Volume 3 - FEBRUARY 2001 (53 pages)
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: Nazarene Saints Publishing© is a Bible research group for a better Scriptural understanding. We are dedicated to the preservation and publishing of Christian writings which aid Friends of the Nazarene© to “follow the Lamb no matter where he goes.” (John 15:14; 3 John 14; Revelation 14:4) The Friends of the Nazarene© are a spiritual community of Messianic Christians. We are apologists dedicated to the defense of the truth that “God is One” and not three. The Bible is our creed. We view this “God-breathed” Book as inspired alone, while the thoughts of men about it are not. We wish to show respect for our multitude of Christian brethren. (1 Peter 3:15)
Mark Heber Miller - - Senior Editor – Hemet, California
Ralph Slaney - - Senior Spanish editor - Almeria, Spain
Andy Weeks – - Webmaster – Chicago, Illinoise
Sergei Kremenitsky - - Russian translator - Kiev, Ukraine
James Noble - – Long Beach, California
Timo Koorns tra - – Dutch translation - Belgium
James McCarthy Sr. - – French translation - USA.
Luis Padilla - - Spanish Editor – Whittier, Calif
IN THIS ISSUE
21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures [NCMM]: In December 2000 the complete edition of this new rendering of Matthew to Revelation was finished. It is now available by email attachment in a single file. This version is without any footnotes and runs to about 450 pages. It will soon be available as a download on the Friends of the Nazarene web page. This edition permits ease of reading and the use of copy+paste in personal study or posts. This new tool is called Christian Scriptures 2001. It is hoped this study aid will be linked with Online Bible and Nazarene Commentary 2000.
NEW ADDITIONS TO THE FON WEB PAGE: Our brother Timo Koorns tra of Belgium is assisting Andy Weeks of Chicago, USA, in making new additions to the Friends of the Nazarene web page. For example, several new Bible books using the 21st Century Paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures [NCMM] with footnote commentary have been added - Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Malachi. Additionally work continues on the Psalms and Psalms 1-26 will be posted soon.
NAZARENE COMMENTARY 2000 - BIBLICAL ARTICLES: The major articles - more than 160 - during the past three years in the Friends of the Nazarene monthly magazine are being added to the FON web page. Their titles will be categorized under different headings. By clicking on the title one will be immediately led to that article. The magazine itself will continue to be published monthly with about three to four months available on line before the main articles are also added to Biblical Articles.
“If we want truth,
every person ought to be free to speak what they think without fear.”
[Erasmus (1520 AD)]
[A forum for the free and open expression of beliefs without fear.
We welcome brief thoughts and articles on any appropriate subject
addressed in a kind and respectful manner.]
words of encouragement-
I found you folks a few months ago on he Internet while searching and praying for my non-Trinitarian brothers and sisters that are scattered in small pockets all over the globe….. learning what we know as truth…One God & One Lord…not this 3 in 1 thing. … You and your newsletter/web site and all you are doing for the Lord are in my prayers. Keep up the excellent work! I really enjoy it. [Jeff]
I really enjoy reading your articles, and many other studies from other writers in your magazine. … Your studies are unique and very interesting and informative.
[Mario - Peru]
I truly enjoyed your work “How Will God Judge the World”. It is
read the work of one that believes God means exactly what He said about the
judgment. You are a wonderfully blessing to us and I am so thankful. I am hoping
that one day that library you spoke of will become a reality because I believe it would be such a blessing to others. [DD - Virginia, USA]
I’d just like to extend my Christian love to you and most especially a big
thank you, not just for the end of year letter and the good news it contains
of the completed Christian scriptures, (a phenomenal achievement) but most
especially for your tireless work for Jehovah and his Son Jesus, and on behalf
of those like myself who are striving to serve Him in whatever small
You do amazing things and I know not just in your own power but because of
Jehovah’s spirit working upon you and invigorating you. The encouragement that
you have extended to many ‘lost sheep’ (or perhaps temporarily
disillusioned [and] bewildered sheep !!) who have come out of the organization (and many other backgrounds too) through the FON site is marvelous in scope and in reality you have ‘produced fruit a hundredfold’.
I have found a lot of help, for example, tonight I was finding the whole
Christmas thing overwhelming (my husband is Catholic and with the birth of our
first child, this is an important holiday for him) and I was resonating with
old style guilt feelings about having a tree etc in the house.
Even though I can now appreciate the positive elements in Christmas (for many
people who focus on family/friends and spiritual thoughts at this time - not
on the greed, partying etc) I have to admit I just wish I could forget all
about it and go back to the old days in some ways. Anyway, not to rabbit on,
but it was encouraging just to know that there was somewhere I could go
(namely the FON site) and there would be some real spiritual food to get my
teeth into, eg, notes on John 15, which would just lift my spirit up, and pull
my focus back to where it should be. So for this, again, many thanks.
Well Mark, I’ll leave it at that - sorry I don’t have much opportunity to keep
in touch, even less so now with a new baby, but I value the efforts you and
the brothers and sisters make very much, and wanted you to know and feel some
of the encouragement you give to others reflected back to you.
Very best wishes over the holiday season (hope it’s not too lonely for you
without family around - think of all the FONs , and ‘the whole association of
brothers’ who are with you in spirit and heart).
With friendship and warmest christian love, ‘may Jehovah bless you and keep
you, .. and assign you peace’
A DESCRIPTION OF THE NAZARENE-FRIENDS EGROUP TALK LIST -
My Dear Brother Christian [in Wales],
Along with all the others I’d like to also welcome you to our little household. I think that you’ll come to love it here with us. :o) As you’ve already seen, many different types of topics get discussed here. … You’ve noticed this already what with the discussion of the Shroud, the NWT, and you’ve missed out on several reviews of Bible-related software not too long ago. And in between all of this we even have time to share a little levity (I’m good for a chuckle or two now and then). I think that you’ll not only feel the Love of Christ here, but you’ll learn a lot as well. Well, I’m speaking for myself there as I’m still being fed milk but just might be weaned someday. ;o)
As I said, I believe that you’ll feel the Love of Christ here. I’ve stumbled around from place to place. It was one day when I was reading my Bible that I came across a couple of verses. One was in John where Jesus says, “Nobody comes to the Father but by me.” And the other was, “…there is no other name given under heaven whereby we are saved.” See, at the time I wasn’t a Christian but a Baha’i. So when I read those verses it was as if scales were lifted from my eyes - that only in Jesus are we saved and on in Jesus can we come to the Father. That was quite a revelation for me and could best be described as a type of “born again” experience. After this I started searching the web for like-minded people and came across the Friends site and got writing to Mark (ask him---I pestered the life out of him!) and he placed me on the list. I sat back for a few months before even venturing to write a sentence or two. And then once the brothers got me going they’re sitting there saying, “Not another posting!” haha!
Another thing that I think you’ll find interesting about this list Christian is that each of us brings a special talent, a gift, for the edification of the Saints. We have folks here who are good at teaching, some who are great at preaching; others who can expound the Truth with clarity; others who can do computer programming to make our writings available to the world with programs; there are some who can translate, and others who can understand prophecy. Then are those who can console the inconsolable (is that a word, Bro. Robert?).
So welcome to your temporary home, Bro. Christian. We may not be able to see you in this temporary home, but we have the hope of an eternal Home that only God can give. And even better than a Home---but inside the very temple of our God!
May the love of God, which surpasses all comprehension and understanding, be with you this day and ever-more, through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord. AMEN!
Jimmymac (a.k.a. “Theophilus”)
“Because our sense of the divine is so extensively
derived from verbal sources, mostly through the
biblical scriptures, we seldom notice how extensively
we have lost contact with the revelation of the divine
in nature. Yet our exalted sense of the divine itself
comes from the grandeur of the universe, especially
from the earth, in all the splendid modes of its
statement. Without such experience we would be
terribly impoverished in our religious and spiritual
development, even in our emotional, imaginative, and
- Thomas Berry, “The Dream of the Earth” -
[contributed by James Noble]
==== END “FAITH PERSPECTIVES” ====
What Does It Involve?
“O come in, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker.” [Psalm 95:6]
What is “worship”? Most people conjure up an idea when they use or hear the English word “worship”? To some it is attendance at a great cathedral with a huge organ and large choir of angelic voices, light pouring through stained glass windows, as a priest sprinkles holy water and spreads smoking incense. Others see worship more associated with a stage show in which there is loud singing and shouting backed up by a choir and numerous musical instruments. Often such persons believe they can only worship when associating within the above environments or locations. No matter how one may view the word “worship” many Christians would agree that the Bible ought to determine what is involved in worship.
In the Hebrew and Greek Bibles of the Jews and the Christians there are several words used in this context of “worship.” In Hebrew there are AVADH [Genesis 14:4; 15:13; 29:15] which conveys the idea of serving. HISH-TA-CHAWAH means to “bow”. [Genesis 22:5-7; 24:26, 27; Proverbs 12:25; Isaiah 44:17] SAGHADH involves an act of prostration in worship. [Daniel 3:5-7, 10-15, 18, 28]
In the Greek Bible also several words are used. LATREUO [Luke 1:74; 2:37; 4:8; Acts 7:7] is used of worship service. PROSKYNEO is among the most misused words often rendered “worship.” The word means before+kiss and conveys the idea of bowing in prostration to kiss the feet or fringe of the garment of one highly respected. In the Jewish Greek Bible it is Abigail who renders this kind of gesture before David. [1 Samuel chapter 25] [Compare also Matthew 18:26.] EUSEBEO incorporates the idea of fear, awe or reverence toward God. [Acts 17:23] THRESKEUO identifies more of a ritual or form of worship. [Acts 26:5; Colossians 2:18; James 1:27] SEBAZOMAI also mean to show reverence or veneration in worship. [Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7; Acts 18:7; 19:27; Romans 1:25) There are also words joined to THEOS [god] as in THEOSEBES [revering God; fearing God] as part of worship. [John 9:31; 1 Timothy 2:10]
Worship In Ancient Times
The first true indication of worship is found in the case of Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter 4. Both brothers approach Yehowah with offerings, Cain with vegetables and Abel with the firstborn of his flocks. [Genesis 4:3, 4] Now God looked with favor on Abel’s offering and this pointed the way to similar sacrificial offerings to come, culminating in the sacrifice of God’s own Son. The first mention of such offerings being burnt on an altar is Noah following the Flood. [Genesis 8:20] Such altars and sacrifices are the focus of the worship of God throughout the patriarchal period. Though most assume that prayers were also involved, the actual mention of prayer does not occur until the woman Hanah is first mentioned as praying. [1 Samuel 1:10] David is next associated with prayer. [2 Samuel 7:27] Thousands of years pass from the first example of Abel’s worship before music is directly mentioned in an association of worship. That is in the case of the “song of Moses” upon being delivered through the Red Sea. [Exodus chapter 15]
With the giving of the Mosaic Law at Mount Sinai the worship of Yehowah becomes very defined with the formulation of scores of laws regarding the place of worship and the precise manner of it in “holocausts” or burnt sacrifices. Throughout the period of the Law of Moses such sacrifices, as well as prayer and music, characterize true worship acceptable to God.
The city of Jerusalem becomes the focal point of this worship, so much so that a servant of God far removed from the holy city must pray in that direction. [1 Kings 8:30, 35; 2 Chronicles 6:21, 26, 32; Daniel 6]
However, hundreds of years later during the time of the Prophets God became disgusted with Israel’s burnt offerings because of the hypocrisy associated with their worship. Even their prayers were rejected by Yehowah. [Isaiah 1:15] Indeed, the Hebrew Bible ends with the prophet Malachi condemning the Jewish priesthood and their sacrifices. [Malachi chapter 1]
Worship and the Nazarene
Judaism still practiced the ritualistic form of worship when Jesus the Nazarene arrived as the Messiah. Because he was a Jew “born under the Law of Moses” we read of Jesus carrying out his ministry in the context of the synagogue and the Temple. What would he have to say about “true worship”?
Like the prophets, Jesus also condemned the religious hierarchy and their human doctrines and traditions. [Matthew chapter 23] We read what he said to these Jewish clerics in Matthew 15:7, 8, “Hypocrites, Isaiah gave a good prophecy about you when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips but their heart is distant. Their worship is worthless because they teach human commandments as doctrine.’” [NCMM] So, little had changed from the time of Isaiah 700 years before and the generation in which Jesus lived.
How did Jesus himself worship? We do see several characteristics to his “form of worship.” He prays to his Father. [John chapter 17] He reads and relies on his Father’s inspired Words as found in the Hebrew Bible. [Matthew 4:1-8; John 17:17] His worship seems focused on two main things: first, the preaching and teaching of the good news of the Kingdom; and, a life of loving kindness and charity. On only one occasion is Jesus seen singing and this at the end of his ministry. [Matthew 26:30] What kind of worship is this?
We have a special occasion recorded in the Gospel of John chapter 4 where Jesus discusses worship specifically. In this he identifies two main characteristics of what he calls “true worship.” Let us read the account and identify these two features in John 4:19-24 when he chats with a Samaritan woman by a well:
“The woman said to him: ‘I see that you are a prophet! Our [Samaritan] forefathers worshipped [PROSEKYNESAN] in this mountain, but you [Jews] say that the place where it is necessary to worship [PROSKYNEIN] is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus told her: ‘Believe me, woman, that an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, will you people [render] worship [PROSKYNESETE] to the Father. You [Samaritans] are worshipping [PROSKYNEITE] that which you do not know. We [Jews] are worshipping [PROSKYNOUMEN] what we know, because salvation is of the Jews. But, an hour is coming, and is now [here], when the True Worshippers [PROSKYNETAI] will [render] worship to the Father spiritually and in harmony with Truth, because the Father is searching for such persons to worship [PROSKYNOUNTAS] Him. The God [is] Pneuma, and those worshipping [PROSPROSKYNOUNTAS] Him must of necessity worship [PROSKYNEIN] spiritually and in harmony with Truth.” [NCMM]
What did Jesus mean when he said that “true worshippers” would worship “spiritually and in harmony with Truth”? The Greek is literally “spirit and truth.” First, we look at the word “spirit” [PNEUMA] as a factor in worship. In the immediate context the place of worship has been mentioned - either Samaria or Jerusalem. This would suggest Jesus had in mind a form of worship that does not involve an earthly location or something material. So, no longer must a “true worshipper” pray facing Jerusalem as Daniel did.
Jesus makes it clear that such worship should be directed to “the God” [HO THEOS] and not to himself. The Nazarene’s reasoning is that “The God is a Spirit” and thus true worship would reflect this. It would not be a material form of worship that relied on place, direction, and objects of worship. But rather it would be a spiritual form of worship that did not depend on any of these things associated with worship in the past.
And, “worship in truth”? Several matters may be involved here. Jesus has already commended this dear lady as being “truthful” about her life. Thus, the true worshipper would be a person who was truthful or honest. But, Jesus also believed that God’s “word is Truth.” [John 17:17] He has told the woman that she worshipped “what she did not know.” Thus, true worship would involve a “full knowledge of the truth” as found in that same Book Jesus relied on. [2 Timothy 2:25 NCMM; 3:15-7] In addition to that Hebrew Bible called the Old Testament, Jesus himself indicates that some of his inspired disciples would produce their own “word.” And, this would be the basis for building the faith of others. [John 17:17, 20]
Worship in the Early Church
The early Christian Church did worship in “spirit and truth.” We see them relying on prayer often in the book of Acts and elsewhere. We see them singing hymns. We see them offering public praise as well as preaching and teaching the public.
Paul outlines home church meetings in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 where prayer, hymns, encouragement and education were all involved.
In addition to the above, there was another matter involved in Christian worship - charity. Paul compares charity and hospitality to sacrificial worship: “By means of [Christ] let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to the God - that is, the fruit of lips confessing his name. Also, do not forget doing good and sharing [with others], for with such sacrifices the God is favorably pleased.” [Hebrews 13:15, 16 NCMM] The disciple James also adds charity to formal worship: “Pure and undefiled worship before The God, even the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their afflictions. … My brothers, what is the profit if anyone says, “I have conviction,” but does not have works? Is just his conviction able to save him? [For example], if a brother or sister is living without adequate clothing and lacks daily food, and anyone of you says, ‘Go in peace. Keep warm and well fed’ -- but do not give them their bodily necessities -- what is the profit? Just so, conviction without works is dead by itself.” [James 1:27; 2:14-17 NCMM] Thus, the uncharitable person does not “worship in spirit and truth.”
A review of worship that is acceptable to God helps us find a balance in all of these facets. We read with a different perspective the godly psalm: “Your burnt offerings are continually before me. I have no need for a bull from your stall, Nor male goats from your pens. For every animal of the forest is mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains. The wild animals of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, For the world is mine, and all that is in it. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Pay your vows to the Most High. Call on me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me. … Whoever offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifies me, And prepares his way so that I will show God's salvation to him." [Psalm 50:8-15, 23 WEB]
The prophet Micah echoes the same thought: “How shall I come before Yahweh, And bow myself before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams? With tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my disobedience? The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, To love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” [Micah 6:6-8 WEB]
May salvation be yours because you worship the God Yehowah “in spirit and truth”!
==== END ====
WILL YOU SAY, “EXAMINE ME”?
A Commentary on Psalm 26
Few people are willing to let others judge or examine them. Some hate any kind of test of their mental or physical abilities. Most people do not wished to be critiqued regarding their personal conduct. On the other hand, all humanity will one day stand before God’s Judgment. Solomon conclude his work Ecclesiastes with these words: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” [Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14 KJV] The Nazarene taught the same: “Out of the good person’s heart comes a treasure of goodness; and expelled out of the wicked person’s wicked treasure comes wickedness. But I tell you that every fruitless word human’s speak will be held to account on Judgment Day. For by your words you will be declared ‘Not Guilty,’ and by your words you will be accursed.” [Matthew 12:36, 37 NCMM]
Despite these Scriptural warnings, most people are like the person James describes: “This person is like a man observing his physical face in a mirror, and having departed, immediately forgets what he looks like.” [James 1:23, 24 NCMM] Perhaps such a person does not want to admit what kind of person he saw in that mirror of self-reflection.
So we find it refreshing to find a person who welcomes a personal examination. This man is David, the one who wrote one of the most famous poems or hymns in all literature - the Twenty-third Psalm. In Psalm 26 he actually welcomes his God Yehowah to test, prove or examine him. “Test or examine what?” we ask. What assurances does David possess? How would we stand up under a similar investigation? Something that is going to happen to us anyway? Consider this request to God for just such an examination in Psalm 26.
Psalm 26:1-5 - Examine Me!
Psalm 26:1 - “Be my Judge, O Yehowah! For I have walked in my own integrity, and I have trusted in Yehowah. I will never vacillate.” [NCMM]
David asks Yehowah to “be my judge.” [Or, RSV: vindicate me; RHM: do me justice; HAR: do what is right by me.] Compare Psalm 7:8. Not many people would invite God to judge, test, or examine them. Some are afraid to even take a good look in the mirror for fear what they will discover - or already know. [For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000© on James 1:23, 24.]
David’s freedom and outspokenness to ask for this examination is because he has “walked” in a certain way of life. [Or, conducted myself.] The word “walk” is used in both the Hebrew and Christian Bible as a metaphor for conduct or life-style. David says he has walked in his “integrity.” [Or, blamelessness.] Compare Proverbs 20:7. The English word “integrity” means complete, unbroken, whole, unimpaired, morally sound, principled, honest and sincere. The word occurs most often in Psalms and Proverbs.
The basis for this is David’s faith for he has “trusted” in God. [Or, unswerving faith.] The word “trust” is a synonym for faith, belief, or conviction. A form occurs over 50 times in the Psalms. He promises his God Yehowah that he “will never vacillate.” [Or, slide, fall, falter, waver, wobble.] David is consistent. He does not waver or wobble in his conviction. Compare the “indecisive” person in James 1:7, 8.
Psalm 26:2 - “Test me, O Yehowah, and examine me. Test my deepest motivations and inclinations.”
David asks God to “test me.” [Or, examine, search, try.] The Hebrew is BACHAN [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 974] and is most often rendered “try” in the KJV. Whether one wants this “test” or not, Psalm 11:4 states that God examines all humanity. Compare a similar request in Psalm 139:23. He also says, “examine me.” [Or, prove, test; put me to the proof [KNX].] The Hebrew poetic parallel is NACAH [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 5254] and often rendered “prove.” Paul makes a similar appeal in 2 Corinthians 13:5 for a self-examination, “Continue to test yourselves if you are in the faith, continue to prove yourselves.” [NCMM] But, what kind of examination is this?
David asks to be put to the “test.” [Or, try, purify, cleanse, examine, assay.] The Hebrew TSARAPH [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 6884] is a word from the smelter and the refinement of gold. What is to be put in the Assayer’s furnace? David says his “deepest motivations and inclinations.” [Or, motives and my mind [HAR], kidneys and heart [NWT], inmost desires and thoughts [KNX].] What is it David is willing to have God examine? Two words in Hebrew are used. The first one is KILYAH [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 3629, kidneys = seat of emotions and affections]. Thus, the inner most thoughts at the root of motivations. The second word is LEB [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 3820, heart = inner person, mind, inclinations, resolution, determination]. So David is also willing to have his conscience and moral character exposed to God for examination. In other words, “What am I down deep inside, in my inner most being?” [Compare 1 Corinthians 4:5 Living Bible]
Psalm 26:3 - “For Your covenant-loyalty has been the focus of my eyes, and I have conducted myself honestly.”
David is a focused person. Focused on what? He says, God’s “covenant-loyalty.” [Or, loving-kindness, steadfast love [RSV], gracious love [HAR], kindness [YLT].] The Hebrew is CHECED [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 2617, goodness, kindness, loyalty]. David has focused his life on God’s “covenant-loyalty.” That is, God’s own promises and contracts based on genuine love and kindness. If one is to be judged any person would prefer a judge of impeccable honesty, fairness, and loyalty to law. David really wants to know what kind of person lies within and he wants “the Judge of all the earth” to make this examination. [Genesis 14]
In this regard, David has also focused on an honest life. That is, God’s own Truth has been the center of his life. [Or, before mind eyes [KJV], at the forefront of my mind [HAR].] In other words David says, “I have lived by your principles of truth.” [HAR]. This is a unique human being, and few among humankind today can make such honest claims. But, David gives his proof for why he can say this.
Psalm 26:4, 5 - “I have never sat down with deceitful persons, nor have I ever joined pretenders. I have hated the church of harmful persons, and I would never sit with lawless persons.”
David states with confidence in the facts that he has not even “sat down” together with certain types of people. By ‘sitting down’ he may mean: dwelt with [PBV], sat with [ASV], consort with [RSV], mix with [HAR], not associated with [BER]. David has shunned certain types of people. “Sat down” is poetically paralleled with “joined” or “fellowship.” So David has certain boundaries regarding what kind of people he will associate or fellowship with. Who are these persons?
David calls them “deceitful persons.” [Or, vain, false, deceptive.] David has learned who these are because they have given evidence of such deceitfulness. These exist within the Christian Church also and disciples of the Nazarene are warned against such persons. [2 Corinthians 11:13, 14]
Parallel with this thought, David confirms that he has not “joined” with “pretenders.” [Or, go in with [KJV], fellowship [PBV], associate [HAR], fellowship [BER].] David does not associate or fellowship with certain types of people. Paul warned of the same thing within the Christian Church. [1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18] These “pretenders” are also identified as dissemblers [KJV], deceitful [PBV], hypocrites [HAR]. David has learned to recognize the two-faced hypocrite. The Hebrew is ‘ALAM [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 5956] and infers a person who conceals or hides what they truly are. [James 3:17] These smile to your face and speak sweet words, but behind your back they sharpen their daggers.
Such persons are even found in “church,” David says. Here the word “church” may also be rendered congregation [KJV], company [HAR], convocation [RHM]. The Hebrew is QAHAL [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 6951] and suggests an assembly for religious purposes, or an organized body. The Greek [LXX] is ECCLESIAN [ecclesia]. Even in a religious or environment of worship David exercises caution and refuses to associate and fellowship with deceitful hypocrites.
Such persons are also “harmful.” That is, evildoers [KJV], criminals HAR], sinners [TAY]. Evil or wickedness is almost always harmful or hurtful of others. Certainly the height of such is murder or manslaughter. Such persons “have no everlasting life remaining in them,” John warns, and according to him this can involve just the emotion of hate. [1 John 3:15] Nor does David “sit with” [Or, go in with [KJV], fellowship [PBV], consort with [RSV], associate with [HAR], fellowship with [HAR] “lawless persons.” [Or, wicked [KJV], reprobates [AAT]] These are persons who are habitually sinners against humans and God. This is what David does not do, but what does he do?
Psalm 26:6-12 - Promises
Psalm 26:6, 7 - “I will wash my hands in purity, and so I will parade around Your altar, O Yehowah. [I will] sing loudly to retell all Your wonders.”
David says, “I will wash my hands in purity.” [Or, innocency [KJV], pureness [RHM], innocence [JB].] David now begins to make some promises about his future conduct. Compare his repentant heart in Psalm 51. No matter the degree of sin, God welcomes the repentant heart that makes serious efforts to change. This attitude is encouraged by John, “Now every person with this hope purifies themselves exactly as the Son is pure.” [1 John 3:3 NCMM]
He will also remain steady in his worship at God’s “altar.” David has in mind that altar within the courtyard of the Mosaic tabernacle where sacrifices ascended to God. The Christian Church has its own “altar” around which Christians worship God. [Hebrews 13:10, 15, 16] And this may involve “singing loudly” in order to “retell” God’s wondrous activities. Like Paul later, David’s faith moves him to speak about the focus of his life. [2 Corinthians 4:12, 13]
Psalm 26:8-10 - “O Yehowah, I have loved the refuge of Your House, even the very location of Your glorious dwelling. Do not eliminate my soul along with sinners, nor my life with the blood-guilty. Their hands are filled with intrigue, and their right hand is filled with bribes.”
David is not just a perfunctory worshipper, but he actually loves it. David is God-centered and His worship is a focus of his life. All else is secondary. He loves to worship his God and he loves to be present where such worship is taking place. As a result of this he asks God, “Do not eliminate my soul” along with sinners and men of intrigue. Others render this phrase regarding David’s soul: gather not my soul [KJV], sweep me not away [RSV], share not the fate [JB]. A text indicating soul mortality out of over 120 other occurrences. Here “sinners” are poetically paralleled with the blood-guilty and persons given to “intrigue” or, mischief [KJV], evil devices [RSV], crime [DEW], stained with outrage [MOF], soiled with villainy [HAR], stained with guilt [JB]. These sinners or blood-guilty persons are further paralleled with such intrigue and bribery.
Psalm 26:11, 12 - “But I will walk in integrity. Redeem me and show me favor. I will take my stance on solid ground, and among those at church I will bless Yehowah.”
David makes a big promise regarding his future walk: “I will walk in integrity.” The Hebrew word here for “integrity” is TOM [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance #8537] and suggest someone who is completely upright and totally honest, virtuous, honorable, moral, principled, and good. David feels confident that he can do this because he says, “I will take my stance on solid ground.” [Or, stands on level ground [RSV], sure ground [KNX].] David is not wobbly or unsteady, but stands on the solid ground of sure faith and deep love. He is sure-footed and not indecisive. [James 1:7, 8]
Paul writes in a similar vein: “Therefore, ‘raise those hands that droop, and straighten out those weak knees [Isaiah 35:3]. Continue to make straight tracks with your feet’ [Proverbs 4:26], so that which is lame may not become disjointed, but rather that it should be healed.” [NCMM] Such sure-footedness may be found among “those at church,” as David says. That is within the congregations [KJV], assemblies [DEW], where his people gather [KNX], meetings of the people [BAS]. The Greek [LXX] is ECCLESIAIS [ecclesia]. Despite his shunning of those described above within the Ecclesia, David continues to seek out honest and true worshippers of God.
Paul gives a similar caution to Timothy: “In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay - some for an honorable use, and some for a dishonorable use. Therefore, anyone who keeps clear of the latter will remain a vessel for an honorable use, sanctified and very useful to the Master of the house, prepared for every good work. … Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peaceful harmony with others who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart. … [The former have] an outward appearance of reverence but keep resisting its influence. Avoid such people!” [2 Timothy 2:20-22; 3:5 NCMM]
Will You Ask God, “Test Me!”
As we have seen from David’s psalm asking God to “test” us means to allow Him to examine us. And not just a precursory glance, but a real examination of what we are deep down inside. Will we have the courage and confidence of David to welcome God to look into our deep emotions, motivations, and inclinations? We may be moved to resist such an idea, but in the end, it is not something we can avoid.
The prophet Malachi foretold a time of such judgment and inspection of God’s own people. The prophet writes, “’And suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to His temple, even the angel of the covenant in whom you delight. Look, he will surely arrive,’ says Yehowah of Hosts. However, who will be able to endure the day of his arrival, and who will remain standing when he appears? For he will be like a smelter’s fire and like a cleaner’s lye. And he must sit as a smelter and a purifier of silver to cleanse the sons of Levi. And he must clarify them like gold and silver. … And a log of remembrance was written in His presence for all those in fear of Yehowah and for those who thought on His Name. … So all of you will return and see the difference between the law-abiding and the lawless - between a person who serves God and one that does not serve Him.” [Malachi 3:1-3, 17, 18 NCMM]
Judging from David’s psalm several factors will be the focus of such an examination. The first is “purity.” The Nazarene taught, “Blessed the pure in heart for they will see The God.” [Matthew 5:8 NCMM] Surely such purity means that we need to be guileless and without agendas. Also, we would strive to think and act out of purity, so that our morals are upright and our dispositions clean. Paul urges such an effort: “As a result, having these promises, beloved, we should cleanse ourselves from every fleshly and spiritual pollution, perfecting holiness in godly fear.” [2 Corinthians 7:1 NCMM]
Second is truth and honesty. Jesus taught that true worship must involve “truth” when he said: “True Worshippers will [render] worship to the Father spiritually and in harmony with Truth, because the Father is searching for such persons to worship Him. The God [is] Pneuma, and those worshipping Him must of necessity worship spiritually and in harmony with Truth.” [John 4:23, 24 NCMM] Not only must our worship and knowledge be based on truth, but this also ought to move us to become truthful and honest in our dealings with one another. Thus, there would be no room for lying deceit in the family, work, or school. Rather, people should learn that what they see and hear is a truthful and honest person who never takes advantage of other people.
Third, God will be interested with whom we associate or fellowship. As we have seen above this even includes those at “church.” Paul cautioned: “May you not be misled - bad associations corrupt useful habits.” [1 Corinthians 15:33 NCMM] Obviously any “church” known to be associated with, or supports murder and manslaughter ought to be avoided. Any church that officially behaves in a hypocritical manner - saying one thing and doing another - ought to be avoided. Any church whose official stand on matters of morals - showing themselves to actually be sinners before God - ought to be avoided. Of course, this is a personal matter between the worshipper and God, but it is something God will be interested in.
Finally, God will want to find a person of integrity. A word filled with many meanings, but essentially conveying the idea of a principled person who never compromises when it comes to God’s righteousness. When God looks down deep does He such a person? Paul deals with this problem of judging others in these matters, but in the process he wrote: “So, do not judge anything before the season, until the Lord arrives. He will bring to the Light the hidden things of darkness and manifest the motives of [all] hearts.” [1 Corinthians 4:5 NCMM] Or, as one version puts it, “what we really are down deep in our hearts.” [TAY]
“How can I prepare for such a divine examination?” you might ask. One way is let God’s Word do it’s work in our hearts and minds. Paul writes about the power of His Word when he corresponds with Christian Jews: “For the Word of The God is a living [thing], energizing, and sharper than a two-edged sword. [God’s Word] cuts through so deep as to separate psyche and pneuma, even joints and marrow. It is a judge of thoughts and inner heart motives. There is not a creation not exposed in His sight. Everything is naked and laid wide open to the eyes of Him with whom we have an accounting.” [Hebrews 4:12, 13 NCMM]
So we make sure that each day we look into this “mirror” to find out what kind of person we are. A good place to begin is with the teachings of the Nazarene. Just the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount can teach us so many things about ourselves. We can take these handful of words and examine them against our own heart and mind. Are we pure? Are we meek? Are we truly hungering for righteousness? Are we peaceable? These thoughts are right there in the first few verses of Matthew chapter five. We can make a study of these words and the basic attitudes they reflect. We can prayerfully meditate on each one, searching our own soul and spirit - letting the Sword of the Spirit pierce deeply - and face up to what we are deep within.
Do not become discouraged at your progress. What God wants to see is someone trying to become a better person after the image of His own Son. As long as you continue to resist sin you will never become its slave. You may never perfect every attribute and characteristic but along the way - as people see you becoming a better person - strive to obey the two essential principles that are part of God’s “commandment” - a deep conviction along with a positive love for others. [1 John 3:23] Over time - and it may take years or even decades - you will be changed ever more into the image of His Son. As Paul writes, “And so all of us, with faces unveiled, continue to reflect like mirrors ‘the Lord’s glory’ [Isaiah 40:5] - continually transformed into that very same image - from glory unto glory - even that of our spiritual Lord.” [2 Corinthians 3:18 NCMM]
Doing this with all our hearts we will be able to stand before the ultimate and final examination on the Day of Judgment. John writes of this when he says: “Now, little children, continue to abide in (Jesus) so when the time comes for him to be made visible we all might speak openly and freely at his Arrival and not experience embarrassment while standing before him … on the Day of Judgment.” [1 John 3:28; 4:17 NCMM] May you experience no embarrassment when before the “judgment throne of Christ” because you asked God, “Test me!” [2 Corinthians 5:10]
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WHAT DOES GOD ASK OF YOU?
Thoughts on Micah 6:6-8
With what will I approach Yehowah’s presence? With what will I prostrate myself to God in the heights? Shall I approach Him with burnt offerings? With yearling calves? MC7:7 Will Yehowah approve of thousands of rams? With tens of thousand out-pourings of oil? Shall I give my firstborn child for my transgressions? The fruitage of my body for my own sin? MC7:8 He has already told you, O human, what is good - what Yehowah requires of you. Only this - to be just and fair, to take pleasure in compassion, and to walk humbly with your God. [NCMM]
From Abel God asked for an offering of the “firstlings of his flock.” [Genesis 4:4] From Noah God asked for animal sacrifices from the seven of each clean kind carried in the Ark. [Genesis 8:20, 21] From the Hebrew patriarchs God asked for burnt offerings. From the Israelites God commanded them to offer up to Him offerings of every kind. In the days of Jesus of Nazareth the Jews continued to offer up “holocausts” or burnt offerings.
Despite all of these, what was it that God really asked of His worshippers? Can we reduce these to just a few to make it easier on ourselves? [Psalm 51:16, 17; Isaiah 1:11-15] It may turn out that it would be easier to offer up holocausts to God rather than the three things He asks of His worshippers. What are these?
The prophet Micah writing about 700 years before Christ made it clear the three things that Yehowah required of those who will worship Him. What are these and what do they mean?
“TO BE JUST AND FAIR”
All of us have no difficulty in telling what is “just and fair” when it comes to the way WE are treated. We know for sure what is just. We know for sure what is fair. The reason we know is because we know how we feel when we are treated unjustly, or unfairly. Even little children learn this lesson very early. They learn naturally how to judge who is being just and fair to them. How?
It is only just and fair that we know the rules first. The rules have to be the same for everyone. Any punishment for breaking the rules must be based on a common standard. Since this is how we wish to be treated it is only reasonable - just and fair - that we treat others with this same justice and fairness we want for ourselves.
There is an example of this in one of the Nazarene’s parables. When illustrating the matter of forgiveness, Jesus told the story of a slave who was heavily in debt, so much so that it was impossible for him to repay the loans he had accrued. However, his master out of mercy - he surely was just and fair - canceled this unbelievable debt. But, upon leaving, this slave spotted another slave who owed him a very small amount. The forgiven slave became enraged and began to choke his fellow, screaming, “Pay up!” Well, his actions got back to the master - and all things being just and fair - he had to pay for his failure to be just and fair with others.
Being “just and fair” we do not keep expecting things of others that we ourselves are not willing to deliver. It simply is not “just and fair” to demand that others do something that we cannot or wont do. We expect people never to speak ill of us, but we think nothing of doing so about others. We expect others to sacrifice all, while we give only token charity. We want everyone to forgive us, but we are hard taskmasters when it comes to be “just and fair” to others.
Jesus describes “justice” as one of the weightier matters of the Law of Moses. [Matthew 23:23] He condemns the Jewish hierarchy for becoming very demanding and religious about minor matters, but ignore being “just and fair.” Such has marked religious hierarchies throughout the ages among all religions. They, like the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ generation, “piled huge burdens on the people but were not willing to use their linger finger to relieve that load.”
For the quality of being “just and fair” to be present there must be something else. That is next considered by the prophet.
“TO TAKE PLEASURE IN COMPASSION”
The Nazarene was a most compassionate person. His feelings of compassion - and what this moved him to do - are described in the Gospels. Also, he worked the subject of compassion into some of his parables. [Matthew 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mark 6:34; Luke 7:13; 1:33]
Paul encourages the attribute of compassion. “Become graciously charitable to each other, with a tendency to sympathetic compassion full of forgiveness to all, exactly as God by Christ graciously forgave you.” [Ephesians 4:32 NCMM] And again: “Clothe yourselves with empathy and compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, tolerance. Be patient and tolerant of one another even if someone has a complaint against another.” [Colossians 3:12, 13 NCMM]
Peter also exhorts to compassion: “All of you be like-minded - sympathetic, along with brotherly affection, well-disposed to compassion, humble in disposition, not paying back harm for harm, or slander for slander, but rather, bestow blessings [on others].” [1 Peter 4:8, 9 NCMM]
Compassion - with its friend “empathy” - are at the very root of properly motivated love [or, AGAPE]. For love begins with empathy and compassion. Love first notices a need out of interest for others and then the engine of compassion and empathy arouse a positive action that seeks the highest good of another.
Such a quality does not always come naturally to most. We are born somewhat egocentric, convinced the whole world revolves around us in our cribs and high-chairs. Unfortunately some never outgrow this attitude and go to their graves thinking the world owed them a living. However, upon becoming disciples of the Nazarene, Christians must slowly train themselves to think in a different way. It takes time, but at last the “genuine disciple” learns to think first - not of self and personal interests - but of others and their needs.
Paul makes an appeal to a Christian congregation and in this context he combines the need for compassion and sincere interest in others. In Philippians 2:1-4 he writes, “So if there is … any inner feelings and compassions … be considerate of one another, not just looking after your own selfish things, but also those things of others.” [NCMM]
Compassion is manifest in many ways, but one is paramount - charity. For when a truly compassionate person sees a person in need they quickly come to their aid. The very idea is at the root of Christ’s parable of the sheep and goats illustrating his parousia-judgment of his own Church. [Matthew 25:31-46] The sheep are those with compassion who saw a need among their fellowship and took positive action. The goats, on the other hand, saw the same needs but were unmoved despite their claims of Christianity.
A modern example of such compassion was seen in the simple lady called Mother Theresa. How many persons - including Christians of any sect - would be willing to sacrifice all to go to the dark and dank gutters of Bombay and care for women and children in abject poverty? Which one of the highly respect religious leaders of ANY sect or religion would be willing to give up their means and life-style, respect and honor, titles and prestige, and go to a Third World country to labor among an AIDS-infested population? It was not without reason that this dear woman was given the Noble Prize, in part because of her compassion. She said: “We should see the Lord Jesus in the faces of the poor.”
Yehowah through the prophet Micah does not merely say, “be compassionate.” But rather, He says, “take pleasure in compassion.” We should wear compassion and empathy as though it were clothing. Everyone who knows us should be able to say, “Now there is a compassionate Christian.” In every community there are ways to demonstrate such compassion. There are any number of volunteer services where one can offer their help freely to assist those in need.
Of course, compassion ought to begin at home. From there compassion should move out into every individual we meet as we carry Christ in our hearts. We carry compassion into the work place, the market place, the schoolyard, and all the hundreds of other places our Gospel feet take us. Now compassion and the subject of “walking” are considered next in Micah.
“TO WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD”
The first person to have been described as “walking with God” was Enoch [Genesis 5:22, 24] and the next Noah. [Genesis 6:9] Yehowah told Abraham, “I am Almighty God and you must continue to walk before me and prove yourself blameless.” [NCMM] Micah the prophet has already used the idea of walking with God in Micah 4:2, 5, “[Yehowah] will teach us His ways and we will walk in His paths. … For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, while we will continue to walk in the name of Yehowah our God forever and ever.” [NCMM]
In the Christian Scriptures the words “walk” and “walking” are used of personal conduct or lifestyle. [Romans 6:4; 8:4; 13:13; 2 Corinthians 5:7] Paul uses the metaphor with regard to a life of spiritual conduct. He writes, “So now I tell all of you: if you continue to walk by the Spirit you will not follow through on any fleshly desire. … If we continue to live spiritually we will also [continue to walk] spiritually. … Now peace and mercy upon all those of the Israel of God who continue to walk orderly according to this rule.” [Galatians 5:16, 25; 6:16 NCMM]
Also in other verses he comes close to paraphrasing Micah: “Continue conducting yourselves [or, walk] as Children of the Light because the Light’s fruitage is every type of moral virtue, ethical uprightness, and integrity.” [Ephesians 5:9 NCMM] And again, “Conduct yourselves [or, walk] worthily of the Lord, completely pleasing Him as you continue to produce fruitage in every kind of good work, always increasing your complete and thorough knowledge of the God.” [Colossians 1:10 NCMM]
The beloved apostle John uses the idea of “walking” as a way of conducting oneself. He says in his three epistles: “If we live [walk] like we are in righteous illumination - exactly as Jesus lived [walked] in righteous illumination - then we are a community cleansed from sin sharing in the blood of God’s Son, Jesus. … The person who says, ‘I remain in harmony with him,’ has the responsibility to live [walk] just as Jesus lived. … Now this is the loving concern: so that we may continue to walk in [God’s] commandments, just as you originally heard, that you continue walking in [that loving concern]. … I rejoiced exceedingly when visiting brothers testified about the Truth you hold and how you continue to walk in accordance with the Truth. I have no greater reason for thankfulness than to hear my children continue walking in the Truth.” [1 John 1:7; 2:6; 2 John 6; 3 John 3, 4 NCMM]
However, it is just not “walking with God” but also “walking HUMBLY with God.” The Christian walk or conduct cannot be in self-righteous arrogance passing out judgments and criticisms on everyone. It must be characterized by lowly-mindedness or humility.
Our Lord set the premier example as Paul describes: “[Jesus] emptied himself, and took a slave’s form, and became in the likeness of humans. And, having discovered himself in a human frame, [he] made himself lowly [or, humbled himself] and became obedient until a death, but death on a stake.” [Philippians 2:8 NCMM] Christ’s walk with his God was a humble one.
Here was a spiritual being who existence in God’s presence in the celestial realms of glory. He is second only to his Father in all the Universe. It is this One who was willing to leave that all behind, descend to the earth, and live among “an adulterous generation” in a desert land. This required humility to begin with. It required humility throughout his life. And, it required humility to die in a manner that made it seem he was a criminal.
How many modern religious leaders do you know who would be willing to make this kind of humble sacrifice? Almost without exception members of any religious hierarchy live much better than the average membership of their church or organization. Would they be willing to even walk in the footprints of Mother Theresa, let alone Christ Jesus? Would they be willing to leave behind their honors and prosperity and lifestyle and move to a third world country and live among a diseased people? And then, be arrested as though a criminal and executed as such without honors or glory?
Some persons are almost humble by nature due to a variety of circumstances. Others are almost arrogant from the womb and live their lives as though they were the actual center of the Universe. They are the kind with bumper-stickers that read, “I am okay. You are so-so.” The modern “Me Generation” is filled with them, many of them Christians.
One way or the other we will all be humbled in the end. We may choose the course of humility, or we may be humiliated by Christ in the Judgment. [Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 2:28]
Like the attributes of being “just and fair” and “taking pleasure in compassion,” we must train ourselves to become more and more humble. Like the other characteristics, humility is often a matter of how we view others. Jesus taught that the “greatest” among his disciples would be the one who was servant to others. That takes humility. Behaving like a true servant to others means viewing others as our superiors. This is the powerful lesson the Nazarene gave when washing the feet of his apostles.
This is not something that comes easy for most. It is a learned process. One way to understand it is to learn to appreciate that all persons are blessed with certain gifts and qualities. A master violinist may enthrall large audiences during a solo performance. This does make him or her superior in other matters, or as a person. It does not make him or her a superior human being. A brain surgeon may not know how to repair an automobile engine. A genius at computer software may not be able to write his way out of a wet paper sack. A person known as a genius in mathematics was known to be a poor speller.
Each human being is possessed of his or her own talents and history. We might compare it to the question of which is superior - a clock or a lamp. Well, if you need to be some where on time, the former is superior; but, if you are in the dark, the latter. If we focus more on the gifts and beauty of others, and less on our own talents, we will find ourselves becoming more humble.
As humble persons in conversations we will find ourselves expressing our opinions less and listening to those of others. This becomes easy - and one becomes a good conversationalist - if we just as questions of other people, things they want to talk about. We will find that we no longer try to dominate a conversation. We will discover that if two are present, then we may share half of the conversation. And if ten are present only one-tenth of the conversation. Sometimes we might find ourselves JUST listening. There are few people without an opinion. There are few of these who think their opinion wrong. However, it is not always necessary to express an opinion. The humble person might wait to be asked for his or her opinion first and then offer it in a humble manner.
Humility is also a quality in which jealousy is absent. Most often arrogant and egotistical people express their jealousies regarding a person who is wiser, richer, more beautiful, or more socially placed. A dead give away to this lack of humility is loose gossip and slander. These are ALWAYS motivated by jealousy whether the person is willing to admit it or not. So humility will find us speaking well of people, making excuses for them, and at all costs avoid making a derogatory judgment of them.
HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?
The idea of walking with God is a wondrous concept. In sinless Eden our original father took walks in that paradise garden. The historical record reports that God also visited the garden in the “breezy part of the day.” [Genesis 3:8] Adam and God talked.
How will we walk with our God, Yehowah, the Father of our Lord Jesus? Surely the “genuine disciple” will become evident because of being “just and fair,” one who “takes pleasure in compassion,” and is characterized by humility in his or her worship of God. Such persons who persist in this walk with God will one day enter His celestial Presence and come “to behold His face.” [Revelation 22:4] O, what walks and talks we might enjoy then! May that be your happy lot!
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THE GODLY HUSBAND
The Proverb of Solomon asks, “The good wife, who can find?” [Proverbs 31:10] It is only fair that the same question be asked of husbands, particularly Christian husbands. What counsel or direction do the Scriptures give to godly husbands within the union of marriage?
Some languages do not actually have a word for “husband” or “wife.” Instead they use just the words “man” or “woman” - as in Greek [ANER, male] - and the context determines the precise meaning. In English the word “husband” means literally: “householder.” The old English word “husbandry” was used of “management of domestic affairs” and so to “husband” was to care for a farm or a home and those within it.
In the Old Testament Hebrew Bible several words are used with regard to a man married to a woman. As in Greek, he is called ISH [man (Hosea 2:16)], ADHOHN [lord], and BAAL [owner/master]. [Genesis 18:12; 20:3; Jeremiah 3:20] In Malachi 2:14 husbands are also described as “partner” or “companion.” [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 2278, CHABERETH]
Even Yehowah in His relationship with Israel calls Himself a “husband” or “husbandly owner” at Isaiah 54:5. Here the word BAAL is used. [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 1166, to marry, rule over, possess, own to marry, rule over, possess, own] Thus, godly Jewish men had the greatest of examples before them of what a godly husband would be like. Yehowah or Yahweh is described to by His own angelic representative in this manner: “Jehovah, Jehovah God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy unto thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” [Exodus 34:6, 7 DAR]
In the New Testament Christian Scriptures Christ is compared to a husband of his Church, his Bride. In doing so Christian men who are married have in Jesus Christ a role model as a husband. [Ephesians 5:25-33]
What are a few key principles in the Holy Scriptures that help characterize the godly husband?
HE PRAISES HER
Though it is the godly wife who is described in Proverbs 31:10-31 there it also should be noted that her husband [BAAL] “[stands up] and praises her: ‘There are many good women but you are the best of them all!’” [Proverbs 31:28, 29 NCMM]
Everyone enjoys praise. Compliments and positive reinforcement go a long way, and the godly husband should make sure that he does this daily. Such praise calls for a positive outlook. So the godly husband is looking for every opportunity to compliment his wife. Not a day should go by without him making some endearing expression that shows he appreciates all that his wife does and is.
HE DELIGHTS ONLY IN HER
Some husbands have been accused of having “a wandering eye.” The godly husband is careful to keep his attention and focus on his wife. Proverbs 5:15-21 counsels that a godly husband’s romantic interests should be exclusively devoted to only his wife.
Jesus the Nazarene also cautioned married men to be careful of this “wandering eye.” In Matthew 5:27-29 the Master warns of the dangers when married men turn their interests away from their wives: “You heard it said: ‘Commit not adultery.’ But, I tell you [husbands]: Anyone looking at a woman, desiring her in his heart, has already [committed adultery]. But, if your right eye stumbles you, cut it out and throw it away. Better to lose one body-member than your whole body be thrown into Gehenna.” [NCMM]
When Yehowah describes a changed relationship with Israel He uses a particular expression that well describes the godly husband’s attitude toward his wife. The “husband” of Israel describes His new name as “Hephzibah” which means, “My Delight Is In Her.” [Isaiah 62:4] And just so, godly husbands will make sure to convey this same sentiment to their wives.
Some men in some cultures find it difficult to do this. Not to worry. Your wife will accept all your praise and interest will open arms. If you find it hard - with all the daily struggles of life - to make “expressions of endearment” [Song of Solomon 1:2], then make a determined effort to convince your wife that your “delight is in her” and no other. Obviously, this means in social matters you will not be one who flirts with the opposite sex. This is only a matter of good husbandly manners. Your wife WILL notice such brief lapses!
HE IS NOT TYRANNICAL
When Yehowah condemns the religious hierarchy of the Jews through the prophet Malachi, He not only finds fault with their worship but also with those priests who were husbands. Note the powerful words of the One who was the Husband of Israel:“Now this is the second reason for you [men] to cover the altar of Yehowah in tears - weeping and screaming - for will He turn toward your gift offering with favor, or be pleased with anything from your hand? Now you say, ‘What is the reason?’ For this reason - because Yehowah testifies between you and the wife of your youth with whom you have treated her hurtfully even though she is your partner and the wife of your covenant-promise. Did He not create everyone? So that all the remaining breath of life is His? And what did that one search for? Godly people! Now you men must be on guard regarding your own attitude so that you never treat the wife of your youth hurtfully. ‘For He hates divorce,’ says Yehowah, the God of Israel, ‘as well as the man clothing himself with lawlessness like a garment,’ says Yehowah of Hosts. ‘So all of you men guard your attitude and never be hurtful.’” [Malachi 2:13-16 NCMM]
Some versions render the phrase “treated her hurtfully” as tyrannical, or treacherously, forsaken, broken faith [trust]. The Hebrew is BAGAD [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 898, to act or deal treacherously, faithlessly, deceitfully, offend] and suggests harmful and ill treatment of a wife. It is clear from the verses in Malachi above that God is aware of how some husbands treat their wives, particularly those who clothe themselves in religious authority.
What could this hurt or treachery be? Well, as a husband you know what hurts you. Do not do the same to your wife? Do you like being deceived? Do you like someone to tyrannize over you? Do you like someone to berate or belittle you? Do you like someone to behave dishonestly with you? Well, then, do not do these things with your wife. Certainly there should never be a need to resort to physical violence. No matter how a wife behaves the husband cannot use his physical strength to control her. It is better, then, as the Proverb states to go and dwell in a desert than with a wife who arouses such reactions. And, indeed, in many parts of the world, a man who physically abuses his wife is only going to jail. And there he might find bigger men who would “tyrannize” him!
HE PROVIDES AND PROTECTS
The apostle Paul is the one who writes the most concentrated material on the godly husband. This can and should be read many times by every godly
husband. It is found in Ephesians 5:25-29, “Now husbands, continue to show loving concern your wife just as Christ showed loving concern for the congregation. He sacrificed himself for the Congregation for the purpose of washing it with the bathing in the water of his message. Doing so he may make a glorious presentation to himself of an unspotted and perfectly smooth Congregation without any imperfections - holy and unblemished. Just as Christ loves his Church you husbands ought to be loving your wives as much as his own body. The husband who has loving concern for his wife loves himself. Hardly does a man every hate his own flesh. Rather he feeds and takes care of it.” [NCMM Paraphrase]
In these verses several factors guide the godly husband. Paul says he “feeds and takes care of [her]” just as he would his own flesh. Thus, he protects and provides for her. Some versions render the phrase “takes care of” as “cherish.” The literal meaning of the word in Greek is to “keep warm.” Now this can be done materially as well as emotionally. Again it is not difficult to figure out what this means. How does a husband want to be treated? How does he take care of himself? Then, the godly husband will “go and do likewise.”
HE LOVES HER
Paul writes that the godly husband will also “love” his wife. The Greek for “love” [loving concern] is AGAPE and has been defined as “positive action that seeks the highest good of another.” This means applying the Golden Rule within the marriage - “As you would have others do to you, you do to them.”
Indeed, the word “love” may be called the husband’s word. It defines his role. Never is this word used the other way where a wife should “love” her husband. This is the husband’s word that defines his place in marriage. [For the wife’s word see Nazarene Commentary 2000© and compare the Biblical Article: “The Biblical Woman”.] Certainly the point Paul makes at Philippians 2:3, 4 would especially apply in marriage: “Be considerate of one another, not just looking after your own selfish things, but also those things of others.” [NCMM]
A godly husband’s love for his wife involves awareness, interest, concern - all followed by positive action. Peter expresses the same idea in these words: “The husbands dwelling with [their wives] should assign them honor in harmony with knowledge, as to a weaker, feminine vessel - resulting in unhindered prayers -- for you also are joint heirs of the unmerited favor of Life.” [1 Peter 3:7 NCMM] Any godly husband reading this should immediately note that his prayers - thus his worship and relationship with God - are affected by a failure to “honor” his wife.
As Peter states, this requires “knowledge.” Now most husbands will admit they sometimes have difficulty understanding their wives - just as their wives do them. There must be moments - many of them - in a married life where the godly husband pauses to think about his role as a husband and how he treats his wife. He needs to ponder and meditate on how she thinks and reacts. What makes her feel good and positive about herself? What are her likes and dislikes? What irritates her? This is the process of acquiring “knowledge” of this “weaker, feminine vessel.” Thus, the godly husband must be knowing, aware, interested, concerned about his wife.
One Christian husband made it a practice to never leave the home without a hug, kiss, and good word. He never passed his wife without a loving touch. He never failed to express his love each day. He never failed to find good things to say about her appearance. Upon returning home he never failed to embrace and kiss his wife. He chose not to utter a negative word upon returning home, but rather sought out positive things to say. A day never passed without him complimenting her appearance and telling her how beautiful she was. He remembered to prove to his wife that he thought of her when away. He brought her flowers and presents, and he did not always insist that their leisure activity center around him.
When he sensed his wife was just under too much stress he arranged for her to have a weekend to herself in a seaside hotel with some of the books she loved to read. Indeed, on two occasions he encouraged his wife to travel abroad with family and friends, while he remained at home to care for their three children. Most men thought him crazy, while most women thought him wonderful.
HE CARES FOR HER SPIRITUALLY
Above Paul also used the example of Christ as a role model for godly husbands. Paul writes that the Christ “bathes [his wife, the Church] with the bath of water according to the Word.” Christ lovingly taught his future wife, the Church. [2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:9] And just so, the godly husband must not only be the material provider, but also the spiritual one.
Patiently the godly husband applies the grand laws and principles in the Scriptures in his marriage. Most often this is done through an evening or two in the week when time is set aside for Bible reading and study. The godly husband looks for examples in the Scriptures that apply to him. Seeing this, the wife will do the same. Certainly there should be time for prayer together. [1 Corinthians 7:5]
Like Christ, after such spiritual bathing in the waters of Truth, the godly husband will discover that his Christian wife is becoming more and more presentable to God. As Paul puts it, “Without a spot or a wrinkle or any thing of the sort.” Or, as some other versions put it: stainless glory [CON], as something wonderful [BEC].
Think of what this may mean! Like Christ presenting his Church to his Father in celestial glory, the godly husband will be able to present his wife - whom he has loved and cherished in harmony with the Word - before the Head of the Church as something fully pleasing to himself as well as the God and Father of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Godly husbands, may this be your happy lot on that “day when Christ is to Appear in his glory”!
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ARE YOU A “RIGHTEOUS” PERSON?
Some people will answer, “Yes.” Others will be somewhat reticent and may say, “No.” Still others may be confused by the very word and respond, “I don’t know.” There are even those in some corners of the Christian Church who would respond that they are “carnal Christians.” These feel that no matter what they do God loves them anyway and despite their unrighteous life they will be saved.
The apostle Paul told a court of law, “God is going to resurrect both the righteous and the unrighteous.” [Acts 24:15] So there are only two groups who will be raised to that future Judgment Day. [Acts 17:31; Hebrews 9:27] It seems reasonable that a person - particularly a Christian - ought to know whether they are righteous or unrighteous. It is only to our own personal benefit and everlasting good that we understand what “righteous” [or, righteousness] means.
Webster’s defines “righteous” as “acting in a just, upright manner, doing what is right.” The word is drawn from “right-wise”. The root “right” is one of those words with scores of meanings, but in our context it means that which is straight from a spiritual and moral standpoint.
The word can cause a person to conjure up a perfectly pure and holy person without a flaw. However, that is going beyond the Biblical uses of the word. One way to understand it is to ask, “Am I known to be a just and fair person?” If you and others can answer, Yes, then you are a righteous person. Or, you might ask, “Am I known as a law-abiding person?” If you and your friends can answer, Yes, then you are a righteous person. For to be righteous means to obey the law, and so a righteous person is a law-abiding person.
Now a law-abiding person may sometimes break laws, as in going through a stoplight, driving faster than the speed limit, expressing anger in difficult moments, etc. However, if such became habitual, then the possibility of harming or killing another human being becomes a reality. If a normally law-abiding person runs a stop light and injures someone, then such a person is in serious danger of no longer being viewed as a righteous person. But, suppose the stop-light was run, a person was injured, and then the formerly law-abiding person fled the scene? Then, that person is no longer righteous, but has become unrighteous.
However, what does the Bible have to say on this subject of righteousness? A brief review may be enlightening and helpful.
“RIGHTEOUSNESS” IN THE HEBREW BIBLE
One scholar explains “righteousness” in this manner: “Righteousness in the biblical sense is a condition of rightness the standard of which is God, which is estimated according to the divine standard, which shows itself in behavior conformable to God, and has to do above all things with its relation to God, and with the walk before Him. It is, and it is called dikaiosune theou (righteousness of God) (Romans 3:21, 1:17), righteousness as it belongs to God, and is of value before Him, Godlike righteousness, see Ephesians 4:24; with this righteousness thus defined, the gospel (Romans 1:17) comes into the world of nations which had been wont to measure by a different standard.” [Studies in the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, 1946, p. 37]
In Hebrew the word most often used for righteousness is tse’dheq or tsedha·qah’ and these carries such ideas as just [justice], fair and honest, and the right use of God’s law. In Greek the word is di·kai·o·sy’ne and has a similar meaning. The word group “righteous[ness]” occurs about 870 times in the whole Bible.
The first person in the Bible to be called righteous was Abel, for the Lord Jesus characterized him as such. [Matthew 23:35] But chronologically it was Noah who walked with God. [Genesis 6:9; 7:1] Since righteousness is essentially the correct observance of law, there must be a rule or standard with some form of sanction or punishment. Since God had given no such law to humanity as yet, Noah’s righteousness was dependent on his obedience to God in building the Ark for the preservation of a new world of humanity.
The next person called righteous in the Bible was Abraham. [Genesis 15:6; 18:19] In addition to the patriarch’s personal righteousness, the account - and later Paul - make it clear that his faith was also “counted to him as righteousness.” This faith of Abraham was first manifest by his willingness to leave Ur of the Chaldeans and move 1500 miles to Canaan [now Palestine]. Such faith was later reinforced by his willingness to obey God and offer his only son as a sacrifice to Yehowah.
Abraham engages Yehowah in an interesting dialog about His justice and fairness - His own righteousness. It is recorded in Genesis chapter 18 where the word “righteous” is used several times. Abraham believed there must be some righteous persons in Sodom. As it turned out there were only three, Lot and his daughters. And though Lot is not called righteous in the account in Genesis 19, he is three times called “righteous” by Peter. [2 Peter 2:7, 8] And this despite the fact that he does some things most people would find undesirable. It should be remembered there were no laws as yet against such conduct.
Even a pagan nation can be termed “righteous” in a general manner, as Abraham does in Genesis 20:4. How can this be? Paul later shows that God has implanted a conscience in all human beings and so the judges at Nuremberg agreed that there was such a thing as “the universal human conscience.” [Romans 2:14, 15] Most nations have had their own laws and standards of right and wrong, justice and fairness. Indeed, millennia later Peter is to tell a non-Jewish Italian soldier, “I absolutely perceive that the God does not show partiality, but in every nation the person fearing Him and who continues to work righteousness is acceptable to Him.” [Acts 10:34, 35 NCMM] Thus, even outside God’s chosen nation with its 600 Laws of Moses, there have been righteous men and women.
That there are degrees of righteousness is shown in the case of Judah and Tamar. [Genesis 38:24] Though engaging in what some today would consider sexual immorality - remember the Law had not been given yet - Judah acknowledges that Tamar was “more righteous” than he. [Compare also 1 Samuel 24:17.]
In the Law of Moses Yehowah commands: “Stay clear from falsehood. Never put to death the innocent and the righteous, because I will never declare someone wicked righteous.” [Exodus 23:7] Thus, God set a standard for Himself, that he would never declare a wicked person “righteous” It was only to the nation of Israel, the Hebrew descendents of Abraham, that Yehowah gave His Law: “Is there any other people to whom I have given my righteous rules and judgments like the Law I place before you today?” [Deuteronomy 4:8 NCMM] From that moment on any Israelite would know what was righteous and unrighteous. [Deuteronomy 6:25] God had made his standards for Israel clear and they agreed as a nation to keep His commandments.
Solomon prays at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, “It is then that You [Yehowah] will listen from heaven and judge your servants in order to punish the wicked for their own responsible actions, and to pronounce righteous the righteous person by repaying him for his righteousness.” [2 Chronicles 6:23 NCMM] In the end righteousness will be rewarded and unrighteousness punished.
The words righteous and righteousness occur most often in the poetic books Psalms and Proverbs, a total of 250 times. Most of these praise God for His own righteousness and justice. David prays to always walk according to God’s standard of righteousness, for Yehowah “blesses anyone righteous.” [Psalm 5:7, 12] David acknowledges his own righteousness. [Psalm 7:8, 9] Only those who continually walk in righteousness will inhabit His tent. [Psalm 15:2] It is the righteous who will behold God’s face. [Psalm 17:15] Yehowah rewards the righteous. [Psalm 18:20] The Shepherd only leads in paths of righteousness. [Psalm 23:3] Yehowah looks upon the righteous. [Psalm 34:15] The righteous poor are better off than the wicked rich. [Psalm 37:16] Ultimately the righteous will inherit the earth. [Psalm 37:29] The Messiah is to love righteousness. [Psalm 45:7] Humanity will one day have to recognize the fruitage of the righteous person and it will be proof that there is a God who judges the earth. [Psalm 58:10]
Only the righteous are written in the Book of Life. [Psalm 69:27] In the future the whole earth will experience righteousness under the Messiah as King. [Psalm 72:2, 7] The righteous will become enlightened. [Psalm 97:11] Those who are fair and just - constantly righteous - are blessed. [Psalm 106:3] The righteous will be remembered. [Psalm 112:6] The true worshipper of God must be able to say: “I have continued to be righteous.” [Psalm 119:121] Priestly persons must be clothed in righteousness. [Psalm 132:9] No one is perfectly and absolutely righteous. [Psalm 142:7] Yehowah loves the righteous person. [Psalm 146:8]
So, in the Hebrew Bible it is stressed over and over that God is righteous, He loves righteousness, will judge a person according to righteousness, and that a righteous person has every reason to rejoice. But what did Jesus teach about righteousness?
WHAT DID JESUS TEACH ABOUT RIGHTEOUSNESS?
The Nazarene’s first use of the word “righteousness” was at his baptism. When John resisted the idea of immersing Jesus, the Lord responded: “Let it be this time for in this way it is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness.” [Matthew 3:15 NCMM] Thus, right at the beginning Christ indicates the need to “fulfill all righteousness” and that baptism in water is part of that.
In his teachings Jesus goes on to mention righteousness often. Right in his Sermon on the Mount he reveals many factors about the subject. The blessed will be those who hunger for righteousness. [Matthew 5:6] The righteous will be persecuted. [Matthew 5:6] If one’s righteousness did not surpass that of the Jewish hierarchy they would not enter the Kingdom. [Matthew 5:20] A disciple should not exhibit righteousness [charity, prayers, etc.] with the motive of being observed by others. [Matthew 6:1] The disciple should put righteousness first in life. [Matthew 6:33] The person who shows kindness to a righteous person will be rewarded. [Matthew 10:41] The righteous disciple will one day “shine like the sun” in the Father’s Kingdom. [Matthew 13:43] At the parousia-Judgment the righteous will be identified and separated from the wicked Christians. [Matthew 13:49] Some may appear righteous but are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. [Matthew 23:28] The righteous are compared to charitable and compassionate sheep in the Judgment. [Matthew 25:37] There will be a resurrection of the righteous. [Luke 14:14] Jesus promised that when he sent the spirit-helper it would give testimony on the subject of righteousness. [John 16:8]
WHAT DID THE INSPIRED DISCIPLES TEACH ABOUT RIGHTEOUSNESS?
Just as Jesus promised, the spirit-helper began its influence as a “guide into all the truth” by placing the subject of righteousness - as well as “sin and judgment” - in all the inspired epistles of these men. Luke calls a non-Jewish, non-Christian “a righteous man.” [Acts 10:22] Any person in any nation who is righteous is acceptable to God. [Acts 10:35] There will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous leading to judgment. [Acts 17:31; 24:15]
We see the spirit-helper - who was to give evidence regarding righteousness, sin and judgement - working on Paul when he spoke to Felix about: “… righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment.” [Acts 24:25 NCMM] Paul makes righteousness one of his major sub-themes. In his use of the word “righteousness” Paul gives it also an absolute sense meaning perfect innocence before God. There is such an unqualified, unlimited righteousness in his writings. [Romans 3:10] The righteous must also be persons of deep conviction. [Romans 1:17] The righteous with deep conviction - and that love associated with such belief - may expect God’s declaration of perfect righteousness. [Romans chapters 4 and 5]
Despite this act of justification - the pronouncement of innocence from past sins - the forgiven disciple must now use various members of the body as “tools of righteousness.” [Romans 6:13] The disciple must become a “slave to righteousness” with the result of holiness. [Romans 6:16, 18] There are those who are self-righteous. [Romans 10:3] Though the heart’s conviction leads to righteousness, it is the mouth’s confession that leads to salvation. [Romans 10:10] The Kingdom of God involves a righteous life. [Romans 14:17] Christians are urged to follow righteousness and not to sin. [1 Corinthians 15:34] The righteous have no partnership with the lawless. [2 Corinthians 6:14]
Righteousness is associated with charity and compassion. [2 Corinthians 9:10] Satan’s workers can appear as “ministers of righteousness.” [2 Corinthians 11:15] The New Person in Christ is characterized by righteousness. [Ephesians 4:24] The Christian should arm self with the “breastplate of righteousness.” [Ephesians 6:14] The disciple should be “brimming over with the fruitage of righteousness.” [Philippians 1:11 NCMM] Righteousness should be something given close consideration. [Philippians 4:8] Timothy is urged to “pursue righteousness.” [1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22] The Scriptures are beneficial for “disciplining in righteousness.” [2 Timothy 3:16] Christians are urged to “live in righteousness.” [Titus 2:12] Regeneration and justification to perfect righteousness are not based on personal righteousness, but rather by God’s Grace through Christ. [Titus 3:4, 5]
The wise person is characterized by “righteous fruitage.” [James 3:18] A righteous man’s prayer has considerable power. [James 5:16] The one Christ died for must “discontinue sin and live in righteousness.” [1 Peter 2:24] Ultimately the future new earth will be inhabited only by the righteous. [2 Peter 3:13] Those born of God “continue in righteousness.” [1 John 2:29; 3:7, 10] The Saints are clothed in righteousness. [Revelation 19:8]
The subject of righteousness [obedience to law] is a major theme of the Bible. It is one of the three subjects that the promised spirit-helper would give “convincing evidence” to the world. God is righteous. Christ is righteous. The Saints must be righteous and be able to say so. Absolute righteousness is not possible for humans. God’s declaration that the Saints are pronounced innocent is based, not on personal virtue or righteousness, but rather on His grace through Jesus Christ. Such persons justified from previous sin, however, must continue to be slaves to righteousness and produce the fruitage of righteousness. Thus, though no one can gain salvation on the basis of personal righteousness, neither can a person gain salvation without personal righteousness.
The path of righteousness does not come easily for most people. It is a matter of discipline and humble obedience to God. Paul puts it this way: “Solid nourishment belongs to mature persons, those who through the use of their sensory organs have been trained like an athlete to be able to distinguish between what is good or bad. … For, indeed, these [human fathers] disciplined us for a few day according to what seemed [right] to them. However, [the Spiritual Father] does so for our benefit that we may partake of His holiness. Of course, at the moment any discipline is not joyful but causes grief. However, afterward [discipline] produces peace to those who have been trained by it with a righteous reward. [Hebrews 5:14 NCMM]
With a determined heart trained in righteousness, and with daily effort to become a slave to righteousness, the new Christian will find in time that more and more attitudes and actions are focused on righteousness. When a slip or false step happens, overcome the temporary discouragement, and press on following a life of righteousness. Remember one of the Bible’s concluding exhortations, “Let the righteous remain righteous.” [Revelation 22:11 NCMM] May your foot always remain on the “path of righteousness.”
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“Sets Gehenna Aflame!”
“So, also, the tongue, though a small member, yet boasts of great things. Observe how a great forest fire is set afire by a small flame. Also, the tongue is a fire constituting a world of unrighteousness among our members. [The tongue] stains the entire body and sets on fire life’s course, set aflame by Gehenna.” [James 3:5, 6 Christian Scriptures 2001©]
No one who has been slandered needs to be told how it feels. When hateful persons decide to defame, undermine, or denigrate another the damage can be far reaching. Indeed, the very first lie was spoken by the one who became known as Diabolos - the liar, or slanderer. His subtle question in primeval Eden caused the most lovely of all human creatures to sin against herself, her husband, and her God. [Genesis chapter 3]
Of this one, Jesus the Nazarene said to the Jewish hierarchy of his day: “You [Jews] originated from your father the Devil, and you want to continue to do your father’s desires. [The Devil] was a man-killer from the beginning, and he did not continue to stand in the Truth, because truth is not in him. Whenever he speaks the Lie, he speaks from his own self, because he is a liar and the father of [lies].” [John 8:44 NCMM] Satan was not just a liar - one telling an untruth, or exaggerating the truth - for his lie was slanderous, placing others in a bad light. So the very first Person who was slandered was God Himself. Thus, He knows something on the subject. He had recorded in His Word abundant counsel and warning against the misuse of the tongue.
Jesus the Nazarene was also the object of slanderous talk. Jesus himself exposes this when he says in Matthew 11:19, “(And yet) the Son of Humankind came eating (normally) and drinking (wine), and yet they say about him, ‘Look! a gluttonous human and a drunk.’” [NCMM] Our Lord was accused of being demonized and out of his mind, in some cases by his own relatives. John reports: “But, many from among them were saying: ‘He is demon-possessed! He is crazy! Why do you listen to him?’” [John 10:20 NCMM] Mark 3:31 tells of the slander from the Nazarene’s family: “Now when his family heard about it they all went out to restrain him. For they said: ‘He is out of his mind!’” In the end he died as something he as not - a criminal.
Since the slanderous tongue is such a disgusting and abominable sin to the Almighty, it is beneficial to review some of the counsel in the Bible from time to time.
The Tongue and Slander in the Hebrew Bible
The Law of Moses contains warnings about harmful talk about others. Leviticus 19:16 states God’s law, “None of you must ever go from person to person among Israel for the purpose of slanderous gossip.” [NCMM] David, the Messiah-type, was slandered. [2 Samuel 19:27]
Thus, the psalmist David writes about those who may dwell in God’s Tent: “O Yehowah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who shall reside in Your holy mountain? The person who walks blamelessly and does what is right. The person who speaks honestly from the heart. The person who does not slander with the tongue, and who has never wronged a friend, nor reproached a neighbor.” [Psalm 15-13 NCMM] Thus, anyone who does not speak honestly from the heart, or who habitually slanders or wrongs a friend, will never be permitted to dwell in God’s Presence.
Psalm 101:5 declares that God will shut the mouths of anyone who secretly slanders a friend. In giving this warning, God associates such slander with haughtiness and arrogance. God cannot stand such a person.
The Proverbs give many warnings against the slanderous tongue. “He who hides hatred has lying lips. He who utters a slander is a fool.” [Proverbs 10:18 WEB] “The slanderous person wanders here and there revealing private conversations, but the person of a loyal and trustworthy disposition refuses to disclose such personal matters.” [Proverbs 11:13 NCMM] “A person with a hidden agenda continues spreading strife and disunity, and a slanderous person causes divisions even among those who are good friends.” [Proverbs 16:28 NCMM] “The loose talk of the slanderous person is devoured by the glutton for gossip, sinking deep into the very pit of gut feeling.” [Proverbs 18:8 NCMM] “The slanderous person who gads about revealing personal matters among friends is someone you should never fellowship with.” [Proverbs 2019 NCMM] “Don't slander a servant to his master, Lest he curse you, and you be held guilty.” [Proverbs 30:10 WEB]
From the Hebrew Bible Old Testament it is clear that slander must be avoided at all costs. Slander causes division and hurt, and in the end leads to being found guilty before Yehowah. The true worshipper of God should avoid any fellowship or communion with the slanderous tongue. However, did Jesus have any thing to say on the matter?
The Warnings of Jesus Regarding the Tongue
Among others, there is one particular warning from the Nazarene about the use of the tongue. It comes in the context when he has just been criticized by his own relatives as “crazy” and also by the Jewish religious hierarchy as being demonized. He was accused of using satanic power in his healing. What was the response of our Lord to these slanderous lies? What can we learn from it?
At Matthew 12:35, 36 the Nazarene says: “Out of the good person’s heart comes a treasure of goodness; and expelled out of the wicked person’s wicked treasure comes wickedness. But I tell you that every fruitless word human’s speak will be held to account on Judgment Day. For by your words you will be declared ‘Not Guilty,’ and by your words you will be accursed.” [Matthew 12:35, 36 NCMM]
The “good” person can always be identified by goodness, or good fruitage. The Greek is agathos and generally translated “good.” The English word is one that has scores of meanings. Here it means morally excellent or virtuous kindness. Good is something positive toward another. The morality of this Nazarene teacher rises to celestial heights. Though it often means what is upright and honorable, it goes beyond mere righteousness. Righteousness is obedience to law. That is, a law-abiding person. agathos goes beyond the law to do a kindness not necessarily required by the law.
Such a good person is not only occasionally good, but is good through and through. Such a person possesses a “treasure of goodness.” The Greek for “treasure” is thesaurou, or that which is saved or stored up. It is not a matter of one act of goodness -- but a treasure of goodness. The good tree has been growing for years from a seedling to a mature fruit-bearer.
In contrast the person who is not good “casts off” wickedness. The English word “wickedness” is related to “witch” and in its extreme forms means a bad moral character, something evil and depraved. The Greek means hurtful or malicious, so it is rooted in what is unkind and unloving toward others. As a person grows -- like a tree -- certain traits and characteristics are developing and evolving. Everyone has stored up something in attitudes and personality attributes. Some, however, have saved or stored up a treasure with a bent toward wickedness. Essentially wickedness is that character which is self-seeking, unloving, and without faith. It is the ego gone amuck and always manifest in slander.
Thus, the Nazarene mentions “every fruitless word.” The Greek is AERGOS and rooted in ERGON (work) and means “non-working” or idle. It is a word spoken when one is relaxed, not on guard. A word revealing the true character. Other versions render this: KJV: every idle word; TCNT: every careless word; RHM: every useless expression; NEB: thoughtless word. The Greek may mean a word or a message.
The word here in the context was “Beelzebul” directed against Jesus. This is not a mere slip of the lip for none are perfect in their speech. (James 3:1-3; 1 John 1:8; 1 Kings 8:46; Proverbs 20:9) This is evilly motivated out of jealous hatred. An ancient Greek playwright said: “A man’s character can be known by his words.” Pythagoras offered: “Choose rather to fling a chance stone than to speak a chance word.”
Such a person will be “held to account” by God Almighty. That is, such a slanderous person will -- KJV: give account; NWT: accountable; NAS: render account. Jesus makes it clear we will answer for every wicked word on Judgment Day. In the audience was someone who spoke an unforgivable word, “Beelzebul.” A name of accusation against the power behind the Nazarene. Now, surely, his error comes back upon his head to haunt him. Paul expresses something similar in 2 Corinthians 5:10; and, John does so in 1 John 2:28; 4:17. There are two outcomes for the Christian during the parousia-judgment: a clear conscience, or shame and embarrassment. (Daniel 12:2; 1 John 2:28)
Note the basis for judgment by Jesus: it is our mouth. Surely a heart full of love will never speak wickedness against another. In the context before us the words are a horror: accusing another of being demonized or apostate. Matthew 5:21, 22 gives a most serious warning: “You heard it was said to the Ancients: ‘Murder not’ but the murderer will be judged. But, I tell you: Anyone angry with his brother will be judged. But, anyone saying ‘Raca!’ [or, “contemptible”] to his brother will be liable to the Sanhedrin. But, anyone saying ‘Moron!’ [or, “apostate” NJBftn] will be liable to the Gehenna of the Fire.” [NCMM] Thus, Jesus associates hate with the cause of slanderous speech.
Counsel in the Christian Epistles
Regarding the Tongue and Slander
What do the inspired disciples of Jesus have to say about the slanderous tongue? Paul condemns the slanderous Christian when he writes: “Or, do you not realize that the unjust will never inherit God’s Kingdom? Do not be misled! These will not inherit God’s Kingdom … slanderers.” [1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 NCMM] The Christian woman who would serve as a deaconess in the congregation cannot be a slanderous person. [1 Timothy 3:11] The slanderous person is a mark of the apostasy of the early Church. [2 Timothy 3:3]
The mature Christian is not slanderous according to Peter when he associates such a quality with other damnable characteristics: “Therefore -- having put off all harmfulness, deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all kinds of slander - as new-born babies earnestly form a craving for the non-deceitful milk belonging to the Word so that you might grow into salvation.” [1 Peter 2:1, 2 NCMM] Peter suggests, like Paul, that the slanderous person is in danger of missing out on salvation.
Peter continues to speak of the slanderous person: “All of you be like-minded - sympathetic, along with brotherly affection, well-disposed to compassion, humble in disposition, not paying back harm for harm, or slander for slander, but rather, bestow blessings [on others]. So that you inherit a blessing, for unto a blessing you were invited.” [1 Peter 3:8, 9 NCMM] Those who are habitual slanderers will never inherit the blessings God has in store for true believers.
The disciple Jude also warns of those apostates who are “persons [that] are slanderers and complainers conducting themselves according to their own lusts, their mouths speaking inflated things, admiring personalities to benefit from (their) charity.” [Jude 16 NCMM] Such persons destroyed the unity and harmony of the early Church. Such persons will also knowingly or unknowingly wreck havoc among the end-time Saints. Since the slanderous tongue is so condemn in the Scriptures how can it be stopped among modern Christians?
How to Stop Slander
First, understanding the serious nature of slander will prohibit a Christian from indulging in slander. Slander - the demeaning, criticism, and condemning of another - comes from a hateful heart. For the person who truly loves another NEVER speaks ill of that person. People who love one another always come to the defense of those they love. If someone speaks slander against someone you love, you will always defend that person.
The disciple James devotes a considerable portion of his inspired epistle to the subject of the tongue as a critical and slanderous tool. Indeed, he writes that the person who is slanderous is worshipping God in futility. James 1:26 states: “If anyone considers themselves to be a formal worshipper and does not bridle the tongue -- but continues deceiving their own heart -- this person’s worship is worthless.” [NCMM] James continues to describe the problem with the tongue, showing what human attributes cause judgmental slander and also what qualities will cure the problem.
JA3:5So, also, the tongue, though a small member, yet boasts of great things. Observe how a great forest fire is set afire by a small flame. JA3:6 Also, the tongue is a fire constituting a world of unrighteousness among our members. [The tongue] stains the entire body and sets on fire life’s course, set aflame by Gehenna. JA3:7 For every kind of species -- both beasts and birds, both reptiles and fish -- can be tamed by humankind. JA3:8 However, the tongue -- not one human is able to tame. [The tongue] is unrestrained evil, full of death-dealing poison. JA3:9 With this [tongue] we bless the Lord and Father and also with this [same tongue] we curse humans “made after God’s image.” [Genesis 1:26; 5:1] JA3:10 Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing. My brothers, it is unnecessary for these things to be so. JA3:11 Can both sweet and bitter pour forth from the same spring’s opening? JA3:12 My brothers, is a fig tree unable to produce olives? Or, a [grape] vine, figs? Or, salt making water sweet? JA3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him prove it by his good conduct with works in wisdom’s meekness. JA3:14 However, if you have in your heart bitter jealousy and selfishness, do not boast and continue to lie against the truth. JA3:15 This is not the wisdom which descends from above, but rather, is earthly, soul-like, demonic. JA3:16 For where there is jealousy and selfishness there is disorder and the practice of every kind of evil. JA3:17 In contrast, the wisdom from above is first, pure, then, peace-loving, considerate, yielding, full of mercy and good fruitage, impartial, unhypocritical, JA3:18 and righteous fruitage planted peacefully by those who are peace-makers. … JA4:11 Brothers, do not speak against one another. One who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against law and judges law. Now, if you judge law you are not a doer of law but a judge. JA4:12 One is the Lawgiver and Judge -- the One able to either save or destroy. But, who are you to be judging your neighbor? [James 3:5-18; 4:11, 12 NCMM]
Thus, the slanderous person has a heart filled with “bitter jealousy and selfishness” motivated by the earthly, physical and demonic. This results in congregational disorder and other evils. Such a person is not pure, peace-loving, considerate, reasonable, full of mercy, impartial and without hypocrisy. Cultivating these latter qualities will help curb the practice of the slanderous tongue.
Also, realizing the repercussions slander can have may cause the person with
a vile tongue to stop. For example, slanderous, unkind, and inaccurate words
have a way of coming back to haunt the speaker. The phrase “a little bird told
me” comes from Ecclesiastes 10:20, “Don't curse the king, no, not in your
And don't curse the rich in your bedchamber: For a bird of the sky may carry your voice, And that which has wings may tell the matter.” [WEB]
There is an example of this in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian congregation. Likely he learned of this from the Chloe family who told him what some were saying about him in the congregation. Paul repeats what some had said: “Because, they say, ‘His epistles are certainly weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak and his discourse ought to be treated as utterly nothing.’” [2 Corinthians 10:10 NCMM] Surely the persons who said these unkind and slanderous words were somewhat embarrassed when this letter was read in the congregation.
There is something else revealing in Paul’s words: the slanderous person often begins with a positive statement of praise and then proceeds with the slander. For example, “Brother so-and-so has such good Bible knowledge, that is why I was surprised when … “ So do not be deceived by slander couched in words of praise.
What Paul wrote was an example of the truth of Jesus’ words at Luke 12:2, 3: “There is nothing that is covered up that will not become known, for what is secret will become known. So then, whatever you [disciples] say in darkness, it will be heard in the light; and whatever you whispered in secrecy will be announced from the rooftops.” [NCMM] At the very latest this will be revealed upon the parousia-judgment at the Return of Christ. [Luke 12:35, 36] So it is only for one’s own protection and benefit that slander should cease. The slanderous person will be ultimately exposed. Paul puts the principle this way: “The sins of some persons are clearly apparent leading to judgment. However, [the sins] of some [become evident] later.” [1 Timothy 5:24 NCMM]
Slander may be stopped by refusing to listen to it. Proverbs 26:20 counsels: “A fire stops when no fuel is added to it, and just so contentious ends where no slanderer exists.” [Proverbs 26:20 NCMM] If each slanderous word is met with a north wind of bitter coldness, such terrible gossip will end. Proverbs 25:23 warns, “The north wind brings forth rain: So a backbiting tongue brings an angry face.” [WEB]
Will you have the strength of character when someone comes to you in slander to stop them dead in their tracks? Will you have the fortitude to rebuke the slanderer instead of listening to him or her? Will you have the courage to just change the subject? To fail to reprove the slanderous person amounts to agreement, as silence means consent.
Let nothing but honest speech and godly praise come out of our mouths [or, pens and fingertips] as we demonstrate how blessed we are as peacemakers.
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TESTIMONY - TIMO KOORNS TRA
Hi, I am Timo Koorns tra. I was born in 1965 in The Hague, Holland. Although I am Dutch, I have always lived in Belgium. My parents had moved to Belgium so directed by the Spirit and my father started to work full-time in giving Bible studies, organizing meetings, preaching in the streets, etc. I grew up in a house with an average of 10 young people who gave two years of their lives to follow a training school given by my father and guest-teachers. I could elaborate on the work of my parents, but I'll leave that subject for now.
We, my two younger brothers and sister, grew up in a Christian atmosphere. At the age of six, I had understood enough of the gospel to tell my mother I wanted to "give my heart to the Lord Jesus." Although my conception of things must have been very immature, I still recall how serious I was about that. After talking a bit with me, my mother left me praying on my little knees. That night I dreamt a dream where I was attacked by soldiers (what are children afraid off, hey!), but then I saw someone besides me. Somehow I was sure it was Jesus. It was a dream, but I remember how it confirmed to me God had heard my confession and desire to follow in Jesus' footsteps.
In school I would talk about Jesus. I remember how at the age of 10 my teacher explained that everything had a beginning, and how I started to explain that God was without beginning. At a later age when we had to prepare talks on a free subject I would talk about my faith in God. I also specialized in countering the evolution theory and gave a talk on that subject too. The teacher in Biology must have had a hard time with me in her class! I remember I interrupted her once when she was explaining a human being is in fact no more than a body governed by complicated chemical reactions. After my "sermon" on the "free will" - I didn't even mention God - there was first a long silence and then a classmate said "man! He really believes!"
Now my father traveled around a lot in that time and held what we called "healing campaigns." In meetings where he spoke, he would also lay hands on the sick and more than a few would get healed. I have seen hundreds of miracles with my own eyes: deaf that began to hear, blind that received their sight, people getting out of their wheelchairs, … etc. This was something I would share at school too.
When I was 12, X-rays were taken of my chest because I had pneumonia. After looking at them the doctor told my parents I had TB. In a prayer meeting, I was prayed for and when new X-rays were taken a week later, we were told I no longer had TB. We praised God. I remember how my mother took my hand and danced with me on the street! I still respond positive to the TB tests since the day I got it, but it just proves the first X-rays were no mistake. God had healed me!
In Belgium it is exceptional to really believe in Jesus' words. Although many will call themselves Christian (= Roman Catholic), this means no more than a cultural exercise. And even then, most do not practice anything at all. The church I went to was the one where my father was the "pastor." I liked to be there. It was a Pentecostal church. At the age of 14 I received the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues (I know this is controversial - but this is my story) and some time later I was baptized.
In the eighties I got to know my future wife in a conference. We found we had a mutual interest besides being Christians: we liked to play music on our guitars. After I got to know Magdalena - I was 16 - we started to write each other letters. In many of our weekly letters we would also exchange our views on topics such as "original sin" and the "real Israel." A year later we started dating and three years after that we got engaged. But since I was in Holland most of the week for my studies we only got married after these, in 1989, seven years after we first had met.
During this seven-year period we also went to youth meetings. There we learnt a lot and I am still very thankful for the couple that organized these weekly meetings. They not only taught us many things; they lived a life (and still do) that matched with what they taught. As a youth group we would organize "gospel outreach" meetings, where sometimes the hall we had rented was to small to seat the people that came. All of us were responsible for a certain job: from drawing the maps where we had to go from door to door, to welcoming the people at the entrance and the many other things that had to be done. In these years all members of this youth group (about 40) had had a chance to teach, to lead the singing, to share their testimony with people on the streets, to visit people in old peoples homes, any many more things like that. It was like a training school, really.
I also played the piano and started to serve in the church as the pianist. Worshipping God through singing and praising out loud became important to me. This desire to thank and praise God for all he is has never left me. We visited "bible week" conferences in England where I was touched by the joy and enthusiasm among the Christians. They have changed my life. The expressions of worship were so overwhelming: people would dance, shout, and prostrate themselves on the floor.
I studied Computer Science for four years in Holland. Also during that time I would talk about Jesus. I remember I gave two people a private introduction to the Bible. Magdalena and I had a desire to give a year or so to go to some sort of Bible school or training center. True, my father was at that time director of such a school, but we wanted to spread our wings and have a look elsewhere. We visited a school in Uppsala, Sweden. But having spent a weekend there we decided it was not the place for us to be.
Another opportunity came up. The same movement that organized the Bible weeks we used to go to - called Restoration - also formed small Gospel outreach teams (called GO-teams) that worked for a year in a certain area while also receiving Bible teaching. So after we got married in 1989, we moved to Scotland, where we worked full-time as part of such a GO-team - nine persons in total. Our days were filled with activities like talking with students in the Glasgow University during their break. We also set up a "society" in that university where we would give talks on current issues with Scriptural ingredients. We went going from door to door, organized and advertised meetings in local halls and sang in the shopping center, etc, etc.
Apart from us, a few other Christian families had moved to the Glasgow area purposed to see a new congregation of Christians emerge. Among them a man who had envisioned all of this. He would occasionally teach us as a team and bring correction where needed. I still remember many of his statements… "Redeem the time!" (Ephesians 5:16) was one that meant "get to it, no time to lose!" We would "break bread" together - which meant celebrating the Memorial - frequently as is the habit in many churches.
But in some way it was also different to what I was used to: Andrew Owen, the pastor, would come and visit us in the home we shared, find out there were frictions and say "we are going to break bread together." After a few times we knew what this meant… we couldn't do that with these frictions. Some of us would take someone else into another room to ask forgiveness and reconcile. Then when everyone was back in the first room again - eyes wet! - we would take of the symbols. As you maybe can imagine these were precious moments.
Our outreach efforts seemed fruitless during the first three months, but then we saw people coming to Christ, changing their lives. We asked the Lord if he wanted us to stay in Scotland, and we seriously considered it. But we felt God wanted us back in Belgium. When we moved eight months later we left a congregation of 55 people, many of them new Christians. Back in Belgium we developed our gift in the area of music and followed some courses during 6 months at a Bible School. This was the Bible school my father had founded, but he had in the mean time given the responsibility to others.
I remember it was quite hard for us to re-adjust to our own past environment: it highlighted the things we had learned. We would go out on our own initiative and visit people we didn't know to speak of our Lord Jesus. During all this time - since we got married - we had no income; first we paid everything from my savings and when these were gone, we just relied on what the Lord would do. And yes, we received kind gifts during that period of time. After we finished these courses (including Koine Greek) we looked for jobs and both of us found one almost immediately. We felt moved to organize meetings ourselves in our own area. And after a while we met weekly to conduct Bible studies with people who knew little of the Gospel.
It was a hard time, with a lot of sowing and little reaping. But I thank God for the one lady who came to know the Lord in that time and is now part of the congregation where we meet. It was in this time, 1995, that our first son was born, Steffe. Two other sons followed: Dennis (1996) and Robbert-Jan (1999). They have been a joy and I am very proud of our little family. I started to talk with people with other religious backgrounds and that made me rethink many things I had taken for granted: the Trinity, hell-fire, immortal soul, and many other issues. I read books from the Mormons and also the Koran, and after a while I conceded to study with two Jehovah's Witnesses. This became a two-year project.
Through all these years I slowly but steadily began to change. The good news is that our local Pentecostal church is led by people who do not judge others with some of the "deviating opinions" I have, and I still feel at home there. In fact I find that people I talk with are open to what I say about the Trinity. I have the impression this might eventually catch on :-)
During this time I started to get involved in debates on the Trinity on the Internet. And I took the position that there is no such thing and that Jesus is someone other than God, the Almighty. As I did so I found myself more and more comfortable with this view.
On a certain day in July 1999 I was looking for a comment on the 3rd Century BC Jewish Greek Septuagint [LXX] rendering of Isaiah 9:6. Altavista gave me a match to the FON site. I was impressed with all the material I found there. At that time I was getting tired of "debating" on the Internet and I found this place at the right time. This feels like a home, not because I agree with ALL that is being said, but because of the combination of love and doctrine I find here, which I think is quite unique. It reminds me of Jesus' words: “By this [love] all will know that you are my disciples, if you continue to have love among one another.” [John 13:35 NCMM]
Soon I downloaded the Nazarene Commentary 2000© verse-by-verse commentary from the Friends of the Nazarene site and I thought this was very well done and contained many years of work. How surprised I was to learn Mark had compiled it in three years time while in the mean time writing many other articles as well! This was the first non-Trinitarian work of that kind I had, and of course I began to look up several verses I was thinking about or had questions about.
Then I started on the Bible Reading Program with Mark. And this has been really good so far [through the Gospel of Luke]. I had the habit of using Online Bible for Bible study, and then suddenly I got the dream of having this Nazarene Commentary 2000© available as a module in that program. So I made that a project to work on. In that context I spotted some typos in the Nazarene Commentary 2000© and I communicated these to Mark. It has now become a habit of adding a list of such typos in my e-mails to Mark. The first result of this Online Bible (OLB) version of Nazarene Commentary 2000© footnotes is now available on the Friends of the Nazarene site on its OLB page <http://www.nazarene-friends.org/olb/OlbNC2000.htm>
Now since then, Mark has added the 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures to some Bible books in the Nazarene Commentary 2000© together with many more footnotes, so I will work on a new release of the OLB module which will have some errors fixed as well. And now that all of the Christian Scriptures 2001 exists in the new rendering, I will make that an OLB module as well.
About a month ago I asked Andy Weeks if I could be of any help with maintaining the Friends of the Nazarene site and since then I have done a few little things in that area, but more will follow. As you can see I have projects enough, now I must find the time to do it! But we have a Dutch saying, "where there is a will, there is a way." Some may wonder why I want to do all this. Well, I guess I feel this is the way I can do something in return of all the material and fellowship I have found in this group. I feel at home here, and this is a way I can serve.
Testimony - “Jan” from Belgium
Here follows my story: I came in what is called the "truth", when I was a teenager. Insiders know that we speak about the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. At the age of 13 I was baptized and soon I was used in the local congregation. I was not such a good student at school, but I was an excellent Bible student! Why? I was taught that in 1975 the world would end. However, 1975 passed without any change. My JW teacher taught instead that despite this the world would “soon” be destroyed. My teacher and an elder also encouraged me to enter the pioneer service and there were at that time many young pioneers in the congregation who encouraged me also to do like them. So, in my young brain it was not so important to study at school.
When I reached the age of 18 to join the army, I repeated what I was taught by the local elders: we are strictly neutral and that an alternative civil service was breaking our neutrality. That was what I repeated before the military judges and was condemned to 24 months in prison. I received grace from our king in Belgium and after 12 months I could work in an old people’s home for the next 12 moths. But that was nothing else than civil service. In fact what was important for the Society was that we not accept civil service (called "objector of conscience service" in our language) but after condemnation it doesn't matter if you were in prison or did civil service but now you did it as a convict).
At that time Jehovah blessed me with a nice woman that I married after that period. We both started with pioneering service for 4 years and in those years we had a baby, who is now a teenager. In sun, snow and a lot of rain we took the baby from house to house. Even persons at the door told us we were crazy to do so. I know sisters who trained their very young children to answer “NO!” if somebody at the door asked them if they were cold!!!
We did everything for the "truth." We were model Witnesses. The circuit overseer and his wife slept in our bed and we on the floor. I tell you this so that you will see we did everything for Jehovah and his Son and an earthly organization. After awhile I became elder and I am still an elder in a JW congregation. One day a brother and good friend of ours - he was one of our Bible students - was surfing on the Internet. What he found about the Society’s policy in Bulgaria in connection with the blood issue and it made him cry like a baby. Also what happened in Mexico with the Cartilla [political card] and military service. He wrote a letter of resignation to the elders, but I could not stop him.
Before this event I had my no doubts about any of the teachings of the Society, but from then on I began to investigate, questioning the Society's teachings with the Bible night and day! I surfed a lot and came to the conclusion that brother Russell (the founder of the Watchtower movement) had a different view on many things the Jehovah’s Witnesses now believe. My question was how can a people led by God by Russell later reject almost all of his understandings! After reading a lot I came also to the conclusion that Rutherford was the person the cause of so many changes. Russell was wrong in important views, but he was very honest, more than I can say compared to Rutherford.
I was surfing and surfing, asking Jehovah through Jesus to show me the "Way"! I did nothing else but read and reread Bible verses. I was swept between many mixed feelings. I begged the Father to help me, to deal with all these feelings. One day the Lord directed the mouse to click on the web page of the Friends of the Nazarene! I had found both trash and good stuff about what the Watchtower Organization is really, but the Friends of the Nazarene site is really up building! It points out not only what are false teachings by JWs - often in an indirect way there is an allusion to the Society - but it is real Bible study at a more higher level than the Watchtower! I know what I saying because I am a Watchtower conductor.
What is important is deep Bible study. JWs have a Bible knowledge but only to a certain degree. They can refute false teachings as the trinity, hellfire, immortal soul, etc, but don’t ask them to go into deep study, as for example the letters of the apostle Paul. In fact when they read it they have to acknowledge that this is not written to them, but only to 8000 “anointed” members of their church.
Very inspiring for me was the book Messianic Confessions by Mark Miller. Another determining factor in our spiritual growth were the two books written by brother Raymond Franz, former member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We are thankful that there are such brothers among us. We all have to grow to a state of maturity and through the Friends of the Nazarene and other "channels" Jesus is bringing his whole Body to perfection. (Ephesians 4:4, 11-16; Colossians 3:15)
It was very difficult for me and my wife to disconnect from the idea of an “organization” and to be a Christian without such a controlling structure. We are very encouraged by Scriptures like Matthew 13:47-50 about the "Dragnet". We have noted that the teachings of Jesus and the apostles are much easier to understand than some that we used to believe. Making things obscure is an easy thing to do and it can give authority to some man who tells you that they have some special knowledge from God. If the message of the Bible is for all of us, why should only a limited “class” of ecclesiastics understand the Holy Writings? We say to our Friends of the Nazarene: Take courage in Jehovah and Jesus. Be ready for the time when Jesus returns in the glory of his Father to gather us together to them in heaven!
==== END ====
JEALOUSY - A CANCEROUS DISEASE
If a person discovered they had cancer, most people would do everything they could to get rid of this terrible disease. As seen in Proverbs 14:30 jealousy is compared to such a serious illness: “Jealousy is like bone cancer.” [NCMM] Most people are not willing to admit they are jealous of others, for that would be an attack on their own weakness. However, jealousy is a disease of the emotions that infects most people. James 4:5 states that humankind has a “tendency to envy” - an almost inborn inclination to become jealous of another. What causes this? It is simple - ego.
In the Scriptures the Hebrew and Greek most often translated “jealousy” have a good and bad form. It is the latter we will consider here. Most people know what jealousy is when they see its manifestations in other people, but seldom in themselves. Jealousy may be defined as “resentful suspicion of another’s motives.” It is the kissing cousin of envy which is a covetous greed for something possessed by another - beauty, wealth, social position, influence, authority, intelligence, education, riches, opportunities, promotion, or respect accorded others. [Ecclesiastes 4:4; 9:6; Ezekiel 35:11] The first reported case of jealousy is that of Rachel regarding Jacob’s other wife [Genesis 30:1], though we might expect it in Cain.
Jealousy ALWAYS stems from egotism and selfishness [James 3:14], and it is ALWAYS manifest in negative speech or slander, or worse - physical harm. [Acts 13:45] Jealousy drove the Jewish hierarchy to kill Jesus and persecute his disciples. [Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:50; Acts 5:17; 7:9]
Jealousy Over Spiritual Blessings
It is almost unthinkable - beyond comprehension - that one could be jealousy of another’s spiritual blessings and privileges. However, such has been the case from the beginning. It is likely that jealousy over God’s approval of Abel moved Cain to slay his brother. [Genesis 4:5] Where there is hatred, or an extreme dislike, usually jealousy may be found. [1 John chapter 3]
Some Christians may become jealous of another who manifests God’s blessing and direction. This was the case with Joseph and his brothers. For Genesis 37:11 says, “His brothers grew jealous of him.” [Acts 7:9] Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him because of his spiritual blessings in seeing a vision. Of course, we can sympathize a bit with the feelings of Joseph’s brothers. If some one came to us and said they had a vision of all of us bowing and kissing their feet, we might be taken back a bit. However, we cannot sympathize with the actions of Joseph’s brothers.
Jealousy spawns political ambition. Miriam and Dathan became jealous of Moses’ authority, leading to punishment by God. Psalm 106:16, 17 records the event: “When men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy ones of the LORD, the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan and the company of Abiram.” [RSV] Even Aaron became jealous of the spiritual blessings that came upon others. “But there remained two men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the Spirit rested on them; and they were of those who were written, but had not gone out to the Tent; and they prophesied in the camp. There ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses, one of his chosen men, answered, My lord Moses, forbid them. Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? would that all Yahweh's people were prophets, that Yahweh would put his Spirit on them!’” [Numbers 11:26-29 WEB]
It is jealousy that drove king Saul to hate David and his men. [2 Samuel 21:3] When Saul heard the women sing in praise of both David and himself, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,” it enraged the king. Jealous persons are tormented when they hear others praised in their presence. For this reason even honest persons must be careful when praising others that they do not needlessly arouse jealousy in others.
Jealousy in the Christian Church
Jealousy is a mark of Christian immaturity and a lack of spirituality. Paul writes to the Corinthian congregation: “And so, brothers, I was unable to speak to you as [spiritual] persons, but rather as fleshly persons, as infants in Christ. I gave you only milk to drink and not solid food, because you were unable to accept it. Neither are you able even now. For you are still fleshly because jealousy and strife are in your midst. Are you not yet fleshly? Are you not walking as humans do?” [1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NCMM]
Jealousy is associated with, and manifest by other bad qualities that can infiltrate an entire congregation. Again, at the end of his second inspired epistle Paul warns the Corinthians: “But, I am afraid that somehow when I arrive I shall not find you [Corinthians] as I would wish, and you might not find me as you wished. Instead, [I would find] strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, backbitings, whisperings, self-inflations, disorders.” [2 Corinthians 12:20 NCMM] Note those things associated with jealousy: strife, anger, contention, slander, suspicion whispering, inflated egos - all leading to disharmony.
Paul shows the association of jealousy with egotism and confrontational attitudes: “If we continue to live spiritually we will also conduct ourselves spiritually. May none of us become self-centered, nor adversarial with one another, nor [become jealous of one another].” [Galatians 5:25, 26 NCMM]
Jealousy is earthly, animalistic and satanic. It is always the cause of disunity within the Church. James 3:13-16 describes the difference between two kinds of “wisdom”: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him [or, her] prove it by his [or, her] good conduct with works in wisdom’s meekness. However, if you have in your heart bitter jealousy and selfishness, do not boast and continue to lie against the truth. This is not the wisdom that descends from above, but rather, is earthly, [animal], demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness there is disorder and the practice of every kind of evil.” [NCMM] Thus, if disorder is present, it is likely jealousy is the motivating force.
A degree of jealousy exists in all of us, for we all like to be praised and told we are doing well at something. But, if ego and pride become unnatural, then jealousy can begin to take deep root. Like a climbing vine, it can be almost unnoticeable at first, but in the end it will swallow the framework around which it grows.
Conquering Jealousy With Love
Jealousy is one of “the works of the flesh” that could cause a Christian to lose his or her Kingdom inheritance. [Galatians 5:20, 21] Because of this all too real and serious danger, every disciple of Christ must work very hard to root out any feelings of jealousy. Where jealousy exists, love is absent, for “love is never jealous.” [1 Corinthians 13:5]
In order to stop it one must cease becoming fleshly in their thinking. Paul writes:
“As in daylight let us walk in good behavior … not in strife and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and give no fleshly forethought which results in [envy].” [Romans 13:13, 14 NCMM] By “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” jealousy will vanish. If jealousy remains - no matter the claims of, “I am a Christian” - the claim is false and the person is not clothed in the frame of mind and disposition of the Lord Jesus.
Peter also exhorts, “Put off all harmfulness, deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all kinds of slander.” [1 Peter 2:1 NCMM] Harmfulness of another is often motivated by jealousy. So, when moved to harm another, or work evil to them, think what engine is it work in the non-Christian makeup. Admit that there is a degree of deceit and two-faced hypocrisy - along with wicked manipulations - and these are spawned by jealousy. Think that every time a negative word or a slanderous remark is made about another, the motive is jealousy.
Jealousy not only causes a spiritual cancer - as hate may also cause physical illness - but it can even work great harm to the object of such jealousy. Proverbs 27:4 puts it, “There is the cruelty of rage, also the flood of anger, but who can stand before jealousy?” [NCMM] Jealousy can cause even the strongest person - such as a man like Moses - to behave improperly or completely stumble. Though a great flood can move large boulders, the slow and constant drip of water will wear away the greatest stone. Just so, a strong Christian may be able to withstand a temporary deluge of hateful rage, but over many years the Chinese “water torture” of jealousy can crumble even a great faith.
Psalm 106:32, 33 explains what befell the great leader, in part due to slander: “[Israel] made Moses angry at the waters of Meribah so that it did not go well him because of the people. It was because they provoked his spirit that he spoke rashly with his mouth.” [NCMM] Thus, the principle stated at Ecclesiastes 7:7, “Oppressive [words] may drive even a wise person crazy.” [NCMM] Sometimes we share part of the blame for causing a godly person to err.
Surely jealousy is an evil that the Christian must root of his or her system. It ruins others, and causes physical, emotional and spiritual illness to the jealous one. Love will push jealousy out of its dark corners. Truth will expose jealous feelings and drive them from the spirit. Faith and trust will replace jealous feelings with peaceful harmony. Empathy and compassion will change jealousy into understanding and patience. If we cease jealousy and envy we will find our relationship with God much improved and we will follow the footsteps of the Lamb into everlasting glory.
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