Saturday, March 26, 2011

Annotated Bibliography for some of my research work

How the Cold War Changed American Evangelical Fundamentalism
Annotated Bibliography

Ault, James M. Jr. Spirit and Flesh: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

Ault began this as a postgraduate research project and it wound up being a PBS documentary. I am hopeful that this sociologist’s reporting of life with a Fundamentalist Baptist Church will give me some insight into history and viewpoints. Although, not a book about the Cold War, it will afford insights into post World War II fundamentalist religion.

Doherty, Thomas. Cold War, Cool Medium; Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture.
New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

The Cold War struggle against atheistic Soviet communism, at least as perceived in themind of American Christians, changed their perception from America as a Christian nation to America as a Judeo-Christian nation. There was an emphasis on ecumenicalism and an ‘it doesn’t matter what you believe in as long as you believe in something’ attitude as a doctrinally nonspecific civil religion which was reflected in the medium of the age; television. Very insightful reading that goes into the religious stars of the television age as well.

Fried, Richard M. The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!: Pageantry and
Patriotism in Cold War America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

The author discusses, among other things, the sentiments that led to adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, the American Legion’s “Back to God” program, and the many other popular and politicized celebrations of the Americans’ faith in God as a defensive action against “godless” communism. This is very entertaining and eye opening.

Goodall, Norman. The Ecumenical Movement: What It Is and What It Does. London:
Oxford University Press, 1961.

This book is written from a United Kingdom perspective but is valuable in explaining exactly what the ecumenical movement was during the Cold War, reflecting on its larger organizations and stated intentions. I feel it is a valuable resource on the organization of the movement that had some impact on religion in America during the Cold War. Fundamentalists were generally opposed to it, although that is not part of this book. It is a rather syrupy and biased book extolling the ecumenical movement but the information in it will be of value to me, I am certain.

Hough, Joseph C. Black Power and White Protestants. New York:
Oxford University Press, 1968.

This work is a rather tortured study of the need for a response from predominantly white Christian congregations to the demand for social justice in America that had great power after WWII. This book helps explain the politicization of religion during the Cold War in America. Its well written and I think will be a help to my understanding of the topic.

Ingwalson, Kenneth W. ed. Your Church – Their Target. Arlington, Va.:
Better Books Publisher, 1966.

This is really a compilation of essays from various pastors of mainstream Protestant churches specifically detailing how they believe the Soviet Union and communist workers in America were trying to infiltrate American churches. The essays go into great specifics from folk music to education material (a tie in with Mickenburg’s book mentioned later) and don’t hang on generalities. The preachers and theologians listed in the book lend evidence to how the Cold War was perceived by leaders in American fundamentalist and mainline Protestant denominations.

Kirby, Dianne, ed. Religion and the Cold War. New York: Palgrave, 2003.

Kirby credits President Truman with the accomplishment of using religion to get Americans to abandon what she calls isolationism and to embark on globalism and world leadership. It is Truman who comes up with the plan to use religion as a tool against communism, in her estimation. Although her book is not specifically about America it does render lots of clues on how I might proceed in my study and what to look for. I think it’s well written and informative.

Lahr, Angela. Millennial Dreams and Apocalyptic Nightmares: The Cold War Origins of Political Evangelicalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

The important thing about this book is how it details how evangelical and fundamental religious forces went from being marginalized in America with the growing secularization of the country before Second World War to being in the political front line of the fight against communism and Soviet influence in America.

Marsden, George. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Mich.:Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing, 1991.

This book has provided a necessary background as to the state of Fundamental Protestant Christianity and Evangelicalism on the eve of the Cold War. It reviews the history of Fundamentalist Christianity in America and is the best book so far I’ve found for the context needed to approach the subject of the Cold War and American Evangelical Fundamentalism. It gives the important information about where the movement was as the Cold War began and the Second World War ended. It’s easy to read.

Massi, Jeri. Schizophrenic Sermons: Blasphemy, Heresy, and Deceptions Preached as Scripture by Prominent Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Preachers. Raleigh, NC: Jupiter Rising Books, 2008.

This book purports to be about how Christian fundamentalism is a modern, twisted type of Christianity. I have not read this book yet. It is not about the Cold War but as context is going to be so important in my research to find out exactly what changes have occurred in American evangelical fundamentalism as a result of the Cold War I believe it will be useful. I am wary, though, because Massi does seem to have an axe to grind.

May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound; American Families in the Cold War Era. New York:
Basic Books, 1988.

I found this book to be a great resource for discovering the ways that American church life changed because of the Cold War with churches going from places of prayer and charity to youth recreation, political action, and social events. Church membership dramatically increased during the early Cold War period. It’s a great read and there is a lot of information in it that will be useful.

Mickenburg, Julia L. Learning from the Left; Children’s Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

There developed in Cold War America a tension between the perceived attempt to radicalize children through literature from the left and Christian opposition to it. She quotes from the previous cited book by Elaine May and brings up things that May does not including Claire Booth Luce’s “The Communist Challenge to a Christian World”.

Morgan, Ted. Reds: McCarthyism in Twentieth Century America. New York: Random House,2003.

This book while not dealing with religion in particular other than that Senator McCarthy was a Roman Catholic does give background and context to my study. It also explains, while others do not, the way Americans looked at the Russian Revolution and the Soviet State. It’s a nice read.

Noll, Mark A. Protestants in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Noll, whom Jason Stephens in his book listed below calls a “distinguished evangelical historian”, gives some detail regarding the growing political power of Protestant churches and the first usages of the term ‘civil religion’, that somewhat ecumenical union of church and church and church and state that characterized the Cold War.

Osborn, Ronald E. The Spirit of American Christianity. New York:
Harper and Bros. Publishers, 1958.

This book deals with, among other things, the drive for conformity in American religion in relationship to the international power status of the United States. He also deals with the increase in church attendance sparked by the Cold War but doesn’t really see it in light of the pressures of the Cold War. It’s an informative book and does greatly back up things that May said much later.

Parker, T. Valentine. American Protestantism. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1956.

This is, along with being a general history, another valuable explanation of ecumenicalism and its attraction in the minds of many Christians as a response to atheistic communism or as a tactic of it.

Podles, Leon J. The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity. Dallas:Spence Publishing Company, 1999.

The value for me in this book is in its description of how some American Christians view Christian masculinity in relationship to war and the conflicts the America of the Cold War era was involved in and how Christian American men felt betrayed by their own government and a need to rally together to “protect themselves and their families”. This book gives great insight into the psyche of the fundamentalists in the Cold War era without being a book about the Cold War.

Ribuffo, Leo P., The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the
Great Depression to the Cold War. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983.

Ribuffo’s work is good for the explanation it gives of fundamentalist Christian doctrines that dominated the Cold War era and the politicization of right wing Christianity. It’s the most detailed on popular doctrine of many of the books I’m studying on the subject.

Riplinger, Gail. New Age Bible Versions. Ararat, Va.: AV Publications Corporation, 1993.

While not on the subject of the Cold War itself, the book entails Biblical scholarship since World War II and changes in the presentation of the Bible, which fundamentalists hold up as being the source of their convictions. Therefore I felt that this would be helpful in helping me to understand changes brought on by the Cold War.

Ruckman, Peter S. The History of the New Testament Church, Volume II. Pensacola:Bible Baptist Publishing, 1984.

This book was indispensable in understanding the particularly Baptist mindset of the Cold War years in opposition to the ecumenicalism and civil religion lauded elsewhere, written by a preacher who was an important part of a small subset of American fundamentalism. It provides a hard hitting counterweight to the changes in American religion, particularly fundamental Protestant and Baptist faiths.

Sharp, Joanne. Condensing the Cold War: Reader’s Digest and American Identity.Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Although the popular Reader’s Digest might seem an odd choice for a book about how the Cold War may have changed American fundamental Christianity, I thought this did give some perspective to underscore my points. This little digest of articles and stories was very popular among the right wing in America, including Christians and its continuing statement of the incompatibility of communism and Christianity was certainly one of the voices reflecting American religious belief. It’s a very good book, by the way, if anyone grew up with a stack of them in your house. Sharp’s book is excellent.

Stephens, Jason W. God-Fearing and Free: A Spiritual History of
America’s Cold War. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Stephens’ book is very well sourced. He overthrows some commonly held beliefs about the exponential growth of fundamentalism in the Cold War but is much more intellectual than the title implies and I think misses a few things but he is going to be a very valuable source for me in understanding the changes wrought by the global conflict and the threat of annihilation.

Viola, Frank & Barna, George. Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of our Church Practices. Carol Stream, Il: Tyndale House Publishers, 2002.

Once again, another book that is not about the Cold War, per se, but does give some insight into basic practices, such as order of worship, reflecting on recent changes and ancient origins. While not a major contributor to my research it does present some fundamental points about the fluidity of the manner and practice of worship, particularly in America. It is clear from reading this book that fundamental Christianity has been permanently changed by the decades long conflict of the Cold War. Its references to Jesus as a revolutionary and their faintly Marxist taint remind me of 1970’s America on a university campus.

Williams, Daniel K. God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

The development of fundamental evangelicalism as a potent political force has its rise told in this very interesting book. Williams deals with many issues including things that I think are very important to my thesis, such as the evangelical reaction to several Supreme Court decisions that undermined religious teaching in public schools thought of as a bone thrown to communism and the Soviet state. It is clear that much of what because of the fundamentalist churches was a direct kneejerk reaction, although sometimes thought out and planned in advance, to the growing secularism of Cold War America. This is a wonderful, enlightening book.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Luke, the Physician: The Pioneer Christian Historian

This is not a theological work. Its not a defense of the gospel. Its purely my answer to a secular question. Was Luke the first Christian historian?

“A man whose accuracy can be demonstrated in matters where
we are able to test it is likely to be accurate even where the means of
testing him are not available. Accuracy is a habit of mind, and we know
from happy (or unhappy) experience that some people are habitually
accurate just as others can be depended upon to be inaccurate. Luke’s
record entitles him to be regarded as a writer of habitual accuracy.”

F.F. Bruce

The Gospel of St. Luke and The Acts of the Apostles are essential and unique among the Gospel narratives and the other books of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. They are unique because they include so much information that is found nowhere else in the Bible and they are essential, especially with regard to Luke’s life and ministry of Jesus, because, as A.M. Fairbairn said, in 1880, “Knowledge of the historical and personal Christ is necessary to the knowledge and realization of the Christian religion. An abstract theology is but a speculative system, necessary, perhaps, to satisfy the intellect, and be to it, from the standpoint of the religious consciousness, an explication of the universe of nature and man. But religion is concrete and complex, must stand before us articulated in a person, that persons may know what it is, and how it is to be realized.”
My interest in the Gospel of Luke began with the curious fact that in the fundamentalist churches in which I’ve had contact his work is ignored except at Christmas and then only because of the detail he gives of the events surrounding Christ’s birth. The modern day preacher prefers to use Matthew’s Gospel, a distinctly Jewish work, perhaps for its direct linkage to the law given to the Jews by God through Moses and the very spiritual minded ‘Sermon on the Mount’ found there. However, I found in Luke more depth and more appeal, not only for his detail and accuracy as eminent Biblical scholar, F.F. Bruce did, but for his willingness to set the story of Christ and the early church within the time frame of specific emperors and local officials, for the social gospel Jesus presents the multitude with in the ‘Sermon on the Plain’ (my term), and for the moral and spiritual power in his parables such as ‘The Good Samaritan’ and ‘The Prodigal Son’ found nowhere else.
But, can Luke, the only Bible narrator who gives us a history of the early church, be considered an historian? Does he fulfill the requirements of a historian of the Graeco-Roman world or of any era, for that matter? Is he an historian or merely one possible source for historians. Jenny L. Presnell makes the statement in The Information-Literate Historian that “historians gather clues and evidence from the past in order to understand and reconstruct an image of a particular person, place, event, or time period.” Richard Bauckham shows that the Gospel According to St. John contains the elements essential to classifying it within Graeco-Roman Historiography such as topography; a knowledge of the geography of the area where the events described in the history take place, chronology; an ability to place the events described in the history in a context of actual coinciding events with actual dates in real history, theology; descriptions of events with theological significance, for instance, miracles, and then selectivity; a careful choosing of things to include and events to leave out, narrative asides which are important to the telling of the story, eyewitness testimony, and, finally, discourses and dialogues.
The question is, again, does Luke the Physician qualify under these terms and these conditions as an historian and is his work history or only a theological statement? Finally, what is the relationship between Luke’s history, if it is such, and the Christian Historiographical tradition?

Among the books written about both Luke’s Gospel and his Acts include William Sanger Campbell’s study about the use of the personal “we” among ancient writers, why it is used and how it links Luke’s work to a greater historiographical tradition entitled The “We” Passages in The Acts of the Apostles: The Narrator as Narrative Character. Daniel Marguerat’s work, The First Christian Historian: Writing the ‘Acts of the Apostles’, and Christopher Mount’s Christianity: Luke, Acts, and The Legacy of Paul and others worthy to be referenced in pursuing the quest of discovering whether or not Luke is a bona fide historian. Harvard’s Literary Guide to the Bible offers some interesting incites into the narrative power of Luke’s writing, particularly in comparison to the other gospels and other historical writings. More ancient works that comment on Luke’s work include the aforementioned Studies in the Life of Christ by A.M. Fairbairn, Roberts and Donaldson’s collection of the early church father’s writings and Schaff’s History of the Christian Church from the late nineteenth century, Stokes’ The Acts of the Apostles from the same era, and Deems’ Light of the Nations also from that time frame.
Of particular note to me are additional works that shed some insight into the question of Luke’s historian credentials, Unger’s Archaeology and the New Testament and Maier’s new translation of Eusebius’ The Church History. There have been many more volumes written that would add additional information to the question but to keep from writing a book about the subject I must be brief and selective in my references.

To help establish Luke’s uniqueness and to further assert that he probably did not copy from either Mark, Luke, or John let me begin with a statement of the typical scholar’s assumption that he wrote with Matthew and Mark, at least, in front of him. This assumption is based on the belief that Luke wrote his gospel and history of the early church much later than Matthew and Mark wrote and that he would have copied from them as some believe Mark copied from Matthew. Another commonly held belief is that Matthew’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is also found in Luke. From The Literary Guide to the Bible, comes this compliment of Luke’s work, “There are space, light, and long perspective in Luke’s Gospel. Like the painter Claude Lorrain, he is a master of the long view. This is noticeable straightaway, in the leisurely sentence which makes up the preface of his first four verses. Between the moment of his beginning the work and the events he is on the point of telling, “those things which are most surely believed [Greek, ‘fulfilled’] among us,” a lot has happened and he knows it. There have been “many” previous narrators. Before them there were “eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word.” And there has been time for him to mature the “perfect understanding” of this large Christian inheritance which he advertises with some complacency. Now he is going to provide the “certainty of those things,” the complete and definitive version. Neither Mark nor Matthew, the previous narrators whose work he builds into his own, enjoyed such calm literary self-confidence and self-consciousness. It is something new.”
The conflict over whether or not Luke’s sermon account in chapter six is simply a shortened and slightly altered version of Matthew’s chapters five through chapter seven is not a new one. Writing in 1884, Deems, speaking mainly of the sermon in Matthew said, “It would require a much larger volume then this to give the literature which has grown around the questions of the time and place of delivery of this “sermon,” and whether Matthew and Luke report the same or different discourses.” The sermon given seated on a hillside in Matthew, chapter five, to a few of his disciples commonly called ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ has some distinct differences than the one in Luke. First, the sermon in Luke is given while standing on a plain, not seated on a hillside. Second, he has chosen all of his closest disciples by the time of the account in Luke, thirdly, he gives his sermon in Luke to the multitude, not just to a few disciples, and fourthly, the sermon in Luke is a socio-political declaration while the sermon in Matthew is of a strictly spiritual nature and goes on for a much longer time.
If Luke had Matthew and Mark in front of him, which I don’t believe he did, then he not only ignored events that they wrote about but added events that they did not. The parables of ‘The Good Samaritan’ and ‘The Prodigal Son’, as well as ‘The Rich Man and Lazarus’ are not found in any other gospel. Logic would tell us that in any human organization that if Matthew had been first, Mark, second, with Matthew in front of him, and Luke third reading both, then there would have been at least more clear similarities than there actually are. In addition, Luke’s writing is independent of even Paul’s, whom he accompanied on missionary journeys. If he had colluded with Paul his Acts of the Apostles would have been different as he does not include things that Paul did, particularly some of the heated debates within the leadership of the early church. The uniqueness and independence of Luke’s writing’s lends even more evidence to his work as an historian. Luke’s work is not written much later than the other gospels.
He, like the other gospel writers, is quoted by the earliest church fathers. Several early church fathers, the dates of whose works are generally accepted, quote Luke, as well as Matthew, Mark, John, and the other currently accepted New Testament books in writings put down anywhere from AD 68 for Clement of Rome to the early middle of the second century for the writings of Polycarp.
Dr. Carsten Thiede, using the sophisticated technology of a scanning laser microscope, has set the date of the earliest fragment of Matthew to AD 68, before the destruction of the Jewish Temple and within the possible lifetime of the traditional writer of that gospel also reporting the dating of one of the oldest copies of part of Luke to the same time frame.
As Merrill Unger said in his Archaeology and the New Testament, “The Acts of the Apostles is now generally agreed in scholarly circles to be the work of Luke, to belong to the first century and to involve the labors of a careful historian who was substantially accurate in his use of sources.”
Luke fits Presnell’s characteristics of what an historian does in his portrait of Jesus as a worker of miracles, in his birth and early life, and in his relationship with his apostles. Luke’s description of the early church is direct, plain writing about events and people. He describes the missionary journeys of Paul and, in describing the church he slowly narrows his focus down from the church’s main characters to Paul alone as he struggles to bring the Christian message to the pagan, Roman world. Without criticism he shows how Paul’s own willfulness results in his imprisonment and that fateful and final trip to Rome. His descriptions of Jesus’ miracles and Paul’s final journey and shipwreck are interesting and exciting. He places himself in the story as he journeyed with Paul, perhaps, not only as a companion, but as a minister to the physical ailment that Paul suffered, probably trouble with his vision, as a consequence of his first encounter with the vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians.
Using Bauckham’s criteria for John, it is important to note that Luke is appears very familiar with the topography of his story. He gives geographical references as general as “the hill country…into a city of Juda” and as specific as “if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.” , as general as “and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria..” and as specific as “two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.”
Luke brackets his writing with drawing back from the, at that time, seemingly unimportant lives in the Holy Land to the larger geopolitical situation. He mentions emperors and kings, governors and tetrarchs which place his subjects in the broader frame of history although the Bible, in the Old Testament, presents the great men of history as secondary players in the drama of God’s relationship with man, reducing Alexander the Great to the mere “prince of Grecia”, of whom most fundamentalist Christians believe the title in Daniel, chapter ten, verse twenty is a reference. Luke names Caesar Augustus as the emperor when Jesus is born and Tiberius Caesar as the emperor when Jesus begins his ministry. He also names Pontius Pilate as the Roman governor of Judea, Herod as the tetrarch of Galilee, and when Paul is taken prisoner in Jerusalem, Luke gives the name of the governor in Caesarea as Felix. Luke mentions the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover and specifies the changing of governors in Caesarea. He doesn’t overburden the reader with information but gives enough to establish the time frame in which his history is set. As it is not my purpose to contrast and examine the accuracy of Luke’s details here but merely to establish him as an historian I’ll move on to theology.
Luke, being a faithful Christian historian, can’t help but stress the theology which is central to the meaning of his work. G.T. Stokes said while writing in the 19th century that “A man born to be a poet will consciously display his tendency. A man born to be a historian will be found, even when he has formed no definite project, note-book in hand, jotting down the impressions of the passing hour or of his current studies. So probably was it with St. Luke.” I would also say that Luke was compelled as well to express his theology, that Jesus was the Son of God and the Son of man, that he did many miracles, spoke words that freed the poor and the sick, raised the dead, and stood calmly and confidently before Pilate, was crucified and rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, leaving the vibrant body of followers, many of whom also performed miracles and who would believe on his name and die for him, if need be. In fact, Luke’s Gospel is essential to Christian evangelical theology, that Jesus was fully man and fully God.
Luke’s Christian church grows with suffering and flourishes as a persecuted faith, a minority among minorities, a religion of martyrs and suffering servants whose blood waters the faith. Even Paul is destined for the chopping block but we don’t know that from Luke. Paul himself made Christian martyrs when he was Saul working diligently for the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem. With his conversion he becomes the target for Jewish wrath, themselves subject to historical persecutions of the most vicious sort in histories with which we are all familiar. Luke’s Christian church lives in the shadow of the civil authority of Rome and the spiritual and civil power of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. It is in this persecution and potential for martyrdom that the faith flourishes as the Christian faith. Only later, when it is adopted as the state religion does it become the persecutor as all religions do when adopted by a state. But, with regard to the growth of the early Christian church, it is not a faith that is triumphant by wielding a sword. It must suffer as its Lord suffered on the cross in order to grow. Marguerat says “Even in weakness, the Word comes through and causes faith to blossom. However, this rhetoric has nothing to do with triumphalism. Success for the Word does not grow independently of the suffering of the messengers, but because of it.” Luke’s status as an historian is not to be judged on whether a reader believes his theology or not. The God of the Bible would not subject himself to scientific experimentation and observation. He is the author of selective revelation and even if one rejects outright that Luke’s theology is true, Marguerat makes it clear that a history must not be judged on bare facts alone but “it must be evaluated according to the point of view of the historian which controls the writing of the narrative, the truth that the author aims to communicate and the need for identity to which the work of the historian responds.”
Luke is selective in his choice of what events to include and what to leave out fulfilling another standard mentioned by Bauckham. Luke doesn’t mention the five hundred witnesses of the resurrected Jesus given by Paul or one of the most heated controversies of the early church between Peter and Paul. If, indeed, as many insist, that Luke wrote with Matthew and Mark in front of him, then he certainly was selective in what he included of their statements and what he left out. His account of the birth of Jesus leaves out the visiting wise men and the flight to Egypt. Certainly, all of these things were known in the early church regardless of whether or not Luke had Matthew in front of him. Speaking of things the early church knew or assumed include the fact that Luke was the author of both the gospel and The Acts of the Apostles as stated by Irenaeus writing in the latter part of the second century as part of a written work against heretical figures in the early church. This is also referenced by Eusebius in his Church History , who wrote during the time of the Emperor Constantine. Christopher Mount, in his book Pauline Christianity, doesn’t believe that anyone named Luke authored both the gospel and the church history in Acts although he does acknowledge that Irenaeus and the early church believed it to be so and believed that the person named Luke was that author. He writes “The Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are first specifically identified as such by Irenaeus in his writing against heresies. Prior to Irenaeus, the text known to him as the Gospel according to Luke is attested as part of Marcion’s collection of scripture. Marcion probably used an edited form of the text of Lk for his lone gospel.” William Sanger Campbell also doubts that anyone named Luke wrote either the gospel or the church history but does acknowledge that Irenaeus, and by extension the early church, said he did. The similarity of some verses in Luke with Matthew and Mark can be accounted for by the fact that he was reporting some of the same speeches of Jesus that had been related to him by his own witnesses and historical writings.
Luke makes use of narrative asides, as well, and these are bracketed by parentheses. Such comments to the reader as “(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)” and “(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)” are sufficient to establish that he did use this technique in his work, however, infrequently, and although Luke’s gospel and his church history make up nearly a quarter of the entire New Testament canon they are not tremendously long works.
The eminent Christian historian of the 19th century, Philip Schaff, has written, “Luke used, besides oral tradition, written documents on certain parts of the life of Jesus, which doubtless appeared early among the first disciples.” Luke himself states he used eyewitness testimony as in his gospel where he says “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;..” , and in Acts he uses “we” to describe the events in which he participated such as “And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; And from thence to Philippi,
which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.” Campbell, while not believing in the authorship of anyone named Luke does, however, acknowledge that “the effect of first person plural grammatical style at the event level is to cast the narrator character as an eyewitness and, in so doing, to emphasize his narrative authority and his version of the story.” I must also note that Campbell does not believe that Acts is Historiography but more of an historical novel or a romance as he states in chapter 2 of his book. I beg to differ.
In keeping with Bauckham’s line of reasoning, Luke also includes discourses such as his “Sermon on the Plain”, which is again my term for something that many scholars have confused with Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount”, which I have explained is a different sermon given at a different time. Luke starts out with the words “Blessed be ye poor”, as opposed to “ye rich” later in the chapter granting them the invisible kingdom of God found in each believer, while Matthew begins with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and then granting them rights to the very physical kingdom of Heaven, Christ’s physical reign to come on earth.
In addition, among other discourses in Acts there is Paul’s appeal on the steps of the Temple after he has ignored God’s warnings not to go to back to Jerusalem. Here, Paul is asked if he speaks Greek or if he is an Egyptian known to be causing trouble and obtaining permission from a Roman centurion he begins to give a rather long address to the assembled crowd of hostile Jews.
Finally, Luke reports dialogues between Christ and his apostles in Luke’s gospel such as in the passage mentioned earlier when two disciples were walking to Emmaus and he appeared to them, only they didn’t know it was him, and a conversation ensues, then a lecture by the risen Jesus, which ends in his revealing himself to them. In Acts he reports, among other dialogues, a conversation between King Agrippa and Governor Festus concerning the handling of the prisoner, Paul, which eventually includes Paul’s response.
As Bauckham attempted to show that the Gospel of St. John fit the criteria of Graeco-Roman Historiography and by the terms he proposed I have attempted to show that Luke’s writings can, for whatever else they were an attempt to do, be properly called history in the same genre. Also, I believe his writing fit’s the proper purpose of the historian as defined by Presnell.
To further underscore my assertion that, while being a part of the Christian Bible, Luke’s writings do not fit in with what is considered Christian Historiography, Ernst Breisach refers to Eusebius’ theology as “imperial theology” as his Christianity and the Roman Empire are inextricably linked. This is apparent as Eusebius is concerned that Tiberius knew about Christ and even brought up a motion for the Roman Senate to declare the risen Christ a god, which was turned down by them for technical reasons. He quotes an earlier church “father”, Tertullian in this statement who goes on to say that Tiberius supposedly threatened with death anyone who made a charge against the Christians. This attempt to justify Christ’s existence or deity by telling a questionable story about an emperor bringing a motion before the Senate, thereby linking a Roman sovereign with Eusebius’ sovereign of the universe is far different from Luke’s simple naming of who the emperors were at the time of Christ’s birth and at the beginning of his earthly ministry. At no time does Luke attempt to rationalize his story or justify it by such methods.
Again, as Breisach relates, Christian Historiographers such as Eusebius were obsessed with fixing dates for things like the beginning of creation and placing everything Biblical in a fixed time frame. Eusebius even goes on at length rationalizing Luke’s genealogy and comparing it with Matthew’s. He then quotes Africanus with a rather long explanation for differences between the two. The author of the Gospel According to St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles doesn’t seem like he could care less about rationalizing his genealogy, expanding on it, or explaining it. He also has no interest in setting dates.
Now, certainly, a more thorough study could compare Luke with two dozen or more Christian Historiographers of varying periods and certainly, I could probably come up with a few who might resemble Luke’s writing but I think that these few important examples underscore the difference is apparent. Christian Historiographers were very much concerned with time frames and date setting as Breisach has noted as well as adding things such as how Tiberius was supposedly very impressed with the resurrection accounts. Luke appears to not be interested in the least and only gives the names of emperors for the sake of placing the events he relates in a general context. Outside of that no emperor gets a place in his work except Nero, who is not mentioned by name by only as “Caesar” when Paul demands to be heard by him.

In conclusion, what I have not done is to try to argue any point concerning whether or not the writings of Luke in either the Gospel of St. Luke or The Acts of the Apostles are truth or fiction. My purpose here was to argue that his work can properly be called historiography. As per Bauckham’s criteria it is more properly of the Graeco-Roman Historiography genre and does not fit in with the later Christian history writing as such. Luke attempts no grand scheme of history nor does he attempt to draw or compare his life of Christ with the greater Roman world around him. There are no parallels made to great heroes, military or political. What Luke does is to present history, as he sees it and believes it, in its simplicity, the life and death of a man whom he believes to be God in the flesh as well as the life of the early Christian church and its chief proponent, Paul. He does not praise Paul or condemn him but honestly portrays his successes as well as his shortcomings and failures such as the constant insistence on pressing the Jews in their synagogues when he has been told that he is to be the minister to the Gentiles, the trip to Jerusalem which God warns him not to take, his dispute with Barnabas over John Mark, and his causing a man’s blindness which is just the reverse of everything the apostles and Jesus did, and the opposite of the things that he does later in his ministry. This is not the writing of a propagandist but of someone trying to honestly deal with the material he has been given by eyewitnesses and by his own experience with the people involved. Luke was the first Christian Historian.
Alter, Robert & Kermode, Frank, eds. The Literary Guide to the Bible.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987.

Bauckham, Richard. "Historiographical Characteristics of the Gospel of John."
New Testament Studies, 53, no. 1, January 1, 2007.
Breisach, Ernst, Historiography; Ancient, Medieval, and Modern
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable.
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Campbell, William Sanger. The “We” Passages in The Acts of the Apostles:
The Narrator as Narrative Character. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc., 2007.

Deems, Charles F. The Light of the Nations. New York: Gay Brothers & Co., 1884.

Eusebius. The Church History. Translated by Paul L. Maier. Grand Rapids:
Kregel Publications, 1999.
Fairbairn, A.M. Studies in the Life of Christ. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1880.

Marguerat, Daniel. The First Christian Historian: Writing the ‘Acts of the Apostles’.
Translated by Ken McKinney, Gregory J. Laughery, & Richard Bauckham.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Mount, Christopher. Christianity: Luke, Acts, and The Legacy of Paul.
Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc., 2001.

Presnell, Jenny L. The Information-Literate Historian: A Guide to Research for History Students.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Roberts, Alexander, & Donaldson, James, eds. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I.
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903.

Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church, Volume I. New York: Charles Scribner, 1858.

Stokes, G.T. The Acts of the Apostles: Volume I. New York: A.C. Armstrong & Son, 1892.
Thiede, Carsten, & D’Ancona, Matthew. Eyewitness to Jesus:
Amazing New Manuscript Evidence about the Origin of the Gospels.
New York: Doubleday Books, 1996.

Unger, Merrill F. Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1962.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Proverbs, Chapter 17 commentary

1 ¶ Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.
Here again is a repeat of a thought that has been prevalent in Proverbs. You are better off with little and peace than having plenty with trouble. This and the other verses don’t say that it’s wrong to have much as long as you’ve worked for it, but that if you have to choose, you’re happier with few possessions and a humble meal than with riches and abundant food if it means you have to live with emotional pain and anguish to have the latter. Back on the last verse, there have been quite a few lottery winners who wished they could have given the money back because it ruined them.
2 ¶ A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.
This is more of an indictment against the son that causeth shame than it is a praise of a faithful employee. But you can imagine a wealthy man including a servant in the inheritance with his sons because of the shame brought by a wicked son.
Think of this from our perspective and I’ll just use some example verses here. I’m sure you can find others. God called Israel his firstborn son.
Exodus 4:22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
Isaac blessed the trickster, Jacob, who would be called Israel, with this;
Genesis 27:29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.
But, Israel turned their back on God and through their idolatry brought shame on themselves.
Hosea 9:10 I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.
Some, of the Gentile nations that were to serve Israel, had Israel been obedient and not brought shame to God, were to receive Christ, who became their wisdom.
1Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
And will share in the inheritance with their brothers, the believing Jews of the house of Israel.
Colossians 3:24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
3 ¶ The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.
Later, in Proverbs it will be said;
Proverbs 27:21 As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.
To fine or refine is to purify by great heat, by testing, and a specific method. See;
Zechariah 13:9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.
Has God fined or refined you by the great heat of trials and tribulations? Is he putting your heart through the fires of life to show you what it’s made of, to reveal your Christian character or lack thereof? Stress and tribulation don’t build character. They reveal it. We never really find out what we’re made of until God has either applied or allowed Satan to apply fire to our lives.
What kind of metal are you? Don’t think you’ve been refined enough already. You have no idea how
much more fire can be applied to refine you.

And also remember, at the judgment seat of Christ;

1Corinthians 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Your salvation is not contingent upon how tough you are and how true your heart is and how pure. But, this sort of verse really puts us in our place, especially if you start thinking of yourself as Dwight L. Moody, Jr. or Lottie Moon the second, or you start walking around with one of those pained expressions that the Catholic saints have in the stained glass windows of cathedrals.
4 ¶ A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.
Sadly, and this is so true among Christians, but a gossip loves to hear gossip and a liar is open to hearing lies. Chances are, if you will listen to tales told about anyone’s failures or failings with glee then you are also a spreader of those tales. If you like to hear lies, vulgar jokes, and nasty talk then your mouth is probably full of garbage on a regular basis, too.
This clearly has some basis in these admonitions for us in the New Testament doctrines for the church today.
Ephesians 5:4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
Early Christian leaders would say it is wrong for you to watch as entertainment things which you are forbidden to do. Like TV and movies today, they were warning about attending the theater where evil like fornication and adultery were made to enjoy as spectators. The idea behind this proverb is that if you like to hear or see evil then you probably like to do it as well. Judge yourself. Do you enjoy gossip? Do you find yourself laughing at vulgar, demeaning jokes? Do you honestly think that because you don’t think you initiate them that you aren’t really a part of it? To spread gossip or filthy communications requires a speaker and a hearer, both of whom are equally guilty.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
5 ¶ Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.
Proverbs 14:31 He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
It is clear that God has a definite position on those who would mock or oppress the poor. Now, you can be poor for many reasons some of which might be your own bad choices or sloth but it isn’t the Christian’s place to determine how from a person’s history they got poor but to not mock them. If you make fun of people less well off than you are or who are habitually suffering at the bottom of the pile then you reproach God Himself.
On a side note, when the Bible often connects like things with the word “and”. So that a list of like things might be strung together as synonyms. This is not always true but you can see by the context what is linked. Many times a difficult word is linked with an easier word. Notice the synonym for reproach here in Psalms;
Psalm 22:6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
To reproach your Creator, your Maker, is to despise Him, to hold Him in low regard. If you find yourself mocking the poor or watching television and saying, “Good, those stupid people deserve what’s happening to them”, it can hardly be said that you are behaving in a manner that glorifies God. You might find that you yourself may lose some means of living if you reproach God by mocking the poor and being glad at their calamities.
6 ¶ Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.
Grandchildren, as any grandparent knows, are a delight if they are being raised in the Lord and every child who has a Godly and loving father knows that they feel a special love toward them. For those of us whose fathers are no longer with us there are possibly people in our lives who have filled the gap our father’s have left, older Christian men we can trust and admire. For the older men, try not to be so carnal that the only love you can give is for grandchildren who contain your DNA. You’ll only see in heaven your spiritual children and grandchildren so spread your affections around, first to your own and then to others. There are young people who need an older male role model who will exemplify Christ to them. There are young people who long for the affection of a Dad, the approval, and the love. Be there as you are able and don’t put up a wall because the child isn’t of your flesh.
I have many grandchildren who call me Pappy, who don’t know of me as just the guy who married their grandmother only, but as their very own Pappy. I love it when I go to Micah’s house and his little Leah runs to me or when Andrea’s Katie gives me a big hug. I don’t, for propriety’s sake and considering the age we live in, seek out their physical affection but if they want a hug they’ll sure get one. And there are older boys and girls, who, while not in my legal family, I regard with nearly the same affection that I do my very own; the young people in my church family, for instance. I would help them in whatever is in my power or that is right to do.
I would hope that in the bounds of what is good and right that every man in this church would feel the same way toward our young people, not to intrude or interfere or to make uncomfortable, but to simply let the young people in this church know that we love them and hold them in high regard. I, for one, remember how the approval of older people and their affection was important to me as I was growing up and it doesn’t end at eighteen. That’s not a magic age. Our need for approval and affectionate feelings from older people goes on through our youth.
7 ¶ Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.
We have read many examples of what a fool is in Proverbs. Here, he is placed in contrast to a prince, which is assumed to be a just man. While one expects a fool to speak great swelling words of vanity and self-worship, one also does not want a leader to have a lying tongue. The idea of a fool having excellent speech that edifies and uplifts, encourages and leads closer to Christ, is out of one’s thoughts. It’s absurd to imagine. By contrast God expects someone worthy of being a leader of men to speak the truth.
The fool has said in his heart there is no God. See Psalms 14:1 and 53:1. For a man to be worthy of being a leader, a prince, he must be just and rule in the fear of God. See 2 Samuel 23:3. So, it would be quite a shocker if you heard a fool, who does not believe in God, speak the gospel that Paul delivered in 1 Corinthians 15 as it is also a terrible injustice for a leader to speak lies, to be unjust, or to not believe in God.
8 ¶ A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
I thought this was an odd verse. I went to Gill and Henry and their ideas were more confusing than the verse. I read Ruckman’s commentary, as well. A gift is usually a reference to a bribe. Ruckman points out a link with 18:16 which says;
Proverbs 18:16 A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
And I saw this also;
Proverbs 21:14 A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.
Then I was reminded of a study my wife had done about stones in the Bible several years ago. I thought about how Christ, being the chief corner stone, is a precious stone;
1Peter 2:6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
And I thought of the only valuable gift;
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So, I looked at this verse in application to the Christian living in a spiritual kingdom, not the Jew living in a physical kingdom, and I think you may be able to apply this as follows. Try to bear with me. The gift of eternal life through our precious stone, Jesus Christ, prospers for us wherever it leads us if we stay close to the Lord. If we see things through His eyes and seek only His will not regarding our own fleshly desires and needs and not our own will then that gift, our salvation, prospers us in eternity. Thinking about that made me think about eternity and heaven. If you have a better understanding of the verse I’m open to it but this is what came to my mind, either from God or from my own imagination. You decide.
9 ¶ He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.
If you know that someone has said something about someone else, perhaps even an offhand comment it is not the friendly thing to do to run tell the offended party. You can do more harm than good by intermeddling.
It is also good if you can ignore things said about you that you are aware of, particularly things said in haste or comments made in the heat of the moment, and not trumpet those things to others. Just let it go. Don’t be “politickin” as we would say down South and trying to get all of your friends and the blabbeermouth’s against them by telling everyone what a lowdown lying Yankee they are.
And if you have something to say about someone say it TO them. Ask for a private meeting if they have done something that bothers you. Speak to them directly. Don’t take the coward’s way out and talk to people around them, hoping it will get back to them.
These things are pleasing to the flesh but in no way glorify God. I know God’s way doesn’t satisfy our flesh but it’s not supposed to do that. We’re called to a different attitude, a different way of living. It may seem weak to you or the world but when you have ten billion years ahead of you and the people in the world have maybe ten good ones left you should have a different outlook on things than they do.
1Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
Charity, that specific love of one Christian for their brothers and sisters in Christ, is to be your guide when dealing with the transgressions within the church. I think it’s important that I read this chapter over again and I’d like you to think of this within this particular congregation and if it’s being realized or if we are any distance from it. Its only three short paragraphs. If we are to be a true New Testament church then this must be emblazoned in our hearts as our attitude toward each other rather than we being good American consumers and shopping someplace else for spiritual nourishment when we are hurt or angry.
1 Corinthians 13:1 ¶ Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor (which is what we think charity is today), and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 ¶ Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 ¶ Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
And always remember Christ’s clear and plain statement to His disciples.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Now, read the Proverb again.
10 ¶ A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.
If you consider yourself wise you will be able to handle correction, even a small amount. It will do you more good than a whipping will to a fool. A fool never gets correction. He never can wrap his mind around it. It has no value to him. Hence the high recidivism rate for our prisons, the high return rate.
Proverbs 1:23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
Proverbs 1:25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
Proverbs 1:30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.
Proverbs 5:12 And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;
Proverbs 10:17 He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.
Proverbs 12:1 Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.
Proverbs 13:18 Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.
Proverbs 15:5 A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.
Proverbs 15:10 Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.
Proverbs 15:31 The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.
Proverbs 15:32 He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.
Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
2Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
11 ¶ An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.
Thi s is an amazing verse. God links rebellion against him to witchcraft.
1Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
The word messenger is the same word in English, Greek, and Hebrew that is used for angel. An angel is a messenger, who is sent. An angel represents someone who is someplace else sent somewhere . A cruel messenger shall be sent against the one who rebels against God, who is called evil.
This is a specific, literal promise to the physical residents of God’s physical kingdom on earth, the Hebrews. They did not have God’s Spirit dwelling in them as saved Jews and Gentiles do today. We, too, in this age of the spiritual kingdom of God are corrected by God in order to turn us around but this verse doesn’t carry with it a tone of reconciliation. It carries a tone of judgment and suffering, an ominous event is coming.
But, our correction is for the purpose of changing us, having us repent. Remember that the person mentioned in this verse is eventually to be restored after his repentance.
1Corinthians 5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
In the second letter to the Corinthians Paul, I believe, pleads for the same man.
2 Corinthians 2:5 ¶ But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. 6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; 11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Paul also turns people over to Satan in order to change them, notice, for a specific purpose.
1Timothy 1:20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
So, doctrinally, I would think that under the Law, when men did not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that God would send an evil, malicious spirit to them to chastise them and even destroy them for their rebellion against Him.
Judges 9:23 Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:
1Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
1Samuel 16:23 And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
But, you have the Spirit of God dwelling in you permanently so you are simply released and Satan is waiting to hammer you, but the body of Christ on earth, the church, is called to restore you upon your repentance, your change of mind and heart.
God will also take you out of this world if you persist in sin. And this following verse is just for having the wrong attitude when you take the Lord’s Supper.
1 Corinthians 11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
Notice that this judgment can result in physical death.
Romans 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
But, unlike the Old Testament persons you cannot be denied or lose your salvation.
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
What forms does rebellion come in? Many. Simply thinking you can do it your way and not God’s way or following a tradition where many before you have chosen to go their own way, ostensibly for God, is rebellion. As the Chinese Christian was reported to have said when he returned from a visit to the United States, “it is truly amazing what American Christians accomplish without God.” He was not saying that in an approving manner. It was a sarcasm. Not seeking to understand the Bible doctrinally and saying its all the same from cover to cover is a type of rebellion many denominations and churches within the fundamentalist Baptist circle have accomplished. Judaizers, trying to put us back under the Law, desiring to glory in our flesh by the outward signs that are pleasing to them, are common, even among so called Bible believing churches.
12 ¶ Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.
A she bear robbed of her cubs will rip you apart. This is likened to the damage a fool in his folly does. Foolishness and fools in Parliament cost England its American colony. There have been books written about that blunder, including one called The Price of Folly. Young people, when you are trying to understand if the person that is in front of you is the one God sent for you to marry, just remember that if this person fits the category of the fool we have been talking about then your life with them will be a lifelong train wreck.
Behaviors that are funny , cute, or eccentricities now may bankrupt you, destroy the spiritual nature of your home, and cause you unimaginable sorrow. Heed God’s warnings here. Don’t partner for any reason, business or personal with a fool.
13 ¶ Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.
There is a potent take on this verse if you use one of the definitions in the Bible of evil for malice, maliciousness, and violence or an intention to do violence.
Genesis 37:20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
Jonah 3:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
An evil, violent person who rewards evil for good will never know peace in his family. His house will always be cursed with evil. Men who beat their wives and children mercilessly, abusing them, create a legacy that from generation to generation violence against the physically weaker in their family is performed. I have read that domestic abuse travels from generation to generation without God’s intervention.
From a prophetic viewpoint the Jews of the First Century rewarded Christ’s absolute goodness with evil and brought down the wrath of God on their heads for much of the last two thousand years. They chose an earthly king again, over God’s authority, just as they had done in the days of Samuel.
1Samuel 8:7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
John 19:15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
And by their own agreement they brought down God’s wrath on their posterity.
Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
So, you can see the prophetic impact of this verse, as well, as its practical side.
14 ¶ The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.
The beginning of an argument, a conflict between, let’s say, two people within the church body, is like when someone puts a hole in a dam or a dike and water begins to flow or when they are attempting to flood one field from another and pull down a small section of an earthen wall. The water pressure forces the hole to get bigger and bigger until, in the case of a dam it collapses like the one that caused the famous Johnstown Flood that destroyed a town or a dike in Holland holding back the sea and hundreds of acres of farmland is flooded.
Remember, it only takes one small thing to set off an argument or a contention that lasts for a lifetime. So, leave an argument. Don’t start it with a small opening so that people around you can get their noses in it and begin a flood that can destroy a church body and cast a pall over the worship. Contention, when it is meddled with, turns into strife, as Ruckman says.
Just leave it alone. The biggest point of contention in a small assembly like this is the carnal drive to dominate others. Some people just have an aggressive personality and will brook no opposition. You can’t come to God to worship if you believe that whatever you decide is from God and anyone who disagrees with you or doesn’t want to do what you want them to do is wicked or carnal. You start a small resentment with a person whose personality is not dominating or aggressive and if they are the passive/aggressive type the resentment will build and build and like water leaking through a dam will one day force the dam to break, everyone else gets involved and then you’ve got the death of a congregation.
Whenever you start feeling a little bitter or hostile toward someone who has suggested something you aren’t comfortable with think about this verse. Whenever you feel frustrated because someone just ‘ain’t getting’ with the program’ think about this verse.
15 ¶ He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.
In our country we have a problem with people who are wicked and morally worthless being elevated to high positions because of democracy. People also pay good money to watch moral degenerates do wicked things on television and movies. A wretched man or woman, by virtue of their cleverness with money and ability to rub the right elbows can obtain great wealth and influence, and even buy a baseball team. Take Peter Angelos, for example. He’s made millions from suing people, owns the Orioles, and yet was sued because he wouldn’t pay his groundskeepers a living wage as per Baltimore standards. There is one prominent leader in American History who was reported to be a pervert, and J. Edgar Hoover had tapes recorded on this famous American which showed him to be a sadistic, cruel, adulterous pervert, as well. But, he’s one of the great men in our past. Is it any wonder that the following verse is true?
Psalm 12:8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.
People who stand up for something, whether you like their politics or not, are condemned. People in politics who aren’t afraid to say no to the massive corruption and illegal actions of our government abroad and domestically are ridiculed and mocked. The powers that be handle them by marginalizing them, making them laughing stocks, or in extreme cases planting things on their computers to make them the object of ridicule and disgust like the recent critic of the handling of the oil spill disaster, Dr. Thomas Manton, who the powers that be found child porn on his computer, then fast tracked him through the criminal justice system and put him in a regular prison population which was a death sentence, and, of course, he was murdered. That shut him up. Many people have come out and claim that he was framed to keep him quiet. Another critic of the government’s handling of the disaster, Matthew Simmons, was found dead in his home, either having drowned in his tub or having had a heart attack, the media isn’t sure. At least he didn’t commit suicide by shooting himself in the head twice as Gary Webb, the journalist, supposedly did after uncovering that the US government was singlehandedly responsible for the crack cocaine epidemic, or any number of acquaintances of the Clintons. Justify the wicked, condemn the just, is the world’s standard operating procedure, all through history. The Roman Catholic Church gets to write the histories and the real Christians, the Anabaptists of the Italian Alps, the Vaudois, and the Christians of Ireland before the Catholic conquest, Wales, and Scotland are relegated to a footnote as “heretics”.
Now, with regard to prophecy notice that the vile Herod and the cowardly Pontius Pilate are elevated to the status of rulers of people, justified by every value of mankind, sitting in the lap of luxury and importance while the Lord Jesus Christ, the only just man, is condemned. This is the way the world operates, as it is conditionally under the operative control of Satan as it says in 2 Corinthians 4:4.
The world and its god, Satan, are an abomination to the Lord, as is anyone who aligns their thinking up with the world. Do you justify the wicked and condemn the just when you look at a news story? Do you think like the world wants you to think about events happening around you?
16 ¶ Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?
A fool doesn’t care about wisdom so it wouldn’t matter if he could afford it. God goes to great lengths, though, to give the fool every chance to know Christ. He’ll have gospel tracts handed to him. He’ll drive by church after church. Perhaps some stranger will ask him if he’s ever trusted Christ. Maybe a relative will come to the Lord and have their whole life changed. But, the fool, even though he has the price of wisdom in his hand will reject it because he has no heart to it. He’ll stand at the Great White Throne judgment without an excuse, with no hope, knowing that it’s his own fault. When he is cast into the lake of fire he can only say, “amen” because he’ll know that God gave him the price of wisdom, in spite of the Calvinist’s heresies, that he had the ability to receive Christ as his Saviour, but he had no heart to it.
The Christian fool sits in a church assembly. He hears the preacher say that daily Bible reading, reading your Bible through is important. He says that God speaks to His people through His word. The preacher shows him verse after verse about why he must read the Bible. And yet, the fool says he doesn’t have enough time to read it or listen to it. The fool hears the sermons and thinks about his job or the big game, a girl, or the trip he’s about to take. He leaves the service not even knowing what the sermon was about. He’s part of a church because that’s the way he was raised and it makes him feel good about himself. But, his heart isn’t there. He’ll stand at the judgment seat of Christ and stand naked and ashamed. God has given him the price of wisdom but he has no heart to it.
17 ¶ A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Here, by the sentence structure, a friend is linked with a brother. Now, see this Proverb in the next sentence;
Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
A true friend will stick by you when times are rough and a real friend will stand with you when you are even guilty of something. He won’t approve of your wrongdoing if he’s a real friend but he won’t turn his back on you. Christ said,
John 15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Think of this when you’re going through adversity, tough times.
2 Corinthians 3 ¶ Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
Remember, that God is always with you. You don’t have to worry about the verses in Deuteronomy and Hebrews where God has promised He will never leave them or forsake them because you have the Spirit of God living inside you, if you are a believer.
Romans 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
I would recommend reading 1 Corinthians 13 again regarding the Christian’s love toward other Christians as an ideal of Christ’s love toward us.
Finally, notice how many times Paul uses the word, brother, to talk about his fellow laborers in Christ, born for adversity, to share in his tribulations and suffering.
18 ¶ A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend.
Proverbs 6:1 ¶ My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, 2 Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. 3 Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend. 4 Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. 5 Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.
Job 17:3 Lay down now, put me in a surety with thee; who is he that will strike hands with me?
It is not a smart thing to do to guarantee another person’s debts whether they be friend or family.
In Genesis 43:9 and 44:32, one definition of surety is a guarantee provided by one party to ensure something for another. When you go to the dictionary it is listed as a promise on the part of one to ensure the debts of another, sort of like co-signing on a loan. This starts out telling the young man not to be surety for his friend by indebting himself to a foreigner. I would say that our mishandling of money is one of the ways we become enslaved to the world. Money is a tool and should never be your master.
A simple rule here would be to never co-sign for anyone. The more complicated principle is to make sure you know the person and the situation very well before you enter into such a relationship. Truthfully, if you can’t afford to loan the money to your friend then you certainly aren’t prudent for putting yourself in the hands of a stranger, unknown to you, such as a bank, on his behalf. A friend will feel far less concern about letting you help pay part of his loan than he would skip on a bank payment.
I would ask, is my friend a believer? Does he have a good record of being responsible with money? Why does he need me as surety? What are his prospects of paying the loan back? John Gill, who pastor- ed C.H. Spurgeon’s church before him, implies that it means, when it says, “make sure they friend”, that you would be better off to be a reference for your friend than to take his debt load on your own back. He also says not to rest until that loan that you have made yourself responsible for is paid back.
However, for the Christian, Paul makes this statement about debt;
Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
Debt is a trap. Putting yourself on the line and in debt for someone else is a bigger trap. Anyone over thirty, though, knows that. You have either been hammered for someone else’s sake by a loan someone tried to collect from you or you have been the person who had a loan guaranteed by a friend or family member and found yourself unable to pay it back. If your child needs you to co-sign a loan for him or her to get a car, you should ask yourself how much money has that child saved before he had the chance to drive a car? Is he or she responsible enough to take this commitment seriously? Honestly, though, folks, Christians don’t take the promise to pay back a loan very seriously at all these days. With mortgage help, bankruptcy, and other things available to us by law we tend to more easily walk away from a promise made by our mouths and signed by our hands. This harms our testimony greatly.
Matthew Henry says that this verse means that if your friend’s word is not good enough to establish his character and that even in his presence you are required to guarantee his debt then you are acting as a person without understanding. If you were asked about his character as a reference that’s one thing but to guarantee his debt when his own presence will not guarantee it, then you are acting foolishly, fools not acting in the way of understanding.
Proverbs 9:6 Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.
19 ¶ He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction.
Let’s look at the Biblical definition of a transgression. It is synonymous, as in has a similar meaning, with iniquity and sin.
Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
It is the act of breaking the Law.
1John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
It is, for all practical purposes, sin. Notice the parallel phrasing to understand how the Bible is written in the next verse.
Micah 6:7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
I’ve shown you before that the gate is the place of judgment where the ruler sits to hear cases and to impart his decisions. That wicked person who loves to sin and loves others to sin also loves conflict and strife. They love drama. I know too many people, even Christians, like that. This person, in this verse, when linked as a person who lifts up himself, who is a legend in his own mind, who thinks he’s all that and a bag of chips, and that no authority trumps his judgment, his standard, his decision, seeks destruction. These types of people are highly desired as leaders and managers in large corporations. They often are business and political leaders. Beware of them. I’ve had at least one boss who enjoyed conflict and strife among his sales force. He wanted to see blood. He thought that would make us more aggressive and more productive. He also loved sin, destroying his own family with it. And he had no interest in either God’s standard or anyone else’s judgment. He valued playing “the dutch uncle” as an advisor to people he considered lower than himself. He loved to insert his own version of right and wrong into any situation. He was so blind and foolish, so proud, like Satan he could not see his own destruction coming and it was a hard fall. But, before he went down he made a lot of people suffer.
20 ¶ He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.
Froward again, defined by the Bible, is, one, having no faith;
Deuteronomy 32:20 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
Two, froward is unsavoury, the opposite of pure;
2Samuel 22:27 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself unsavoury.
Froward, three, is wicked;
Psalm 101:4 A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.
And, among other things, and as this verse and other verses show by parallel phrasing, a froward heart produces a perverse tongue. A froward heart doesn’t find good and a perverse tongue will always fall into mischief with lying, gossip, and vulgar, violent speech. You can pretty much tell a froward and perverse person by their speech, although some are good at hiding it when with the church, if you spend enough time around them they give themselves away and they will always get into trouble with their perverse speech.
Perverse lips always speak false doctrine and lies about the Bible, so beware;
Acts 20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
21 ¶ He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy.
I should think this is self explanatory when taken in relation to several verses already discussed. There may be one or two of us in here whose parents at some point wondered what they had done wrong. I know mine did.
You do have spiritual children, too, as Paul makes clear when he speaks of his converts.
1Corinthians 4:15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Philemon 1:10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
What a terrible thing it would be to have a child in the faith and then have that child turn out to be a Pharisee or a heretic. How many of your children have you left in the street to be blown about by whatever wind of doctrine they can? Do you know your children in the faith? Have you kept track of them? Have you discipled them? Certainly that’s not possible with every person that’s come to the front or raised their hand stating they believed but you have prayed with people you know. You have led someone to the Lord that you know personally. Have you attempted to disciple them? Have you taught them the truths of the Bible and how to rightly divide it? I’m not asking you for a body count. I’m asking you to give an account of what you’ve done with the new born babe in Christ that you begot in the Spirit. How many of them do you pray for by name each night or do you even pray for them as a group, not remembering their names?
What a shame it will be at the judgment seat of Christ to find that you’ve begotten a fool and to be asked, what did you do or attempt to do to disciple this person? Did you make any effort at all? Did you even pray for them?
22 ¶ A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
We’ve all been told repeatedly by medical experts that an optimistic attitude and laughter are good for your health. Norman Cousins, famous journalist and author, prolonged his life, it is said, as he struggled for 36 years with heart disease by teaching himself to laugh and laughing a lot. There is the “Laughter Heals Foundation” founded by a comedian who while visiting a friend suffering from cancer noticed how depressing cancer wards and hospitals were. Gelotology is the study of laughter and how it heals human sickness.
Here are some articles on laughter’s healing power;
• Cardoso, S.H., Our Ancient Laughing Brain. Cerebrum Magazine, The Dana Press. On-Line reprint by Brain & Mind Magazine, State University of Campinas, Campinas, Brazil.
• Koller, D., Gryski, C., "The Life Threatened Child and the Life Enhancing Clown: Towards a Model of Therapeutic Clowning" Journal of Evidence-Based and Complementary Medicine (2007) 5(1):17-35
• Kawakami, K., et al., Origins of smile and laughter: A preliminary study Early Human Development (2006) 82, 61-66
• Johnson, S., Emotions and the Brain Discover (2003) V24, N4
• Panksepp, J., Burgdorf, J., “Laughing” rats and the evolutionary antecedents of human joy? Physiology & Behavior (2003) 79:533-547
• Discover Health (2004) Humor & Laughter: Health Benefits and Online Sources
• Klein, A. The Healing Power of Humor: Techniques for Getting through Loss, Setbacks, Upsets, Disappointments, Difficulties, Trials, Tribulations, and All That Not-So-Funny Stuff. Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher/Putnam, 1989.
• Klein, A. "The Courage to Laugh: Humor, Hope, and Healing in the Face of Death and Dying." Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher/Putnam, 1998.
When the Jews’s captivity was going to be turned around it was prophesied that this would happen.
Psalm 126:1 When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. 2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. 3 The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
Yes, there are several verses from books under the Law and in the Tribulation that warn people to be mournful but shouldn’t you, in the Church Age, be glad that you are saved and look forward to an eternity with Christ. Or do you really believe what you say? Think on these verses that we’ve already discussed.
Proverbs 15:13 A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Proverbs 15:15 All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.
Long term effects of chronic depression which is a spiritual disease and a physical disease include loss of sleep and all of the immune problems that go along with that. This depression of the immune system and the mind, which is the part of the flesh, the outward processes of the brain, leads to disease and even death, if not by your own hand then by an opportunistic disease. If you suffer from depression then get help and if you have a pessimistic and sour attitude then change your attitude. I, for one, am the kind of person whose glass is half empty by nature, and not half full. Conquering my attitude is a struggle. Take God’s advice here, think on it, pray on it.
The greatest struggles that Christians have with sorrow and pain of heart come from these sources; refusing to forgive and refusing to be forgiven. We Christians have a real knack for holding a grudge. We also have the skill of having a higher or different standard than God does. God forgives us and;
Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
And all you can do with your “I’m a martyr complex” is say, “yeah, but still”, like a little kid arguing. When you refuse to forgive you violate some of God’s most basic principles.
Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
The final problem Christians have is being mad at God that something in their life isn’t like everyone else’s or isn’t what they expected they should have. We will not permit God to comfort us in our tribulation.
2Corinthians 1:4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
2Corinthians 7:6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down…..
Refusing to accept that we live in a fallen body in a fallen earth. Just as our bodies are ravaged by disease and suffering so the earth jerks and shakes violently under the hand of the god of this world, Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4, Job, chapters 1 & 2).
Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
And that this body of ours has to wait for its change.
Job 14:14 If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
Romans 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
We should be rejoicing, whether in sickness or in health, in pain or in strength. But, that is easier to say than do, isn’t it? So, I’ll just finish with, lighten up, folks.
23 ¶ A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.
We know it is not only wrong for an official to receive a bribe;
Deuteronomy 16:19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
but the giver of the gift is as wicked. These verses condemn both parties when a congressman or a senator receives an all expense paid ski trip to Aspen, Colorado from a corporation. It must always be assumed by us, the voter, that there is a benefit expected. While in ancient Israel, perhaps this is referring to a priest, a judge, or even one of the king’s officials, today we have those on many levels who enact judgment on us. Shall a building inspector receive a bribe? Of course not. Do they? Of course, they do. Is the giver guilty? As guilty as the receiver. If a bribe is demanded before judgment is rendered then you are just as guilty of dishonesty if you give the bribe as if you take it. Expressing appreciation after the fact is one thing but offering something while judgment is being considered is another.
24 ¶ Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.
A person who has understanding doesn’t need to run to Tibet to find wisdom. He doesn’t need to run to learn Greek and Hebrew or find someone with a bunch of letters after his or her name who does. A person of understanding does not miss Salvation while studying religion. He doesn’t strain at a gnat while swallowing a camel. He doesn’t miss an opportunity to glorify Christ while he focuses on the clothes a person is wearing or their hair style. Wisdom, in this Bible, is always before them. He or she has this Book in front of their eyes and in their ears. They don’t need to read Albert Schweitzer’s Quest for the Historical Jesus or The Jesus Seminar to find the real Christ.
The person of understanding doesn’t look for peace in inappropriate sexual feelings, money, alcohol, education, or fame. Their eyes are not searching in the ends of the earth for God. They know there are no sacred spaces on earth in Christianity, that God meets with them wherever they are because they have His Spirit dwelling in them. They know that the church is the people not the building and that the house of God is the church not the building, and that the temple of the Holy Ghost is their own body, if they are saved, and that the only altar or throne on earth are in the spiritual heart of a born again Christian. They know that the Holy Spirit is already here inside every believer and doesn’t need to be called down, but that the believers need to be filled. They aren’t searching out their sanctification in the works of Charles Stanley or the sermons of R.G. Lee. They have the tools right in front of their eyes in the Book God speaks to them from.
Wisdom is before him that hath understanding but the eyes of the fool will search the ends of the earth for a “good sanctified, spiritual man o’ God”, to listen to before they would even think of letting God speak to them through the Book. The person of understanding finds peace and fellowship, corporate worship, and satisfying, edifying preaching in their local church body and doesn’t feel the need to go to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem or Notre Dame in Paris. The person of understanding gets truth and a change of heart from an evangelist who may be a mechanic during the week and not even have a degree of any kind much less one in theology while a fool demands a Ph.D. or he won’t even hear.
The fool is always looking for God’s truth in any place other than where God has placed it. He or she runs back to the “original languages” rather than cross reference verses. He prefers a lexicon rather than God’s own definition of words. He prefers a dictionary rather than letting God give him a meaning in the Book in context.
He searches for the kingdom of God when Jesus has said that it’s within him. He looks to government to enforce its dictates when Jesus has said that His kingdom is not of this earth. He keeps sending missionaries to foreign countries and doesn’t care about supporting native Pastors and native Missionaries. He’d rather talk ABOUT God than talk to God. He’d rather hear someone with a degree from an important seminary or with the status of a celebrity talk to him than to hear God speak to him through His word.
“Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.”
25 ¶ A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.
Everything said in verse 21 applies here, as well. Literally, we are looking at the shame of parents who have a child who acts like a fool. Terrible, ungodly relationships, bad attitudes about money, and an inability to control their impulses make children a sorrow to their parents.
Imagine raising a child with the Bible read in the home every day and prayers made daily with the family and that child grows up to be as much a reprobate as the kid down the street raised on a steady stream of popular culture, rock music, and Marxist, evolutionary theory in public school. What a heartbreak that would be. I know, some of you say that can’t happen if it’s done right. Well, human behavior is much trickier than you’d like to admit and people from Godly families can go astray.
Just look at the offspring of some of the great men of God like Presbyterian Billy Sunday. We expect Charles Darwin’s children to fall into alcoholism and drug addiction and madness, which they didn’t, but Billy Sunday’s? George dies from a questionable “fall” from a hotel window which most believe was suicide and had some criminal charges in his background, Billy Jr. in a drunken car crash after a night of partying, and while test pilot Paul died in an airplane crash, and Helen from what seemed to be multiple sclerosis or pneumonia, between four kids all drinking and partying you have nine marriages, with some of the boy’s wives actually blackmailing the Sundays about their boy’s unfaithfulness. Talk about grief and bitterness to mother and father. Three grandchildren produced one great-grandchild who was murdered by his homosexual lover in San Francisco in 1982 or thereabouts. Some other foolish children of Protestant and Baptist preachers of different persuasions that made their parents ashamed were David Hyles’, son of Jack, Vice President Aaron Burr who shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel and committed acts of treason against the US government, sick rock and roller, Alice Cooper, Gudrun Ensslin, one of the founders of the Baader-Meinhoff terrorist gang in Germany, Camilla Hall, one of the founders of the Symbionese Liberation Army of Patty Hearst’s kidnapping fame, Kim Il Sung, the communist founder of North Korea, Friedrich “God is Dead” Neitzche, the German philosopher, Vincent “I cut my ear off for a prostitute” Van Gogh, famous painter, and Malcolm X, Black Muslim radical in the 60’s. Now, do you believe a man of God can produce foolish offspring? Think of the shame those preachers felt.
All parents, no matter what their own relationship with the Lord is, need God’s mercy every single day. If you, young person, ever think that you’re just doing a fine job and you’d like God to he’p you and don’t constantly realize that even if you are doing everything perfectly you need God’s hand of mercy on your child and your parenting and your family every single day, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Parents, humble yourselves before God and plead with Him for guidance. Don’t ever expect your child to learn about Christ by osmosis, just being near you.
26 ¶ Also to punish the just is not good, nor to strike princes for equity.
Unjust punishment and punishing people who have done no wrong by its policies is bad for government to do as it is also wrong for the people to punish their elected leaders for simply doing their jobs. We may not like a policy of our government but if it is within the Constitutional allowed limits of government then we have no cause to defame, denounce, or try to sabotage its doings. In the same respect the government should not enact policies that punish people who simply want to make a living and do right.
Parents should not be the source of unjust rebukes against their children and children should not badmouth and disrespect their parents, in the same regard. No one should suffer under any authority for doing right and no one in authority should be defamed for doing their job fairly and within legally prescribed bounds.
27 ¶ He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. 28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
There is a saying; “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”. The Proverbs have told us many times before that guarding your lips and watching your words are proof of your wisdom. A person who watches what they say is possessed of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, and the Proverbs have had many bad things to say about a fool, even a fool looks wise when he watches his tongue, which admittedly is very difficult for him. Be careful what you say and how you say it. If you really know something, even Christ, you’ll use your words sparingly and carefully, not wanting to confuse or impart some incorrect thing to a person. A babbler just tends to leave a person with more questions than answers.
Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.