Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Least Commandment

As humans we sure seem to like to rank things. Just think of all the sports leagues and competitions that we have. They are always ranked. We also have our favorite things, our best friend, and our worst enemies! Even when you see a doctor you may be asked to rank the pain you are experiencing. Is it a one? Or is it an eight?

But the Bible is also full of rankings. Here are just two of the many possible examples:

Luke 22:24 (KJV)
24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.

Matthew 22:36 (KJV)
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus Himself ranked things. In the above Matthew passage, Jesus' answer was this:

Matthew 22:37-39 (KJV)
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Did you know that Jesus also spoke about the least commandments? We find this passage also in Matthew.

Matthew 5:17-19 (KJV)
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

In verse 19 Jesus said that anyone who broke one of the least commandments or would teach others to break them, he or she would be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus does not go on to delineate what commandments He was referring to. Rather, He speaks about an increased righteousness and makes the Law even more stiff by saying things like hating someone is the same as murder, or looking at someone with lust is the same as adultery. So the point is not so much that we know what is the least commandment, but that we obey all the commandments and don't teach others to disobey.

But it is interesting to wonder about what God might consider as the least commandment. According to Jewish thought the prime example of a "light" commandment was Deuteronomy 22:6-7. (See "The Least of the Commandments: Deuteronomy 22:6-7 in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity" by Robert M. Johnston.)

Deuteronomy 22:6-7 (KJV)
6 If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young:
7 But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.

This passage is an example of God's care for animals. Although it was acceptable for mankind to take the young for food, the mother had to be left to raise more young. In many ways this really is a "least" commandment in that it seems so inconsequential. Yet, look at the result of obedience to this little commandment, " that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days".

In speaking about the least commandments God was telling us how important all of the commandments are. Do we try to rank commandments? Which ones do we need to absolutely obey, or are there some less important ones, like supposed white lies, that we can safely ignore? From Matthew 5:17-19 it appears that we were meant to obey every commandment and to ignore none.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 1:3-7

Previous: Daniel 1:1-2 

Daniel 1:3-7 (KJV)
3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes;
4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

From last time we learned that Nebuchadnezzar, the "king" of Babylon besieged Jerusalem and took away some of the vessels of the Temple at Jerusalem and brought them back to Babylon. According to verse 3 what else did he bring back to Babylon? He brought certain children of Israel as well as children of royalty. Who did the king speak to? Ashpenaz was the master of eunuchs and apparently the one in charge of these children. What further characteristics were necessary in the children that were taken (verse 4)? The brightest and the most beautiful were taken. What would they be taught in Babylon? The Babylonians wished to instruct them in the advanced learning of Babylon as well as in the language of the Chaldeans. Chaldean is sometimes used interchangeably with Babylonian. But it also refers to the upper crust of Babylonian society as well as a group well-versed in occult learning. What did the king provide for these children and for how long (verse 5)? These children were taught for three years and enjoyed eating food and drink from the king's table. It was the best food in the land. What would happen at the end of the three years? They would stand before the king. Verse 6 lists four of the children taken from Jerusalem. Their Hebrew names were Daniel, Hanahiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Based on the qualifications of the children taken what does this say about these four? They had to have been exceptional children. They were probably between fifteen and twenty years of age [C.F. Keil, Bibical Commentary On The Book Of Daniel (Grand Rapids:Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959), p.591]. Because they were under the care of the master of the eunuchs, were these children made eunuchs? Based simply on the reading of this section it would appear likely. Why would they do this? Perhaps the Babylonians wanted to make sure that these important and royal children would not have any descendants that could revolt. According to verse 7 what names were given to the four children of Israel? Daniel became Belteshazzar, Hananiah became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach, and Azariah became Abednego. Why would their names be changed? This was also probably an attempt at assimilating these youth into Babylonian culture. How do you think these children would feel about all of this? What dangers could that result in?

Next: Daniel 1:8-16

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back to School

Tomorrow it is back to school! My son will be in his classes at the local community college and homeschool. For me, it will be back to teaching his one homeschool class. This is also our last year together. It is hard to believe that we've been doing this for eleven + years. It has been a great run! I have loved it and my son seems to have been content with it. He has done well, but it is time for him to look to college and what it can teach him. So I will savor this year with wonderful memories and bright hope for his future and mine. May God be with us as we venture ahead!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Joy of Animals

Our family was out of town for a three day weekend. Since the entire family was going  we had to leave our cat at home alone.. We had provided her with all the food and water that she would need and we felt confident that she would be fine for that relatively short time. When we returned home she came running down the stairs from the second level. As soon as she saw us she started meowing. "Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow." Normally, she's a very quiet cat, so this was so unusual. She also nudged us and wanted major petting. You could just tell how excited she was and how happy she was to see us.

It was a joy to see her this way.  She was so much like a human, so full of emotion. Yet God says that humans and animals are different. Only humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). But our animal friends are still the creation of God and deserve kind and loving treatment. After all, they were made for God and for man. As any pet lover can attest, animals give us so much pleasure, love, joy, companionship, and so many other things!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Our Surprising God!

This week I had an interesting experience where I learned again that God is not just a God out there, but that he cares deeply for His children and always does what is best for us.

My 17 year old son had been looking for a job since about April. The search was rather half-hearted until May when his junior year was completed. But after that point a serious search began. Because I wanted him to be able to go to college without debt I knew that finding a job was imperative. Yet, week after week passed and even though he had a few interviews he received no offers. It seemed like there were too many applicants and too many who had experience. No one seemed to want to take on my son.

Well, being a Christian who solidly believes in the power of prayer, I began to pray earnestly for a job to be provided. Many of my prayer partners began to pray as well. He was so covered in prayer that it seemed impossible that the summer was progressing and there was no job.

I began to panic. What if he couldn't get a job? What if we couldn't afford college, etc, etc.? I kept saying to myself, "I trust you God, I know you will provide." Still, there was no job. Then it dawned on me, that if I really trusted God I would not be worried. I realized that truly I had not been trusting in God's care of our family. I also knew that I wasn't going to be completely able to dismiss my fears, but with this understanding I could at least begin to give that worry over to God. I told myself that even if the boy never got a job until he finished college that would be ok.

As this week began the job search continued. Monday he applied at a nearby fast food place. He had an interview on Tuesday and was hired on Wednesday. His first day of work was yesterday.

The amazing thing about this is that he was able to enjoy a completely free summer, something that he probably will never experience again. I learned a lesson in trusting God. Plus, my son started a job the very week before he was to head back to school. I think God has quite a sense of humor.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is Jesus a False Prophet?

For those of us who are Christians the above question may sound scandalous. But according to the Word of God we are to test whether or not something or someone is worth following.

1 John 4:1 (KJV)
1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

So how do we know if Jesus/Yeshua (the Hebrew name) is a false prophet or not? Again the Word of God gives us guidelines.

Deuteronomy 18:21-22 (KJV)
21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?
22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

The first test for a so-called prophet is to determine if what he has said comes to pass. In the case of Yeshua many claims were made in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah. Yeshua fulfilled all of the claims referring to His first coming. He also worked many miracles and made statements about His death and resurrection. In every case those things came to pass.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (KJV)
1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

This Scripture portion tells us that there will be false prophets who come our way who are able to do signs and wonders as well as prophesy. So although they meet the first test will they meet the second? Deuteronomy 13 instructs us that if the prophet tells us to go after other gods we are not to listen to him. Under Israel's theocracy at the time these false prophets were to be put to death. Verse 4 confirms that we are to walk after the Lord, fear Him, keep His commandments, obey His voice, serve Him, and cleave unto Him.

Did Yeshua pass the second test? Yes, He did. In fact, He followed God's commands perfectly. He never disobeyed and He never once told anyone to disobey them.

So it would seem that Yeshua was not a false prophet. Yet, why do His followers today not eat kosher food, observe Saturday Sabbath, or observe the feasts? Many would say that we don't have to do these things any more. However, if Yeshua had advised us to veer away from God's laws wouldn't that mean that He was a false prophet?

Think about this. When Jewish people are introduced to Jesus they are told that the Old Testament laws are no longer valid. What do they understand? They think about the two tests of a false prophet and immediately and rightly see that if this Jesus was changing God's laws then He was a false prophet and they must reject Him. So, by our insisting that Yeshua changed our obligations to the law we are setting up a barrier to God's own people. We become culpable in their rejection of the Messiah.

Let's rethink our traditions and analyze them using the whole Word of God.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Most High God

Today we are going to begin a study of the book of Daniel. Why begin with Daniel? Too often the subject of prophecy is overlooked because it is seen as confusing and/or there are too many different views out there (read quacky ideas). But Daniel is a kind of bridge between narrative history and prophecy. It is a great way to start the study of prophecy. In any case Matthew 24:42 says, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." Shouldn't we be prepared for the future?

As we begin, we need to understand that the interpretation of the Bible in this study will be from an Historical/Grammatical viewpoint. This means that it will be read in a literal manner unless there is a compelling reason not to. For example, we will be reading literally except for things like figures of speech and parables.

Daniel 1:1-2 (KJV)
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.

Let's set the stage. What can we tell about the historical context? Who were the world powers at the time? Egypt and Babylon were the "world" powers during the late seventh century B.C. What was going on in Israel at this time? It is located, unfortunately, between the two opposing powers and there was a struggle over dominion going on between the two "super" powers. In 605 B.C. the Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar attacked the Egyptian army at Carchemesh, which is located on the upper Euphrates River. Daniel 1:1 tells us that in the third year of Jehoiakim (the king of Judah, the southern kingdom of the Jews) Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Who was responsible for the outcome of the siege? Daniel 1:2 says that God gave Jerusalem into the hand of the Babylonians. What did Nebuchadnezzar bring back to Babylon? He brought part of the vessels of the house of God (the Temple of God). Where did he take these items? He brought them to the land of Shinar (Babylon) and put them into the treasure house of his god which would have been Marduk. The reason for this would be as a thank offering to Marduk as well as a means of humiliating the God of Judah.

Next: Daniel 1:3-7

Monday, August 20, 2012


Just wanted to introduce myself. I am a born-again Christian who was raised Catholic, attended a conservative Lutheran church, two Nazarene churches, and in the process became Messianic. I also believe in the wearing of head coverings for women and am Torah observant. I would like to use this blog to discuss various ideas in Christianity.