Thoughts on Galatians


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Usually when I read Galatians, I just pick up on cool little verses here and there, but today I focused more on noticing Paul’s overall theme, which I think can be summarized by these verses from Chapter 5:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Galatians 5:1-6

It really seems to me that the whole book should be interpreted with this theme in mind. Paul seems to be addressing one issue in the whole book and just about every thing he says is directly related to it.

The issue of course is that some people were spreading the false idea among the church that following the Mosaic Law (ie. circumcision) was more righteous than not following the law. Paul seems pretty angry with those people, and his anger comes out all throughout this book as he continually blasts them for their falsehood.

One really interesting part is when he is discussing Sarah and Hagar (Galatians 4:21-31). It is an incredibly direct attack on the circumcision group, because it was Sarah’s child who received the covenant of circumcision, but Paul shows that those who rely on circumcision actually end up being sons of Hagar. Sarah’s true sons are those who rely on faith in Jesus Christ alone.


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A Prophet in his Hometown


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24″I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

Luke 4:24-27

I see two main points here:

  1. Prophets need to be prepared for rejection in their hometowns
  2. Hometowns really need Prophets

Elijah and Zarephath

When I usually read this passage, I think of that first point. But Jesus really emphasizes the second point as well. Israel has widows and lepers, people who really need help. Not everything is perfect in their world – they are really suffering. Despite this, they reject their own prophets.

Jesus longs for Israel to see their need for him, but until they do he will go elsewhere. Similarly, America has become a ‘hometown’ for Christians. It is so easy to reject Christianity in America simply because it is so ordinary. People in Jesus’ hometown asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” People in America ask, “Isn’t this just western religion?”

A Government Amasses Wealth


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It is hard for me to read Proverbs and not think about politics. There are so many proverbs about rulers, the law, justice, the poor, etc. These proverbs remind us of our need for God to work in our world, but also lead us to serve Him in His war against injustice. We must fight injustice in our own hearts, and also when we see it taking shape in the powerful institutions of the world.

I read Proverbs 27-29 last night. One verse that stuck out to me was:

“He who increases his wealth by exorbitant interest
amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.”

Proverbs 28:8

America was founded with knowledge of how corrupt rulers can become, and the oppression that they can wield on their subjects. The founders did their best to guard against such oppression by giving the citizens power over the government, and limiting everyone’s power through a contract known as the Constitution.

But oppressors are always looking for ways to gain more power, and our government is growing in the power it wields over us. It does this in the name of good things: helping the poor, providing health care for all, fixing the economy. But in reality, the government is amassing wealth for its own purposes, and its corruption will inevitable lead to more suffering for the poor.

But this proverb provides hope: the corrupt government will eventually pass away. Its wealth and power will be given back to the people. The new government will be kind to the poor by giving them freedom and opportunity, rather than crippling them through broken promises of entitlement.

Not a good start for a bunch of Kings


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So the beginning of 1 Kings reveals how Solomon inherits the throne of Israel amid much family strife. It all unfolds from these first 6 verses in 1 Kings 1.

1 When King David was old and well advanced in years, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. 2 So his servants said to him, “Let us look for a young virgin to attend the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.”

3 Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful girl and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The girl was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no intimate relations with her.

1 Kings 1:1-4

David is old, and his buddies come up with an interesting way to keep him warm at night – find him a beautiful young virgin to sleep with. Why didn’t he just sleep with one of his wives? Why didn’t he sleep with Bathsheba? He was willing to murder to sleep with her before.

David didn’t actually have sex with Abishag, and maybe this is just some weird ancient custom, but this passage is a reminder to me that David definitely had some serious issues with women.

5 Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. 6 (His father had never interfered with him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.)

1 Kings 1:1-6

Issues with women lead to issues with offspring. Sexual sins destroy families. We go from reading about David’s issues with women to reading about his issues with his sons. Adonijah declares himself King, and in verse 6 it is pointed out that David was not in the habit of rebuking his sons. King David was not a responsible father.

I think these two things are linked, being sexually pure and being a good parent, just as much as the act of having sex is linked to the act of becoming a parent. These opening verses remind us that King David had issues with both sexual impurity and irresponsible parenting.  The rest of 1 and 2 Kings reveal the family strife this caused and how it lingered on for generations.

How willingly do people go to hell?


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I just read a good article by John Piper: How Willingly Do People Go to Hell. In it, he challenges C.S. Lewis’ statements about hell: that “all that are in hell choose it” and “all God does in the end with people is give them what they most want.”

John Piper makes very good arguments to show that hell is so horrible that no one could possibly want it. He argues, “What sinners want is not hell but sin. That hell is the inevitable consequence of unforgiven sin does not make the consequence desirable.”

He also argues that God does not just send people to hell, but he throws them:

God does not just “send,” he “throws.” “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown (Greek eblethe) into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15; cf. Mark 9:47; Matthew 13:42; 25:30).

The reason the Bible speaks of people being “thrown” into hell is that no one will willingly go there, once they see what it really is. No one standing on the shore of the lake of fire jumps in. They do not choose it, and they will not want it. They have chosen sin. They have wanted sin. They do not want the punishment. When they come to the shore of this fiery lake, they must be thrown in.

I don’t know too much about why C.S. Lewis said what he did, but my guess is that he was trying to illustrate how a loving God could allow people to go to hell. So Lewis concludes that people choose hell themselves. I think Piper and Lewis are headed the same direction, Piper is just being more accurate as he goes. People don’t choose hell, they choose sin, and sin’s consequence is hell.

This still preserves the fact that people have a choice, which seems to be Lewis’ intent. And in fact, the people who wind up in hell are making that choice (to choose sin) up until God finally throws them in. And then, even in hell, though they want desperately to get out, they still are incapable of choosing to turn from their sin.

One other thing, the descriptions of hell that Lewis portrayed (for instance, in The Great Divorce) are pretty ordinary. No fire. No gnashing teeth. Just ordinary people who can’t stand each other – kind of like the hell that Sartre described (“Hell is other people”). Piper might mistake this for being less horrible than hell really is, but I doubt C.S. Lewis was trying to downplay the torment of hell. In fact, his descriptions emphasize how hellish people’s thoughts already are, revealing the torment they unknowingly experience without God even now on this earth.

Sin is intertwined with its consequence; so much so that through sin, hell bleeds out of its gates and into our world. Only Christ’s sacrifice could break the bond we had with hell through our sin, so that we would instead be grafted into Christ’s Kingdom. And now, through Christ’s righteousness living in us, heaven overflows its gates and brings light to earth, even now.

No Inheritance But God


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Numbers 18 describes what the Levites get and what they don’t get. They got all these special privileges, getting to consume the tithe – the best food from all of Israel. Most of all, they got to come nearer into God’s temple and be closer to him than the others. But of course they didn’t get their own land.

This is a pretty strong verse:

20 Yahweh said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.

Numbers 18:20

They had NO inheritance in the land. All of their brothers were given an inheritance and they were given none. Imagine being in a family of 12 brothers and your father gave every son an inheritance except for you. But God says “I am your inheritance.” That just strikes me as such a powerful statement. What could be better? Not having an inheritance in the land isn’t a bad thing, but a good thing because it is replaced with God himself.

Truly this is our inheritance as well, even more so than for the Levites. Through Christ, we no longer have an inheritance in this world, but Christ, God himself, is our inheritance. We can definitely do without the riches of this world, knowing that our inheritance is God himself.

Yesterday I watched a video on John Piper’s website about why he abominates the prosperity gospel. His point seems to go well with what I am saying. Why should we care about worldly riches when we have something so much greater?

Aurochs


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Apparently, according to my Archaeological Study Bible, the ‘wild ox’ in Job 39:9 is probably an extinct type of wild cattle called an aurochs. They were much larger than most domesticated cows. According to Wikipedia, they went extinct in 1627 AD.

Wikipedia also says:

The wild-ox called re’em (Strong’s # 07214) in the Bible (Numbers 23:22 and 24:8, Deuteronomy 33:17, Job 39:9-10, Psalms 22:21, 29:6, 92:10 and Isaiah 34:7) is occasionally associated with the aurochs and has incorrectly been translated as “unicorn” in the past (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Entry for ‘Wild Ox’, Copyright, 1939, by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).

How to Make Money


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I do need an income in order to continue to work on Biblefox. I need to support myself, my wife, and my upcoming baby, and I need to live in such a way that I am not a burden on people, but I can give to people. At the same time I want to continue working on Biblefox.

Jesus said not to “lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:19-21).

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon. 25 Therefore I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 See the birds of the sky, that they don’t sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you of much more value than they?

27 “Which of you, by being anxious, can add one momentto his lifespan? 28 Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin, 29 yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won’t he much more clothe you, you of little faith?

31 “Therefore don’t be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘With what will we be clothed?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient.

Matthew 6:24-24

What a powerful passage, which strikes me again and again. Do not worry about tomorrow! And do not worry about money! God will provide.

Sometimes I feel like God will provide if I am walking in His will, but if I leave, I’m in trouble. But that’s not what Jesus says. He says simply that God will provide. We don’t follow Him because we fear punishment. Through Christ, we have already escaped punishment. Now we serve God out of love!

Because I love His Word, and because I love sharing it with others, and because I want others to be able to study it freely, I began making Biblefox. I must admit, though, that I primarily create Biblefox for myself – to feed my own passion for the Bible and further my own studies. I believe God honors that though. He likes that I want to study His Word. He loves it when I seek him with all my might.

“But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33

By working on Biblefox, I am seeking God’s Kingdom first, and his righteousness. I want to know Him and be transformed by Him. He will provide everything I need to continue.

Of course, the Kingdom of God includes many, many people. And so, I want to make my tools as helpful to the community of believers as possible. My first year of Biblefox development was done mostly in isolation. I was working on my own ideas to reach my own goals for the site. As I begin my second year of development, I want to develop more in community with other believers. I want to know what will help their bible studies. And I want to help others who are working on creating tools to help study the Bible, from engineers writing code to pastors who are writing blogs.

Sneaky wicked animals


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1 A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse,
and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit…

4 …He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
and with the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.

Isaiah 11:1,4

Justice and Mercy. Our Messiah reigns with his Justice and Mercy. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would kill the wicked. Praise God that He will kill the wicked! Justice will be brought to the world and the innocent will be saved from the horrors of the wicked. But of course that is not the whole story. Yes, He will kill the wicked, but also…

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf together;
and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow and the bear will graze.
Their young ones will lie down together.
The lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The nursing child will play near a cobra’s hole,
and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den

Isaiah 11:6-8

This seems to portray the predator animals (wolves, lions, bears, cobras) as having been wicked. They used to eat poor innocent animals like sheep, and baby cows, and even baby humans! But somehow they have changed.

9 They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh,
as the waters cover the sea

Isaiah 11:9

That’s great that those wicked animals have changed into righteous animals, but how did they escape that earlier verse when the shoot of Jesse killed all the wicked? Somehow those wicked animals managed to slip through the cracks, eluding their capital punishment.

Of course, we have firsthand knowledge of how they managed to slip through the cracks, because we were wicked animals too. Through God’s mercy, Jesus endured our punishment for us. And now we “will not hurt nor destroy,”[foot]I actually still eat poor little innocent lambs, though. In fact, I am making a tasty lamb recipe for dinner this Friday. Maybe I should post the recipe…[/foot] for we are “full of the knowledge of Yahweh” through the Holy Spirit[foot]I think it is interesting that verse 9 uses the phrase “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea,” because we are full of the knowledge of Yahweh only by his Holy Spirit, which way back at the beginning of time was “hovering over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).[/foot].


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Ancient Egyptian Wisdom


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I glanced over this passage the other day as I was working on Biblefox. My eye caught on the quote from the King of Egypt in verses 8-10:

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who didn’t know Joseph. 9 He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. 10 Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it happen that when any war breaks out, they also join themselves to our enemies, and fight against us, and escape out of the land.”

That seems pretty rational to me. You have a group of foreigners really prospering in your country. They don’t have the same beliefs as you. If they continue to grow, who knows what affect they might have on the country? They might even try to take over the country. That seems like a real issue to me. Those Egyptians were probably legitimately frightened of what Israel might do to them. As Pharaoh warned, issues like that really should be dealt with wisely. Of course, human wisdom is frequently different from God’s wisdom, so the Egyptians’ humanly wisdom didn’t have the effect they wanted.

Human Wisdom:

11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. They built storage cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out.

Exodus 1:11-12

God’s Wisdom:

But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you

Matthew 5:44


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