September 29, 2013

Trees and Flora In The Bible

I have always had a fondness for wooded areas. I believe this is because of the way God has wired me (Proverbs 22:5). appreciate the serene environment and diversity of nature in all its subtitles. I realize man has been given dominion over it and this thought is not lost on me. I suppose it is the same reason I love the Bible and all its solace and diversity also. The Bible shows God's dominion and sovereignty over man. Nature is an example of the truth of God revealed in natural or general revelation or what Romans 1:19-20 says that. "God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse" The Bible on the other hand is an example of special revelation or the inspired word of God. Both of these things reveal not only the need for God but also the proof of God.

As with anything else in the creation, there is a high probability that it is either mentioned directly or indirectly in Scripture. Due to their utilitarian nature and use as resources for man this would be true of trees and plants. Right from the get-go we see the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the clear prohibition to not eat from it. In the case of this tree it is used by God not man.

Genesis 2:9 ~ “Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Moving forward slightly we see that Noah is commanded to build the ark out of gopher wood. It is not clear exactly what type of tree this wood comes from as it can be surmised that it comes from a tree. Although I know of no tree named a Gopher Tree. It had to have had buoyant properties and would have needed to be resilient to water and abuse of torrential downpour. It is speculated that it was a form of Cypress but no one knows for sure.

Genesis 6:13-14 ~ Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. 

We see in the story of Jacob that Leah bought a night in bed with Jacob from Rachel for some mandrakes. Mandrakes or דודאים /dûdã'im literally meant “love plant” in the Jewish folklore. The Greek Septuagint translates דודאים as μανδραγορῶν /mandragoron. It was believed that the mandrake help fertility issues in women. It is interesting to note that modern research has revealed that the mandrake contains alkaloid chemicals in the that are known hallucinogens and hypnotics. As such they would’ve been used to lower inhibitions.

Genesis 30:14-16 ~ “Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?” So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night.

We also see that Jacob used rods of green poplar, hazel, and chestnut trees to make his cattle bring forth offspring that were marked with circular stripes, speckled, and spotted.

Genesis 30:37-39 ~ Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which was in the rods. He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink. So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted.

Jacob told his sons to take some almonds which are essentially seeds of a tree, myrrh which comes from a thorny tree and pistachio nuts which are in actuality the tree’s seed also.

Genesis 43:11 ~ “Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.

Infant Moses is found among the reeds and bulrushes in a basket made of bulrushes

Exodus 2:3-6 ~ When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews' children.” 

We see that the wheat and the spelt (an ancient form of wheat now extinct) had not been ruined by hail (from the plagues of Egypt) for they ripen late in the season.

Exodus 9:32 ~ …But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they ripen late.

There were bitter herbs that were to be eaten with the Passover and they were said to consist of lettuce, watercress, endive, chicory, sorrel, and dandelion greens.

Exodus 12:8 ~ “They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

When we reach Exodus 16 was run into Manna looked like coriander seed.

Exodus 16:31 ~ The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. 

It is mentioned that the Hebrews ate cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic when they were in Egypt and they complained about the fact that they could not eat these things in their desert wanderings but were instead forced to eat Manna. The clear use of the word rabble denotes their rebellious attitude and disorganized nature.

Numbers 11:5 ~ The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

In Deuteronomy 32:32 we see the vine of Sodom is mentioned in an unfavorable manner. It supposedly had fruits called the "apples of Sodom", which, though beautiful to the eye, are bitter to the taste that could be found near Ein Gedi. In this example we see the people of Israel are being referred to here by Moses as being utterly corrupt, bringing forth only bitter fruit. There is a non-canonical secondary reference from Josephus who states that he, “saw the fruit growing near well as the ashes growing in their fruits; which fruits have a color as if they were fit to be eaten, but when they were plucked with your hands, they would dissolve into smoke and ashes (powder and dust).” 

We saw Rahab hide the Hebrew spies on her roof under stalks of flax or linseed in Joshua 2:6

The brambles mentioned in Judges are thought to be wild blackberry bushes in Judges 9:14-15

Solomon spoke of the cedar trees of Lebanon and of hyssop in 1 Kings 4:33

Elijah sat under a juniper tree in 1 Kings 19:4

Job speaks of mallows and nettles in Job 30:4, 7 and he spoke of thistles, wheat, cockle, and barley in Job 31:40

The Lord, speaking to Job, said that behemoth eats grass, lies in the covert of the reed, and that the willows of the brook compass him about in Job 40:15-22

We see I [the bride] am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys in Song of Solomon 2:1

Also mentioned in the Song of Solomon are pomegranate trees, camphire trees, spikenard plants, saffron plants, calamus plants, cinnamon trees, frankincense trees, myrrh trees, and aloe trees

Song of Solomon 4:13-14 ~ “Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, henna with nard plants, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all the trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices.

In the Parable of the Vineyard wild grapes as a comparison to God’s people are mentioned in Isaiah

Isaiah 5:1-2 ~ “Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones.

When God speaks to Isaiah He says that He will be with His people when they are in need and He will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, the myrtle, and the oil [olive] tree. He also states that He will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together. He will do these things to show them that it is He that does these things (planting these things in the wild).

Isaiah 41:19 ~ “…will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

In Jeremiah we see the Lord lament over Zion and say that he will feed wormwood to an apostatizing and backsliding Israel.

Jeremiah 9:15 ~ therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood and give them poisoned water to drink. 

The significance of the wormwood is that it is a form of Middle-eastern sagebrush or tumbleweed. I believe this is a possible allusion to the fact that there is an element of being transient and wandering astray. They are being given something that is very much like their apostatizing nature. In addition, it is medicinal as in the fact it can affect a cure for an ill but it is exceptionally bitter in taste.

Ezekiel is instructed by God to make a defiled bread of wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and fitches (sprouted grain or greens). The interesting thing about this mixture is that it would’ve made the bread nutritionally complete.

Ezekiel 4:9 ~ “But as for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt, put them in one vessel and make them into bread for yourself; you shall eat it according to the number of the days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days.

What is also peculiar about this bread is he is supposed to cook this bread over human detritus (burning crap), to defile it.  Ezekiel asks God to reconsider cooking his over cow manure.  This whole scene is to represent the hardship of the people under siege in Jerusalem.  A day will come when they will be rationing the food.  Things will get so bad they will have no wood to heat their food. The truth is, things will get so bad women will eat their own children as we will later read in the book of Lamentations.

Jonah 4:6-7 ~ So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 

God prepared a gourd vine that grew up overnight and shaded Jonah. This is to ease his discomfort in the desert heat. Jonah delights in its shade. Here we see what appears to be a symbolic parallel: Jonah is saved from distress, Nineveh was saved from punishment. Jonah’s attitude is that God should’ve destroyed Nineveh; instead God sends a weevil and destroys the vine. A little weevil causes the vine to wilt and exposes Jonah to the elements again. God sends a scorching wind and blazing sun that makes Jonah faint. He wants to die. God visits on Jonah the actions he wished on others in Nineveh most likely as a chastisement.

The remaining mentions of trees and plants I will take from the Gospels and Jesus interaction with His own creation. I guess there is nothing more apropos than the dynamic between the Creator and His creation.

In Matthew we see Jesus mentioned a mustard seed in a parable about faith.

Matthew 13:31 ~ “He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field…

Jesus said that the scribes and Pharisees paid tithes on their mint, anise, and cumin. In the Pharisees horrible adherence to legalism they forsook their proper duties that included things as simple as mercy and faith.

Matthew 23:23 ~ “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

In Luke 17:6 we see the mention of a mustard seed again in conjunction with a mulberry tree in a lesson in faith

And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.

In Luke we also see a short man named Zacchaeus climbed up a sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus (and/or be seen by Jesus).

There is also the cursing of the Fig Tree, the use of palms in Jesus’ final entrance into Jerusalem. There are the quotes from Jesus that every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. Finally there are the repeated references to the tree of life at the end of Revelation. This list could obviously be much more extensive but I have hit on quite a few here. The best thing people could do if they did not see a reference they wanted to here is to break out their Bible concordance. I merely wished to show the pervasive use of horticulture in the Bible whether it his human horticulture or divine. Anything that is not from man is from God.

September 26, 2013

Wine's A Mocker and Beer's A Brawler

The first alcoholic bender mentioned in the Bible is attributed to Noah and it comes early in the Bible. The verse immediately following shows the embarrassing and sinful fallout. Please keep in mind this is nearly immediately after the entire world is wiped out by flood due to sin. Soooo...nearly the first thing that again comes to the fore in the world is corruption and sin…even through the initially blameless man Noah who is described as righteous and blameless in Genesis 6:9.

Genesis 9:21 ~ “Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 

Much has been made of what is meant of Noah uncovering himself inside his tent. Further speculation is raised about what it meant that Ham saw the nakedness of his father, and subsequently tells his two brothers outside. This is taken to the extreme by our sex obsessed pro-homosexual culture to mean that there was some form of incestuous homosexual intercourse between father and son. Although potentially important, it is a contemporized distraction from the root problem of sin and unrighteousness inherent in humanity and individual humans. What is generally missed is that sin re-enters the world nearly immediately after being eradicated outside Noah's family which is to say it never left because it was inherent in Noah's family. It shows conclusively and definitively that that which defiles a man is not external or in the world but internal to him or arises from within (Mark 7:15). It is the latent or potential sin possible in all fallen humanity, even a blameless man such as Noah. All people are sinful and none are righteous without God’s righteousness (Romans 3:9-26). In the end, we see that Adam fell and sinned by partaking of what was prohibited. Conversely, Noah failed by over-imbibing of that which was allowed. All elements of God’s creation when used as intended are good but when misused or abused becomes sin because of the person themselves, not the things acted on by men. 

We then have the sordid and incestuous incident of Lot and his daughters. Lot is given too much booze and is seduced by his morally twisted daughters.

Genesis 19:32 ~ Come, let us make our father drink wine, and let us lie with him that we may preserve our family through our father.”

One does not need to know the sordid details of this incident to realize it is morally depraved and sick. We need only keep in mind that these people had been so predisposed to sin and depravity in Sodom that it had effectually worn off on the daughters and on Lot but it was by choice that they all acted. Choice that arose from within...from indwelling sin. It is the proverbial passage from 1 Corinthians 15:33.

1 Corinthians 15:33 ~ Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

In Leviticus we then have the incident of strange fire with Nadab and Abihu. They are summarily killed by the Lord.

Leviticus 10:1-2, Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

It is later stated in Leviticus 10:8-9 that…

Leviticus 10:8-9 ~ The Lord then spoke to Aaron, saying, “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations…”

Although not specifically stated, it is strongly implied that Nadab and Abihu were intoxicated during the offer of the strange fire. Having been intoxicated they were clearly unable to make a proper decision and they paid with their lives.

The last legitimate episode of getting soused I will mention in detail is David’s transgression with Uriah because of his sexual impropriety with Bathsheba and the later consequences to David's and His family. David's sin will revisit not only him but his entire family. David falsely gains Uriah’s trust only to deceive and betray him later through allowing him to be killed in battle. This type of deception will be revisited within David’s own family when Absalom’s servants murder his half- brother while he is drunk (2 Samuel 13:28) because of the rape of Tamar. Absalom himself will then be killed due to his sinful rebellion. It is literally a encapsulation in microcosm of the Fall of man through rebellion and the punishment of death for said sin.

2 Samuel 13:28 ~ Absalom commanded his servants, saying, “See now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.”

Some of the other remaining incidents of biblical intoxication that I will not elaborate on include the following.

Nabal held a feast and became very drunk.

1 Samuel 25:36 ~ “Then Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; so she did not tell him anything at all until the morning light. 

Elah was murdered while drunk.

1 Kings 16:8-10 ~ “In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha became king over Israel at Tirzah, and reigned two years. His servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him. Now he was at Tirzah drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household at Tirzah. Then Zimri went in and struck him and put him to death in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and became king in his place. 

Queen Vashti refused to display her beauty when King Ahasuerus was merry with wine

Esther 1:10 ~ “On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. Then the king became very angry and his wrath burned within him.

Mistaken Assumptions

Sadly, there are at least three incidents of wrongful accusations of drunkenness in the Bible. The first of which is Hannah in the presence of Eli.

1 Samuel 1:13 ~ “As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk.

To show the sinful depravity and minds of the Pharisees, there is then the incident of drunkenness attributed to Jesus by them. He is accused of being a glutton and wine bibber along with being a friend of sinners and tax collectors. The Son of God! A glutton and alcoholic! How messed up did the religious leaders of Christ’s day have to be to make this accusation?

Matthew 11:19 ~ "The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is vindicated by her works."

Mark 7:34 ~ “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 

The last episode that should be mentioned that appeared as drunkenness but clearly was not was the episode just prior to Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2 that occurred because of Pentecost. The people present began speaking in tongues and they are subsequently mocked and accused of being drunk. As they spoke in tongues they…

…all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” ~ Acts 2:13

This is probably because of the cacophony of all the people speaking simultaneously in a multitude of languages. Most of the languages would’ve been familiar to the people in attendance and probably would’ve been extraordinarily bewildering to all including those speaking in tongues as is alluded to in verse 13’s amazement and perplexity.

Negative Portrayal of Intoxication

To conclude I will mention a few things. No matter where intoxication is mentioned in the Bible…it is never mentioned lightly and it is always shown in a negative light. Please note I did not say drinking in general is shown in a negative light. We must never forget that Jesus turned water to wine at Cana (wedding) and yes, it had alcoholic content. The wine was not full blown alcohol as we understand it today but rather proportionally mixed and alcohol content was used as a purifier/antiseptic. It was often diluted as much as a 20:1 ratio. Even so there was still a risk of severe intoxication in a hot and dry climate as the need of clean fluids was imperative to survival. This is why there were strict regulations on wine and fermented beverage usage. As is commonly understood wine can also be used for medicinal antiseptic purposes as Paul alludes to in 1 Timothy 5:23. Like everything else God has created, when used properly it is a blessing and aid to man but where it is abused as in the course of alcoholism…it is sin and derails life. 

Elders and leaders are specifically told that they are not to be alcoholics nor prone to volatility or violence. Used in the same sentence adjacent to one another, leads a reader to imply that the violence or volatility can be from or arise from the alcohol (i.e.: beer is a brawler). There is also an implication in this verse that those prone to over imbibe also have a high prevalence for being unstable or prone to foolish impetuousness. In here we see a requirement for clear-headed thinking and prudent decision-making...something that is not possible when one is intoxicated.

1 Timothy 3:2-3 ~ Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 

Sad Social Commentary

As a closing social commentary, I must mention the condition of the United States and many other westernized nations. I must discern what I see around me in the culture and it is an ugly commentary. Sadly, abuse is the predominate way we see booze used today. It is used in excess and imprudently. It destroys lives and aids in the destruction of character, morality and values. It lowers inhibition to the point people make fools of themselves and destroy otherwise good reputations through drunken debauchery. Wine is indeed a mocker and beer certainly becomes a brawler. Our college campuses have become the stomping ground of the spirit of Bacchus/Dionysus and the primary haunts of single adult America are taverns and bars and people are rarely there just for the jovial conversation. They appear to be there mainly for the lowered morality that results from intoxication and the sinful sensuality and sexual immorality that often ensues due to booze consumption or use of illicit pharmaceuticals. If we think we are any different than in the days of Noah we need only turn our televisions on and watch things like Mardi Gras, the Burning Man festivals or Spring Breaks nationwide to realize we are exactly the same. All this time and humanity has learned nothing. Instead we continue to regress and descend into deeper and deeper depravity. There is nothing new under the sun.

September 23, 2013

Music In Scripture: I Will Sing A New Song

Most people enjoy music. I for one thoroughly enjoy music. It is not surprising that there are many people in the Bible acknowledged as having been musicians. The entire book of Psalms is chiefly a book of song and compliments the time of the Kings. We can go back much farther to the antediluvian period to see the mention of one of the first musicians in humanity.

Genesis 4:21 ~ “…Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.”

Even in the shadow of the Fall we see man being capable of something creative but not necessarily righteous. Tainted by the Fall, yes, but beautiful and constructive none-the-less. If we look closely at the structure of Hebrew poetry which can be construed as a prototype of lyrics we can trace poetry or at least parallelism back to Genesis 1. It is believed be Christian and Jewish scholars that approximately 75% of the Old Testament is poetry. This is one of the reasons God chose to use poetry to convey His word. Much of the Torah was sung and was easier to sing as a key to retaining it in memory. This was important because God said to Israel that they were impress God's word upon their own hearts and their children's hearts in the Shema.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ~ “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Poetry and songs are easier to memorize than straight texts and parallel poetry (as in Genesis 1) emphasizes something of great importance, as the creation story is.

If we move to the time of Moses we see his sister Miriam and a timrel, or as we know it today--a tambourine.

Exodus 15:20-21 ~ “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.”

These verses are in the context of Israel’s song of deliverance from Egypt. It is in this context that we see an instrument and a woman’s voice (with accompaniment) bringing glory to God not only with the song itself but also through the words of the song that tell of the great deeds God did to deliver His people from the sufferings. We see the music as not only in a reprieve from slavery but also an exclamation point on a victorious and glorious salvation by God Almighty after Pharaoh’s men are drowned in the Red Sea. It is primarily direct at God and is a form of worship to Him. It is only secondarily a form of entertainment or pleasure to the human listener and perform. The fact that it can be both is a form or immense grace from God.

1 Samuel 16:23 ~ Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

In this passage we see Saul subjected to some type of mental affliction, producing intense depression and it is attributed to an evil spirit, the Lord having withdrawn His Spirit and sent this in its place. Perhaps it is the very absence of God's Spirit that causes Saul this grief. By means of musical talent, David was brought to Saul's notice, as a player on the lyre, able to soothe the king's depression. It is when Saul’s mind and heart are shadowed and plagued by darkness that the light of music will pierce through to reach a here with Saul. While listening to the sweet sound of David’s kinnor, it lifts Saul’s soul from its affliction at least momentarily. Music is indeed one of the fairest gifts of God to mankind. There is mystery and meaning to music that humans will probably never fully understand.

1 Samuel 18:6 ~ When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres.

I believe we might be seeing hero worship here instead of worship directed at God. There is a thin line between praising a victory and celebrating it and the humans involved and missing the point that God has given the victory. Men may have been involved as vessels of God’s will in making things happen but it is a Sovereign God behind all either as the impetus or allowing it to happen. Instead of people worshiping God, they appear to worship His human instruments or deification of them-idol worship.

1 Kings 4:32 ~ He [Solomon] spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five.

The fact that Solomon spoke these tells us that many may have not been written down or recorded. It would make sense also that Solomon would’ve been musically inclined as he was exposed to one of the greatest musicians/lyricists in Israelite history in his father David. Having been granted Godly wisdom he most likely would’ve been able to make rather insightful lyrics to song and poem that could effectively reach people intellectually and emotionally. It is also not ironic that anyone that was able to influence so profoundly with word and music would also be able to steer a culture in the direction that this poetry and music was aimed at. Thankfully, most of what is recorded from Solomon is godly in its orientation.

2 Kings 3:15-16 ~ “But now bring me a harpist.” While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came on Elisha and he said, “This is what the Lord says: I will fill this valley with pools of water.

Other “musicians” or “musicianship” that warrants mention from Scrpiture are…

1 Chronicles 16:5-6 ~ “Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God.”

Jeduthun was one of King David's chief musicians and is mentioned at least twice…

1 Chronicles 16:42 ~ “Heman and Jeduthun had trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jeduthun were appointed to the gate.”

And in the title of Psalm 39…

Psalm 39
[To the choirmaster: to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.]
 I said, “I will guard my ways…”

Knowing that David had “chief” musicians tells us that he also had lesser musicians. If Jeduthun and others like him were akin to composers or band leaders than there were individuals also. If we look further in Scripture we see exactly that in 1 Chronicles 23.

1 Chronicles 23:1-5 ~ “When David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel. David assembled all the leaders of Israel and the priests and the Levites. The Levites, thirty years old and upward, were numbered, and the total was 38,000 men. “Twenty-four thousand of these,” David said, “shall have charge of the work in the house of the Lord, 6,000 shall be officers and judges, 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the Lord with the instruments that I have made for praise.

It is interesting that at Solomon’s dedication of the temple, priests appear bi-vocational in 2 Chronicles. Priests being Levitical are mentioned here in conjunction with song and instruments. From this we can imply that part of the priestly duty appears to have been musical worship of God with instruments and singing/voice. We could therefore assume that song could potentially consist of merely cadenced spoken word in reverence to God (a rap so to speak).

2 Chronicles 5:11-14 ~ “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.

We see exactly the same at the laying of the foundation of the second temple after the exile and return. It is consistent that we see Asaph in the Chronicles passage and the sons of Asaph in Ezra. We therefore see a continuity and steadfastness and unchanging nature of God’s covenant and statutes generation to generation.

Ezra 3:10-11 ~ “And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.

In closing we will see this constancy of character carry over to the New Testament in the aspect that all believers become priests to an unbelieving world. Many of these Christians will also be versed in the Scriptures and musically inclined. Even those that are not musically inclined are encouraged to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

Psalm 100:1-2 ~ “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

1 Peter 2:5–9 ~ “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious…”

It therefore logically follows that if we are to be the priesthood to all the nations, when we worship in voice and music we are also setting a priestly holy example to all the nations to do the same...just as the Levitical priests of the Old Testament. Also by implication, if we are permitted to offer up acceptable sacrifice to God (1 Peter 2), we would also be allowed to offer up acceptable worship in the same vein of the Old Testament priests in either instrument or voice or both. The only difference is its station in time.

Colossians 3:16 ~ “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." 

James 5:13 ~ "Helpful Not Helpful Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise." 

The truth is that it is not necessarily the music (per se) that brings God joy (although if done well it is quite harmonious and enjoyable), it is the heart intent behind the music that brings God the most joy in His people. That is why the heart intent is of primary importance to God, not necessarily the perfection of form or melody. To the tone-deaf and those not musically inclined…this is welcome news!

Music is great and it is beautiful…but divorced of its original intent, which is to bring glory to God…even it can become a tool of the Devil (and it did). This should not be surprising since Lucifer was in charge of music in praise and worship of God.

Ezekiel 28:13 ~ “You were in Eden, the garden of God.  Every precious stone was your covering:  The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings (timbrels) and sockets (flutes), was in you. On the day that you were created they were prepared.

Isaiah 14:11-14 ~ “All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you. How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

If we have any doubt of the fact that music can become a tool of the Devil we need only look to the world around us and see the depraved and debased nature of much of the music in the culture. We need only listen to some of the over-sexualized or blatantly demonic music being produced by record companies over the last few decades. …even that which calls itself Christian music.

September 20, 2013

Rogues Gallery: The Most Infamous Villains In the Bible

Herod  -  Cain  -  Pontius Pilate  -  Judas Iscariot
A story is never as interesting as it is when there is a villain or antagonist who needs to be defeated or brought to justice. Since God is perfectly just all will be brought to judgment at some point in the future. That being said, there are some villains that were so heinous in the Bible that they warrant mentioning in a little more detail because of their malevolent behavior(s). All were evil towards other people but what made them particularly heinous is their open and outward rebellion towards God, His statutes and His principles. I will mention at least six of them. As for Satan...he gets enough attention in my other posts. There is no sense giving the Devil more air time that he doesn't deserve. Lucifer's inclusion in this post would just be redundancy and rhetorical. We can see his satanic and demonic nature in the others I will mention in this post.

Genesis 4:8 ~ “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

This is the first murder and the first fratricide. We see envy, ambition and selfishness that explode into violence and death. We see that anything that is not of God or life…is of death. Both brothers gave offering but only Abel’s was accepted. We see a flare-up of envy or jealousy. Cain should’ve rejoiced in his brother’s success. Instead, he murdered him. Instead of being selfless he became selfish. We see the closest mimicking of this heinous act right within the church at times when we envy others in the church. We envy or are jealous of other people’s talents or gifts. We speak poorly or speak ill of them. In doing these things we murder their character and good reputations.

To a lesser offense but still a nasty sin we see Laban and his dishonesty and thievery through deceptive trade or commerce agreements. In other words: Bad Business Dealings. What is worse is he treats family like an enemy and attempts to defraud them like one also.

Genesis 29:21-25 ~ Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” 

This was not an accident on Laban’s behalf, it was deliberate. This deceptiveness wasn’t sudden but purposefully planned by Laban. Therefore this deceitful character was very much a part of what Laban was…a deceiver…like Satan. This shows a covetous and scheming man that was sinful at heart. We also see that Laban is brazen in his deception and risks a violent retaliation from Jacob for being “raked over the coals." He was foolishly bold for breaking a covenant or deal with a family member.  Finally, like Cain we see selfishness. Self-serving motives are nearly always at the heart of rebellion against God in the form of sin. He is greedy and selfish because labor does not come cheap and Laban essentially barters away the life of his daughters like slaves to get Jacob to work for him. The truth is that Jacob in a form of poetic justice is served his own retribution for what he did to his brother Esau in this episode.

1 Kings 16:30 ~ And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.

Other than Herod, Ahab might be the most dastardly and horrid villain in the Bible because of his overt rebellion against God. The only thing worse than a man who does things against God on purpose is a man who does them unwittingly…because he doesn’t even know that he is doing wrong often times. The truth is... regardless of whether he realized his sin or not…he is still accountable for it. Sins of omission are still sin. Ahab didn’t rebel against God because he was bold but rather because his sin had so completely made him stupid he was incapable of seeing or comprehending just how evil and sinful he was being (Romans 1). No, Ahab wasn’t bold, just dumb and weak-willed. He was cowardly in that he essentially submitted and cowered to the badgering of Jezebel and at the end of his life dressed as something other than a king do avoid being killed. He pretend to be something he was not (a true king at heart) but in the end was exposed for what he was through his own actions…a snake, a coward and an unrighteous man that did nearly everything in defiance of God and righteous men. Not only did he do evil things in the sight of the Lord he did them worse than all that were before him.

When I say Ahab was weak I mean weak in the way that America Christians and many denominations have become weak. He would often allow that which is wrong to have a quiet uneventful life than not allow what was wrong and cause strife and unrest. It is what we see in churches when the ubiquitous “don’t cause division” or “you’re being too harsh or divisive” when people insist on doing the right thing to align with Scripture. In this way we neglect what we should do and evil trumps righteousness. It is the proverbial, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.” We see it in Ahab’s reign and we see it today in a failing morally bankrupt American republic. A morally bankrupt and degenerate leadership aids and abets a morally bankrupt and degenerate society. All of these factors inevitably lead to Israel’s ruin and will lead to all nations ruin that follow the same path…just as we are doing today in the United States and abroad.

Esther 3:1-6 ~ “After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. And all the king's servants who were at the king's gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage. Then the king's servants who were at the king's gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king's command?”And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai's words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.

Since Haman perpetrates his evil all throughout Esther I will quote a single passage of Scripture pertaining to it. Haman simply and monstrously plotted to have the entire Hebrew nation legally killed. There are many parallels to make but abortion is one and eugenics and pregnancy “screenings” could be another. Had Saul done what he was commanded to do by God and wiped out the Amalekites, Haman would never have existed. Because Saul did not carry out God’s will, the Amalekites survived and got a second chance to knock off the Israelites. Haman was a descendant of Agag who had the unfortunate experience of meeting up with Samuel’s dissecting knife.

We enter the New Testament and the company of rogues gets even worse. We find the Herods and their killing of the children (Massacre of the Innocents) two years and under and beheading of John the Baptist. First we see Herod the Great’s atrocity.

Matthew 2:16-18 ~ “ Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

We then see Herod Antipas murderous leanings.

Matthew 14:6-11 ~ “But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.

In the case of both Herod the Great and Herod Antipas we see a callousness that bespeaks of ultimate evil and inhumanity by wanton cold-hearted murdering of innocent people. In the case of Herod the Great we see the slaying of defenseless children. Can it get any worse than that? Yes, I believe it can.

The worse has been saved for last. We now enter the world of Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate. Judas whose very name is an acronym for betrayal. In Matthew 26 we see the betrayal of Jesus, Son of God for 30 pieces of silver and what amounts to selfish ambition. In Matthew 27 we see Jesus turned over to crucifixion due to another case of moral cowardice. Between the two of these horribly sinful men we see the two primary impetuses of the most horrid mis-trail of justice in history that ends in the murder of Jesus.

Matthew 26:14-15 ~ “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver”

The perfect, righteous and innocent Son of God is turned over to the evil men of the world for a piddling financial allotment. In the end it would barely be enough to buy a field that would be purchased with the blood money Judas would return before his suicide.

Matthew 27:24-26 ~ "So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified."

Pilate would then take over the fate of Christ after Herod. Like Ahab, Pilate ruled in moral weakness. He was walking a tightrope between the Sanhedrin and Tiberius in Rome and didn’t want to anger the Jews for fear of them squawking to Rome and having him removed as the fifth Prefect/Governor of the Roman province of Judea  In an act of spinelessness (knowing Jesus’ innocence) he let the people decide Christ’s fate. It is determined that Christ will be crucified. In so doing, Pilate through moral cowardice allows the most unspeakable of injustices to be perpetrated against the most innocent man who ever lived…the Son of God. In Pilate we see the true evil which can be unleashed when men do not step forward with the truth and act on it. We see how evil can steamroll where no truth is brought forward to ward off the evil. Had Pilate acted on the truth, he would’ve prevented the murder of an innocent man. Because he didn’t, evil was allowed to move forward. By not stopping evil, he (we) become part of that evil we fail to prevent.

In the end, even the villainy of these insanely depraved men was used to God’s glory. In the case of Judas and Pilate it allowed for a horrendous crime which thankfully became the greatest gift ever given: Eternal Life. 

Of course, the end should never justify the means in situations like the ones mentioned. God will of course always want to work through the righteous deeds of righteous men but we are all fallen in our nature. Regardless, even in our failings in sin, God can still work through our stupidity to accomplish His will and for this I am grateful. I am grateful because sinfulness and stupidity is just about all I have to offer God. Thankfully, in return for my sin, stupidity and repentance He can offer me so much more in mercy and grace. He can offer salvation…and I have accepted it. So should you if you haven't already. Its a choice...which leads to my last statement. These men committed their evils by choice. They may have had satanic or demonic influence but what they did, they did of their own volition. All will be held accountable for their actions by God, even these rogues. All will be judged for their acts...just like these rogues.
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