Tag Archives: Bible

On A Hill Far Away…

And Other Biblical Misconceptions

 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: (John 19:17)

With the forthcoming opening of the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History, I and a co-laborer (whom I cannot name because I did not request his permission) have been honored with the task of creating the scenery for the Life of Christ Diorama that will reside across from the Empty Tomb exhibit. An ICR benefactor donated the diorama for exhibition in the Discovery Center. The set contains thousands of pieces – buildings, tents, people, animals, furnishings, etc. – fabricated mostly by an Italian company. The extensive collection cannot all fit in the space allotted, so our leaders determined only to display pivotal scenes in the life of Christ.

Not to give away all the details of the diorama, I want to focus on the crucifixion scene. Where to position the crucifixion scene came into question. Should it be elevated on top of a hill or should it be placed on a lower level between the road and the hill? As Christians, we know the familiar words of the old hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross.” The lyrics say, “On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross…” I do not know if it is due to the lyrics of the beloved hymn or due to some other handed down tradition, but we all imagine that Jesus was crucified at the top of Mount Calvary. However, musical lyrics or timeless tradition should not be the basis for what we believe. What does the Bible say?

And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull… (Matthew 27:33)

And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. (Mark 15:22)

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. (Luke 23:33)

And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: (John 19:17) (Emphasis mine)

The Bible does not often provide specific detail of events, but very often it does. The language of the Gospels is Greek. The Greek word for “hill” is either oros or bounos; the latter used only in Luke 3:5, and the former used in several passages in the N.T.[1] Furthermore, Greek prepositions indicate precise positions. The Greek preposition for “on” or “upon” is epi. It means “superimposition,” that is, to be “over” or “upon.” None of the four Gospels give any indication that the crucifixion took place “on a hill called Mount Calvary”[2] regardless of what the song lyrics say. Furthermore, the public spectacle of crucifixion[3] intended as a deterrent against lawlessness took place in the most public of places, usually, a busy roadside where passersby could get a close look at the suffering victims.

I researched, albeit not extensively, information about the location of the crucifixion. Most of the information[4] argues about three possible “places,” and most shy away from making dogmatic statements. The possible locations offered are, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher (which supposedly houses both the crucifixion and burial sites), The Garden Tomb[5] area (which is very near a limestone formation whose face features two prominent grottos that look like the eye sockets of a human skull), or just some unknown place outside of the Old City (of Jerusalem) designated by the Romans for public executions. All of these resources spoke of the “place” but none ventured to suggest whether the crucifixion took place “on” the hill or “by” the hill, but all agreed that it was “at” Golgotha/Calvary.

The “experts” fail to commit to “on” or “by”, but all four Gospels omit the preposition epi (on). To me that says that Jesus was crucified “at” Calvary, not “on” Calvary. My conclusion led me to determine that the diorama will feature the crucifixion scene near the road with a skull-shaped hill in the background. Besides scriptural reasons, there are practical reasons for my decision. A crucifixion on top of a hill, while it might be visible to all, could easily be ignored by passersby thus defeating the deterrent factor of the event. To get a close-up view – and who would want to – would require extra effort making it a disincentive for gathering a crowd, thus defeating the intended purpose of the Romans. However, if the crucifixion took place on a busy road, the only way to avoid the spectacle would be to take the long way around to enter the city. A roadside crucifixion makes more sense to me.

What does that have to do with salvation? Nothing. Jesus dying for you and me on the cross and rising again on the third day matters more than the place or the position. However, there are many non-believers who will find fault with any perceived discrepancy in Scripture. As Christians, we need to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Controversies like these will come up. For example: “Jesus said He would be in the grave three days and three nights.[6] There are not three days and three nights between Friday and Sunday. The Bible is wrong!” Another example is the anointing of Jesus. “All the Gospels give accounts of Jesus’ anointing, but they are all different”[7] How would you respond to this challenge? A careful study of Scripture will reveal that there were three separate anointings; Matthew and Mark refer to one before the crucifixion, Luke recounts one before the Transfiguration, and John records one by Mary after Jesus raised her brother Lazarus after four days dead.

Other examples can be cited, but the point is that we need to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15) rather than relying on song lyrics, traditions, or human scholarship. Do not just read your Bible, study it!

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 5:14; Luke 1:36, 65; 3:5; 4:29; 9:37

[2]  “I Believe In A Hill Called Mount Calvary” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=12&v=OPByLTzkctc

[3]  “Crucifixion” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion

[4]  “Where Was Jesus Crucified? – Golgotha ‘the Place of the Skull’” – https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/where-was-jesus-crucified.html

[5] “Jesus’ crucifixion site? (A ‘Skull’, Garden & Tomb)” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=-7fHnnqre1o

[6]  “Three Days, Three Nights” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/07/13/three-days-three-nights/

[7]  “Jesus Last Days” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/03/25/jesus-last-days/

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It Does Matter

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)

Recently I listened to a message on the crucifixion. The message excelled in many respects by providing insight into that fateful day of our Lord’s life. However, one part of the message troubled me. The messenger commented that some theologians believe Jesus was crucified on Friday, while others say He was crucified on Thursday. I know that; I’ve heard those arguments before. That is not what troubled me. What troubled me was his comment that the day on which the crucifixion took place does not really matter. The fact of the crucifixion is what really matters.

WOAH!

It does matter! Jesus said very specifically that “the Son of man [shall] be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). That is three full days and three full nights.[1] You cannot get three full days and three full nights from a Friday crucifixion even if you allow for partial days and nights. Why does that matter?

One reason it matters is that “according to one Jewish tradition, the soul hovered about the body for three days in hope of reentering it.”[2] If it were not three full days and nights, then, as some have asserted, He could have resuscitated in the coolness of the tomb and walked out. (There are many problems with that idea, but that rabbit can be chased another day.)

Jesus raised Lazarus four days after his death. Lazarus was so dead that “by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39). Decomposition had already set in. That being the case, would it have been better for Jesus to remain in the tomb four days rather than three? No, because Scripture predicted that Jesus’ body would not decompose: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). For that reason, it needed to be three full days and three full nights – long enough for the spirit to depart (in the estimation of the Jews), yet not long enough for decomposition to set in.

Another argument against a Friday crucifixion finds its basis in history. Most theologians hold the opinion that Jesus was crucified in A.D. 30. Passover, the day on which Jesus was crucified, always falls on Nissan 14 – the fourteenth day of the first month of the year.[3] Nissan 14, 30 A.D. fell on a Wednesday, not a Friday.[4] A Wednesday crucifixion allows for three full nights and three full days, meaning that Jesus would have risen anytime after 6:00 PM on Saturday evening, the first day of the week by Jewish reckoning – the day begins after sundown.

I believe those are good arguments against a Friday crucifixion, but they are not the best argument. The best argument is Jesus’ own words. He very specifically said that He would be in the heart of the earth, i.e., the grave, for three days and three nights. Anything less than that makes Jesus a liar. Do you really want to go there! If we believe God’s Word is inerrant – and Jesus IS God – then we must accept what HE said, and reject what errant men say. It Does Matter!

HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Notes:


[1]  “Three Days, Three Nights” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/07/13/three-days-three-nights/

[2]  Herschel Hobbs, The Illustrated Life of Jesus, (Nashville, Holman Bible Publishers, 2000), 183.

[3]  Leviticus 23:5

[4]  http://www.cgsf.org/dbeattie/calendar/?roman=30

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April Fools’ Day

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 14:1)

We recognize the first day of April as April Fools’ Day. It “is an annual (primarily) Western celebration commemorated on April 1 by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. The jokes and their victims are called April fools. People playing April Fool jokes often expose their prank by shouting ‘April fool(s)’ at the unfortunate victim(s). Some newspapers, magazines and other published media report fake stories, which are usually explained the next day or below the news section in smaller letters. Although popular since the 19th century, the day is not a public holiday in every country. Little is known about the origins of this tradition.”[1]

Victims of harmless pranks can hardly be called “fools.” Anyone is susceptible to deception at the hands of someone they trust. If that is a fool, then we all qualify.

The Bible has a much harsher view of a fool. The epithet is so severe that Jesus said, “whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22, emphasis mine). The word “Raca” is of Chaldean origin and it means, “empty or worthless one.” A fool, on the other hand, is one who is “impious[2] or “godless.” Strong’s defines such a one as “dull, stupid or heedless.” The Greek word is mōros, from which we get our word “moron.” It is interesting that Jesus should offer such a severe condemnation as “hell fire” for the offense of calling someone a fool.

Jesus’ prohibition of the application of that word against another person comes at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount. In the same sermon, He later said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2). This verse gets misquoted and misunderstood often as meaning that we are never to exercise rational discernment about someone’s actions. However, that is not at all what Jesus was saying as subsequent verses reveal. The Greek words translated as “judge” and “judgment” are krinō and krima respectively. Both have to do with making a judgment that results in condemnation and punishment. We get our English words “crime” and “criminal” from these Greek words. The kind of judgment Jesus is describing is reserved for God alone. Therefore, if judging someone as “fool” condemns the one judging to “hell fire,” then the punishment for being a “fool” must also be “hell fire.” We deduce this from Jesus’ words, “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” In other words, because the punishment for being a fool is “hell fire,” then the one judging the fool will receive the same judgment because only God can make that judgment.

The English word “fool” appears often in the Bible translating other Greek or Hebrew words, but the strong word Jesus used, mōros, appears only a few times and always in the context of strong condemnation. For example, in Matthew 7:26 Jesus uses it to describe the “foolish man” who built his house on a foundation of sand. Jesus likens those hear His Word and ignore it to the fool who builds his house on sand. In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins and He calls the five unprepared virgins “foolish” because they were not ready to meet the bridegroom. The condemnation is they are not allowed into the wedding. Paul warns his young protégés, Timothy and Titus to avoid “foolish” (moronic) questions because they are unprofitable and vain and they only lead to strife.[3]

Our lead verse appears again in Psalm 53:1, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.” The Hebrew word translated “fool” is nâbâl, and like mōros, it means stupid, wicked, (especially impious). Someone who does not believe in God, or rejects God is a fool. God condemns such a person to “hell fire,” which is why Jesus admonishes us not to make that judgment.

Paul describes how one sinks to that condition:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:18-22, emphasis mine).

By examining this passage more closely, we see that “the wrath of God” – His anger, i.e., “hell fire” – is revealed “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” i.e., “foolishness.” It is doubtful that “true” atheists exist because here we see that God reveals Himself through His creation. The “invisible things,” like viruses, bacteria, atoms, quarks, etc., clearly testify to the greatness of God. Every human being on earth can see the magnificence of God’s creation so that no one has an excuse for not acknowledging God. Everyone, even the atheist, knows that God exists, but they reject Him and refuse to glorify Him choosing rather to follow their own unintelligent (i.e., foolish) imaginations. As a result, their heart is darkened. This progressive condition results in a “reprobate mind,”[4] i.e., a mind that has lost its ability to properly reason. They think they are wise when in fact they have become fools.

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). And “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15). “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2). We are all fools at some time in our lives. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11, emphasis mine). We may all start out as fools, but we do not need to remain in that condition. If you do not know the Lord, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.” Don’t be an April Fool!

Notes:


[1] Wikipedia, “April Fool’s Day” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Fools%27_Day

[2]  “not pious or religious; lacking reverence for God, religious practices, etc.; irreligious; ungodly” Dictionary.Com definition – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/impious?s=t

[3]  2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9

[4]  Romans 1:28

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Purim And 2A

Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey, Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar. (Esther 8:11-12)

Just this week, the Jews celebrated the ancient feast of Purim.[1] Purim is not one of the “Feasts of the Lord” given by God in Leviticus 23. It is a celebration instituted by Jews in commemoration of their salvation from extermination under Persian rule.

Some have questioned whether the Book of Esther belongs in the canon of the Bible because the name of God, in any of its various forms, does not appear anywhere in the book. However, when one reads this account, the unmistakable hand of God is seen working throughout the narrative.

For those unfamiliar with this historical account[2], King Ahasuerus of Persia, became annoyed with his queen Vashti when she refused to dance for his drinking buddies and he removed her from being queen, i.e., he divorced her. The law of the Medes and the Persians was such that when a law was decreed by the king, it could not be rescinded.[3] When Ahasuerus sobered up, he regretted his decision, but the deed was done and could not be undone.

Kings get lonely without a wife and Vashti was gone now. What was the king to do? His servants suggested that Ahasuerus hold a beauty pageant of all the most beautiful virgins of the realm the winner of which would become the new queen. In short, Esther (a.k.a., Hadassah), a Jewess and cousin of Mordecai, who was in the service of the king,[4] was chosen and became the new queen of Persia. The king was unaware of their relationship nor did he know Esther’s ethnicity. As he “sat in the king’s gate” carrying out his duties, Mordecai overheard a plot to kill the king. He relayed the information to Esther who informed the king, and the two would-be assassins were hanged for their treason.

Later, King Ahasuerus promoted a Jew-hater by the name of Haman to a high position. Haman was rather full of himself, and when Mordecai refused to bow down to him – no God-fearing Jew would ever bow down to a mere man – he concocted a plot kill all the Jews in the realm. He convinced the king that all the Jews throughout the kingdom should be killed because they followed their own law and did not submit to the king’s law, i.e. to bow down to Haman. So it was decreed that all the Jews throughout the kingdom would be killed the following year on Adar 13.[5]

When Mordecai heard of the decree, he “rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry” (Esther 4:1). Mordecai pleaded with Esther to go before the king and intercede for her people, but because of palace protocol, Esther could not go before the king without being summoned.

In the meantime, Ahasuerus had trouble sleeping one night and stayed up reading court records. (That should put anyone to sleep!) There he found the record of Mordecai exposing the assassination plot against him that had gone unrewarded. So he summoned his top advisor, Hamon (who just happened to be hanging around looking for some excuse to send Mordecai to the gallows), to determine how to reward someone who had done something very special for the king. Since Ahasuerus did not name the beneficiary, Haman assumed the king was speaking of him.

And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour, Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour” (Esther 6:7-9).

That was just the thing only a narcissist like Haman could appreciate, but the joke was on him when Ahasuerus instructed him to do that very thing for Mordicai.[6] As any humble man might do, Mordecai graciously accepted the accolade, but quietly returned back to his post at the king’s gate. “But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered” (Esther 6:13).

The prior day, Esther invited the king and Haman to a banquet she had prepared in her chambers.[7] At the banquet, Esther revealed that she was a Jewess and her people, the Jews had been targeted for slaughter by “this wicked Haman” (Esther 7:6). This angered the king and he ordered that Haman be hanged on the very gallows he constructed for hanging Mordecai. However, because the law could not be abrogated,[8] Ahasuerus authorized Mordecai to write a subsequent law that would allow the Jews to take up arms and defend themselves against anyone who would do them harm.

When Adar (February/March) 13 arrived, when the first law took effect, the Jews met their assailants with equal force. The Jews kill several thousand of their attackers, and Esther records no losses on the part of the Jews. Since the law was instituted to take effect only on that one day, the Jews were safe afterward. “On the thirteenth day of the month Adar; and on the fourteenth day of the same rested they, and made it a day of feasting and gladness” (Esther 9:17).

“And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, To stablish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly” (Esther 9:20-21). So was the Feast of Purim established.

So what does this have to do with the Second Amendment (2A) of the United States Constitution? We learn from this account in Esther that an armed populous can defend itself against those who would do them harm or violence. A well established historical fact teaches (for those with the ability to learn) that the first thing a tyrannical government does to subjugate the people is to disarm them. An unarmed populace cannot defend itself against tyranny nor even effectively protest – take Venezuela for example. Take note of the socialist-leaning Democrat Party in the USA and their incessant drumbeat for “gun control.” They are not interested in “gun control.” Most of the leftist elites surround themselves with armed bodyguards and hide behind high walls designed to keep out unwanted invaders. Their main interest is to disarm the populous so that they can control and exercise power over the people. The Second Amendment prevents them from doing that. So whenever some heinous crime takes place involving a firearm of any kind – even if that crime takes place in New Zealand – the cries for stricter gun laws increase in frequency and amplitude.

The One who said, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39), also said, “he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one” (Luke 22:36). The Second Amendment is our Purim.

Notes:


[1]  Purim (plural) comes from “Pur” meaning “a lot (as by means of a broken piece)” See Esther 3:7; 9:24, 26.

[2]  This synopsis omits many important details. For a better appreciation of the account, the reader should read the entire book of Esther. It is only 10 short chapters!

[3]  Esther 1:19

[4]  Esther 2:19, 21

[5]  Esther 3:13

[6]  Esther 6:10-11

[7]  Esther 5:1-8

[8]  Esther 8:8

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Two Sticks

Disclaimer: I am not in complete agreement with the above illustration. I believe the God-given illustration applies to Israel only. God has other plans for His Church.

And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: (Ezekiel 37:22)

God gave Ezekiel a vision of a valley full of dry bones.[1] The vision revealed God’s plan for Israel in the latter days, i.e., the end times. The dry bones[2] represented Israel, dry, lifeless, broken, and scattered all over the earth. In the vision, God instructed Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones, and when he did, the bones came together with their sinews, flesh, and skin, but the bodies remained dead. Then God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the “four winds” that they should breathe life into the lifeless bodies. The four winds represent the four points of the compass from where life would come to Israel. Ezekiel did as instructed and the four winds blew across the bodies, and they came to life, “and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:10).

The vision foretold of a day when Israel, long dead, broken, and scattered, would come back to life to become a “great army.” The Hebrew word translated “army” is chayil and it primarily means “a force.” It can also mean strength, might, efficiency, wealth, and (lastly) an army.” On May 14, 1948, the rebirth of Israel fulfilled this prophecy. At first, the new nation appeared more dead than alive. On the day of its birth it was surrounded and attacked by its Arab neighbors, and only Providence preserved the tiny country from total annihilation. Since then, the “four winds” have blown across the fragile nation, and from every corner of the earth, Jews have flocked back to their ancestral homeland. Israel has risen to be a force with whom to contend. Today, more than 70 years after its rebirth, tiny Israel is considered the eighth most powerful country in the world[3] both militarily and economically.

All of Israel is God’s vine and fig tree. Of these God foretold, “I will surely consume them, saith the LORD: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them” (Jeremiah 8:13, emphasis mine). Again, God through the Prophet Joel foretold of a coming invasion that would destroy Israel. “He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white” (Joel 1:7, emphasis mine).

In Jesus’ day, this destruction was yet future, but Jesus knew of its certainty. He also knew that the vine and the fig tree would bloom again in the last days. Of that day, He said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:32-34, emphasis mine). In His parable, Jesus did not mention the vine. Perhaps the vine, with its fruit in clusters, represents the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom, which were “lost” during the Assyrian conquest. If that is so, the fig tree, which yields individual fruits, represented the tribes of the Southern Kingdom, Judah and Benjamin collectively, called Judah. In Jesus’ day, only Judah, the fig tree, remained.

The 10 Northern Tribes are not called back until the latter days.

To Ezekiel, the vision of the dry bones may have represented only the expatriated Jews from Judah. Even though God clearly told him, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:11, emphasis mine). To further clarify His meaning, God provided an object lesson for Ezekiel. “The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions” (Ezekiel 37:15-16, emphasis mine). One stick represented Judah, the other represented Ephraim[4] – the ten “lost tribes.” God instructed Ezekiel to “join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand” (Ezekiel 37:17).

The object lesson intended to illustrate what God would do in the end times. “Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand” (Ezekiel 37:19, emphasis mine). “And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all” (Ezekiel 37:21-22, emphasis mine).

Because the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and expatriated throughout the empire, they are often referred to as the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.” God never brought them back to the land as He did with Judah (the Jews); however, they are not lost to God. God never loses anything! Jesus said, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30); and “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father” (Matthew 10:29). If God keeps track of such seemingly insignificant things, surely He can keep track of the Ten Lost Tribes. The last book of the Bible lists the twelve tribes of Israel that will be witnesses during the Tribulation.[5]

The two sticks will be one again, “and one king shall be king to them all” (Ezekiel 37:22). That King will be the Lord Jesus. “And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them” (Ezekiel 37:24, emphasis mine). The Old Testament established that one of David’s descendants would reign on “David’s throne” forever. The first book of the New Testament identifies Jesus as “the son of David.”[6]

God did not give Ezekiel insight into the Tribulation as He did with Daniel.[7] Jeremiah refers to that time as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). Ezekiel saw the restoration of Israel and the Millennial kingdom wherein the Lord Jesus Christ will reign. In that kingdom, Jesus will rule from His throne in His temple in Jerusalem. “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezekiel 37:26-28, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “sanctuary” is miqdâsh and it means “a consecrated or holy place.” It comes from the root word qâdash meaning holy. “Tabernacle” is the Hebrew word mishkân meaning “residence, dwelling place, or habitation.” God, i.e., Jesus, will have His throne in His holy Temple in Jerusalem. In Chapters 40-47, Ezekiel goes into great detail concerning this Millennial Temple.

What we learn from the valley of dry bones and the two sticks is that in the last days, God will restore the nation of Israel and bring all the “children of Israel” back to their land. This prophecy has been fulfilled in our generation. Jesus said that the generation that witnessed the restoration of Israel – that sees the “fig tree” bud – will witness His return. Readers, we are that generation. Are you ready for Christ’s return? If not, read my page, “Securing Eternal Life.”


[1]  Ezekiel 37:1-14

[2]  “Dry Bones” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2019/02/24/dry-bones/

[3]  “Top 10 Most Powerful Countries in the World 2019

[4] The Northern Kingdom is often referred to as Ephraim (one of the half-tribes of Joseph, the other being Manasseh). The reason for this is that when the nation divided during Rehoboam’s reign, Jeroboam built his capital in Shechem, in “Mount Ephraim” in the territory of Ephraim (1 Kings 12:25).

[5]  Revelation 7:4-8

[6]  Matthew 1:1

[7]  Daniel 11:36-12:4

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Cause For Tears

As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us. They hunt our steps, that we cannot go in our streets: our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come. (Lamentations 4:17-18)

I have tried to maintain a habit of reading the Bible through every year. I like getting a different translation of The One Year Bible because it presents a systematic method of reading a portion from the Old Testament, portion from the New Testament, and a reading out of the “Wisdom Books”[1] every day. The year before last, I tried reading through the Chronological Study Bible (NKJV), because I thought it would be interesting to read Scripture in the sequence of the historical events.

The trouble, for me, in following a prescribed reading plan of any kind is the pressure that comes from knowing you have so much reading to get done today because if you don’t, you will get behind. And if you fall more than one day behind in your reading, it easy to become discouraged and stop. I got behind on my reading several times, but I never became discouraged enough to quit. I am not bragging; I am confessing. When I felt pressure like that, I felt I had to get my reading done, so in my rush to get through it, I missed a lot.

I do not like to read the Bible like that. I like to take my time and really soak it in. I read slowly anyway, but I like to read for detail, and I enjoy “interacting” with what I read. I have developed a system of color coding[2] passages of Scripture with color pencils so that when I leaf through my Bible, I can tell about what the passage refers by the color that highlights it.

Last year I started reading my new King James Bible without the words of Jesus in red. (Red interferes with color coding.) I have not made it all the way through yet, but I am enjoying the “study” much better. I started with the New Testament, then the Minor Prophets, then the books of Wisdom, and now I am in the Major Prophets. I finished Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations, and I just started on Ezekiel.

That brings me to the subject of my title. The study of Scripture is not a “cause for tears.” Quite the contrary, it brings me a lot of joy. However, as I mentioned, I just finished my study of Jeremiah and Lamentations. The Prophet Jeremiah authored both books. Jeremiah is known as the “Weeping Prophet,” and he had great cause for tears.

He lived at the time of Judah’s demise. He ministered during the time of Judah’s last three kings: Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.[3] He witnessed the first invasion by the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar that took the first round of captives to Babylon. The Prophet Daniel was in this first group. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiakim captive and replaced him with his brother, Zedekiah. After nine years, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar by refusing to pay tribute, so Nebuchadnezzar mounted a second invasion of Jerusalem. This time he razed Jerusalem to the ground. Nebuchadnezzar took Zedekiah captive, but not before making him watch the slaughter of his sons before having his eyes gouged out.[4] Jeremiah witnessed all of this.

Jeremiah had cause for tears. For 40 years he pleaded with Judah to repent of her idolatries. He warned of impending doom for their obstinance and refusal to abandon their pagan gods and return to “the God of Israel.” For this, he was persecuted, mistreated and imprisoned, yet he refused to stop proclaiming, “Thus saith the LORD.” To the first round of captives taken, he wrote letters encouraging them to build houses, plant gardens, take wives and raise families, seek the welfare of the city in which they lived, and not to listen to the false prophets that said the captivity would not be for long.[5] This oft-quoted out-of-context passage followed God’s admonition. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). Although we can take comfort knowing that God only desires the best for His people, we must also keep in mind to whom this was addressed and the circumstances that precipitated it.

What follows clearly shows that this message was for them, not necessarily for us. “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:12-14). They treated Jeremiah as a traitor for this message of hope.

God gave many promises to Jeremiah concerning Israel’s bright future. “And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:3-4). “Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jeremiah 30:10-11). “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jeremiah 32:37-40).

We see these promises being fulfilled before our eyes. Israel has returned to her land. From all over the world, Jews are returning to their Promised Land, and the desert is blooming.[6] Yet, in spite of the promise of a bright future, Jeremiah watched his beloved Jerusalem crumble to dust and all her people either killed by the sword or taken away captive. It was cause for tears.

As I read Jeremiah’s record, it is a cause for tears because I see what Jeremiah saw but in my beloved nation. Our nation is steeped in idolatry. It is not so much in the form of pagan deities, although there is some of that in the growing number of occult practices – Wicca, witchcraft, satanism, etc. – but mostly in the worship of all forms of entertainment and materialism. Anything that takes a higher priority than God is idolatry.

Our country has fallen prey to the practice of infanticide in the form of abortion even up to the time of birth. There may not be a blazing bronze statue of Baal on which to burn the babies, but abortion is an offering to Baal nonetheless.

Pornography is often a secret sin harbored by many Christians, even Christian leaders. Prostitution has become passé so much that even President Trump’s indiscretion with a porn star is only a slight embarrassment because of its exposure.

The “gay” agenda continues to force its presence into the mainstream so that public schools are indoctrinating children as young as kindergarten into the “normalcy” of this perverse behavior. Children are being taught that they can reject the biological sex with which they were born and be whatever sex they choose to be. Recently, the media celebrated an eleven-year-old “drag princess” for his “talent” in dancing for dollars at a gay bar.[7] Another ten-year-old “drag princess” was photographed posing with a naked adult drag queen,[8] and our society seems to think nothing of it. How is this not considered a form of child abuse?

Then there are child prostitution rings where grown men go to engage in sexual intercourse with little girls and boys. There is an island in the Caribbean where many of our politicians go to engage in sex with children.[9] Imagine the power the ring operators hold over politicians for keeping their secrets.

All of this and more is cause for tears. It took Israel less than 1000 years to arrive at such a depraved condition where God had to banish them from the land. Our nation, from the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620, is only 399 years old, and look at how far we have fallen! Arguably, this moral decline has taken place within the last generation – 70 years – and has rapidly accelerated within the last 20 years.

Another popular verse of Scripture quoted out of context is 2 Chronicles 7:14. God made this promise to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple. He said, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” His people did not humble themselves, pray, seek His face, nor turn from their wickedness, and the Temple to which they were to turn was completely destroyed. Surely there was a remanent of faithful ones among the wicked. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among those,[10] but that did not stop God from punishing the nation.

We do not have a Temple toward which to pray except for the one “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Still, God throughout the ages instructed us to pray for our nation and our leaders;[11] but that offers little security if God deems the nation unredeemable. Perhaps part of God’s punishment will include taking out the faithful before the final destruction. However, like Jeremiah knowing the future promise of restoration yet living in the midst of national decline, we have cause for tears. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Notes:


[1]  The “books of Wisdom” or the “Wisdom Books” include Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.

[2]  My system of color coding: Yellow = Noteworthy; Orange = Attributes of God; Green = Attributes of Jesus; Light Blue = Attributes of Holy Spirit; Purple = Word of God; Red = Blood/Salvation; and Brown = End-Times Prophecy

[3]  Jeremiah 1:2-3

[4]  Jeremiah 39:6-7

[5]  Jeremiah 29:4-9

[6]  Isaiah 35:1

[7]  “Nolte: 11-Year-Old ‘Drag Queen’ Dances for Dollar Bills in Gay Bar

[8]  “10yo Drag Queen Posing with Naked Adult Man is “Beautiful” and “Not Sexualized

[9]  “Sex Tourism And Trafficking In The Dutch Caribbean

[10]  Daniel 1:6

[11]  1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Peter 2:13-15,17

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Doing the Right Thing

Rembrandt van Rijn, “Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem”, c. 1630

For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 39:18)

Jeremiah prophesied before, during, and after the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem and the captivity that followed. His ministry started during the in the 13th year of good king Josiah’s reign.[1] Josiah was eight years old when he started to reign[2] thus making him about 21 when Jeremiah started his ministry.

Josiah was the last of Judah’s “good” kings, and the Bible records that he reigned for 31 years. He was killed in a battle at Megiddo[3] (Armageddon) attempting to stop Pharaoh Necho who was on his way to assist Assyria at Carchemish against the Babylonians.

Josiah was succeeded on the throne by his son, Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Shullum) who reigned for only three months.[4] Pharaoh Necho lost the battle at Carchemish, and on his return to Egypt through Judah, he stopped off at Jerusalem and took Johoahaz captive to Egypt replacing him with his brother Jehoiakim (a.k.a. Eliakim).[5]

Jehoiakim reigned for 11 years. It was during his reign that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and took away the first round of captives to Babylon. Daniel the prophet was taken in this first round of captivity. Jehoiakim was also taken captive, and his son (Josiah’s grandson), Jehoiachin (a.k.a. Jechoniah, a.k.a. Coniah), took his place on the throne. Jechoniah appears in Jesus’s genealogy through Joseph.[6] However, Jechoniah’s (Coniah’s) line was cursed by God so that none of his descendants could sit on the throne of David.[7] This fact could have disqualified Jesus for the throne had Joseph been his earthly father.

Jechoniah’s reign was shortlived as Nebuchadnezzar replaced him with another of Josiah’s sons, Mattaniah, whose name he changed to Zedekiah.[8] Zedekiah reigned in Jerusalem as a vassal king of Babylon for eleven years. However, in the ninth year of his reign, he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and refused to pay the required tribute. Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem a second time, and two years later, after exhausting all their food and water stores, the city surrendered. Nebuchadnezzar made Zedekiah watch as his children were all slaughtered before his eyes.[9] That was the last thing Zedekiah saw before his eyes were gouged out. Then Nebuchadnezzar took Zedekiah and the remaining able-bodied people back to Babylon leaving only the poorest and weakest of the population behind. This was the second captivity.

Jeremiah is known as the “Weeping Prophet” because he prophesied during the final 40 years before the complete demise of Jerusalem. His unpopular message of pending doom fell on deaf and rebellious ears. He was persecuted, beaten, and imprisoned for sounding the call to repent with the promise that repentance would stay the pending punishment of God.

During Zedekiah’s reign, Jeremiah urged the king to submit to Nebuchadnezzar so that Jerusalem would experience peace. Zedekiah’s refusal to submit brought the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar upon the city. During the two-year siege, conditions became so bad that women cannibalized their children for food.[10] Jeremiah encouraged men to surrender to the Babylonians to save themselves and their families.

For this, Jeremiah was treated as a traitor and thrown into a cold, muddy dungeon.[11] “Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin; Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king, saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city” (Jeremiah 38:7-9, emphasis mine).

We do not know a lot about Ebedmelech. We can surmise that he was a black man since Scripture records that he was an Ethiopian. He also served the king since he is identified as a eunuch. Jeremiah does not record his name, only his position in the king’s service. It is possible that Jeremiah did not even know his advocate. “Ebedmelech” is two words in Hebrew, ‛ebed melek. “Ebed” means “servant” and “melek” means “king.” The two words together mean “servant of the king.” We can infer from the fact that he was a eunuch that he was a high ranking servant of the king holding a very trusted position. As such, he could approach the king on Jeremiah’s behalf.

Surely the servant of the king had heard Jeremiah’s warnings. He probably understood that Jeremiah was the Lord’s prophet, and he took it to heart when Jeremiah said, “Thus saith the Lord.” He probably perceived that Jeremiah’s preaching was for the good of the people and that his intentions for their welfare.

When the servant of the king learned of Jeremiah’s plight, he went directly to the king to plead his case, and Zedekiah listened to his servant. “Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die” (Jeremiah 38:10). Jeremiah was not set free. However, his conditions were much improved. The eunuch transferred him from the “miry pit” to the “court of the prison”[12] allowing him more freedom and improved conditions although he was still under “house arrest.”

In spite of opposition and his subservient position, this humble servant did the right thing. Doing the right thing in the midst of opposition takes real courage especially when there is little, if any, hope for reward.

Not long after this, Jerusalem surrendered. Nebuchadnezzar’s army entered the city, destroyed the Temple and carried away captives including the humiliated king Zedekiah.

Just before the fall of Jerusalem, God spoke to Jeremiah the prophet and said, “Go and speak to Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 39:16-18, emphasis mine).

Doing the right thing requires trusting the Lord. When we trust the Lord, abundant life (our “prey”) is our reward. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. The nameless servant may have been unknown to Jeremiah, but his righteous deed did not escape God’s notice, and God blessed him for doing the right thing. Likewise, we should follow his example with purity of heart and “not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God” (Colossians 3:22). May God catch us all doing the right thing!

Notes:


[1]  Jeremiah 1:2

[2]  2 Kings 22:1; 2 Chronicles 34:1

[3]  2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27

[4]  2 Kings 23:31; 2 Chronicles 36:1-2

[5]  2 Kings 23:34, 36; 2 Chronicles 36:4-5

[6]  Matthew 1:11

[7]  Jeremiah 22:28-30

[8]  2 Kings 24:17; 2 Chronicles 36:10-11

[9]  2 Kings 25:7

[10]  Lamentations 4:10

[11]  Jeremiah 38:1-6

[12]  Jeremiah 38:13

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