John T. Willis

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--5

Matthew 11:1-6 contains this description of Jesus's disciples:
    he went on there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.
    When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word to HIS DISCIPLES,
     and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"
     Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see:
     the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear,
                 the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
     And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."
     a. Verse 1 shows that the role of Jesus is to instruct, and the role of his disciples is to be instructed, to learn.
     b. John the Baptist also had disciples, and he sent his disciples to learn who Jesus really was. Jesus responded by telling them to pay attention to what they saw and heard when they observed the works of Jesus.

Matthew 12:1-8 relates the account of Jesus' disciples plucking heads of grain to eat in the field on the Sabbath day.
    At that time Jesus went through he grainfields on the sabbath;
    HIS DISCIPLES WERE HUNGRY, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
    When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him,
    He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?
    He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence,
    which was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests.
    Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath
                                and yet are guiltless?
    I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
    But if you had known what this means, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have
                                condemned the guiltless.
    For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath."
    a. Just as the Pharisees found fault with Jesus, they also found fault with Jesus' disciples. This assumes that disciples are constant in contact with Jesus and follow his sayings and practices.
    b. Religious people have always been quick to watch the activities of other people in the hope of catching them in a fault or a sin. True disciples of Jesus do not go through life trying to find the sins of people around us.

Share YOUR commitments and rehearsals and common sense and understanding and work with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

God delivers the Sick by Grace--Psalm 41

Psalm 41 is a prayer of thanksgiving. The psalmist had been stricken with a severe illness (verses 3, 4, 5, 8) as punishment for a terrible sin which he had committed (verse 4), and his enemies had concluded that he was so ill that he would die very soon (verses 2, 5, 8). But he prayed fervently that Yahweh would deliver him from his sickness because of Yahweh's grace (verses 1-4, 10-11). Psalm 41 naturally falls into three parts.

1. The psalmist begins by praising Yahweh for delivering "the poor." 41:1-3.
     a. Yahweh delivers the poor in the day of trouble. 41:1.
     b. Yahweh protects the poor and keeps them alive, and thus does not give them up to the will of their enemies. 41:2.
     c. Yahweh sustains the poor on their sickbed and heals them of their infirmities. 41:3.

2. The poet relates the troubles from which Yahweh had delivered him. 41:4-9.
     a. The composer begins by beseeching Yahweh: "Be gracious to me." He asks Yahweh to heal him because he confesses that he had sinned against Yahweh. 41:4.
     b. Then the psalmist describes the desires and plans of his enemies. They want the psalmist to die and his name perish. They come to visit the psalmist and utter empty words of consolation while their hearts gather mischief to destroy him and slander him to other people. They whisper together about the poet and imagine the worse for him. They think a deadly thing fastened on him and he will never rise again. 41:5-8.
     c. Even the psalmist's "bosom friend" in whom he trusted and who ate of his bread has lifted up his heel against him. 41:9. Jesus quotes and applies this statement to the betrayal of Judas Iscariot in John 13:18.

3. The psalmist concludes by giving Yahweh thanksgiving for delivering him from his troubles.
    a. The psalmist begins the third part by repeating the first few words of the beginning of the second part of this psalm: "Be gracious to me" (see verse 4). He beseeches Yahweh to raise him up. 41:10.
    b. The psalmist knows that Yahweh "is pleased" with him demonstrated by the fact that his enemies had not triumphed over him. 41:11.
    c. The poet rejoices that Yahweh upheld him because of his integrity and set him in Yahweh's presence forever. 41:12.

Psalm 41:13 is not a part of Psalm 41, but the DOXOLOGY at the end of Book I in the Psalter.

Share YOUR insights and observations and joys and sadnesses and upheavals with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

The Heart Agrees or Consents--XI

There are FOUR Hebrew constructions in the Hebrew Bible which attribute agreeing or consenting to the heart.

1. The adjective 'ehad means "one." 1 Chronicles 12:23-40 describes David's army at Hebron. In verse 38, the composer writes:
      All these, warriors arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with full intent to make David king
                              over all Israel;
      likewise all the rest of Israel were of ONE HEART [NRSV a single mind] to make David king.
     Alluding to the Great Passover in the days of King Hezekiah of Judah, the composer writes in
2 Chronicles 30:12:
      The hand of God was also on Judah to give them ONE HEART
       to do what the king [Hezekiah] and the officials commanded by the word of the Lord.
To be of one heart means to totally agree or consent.

2. The Hebrew expression shaba` bekal means "to swear with all." When Asa king of Judah trusted in Yahweh when Zerah and the Ethiopians threatened Judah, the composer of 2 Chronicles 15:15 says:
      All Judah rejoiced over the oath; for THEY HAD SWORN WITH ALL THEIR HEART,
      and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them,
      and the Lord gave them rest all around.
To swear with all the heart means to completely agree with an oath or a promise.

3. The Hebrew expression hayah leyahad means "to be for a unitedness." When David was in the stronghold in the wilderness when he fled from Saul, some Benjaminites and some Judahites came to the stronghold to support David. 1 Chronicles 12:17 says:
      David went out to meet them and said to them,
    "If you have come to me in friendship, to help me, THEN MY HEART WILL BE KNIT TO YOU;
      but if you have come to betray me to be my adversaries,
     though my hands have done no wrong, then may the God of our ancestors see and give judgment."
For one's heart to be knit with some else or other people is to agree or consent.

4. The Hebrew verb sabab means "to turn, to return." When the Judeans kept the Passover after they had rebuilt the temple under the guidance of Zerubbabel and Joshua, Ezra 6:22 says:
      With joy they celebrated the festival of unleavened bread seven days;
       for the Lord had made them joyful, and HAD TURNED THE HEART OF THE KING
                     OF ASSYRIA TO THEM,
       so that he aided them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.
In this context, for the king of Assyria to turn his heart and help the Judeans in rebuilding the temple, means to agree of consent to what the Judeans were doing.

Share YOUR concerns and experiences and successes and failures and reversals with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--4

When Jesus sent out The Twelve [Disciples, Apostles] (Matthew 10:1-4), he said:
          "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves;
            so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."
Then Jesus describes how councils, synagogues, governors, kings, Gentiles "and all" who oppose Jesus will arrest and persecute his disciples. Then he says in Matthew 10:24-25:
         "A DISCIPLE is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master.
           It is enough for THE DISCIPLE  to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.
           If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul,
           how much more will they malign those of his household!"
    a. Jesus is the ONLY APPROPRIATE TEACHER and MASTER.  All who are his true followers are his DISCIPLES and SLAVES.
    b. The appropriate attitude and role of a DISCIPLE is to be LIKE his Teacher or Master. Jesus is our great example, and we must strive to follow his example and attempt to be like him. We can NEVER attain that goal, but we must strive to follow him. No true disciple of Jesus is a leader. Jesus is the only acceptable leader; we are his followers, his disciples.

Jesus continued in Matthew 10 by explaining the relationship between Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 10:40-42:
  "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
    Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward;
    and whoever welcomes a righteous person will receive the reward of therighteous;
  and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of A DISCIPLE--   truly I tell you, none of  these will lose their reward."
    a. By welcoming Jesus, we automatically welcome the Heavenly Father.
    b. The role of a disciple of Jesus is to give a cup of cold water to the most helpless who is thirsty.
    c. Thus, a major purpose of a true disciple of Jesus is to help common people in need.

Share YOUR experiences and ideas and attempts and successes and reversals to others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis 

The Heart of True Religion--Psalm 40

Psalm 40:13-17 is almost identical with Psalm 70. The composer of Psalm 40 was poor and needy (40:17). He had been stricken with a serious disease from which he almost died (40:2). Evils and iniquities have overwhelmed him (40:12). His enemies have tried to destroy him (40:14-15). In spite of all this, he trusts in Yahweh, and not in false gods (40:4). He declares that if Yahweh will deliver him, he will tell the great congregation what Yahweh has done for him (40:5, 9-10). Psalm 4 falls into TWO PARAGRAPHS.

1. The Psalmist describes his earlier afflictions, and tells how Yahweh delivered him. 40:1-10.
    a. The psalmist's former experience is that he was very sick and almost died. He compares this with the desolate pit and the miry bog. But he prayed fervently to Yahweh, and Yahweh delivered him, drew him up from the desolate pit, and set him on a firm footing. 40:1-2.
    b. When Yahweh responded positively in this way, he put a new song, a song of praise to God causing many people to see and fear [honor] and put their trust in Yahweh. 40:3.
    c. The content of this new song is: (1) those who trust in the Lord and do not trust in false gods are blessed; (2) no one can compare the wonderful deeds which Yahweh has done. 40:4-5.
    d. The psalmist realizes and declares that offering burnt offerings and sin offerings to Yahweh is not sufficient. One must give oneself wholly to God. The psalmist says, Here I am, I delight to do your will. He gives himself totally to God. 40:6-8.  Hebrews 10:5-9 quotes Psalm 40:6-8, and puts these words into the mouths of Jesus Christ. This New Testament writer uses the Hebrew Bible typologically, not literally. This is a common way in which New Testament composers and speakers use the Hebrew Bible.
    e. The poet proclaims that he has openly told the great congregation what Yahweh has done for him and his comrades. It is unnatural and sinful to refrain from telling others what Yahweh has done for God's people.

2. The Psalmist beseeches Yahweh to deliver him from his present distress. 40:11-17.
     a. The composer confesses that he has committed evils and iniquities. He pleads for God's mercy, steadfast love, and faithfulness to keep him safe forever. 40:11-12.
     b. The poet implores Yahweh to deliver and help him from his distress, and to overthrow his enemies who are attempting to snatch away his life and desire his hurt. 40:13-15.
     c. The psalmist concludes by beseeching Yahweh not to delay to deliver him and help him so that all who seek Yahweh may rejoice and be glad in Yahweh, because "Great is the Lord." 40:16-17.

All of us face difficult circumstances in life. Turn to the Lord and trust in him, and he will deliver those in need.

Share YOUR reversals and problems and fears and resolutions and commitments to others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

The Heart Decides, Determines, Wills--X

The word "heart" is used frequently in the Hebrew Bible with three prepositions expressing the functions of resolving, willing, determining, deciding.

1. The Hebrew preposition be means "in."
     a. According to 1 Chronicles 17:1-2, David said to the prophet Nathan, "I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent." Nathan responded: "Do all that you have in HEART [NRSV mind], for God is with you." In this context, to have something in the heart means to resolve or determine. See also 2 Samuel 7:3.
     b. 2 Kings 10:30 says: "The Lord said to Jehu, 'Because you have done well in carrying out what
                                                     I consider right,
                                            and in accordance with all that was IN MY HEART have dealt with the
                                                      house of Ahab,
                                            your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.'"
In this context, what was "in God's heart" was what he decided or willed to do. The same language appears in 1 Samuel 2:35; Jeremiah 3:15.
     c. When Jonathan discussed with the young man who carried his armor and told him, "nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few," the young man replied in 1 Samuel 14:6-7: "Do all that your HEART [NRSV mind] inclines to. I am with you; as your HEART [NRSV mind] is, so is mine." Here the heart of Jonathan decides what to do next in this situation.
     d. Describing the intention or plan of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, Isaiah 10:7 says:
             But this is not what he intends,
                    nor does he have this in mind,
              but it is IN HIS HEART to destroy,
                    and to cut off nations not a few.
That which is "in the Heart" of Sennacherib is his determination, decision.

2. The Hebrew preposition ke means "according to."
     a. In David's prayer of thanksgiving to Yahweh, he says in 2 Samuel 7:21:
          Because of your promise, and ACCORDING TO YOUR OWN HEART,
          you have wrought all this greatness, so that your servant [David] may know it.
That which is "according to God's heart" is God's will or decision. The same idea appears in 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Chronicles 17:19.
     b. In a prayer in behalf of some king of Israel, the psalmist says in Psalm 20:4:
         May he grant you YOUR HEART'S DESIRE,
               and fulfill all your plans.
What is according to the king's heart is his plans, decisions, determinations.

3. The  Hebrew preposition `im means "with."
    a. According to 1 Kings 8:17, Solomon says in the dedication of the Jerusalem temple:
           My father David had it in mind [Hebrew with heart] to build a house for the name of the Lord,
                          the God of Israel.
What David had "in mind" or "with heart" is what he planned, decided, determined.
    b. When Solomon asked for wisdom, God responded in 2 Chronicles 1:11:
           Because this was IN YOUR HEART [Hebrew says "with your heart"],
           and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you,
           and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself
           that you may rule my people over whom I have made you king,
           wisdom and knowledge are granted to you.
What was "in" or "with" the heart of Solomon was what he decided or determined.

4. When Yahweh commanded his people to practice kindness and mercy to one another, and not oppress the widow, orphan, alien, or poor, Zechariah 7:12 says:
      They MADE THEIR HEARTS ADAMANT in order not to hear the law
       and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his spirit through the former prophets.
Here, making the hearts of sinful people adamant means to make a strict decision not to obey God.

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

John Willis

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--3

After Jesus healed several people, Matthew 9:35-37 says:
     "Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then HE SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES, 'The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'"

1. This paragraph indicates that Jesus' disciples were with him when he taught and cured sick people. They were there with him when the crowds grew and Jesus has compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
     a. One must conclude that a disciple is learning from Jesus' teaching, and is learning from Jesus' curing sick people, and is learning from Jesus' compassion for people who have no shepherd. Jesus' examples of teaching, healing, and having compassion people show disciples how to follow Jesus.
     b. Jesus overtly told his disciples that the harvest is plenteous, and that Jesus wanted laborers to harvest the crops. It is clear that the harvest is people who are inclined to turn from the world to God through Jesus Christ. Hence, the role of disciples is to go into the fields [the world] and harvest the crops [penitent people] by repenting and turning to God.

The very next verse says in Matthew 10:1: "Then Jesus summoned HIS TWELVE DISCIPLES and gave them authority over unclean spirit, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness." The very next line in Matthew 10:2 says: "These are the names of the TWELVE APOSTLES."
1. The twelve disciples are the twelve apostles. An apostle is a person who is SENT to carry out God's mission. Hebrews 3:1 calls Jesus "the APOSTLE and high priest of our confession." 
     a. Here a disciple is one who is sent to carry out God's mission.
     b. Jesus gives his disciples authority to cast out demons and cure every disease. This is clearly not a dictatorial type of authority, but a God-given power to subdue wicked forces and diseases. Jesus' disciples receive God's power through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to carry out God's mission.

Share YOUR experiences and thoughts and reversals and dreams and beliefs with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

The Heart Remembers--IX

A careful student of the Bible should know that one determines the meaning of a word like "heart" by studying the heart in contact with verbs used with the heart. There are EIGHT Hebrew constructions which attribute memory to the heart.

1. shub 'el--"to turn into." Deuteronomy 30:1: "When all these things have happened to you, the blessings and the curses that I have set before you, IF YOU CALL THEM TO HEART [NRSV mind] among all the nations where the Lord you God has driven you, . . . then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes." To "call to heart [mind]" clearly means "to remember." Remember all the things that have happened to you. To remember is to relive or re-enact, not merely recall mentally.
2. sim dabar `al--"set a word upon." When the servants of Achish king of Gath heard the song of the women after David killed Goliath: "Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands," David "TOOK THESE WORDS [Hebrew laid up his words] TO HEART and was very much afraid of King Achish of Gath." David remembered these words and took them seriously.
3. sim 'omer be--"to set a word in." In his third speech to Job, Eliphaz admonished him:
         Receive instruction from his [God's] mouth,
               and LAY UP HIS WORDS IN YOUR HEART.
To receive instruction is equivalent to remember and take seriously.
4. saphan be--"to hide in." The author of Psalm 119 says in verse 11:
          I treasure [hide] your word in my heart,
               so that I might not sin against you.
To treasure or hide words in the heart is to remember, to relive, to re-enact, not merely recall.
5. shamar betok--"to keep in the midst of." Proverbs 4:21 says:
          Do not let them [the words of the writer of Proverbs] escape from your sight;
To keep God's words within the heart means to remember, relive, re-enact.
6. qashar `al, "to bind upon." Proverbs 6:21 says:
          BIND THEM [the teaching of your father and mother] UPON YOUR HEART ALWAYS;
                tie them around your neck.
To bind upon the heart means to remember, to relive, re-enact.
7. qashar be--"to bind in." Proverbs 22:15 says:
          Folly is BOUND UP IN THE HEART of a boy,
                but the rod of discipline drives it far away.
To bind up in the heart means to remember, relive, re-enact.
8. kathab `al--"to write upon." Jeremiah 31:33 says: "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I WILL WRITE IT ON THEIR HEARTS, and I will be their God and they will be my people." To write on the heart is to remember, relive, re-enact.
When Solomon prayed to the Lord, the Lord responded in 1 Kings 9:3:
     "I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you made before me;
       I have consecrated this house that you have built, and put my name there forever;
Here, the heart remembers the house or temple which Solomon had built under Yahweh's instructions. To remember the house means to relive or re-enact what Solomon had accomplished.

Share YOUR works and efforts and plans and concepts and backlashes with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis
(1 Samuel 21:12).

Desperate Prayer for Forgiveness--Psalm 39

All human beings struggle with serious concerns throughout life. The author of Psalm 39 faced two fundamental problems: (1) God was punishing him because of his sins; (2) he was old and knew that his life would end very soon. Any hearer or reader can detect the inner struggles which this psalmist faced. This psalm falls into two parts.

1. The psalmist must break his silence because his life is brief. 39:1--6.
    a. This poet tells his audience that he had determined not to say anything because if he said anything the wicked would distort his words. He does not want to sin with his tongue. 39:1.
    b. The psalmist tried to be silent and say nothing, but this did not work. So, he had to break the silence and proclaim his thoughts. 39:2-3.
    c. He turns to God for help. He asks God to let him know how fleeting his life is. His days are only a few handbreadths, and his lifetime is as nothing, a mere breath. Everyone on planet earth goes around as a shadow doing whatever they do for nothing. 39:4-6.

2. The psalmist beseeches God to deliver him from his sins. 39:7-13.
     a. The psalmist breaks down and openly declares that God alone is his hope. 39:7.
     b. The composer implores God to deliver him from his transgressions, because he has no intention to open his mouth and try to defend himself. He knows he is guilty. God has punished him, and now the psalmist beseeches him to remove this punishment. 39:8-10.
     c. The poet confesses that God chastise mortals because of their sins, so that all human beings are but a mere breath. 39:11.
     d. The poet implores God to hear his prayer of distress and confession of his sins. He confesses that on planet earth he is a passing guest, an alien.  He begs Yahweh to turn away his gaze of punishing him and let him smile again before he dies. 39:12-13.

Life is very brief, and all of us are sinners. We need to turn to God alone in hope that he will sustain us through life and forgive us of our sins.

Share YOUR experiences and shortcomings and reversals and successes and victories with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis