John T. Willis

Monday, December 26, 2016

Prayer for Deliverance from the Ruthless--Psalm 54

Psalm 54 is very brief. The author and historical setting is unknown. The Superscription connects this psalm with the Ziphites telling Saul that David is hiding among the Ziphites (1 Samuel 23:19-20). But this is a later addition in an attempt to connect Psalm 54 with a historical event connected with David. Psalm 54 contains no reference to this event. Psalm 54 falls into three parts.

1. The psalmist beseeches Yahweh to save him. Psalm 54:1-3.
     a. The poet addresses Yahweh as God. He asks Yahweh to SAVE him by God's name. Here God's name means God Himself. He beseeches Yahweh to VINDICATE him by his MIGHT. 54:1.
     b. The psalmist implores Yahweh, "Hear my prayer," "Give ear to the words of my mouth," meaning this prayer which is Psalm 54. 54:2.
     c. The composer beseeches Yahweh to save him BECAUSE the Insolent have risen against him, the RUTHLESS seek his life. They have no interest in God, but only to destroy this psalmist. 54:3.

2. Speaking to his audience, the psalmist extols Yahweh as his helper. Psalm 54:4-5.
    a. The poet proclaims that Yahweh is his HELPER. The hearer or reader immediately thinks of Psalm 121:1-2. The poet explains that Yahweh is the UPHOLDER of his life. 54:4.
    b. The psalmist confidently declares that Yahweh will repay his enemies for their evil. Then suddenly, he addresses Yahweh directly: "In YOUR faithfulness, put an end to them [my enemies]." 54:5.

3. The Psalmist give thanks to God for delivering him. Psalm 54:6-7.
     a. The psalmist continues to address God directly. First, he promises that he will SACRIFICE a freewill offering to Yahweh. He will give thanks to Yahweh for this is good. To "give thanks to God's name" is to "give thanks to God Himself." 54:6.
     b. The psalmist give God thanks because God has delivered him from every trouble, and his eye has looked in triumph on his enemies. 54:7.

God's people are surrounded by enemies. The proper Christian response is not to retaliate, but to pray to Yahweh to intervene, overthrow his enemies, and deliver his faithful people.

Share YOUR experiences and concerns and anxieties and fears and journeys with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

The Biblical Teaching of Disciples--13

Matthew 24 and 26 contain THIRTEEN references to DISCIPLES. There is no reference to DISCIPLES in Matthew 25.

1. Matthew 24 relates several events and teachings about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Here we will not go into great detail. The whole discussion comes from a couple of questions to Jesus from his disciples.
    a. As Jesus came out of the Jerusalem temple, his disciples pointed out to him the buildings of the temple. Jesus told them that every stone of the temple will be torn down. After they came to the Mount of Olives, his disciples asked him privately WHEN will this be and WHAT WILL BE THE SIGN OF JESUS' SECOND COMING AND THE END OF THE AGE. 24:1-3.
    b. Jesus told them that no one knows when this will happen. There will be many people who claim to be the Messiah which are not true. There will be wars and rumors of wars; nations will rise and wall. This is just the beginning of birthpangs. The wicked will persecute and kills Jesus's followers. Some will fall away. Others will endure to the end. The good news of the kingdom of God will be proclaimed throughout the world. 24:4-14.
    c. Just as lightning comes from the east and the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then he will gather his elect from one end of heaven to the other. 24:15-31.
    d. About the day and hour of Jesus' Second coming no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but ONLY THE HEAVENLY FATHER. The point is: Everyone must be prepared, because the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Every true disciples of Jesus must work faithfully until Jesus comes again. 24:32-51.

2. Matthew 26 relates ELEVEN references to Jesus' DISCIPLES. All of these text allude to THE TWELVE, or THE THREE [Peter, James, and John]. In almost every case, Jesus' DISCIPLES misunderstand Jesus or bluntly reject and abandon Jesus.
    a. After teaching his parables in Matthew 25, Jesus told his disciples that in two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be crucified. 26:1-5.
    b. At Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman poured costly ointment on Jesus' head. Jesus' DISCIPLES became angry about this because this is a waste. Jesus rebuked his DISCIPLES, telling them that this woman prepared Jesus for burial by pouring this ointment on his head. Her gracious gesture is the heart of the gospel message. 26:6-13.
    c. On the first day of Unleavened Bread, Jesus told his DISCIPLES to prepare the Passover. Jesus will keep the Passover at the house of an anonymous man, and Jesus' DISCIPLES prepared the Passover as Jesus told them. Jesus told Judas Iscariot that he will betray Jesus. Jesus took a loaf of bread, broke it, and gave it to his DISCIPLES, and for the very first time initiated the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist. 26:14-30.
    d. Jesus told his DISCIPLES that ALL of them will DESERT Jesus. Peter strongly said he would never desert Jesus. All the DISCIPLES chimed in an agreed with Peter. 26:31-35.
    e. Jesus took THE TWELVE to Gethsemane and told them to wait until he returned. Then he took Peter, James, and John further into the Garden of Gethsemane, and left them there as he went farther to pray. After fervent prayer to God the Father, Jesus returned and found that THE THREE were asleep. Jesus sternly rebuked them, returned to pray two more times, and each time, they were sound asleep. Jesus sternly rebuked them for not praying for him in this serious moment. 26:36-46.
    f. Judas Iscariot brought the Jewish elders and chief priests to arrest Jesus to crucify him. Then ALL JESUS' DISCIPLES DESERTED HIM [JESUS] AND FLED. 26:47-56.

These texts are consistent with other texts in the Bible about DISCIPLES. DISCIPLES are followers, servants, slaves of God, but certainly NOT LEADERS!!! Jesus' DISCIPLES often have good intentions, but when the rubber meets the road, all forsake or desert Jesus. All of Jesus' DISCIPLES are weak and frail at best. God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord is able to work in and through and in spite of Jesus' DISCIPLES. The function of DISCIPLES is humility, humility, humility, service, service, service, certainly NOT LEADERSHIP. God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord is our only dependable LEADER.

Share YOUR fears and failures and anxieties and uncertainties and desertions with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Heart is Comforted--XX

Two idiomatic phrases connected with the heart meaning comfort appear in the Hebrew Bible.

1. The Hebrew expression dabhar `al, "speak upon, to" is connected with the heart EIGHT times.
     a. After Jacob died, Joseph assured his brothers that he had no intention of harming them in spite of the fact that they had tried to kill him. Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:21:
          "So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones."
           In this way he assured them, speaking kindly to them [Hebrew: speaking to their heart].
     b. When a certain Levite separated from his wife at Bethlehem, after four months, "Then her husband set out after her, to speak tenderly to her [Hebrew: to speak to her heart] and bring her back" (Judges 19:3).
     c. When Boaz helped Ruth in the fields near Bethlehem, Ruth responded: "May I continue to find favor in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly [Hebrew: spoken to my heart] to your servant, even though I am not of your servants." (Ruth 2:13).
     d. According to 2 Samuel 19:7, Joab sternly charged David to "speak kindly to his servants," Hebrew, speak to the hearts of his servants.
     e. 2 Chronicles 30:22 says: "Hezekiah spoke encouragingly [Hebrew: spoke to the heart] to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord."
     f. 2 Chronicles 32:6 says: "He [Hezekiah] appointed combat commanders over the people, and gathered them together to him, in the square at the gate of the city, and spoke encouragingly [Hebrew: spoke to the heart] to them."
     g. Isaiah 40:2 says:
         "Speak tenderly [Hebrew: Speak to the heart] to Jerusalem,
                and cry to her
          that she has served her term,
                that her penalty is paid,
          that she has received from the Lord's hand
                double for all her sins."
     h. In Hosea 2:14 [Heb. 2:16], God says to Judah:
          "Therefore, I will now allure her,
                and bring her into the wilderness,
            and speak tenderly [Hebrew: speak to the heart] to her."

2. The Hebrew expression barakh be, "to bless in," occurs once in Deuteronomy 29:19 [Heb. 29:18]:
    "All who hear the words of this oath and bless themselves, thinking in their hearts."

3. The Hebrew verb chayah, "to revive," appears once with "heart" in Isaiah 57:15:
     "For thus says the high and lofty one
            who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
       I dwell in the high and holy place,
            and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit,
       to revive the spirit of the humble,

God encourages and comforts the hearts of God's faithful people in mysterious ways. Be thankful for his presence and his mighty acts.

Share YOUR experiences and motivations and shortcomings and encouragements and reversals with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis