Daddy blog

I started this blog when I was following the Life Journal Bible reading plan on YouVersion. (I've since completed that plan.) At that time, YouVersion didn't provide any way for people to respond to my notes, other than to "like" them. So this blog is here to remedy that problem. You may comment on my notes here in the comment section.
I also have a general blog.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jeroboam's Folly


S: 1 Kings 11:29-39, 12:26-30, 13:33-14:13

O: In spite of the wisdom God gave Solomon, he did not stay true to the Lord but worshipped other gods. So God decided to remove 10 tribes from his kingdom. So God sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam (11:29-39) and promised him, “It shall be, if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do that which is right in my eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.” (11:38)

So afterwards, the 10 northern tribes rebelled from Rehoboam son of Solomon, and Jeroboam became their king. When Rehoboam was about to muster the troops to reconquer Israel, God told the prophet Shemaiah to warn,  ‘Yahweh says, “You shall not go up or fight against your brothers, the children of Israel. Everyone return to his house; for this thing is from me.”’ Thus, Rehoboam had to leave Jeroboam alone and Jeroboam’s kingdom was established.

But then later, Jeroboam stopped trusting God. (12:26-34) Instead of trusting Yahweh to establish his kingdom securely, he worried about the people continuing to go to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh there. ‘So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Look and behold your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”’ (12:28)

As a result, God condemned Jeroboam and his family who all abandoned Yahweh. The only one who stayed true to Yahweh in Jeroboam’s family was his little son. So God allowed this son to die before disaster strikes Jeroboam’s family, “All Israel will mourn for him and bury him; for he only of Jeroboam will come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward Yahweh, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.” (14:13)

A: So many children are named David these days, because David was a “man after God’s own heart”. This is in spite of David’s many sins — because he repented and turned back to God after he sinned.

But nobody is named Jeroboam. Instead, we read in later passages of the Bible, whenever a king is bad, he is compared to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Jeroboam could have been like David. God gave him the promise, if only he stayed true to Yahweh. But he didn’t, so now his name is mud.

We need to trust God, and repent when we sin, like David did. We must not allow human reasoning to draw us away from God, and to draw people we influence away from God.

P: Father, thank You that You are sent Jesus to pay for our sins. Thank You that You forgive us when we repent. May we not repeat Jeroboam's folly, and always repent and never abandon You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Imperfect heroes


S: 1 Samuel 25:32-33 David said to Abigail, “Blessed is Yahweh, the God of Israel, who sent you today to meet me! Blessed is your discretion, and blessed are you, who have kept me today from blood guiltiness, and from avenging myself with my own hand.

O: We look up to David as a great hero of the Bible, but we also know that he was an imperfect man. Usually, we think of the adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah when thinking about this, but he had numerous lesser flaws.

Today's passage tells about one of those. David had kept good relations with Nabal's men, never raiding them and treating them well, but Nabal foolishly rebuffed David's men and insulted David when they asked for provisions. So David was about to exact revenge (which would then entail also killing every man in Nabal's household, not just Nabal) but Abigail's wisdom and quick action forestalled that.

David acknowledged that in the above two verses -- that Yahweh had stopped him from blood guiltiness by sending Abigail.

A: There are ultimately no human heroes. Humans can be good or bad role models, and even the same human, like this example of David, can be a good example in some ways and a bad example in other ways.

So, we cannot idolize anyone. Worship God alone.

P: Father, thank You that, although all have sinned and fallen short of You glory, You have sent Your Son to save us. In Jesus' name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Transcendent yet approachable


S: Isaiah 55:6-9

6Seek Yahweh while he may be found.
Call on him while he is near.
7Let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts.
Let him return to Yahweh, and he will have mercy on him;
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says Yahweh.
9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

O: It is possible to teach chimpanzees, orangutans, and other higher apes to talk to us using sign language. It might be possible for us even to teach them simple arithmetic, perhaps — 1+1=2, 2+2=4, etc. But it would be impossible to teach them calculus and differential equations.

This is not because calculus and differential equations are illogical or false — it is because these apes lack the intellectual capacity to understand them. The fact that apes are not able to understand this doesn’t prevent their truth from working as human engineers use them to build bridges, aeroplanes, etc.

God is way beyond human intellect, far more than humans are above chimpanzees. Therefore it is not surprising that some of God’s thoughts and ways could be incomprehensible to us. Trinity, free will v.s. predestination, works & grace, etc. — all these seeming contradictions can be perplexing, but the fact that we have difficulty grasping them doesn’t mean they are false.

Yet, in spite of all this, God wants to have a relationship with us — “Seek Yahweh while he may be found. Call on him while he is near.” The passage before this in Isaiah 52:13-54:17 prophesy the coming of Jesus Christ who was pierced for our sins (Isaiah 53:5), who was the sacrifice upon whom Yahweh laid our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6). That makes it possible for us to be saved, and to have a relationship with Yahweh God eternally.

A: While there may be things that are puzzling to us about God, it could well be a case of “calculus to chimpanzees”, so we should not let that prevent us from drawing near to Him and to have an intimate relationship with Him.

P: Father, thank You that You love us and adopted us as Your children, in spite of being transcendent above us. Thank You for sending Your Messiah to save us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Don’t cause others to stumble


S: 1 Corinthians 8:8-13 But food will not commend us to God. For neither, if we don’t eat, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better. But be careful that by no means does this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to the weak. For if a man sees you who have knowledge sitting in an idol’s temple, won’t his conscience, if he is weak, be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to idols? And through your knowledge, he who is weak perishes, the brother for whose sake Christ died. Thus, sinning against the brothers, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble, I will eat no meat forever more, that I don’t cause my brother to stumble.

1 Corinthians 10:27-33 But if one of those who don’t believe invites you to a meal, and you are inclined to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for the sake of conscience. But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” don’t eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” Conscience, I say, not your own, but the other’s conscience. For why is my liberty judged by another conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced for that for which I give thanks? Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no occasion for stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the assembly of God; even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.

Mathew 18:4-7 Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of occasions of stumbling! For it must be that the occasions come, but woe to that person through whom the occasion comes!

O: We have a tendency to make laws out of the principles God teaches us. Here, the principle is “don’t cause others to stumble” but many Malaysian Chinese Christians end up pushing family members further away from Christ by refusing to eat the family meal at the Chinese New Year reunion dinner because the food had been offered to the ancestors first. This sends the wrong message of “Now that I’m a Christian, I am no longer part of this family.”

Jesus, in the Matthew passage, points out that causing people to stumble is a great evil. Our role here on earth is to be ambassadors for Christ — to attract people to Christ, not to repel them by our rigidity.

A: We must therefore take the trouble to think through and evaluate each situation instead of using canned answers. Our situation may be different from anther person's situation. We cannot just always take the solution that someone else has used before.

P: Father, please give us wisdom when faced with difficult situations and not use canned answers, but be wise in applying Biblical principles to the situation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Problem passages: 1st Corinthians and Women.


S: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

1Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ. 2Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. 3But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered dishonors her head. For it is one and the same thing as if she were shaved. 6For if a woman is not covered, let her hair also be cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or be shaved, let her be covered. 7For a man indeed ought not to have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. 8For man is not from woman, but woman from man; 9for man wasn’t created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10For this cause the woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.

11Nevertheless, neither is the woman independent of the man, nor the man independent of the woman, in the Lord. 12For as woman came from man, so a man also comes through a woman; but all things are from God. 13Judge for yourselves. Is it appropriate that a woman pray to God unveiled? 14Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16But if any man seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither do God’s assemblies.

1 Corinthians 14:34-40

34Let the women be quiet in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to be talking except in submission, as the law also says, 35if they desire to learn anything. “Let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to be talking in the assembly.” 36What!? Was it from you that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you alone? 37If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. 38But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking with other languages. 40Let all things be done decently and in order.

O: These two passages are very problematic for modern Christians because they seem to teach very misogynistic sexist nonsense.

I mean, “For this cause the woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.” Because of the angels? What in the world do angels have to do with anything? And “But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or be shaved, let her be covered.” and “Doesn’t even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?” No, nature doesn’t. What are you talking about, Paul? And hair length is clearly a cultural thing. In many cultures throughout the centuries, it's perfectly culturally acceptable for men to have long hair and women to have short hair. What nonsense are you talking about, Paul?

And what’s this nonsense about it being shameful for women to speak in church? And “as the law also says”? Mr. anti-Judiazer who argues against “the law” all the time — the term is used in their cultural context, not to mean the Old Testament, but rather, the rabbinic tradition — suddenly appealing to “the law”? And, just 2 chapters earlier, he was telling women that they must cover their heads when speaking in church... so they do speak in church?

Actually, many years ago, I have already come to an understanding about the chapter 14 passage that makes sense to me. Someone had pointed out to me that Paul was writing 1st Corinthians in reply to something the Corinthians and written to him asking a lot of things. So in 1st Corinthians, he is replying to many things stated in that earlier letter to him. What if he's quoting an argument from the earlier letter in 14:24-35? Remember, in their writing, there are no quotation marks.

Then the whole thing suddenly makes sense: some people were saying, “Women should keep quiet in church. They are not allowed to speak out but should be under authority. As rabbinic tradition says, if there is something they want to know, they should ask their own husbands at home. It is shameful for a woman to speak up like that in church.”

Paul then rebuts that with, “What!? Was it from you (men) that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you (men) alone? If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking with other languages. Let all things be done decently and in order.”

In other words, some men were saying, because of the influence of the very misogynistic sexist rabbinic tradition, that women shouldn't be allowed to talk in church — which also means forbidding them from prophesying, speaking in tongues or praying. Indeed, in rabbinic tradition, the women were segregated behind the men behind a screen in synagogue and not allowed to speak, and they are required to ask their husbands at home. But Paul scolds them, pointing out that words from the Lord clearly come to women as well. The Holy Spirit enables women to speak as well. Don’t forbid them!

Orthodox Jews still separate the women to this day.
Now, if a passage from scripture seems to say something very obvious on the surface, we shouldn’t be eager to search for an alternate interpretation. However, there are many times when scripture seems to contradict itself, and here we have the very same epistle seeming to contradict itself — chapter 11 says women are clearly allowed to prophecy and pray in church, and the dispute is in how they’re dressed while doing that, while chapter 14 seems to be saying they can’t even speak!

So, we are compelled to search for an alternate understanding. I’m not claiming that my alternate understanding above is definitely unarguably the correct one, but it’s something that makes sense and does reconcile this seeming contradiction.

Now, how about the chapter 11 passage? We might argue that Paul was just being steeped in his own cultural context here and totally missing the bigger picture. So this is his own limited view, and not universal.

But if this is scripture, surely the Holy Spirit would have stopped him from writing it? Or at least, have him preface it with “I, not the Lord, say” like he did when talking about how he thought that staying single was better than marrying, back in chapter 7 verse 12? Also, why are these arguments based on the angels, for goodness sake? Shouldn’t it say something like “because in our culture it is shameful for women to uncover their hair or to have short hair” (which, indeed, it was — I’m told that, in their culture, to have uncovered hair in public was tantamount to announcing that you were a prostitute.)

I don’t think my technique from chapter 14 will work here, because the passage doesn’t seem to be followed up by a rebuttal. After this passage, Paul immediately goes on to discuss the next issue — holy communion.

So, how do we deal with this? I don’t know. I don’t know! Years ago, I would not have been able to accept this conclusion. But as I pointed out in my earlier Life Journal entry on the Abomination and Desolation, scripture was written so long ago in a different language and cultural context. It is not surprising that there are passages that we don’t understand when reading it in our own language and cultural context. For Matthew 24:15-30, fortunately, we have the parallel passage in Luke 21 to explain to us that the abomination of desolation meant, in their cultural and linguistic context, armies surrounding Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a passage like Luke explaining Matthew here for us to compare with to figure out what in the world Paul meant by “because of the angels” in relation to covering women’s hair. Oh well, that’s just too bad. But there's no need to get too vexed about this open question.

A: There are many passages which are puzzling in the Bible. It's not surprising, because it's such a big collection of books, and was written in a different time centuries ago and in a different culture. Things that were obvious to its original audience could easily be puzzling to us here and now.

So, we shouldn't be dismayed when we come across stuff we have difficulty understanding. There are many websites out there that discuss various difficulties. And of course, there may be things that nobody knows right now.

P: Father, thank You for Your Scripture, even the difficult passages. Help us to trust You anyway and give us Your peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Problem of Job


S: Job 42:1-6 Then Job answered Yahweh, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be restrained. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ therefore I have uttered that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I didn’t know. You said, ‘Listen, now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

O: People often recommend reading the book of Job as an answer to suffering, but from the very first time I read it, I have disliked it. What is this nonsense about God playing dice with our lives? Making a bet with Satan, of all things, and causing Job all this needless suffering?

The Bible reading plan I’m following took me through the book of Job this month (April), and I kind of gritted my teeth as I went through it, skimming over all the long-winded arguments between Job and his friends, puzzling over the enigma of Elihu, etc. Same old stuff.

But then towards the end of the month, I heard Pastor Tim Keller on Focus on the Family's International Broadcast. The podcast was actually from last year, but I'm about a year behind listening — I had downloaded the MP3s to my PC and have been listening to them slowly when I can during my commute.

Pastor Keller had some good insights that helped me. So this was a real timely “coincidence”. Haha, God’s divine timing again. 😜

People often point out that there’re many good things that God does with suffering. The Bible’s constantly talking about how suffering is a refining fire and we're like the metal ore that goes through and we come out the other side purer. So, if you were to ask, how does God use suffering in our lives, there’re lots of great answers to that.

  • Purifying us
  • Helping us not to put our material possessions first.
  • Removing pride and encouraging humility
  • 2 Corinthians 4:17, where Paul writes, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” If there’s no evil & suffering, there wouldn’t be any courage & sacrifice.
  • etc.
But these reasons can’t be all there is to it. After all, not everyone becomes better from suffering. Some people become better, but others become bitter.

When asked why God allows pain and suffering to happen to good people, Pastor Keller replied, surprisingly, “I don’t know”!!!! God has some unfathomable reason or reasons behind it which we can’t see. What is this reason? We don’t know. That’s why we call it unfathomable. Pastor Keller pointed out:

We know that if God is good, He doesn't enjoy our suffering. If He's powerful, He could stop the suffering, but He doesn't. So, if we know … if He said He doesn't enjoy suffering and we know He could stop it, but He doesn't, then the question is, He must have some purpose for us to be going through the suffering, that has to be good, but we have no idea what that could possibly be.

And that's the reason why, if somebody actually says, why does God allow evil and suffering in the sense of, what purpose does He have for allowing evil and suffering to continue, there the answer's gotta be, "I do not know. I have no idea." See, you would never have to sacrifice. You wouldn't have to give your life for someone else. Are we really thinking that sacrifice and courage are, you know, not important things? They're good things. That certainly doesn't feel to me, like enough of a reason for God to allow so much of the stuff that's happening in the world. But you can begin to get a sense of …ok, so because of evil and trouble, there's such a thing as sacrifice, such a thing as courage. Very often people find God because of suffering. People grow into Christlikeness through suffering. You can start to see some reasons. They're not sufficient. But in the end, every time I try to make a long enough list of things I see God doing through suffering, does this justify Him allowing the horrendous pain that we see. No. There's gotta be more reasons that we just don't know about.

And that's the reason why we have to in the end say, "I don't know."

We have to get to the point where, even if obeying God will bring us no benefit at all, we’ll still obey.
When my middle son was around 10, he used to say to me, "Dad, I'll obey you, but you have to show me why this is good idea." That's not obedience. That's agreement and I'm not your father, I'm your consultant. And what you're saying is, as long as I think it's furthering my interests as I see them, as a 10-year-old, brilliant and wise person that you are, who can see the end from the beginning, as long as what you're telling me fits in with my agenda, I'll be happy to listen to you.

And what I said is, "What you're really saying is, you're not gonna obey me." In other words, I am really not your authority at all. You don't trust me more than you trust yourself. You're using me as a way of getting what you want. And as soon as I ask you for something that you don't want, you're outta here.

And basically, as long as you're obeying God and you think you're getting good things from Him, you can't tell whether you're really loving Him. You might be just using Him. What you really love are the things you're getting, not Him.

How do you know when you’ve reached that point?
When you're getting nothing from obeying God, but God Himself, just knowing I'm pleasing Him. I'm getting nothing else out of it and then I know I'm loving God. Then I know that I'm actually serving Him and not myself. We're not using Him to serve myself.
There's no quid-pro-quo.
Until you decide that there isn't a personal benefit, it's really not obedience and trust.

That's probably the point of the book of Job, that because in the beginning of the book of Job, a very puzzling thing to most modern readers, God is having an argument with Satan. And God says, "Have you seen my servant, Job? There is none like him in all the earth." And Satan says, "Does Job serve God for nothing?" In other words, he's not a servant. He's actually not a servant. He's just using you to get things. As soon as you took away the benefits of service, you'd see that he will not serve you. I heard one person say that the theme of the book of Job that God can make men servants.

Part of the answer is that God allowed free will. He didn't create an evil world. He allowed free will and we screwed the world up, that still can't completely answer the question. For example, may I say, in the future, when we're in heaven, when we will love Him perfectly and all evil will be banished forever, won't we still have free will?

The author of evil is Satan and us and moral agents who have chosen to rebel against God. That's exactly right. But it still doesn't seem that God couldn't have stopped it. I mean, I don't see any reason why God … to say He couldn't have stopped it, doesn't seem to fit in with everything else. So, He's still got some plan and He's still got some purpose that I don't know.

So free will is part of the answer, but it’s not the full answer.
Job never was told. You know that one of the things that's most striking about the whole thing is, that when God shows up at the end, He just says, "Look who I am; look who you are" and never tells him, doesn't tell him anything about the dialogue with Satan. [He] doesn't tell him anything about anything. He just gives him no reason at all. And Job says, "Just seeing You, it's enough." But He never tells him why.

However, think about this. What if God had said in the middle of the book, He said, "Listen Job; I want you to know the reason why this is all happening is, you're gonna be someday one of the most famous people in the history of the world?" Hundreds of millions of people will say, "What a great God. What a great man. How much we've learned." You know, you're gonna be one of the key figures shaping the way people think about evil and suffering until the end of time. Then he would've said, "Oh, wow. Really! Okay, I better … stiff upper lip. I'll be okay." He wouldn't have been serving God.

He wouldn't have been serving God at all. What he would've been saying is, "Wow, okay. It's worth it." And he would've pulled it all together and he wouldn't have been doing it for God, which is the point. The point is, he wouldn't have been turned into the servant of God, who loved God for Himself alone. He loved God for Himself alone and that's what he learned and that's what changed the world by the meaning of the book. But in a weird way, of course, Job has glorified God, look it. You and I are talking about him here, thousands of years later. But on the other hand, he couldn't know that, or he wouldn't have actually grown into the man God needed him to be.

I think every instance of suffering, if you're asking the question how do I handle this? How do I face it as a believer? There's a core for all suffering and then there's always certain specific things that are peculiar to that.

So, for example, if you've been betrayed, you have to work on forgiveness. Whereas, if you're a farmer and the crop didn't come in and you're facing the loss of your farm, you see, in some ways, every bit of suffering is different. You're facing terminal cancer, you're gonna die. You have to deal with fear. If you're going through a divorce, you have to forgive. Everything is different. On the other hand, there's a core and here's where the core is I think. I read years ago a book by David Martin Lloyd-Jones. It was a set of sermons. It's called Spiritual Depression: Causes and Cures. He's got one chapter called "In God's Gymnasium." And he's looking at Hebrews 12, where it talks about trials and suffering, which are discipline for us.

The word for God disciplining us and training us through suffering is the word gymnasto, from which we get our word "gymnasium." And he said, it's a workout and here's how he says, think about, if you're doing an exercise, as you're doing it, you feel like you're getting weaker, right? So, let's just say you pick up barbells and you're doing bicep curls. Do you feel like, after 10, that you're getting stronger and stronger? No, you feel weaker and weaker, as you are actually getting stronger, because you're taxing the muscles, which will bounce back.

The important thing in the gymnasium is to simply go through it even though you feel like you're getting weaker and weaker and weaker, just go through it. Do it all. Do it all and when it's all over, you'll find that you've grown in so many ways. The core of suffering is to stay faithful, don't stop reading the Bible. Don't stop praying. Don't stop going to church. Don't stop obeying the Ten Commandments. Don't get into the medicating behavior we were talking about before.

Don't rationalize. Don't get into bitterness and self-pity. Do everything you can in prayer to simply say, "Lord, I'm just gonna take the next step. I don't know what I'm gonna do, but I'm gonna trust You. I'm gonna take the next step and every day I'm gonna go through my paces. I'm gonna go through the normal things that I always did as a Christian, but in suffering, I don't feel like doing; I'm gonna do them anyway, which means of grace Bible study prayer, fellowship, serving other people, worship. You just do it. That's the core.

A human father, when he sees his children learn to do something right, is pleased.
And I think our heavenly Father does that – have you seen My servant Job? There's none like him in all the earth. And then Satan goes out and screws up his life. The next day, you know, like he comes before God again and God says to Satan, "Have you seen My servant Job? There's none like him in all the earth. You've done this and this and this and he's still serving Me."

The end of this, whatever "this" is and we don't know in full what this life is truly all about. We have glimpses of it. We have the Scripture to look at. But when it's all done, if we have pleased the Father's heart, in the end, we've done well.

(For the full transcript of the discussion, go to these links on the Focus on the Family website: [Part 1] [Part 2])

A: So the end of it is that you have to do what Job himself had to do: trust God even when you don’t understand why these things are happening. Just like the little boy had to trust that his father understands things better, and loves him, and wants the best for him, so he has to obey even when he doesn’t understand the reasons. Sometimes God cannot tell us because we do not have the capacity to understand. At other times, like Job, God cannot tell us without spoiling the growth God wants for us. And unlike a human father, God is perfectly loving, and knows perfectly, so He doesn't make mistakes.

P: Father, when things seem out of control, help me to continue to trust and obey. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What was the Abombination of Desolation of Matthew and Mark?


S: Matthew 24:15-30 “So when you see the abomination of desolation – spoken about by Daniel the prophet – standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. The one on the roof must not come down to take anything out of his house, and the one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen. And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe him. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Remember, I have told you ahead of time. So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe him. For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

O: What is this “abomination of desolation”? Daniel 11 & 12 first spoke of this: His forces will rise up and profane the fortified sanctuary, stopping the daily sacrifice. In its place they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. — Daniel 11:31. This prophecy was fulfilled when Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to wipe out the worship of Yahweh and instituted idol worship in the Temple: On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev in the year 145, King Antiochus set up The Awful Horror on the altar of the Temple, and pagan altars were built in the towns throughout Judea. — 1 Maccabees 1:54 (This quote is from the Good News Translation, unlike the other quotes, which were from the New English Bible, because the NET doesn't have the deuterocanonical books. “The Awful Horror” is GNT's translation of “the abomination of desolation.”

When I first read this passage in comparison with the historical records of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it puzzled me, because the Romans destroyed the Temple -- they didn't set up pagan worship there like Antiochus did. Some theorized that it may have been the Roman Eagle being brought into the Holy of Holies.

However, by the time the Roman Eagle was brought into the Holy of Holies, it was too late to take Jesus' advice to flee. You would already have suffered through the horrible siege of Jerusalem.

The solution to this puzzle may be in the parallel passage from Luke. Unlike Matthew and Mark, he didn't write “Abomination of Desolation”. He wrote, “And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived." — Luke 21:20.

Ah! This suddenly makes more sense! Luke was writing to a Gentile audience, while Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience. Mark was the “Readers' Digest” Gospel — the earliest one, quickly produced so that the believers would have some kind of written account. So Luke took more time to explain certain Palestinian Jewish idioms of the time — one of which is that what Jesus meant by “when you see the abomination of desolation” was “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies”.

Image taken from here

This, then, also explains why the Christians fled Jerusalem when they saw the Roman armies starting to encircle Jerusalem, instead of staying to fight like patriotic Jews. Partly as a result of this, the non-Christian Jews regarded them as traitors.

A: There are many passages which are puzzling in the Bible. It's not surprising, because it's such a big collection of books, and was written in a different time centuries ago and in a different culture. Things that were obvious to its original audience could easily be puzzling to us here and now.

So, we shouldn't be dismayed when we come across stuff we have difficulty understanding. There are many websites out there that discuss various difficulties. And of course, there may be things that nobody knows right now.

P: Father, thank You for Your Word. When we have difficulty understanding various passages from it, help us to understand, and be at peace when we don't understand. In Jesus' name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)