Going Back to Egypt

In Numbers 14:4 the Children were going back to Egypt. The spies had returned with a bad report and the Tribes were going to pick a new leader and leave. The Children had tested God ten times, and He was ready to start over. I have heard many preachers say that they were ready to go back and be slaves in Egypt, I do not think that was on their mind. The people had trained for two years as a military force. These were not the beaten down slaves that passed through the Red Sea. My feeling is they did not want to fight giants, but Egypt had lost much of its army. Israel was going back to capture Egypt and rule it.

Egypt is mentioned thousands of times in Scripture, both Old and New Covenant parts talk about it. Abraham was the first to go into Egypt and that laid the ground work and pattern for his children since then. He came out rich, but there were problems (Ishmael). It became a place of refuge for Jacob and the family but that turned to bondage. Solomon acquired wealth from them through trade, and sinned. Jesus went there as a child to mirror Abraham and Israel coming out of her. Egypt bullied Israel until Nebuchadnezzar ended their bad boy ways. Even with them being a problem not all the books of the Old Testament mention Egypt. Do a search with a Bible app, that is interesting.

Why was going back to Egypt a problem? Why did God not want His children going back to Egypt for help? Bondage is the favorite answer and that is hard to argue with, but what sort of bondage? Ezekiel 23 describes Israel’s relationship with the gods of Egypt as prostitution. The ten plagues that got Israel out of Egypt were focused at their gods. Each plague struck down a deity that Egypt worshiped. Egypt loved the created thing-water, sun, plants, animals, and Pharaoh. Aaron and Jeroboam made a god for Israel that looked a bull, because of the influence of Egypt. Part of Eve’s problem in the Garden was because she made a big deal of the fruit on the Tree.

Abraham, the Children of Israel, and Jesus came out of Egypt. Analysis of this fills volumes of books. I would like to offer three ideas about coming out of Egypt. 1) You were in Egypt because of a problem, it may have been a refuge for a season. 2) Once you are gone, there will be a time of peace. Trials and test, however, are coming. 3) Leaving will open you up to your Promised Land or destiny. Once you are called out of Egypt the Father wants you to look to Him for your help. Worship the Creator and not the created, and stop going back to Egypt.

Fighting Words

This post about fighting words is a spinning-off of the post War and Rumors. This is not a complete study of fighting words. These Greek words have different English words they are translated into like strife, quarrel, boxing, and others. I used the NIV, Mounce Reverse-Interlinear, Strong’s Concordance, and the KJV to do this study.

Logomachia-G3055-1 Timothy 6:3-5. Fighting about words. It is used only once in the Bible.

Agōnizomai-G75-John 18:36 and 1Timothy 6:12 (the first word). This refers to a person fighting in public.

Agōn-G73-1Timothy 6:12 (Second word), 2 Timothy 4:7. This refers to where the fight is occurring, like a stadium.

Machomai-G3164-James 4:2. To fight, quarrel, contend or dispute. It is used in Acts 7:26 and other verses.

Polemeō-G4170-James 4:2 and Revelation 2:16. To quarrel, fight, battle, or make war.

Pykteuō-G4438-1 Corinthians 9:26. To box, fight, or beat with your fist. The object of this is beating (derō) the air.

Strateia-G4752-2 Corinthians 10:4. Military service or campaign. This word is also in 1 Timothy 1:18. In most translations, it has two “war or fight” words, but in the Mounce Interlinear, it only has one. It could be read-look at the prophecies about you and have a good campaign. I do not envy translators.

Theomachos-G2314-Acts 5:39. Fighting or opposing God. Theomachos is used only once in the Bible.

James 4:1 also has words that describe fighting/quarreling and disputes. It is polemos-G4171. Again, different translations will give you different words. This word is also used for battle or war.

Linguistics (study of words) is not a simple academic field. Combine that with dogma and you have a difficult task, to say the least. Latin, Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew may still be in use in one form or another, but I feel we do not understand how the original people used these words and phrases. My case-in-point is all of the musical terms and not-understood lines in the Hebrew text. If you really want to feel bad, wade into the tenses and break down of the ancient Greek text. Yes, these may be necessary but they are not for everyone.

I believe there is a good understanding and many faithful renderings of Scripture. It is distressing to see a modern Logomachia over Scripture. My prayer is that we do not extend this into a Theomachos over His plan and purpose for His Church. (They may have been used once in the New Testament but letters today would repeat them many times.)

As I pondered all of this, a strange comparison came into view. The original language that the New Testament was written in was Greek, not Latin. But it did not take long to convert Scripture and most religious writings into Latin. Greek was more for the common people and Latin was for knowledgeable people. Latin was favored by the learned- science, theology, and other subjects taught in universities. For what it is worth, the greatest thing the Reformers did was to translate the Bible out of a dying language to one that the people could understand.

The comparison and contrast I saw were the two trees in the Garden-one was for Knowledge and the other was for Life. Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom, with miracles confirming His words, were new treasures given to bring life to hurting people. This is why the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed Him, Jesus’ teachings clarified and used Scripture in a way that went against their knowledge. (Of course, claiming to be the Son of Man also got under their knowledge-skin and dogma.)

The modern fighting over words is now with liberal, woke, post-modernist who are changing the God-given uses of words into something different, something anti-God.  

The Sermons on Two Mounts-Kingdom of God/Heaven

In the two sermons from the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives Matthew records Jesus using the phrases kingdom of God and the kingdom of Heaven. Most of the time Matthew uses the phrase kingdom of Heaven. Only four times does the kingdom of God show up in Matthew. Contrast that to Mark, Luke, and John that use the phrase kingdom of God. PLEASE this does not signal two different kingdoms but two different audiences. Matthew is directing his Gospel to a Hebrew audience; the others are for a more Greek/Gentile reader.

So, why did Matthew use the kingdom of God at all? A careful look at who Jesus was talking to when Matthew changes terms is very important. Matthew 12:28 (Pharisees), 21: 31, and 43 (Sadducees) or the “rulers” of the people. 19:24 is after the rich young man (ruler) left and Jesus uses both “God and heaven” to address His disciples. (For you to get the most out of this please review the reference websites-they are Jewish.) Heaven is the term of the Pharisees and the people, while God is more of the Sadducees and priests. I believe that Jesus used the different terms to needle the rulers, to cause a reaction. Those two groups held very different opinions on angels, resurrections, and what heaven and hell were like. The Sadducees and the resurrection are mentioned in Acts 23:8, Matthew 22:23, Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27.   

References: Messianic thought – https://engediresourcecenter.com/2019/09/04/what-is-the-kingdom-of-heaven/         Traditional Jewish thought- https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/heaven-and-hell-in-jewish-tradition/

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4848230/jewish/Heaven-and-the-Afterlife.htm

The Sermons – Jesus’ response to the demands from the Sadducees were the parables of the two sons and the rebellious tenants. He used the kingdom of God in both of the explanations. These prophetic rebukes came to pass in 70 A.D. (CE) with the Romans destroying Jerusalem and the Temple. Basically, when the Temple was gone, so were the Sadducees (priest). Note-there is a group of Kohen’s (Levitical priests) still living in North Africa. 

For the Seven Woes and the parables on the Mount of Olives Jesus used the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom prepared by the Father, these were to the Pharisees or His disciples. Jesus also talks about earthly kingdoms (24:7) and the message of the gospel of the kingdom going to the whole world. Matthew uses the word kingdom more than any other writer. Luke is second.

Heaven – Matthew’s target audience was Jews. I believe that the Holy Spirit gave him the wisdom to reproduce Jesus’ words the way he did. The Jewish believers would have related more to the Pharisee’s teaching about heaven. The thought of the day was that heaven was divided into three different levels. Looking at what is going on in heaven gives you a clue as to the level they were talking about. Birds fly in the heavens, clouds float in one, and the Father lives in the third. No, this is not how Christians view the idea of heaven. Remember, Paul a Pharisee, talks about a man who went up to the third heaven and got a superior revelation.    

Olam Ha-ba (“World to Come”) and Gan Eden (“Garden of Eden”) are and were views of the Jews about the afterlife. So, Jesus talking about heaven carries more of the “Garden of Eden” and the world before Satan stole the rule of the earth from Adam. Come, Lord Jesus!

Chapters 24 and 25 – These contain the sermon/parables about the timing of Jesus’ return, how to be prepared, and what we are to do while He tarries. Chapter 25: 31- 46 carries a definite message that not everyone will make it into Heaven. Like the parable of the Ten Virgins, it is directed at people who sit in churches and do not produce the fruit that the Father wants. 

Politicians, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny

If Politicians, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny seem like funny topics to be looking at on Epiphany, it is because this is not really a study but a commentary. These three evoke a wide range of emotions, both positive and negative. We have carried them into the Church of Jesus and their good and evil effects are one tare that the angels will get to burn when Jesus comes again.  

Easter Bunny

This springtime version of Santa Claus came to America with our German ancestors. The link below does a good job of looking at the topic. 

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/easter-ideas/a31226078/easter-bunny-origins-history/

Unlike Santa Claus, the egg-laying mammal only brings good things for children, no threat of coal. Naughty or nice is not part of the narrative, just treats after the long harsh period of Lent.

Santa Claus

Our jolly giver of presents is a mix of traditions. The club of his accounting system never seems to be used. Presents are always waiting to be opened if there is a tree present in your house. Inappropriate behavior still brings a wonderful gift, unless you do not get what you want and then Saint Nick is a rogue. Next year is the redeeming factor in this narrative of “you were good but not good enough”.  

Politicians

Putting politicians together with our magical elf and rabbit may not be fair to them. Knowledge, like politicians, has a good and evil side. Granted, that depends on your preference towards their political identity and the job they are doing. I hope that they have sought that position in order to help people and not themselves. Time will always reveal their usefulness and their motivation. 

Comparing and Contrasting These Three

  • No matter the present, all three depend on your pocketbook to fulfill the promise.
  • Santa Claus and politicians have a fear factor built into their jobs, while the Easter Bunny just deposits blessings that you have to hunt for and not step on.
  • Santa and the Bunny are mythical beings with magical powers. Politicians just think and act like they possess those qualities.
  • Santa and the Bunny were carried into the Church and used by it to promote some societal connections. It gave them religious imagery to justify their presence in the building, but they are not doctrine. 
  • Jesus and the Father are not types and shadows of Santa and the Bunny. Politicians are not God, no matter how they act.
  • Politicians frequently stay outside of the Church but want to use it and direct it to promote societal connections. 

Lessons from the Bible

Very early in Israel’s history, Moses organized governmental offices to help the people (they needed it and so do we). Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, suggested a sensible structure to relieve a lot of stress in governing the people. Exodus 18 covers that story. Jethro was quick to point out that Moses should seek the Lord’s approval on the plan; the Bible does not mention that Moses did that section of the proposal. So, there was a system of governing that centered on the Law and priest, and one that came with the Tribes and community structure. Jump to the Book of Judges and 1 Samuel and we see these roles blurring with God losing out as their leader.

Samuel is a prophet and a judge that was raised by Eli the priest. I think Samuel knew his boundaries, but the people kept blurring them, until they wanted a king, not a judge. By the leading of God, Samuel anoints two kings-Saul who used Law to promote his agenda, and David, who had a heart for God and the people. 

Fast forward through good kings and awful kings with several conquering nations thrown in and you arrive at the Roman occupation, High Priest, and the Sanhedrin, complete with Pharisees. Have we learned anything from all of that history? 

Jesus in His sermons from the two mounts addresses our relationships to civil and religious (corrupt) authorities-give to Caesar what belongs to him (Matthew 22:21) and they sit in Moses’ position so obey them just don’t to as they do (Matthew 23:2+3). Paul carries these thoughts into 1 Timothy 2:2, where he says to pray for those in authority.     

Concerns 

  • Who do we look to for our supply and justice? Lately, government has taken on its shoulders the burden of supplying our needs. They are bending society to redefine justice and what it looks like.
  • Woke IS NOT a Christian virtue! Bring that into the Church and confusing it with the teaching of Jesus is a HUGE mistake. Woke takes some of the verbiage of Christianity and bends it to suit an agenda that is not the Father’s plan for His children.
  • Paul admonishes Christians to be very careful about what you become involved with.
  • God’s love is built on righteousness. I have listened to politicians criticize Christians about God and His love and how we love our neighbors. They use a distorted view of love to make these judgements and we, as His Church, have not studied His love enough to voice His views correctly.
  • Blaming God and Jesus for bad happenings is not right, they gave. The god of this world is Satan, who causes troubles, sinful man, and crazy nature are not the acts of God. Satan can only steal, kill, and destroy; he is also an accomplished liar.
  • The early church in the Book of Acts is not socialism or communism. Unfortunately, I have heard a very popular pastor make that declaration. It did not sit well. The people brought things to help the poor because they wanted too. The Apostles, as leaders, did not want to manage it. Socialism and or Communism are leader mandates that will involve guns and tanks, either in starting it or maintaining their rule. Those two societal systems have taken something from the Bible and twisted it to exalt knowledge and man by creating a ruling class and a follower herd.  

How Then Should We…

This saying has been attributed to Saint Patrick-If an institution is in the way of spreading the Gospel of Jesus, that institution needs to change. I can imagine that he was talking about organized religion that has lost its way or a government that wants to stop the Good News.

The government will be on HIS shoulders; that is Jesus the Messiah. (Isaiah 9) Politicians, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny are useful. Maybe they are even needed in society, but the Church better wake up to the confusion they can create in children who grow up thinking politicians, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny are part of the Kingdom of God.

Thorns and Thistles and the Tree of Knowledge

I will get to the point right away with thorns, thistles, and the Tree of Knowledge. Thorns by themselves are a sticky subject, but I will include thistles and the Tree. The three big references to thorns are where we get stuck in our thinking: Genesis 3:17, the original curse, the crown the Romans put on Jesus after beating Him, and Paul’s messenger of Satan in 2 Corinthians 12. But there are fifty-four verses with thorns in the Bible. (That number stays consistent in the various versions.) When we add in briers, nettles, thistles, tares, and weeds, the picture of problem plants in the Eastern Mediterranean expands and covers our field of study quite well.

The Tree of Knowledge had a good and evil component to it. The plants that are part of the curse of man’s greed in wanting knowledge and not life also have a good and evil/painful component. Some useful flora with thorns are roses, citrus fruit, and blackberries. In the Holy Land and in the Bible, they used thorn plants for whipping people, burning to cook food, and making barriers you did not want to go through. They use up a lot of water and seem to grow quickly, so they will damage the crops.

Thistles can have magnificent flowers, medicinal properties, and are eaten by humans and animals. The spines are painful if you disrespect the plant and get careless around it. (Israel put them on postage stamps.)

Off-topic, slightly.

Genesis 3 was a real eye-opener for Eve and Adam. Death entered the Garden, and they started dying. They found out serpents could move with no legs. Eve would discover pain and child-bearing. Desire and authority rushed into her life. Thorns and thistles were to be a complication in food production. Adam received pain because of them. That death entailed decomposition. How many of these concepts did they know about before greed and lust won their thinking?

Metaphors 

Exodus 22:6 is the initial statement of an issue with thorns-they dry out and become a fire hazard. (The things that get into your skin will burn you up.) Numbers 33:55 is the first usage of thorns as a metaphor for someone causing you pain. Gideon in Judges 8:7 promises to apply them and briers for torture and inflicting pain. Okay, to employ them for that is difficult because they must be gathered, and holding them requires serious precautions.

These plant protectors certainly are a proven problem (evil) and a teaching tool (good). If you have been a Christian for very long, you have heard many sermons about them. Some people spend a lot of time trying to figure out what type of thorn you are, and why you cause them so much pain. There is also a lot of moaning about the thorn poking them, and how they have to endure it in life.

Jesus 

Metaphorically, Judas Iscariot was a thorn in Jesus. Peter may have been a thistle at times (LOL). The thorny crown is possibly the only thing Jesus wore on the cross. So, with the nails, the Roman scourge, and spear, they released the blood that covers our sin (s) before the Father. 

Paul 

Steven Furtick has used Paul’s thorn in several sermons (September/October 2012), these in part, spurred this study. He did a great job with the topic.

It seems right, yet wrong, to always assume that Paul’s thorn was a bodily ailment. (A mental or spiritual issue can easily lead to physical pains.) Many try to make it an eye problem caused by the blindness from his conversion as the source of Satan’s angel against him. (Please note that the thorn was not from God.) Many try to claim a thorn as great as his. Paul got that thorn so he would not be conceited. Do you really want one like that? You probably never got an amazing revelation while in Heaven. I will also bet that writing a good part of the New Testament and supervising many churches are also not in your resume. Get the point, we deal with things and they cause troubles for us, but why compare them with his thorn. Paul’s message from this-stop complaining and ask for a deeper understanding of grace.

My Take

Thorns and briers are painful. Thorns and briers cause issues. If you elect to mess with one of those bushes, you will most likely be in pain. Their fruit or flowers may tempt and possibly be worth the discomfort you judge. The suffering is the same if someone else sticks you with one, or you find it by accident. Shoes and lawn tractor tires that found them in the grass had to be fixed. Cutting them down and burning them are the best ways of getting rid of them.

Thistles can come with beautiful flowers, and the plant has a strange type of attractiveness if all you do is look at it. If you allow a thistle to stay in your yard, it will create many more of them once they mature. Get them out of your ground early in their life. Let them grow and digging them out later can still cause pain, don’t leave the root or a stub. 

Isaiah 55:13 does offer hope that the curse of thorns and thistles will be reversed. 

Knowledge is good and can be bad. Thorns and thistles are bad even if the plant produces something useful.