John T. Willis

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Heart Grieves [Part 2]--XIX

There are FIVE words which describe the effect of grief on the heart.

1. The Hebrew noun yagon, "pain, grief," occurs once with the Hebrew noun lebhabh, "heart."
    The poet of Psalm13:2 [Heb. 13:3] says:
    "How long must I bear pain in my soul,
      How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?"

2. The Hebrew verb chul, "to be in severe pain or in anguish" appears twice with heart.
     The composer of Psalm 55:4 [Heb. 55:5] says:
             the terrors of death have fallen upon me."
      Jeremiah 4:19 says:
              OH, THE WALLS OF MY HEART!
              I cannot keep silent;
        for I heart the sound of the trumpet,
               the alarm of war."

3. The Hebrew verb ka'abh, "to be in pain," appears once with heart.
     Proverbs 14:13 says:
              and the end of joy is grief."

4. The Hebrew noun ke'ebh, "pain," occurs once with the heart.
     Isaiah 65:14 says:
     "My [Yahweh's] servants shall sing for gladness of heart,
              and shall wail for anguish of spirit."

5. The Hebrew noun `atsebheth, "hurt, injury, pain" occurs once with heart.
     Proverbs 15:13 says:
     "A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance,

The feeling of fainting is associated with sorrow in constructions in the Hebrew Bible connected with the heart. Three Hebrew words convey this idea.

1. The Hebrew verb chalah, "to be sick, faint away," appears once in the Hebrew Bible.
     Proverbs 13:12 says:
             but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life."

2. The Hebrew adjective dawway occurs three times with heart.
     Jeremiah 8:18 says:
     "My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
             MY HEART IS SICK."
     Lamentation 1:22 contains this imprecation against the enemies of God:
     "Let all their evil doing come before you;
             and deal with them
       as you have dealt with me
             because of all my transgressions;
       for my groans are many
             AND MY HEART IS FAINT."
     Addressing the sinful people of Judah, Isaiah says in Isaiah 1:5:
     "Why do you seek further beatings?
             Why do you continue to rebel?
        The whole head is sick

3. The Hebrew noun daweh, "faint, unwell," appears once with heart.
     Referring to the fall of Judah and Jerusalem, Lamentations 5:17 says:
              because of these things our eyes have grown dim."

[To be continued]

Share YOUR experiences and losses and reversals and anxieties and grieves with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--10

Matthew 17 and 18 contain four accounts involving DISCIPLES.

1. The Transfiguration. Matthew 17:1-13.
     a. Six days after Jesus told his disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him, Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them to a high mountain to be by themselves. Jesus was transfigured before them, his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly, miraculously, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking to Jesus. This set of events is beyond our fondest imagination. All we can do is accept the biblical testimony. 17:1-3.
     b. Peter immediately responded, "It is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings or tents here, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While Peter was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him." Obviously, this is the miraculous voice of God the Father, and God is declaring that ONLY JESUS is the true guide for human life, not Moses or Elijah, or anyone else. 17:4-5.
     c. When THE DISCIPLES [in this context, Peter, James, and John] heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Do not be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus himself alone, indicating that Jesus is superior to Moses and Elijah. 17:6-8.
     d. As Jesus and his three disciples descended from this mountain, Jesus strictly told them not to tell anything about this event until the Son of Man shall be raised from the dead. Thus, this report became public AFTER Jesus arose from the dead, and is now written in the Book of Matthew. Then, these three DISCIPLES asked Jesus, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" Jesus replied that Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things, but Elijah has already come but the scribes and other people did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased, that is, they beheaded him. Then these DISCIPLES understood that Jesus was talking about John the Baptist. [See Matthew 11:2-19; 14:1-12]. 17:9-13.

2. Jesus drive out a Demon from an Epileptic Boy. Matthew 17:14-21.
    a. When Jesus and the three disciples came to a crowd,  a man knelt before Jesus begging him for mercy because he has a son who is a epileptic. He said he brought Jesus' DISCIPLES to him for help, but they could not cure his son. 17:14-16.
    b. Jesus called his disciples "a faithless and perverse generation" and said he is tired of putting up with them. 17:17.
    c. Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of the boy, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the DISCIPLES came to Jesus privately asking him why they could not cure the boy. Jesus answered, They could not cure the boy because of their LITTLE FAITH. He told them that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed [a tiny seed indeed] they would said to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move; NOTHING WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU. 17:18-21.

3. Jesus paid his taxes. Matthew 17:22-27.
     a. When Jesus came into Galilee, he told his disciples that he would be betrayed, killed, and raised from the dead.  17:22-23.
     b. When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax asked Peter whether Jesus paid his taxes. Peter said, Yes, he does. 17:24.
     c. When Peter came home, Jesus asked him, Do kings ask tribute from their children or from others. Peter replied, From others. Then Jesus says, The children are free. But in order not to offend the authorities at the Jerusalem temple, Jesus told Peter to fish, and when he catches a fish, he will find a coin in his mouth. Take that coin to the temple tax collectors for Peter and Jesus. 17:25-27.

4. Then the DISCIPLES asked Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:1-5.
     a. The composer begins by saying that THE DISCIPLES asked Jesus, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 18:1.
     b. Jesus brought a child into their midst and said, "Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Whoever becomes humble like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes a child in the name of Jesus welcomes Jesus. 18:2-5.

These four scenes emphasize great truths about DISCIPLES.
    1. Disciples are NOT LEADERS, but learners, followers, servants.
     2. Disciples regularly misunderstand the great truths and events of God.
     3. Disciples must be humble like little children to serve God truly.

Share YOUR aspirations and desires and fears and anxieties and mistakes with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

External Acts of Religion versus Godly Living--Psalm 50

The composer of Psalm 50 wrote this poem in Jerusalem or Zion (see Psalm 50:2). He openly declares that at the Jerusalem temple, worshippers regularly offer sacrifices to Yahweh commanded in the Law of Moses (Psalm 50:8-9). These "devoted worshippers" assume that religion is all about practicing correctly and regularly external acts of religion, and has nothing to do with one's attitude and treatment of other human beings (Psalm 50:18-20). At this point, Yahweh watches silently from his heavenly throne to observe what these worshippers are doing (Psalm 50:21). Through God's message, the composer of Psalm 50 strongly opposes this view of religion. This is the same message as the prophets (Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:4-6; Isaiah 1:10-20; Micah 6:1-8; Jeremiah 7:1-26). Psalm 50 falls into three paragraphs or stanzas.

1. The Poet begins by announcing that Yahweh can no longer be silent, and that Yahweh comes to judge his people who trust in mere external acts of religion. Psalm 50:1-6.
     a. The psalmist declares that Yahweh is "the Mighty One." Yahweh speaks and summons the whole earth, not merely Israel or Canaan, but the whole earth. This extends from the rising to the setting of the sun. The encompasses all of planet earth. Speakers and composers of the Hebrew Bible consistently think of Yahweh as being the universal God, not a limited god like gods in the surrounding nations. 50:1.
    b. Yahweh "shines forth" from Zion, "the perfection of beauty." Such beauty does not come from itself, but comes from the splendor which Yahweh bestows or gives [see the similar language describing Jerusalem or Zion in Ezekiel 16:14]. 50:2.
    c. Yahweh "our God" comes forth and DOES NOT KEEP SILENCE. In fact, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him. This is typical language of Yahweh's appearance [theophany]--see Deuteronomy 33:2; Judges 5:4-5; Amos 1:2; Micah 6:1-2; Habakkuk 3:3-15; Psalm 18:7-15 [Heb. 18:8-16]=2 Samuel 22:8-16. 50:3.
    d. Yahweh calls to the heavens above and the earth below to be his witnesses as he presents his lawsuit or his court case against his sinful people. This is common language of a covenant lawsuit, as in Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:2; Micah 1:2; 6:1-2. 50:4.
    e. Yahweh summons his hearers:
         "Gather to me my faithful ones,
                who made a COVENANT with me by SACRIFICE."
All the people who were present when God made his covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai in the days of Moses had died, but the heavens and the earth were there, and so God could appeal to them to support the truthfulness of his position in this lawsuit. It is true that the covenant was sealed by sacrifice, but sacrifices were not the central focus of the covenant. Rather, Yahweh's covenant with his people was an intimate, daily, personal relationship with God from the heart--see Jeremiah 31:31-34. Thus, the heavens declare Yahweh's righteousness because Yahweh himself is judge. Yahweh "judges" to make a clear distinction between those who were REALLY faithful to the covenant and those who ONLY PROFESSED to be faithful. 50:5-6.

2. Yahweh declares that his people cannot BRIBE him with their SACRIFICES. Psalm 50:7-15.
     a. Yahweh himself speaks through the psalmist of Psalm 50. He summons his hearers:
          "Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
                O Israel, I will testify against you.
                I am God, your God."
Yahweh emphasizes the close relationship between Yahweh and his chosen people. He calls them "MY people," and calls himself "YOUR God." In this spiritual marital relationship. Yahweh belongs to Israel and Israel belongs to Yahweh. Thus, the first and most fundamental aspect of the covenant is God's personal involvement in the daily lives of his people. 50:7.
    b. Yahweh strongly AFFIRMS that HE does not rebuke or condemn his people for bringing their sacrifices and burnt offerings to worship him. Yahweh HIMSELF commanded them to do this. Sacrifice was the natural expression of the people's love for Yahweh, who delivered them out of Egypt and guided them in the wilderness (Exodus 20:1-3). 50:8.
    c. Instead, Yahweh rebukes his people for their misunderstanding of the nature of sacrifice, and for the goals they sought to accomplish in offering sacrifices. They assumed that when they offered God an animal sacrifice, they were obligating him to bless their lives because they were denying themselves to give him something. Yahweh responds clearly that they could not give him anything because everything is already his, and the only reason they had it was that he gave it to them. Repeatedly he says:
       Every wild beast of the forest IS MINE (50:10).
       I know all the birds of the air,
            and all that moves in the field IS MINE (50:11).
       The world and all that is in it IS MINE (50:12).
When human beings do anything to manipulate God or to control God, they make themselves the center of religion rather than God. 50:9-11.
   d. Pagan worshippers believed that their gods ate the blood and meat of their sacrifices [as in the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic], and in this way they keep their gods alive by continually offering sacrifices for them. But our God, the true and living God, is completely independent of all things; in fact, everything is dependent on him. Thus God says:
       "If I were hungry, I would not tell you" (50:12).
       "Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
              or drink the blood of goats?" (50:13).
Of course not!!! What Yahweh desires from all people is to call on [pray to] Yahweh in times of trouble so that he might deliver them, and in this way they will glorify him. What God really wants from all people is humble, grateful recognition that he they are totally dependent on Yahweh, which is expressed most graphically and powerfully when human beings turn to God for help in times of severest distress. 50:13-15.

3. Finally, the psalmist condemns THE WICKED for speaking God's words and then rejecting God's words in their lives. Psalm 50:16-23.
    a. The wicked recite or quote God's statutes in public speech and take God's covenant on their lips, but they hate Yahweh's discipline and cast their words behind them. In daily living, they make friends with thieves, keep company with adulterers, speak deceitful words, and slander other people. Put another way, they break the Ten Commandments while they profess to speak and teach God's words. 50:16-20.
    b. Yahweh has watched all these sinful, professed practices and has kept himself silent through all this. But NOW Yahweh declares that he will rebuke and condemn such hypocrites and lay the charge before them. 50:21.
    c. The composer of Psalm 50 concludes by appealing to his sinful people to repent lest Yahweh destroys them, and to show genuine gratitude to Yahweh for what he has done for them so that he might deliver them from the impending calamity. Accordingly, sacrifices or external acts of religion have their place as an expression of a worshipper's appreciation for what God has done for him/her, but one can abuse such activities by using them as a means of coercing or persuading God to intervene in behalf of a hypocritical pretender. 50:22-23.

Hypocrisy has always plagued would-be worshippers and churches. Psalm 50 contains a very important message to warn against this practice.

Share YOUR experiences and perceptions and corrections and suggestions and concerns with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Heart Grieves--XIX

Grief is the antithetical emotion of joy, and like joy, it is caused by impressions on the mind, but unlike joy, it results from influences which violate the inmost wishes and desires of human beings. 26 different Hebrew words ascribe grief to the heart. Almost every passage in the Hebrew Bible contributing to a knowledge of this emotion has a different word to describe it. Here we will deal with a few of these Hebrew words, and will continue in the next blog.

1. The Hebrew root r`` occurs FOUR times expressing grief.
     a. ra`a`, literally "to be evil, bad," occurs TWICE with the Hebrew noun lebhabh, "heart," meaning "be sad." Deuteronomy 15:10 says:
        "Give liberally and BE UNGRUDGING [Literally, do not let your heart be sad] when you do so,
          for on this account the Lord your God will bless you
          in all your work and in all that you undertake."
         1 Samuel 1:8 says:
          "Her [Hannah's] husband Elkanah said to her,
            'Hannah, why do you weep?           
             Why do you not eat?
              WHY IS YOUR HEART SAD?
              Am I not more to you than ten sons?'"

      b.The cognate adjective ra` occurs once with heart. Proverbs 25:20 says:
          "Like vinegar on a wound
                is one who sings songs in a heavy heart.
            Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood,

      c.The cognate noun ro'a appears once with heart in Nehemiah 2:2.
          "So the king [Artaxerxes] said to me,
            'Why is your face sad, since you are not sick?
            Then I was very much afraid."

2. Hebrew words meaning "to pierce, smite, break," appear with "heart" suggesting sorrow.
     a. The Hebrew verb halal, "to bore, pierce," appears in Psalm 109:22 [Heb. 109:23]:
         "For I am poor and needy,

      b. The Hebrew verb nakhah, "to smite," occurs in Psalm 102:4 [Heb. 102:5]:
          "MY HEART IS STRICKEN and withered like grass;
                I am too wasted to eat my bread."

      c. The Hebrew verb shabhar, "to break, break in pieces," appears twice with heart in the Hebrew Bible.
          The composer of Psalm 69:20 [Heb. 69:21] says:
                  so that I am in despair.
             I looked for pity, but there was none;
                  and for comforters, but I found none."

           Jeremiah begins his oracle concerning the false prophets in Judah in Jeremiah 23:9:
           "Concerning the prophets:
                   and my bones shake;
              I have become like a drunkard,
                   like one overcome by wine,
              because of the Lord
                   and because of his holy words."

[To be continued in the next blog]
Share YOUR grievances and anxieties and fears and concerns and reversals with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--9

Matthew 16 contains FOUR events involving Jesus and his disciples. One can learn much about the biblical teaching of disciples from this chapter.

1. The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:1-12.
     a. The Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus to test him, asking him to show them a SIGN from heaven. Jesus told them that they know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but they cannot interpret the signs of the times. No sign will be given but the sign of Jonah. 16:1-4.
     b. When Jesus' DISCIPLES reached the other side of the Sea of Galilee, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus warned them: "Watch out, and beware of the YEAST of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." The disciples said to one another: Jesus said this because we have brought no bread. Perceiving their idea, Jesus rebuked them because of their lack of perception. He reminds them that he fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread, and he fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread. When Jesus said this, his disciples understood that Jesus had in mind the TEACHING of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. 16:5-12.

2. The Great Confession. Matthew 16:13-20.
     a. Jesus came to the district of Caesarea Philippi located just south of Mount Hermon in North Israel, Jesus ASKED HIS DISCIPLES, "Who do you think the Son of Man is?" They replied: Some say: John the Baptist; others say: Elijah; others say Jeremiah. Jesus stopped them and asked them pointedly: "But who do YOU say that I am?" 16:13-15.
     b. Simon Peter immediately spoke up and said: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
These two terms are well-established terms for a KING in texts in the Hebrew Bible. Peter is clearly thinking of various texts of the Hebrew Bible. (1) Messiah is the Hebrew noun meaning "anointed one," based on the very mashach, meaning "to anoint." See, for example, 1 Samuel 9;15-16; 10:1; 16:13; 2 Samuel 5:4. Usually, a prophet anointed a person to be a PRINCE [not a king] in behalf of Yahweh, the only true KING over God's people. All this indicates that Jesus is subservient to his heavenly Father. Jesus emphasizes this often especially in the Gospel of John. Note, for example, John 6:38: "I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." John 8:28b-29: "I do nothing on my own, but I speak as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." John 12:44-45: "Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me." The Heavenly Father is the ANOINTER, and Jesus is his ANOINTED ONE subservient to the Father in all that he says and does. Acts 2:33-36 describes this picture clearly. (2) "Son of God" is a common term for an earthly king because Yahweh is the heavenly Father. 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:6-7 are two good examples of this. Of course, in a few texts like Matthew 1:18-25, "Son of God" has in mind the miraculous birth of Jesus through the virgin Mary. But a text like Hebrews 1:3-9 clearly defines Jesus as KING crowned when he was caught up into heaven after the ascension as described in Acts 1:9-11. 16:16.
       c. Jesus then commended Peter that this truth did not come from flesh and blood, but was revealed from the Father in heaven. Then Jesus tells Peter that "on this rock," that it is, Peter Jesus will build his church, alluding to Peter's sermon on Pentecost described in Acts 2. Jesus give Peter "the keys of the kingdom of heaven," a royal expression based on Isaiah 22:22, based on the idea that a steward of the royal house takes care of the household in behalf of the master of the house--see Isaiah 22:15. Peter's sermon in Acts 2 has already been bound in heaven. [The Greek in Matthew 16:19 means: "Whatever you bind on earth SHALL HAVE [ALREADY] BEEN BOUND IN HEAVEN]." 16:17-19.
       d. Then Jesus sternly commanded his DISCIPLES not to tell anyone that Jesus is the MESSIAh, knowing that hearers of this would assume that Jesus came to establish an earthly kingdom. 16:20.

3. Jesus rebukes Peter. Matthew 16:21-23.
    a. Then Jesus revealed to his DISCIPLES that he must go to Jerusalem, where the Jewish authorities will inflict great pain on him, and be killed, and be raised on the third day. 16:21.
    b. Peter immediately sternly told Jesus that this will NEVER happen to Jesus. 16:22.
    c. Jesus wheeled around and said sharply: "Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." At this point, Peter did not understand the purpose and function of Jesus to suffer and die and be raised from the dead to save all penitent people to God. 16:23.

4. Jesus explains clearly the meaning and function of a true DISCIPLE. Matthew 16:24-28.
    a. Jesus said to his DISCIPLES: "If any want to become my FOLLOWERS, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and FOLLOW me." From God's perspective, from the perspective of the Bible, a DISCIPLE is a FOLLOWER of Jesus, NOT a leader, because the only true leader is Jesus Christ our Lord through our Heavenly Father. 16:24.
    b. A true disciple must lose his/her life to be saved. If a person gains the whole world, he/she will forfeit his/her life. This exchange is not worth the facade. 16:25-26.
    c. At the end of the world, Jesus will come with his angels and will repay everything what each penitent person has done. 16:27-28.

Humility is the hallmark of a true DISCIPLE. No TRUE DISCIPLE desires to be a LEADER, but to be a FOLLOWER, a SERVANT, of the only true LEADER, the Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Share YOUR understandings and perceptions and imaginations and ideas and beliefs with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

 (2) "Son of God"