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The Hebrew Bible, the House of David, and Historical Reliability

Are the stories of David, Solomon, and the kings of Judah, mere legends? Did they really exist? That’s what some archaeologists are starting to allege. Since most of us are not trained archaeologists, what are we to believe?

That was the problem a pastor friend of mine was having as he was going to lead his first trip to Israel. He asked me to come along because, as he said it, “I don’t which rocks are important and which rocks are just . . . rocks.” That’s the challenge of archaeology—it takes a well trained eye to see the significance of rocks exposed from thousands of years ago. And then, if the rocks don’t match some archaeologists’ presuppositions, they will dispute the evidence found in the rocks. That is just what is happening today—there are some clear archaeological supports for the biblical record of David, Solomon, and the kings of the Davidic line. Now some archaeological critics of the Bible, called minimalists, have come along and disputed this evidence. No matter, the evidence is strong and here are three examples of archaeological evidence for the Davidic dynasty as revealed in the Bible.

The first example is archaeologist Eilat Mazar’s work in the original city of David, the Jebusite stronghold captured by David and made his capital. It is the original Jerusalem and today it lies just south of the 16th century southern walls of the ancient city. Mazar theorized that since David built a palace with materials from King Hiram of Tyre (2Sm 5:11) and that the text says that he went down from there into the stronghold (2Sm 5:17), the palace of David would have stood just above the original fortress of the Jebusites. After excavating there, Mazar found a large, multi-room stone structure, appearing much like a public building or, better, a large palace. She also discovered 11th century B.C. pottery at the same level of the stone structure, dating the building at the very time of King David. She concluded, that using 2Sm 5 as her guide, she had found David’s palace. Of course minimalists object that since Mazar had not found a nameplate saying “King David’s Palace” that it couldn’t be so. Yet all the evidence supports the idea that an 11th century B.C. figure had built a royal palace just above the Jebusite stronghold—just as the Bible clearly indicates.

Another example is derived from 1Kg 9:15 which states that Solomon fortified the walls of three important cities of Israel: namely Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. And what did archaeologists find at these three sites? In each they discovered a distinctive four entry way gate, all dated by pottery shards as being from the 10th century B.C., just at the time of Solomon. Since the Bible says Solomon fortified these cities, it is not surprising that they all have the same characteristic gate structure. Of course minimalists dispute this because no inscription was found saying “Solomon built this.” They even contend that the excavating archaeologists fabricated the evidence for a 10th century B.C. gate, an allegation that has no support and is deeply offensive to the excavators of these sites. Nevertheless, archaeologist William Dever, no Bible believer himself, concludes that if Solomon did not construct these city walls and gates, “then we would have to invent a similar king by another name.”

The third significant archaeological discovery is an inscription found in the north of Israel at Tel Dan. It is a victory stela of Hazael, king of Aram, dated at about 847-42 B.C. It describes his victories, including his defeat of the “House of David” and also “the king of Israel.” This discovery confirms, with extra-biblical evidence, the existence of David, merely 120 years after his reign ended. Moreover, it affirms the continued existence of his royal line, the house of David, and the splitting of the ancient kingdom of Israel, since the stela speaks of both kings, one from Judah and one from Israel. What do minimalists do with this evidence? They simply reject it on the grounds that it does not fit their presuppositions, one going so far as to categorize the “house of David” inscription as a forgery, despite having no basis to make that allegation! But the evidence is clear, there was an Israelite king named David and his dynasty continued after him.

One of the great benefits of going to Israel is not just seeing a bunch of old rocks. It’s seeing rocks that confirm the stories written in the Bible, as not mere legends and myths, but God’s inspired history from which we derive great spiritual truth.

Hitched to the Old Testament

Should followers of Jesus “unhitch from the Old Testament” or do we still need that part of God’s Word? Recently, Andy Stanley preached on the need to “unhitch from the Old Testament” and it’s amazing how quickly information can fly through social media. Everyone seems to think that Andy was somehow ready to cut the Old Testament out of our Bibles. But, let’s be clear. Andy Stanley believes in the full inspiration of the Old Testament. Moreover, his motive for his message was good. He was trying to help certain people, who having grown up with faith in Jesus and then having learned about the Old Testament, find it troubling to their faith. He was saying that their faith was in Jesus and they were to be guided by the New Testament, not the Old Testament laws. Nevertheless, despite Andy’s good intentions, I think there is a better way to look at this issue. So here are some reasons we still need the Old Testament (or as I like to call it, the Hebrew Bible).

We need the the Hebrew Bible to understand the New Testament. Everything we read in the New Testament is based on the Old. The New Testament quotes the Old Testament over 900 times. It bases so many of our life principles on the Old Testament. For example, Paul points out in Romans 4 that we get the principle of justification by faith from Genesis 15:6, where it says that Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness. Should we pay our pastors for teaching and shepherding us? Yes, in 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4, about not muzzling an ox, to make the case for paying your pastor. Try studying Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount without grasping the meaning of the Law of Moses. The Lord intensifies each of the commands to relate to our motives and intentions; not merely our actions. One last example: The New Testament prohibits immorality (1 Thess 4:13) but doesn’t specify what constitutes immorality. So for example, there is no specific New Testament prohibition of incest. Does that mean that the New Testament approves of incest? Of course not. Anyone who has read Leviticus 20 would know that incest is considered highly immoral and so the New Testament prohibition of immorality includes incest. Without the Old Testament, the New Testament would become meaningless.

We also need the Hebrew Bible to understand the holiness of God. Too often we dismiss Leviticus, which details how Israel was to approach their holy God, with a “that was then, but this is now” attitude. But by revealing how separate the God of Israel was from sin, we can begin to appreciate what Lord Jesus has done for us as our Great High Priest. The holy God has not changed; rather the Lord Jesus has pioneered a new way for us to approach God with His holiness representing us. That’s why, with Jesus as our High Priest, we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” (Heb 4:14-16).

Furthermore, we need the Hebrew Bible to understand that Jesus is the promised Messiah. It was through someone sharing the many predictions of the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible, that I, and countless others, came to faith in Him. Some examples are Micah 5:2 about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, and Isaiah 9:6 about Messiah being the unique God-Man, and Isaiah 53, about Messiah being our sacrificial substitute for sin. Take a look at the book of Acts. There are two great truths that are used to proclaim Jesus. One of them is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Andy Stanley is correct when he argues that is the essential basis of our faith. But the second great argument used in the book of Acts, is that Jesus is the Messiah because He fulfilled the predictions of the Hebrew Bible. That’s why Peter bases his first sermon in Acts on Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (see Acts 2:22-36), and in the middle of Acts, he says of Jesus the Messiah, “of Him all the prophets bear witness” (Acts 10:43). And the book of Acts ends with Paul persuading people “concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets” (Acts 28:23). The apostles proclaimed faith in Jesus on the basis of the Old Testament.

Another reason we need the Hebrew Bible is so that we can live according to the wisdom of God. In Deuteronomy 4:6, Moses tells Israel, “Carefully follow them (i.e. the commandments), for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples. When they hear about all these statutes, they will say, ‘This great nation is indeed a wise and understanding people.” I agree with Andy Stanley, that there are laws that have been adjusted by the New Covenant law of Messiah. When we sin, we don’t bring a sheep or a goat to the altar for forgiveness. But God gave to be divine wisdom. And there is an underlying wisdom principle in each commandment. If we discern what it is and live by it, we’ll be wise in our walk with God. Here’s an example: the command to keep the Sabbath is not repeated in the New Testament. But, if we’re wise, we’ll take a day (and according to Romans 14 we can choose whichever day we wish) and use it for physical rest and spiritual renewal. That’s not a New Testament command but an Old Testament wisdom principle.

Not too long ago I was at a conference and encountered Walter Kaiser, the great Old Testament scholar. I told him I was looking forward to his session but I was surprised that he was speaking on the New Testament. He replied, “I love the New Testament—it reminds me so much of the Old.” His words capture the reason that New Testament followers of Jesus need to remain hitched to both testaments, Old and New,  because “all Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) and we need all of it to “be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).

The Bible: Underrated by GQ

GQ Magazine recently ran an article entitled “21 Overrated Books You Don’t Have to Read Before You Die” (April 19, 2018). The shocking part was the inclusion of the Bible as number 12 on that list. Despite the fact that many more billions of people have read the Bible than have even heard of GQ, Novelist Jesse Ball wrote: “The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”

I’ve never heard of Jesse Ball before reading his assessment of the Bible nor have I ever read any of his novels. He may be a great writer–I wouldn’t know. But he certainly fails as a literary critic. My simple response to him would be that people often criticize what they don’t understand and he clearly fails to comprehend the Scriptures. Here’s why I believe we need to read the Bible.

To begin, the Bible is a great literary masterpiece. Too often we think of the Bible as a mixture of commandments, genealogies, obscure poems, and strange stories of talking donkeys and snakes, along with other incomprehensible material. But the Bible is actually a library of 66 consistent books that each have a clearly designed literary structure. When we read these books and see the author’s strategies, we’ll be awed by the grandeur and beauty of the Bible. But that would require people to sit down and actually read the Bible on its own terms without imposing our own world view on it. Instead, we have to let Scriptures guide us when we read them rather than squeezing the Bible into our literary perspectives.

Additionally, we need to read the Bible because it tells the truth. Jesus said to God the Father, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).. A Muslim critic of the Bible once asked me how I could believe the Bible since it presents godly people in such a negative light. For example, Abraham lied about his wife and called her his sister (a half-truth); Moses is seen to have an explosive temper by killing the Egyptian taskmaster and breaking the tablets of the Ten Commandments; David’s adultery with Bath Sheba and his murder of Uriah is in the Bible for all to see. I replied that was why I believe the Bible is absolutely truthful. There is no coverup or religious propaganda. Instead it shows the heroes of the faith for who they really were; with all their good and their bad.

Another reason to read the Bible is that it reveals who we really are. That’s why James compares the Scriptures to a mirror (James 1:23) because it shows what we are really like. According to him, the problem isn’t with the mirror but rather with a person’s memory. If we don’t act on what we see in Scripture, we become like a person who looks at himself in the mirror, walks away, and immediately forgets what he saw (James 1:24-25). The best way to understand ourselves–our selfishness, our pride, our bad habits, our greed–is by looking at the mirror of Scripture. It will show us our great need for God to transform our lives.

Of course one of the most important reasons to read the Bible is that it is the greatest love story of all time. It reveals the Creator’s love for us and His desire to have a relationship with us. The most foundational verse of the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” The apostle Paul put it this way, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Messiah died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the story of the Bible from start to finish. The Hebrew Scriptures point forward to the Messiah and the forgiveness He would provide. The New Covenant Scriptures reveal that Messiah Jesus has come and that we must believe in Him. The whole Bible put together is the story of the Messiah Jesus who died for us and rose again. It is all about God’s sacrificial love for us.

Are there things in Scripture that are uncomfortable or hard to understand or challenging to my life? Absolutely. But as the Psalmist said of the Bible, it’s “more desirable than gold—
than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey, which comes from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). That’s not only why we should read it, but re-read it, and then read it again.

The Location of the Ancient Jewish Temples

Where were the Jewish Temples located in the city of Jerusalem? A new book and video contend it was in the more ancient part of the city, the one David captured from the Jebusites, sitting over the Gihon Spring. Is the traditional site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem just a long misunderstood mistake?

In the past generation, the Palestinian Authority has famously and wrongly denied the existence of any Temples in Jerusalem. But more recently, a pastor has revived the long discredited theory of pseudo-archaeologist Ernest Martin, that the Temple actually stood in the original city of Jerusalem, called the City of David, located on the Southern slope of Mount Moriah. The major contention of this theory is that there wasn’t sufficient water to wash away the blood of sacrifices at the location of what has always been understood to be the Temple Mount. So, in this theory, it’s argued that the traditional Temple Mount was actually the Antonia Fortress and the real location of the Temple was in the City of David, over the Gihon Spring.

This theory is so wrong that it defies logic. But the problem is that in this internet age, all one needs is a free video and some publicity, and suddenly, people begin wondering if the historic Temple Mount is the legitimate site of the ancient Jewish Temples or has there been some sort of historical error or hoax.

There are many strong academic works (for example, one by Leen Rittmeyer and another by Randall Price) that show just how wrong this theory is. However, here are just a few reasons explaining why the Temple stood exactly where it was always thought to stand, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Let’s start with the issue of water. To begin, no one would build a Temple over a major source of water for a city. Therefore, the Temple could not have been built over the Gihon Spring. But then, how did the ancient Jewish people bring water to the Temple Mount? Recently, archaeologist Eli Shukrun discovered an ancient reservoir just West of the Temple Mount in the Tyropean Valley which brought water to the Temple Mount via aqueduct. According to him, this reservoir “supplied water for daily use in the Temple.”

Another reason for accepting the traditional site of the Temple is that according to 2 Chronicles 3:1, the Temple location was on the Threshing Floor of Arunah. Ancient threshing floors were never put in actual cities but outside of them, so the wind could winnow wheat from chaff. Arunah’s threshing floor would not have been in the city of the Jebusites, that David conquered and made his capital. It makes perfect sense for the threshing floor to be in the elevated place just North of David’s city and for David to choose that site for the Temple and for Solomon to use it to build it.

Another issue that is frequently raised is that the Lord Jesus said of the Temple, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down” (Mark 13:2; cf. Matt 24:1-2; Lk 21:5-6). So it is asked, how can the Western Wall, the site where Jewish people have gathered to pray for two millennia, still be standing? This misunderstands what the Western Wall actually is. It was not the Western Wall of the Temple, but the Western Wall of the platform that Herod the Great built to support the massive Temple complex he designed. The words of the Lord Jesus literally came true when the Romans razed the Temple complex and destroyed every building in it. The Western Wall was not part of that.

Beyond these arguments, the size of the Temple provides another bit of evidence. The original Temple of Solomon measured 861’ by 861’ or about three football fields in size. That would have been far too large to be in the city of David—it just would not fit. If that’s the case, how could the much larger Temple Herod built (about ten football fields) fit in the City of David?

Still another reason to accept the traditional site of the Temple Mount is that archaeology supports it. There are the Southern Steps to the Temple Mount, found just where the ancient Jewish historian Josephus said they would be. There is the famous trumpeting stone, found on the street just below the SW corner of the Temple Platform. It was the stone that marked the site where the trumpet was blown to announce the Sabbath. The Romans threw it over the side when they destroyed the buildings on the Temple complex. Another inscription separating the court of the Gentiles was found outside the northeast corner of the Temple complex, far from the City of David . These and other discoveries from the Temple Mount sifting project have yielded clear evidence that the Temple Mount was indeed the Temple Mount.

Finally, one more reason to trust the traditional site of the Temple Mount has to do with Jewish memory. Since the destruction of the Temple, we Jewish people have gathered at the Western Wall of the Temple platform to pray. The location was chosen because it was just beneath the site where the Holy of Holies had been. So Jewish people for two millennia have identified the Temple Mount as the Temple Mount. It’s unreasonable to think that the Jewish people could have gotten the site wrong so near to the time of the Temple’s destruction.

Beware of internet conspiracy theories and sensational books designed to distract believers from the truth. Just remember, sometimes the facts of history are just that, facts

Rejoice! The King Has Come!

When the crowds gathered on Palm Sunday, shouting “Hosanna,” (Save Now), to the King, was it a spontaneous gathering? Maybe it was a flash mob? Or was it a fulfillment of Bible prophecy?

In Matthew’s account of Palm Sunday (Matt 21:1-11), it says that the Lord Jesus directed two of his disciple to get the donkey He would sit on, so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled. Then Matthew quotes Zechariah 9:9, which says: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

This is a prediction given 500 years before Palm Sunday, that was fulfilled that day. The people were told to “rejoice,” a word that means “twirling, or dancing” like at a wedding. Then they are told to “shout” a word used elsewhere of “loud shouting” (Mic 4:9) or “war cries” (Josh 4:9). In other words, this is not a simple command not to worry but be happy. Rather, the event is described as so vital, that Israel was told to “whoop it up” when the Messianic King arrived. Zechariah gave several reasons Israel was to rejoice at the presentation of the Messianic king, and we can still rejoice today, because the Messiah Jesus, our King, has come.

The first reason we can rejoice is because our King Jesus comes to us with fairness. It says He is “just, using” a word that means “righteous” or “fair.” It is crucial for rulers to be fair and only one King will be perfectly so. Too often, we think our lives are not fair, things aren’t going the way they ought. But ultimately, the Lord knows exactly what we need and what is best for us.

The second reason to rejoice is because the Lord Jesus comes to us with deliverance. That’s what the word “salvation” means. He delivers us from distress and also, more importantly, from our sin. In fact, we can rejoice that in addition to His fairness, the Lord Jesus shows grace and mercy. If we relied solely on His justice, who could stand? But we must celebrate that He comes to us as our Savior, our Deliverer, and our Forgiver.

Thirdly, we can rejoice that our King comes to us in humility. How different that is from the typical perspective of royalty—with their attitude of self importance and privilege? The humility of the Lord Jesus is evident in that though He was the eternally fully God, He didn’t consider that He needed to take advantage of it. Rather, He humbled Himself, emptying Himself, not of His deity, but of His privilege, becoming incarnate as a fully human being (Phil 2:6-9). The next time we think that God doesn’t understand our struggles or our sorrows, our problems or our pains, just remember that the Lord Jesus, the eternal God the Son, humbled Himself, taking on all the challenges of humanity.

Here’s a fourth reason we can rejoice—our King comes to us in peace. In the ancient world, when a king would go to war, he would ride a great horse, a powerful stallion. But when he would visit in peace, a king would arrive on a lowly donkey. When the Lord Jesus presented Himself as Israel’s king on that Palm Sunday, it was not as a conquering Lord, but as a kind and loving king. When He comes to us, He comes in peace. He wants to reconcile us to Himself.

The fifth reason to rejoice is that one day our King will return and establish His righteous rule over all the earth. That’s found in the next verse, Zechariah 9:10, which says He will put an end to war “And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.” In typical prophetic fashion, Zechariah telescopes this messianic prophecy. Verse 9 was fulfilled two thousand years ago with the first appearance of the Lord Jesus. Verse 10 will be fulfilled after a long gap. Then the Lord Jesus will return, not on a donkey but on “a white horse.” The “rider is called Faithful and True and He judges and makes war in righteousness” (Rev 19:11). Then the Lord Jesus will defeat all those who oppose His rule and establish a kingdom of peace and righteousness over all the earth.

Ancient Rabbis saw Zechariah 9:9-10 as depicting one of two possible scenarios at the coming the Messiah. If Israel was unworthy, then He would come on a donkey. If worthy, then on a white horse (Sanhedrin 98b). They didn’t understand that the same Messiah would make two appearances—first as our Redeemer King, on a donkey and second, as our Warrior King, on a white horse.

Here’s the good news friends—We can still rejoice because He has come to us with fairness, redemption, humility and peacefulness. But that isn’t all. One day, the Lord Jesus will return in power and establish a kingdom of peace. When we look back at Palm Sunday we can celebrate His first coming but also look forward to His return. And that is reason to rejoice.

The Bible: Can You Trust It?

Is the Bible God’s Word? Is it inspired? Is it inerrant? In recent weeks, I have been asked these questions repeatedly. People want to know what I believe about the Bible. But more important than what I believe, is what the Bible says about itself. So, today I thought I’d begin by explaining what the Scriptures say about their own inspiration.

The central verse about inspiration is 2 Timothy 3:16. It reads, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting for training in righteousness . . .” I want to focus on the first part of this sentence: “All Scripture is inspired by God” and highlight three crucial principles.

First, it’s the Scriptures themselves that are inspired, not the authors of the Bible. Although the authors of the Scriptures were said to be moved by God’s Spirit (2 Pet 1:21), Paul writes to Timothy that it is the Bible itself that is inspired, or literally, God-breathed. This single word indicates that the Bible comes from God, that God exhaled the Scriptures. Sometimes when we read the word “inspired” we get the idea of breathing into something. Rather, this verse is saying that God breathed out the Scriptures. It is saying that the very words that we read in the text of the Bible are  “breathed out” by God. They don’t become inspired when we read them and find something of value for our lives. The text of Scripture stands as God’s Word even if we don’t read it (but of course we should).

Second, it is the whole Bible that is inspired. The Scriptures are God’s Word in their entirety. Some people say that when Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16, he only was referring to the Old Testament and not the New. But in the previous letter to Timothy, in 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul said, “For the Scripture says: “You must not muzzle an ox that is threshing grain and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Paul is quoting two verses of Scripture here, one from Deuteronomy 25:4 in the Old Testament and the other from Luke 10:7 in the New, and he calls them both “Scripture.” It’s likely that the Gospel of Luke was only written about five years earlier than Paul’s quotation of it as Scripture. At about the same time, Peter, the acknowledged leader of the apostles, wrote in 2 Peter 3:16 that Paul wrote about salvation “in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.” Notice that Peter includes Paul’s letters in the Scriptures. Here’s the point: By the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16 and said, “All Scripture is inspired” he meant that the whole Bible is inspired, including both Testaments.

Third, since the whole Bible is inspired, it is completely true. Way back in the Torah, Moses wrote, “God is not a man who lies or a son of man who changes his mind. Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill” (Num 23:19)? Paul wrote similarly in Romans 3:4, “God must be true, even if everyone else is a liar.” And the Lord Jesus, God incarnate, said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He calls Himself the truth and He is the divine author of Scripture. Since God is true and He breathed out the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus said in His High Priestly prayer for His followers, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). This line of reasoning is where we get the teaching that the Scriptures are inerrant. The point is that the Bible is as true as God Himself and completely trustworthy.

When my kids were little I enjoyed playing “Jinga” with them. We’d build a tower, adding piece upon piece, until it fell down. My younger boy was a little mischievous and would sometimes pull out the bottom piece in order to make the whole tower of blocks collapse. That reminds me of the inspiration of Scripture. It is foundational to every other teaching. If we pull that one teaching out, then all the others will fall apart. It’s why our affirmation of the inspiration and truth of God’s Word is so vital. If we take it away, our life and faith are in jeopardy.

Antisemitism Unmasked

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced on Tuesday that Antisemitic incidents were up by 60% in 2017 compared to 2016.  This is the single largest annual increase of expressions of hatred of the Jewish people ever and the second largest number of occurrences recorded since the ADL began tracking this in the 1970s. The sharp rise was partially caused by the dramatic increase in Antisemitic episodes at college and university campuses. The incidents included physical assaults, attacks on Jewish institutions, and vandalism. For the first time in more than ten years, Antisemitic attacks were reported in all 50 states.

One especially grievous example took place in Charlottesville, VA in August, 2017, the evening before the so-called Unite the Right rally. It was Friday night, and the local Jewish community gathered to pray and welcome the Sabbath. There had been Neo-Nazi calls to burn their synagogue, so, as a precaution, they had already removed the Holy Scriptures, moving their Torah Scrolls to a safe location. Still they came to pray, but when they arrived they saw Nazis gathered across the street. Each of the Nazis was carrying a torch and a semi-automatic rifle. Swastika banners were being waved and this group of haters were shouting “Seig Heil,” “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan “Blood and Soil.” Some held signs saying “The Goyim Know,” a slur implying that Gentiles know the alleged insidious plots of the Jewish community, while others had signs that said, “The Jewish media is going down.”

Although the police did arrive, they didn’t disperse those menacing the synagogue. Rather, they arranged for the 250 praying Jewish people to skulk out of the back door, to avoid potential attacks by those who hate them. It was hard to believe that this was not in 1938 Nazi Germany but it happened in Charlottesville, VA, right here in the United States of America and only about 100 miles from Washington, DC.

So what should followers of Jesus, those who love His Word, think about this issue? Psalm 83 gives us some insight into Antisemitism.

The psalmist identifies hatred of the God of Israel as the true source of Antisemitism. In Psalm 83:2-3a it says, “See how Your enemies make an uproar; those who hate You have acted arrogantly. They devise schemes against your people.” It is because they hate the God who chose Israel (Deut 7:7-8) and called the Jewish people His “firstborn” (Exod 4:22) that they conspire against Israel. They resent that God chose to give gifts and call a particular people to represent Him and to accomplish His purposes. They are embittered that God has promised to love the Jewish people (Jer 31:3) and protect them forever (Jer 31:35-37).

Psalm 83:3b-5 also recognizes genocidal Antisemitism as an attempt to hurt the God who loves the Jewish people. “They conspire against Your treasured ones, They say, ‘Come, let us wipe them out as a nation so that Israel’s name will no longer be remembered.’ For they have conspired with one mind; they form an alliance against you.” The word that describes the Jewish people as “treasured ones” is literally “hidden ones.” It refers to something that is so precious that it is hidden away to keep it safe. Every attempt to destroy the Jewish people, from Pharoah, to Haman, to Hitler, to Hamas, is in reality an attempt to attack the Lord by hurting His loved ones. Just as in the book, The Count of Monte Cristo, where the villain attempts to cause the Count to suffer terribly, not by killing him but by shooting the woman he loves, so those who hate God want to hurt Him by attacking the Jewish people He loves.

The psalm also reveals the ultimate destiny of those who hate the Jewish people with its prayer in the last stanza: “Make them like tumbleweed, My God, like straw before the wind. As fire burns a forest, as a flame blazes through mountains, so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm . . . Let them perish in disgrace. May they know that You alone—whose name is the Lord—are the Most High over all the earth” (Psa 83: 13-18). This prayer calls for God to bring destruction on those who hate His people. It will be fulfilled at the last battle, when the nations gather to destroy Israel once more, and the Messiah Jesus, returns to deliver them.

This past Wednesday, Jewish people around the world observed the feast of Purim, the celebration of God’s deliverance of His people from the hands of Haman, as revealed in the book of Esther. Purim is a joyous and uproarious party, but sadly it only celebrates one occasion of deliverance. Many more Hamans have arisen in history and continue to rise. The Passover Haggadah says, “For more than once have they risen against us to destroy us; in every generation they rise against us and seek our destruction. But the Holy One, Blessed be He, always delivers us from their hands.” That is the promise God has made about Anti-Semitism. He will always arise to the aid of His people. Will we be like those Gentiles in the book of Esther, “who allied themselves with [the Jewish people]” (Est 9:27) to fight Antisemitism and celebrate its defeat? That’s what the Holy One, blessed be He, would want of us.

We Can’t Make Peace with Abortion

A woman I know said that although she was personally opposed to abortion, she believed followers of Messiah Jesus had to accept that abortion is permitted in the United States and we should no longer oppose it. Monday is the 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal across the United States, and that brought her words to mind. What does the Bible have to say about that?

Since Roe v. Wade was decided on January 22, 1973 there have been more than 60 million abortions in the United States. That’s 10 times the number of Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust. Yet there are some believers who are actually calling for their fellow followers of Christ to make their peace with abortion as the law of the land. Can we really do that?

Biblically, we have to recognize that God considers a preborn baby to be alive. It’s clear from Scripture that God is the designer of life in the womb. Psalm 139:13-16 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” These words remind us that God forms, sees, and ordains life in an unborn baby. Not only that, but God sets people apart for service to Him from the womb, as He did Jeremiah (Jer 1:5) and Paul (Gal 1:15). If they were not living persons while still in the womb, that would not be possible. God can even work spiritually in an unborn baby’s life. Luke 1:15 says that John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb.” Moreover, Luke goes on to say, that the Spirit prompted John to leap while in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when Mary, pregnant with the Messiah Jesus, visited (Luke 1:41). It’s plain from Scripture that an unborn child is a living human and precious to God Himself.

Someone might object that even if Scripture teaches that an unborn child is a living human, that’s a religious perspective that all people don’t share. How can we impose our biblical values on a society that does not share those beliefs? The answer is that abortion is not a religious issue but a moral one. We can’t very well say that I’m personally opposed to murder or rape because the Bible forbids it, but I don’t want to impose my biblical values on others. That’s because murder and rape are moral issues, not personal religious ones. And for all who say that abortion is a decision made between a woman and her doctor, don’t forget that there’s a third person involved, the unborn baby. Who will speak for the child? Who will protect the one who is unable to save herself?

Beyond this, Roe v. Wade has a shifting and shameful basis. The original ruling determined that abortion would be permitted based on viability out of the womb. So, if a premature baby could survive outside the womb, then it would be too late to abort that child. However, since 1973 viability has changed. Then it was at 28 weeks of gestation, now it is down to 20 weeks or even less. Medical science has proven how foolish the Supreme Court decision was.

We need to remember Proverbs 24:11-12, “Rescue those being taken off to death and save those stumbling toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we didn’t know about this,’ won’t He who weighs hearts consider it? Won’t He who protects your life know? Won’t He repay a person according to his work?” So, what should we do? Let’s use our rights as American citizens to change existing legislation. Also, pray for a change in the Supreme Court so that it will strike down Roe V. Wade. Remember, slavery was once legal in the United States but Christians used their influence to end slavery. We also need to support pro-life candidates and causes. Let’s be generous with those who provide alternatives to abortion, like agencies that provide adoption or care for young pregnant moms. Above all, we need to change the hearts of our friends and neighbors, so they can understand God’s heart for every baby made in His image. Let’s not give up the struggle or make our peace with abortion. Rather, let’s renew our commitment to saving lives, even those not yet born.

We Can’t Make Peace with Abortion

A woman I know said that although she was personally opposed to abortion, she believed followers of Messiah Jesus had to accept that abortion is permitted in the United States and we should no longer oppose it. Monday is the 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal across the United States, and that brought her words to mind. What does the Bible have to say about that?

Since Roe v. Wade was decided on January 22, 1973 there have been more than 60 million abortions in the United States. That’s 10 times the number of Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust. Yet there are some believers who are actually calling for their fellow followers of Christ to make their peace with abortion as the law of the land. Can we really do that?

Biblically, we have to recognize that God considers a preborn baby to be alive. It’s clear from Scripture that God is the designer of life in the womb. Psalm 139:13-16 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” These words remind us that God forms, sees, and ordains life in an unborn baby. Not only that, but God sets people apart for service to Him from the womb, as He did Jeremiah (Jer 1:5) and Paul (Gal 1:15). If they were not living persons while still in the womb, that would not be possible. God can even work spiritually in an unborn baby’s life. Luke 1:15 says that John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother’s womb.” Moreover, Luke goes on to say, that the Spirit prompted John to leap while in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when Mary, pregnant with the Messiah Jesus, visited (Luke 1:41). It’s plain from Scripture that an unborn child is a living human and precious to God Himself.

Someone might object that even if Scripture teaches that an unborn child is a living human, that’s a religious perspective that all people don’t share. How can we impose our biblical values on a society that does not share those beliefs? The answer is that abortion is not a religious issue but a moral one. We can’t very well say that I’m personally opposed to murder or rape because the Bible forbids it, but I don’t want to impose my biblical values on others. That’s because murder and rape are moral issues, not personal religious ones. And for all who say that abortion is a decision made between a woman and her doctor, don’t forget that there’s a third person involved, the unborn baby. Who will speak for the child? Who will protect the one who is unable to save herself?

Beyond this, Roe v. Wade has a shifting and shameful basis. The original ruling determined that abortion would be permitted based on viability out of the womb. So, if a premature baby could survive outside the womb, then it would be too late to abort that child. However, since 1973 viability has changed. Then it was at 28 weeks of gestation, now it is down to 20 weeks or even less. Medical science has proven how foolish the Supreme Court decision was.

We need to remember Proverbs 24:11-12, “Rescue those being taken off to death and save those stumbling toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we didn’t know about this,’ won’t He who weighs hearts consider it? Won’t He who protects your life know? Won’t He repay a person according to his work?” So, what should we do? Let’s use our rights as American citizens to change existing legislation. Also, pray for a change in the Supreme Court so that it will strike down Roe V. Wade. Remember, slavery was once legal in the United States but Christians used their influence to end slavery. We also need to support pro-life candidates and causes. Let’s be generous with those who provide alternatives to abortion, like agencies that provide adoption or care for young pregnant moms. Above all, we need to change the hearts of our friends and neighbors, so they can understand God’s heart for every baby made in His image. Let’s not give up the struggle or make our peace with abortion. Rather, let’s renew our commitment to saving lives, even those not yet born.

Why Read the Bible in 2018

I once heard that every person is listening to the same radio station: WIIFM. That’s right, WIIFM. Those letters represent five words, What’s in it for me? In every situation when we’re called upon to act differently, to give generously, to risk dangerously, whatever, we want to know, what is the benefit to me? One year I was giving my annual talk about needing to read the Bible in the upcoming year and a woman told me she didn’t like reading the Bible. She loved the Lord but just didn’t like to read. She said, “Why should I read the Bible myself? I go to a weekly Bible Study and I go to worship every week and hear a sermon. I don’t even have 15 minutes a day to read the Bible.” In other words, she was asking, what’s in it for me. This set me on a search to answer her question. So I read through the longest Psalm in the Bible, Psalm 119. It’s a song written about the Scriptures. And as I read it, I found seven personal benefits of reading the Bible. Here they are and hopefully they can convince us all to take a few minutes a day to read the Scriptures.

First, reading the Bible provides moral protection. Psalm 119:9-11 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.” Reading the Bible gives us an understanding of right from wrong in a relativistic age. It changes the way we think and reminds us to follow God’s standards, not our own.

Second, reading the Bible gives genuine freedom. Psalm 119:45 says, “I will walk freely in an open place because I seek Your precepts.” This verse literally says, “I will walk in a wide open place.” How different than what we usually think–that the Bible restricts and limits us. This verse is saying that the Scriptures guide us to what is best for us, and we have liberty to go there. Real freedom is not doing anything I want but doing what is best. I don’t want a fire to have the freedom to rage across my living room. I much prefer it to have the freedom to burn in the fireplace.

Third, reading the Bible offers new life. Psalm 119:93 declares, “I will never forget Your precepts, for You have given me life through them.” The Word of God invigorates us and sustains us. Without it, we shrivel up. The Bible is our spiritual nutrition. A healthy serving of the Scriptures on a daily basis transforms us so we can walk in newness of life.

Fourth, reading the Bible bestows supernatural wisdom. This is what Psalm 119:98-100 says: “Your command makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is always with me. I have more insight than all my teachers because Your decrees are my meditation. I understand more than the elders because I obey Your precepts.” The first part of this verse could be translated, “Your commandments give me skill for living.” The message of the Bible is not about a bunch of begats and “thou shalt nots.” God’s word is about practical every day successful living based on God’s perspective, not ours. It’s amazing how skillful we can become in marriage, parenting, business, friendship, family life, you name it, by living according to God’s wisdom.

Fifth, reading the Bible provides divine direction. A great reminder from Psalm 119:105 is “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” I’m convinced that much of the will of God is found in the Word of God. As we wonder what our steps should be in a dark world, the Word of God will guide us.

Sixth, reading the Bible presents absolute truth. We live in an age when people actually believe that truth is relative and that there is no objective reality. Or that truth can be individualized, so that your truth is different from my truth. But the Bible says, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and all Your righteous judgments endure forever” (Psalm 119:160). In this relativistic, equivocating world, we can rely on the absolute truth of God’s Word.

Seventh, reading the Bible gives us emotional security. Psalm 119:165 says, “Abundant peace belongs to those who love Your instruction; nothing makes them stumble.” Jesus taught that in this world we’ll have tribulation and I have experienced that truth. Nevertheless, I’ve also found that the way to find peace in a crisis, whether it’s health problems, family difficulties, financial stress, challenges at work or anything, is from reading the words of Scripture.

Since there’s so much in it for us, I suggest that we all make sure to have an up to date, easy to understand translation of the Bible. Then we need to take just 10-15 minutes a day reading God’s Word. If you’d like a reading plan to follow, I’ve linked one here. And remember what D.L. Moody said, “God didn’t give us His Word to inform us, but to transform us.” Let’s make 2018 the most transformative year yet.