I have loved you, says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord. Yet I have loved Jacob but I have hated Esau; I have made his hill country a desolation and his heritage a desert for jackals. (Malachi 1:2-3) One of the most puzzling statements in the Bible is this one where God said that he loved Jacob, but hated his brother Esau. Would God really do such a thing—love one man and hate another? My attempts to understand this very disconcerting comment threw up answers to not one,…
I find it difficult to condemn Judas. It would mean condemning all of us; we are so much like him. Judas followed Jesus like the other apostles did. I imagine he did the best he could to live up to the teachings of his master, going as far as his strength and his insight could take him. But at the end, he fell ruefully short and betrayed Jesus, selling him for thirty pieces of silver. Judas wasn't the only apostle to betray Jesus. Peter did so too. Soon after Jesus's arrest, he witnessed the rough treatment that Jesus received at…
Most casual readers of the Bible believe that the God of the Old Testament was a stern, unmerciful God subject to outbursts of great wrath which he ruthlessly poured upon the people. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Old Testament is replete with stories of God's mercy and how he forgave men their errant ways time and again, hoping that somewhere along the line they would have a change of heart and repent for their sins. There is perhaps no story more representative of this than the story about the Egyptian Pharaoh who was asked by Moses…
I love the Old Testament. The stories are wonderful, and the reason I enjoy them so much is because I don't see history being reported in them; I see the present. I don't see them as stories about the Israelites or the Egyptians or the Babylonians; I see them as being stories about us. I see in them our obstinacy. I see our disobedience. I see our rebellion. And, as the story that follows will show, I see our doubt. Read it carefully. It's about you. For many years, under the powerful protection of Joseph, the Israelites enjoyed great prosperity…
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.He makes me lie down in green pastures;he leads me beside still waters;he restores my soul.He leads me in right pathsfor his name’s sake.Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I fear no evil;for you are with me;your rod and your staff—they comfort me.You prepare a table before mein the presence of my enemies;you anoint my head with oil;my cup overflows.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow meall the days of my life,and I shall dwell in the house of the Lordmy whole life long. One of the things I love about Scripture…
David was the second king of Israel, following Saul to the throne. As a young lad, he became beloved of the people when he defeated the giant Goliath and put the entire Philistine army to flight. After he became king, he continued to impress people with varied exploits and might very well have gone down as the greatest ruler in history were it not for a major character flaw: he was a womanizer! He had numerous wives and concubines, but they only seemed to whet his lustful appetite rather than satiate it. One day in spring, as David walked around…
Alexander the Great was a mighty Grecian warrior who conquered most of the world as it was known at his time. After Alexander's death at the rather young age of 30, his vast empire was parcelled out among his generals. Many of them and their successors were tolerant of the Israelites, allowing them to practice their religion, but there were a few who tried to impose their own pagan beliefs on the people. One of them was King Antiochus IV of Syria. When Antiochus ascended the throne in 175 BC, his empire was threatened by internal and external forces. He…
There once lived a very beautiful woman who made her living by prostituting herself. Though she was tyrannized by a harsh and cruel pimp and often sought to break free from the bondage that he held her in, there was a part of her that quite enjoyed the vulgar depravity of her life. One day, as fate would have it, a kind man fell in love with her, and the woman, suitably enamored herself, thought that here was an opportunity to break away and lead a new life. There was one little problem, however: her pimp. Her freedom would first…
Over the past three years I have come across many people in ministry who appear to have lost their way completely (and going by the actions of some of them, their minds too!). I found myself wondering how men who were apparently so blessed when they began working for God could lose the special anointing they seemed to have and end up worse than "ordinary" people. Scripture has answers to all questions, and the first book of the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 8-31) provided many. These are answers that we can all learn from, not just those of us in…
Soon after my conversion [see The Return of the Prodigal] I looked for role models and guides that I could follow, but was unable to find any that I found satisfactory. I have never been the sort to compromise on standards and I discovered that most leaders - even highly "anointed" ones - fell far short of my expectations. I was to later decide my high expectations of leaders was rather unchristian because it involved passing judgment on them, but at that point in time it is perhaps just as well that I was looking for somebody perfect, because it…
I was recently asked by a dear friend if I ever had any feelings of animosity toward anyone anymore, the questioner seeming to presume that the rather disciplined spiritual life I seemed to lead placed me beyond all negative emotion. It is an understandable presumption, because those who walk with God carry about them a cloak of tranquility that suggests the absence of any conflict in their lives. It is, however, an erroneous presumption. I do have feelings of animosity. I also experience feelings of anger and hatred and lust and the entire gamut of emotions common to man. I…
One of the most dangerous myths that we have bought into - and one that is probably the most debilitating to our growth as Christians - is the myth that we, who have been baptized in Christ, remain constrained to sin. Not only is this view far from correct, it is also heretical, because it implies that Jesus's death and subsequent resurrection was not enough to save us, and Christian salvation is consequently little more than a fairy tale. To fully understand why we are not constrained to sin, however, we need to take a couple of journeys. Let us…
People believe that God has changed. They believe that from the stern, wrathful God that he was in the Old Testament, he has somehow transformed himself into a loving and merciful God in the New; immensely patient with his errant children, waiting with open arms to embrace them, and ready to forgive them anything they might do. This myth, like several other myths we have bought into, is false, and in subscribing to it, we endanger our very salvation. Yes, God is loving and merciful; immensely so. He loves us more than we can possibly imagine. He is also merciful…
The devil's greatest feat has been making most of the world believe that he doesn't exist. His second greatest feat has been making the rest of us terrified of him. I bought into both myths. I didn't believe he was real for close to twenty five years. And I got very scared of him — for all of a week. There was no real reason for it, but it helped me learn a few valuable lessons. I share them with you here. Early last year a lay preacher of some repute visited me. Christianity was still very new to me…
King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled the New Babylonian empire, was the most powerful monarch of his dynasty. In 586 B.C. his army invaded Judah. They conquered the land, devastated Jerusalem, looted and burned the original temple that had been built by Solomon, and took several people into captivity. Among the prisoners was a young teenage boy whose name was Daniel. Soon after Daniel had arrived in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar instructed his ministers to select handsome, healthy and intelligent young men from among the captives and bring them to the palace in order to teach them Babylonian culture and traditions, so that they…