Archive for May, 2018

Water is a very important creation of God. When scientists are looking for signs of life, water is the very first thing they seek on planets like Mars, etc.

According to the creation narrative, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).

In Psalm 51, the king David knew that he had committed a huge sin against God and against a woman- the wife of a Gentile man, by the name of Uriah. Kings in those days commonly raped women, common women, whoever to whom they took a liking. These royalty were considered to be divine beings, and so the common people just gave into them. So, King David thought he could do what the kings and royalty of other peoples groups practiced.  However, the Prophet Nathan came to David and pointed out that this was one of the most heinous sins according to the Torah. In response, David called out for the mercy of God. He cried out:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

(Psalm 51:1-4 NIV)

The Noah’s Flood account is another sad example in the history humanity, where this need for washing by water is seen. Many people focus on God’s judgment, in this narrative. The narrative of the Bible itself focuses on God’s act of mercy in washing humanity from sin and evil. The focus of sin, in Genesis 6 is divine kings called the “sons of God,” who raped the “daughters of common man,” whoever they chose (Genesis 6: 1, 2). Sexual systemic sin and evil was running rampant, under the pretext of religion. The narrative says that God was filled with compassion, hearing the cries of the “daughters of common human beings.” The Hebrew word nacham is commonly translated as God was “sorry.” I prefer the translation, God was filled with compassion. The waters of Noah’s flood, therefore, was a baptism of humanity, a great cleansing from human systemic sin and evil. The focus of this sin was rampant sexual sin, in the name of religion. God’s solution was cleansing by water- the flood water.

In Psalm 51, David came to realize that he was perpetuating the same sin that was so commonly prevalent in Genesis 6.

In the Torah, washing by water is the prescription to eradicate sin and systemic evil. (Exodus 19:10; 29:4; 30:20; Leviticus 13, 14, 15, 16, and so on). This prescription is also called Baptism.

In the early church, the disciples of Jesus constantly urged the people to get baptized to eradicate personal and systemic sin (Acts 16:33. 22:16). In the Book of Exodus, when the Children of Israel were saved from enslavement, the very first action was a “baptism” through the Red Sea (Exodus 14, 15). After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, when the new generation were just about to enter the promised land, they were baptized in the River Jordan (Joshua 3). The apostles declared that these happenings were the baptism of the people, through water, as they came out of slavery, and just before they entered the promised land (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).

In the Gospel of Matthew 3:13-17, John the Baptizer, prepared the way for the Messiah, by baptizing people in the river Jordan. In doing this, the people renounced their sins and all systemic evil (Matthew 3:6).  John the Baptizer proclaimed to the people that he was baptizing with water. Yet, there is Messiah who would follow him. He would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

As his very first act in his work on earth, Jesus, the Messiah, who eventually died for the sins and systemic evil of humanity, decided to get baptized in the waters of the River Jordan. He did this after spending 40 days in the wilderness. The 40 days, are commensurate with the 40 years of wanderings in the wilderness, of the Exodus community, between the two “washings.” John, knowing that he was the promised divine Messiah, did not consider this to be appropriate. He said, “I need to be baptized by you! Why do you come to me?” Jesus responds, “Let this baptism happen now. This is the paradigmatic fulfillment of all Justice, through my life and work.” Water baptism brings about justice. We may note, that the word “justice” is commonly translated as “righteousness,” by which many people today would really mean “self-righteousness.” I prefer the translation “justice.” That was the core message of Jesus, i.e. to bring about God’s justice.

When Jesus was baptized, and came out of the water, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God came and descended on him like a dove. These are references to the Noah’s Flood narrative. And, a voice from heaven said, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is the new Noah. He is more than the new Noah. He is the divine Messiah, the Beloved Son, who was promised throughout biblical history.

At crucial times in his earthly ministry, Jesus the Messiah, returned back to the River Jordan, where he was baptized (John 10:40-42).

In one of his final acts, before his death, Jesus the Messiah, washed the feet of his disciples. Peter did not want him to do this. To this, Jesus said, “Peter, if I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8).

Finally, this divine Messiah, the Son of God, takes human sin upon himself, and dies on the cross, to wash human beings of all their sins and unrighteousness.

The final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation of John the Apostle, describes a futuristic event, with the following words:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,

saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes– who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

(Revelation 7:9-14 NIV)

Today is the Day of Pentecost. It is 50 days after the children of Israel were saved from slavery in Egypt. It is the day on which they encountered the awesome presence of God at Mount Sinai.

Today, the followers of Jesus were baptized by the Holy Spirit!

Perhaps, today was the day when Jesus was also baptized in the River Jordan!

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What does it mean to be holy? In the English language, a person is holy, when one holds a certain office- a priest, a bishop, and so on. This is also true in the culture, from where I come in India. A person is holy- almost always a man, if he belongs to the highest caste- the Brahmins, and he is a Guru. This person, through Jnana Marga, or Yoga, has attained the status of divinity, and is therefore called “holy.” He has a huge following, usually of powerful, business and political leaders. Unfortunately, recent news reports, both in the West and in the East, have revealed that “holy” individuals have taken advantage of their status, and abused boys and girls.

In this blog, I will explore what does it mean to be holy in the Bible?

The Apostles of the New Testament urge the disciples of Jesus “to be holy.” Following are a couple of texts from the New Testament: But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1Peter 1:15-16 NIV); “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV). The Apostles always refer to the Torah as their reference for these injunctions. Here are couple: “The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (Lev 19:1-2 NIV); I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy . . .I am the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44-45 NIV); “Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” (Lev 20:8 NIV).

So, what does it mean to be holy in the Torah?

A cursory survey of these texts will reveal that “holiness” in the Torah refers to, something ethicists like Alasdair McIntyre call “virtue ethics.”

To be holy is to “honor one’s mother and father:” The Leviticus 19 reference is followed by the injunction, “Each of you must revere your mother and father,” (Lev 19:3). Holiness, here is seen in how an individual relates to one’s parents. Jesus refers to this virtue in speaking to the religious Gurus of his time, the Pharisees. He accuses them of following hollow rituals and laws, instead of following the Torah and its core virtue commands like to “honor your father and mother.” (Matthew 15:1-9 cf. Exodus 20:12).

To be holy is to honor times of appointment with God: “you shall keep my Sabbaths: I AM the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:3). In Hebrew, the word is Mo’ed. These are “times of appointment” in which human beings soak in the presence of God, at the vertical level, so that it impacts their conduct and virtue, among fellow human beings, at the horizontal level.

To be holy is not to worship idols which always leads to injustice: “Do not turn to idols,” (Leviticus 19:4). A cursory survey of the history of idols shows that these idols are always made in the image of a few people, at the top- usually kings, like the Pharaohs. They are constructed to enslave the majority of the people, the masses. There is always a racial element of the image of idols. In India, e.g. the Vaishnavite idols are always made of white marble. This was true of ancient idols in Egypt, Sumeria, etc. Therefore, idolatry is forbidden by the Torah.

To be holy is to live at peace with one another (Leviticus 19:5-8): This is what the Book of Hebrews also underlines, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV). Without peace (Hebrew, Shalom), there can be no holiness.

To be holy is to treat God’s good creation with dignity, including in what one eats, and how one eats food. (Lev. 11:44)

To be holy is to always remember, where I came from. The children of Israel had to always remind themselves that they were slaves in Egypt. If they remember this, they will always treat others with holy kindness. (Lev. 11:45)

To be holy is to provide for the poor and the aliens (Leviticus 19:9-10).

To be holy is to be truthful in all one’s dealings (Leviticus 19: 11, 12)

To be holy is “to love your neighbor as yourself:” To be holy is not to oppress one’s neighbor. It is not to hate your brother. It is to always reason with your neighbor. It is not to take vengeance or bear grudge against your neighbor. To sum it up, to be holy is “to love your neighbor, as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:15-18). When Jesus was asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?” His answer was in the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is the most disenfranchised person; the most unjustly treated person; the most Other person, who is your neighbor; and jus like the Good Samaritan, is the best example of a good neighbor.

So, what is holiness in the Torah and in the New Testament? It is definitely not a self-righteous person, or a person who is completely removed from society. A holy person is one would engages with biblical virtue ethics. This person “loves the LORD with all one’s heart, mind, and strength.” This flows into “love for the neighbor.” This translates into a lot of virtue ethics. This person honors the parents, beginning with the mother. This person brings about peace everywhere. This person provides for the poor and the alien. This person is always honest and truthful. This person “loves one’s neighbor” even when it hurts.

There is so much more in the Torah, to what it means to be “holy.” It is definitely not a person who is self-righteous, and stands on a pedestal, so that people may bow down before him. This only leads to the opposite of holiness. It always leads to injustice and abuse.  Jesus himself is the example par excellence. He always engaged with common people to bring about “holiness.”

Is there a specific Holy Mountain? Jesus’ answer is the best, given to a Samaritan woman,  at another Mount, at the Well of Jacob. “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23). These are people who encounter the Holy God, and seek to spread his holiness and peace through biblical virtue ethics.

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In his last days Jesus spent much time in very intensive teaching of his disciples. It was the time of Passover. It was a time, when people were celebrating their freedom from slavery. Yet, in the Gospel of John, Jesus stresses becoming a slave.

In John 11, Jesus goes to the house of a very poor, slave family, and raises a man, Lazarus, from the dead.

In John 12, a poor woman, Mary, who was called a prostitute, anoints Jesus with a very expensive ointment. She was not a prostitute by choice- no one is a prostitute by choice. She was in that position because of systems of evil into which the Roman and Sadducee society had forced her. People like Judas Iscariot shook their heads and said, “What a waste!”

In John 13, during the Passover Seder, Jesus took the water basin and the towel, and does something only a slave boy, in Greek paidos, would do. He washes the feet of his disciples. Then he says to them, “You call me Rabbi and Kurios, LORD, and you are right, for so I AM. If I your LORD and your Rabbi have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:13). “I am a doulos, a slave,” says Jesus, “and so must you be. I have given you this example.”

This was a very radical, and counterculture example. No one wanted to be a pais, slave girl; paidos, slave boy; or a doulos, slave. This was especially true of the poor people who lived in places like Bethany and Nazareth. The Romans already enslaved them. Boys and girls were trafficked, from these areas, by Roman soldiers. The ruling parties like the Sadducees and the Judeans, also enslaved them. So why be a slave?

I was reared in a New Delhi slum. All my friends were shudras, which means slaves. Hinduism was brought into India by the Aryans around 1500 BC. They instated the caste system. The Aryans constituted the highest three castes: the Brahmins, or Priests; the Kshatriyas, or Royalty; the Vyashiyas, or Business caste. These are roughly 10-15 % of the population. The rest, which come from the original dwellers of India, are either Shudras, or Slaves or the Achoot, the Untouchables. The Shudras, and the Achoot, or the Dalit, are still enslaved in India. If you go and tell a Shudra or a Dalit, “You have to become like slaves, because Yeshu, our LORD, is a slave,” my people will laugh at you and say, “We are already slaves!”

This, however, is the radical message of Jesus. It is radical because, in becoming a slave, he freed slaves from slavery. This is the power of the Gospel of Jesus.

In Luke 1, Mary, who comes from a poor village, a village from where the Roman soldiers took slave girls, pais, and boys, paidos, said, when the Angel of the LORD came to her, “Behold, I am the servant, doulos, of the LORD; let it be to me according your word.” (Luke 1:38). In the great Magnificat, she exclaims, “My soul magnifies the LORD, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he looked on the humble estate of his doulos, slave.” (Luke 1:48).

Throughout the Gospels, they show how Jesus went around all the poor villages, and radically changed the lives of pais, paidos, and doulos. He did this not by a violent revolution, as the Zealots of his day were practicing. He did this not by political means and bribing the Romans, like the Sadducees and the Judeans were practicing. He did this not by the promulgation of strict laws, halakhot, as the Pharisees were practicing. He simply changed their lives by encountering them where they were. They were able to say, “Call me whatever you want, I have encountered the Messiah, and am free. I am not free through, violent means, or political means. I am free, because in the depth of my being, I know, I am free.” This is the radical message of the Gospel.

In his writings, Paul the Apostle also stressed this thought. He urged the disciples of Jesus, not to become like the who-is-who of the Jewish or the Gentile world. He quotes a song that they often sang,

In your relationships with one another,

have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

Rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant (doulos), being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

And gave him the name that is above every name,

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

In heaven and on earth and under the earth,

And every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Phi 2:5-11 NIV)

This is the radical Gospel. The Shudras, the Dalits; the Pais; the Paidos; the Doulos . . . they all thumb their nose at the unjust and enslaving systems and say, “I am a slave, just like Lord Jesus the Messiah, what can you do to me?”


On being a slave leader

Sadly, in places like India, I notice that those people who become political and social leaders from Shudra, and Dalit  communities, just go on to behave like the high caste people. They do unjust things to those people who they consider to be lower slaves themselves. Many times this injustice is far worse than the injustice they suffered under the high caste people. They assume, that this is the only way in which they can prove, that they are social and political leaders. Systems of injustice through this group of “neo-high caste leaders” is far worse than it was before.

Does this attitude seep into the Christian Church, in India? Yes, it does, and sadly so!

The Christian church in India, largely consists of low caste and outcaste people. These were the people, who were seeking freedom from systems of oppression in Hinduism. But, Dalit leaders like Ambedkar, will tell you that the Christian Church has continued these systems. In the history of Christian Church in India, leaders are chosen along caste lines. Christian leaders proudly proclaim that they are Brahmin converts to Christ, as if Christ should be thankful that they became Christians!

Sadly, I have noticed a similar attitude in the Christian Church in the West, as well. Leadership, so often is based along race, color, and class lines. The systems of injustice, which is found in the larger society, just seeps into the Christian Church. No wonder, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed that the Sunday morning hour of worship, is the most segregated hour.

It seems to me, that Jesus the Messiah, would mourn this kind of an attitude- both in the East and in the West. He would say what he said to his disciples then, “You call me Rabbi and LORD, and you are right. If I then, your Rabbi and LORD, have washed your feet, like a slave, you also ought to wash each one another’s feet.” ( John 13:13,14).

This is Jesus’ deep solution to the problems of systemic injustice- then and now.

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There are some words and themes which have been misunderstood much in the English Bibles. The question that is often asked as a result of these translations is,  “Is the God of the Bible- especially the Old Testament a violent and destructive God”? After all, it is claimed, that Moses and his militia  “captured” and “destroyed” the villages of peoples groups like the Amorites (Numbers 21:31). Again, so it is claimed, Moses commanded the people to “drive out” the inhabitants of the land where they were going (Numbers 33:52, 53, 55; Deuteronomy 4:38; etc.).  Indeed, it is claimed, this is what Joshua did. He “drove out” the inhabitants of the land (Joshua 3:10; 13:6). It is further claimed that all the future problems this group of people had was entirely because they “failed to drive out” the Gerushites, Maacathites, and so on (Joshua 13:13; 16:10).

All these kinds of texts in the Old Testament, it is claimed, show that the God of the Old Testament is a violent God, and the people of the Old Testament are a violent people. Therefore, some people suggest that the Christian Church should just do away with the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament is a violent God. The God of the New Testament is a loving God. It is claimed, therefore by some, that these are contrasting images of God.

At least, so it seems in the venerable King James Version, and those translations which follow the King James Version.

Of course, this is not a new claim. There have been Greek thinkers, way back in the history of the Church, who have suggested the dumping of the Old Testament for various reasons. One of them was a man by the name of Marcion, who lived about  AD 140 or so. He and his followers were Gnostic thinkers. Their idea of God, envisaged a God, who could never associate with the material world. The material world was evil. The realm of God was the spiritual world. That realm was good. Any idea of God that engaged with the material world, they suggested, was evil, and therefore should be rejected. Based on this idea, Marcion, and his followers rejected the Old Testament, and the God of the Old Testament. They also rejected large parts of the New Testament, which reminded them of the Old Testament. They accepted one Gospel, the Gospel of Luke, and just 10 epistles of the Apostle Paul. The God of the Old Testament, they suggested, was violent and a demiurge, and therefore should be rejected.

This thought may be seen in modern times, as well. Thomas Jefferson, e.g. was a Deist. He could not envision a God who engaged with the natural world. He therefore rejected all of the Old Testament. He also cut out from his New Testament, any reference to the supernatural. He kept Jesus’ moral teaching. However, any reference to Jesus’ divinity, miracles, second coming, etc. were deleted by him. Jefferson’s Bible is a very thin Bible.

In the light of these two illustrations, centuries apart from each other, the question we must answer is, “Who is the God of the Bible? Is there a difference between the God of the Old Testament, and the God of Jesus and the New Testament?”

The early Church fathers discussed much Marcion’s thought and claims. Much is found in the writings of Church Fathers like Irenaeus, especially in his Against Heresies 4 (AD 189); Hippolytus (AD 200); Cyprian of Carthage (AD 250),  Augustine (AD 390); Jerome (AD 400); and the such. Church Councils discussed the thought of Maricionism in much detail: Councils like the Council of Rome (AD 382); Council of Hippo (AD 393); Council of Carthage III (AD 397), and the such. They came to the conclusion that Marcionism and related thoughts were heresies. They saw the Old Testament, and the New Testament as two parts of the Bible, holding together. They saw that the New Testament flowed from the Old Testament, and that one cannot understand Jesus, the Gospels, and the Writings of the Apostles apart from the Old Testament.

This has been the thought of the Church and Christianity, from the beginning of Church History.

In our time, there are some thinkers who are going back the ideas similar to Marcion and the Deists. Much of their claims are based on Old Testament verses, which I have mentioned in the previous paragraph.

In this blog, I want to focus on a couple of much maligned words, which in the English Bibles are translated as “drive out, or destroy,” and “acquire” etc. This portrays the God of the Bible to be violent, destructive, and one who encourages the acquiring of slaves of conquered people.

The God of the Bible Redeems and Recreates

The latter word is found in a very crucial text in the Book of Genesis- Genesis 14:19.  It is the word, qanah. Sadly, and unfortunately, in several English translations this word is translated as “buying or acquiring” the conquered people (So it is in Exodus 21:2; Lev. 22:11; Lev. 25:45, etc.). It seems like the NIV translation of Genesis 14:19 has this word right. Melchizedek comes to Abraham, the great Patriarch of the Old Testament and blesses him with the following blessing, “”Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. (Genesis 14:19 NIV). The word which is translated as “Creator,” is the much maligned Hebrew word “qanah!” This incipient text defines the God of the Old Testament, with the same Hebrew word, Qanah. This God is not a violent possessor and acquirer of captured slaves. He is a constructive Creator God. This is what the people were supposed to be doing as they entered the promised land.

There is another poignant text, where this much maligned word is used. It is found in the Book of Ruth. In this text a woman, whose name is Naomi, goes and lives as a refugee in the land of Moab, with her husband and sons, because there is a famine in her own land. The men of the family die during this refugee sojourn in Moab. Naomi returns to her own land, Bethlehem, with her daughter-in-law Ruth, when she learns that the famine is over. The rest of the story of Ruth is a beautiful story. It is the story of two Hebrew words- Go’el and qanah. Boaz and Ruth fall in love with each other, but he cannot marry her because there is another person, a Go’el or Kinsman Redeemer, who is supposed to be marrying her. This person was first supposed to redeem the property for Naomi and Ruth, and then he was supposed to be marrying Ruth.

Here is how most English Bible translations put the dialogue that happens in Ruth chapter 4. Boaz says to this other Kinsman Redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our kinsman Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it, and say: “Buy” it in the presence of those sitting here, and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not, tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one prior to you to redeem it, and I come after you.” So he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day you “acquire” the field from the hand of Naomi, you are also “acquiring” Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead man, to maintain the dead man’s name on his inheritance.” At this, the next-of-kin said, “I cannot redeem it for myself without damaging my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” (Rut 4:3-6 NRSV)

On the surface, all seems well and good, except that at a closer look we will note that Ruth, and the property, are both treated on the same level. They are both properties to be bought and sold. This is horrible, then and now. However, this is not what we see in the the Hebrew word. The Hebrew word, qanah is the same as used in Genesis 14:19. There it is translated as “Creator;” here it is translated as “buy or acquire.” Boaz, it seems clear in the Hebrew, is not asking the Kinsman Redeemer to “acquire or buy” either the land or Ruth. Boaz is asking for a “recreation” of a new agrarian economy and society; and the recreation of a new woman, who has been destroyed by Moabite society. Society around them had developed destructive economics, which led to poverty and slavery. Society around them has led to abuse of women, especially foreign women, like Ruth. This destroyed womanhood. Boaz says, “We need the recreation of a new economics, and the recreation of a new women’s identity.” The other so called Kinsman Redeemer was not willing to do this. It was too radical for him. It was not in his good interest. So, Boaz said, “I will do this.” Boaz did just as God is defined in Genesis 14:19. He is the “Creator, qanah, of heaven and earth.” He expects his followers to do the same in society- then and now. He disdains the acquiring of slaves, and abusive economic and systems. The mission of the people of God is “Recreation,” because God is a “Re-creator.” This is the God of the Old Testament, and the New Testament.

Mechizedek, the King of Jerusalem, is also highlighted in a crucial Messianic Psalm- Psalm 110. “The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (Psalm 110:1 NIV) This verse is cited in Mathew 22:44; Mark 12:36; and Luke 20:42, 43.  All three Synoptic Gospels claim that this Psalm refers to Jesus the Messiah, as the LORD of the Old Testament. The Psalm further goes on to mention the aforementioned, Melchizedek, the King of Jerusalem. “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4 NIV). This King of Jerusalem, Mechizedek, whose name means King of Justice, is an Old Testament type of the Messiah Jesus.

The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament, extensively refers to this Messianic Psalm, and to Melchizedek, King of Jerusalem. Jesus the Messiah is called the “Great High Priest,  after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 4:14-5:10; Hebrews 7).

The New Testament describe Jesus the Messiah to be the “Re-creator” of a new heavens and new earth (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:15; Rev 21:1-6). The systems of society in human history have been destructive and abusive. The Messiah seeks to Redeem and Recreate, just like the God of the Old Testament seeks to Redeem and Recreate.

The God of the Old Testament Missionally possess destroyed people

I want to return back to the other much maligned Hebrew word, yarash. We saw in the earlier survey that this word, in English translations, following the KJV, is translated as “drive out, destroy, dispossess, etc.” Much of this is portrayed in very violent forms. Naturally, reading the English translations, people consider the God of the Bible to be a violent God.

However, a cursory survey of this Hebrew word,  yarash, just like the Hebrew word qanah, would show us that this negative usage of the word is unwarranted. The Hebrew word always signifies a gracious gift given by parents to the heir (Genesis 15:3, 4, 7). It is a gift given by God to people, so that they do not regard the land as a property they have forcibly acquired (Genesis 22:17). They possess it through God’s generosity.

In the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 26 there is a very profound section which defines the nature of this gift. The people are told, ” When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name . . . Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our ancestors, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, LORD, have given me.” (Deu 26: 1, 2, 5-10 NIV)

The people always had to remember where they came from. They always were and are “wandering immigrants.” They had to remember that they did not “capture” this land. It was given to them as a gift by God. When they keep this in mind, they will always be kind to the original dwellers of the land, especially the widows and the orphans, and all other wandering immigrants.

This theme of the Yarash, Creator, Giver God of the Old Testament, is found throughout the Hebrew Bible. The Psalms, e.g. use this word in a sentence that Jesus uses, “The poor shall inherit (Hebrew yarash) the land, and delight themselves in abundant peace.” (Psalm 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34; Matthew 5:5).  This is the gentle gift of a generous God to the poor. Hebrew word for poor, ‘anavim, is used of a category of people who are poor because of systems of injustice against them. These `anavim will inherit the land, because of a generous and loving God, who always cares for the marginalized.

I want to focus on one other text from the Prophets.

When Jesus is about 30 years old, he goes into the synagogue and reads his Bar Mitzvah text. It is Isaiah 60 and 61. The Gospel of Luke quotes this text:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

(Luke 4:18-19 NIV)

The Gospel of Luke goes on to quote Jesus, who says, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). The mission of Jesus the Anointed One, Messiah, was a mission of mercy and justice to the poor, slaves, prisoners, blind, oppressed, and the such. The question is who is this Adonai, Kurios, Lord, to which Jesus is referring? The answer is found in the previous chapter, Isaiah 60, which was a part of Jesus’ Bar Mitzvah text.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.

See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,

but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn . . .

The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,

for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

Your sun will never set again,

and your moon will wane no more;

the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.

Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever.

They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.

The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation.

I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.”

(Isaiah 60:1-3; 19-22 NIV)

Jesus is talking about the God of the Old Testament, the God who revealed himself to Abraham and Moses. He is a God who creates light in the midst of darkness. He brings about justice in the midst of injustice. This was the mission of the Messiah Jesus of the New Testament. However, his person and mission are intrinsically linked with the Old Testament. We may note that the purpose of his mission, is to bring about “justice” and to “yarash, possess, or recreate the land forever,” through his people (Isaiah 60:21).

In the Torah, God saved a group of people who were severely oppressed and enslaved. God says to Moses,

“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”

The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.

I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers,

and I know their suffering.

I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians

and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land,

a land flowing with milk and honey—

the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.

(Exo 3:6-8)

The mission of the people was not to destroy and plunder, but rather to yarash, recreate. They were to go to the poor, the enslaved, the blind, the oppressed, etc. of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and say to them, “Look the savior God has freed us. He has shown us his love and care. He has saved us from the slavery and oppression of the Egyptians. Just like he saw our misery, we see your misery. Just like he heard our cry, we hear your cry. Just like he knew our suffering, so we also know your suffering.  Our mission is to yarash you, missionally possess you, and recreate you, just like our Savior God recreated us.”

Their mission was to save people like Rahab, and to yarash, i.e., to missionally possess and recreate them into the image of God.

This is the God of the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament!

This is the mission of the God of the Old Testament!

This is the God of the New Testament!

This is the mission of the God of the New Testament!

This is the mission of the people of God- both in the Old Testament and the New Testament!

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Running is something I have enjoyed doing for many years. I have run 10 official marathons- among them Chicago, Boston, and New York. Each time I finish a marathon, I am in tears, just because it is a marathon. While running each of these marathons, I told myself that it is for a cause that I am running- raising money to free the women enslaved in sexual trafficking; water in Africa; and the such. Especially, when I reached the “heart break hill” in Boston; or the Queensboro Bridge in New York, it is helpful to know the purpose of my marathon run.

One does not just get up in the morning and decide to run a marathon. I have seen scores of young people, fall by the wayside, and ambulances called, when they reach the 17th mile or the 21st mile, usually because they did not train adequately. It takes miles and miles of consistent training, throughout the year, to run a marathon. One has to finish several 15 milers and a couple of 21 milers before one is ready to run a marathon.

It takes a lot of mental preparedness also. It is a mental and spiritual test, more than a physical endurance test. Sometimes, as in the case of the New York Marathon, it can be up to four hours before one reaches the starting lineup- much of this just sitting in public transportation. Then one has to run the 26.2 miles, through all the boroughs and the bridges of New York City.

I have learnt many lessons regarding the Christian life, during the training and running of marathons. This text- Hebrews 12:1, 2 resonates with me all the time. Jesus was a marathon runner-the Greatest Marathon Runner. All the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11- Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses . . . they were all marathon runners. They ran the good race. They ran it by faith. Indeed, that is what it takes to run a marathon.

It takes the right kind of weather to run a good marathon. My favorite marathons are when the temperature is in the 50s. It is great for the runners. But, it can rather cold for the spectators. One can never predict what the weather will be like. This is true of all the marathons, I have run. During one Chicago Marathon, while running alongside one of the buildings, I looked up, and I saw the numbers 92 degrees Fahrenheit staring at me! The City of Chicago had to bring in fire trucks to hose down the runners. They ran out of water. A police officer marathoner collapsed and died. Eventually, they had to shut down the marathon. One of my students from North Park was told by a police officer, “Madam, if you do not stop running, I will have to arrest you.” She responded, “Arrest me if you wish!” She had trained the whole year to finish the Chicago Marathon. This was her first marathon. After some thought she said, “Alright, the only way I will stop running is, if you take me to the finish line. I just want to have the feel of crossing the finish line.” And, so she got into the police car, and was driven to the finish line. She put her feet on the finish line. It was not an official time. They had shut down the marathon. Thankfully, I had finished before they shut it down.

I live in Chicago. The state of Illinois is flat. Chicago Marathon is flat. It is a beautiful city, but you have to run this huge concrete jungle of the city. The Boston Marathon and the New York marathon are uphill and downhill runs- sometimes more uphill than downhill. So, when I was training for Boston and New York, I had to find a hill to train. The only hill I could find near my house was Mount Trashmore. Years ago, when I was a PhD student, I use to pick up jobs like being a security guard at buildings. One building overlooked a landfill, off Willow Road, in Northbrook/Glenview, Illinois. I used to watch huge dump-trucks dump all the trash of North Chicago into this landfill. Now it is a hill. So, during my training of the Boston and New York Marathons, I just ran up and down the hill many, many times- up and down Mount Trashmore, over and over again, just so that my legs would get used to running up and down hills. While running up and down Mount Terashmore, I could smell the odor of landfill gas, coming out of the pipes- largely methane and carbon dioxide. So, I tried to avoid those outlets. Cars would go by me, and they would honk at me, wave at me, and perhaps wonder, “What is this guy doing, just running up and down this hill constantly.”  But, I knew I was training for a marathon. So, I stuck with the routine.

Training for a marathon and running a marathon, it seems to me, is a great lesson for training and running, the marathon called life.

I take my students on runs, after classes, and we dwell on lessons, such as the following:

  1. Do your stretches before every run. We would do that during our student runs. Physical stretching. Mental and emotional stretching. We would read a Bible passage and meditate on it. Breathe in. Exhale. Spend some time in prayer. Then run.
  2. It is so important to get the right kind of running shoes, to run a marathon. These must be running shoes that are designed for long runs. They must fit you right- not too loose, not too tight. It is also important to get the right kind of running clothes. Heavy clothes are no good for running. On cold days, I noticed my students would shed their jackets, into a bush, and would pick them up on the way back. We do that at the start of a Marathon, as well-usually some disposable jackets.
  3. Drink a lot of water. We would stop along the way, and hydrate from the fountains that the City of Chicago has put alongside running paths. Of course, during marathons, lots of water is provided by the marathon organizers. For this, and other reasons, it is expensive to run a marathon. New York Marathon registration fees is $295/=; Boston Marathon registration is $185/=; and Chicago Marathon registration fees is $195/=.
  4. Try to begin with shorter distances-5 K, 10K, or half-marathon. The full marathon is the goal. But, it is good to build up to it.
  5. Run with other runners. During my runs with the students, the general rule of thumb is, “We will all run the distance, and speed, with which our newbie runner is comfortable. This is all about togetherness and fellowship.” I usually found that the newbie runner will come alongside me and say, “Professor, I can run more. Let us keep going.” That is what running in togetherness does.
  6. Running together builds community. While running, we would not have any agenda. It just came up during the runs. We would just talk about life. One of my students is a DACA student. She talked about how she and her brother, 9 years and 11 years old had to flee Mexico, because evil people wanted to kill her whole family. She would talk about picking grapes when she was 10 years old, in California. My other students would listen. We all learnt first-hand about social issues. Other students came from the neighborhoods, through which we ran. They would talk about the issues with which that particular neighborhood was struggling. We prayed for that neighborhood, and discussed how we may help that particular neighborhood.
  7. It is so helpful to run together during the really long distances- 15 milers, 21 milers. Time goes on by and we could say to each other, we did it together! I find the new comers to be most surprised. They would say, “I can’t believe I did this!” It is so gratifying, then, to see them at the starting lineup of the Chicago Marathon!
  8. Set your goals. But, be flexible. Listen to your body. When we got closer to a marathon, we would divide up into smaller groups, based on distances and speeds. “How far do you want to go today? What time do you want to maintain today?” we would ask, at the start. Depending on the goals, students would join a group. This could vary from one run to the next. There were no fixed groups.
  9. Set your eyes on the pace setter. Pacesetters are runners who help you reach our time goal. During my marathon runs, I always did this. I would always look for the flag of my pacesetter. I would come alongside the pacesetter, and ask questions. I would look carefully at the pacesetter. I would make sure, e.g., that my feet are striking the right way, so that I am not injuring my knees, and so on.
  10. Keep encouraging one another. Marathon runners do this all the time. One of my most memorable experience was running a 200 mile Reach the Beach Relay in New Hampshire. It begins at Bretton Woods, Mount Washington, and ends at Hampton Beach. We had 7 runners packed in a van. We ran the 200 miles in 24 hours. Each runner ran a marathon, but in single stretches of 6-7 miles at a time. One runner would hand the baton over to the next, till we finished the course. I remember running up a hill, at 2 AM. It was a four mile uphill. It was raining. It was pitch black. I had a night running vest, and night running light on my head. It was so amazing to hear the cheers of my teammates waiting for me, at the end of that seven mile run. We all did it together- 200 miles, of beautiful New Hampshire, in 24 hours.

There is so much I have learnt about life through running. I could go on and on.

Returning back to our text, Hebrews 12:1, 2, here are some more lessons:

  1. Put on the right clothing and shoes for running: “Set aside every weight- the sin which weighs you down.” It will only impede your progress.
  2. Keep looking to the marathon runners who have gone before you in history- in the Bible, and in the history of the Church.
  3. Run with patience and perseverance. In the parable of the Sower and the Soil, this is how Jesus describes the good soil. He uses the same word as in Hebrews 12:1, “The good soil bears fruit with much patience.” (Luke 8:15)
  4. Life is a race. It can be a struggle. The same word, which is translated as “race,’ is elsewhere translated as “a struggle, a fight,” e.g. Timothy, the young leader is exhorted by the Apostle Paul, “Fight the good fight of faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12).
  5. It is crucial not just to begin the marathon race. It is crucial to finish the marathon race. I have seen too many marathon runners begin fast. But then give up at mile 21. The Apostle Paul goes on to urge young Timothy, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race,” (1 Timothy 4:7). “I urge you to do so likewise.”
  6. Each one has her or his own marathon race. A marathon runner is not competing with others. A marathon runner is just doing her or his best to finish. It is your race. It is not someone else’s race. The great Marathon Pacesetter, Jesus, will only judge you by your own race.
  7. Always look to Jesus. He is the Greatest Marathon Runner. He is the Greatest Pacesetter. As long as you keep your eyes on Jesus, you will be OK!

So beloved, let us all keep running this great marathon race, looking to Jesus!


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 The Bible says much about shepherds and sheep. In Ancient Near Eastern society, shepherds were regarded as very low level people. No one wanted to be associated with shepherds. If one did so, one would bring oneself lower in the estimation of others.

The first murder of a human being in the Book of Genesis was the murder of a shepherd. Cain, the farmer, killed his brother Abel, the shepherd. After he killed him, the LORD said to Cain, what have you done, your brother is a man (Hebrew Adam). His blood (Hebrew dam) is crying out from the ground (Hebrew Adamah). This violence led to the desecration of the earth, God’s creation.

One finds this kind of a revulsion against shepherds throughout the Book of Genesis, especially against Abraham’s lineage, because they were all shepherds.

Towards the end of the Book of Genesis, when Jacob brings his whole family to dwell in Egypt, they had to settle a far distance from the Egyptian people, because “shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians.” (Genesis 46:34). It is therefore noteworthy that when Moses fled into the wilderness, from Pharaoh’s palace, he became a shepherd. He chose to become just like his people, rather than remain like a royal Egyptian. In some senses, it was like a revolt against the religious and social system of Egypt.

In Exodus 3, God reveals himself to Moses as a God of the shepherds, in the wilderness, at Mount Sinai. The Shepherd God says to Moses, “I have SEEN their affliction; I have HEARD their cries; I KNOW their sufferings; and I have come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians (Exodus 3:7-8). These are three things shepherds always do.

When this God delivers the people from the mighty power of the Egyptian Pharaoh, and his army, it is through the instrument of Moses’ shepherd’s staff. The shepherds staff is shown to be more powerful that the serpent god of the Egyptians; the shepherds staff has power over the holy river Nile (Exodus 4); and Moses uses the shepherds staff to create a dryland for the people to cross the Red Sea (Exodus 14). The Shepherd God uses the instrument of the shepherd- the staff, to do so many amazing miracles.

Three crucial shepherd Psalms capture the image of the shepherd and the sheep quite clearly. These are Psalms 22, 23 and 24. In ancient Jewish liturgy, all three of these Psalms were considered to be Messianic Psalms and were sung together. It is generally presumed that on the cross, Jesus recited just the first verse of Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1)

I am of the opinion that Jesus recited all three Psalms 22, 23 and 24. According to the Jewish liturgy and lectionary of his time, these three Psalms were always recited together.

In Psalm 22, Jesus cries out, the cries of the sheep, as he became a part of the human community, towards his Abba, the Shepherd.

He says:

Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.

My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me;

they pierce my hands and my feet.

All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.

They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.

But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.

Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.

Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

 I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly, I will praise you.

(Psalm 22:11-22 NIV)


The sheep Messiah goes on to express his faith in the Abba, in Psalm 23:

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


(Psalm 23:1-6 NIV)

On the cross, Jesus was in his darkest moment of life, yet he was able to say, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley. I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and staff the comfort me.” The rod is the offensive instrument of the shepherd. The staff is the defensive instrument of the shepherd. Jesus knows that the Abba God will protect him in his darkest hour with both of these instruments of protection and care. The Psalm ends with the thought that death is not the end. He will arise from the grave and conquer death.

Psalm 24, then looks toward the future glory of this Messiah. He became incarnate as a sheep. But, he will return as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

 Lift up your heads, you gates;

be lifted up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory?

The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.

 Lift up your heads, you gates;

lift them up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

 Who is he, this King of glory?

The LORD Almighty– he is the King of glory.

(Psalm 24:7-10 NIV)


Keeping all three of these psalms in mind, during his lifetime, Jesus declared:

“I AM the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” (John 10:11).  Saying these words, Jesus declared that he is the I AM, Shepherd God, YHWH, who revealed himself to Moses in the wilderness. He led the people through the wilderness.

In this Good Shepherd passages Jesus goes on to say, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27).

I have learnt much in my observations of shepherds in the villages of India, and among the Bedouin shepherds of the Holy Land. The relationship between the sheep and shepherds is one of mutual trust, care, and love. For the shepherds, these are not just animals, they are family. The shepherds know each sheep by name, and will point out all the individual characteristics of the sheep. “That Yaqoub is a shy one,” they say. Or “that Jameel is a stubborn one.”

The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd. In India, as in the ancient and modern Middle East. Each shepherd has a distinctive call or whistle for the sheep. The sheep recognize the call of its shepherd and follows that call. Many times, it is from a great distance. But, they somehow hear, and they follow.

I must confess, I tried the call, and it did not work.

It is a mutual hearing. The shepherd hears the cries of the sheep. He recognizes the sound of pain, sorrow, danger, or whatever it may be. In turn the sheep also recognize the voice and call of the shepherd. They know this is a call of “we are done for the day. Let us go back.” Or “come back quickly, there is a lion lurking in the corner.” Problems arise for the sheep, when they get confused about the sound of their own shepherd, and they are led away into dangerous territory. That is when the shepherd come back to get them, and gather them, with  his shepherd’s staff. He gently counts them to make sure they are all accounted for, as he goes to each, and calls them by name.

I think that is what Abraham, Moses, David, and others learnt about being a shepherd. That is the logos, pathos and ethos of the God they encountered.

That is the kind of Shepherd Jesus is to those who follow him, and seek to always carefully listen to his unique and gentle voice.

That is the kind of shepherd he wants the leaders of the Christian church to be.

The very last words that Jesus spoke to Peter were repeated three times, “Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these . . . feed my lambs . . . feed my sheep . . . feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-19)

My mentor, in shepherding ministry, Pastor Charles Warren was just promoted to glory. He is in the presence of the Great Shepherd. Those are two things, he taught me so well, as a young 24 year old pastor, of a slum-church in Delhi.

Listen to the voice of the Great Shepherd. Love the Great Shepherd.

Listen to the voice of the sheep. Love the sheep.

“If you do these two things,” he said, “You will do well in pastoral ministry.”

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“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.” (Rev 19:1)

The Bible makes it very clear that injustices in the world happen at very deep levels. Throughout human history, we may observe that kings and authorities, do not merely do severely unjust things because of political reasons. The injustices happen because of deep seated and systemic reasons. The Book of Revelations, on several occasions makes it clear that the Kingdom of God brings to an end the merciless deeds and the authority of these powers. These unjust deeds are seen in two primary ways: One, sexual violence against girls and women; and two, severe violence against those who seek to follow the ethos of the Kingdom of Christ.

This is the background of Revelations 19.

In the Hebrew Bible, this victory over the unjust powers of evil is seen on many, many occasions. One dramatic scenario was in the works of the Prophet Elijah. The Prophet Elijah worked during a time when the reigning religion was based on the fertility cult of Baal and the Asherah. These were a part of the sexual deities of Ancient Near Eastern religions. Sadly, the worship of these deities became an intrinsic part of Israelite society. There were high priestesses, and priests of these deities, who would force girls and women into ritual “marriages” to these deities. As a result of this, people in power, would practice ritual sex, which was nothing but the systemic practice of rape, in the name of religion.

Jezebel, the Queen of Israel, was a high priestess of Baal and Asherah. Elijah, the Prophet sought to eradicate this evil practice. In his struggle against this evil practice of ritual rape, sometimes he had moments of heights. At other times, he had experiences of lows. A dramatic experience of highs is seen in 1 Kings 18. Elijah had to muster much strength to stand up against roughly 800 priests and priestesses of the Baal and Asherah. They had the political authority of the High Priestess and Queen Jezebel, herself, and the King Ahab. Yet, standing in front of this seemingly insurmountable political and religious power, Elijah proclaimed:

LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.

 Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD– he is God! The LORD– he is God!” (1Ki 18:36-39 NIV)

The low-class people (Hebrew Ha-am) were waiting for precisely this kind of a dramatic salvation moment. For too long they had to endure so much injustice and pain.

I call this a dramatic #MeToo moment.

They finally got their voices back to say, “The LORD, he is God! The LORD, he is God! No longer can the political and religious powers of injustice abuse us, and our boys and girls.”


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Faith is a theme which is repeated over and over again in the Bible- both in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament. It reaches a crescendo in the Book of Hebrews. Chapter 11 is the poem of the great heroes of faith in the Hebrew Bible. It begins with the assertion from the Prophet Habakkuk, “Those who seek justice will live by faith.” (Hebrew, Amen; Greek, pistis).

The context of the Prophet Habakkuk’s vision is a lament. The Prophet Habakkuk laments,

“How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.

Therefore, the Torah is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.

The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

(Habakkuk 1:2-4 NIV)

As Habakkuk looks at the world around him, he sees no hope. All he sees is violence, injustice, wrongdoing, destruction, strife, and conflict. There is no regard for the Torah. There is utter lawlessness. There is a perversion of justice, and the wicked have cornered those who seek justice. In the light of this the Prophet Habakkuk cries out for justice and Yeshua, Jesus, Salvation.

In this context, the Prophet Habakkuk is given a vision. The vision finds its nucleus in the words, “The just shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

Hebrews 11 goes on underline that this has been the case throughout human history. Human beings, sadly, have always promulgated violence, injustice, wrongdoing, destruction, strife, and conflict. Yet, in the midst of this sad history, there have always been people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and the list goes on and on, of people who brought about justice in their generations, right in the midst of injustice. They did this by faith in God, who is always faithful. They remained faithful to God, who is by very nature Faithful (Hebrew Amen).

Throughout human history, beyond the history of the Bible, there have been many other human beings- both women and men, who have been heroes of faith.

This week, a hero of mine, Pastor Charles Warren was promoted to be with Jesus. Pastor Warren studied with another modern hero of faith, Billy Graham, at Wheaton College. He and his wife Anita, came to Nepal and Tibet to serve Jesus among the Tibetans and the Nepalese people. They, then served in India. When my wife, Sarita, and I graduated from Union Biblical Seminary, I went on to serve under his leadership at Delhi Bible Fellowship. Everything I know about preaching God’s Word faithfully and pastoral ministry, I learnt from Pastor Warren. He taught me to remember the names of every person- little girls, boys, women, men, irrespective of their caste, because all are created in the image of God. He taught me to give a hug to those suffering from communicable diseases. He taught me to work hard in the 120 degrees’ heat of Delhi, to serve Jesus. He taught me to be generous to the poor-yes, even those who might take advantage of one’s generosity. This list could go on and on.

Pastor Warren’s final sermon to the congregation he loved so much was, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.” (1Co 13:13 NIV)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the joy to spending some time with Pastor Warren. He was in hospice. He knew he was soon going to be with Jesus, and his dear wife, Anita. His body and heart were failing. But, his mind was so sharp. He remembered every single person in Delhi- girls, boys, women, and men, so fondly. He remembered Tibet, Nepal, and India, with so much fondness. He remembered my wife and kids with so much fondness- he officiated over our wedding, in 1981. It was an amazing couple of hours.

I asked him, “Pastor Warren, do you remember your final sermon to us at Delhi Bible Fellowship.” He responded, “I sure do, and still have that sermon ready and handy.”  “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.” (1Co 13:13 NIV)

Thank you, Pastor Warren!

You came to Nepal, Tibet and India, seeking to bring God’s justice and Jesus to these lands. You saw these accomplished through your faith and love. Your name is now added to the list of Hebrews chapter 11, of the heroes of faith and love.

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Developing ethos, virtues, habits of life, is a very crucial thing. According to ethicist Alasdair McIntyre, a society or an individual practices virtue ethics, when good words and deeds flow from the depths of a person or society without even giving it a second thought. It is when a person says, “Do not call me a hero. I just did what I have developed a habit to do. Or, I just said what I developed a habit to say.”

At the end of his ministry on earth, Jesus celebrated the Passover Seder with his disciples, then he went to the Mount of Olives to pray, as was his “ethos,” and the disciples followed him (Luke 22:39). There was also a “place of encounter” on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus spent time in communion with his Abba, as was his “ethos.” There he urged his disciples, to pray, and he went on a little further, and prayed, “Abba, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42). Was this prayer his ethos, as well? Perhaps, it was. Jesus made it his ethos to do and say everything in communion with the Abba. He had an ethos of prayer, at a particular place of communion- Gethsemane.

“Being in agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). In Hebrew and in Aramaic- the language of Jesus, the words “blood” and “ground” are intrinsically connected to each other. A good example of this is found in Genesis 4, where Cain, killed his own brother Abel. Then, the LORD said to Cain, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood (Hebrew dam), is crying out from the ground (Hebrew adamah).” (Genesis 4:10). In Hebrew, this word is also related to the word for a human being or man- Adam. In the Luke 22:44, the Son of Man (Hebrew Ben Adam), Jesus the Messiah, is in deep agony, and his blood (Hebrew dam), is crying out from the ground (Hebrew adamah). It is as if Jesus’ ethos of prayer caused him to bear years and years of the results of violence, bloodshed, and sin in human history.

He was teaching is disciples to develop this ethos.

Sadly, when Jesus came to his disciples, he found them “sleeping for sorrow.” (Luke 22:45). In Greek, their sleep was as if they were as good as dead. This state of being dead to the world, and to God, was caused by deep sorrow. Jesus recognized this, and so had said to his disciples, “Develop an ethos of prayer-deep agonizing prayer, because human history has got so much pain, agony, sin, and violence.”

When one considers all that is going on in the world, even today, it is only natural for followers of Jesus to go into a state of slumber, in deep seclusion, and depression. The antidote to this, just like Jesus’ ethos is to “watch and pray.”

Jesus says to them, “Arise and pray. Develop an ethos of resurrection and prayer. That is the only way to overcome deep systemic sin in human history. If you do not do this, you will go into a state of deep slumber, and depression.”



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In a world where there is so much abuse and injustice, there is a need for what the Bible calls “complete and wholesome people.” The Hebrew word is tam. Noah was one such amazing person. Genesis 6:9 proclaims regarding him, “Noah was just man. He was tam, a complete person, in his generation. Noah walked with God.”

Job is also called a “just and complete” human being (Job 12:4).

What was the generation of Noah like?

The context is found in Genesis 6:4. This was the generation of the  “Nephilim . . . the sons of the gods came into the daughters of men, who then bore to them. These were the Giborim. The men of the divine names.”

A cursory reading of Ancient Near Eastern religions makes it clear that these were a certain category of men, priests and kings, who were called the “sons of the gods.” They would perform ritual sex with girls under cult trees. Ancient temples were constructed around these cult trees. The progeny of this ritual sex, were then called gods, who were worshipped by people.

It was essentially the rape and abuse of girls and women, with religious and political  sanctions behind it.

This is very similar to the context of the modern  #MeToo movement.

Noah was a just man, who strove to bring about justice to girls and women in his generation.

He was not a fiery kind of person. He seemed to have been quite a calm person. His name was Noah, which means the “restful one.” In Genesis 5:29, he is also called a person of deep “compassion.” In Hebrew, the word for compassion is nacham. It rhymes with Noah’s name, nuach. Noah’s philosophy of bringing about justice is through restfulness and compassion.

He was a complete person.

Abraham is told that being a tam, complete person should be the goal of every good life (Genesis 17:1). In keeping with his goal in life, the enslaved people in Egypt are told to offer a “tam, complete and whole lamb.” (Exodus 12:5). This was the same for every offering in the rest of the Torah. It is as if the people had to constantly remind themselves. They had to live a “just and complete” life.

The prophets urge the people to live a life of “completeness and faithfulness,” (Joshua 24:14). They also mourn the fact, that when the Exodus community were created anew, they were “complete,” but in later history they became unjust in all their ways (Ezek. 28:15)

The Psalms of the Messiah, also underline that this Messiah would be a “complete” person (Psalm 18:23, 25, 30, 32; and so on).  He was the ultimate model of a “just and complete” person.

Keeping this in mind the apostles constantly says things like, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God– this is your true and proper worship. (Rom 12:1 NIV). The followers of Jesus were urged to be “just and complete” people, just like their Lord and Messiah himself was a “just and complete” sacrifice.

Jesus says, “Be complete, just as your Abba in heaven is complete.”

Noah, was just and complete in his generation. He did this in quietness and with compassion. It seems to me that Jesus would say, “You want a human example? Look at Noah!”

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