Daily Archives: July 24, 2014

Persecuted Christians and You

Reformed Baptist Fellowship

chains

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

μιμνῄσκεσθε τῶν δεσμίων, ὡς συνδεδεμένοι· τῶν κακουχουμένων, ὡς καὶ αὐτοὶ ὄντες ἐν σώματι.

Do we care about persecuted Christians around the world? I mean really care—so that we think of them often, feel for them, pray for them, and do what we can to alleviate their suffering. Unquestionably, it is God’s will that we should.

Many in the USA are ignorant and apathetic about international concerns generally. Materialism and narcissism, to name just two perverse aspects of our culture, conspire to rivet our attention to our own physical and psychological needs and desires. We are prone to become terribly selfish and frivolous in our daily routine.

When news of persecuted Christians does occasionally penetrate our protective cocoon, we may wince for a moment, but we find that dwelling…

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Bible Summary / Survey: Book of Psalms

 

Author: The brief descriptions that introduce the psalms have David listed as author in 73 instances. David’s personality and identity are clearly stamped on many of these psalms. While it is clear that David wrote many of the individual psalms, he is definitely not the author of the entire collection. Two of the psalms (72) and (127) are attributed to Solomon, David’s son and successor. Psalm 90 is a prayer assigned to Moses. Another group of 12 psalms (50) and (73–83) is ascribed to the family of Asaph. The sons of Korah wrote 11 psalms (42, 44–49, 84–85, 87–88). Psalm 88 is attributed to Heman, while (89) is assigned to Ethan the Ezrahite. With the exception of Solomon and Moses, all these additional authors were priests or Levites who were responsible for providing music for sanctuary worship during David’s reign. Fifty of the psalms designate no specific person as author.

Date of Writing: A careful examination of the authorship question, as well as the subject matter covered by the psalms themselves, reveals that they span a period of many centuries. The oldest psalm in the collection is probably the prayer of Moses (90), a reflection on the frailty of man as compared to the eternity of God. The latest psalm is probably (137), a song of lament clearly written during the days when the Hebrews were being held captive by the Babylonians, from about 586 to 538 B.C.

It is clear that the 150 individual psalms were written by many different people across a period of a thousand years in Israel’s history. They must have been compiled and put together in their present form by some unknown editor shortly after the captivity ended about 537 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Psalms is the longest book in the Bible, with 150 individual psalms. It is also one of the most diverse, since the psalms deal with such subjects as God and His creation, war, worship, wisdom, sin and evil, judgment, justice, and the coming of the Messiah.

Key Verses: Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Psalm 22:16–19, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

Psalm 23:1, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

Psalm 29:1–2, “Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Psalm 119:1–2, “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.”

Brief Summary: The Book of Psalms is a collection of prayers, poems, and hymns that focus the worshiper’s thoughts on God in praise and adoration. Parts of this book were used as a hymnal in the worship services of ancient Israel. The musical heritage of the psalms is demonstrated by its title. It comes from a Greek word which means “a song sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument.”

Foreshadowings: God’s provision of a Savior for His people is a recurring theme in the Psalms. Prophetic pictures of the Messiah are seen in numerous psalms. Psalm 2:1–12 portrays the Messiah’s triumph and kingdom. Psalm 16:8–11 foreshadows His death and resurrection. Psalm 22 shows us the suffering Savior on the cross and presents detailed prophecies of the crucifixion, all of which were fulfilled perfectly. The glories of the Messiah and His bride are on exhibit in Psalm 45:6–7, while Psalms 72:6–17, 89:3–37, 110:1–7 and 132:12–18 present the glory and universality of His reign.

Practical Application: One of the results of being filled with the Spirit or the word of Christ is singing. The psalms are the “songbook” of the early church that reflected the new truth in Christ.

God is the same Lord in all the psalms. But we respond to Him in different ways, according to the specific circumstances of our lives. What a marvelous God we worship, the psalmist declares, One who is high and lifted up beyond our human experiences but also one who is close enough to touch and who walks beside us along life’s way.

We can bring all our feelings to God—no matter how negative or complaining they may be—and we can rest assured that He will hear and understand. The psalmist teaches us that the most profound prayer of all is a cry for help as we find ourselves overwhelmed by the problems of life.[1]

 

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

Questions about Cults and Religions: What Is the All-Seeing Eye?

 

There are many cultural, religious, philosophical, and cultic uses of the symbol of the “all-seeing eye,” which is also called the “Eye of Providence.” Some suggest that the all-seeing eye is based on the “Eye of Horus” from ancient Egypt, although similarity in symbolism does not necessarily connote similar meaning. The basic representation is that of a lidded eye with “glory,” or beams, emanating from it in all directions. The European Christian version also includes a triangular frame around the eye. Generally speaking, the all-seeing eye is a symbol of an omniscient entity—usually a deity—that can see all.

Most Americans are familiar with the all-seeing eye because it appears on the reverse of the dollar bill. There, as part of what is labeled “The Great Seal,” the Eye of Providence appears as the capstone of an unfinished pyramid. The base of the pyramid is inscribed with “1776” in Roman numerals. Beneath the pyramid is a banner reading “Novus Ordo Seclorum” (Latin for “New Order of the Ages”). Above the pyramid are the words “Annuit Cœptis” (Latin for “Favors Undertakings”). The idea on the Great Seal, then, is that the Eye of Providence has shown favor to America in its founding of a new era of history.

As a symbol, the all-seeing eye is found throughout the world from the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia, to hieroglyphic texts. It is used as a talisman or protective charm in many cultures, particularly those which subscribe to the existence of the “evil eye,” against which the “all-seeing eye” is believed to protect. In Mexico, the ojo de venado is a shamanic amulet used in this fashion. Although the symbol itself is not used in Buddhism, Buddha is referred to as the “eye of the world” in certain Buddhist texts.

In popular culture, J. R. R. Tolkien’s character Sauron in The Lord of the Rings is referred to as the Red Eye, the Lidless Eye, and the Great Eye. Peter Jackson’s depiction of Sauron in his Lord of the Rings film trilogy is that of a fiery eye that watches all of Middle Earth. Such a depiction is easily confused with a twisted use of the “all-seeing eye” mythology. The film industry has also given us National Treasure, in which the “all-seeing eye” was supposedly used as a symbol of Free Masonry by America’s Founding Fathers. However, the use of the eye in an unfinished pyramid was never a Masonic symbol, and the all-seeing eye was not used in Free Masonry until 1797, years after the design for the Great Seal was finalized.

While Christianity makes use of many symbols (the cross and the fish being the most common), they were never imbued with any special power. The symbols remain pictures that remind us of basic Christian truths, and that meaning makes them important but not inherently powerful. In European Christian contexts, particularly in the Medieval and Renaissance periods, the so-called Eye of Providence within a triangular frame was used as a symbol of the Trinity. The eye itself could be considered a symbol of God’s omniscience.

So, the all-seeing eye is an icon that can mean different things to different people, depending on the context. Some see the symbol as a representation of the Trinity; others take it as a representation of a more general Higher Power or Providence; still others see it as a Masonic icon, a conspiratorial sign of the Illuminati, or a good-luck charm.[1]

 

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

Questions about the End Times: Does the Bible Say the United Nations Will Have a Role in the End Times?

 

Many believe the formation of the United Nations was a key development relating to biblical prophecy of the end times. The United Nations is not mentioned by name in the Bible, and neither is its predecessor, the League of Nations; of course, that does not mean it is not symbolically suggested in prophecy. The possibility of a one-world government has come and gone constantly over the past 2,000 years since John wrote the book of Revelation. As the United Nations has gained more power, it has provided fodder for various conspiracy theories. At the same time, the rise of the UN is a valid field of study for students of prophecy and for anyone anticipating the New World Order.

A one-world or global government is predicted in Daniel and Revelation. It will come after the rise of a confederation of ten nations or regions (Revelation 13:1; Daniel 7:16–24; Daniel 2:41–42). One member of the confederation will displace three of the other members, subdue the others, and rule over all, led by the satanically empowered Antichrist. It is this confederation of ten nations that is most often connected with the United Nations. If this connection is correct, it may be that the UN or a similar group is mentioned, indirectly, in the Bible, but there is no way to be completely sure before the Antichrist makes his appearance.

Another prophecy that some people connect with the United Nations is found in Revelation 17–18. There, “Babylon the great” or the “Whore of Babylon” is condemned. The first mention of Babel is in Genesis 11, the story of the Tower of Babel. The building of the tower was mankind’s first attempt at “world government” in defiance of God. Babylon the Great in the end times is a similar conglomeration of nations attempting to unite against God. This could be the United Nations or the European Union or some other, yet-to-be-identified bloc of countries associated with the Antichrist. The fact that this evil world system is called a “mystery” (Revelation 17:5) indicates that we do not know all the details yet.

It should be noted that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were quick to denounce the formation of the League of Nations. In 1919 the second president of the Watchtower Society condemned both the League and any person who supported it. They did the same when the United Nations was created, passing a resolution condemning it in 1963. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the UN is the “image of the beast” of Revelation 13:1–18 and the “abomination of desolation” mentioned in Matthew 24:15, although there is no clear hermeneutical evidence for either interpretation.

There are many international events which could be interpreted as the fulfillment of various apocalyptic prophecies in the Bible. However, we should be careful not to jump to conclusions. Throughout history there have been major international threats, possibilities of global totalitarian governments, and proud, out-of-control leaders. It may appear that our current situation is more likely to fulfill prophecy than past situations, and we can more clearly “see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). But until we see Christ, we must trust God and continue our efforts to spread the good news of His Kingdom with the resources we have been given.[1]

 

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