PSALM 34

“THIS POOR MAN CRIED AND THE LORD HEARD HIM”

Please read all verses of Psalm 34, then consider these reflections.

The words of this Psalm were appropriate for any number of high-risk encounters David experienced as he was challenged and threatened by ambitious men who wanted to put him to death and to “grab the power” in Israel. These words could apply to many experiences of our own, some of which are entirely out of our control. At times our own well-being is at stake and our hearts are filled with fear of dangers that surround us and bad things that may be anticipated in the future. Psalm 34 is a powerful encouragement in our international pandemic of COVID-19.

The Psalm is divided into three parts:

(1) verses 1-3 is an invitation to praise God –– the One worthy of being continually magnified by all the people, at all times, under all circumstances. “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!”

(2) verses 4-10, the power of prayer in difficult times. My own father, Thomas Hendrix Tarbet, preached the gospel over 60 years in mission-fields of the United States and Australia. His pulpits were from the west coast to the east coast and included “Bible-belt” congregations in the southwest as well. Dad was not often acknowledged for his accomplishments. He went through many trials. He had very little money, and left almost nothing of this world’s goods to his family. Yet, he was one of the finest Bible teachers I ever knew. He treasured the book of Psalms. On one occasion, he told me of some of his struggles and said, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and delivered him out of all his troubles.” This part of Psalm 34 will always have a special place in my heart. These words can be written on our hearts: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (verse 8)

(3) verses 11-22, a life focused on God’s providence will help His people live in every generation. Here are practical applications for a person who is learning how to walk “in the fear of the Lord,” (verse 9) and “desires life and loves many days, that he may see good” (verse 12).

From this Psalm one learns that to have a good life he must “seek” the Lord (verse 4), “look to Him” (verse 5), cry out to Him (verse 6), “taste and see that the Lord is good”, “take refuge” in Him (verse 8), “keep the tongue from evil,” “do good”, “seek peace and pursue it” (verses 12-14). Those who set their hearts on “fearing” the Lord (verse 7) with godly respect and awe, walking “humbly(verse 2) before Him, depending upon Him to provide daily necessities are not promised exemption from sicknesses, viruses, poverty, enemies and a multitude of disappointments. On the other hand, they will receive what is needed to endure every trial, to rejoice in the “radiant” light of God’s face (verse 6), and “lack no good thing” (verse 10). In the words of John T. Willis, “By no means is a righteous man free from affliction, but suffering cannot touch him at the depth of his existence.” Though the righteous may have many “afflictions” Scripture promises that “the Lord delivers him out of them all” (verse 19). A Bible commentator wrote that Psalm 34 was “sung by the church of Jerusalem at the time of Communion,” and “was on the lips of martyrs as they faced the arena.”

Here is the “bottom-line” promise: “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are toward their prayer…The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned” (verse 18, 22).

NOTE: The heading-introductions to various Psalms were added after the Psalms were written and are not inspired by God. It may or may not be accurate to attribute Psalm 34 to the time when king David, fleeing from king Saul, came to the pagan king Achish, king of Gath, and pretended to be insane in order to protect his own life (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

–– David Tarbet, Outreach Minister
Church of Christ, New Milford, Connecticut
davidtarbet.blog
(Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version.)

Posted in 1 Peter 3:10-12, 1 Samuel 21:10-15, English Standard Version, Eyes of the Lord, Magnify the Lord, Poor man, Prayer, Providence, Psalm 34, Psalm 34:6 | 2 Comments

PSALM 28

A DESPERATE MAN WHO PRAISED GOD FOR DELIVERANCE

Read all 9 verses of Psalm 28 then consider these reflections.

The trials that came upon King David were not common place or trivial. David realized he was in the midst of life or death experiences. In desperation he cried out to the Lord, asking that He not turn a deaf ear to his trials. Things were so serious that David knew if the Lord did not help him he was doomed to die, to go “down to the pit.” Some have suggested he was facing the possibility of becoming an invalid, or confronting strong nations in war, or pestilence or sickness. It is sufficient for us to know that even an anointed king who knew the Lord was not exempt from very serious dangers. Neither are we.

Like his son, Solomon, David prayed to the Lord facing Jerusalem’s temple and with hands uplifted (verse 2). In 1 Kings 8:37-40 Solomon asked the Lord to hear the prayers of His people when they were in serious trouble (famine, pestilence, blight, mildew, locust, caterpillar or sickness) knowing the affliction of each person’s heart (“for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind”). He asked God to “hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways.” The only person who can pray such a prayer is one who thinks about the Lord’s works and determines to live a godly life. Hypocrites “who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts” need not bother asking for God’s deliverance from their troubles (verses 3-5). As the blind man whom Jesus healed put it: “God does not listen to sinners” ––that is, deliberate, willful, persistent and unrepentant sinners (John 9:31). David, like other god-fearing people, was far from perfect, but he loved the Lord, confessed his sins and sincerely set his heart to please God. God still listens to sinners like David, even now. Even in personal hard-times. Even when deadly diseases may put us in the hospital or require that we “shelter-in-place”.

With full confidence that the Lord would respond to his desperate cries, David broke forth in praise for God’s response! (verses 6-7). He declared “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.” The Amplified Bible explains what it means to truly “trust” in God: “My heart trusts, relies on and confidently leans on Him.”

Psalm 28 ends with acknowledgment of God’s loving providence even in the times of peril. He is the “strength of His people (His covenant people) and the saving refuge of his anointed” (the king). In words expressing passionate requests to the only One who has the ability to help both David and the nation, he called upon God to “be their shepherd and carry them forever” (verses 8-9). We are reminded of the greatness of God in Isaiah 40:11––”He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” With such a great God on our side, who can be against us?

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PSALM 27

Read Psalm 27 and consider these reflections.

We live in a time of crisis effecting our physical and mental health and financial loss. This is the “day of trouble!” As the coronavirus continues its march through New York, California, Louisanna and other great states, Christians need to focus each day on God’s power and God’s provisions, clearly expressed in Psalm 27.

The psalm opens our spiritual eyes to the light of salvation and reminds us that the Lord is our “stronghold.” Under the normal circumstances the victory goes to those who have mustered the biggest army, who “have the most toys,” and who intimidate godly people with threats that terrorize us. The psalmist assures us that there is no place for “fear” where the Lord’s mighty power shines upon us. Even if an army were to surround us we need to keep focused on our confident assurance that God is in charge of our lives and that we do not stand alone (verses 1-3).

Keeping the Lord first in our hearts will cause us to seek God, to make our relationship with Him the number one priority of life. In prayer we ask Him to enable us to grow spiritually here on earth and ultimately to enjoy the “house of the Lord” in heaven. Life’s most important goal is to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” Diseases and disasters have not disappeared, but we continue to trust the Lord to “lift us high upon a rock” and to “conceal us under the cover of His tent” (verse 5). This very day it is most appropriate to “sing and make melody to the Lord.” (verses 4- 6).

The blessed “tie that binds” us to the Almighty God will not be broken, even though we are sinners and people who mean much to us in this life (like parents and children) disappoint us, hurt us and let us down. The “tie” that binds us to other believers and to God Himself is very strong (verse 7-10). In some nations religious persecution is a daily experience, and the Lord will “take us in” when others disown us, discourage us or to try to destroy our faith.

Churches of Christ often have a place on their websites to explain “What We Believe”. These are things that matter; these are things that make us unique in the community; these are things we want to share with unbelievers as well as those of strongest faith. Here, the psalmist give us his “Statement of Faith” so to speak, when he announces: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Whatever may come our way today, whatever the disappointments we may go through, let all who “wait for the Lord” be strong and take courage• He praised God for all the good things He already “stored up” for him personally — both physically and spiritually (verse 19). David knew the Lord, and only the Lord, would bring him through national crisis and his own rough days.

(Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version.)

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PSALM 31

WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBORS SAY?

Please read Psalm 31 and consider the following reflections:

Most people make good neighbors, but some neighbors are difficult to live with.  King David had neighbors who were the difficult kind. They treated David more like an enemy than friend. In Psalm 31 he wrote:  “I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances” (verse 11). His neighbors  pointed out David’s sins and spread the word around the neighborhood that David was being punished by God for his sinful behavior. It’s not that the ancient king disagreed with  them about the reason he was having to endure sickness ––  “my strength fails because of my iniquity” (verse 10). However, David’s neighbors were just down-right mean. When they met him on the street they crossed over to the other side ––“those who see me in the street flee from me” (verse 11). They treated him like a “broken vessel,” once used to hold wine or water, now useless (verse  12). Their intentions were to ruin his reputation, assassinate his character. Whispering about him behind his back, they schemed for a way to put him to death ––”I hear the whispering of many ––they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life” (verse 13).    He did not live by the naive philosophy that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”  He felt the pain of untruthful hostile neighbors. David was truly a victim of the “strife of tongues,” and he was hurting (verse 20).

Who is your difficult “neighbor”?  It may be a bully at school, a fellow-worker, an ex-spouse, the person next door, even a member of your own family. 

When life is miserable and the future is not bright, what does a godly person do?  David called upon God to rescue him. “In your righteousness deliver me…rescue me speedily…be a rock of refuge for me…take me out of the net they have hidden  for me!” (verse 1-4). He committed himself to God for safekeeping. Our Lord Jesus in His darkest hour, suffering on the cross for us, enduring the pains of nails and the loud verbal  insults of those who passed by, recalled David’s desperate cry and repeated it:  “Into your hand I commit my spirit” (verse 5 and Luke 23:46).

Psalm 31 ends with an encouragement to “wait for the Lord” (verse 24). Whatever the illness, virus or disease, whatever unjust things are said about us, whatever physical and emotional perils we go through, whatever loss of employment and financial income, we need to “wait for the Lord.” On one occasion (1 Samuel 23:11-13), a whole city turned against king David and in near panic he thought he had been “cut off” from God (verse 21-22)! But he waited for the Lord. Notice what he did as he “waited”: 

• He prayed earnestly about the situation (verse 2)

He rested his cause on God’s grace, not his own innocence (verse 3)

He re-committed his life to the Lord (verse 5)

He was thankful that God understood what he was going through, even if others didn’t (verse 7)

• He confessed his sins to God (verse 10)

He remembered that his “times” were in “God’s hands”  –– that the loving and eternal and almighty God was ultimately in charge of his life (verse 15)

He asked the Lord to make His face shine on him (verse 16 and Numbers 6:24-26)

he prayed for the defeat of wrongful and hurtful things that had been committed against him (verses 17-18). NOTE: “To pray for the overthrow or the just punishment of the wicked is not wicked. It is generally a vigorous desire that the iniquity of evil men might be brought to an end. Old Testament saints would have far preferred to see the conversion of these their enemies (cf. the close of Psalm 2); but since in most cases this was out of the question they prayed earnestly that God would put an end to their ungodly career and so to the harm that they sought to bring upon the godly.” (H.C. Leopold, Exposition on the Psalms).

He praised  God for all the good things He already “stored up” for him personally — both physically and spiritually (verse 19).   David knew the Lord, and only the Lord,  would bring him through national crisis and his own rough days.

How, then, does this psalm encourage us as we go about our daily living in an imperfect world filled with imperfect neighbors some of whom say and do imperfect things?  “Love the Lord, … be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” (verse 23-24). Be assured that “Those who wait upon the Lord will never be put to shame” (Isaiah 49:23).

Posted in 1 Samuel 23:11=13, Contentment, I Commit My Spirit, King David, King David's Prayer, Kuke 23:46, Luke 23:46, Neighbors, Painful Words, Psalm 31, wait for the Lord | 1 Comment

THE LORD’S PRAYER (John 17) OUR DIVINE MISSION: TO GLORIFY GOD

A Fresh Look at the Lord’s Prayer

(John Chapter 17)

While it is common to speak of the ‘model prayer’ of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 as the “Lord’s Prayer,” the prayer of Christ given in John chapter 17 is the one in which Jesus pours His own heart out to His heavenly Father. For this reason, it is correct to speak of it as truly “The Lord’s Prayer.” No other recorded prayer of Jesus recorded in scripture shows us the depth of Jesus’ commitment to glorify God by His life and His death. No other recorded prayer of Jesus teaches us what it means to glorify God by the way we live and the way we die. In this prayer Jesus says: “I have glorified you on earth” (John 17:4)*. He asks God to “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). God is “glorified” in those who believe in Him (John 17:10). In this prayer we discover the divine mission of life is to glorify God.

Jesus praying on his knees

WORTH PRAYING ABOUT.  Jesus set the example for us by asking that God be “glorified” in His life.  There are no steps of spiritual growth more important than to ask the Lord to bring glory to Himself by the way we live. If Jesus made His relationship with the Father the ultimate focus of prayer, how much more should we!  We need to begin very day asking the Lord to direct us in paths that bring glory to Him.

ACCOMPLISH THE LORD’S WORK BY THE WAY YOU LIVE. Jesus said: “I glorified you on earth having accomplished the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).  The decision to glorify God is to be active, to accomplish something that really matters. Jesus looked for opportunities to talk with others about God’s plans for their lives — He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). He cared about people and responded to their needs.  While you and I cannot perform the miracles Jesus performed in healing the sick and raising the dead, there are many ways we can accomplish the Lord’s work by talking with others about God’s plans for their lives, lifting up those discouraged by loses and defeats, sharing what we have with those who are hungry, lonely, persecuted for righteousness sake or confused by the world’s temptations. These are not the times for Christians to withdraw from involvement in the lives of others. These are the times for Christians to speak up, to remind people of what the Lord has done for them, to let friends and neighbors (even enemies) see what being a Christian is all about. In the words of the Isaiah Baltzell: “I want to be a worker for the Lord, I want to love and trust His holy word; I want to sing and pray and be busy every day in the vineyard of the Lord.”

MAKE THE NAME OF GOD KNOWN AMONG THE PEOPLE.  Let these words of Jesus become your prayer:  “I have manifested your name to the people….” (John 17:5). He refers not to a covenant “name” of God (Jehovah) but to the person and character of God Himself.  In the words of John, “No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known” (John 1:18). Only by “knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent,” can we receive eternal life” (John 17:3). We are surrounded by people who do not know Him personally in their hearts!  The key to getting to know the Lord is to hear the words of God.  Jesus said, “I have given them your word” (John 17:14). God’s word is “truth,” and by His word we are “sanctified” (John 17:17). The “Great Commission” given in Matthew 28:19-20 (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”) is reflected in Jesus’ prayer in John 17:18 — “I have sent them into the world.”  Our “Great Commission” is not to tell people to meditate on nature nor to practice personal introspection. Our message is not to find the church of our choice, a preacher whose sermons make us “feel good” or a musical group that entertains us in worship.  There is a rightful time and place for giving our “testimony” about what God has done for us. However, telling sinners our “religious experiences” is no substitute for teaching them the very words of God. The testimony that matters most is the testimony God has given about Himself –– testimony contained in the Scriptures. In order to share the word with others we must be serious students of the Bible ourselves, we must “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly” (Colossians 3:16).  This is how people learn about the “name” of God. This is the message Jesus has sent us into the world to proclaim. Our divine mission is to teach the word of God (the Bible).

FIGHT YOUR SPIRITUAL BATTLES WITH DIVINE WEAPONS.  Jesus believed Satan was real and the battle between good and evil a serious battle with eternal consequences. Christians are vulnerable to the deceptions and designs of the evil one.  As long as He was on earth, Jesus protected His apostles from Satan’s attacks. He “kept” them in God’s name and “guarded” them (John 17:12). But now that He was leaving this world to return to His Father in heaven, He was concerned about them.  The whole scheme of redemption rested on the shoulders of those He had chosen to be His apostles in establishing His church and proclaiming the truth of His gospel.  If the apostles failed in their mission there was no “plan B.” He prayed:  “Holy Father keep them in your name” (John 17:11). He said: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Only by remembering what He had taught them, holding firmly to the words of God and allowing the truth to “sanctify” them would they overcome victoriously. These are still the keys to overcoming the evil one in the spiritual battles God’s children face. The victory that “overcomes the world” will always be our “faith” (1 John 5:4), and the foundation of faith is hearing the “word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

PROMOTE THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH. Four times in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus prayed that His apostles and disciples would be “one”  (John 17:11, 21, 22, 23). Unfortunately, some have made the primary application of this “oneness” what the apostles and subsequent church leaders teach as if our Lord’s greatest concern was that Christian leaders not promote false doctrines or man-made traditions. However, the “oneness” of Christ’s disciples is not only defined by what they believe and teach. There are other challenges which threaten to undo the unity of the church, especially unloving attitudes,  internal contentions and clashes between brothers and sisters. If members of His church do not get along with one another, if there is constant grumbling and bickering, gossip and backbiting, conflicting teachings and factions, pride, selfish ambition, jealousy and envy the future of the church will look bleak indeed. But love will keep the disciples together. Our Lord’s disciples need to resist the temptation to become discouraged and disheartened by the rough times that lie ahead. They need to recognize the things that threaten to divide them. They need to be bound together in oneness, to stick together, to support one another, to keep Satan from gaining advantage over them. Christians of every generation need to be warned about being “outwitted” by Satan, for “we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11). The evil one is constantly on the prowl seeking to devour those whose commitments are fickle, whose knowledge of the truth is shallow, and whose jealous and selfish ambitions create disorder and every vile practice (James 3:16). Perhaps more than ever before, the conversion of the unbelieving world depends on seeing the church of Christ united in love and teaching.  Jesus prayed that His disciples be “perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you love me” (John 17:23).  There are few stumbling blocks facing unbelievers more significant than animosity, strife, thirsts for power, selfish ambition, discrimination and in-fighting among believers.  That is why Jesus prayed: “I have made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

ANTICIPATE LIFE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD.  Listen to these words of hope found in the Lord’s Prayer:  “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:4). And again, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me may be with me where I am to see my glory that you have given me” (John 17:24). There is a reward for faithful service. No matter how difficult it may be from time to time to remain faithful to Christ, no matter the struggles and sacrifices, when our eyes are set firmly on spending eternity in “the presence” of God it renews our courage and fortifies our resolve. In the words of the hymn writer, “What rejoicing in His presence, when have banished grief and pain; when the crooked ways are straightened, and the dark things shall be plain! Face to face shall I behold Him, far beyond the starry sky, face to face in all His glory I shall see Him by and by.”

May these fresh thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer strengthen all of us so we will fulfill our divine mission to glorify our heavenly Father. 

–– David Tarbet

dtarbet@swbell.net

Church of Christ

New Milford, Connecticut

2019

Scripture quotations from English Standard Version

Posted in Brotherly Love, Church of Christ, Divine Mission, Divine Weapons, Glorify God, Jesus, John 17, Lord's Prayer, Name of God, Oneness, Presence of God, Spiritual Battles, The Lord's Prayer, Unity of the Church | 1 Comment

GOD’S SPECIFIC COMMANDS AND DIVINE SILENCE

 

When a pharmacist receives a “script” from the doctor he knows he cannot change the medicine the doctor specifically prescribed. Whether or not the pharmacist thinks he can improve upon the doctor’s prescription, or thinks changing the prescription would make the patient feel better, the fact remains that the pharmacist is obligated to fill the prescription exactly as the doctor gave it. The silence of the doctor does not permit the pharmacist to add to or take away from the prescription.

In a similar way, when God expresses His desires by giving specific instructions, He expects His people to do exactly as He commanded. Human beings are not to add to, subtract from or change what He has specifically instructed. Neither is it is necessary for God to list all the changes people may invent, or to forbid them by stating: “You must not do this or that!” If the scripture contained every single thing God did not approve it would be such a large book we would be unable to carry it! The very nature of specific instructions means that whatever is not authorized by Scripture is not permitted. This is the significance of specific instructions.

According to Leviticus 10:1-2 two priests were put to death because they offered fire on their censers which was “not authorized.” God had authorized the divine source for holy fire on the altar, but when these priests obtained fire from another source God destroyed them. God did not prohibit priests to get fire from another source, but when they offered “unauthorized fire” they displeased God. We should learn from this Biblical example that when God specifies what He wants, all changes, additions and subtractions are forbidden by His silence.

In 1 Chronicles 13:7-10, the Israelites put the Ark of the Covenant on a “new cart” to transport it into Jerusalem. God had not forbidden a “new cart,” but it was a change in what He had specifically commanded. The project ended in disaster! King David said: “It was because the Levities, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of Him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” Only when the Levites carried the Ark of the Covenant with poles resting on their shoulders as God commanded did the mission meet with God’s blessing and success.

Everything taught and practiced in God’s name must be authorized by scripture. Today Christians need to ask if the things practiced in religion truly please God. Are we honoring His specific instructions? Since He has specified immersion as the mode of baptism, grape juice and unleavened bread as the food of communion, elders in each congregation as the form of church government, singing as the music of worship and Jesus as the mediator in prayer, by what authority does anyone change, add to or subtract from what God has authorized? If one of God’s specific instructions can be changed, they can all be changed! God’s silence prohibits all innovations and changes; it does not permit us to ignore His directions.

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HE LOVED THE INDIANS OF NEW ENGLAND

JOHN ELIOT TRANSLATOR OF THE 'INDIAN BIBLE,' THE FIRST BIBLE PRINTED IN THE NEW WORLD

JOHN ELIOT, PURITAN MINISTER EMIGRATED TO THE NEW WORLD IN SEARCH OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 1631.

Did you know the first Bible printed in America was not printed in the English language? It was printed in the Algonquin (native American Indian) language in 1663 by John Eliot, a Puritan minister who came to America from England. Eliot had a passion for reaching native Indians with the gospel. He understood three fundamental principles: it makes a difference who one worships (whether things created such as spirits of ancestors and idols or the one true Creator); it makes a difference how one worships; and it makes a difference how one lives. Eliot taught the Indians that the true God commands all men everywhere to repent and become holy as He is holy.

MONUMENT DEPICTING HIS PREACHING TO THE INDIANS OF NEW ENGLAND

MONUMENT DEPICTING HIS PREACHING TO THE INDIANS OF NEW ENGLAND

However, the Bible was not available to the Indians in New England because they had no written language; no words had ever been written down. Eliot had to create an Algonquin alphabet! Listening carefully to the language spoken, he created an Algonquin alphabet composed of English characters (A, B, C, D, E etc.) put together phonetically. During this 14-year project he wrote in his diary: “Visited the Indians for the past four days. The weather was cold and snowy. Was wet for the entire time. But that is a small price to pay for the privilege of taking the Gospel to them.”

THE 'INDIAN BIBLE' IN THE ALGONGUIN LANGUAGE 1661

THE FIRST PRINTED BIBLE IN AMERICA, THE ‘INDIAN BIBLE’ IN THE ALGONGUIN LANGUAGE. THE NEW TESTAMENT WAS PRINTED IN 1661, THE OLD TESTAMENT IN 1663.

Eliot’s “Indian Bible” was an answer to prayer. For the remainder of his life he dedicated himself to preaching to the Indians. He preached in churches in Massachusetts and from the tops of rocks in Connecticut’s open fields.

Renowned scholars on early Bible, T.H. Darlow and F.H. Moule, state: “This book constitutes the earliest example in history of the translation and printing of the entire Bible in a new language as a means of evangelization.”

We would not agree with Eliot on everything he taught, but we cannot help but admire his love for the Indians of New England. Because he cared for their souls, the Indians had an opportunity to learn about the one true God, to worship Him and to change the way they lived.

In 1649 Eliot wrote: “I do very much desire to translate some parts of the scriptures into their language.” 1,000 copies of the first printing of the entire Bible in the Algonquin language were made in 1663. Copies of Eliot’s “Indian Bible” are extremely scarce today. When put on the market they may bring as much as $745,000.

Three hundred and fifty years after Eliot’s evangelistic outreach, the gospel is being taught once again to people of many nationalities in northeastern states through grants provided by a number of congregations in other parts of the United States and by The White Rock Fund. Gospel preachers are sharing God’s word with those who have never heard it. Souls are being baptized for the forgiveness of sins and faithful churches of Christ are being planted.

Posted in Algonguin language, Indian Bible, Indians, John Eliot, New England, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

OBADIAH SAYS: KINGDOMS WILL FALL, BUT GOD’S KINGDOM IS INDESTRUCTABLE

Whoever said the Bible is irrelevant to the way people live today needs to take a fresh look at the “Minor Prophets” of the Old Testament.  These twelve books may be short in length  but they are major in message. They have something today’s world leaders and citizens need to hear — the proud and the humble, the good and the bad, the skeptic and the believer. The target of Obadiah’s message was primarily the people of Edom, and he gives it “all he’s got” in a little book consisting of a single chapter!

WHO WERE THE EDOMITES?

250px-Kingdoms_around_Israel_830_map.svg

Nation of Edom

Edomites were descendants of Esau, one of two sons of Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25:19-34). Esau was born around 2,000 BC and his descendants lived Southwest of the Dead Sea. Although the Edomites were relatives of the Israelites (who descended from Jacob, the twin brother of Esau), they did not treat the Israelites well.  When Israel was traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land around 1400 BC the Edomites refused to allow passage through their territory (Numbers 20:14-21). This created significant strain in the relationship between the Israelites and the Edomites.

King David conquered Edom around 1,000 BC (2 Samuel 8:14).  However, when Israel was attacked by the Babylonians in 586 BC the Edomites aided and abetted Babylon as it ruthlessly conquered God’s people and took them into Babylonian captivity for 70 years.  The Lord was angry with Edom for its cruel treatment of their kinsmen in the flesh and promised that a day of reckoning was coming when Edom would be destroyed for their actions against Israel.  He said, “Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever” (Obadiah verse 10). Other prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel and Amos joined with Obadiah in denouncing the Edomites, and promising the end of the nation.  God said through Obadiah: “I will bring you down!” (verse 4).  Other prophets were very specific in their predictions about what would happen to Edom. They wrote that:

• Edom would become a desolation (Isaiah 34:13) •

• It would be conquered by Israel (Ezekiel 25:14) •

• It would have a bloody history (Ezekiel 34:5-6; Isaiah 34:6-7) •

• Wild animals would inhabit the area (Isaiah 34:13-15) •

• Trade would cease (Isaiah 34:10; Ezekiel 35:7) •

• Spectators would be astonished (Jeremiah 49:17) •

• Edom would never be populated again (Jeremiah 49:18) •

In the sixth century BC the Nabateans expelled Edom from their rock fortresses and occupied their country. They were again conquered by the Maccabees around 150 BC in fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel 25:14. At that time 20,000 Edomites were put to death!  In the first century AD the remaining Edomites were absorbed by the Arabs and their identity was lost completely.  Today there is not one person on earth who can trace his ancestry back to the Edomites. The promises of Jeremiah 49:18 have been fulfilled: Edom will never be populated again.

Higgins comments on the annihilation of ancient Edom:  “Today the land stands deserted, a mute testimony to the sure Word of the Lord. Petra is a remarkable example of the literal fulfillment of this prophecy. This great ancient capital with its theatre seating 4000, its temples, its altars and its monuments, is now silent and alone, decaying with the passage of time.” (Higgins, David C. “The Edomites Considered Historically and Prophetically.” Unpublished Master’s Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1960). The inspired word of the Lord through Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet, still grabs our attention and raises our eyebrows:  “Esau (referring to the Edomites) I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert” (Malachi 1:2-3).

WHO WAS OBADIAH?

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Obadiah the 6th Century Prophet

Ten people bore the name “Obadiah” in the Old Testament. The one who authored the book bearing his name received a “vision” sometime between the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem (586 BC) and Edom’s destruction by the Babylonians (553 BC).  Almost nothing is known for certain about his background. According to  “Jewish” tradition, Obadiah was a convert to Judaism who came from Edom, a descendant from Eliphaz, one of Job’s three “friends”. According to “Christian” tradition, Obadiah is said to have been born in Shechem and was the third captain of 50 men sent from king Ahaziah to bring Elijah to meet the king face to face (2 Kings 1:13-16). What we know for sure is that Obadiah was a prophet of God, a courageous preacher and a man of few words.  His entire book covers only 21 verses. His name means “one who serves the Lord.” Come to think of it, that’s really all we need to know to make us attentive to his timeless message!

WHAT IS HIS PRACTICAL AND TIMELESS MESSAGE ?

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Book of Obadiah

1. God Rules Over the Nations.  God is not the God of the Israelites only; He is the God of all nations. The Edomites may have thought they were impregnable because they dwelt among the cliffs, high above the canyon floor, but God’s presence and power would bring them down from the cliffs where eagles soared.  “Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord” (Obadiah verse 4). It is true even today that the fate of nations is in the hand of God. He has determined “the allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). Even rulers who do not know or honor the Lord are subject to His will. He makes kingdoms rise and He makes kingdoms fall. “The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes” (Daniel 4:32).

2. Prideful Self-sufficiency Is a Delusion. A famous theologian once said that there is only one basic sin: pride. It is man’s determined insistence that he is master of his own fate and captain of his own soul that continually gets him in trouble. Mankind thinks that it deserves whatever it desires; that the world owes it whatever the “good life” has to offer; that no one has the right to criticize or pass judgment on its conduct, belief systems or pleasures. Any concept of the need for a Savior is foreign to the thinking of prideful people. As someone recently put it to me, “I may not be doing what God wants me to do, but when I get to the judgment I want to have my say!” Such arrogance will keep a person from reading his Bible, repenting of his sins or committing his life to Jesus Christ.  It’s faulty thinking. Obadiah assured the Edomites that pride would be their downfall. “The pride of your heart has deceived you … You have no understanding” (verses 3 and 7).

3. It Matters How We Treat People. The Edomites and the Israelites were kinsfolk, and kinsfolk ought to “cover each other’s backs.” They ought to feel obligated to defend and protect members of the family even if they don’t do the same for non-family!  How do we expect people to treat strangers with equity and kindness if they don’t care enough to be equitable and kind to their own family?  God said: “Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.” (verse 10). What follows is Obadiah’s eight “do nots” for family relationships:

• Do not gloat over the misfortune of your brother (verse 12) •

• Do not rejoice in his day of ruin (verse 12) •

• Do not boast in the day of distress (verse 12) •

• Do not enter the gate in the day of his calamity (verse 13) •

• Do not gloat over his disaster (verses 13) •

• Do not loot his wealth (verse 13) •

• Do not cut off his fugitives (verse 14) •

• Do not hand over his survivors (verse 14) •

Jesus put it positively when He said: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). Family members and neighbors, friend and foe alike must be treated with the love of Christ. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Romans 12:20).  It is by practicing love that Christians are identified in this world of violence, hatred, apathy, abusiveness and self-centeredness.  “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

4. Divine Punishment Is Fair, Just and Inevitable. “The day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head” (Obadiah verses 15-18). God does not exercise his wrath like a bully who abuses others. His anger is always just and fair. It is in proportion to one’s sins. Some sins are more serious than others; some have greater consequences.  However, we can be assured of this one fact:  God’s judgment against sinners is inevitable.  “We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). We dare not take the coming judgment lightly!  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” (Hebrews 10:31).

5. “The Kingdom Is the Lord’s” Even Today. Obadiah announced the promise of God to His faithful people: “Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau (that is, Edom), and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s”  (verses 19-21). This is more than a promise of a return to Palestine following Babylonian captivity. The prophet Amos spoke of this very same promise to “possess the remnant of Edom” when the Lord would “raise up the booth (or tent) of David that had fallen” (Amos 9:11-12).  Early Christians saw these promises fulfilled in the establishment of God’s spiritual kingdom, the church. James applied this prophecy to the salvation of Gentiles: “After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord and all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord, who makes all these things known from old” (Acts 15:14-17). The coming of Christ’s Church and the salvation of Gentiles is the assurance that “the kingdom shall be the Lord’s”  in our own day. You can inherit the kingdom-blessings Obadiah promised to God’s faithful people!

Have you entered the Lord’s kingdom (His church) through obedient faith? You do not need to wait till next Sunday to do that –– you can enter the kingdom by being “born of water and the Spirit” this very day (John 3:5)!

Posted in Acts 15:14-17, Acts 17:26, Amos, Daniel, Edom, Esau, Ezekiel, Family Relationships, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John 3:5, Lord's Kingdom, Malachi, Minor Prophets, Obadiah, Petra, Pride, Punishment | Tagged | 2 Comments

MALACHI: THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL RISE WITH HEALING IN ITS WINGS

 Malachi 4:2 (English Standard Version)

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The Prophet Malachi

Unique among the Minor Prophets, Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He lived in the mid 5th century before the coming of Christ, during one of the most disappointing periods of Israelite history. One would have hoped that the nation of Israel would have learned its lessons after losing its homeland and spending 70 years in Babylonian captivity.  But alas! Israel took spiritual things for granted, neglected the proper sacrifices and failed to give the Lord what was due Him. Malachi asked direct questions for God such as these:

“If I am a father, where is My honor? If I am a master, where is My fear?” (Malachi 1:6)

“When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil?” (Malachi 1:8)

“Who can endure the day of His (the Lord’s) coming; who can stand when He appears?” (Malachi 3:2)

“Will a man rob God?” (Malachi 3:8)

To grasp the significance of these questions one needs to realize the disrespectful and ungodly attitudes and actions of the Israelites:

“You say, ‘The Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised’ ” (Malachi 1:12).

“You say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it” (Malachi 1:13).

“You say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord’” (Malachi 2:17).

“You have said, ‘What is the profit of our keeping His charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts?’ ” (Malachi 3:14).

The kingdom that God had intended to be the light of the world now groped in its own darkness. Because Israel failed to respect and honor the Lord terrible things had been brought upon the nation. The spiritual light of God’s favor had gone out. Few rebukes equal the expressions of divine disfavor found in Malachi: “I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you will be taken away with it” (Malachi 2:3).

But wait!  The future is not entirely bleak! God’s sinful people will not always remain in the darkness. On a coming day light will be restored. Forgiveness will be renewed! Israel will return to God! And when Israel returns to God, He will return to them! Look at what the future holds ….

LORD OF THE TEMPLE  “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple, and the Messenger of the Covenant in whom you delight, behold He is coming, says the Lord of hosts….He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord” (Malachi 3:1-3).

SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS  “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). Just as the sun chases away the darkness when it rises to shine upon the earth, so spiritual darkness will be dispelled from the hearts of God’s people. When sinners are refined and purified like silver, when the sun rises, spiritual illness will be removed and spiritual healing will be restored. What a wonderful promise!

FAMILY LOVE AFFIRMED  “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:5-6). Families will be united in love when the Lord ushers in the age of the “sun of righteousness.”

Jesus said John the Baptist was the “Elijah” spoken of in this passage (Matthew 11:14).

The Lord whom we seek, the Lord of the Temple, the Messenger of the Covenant is none other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John 2:13-17; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 8:6). God’s forgiveness of our sins, the beginning of a “new creation,” the privilege of arising from the waters of baptism to walk in “newness of life” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:3-4), is the time when “sun of righteousness” chases away the darkness of sin.  The “light of the world” has come (John 8:12)! Obedient believers now receive “one grace after another” (John 1:16). We have been removed from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13).

Mind-Refreshing-Sunrise

The connection between Malachi’s promised “sun of righteousness” which dispels all the terrible consequences of sin and Jesus Christ, who now “shines upon us” (Ephesians 5:14) is astounding. Some translations actually capitalize Malachi 4:2 to make it obvious that the prophet Malachi was referring to the Messiah Himself. These translations read:   “The Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings” (21st Century King James, Amplified, Darby, God’s Word, New Living, and Orthodox Jewish translations).

In the first century Zechariah the priest knew that the time was near, and declared that “the sunrise shall visit us from on high” (Luke 1:78). Isaiah predicted the coming of Christ and wrote: “Arise, shine, for our light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).  Again, he wrote: “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily” (Isaiah 58:8).

Do you appreciate all the blessings God has in mind for you? The ultimate choice each of us must make is whether to walk in the darkness or to walk in the light; whether to live in the guilt of sin or to allow God to forgive us. No one needs to live in the cold, dark condemnation of sin.  Jesus, the Son of Righteousness, the Light of the world can take all the darkness away. Why would anyone choose the darkness when he could walk “in the light as He is in the light”?  Have you taken the steps of obedient faith to become His disciple?  Have you been scripturally baptized so you can be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Romans 6:3-4)? We want to help you discover the “sun of righteousness with healing in its wings.”

Posted in darkness, Isaiah 58:8, Isaiah 60:1, Luke 1:78, Malachi, Malachi 3:1-3, Malachi 4:2, Malachi 4:5-6 | 1 Comment

ZECHARIAH –– “THE KING IS COMING!”

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Zechariah depicted on Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

“Major Prophets” like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and some of the “Minor Prophets” anticipated a coming age of peace and forgiveness. Perhaps none of the “Minor Prophets” alluded to the coming Messiah with more detail than the prophet Zechariah who lived 500 years before the coming of Christ.  There are 54 images of the Messiah found in his book. These are echoed in 67 passages of the New Testament. Zechariah chapters 9-14 are quoted more than any of the “Minor Prophets” in the final hours leading to Jesus’ death. Four of these grab our attention.

THE COMING OF THE KING

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). How remarkable that on Sunday, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, these words were fulfilled.  “They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ” (Matthew 21:1-9).

Triumphal Entry

Notice the royalty of the Messiah. The King comes! He is the one of whom Jacob spoke: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until He comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is His” (Genesis 49:10).  God promised on oath that one of David’s descendants would sit on his throne. He spoke of the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, be assured of this: God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:30-36). He is the new King reigning over God’s spiritual nation. Jesus sits on the throne of David. “His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33). To be a follower of Jesus Christ means to be committed to His absolute authority, to obey His commandents without reservation.

Notice also the accomplishments of the Messiah. He rides not on the steed of military aggression, but on the foal of a donkey — the animal which symbolizes humility and gentleness.  He is “righteous and gentle and riding on…the foal of a donkey.” Again, “He will proclaim peace to the nations” (Zechariah 9:10). But He has accomplished even more!  He lived a righteous life of (Zechariah 9:9). Like a righteous king described by the psalmist Jesus will “deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in His sight” (Psalm 72:12-14). If you are looking for righteousness and peace in your heart Jesus is the One you need. He is the only One who can deliver what He promises. “Till the moon is no more” Jesus will be our assurance that “the righteous will flourish” (Psalm 72:7), and that those whose hearts are troubled will find the “peace of God that transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

THE SHEPHERD BETRAYED

Zechariah was commanded by God to assume the role of a faithful shepherd of God’s flock. Almost immediately he ran into the stiff opposition of religious leaders, worthless shepherds, who were interested only in making money by slaughtering the sheep. Even the people he was trying to guide and protect despised him! In extreme frustration over Israel’s leaders he resigned his assignment and went to those responsible for paying his salary, demanding, “If you think it best give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” They weighed out only 30 pieces of silver” –– the pitiful value of a slave but certainly not of a shepherd (Exodus 21:32)! At God’s direction, Zechariah promptly threw the coins into the house of the Lord to be given to the potter (Zechariah 11:4-14)

Early in the morning Judas grieved with agony because he had betrayed His Lord for 30 pieces of silver.  The Scripture records:  “He was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ …. So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.  The chief priests …. decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day” (Matthew 27:3-8). Little did Judas know that 500 years earlier Zechariah had participated in a very similar tragic story.

Judas coins 2

Can we not see the heart of Judas in this story?  Judas (like the corrupt leaders of Israel) messed up his own life and the life of others. As the leaders of Zechariah’s day failed to appreciate God’s true shepherd, and undervalued his worth, so Judas failed to appreciate Jesus as the Shepherd of God’s flock. He sold the precious Son of God for the price of a slave. How frustrated he became with himself! How remorseful! It was too late to reverse his foolish actions. Judas’ hope for the future was gone forever. Without hope his life would end in despair. The betrayer of the Son of God returned the thirty pieces of silver and doomed his body to suicide.

The Tyndale Commentary summarized the lessons for us: (1) The responsibility for human chaos lies squarely on human shoulders. (2) God has offered men His Shepherd but they have rejected Him, to their own irreparable loss. Sinful attitudes and sinful actions result in shameful decisions that hurt us and others.

THE ONE THEY PIERCED

The prophet spoke of a future day of grace and forgiveness:  “Tbey will look on Me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (Zechariah 12:10). The word translated “pierced” usually refers to being stabbed with a spear or sword.  Zechariah 13:7 identifies the One pierced as the Lord’s Shepherd, none other than “the man who is close to Me” (NIV), or who “stands next to Me” (ESV). We can hardly read this without thinking of the Lord Jesus.  Is it any wonder that the apostle John wrote: “one of the soldiers pierced Jesus. side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water …. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled:…’They will look on the one they have pierced’ (John 19:34-37).  His mother, friends and disciples mourned over Him as the “firstborn son,” God’s “one and only Son” (John 3:16). The blood of Jesus is “precious” because it is through His blood that we receive forgiveness of all our sins –– no matter how serious, when we sinned, or how often we repeated it. When we are baptized (immersed) into the death of Jesus, God forgives our past sins (Romans 6:3-4; Ephesians 1:7). After baptism, the “blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7-10).  Have you been washed in the blood of the pierced Shepherd?

“STRIKE THE SHEPHERD AND THE SHEEP WILL BE SCATTERED”

As long as the Good Shepherd was present the disciples were united and felt secure.  But when the Shepherd was killed, His followers fled, as the prophet foretold: “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Zechariah 13:17). Jesus predicted Peter’s denial and the scattering of His apostles which followed.  “ ‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them; ‘for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’ ” (Mark 14:27). The day Jesus was crucified His followers scattered in many directions –– some to their homes, some to the homes of other disciples, some to villages away from Jerusalem.

Who else but Jesus Christ could have fulfilled these remarkable 500-year-old prophecies in such minute detail?

The words of Zechariah builds our faith in Christ. His book reminds us of what Jesus went through to bring salvation and peace to our world. It encourages us to see anew that through God’s love and providence He has provided a Savior for us.  As the “Minor Prophet” declared: “A fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Zechariah 13:1).  Jesus is the Fountain. Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?

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Posted in Acts 2:30-36, Exodus 21:32, Genesis 49:11, John 19:34-37, Judas, King, Look On the One Pierced, Luke 1:32-33, Mark 14:27, Matthew 21:1-9, Matthew 27:3-8, Messiah, Psalm 72, Strike the Shepherd, Thirty Pieces of Silver, True Shepherd, Zechariah, Zechariah 11:4-14, Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah 13:1, Zechariah 13:17, Zechariah 9:9 | Tagged | 2 Comments