Be Stirred, Not Shaken

"We ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled…" ~ II Thes. 2:2 *** "But stir up the gift of God that is within you by the laying on of hands…" ~ II Tim. 1:6

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A New Lump, Purged From Sin

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:7, 10)

In a previous year’s study as the Days of Unleavened Bread drew to a close, we explored how the command is that we must eat unleavened bread for seven days—the focus being on taking in Christ as the Bread of Life, rather than on thinking, even unintentionally, that we can get sin (leavening) out of our lives on our own.

One of the scriptures we really focused on in that study was a key passage where Paul tells the Corinthians:

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you are truly unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity (clearness, purity) and truth” (I Cor. 5:7-8)

The word translated “purge” in this passage means to cleanse thoroughly, with the implication of cleaning or purging out rather than just wiping down.  It’s a very evocative, active word, and I think the King James translators used it very intentionally in this passage and one other (that we’ll get to later).

I hadn’t ever really thought about why and how the word “purge” is used here, but it caught my attention these past Days of Unleavened Bread, and brought to mind a few trains of thought that I wanted to share.

How are we supposed to become a new lump?

You can’t get leaven out of or “deleaven” your leavened bread dough.  The yeast spores so thoroughly permeate every inch of the dough that it’s physically impossible.  You have to start fresh with new dough.  When the Israelites left Egypt, God forced them to completely throw out their old dough starters, with yeast that had built up multiplied over potentially decades.  But He didn’t want them bringing any of that old leaven with them.

We, too, have to start fresh with new dough, metaphorically-speaking.  Paul covered this topic a LOT.  He illustrated it for us when he said, “For I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  In a letter to the Corinthians he told them, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17).

When we came to understand the gravity of our former sins, repented, and were baptized, we entered into covenant with God and symbolically died in the watery grave of baptism.  We came out of it as a new being (Rom. 6), free from sin, a new, unleavened lump.  This is our purging, and it continues throughout the rest of our physical lives. 

So let’s explore a couple things related to purging out our old leaven and being purged from sin.  I’ll try not to get *too* graphic, but there are some parallels to our physical experiences that are hard to ignore.  Like I said, they chose the word for a reason 🙂

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Studying Bible Prophecy: Where to Start

When I was growing up, bible prophecy was something that was discussed quite a bit in my family, so it’s always been a part of my life.  The church I was in also talked about it quite a bit, though it seemed to be falling out of favor around that time.  What I’ve witnessed in the last 15-20 years has been a pendulum swing the other way, to where talking about prophecy in the bible in any kind of detail almost makes people uncomfortable.  People who study it in-depth are looked at as radicals, and the very idea of speculating about events, times, etc. gives people hives.

I get where some of the reaction is coming from, to some extent—for a long time, people were setting specific dates and claiming to know things, and none of it was true.  And certainly, there are many other things besides prophecy that we should be focusing on, such as growing in Godly character, showing love to our brethren, and readying ourselves spiritually for the kingdom.  I’ve had people argue that if we’re doing all of these things, it doesn’t really matter if we’re studying prophecy in the bible.  But I don’t agree with that argument.

This post is meant to be a thought-starter for people who don’t or haven’t studied prophecy, not an all-encompassing look at the topic.  This was originally a presentation that’s been adapted into article form, so we’ve included a downloadable Powerpoint at the end that covers the highlights and can be printed out if desired.  The main purpose of this post is to talk about why studying prophecy in the bible is important, and then offer some key insights and direction for getting started or digging back in.

3 reasons we should care about prophecy in the bible

The bible is a lot more seamless than we give it credit for—prophecy is one of the major common threads, if not THE major thread, through the entire thing

You’d be hard-pressed to find a book in the bible that doesn’t contain prophecy (there may be a couple, but you have to try really hard).  In fact, Genesis—which many people wouldn’t list as a prophetic book—is one of the most important prophetical books we have, the foundation of all bible prophecy.  Go read Genesis 3, when God pronounces the punishment of Satan and Adam and Eve, and basically tells them that they’d totally screwed up, but it’s okay because He’d thought ahead and already had a plan to fix it.  Read about the Tree of Life, and God commanding the start of a family.  In fact, the bible starts and ends with a marriage and the establishment of a family—think that’s a coincidence?  It all starts there.

Additionally, the holy days give us a framework for God’s plan for mankind.  They’re the macro view of prophecy, a large-scale roadmap of when He plans to step in and how He plans to accomplish His will.  Bible prophecy is a constant reminder of God’s power and omnipotence, His everlasting nature, and His ability to accomplish everything He says He will.

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Who is the Antichrist? Part 3: The Jewish False Messiah Theory

Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a multi-part series on theories and prophecies about the Antichrist. If you haven’t already, we recommend starting with the Introduction before diving into this post, as well as Part 1: Roman Antichrist Debunked and Part 2: Muslim Antichrist Debunked.

So, without further ado…. I will now lay out an outline of my current working theory on who the Antichrist is.

The “Jewish False Messiah” Theory

My current working theory is that Antichrist will present himself as the prophesied Messiah.  A FALSE CHRIST.  Just as the scriptures prophesy.  I don’t really have an opinion as to whether he will present himself as the second coming of Jesus (the true Messiah), or if he will claim that Jesus was not Messiah and he is.  That really isn’t my point.  My point is that Antichrist will claim to be of the line of David, born in Bethlehem, etc.—i.e. a ‘Jewish’ Messiah.  A figure that the end-time “Jews” will believe to be THE Messiah, and many Christians too.  He will work to convince Jews and Christians that he has come to usher in his millennial reign and kingdom.

I think Antichrist will be promoted by a ‘FALSE PROPHET’ that will claim to be a reincarnation of Elijah the prophet.

Not many of us have truly studied the eschatology or end-time beliefs of the adherents of Judaism.  In this presentation, we will explore some Jewish eschatology according to the Talmud and other rabbinic writings.  I will demonstrate how these writings seem to encourage Jews to accept as Messiah a man with very similar characteristics as the biblical Antichrist, and how I believe Antichrist will use the Jewish end-time beliefs to his advantage.

With that said, let’s get something straight right here, right now.  I am NOT taking an anti-Jewish stance, nor am I arguing anything that should be perceived as such.  If you feel that I have degraded or put down the Jewish people at any point in this presentation, then I have spoken poorly, or you have simply perceived my words incorrectly.  Period.  I am not against the Jewish people in any way.

With that announcement out of the way, I would first point out that I am not alone in this belief of a Jewish Antichrist.  In fact, many of the 1st- and 2nd-century elders believed in a Jewish Fake Messiah.  There are also a few modern-day writers and videographers that hold to the Jewish false Christ theory as well.

The person whose writings I have most studied on this subject is Chris White.  Please note – Chris is a Sunday keeper.  In fact, he created a series of videos on why Christians should not keep the Sabbath.  Normally I would pass right by such a person’s work, but I felt very compelled to read his books titled “False Christ”, and “Mystery Babylon”.

Truth be known, this presentation started out to be presenting a Muslim Antichrist theory.  In the midst of doing the research for my “Muslim Antichrist” presentation, I was moved to read Mr. White’s books.  And I have to admit, Chris’ argument for the Jewish False Christ is just simply stronger than any other argument for the identity of Antichrist that I have heard to-date.

As I mentioned in a previous post, all of my non-core beliefs I hold like a scientist holds their theories—the theory is what I believe until a better theory is presented and tested.  White’s theory is simply the best I have heard so far.  If a new theory comes along and is better than the Jewish False Messiah, then that will be my theory.  Until that time, I will be studying and continuing to test the Jewish False Messiah idea.

With that said – I would like to openly admit that I am borrowing HEAVILY from White’s book “False Messiah” in this presentation.  Some might call that plagiarism.  Whatever.  I’m telling you the reader up front that a lot of what is presented, comes from that book.  I am not claiming that these are my theories.

There are several things that I disagree with White on, and those things will, of course, be omitted from this presentation.

Let’s get back on point here, as I continue to lay out the theory on the Jewish False Messiah.

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Who is the Antichrist? Part 2: Muslim Theory Debunked

Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a multi-part series on theories and prophecies about the Antichrist. If you haven’t already, we recommend starting with the Introduction before diving into this post, as well as Part 1: Roman Antichrist Debunked; links to the rest of the articles are at the bottom of this post.

Is the Antichrist Muslim?

The next theory on the identity of the Antichrist I personally came to believe was the Muslim Antichrist theory. I must admit, this thesis was very easy for me to believe due to the current geopolitical landscape of the world we live in. Since 9/11 this theory has become very popular.

To be honest, I bought the Muslim Antichrist theory hook, line, and sinker. I even pushed some brethren to read about and consider this line of thinking. I regret that now.

But, I eventually came to the conclusion that the Muslim Antichrist theory is just too easy. It’s too neat. Let us remember, the Antichrist will fool almost everyone. If the Muslim theory were to come to fruition, it wouldn’t fool anyone except the Muslims themselves.

Now before we start this phase of the presentation, let’s first do a little homework on the religion of Islam, shall we?

Background on the rise of Islam

During the last 22 years of his life, beginning at age 40 in 610 AD according to the earliest surviving biographies, Muhammad reported having revelations that he believed to be from God and conveyed to him through the archangel Gabriel or Jibril. (Somehow I don’t think that was Gabriel, but I digress.) The content of these revelations, known as the Qur’an, was memorized and recorded by his companions.

The Qur’an is considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God, and also by its teachings an example and way of life (or sunnah). It also is composed of prophetic traditions of Muhammad called the Hadith.

Muslims believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. They maintain that the previous messages and revelations have been partially misinterpreted or altered over time, but consider the Arabic Qur’an to be both the unaltered and the final revelation of God.

At the time of Muhammad’s ‘revelation’, Mecca was largely polytheistic, with the main false idol of worship being Allat, the goddess of the crescent moon. Muhammad pleaded with the people of Mecca to abandon polytheism and to worship the one god, that he named Allah.

Although a few people at that time did convert to Islam, Muhammad and his followers were largely ridiculed by the rank and file, and ultimately persecuted by the leading Meccan authorities. This resulted in Muhammad and his followers migrating to other lands, mainly to the lands of the Aksumite Empire. After 12 years of persecution and migration, Muhammad found a home in Medina where he established his political and religious authority.

Muhammad developed a constitution in Medina and was subsequently at war within a few years of his arrival. Muhammad’s Muslims fought with Mecca and many of the tribes of Arabia over the next several years. However, by the time of his death in 632 (at the age of 62), Muhammad had united Mecca, Medina, and the tribes of Arabia into a single religious state.

After his death there was much disagreement, strife, and ultimately war over who would succeed Muhammad as leader of the Muslim community. This person would come to be known as the caliph.

To make a long story short…over the next 1,200-1,300 years, the Muslims fought MANY brutal and bloody wars, ultimately controlling much of the Middle East as the Ottoman Empire or as they called it, the Caliphate. The Ottomans controlled vast lands, including parts of Europe, Northern Africa, and much of the Middle East.

Next, let’s get some of the basics of Islamic eschatology (study of end-time events)

There are only a few denominations of Islam (not NEARLY as many as there is in Christendom). The two main denominations are the Sunni and the Shia. The Sunni are much more prevalent than the Shia. The Shia represent about 10-20% of Islam and are mainly located in modern day Iran. The Sunni make up about 75-85% of the Muslim population.

The Sunni and Shia have very different views about the end times. However, they do agree about the figure they call the Mahdi, though they differ in their beliefs as to how the Mahdi will come to power. But they both believe that the Mahdi is the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will rule for seven, nine, or nineteen years (according the differing interpretations).

The Mahdi comes onto the scene just before the Day of Judgment. Ultimately they believe the Mahdi will rid the world of infidels and usher in an Islamic revolution where Sharia Law will be the foundational constitution of every nation on earth.

According to Islamic tradition, the Mahdi’s tenure will coincide with the second coming of Jesus Christ (who they call Isa). And Isa will assist the Mahdi against the Masih ad-Dajjal or Dajjal (literally, the “false Messiah” or their version of Antichrist).

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Who is the Antichrist? Part 1: Roman Antichrist Debunked

Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a multi-part series on theories and prophecies about the Antichrist. If you haven’t already, we recommend starting with the Introduction before diving into this post, and links to the remainder of the posts are at the bottom of this article.

The Roman Antichrist thesis has two main interpretations that are the most widely-held beliefs, and are used as proof texts for the Roman Antichrist theory. I will address these one at a time.

First, let’s analyze the assertion that Antichrist is of Roman descent. Or maybe better stated: that Antichrist has Roman blood, or is from a Roman bloodline.

Roman Bloodline Theory

The best I can tell from my research, this theory is based on an interpretation of Daniel 9:26. So, let’s establish some context of Daniel 9 before we dive into the verse.

Daniel 9 starts as a prayer of lamentation from Daniel to the All Mighty. Daniel prays a very heartfelt prayer asking for forgiveness on behalf of all of Israel for the sins that led to the captivity—mainly that of Judah and Jerusalem—as it has become evident to Daniel (due to his own interpretation of Jeremiah’s prophecies) why the captivity has happened and the length of time for the captivity.

Toward the end of the chapter, the angel Gabriel comes to Daniel in response to his prayer, and to provide Daniel with a few prophecies of his own.

This chapter of Daniel is where the famous 70 Weeks prophecy comes from. The verse that we will analyze is part of the 70 weeks or 70 sevens prophecy.

Dan 9:26 – After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. (NIV)

So, the “scholars” have deducted from Daniel 9:26, that the people of Antichrist (his blood) would destroy the temple and Jerusalem—“the people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary”.

Many translations correctly translate “The Anointed One” as “Messiah”.

The key words here have to be “the people of the ruler”. The King James translates this as: “the people of the prince”. The term “the people” comes from Strong’s H6004 ‘am’, meaning “a people (as a congregated unit)”. Easy enough.

So the real key here is the word translated as “prince” or “ruler”. This has been translated from the Hebrew word ‘Nagid’, from Strong’s H5057:  A commander (as occupying the front), civil, military or religious; generally (abstract plural), honorable themes: – captain, chief, excellent thing, (chief) governor, leader, noble, prince, (chief) ruler.

Of course, the army that destroyed Jerusalem and the sanctuary (the temple) was in fact, a Roman army. No argument about that. However, ask yourself, would it be logical for Rome to have sent soldiers all the way from the Italian peninsula to Judea to fight?

It should be noted: The Roman Empire (at this time) stretched all the way from Europe around modern day Turkey, down through the Middle East, and all the way into North Africa. Rome had legions of soldiers strategically placed as garrisons throughout the entirety of the empire.

History tells us that Rome did, in fact, send several legions to subdue Judea. However, these legions were not from the Italian peninsula. They were legions garrisoned in and around Judea. Makes sense, right?

Let’s take a closer look at these legions and their commander.

The Roman General Titus

The temple was destroyed in 70 AD, by the Roman General Titus. Titus led the Eastern army of the Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire—not the Western army.

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The Signs of Spiritual Erosion

Be my rock of refuge [strength], a fortress of defense to save me

~ Psalms 31:2

Christ once told His disciples a parable, saying, “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock” (Luke 6:48-49).

Long-time Christians like to latch on to scriptures like this.  We picture Satan attacking in dramatic ways, provoking equally grand gestures of faith—turning down a job for the Sabbath, telling the truth though it will damage us, staying faithful despite being ostracized at school for being different.  Many of us like to imagine that, if put in a “deny God or die” scenario, we would maintain our faith and face the consequences.  And perhaps we’re right.

But the reality is that many of us won’t face such a drastic situation, and even if we do, it will be once or twice in our lifetimes.  So we think we’ve got it made since we built our house on the rock, a solid foundation that will stand the test of time.  And it’s true, the foundation we build upon is critical to our success.

But what if it’s the rock itself that becomes the problem?

Erosion:  The process by which something is diminished or destroyed by degrees. To eat into, or to eat away by slow destruction of substance, to deteriorate

I once read an article about a famous historical lighthouse at Cape Henlopen, Delaware.  The lighthouse was critical to the Philadelphia shipping industry, and they took excellent care of it for many years.  It weathered storms and hurricanes, providing light and safe passage to the ships coming through.  But it took them decades to realize that the cliff it had been built on—its very foundation—was eroding.  One day, before they could work out a solution for saving it, a storm rolled through and the giant lighthouse fell into the sea.

We are told to build our spiritual house on a rock, and most of us take that admonition very seriously.  There is no doubt that the Rock in question is God the Father and His Son.  There are dozens of verses in the Psalms alone that reference Him this way (e.g. Psalms 31:2, 92:15).  It’s obviously critical that what we build upward and visibly is made of quality materials, and that we build on the solid foundation, the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20; I Cor. 3:11).

But we often forget that the foundation itself has to be maintained over time.  And so what happens is that the daily grinding effects of life—of temptations, worries, pressures, envies, discouragements—these are what wear us down little by little, day by day.  Until one day we, too, crumble and fall.

It’s important to understand that when this happens, it’s not God or His power that has eroded.  That simply isn’t possible.  Rather, it’s Him as our foundation—because we allow it and we don’t maintain it.  We may appear to be weathering the storm, but underneath our foundation is being eaten away, and one day we’ll slide off into the ocean or crumble beneath the weight of what we’ve built.

What is spiritual erosion?

Spiritual erosion is slow, silent, and subtle.  Like physical erosion, it starts imperceptibly, and the daily familiarity of routine keeps us from seeing it in ourselves or even those close to us.  A person will usually keep doing the same things they’ve always done, like keeping the Sabbath, asking people how their week was at church, deleavening the house, and attending the Feast.  Many Christians still attend church long after their faith is gone, because we’re creatures of habit.

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Introduction: Who Is The Antichrist?

This is the first installment of a series titled “Who Is The Antichrist?”  Links to the remainder are at the bottom of this post.

Introduction to a series on "Who is the Antichrist?"

When I first came to Christianity, I couldn’t get enough of the Bible.  They call this “first love”.  In particular, I was very interested in Eschatology or the study of “the end times”.  I read and read.  I studied.  I watched videos on Youtube.  I did everything I could to learn more about “the end of days”, or “the end of the era”.

One Sabbath I decided to ask an Elder at my local congregation, a couple of questions about “the end times”.  His answers kind of puzzled me because he seemed to have many of the same beliefs as most in mainstream Christianity, which is rare for us, being Sabbath keepers.

At the end of our conversation, he concluded our talk by saying: “All that stuff is a LONG way off.  There’s no need to worry about that stuff now.  When you see the Two Witnesses preaching in Jerusalem…Then we should worry about the end.”

Now, this is a good man.  I respect him, and I respect his knowledge of the Bible.  But, that talk blew me away.  Not only did he agree with Mainstream Christendom, he also told me not to worry until the two witnesses were in Jerusalem.  It was almost as if he was telling me to not even study the end-time prophecies as they were so far off into the future that I needn’t even waste my time studying these things.  I don’t think that is what he was trying to communicate, but it FELT that way.

Can Antichrist really fool the whole world?

I found this to be very strange.  From everything that I had learned, identifying the “Antichrist” should be paramount to every Christian.  And, what about all of the things that were going to happen before the two witnesses came onto the scene?  And, what about Revelation 11 when speaking about the two witnesses, the angel describes Jerusalem as “…the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also our Lord was crucified.”  Wait!  This is a big deal.  Jerusalem is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt?!?

There just has to be so much more going on before the two witnesses come to Jerusalem.  And, I want to learn about that stuff.  Why?  So that if I see some of these things happening, I will know what’s going on.

In Matthew 24:24, Messiah says:

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders; so much so that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the elect” (ESV)

If one were to read that backward.  Could it not be said that:  Only the elect will not be lead astray, or fooled by the false christs?  Or perhaps put another way:  To be counted as the elect, “the first resurrection”, you cannot be fooled by antichrist and the false prophet.

Now, I know that Matthew 24:24 isn’t necessarily saying that.  And, I know my argument would only apply to the final generation, while I do believe that Messiah’s message was intended for all generations.  It is something to consider.

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What Are Abominations Before the Lord?

Where the study stemmed from

In today’s world of political correctness and permissiveness, the very word “abomination” is something that most people recoil from and completely reject. The industry I work in is very liberal, and I’m often placed in a position of needing to explain and defend my faith as tactfully as possible. Most people can wrap their heads around the fact that I don’t keep Christmas, don’t eat unclean meats, and keep a seventh-day Sabbath. But where their understanding stops is when it comes to homosexuality, because they believe that it’s bigotry or hatred on my part not to accept homosexuality as a completely natural thing.

There is a shaky line I have to walk in explaining that it has nothing to do with hating those people specifically, but that I also don’t get to pick and choose which commandments are valid within the things God says are wrong. I’ve had many people tell me that it was only considered wrong in the Old Testament, but that the New Testament doesn’t mention anything about it and Jesus did away with all that Old Testament hardline nonsense.

But the thing is, we know that Jesus didn’t do away with the Old Testament—only added to it or fulfilled some aspects (such as the need for the Levitical priesthood and physical sacrifices). And so quite some time back, I decided that I needed to do an in-depth study on what God considers abominations, so that I could confidently discuss the topic when asked.

The use of “abomination” in the Bible

It makes sense to start by finding out what things or actions God call an abomination. Interestingly, people often think about this as being mainly a hardline law/Pentateuch thing, and certainly there were a number of occurrences there. But it came as a surprise to me that the highest concentration of the word “abomination” appears to be in the book of Proverbs, in verses concerned with the heart and mind.

The words “abomination” and “abominable” are used over 170 times in the KJV and probably a similar number in the NKJV, though they tend to be used a less frequently in certain modern translations. While there’s only one Greek word translated this way, there are around five different Hebrew words. Three are from the same root word (shequets, shaqats, shiqquts) and mean roughly the same thing—filth, figuratively or literally an idolatrous object, detestable thing. These words are used when speaking of unclean animals, for instance, or often refer to pagan or idolatrous things in a more general sense. Two other words (ba ash and piggul piggul) are only translated abomination once or twice, but more often words like stank, loathsome, and abhor are used when translating them.

The most prominent word translated “abomination” is to ebah to ebah, and signifies that which is disgusting morally, an abhorrence.  It is used not only in the passages we expect (such as those on sexual sins or pagan rituals) but also passages in Proverbs and similar that speak to behaviors God finds detestable.

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Touring the Holy Land: Petra & Wadi Rum, Jordan

This post continues our series about our trip to Israel and Jordan, and is more photo diary than the others—meant to really give you a sense of place.  Jordan is one of the most unique and fascinating places I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting.  While it’s obviously its own nation today, much of its land was a part of the Israelite nation in biblical times, and all or almost all of it was part of the Promised Land.

You can also catch up on the other posts here.  If you haven’t already, I’d recommend starting with the Introduction, which gives some helpful context to the geography, history, and politics of the region before we dive in.

Geography, Culture, and Background:  An Introduction

Northern Israel:  the Galilee Area, Tel-Megiddo, and Akko

Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa, Be’er Sheva, and the Negev Desert

Jerusalem, Masada, En Gedi, and the Dead Sea

Our friends dropped us off at the border in Eilat and we walked across, dealing with all the visas and security checkpoints.  Once across (technically in Aqaba now), we waited for our taxi driver to arrive and some of the other taxi drivers shared their coffee with us while we waited.

The Land of Jordan in the Bible

Obviously that’s super broad, because the modern-day country of Jordan has even had significant boundary shifts over the last century or two.  So here are just a few highlights on the ancient nations that help inform today’s Jordan.

When the kingdoms of Israel and Judah controlled the land of Canaan, the kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom ruled east of the Jordan.  The bible tells us quite a lot about the origin of these peoples.

  • The Edomites:  In the Bible, the Edomites are the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin and Isaac’s oldest son (Genesis 36). The Edomites controlled an area east of the Arabah, from the Zered to the Gulf of Aqaba. Their capital was Bozrah  (modern Buseirah), which sat in the northern part of their territory.
  • The Ammonites:  In the Bible, they are described as being descendants of Ben-ammi, who was the son of Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and Lot’s younger daughter (Genesis 19:38).  The capital of the Iron Age (roughly 1200-600 BCE) kingdom of Ammon was Rabbah, which is located at modern-day Amman, Jordan.
  • The Moabites:  In the Bible, the Moabites are said to have descended from Moab, the son of Lot and his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:37). The kingdom of Moab stretched “north and south of the Arnon River” with its capital at Dibon.
    • Ruth was a Moabitess—it’s possible that Moab is given some slack in end-time prophecy because of her faith and her role in Christ’s geneaology

These people factor into end-time prophecies as well.  Daniel tells us that He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon” (Dan 11:41).

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When You Pray: What’s In Your Closet?

But you, when you pray, enter into thy closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which seeth in secret shall reward you openly (Matt. 6:6)

We can deduce the obvious meaning here, and have heard that repeated over the decades—don’t be showy in prayer, but rather make it a private conversation with your Creator.

That is valid, and you won’t find me in disagreement.  But is there an important message here that we’re missing?

I’m not one to arbitrarily find “deeper meaning” in everything or try to be the smartest person in the room.  But I do think that we maybe need to look below the surface a little more here.

…enter your closet

If you were to spend any time at all looking at archaeological findings in that era of time (1st century CE), you would realize that the concept of a closet, or a separate private room in a multi-room dwelling, was foreign except to the wealthy.  And I don’t think that Jesus Christ spent a lot of time instructing the wealthy, rather His time was spent with the common people.  So how could this teaching connect to their lives?  More importantly, what can we do with this teaching?

The best way I can illustrate this is with a phrase from the last several decades: “…coming out of the closet…”   In today’s age that has a very specific meaning to us, but the phrase also has a more general meaning that should be important to us as we consider the passage in Matthew 6.  This colloquial phrase means exposing a personal character trait that you or I have been keeping secret.  So how should this affect the way we pray?

It is my view that we all have a closet that we keep closed and don’t really want anyone else to get a peek into, including God.  Some of us have a closed door to an inner room and know it, and others have managed to fool themselves into thinking that they don’t—but we all do.  To be honest, we don’t even want to look in there ourselves!   It’s much easier to keep the door closed than to try to clean out the closet.

A conversation with a friend

Again, how should this affect the way we pray?  I’m going to get even more basic here:  what is prayer?

I think we tend to shroud certain “religious” issues with mystique.  Issues like bible study, meditation, worship, and yes, prayer.  The reality is, differences in personalities and experiences make each of us people that learn, muse, demonstrate passion, and talk or communicate in different ways.

Let’s take prayer.  What is it?  I suggest that it is simply engaging in conversation.  Obviously, this is a talk with someone who is far greater than us.  So anything I say here is not to mitigate intercessory prayer, thanksgiving, asking for favors or help, and so on.  But those things don’t facilitate a relationship.  Rather, they take advantage of a relationship.

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