Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Christ, the Cross, and the Crimson Worm

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the midst of the darkness, Jesus cried from the cross and then gave up His spirit. With these words, He was fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 22, which was written a thousand years before the crucifixion.

The psalm refers to men who mocked and exclaimed that He should save Himself. It tells of His bones being out of joint, His hands and feet being pierced, and His tongue cleaving to the roof of His mouth from thirst. The psalm also tells about the soldiers who cast lots for His garments.

Jesus fulfilled all of this. But in verse 6 of this psalm, He cries out, “But I am a worm, and not a man.” Why did He call Himself a worm? How odd in the midst of this prophecy to say such a thing. Was it because a worm is a lowly creature that could only wiggle and crawl around. Was it to show His total humiliation?

That is probably so, but it is much more. The Hebrew word for this worm is tola, as opposed to rimmah, the word for maggot that is used in most other places in the Bible. A tola worm is the crimson or scarlet worm that lives in the Middle East.

The life cycle of the tola worm sheds even deeper meaning on this psalm. When the female is ready to give birth, she attaches herself to a specific tree so permanently that she can never leave, and she dies as she gives birth. Jesus told His disciples that no one could take His life from Him, but He would lay it down willingly (John 10:18).

This worm secretes a red dye as she deposits her eggs directly beneath her body. The dye covers her, the tree, and the eggs permanently. The young are stained for life. For three days, if the worm and eggs are scraped from the tree, the dye can be harvested and used to color fabrics. On the fourth day, however, the shell of the female has dried and turned white as snow. It falls to the ground as a wax, which can be harvested as a shellac or preservative.

I cannot help but equate this psalm to the torture of Christ on the cross, the mocking of the soldiers, and the three days that Jesus was in the tomb – only to rise as described in Matthew 27. These parallels are striking, but there are more not mentioned here. The study of God’s Word and His plan of salvation is an amazing one, but may we remember that He tells us:

“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ponder in Your Heart

Imagine. Ordinary, monotonous days. Did you ever wonder what it was like to be a shepherd on the night that Jesus was born? 
            You would have been out in the countryside somewhere;     
            the stars were probably out.
You were watching over your sheep, and the night was oh, so quiet.
            Imagine. Just an ordinary evening.

When all of a sudden an angel of the Lord appeared and the glory of the Lord shone round about. This had never happened before. So spectacular was this sight that you were frightened out of your skin. But the angel told you not to be afraid because he brought good news of a Savior being born. That ordinary day turned into a spectacular evening and a great multitude joined the angel praising God. Then they were gone.

You looked at your shepherd friends;
          maybe you scratched your head;
            you might have shrugged your shoulders,
            wondering what your friends thought. In an instant you knew.
You grabbed your shepherd’s hook and hurried off to Bethlehem to see this great event for yourself, and you found Mary and Joseph and the baby. You witnessed the birth of the Savior.

This night was so special, so unusual, you told everyone you saw of the sights and the message. Then, you went back to your sheep,
            back to the countryside, back to the quiet.
            Nothing more happened.
            Day after day, more ordinary days.

But that one ordinary day had turned into a night of fulfilled prophecy and spectacular heavenly sights – and then, nothing. Life went on, one day after another.

Was it the same for Mary and Joseph? In the midst of the census and birth of the Son, their lives were changed forever, but most days were just ordinary days. Life moved along – but Luke tells us in his gospel that Mary pondered these things in her heart.
            In fact, he mentions it twice in his gospel.
            Why did he repeat this?
            Do you suppose he wanted to be sure these Jewish people noticed it?
            Why would that be important?

These words may have meant more to the Jews at that time than we realize. Do you suppose they remembered Daniel 7:28 – “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale: but I kept the matter to myself” - in my heart.
            Why would Luke allude to this verse?

Daniel had just received a vision of four empires; then he told of one like the Son of Man coming and receiving an everlasting kingdom.
            The verse right before the one Luke alludes to says, “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.”

Daniel and the Israelites waited – one ordinary day after another, God was silent for more than 400 years. Then, Jesus was born;
            the shepherds saw the angel and heard the promise of a Savior.
            And then, they settled back into one ordinary day after another.

More years passed and that baby grew and emerged from that ordinary life and changed the world forever.
            Three short years He walked the countryside,
            taught the people,
            and worked His miracles.

These were not ordinary days. After 400 years, God was speaking to the people again; but they crucified this Jesus and He was gone.
             Life went on – but it was different this time. Life would never be the same. God had returned to His people and they were changed.

Jesus’ birth was a partial fulfilling of Daniel’s prophecy.
            Maybe Luke’s reference to Mary keeping those events in her heart was meant to remind us of Daniel keeping the matter in his heart and the prophecy of the kingdom that was to follow.
Maybe it was to assure us that all those prophecies will be fulfilled - in time.

Life seems to go on and on. Many ordinary days tied together, but God is still working His plan, marching through time in these ordinary days. How blessed the Jews must have been to understand the full meaning of Luke’s words. May we likewise understand His Word to as we ponder these things in our hearts.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

What Did They Know?

           Why did the wise men bring Myrrh? Gold and frankincense were for a king, but Myrrh? What did they know?
           Myrrh was precious – more valuable than gold itself. But, this gift spoke of death. What did they know?

           Myrrh seeps from the cut in a small tree. The branch is wounded, and sap oozes out in tear-shaped droplets. The Myrrh is not sweet and fragrant, but bitter. It represents suffering and sorrow. It was used for embalming dead bodies. Why bring a bitter, embalming liquid to a newborn king? What did they know?

           These wise men watched the skies and followed His star to Jerusalem. Did they see the virgin holding a baby in the heavens? Could they read the stars and see the truth? Did they understand God’s salvation for mankind?

          “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

           They brought Myrrh. Do you know what the wise men knew?

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Jamestown - An Experiment in Socialism

It’s October already! Then November! Harvest, Thanksgiving and Pilgrims. Reminds me of school days and lessons about our nation’s history.

Brave Englishmen sailed to the New World for a multitude of reasons – religious freedom, promise of gold, and expansion of the Empire. Some even came as indentured slaves, hoping to work for freedom.

Before the Pilgrims, King James I had granted a charter to the Virginia Company for land in the New World. Three ships set sail in 1607 – the Susan Constant, the God Speed, and the Discovery. They established the settlement of Jamestown in April. This community was not structured like the villages in England. All supplies and food were held in common and doled out as needed, but in spite of this, half of them had died by September.

When Captain John Smith recognized that some were not working, he determined that if a man did not work, he should not eat. That helped, but did not provide the enough motivation. Real encouragement came in June of 1609 when six hundred people arrived with supplies. However, due to a gun powder explosion, Captain Smith was injured and had to return to England in September of that year.

By winter, the food was gone, and houses were run down. Rampant rumors of cannibalism surfaced. At the end of this winter, 1609-1610, known as the Starving Time, only sixty settlers had survived. As a last resort, under the direction of Sir Thomas Gates, they boarded a ship for England.

As they rounded the bend in the river, however, they met a longboat with supplies and people. Much to the dismay of the settlers, Sir Thomas Gates turned around and returned to the devastation of Jamestown. But the problems still existed. No one possessed his own farm land. A settler could be moved out of his house at the whim of those in power. With no sense of community, the people had very little incentive to work.

Captain Smith’s rule had not provided the motivation they needed. Other negative incentives brought the same results. Whippings were to no avail. In addition to the idleness of some people, those who were thrifty with what they grew became indignant when the common property (food) was given to those who did not contribute.

Faced with another catastrophic situation in the first American commune, Sir Thomas Gates allotted a parcel of land for each family and allowed them to keep their own corn. Personal incentives succeeded where force had failed. This applied private enterprise paved the way for tobacco farming which eventually made Jamestown a prosperous colony.   

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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Social Justice vs Biblical Justice Part II

God created us all different. We have various talents, aptitudes, and skills. Because of this, some individuals produce and earn more wealth than others. As social justice advocates obsess about eliminating all economic inequality, they are at war with the very nature of God’s creation.

This does not mean that we do not have to care for the needs of others. Scripture is very clear about that. It just does not say we should insist that the government take over what is our responsibility.

The Bible does not condemn economic inequality. The book of Proverbs makes it clear that some people are poor due to their own choices. There is nothing unjust with people reaping what they sow, whether wealth or poverty.

Neither did Jesus condemn this inequality. He did indeed warn about the trappings of material wealth; He commanded compassion toward the poor and suffering.

Jesus also told His disciples that they’d always have the poor with them. (Matthew 26:11) In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:24-30) He condemned the failure to use one’s God-given talents – whether many or few, exceptional or ordinary – by having a lord take money from the one who had the least and give it to him who had the most, thereby increasing economic inequality.

One more scriptural example concerns the general way that God works with mankind. In the Old Testament, God worked directly through the nation of Israel. If a person wanted to know God, he had to go through that one nation. 

After Israel rejected Christ as their Messiah, God turned to individuals, both Jews and Gentiles. We no longer come to God through a nation. God wants His work done by individual people.

If we, as individuals, demand that our government do the work that we should be doing, we are also going against God’s plan. Any money the government has must be taken from someone who earned it. That person then has less money to do the work that God called him to do.

The mission of our Lord Jesus Christ was to redeem us, not redistribute our property to create economic equality. Those who like to paint the conservatives with the brush of heartlessness miss the larger point. Conservatives care. They want more of their own money to do more of the work God has given them. They see the fallacy in demanding the government confiscate wealth with the purpose of providing for the needy. That removes the compassion and the poor are still poor.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Social Justice vs Biblical Justice Part I

I have struggled with the tenets of social justice for a long time. They sound good and right. We should care for the poor and hungry. I try to wrap my mind around the different approaches to caring for these people. In the end, I must come back to Scripture and consider what God has laid out for us.

Take the story of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10) A priest and a Levite chose to walk past a man who had been robbed, beaten and left to die. They even crossed over and passed on the other side.

When the Samaritan came by, however, he had compassion on him. He bound his wounds, placed him on his own beast, took him to an inn and cared for him. When he departed the next day, he paid the innkeeper, asked him to care for the injured man and promised to repay any additional costs.

Now, consider this: If the Samaritan had embraced “social justice,” he would have acted differently. He might have lobbied the government for aid to the injured. He would have argued that the robbers were the real victims due to an unjust economic system. He would have claimed they were oppressed by the capital class.

To bring justice to the oppressed, this Samaritan would have advocated a redistribution of wealth. He would suggest higher taxes on the rich to fund necessary social programs, thereby making society a more equitable place.

If this Samaritan were a social justice advocate, he would probably not pay this man’s medical bills, but would demand that the community, state or the rich should pay them. He would remind us that this is an example of class struggle where we are all victims of an unjust system. Rather than doing something to help the poor man, he demonstrates as a “voice of the voiceless” and works toward social change.

In the end, this is not so much about helping the wounded man as it is about using him - using him to make a case for wealth redistribution.

Biblical justice, on the other hand, does not have the dismantling of class structure as its primary goal. Evil is condemned, but evil occurs at all levels of society. Leviticus 19:15 tells us “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge you neighbor fairly.”

To quote Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson, “Biblical Justice not only means that nobody is to be picked on because he is poor or favored because he is rich, but that (contrary to the doctrine of social justice) nobody is to be picked on because he is rich or favored because he is poor.”

He goes on to state, “The fundamental error of today’s social justice practitioners is their hostility to economic inequality, per se. Social justice theory fails to distinguish between economic disparities that result from unjust deeds and those that are part of the natural order of things. All Christians oppose unjust deeds…But it isn’t necessarily unjust for some people to be richer than others.”

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Diary of a Muzzleloader Hunter

I don’t hunt. I don’t read outdoor magazines. I don’t even own a gun. So, why would I read a book about a Muzzleloader Hunter?

Simple - friendship. When a friend of yours from college lets on that he kept a diary while hunting in the UP with his buddies AND you are a writer, the most natural thing is to encourage him to turn it into a book. Miracle of miracles – he did. So, I read it.

What a fun read! In his unique voice Dave shares his feelings and frustrations as he takes the reader on a wilderness hunt with his muzzleloader. Day by day he introduces his friends and shows us the land. As he tracks his big one, he teaches us about the area – the hills, the swamp and the forestation.

Dave’s book, however, is not about teaching us the ins and outs of muzzleloader hunting. It is a book about friendship and camaraderie. It is about loving the land. It is about tradition.

Year after year, Dave returns – often with the same friends, sometimes with new ones. All have a love for the hunt and the land. Year after year, conditions vary – sometimes cold and snowy, sometimes warm and snow free. Year after year, the deer herd changes; numbers change; gender ratios change.

Dave shows us a progression with the hunts and the hunters. We get a sense of moving through the time with him. We know the book will end, but how will he finish in a satisfying way? It is a diary after all. Dave has managed to bring it to a gratifying conclusion. Thank you Dave for sharing this and allowing us to be a part of it.

Copies are available from Dave at muzzleloader1979@gmail.com

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