John T. Willis

Saturday, August 25, 2012

God overpowers demons and evil spirits--Luke 11:14-26

Following three paragraphs about the importance and power of prayer in Luke 11:1-13, Luke relates two stories about Jesus' power over demons and evil spirits. These two stories appear in Luke 11:14-26. This falls into two paragraphs. I. Jesus casts out a demon, and a controversy arises. Luke 11:14-23. a. On the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, at some unnamed place, Jesus cast out a demon that possessed a person who could not speak. When Jesus cast out the demon, the mute person spoke, and the crowds were amazed at Jesus' miracles. 11:14. b. People in the crowd responded in two ways: Jesus casts out demons by Beelzebul; some demanded that Jesus perform a sign from heaven. Beelzebul is the name of an old Canaanite god meaning, "Baal, the Prince" or "Baal of the Exalted Abode." Beelzebub is derived from the name of a Philistine god of the town of Ekron according to 2 Kings 1:2-16. This seems to have been a deliberate caconymic, a polemical distortion of the foregoing name to depreciate the pagan god, making it "Lord of the Flies." 11:15-16. c. All the while, Jesus knew what they were thinking. God [the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit] knows very well what we are thinking in our hearts even when we do not say or do anything (1 Samuel 16:6-7; Psalm 139:1-6; John 2:23-25). Jesus uses two figures to expose the fallacy of his opponents: a kingdom divided against itself, and houses falling on one another. Both figures graphically describe civil war. The point is: If Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebul, then Beelzebul would be opposing demons, which is counterproductive. Jesus observes that exorcists cast out demons. Do the people believe that exorcists are allied to Beelzebul? 11:17-19. d. Jesus declares that he casts out demons by "the finger of God," i. e., God the Father. Exodus 31:8; Deuteronomy 9:10; Psalm 8:3 use the expression "the finger of God." The idea of this figure is that God the Father can do anything with ease because of his sovereign power. 11:20. e. The "one stronger" in Luke 11:21-22 is God the Father. God alone has the power to overthrow Baalzebul, who is Satan. 11:21-22. f. Hence, every hearer must make a decision. One must take sides with Jesus or with Satan. Anyone who tries not to make a decision casts his or her lot for Satan. 11:23. II. The heart is a receiver of some possessor. Luke 11:24-26. a. Jesus now tells a simple story. God casts an unclean spirit out of a person. That evil spirit wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place. If the unclean spirit cannot find a resting place, he will return to the person in whose heart he dwelt to see if he can re-enter into that person's heart. 11:24. b. If the heart of this individual is not filled with someone or something else. God wants to fill our hearts with God himself and with God's word. When we do not do this, an evil spirit will re-enter our heart and bring into seven additional unclean spirits. In such a condition, the last condition of that person is worse than before. See 2 Peter 2:20; John 5:14. Some people reject the idea that evil or unclean spirits actually dwell in our hearts. What a travesty. This reality avoids what really exists. Let us fill our hearts with God and his word. Share YOUR insights and beliefs and holdbacks and reversals to others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I know the plans I have for you--Lesson 12

Yahweh works through various entities. In the previous blog, we discussed Yahweh working through the Law. Now, it is natural to discuss next Yahweh working through the earthly king [and by derivation through any earthly person who has a coordinating role on earth]. I. In the Bible, there are three views of the earthly king. a. The people [the popular view] is that we must have a king so we can be protected and well-organized like the nations elsewhere on earth. This was the emphasis of the elders of Israel and most of the Israelites--1 Samuel 8:4-5, 19-20. b. Some proponents advocate that Yahweh is the only king, and therefore it would be ungodly to have an earthly king. Gideon and Samuel advocated this view. Judges 8:22-23; 1 Samuel 8:7, 22. c. The biblical view of an earthly king is clearly that Yahweh himself initiated the idea that Israel must have an earthly king, but this king must be subject to an a true representative of God here on earth. 1. On Mount Sinai, Yahweh specifically told Moses to declare to the people of Israel that they must have an earthly king when they are established on the land of Canaan with the following instructions. Deuteronomy 17:14-20. a. Yahweh alone will choose the king. Deuteronomy 17:15. b. The earthly king must be an Israelite, not a foreigner. Deuteronomy 17:15. c. The earthly king must not acquire many horses as the surrounding nations did, because to have many horses and chariots is to have military strength. Deuteronomy 17:16. Isaiah 31:1-3 emphasizes this point. d. The earthly king must not have many wives, because it was a common practice that kings of nations would marry princesses of other nations to establishes alliances with other nations. Deuteronomy 17:17. Often, the Israelites trusted in foreign allies rather than trusting in Yahweh. Hosea emphasizes this problem in Hosea 7; 8; and 13. e. The earthly king must not accumulate much silver and gold. Deuteronomy 17:17. Ancient Near Eastern nations often made tribute to other nations to prevent them from fighting against them. Israel often did the same thing. See 2 Kings 16; 18-19. f. The earthly king must have a copy of the Law of Moses always at hand, to read it all the days of his life and to learn to fear the Lord and diligently keep God's commandments. Deuteronomy 17:18-19. Saul, David, and Solomon often violated the law of Moses, which they knew very well. g. The earthly king must not exalt himself above anyone else in the community of faith, the nation or people of Israel. Any "co-ordinator" has ONLY a function among the people of God. YAHWEH ALONE is SOVEREIGN. Like everyone else, the earthly king is subservient to Yahweh. 2. Composers of the book of Judges repeatedly emphasize that "in those days" [the period of the Judges= after the time of Joshua and the elders of Israel following Joshua], "there was no king over Israel" [Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25], emphasizing to the hearers that Israel needs an earthly king under Yahweh the heavenly king. 3. Yahweh specifically commanded Samuel to do what what the people asked--1 Samuel 8:7,22. This is NOT a "concession" to the people, but what Yahweh intended from the very beginning, as Deuteronomy 17:14-20 clearly shows. II. A careful study of the Bible emphasizes five terms to demonstrate the role of the earthly king. Here are the five terms. a. The earthly king is "the Lord's anointed one." The Hebrew word for "anointed" is "messiah." Every earthly king chosen by Yahweh is the Lord's "messiah," whether than be Saul--1 Samuel 9:15-16; 10:1; David--1 Samuel 16:1-13; Solomon--1 Kings 1:32-34; or any descendant of David--Psalm 2:1-2. b. The earthly king is "prince"=Hebrew "nagid," and not really "king"=Hebrew "melek." 1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1; 13:14; 25:30; 2 Samuel 5:2; 6:21; and often. c. The earthly king is Yahweh's "shepherd." 2 Samuel 5:2; Psalm 78:70-72; and often. The KIND or TYPE of earthly king is extremely important. The earthly king must not be an authoritative person like Pharaoh or Nebuchadrezzar II, but a shepherd. d. The earthly king is Yahweh's "servant." 2 Samuel 7:18-29; Psalms 89:20; 132:10; and often. It is a far cry from one being a "servant" to one being a "leader." Yahweh is the ONLY acceptable LEADER. All of us are "servants," while unfortunately many think of themselves as leaders. PLEASE rethink Mark 10:42-45. e. The earthly king is "son of God." Psalm 89:26-27; 2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 22:3-6; 28:6-10; Psalm 2:6-8; Isaiah 9:6-7. Share YOUR corrections, modifications, insights, urges, and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Importance of the Persistence of Prayer--Luke 11:5-13

After Luke records the story in which Jesus taught his disciples to pray, which many people call "The Lord's Prayer," when actually this is "The Disciples' Prayer," found in Luke 11:1-4, Luke now attaches two additional stories about the importance of prayer, recorded in Luke 11:5-13. In this blog, we will call attention to some important theological ideas in this text, which falls into two parts. I. The Parable of the Friend who receives a Friend who comes at Midnight in need of help. Luke 11:5-8. a. After Jesus tells his disciples how to pray as related in Luke 11:1-4, Luke immediately voluntarily tells a parable about the importance of the persistence of prayer. In essence, the parable is this: A friend goes to his friend at midnight to ask him to lend him three loaves of bread because an unexpected traveler came to this friend's house about midnight and this man had no food to share with the traveler. During the night, there were no shops to buy bread, and many families would all the bread and wait until the next morning to bake the next batch of bread. At first, the friend cries out and says that he and his family are already in bed and thus cannot give his friend anything. But his friend outside is persistent and knocks again and again until the man inside the house comes out and give him the three loaves of bread. b. In the ancient world, it was very common for people to travel during the night because during the day the heat was so devastating that it was dangerous to travel until the sun went down. c. For safety, it was quite normal for a man and his whole family to bolt the door and all sleep in the same bed or mat on the floor. Thus, it was very inconvenient for anyone in the family to get up until the dawn of the next day. They did not have electrical lights or flashlights, but depended on the moon. d. The central figure in this parable is the friend aroused from sleep. God, therefore, is the one who hears the cry of the needy and comes to their help. e. The type of prayer which Jesus is highlighting in this parable is petition. The friend outside ASKS FOR something of his friend. All of us have needs, and when this happens, we must turn to God in prayer by petition. f. At the same time, God is very different from the friend aroused from sleep. The friend in bed is not anxious to get up and welcome the intervening friend at midnight. By way of contrast, God is always ready and anxious to respond to our petitions. We do not need to cajole or beg him to receive his blessings. Yes, indeed, we are by nature beggars, but God does not think of or treat us as beggars. Isaiah 65:24 emphasizes this point: "Before they call I [Yahweh] will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear." II. Jesus further emphasizes the efficacy of prayer. Luke 11:9-13. a. The third paragraph in Luke 11:1-13 relates an additional teaching of Jesus about the need of persistence in prayer and even more. This is essentially a parallel to Matthew 7:7-11, but with significant variants. b. Jesus emphasizes three verbs for petition and three verbs for God's response. 1. The three verbs for petition are: ask, search, and knock. These are clearly not physical actions, but spiritual actions concerning the heart. For example, one may knock on the heart of a person. 2. The three verbs for God's response are: it will be given you; find; and will be opened. It is very interesting and insightful that the verbs "will be given" and "will be opened" are theological passives. They actually mean: "God will give" and "God will open." 3. Jesus uses the metaphor of God as "Father" and the petitioners as God's "children." Father and child are very intimate terms. God already loves and cares for all people before they ever realize they exist and before they ever ask God to do anything. 4. An earthly father will not deliberately do anything to harm his child. So if a child asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake. In the Lake of Gennesaret, fishermen have often caught snakes. Snakes fed on small fish used as bait. Again, if a child asks for an egg, his father will not give him a scorpion. A scorpion with claws and tail rolld up resembles an egg. 5. The point is that God is good, while all human fathers are evil. So God will do much better than a human father may treat his child. When we ask for something, God will bless us in the best way possible. And more--"God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." What a tremendous additional gift of God!!! Prayer is one of the most important features of Christian living. Spend much time in prayer. These three paragraphs in Luke 11:1-13 are insightful and uplifting. Share YOUR anticipations and searches and setbacks and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis