Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Matthew 5:6 Hungry Thirsty For What?

According to the King James Version of the Bible, Jesus is quoted at Matthew 5:6 as saying: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Most other translations read pretty much the same. The NWT changes only one significant word, “blessed” to “happy.” (Other translations) Also, “after” is modernized to “for righteousness.” This raised a few questions in my mind. First, how does a person hunger and thirst for righteousness? Next whose righteousness should people crave? Finally, how do we get “filled”?

Then I came across the rendering given in the Good News Bible (Today’s English Version): “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!” Indeed, hungering and thirsting may at first seem like two different things, but really, they are both a single desire to be nourish. And just like a person who is VERY hungry, is someone who craves to serve God with every fiber of his (or her) being. They are singularly consumed with the drive, it is the “greatest” desire in their life. And just what is that righteousness?

The Amplified version elaborates that it is “uprightness and right standing with God.” Yes, it is to do God’s will, to please him by loyal devotion. So this is not self righteousness or the righteousness of some other human. Our lofty goal is to imitate our heavenly Father. Finally, how do we get filled with this righteousness? At John 6:35 Jesus promised that we would be more than adequately fed in a spiritual sense. By reading the Bible daily, by contemplating how it is practical and applicable to our own life, if we demonstrate a diligence for those things, God will amply reward us with truly knowing Him as a friend, by providing for our needs, and by comforting us through His Word. (Those who claim they’ve read (past tense) the Bible “once,” do not understand that absolutely nothing we read once is comprehended 100%. Even technical manuals that I’ve read before, I usually find a gem I had glossed over before. The Bible is full of wisdom that takes time to be absorbed. Progressively reading a little bit every day is what will benefit each of us.)

Matthew 5:3 Appreciating Our Need For God

Matthew 5:3 in the New World Translation (2013) reads: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the Kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (Other translations) As noted in the link for other translations, they render being “conscious of spiritual need” as being “poor in spirit.” The Amplified renders that as those who are humble, rating themselves as insignificant. All of them conclude that because of this condition, they can claim the Kingdom of heavens as their own.

But is it really as simple as that? Would Jesus really be so superficial as to say that all we have to do is be poor in spirit, just to be aware of spiritual need but take no proactive action to handle that need? If you are thirsty or hungry, your body makes you very aware of that need. If all you do is give it a passing acknowledgement, does that take care of the need? No, it does not. What would a person who is aware of any “need” do? They would act on it. What would a person do that realizes their inborn spiritual need? Just like physical food and drink, they would seek to be nourished. Hence we can call to mind the action Jesus recommended: “Be my follower.” What is involved in being a follower of Jesus? In one word, obedience. Yes, obedience and attentiveness to direction are needed.

The word conscious is defined as being "aware of and responding to one's surroundings," “being fully aware or sensitive to something; having the mental faculties fully active; deliberate and intentional.” If we are fully aware, sensitive to, and responding to our “poor spirit” or “spiritual need,” we will seek out and fully perform (deliberately and intentionally) the will of God. Then indeed, we can be confident that we will be rewarded with the Kingdom of the heavens. So this is not something that we can merely passively acknowledge and then go on our merry way.

So then, putting Matthew 5:3 in context with the rest of Jesus’ words and in terms that we 21st century folks can appreciate: Happy are those who realize and act upon their need for meaningful relationship with their God and his designated King, Jesus Christ. Those who are fully committed and unreservedly obedient can rest assured the Kingdom of heavens is theirs.

Monday, March 30, 2015

John 6:15 Kingship Declined

I and a young man were discussing various facets of Jesus’ life and ministry. Without actually mentioning John 6:15, he alluded to it and asked “Why didn't Jesus accept the kingship? He could have had a much broader influence on people. When they saw the type of king he would have and could have been, they would have flocked to him.”

I commended the young man for having such an intelligent question. It is not often I hear people give that much thought to scripture. Regarding the “influence” Jesus could have had, I asked him to consider: “If Jesus had accepted that position, would people be responding to Jesus because of the message he brought or because they might be in fear of his position as king?” He immediately saw the potential of being wrongly influenced by position. There is also the matter of free will. If Jesus had accepted rulership on earth obviously his rulership would require loyalty. People would no longer feel free to decide to accept him. But there are a few other points that his question hits on.

Both the books of Mark and Luke mention a time when Jesus was expelling demons from people. Both the accounts mention something very odd -- that Jesus would not allow the demons to identify him (Jesus) as the Messiah. Why? First, he didn’t need the testimony from traitors to his Father, but just as important, he wanted the people to believe based on their own observations and faith and not something as ominous as spirit voices.

In another instance, Jesus healed a man but strictly informed him not to tell anyone who had healed him. Again, why? In this case, “people were coming at him from all sides” because they wanted the physical benefits he offered, not because of the message of the Kingdom, which was his main focus.

Yet another point (I suppose there are several others that could be cited, but these are the ones that come readily to mind), is that Jesus himself already knew that his rulership would not be administered from earth. Although in context Jesus was speaking about the “source” as not being from Satan, it bears noting that Jesus knew his rulership would be administered from heaven.

Reviewing then, Jesus' rule would not be from earth and he wanted people to accept him for the message he brought, not the position he held or the selfish benefits people could enjoy. Although the Bible does indeed promise rewards for loyalty, no real and lasting relationship (even between one or more humans) can be based on such selfish motives.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Main Topics

For years I have heard that all scripture discussions lead back to Jehovah and His sovereignty. I wondered if that was merely a general truism or if it could be tangibly illustrated with a flow-chart styled graph. My first challenge was to figure out what the main branches would be. As I contemplated this, it dawned on me that rulership (sovereignty) is always a hotly debated issue regardless of who that ruler is. Issues over policy, taxes, character and much more are heard expressed with near religious fervor. In all cases, it comes down to proponents (supporters) and opponents (those against) any particular ruler and his viewpoints, ways, and administration.

So who are the main proponents and opponents of Jehovah and his rulership. I went through a multiple of drafts but finally came up with two main proponents and one main opponent. The proponents are Jesus and God’s own word, the Bible. The main opponent, a vicious adversary, is Satan the Devil. From there, I asked myself: “By what means do Jesus and the Bible carry out their support of God? Likewise, by what means, methods, and agencies does Satan carry out his opposition?”

I have not added anything significant to the chart in about one year, so I am relatively certain that I have a solid study aid. If I make any changes they will be minor ones and I am committed to posting them as I complete them. You can download the chart here:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Romans 12:11 Aglow With The Spirit.

Pictorial Language Series

Romans 12:11 “Be industrious, not lazy. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah.” Other translations

I was intrigued by an observation made in the 2013 New World Translation in an appendix on page 1719. There it said that the Greek word used for “aglow” was “boiling.”

Depending on which Bible verse is being referenced with regards “zeal,” those recognized as respected Bible commentators (see note below) have proposed two different interpretations of "spirit." First is the power that God gives us to accomplish his will. In this respect, we give Him all credit for the small part we play in accomplishing his will. Second, "the spirit" could be the spirit we demonstrate, our outward prominent demeanor characterized by heartfelt appreciation for God's love.

So which is it in Romans 12:11? As always, taking into account the context helps to solve the issue. Notice verses 9 through 15. In the context of those verses, Paul addresses cognitive, decision-based actions and attitudes. Our predominant character is, in effect, “aglow” with appreciation for God. But what does being “aglow,” showing “zeal,” being “enthusiastic,” or any of the other words used in the linked “other translations” shown above have to do with the Greek word “boiling”? That to me was the intriguing part of the question. Surely the translators must have stumbled on something that would help them understand “boiling” as “enthusiasm, zeal, fervor.”

The closest I came to an explanation is the following quote: “literally "boiling" with interest or desire.” Perhaps young, expressive children are the best at illustrating this emotion. They come up to us ready to burst inside with all the amazing things they experienced that day. Just like a boiling pot that may start bubbling over the sides of container, these children are bubbling over with gleeful expressions about their day. Additionally, In American English we have a few phrases that begin with the words "bubbling over." There is "bubbling over with excitement; bubbling over with enthusiasm; and bubbling over with joy."

In all these, the phrase "bubbling over" is actually a reference to a cooking pot that is boiling and therefore bubbling or spilling over the sides of the pot. Although there is no proof the phrase actually came from zeo, the Greek word for boil, its interesting that it is used the same way in the Bible as we do in modern speech. With that in mind, we can now ask, “What did Paul mean?”

In answer, like the small children and the common phrase "bubbling over" previously mentioned, true Christians ought to find their faith so invigorating that others seeing our contagious, infectious joyful spirit, would be obliged to react as they would to a boiling pot--taking action either in a positive or negative way, but not passively.

Note about Bible commentators: Although it is readily know that I completely respect the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society for its explanation of scripture, for the sake of this article I was actually referring to more general authorities such as the ones commenting on Romans 12:11 on this link.

Watchtower References:
Issue: 12/15/2010

Friday, March 20, 2015

1Kings 20:11 Girding On Armor

Pictorial Language Series

1 Kings 20:11 “The one who puts on his armor should not boast about himself like one who takes it off.” (Other translations)

War was imminent. The boastful and arrogant king of Syria (Benhadad) made unreasonable demands on King Ahab of Israel. At first, Ahab was willing to comply with the initial demands in order to keep the peace. However, when Behadad mistook Ahab’s compliance as weakness, Benhadad upped the ante and made demands that would bring financial ruin the Israelites. When Ahab declined to comply with the second demands, Behadad sent a messenger back to Ahab and bragged that he would level the Israelite city and leave it a burnt-up heap of ashes.

In response, Ahab sent Benhadad’s messenger back with the message shown above in verse 11. What in the world did he mean by that? When I first read this some 40+ years ago, I must admit that I had no clue. But as I regularly do, I wrote the passage down in a binder and filed it away until I could do more research.

In 1976 Thomas Nelson Publishers (Nashville, NY) released the “Good News Bible, Today’s English Version” When I read the passage there, a light immediately came on. “Of course!” I declared. “That seems so simple now. Why didn’t I see it before?” See what? Stop and think to yourself, “When does a warrior gird (or, “put on”) armament and when does he take it off?" Timing and circumstance are everything in this case. If you reasoned inside yourself, “Well, a warrior puts on his gear before a battle and, only if he lives to tell about it, does it take it off after a battle,” you are 100% correct.

And so it is that the Good News bible rendered that reply as: “A real soldier does his bragging after a battle, not before it.” Yes, Benhadad wasn't entitled to claim any victory until he actually engaged the Israelites and proved victorious. Curious how it turned out? Admittedly, Israel was greatly outnumbered. Benhadad had brought along 32 other kings and their armies. (There is nothing like stacking the cards in one’s own favor.) So you might be surprised to read the actual results: 1 Kings 20:21. How was this possible? Ahab had a card of his own up his sleeve -- Jehovah his God.

It is a very good lesson for all believers today. In the face of insurmountable odds, having God on our side is all we need.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 Wind and Clouds

Pictorial Language Series

Ecclesiastes 11:4 reads: “The one who watches the wind will not sow seed, and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap.” (NWT 2013) (Other translations) What is the point about the wind and clouds? Consider the situation: You are a farmer and you make constant comments about the wind. One time it is too windy: "Well, all my seed will get blown everywhere. What good is that?" The next time it is not windy enough, "There isn't enough to scatter my seed evenly. It will end up in clumps. I can't have that." The fact is, there just doesn't seem to be any perfect condition for you.The same goes with the clouds: "Well, it is starting to cloud up. It might rain. I can't harvest in the rain."

So what is the point? If you said the point is finding excuses and procrastinating, you would be 100% correct. When we are hesitant (or just plain do not want to do something) we tend to find any plausible (or even ridiculously silly) reason for delaying action.“

When the matter we are delaying could have a long range effect on our life (such as dealing with crops to feed ourselves), the result can be more than a minor inconvenience, it could be catastrophic! To avoid the possibility of suffering due to procrastination, the Bible encourages us to be determined,  industrious and diligent so that regardless of whether the returns on our investment of time, effort, and resources are small or great, we will have "something" to show for our efforts. In addition, even if things turn out poorly,  just the clear conscience of knowing we made every effort is better than doing nothing.