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Long range consequences

Jeremiah 39-43 describes Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem and the events that followed it.  Most of the inhabitants of the land were taken to Babylon but some were left.

Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time. (Jeremiah 39:10)

A man named Gedaliah was appointed governor.  He was assassinated and, fearing reprisals by Nebuchadnezzar, the Jews planned to flee to Egypt.  They first asked Jeremiah to find out what God wanted them to do.

And they went and stayed at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt because of the Chaldeans. For they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us—that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.”

Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.”

Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 41:17 – 42:6)

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Iron chariots

God performed miracles when he brought the Israelites into the promised land.  He stopped the flow of the Jordan River so they could enter the land.

So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest),the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.

Joshua 3:14-17

He made the walls of Jericho fall down.

So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.

Joshua 6:20

He even caused the sun to stand still. Read the rest of this entry

Paul and Jonah

Acts 27:1-28:16 describes Paul’s voyage to Rome to stand trial before Caesar.  It was late in the year, when sailing on the Mediterranean was dangerous.  At one point they had to decide whether to continue to Rome or spend the winter where they were and finish their voyage the following spring.

Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.”
Acts 27:9-10

They rejected Paul’s advice and continued their journey.

But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to spend the winter in, the majority decided to put out to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing both southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.
Acts 27:11-12

A storm rose and the crew of the ship gave up all hope of survival. Read the rest of this entry

Our debt to Caesar

Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  He was responding to a question about the legality of paying taxes to Caesar and his answer shows that we must pay our taxes.  Some people protest government activities that they consider evil or immoral by withholding the percentage of taxes that goes to support such actions.  Jesus’ statement does not give Christians the option of doing this.  We must pay all the taxes imposed on us; if Caesar misuses the tax money we provide in ways that are contrary to God’s will, he will answer to God for his actions.

Our obligation to Caesar goes beyond just paying taxes. Read the rest of this entry

Stay where God puts you

No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.
Luke 8:16

The kind of lamp Jesus spoke of provided light by burning oil.  A lamp placed under a jar would be extinguished for lack of oxygen.  A lamp placed under a bed could set the bed on fire.

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Why Moses failed to free the Israelites

Nearly everyone knows how Moses freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.  Not many know that Moses had made a previous attempt to free them and had failed.

One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?”

He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”

Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian.
Exodus 2:11-15

This appears to be nothing more than Moses seeing an act of cruelty and intervening but the New Testament gives more information.

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The Euthyphro dilemma

Plato wrote of a conversation between Socrates and a man named Euthyphro in which this question was raised: Does God command us to do things because they are good or are they good because God commands them?   Many people feel that either answer creates a problem.  If God commands us to do things because they are good that implies that there is a standard of goodness independent of God to which he must conform.  If the things God commands are good because he commands them then good and evil exist only because of God’s arbitrary decision to call certain thing good and others evil.  This problem is known as the Euthyphro dilemma.

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Sacrificing Ishmael

Everyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Most don’t realize that before this Abraham had been commanded to sacrifice his other son, Ishmael.

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Insanity

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”
Luke 5:1-5

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  By Einstein’s definition Simon’s response to Jesus was insane.  Not only had he fished all night without results but he was a professional fisherman while Jesus was a carpenter.  Logically he should have been the one telling Jesus how to fish.

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Ear, hand, and foot

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.

And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
Luke 5:12-14

Jesus told him to go to the priest because the Mosaic law required that an offering be made by anyone who had been cleansed from leprosy.

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Westboro and Equality House

You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
Deuteronomy 5:32

God doesn’t simply say we must obey but warns about turning to the right or to the left.  That is because there are two opposite ways in which we can disobey each command.

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An unintended consequence of showing mercy

Our actions always have unintended consequences that we couldn’t possibly have foreseen.  King David discovered that after he showed mercy to someone whom most people would have considered his enemy. Read the rest of this entry

Bad timing

When the Israelites conquered Jericho God commanded them not to take anything from the city for themselves. It was all to be given to God. But a man named Achan disobeyed this command.

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