Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Is Pentecostalism a mystical movement?

Image result for mysticism
There are some who are trying to contend that Pentecostalism is a mystical movement or tradition. I disagree with this notion. Pentecostals call themselves Pentecostals since they regard their experience as the same as the experience of the apostles on the day of Pentecost. It would certainly be amiss to label the apostles and the early Christians as mystics. The Pentecostal experience of Holy Spirit is considered as the truly New Testament normal Christian experience of a believer. Paul expected the Ephesian disciples to have this experience (Acts 19).
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

The Pentecostal worldview does not attempt at any demythologization nor cessationalization of the Biblical worldview. Angels, spirits, demons, visions, supernatural signs are as real as cups and chairs and cars. It is quite different from the materialistic view of the universe. It is also opposed to the occultic view of reality that Pentecostalism regards as based on "deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim.4:1). In fact, any nature-idolizing ideology (even if it were naturalistic materialism) is no less deceptive (cf. C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters).

If one begins labeling Pentecostalism as a mystical tradition, then it wouldn't be far from when people begin labeling any spiritual encounter as "mystic" - which is too broad a defining scope for mysticism. Mysticism involves claims of trans-rational subjective experiences of the "ultimate" which are heavily colored by the religious ideology of the experiencer and privileged to him/her alone. In contrast, Pentecostalism does not involve any claim of that sort. In fact, Pentecostal teachers regard human self-attempts towards mystic experience as dangerous and make it important for one to differentiate between hallucinations, demonic deceptions, and real spiritual experience. Regarding the mystic experience, William James had noted as early as 1902 in his Varieties of Religious Experiences:
Nitrous oxide and ether, especially nitrous oxide, when sufficiently diluted with air, stimulate the mystical consciousness in an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond depth of truth seems revealed to the inhaler. This truth fades out, however, or escapes, at the moment of coming to; and if any words remain over in which it seemed to clothe itself, they prove to be the veriest nonsense. Nevertheless, the sense of a profound meaning having been there persists; and I know more than one person who is persuaded that in the nitrous oxide trance we have a genuine metaphysical revelation.
There have been further research done on the similarities of LSD and mystic experiences:

From Epistemics of Divine Reality (2007, 2011)
At this juncture, it is important to make a differentiation between revelation and mysticism. Revelation, as in the case of miracles, visions, dreams is not a human initiative, at least theologically speaking (though lasting effects like the drenched fleece of Gideon warrant the theological standpoint), and so must not be labeled as mystic experience. However, mystic experiences originating in meditation and use of drugs may be easily explained as induced by some psychologically altered state due to stress, anxiety, or chemical imbalance in the body. Hallucinations can easily occur to physically ill, weak, or strained people. The ‘saintliness’ of a person, in addition, must not be taken as the standard of evaluating the genuineness of the experience. As was seen, William James saw that the mystic experience did have positive effects in the lives of the mystics; however, his conclusion was that the striking differences of mystics regarding theology, often out of their allegiance to diverse traditions, lends them no credulity for absolute truth. Their mystic experiences only possess pragmatic value that is ‘relatively in favor of all these things,’ i.e., their traditional religious suppositions. Thus, there are pantheist mystics, monist mystics, and monotheistic mystics all different from each other and proving that mysticism, originally, has no intellectual content. James also points out the existence of diabolical mysticism as witnessed in delusional insanity and paranoia. Thus, mysticism cannot be the source of absolute knowledge regarding either reality or divine reality. At the most, it is subjective, relative, diversified, and perhaps life-changing, yet devoid of genuine knowledge. Therefore, mysticism is unreliable.




Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Some Similar Hebrew and Hindi Words

קֶרֶן • (kéren) and किरण(kiran) both mean "ray of light"
נהר (nahar) and नहर (nahar) mean "river". Nahar also means river in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu (نهر)
הֵיכַל (hekal) and هيكل (haikal) in Arabic mean temple. The word is used for temple in Hindustani literature.
מֵאִירָה (Meira) means "illuminates" and मीरा (Meera) means prosperous

Monday, July 22, 2019

Approaching Truth

Contrary to the postmodern and deconstructionist skepticism regarding the possibility of encountering truth hermeneutically (which, as has been observed, is self-skeptical as well since deconstructionists need to use the medium of language whose efficiency they doubt), Jesus said "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." This might appear too simplistic an understanding of truth; nevertheless, it's undefeatable. Do the deconstructionists believe that they "know the truth and the truth has set them free"? Is it really the truth that they are believing in?

1. Arundhati Principle. (Arundhatīdarśananyāyaḥ (अरुन्धतीदर्शनन्यायः)) The proximate star (or landmark) principle. Arundhati (Alcor) is the smallest star in the Ursa Major, almost invisible. Someone who knows the star can help his friend see it by first pointing to the brightest star closest to Arundhati. Once the friend is able to see the brightest star, it becomes easier to then point to the fainter Arundhati in its proximity. Similarly, distance from truth can make it difficult for some to see it. But, there are brighter truths that are quite visible to the human mind which can serve as proximate guide to seeing the fainter star. Some of these brighter truths might be as simple as parables and illustrations. We use the Arundhati principle almost every time we try to show directions to a place. "After you reach the cantonment area, you will see a big blue house. The little spices shop is just beside it."

2. Proximation principle. As one draws closer, the object of knowledge becomes more clearer and several previous assumptions regarding it begin to fade away gradually. The truer assumptions gain confirmation. Many questions also get answered. A distant reflection of water may turn out to be a mirage. A distant twinkling of faint light might turn out to be a large town. It is not uncommon for those who are far from God to have many assumptions regarding Him, some even doubting His existence. But, as we draw closer to Him, He draws closer to us. Similarly, as one gains more insights of scriptural truths, several notions get clarified and truth is known through ap-proximation.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Tragedy of a Lured Prophet (1 Kings 13)

1 KINGS 13 gives us the narrative of a prophet whose prophecies were accompanied by signs and wonders.

However, he was lured by another old prophet into doing what was forbidden to him. He was forbidden to eat and drink in that place. But, the old prophet said that the Lord had told him to feed him. The narrative describes the ensuing events that unraveled the error of the prophet lured by lies and his subsequent tragic death by a lion. The lion didn't eat him nor hurt his donkey. Interestingly, the old prophet who lured this young prophet seems to go unpunished. On the other hand, he wisely observes that the young prophet's prophecies will come true and instructs his sons to bury him when he dies along with the young prophet. Subsequently, when the prophecies did come true, and Josiah was turning over the tombs in Bethel, the old prophet's body was honorably left because it was placed together with the young prophet's body in his tomb. Seems shocking.

But, the young prophet erred grievously. He had a two-fold word from the Lord and it was accompanied by two signs. The two-fold word constituted a prophecy related to the false altar worship practiced at Bethel and secondly, the command to the prophet not to eat at Bethel. Both words were equally immutable. God's word has plenary truth-value. The young prophet allowed an inconsistency factor into his system of faith by allowing the old prophet's lie to turn him from the divine command. But, God's word is not inconsistent. If the prophet would not be punished for violating God's command privileged to him, so may not Bethel be punished according to his prophecy against its false worship and violation of God's written command to the people of Israel. However, for whatever reason (open to speculation) he chose to believe the antithetical privileged testimony of the old prophet (a lie) and suffered the consequences for his turning away from faith.

If he himself didn't believe God's command to him, why should people believe in the prophecy concerning them? The teacher and preacher of the word is doubly accountable.

Do Religious Conversion themselves have any evidential value?

While the reasons behind religious conversions may be considered for any potential evidential value, the conversions themselves do not possess any intrinsic value apart from their rationale.

Conversions may have various motivations. There might even be a mixture of various motivations behind them. Conversions prompted by lure or coerced by means of fear or force do not possess intrinsic value. Similarly, conversions backed by diplomatic motives are neither real. Real conversions are governed by strong epistemic values of justification.

King Solomon's turning towards the religions of his non-Jewish wives by itself does not constitute an invalidation of his previous privileged claim of a personal visitation of the Lord in which he received the gift of wisdom. It does not prove that the religions that he turned to in his later years were superior or more advanced or similar to his previous faith. Similarly, King Saul's turn to spiritist involvement in the forbidden practice of contacting the dead doesn't establish spiritism in any way as a valid alternative to the prophetical movement. On the other hand, the medium's terror at seeing Samuel demonstrates the superiority of the prophetical movement. When the prophet Balaam refrained from cursing the Israelites and instead blessed them, it may have seemed that he stood in support of them. But, the New Testament reveals that his heart was covetous.

In any claims of conversions, the motives and the rationale behind them must be thoroughly investigated.

One prominent example of conversion is that of Paul. He wasn't swayed in any way by the preaching of the apostles or the testimony of Stephen's vision at his stoning. He was an uncompromising Pharisee and persecutor of Christians until he had a personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Following this experience, he underwent several persecutions for the sake of the Gospel. There was no political, social, mainline religious, or economic benefit or advantage from this conversion. The primary rationale behind his conversion was his empirical encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus.

In modern times, we have testimonies of such dramatic conversions in people like Sadhu Sundar Singh (who came to be known as the apostle with bleeding feet), Gulshan Esther, and Karamchand Hans.

But, even as neither the testimonies of the disciples, if Paul had heard them, nor the testimony of Stephen had any evidential value for Paul, such privileged testimonies might not have any evidential value for any other person than the experiencer.

Also, Jesus said that even if a dead were raised and sent to testify, it would not be evidence enough for the Jews who did not take the testimonies of Moses and the prophets seriously. For the Ethiopian Eunuch to whom Philip preached the Gospel, a simple reading of Isaiah and a testimony of Jesus was sufficient evidence for faith.

But, obviously, for Paul, Sundar Singh (who had previously torn and burnt the Bible), and Karamchand (who previously beat his mother for professing faith in Christ) Christian preaching itself was insufficient. They were given a personal physical encounter.

Solomon too had a personal vision. But, he turned away. So, Paul places safeguards when he says: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Gal 1:8)

And, he confesses: "But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (1 Cor.9:27)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Poetic Similarity in Rabbi Eliezar (1st c), Meir Ben Isaac Nehori (11th c), Quran, and Kabir (15th c)

Rabbi Eliezar (around 100 AD)
"If all the seas were of ink,
And all ponds planted with reeds,
If the sky and the earth were parchments
And if all human beings practised the art of writing-
They would not exhaust the Torah I have learned,
Just as the Torah itself would not be diminished any more
Than is the sea by the water removed
By a paint brush dipped in it." [1]

Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai (around 1050 AD)
“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,
And ev’ry man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.” [2]

Quran (632AD)
And if whatever trees upon the earth were pens and the sea [was ink], replenished thereafter by seven [more] seas, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise. (Quran 31:27, Quran.com)

Kabir (around 1500 AD)
Saat samund masi karun,
Lekhani sab banraye.
Dharti sab kagad karun,
Hari gun likha na jaye


(Were I to make of the seven seas all ink,
And of every stalk of forest a quill;
Were I to turn the whole earth into paper;
Yet, this would not suffice writing the virtues of God).

-----
[1] Derrida, Of Grammatology, Trans. G.C. Spivak. p.16
[2] The Love of God, https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/The_Love_of_God/.
A Poem to make your heart sing. http://thefreepressonline.co.uk/news/3/466.htm



Sunday, May 26, 2019

Giving until it hurts - excerpts from William Barclay and Mother Teresa

William Barclay, Gospel of Mark (1956)
THE GREATEST GIFT (Mark 12:41-44)
12:41-44 When Jesus had sat down opposite the treasury, he was watching how the crowd threw their money into the treasury, and many rich people threw in large sums. A poor widow woman came and threw in two mites which make up half a farthing. He called his disciples and said to them, "This is the truth I tell you--this poor widow woman has thrown in more than an the people who threw money into the treasury, for all of them threw their contributions in out of their abundance, but she out of her lack has thrown in everything that she had, all she had to live on."  
Between the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of the Women there was the Gate Beautiful. It may well be that Jesus had gone to sit quietly there after the argument and the tension of the Court of the Gentiles and the discussions in the cloisters. In the Court of the Women there were thirteen collecting boxes called "The Trumpets," because they were so shaped. Each of them was for a special purpose, for instance to buy corn or wine or off for the sacrifices. They were for contributions for the daily sacrifices and expenses of the Temple. Many people threw in quite considerable contributions. Then came a widow. She flung in two mites. The coin so called was a lepton (Greek #3016), which literally means a thin one. It was the smallest of all coins and was worth one fortieth of one pence. And yet Jesus said that her tiny contribution was greater than all the others, for the others had thrown in what they could spare easily enough and still have plenty left, while the widow had flung in everything she had.  
Here is a lesson in giving: 
(i) Real giving must be sacrificial. The amount of the gift never matters so much as its cost to the giver, not the size of the gift, but the sacrifice. Real generosity gives until it hurts. For many of us it is a real question if ever our giving to God's work is any sacrifice at all. Few people will do without their pleasures to give a little more to the work of God. It may well be a sign of the decadence of the church and the failure of our Christianity that gifts have to be coaxed out of church people, and that often they will not give at all unless they get something back in the way of entertainment or of goods. There can, be few of us who read this story without shame. 
(ii) Real giving has a certain recklessness in it. The woman might have kept one coin. It would not have been much but it would have been something, yet she gave everything she had. There is a great symbolic truth here. It is our tragedy that there is so often some part of our lives, some part of our activities, some part of ourselves which we do not give to Christ. Somehow there is nearly always something we hold back. We rarely make the final sacrifice and the final surrender. 
(iii) It is a strange and lovely thing that the person whom the New Testament and Jesus hand down to history as a pattern of generosity was a person who gave a gift of half a farthing. We may feel that we have not much in the way of material gifts or personal gifts to give to Christ, but, if we put all that we have and are at his disposal, he can do things with it and with us that are beyond our imaginings.

Mother Teresa, National Prayer Breakfast (Feb 1994)

 Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for Him to do good to us – to save us from our selfishness in sin. He gave up everything to do the Father’s will – to show us that we too must be willing to give up everything to do God’s will – to love one another as He loves each of us. If we are not willing to give whatever it takes to do good to one another, sin is still in us. That is why we too must give to each other until it hurts.
It is not enough for us to say: “I love God,” but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is not true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.
It hurt Jesus to love us. We have been created in His image for greater things, to love and to be loved. We must “put on Christ” as Scripture tells us. And so, we have been created to love as He loves us. Jesus makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the unwanted one, and He says, “You did it to Me.” On the last day He will say to those on His right, “whatever you did to the least of these, you did to Me, and He will also say to those on His left, whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do it for Me.”
When He was dying on the Cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Jesus is thirsting for our love, and this is the thirst of everyone, poor and rich alike. We all thirst for the love of others, that they go out of their way to avoid harming us and to do good to us. This is the meaning of true love, to give
until it hurts.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Image of the Beast that Will Come to Life (Revelation 13)

And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. (Rev 13:15)
One advantage of prophecy is that it can be verified in history. While the Genesis account of creation is disputed by many in the scientific community (with some theologians attempting to demythologize it), prophecy resists such attempts. Thus, the strongest of evidences for the Messiahship of Jesus did not come from science [it could not] nor from the miracles He did, but from the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies regarding Him. However, the sheer irony of all this is that while prophecy helps to unfold the meaning of events to the believer, the prophecy itself includes a clause regarding disbelief in the same (which also needs to be fulfilled). Thus, while many disciples were able to see the Messianic prophecies as fulfilled in Jesus, there were many others who could not see this, thus fulfilling the prophecy (though volitionally rejecting it) that they would despise and reject the Messiah.

A similar situation is predicted in the book of Revelation. When the anti-Messiah (the beast) will appear, prophecies will become historically verifiable, which would actually mean that this verification can serve as an apologetic tool for faith. However, the prophecy tells us that instead of believing in God, people would increasingly turn away from God. In other words, the prophecy includes a clause that makes disbelief in it the verification of it. When people would increasingly turn away from God, this would prove that the prophecy was true. But, if it is so, then the prophecy cannot function as an apologetic aid for those who will to turn away from God.

The biggest problem of evolutionism is the issue of how life can originate from a mere collocation of atoms, even if those atoms were (by chance) placed in the right sequence. The either-DNA-or-protein-first problem continues to haunt evolutionists though there are hypotheses that this is resolved by the RNA world hypothesis. Yet, that hypothesis is also not problem-free. It seems that a phenomenon of some kind of genius giving "life unto the image" can be a staggering event for humanity. To the intellectuals, it could suggest a very advanced level of scientific achievement that an image (a rightly sequenced pattern) could not only come to life but also be able to communicate and make intelligent decisions. Probably, this would not be at a level of the much theorized battery powered AI robots (breath of life is not the same as battery-run).

Yet, this would only lead more to the worship of the beast, rather than worship of the living God. No wonder, elevation of the beast, as having originated from the beast, is characteristic of idolatrous worship.

Rom 1:23  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Rom 1:25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 
The idea of "beast" being used for humans is a reduction that signifies a corruption of the divine image. Without God in the picture, man is not much different from the beasts
I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? (Ecc 3:18-21, emphatics mine)
The modern rebel that Chesterton referred to, at least, had some moral sense of not being a beast though scientifically affiliating with beasthood: "The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts."

But, the forthcoming beast-worshiper will be morally dissolute as well.

Rom 1:24  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Rom 1:26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
Rom 1:27  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
Rom 1:28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Rom 1:29  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Rom 1:30  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Rom 1:31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Rom 1:32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Rev 16:9  And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.
Rev 16:10  And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
Rev 16:11  And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
Rev 16:12  And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
Rev 16:13  And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
Rev 16:14  For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Divine Basis of the Great Commandment

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The essential Christian ethic is love. The commands such as "Do not murder", "Do not bear false witness", and the like are by virtue of this essential principle.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
So, while particulars such as "Do not murder", "Do not steal", etc do not apply to God (who is One and there is no other distinct god(s) to kill or steal from), the universal essential principle of love must find its basis in Him; otherwise, it becomes invalid and non-essential. The Scriptures, however, makes it quite obvious that the Triune God is the supreme foundation of the Great Commandment.

While one may not find a big issue in God's exemplification of the second command to love one's neighbor as oneself (Jesus incarnated as flesh and blood and became our Good Samaritan), one can also clearly see in the Scripture that the Triune God exemplifies the first command to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart..."

One may ask, "How can that be possible, since there is no God above God? How can God love God will all His heart...?" The answer is that Jesus did refer to the Father as "My God", as in "My God and My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). Similarly, the Father refers to the Son as God when He says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom." (Hebrews 1:8).

Similar verses that affirm love within the divine community fill the pages of the Gospels.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Ruth's Choice



But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me." (Ruth 1:16-17)

WHAT HER CHOICE WAS NOT
1. Her choice was not utilitarian. (Ruth 1:11-13. Noami makes it clear that following her would only mean their loss).
2. Her choice was not pragmatic. (She was not merely taking a risk to see if it works)
3. Her choice was not merely ethical. (She was not merely trying to fulfill an obligation to her mother-in-law; she had all right to be remarried. Even the New Testament would advise her to get married, 1 Timothy 5:14 - "I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.")
4. Her choice was not out of extremity. (She had all the freedom to go back home; there was no compulsion at all)

WHAT HER CHOICE WAS
1. Her choice was spiritual. (She chose not to return like Orpah "to her gods" (Ruth 1:15), but to follow Naomi so that Naomi's God would be her God (Ruth 1:16)).
2. Her choice was submissive, by faith. (She submitted to YHWH. "YHWH do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me". She based her commitment on her faith in the Lordship of YHWH, which meant also her rejection of false gods)
3. Her choice was sagacious. (She was aware that YHWH was the God of Israel, and it was in Israel that she could be free to worship and serve Him. She wanted to be with the person and the people that worshiped the living God).
4. Her choice was single-minded and unwavering. (She was not deterred by the negative attitude of Naomi towards YHWH. Her faith in YHWH was not dependent on situations and happenings. She could have utilitarianistically reasoned that her misfortune was due to her marriage into this YHWH serving family. However, she did not blame God for anything, but was unshakeably determined to be part of the YHWH serving community)

*God's proper name YHWH has been used here to distinguish the LORD from the pagan deities that were served by nations surrounding Israel.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Danites and their Inheritance

Revelation 7 curiously omits the name of Dan from the list of the tribes of the 144,000 witnesses. One wonders why this is so. Many hold that Dan was probably omitted because he represented full-fledged idolatry in Israel (Judges 18:30). Judges 17 and 18 tell the story of how the priesthood is commercialized and treated in a pagan utilitarian way by a family of Ephraim and a clan of Dan. Revelation 7 does not also mention Ephraim, though it mentions Manasseh and Joseph (the father of Ephraim and Manasseh). Both Ephraim and Dan were guilty of idolatrous worship throughout the Old Testament. 
And the sons of Dan set up the engraved image. And Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. And they set up Micah's engraved image for themselves, the image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh. (Judges 18:30-31)
And the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold and said to them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Behold your gods, O, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! And he set the one in Bethel, and he put the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one, even to Dan. And he made a house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, who were not the sons of Levi. (1Kings 12:28-31)
Notably, Dan's problems in the book of Judges revolved around their difficulties with inheriting the land.
When the territory of the people of Dan was lost to them, the people of Dan went up and fought against Leshem, and after capturing it and striking it with the sword they took possession of it and settled in it, calling Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor. (Joshua 19:47)
And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them. (Judges 18:1)
The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain. (Judges 1:34) 
 In contrast, the Amorites were not able to defeat and drive out the people of Joseph:
The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor. (Judges 1:35)
Revelation is a book of victory, of overcomers; so, it is not surprising if a perpetual loser (Dan) is omitted from the list of overcomers and an overcomer (Joseph) is included in it.

Surprisingly, however, Dan is the first listed in the division of the new land by Ezekiel 48.
Ezekiel 48:1  “These are the names of the tribes: Beginning at the northern extreme, beside the way of Hethlon to Lebo-hamath, as far as Hazar-enan (which is on the northern border of Damascus over against Hamath), and extending from the east side to the west, Dan, one portion.