On October 16 the evening news for the three major networks in the Boston area gave zero minutes to the economic recovery that is underway in America, although there has been a clear update of good—great—news from the market as well as other financial indicators. If its good news and there is a hint that President Trump might be credited, the media is silent?
The president has made his campaign slogan clear to all: a nationalism which cries, America First. But is that bad?
I would encourage my reader to read more books, study a little economics, and listen to less “news.” I would encourage all of us to roll back time to when the only news was one hour around dinner time which we heard on our radios. 24/7 reporting is oxymoronic, if you think about it. Most of what is said is editorial blather designed only to get “clicks” on web sites or higher ratings for networks. It appeals to a base of listeners that accept such bloviating as gospel in their innocent ignorance. (This is true on both sides of the political coin.) …I hope I didn’t just say something terrible about the woman I love who has the news on .. a lot…. She is smart and able to sift through the morass and find something worth hearing which she will share with me on request.
Studying both sides of an issue with an open mind encourages sanity. Here is My Review —so far. I am reading two economists: one is a conservative and one is a liberal.
The lottery is still out there—no winners (as of this printing). 654 million dollars with odds of wining estimated to be 1 in 302 million (according to local news). I would like to win this to pay off my mortgage and those of our sons and provide them and the Mrs. with all they would need for life. The extra could go into my dream foundation to support those qualified [?] who are in serious need of funds due to medical emergencies, etc.)
But for a believer, isn’t this God’s job?
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 NIV
And if I trust Him in these matters, what could be my reason for wanting a half billion (with a ‘b’) dollars!? What would be my rationalized justification for wanting gobs of dough? What is it about the human heart that anyone should desire more than they would ever need!? And how might I square all this with the writer’s instruction to “be content“?
The New Testament represents this idea with two different words—one, of which, is found here: “love of money.” The other is translated “greed” or “covetousness” [I Thessalonians 2:5].
…seek[ing] rather to grasp what one has not; the second [word, then], to retain, and, by accumulating, to multiply that which one already has – Trench
Or said another way: Wanting more, having more, wanting more, having more, wanting more… (You get the point. [Luke 12:18]) It makes sense for Jesus to warn us about “serving mammon instead of God.” [Matthew 6:24] and instruct us to seek (in our hearts and minds) our happiness in the provision and promises which are part of His kingdom by a willingness to live within whatever means God provides for us here and now. [Matthew 5:3; I Timothy 6:8]
None of this means we should not seek to better our lives but there is a line we should not cross and, contrary to our desires, we do know in our conscience where that line is.
Exactly where in the Torah, the Old Testament, did God promise this? (Oh BTW, the Hebrew word for ‘promise’ is not in the Old Testament in reference to God. It was sufficient to remind us that this is something God said and He cannot lie [Numbers 23:19].)
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
Was not Moses referencing a national security matter while His people were surrounded by enemies …and NOT an economic one? The writer to the Hebrews seemed to misplace the context of the promised presence of God. Or can we safely conclude that God’s guaranteed security is not just His protection from physical harm but also from the effects of financial disaster. Remember the prayer Jesus encouraged us to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.…” [Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3]. A half billion dollars sounds like a life-time supply when God asked us to think “daily.”
Brother Spurgeon took God’s promise in an even more general sense:
Will not the distresses of life and the pangs of death, will not the corruptions within and the temptations without, will not the trials from above and the temptations from beneath all seem but light afflictions when we can hide ourselves behind the bulwark of “He hath said?” – Charles Spurgeon
What drives our interest in such outlandish sums of money? (Most people could never manage such an astronomical amount. It’s like giving the keys to the car to a five years old and then keeping your fingers crossed. I don’t want to be in that car!)
I have been reading about the history of the global economy and what might appear to be its ultimate reasons for its collapse. (It is prophesied: Revelation 18:11) …and greed is a major driving force. Greed is—not for nothing—designated as one of the seven deadly sins.
I haven’t bought a ticket, and now you know why. My envy, though, over the winner will be another matter for another day….
Lord, help me!!
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’ Matthew 6:13 NIV
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
I have left Facebook which in recent days has meant increased stress as well as a degree of tension with persons I love. Social media, to retain its innocent interests, should continue to display the meaningful and delightful movements of each day and not political explanations or strong negative feelings—as it has become.
Taking a step back into the past, pre-facebook times, for me is a wise choice. I can be reached by email (and snail mail for those who have the address), or I can be text’d (if you have that number). Only serious friendships will use these media.
So much political opinion floats about on social media, none of which concerns me but character assassination (and those whose think this is not happening on the national scene are by this mindset in favor of it)—character assassination—is something I positively disassociate from on all levels: political, social, and domestic. I am outspoken against it. I am best off Facebook. (I do not use my Twitter account. It serves the Mrs.)
My mother once told me she was holding onto a verse in the Psalms [Ps. 138:8]. She believed God gave her this verse concerning her two sons, my brother and I. She was convinced we would both become ministers of God’s Word, working together.
The LORD will perfect that which concerns me… Ps 138:8 NKJV
This became somewhat true. In the course of time my brother would obtain a Masters in catholic theology and enjoy ministry teaching God’s people the Word of God (perhaps, I should add: from a catholic perspective). I was a protestant pastor for almost 25 years before I changed “careers.”
Is this realistic to believe in one’s heart that God speaks to a particular situation in a particular verse of scripture? Some claim it is not:
Not only since the Bible warns that “No prophecy is of private interpretation” [2 Peter 1:20] which some interpret to apply to all scripture. but
because the very thought of giving the average christian, without pastoral guidance, license to “read into” a verse what might not be there makes God complicit in spreading false hopes while
A wrong interpretation invariably devalues the spoken Word.
Our pastor, some years ago, wrote in his autobiography, “God’s Plan & Purpose for your Life,” that while pastoring his first church in Vermont, his wife came down with Bright’s disease but it wasn’t diagnosed until the condition was so far advanced doctor’s thought there was little they could do for her. She was dying. After the family discussed moving her to a diagnostic center in Boston, He went before the Lord in prayer asking for wisdom when God shared Psalms 46 verse 5 with him in the translation of the time [King James Version].
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
Two days later she was well enough to be discharged from the hospital—in Vermont. She was not moved.
John Calvin called the Psalms: “The anatomy … of the soul.”
Many of “The Psalms,” Walter Brueggmann argued are
“not unlike ‘Negro spirituals’ that have no author or identifiable place or origin, but simply arise in the life and practice of the community and are found to be recurringly adequate to many different usages overtime. [Brueggmann, 313]
If this is so, how about the rest of the Scripture? Is there a hermeneutic, a science of interpretation, that allows for the individual believer to find uncommon hope in its message? I want to believe so. What about Isaiah 43:2:
“I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. [Christian Standard Bible]
And to whom does God promise such protection? Does not this apply also to us, as believers!!
Verse 1: I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Verse 4a: Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and
Verse 4b: because I love you,
Some might say verse 3 is particular to Israel: “I give Egypt for your ransom.” I argue that this is simply the validation of the real emphasis of this verse [3a] “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” He is our Savior, too. Is He not!
The Word of God should not be viewed as a static history of what God did but as a dynamic revelation of what God does.
To get to the actual heart of the matter, one must know the heart of God! One’s interpretation must somehow through a life of prayerful meditation be able to grasp the true meaning discernible in the stories, the testimonies, and the recollections of the saints of old.
Since my latest experience with cancer, I have become more aware of the pain of others who face the same disease. I believe that for all believers facing this dreaded enemy of the body that Isaiah 43:1-3 is ours for the asking (prayer).
If God were to give me a pulpit for one hour, I would prayerfully desire to provide faith-strengthening hope to any within the sound of my words. As a child of God we have every right to claim this truth in our most trying and painful circumstances.
But we must see clearly the fulcrum point of all this in verse 2. It has been translated “I will be with you” but perhaps the original is tighter than that.
In the Hebrew this is 2 words connected by an elevated dash they call a “makkeph [ ־ ].” Scholarship tells us these words together indicate “companionship” It is perhaps better to understand that promise in a more intimate way:
When you go through such deep waters, such pain emotionally or physically you doubt you can endure it, the Lord reassures you.
How do we know we are eternal beings? Jesus one day near the close of His sojourn here stood and cried out to the Jerusalem crowd:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:51 NIV
But what does “forever” mean?
According to Aristotle, this word means,
“Having of all time no beginning and no end. The complete summation of … time … is called “forever.” According to this idea, all that encompasses the heavens, and time and infinity has always been known to be: “without death and divine.”
Huh!?!? Okay my translation is rough. I apologize for pulling up short on my education.
According to Philo: Time is the life force of the cosmos; “forever” the life force of God. Proclus in his theology (5 AD) argued: Always is not perpetual but temporal, whereas the word “perpetual” is “forever.”
I guess I needed just one more year of college to more fully appreciate the Classics. Kittell’s theological dictionary (Kittell volume 1 page 198) pontificated:
Only in the light of the context can it be said whether “forever” means “eternal” in the strict sense or simply “remote” or “extended” or “uninterrupted time.”
The problem, as I see it, is that we tend to think of eternity in terms of time when in fact eternity is mutually exclusive of time. Even Aristotle’s use of “always” (which stems from the same word as our word “forever”) makes his reasoning circular and we are not sure if like the Latin term, aevum, he is referring to “life” or “life force” or “lifetime.”
And what might the formula: “Forever AND ever” mean? (Galatians 1:5) How can we add 1 second more unto “eternity”? (“From eternity to eternity”?)
Kittell again concludes:
The Old Testament uses our word “forever” to translate different Hebrew terms, among which the most important always contain the idea of prolonged time, and referring only to hidden or distant time belonging to the remote inscrutable past or future from the standpoint of the present.
It is often correctly translated “days of old.” Perhaps, the best word in English to use for “forever” is “epoch” or “ages” (The ages to come, etc.) So, how are we to understand “eternity” as ascribed to God? Kittell, again,
“In the older writings of the Old Testament, there is a very simple concept of eternity. The being of God reaches back into times past. God has always been. Hence he is the “God of old,” as we are really to construe our word (Genesis 21: 33). Again He always will be. In contrast to men, who are subject to death (Genesis 6:3), he is the living God Deuteronomy 5:26.”
This is all so philosophical, so metaphysical. I have often wondered why a God who is from eternity past waited so long to make man for companionship. [haha] We tend to leave this part, “forever past” out of our debates since, in all honesty, we cannot wrap our brains around this concept. And that’s the rub! In John 9:32, the NIV translators chose to drop the phrase “since the world began” (this is a translation of our word “forever”) which is correctly found in the KJV and the original. We are creatures locked in time and our language even betrays are limited ability to fathom the idea of “forever.” Even science when it hits this wall, it runs out of math.
This does not mean that forever is not for real or that God does not exist. In fact, if God were a figment of our philosophical imaginations, the term “forever” would probably be a well-defined term to us—but it isn’t.
There is an intuitive understanding that somehow this life is not all there is and when we become believers in Christ and read John 6:51 we are almost overcome with the exciting sense and conviction that this is true. (2 Timothy 1:12) Even though we have little idea what God is talking about or what He has in store for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9), our hope is very much alive and well. We just need a new language to say it!
What I am about to say is not intended to be controversial much less theological. This is just a thought born out of decades of ministry and a continuing commitment to be faithful to the conviction that ministry wrought in me. Listening to the words of “I Surrender All” during a worship service, I was suddenly struck with how accurately these words represent what I have come to call the “infilling” of God’s Spirit as a second work of grace. The words are different but somehow the thought is the same.
I am acutely aware of how theology counters this revelation (if, indeed, it is a revelation that surrendering all of one’s self and being Spirit-filled must be the same thing.) I pastored both in the pentecostal faith and the baptist faith where there is not only disagreement about the role “Speaking in Tongues” plays but whether or not there is a “second” work of grace necessary after salvation. This controversy knows no limits having become the subject of the interpretation of even the grammatical phrase used by pentecostals in support of their doctrine. Dana and Mantey provide a baptist grammar in support of their position; Machen is used by the pentecostals for theirs. (And I thought grammar was neutral territory.)
Then one day on the overhead were these words by CeCe Winans
All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live
All to Jesus I surrender
Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken
Take me, Jesus, take me now,
All to Jesus I surrender
Make me Savior wholly thine
May Thy Holy Spirit fill me
May I know Thy power divine
I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all
Without pushing verses of Scripture at my reader, let me only mention:
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Ephesians 5:18-21
(This section is followed by exhortations to marital fidelity which may be a change of subject. I leave this to the theologians.)
My thought is somewhere in a no-man’s land of denominational teachings. But I “gave at the office” of decades of honoring denominational positions and distinctions which no longer are required of me. At the same time: I discourage anyone simply agreeing with me outright. It would be ill-advised to confuse God’s people with the rambling opinion of an old man. I encourage you to stay with your teaching on this subject. I, on the other hand, am “released” to encourage the few who, oddly, might find my thoughts a blessing.
I am glad pentecostalism still encourages “tongues-speaking” as a biblically endorsed form of worship. But no one assumes for a nano-second that Baptist people who love the Lord are not totally inside the will of God with an inspired message of Divine love—even though they have all but discarded any interest in “tongues.” My opinion is that “tongues-speaking” is an experience that should not define our theology. I also think there are times when “speaking in tongues” coincides with the “infilling.” Pentecostals call “tongues=speaking” the initial evidence of being filled with the Spirit. As far as “evidence” goes, I would caution making “tongues” the benchmark experience. Acts 1:8 seems to say that that role belongs to the empowerment to witness.
I don’t like the word “second” as if there is not a “third” or more. “Second” in pentecostal lingo means simply “after” salvation. But what is “after” salvation (the Pentecostals are right about this)—as well as part of it (the Baptists are correct about this) is not “tongues” but the “infilling” or that place and time of total and complete surrender to the Spirit of God. As Winans penned, it is the place of giving everything we have and are to Him, of an abandoned trust in His faithfulness, regardless of circumstances, of a marked disinterest in what this world offers for happiness and pleasure, of a humble resignation to His will. Being Spirit-filled is the impassioned cry of a meek heart, “Lord, I am yours!” As Winans summed it up:
May Thy Holy Spirit fill me/May I know Thy power divine
An old tract published by the Westminster Press out of Lancaster, PA had described this as a desire to launch out a thousand miles from everything and everyone to be lost to the world in His presence. It is possible to drift from this sense of closeness to the Lord. The world is too much with us. Surrender is a constant need.
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. – Hebrews 2:1
We tend to slip away from this position and through prayer we need to return to it. It is like lifting weights for muscle tone which we can lose when we stop lifting them for any length of time.
I enjoyed sitting in a Baptist worship service and listening to the congregation singing a pentecostal song we sang years ago. I may be wrong about this but perhaps God is slowly taking an eraser to the line of teaching that separates us.
While in prayer, my thoughts gravitated toward Romans 12:2
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
I am not going to tear this verse down using Greek words, although, that has been my modus operandi while a young man digging into the Book I love. I wanted to learn all I could about God. Instead, here, no Greek, just the thoughts of a septuagenarian whose love for God’s Word is as excited as it was when I held that first Bible gifted to me as a child. It will be your privilege to affirm or correct my thoughts.
This verse came to me in prayer because our youngest is heading to an interview today for full-time ministry and my prayer is that not only would God’s good pleasure, His desire, His will, be done in this situation—and my son’s life—but that my son and daughter-in-law together would be able to affirm that it is so. This is never a “given” for a christian, else, Paul would not have had to say what he said here.
Many christians, dare I say it, are mentality and, consequently, in life style, too much a part of their current culture. I do not speak of culture as simply the context of a peaceful and meaningful life. I speak of the socially acceptable aspects that we would call “worldly” that endorse sinful practices which displease God. I speak of a frame of mind that God has clearly sought to correct in us. Be not conformed to this world. Be not think like this world thinks. Do not be comfortably a part of this world to the exclusion of what God wants for your life, to the exclusion of participating in His desires toward you.
But to reach this point we may need some form of mental transformation. We need to rethink, relearn, we shape our perspective on life, on our own life. From childhood into adulthood, our minds to one degree or another, have been trained to think of our experiences in a way foreign from God’s way of seeing them. We fail to appreciate what God allows and what He accomplishes in our lives because our mindset, our worldview, our perspective on things that happen to us has been in part formed by our culture, our environment, academia, or in some cases by abuse, grief, and pain.
We need to be renewed in mind. My 1 year old granddaughter does not need to be renewed. She comes “new” with, what I call, an innocent faith. She is more capable of understanding God’s will for her life as acceptable, perfect and good than we are because there are no preconceived forms of logic interfering with that understanding. The drawback for her would be knowing these words but this isn’t a matter knowledge but of faith. It isn’t the words themselves that should be our focus, but the God who spoke them. My granddaughter is showered with love and she is constantly laughing. She is a happy child. Should we be happy children of God. [Is that not what the Beatitudes are saying?]. Shouldn’t we be able to say, Lord, if you accept it for me, I accept it, too. If you ask me to go there, I pray I shall be as excited to go. I this is what you want of my life, I pray you help me to want it joyfully, too.
God’s “will” for us is three-fold. It is good for us. God will never lead us where His grace cannot keep us. Jeremiah reminded us [Jere 29:11]
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
His will is perfect for us, it fits our personality, our talents, our abilities, and our preparation for it. It is our virtue, our goodness, what we do best. [2 Peter 1:5]. God’s will for our life is the best thing that could happen to us in terms of our sense of achievement, success, accomplishment, fulfillment, meaningfulness, peace, to name a few.
We have to reach the place with a renewed way of thinking to say to the Lord, “Lord, I want it!” We need to learn to accept His will for us. There are many challenges to this simple fact: fear, laziness, still needing God to work on our minds. We may be scarred from an abusive past or so deeply committed to things we should never have gotten involved with in the first place to find an easy way out and back to God’s will.
I just finished Sharyl Attkisson’s book, “The Smear:How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote.” It is one of a dozen books I have been reading (both liberal and conservative) which detail—as I see it—a conflict between a revived nationalism, America first, and a globally recognized socialism.
“The Smear” is a major, organized effort to control the narrative in the media or the public’s consciousness to marginalize any person or group interested in nationalism. The narrative or meme is an ideology that, allegedly, addresses more effectively global social and economic concerns.
Nationalism, distinct from globalism, is not a world-wide interest but one that puts country first. Anyone of any importance who tends toward a more patriotic nationalism may find themselves in the crosshairs of smear techniques designed to discredit and marginalize them, and eventually, politically silence them. (Even raising this issue as a legitimate discussion in a public forum must be discouraged because this would give the average citizen an intelligent voice which itself is the ultimate right of a free and democratic nationalism.) Smearing in this context is pushing socialism on an unwary public, slowly converting the way they think to accept it.
Some have become professional in reputation defamation and character assassination. This is the stuff conspiracy theories are made of. There is an ongoing fierce battle politically and socially, using the media, and perhaps, weaponizing intelligence and other government agencies to capture the minds of the masses. We might be asked eventually by our vote to relinquish any further serious need for that vote!
I didn’t see it until reading a few more books written by a few journalists and economists, smart people, who documented their works, that Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Social media, and many multi-billion dollar businesses are globalists in this sense. They appear altruistic but the real truth is that their wealth is tied up in offshore tax-free accounts and a global market that promises to make them wealthier. Much of their investments is in other countries.
As we promote the worthy social vision of “equalitarianism,” raising the social and economic status of the poor around the world, pouring in billions of free U.S. dollars, companies, formerly part of a U.S. economy, are leaving our shores for distant ones to get richer. Nationalism which favors one’s own country and a democracy built on free enterprise—not socialism—promotes an ideology counter intuitive to these more global corporate interests.
“And what does this have to do with the Bible and Christianity?” You ask, knowing that I eventually would go there. Isn’t the Bible in favor of helping the poor out of their poverty? It says of the earliest form of Christian benevolence, “They had all things in common.” [Acts 2:44-45]. In fact, I endorse the Biblical approach to meeting the needs of the poor—even if equalitarianism might be a pipe dream. I maintain that the benefits and blessings of Christ (material and spiritual) recognize no race, gender, or any other artificial human categorization or status. [Galatians 3:28] I am more a socialist in tone according to some of the liberals I have worked beside over the years. And yet Christianity stands to be “smeared” for two reasons:
One, as with the early church, we want a free choice to give [Acts 5:4], which is a democratic idea—not have our resources taken from us by a government that purports to care about the poor without a trustworthy track record of caring.
And secondly, and more importantly, democracy and christianity share a common sense of freedom: democracy from tyranny and christianity from sin. The link between blind justice and grace should not be overlooked. As the late President Reagan reminded us in His “Last Best Hope” speech:
“Freedom prospers only where the blessings of God are avidly sought and humbly accepted. The American experiment in democracy rests on this insight…. …this experiment in liberty, this last best hope of man…” – President Reagan
“Smearing” is a carefully calculated form of lying, using propaganda and misinformation to educate thinking people in accepting false premises and conclusions designed to discredit, trivialize, and ultimately disenfranchise someone. It is the ultimate way of winning an argument on the public stage. That “stage” might be the church. The ideology in question might be a church vision or a corporate goal or a doctrinal inquiry over issues not clarified in the congregation’s consciousness. It might condense down to a disagreement between a pastor and a board member which the parishioners get light of and through gossip channels and secret meetings a good christian is ostracized. They no longer have the sense of fellowship that initially drew them to this church. They have been smeared.
Smearing is a another word for “the lie.” Smearing someone we oppose either because of their politics or because we don’t subscribe to their religious tenets—or for any other reason—is only possible because we have become expert at hyperbole and deception—at lying. We know how to lie and by mere repetition have it eventually sound truthful. Regarding those we oppose, unless they are the devil incarnate, if they are impassioned about their ideology or faith, there has to be even a little truth in what they are promoting—even if we contend that most of it is gobbledygook. Incidentally, they feel the same way about us!
Simple and unbiased truth, then, is the smear-a-cide that kills the lie. But who is unbiased!?
Without wanting to document it here (too dark), I observe in reading and writing that there is available a plethora of terms to describe “the lie,” disparaging or derogatory remarks. [James 3:6] It is easier to express hate than love almost as if it were a more natural and spontaneous expression of the self. For a christian, it takes a Christlikeness or a closeness to the Spirit to avoid this pitfall [Galatians 5:22-23]—and that is not “a given” in today’s politically charged world.
The Scripture delineates the lie as a list of verbiage: shaming, putting another down, belittling, insulting, slandering, blurting out misplaced sarcasm, condemning, speaking evil of someone, projecting blame, [whew!] accusing (which is Satan’s job), humiliating, using abusive language. Some of these terms, though, seem mild compared to their modern counterparts. We have, as a civilized people gotten quite good at being verbally hurtful—even without expletives. Some christians, even in democracies, are beginning to wonder where this is going. Are we close to our Lord’s return?
According to the prophet Zephaniah [Zephaniah 1:12] there are those who think, ‘The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad’” about such abuse. “God is not involved,” they [atheists, and deists among others.] say, “neither will He get involved.” They imagine that He does not see any need to interfere or intervene in the affairs of this life. They “neither seek the Lord nor inquire of him.” [Zephaniah 1:6]
Ah, but wait! The burden of the prophet is to warn a world of hurting people how untrue this supposition is. Consider what Jesus concluded:
Blessed are you when people defame you, hunt you down and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. – Jesus. [Matthew 5:11]
God may seem not to care much about political races. I get that. Partisanship engenders intense levels of passion and has divided our nation, but there is a line we dare not cross if we don’t want Him involved. If a believer is thrown into the furnace prepared—in a sense—seven times hotter by the connivances of hatefulness and embittered feelings, we need not be surprised seeing another in there with them likened to the “Son of God.” (I trust you understand the reference: Daniel 3:24-25) There are some whose hubris cannot understand this providential aspect of a caring God. [Zechariah 2:8; 8:17; 1 Peter 5:5]
Ultimately and most assuredly we can hope for and anticipate Zephaniah’s encouraging prophecy. [Zephaniah 3:13] He reassures those who trust in the Lord that a time is coming when in God’s kingdom (under His government), they “…will do no wrong [injustice and lawlessness].”
…and then the prophet prophesied, “they will tell no lies.”
Propaganda, misinformation, false reports, character assassinations, smears, and all forms of “the lie” purged from all our lips. “A deceitful tongue [false promises and words intended to lure, entrap, sting] will not be found in their mouths.” [Revelation 21:8]
Zephaniah 1:14 The great day of the Lord is near—near and coming quickly. The cry on the day of the Lord is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry. :15 That day will be a day of wrath— a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness— :16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. 3:10 From beyond the rivers of Cush [the Nile] my worshipers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings. :13 They will do no wrong; they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.” :17 The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” :19 At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they have suffered shame. :20 At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes [captivity] before your very eyes,” says the Lord. [NIV]
We need to take a few steps back from the immediate context of Judah in Babylonian captivity to see into the spiritual realm where God’s people need rescuing from this evil age. The message, in other words, is eschatological as well as historical. God’s people will return not just to the Old Jerusalem but to the New One as well.
The prophet makes no mention of God’s people as the sheep of His fold. [Psalms 23] The reason I choose to describe Judah’s salvation as a rescued lost lamb? Jesus did. [Mt. 18:12-13; Jn 10:7, 11, 27; 21:17]. I am also more comfortable with the Hebrew term translated “lie down” in 3:13, which the lexicon tells us is “used of quadrupeds.” In Genesis 29:2 it is used specifically of sheep. The word “eat” here means “to graze.” Also, the words “scattered” in 3:10, “oppressed” and “lame” in 3:19 remind me of Matthew 9:36. These are only a few of the many scriptures using this analogy.
Zephaniah prophesied of Israel’s—and by extension all God’s children’s—ultimate restoration. As Walter Brueggmann summarized,
It is the same “warrior” who makes a future for Israel who had terminated Israel’s present. – [“An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2012. p 279]
Zephaniah 1:15 uses troubling language: 2 words for tribulation (no way out) “That day will be a day of wrath— a day of distress and anguish, 2 words to speak of total ruin, a wasteland “a day of trouble and ruin, and 3 word to describe absolute darkness (spiritual and in every other way) a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness
The Scriptures intertwine, though, for one cannot talk of restoration without talk of peace. And even though the word SHALOM, peace, is not on the prophet’s lips, it is the beat of his heart. As Micah said it:
Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken. Micah’s 4:4
There are other lessons here. I tried to put some in a poem, but the one overarching one to take away is that God discovered us in the “lost [life ] & found.” [Luke 15:4]
Zephaniah is the prophetic account of a nation that had to discover that the only way to gain tomorrow was to lose today. God had to allow circumstances to humble them, to purge them of a pride that kept them from trusting Him.
But I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the LORD. Zephaniah 3:12
Jesus gave us this lesson on perhaps a sunnier day while picnicking on some remote hillside. We listened enthusiastically hanging on His every word, though, perhaps, we may have failed to understand the dynamic in such an idea:
Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. Luke 17:33
This life and its sufferings are not what its ultimately all about. [Matthew 5:10-12; 6:20; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18] The Beatitudes may have been an early lesson in such truth. It was John, perhaps, who first perceived what the Savior was promoting.
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:25
“Lose …hate”!? To lose means to waste, ruin, render useless. Hate is, well, hate! But somethings are proper to hate. I like to freely translate this:
Whoever finds this world a friend will waste their life instead of investing it in God. [a lose that is eternal] while whoever finds friendship with this world, and its lack of godliness, abhorrent [Philippians 3:20] will guard their lives [1 Corinthians 9:27] onto eternal life. [2 Timothy 4:18]
There is a Hebrew word which means “to take refuge” that is consistently translated “to trust” in the King James Version. There is a difference in meaning between the two ideas. So, you can imagine my surprise to find such a rarity.The word “trust” has a long history signifying a sense of security originally based on the economy (the “haves” had security; the “have nots” didn’t) and then eventually for those devoted to God, on knowing Him who—as we say—owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Knowing that the Lord provides (Jehovah-Jireh) brings a sense of peace.
Even the common term “Peace” (SHALOM) was tied to ones’s health and prosperity, not just a time of no war. The ancients were tied to the land. They had a natural inclination to rely on natural resources—not the Lord—for any sense of personal security. National security included an army, whether their own or through an alliance with another nation.
Even with us, devoted to God as we might be, “trust” in God could be just a religious concept that during times of prosperity we do not need to learn. Our faith in God might be more a belief or a commitment to church than a genuine and necessary dependence on God for sustenance and support.
Isaiah gave these terms new meaning when he tied our trust and peace solely to a relationship with the Lord. This is a lesson often learned in times of want when we are absolutely dependent on God.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3
We also are dependent on certain emotional/spiritual resources like “being loved,” “christian fellowship,” and the “encouragement/support of others to remain faithful to God.” We require these even if our finances are comfortably in order.
So I was surprised to read even in the NIV of Nahum 1:7 the word “to trust” instead of “to take refuge.”
The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.
A far better translation would be the NASB:
The LORD is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble,
And He knows those who takerefuge in Him.
The word is found 37 times in the Old Testament and each time the King James Version translates it “trust” when it means “take refuge”
Psalm 91:4 reads in the KJV:
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
but the NIV reads better:
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
The NIV reads more naturally, metaphorically calling God’s protection his wings. (Like a mother eagle protecting her eaglets or a hen her chicks.) This is the point: This word speaks of fleeing to the Lord for protection from circumstances that might otherwise harm or ruin us. The context of both Psalm 91 and Nahum’s prophecy is fraught with danger and trouble. It isn’t a statement of faith alone that is required here but an action: fleeing to the Lord for protection. We flee to Him because we trust Him, but flee we must to survive spiritually as well as in any natural sense.
Isaiah 30:1-2 makes this point clearer:
“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the LORD, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge!” [KJV: to trust in the shadow of Egypt!]
Judah didn’t just hope that Pharaoh would come to the rescue, they didn’t just trust in Egyptian military might to shoo away the Assyrians. They went to Egypt and formed an alliance, etc.
God wants us to form that alliance with His Spirit, with Him. Trust is a passive idea, while taking refuge for a believer is active: praying, remaining faithful to God, and living a Christ-centric faith: Christian love in action.
You might want to call “taking refuge under His wing” an active trust or active faith. ..and rightly so…
God … is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Proverbs 30:5
“…words often contain a witness for great moral truths—God having impressed such a seal of truth upon language, that men are continually uttering deeper things than they know…” Richard C. Trench. On the Study of the Words Lectures.
And every African tribal language that I came to know of, the concept “to pray”was translated simply as “to ask for.” That really doesn’t cover the full dimension of prayer at all especially not Christian prayer. [Donovan Vincent J., Christianity Rediscovered. p. 99]
Moffat in his Missionary Labors and Scenes in South Africa gives us a very remarkable example of the disappearing of one of the most significant words from the language … the disappearing as well of the great spiritual …truth whereof that word was at once the vehicle and the guardian. The Bechuanas … employed formerly the word ’Morimo,’ to designate ’Him that is above,’ or ’Him that is in Heaven,” and attached to the word the notion of a supreme Divine Being… Thus is it the ever repeated complaint of the Missionary that the very terms are well nigh or wholly wanting in the dialect … whereby to impart to him heavenly truths, or indeed even the nobler emotions of the human heart. [Richad C. Trench Synonyms of the New Testament pg 197]
The pictorial power of the Hebrew language is seldom exhibited more clearly than in connection with the various aspects of evil. Every word is a piece of philosophy; nay, it is a revelation. The observer of human affairs is painfully struck by the wearisomeness of life, and by the amount of toil and travail which the children of men have to undergo to obtain a bare existence; he sees the hollowness, vanity, and unreality of much that seems bright and charming at first; The Hebrew Bible meets us with a full acknowledgement of these manifold aspects of human suffering, and blends wrong doing and suffering to a remarkable degree, setting forth sin in its relation to God, to society, and to a man’s own self. [Girdlestone, Robert B. Synonyms of the Old Testament. Page 76]