Daily Archives: February 19, 2014

Characters in the Bible: What Should We Learn from the Tribe of Naphtali?


Israel’s tribes were named for Jacob’s children. Naphtali, being the sixth son of Jacob, is one of Israel’s twelve tribes. In the time of Moses, Naphtali was divided into four clans: the Jahzeelites, the Gunites, the Jezerites, and the Shillemites, named after Naphtali’s sons (Numbers 26:48–49). Naphtali was borne by Rachel’s maidservant, Bilhah. He was her second and last child with Jacob. When Naphtali was born, Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won” (Genesis 30:8). Naphtali means “my struggle.”

Naphtali was one of six tribes chosen to stand on Mount Ebal and pronounce curses (Deuteronomy 27:13). By means of these curses, the people promised God they would refrain from certain behaviors. For example, one curse says, “Cursed is the man who moves his neighbor’s boundary stone” (Deuteronomy 27:17). Another states, “Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien or fatherless or the widow” (Deuteronomy 27:19). Still another: “Cursed is the man who kills his neighbor secretly” (Deuteronomy 27:24). In all, Naphtali helped deliver twelve such admonishments (Deuteronomy 27:15–26).

When Jacob blessed his 12 sons, he said, “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns” (Genesis 49:21). The image presented is of one who springs forth with great speed and provides good news. Later, Moses blessed the tribe: “Naphtali is abounding with the favor of the Lord and is full of his blessing; he will inherit southward to the lake” (Deuteronomy 33:23). In Joshua 19:32–39, we learn that Napthali’s land was in northern Israel, bordering Asher’s territory, and the Sea of Kinnereth (or Galilee) touched the southern portion of its territory.

Despite all its blessings Naphtali failed to obey God’s command to drive out all the Canaanites living in its territory. Therefore, “the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath became forced labor for them” (Judges 1:33).

In Judges 4:6–9, we learn that Barak was a Naphtalite. He had been chosen by God to lead a military force of 10,000 of his tribe against their Canaanite oppressors. However, when the time came for action, Barak responded in fear and cowardice, agreeing to fight against King Jabin’s army only if Deborah the judge would accompany him. Deborah consents, but she prophesies that the honor for the victory would go to a woman and not to Barak. The prophecy was fulfilled in Judges 4:17–22.

“The Song of Deborah and Barak” (Judges 5) relates that the tribe of Naphtali risked their lives “on the heights of the field” (verse 18) and so was honored in the victory over the Canaanites.

Later, Naphtali responded to Gideon’s call to repel the Midianites, Amalekites, and others from the East from their encampment in the Jezreel Valley (Judges 6:35). Along with the tribes of Asher and Manasseh, Naphtali followed Gideon into battle and chased the Midianites to Zererah and Abel Meholah (Judges 7:23).

When the time came for David to assume the throne, the tribe of Naphtali provided “1,000 officers, together with 37,000 men carrying shields and spears,” along with a caravan of food, to help him (1 Chronicles 12:34, 40). When King Solomon was building the temple, he hired Huram, a man whose mother was a Naphtalite, to do the bronze work (1 Kings 7:13–47).

In the time of Christ, the land of Naphtali was part of the area of Galilee, and it was viewed by the Jews in Judea as a place of dishonor, full of Gentile pagans (see John 1:46; 7:52). But Isaiah had prophesied that Naphtali would be honored: “In the past he humbled … the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan” (Isaiah 9:1). This honor came with the coming of Jesus Christ. All Jesus’ disciples but Judas, who betrayed Him, hailed from Galilee, and much of Jesus’ ministry took place there. Thus, “on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

The tribe of Naphtali had its ups and downs. Its history includes incomplete obedience and shades of cowardice, but it also includes bravery under Gideon and a godly support of King David. Probably the greatest lesson we can take from Naphtali is that God exalts the humble. Naphtali (as part of Galilee) was despised, and Nazareth was the lowest of the low. Yet Nazareth was Jesus’ hometown, and Galilee was exactly where Jesus chose to begin His ministry. For our sakes, He became “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3). The King of kings had the most unpretentious start. He is truly “humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29).[1]

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Christian Life: What Does It Mean that Christians Are Not of This World?


The phrase “not of this world” is perhaps most well-known for being a Christian apparel company (http://www.notw.com/). But what exactly does it mean that Christians are “not of this world”? The phrase comes from John 18:36 where Jesus says that His kingdom is “not of this world.” As His followers, Christians are members of His kingdom which is “not of this world,” that is, heaven (Philippians 3:20). Yes, we are on earth for now, but our earthly lives are nothing but a vapor (James 4:14). But eternity, now that is a long time, and that is where a Christian’s focus should really be (1 Peter 5:10).

The things of this world, wars, famine, suffering, poverty, etc., impact Christians and non-Christians alike. By remembering that we are “not of this world,” remembering that these things are just for a little while, we can see them in a different light. We are still in this world but we are no longer of it (John 17:14). We are still surrounded by all the horrors and tragedy of this life, but this is not our life (Philippians 3:8–14). The knowledge that we are not of this world gives Christians hope even in the darkest times (1 Peter 1:6–9); hope that this will pass and at the end of it we will be in heaven with our God, face to face forever (Revelation 21:3–4). This cracked and broken place is not where we belong, and it is not where we will stay (1 Corinthians 3:12).

Christians are not of this world. We have been adopted as heirs of heaven by God Himself and that is our world, our citizenship (Titus 3:7). And in the meanwhile we wait (2 Corinthians 5:12), and we hope (Romans 5:5), and we do what we can to bring others into the “not of this world” relationship with Jesus Christ. But this world is not our home, and never will be.[1]

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Ukraine is on fire. People are dying in the streets. Why? At the core, it’s a battle against Vladimir Putin.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

Kiev is on fire as the battle between pro-Putin forces and anti-Putin rebels intensifies. Kiev is on fire as the battle between pro-Putin forces and anti-Putin rebels intensifies.

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych (left) and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych (left) and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

>> Ukraine crisis: Police storm main Kiev ‘Maidan’ protest camp (latest coverage from BBC News)

(Washington, D.C.) — While Vladimir Putin stage-manages a dazzling Olympic extravaganza in Sochi, a deadly backlash against the Russian Czar has broken out in neighboring Ukraine.

Kiev is on fire. Dozens are dead. Hundreds are wounded. The country is on the verge of all-out civil war. And there appears to be no end in sight.

On one side is Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and his pro-Putin government.

Last fall, Yanukovich abruptly rejected a trade agreement that would have strengthened ties between the former Soviet republic and the European Union. Instead, Yanukovich lurched in the other direction, choosing closer ties to the Kremlin, a decision sealed by a $15 billion package of loan guarantees and discounts on natural gas purchases that Putin offered…

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Cold Case Christianity: Historic Heresies Related to the Nature of Man and the Role of the Church

We’ve been looking this month at some historic distortions related to the nature of God the Father, Jesus and Salvation. These heresies often resulted from a non-critical examination of the canonical texts (in fact, some emerged as the result of key leaders embracing non-canonical documents of one sort or another). Some of these heretical groups were sincerely trying to understand New Testament paradoxes (like the Triune nature of God, the dual nature of Jesus, or the unique mystery of Grace). Others were simply bent on leading their own movements for more selfish reasons. We’ll finish today with a brief list of historic heresies related to the nature of man and the role of the Church. Many of us have struggled to understand the loving nature of Grace, especially given our inclination to separate ourselves from others on the basis of our own prideful achievements. As a result a pervasive heresy has repeatedly crept into the Church related to the nature of man:

What Are People Around the World Searching For in the Bible? (Inforgraphic)

Source: Bible Gateway

As the chart shows, people in the ten most populous countries in the world are reading Psalms, Genesis, the Gospels, and 1 Corinthians 13. Here’s a breakdown, taken from the Missiographic, of the most popular Bible passages in the ten most populous countries:


  1. Matthew 1
  2. John 1
  3. Psalm 23
  4. 1 Corinthians 13
  5. Genesis 2

  1. Psalm 23
  2. Genesis 1
  3. John 3:16
  4. Psalm 1
  5. Proverbs 1

  1. Psalm 23
  2. 1 Corinthians 13
  3. Genesis 1
  4. John 3:16
  5. Jeremiah 29:11

  1. Genesis 1
  2. John 3:16
  3. 1 Corinthians 13
  4. Ecclesiastes 3
  5. Psalm 1

  1. Genesis 1
  2. Psalm 23
  3. 1 Corinthians 13
  4. John 3:16
  5. John 1

  1. Psalm 23
  2. Psalm 91
  3. Genesis 1
  4. Proverbs 1
  5. Psalm 89

  1. Psalm 91
  2. Psalm 89
  3. Genesis 1
  4. Psalm 23
  5. 1 Corinthians 13

  1. Psalm 23
  2. Psalm 51
  3. Psalm 121
  4. Genesis 1
  5. Psalm 27

  1. 1 Corinthians 13
  2. Matthew 1
  3. Psalm 23
  4. John 1
  5. Matthew 5

  1. Genesis 1
  2. Psalm 23
  3. John 1
  4. Psalm 91
  5. 1 Corinthians 13

If I was the Antichrist…

When did you last hear a sermon about the Antichrist?

Probably never for most of us.

Yet, there are numerous references to him in the Bible; in some cases whole chapters are devoted to describing him.

Why then crickets in the pulpit?

I think the main reason is fear of embarrassment. As we look back at history we see that many preachers and writers tried to pin the tail on the donkey and missed by miles. Anyone for Napoleon…Hitler…Saddam Hussein!? Ouch! None of us want to be the next Harold Camping.

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My Wretchedness

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” —Romans 7:24 Because of the truth, that in this body I will never attain sinless perfection, I am wretched!  I understand that because this body of flesh is not perfect, nor ever shall be; and that there is actually sin in everything I do, even the very best and holiest of works done in the power of Christ.  We read in 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

What’s the most biblical form of Church government?

ShepherdThe older I get, the more I study the Bible, and the longer I stay involved in church, the more I find myself amused by statements like,

“Well, the most biblical form of church government is _____________ (insert the form you use at your church, or think should be used there), and…

“I just don’t like that approach to church government because it’s not biblical.”

I want to respond, — What do you mean, ‘biblical’? You mean there’s a verse in the bible that says how every church that must be governed? Where’s that verse?

You can find lots of references to church government in Paul’s letters, but you can also find other structures, methods, dynamics, and ways of doing things in the book of Acts, and to be very strong about this point right up front, there is not one single model that is static in the New Testament. There are just lots of examples of how early Christians got things done.

By the way, I think the central idea behind “forms” or “models” in the New Testament (if early believers even thought in such terms) was not about forms and models. It was all about mission. It was about how to process what God was doing among them in the most effective way possible. It was not about setting up an organizational structure next to some ‘Biblical’ template that they all somehow knew they were supposed to use.

If I’m right, then the most biblical way to think about church government is more like, “What structures and methods would work best for us as we keep our unique mission and challenges in mind as a congregation?” In other words, I think it is actually unbiblical to prescribe something for a congregation that doesn’t actually help them with their mission, because the Christians in the Bible structured things for their functions, and not to serve the structures themselves.

Okay, moving on – what about all those models of Church government? What are they about, how do they work, and which one do you use (or prefer to use) when thinking about how to get things done?

Consider these four typical models of church government. And by the way, you can find amazing churches doing amazing things using these models, and you can also find horrible churches using these models. At the end of the day, my suspicion is that the difference between the two is – what kind of people are using the model, and NOT what kind of model are the people using? But you can decide for yourself if you think I’m right or wrong.

After you read the four models, jump into the comments and discuss the pros and cons of each model (or the one you want to focus on).

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Herescope: God and Greed – A Contemporary Case Study

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn
Pastor Steven Furtick’s “House from Heaven”
“If anyone  advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words,  those of our Lord Jesus Christ… he is conceited and understands  nothing… [and] has a morbid interest in controversial questions… out of which arise… constant friction between men of depraved  mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of  gain.”
Paul to Timothy, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, NASB, Emphasis added.[1]