Being Blessed Is Not Enough!

It seems as if the main goal or the over-riding obsession in many Christian circles today is just to get blessings or to be blessed! Now, aside from our fundamental failure to understand that God has already blessed us with every blessing we will ever need (See Ephesians 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:3. Our real need is not for blessings or to be blessed more, but rather, to know how to access and appropriate the blessings we already have!), this emphasis on blessings also indicates another fault in our spiritual understanding. Let me show you what I’m talking about!

In God’s economy, blessings are not, and were never meant to be, the end, but rather, the means to the end! In other words, blessings were never meant to be our destination, but rather the means, tools, or vehicles used to aid and assist us in reaching our destination. When we are so captivated and fixated on blessings, we’re just like a person, so in love with their new car that they just drive around, without ever going anywhere! It is a ridiculous situation for a person to have a vehicle, only to use it to drive around, not understanding that the real purpose of the vehicle is not just to be driven around, but to be actually used to get from point A to point B! In like manner, many Christians are trying to exercise their faith to obtain blessings to just ‘drive around’ with no clue that the real purpose of blessings is transportation and facilitation!

So, when we make blessings or being blessed the main goal or objective, we err on two points! We err by trying to get what we already have! And then, we err by making the means the end instead of understanding the means’ purpose is to help us get to the end! Being blessed or having blessings without understanding their purpose to assist in reaching the destination is not enough! God created and blessed us for much more than that!

In Genesis 1:28, we read: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (ESV) Notice the wording of the text! God didn’t just bless them to bless them; God blessed them so that they would be in position to do something! God blessed them in order for them to fulfill their purpose, which was to be fruitful (productive), multiply, fill and subdue the earth, to have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living thing on the earth! They were blessed for the purpose of fulfilling their assignment! That’s the principle! God doesn’t bless just to bless; God blesses to enable, to empower, to facilitate the execution of His will! The mandate has not changed! The same order given to Adam and Eve has been passed down to us! We are not blessed just to be blessed, we are blessed in order to have and exercise dominion!

Now, what does it mean to have and exercise dominion? What was God doing in Genesis 1:28? God was commissioning Adam and Eve as His proxy rulers on earth! God blessed Adam and Eve so that they might rule the earth in His stead! The emergence of sin DID NOT negate or cancel the Dominion Mandate! In fact, that’s why Jesus came! Jesus came to deal with sin so that, through him, man’s capacity to fulfill the Dominion Mandate might be restored!

Oh! We are so limited and little in our thinking! While we are running around making what we already have the focus of our faith, God has a much grander idea for us! We just want to be blessed, but God wants us to be ‘god’ on earth! God wants us to be Him on earth! (I realized I am treading on what some might perceive to be slippery theological turf here. That’s why I used a little ‘g.’ We are not gods in the sense that we are deity, but rather in the sense that our purpose is to function as God’s representatives upon the earth.) Hence, our main objective should not be for God to bless us just so we might be healthy, wealthy, and wise, but rather our main objective should be that God might execute His will upon the earth through us! I heard a song, not too long ago, and the singer was pleading: “Lord, whatever You’re doing in this season, don’t do it without me!” Now, I understood what the author of the song was saying; he, himself, personally wanted to be a partner with God in whatever God is going to do. But, whatever God is going to do in this season will only be done through us! God only rained down meat and bread from Heaven one time! His normal means of feeding us when we’re hungry is to use our neighbor to do it!

The bottom line is that God’s purpose in blessing us is so that we might be a blessing-hose, not a blessing-pool! God’s intent is not for blessings just to flow ‘to’ us; but rather for blessings to flow ‘through’ us! Blessings are meant to be tools to be used, not just items to be consumed! So, if your main goal and pre-occupation is just to be blessed; being blessed is not enough, God wants so much more than that for you! His purpose in blessing you is that you might be (represent) Him wherever you are!

No Weapon Formed Against Me Shall Prosper?

I heard a preacher saying that the other day on television. I’ve even said it a time or two myself! In preaching or teaching, exhorting and encouraging the saints, the preacher or teacher boldly declares to his or her listeners: “The Bible says: ‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment, you shall condemn!” Well, the Bible does say that! But the question we should ask is: Who is the “you” to whom the text is referring? Is the “you” the people to whom the preacher or teacher is addressing?

Well, if you have read anything I’ve written before on similar topics, you know I advocate three basic rules in biblical reading and interpretation. Those rules are: 1) context, 2) context, and 3) context! Who was the original author writing to and what was the circumstance or setting of the writing? In this case, the verse in question is Isaiah 54:17. The verse is part of an oracle or poem about Israel’s future restoration. At the time the author wrote, Israel was in the Babylonian Captivity and the verse was written as part of a prophetic utterance to encourage and assure Israel that God had not forgotten about them. God makes a covenant with them (verses 9-10) that just as He promised during the days of Noah, that He would never again completely destroy the earth with a flood, He would never be utterly angry with them, His steadfast love would never depart from them and His covenant of peace would never be removed.

The whole chapter should be read to get an idea of the message, but for our purposes, we should note particularly that the Lord was talking to Israel in “covenant language” and He was speaking to them about their future. Some commentators suggest God was referring to the Millennial Age (the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth). But whatever the case, my point is that in the original context, this message was addressed to Israel as God’s covenant-people and at the time it was written, it was not a present reality, but rather a future promise.

I pointed that out because I think we have made a fundamental hermeneutical mistake by hi-jacking this verse and making it into a present-day assurance and promise for Christian believers! (Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation) Is there a biblical text found elsewhere in the Bible that support the claims of our current application of this verse? It is usually dangerous and unwise to base theology, faith, and/or practice on just one verse or passage! But, the reality of life is this: Many of the weapons formed against us do indeed prosper! But, the Bible DOESN’T promise us victory in every situation! God never promised us we would not suffer losses in this life-time! Jesus said: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 KJV) The Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12 KJV) The modern-day preaching and teaching that advocates believers will experience victory (with enough faith) in every situation is not biblical, neither is it realistic! It is giving people a (false) hope that the Bible does not give! Now, what the Bible does promise us (Christian believers), is not that we won’t suffer some defeat, but that we will not be utterly defeated! Our problem is that we want to tally up the score now, but it’s too early for that; the game is not over! God didn’t promise we would win every quarter or every period, but He did promise we would eventually win the game!

In conclusion, we should always be careful in making blanket applications of what the Bible says. The Bible is full of promises, but not every promise is to us (Christians), some of the promises are specifically to Israel as His covenant people. Some of the promises were made to specific people for a specific time. I believe the text in question was specifically to Israel to be fulfilled in a future time period.

No weapon formed against you shall prosper. NO! God DID NOT promise that to US, but He did say to us, through the Apostle Paul: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. . . . . . What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28-29, 31-39 KJV)

This is What the Verse Means to Me!

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says: “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” (NLT) I was reminded of that verse as I was reading an article for a paper I am required to write for one of my D. Min., (Doctor of Ministry) classes. The article was about preaching, postmodernism and the New Homiletic. Without going into too much depth, postmodernism is a movement or a way of thinking that denies the objectivity of knowledge and truth. According to postmodernism, there is no objective truth, but rather truth is socially and culturally constructed. When you hear people saying such things as “my truth,” that is an indication that they have been influenced by postmodernism.

The author of the article, in describing the various elements of the New Homiletic (Homiletics is the art and craft of constructing sermons and preaching. Simply put; the New Homiletic advocates the construction and preaching of the sermon should start with the listener, whereas in traditional homiletics, the process begins with the biblical text) said, according to the New Homiletic, the purpose of the sermon is not to communicate information, but rather to evoke a communication event from the audience in which the audience, with the help of the preacher, creates or discovers the meaning of the text. In the New Homiletic, the most important thing is not what the text actually means or says, but rather the meaning the listener or reader gathers from the text or the preaching event. The article goes on, in much detail, to talk about this ‘new’ way of thinking, preaching, and listening to sermons. As I read the article, I said to myself: “This is nothing new; this is the same thing I did in Sunday School as a boy!”

When I was a youngster, my Sunday School teachers were not, by no stretch of the imagination, biblical scholars. Now, this is not to be disparaging, or disrespectful toward them because they, and the church, did the best they could with what they had! (The only qualification required to teach Sunday School back then was just the willingness to do it; not too much has changed in most churches I am familiar with today!) But, I thank God that they did know enough to light a fire within me to want to know more about the Word of God and the God of the word! Now, I mention them because, as we went over the lesson, each student had to read a verse. Then, after reading the verse, each student would stand up and explain what the particular verse they read meant to them. I didn’t know it then, but the most important thing in biblical study is NOT what the verse means to me, but rather, what the verse actually means! No! I didn’t know it then, (and my Sunday Schools teachers apparently didn’t know it either!) but you really can’t know what the verse means until you know what the verse meant! In other words, the primary thing is not so much what the verse is saying to me, but rather what was the original author’s intended meaning for his original audience. You can’t get the application right (what the verse means and how it applies to your life) until you first get the original meaning right! My New Testament Greek professor; Dr. G. Roger Greene, at Mississippi College (MC) always asked and challenged his students, when I was in his class: “How can you know what it means if you don’t know what it meant? As preachers and teachers of the Gospel: You can’t tell them what it means, if you don’t know what it meant!”

So, I guess what I’m saying is that postmodernism and the New Homiletic are not really “new” at all! The same thing was happening in my Sunday School class over fifty (50) years ago! But, we could go back, even farther than that! Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25 are two verses that are identical in most English Bibles, the verses say: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (KJV) The New English Translation renders it: “In those days Israel had no king. Each man did what he considered to be right.” (Jdg. 21:25 NET) Isn’t that where we are today, with people talking about ‘their truth’ and ‘my truth?’ Isn’t that the same thing postmodernism and practitioners of the New Homiletic are doing and saying when they say there is no objective truth and that truth is subjective and relative? It’s amazing to me, because it seems like the more modern man seeks to discredit the Bible as the Word of God, the more he actually proves it to be true!

If you are a preacher, a prophet, a teacher, or deal with the word in any kind of way, I admonish you to be careful to be faithful to the text. Please remember, we are not being faithful to our calling when we assign meaning without finding and understanding the original meaning. We must remember, the scriptures were not written specifically to us or for our modern frame of mind. They were written to ancient people, who processed things much differently from the way we do today. Therefore, to be honest in our exposition, we must first understand their position! Even in modern communication, the real meaning is not the meaning you, as a reader might assign, but rather the real meaning is the meaning the writer or author intends! For instance, if you assign a meaning to this blog post that I did not intend, there has been no communication; but rather there has been a miscommunication! Even in our daily conversations, we should make sure we are actually communicating instead of just merely saying words to each other. One of the main problems with communication today is with people are using the ‘same’ words, but those same words often having ‘different’ definitions! For example, when I tell you, “I’m cool.” Before the conversation is over, we both need to understand whether or not I’m talking about my discomfort with the temperature, or am I talking about what a great guy I am, or am I saying, I have no problems with our relationship or with something you might have said earlier that might have caused me to be upset!

Now, if we have those communication issues with just simple everyday conversations, and we are in the same culture, time, and place, then how much more do you think there are communications issues involved in properly reading and understanding the Bible, when we are dealing with communication issues with people from a different time, culture, language, and way of thinking? Imagine this scenario, if you will: Suppose, I write you a note and I tell you about this funny joke I heard. And in the note, I make the statement: “That joke was so funny, I died laughing!” Now, fast-forward several thousands of years and my note is found by people of a different culture, language and time. A people who no longer or never, used the expression; ‘died laughing’ to express how funny something is. There will be a distinct possibility that those people might mourn my untimely death because they will think I literally died from laughing so hard! And God forbid that my note should somehow be misconstrued as factual scientific data! Then they would be some sad people indeed, afraid to laugh, lest they were to ‘die’ from laughing! Now, as unlikely as that might sound to you, some of the things that people are so uptight today about what the Bible says were not meant to be doctrines, dogma, or deep truths, but actually were originally just hyperboles and figures of speech! But, you won’t be able to tell the difference between the deep stuff and the fluff, if you don’t dig for what it meant and just take someone’s word for what it means!

We live in an amazing time! On one hand, with the advent of biblical computer software programs such as Logos Bible Software, BibleWorks, BibleSoft, WordSearch, Sword, and many others (some of which are free), access to the Bible in the original languages and the tools for research and correct interpretation are just clicks of the mouse away! Yet, biblical illiteracy, even in the church is increasingly alarming! I remember one night, I was teaching a New Testament Survey class at a church I once served. One student asked me why I kept referring to some of the epistles as ‘Pauline.’ He thought ‘Pauline’ was the wife of Paul! (No joke; he was serious and he was a deacon!) He was almost as bad as the joke I heard about the kids who thought the ‘epistles’ were the wives of the apostles! Or even worst, I actually heard a person reviewing a Sunday School lesson say that he thought the ‘Gentiles’ were called that name because they were gentle!

God help us all! At a time when the need for biblical authority in preaching and teaching is so great, the airwaves are flooded with preaching and teaching that has no real depth or substance! There is an overwhelming number of preachers and teachers, with many followers and listeners; boldly, loudly, and authoritatively proclaiming nothing more than: “This is what the verse means to me!”

Man: Created ‘As’ the Image of God?

There has been much ink spilled over the meaning of Genesis 1:26-28: “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (KJV) So, this is not an attempt to rehash the ideas that have already been put forth as to what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. Instead, I want to suggest a slight adjustment in our thinking.

When I was a boy, I grew up in a time when automobile and other small engines still had carburetors. (For those of you too young to know what a carburetor is, it basically served the same function as fuel injectors do today, but it was less efficient and more finicky!) My dad worked as a greens-keeper at a golf course and during his spare time, he would often work, doing minor repairs to automobile and lawn mower engines. I remember quite vividly that often my father would be working on an engine and after he thought it was repaired, he would attempt to crank it. Many times, after incessantly pulling the rope on a lawn-mower engine or turning the key in the ignition of an automobile, the engine would stubbornly refuse to start. It was at that point, my dad would do something, that would make the difference between successfully starting the engine or flooding (too much gas in the carburetor) the engine. He would take a screw-driver and slightly turn the screw of the value that controlled the flow of gas into the carburetor. After my dad did that, nine times out of ten, the engine would start! That is what I suggest we do in our thinking concerning man being created in the image and likeness of God; not a major shift in our thinking, just a slight turn of the carburetor screw!

Are you ready? Here it is: Instead to thinking of man as being created ‘in’ the image of God, what if the meaning the Genesis author really sought to convey was that man was created ‘as’ the image of God? The preposition ‘in’ allows for such an interpretation. If I said: “I work in a bank.” You would hear the word ‘in’ but you would understand I work ‘as’ a banker, a teller, a loan officer, or whatever capacity at a bank. Using that same line of logic, when you look at what follows in the Genesis text, it is obvious that God’s intent was for man to function as God’s representative on the earth! What I am suggesting is that, it could be; the image of God is not a capacity that man has, but rather it is the essence of what man is! Maybe the author’s intent was not so much to convey that God created man ‘in’ God’s image, but rather that God created man ‘as’ God’s image!

Now, this gets all the more interesting when we consider the Greek word the Septuagint (The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible: OT) uses in that verse to denote the idea of image. It is the word from which we get the English word; ‘icon.’ When I looked it up in the various Greek dictionaries and lexicons, a couple of definitions jumped up and grabbed my attention. This is what is found in the Friberg Analytical Greek Lexicon: “(1) as an artistic representation, such as on a coin or statue image, likeness; (2) as an embodiment or living manifestation of God form, appearance; (3) as a visible manifestation of an invisible and heavenly reality form, substance.”[1] Note, definitions 2 and 3! And then, look at what The Bible Knowledge Commentary says: “Human life was created in (lit., “as,” meaning “in essence as”) the image of God.”[2] All this time, we have been thinking ‘in,’ when the real truth just might be ‘as!’

As I was pondering the implications of this, I ran across some biblical texts that seem to imply that perhaps my reasoning is correct. The Apostle Paul made a statement in 1 Corinthians 11:7 that is very interesting! Now, he made the statement in the context of proper cultural protocol in regard to men and women covering their heads (or not) while they prayed or prophesied. Now granted, when Paul spoke of ‘man’ in this context, he was referring to the male gender of the species, but nevertheless, could not what he said be applicable to the species in general? He said: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.” (KJV) Aside from the cultural specifics of covering the head, Paul plainly said: “He (man) is the image and glory of God.” Note also, that he said the woman was the glory of the man, but he didn’t say the woman was the image of the man! In Colossians 1:15, Paul says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. In Romans 8:29, he says that God predestined us to be conformed to the image of his (God’s) son. Now, don’t get lost; follow the dots: Man was created as the image of God! Because of sin, that image is marred and tarnished! Jesus, who is the perfect image of God, came to redeem humanity and to restore that image. Hence, God’s purpose is that we might be conformed to the image of Jesus, who is the image of God! When we conform to the image of Jesus, who is the image of God, we are conformed to the image of God, which is the image God made us as in the first place!

Now, what are the implications of this? How does this change the way we think, pray, or do God’s will? Well first, once we internalize this slight turn of the carburetor screw into our spirits and minds, we will truly understand and appreciate how God works in the earth realm. We will cease to believe in magic and begin to believe in God! We will realize that whatever God does in the earth, God does it through human agency because the very purpose of man is to be the physical, visible, embodiment of the spiritual, invisible God on earth! Hence, we will no longer foolishly blame God for the evil in the world because we will understand that the presence of evil in the world is not God’s fault or responsibility; it’s ours! There is evil in the world, not so much because God wills or allows it; but more so, because we allow it!

Secondly, we will no longer snort, cry, sling oil, or otherwise try to get God to bless us! As we refer back to the Genesis text, we should note that the text says: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them. . .” Do you see that? It didn’t say: “And God ‘was going to’ bless them.” No! It said: “And God ‘blessed’ them.” Every blessing we need to successfully be the image of God on earth, we already have! If we are experiencing a lack of the blessings necessary to function in the capacity God intended for our lives, it is because we don’t understand how to operate as the image of God! Jesus was the perfect image of God! Therefore, if we want to know how to do it, he’s the perfect example and model. He said to a crowd of people who were worried about how they were going to make it: “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ‘Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)

Thirdly, if we understand that all of us (saints, sinners, Black, White, Americans, Republicans, etc.,) are created ‘as’ the image of God, then we will have a newfound respect for the sanctify of human life! Racism, classicism, and all the other ‘-isms’ exist because of our ignorance of who we really are! There billions of people on the planet, and each one of us was created to ‘image’ God on the earth. Therefore, when we mistreat and abuse one another, we are, in a sense, mistreating and abusing the image of God! And when we mistreat and abuse the image of God; we mistreat and abuse the God the image represents and embodies!

Finally, once we understand and internalize this concept, we will truly understand that life is not about us! All of us are placed here to do the will of God. The purpose of the blessings in our life are not primarily for our comfort, but rather to aid and assist us in doing what God called (created) us to do! In other words, primarily, the blessings are not for our enjoyment; they are for our employment! We are blessed to be a blessing!

There is an old saying that says the eyes are the windows of the soul. Perhaps that is true, but even more than that, as we look into the eyes of another person, we must also realize we are looking into the eyes of an image of God!


[1] Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 1

[2] Allen P. Ross, “Genesis,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 29.


The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

In the Book of Exodus, there is a report of a fascinating occurrence that is lost to most modern readers of the English Bibles and those not familiar with the Hebrew language and ancient Egyptian religion. Over and over again, the author of Exodus talks about the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. On the surface, it would appear that the only message is that Pharaoh was really stubborn and was determined not to let the children of Israel go. That indeed was true, but there was much more going on than is apparent to the readers of English Bibles.

I was made aware of this ‘inside information’ while sitting in Dr. John D. Currid’s seminary class at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Jackson, MS in 1997. Dr. Currid is, at the time of this post, serving on the faculty of the Charlotte campus of RTS and is currently an adjunct faculty member at the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies in Jerusalem, Israel. Dr. Currid has served as Project Director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project in Israel since 1995. In his first book, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, Dr. Currid relates the relationship between the condition of Pharaoh’s heart and the prevailing Egyptian religious beliefs at the time. In the afterlife, the Egyptian was judged based on the condition or weight of his heart. Dr. Currid relates an incident taken from The Book of the Dead (the Papyrus of Ani) in which the deceased Ani is standing in the hall of judgment. Ani’s heart is placed on a scale and is weighed against the feather of truth and righteousness. If the heart is too heavy, Ani will be adjudged a sinner and devoured. But, if the heart achieves balance with the feather, Ani will receive the reward of eternal life.[1]

Now, here is the real interesting thing in regard to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart as it is related in Exodus. In the English Bibles, every occurrence is translated as ‘hardened’ or ‘harden,’ but in the Hebrew text, the writer actually used three different Hebrew terms! The first term; ‘qashah,’ is found only once at Exodus 7:3, where the text records Yahweh as saying: “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.” (New American Standard Bible: NASB) The term means, ‘to be hard, to be severe, to be difficult’ and refers to the stubbornness of Pharaoh’s heart not to let Israel go. The second term, chazaq, is found twelve times. Eleven times in direct reference to Pharaoh and once in reference to the Egyptians in general (Exodus 4:21; 7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:12, 35; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17). This term means, ‘to be strong’ and bears the idea of Pharaoh having a strong, determined will not to give in to Yahweh’s demand to let Israel go. The last term is the one that is most significant for our discussion. It is ‘kabad’ (also translated as ‘glory’ and ‘honor’ in other places in the English translations of the Old Testament), which means, ‘to be heavy.’ This term is found six times in Exodus. (Exodus 7:14; 8:15, 32; 9:7, 34; 10:1) Each time, it is a verbal form; five times with Pharaoh as the subject and once with Yahweh as the subject.

The theological point of this discussion is centralized in Exodus 9:34. The text says: “And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.” (KJV) Pharaoh ‘kabad’ his heart! Pharaoh made his heart heavy or weighty and in doing so, he tipped the scales to seal his own destruction and damnation according to his own religious system! When the text says that Pharaoh ‘sinned yet more,’ I don’t think the author was just talking about sinning against Yahweh, I think the author was also saying that Pharaoh sinned against his own religious system! Pharaoh sinned to the point that his own gods condemned him! Dr. Currid notes: “The assertion of the Exodus writer that Yahweh made Pharaoh’s heart heavy has added dimensions for us when we take the Egyptian background into account. Obviously, the God of the Hebrews was serving as the judge of Pharaoh. Yahweh was weighing the heart of the Egyptian king, and then proclaiming the results for all to see. Pharaoh was adjudged an imperfect being worthy of condemnation. This is especially striking in light of the ancient Egyptian belief in the purity of Pharaoh. . . Yahweh’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was a polemic against the prevailing notion that Pharaoh’s character was pure and untainted. . .Yahweh assaulted the heart of Pharaoh to demonstrate that only the God of the Hebrews is the sovereign of the universe.”[2]

Thank you Dr. Currid (or ‘Dr. J.D.’ as we used to fondly call you in class) for your excellent scholarship in this area. There wasn’t a day we sat in your class that we were not amazed at the great treasures of biblical knowledge you shared with us!

[1] John. D. Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, Baker Books House Company, 1997, 96-103.

[2] Currid, 102-103.

Lying on the devil and the Lord

In John 8:44, Jesus characterized the devil as a liar and the father of lies! But did you know that many who preach the Gospel are guilty of lying on the devil and the Lord? Let me show you what I’m talking about!

In John 10:10, Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (ESV) Now, I am sure most of you reading this have heard this text preached and taught and nine times out of ten, you heard the preacher or teacher say that the thief in that verse is the devil. Often, I have heard preachers refer to the text by saying: “The devil comes to rob, kill, and to destroy, but Jesus came that we might have a more abundant life! Yes! The devil wants to rob and steal your property! But, go and shake three people’s hand and tell the devil: ‘I’m taking it back! You can’t have my stuff!’ Can somebody shout: Glory!” But is that really the message of the text? I am suggesting to you that it is not and when that text is preached or referred to in that manner, the preacher or teacher is guilty of lying on the devil and the Lord!

First of all, look at the context of the verse. The first mention of the thief is in verse one, where Jesus describes the thief as anyone who does not enter the door of the sheepfold, but climbs up and tries to get into the sheepfold any other way. In the next verse, Jesus says, the one who enters through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. So, the contrast is between the thief who tries to get access to the sheep by some way other than the door and the shepherd who comes through the door. Note that the thief is not after what the sheep have; the thief wants to steal the sheep! In verse eight, Jesus says all who came before him are, or were, thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. So, we can surmise from verses 1-8 that the thief, the thieves and robbers were trying to get access to steal the sheep. Contrasted with the shepherd, who comes through the door and coupled with Jesus, who calls himself the good shepherd (verse 11), we can deduct the thief, the thieves and robbers that Jesus was talking about were illegitimate or false shepherds! By the way, another term for “shepherd” is the term “pastor.” So, in proper context, in this passage, the thief, the thieves and robbers, (bad) shepherds, and (bad) pastors, all refer to the same person or group! Note that Jesus made no reference whatsoever to the devil or demonic forces! He was making a contrast between the thieves and robbers (bad shepherds, bad pastors) and himself: the good shepherd! In keeping with the context and unity of the passage, the thief in verse ten must refer to the same person or group of persons mentioned in verses one and eight!

In looking at the Greek text, performing a word study helps to further clarify who the “thief” is in verse ten. A word study on the word, “kill” reveals the following: In the English, the word “kill” in any form, is found only 10 times in the entire Gospel of John. Of those 10 times, 9 times, the Greek word, “apokteino,” which means, “to kill in any way whatever,” is used. However, in verse ten, the word for kill is “thuo,” which means, “to sacrifice.” This definition holds true for the usage of the word in other places in the New Testament (NT). It only occurs 13 other times, besides in our text in the NT and our text is the only occurrence in the Gospel of John. In every case, the word is used to denote the killing of an animal for the purpose of offering up a sacrifice or of eating a meal in connection with a sacrifice. The use this particular word for “kill” in verse ten, seems to suggest that the thief does not just kill, but rather the thief’s killing is for or in connection with making a sacrifice as an act of worship. With that being the case, we can deduct from our word study and by observing the proper context of the text that the “thief” in John 10:10 is NOT the devil, but rather is a religious person. This ties in perfectly with Jesus’ depiction of the thief as being the religious leader(s), who was (were) sacrificing the people for his (their) own personal benefit and profit. Oh! Do you see that? We’ve been lying on the liar and the Lord! The thief in John 10:10 is not the devil, but rather the pastor or religious leader who illegitimately gains access and kills (sacrifices) the sheep for his own personal profit and gain!

In verse 11, the contrast changes from the good shepherd and thieves and robbers to the good shepherd and the hireling or the hired hand. Jesus said in verses 11-15: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (ESV) Again, Jesus makes a contrast between himself and the religious leaders of that day who came before him. He describes himself as the good shepherd in comparison to the religious leaders, who he called robbers, thieves, and hired hands who didn’t care anything for the sheep, but were just in it for the money! If the devil is implied anywhere in this discourse, he could possibly be the wolf in verse 12, but he is definitely not the thief in verse ten!

In addition to the evidence presented, stealing is not the devil’s M. O! The devil’s bread and butter are lies and deception! There was an interesting conversation that took place between Jesus and the devil during the wilderness temptation. In Matthew 4:8-10, we read: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (ESV) Did you notice Jesus did not dispute Satan’s claim of ownership of all the kingdoms of the world and their glory? If Satan was lying and all the kingdoms of the world and their glory were not his to give, Jesus would have known it and the temptation wouldn’t have been a temptation at all! I brought us to this text to point out the fact that the devil doesn’t need to “steal our stuff” because he has already stolen and has all the kingdoms of the world and their glory to give to us if we would just fall down and worship him! The devil already has all of that and we think he wants to rob us of our two cents! Seriously?

Besides that, the abundant life that Jesus came to give in John 10:10 is denoted by the Greek term; “zoe.” Zoe refers to the quality of life, not the quantity of life. Jesus didn’t come so that we might have more stuff in life; Jesus came that we might have more meaning and purpose in life! Jesus said: “Watch out and guard yourself from all types of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NET)

In conclusion, I think the reason why we have lied on the devil and the Lord in John 10:10 is because many of us do not study the text for ourselves; we merely preach and teach what we have heard others preach and teach. Instead of a voice, many pulpits are occupied by a parrot! Preacher, teacher: If you hope to be approved by God in your handling of the word, you must wrestle with the text for yourself! Don’t even take my word for the conclusions I have drawn in this post. Do the research for yourself! We all should be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and study for ourselves to see whether the things we hear is the truth! If we don’t, if we uncritically accept and repeat everything we hear others preaching and teaching, then we, like them, will be guilty of lying on the devil and the Lord!

Real Christianity

I feel compelled to write this because there is so much misunderstanding and confusion today about Christians and Christianity. There are those who think Christianity was an invention of White people as a means to use religion to control Black people! There are those who think Christianity is the religious or moral authority of the Republican Party or the conservative right.  

In thinking about that, I am reminded of something Jesus said in response to his disciples’ inquiry about the end of the age. We read in Matthew 24:3-8: “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?’ And Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers (various) places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” When Jesus said that many would come in his name, saying “I am Christ” he wasn’t necessarily saying that people would come saying that they were literally him, returning in the flesh (although he does not eliminate that possibility and some have even done it), rather many would come in his name, supposedly representing him, saying that they are anointed; they are his, they are Christian! Jesus said that they would deceive many.

Is that not what is happening today? People are deceived and confused so much that many don’t know what ‘real Christianity’ is! Well, let me try to add my two cents to the discussion. First of all, in response to the Black nationalists and other Afro-centric groups who are flooding Facebook with propaganda that Christianity is the tool of White people to control Black people. Such thinking is absurd because it belies historical facts. Even before Christianity, Africa was well familiar with the worship of Yahweh from the days of King Solomon. And according to the Book of Acts, Christianity was introduced to the African continent in Chapter 8, years before it was introduced to the European continent in Chapter 16! So, what probably happenrd was that when the White missionaries went to Africa, they didn’t really introduce Christianity to the Africans, but actually reminded them of the faith they once had and had lost! In addition to that, the same religion that some claim was invented by the White man to control Black people was used by Black people to inspire and empower them to fight for freedom and liberation! And, even further, their point would have some semblance of validity were it not for the fact that there are White people who are Christians and there are Christians all over the world! Christianity was not ‘made in America!’

In response to those who think Christianity is mainly the moral authority of the Republican Party or political conservatism; God is NOT a Republican, neither is God a Democrat! In thinking about that, I am reminded of an incident I read about in the biblical book of Joshua. In Joshua 5:13-15, we read: “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, ‘Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, ‘What saith my lord unto his servant?’ And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, ‘Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” (KJV) Here’s the setting: Joshua was about to fight the battle of Jericho and as he is contemplating about the battle the night before, this mysterious stranger appears. The stranger has such an awesome appearance that Joshua reasoned that whoever’s side this guy is on, they are bound to win! So Joshua asked him: “Whose side are you on; which side are you going to fight for; us or our enemies?” The stranger said, in essence: “I didn’t come to take sides, I came to take over!”  And that’s what God is all about! God is not for the Republicans as opposed to the Democrats! God does not stoop so low as to get involved with petty political in-fighting! The only government God promotes is the Kingdom of God! No! God is NOT endorsing the Republican agenda or the Democratic agenda! God doesn’t want to take sides; God wants to take over!

In that same vein of thinking, God is not even an American! There are many American Christians who like to think God is pro-America as opposed to all other nations. But the Bible says: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD. . .” It doesn’t matter how much we sing: “God bless America,” America will only be blessed as she adheres to the principles and teachings of God’s word. America will only be blessed as she promotes justice and equality for all of her citizens. America will only be blessed as she seeks to live out the true meaning of her creed.

So, in essence, real Christianity is NOT tied to nationalistic devotion, nor is it wedded to the American flag or national anthem. Real Christianity supersedes race, ethnicity, or political affiliation. Real Christianity dictates behavior and allegiance instead of being dictated by behavior and allegiance. Real Christianity is more about respecting people, justice, and equality than about respecting a flag or an anthem!

I mentioned that last statement because I recently viewed a video clip of a supposedly Christian preacher who was berating athletes for kneeling during the national anthem. I found it sad that he refused to acknowledge the truth that the athletes are not protesting the flag or the anthem, but rather are using the flag and anthem to call attention to the systemic racism that pervades the justice system in this nation! He spent his whole preaching moment condemning the protest without even acknowledging the real reasons for the protest! But real Christianity is more concerned about people than flags and anthems! Sadly, in the name of Christianity, many have hi-jacked the conversation about racial equality and justice and turned it into a trivial debate about a flag and a song! That is NOT real Christianity!