Sunday, 31 July 2011

Some thoughts about Bible dogs. Pt 1. Beware of dogs!

You're joking! Not at all. There are more than forty references to 'dogs' in the Bible but no references to 'cats'! (I rest my case!) There are some interesting ideas and themes connected with dogs throughout the Bible, but you will have to adopt a non-English mind-set to really understand them.

The Hebrew peoples didn't generally like dogs. If you really disliked or despised someone you called them a 'dog'. The Hebrews used the term 'dog' to describe non-Hebrews. When Mephibosheth wanted to express his self-humbling at the feet of David he went a step further and called himself a 'dead dog'. 2 Sam 9:8. Paul calls those who wanted to bring Christians under the yoke of the law, dogs and the mutilation and says we are to 'beware' of them; Philippians 3:2. and finally the Revelation tells us that 'dogs' will be outside the heavenly city. Strong stuff.

This is the language of metaphor. The phenomena of animals as 'pets' is foreign to the Bible. This is not easy for western Christians to appreciate. At a period on my life I lived next door to a university with beautiful open parkland and ornamental lakes. I had many African visitors and we frequently strolled through the university grounds. I always knew the questions I would be asked. They would see a squirrel and ask 'can you eat them?' They would see rabbits and ask 'can you eat them?' They would see flocks of Canada geese on the lakes and they would ask 'can you eat them?' It seemed such a waste to have so much good food going to waste. My African friends also found it difficult to understand why we allowed 'dogs' into our houses. In an African house you may get chickens but no dogs! Biblically, a dog is never part of a family.

Jesus called a non-Hebrew woman and her daughter 'dogs' and he distinguished very specifically the difference between 'dogs' and 'family'.
But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. Mark 7:27–28 KJV
The word translated 'dogs' is really little dogs but you must not think of an adorable puppy when you say 'little dogs'. Tyndale translated this word as 'whelps' which was usually used in an insulting manner. Did you notice the distinction between 'family members' and the 'whelp' which ought not even to have been in the house but crept in to pick up a few crumbs under the table.

It was a measure of the woman's humility they she pressed her case in the way she did. Genuine poverty cannot afford to take offence. All that mattered to her was that she gained a few crumbs for her daughter. Jesus knew the woman's heart all the time...
Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. Matt 15:28 NKJV
There is a profound truth here. We may have no claim on his care and may not deserve even to me in the same home but there is a simple prayer that will always gain access to his heart.
Lord, help me. Matt 15:25 KJV

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Some Thoughts on Bible Versions: Part 3

Teach Thyselfe Olde Englishe?

Why should anyone bother with such an archaic concept? Well, some may just be curious but there are occasions when the switch from ‘thou’ to ‘you’ is quite significant.

This is a little article I created a few years back. If you read it through you will be able to show off to your friends by explaining why the sign which declares...

Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe

is inaccurate. But if you read further you may find Olde Englishe can hold the key to some real gems of revelation.

Teach Thyselfe Olde Englishe

And, following on from the close and personal use of God's proper name, 'Thee' and 'thou' are not so grand as you might think and speak of an intimacy that we have lost in the modern usage of the word 'you'.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Some Thoughts on Bible Versions: Part 2

As part of the Sinai Covenant Jehovah gave 10 laws and an abundance of 'judgements' for his people. The 10 laws are placed in a very specific context;
And God spake all these words, saying, I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Ex 20:1–2 ASV
One of the 10 laws dealt specifically with those who did not honour the personal name of Jehovah.
Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Ex 20:7 ASV

It is using this name of 'Jehovah', the covenant-name of God with his people, fraudulently which incurs God's anger. To promise or claim something on the basis of this name when God has not endorsed that promise is fraud of the most deadly kind. It is tantamount to forging God's signature!

There are two crimes against God which constitute the greatest of sins. The first is idolatry; idolatry perpetrates a 'lie' against the character of God. There is no greater sin. The second is close; taking the name of Jehovah in vain perpetrates a 'lie' against what God has said. The preacher who declares 'God says' had better quote him accurately! James 3:1

To ensure that the great name of "Jehovah" was not used inappropriately the Jewish people determined that they would not use it at all. They believed that non-use was better than ab-use. To ensure that no one used it wrongly they decided that when they came to read the word 'Jehovah' they would say the word 'Lord' (Adonai) in its place or they would simply say the words "the name' (HaShem) without pronouncing the name "Jehovah".

Perhaps early Bible translators shared the same reluctance and thought that using the name too frequently would devalue it. Is that why our Old King James Version followed the Jewish pattern of using the word LORD instead of 'Jehovah'. Whatever the reason modern translations now seem to omit all reference to God's proper name and simply refer to him as LORD (upper case). The original Hebrew and the ASV of 1901 showed no such reluctance as this graph will show.
Detailed Study

In fact the loss of the proper name for God is tragic. 'Jehovah' is not a title it is a proper name. In our constitutional monarchy the proper way to address the monarch is 'Your Majesty'. It brings dignity and a sense of distance; I am not suggesting we should stop using the title. However, there have been a few individuals, her husband, her mother, her sister who I presume in private occasions would call her 'Elizabeth'. Can you feel the difference between 'Your Majesty' and 'Elizabeth'? If you can, you can feel the difference between 'LORD' and 'Jehovah'.

The Psalms use the personal name of Jehovah over 700 times. In times of joy and distress, faith and anxiety, victory and defeat, the psalmist draws near, not to 'Your Majesty' but to 'Jehovah'; the God who has signed my release papers and guaranteed me a place in his future plans.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Some Thoughts on Bible Versions: Part 1

Question: What word can you find 4 times in the Old King James Version, never in the NKJV, never in the ESV and 6777 times in the American Standard Version of 1901?

Answer: Jehovah

There is a long history behind these statistics.

God 'signed' the Sinai Covenant with the personal name of Jehovah. Although Abraham and others had known the name of Jehovah, God had never revealed to them the significance of that name. When he promised to deliver the descendants of Abraham from Egyptian captivity he made it clear that he was about to commit himself to an entirely different kind of relationship with those 'sons of Israel'.

And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings, wherein they sojourned. And moreover I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am Jehovah, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments: and I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God, who bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you in unto the land which I sware to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for a heritage: I am Jehovah. Ex 6:2–8 ASV

Bible words don't have definitions; they have histories. There have been lots of suggestions as to what the name 'Jehovah' actually means. I will ask a slightly different question. "Who is Jehovah?" He is the God who has revealed himself to the people of the Sinai covenant in seven great affirmations.
1. I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians

2. I will rid you of their bondage

3. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments

4. I will take you to me for a people

5. I will be a God to you...

6. I will bring you in unto the land which I sware to give to Abraham etc

7. I will give it you for a heritage
These affirmations are bordered with a statement which is repeated "I am Jehovah". It is as though he had 'signed' his name at the beginning and the end of this statement. No one can take away from it and no one can add to it. This promise is 'bankable'!

When we read the personal name of Jehovah in the American Standard Version of 1901 we are reading of a God who has 'put his name' to this commitment to the sons of Israel.

Monday, 25 July 2011

transformation... in a heart-beat

Here's another thought from some recent experience. Charles Wesley's hymn...
Jesus, Thine all victorious love
Shed in my heart abroad;
Then shall my feet no longer rove,
Rooted and fixed in God.

O that in me the sacred fire
Might now begin to glow;
Burn up the dross of base desire
And make the mountains flow!

O that it now from Heav’n might fall
And all my sins consume!
Come, Holy Ghost, for Thee I call,
Spirit of burning, come!

Refining fire, go through my heart,
Illuminate my soul;
Scatter Thy life through every part
And sanctify the whole.

...prays for God's life to be 'scattered through every part'. Is that an acknowledgement that regeneration is a process? Some who oppose the notion of God transforming a man or woman in a moment are keen to emphasise the idea of a slow progression. Here's my personal experience...

I have been undergoing a course of treatment for Angina which has included 'angiograms'. They involve putting a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in your groin or wrist. The catheter is then guided to your heart and a special dye (contrast agent) is injected through the catheter so that X-ray images show your heart more clearly.

There is an interesting consequence to this procedure. When the dye is released it produces a sensation of an intense hot flush which courses through the body. I was warned with the words 'the hot flush is coming'. It is a very peculiar sensation right on the borders of pain in its intensity.

Here's my question and my answer.
Question: 'How long did it take to 'scatter' that dye through 'every part'?

Answer: a heart-beat.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Red River of Life

It was a 'Fact and Faith' film distributed by Moody Press in the 1960s and was a fascinating glimpse into the wonderful workings of the human body and the multi-tasking functions of the blood stream. I had my own version this week.

Yesterday I went into hospital for a procedure to fit a 'tricky' stent. I had been diagnosed as having angina and this was the remedy. I had also been put on a cocktail of drugs to do various things to my 'red river of life'. An earlier angiogram had shown damage and severe restrictions of blood flow in parts of the heart. Over the past few months my energy levels had been pretty much rock bottom and it was not helped by some of the medication. Yesterday I underwent the one and a half hour procedure which fitted a 'Capella' stent. I have some photos which compare the blood flow before and after the procedure; they are mildly shocking. I estimate that I am getting up to 300% better flow in some regions than prior to the procedure. All that comes from the medical data but what I wasn't expecting was the dramatic 'felt' results of the procedure.

Within an hour I was feeling more awake than I had in the previous six months. My whole disposition seemed to have awoken and I was 'raring to go'. By now you are probably thinking this is in the wrong blog... no it isn't. I have been thinking about the life of God in the soul of a man.

Sometimes for reasons, or sometimes apparently without reasons, the flowing of his life becomes impeded and then everything is 'hard work'. It becomes an effort just to stand up and walk a few steps. Samson-like we sometimes shake ourselves and think 'just get on with it, it will be fine', but it isn't 'fine', something is amiss. Our souls can become vulnerable to various ailments; check out Psalm 103:1-3 NKJV

What we need then is a master physician who can make a precise diagnosis and then administer a 'procedure' to alleviate the impediment. Suddenly, the red river of life flows again and everything is changed, every disposition and ability. What we need at such times is the master's touch.

In the realm of the physical and of the spirit; He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. Psa 103:14 NKJV