Archive for June, 2019

There is so much turmoil in the world.
Sadly, there is so much turmoil in the Church also.

Turmoil and violence has been there throughout the history of the world. Genesis 1:2 says, “the earth was tohu vavohu.” In the rest of the Bible, this language describes a violently destroyed place. It describes the experience of the enslaved people of God in Egypt (Deuteronomy 32:19). It describes Jerusalem, which literally means ‘the City of Peace,” which was sadly destroyed by successive invading armies of Assyrians, Babylonians, and so on (Isaiah 24:10; 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23). In many senses, God’s very first act was peacemaking. He created peace out of destruction and chaos. Creation was an act of peacemaking.

This is the mission of God’s people throughout the Bible. Recreation through Shalom.

For this reason Jesus says, “I give you Shalom. Yes the world will try to destroy shalom, just like it destroys YeruShalayim, the City of Peace. But, I leave you with Shalom. Do not let your inner beings be troubled, and in a state of chaos and restlessness. Let this Shalom be your deep inner experience, always. Only when you have this deep inner peace, you will be a peacemaker, in a world full of restlessness, violence and destruction. SHALOM I leave with you!”

My prayer is the we would deeply absorb this SHALOM which our Lord gives us freely and abundantly.

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“He (Abram) believed in the LORD and this was regarded for him as justice.” (Genesis 15:6)

This text is underlined in Romans 4:11 as very central theological motif, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The central meaning of human life and existence, it is stressed, is a life of faith, and belief. Abram’s life was characterized by faith in God.

In the second part of this sentence, the Hebrew word, Chashav, which is translated as “reckoned or credited” is a powerful word. It is what the LORD says to his dejected people who are in exile, “For I know the plans (chashav) that I have for you, plans (chashav) for peace and not for evil.” (Jeremiah 29:11). The same word is used in Hosea 7:15, where the LORD mourns, “Although I trained and strengthened their arms yet they devise (chashav) evil against me.” In Isaiah 53, regarding the coming suffering Messiah, the text says, “He was despised and rejected by humanity, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; as one from whom human beings hide their faces, he was despised and we thought (chashav) nothing of him.”

This word, it seems clear, is about a philosophy of life. It is what defines a person or community.

This verse may be translated as, “Abram believed God. This is what characterized his life. It was a life of trust. It was a life of faith. This philosophy of life led to him being a just person.”

The immediate context of Genesis 15:6 makes this clear. Genesis 14 is full of violence and destruction. Sadly, that is what defined ancient kingdoms. Indeed sadly, this violence defines modern kingdoms, as well. Yet, right in the midst of this violence, Abram, the father of faith, encounters a person. He is called Malki-Tzedek, which means My King is Just. The New Testament focuses on this figure in Hebrews chapters 5-7, which quotes Psalm 110. Jesus the Messiah is called “An everlasting priest, with the mission and persona of Malki Tsedek.” (Psalm 110:4), the King of Peace (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:2).

The central mission of Jesus the Messiah was, is, and always will be two things: Justice and Peace. The New Testament makes this clear that these two motifs ought to be the central mission statement of the followers of Jesus the Messiah, the Malki Tsedek, the King of Justice and Peace. A life of faith always leads to justice and peace.

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Eph. 4:26 “In your anger do not sin;” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.

The verse for today deals with the issue of anger. It is OK to be angry?

The Gospels record a poignant moment in the life of Jesus, when his anger at the injustices of society were obvious (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18). The Sadducees ruled the Temple. They came up with a Temple system which took blatant advantage of the poor masses. They made sure that whenever poor people came into the Temple, they would take advantage of them. A poor person, e.g. who would have travelled a hundred miles from Nazareth to sacrifice to the Lord, was told if did not buy the certain kind of goat or lamb they were selling at the Temple gate, their sacrifice would be invalid. The whole system was developed to fatten the purses of the Sadducees, the rulers of the Temple. The Pharisees were also hand-in-hand with this religious and economic system.

When Jesus entered the Temple, he was angry with this very unjust system. The text says, “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:12-13).

In this narrative Jesus is exhibiting the same anger, which is shown by God in the Old Testament. The prophets say things like, “My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the LORD Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah.” (Zech 10:3; cf. Zech 7:12). Another prophet, Zephaniah exclaims, “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek rightness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’S anger” (Zephaniah 2:3). The anger of God against systemic injustice and sin is seen throughout the Bible.

In the light of this, it becomes clear that there is rightful place for anger. If God’s people are not angry. There is something wrong.

The Bible also makes it clear that while there is a place for anger, there is also a time and place for calmness and gentleness. The same God who is angry with systemic sin and injustice, is primarily described as “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6; cf. Psalm 86:5,l 15; Joel 2:3)
In Hebrew, the phrase, “slow to anger” is literally “long nosed.” The idea is that a person who has a short nosed, has a short fuse. In contrast, the person who has a “long nose,” has a long fuse. God is therefore described as one who has a “long nose/with a long fuse.”

In the Old Testament, there is prophet called Jonah. He was running away form God. He did not want to proclaim the Gospel of God’s love to his enemies the Ninevites. Towards the end of the narrative, Jonah finally reveals his real reason for running away from God. With much anger and resentment he says, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2). Jonah wanted God’s wrath to descend upon the enemies of Israel, the Ninevites. But, God forgave them. This was an evil thing, as far as Jonah was concerned, so he was angry with God. (Jonah 4:1).

It is all about the nose.
Jonah had a short nose, or a short fuse. So he was angry.
God had a long nose, or a long fuse, so he was forgiving.

This is what our text for today asks us to do.
Just like God, be angry at human sin and systems of injustice. But, we ready to have a long nose, and forgive.

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From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.
Psalm 113:3 NIV

These words are repeated both in the Hebrew Prophets and in the Psalms (Malachi 1:11; Psa. 50:1; 104:19). It therefore is a central theme in the worship of God in the Bible. Literally these words may be translated as “from the rising of the sun to its entering.”

In Hebrew the word “rising” is zarach. It is also translated to describe an individual who is native born to the land (Exodus 12:19, 48, 49, and so on). In that sense, in this the sun is described as one that is native born, and the word “entering (Heb. Ba’) is described as one that is entering as a foreigner. So, one may interpret this verse to mean, whether you treat the sun as a native, or as a foreigner, always ask yourself the question, “Is the name of the LORD praised through what you are doing?

We may also observe that the Hebrew words for sun, Shemesh, and name, Shem, are juxtaposed in this Psalm.

The worship of the Sun god has been very prevalent in the world’s religions- both ancient and modern. The Egyptians worshipped the sun god Ra’ as the god of gods. The Pharaohs descended from the sun god Ra’, and so they were worshipped as the highest gods by Egyptians. For this reason, in the 9th plague, the LORD causes darkness to come upon the land (Exodus 10:21-29). The LORD sought to show that the sun god was not God. He alone was God. The sun god Helios was the ancient god of the Greeks. In Hinduism, this god is Surya. In Buddhism the Buddha of the sun is called Suryaprabha. In China the male sun god is called Rigong Tai Yang Xing, and the female moon goddess is called Yugong Tai Tai Yin Xing. Hindus worship the sun god in the yoga practice of Surya Namaskara. In ancient Canaanite religion, Shemesh the sun goddess was the daughter of El and Asherah. She was worshipped at Beth Shemesh. This was the place where high class Canaanites practiced ritual sex with low class women. The worship of the sun god, in all these ancient and modern religions, was always the domain of the high class and high caste people. It gave them power to do severe unjust things against the poor and the weak.

It is in response to this that the creation narrative in the Bible says, “God said let there be light, and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3). God made the whole planetary system to “to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and the night.” (Genesis 1:16). The Bible makes it clear the Shemesh, the sun god or goddess, is not God. The LORD God created the sun and the whole planetary system. The prophets always stress this teaching. The Prophet Jeremiah e.g. says,
This is what the LORD says,
he who appoints the sun
to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
so that its waves roar—
the LORD Almighty is his name:
(Jeremiah 31:35)

The Psalms always stress this, e.g.
The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
(Psalm 74:16 cf. Ps. 19:4; 104:22; 121:6, and so on)

At the apex of time, when the Messiah LORD would establish his kingdom, the Revelation of John goes on to exclaim, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.‘ He will wipe every tear from their eyes, There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life . . . The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Revelation 21:1-5, 23). And then, “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5).

The Bible makes it clear the sun is not god. Human beings made sun the god or goddess to control God’s creation, and to enslave other human beings. God himself is God. All of the planetary system, including the sun, is his creation. He himself is the true Light. The planetary system is just a reflection of this true Light. At the apex of history this will be made abundantly clear.

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In John 14, Jesus was giving his final talks to his disciples. He said, “The Father will give you another Comforter (Hebrew, Nacham; Greek, Parakaleo), the Spirit of Truth.” He repeats this several times, (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7).

In the Hebrew Bible, God is always portrayed as a God of Comfort. In Isaiah 40, e.g. God cries out, “Comfort, Comfort my people” (Isaiah 40:1, 2). Like a gentle shepherd he calls and comforts his sheep (Isaiah 40:11).

God as a Comforter is the predominant image of God in the Hebrew Bible. In usual retellings of Noah’s flood story sadly God is portrayed as a wrathful judge, who destroys humanity. However, the Hebrew text portrays him as one who looks down at humanity. He sees the “sons of god” raping the daughters of human beings” (Genesis 6:1, 2). This was a part of the sexual ritual in ancient religions. The sons of god were divine-kings who forced regular human beings to worship them, and give their daughters to them in religious-sexual rites. Ancient commentaries suggest that human beings were dying as a result of these blatant sexual practices. Genesis 6 gives a picture of God’s response to this. It reveals the heart of God, “The LORD ‘comforted himself’ (Heb. nacham) because he had made humanity on earth, this grieved him to his heart” (Genesis 6:6, 7). Noah’s flood was a response of God the Comforter.

This is the portrayal of God in the rest of the Hebrew Bible.
Here are a couple of other examples.

Exodus 32 narrates the sad incident of the exodus community treating the savior God with disdain. These are a group of people who were just saved from all the horrors of slavery. They have just been given the Ten Commandments. Yet, their response was to forsake this God, and return back to gods of the Egyptians, who were the cause of their enslavement, in the first place. Exodus 32:14 describes God’s response, “The LORD comforted himself (Heb. Nacham).” He did not give them the punishment they deserved.

The Greek translation, the LXX, portrays God’s salvation of the people as act of comfort to a people who were enslaved for 400 years. “You have guided in your justice this your people, whom you have redeemed; by your strength you have comforted them into your holy resting place” (Exodus 15:13).

In his final speech to the redeemed people, Moses constantly reminded them that God will always comfort (Heb. nacham) his people. (Deuteronomy 32:36).

This is the main thrust of the message of the Prophet Isaiah. “Sing for joy, Oh heavens, and exult, O earth’ break forth into singing, oh mountains., because the LORD has comforted (Heb. Nacham) his people (Isaiah 49:13; cf. Isaiah 1:24; 12:1; 51:3, 12, 19; 52:9; 61:2, and so on). In the Book of Lamentations, the Prophet Jeremiah laments the destruction of Jerusalem, “she has none to comfort her (Greek, parakaleo; Heb. Nacham),” (Lamentations 1:2, 9, 16, 17, 21). The God of Comfort himself responds to say, “I will be your comforter (Lamentations 2:13).

These are the cries of Jerusalem which are heard when the life of Jesus, Messiah is introduced in Matthew. When Herod orders the killing of all baby boys in Israel, Matthew 2 quotes the Prophet Jeremiah in describing the cries of mothers who hold on to the dead bodies of their children, “Rachel weeping for his children. She refuses to be comforted” (Matthew 2:18, Greek, parakaleo). Jesus is then described as the great comforter, who comforts people who are enslaved and unjustly treated. He teaches, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). When Jesus healed people, those acts are described as acts of comfort (Matthew 14:36). These people are always described as those who primarily need comfort, and Jesus provides comfort to people (Mark 1:40; 5:18; 5:23, and so on). The Book of Acts describes the act of comforting (Greek, parakaleo) as the main focus of the apostles and early Church (Acts 2:40; 11:23; 14:22, and so on). This was the work of the Holy Spirit, the Great Comforter.

May this be the vision and the main persona of the Church today! Goodness knows, the world needs much comfort!

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I am beginning a new series of blogs on the daily verse put out by YouVerse.


The theme of faith is very central to the whole Bible. It is the great equalizer. Faith does not depend on power, or wealth, or class, or caste or anything else. It is just faith. All other systems of politics and economics etc. sadly depend on these.

The great role model of Hebrew Bible, Abraham exemplifies this. “Abram believed the LORD, and this became the philosophy of life for him towards justice and rightness.” (Genesis 15:6). Later in the Torah we see that “faith” became the basis of the salvation of the exodus community. The text says, “And the people `believed;’ and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they `believed’ in the LORD and in his servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:30, 31)

The Torah goes on to prescribe that ‘faith’ ought to be the basis of their philosophy of being in the land. So in the Book of Leviticus, Moses writes, “ ‘Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live by `faith,’ in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there by faith. (Leviticus 25:18, 19)

Sadly, in the wilderness, this exodus community refused “to believe” in the LORD. When Moses sent the twelve scouts into the land, ten of them returned back with a slanderous and evil report (Numbers 13:32, 37). This led the people to “not believe” (Hebrew, Lo Amen) the word of the LORD. The LORD therefore mourns, ““How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse `to believe’ in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?” (Numbers 14:11). As a result of this the LORD says to Moses that this exodus community “will not see the promised land.” (Numbers 14:22).

Right in the midst of this sadness, the LORD proclaims the Gospel. He says, wait and see “all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.” (Numbers 14:21). Indeed this is what the later prophets hoped, e.g. the Prophet Habakkuk exclaims, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14). The LORD mourns the lack of faith of the redeemed people. Yet, he predicts the time when the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD. The whole earth will believe.

Sadly, the Book of Numbers goes on to narrate that the great lawgiver Moses himself “did not believe.” Later, perhaps after the 40 years were over in the wilderness, Moses was sick of the people’s grumbling. In his anger, instead of “believing” in the LORD, he shouts at the people, “ Hear now you rebels! Must WE (Aaron and Moses) bring for you water out of the rock?” with his statement, Moses and Aaron turned themselves into a gods. The LORD then said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you `did not believe’ in me to declare me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, you shall no bring this gathering into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12)

Faith in God is very central to the Hebrew Bible and the Torah. The prophets would later decry the fact that the city, which was founded on grounds of faith and justice, Jerusalem, has become a city full of injustice, and violence (Isaiah 1:21-26).

The Book of Jonah, much in contrast to the people of God, provides a positive picture of Nineveh’s pagan people. It was a city full of violence and injustice. Yet in a poignant turn of events, while the Prophet Jonah himself is portrayed as one lacking faith, the city of Nineveh is portrayed as repenting and “believing in God.

What an example of “faith!” Jesus exclaims, “The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.” (Matthew 12:41)

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