Friday, February 5, 2016

The Structure of Ruth, the 8th Book of the Bible

The 8th book of the Bible is Ruth. The name means friendship (possibly) or mercy. We don’t know by whom it was written, but it is generally credited to Samuel as is the book of Judges. (Ruth was originally part of the book of Judges.)
Let’s start with Chapter 1 verses 1 through 17:
1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
 3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. 6 When Naomi heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
 8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law,

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Structure of Judges, the 7th Book of the Bible

"Zayin" is the 7th Hebrew letter and means weapon or sword. In Modern Hebrew it means to be armed and that is the primary theme of the 7th book, Judges.
Judges, (Shof’tim in the Hebrew) takes its name from the 13 men raised up to deliver Israel in the falling away and division following the death of Joshua. It was probably written by Samuel. Judges, the 7th book, records 7 apostasies, 7 servitudes to 7 heathen nations and 7 deliverances. Key verses are 2:16-19, 17:6 and 21:25 and I’ve bolded some important parts:
 16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the LORD’s commands. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
 25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
That’s right, chapters 17 and 21 reiterate the same thing. I think this helps us a lot to understand why the Bible has so much of what those who criticize the Bible call senseless violence and bloodshed. After the death of

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Structure of Joshua, the 6th Book of the Bible

Joshua, the 6th book, acts as the 6th Hebrew letter "vav" does in that it links the first 5 books of Moses, which lead Israel up to Canaan, with the 12 succeeding books, which cover Israel’s history inside Canaan.
Joshua’s name means salvation. In Hebrew it is Y’hoshua, the 1st of the 12 books of OT history.
Joshua records the consummation of the redemption of Israel out of Egypt. The book is divided into 4 parts: the conquest, the partition of the inheritance, developing discord, and Joshua’s last counsels and his death.
Joshua records the passage of Israel from the wilderness where they wandered forty years to the Promised Land. There is powerful symbolism here. Moses the Lawgiver died, and Joshua, whose name is the equivalent of Jesus, led them through the “baptism” in the Jordan into the Promised Land. Does it sound like the gospel? Joshua was a helper to Moses. He led the army against the Amalekites. He went with Moses up Sinai mountain when God gave instructions about the ark. He was one of 12 who Moses sent in secret to look at the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb brought good news back. Joshua had faith that God would provide.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Structure of Deuteronomy (the Fifth Book of the Bible)

Deuteronomy means “a recapitulation of the law” or in Latin second (deutero) law (nomos).  In Hebrew this book is called d’varim which means “words” or “things”. It was written by Moses.
Deuteronomy holds the parting counsels of Moses just before they enter the Promised Land. There is a summary of the wilderness wanderings and a repeating of the Law (10 commandments, etc.). Warnings, instructions and prophecies follow and then we have Moses’s parting blessings and then his death.
Look at Deuteronomy 5: 7 – 21:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

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Friday, January 8, 2016

The Structure of Numbers (the fourth book of the Bible)

So far we’ve had Genesis, the book of the creation and fall, Exodus, the book of redemption, and Leviticus, the book of worship and fellowship. Now we get to Numbers, the book of service and walk.
Numbers records the population numbers of the Hebrews thus the title seems obvious. In Hebrew it is called B’midbar because the first words are “In the wilderness” (b’midbar), appropriate because it contains the 40 years of wandering. This book was written by Moses. Its major themes are that every servant (person) was numbered, knew his place in the family, and had his own definitely assigned service. Read Numbers 1:1-3 (bold added):
1The LORD spoke to Moses in the Tent of Meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. He said: 2 "Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. 3 You and Aaron are to number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army.
The book of Numbers can be divided into sections. The first 10 chapters show the preparation for the journey into the Promised Land. Read chapter 2 below (or at least scan the bold print I added):

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Structure of Leviticus (3rd book of the Old Testament)

Leviticus (Va’yikra in Hebrew) means “and He called,” which is how verse one starts. We call this book Leviticus because it records the duties of the Levites. The Hebrew title is representative of the content and purpose of the book, namely the calling of God’s people, and in particular the calling of the Levites, to minister before Him.
This book was written by Moses and its major themes are like an instruction manual for morals and ethics. There are civil, sanitary, ceremonial, moral and religious regulations for the nation of Israel. There are also instructions for making offerings (burnt, meat, peace, sin, trespass, grain). We have the ordination of Aaron and his son, rules and laws for purification, regulations for atonement, rules for sexual relationships, provisions for festivals, and final instructions and warnings.
All the offerings, as well as the ceremonies and laws, served to constantly remind Israel that God is eminently holy. God could be approached only by the priests, and then only in strict obedience to the detailed instructions for purification.  God required the sacrifice of innocent animals for the covering of man’s sin. These sacrifices were symbolic of the ultimate sacrifice (Jesus) which would take away the sin of the whole world.
What’s really interesting is that in Leviticus you’ll find some “divine warnings.”

Friday, December 25, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Ten Commandments

Read Exodus chapter 20. The first commandment is basically “I am Adonai your God” (The Hebrew word here is

which you could pronounce as Yahweh or Jehovah though there's no "j" sound in Hebrew, but Jews replace this sacred name by saying Adonai or HaShem). If you started reading at verse 1 of chapter 20 then you know that God “spoke” all these words: the commandments. He starts with this implicit fact that He is our God.
“You shall not have other gods before me.” Literally, it says “before my face”, implying forever and everywhere, since God is omnipresent and eternal.
“You shall not take the name of Adonai your God in vain.” This commandment prohibits the voicing of the Lord’s name in an empty or useless way. Did you read that? Do not say “oh my God”! It has become a habit for too many people and it breaks my heart when I hear anyone and especially small children repeating this phrase.
“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Set it apart. The Sabbath should be special. Heed God’s word, after all He spends several verses on this one command explaining that you should not work on the Sabbath.
“Honor your father and your mother.” Now the commands switch from being about our relationship with God to being about our relationship with others. Notice that this command to honor your parents continues with a blessing for you if you obey. Read verse 12 and see what you will get if you honor your father and your mother.
“You shall not murder.” If your translation says “kill” it is wrong. That is too broad a word. The actual Hebrew implies illegal killing only, hence murder. This commandment does not prohibit justified killing or killing in war.
“You shall not commit adultery.” Could that be any clearer?
“You shall not steal.” Stealing implies a lack of trust that God will supply all of our needs.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This commandment is implicit in our lives if we live by the truth.
“You shall not covet” and this goes on to list the things that you shall not covet: your neighbor’s house, wife, servants, ox, donkey, or anything he owns. To covet is to have a selfish desire or even lust.
The commandments are given in Deuteronomy 5 as well. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Structure of Exodus

The book of Exodus gets its name from the exodus that occurred, but the Hebrew name is based on the first word of this book, Sh’mot, which means names.  Look at your Bible and see how the book starts with the names of the sons of Israel. This book was written by Moses and records the redemption out of Egyptian bondage.

Other major themes are the giving of the Law and the provisions of sacrifice and priesthood. You could divide the book into three sections: 
1st, Israel in Egypt and under bondage for 400 years; 
2nd, moving from the Red Sea to Sinai and God making the covenant with Israel through the Ten Commandments; 
3rd, Israel at Sinai and the construction and consecration of the Tabernacle, the house of the Lord.

Exodus teaches that redemption is essential to a relationship with the most Holy God. Even a redeemed people cannot have fellowship with Him unless they are constantly cleansed and purified from corruption, defilement, and transgressions (sin).

Let’s look specifically at The Plagues. (See chapters 7 through 11.) There are nine plagues before the horrible 10th plague that culminated in the Passover. The plagues were 1) Blood in the Nile, 2) Frogs, 3) Gnats, 4) Flies, 5) Death of Livestock, 6) Boils, 7) Hail, 8) Locusts and 9) Darkness. Let’s take them in groups of three since they seem to cluster nicely that way. The first three were distressing and uncomfortable, but relatively minor compared to what was next. The second set of three were a bit more painful for the Egyptians and very destructive. The last three were dreadful. The plagues are an answer to Pharaoh’s question. Look at Exodus 5: 1-2:
 1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
 2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”

“Who is the LORD?” he asks. Well, the Lord God Almighty is going to make the answer pretty clear.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Big Bang Theory vs. Creationism

As I understand it, the scientists' Big Bang Theory begins with everything being as small as a pea and then blowing up. The universe expanded at a specific rate of expansion so that it is now 1,000,000,000,000 times larger. That huge number with 12 zeroes is actually one million squared. Scientists also say that the Big Bang happened about 15 and 3/4 billion years ago. Whoa, too many years ago for me to fathom, but I'll accept it because ...

... because the Big Bang Theory coordinates with Scripture in the following way:

God created things on the (literal) 6 days as described in Genesis. Yes, I can believe that, too. 6 days, 24 hours each. But, at the scientific rate of expansion of the universe that first day is now seen from our perspective as 8 billion years long. The second day, with a little less time to expand, is now 4 billion years long, the third day is 2 billion, fourth day 1 billion, fifth day one half billion and sixth day one quarter billion. See how that worked out? And it totals up to [drum roll] 15 and 3/4 billion years.

So, if you had trouble with those numbers then think of a radio wave message being sent out into outer space at the rate of one per day as the universe expands. The following graphic may help.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Structure of Genesis

The word Genesis has become synonymous with beginnings. In Hebrew this book is called “Bereshith” meaning "in the beginning" because that’s how this book starts. It is generally believed that it was written by Moses, inspired by God, of course. The major themes of Genesis are beginnings and the self-revelation of God.  This is the book you read to find the stories of the creation, the fall and redemption of man, the story of Cain and Abel and then Cain and Seth, the great flood, the tower of Babel and the call of Abram (Abraham). There is the story of Lot and Sodom & Gomorrah, the lives of Isaac, Jacob and Esau and, finally, the story of Joseph
In Genesis we find that God makes several covenants with man: the Edenic Covenant (1:28), the Adamic Covenant (3:14), the Noahic Covenant (9:1), and the Abrahamic Covenant (15:18).
The first book of the Bible coordinates amazingly with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet: aleph. Verse 1 of Genesis says: “In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heaven and the earth.” The name Elohim starts with aleph, in fact many of God’s names start with this letter : El (God, Mighty One), El Shaddai (God Almighty), El Olam (God Everlasting), El Elyon (God Most High). Also many facets of God’s nature begin with this letter as well: love, light, truth, faith, Sovereign Lord. These are all Hebrew words that start with aleph.
Bear with me as I get a little deep here: When you write the three letters in Hebrew that spell “aleph” you get 3 different words - eleph which mean “ox” or “thousand”, alaph which means “teach”, “learn” or “tame”, and aluph which means “prince”, “chief”, “leader”, “master”, “ruler”, “guide” and “teacher”. The first one, eleph, may seem weird at first if you’re trying to relate the letters to Biblical symbolism. What has an ox to do with anything Biblical? Well, I'm going to tell you: An ox signified strength. It was the chief domesticated animal of the time and had to be “tamed”. That brings us to the second word, alaph, which means “tame” (as well as "teach" and "learn"). The last word, aluph (prince, leader, etc.), appears in Genesis 52 times, that’s 64% (!!!) of all the times it appears in the entire Bible. I think Genesis is showing us very clearly who our leader, master and guide is: God.
There are many words that begin with aleph besides God’s names, such as “one”, “love”, “light”, “truth” and “faith”. This are such important words to our beliefs that I suggest you pause a moment and think about why they would all begin with this first Hebrew letter.

Now think of the Ten Commandments (you can find the in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5). What’s the first one? No other gods before me! God is Number 1, the One and Only, the Eternal Omnipotent God. His first initial is the first Hebrew letter. Throughout Genesis we get a good picture of God as our Father: He keeps reaching out to man, provides new covenants, never gives up on us and blesses us. He is the Sovereign Ruler over all of His creation. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Crossing the Scriptures

Let’s look at the New Testament. These 27 books can be divided as 5 NT History books (the 4 Gospels about Christ and the Acts of the Apostles) and 22 Epistles (letters written by Paul, James, Peter, John and Jude).
Why are there 4 Gospel accounts and is there a reason for their differences? Four witnesses give us a deeper understanding of the events as well as individual perspectives. Different viewpoints would be expected. I especially liked learning how parallel accounts reveal specific key links to the alphabetic verses. For example: Matthew matches up to the 18th Hebrew letter (tzaddi) which is the root for righteous or righteousness. Compare Matthew 5:6 (Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled) to Luke 6:21 (Blessed are ye that hunger now, for ye shall be filled). In 6 other comparisons between Matthew and Luke you find the same thing (Mt. 5:10 – Luke 6:22, Mt. 6:33 – Luke 12:31, Mt. 10:40 – Luke 9:48, Mt. 13:17 – Luke 10:24, Mt. 23:35 – Luke 11:50, and Mt. 23:29 – Luke 11:47). The Gospel of Mark matches up to the 19th Hebrew letter (quph) which starts the word for swift. In comparing Mark’s accounts of the casting out of the demon, five thousand fed, healings at Gennesaret, the boy healed of being deaf and mute and the question asked of Jesus of how to inherit eternal life with the accounts in Matthew and Luke of the same events, Mark’s accounts always include running. Luke’s accounts include wisdom: Mt. 10:19, Mark 13:11 and Luke 21:12 all quote Jesus telling the disciples not to worry about what to say, but only Luke mentions wisdom. Luke also emphasizes friends: compare the same stories in Matthew about the Centurion’s servant, the lost sheep, the warning of hellfire and being hated for Christ’s sake – in every instance Luke inserts the word friends. (There are other examples with the word see in Luke, and by the way, “friends” and “see” start with the same Hebrew letter, the 20th letter, resh) If God designed the Bible then I expect to find the theme continuing in the book of John, i.e. the 21st Hebrew letter (shin) better be pretty prevalent. Guess what? It is. To send (shalach), peace (shalom), name (shem), hear / obey (shama) and keep / watch (shamar) are overly abundant and the really amazing thing is that the New Testament was written in Greek, but the Hebrew pattern remains. (This is a sampling of the unique perspectives in this Bible study book: Crossing the Scriptures.)
The 22 epistles are, to me, like discovering important personal documents. (What if you found your great-grandparents’ love letters to one another? Wouldn’t you be interested?) Before you read one of these short books I recommend that you first find out what was happening in the author’s life and in the church that he’s writing to. Of course these letters are meant for us today, too, but understanding first century culture and customs will clarify things. Go online and read Bible scholar commentaries. I have found that each verse can be like a treasure chest that as soon as you open it (begin to study it) it overflows with treasure. Most Bibles have footnotes and commentaries that should never be overlooked.
Jesus lived. He died for our sins then rose from the dead to conquer death and live eternally. Every time I look at someone I must remember that Jesus died for that person, too. That tends to change my outlook quite a bit.