Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bethany Bullet - May 26, 2009

“What is truth?”

“Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.”
–Abraham Lincoln

“You can’t handle the truth.”
–Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men

TRUTH is at the very heart of the Christian message. In his epistle, John writes regarding the truth of Christ. John is writing against the backdrop of the Gnostic movement which taught, among many false things, that truth was exclusively the property of those with secret knowledge and inner enlightenment. John steadfastly, painstakingly, and historically points out that the truth of the Gospel is anything but secret and internal. “The Word of life existed from the beginning. We have heard it. We have seen it. We observed and touched it. We are reporting to you about it. . .”
–1 John 1

Accordingly truth is not merely a series of statements but One who is incarnate. Jesus Christ is the truth. We, like those to whom the letter was first written, live in a world of competing truth claims. Included among these claims are claims regarding truth itself:

  • Is it absolute?
  • Is it relative?

The people of God have much to say about the truth claims of the world. However, John reminds us that our first, primary, and essential role is to introduce the truth as a Person; not to merely defend truth as information. Unless the world comes to know the truth of Jesus Christ, how can we expect them to understand the truth He teaches?

T-akes our


U-nites it



Jesus Christ has taken the false notions of the world, our lies, and the true nature of our guilt and was forsaken by God, punished by heaven, suffered, and died as if it were His own sin.

T-ransfers His


U-nto us



Through faith in Jesus’ work, God’s own righteousness and holiness is truly ours.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The One Year Bible- May 25th

In September of 1990 PBS aired the miniseries “The Civil War” by Ken Burns. It was 11 hours in length and an estimated 40 million viewers watched the premiere episode. To put it into focus, last week’s finale of American Idol did not have that many people watching. The Ken Burns film was a hit! It is still one of the most popular shows in the history of public television. Why bring this up? Well the story of David and Saul is a story of Civil War. It is a time where brother fought against brother and many died. The events surrounding the end of Saul’s reign and the beginning of David’s are filled with intrigue and action. I am not sure that 40 million people would tune in to watch it as a miniseries but countless millions have read it and have seen the events unfold in the pages of Scripture. At times there are things that we read that don’t seem right. Some of the stories we find in the Bible are disturbing but we must remember that they are still the word of God and we need to dig to try to find what they mean. That is one of the reasons for this study. I hope that you can start to put it all together as you read. Without further ado, on to the study...

The Old Testament
The saga of David and Saul continues in our Old Testament readings this week. The story has its climax towards the end of 1 Samuel. I think that David and Saul had a very co-dependant relationship. They both hated and loved each other and this made things very confusing. One moment they want to kill each other, the next they say how much they love and respect one another. We see some interesting things about David’s character in this story too. David is revered as one of the best kings that Israel ever had. But his record is not spotless. In fact he is not the nicest of guys at all. David often took the high road (i.e. not killing Saul in the cave) but equally as often he took the low road (i.e. taking multiple wives and the fiasco with Bathsheba). David is an interesting king for sure. I think that remembering that David took the low road at times is something we cannot forget. Even after all the bad things that he did, God still loved him and promised that his kingdom will last forever in the person of Jesus. A couple of other things from this week that I want to make note of: I have always liked the story of Saul going to see the medium at Endor. For those of you who are fans of the Star Wars movies you would remember that George Lucas called one of the planets in the Star Wars universe by the same name. It was on a moon of Endor that the final battle in “Return of the Jedi” took place. Did George Lucas know his Bible or did someone feed him that name, I don’t know. It is just another example that things from the Bible are everywhere. That story has another point. Saul has lost his trust in God. He seeks the advice of a medium to try to get information. The LORD has left him and is now with David and that makes Saul angry. Finally during a battle Saul is injured and falls on his own sword and dies. It was a bad day for the house of Saul. “So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day.” (1 Samuel 31:6 NIV) This starts another Civil War and eventually David becomes king. I find it odd that the first thing that David builds in the new capital of Jerusalem is a palace for himself. He does not build a place for God or for the Ark. We will see why a bit later.

The New Testament
In the story of the death of Lazarus, Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life.” What a great analogy and given at the right time. It is by the power of Jesus that Lazarus was raised from death to life again. We see a glimpse of the human side of Jesus, showing love in the shortest verse of the bible, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Confirmation students often want this to be their verse given at confirmation since it is so short. I hope no teachers have used it in that context but nonetheless it is still a powerful verse. Jesus shows his emotion and his love for his friend Lazarus, and it is that same love he has for us. He died not only for Lazarus but for us as well. Our resurrection will not be in this world but will be in heaven on the last day. What a great comfort. Jesus shows that love a few verses later when he washes the disciples feet. That was a tender act of love that shows the servant heart of our Lord. Just after this we have another great “I Am”. “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.” (John 13:19 NIV) This “I Am” statement is a direct pointer to the name Yahweh. Jesus was again telling them who he was and what he was all about. There is a lot more in this section of scripture, but I don’t have the time to dig into all of it. If you have any questions please let me know.

We started reading Psalm 119 this week and I want to make a few comments. First of all, it is the longest Psalm in the Bible; secondly the Psalm is a giant acrostic poem. There are twenty-two stanzas in the Psalm, one for each successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the eight verses within each stanza begins with the Hebrew letter named in its heading. So in the first section each line begins with the Hebrew letter “aleph” and so on for each of the 22 letters. Of course, once you translate it you loose this unique structure. This is a common literary form used for Hebrew poetry. When you know some of the structure, you can see more of the beauty of the original.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bethany Bullet - May 19, 2009

On Sunday, May 10th we began a sermon series focusing on the Book of 1 John. For the next few weeks we will walk through this letter that was written by one who had a close and personal relationship with Jesus while our Lord walked the earth. John begins with these words, “That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1)

John was able to look at Jesus himself, he was able to walk with him, and learn from him. In this letter John invites us to take a look at the Word of Life; so today (May 17th) we take a look at fellowship.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word, fellowship? Growing up in the church, my mind drifts to potlucks, picnics, and bowling pins. Time spent in the church basement sharing a meal with others, tossing water balloons at the park, or rolling the ball down the alley. Fellowship to me was the times that the church just got together as a whole and had fun.

How could we increase fellowship here at Bethany? We could go to one service, but we would have to move. We could have an all church bowling league, but is forced participation really fellowship? We could have more potlucks…O.K. this might be a good idea!

In 1 John 1, the text points out that fellowship is a good thing, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also might have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.”(1 John 1:3-4)

Outside of the church, many may only know fellowship from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Novel, The Lord of the Rings. In the first part of the book, subtitled The Fellowship of the Ring, a fellowship of like-minded individuals is established. Meeting in the Elfish land of Rivendell the fellowship discusses the dark evil that has come upon Middle-Earth. Only by the participation of all in the newly formed fellowship will evil be defeated and hope returned to the land. Their fellowship goes beyond themselves. Through their shared experience safety and light return to a world filled with danger and darkness.

Before we can have fellowship with each other on a deep level we need to understand that first and foremost our fellowship is with God. In the Garden of Eden, humankind had perfect fellowship with God. It was a close, personal relationship. God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. But perfect fellowship was broken when sin entered the world. Humanities participation with evil began and we have lived…and died with the consequences since. Utopia was replaced by utter chaos.

But God’s desire for fellowship continued. Beginning with his promises in the garden of a savior, continuing with the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, culminating with the gift of the Promised Land, the Lord desired to continue fellowship with his people.

But time and time again, humans desired to participate with evil instead of living in the promises of God. The stories are almost countless:
• The entire world had become so wicked that God destroyed it with a flood;
• The people try to manipulate God by building a great tower;
• There was rebellion in the wilderness;
• Rejection of God as king;
• A deaf ear to the message of the prophets;
• And eventually exile from the Promised Land.

But throughout the story we continue to see our Lord’s desire for fellowship. In his divine patience, he withheld his judgment. We see his love in the words of the prophets and ultimately in his Word made flesh.

The fellowship that God desired came in the person of Jesus. It is not based on the goodness of humanity or the worthiness of works. We need to understand that fellowship with God is not base on human endeavor or merit. We have fellowship with God because true fellowship comes from above. From 1 John 1 v. 5, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

If it were left to us there would be no fellowship with God, for we desire fellowship with evil. Like the people of Israel we are courted by the darkness. Power, Position, Profit, and Pleasure pursue us, and soon we find ourselves walking in the dark. 1 John 1 v. 6, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”

We may call ourselves Christians, but we often find ourselves walking in the darkness. At times we take true fellowship for granted. It almost becomes trivial to us. But fellowship with God is nothing trivial. It comes at a high price—the price of Jesus’ very life. By his suffering and death, he made fellowship possible and by his resurrection he defeated the darkness.

I John 1 v. 7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his son, purifies us from all sin.”

Just like he did with the people of Israel, God doesn’t give up on us! His desire is fellowship; for in Christ, we are new creations, the old has gone, and the new has come. By the blood of Jesus we can walk in the light.

Another way to translate the word fellowship is participation. Fellowship with Christ means participation in his suffering, death and resurrection. Fellowship with Christ is not an end to suffering, like Pastor Kritzer talked about last week. It is not an end to death either, but fellowship is not temporal! Our fellowship will continue in heaven. In fact, it will be perfect. Only when we are in fellowship with our Lord can we have fellowship with one another here on earth. Living a life of fellowship with Christ also produces fellowship and partnership with other Christians.

Fellowship was a hallmark of the early church. In Acts we read, “They devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” This is more than just potlucks and picnics. This is a close bond of communion within the body of Christ.

In the book of Galatians, Paul tells us of his participation with the Disciples, “James, Peter, and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when the recognized the grace given to me.”

Here we have the gathering, some of the giants of the faith, gathering together to talk about how to spread the message of Jesus. Not unlike the gathering in Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings. And a hand of fellowship is stretched out to Paul, one who had persecuted the church, who stood by and watched Stephen die. I am sure that without the blood of Jesus who had purified James, Peter, and John, the hand would have never been extended. Now, the leaders of the early church give an outward expression of fellowship. What a great example for the rest of the church. What a great example for us today.

More important than the social meaning, is the theological meaning of shaking hands. We should give the hand of fellowship not only to those in the church but also to our neighbors when they need help, when they are hungry or need assistance, or a shoulder to cry on. How about extending a hand to someone you don’t know. Find a way to extend a hand to the neighbor or co-worker who doesn’t know Jesus. Find out more about them, what do they need, what can you do to help? Find ways to extend you hand into our cities, find ways to bring fellowship to those who need to hear about Jesus or just a hot meal and a smile.

Taking a look at fellowship we see that we also have been gathered in this place in the face of a great evil that is threatening earth. A brave fellowship has been gathered to work against the dark forces at work in this world. In this battle the light will prevail for this fellowship cannot be defeated. This fellowship travels with one who is the Light, and who brings his life to all. This fellowship has been called to go beyond these walls and bring the light of Christ to this dark world. May the Lord help us all

Monday, May 18, 2009

The One Year Bible- May 18th

Tom and Jerry, Super man and Lex Luthor, USC and UCLA, Coke and Pepsi, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, APPLE and Microsoft,; these are just a few of the great antagonistic relationships in pop culture. We all know a great rivalry when we see it; you have the “good” guy and the “bad” guy. You have drama, intrigue, verbal exchanges, misunderstandings and bad blood. One of the best rivalries in literature is found in 1 Samuel. We all know about David and Goliath but a much greater story is David versus Saul. This story has more twists and turns than an episode of General Hospital. There is deception and mistrust, attempted murder and slander. But once again it all points to our need for God and salvation through Jesus Christ. Samuel warned the people that having a king would bring hardship and pain but the people insisted on their own way. This story should serve as an example of God’s patience and mercy; for Jesus came to die for Saul and for David and for us as well. In this twisted tale we see David as the good guy but soon he will be the foil in another story unfit for the family channel. The good news is that in his patience God forgives us and loves us, even as we are mired in our own sin. As you read this tragic story, don’t forget that it serves a purpose to point us to Christ. On to the study…

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
We focused this week on the beginnings of the monarchy in Israel. God had finally allowed an earthy king but He said that it would be filled with some unexpected problems. The people still insisted and there were troubles. Saul was a man who had no equal. He was a head taller than the others and was good looking too.. Samuel reminds the people of what will happen to them under a king and gives them this warning, “But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, you and your king.” (1 Samuel 12:25 ESV) For those of you who remember the story this is exactly what happened. Many generations later the people were taken into exile and swept away. Only a remnant survived. Chapter thirteen begins a regular pattern that we will see when the Kings are discussed. “Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years.” (1 Samuel 13:1). The Hebrew text is rather vague here. It is unclear as to how old Saul was from this text or exactly how long he reigned (If you are reading the ESV you may have noticed the note in the text describing this). The one thing to note is the pattern. We will see this same pattern when each King is introduced. “X was Y years old when he became king, and he reigned for Z years." Saul seems to be doing OK until he gets a bit impatient. Saul ended up sacrificing a burnt offering himself without Samuel or a priest there, big mistake. Samuel tells Saul how foolish a thing he has done and then he drops the bomb, “But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart.” Wasn’t it just a few verses ago that Saul was anointed king? The kingdom talk is about his line or family. And a few chapters later, “So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” God has decided to have the monarchy go to a different family, because of Saul’s sin. Now Saul will still to be king for a while and God will use him but the days of his kingdom are numbered. This will be different (and I am getting ahead of myself a bit) with David’s kingdom. God will promise that the kingdom of David will last forever. This will come to pass because Jesus will come from the line of David and fulfill this promise, as he is a king today and forever. After Samuel anoints David as the new king, a strange turn of events puts the old king and the new king in close quarters. A tormenting spirit filled Saul with depression and fear and he needed some comfort. The ESV translates it as an “evil” spirit and this is accurate to the Hebrew but we need to understand that this was not “evil” in the sense of being from the devil. Nothing “evil” comes from God. The idea here is that it tormented Saul to the point of frustration. One way that Saul dealt with this is to have music played in his presence. David ends up being the one to play his harp in the king’s presence and to be his armor bearer. This is no coincidence. Saul and David will have a long a tension filled relationship. The best word for it is “DRAMA”. Those of you with teenagers or remember those days know what I mean. Saul acts rather childish and the rest of his life is filled with drama. After the familiar story of David and Goliath we read that Saul and David returns victoriously to Israel and the people chant, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” This really gets Saul’s feathers ruffled. “And Saul eyed David from that day on..” (1 Samuel 18:9 ESV) This was the beginning of some violent interactions between David and Saul. I think Saul goes a bit nuts in his obsession with David and even lies on the ground naked all day once. One other great storyline is that of David and Jonathan. They became the closest of friends. They watched out for each other and I believe that their relationship can be a model for us today. Two other things caught my eye in my reading this week. Fist of all when Saul sends his men to David’s house to kill him he escapes and his wife tells them he is sick and in bed. In reality David is not in bed but it is a pillow with goats hair on top. This rouse gave David enough time to escape. Here I thought that the guys who escaped from Alcatraz had a new way of deceiving the guards and David did the same thing years earlier. This coming week we will get a description of the kind of people who were hanging out with David in the caves. The ESV describes them like this, “And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul gathered to him. And he became captain over them” (1 Samuel 22:2). Sounds a bit like the “sinners and tax collectors” that Jesus hung around with! It was really just a rag tag bunch of misfits.

The New Testament
John has an amazing way with words, even after it is translated into English. We read the account in chapter eight that is not in many of the Greek manuscripts. Why was it not there? It is hard to be certain, but I love the story that the section contains. The woman who was caught in adultery is guilty. By the law she is condemned to die. It is a powerful scene. Mel Gibson uses this scene in The Passion of the Christ and it is amazing. I wonder what Jesus was writing in dirt. Could it be that he was writing the sins of each of the people who had rocks in their hands? Whatever it was, the people left. I wonder how they felt? Were they convicted of their own sins or were they mad that they did not get to do what they wanted. At any rate it is a great story. Did you notice the “I Am” statements this week? The “I Am” statements in 8:24 & 28 occur in a section where people were trying to figure out who Jesus was. “Listen Up People!!! He is telling YOU!!” When he says “I Am” that is your clue. He says it again in verse 58. I guess I would have to put myself in their position. Would I be able to figure it out? I don’t know. I might be one of those who thought Jesus was a crazy guy. We also read some of the “I Am” metaphors. In chapter 8 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV) He uses the same metaphor again in chapter 9:5. The “I Am” statements keep flying out of Jesus’ mouth in. Jesus says “I am the gate” meaning that he is the only way into heaven. There is no other way for salvation. It is by him and through him that we are saved and enter the safety of the heavenly sheep pen. He also says, “I am the good shepherd”. Is he really a good shepherd? He leaves all the other sheep unprotected to look for one lost one. But that is the point. Jesus will do anything, even give up his own life in order to save the sheep. He knows all of the sheep and will sacrifice his life for each and every one of them. Jesus also spends a lot of time trying to show the relationship he has with the father. The disciples just don’t seem to get it. Jesus says that he and the father are one, and that he is doing the work of the father. These statements are found only in John. He uses them to give an analogy for the reader; to help us understand who Jesus is. They are wonderful statements that I am convinced Jesus said. Some believe that John was putting words into Jesus’ mouth in order to make a literary point. I disagree. I think Jesus knew what he was doing when John remembered these statements as he wrote his Gospel.

Bits and Pieces
We will move on to the book of 2 Samuel this week. It is basically the continuation of the same story but here are the vital stats of the book:

PURPOSES: To Record the history of David's reign; to demonstrate effective leadership under God; to reveal that one person can make a difference; to show the personal qualities that please God; the depict David as an ideal leader of an imperfect kingdom, and to foreshadow Christ, who will be the ideal leader of a new and perfect kingdom.

AUTHOR: Unknown; some have suggested that Nathan's son Zabud may have been the author; the book also includes writings from Nathan and Gad

SETTING: The land of Israel under David's rule

KEY VERSE: "And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel" (5:12)

SPECIAL FEATURES: This book was named after the prophet who anointed David and guided him in living for God.

Have a wonderful week!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bethany Bullet - May 12, 2009

In Disney’s, The Lion King, Mufassa has promised Simba that, even after his death, he would always be with Simba his son. Later the lost, alone and confused Simba looks heavenward and cries, “YOU said you would be with me. You said you’d always be there for me. But you’re not! And it’s because of me.”

Without going into the review of the movie I believe this cry of Simba’s is somewhat analogous to the cry of the Christian heart that is confounded when their reality seems to be at odds with Jesus’ promise, “I am with you all days. Like Simba we have seasons in which we begin to wonder, “If Jesus is really with me, why he hasn’t kept me from _______________?” (You fill in the blank) You know how the conversation goes.

A. If Jesus is with us all days we will never experience pain, suffering or grief. Jesus presence MUST assure us of this - right! Doesn’t that make sense? If Jesus is with us all days can there be gray days?
B. If Jesus is with us all days we will not come to know doubt, confusion or action that is filled with frailty and fault. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if Jesus is with us all days there will never be hazy days when we lack reason or a reason?
C. If Jesus is with us all days we will never have a day that the ends don’t meet right. Doesn’t it just go with the territory Jesus’ company will protect us from poverty, a bad economy, bankruptcy, and the uncertainty that comes with unemployment - right?
D. If Jesus is with us all days we will of course always be trim, with a full head of hair and rugged good looks - right! There is no questioning that if that is the case you know which preacher you ought not to listen to. If you only read the Bethany Bullet and haven’t actually seen this author you are perhaps unaware that only one of those three things is a part of my personal reality :-) and if that is the case I can truly claim one out of three.

The history of the church bears witness to the truth of Jesus’ presence in the midst of trauma and turmoil.

It wasn’t but a few years after Jesus made this promise that it had its first martyr. Stephen was killed by the pelting of rocks upon his flesh. He was killed in one of the worst and most painful ways I can imagine, people threw rocks at him until he breathed his last. He knew physical pain and upon his death the church knew grief and sorrow, yet before he died he saw Jesus in heaven and prayed for the forgiveness of those who killed him. Jesus’ promised presence all days does not mean you won’t have days of physical pain nor of the pain that follows loss.

It wasn’t but a generation after Jesus made this promise that the church in Jerusalem was impoverished. The Christians in southern Europe and Asia Minor took up a collection for them, they had literally NOTHING – but they were not deprived of Jesus’ presence. HE was with them ALL DAYS.

And he is with us ALWAYS – always is a poignant word. The literal translation is ALL DAYS – pretty important for us to cling to – for we live in days, and we do not know what the days may bring.
  • There are days of confident faith and there are days of doubt, confusion, and fear.
  • There are days when the birth of a child brings joy beyond words and there are days when the pain, sorrow or worse yet the death of a child brings grief beyond compare.
  • There are days of peace and there are days of war.
  • Mothers know the flow of days quite well. There are days when dad is called with excitement because the baby made a poop in their diaper and there are days when dad is called with panic because the kids puked all over the car.
  • There are days when mom’s voice brings them running into the room from all over the house and days when mom’s voice sends them running behind slammed doors.

We do not know what the days may bring – Yet in ALL DAYS Christ is with us:

  • As Savior, yes to grant us forgiveness;
  • As Prophet, yes to grant us understanding;
  • As Friend, yes to grant us companionship.

Yet, His promise today is a presence to be with us to empower us that through us others might see Him.

Remember the days in which Jesus made this promise; right before He ascended. Immediately after this promise Jesus returned to His Father in heaven. At this point, Jesus earthly ministry would change forever and NO LONGER would Jesus seen on earth in HIS PERSON – but because of this promise, because of these six words, Lo, I am with you always, He would be seen on earth through HIS PEOPLE.

Yes, Jesus himself is with us all days. And through our days He reveals himself to others. When the days of delight and light, confident and secure, filled with health and prosperity – He is seen in us as we confess all good things are from Him, and the blessings of Life are gifts from the hand of God even when they arrive through the labor of our hands. When the days are filled with doubt and darkness, sorrow and need, weakness and frailty – He is seen in us as we confess that God is great and good even in the midst of days that are not.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The One Year Bible- May 11th

Congratulations on finishing more than one-third of the Bible! I hope the past four months have been a blessing to you because they sure have been good for me. It was 2005 when I started to read the Bible in a year and I have done it every year since. It is a big task but one thing that always helps it to celebrate milestones. So celebrate today as we continue the journey. On to the study...

Seth’s Thoughts

The Old Testament
The book of Judges ends just as it began, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25 NIV) Remember the point of the book is that God loves his people and will find ways to save them. Even after some good stories, the problems still remain. People still sin, but God still loves them. The book of Ruth comes in next and at first seems a bit out of place. There are a few wonderful gems found in this small book. First of all we have a story of faithfulness. Ruth was faithful to her mother-in-law Naomi. She cared for her and wanted to be with her. On one level Ruth serves as a role model for faithfulness. The other neat thing is this idea of a “kinsman or family redeemer” (Ruth 2:20). In Israel, a kinsman redeemer was a person who would marry a widowed relative so the family land could stay with the family. It was an important position because land was so important to the people. The only way a widow could keep her land and possessions in the family was to be redeemed or bought back by a close relative. This redeemer would pay for the land and then he would be able to claim it as his own. This same idea is brought up again when Jesus is called the Redeemer in the New Testament. Jesus bought us back at the price of his own life so that we might be his own. I hope you see how the Bible is a book with one main story. The last big thing in the book of Ruth is the fact that Ruth and Boaz are the great-grandparents of King David. Genealogies are very important for the Jewish people; we saw that in the Gospels and in Numbers. It is important to note that Ruth was not an Israelite. She was from Moab, but her great-grandson became the most famous King of Israel, not to mention a distant relative to Jesus (See Matthew 1:5).

The book of 1 Samuel begins with the story of his mother Hannah. She was so distraught that she did not have any children. This was a big disgrace to an Israelite. She cried out to God and God heard her prayer. She gave birth to Samuel but gave him up to the Lord. Samuel served the Lord with Eli and one night God called him. Many think it is funny for Samuel to serve with the priests and not know the Lord. Once again we have a language problem here. The word that we translate as “know” has a much greater and deeper connotation than the simple English word. The word means to know intimately, to know everything about someone or something, to have a close and personal relationship with. We find this same word used in the Old Testament for example “Adam knew his wife and she became pregnant.” I am sure that Samuel knew of the Lord, in fact I would guess that he knew some history of the Lord’s action in the world but he really did not “know” the Lord...yet.

Not that we have time here but I just love the story of when the Ark is taken and it is placed in the temple of Dagon. When the citizens of Ashdod went in the temple the next day, their god Dagon had fallen, face down on the floor next to the ark. The next night the image of Dagon gets all broken up. There must have been some sort of fight in the middle of the night. That is a very funny story. Then with the gifts of gold rats and tumors....what a great sense of humor our God has. More about Samuel and Saul next week.

The New Testament
The Gospel of John is a great read. I hope you have seen how it is very different than the other three Gospels. John has a very different writing style and it is evident in his use of the phrase “I Am”. Lets go back to the Old Testament to get some perspective. In Exodus 3 we read about Moses’ encounter with the burning bush. God asks Moses to be his mouthpiece and to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt. Moses doubts that the people will listen to him and he says, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God or your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God then says to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM as sent me to you.’” The Hebrew name that was given was YAHWEH. This is God’s personal name. This name was the mark of the one true God; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus uses this name on several occasions written down by John. Most of the time when Jesus uses this name he does so on purpose and to prove a point. The first is in John 4:26. “Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am he.’” It is hard to pick out in the NIV but it is there in the Greek. Jesus is talking with the woman at the well and she had just said that she knows that the Messiah is coming. Jesus doesn’t just say that he is the Messiah, he uses the personal name of God to do so! No wonder the woman left her water jar and ran off to tell the others about Jesus. The next time Jesus uses this name is in chapter six. The disciples were out on a boat in the middle of the lake when a storm came up. The wind was blowing, and the waters were rough and the disciples were scared. Jesus comes walking on the water out to them and says, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Again it is a bit obscure in the NIV but trust me it is in the Greek. Jesus uses the personal name of God. The NLT says, “Don’t be afraid, I am here!” This is a bit clearer. Just a few verses later, Jesus uses the name again. “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) This is the first of the seven “I Am” metaphors in the Gospel of John. It is very interesting that each time Jesus uses the phrase “I Am...” which is also the personal name for God. It is no coincidence that Jesus uses this phrase when talking about himself for he is God in the flesh. We will see these “I Am” statements again (8:12, 8:24, 8:28, 8:58, 10:7, 10:11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1, 18:5). Look for these as we continue to read. They are so powerful and I will most likely talk about them as they come up again.

Have a great week and let me know if you have any questions.

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