and wild animals. This is all because of what Manasseh king of Judah did. See 2 Kings 21:1-18.

This is indeed a powerful, moving, sobering message. We need to hear this message.

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

John Willis