ONE to ANOTHER ~ August - September 2017 ~ Volume III ~ Issue 5
In This Issue
The Moral Difference Between Right & Wrong| Grief: Victory Over A Lonely Darkenss | The Holy Spirit and the Bible | Book
The Inclusiveness of the Gospel | The Deceitfulness of the Dispensers of Death | Rats, Rabbits and Roadrunners
The Crevice of the Rock | The Lost Chapters of Deuteronomy | How to Get Fresh Bread
It is universally accepted among Christians and Jews that human beings were uniquely created in the "image of God." As it relates to human life this is the most fundamental premise of the Bible as established in the first chapter of the first Book.
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:26, 27 NASV Et al.).
It is also universally understood by Christians and Jews that the image of God in mankind is not physical, but spiritual. As Jesus (the Incarnation) Himself affirmed, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).
While a spirit is incorporeal, it is not without an image. The Hebrew word "image" as used in Genesis 1:26, and 27 is צֶלֶם (teslem) coming from an unused root meaning to shade. In other words, we are something of a "shadow" of God's spiritual image - an image that is infinitely holy.
On a practical level, God's infinite holiness is subsumed in His attributes. Attributes such justice, truthfulness, grace, mercy, compassion, faithfulness, and loving kindness.
Holiness can only be observed in the light of its antithesis. The comparison requires a judgment between the two - a moral judgment. The word "moral" whether defined when it is used as an adjective or a noun comes out about the same. That is, it is a standard or principle of right and wrong.
Therefore, if we as human beings are a "shadow" of the spiritual image of God, we must be a shadow of His moral image as well (finite to be sure, yet still a shadow). That image, if created and not manufactured through experience, must be innate (inborn, native, natural, inherent, instinctive).
While it may be informed, enlightened and matured though teaching, practice and experience, it cannot be informed, enlightened or matured at all if it is not first innate. Something that is not to be begin with cannot be practiced, polished or matured. Stated more concisely, something cannot come from nothing.
The question, "How do human beings know the moral difference between right and wrong?" can only be answered by first acknowledging the image of God in all of us. This is what the Apostle Paul so strongly affirmed in his epistle to the church at Rome.
"For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it is written, 'BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is know about God is evident to them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen being understood through that which has been made so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:17-20).
To restate what was noted above - if we as human beings are a "shadow" of the spiritual image of God, we must be a shadow of His moral image. That image, if created and not manufactured through experience, must be innate (inborn, native, natural, inherent, instinctive). That is what the Apostle Paul is saying.
He is also pointing out the opposite of informing, enlightening and maturing though teaching, practice and experience that image. That is, stifling, repressing, warping, and eventually perverting it. This is what he means when he writes "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks but became futile in their speculations, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21, 22).
The spiritual image of God in man may be nurtured, neglected or abused, but cannot be ignored. It rises up to confront us with moral choices - and it does so every day. This is why Paul concluded that "they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20b).
So How do human beings know the moral difference between right and wrong even if they have no knowledge of the written Word (remembering that for the first two and a half millennium of human history there was no codified written Word)? The answer to that question takes us back to the Imago Dei (the image of God).
If that image is innate it must also be self-revealing. In fact, every time we make a moral choice it reveals itself. That is why in all cultures of all times certain moral requisites have been universally and ubiquitously recognized and accepted. Stealing is wrong, murder is wrong, and so is lying, cheating, adultery, and other innately recognized moral fundamentals.
This observable fact is often termed "Natural Law." Natural law is a noun, and usually defined as "a body of unchanging moral principles regarded as a basis for all human conduct." 1
The first codification of natural law is regarded to be what is known as "The Seven Laws of the Noahide," a term (and foundation for universal morality) hardly known by most Christians, yet something that is the foundation for Mosaic Law as we have it.
The Noahide is the ancient standard for morality. It has been said that "The Seven Noahide Laws are a sacred inheritance of all the children of Noah, one that every person on the face of the earth can use as the basis of his or her spiritual, moral and pragmatic life."2
The very idea of law whether natural or Noahic presupposes something of a sense of what is moral, and if such an idea is universal then an innate sense is required to comprehend that sense. In the next edition we will continue this thought, and the question "How do human beings know the moral difference between right and wrong?
Pastors and Biblical counselors are frequently called upon to minister to someone who has suffered a loss so great that the darkenss of grief comes on like a physical presence. Knowing as much as possible about how to deal with genuine grief is the responsibility of the God-called spiritual helper.
In his concise booklet (35 pages), Dr. David Tyler gives practical Biblical help that will be a source of blessing and comfort to both the helper, and the one who needs healing.
Toward that goal, Dr. Tyler notes:
"It is God's desire that His children live in victory over the painful experiences in life. That is certainly true in the death of a loved one. There is a time to grieve, but there is also a time to stop grieving. This booklet presents practical steps you can take to find victory over the loneliness of a life-changing loss."
This highly recommended resource can be further reviewed and purchased on Master's online bookstore.
FOR THIS STUDY PLEASE READ
II Timothy 3:14-17; II Peter 1:19-21
Two university professors were arguing about the Bible, each claiming to know more than the other. “Why, I bet you don’t even know the Lord’s Prayer,” huffed one.
Everybody knows that, the other professor snapped. It’s “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.”
The other professor looked at his friend for a moment and then said, “Wow, I didn’t realize you knew so much about the Bible!”
Most of us I would imagine realize that is not the Lord’s Prayer and we also realize the importance of the Bible in our lives and as the foundation of the Christian faith. In this article we want to think about the Holy Spirit and the Bible.
Perhaps the first item we should mention is
I. The Word of God is Eternal
The Bible did not begin with the pen of Moses as he wrote Genesis. Before Moses ever took pen in hand the Word of God already existed. David wrote in the Psalms, Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89). In another place David wrote, Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever (vs. 152). The Lord Jesus said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away (Matthew 24:35). Thus from eternity past to eternity future the Word of God is an established, eternal fact.
This means that before the book of Genesis was written on earth, the book of Revelation was settled in heaven. The Bible was given progressively to man over a period of four thousand years, but it has always been in complete form in the mind of God. From the human perspective the Bible was historically given. From the Divine perspective the Bible has always existed. Thus, this Book is the eternal, never-changing Word of God. It is settled in heaven.
A second reality is
II. The Word of God was Given Historical Form by the Holy Spirit
The Apostle Peter said of the crafting of the Bible, holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21). We have in our hands a supernatural Book. It is without error. It has no need for addition or subtraction.
The Holy Spirit did this supernatural work via several steps. First the Holy Spirit revealed the truth of God to the mind of the author. Revelation is the disclosure of truth to the mind of man which truth man could in no other way discover (Deut. 29:29; Eph. 3:4-5).
Then the Holy Spirit inspired the authors to write down the revelation. The Holy Spirit used the skill, background, vocabulary, and writing style of the authors to produce an infallible record. The point is: God prepared a Moses to write the Pentateuch, a David to write the Psalms, a Paul to write the Epistles, and a John to write the Revelation. Each biblical author was supernaturally suited for the writing task give to him by the Spirit of God (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:21, 22; I Cor. 2:13).
As the revelation of God was inspired in written form the Holy Spirit oversaw the process of transmission. From the original manuscripts copies were made and distributed for the people of God to read in all areas. Keep in mind, the Holy Spirit never took His hands from the Word of God; He preserved it historically.
The next step was canonization. The Holy Spirit guided the Church in the compilation of books for the Sacred Record. The science of textual criticism provides abundant evidence that the sixty-six books we have in our Bibles are complete without omission. There are no lost books of the Bible that should have been included in the Canon. We have in our hands the complete text.
Next the Holy Spirit guided in the process of translation. The biblical text written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek is now available in the languages of the peoples of the world. What a blessing for us to have the text of Scripture in English.
The Holy Spirit is now involved in the ministry of illumination. He makes the Word of God understandable to us on the human level. He is our teacher and guide as we study the Bible.
Keep in mind that the total process of bringing the Word of God to us in readable form was under the direction of the Holy Spirit. At no point has the Spirit taken His hands from the Scripture. This Book is truly supernatural. The Holy Spirit has insured its preservation.
In conclusion we should note one other powerful reality.
III. The Word of God is an Authoritative Book
It is, after all, the Word of God. It has the right to command action, determine belief, and to expect obedience from those under its authority.
We believe that the agent of inspiration is the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:21); the extent of inspiration is the Old and New Testament excluding all extra-biblical material (II Pet. 3:15; II John 1:9); the result of inspiration is an authoritative record (II Tim. 3:16); and the purpose of inspiration is that the people of God might be prepared to do the work of God (II Tim 3:16-17).
Dr. Dyson Hague wrote of the Bible, It is “supernatural in origin; eternal in duration; inexpressible in value; infinite in scope; divine in authority; human in penmanship; regenerative in power; infallible in authority; universal in interest; personal in application and as St. Paul declares, inspired in totality.”
 See Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove IL: Intervarsity Press, 1988).
 Hague, Dyson. The Sword Book of Treasures (Murfreesboro TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers), p 471.
David C. Sim, ISBN 0567086410, Bloomsbury Academic, 2000.
Cheryl A. Durham, M.Min., Ph.D., Dean of Students
Sim’s title intrigued me because my scholarly interests lie in the cultural milieu of the New Testament writers and their Jewish context. He writes about the Matthean Community in Antioch and while I would not agree with some of his assumptions, he does a thorough analysis of the surroundings the Matthean community found themselves in after the fall of the Temple.
The author revisits the consensus view of Matthew’s history and social settings to show that the invectives in the gospel of an intramural rather than an Adversus Judeo tradition. He examines the various groups involved and clearly defines what have traditionally been very loosely defined terms for those groups in the past. The result is that that one can see a clearer picture of Matthew’s community and the socio-political issues that may have influenced Matthew’s writing.
Along the way, Sim addresses the current and past scholarship on this gospel and demonstrates how scholars may be misinterpreting certain parts of the gospel due to commitments to theological presuppositions from early Gentile Christian writers. Ignatius of Antioch’s later anti-Jewish rhetoric has often been taken for granted as the de facto “Christian” position, when in fact, it was not so.
Some interesting points Sim makes at the start (24-25) help to move the reader along in his argument such as the use of the terms “Christian Judaism” vs. “Jewish Christianity” and why the former is more accurate than the latter. While the terms, on the surface, may seem synonymous, they are not and using the wrong term may lead the reader down the wrong hermeneutical path (24-26). The author’s position helps the reader to define the believing community even today. Christian Judaism are those believers (both Jew and Gentile and sometimes referred to as Messianic believers) who believe that Jesus’ statements of Matthew 5:17 LXX about the Torah’s function has standing today. On the other hand, Gentile Christianity (also Jew and Gentile) follow what the author calls, “the Hellenistic position of a Law-Free Gospel” (26).
Sim makes his point by saying, “the preferred terms for the two major parties within the primitive Christian movement, Gentile Christianity, and Christian Judaism adequately reveal the connection between these two groups without falling into the error that their common acceptance of Jesus as the Christ entails that they belong to the same religious position” (26).
While my perspective is nuanced differently than Sim’s, I believe he has crafted a thorough understanding of the various groups involved in the Matthean community and his perspective is certainly a place to start in trying to understand a clearer view of Matthew’s rhetoric that is certainly not divorced from his context as later theologians inferred by anachronistically interpreting the Gospel within their own contextual sphere.
I would recommend the book to my New Testament History students as a good book on the backgrounds of the various gospel communities. It is important to understand context in order to extract meaning. Anthony Saldarini and Magnus Zetterholm have also written volumes on the Matthean community in Antioch that can provide more perspective on that Gospel.
The Inclusiveness of the Gospel
David W. Anderson, Ed.D., D.B.S.; Program Developer and Director for the Master of Arts Certificate in Disabilities Ministry
Dr. Anderson's book, Reaching Out & Bringing People In : Ministry to and with Persons with Disabilities, ISBN 978-1-4497-9095-0, Westbow Press, 2013 can be purchased through Master's Bookstore or Click here to purchase.
In 1993, Roger Badham wrote, “A church that practices any form of exclusivity is predetermining who shall sit at Christ’s table. . . . To fail to open the doors of our churches and our hearts is ultimately a spiritually self-limiting decision” (pp. 238–239). Yet many churches still have a restricted focus that flies in the face of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14:1–24. In the home of a prominent Pharisee, Jesus observed people coming to the banquet table, each seeking a position of honor. Jesus said to give a party and invite only relatives and friends—people like yourself—leads to earthly reward as these people reciprocate by inviting you the their home. Better, said Jesus, to invite people who are not in a position to return the favor, for this will lead to eternal reward. Then, seeking to correct the understanding of the guests and the host, Jesus told a parable about a “great banquet” to which the invited guests refused to come, resulting in their place at the table being given to the poor and disabled—people thought unworthy or undeserving. The parable reveals an element of surprise to the Kingdom of God: many who think they will be included will be left out; those who are included are people some would least expect.
Sadly, with respect to people and families affected by disability, not much has changed since Badham wrote. Yes, newer churches tend to respond to the ideal of accessibility architecturally. But the more difficult barriers preventing, even disinviting, people with severe disabilities from participating in worship alongside their more able-bodied peers are attitudinal and theological. The result is either intentional or unintended exclusion of persons who are disabled, and often their whole family. Thomas Reynolds (2008) explained that when a church excludes anyone from its fellowship, the church is diminished because it restricts the redemptive work of God, the essential humanity of those excluded is diminished or denied, and the humanity of those doing the excluding is diminished.
Denying someone who is disabled the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ—whether out of ignorance or intentionally, assuming the individual is neither worthy nor capable of receiving God’s love—also dishonors God, whose love and compassion are not limited by human characteristics. The Bible declares every human being to be created in the image of God, irrespective of ability or achievement. Each is a unique person, designed, gifted, and purposed according to God’s intent. Failure to reach out and to accept persons affected by disability furthers their isolation and alienation and at the same time separates and isolates the non-disabled, limiting their own development and perspective on humanity by not respecting and responding to the full range of human ability.
Jesus commanded that the good news be taken to all peoples of the world, not just those society or culture says are deserving of God’s grace. God’s grace is grace because not one deserves it. Including people with disabilities in our fellowship reminds us that we are all present at the table not because our strength or good works have earned us a seat, but because God has called us to come and receive his love just as we are—vulnerable, broken, wounded, disabled. The power of Jesus’ parable in Luke 14 is in the reversal of roles: those who are poor, those with disabling conditions, are not the outsiders to God’s Kingdom; the outsiders are those with so-called “privilege.” Jesus’ parable reveals the inclusiveness of the Kingdom of God.
If the Church is to visibly represent the Kingdom of God, it must invite, welcome, and accept “the poor, crippled, blind, and lame” of the world today. It should do this with the same urgency with which the servants in the parable were sent to bring them to the banquet (Luke 14:21–24). And the Church must be a thing of beauty. It is nice to have a church building that is beautiful in its architecture an interior design, just as were the elements of the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple—covered with gold, silver, bronze, etc. (Exodus 35–40; 1 Kings 6). But the intent was that the people would see beyond the physical beauty of the structure to recognize the beauty and glory of God himself.
But the Church is not the building; it is the people. People should be able to “see” the beauty of Christ shining in our faces, our spirit, our lives. And the Church should reflect the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. Christians are to be clothed with compassion (Colossians 3:12), with humility (1 Peter 5:5), with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:13–17); and with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14). If we, the Church, ignore or disregard people and families dealing with disability, if we fail to reach out in love, welcoming them into our fellowship, what picture of Jesus do these people receive?
“Ministry is spirit to spirit. It does not depend on the state of a person’s eyesight, hearing, ability to walk, talk, or sit still. Nor does it depend on one’s intellect. It depends on one’s heart” (Sieck & Hartvigsen, 2001, p. iii). Can someone who is profoundly disabled be saved? Not our problem. We do not save anyone. Salvation is not determined by what we know or how completely we understand all that Jesus has done on the cross. Salvation is found in Who we know, and Who knows us. It is a serious matter to God how we, as Christ’s representatives on Earth, respond to people with disabilities, to the poor, and to the powerless.
We need to create a welcoming faith community into which persons with disabilities are fully integrated as an intimate part of the local body of Christ. God’s intent is that his house be a house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7). This requires elimination of all barriers—architectural, attitudinal, or theological—which prevents people with disabilities from participating and feeling welcomed and valued as part of the fellowship.
People with disabilities, whether acquired or congenital, bear God’s image, just as people with conventional bodies and minds, Jesus commanded that the gospel be preached to all peoples. We are to love and show kindness to others without regard to how well or effectively they respond to us (Anderson, 2013).
Hauerwas (2004) remarked, “The demand to be normal can be tyrannical unless we understand that the normal condition of our being together is that we are all different” (p. 40). Speaking specifically of people with cognitive impairments, Hauerwas held that recognizing our differences enables us all to flourish as different people. In contrast, human (sinful) pride causes people to elevate themselves over people who display a significant weakness that society calls a disability. Focus then falls on the impairment rather than the individual, blinding us to their humanity and beauty as someone created in God’s image.
Are you and your church a visible expression of God’s love for all people? When Christians embrace and include the same kinds of people Jesus did, they give witness to God’s immense, unending, and all-inclusive love. Proclaiming the gospel does not necessitate verbal interaction; it can (and should) be demonstrated, which can often be “heard” more loudly than our words. Ministering to the needs of people, done in the name of Jesus and motivated by love, can be understood and appreciated even by people who are physically or cognitively severely disabled.
Anderson, D. W. (2013. Reaching out and bringing in: Ministering to and with persons with disabilities. WestBow Press: Bloomington, IN.
Badham, R. (1993). The second great commandment, xenophobia, and the mentally handicapped. Restoration Quarterly, 35(4), 234–239.
Hauerwas, S. (2004). Community and diversity: The tyranny of normality. In J. Swinton (Ed.), Critical reflections of Stanley Hauerwas’ theology of disability: Disabling society, enabling theology (pp. 37–43). Binghamton, NY: Haworth Pastoral Press.
Reynolds, T. W. (2008). Vulnerable communion: A theology of disability and hospitality. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.
Sieck, T., & Hartvigsen, R. (2001). How people with developmental disabilities can access the faith community of their choice. Lakeside, CA: Home of the Guiding Hands.
The headline of The Austin Chronicle declared, What Happens When Texas Blocks Planned Parenthood? Abortions Rise.
Austin, Texas is well-known for being a bastion of liberal thinking. So you won’t be surprised that the article is another glaring example of fake news.
The Texas Legislature reduced state funding of family planning by 67% to Planned Parenthood and other providers. Abortion and family planning are sacred cows within the media, so their apoplectic response is not unexpected.
In the Chronicle article, Mary Tuma, cites a study by Analisa Packham and claims the it reveals an increase of 3.1% in the teen abortion rate during the first three years after funding was cut. Further, she asserts an increase of 3.4% in teen births for the first four years.
The first paragraph of the article removes all doubt about the bias of the “reporter.” She accused Texas Republicans of “obstruct[ing] patient access to care,” and conducting an “ideological, anti-choice crusade.” Interestingly, the article contained no comments from an opposing view.
As this story broke, pro-lifers were understandably concerned and doubtful about its accuracy. Thankfully, Richard Doerflinger, a trusted and highly competent longtime pro-lifer had already publically responded, calling Tuma’s article “journalistic malpractice.” His response was spot-on and so valuable to this discussion that I want to share some parts of it with you, along with my own thoughts, so you can pass it along to others.
The reality is that both the teen birth and teen abortion rates went down.
The Texas legislature cut funding in 2011. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, the rate of abortion for Texas residents declined from 13.4 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in 2011 to 12.5 in 2012 and 11.4 in 2013. In each year, Texas abortions were lower than the national average.
The author of the study was only saying that the rate of decline in Texas abortions during one of those years was slower than it would have been without the budget cuts. Professor Packham determined that 2,200 teens would not have given birth had the family planning funding continued unabated. She concocted this “synthetic Texas” approach using computer projections based on some assumptions. It may have been just as effective to consult a crystal ball.
Another problem was that most states don’t simply cut family planning like Texas, but divert it from Planned Parenthood to many other entities that aren’t part and parcel of the abortion industry. As a result, the study’s findings aren’t relevant to most states that are defunding the abortion giant.
According to a study done by STOPP (Stop Planned Parenthood), while multiple Planned Parenthood facilities served 16 counties in the Texas Panhandle, the rate of teen pregnancy was 43.6 per 1,000 girls between the ages of 13 to 17. Two years after all of the Planned Parenthood facilities closed, the teen pregnancy rate had dramatically dropped to 24.1. (Statistics from the Texas Department of State Health Services). The evidence shows that Planned Parenthood’s presence actually contributed to teen pregnancy rather than preventing it.
The word “desert” usually refers to dry, hot habitat—arid, torrid, and sometimes even horrid.1 Deserts are often deemed uninhabitable and empty.
However, most deserts are far from being void of life, although their inhabitants are fewer and farther between than those of other terrestrial habitats such as forests, grasslands, and wetlands. God has fitted a magnificent variety of creatures to fill desert environments. Here are three examples.
Desert Kangaroo Rat
Kangaroo rats thrive in America’s hot, dry deserts—and they don’t suffer from dehydration. How do they get enough water to survive, since they don’t drink water like almost all other mammals do?
In short, God has designed kangaroo rats to get water from their food, especially the drought-resistant seeds that abound in deserts. By digesting such foods, kangaroo rats produce all the water they need metabolically, and they retain most of it by releasing very little in their urine.2
The sun can provide burning heat, especially in hot deserts such as the Sonoran, Mojave, and Chihuahuan. Yet, the gargantuan-eared black-tailed jackrabbit (also known as the desert hare) lives in those deserts quite nicely. Likewise, its big-eared cousin, the antelope jackrabbit, thrives in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts.
So, what about those huge ears? Do they help jackrabbits live in hot deserts? Yes! The jumbo-size ears are not just for hearing desert noises, although they do that, of course. Rather, the vital benefit for the black-tailed and antelope jackrabbits of having huge and relatively thin ears is how they providentially equip them for shedding excess heat—a very practical trait for desert-dwelling lagomorphs.
Thanks to God’s bioengineering wisdom, these heat-braving bunnies control their body temperatures by radiating out excess heat over the large surface areas of their ears.3
Roadrunners are fast. These chaparral birds live in deserts and xeric scrub such as sage-dominated shrublands, feeding on bugs, scorpions, lizards, and snakes.
But can roadrunners survive showdowns with diamondback rattlesnakes? Although roadrunners are famous for running from danger, they aggressively attack rattlesnakes face to face—bill vs. fangs!
Amazingly, God has designed the roadrunner so it can speedily aim at the face and fangs of a striking rattler, using its pointed bill to bite and clamp onto the rattler’s open mouth between or behind the upper fangs, lock-biting the snake in a death grip. Then the bird repeatedly thrashes and crushes the serpent’s head against rocks, killing it. The victorious roadrunner then eats the dead diamondback.4
The arid, torrid wastelands that we call deserts are relatively inhospitable for most creatures, yet God has fitted remarkable animals such as desert rats, rabbits, roadrunners, and rattlesnakes to fill desert habitats.5
God loves variety. Desert-dwelling creatures daily demonstrate that fact, for those who have eyes to see.
1. See Jeremiah 50:12b. Primarily the term
“desert” in biome ecology refers to the relative dryness of a habitat, so there are both hot deserts (e.g., Mojave, Sonoran, Chihuahuan deserts in California and adjoining states) and cold deserts
(e.g., Great Basin Desert in Nevada). See Oxley, R. and C. Downer. 1994. Deserts. In Habitats. T. Hare, ed. New York: Macmillan, 114: “All deserts are dry, though not always because it rains so
little—a desert is defined as an area where more water evaporates than falls as rain.”
2. Weston, P. 2004. Kangaroo Rats. Creation. 26 (3): 18-20.
3. “[Jackrabbit] blood leaving the ear is significantly cooler than the blood entering the ear. During heat stress, a jackrabbit can increase ear blood flow to very high levels through expanded blood vessels.” Austin, S. 1994. Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Santee, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 158-159 (emphasis in original). See also pages 162-163 on the kangaroo rat.
4. Roadrunner vs. Rattlesnake. National Geographic video. Posted on nationalgeographic.com.
5. Many creatures are providentially fitted to fill hot or cold desert and similar xeric scrub habitats, e.g., the sage grouse, named for its sagebrush-nesting habits and for eating sagebrush buds and leaves. See MacMahon, J. A. 1986. Deserts. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, especially page 583 and plate 545. See also, generally, Schmidt-Nielsen, K. 1979. Desert Animals: Physiological Problems of Heat and Water. New York: Dover Publications, especially pages 204-224 (desert birds) and pages 225-251 (desert reptiles).
Cite this article: James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. 2017. Rats, Rabbits, and Roadrunners: Fitted to Fill. Acts & Facts. 46 (7).
Just outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania the fields and hills echo one of the key battles of the war between the states, better known as the Civil War. Today, most of that battlefield has been preserved and protected from economic development to serve a modern environment.
The preservation has yielded hundreds of markers and monuments to the military officers and thousands of enlisted men who engaged in the three days of fighting to prevent the Confederate army’s attempt to invade the northern states. These, of course, are all impressive. And for students of Civil War history, like myself, each of them commands our attention and interest as we reflect upon the significance of the tragedy or triumph of each battle during those three days of July 1-3, 1863.
One particular area of that expansive battlefield catches the imagination of the events of the second day of battle. That area of intense combat is known as Devil’s Den and Little Round Top.
Devil’s Den is so named by a legend, begun long before the Civil War began, which said that the area was the abode of a monster-sized snake, aptly named The Devil. Little Round Top, strategically located up a 100 yard slope above Devil’s Den. The terrain features boulders, some reaching a height of twenty feet or more, especially those in Devil’s Den.
These boulders provided natural barriers to conceal the location of the soldiers as they engaged in the fight. The Union army dug in on Little Round Top, and the Confederate army, settled in Devil’s Den. Both benefited from these natural “hideouts.”
As I stood atop Little Round Top, and later, climbed among the boulders in Devil’s Den, the structure of those huge rocks revealed quite large crevices. Some, long and narrow, others wide and gaping.
My mind began to see a parallel in those crevices in the boulders and God’s conversation with Moses in Exodus 33. As God was leading Israel out of Egypt to the land He has promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses appeals to God, saying they needed His presence as they traveled.
In Exodus 33:14-23 God says to Moses: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” …..And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you." But, he said, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
In like manner the chorus of the old hymn, He Hideth My Soul, written by Frances Cosby in 1890, gives us these encouraging words:
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.
The imagery is clear, looking at those boulders which formed Devil’s Den, soldiers nestling within those wider, deeper crevices for protection. Hiding and protected they may have experienced a moment of safety and security. Likewise, because we are promised that God will show Himself to us through His Son, we can experience protection, safety, security.
God’s goodness passes before us every day of our lives. He has provided us a rock upon which we stand. That rock, of course, is His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The lost chapters of Deuteronomy… or whatever happened to the rest of the Torah - Part I of II
Several years ago I had the privilege of writing a book for Bridges for Peace attempting to introduce Christian readers to enjoying the a daily and weekly reading of the Torah, supported by a daily Christian Devotion. That book is titled “Sinai Speaks,” and is still available through Bridges for Peace offices around the world [and through Master's Online Bookstore].
In preparing that book, I took the traditional Torah reading schedule as used in Synagogues and Yeshivas around the world and packaged it into 52 weekly chapters, with each chapter having six daily devotions – one for each day of the week, with one day off to gather in your local congregation. It has been very encouraging to receive comments from many who have enjoyed the book. But, there is one special reader in South Africa who has carefully gone through every chapter of the book and noticed that there is no devotion or reading for the two last chapters of Deuteronomy. She has asked “where are the lost chapters of Deuteronomy?” And, how did this happen?
In Jewish tradition, the reading of the Torah is a never ending cycle. Thus, at the end of the Torah cycle, a special holiday called Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law) is celebrated. A portion known as Vezot Haberakhah "and this is the blessing," contains the last two chapters of Deuteronomy and is read along with the first chapter of Genesis, thus combining the end and beginning of the Torah to create a never-ending loop. Thus, the last two chapters of Deuteronomy are not included in the regular weekly Torah portions, but are in fact, always included and read in the annual Torah cycle. This Torah reading includes the blessings Moses gave each of the tribes, as well as the story of Moses' death.
When I organized Sinai Speaks according to the traditional weekly Torah portions, I began with Genesis 1:1, Beresheet, and ended with the last reading before Simchat Torah. In doing so, these last two chapters of Deuteronomy were “lost.” So, the remained of this Teaching Letter will correct this oversight, and share some Christian devotional thoughts on these last two chapters. Perhaps if we reprint Sinai Speaks at some point in the future we will include these devotional thoughts in the reprint.
The remainder of this article follows the format of “Sinai Speaks”, and is divided into six daily sections. The concept is to use one section per day for six days; and on the seventh day to attend your congregation for public worship. This organizational idea is borrowed from Judaism; as are the breaks between recommended Scripture portions. In the synangogue the weekly reading is divided into 7 sections, known as “aliyot”; typically each read by a different person during synagogue service. I’ve used these same typical break points to organize the devotional thoughts which follow, combining the readings from the sixth and seventh aliyot to make six sections.
Day One: Deuteronomy 33: 1-7
Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. (Deuteronomy 33:1)
What will be most on your mind the last day of your life? Of course many of us will die unexpectedly, unable to consciously choose our last words. But Moses was given the gift of knowing he was about to die, and having a choice what he would do. I might focus on pleading with God for forgiveness of known wrongs. I might work on putting my financial affairs in order, or seeking to set right any wrongs or hurts within my family, or even sharing requests regarding my funeral. What would you do?
Moses chose to end his life by proclaiming blessings over those he had led and served for many years. This certainly included his family, but the record we have of his speech demonstrates concern for all the Children of Israel. To the end he is acting as God’s spokesman – what then and now we call a prophet. He is proclaiming blessing, opportunity, and Godly challenge. Past hurt and rebellion are forgotten, his own imminent death is ignored, as he focuses on sharing one last time of blessing on his people.
More than 3,000 year after his death his way of dying, his choice of what to do and say as his last recorded words, remain a challenge and an example to all of us. He must have thought and prayed deep and hard to know the right words to say, and the blessings to impart. Can we, will we, follow his example?
Lord, help us to leave a legacy of wise words and blessing for our family and those we love and serve. Amen.
Day Two: Deuteronomy 33: 8-12
And of Levi he said: “Let Your Thummim and Your Urim be with Your holy one,
Whom You tested at Massah, And with whom You contended at the waters of Meribah, (Deuteronomy 33:8)
Levi is the tribe chosen to carry and use the Thummim and the Urim to reveal the will of God. No one knows for certain exactly what the Thummim and Urim were, or how they worked, but Scripture is clear that they did provide a way of asking for and receiving God’s specific direction Immediately following Moses’ proclamation that Levi would be responsible for these mysterious elements, he reminds us (and them) that they were among the rebellious people tested at Massah (which means “test”) and Meribah (which means “arguing”).
In these verses is a hidden message of God’s incredible grace and patience. As far as Scripture reveals, the entire nation, including the tribe of Levi, rebelled at Meribah fearing that the LORD had abandoned them to die of thrist. And yet, it is here, in the midst of rebellion that God does a great miracle and brings forth water from the rock. And to these same rebel people, God provides special tools, the Thummim and the Urim to provide a sure why for them to hear His will and know His decisions.
How awesome that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We still rebell and challenge Him. At times we doubt His power or His love. But He is always there faithful. Often He does His greatest works when we are most in doubt; and despite our doubt, He gives us His Word and prayer to seek and know His will.
Lord, help us to trust You in times of trial, and to use every means You provide for us to know Your will.
Day Three: Deuteronomy 33:13-17
And of Joseph he said: “Blessed of the Lord is his land,
With the precious things of heaven, with the dew, And the deep lying beneath,
With the precious fruits of the sun, With the precious produce of the months,
(Deuteronomy 33: 13,14)
At first reading we are struck by the clear and bountiful blessings God through Moses is promising to the descendants of Joseph. Although these blessings are specific and particular to Ephraim and Manasseh, a closer look reminds us that we too have many of these blessings.
Wherever in the world you live, you experience the precious blessings of heaven on the land where you live. There is dew in the mornings, even in desert climates at certain times. Wherever we live, the depths of the sea are a reality that affects our weather. The sun rises and plants bring forth fruit in season. And, wherever we live, it is easy to take these blessings for granted, because they occur everywhere everyday.
This passage remind us that God created and sustains the heavens and the earth, and that each morning, each drop of dew, each ray of sunshine, and each plant that blossoms in harvest is a gift from Him. Different lands have a different blend of geography, plants, water, heat, and cold – but every day when the sun rises we experience gifts from God. I believe these specific promises were given to Joseph’s descendants not only because their land would be particularly blessed, but also to cause them to remember who is the source of every blessing.
Lord, help us to see the wonder in the world around us, and to treasure the gifts you give us in the world you have created. Amen.
To be continued...
You likely memorized the 23rd Psalm as a child and read it numerous times since. But, when you read the Lord is my shepherd do you hear this?
The - a definite article means a very specific Lord. It is the Lord of Genesis 1-3. It is the Creator who is sovereign, almighty, all knowing, everywhere present, and a loving immutable eternal being. It is the One who prescribed a way of life in the Ten Commandments that would bring personal satisfaction through preserving a relationship with Him and the maintaining of a reasonable society.
Is - is a linking verb tying together the Lord and me, ongoing. He never stops being my Shepherd. The relationship is initiated by Him. It is sustained by Him. When I wonder away, the imagery of the shepherd reminds me that He seeks me out, rounds me up and brings me back to green pastures and still waters.
My - is a personal pronoun. This relationship is very personal even though there are millions upon millions of Christians on planet earth, I can say he is MY personal Shepherd. He has fixed his love on me. He invites me to abide with Him. He invites me into intimacy with Him.
Shepherd - like the one who cares, protects, and sees to the welfare of sheep, he cares, protects and sees to my welfare. He has a rod and a staff. We later learn these bring comfort into my life. As a shepherd guides and protects the sheep, so he guides and protects me by giving me direction and security.
Now here is the point of this exercise. It illustrates meditation. The Hebrew word meditate אָמַר (awmar) can be translated several similar ways. I think, talk oneself through, is the best. Read, ponder by verbalizing, listen and write. You will be amazed at the fresh bread you will find yourself enjoying.