Guidance for Life

When Life Hurts! 

Rumours can destroy people’s lives. How are we to respond when we hear bad news about someone, or experience it ourselves, or when the loss in our life is overwhelming? It may be that our health breaks down, or someone we love dies.  What about the day-by-day things that rob us of love, safety, peace, enjoyment? The world has gone crazy with violence. The Bible gives us wisdom:

Deuteronomy 5:16;Exodus 20:12

“Honour your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long, and that it may go well with you.

Psalm 15:1-3 (NIV)

Lord, who will dwell in your sacred tent….he whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbour, and casts no slur on another.”

Psalm 101:5

“Whoever….slanders his neighbour, him I will cut off…who has a haughty look, and a proud heart I cannot and will not tolerate….”

Proverbs 10:18

“He who hides hatred is of lying lips, and he who utters slander is a fool.”

Proverbs 19:11

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Proverbs 23:22 

“Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”

Proverbs 13:1

“A wise son heeds instruction and correction, but a scoffer listens not to rebuke..”

Proverbs 29:15

“A child left undisciplined brings his mother to shame.”

Matthew 7:10

“Do to others what you would have them do to you.”

Matthew 19:19; 22:35

Jesus said: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Matthew 5:43, 44;

Love your enemies…bless them that curse you…….do good to them that hate you… and pray for those who persecute you.

Luke 3: 15

And the soldier likewise demanded of him, saying, “And what shall we do?” Jesus said unto them, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wage.”

Romans 12: 19, 20

“Do not avenge yourselves. ….. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live in peace with everyone.

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him something to drink…..do not be overcome by evil,  but overcome evil with good..”

Ephesians 4:31

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, among with all malice.

I Timothy 6: 17-18

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share….”

Let us remember that God loves us unconditionally. There is nothing that He doesn’t understand, and He keeps on loving.   He knows everything:   the past, the  future, our thoughts, our name,  even the number of hairs on our head, all of it He knows–not that any of us deserve that depth of love– but because of who He is.  God’s character is the very essence of love.  Jesus rose from the death, fulfilling all the Godhead demanded as a sin offering for you and me,  and  returned to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, waiting for the fulfillment of the last days. Jesus is coming again.  Hebrews 1:1-3; 12: 1-3

The Godhead is Holy, majestic, the Judge of all, to be feared in deep reverence and respect.

For without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the LORD, thoughts and plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”    Jeremiah 29:11

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You may have heard the words, The Gospel, but maybe wondered what that is. Here is what the Bible has to say about it:

For God so loved this world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23.  The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Romans 6:23

“For by  grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Ephesians 2:8, 9

If you acknowledge and confess with your mouth, that Jesus is Lord,  and in your heart believe that God raised Him from the death, you will be saved.  I Corinthians 9:10

If we freely admit that we have sinned, and confess it, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9.10

I urge you to present your body a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:1

How, then, are we to live our lives?

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37

Let there be no filthiness, nor foolish talk, nor rude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocracy, envy and slander of every kind. I Peter 2:1

But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galations 5:22-23

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another, and if any has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord forgives you, so you must also forgive. Colossians 3:12,13.

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.  Deut 31:6.

Love the LORD with all your heart, and all your strength and with all your mind… and keep His commandments. Deut 11:1; Joshua 22:5; Matthew 22: 29.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together…but encouraging one another.” Hebrew 10:24

READ THE BIBLE IN A YEAR

Here is the chart I follow daily, and have for several years. It  really helps keep me on tract in my desire to know God better. Just print off a copy and keep in your Bible for guidance. Perhaps like I do, one ticks off daily the passages that are read.

The Bible I use has four translations of the same verses spread across each page, which gives me help with difficult passages.

January to June

July to December

 

UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE

A personal commentary book by book as I read through the chapters this year.

Image result for photo Holy Bible

Introduction

The Holy Bible,  used by Christians world-wide as the guide for faith, is divided into two parts: The Old Testament of 39 individual books, and The New Testament of another 27 individual books.  These books were written by many authors, inspired by God as to content, but unified by the theme of God and the revelation of Himself to man.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament in the Book of Genesis, opens with Creation of the world and man, and centers on early history of people in the Middle East, beginning in the Garden of Eden, then extending across the region.

Adam was the first man, Eve his wife, and they lived a peaceful life, naming the animals and talking with God in person. But when tempted, they failed, and as a result were forced to leave and lost direct communication with their Maker.  Major changes occurred as a result. Even though experiencing  God’s judgment, they received the promise of His enduring love in the provision of a ‘covering‘  through the sacrifice of an animal.

And so introduces the theme of God providing everything man needs for forgiveness, through the shedding of blood. The life is in the blood.  The killing of a sacrifice takes a life. At some point, man began to offer animal and other sacrifices to approach and worship God.

I still remember the moment in time when I saw in Genesis 22 the  plan of salvation in the Old Testament. It was these words of Abraham, who was talking with his son, Isaac,  “God will provide, HIMSELF,  a lamb,  for the burnt offering.”  Long afterwards, John the Baptist,  watching Jesus approaching,  said to the crowds, “Behold, the the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).”

Where was the Garden of Eden?  Scholars believe that it  was on the junction of four rivers : Euphrates and Tigris  with the Pishon and Gihon (Gen 2:10-14). The later two rivers have not been identified. The Euphrates and Tigris Rivers rise in the Caucasus Mountains and flow southeast to empty in the Persian Gulf. However, since Adam’s day,  thick sediment settled on the river beds at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and pushed the entrance to the union of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers far upstream about 100 miles.

It is thought that the Garden of Eden is located as group of mounds, about 12 miles south of Ur at a place called Eridu.   This region is approximately the centre of the earth’s surface, where it is believed all races of humans originated. Archaeologists have focused their work in this region, and uncovered many artifacts that reveal ancient civilizations.

Image result for Map of Ancient Iraq

Other locations that will become important in Genesis include:

Ur – home of Abraham was just 12 miles from Eridu, a well developed city of culture and learning, although it took recent archaeology digs to prove it even existed.

Fara, traditional home of Noah, which was 70 miles away.

Image result for map of middle east

Deep sadness for Adam and Eve when their two sons  quarreled,  and Cain killed his brother Abel.  Sin had entered the world. The couple have another son, Seth who descendants are followed in the history that unfolded. All of them live incredibly long lives: Adam 930 years; Seth 912 and his descendants to Noah, who lived 950 years. By this time  man has learned how to use copper and iron, and invented musical instruments. The age of people, however, rapidly began to decline after the next major upheaval.

About 1, 600 years from Adam, Noah lived in a period of wickedness that grieved God so much He sent a flood to destroy everyone. But,  by having Noah build an Ark, God saved his family and many pairs of all the animals.

Genesis 6:9-18 tells the history of that terrible period when the boat, 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, divided into compartments, and as big as a current ocean liner, floated during the deluge, while everyone else on earth died. Noah was in the ark one year 17 days; 5 months floating, 7 months resting on a mountain. The Ark rested now on Mt Ararat, 500 miles away from where it had been built. (Note: I saw this mountain in the distance in Turkey on my way overland to Iran.) This tremendous deluge of water is now believed to have destroyed a misty film that surrounded the earth and had protected it from the damage by the sun’s rays, affecting the longevity of man’s life.

Archaeologists have found an actual layer of mud, five to eight feet thick, deposited by the flood, in three places: Ur (home of Abraham), at Fara (Noah’s home)  and at Kish, a surburb of Babylonia, with possibly a fourth place in Nineveh.  It contains no evidence of civilization within that stata, but identifiable ones both above and below that layer of mud.

Noah had three sons, from whom all races developed after the Flood (Genesis 10:1-11:9): Ham, Shem and Japheth.

Hamites would go south  to places like Central Arabia, Egypt, the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.Three of his sons went to Africa. Caanan, the son of Ham, and his descendants gave his name to a land which later became the homeland of the Jews. A grandson of Ham, Nimrod, was an outstanding leader who build three cities in the Babylonian Valley and also founded Nineveh. For many centuries afterwards, these two cities, Babylon and Nineveh were the leading cities of the World.

Shemites included Jews, Assyrians, Syrians, Elamites, in the north Euphrates Valley and its borders.

Japhites went northward and settled in the regions around the Black and Caspian Seas, and became progenitors of the great Caucasian races of Europe and Asia.

It appears that Noah migrated back to his  preflood home. Noah lived 350 years after the Flood, and died two years before the birth of Abraham.

The confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel occurred in the 4th generation after the Flood. (Genesis 11:1-9) The tower was built in the centre around which the famous city of Babylon was built. There are two locations thought to be its origin. Probably a Ziggurat, a temple, built in human pride seeking power,  and idol worship.  God caused the builders to suddenly not understand each other, confusing them, and thus halting the completion of this project. People spread out as a result,  populating  distant regions.

There are about 25 known Ziggurats still in existence today, located mostly in Iran and Iraq. One of the best preserved is the ziggurat of Ur (where Abraham lived),  the present-day Dhi Qar Province, Iraq. Long before this period, the ancient Sumerians believed their gods lived in the sky. When the Babylonians took over in the south, and the Assyrians in the north,  Ziggurats continued to be built and used in the same manner as they were in ancient Sumer. The tallest ziggurat was 300 feet high. It wasn’t until recent times in the 1800s A.D. that people began to realize the importance of these discoveries.

Image result for Ziggurat photo

A Ziggurat

The appearance of Abraham, from Ur, has special significance as he left his home with his family, heading  north/west  on the major trade route to Canaan. Hebrews  11:8.  Genesis 12. Although he was surrounded by idolaters, Abraham was a man who believed in the One True God.

About 600 miles northwest from Ur was Haran, Abraham’s first major stopping place, where ‘they settled.’ Here, his father died. Now, aged 75, Abraham continued south into Canaan with a large caravan of followers. He was not a nomad, but of some wealth. He stopped at several places on his way south, first at Shechem.  He built an altar of worship here, then moved on to Bethel, about 10 miles north of Jerusalem. Abraham was following the mountain range. Again, he built an altar for worship, and continued on to Hebron, where he bought a piece of land which  became a burial plot,and where he chose to settle.

The rest of the story of his life, including the time he spent in Egypt because there was famine in Canaan, focused on obedience to God. He was a righteous man, and God made a special covenant with him.

Desert, Camel, Sand, Pyramid, Dry

Not only would he have a longed for son with his barren wife, Sarah, but his descendants would be  many. God promised that all nations of the world would be blessed through him. However, great strain developed when Abraham had a son  with someone else. The drama and jealousy between the heir of promise, Isaac.  and his half brother, has continued to this day.  Ishmael by Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaiden, would make his home in Arabia, and become the father of Arabians.  When man tries to fulfill God’s will through his own efforts, suffering results.

The history now diverges briefly to focus on Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 19.  Lot had been kidnapped by invaders, and was rescued in a swift raid by Abraham. The two men,  however, separated because of the demand for grazing for their livestock, and Lot settled near these cities.  That he was miraculously saved  when God destroyed the cities is another provision of God’s mercy for Abraham’s family.

Where was Sodom and Gomorrah? Most likely the southern end of the Dead Sea. Scholars believe that the cities are buried under the Dead Sea. There is a mountain nearby called “Sodom’ or Usdom.

Image result for photos Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

In Abraham’s time, about a third of the southern end of the Dead Sea was a plain. Today the waters at the southern  end are barely 10 feet in depth, while at the north end they reach 100 feet in depth. There is belief that during the destruction of the cities, tumultuous events occurred,  changing the terrain. The Dead Sea today is below sea level and has a 25% salt content.

Sarah died age 127 years, and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah that Abraham had bought and is on the west slope of Hebron. It is now under a mosque, who permit no Christian to enter. [Here are buried Abraham, who died at 175 years of age;  Isaac his son; Jacob his grandson and Jacob’s wives, Rebekah and Leah, and Joseph,]

Image result for Map of Israel

The story of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and his love for his bride, Rebekah,  from  a marriage his father arranged, and their life together,  is passed over fairly quickly. She has twins, Esau and Jacob, and the latter boy becomes the chosen one to continue the lineage of Abraham and the Jewish nation. Esau became the father of the Edomites, whose history continued the conflict between the families in later history.

Although Isaac inherited his father’ s wealth and continued the same pattern of life, he engaged in agriculture near Gerar (Genesis 26:12), which was very successful.  However, he found it necessary to move to Beersheba in order to maintain peaceful relations with those around him.

It is Jacob,  whose life now takes center stage towards the end of the Book of Genesis.  Jacob steals his brother’s birthright. That event caused Esau to hate his brother and plan to kill him, so Jacob is forced to flee, not knowing it would be almost 20 years before he would see his family again.

He goes to Paddanaram, to his mother’s family near Haran, where he marries two daughters of his Syrian uncle, Rachel and Leah. Jacob also  has children  with their two concubines and all together fathers 11 children. He finally returns to Canaan a very rich man. Genesis 31

The meeting with brother Esau, whom Jacob feared, goes well and they depart in peace. Jacob settles his family at Shechem, and worships God.

Tragedy strikes when Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, is raped and her two brothers, in revenge,  wipe out a whole city to murder her attacker. This leads to great turmoil and Jacob is forced to move his family to Bethel. Genesis 34. But God meets with Jacob and changes his name to Israel, and extends his blessing on his family of 12 sons.

Benjamin has been born, but Rachel dies in childbirth.  She was buried near Bethlehem, at a place called Ephrath. Jacob continues on to Hebron, the home of his father, Isaac. Jacob and his brother Esau, who returned from Seir,  bury their father there.

In God’s line of promise, all of Abraham’s sons but Isaac were eliminated, and only Jacob of Isaac’s children was chosen. Now all of Jacob’s descendants are included in the Chosen Nation.

The Book of Genesis closes with the account of the life of Jacob’s favourite son by Rachel–Joseph. His brothers were deeply jealous. They plotted to kill him, but decided instead to sell him to some traders, who took him to Egypt, a boy of 17. He was sold as a slave, and spent 12  years in jail for crimes he did not commit. Over time Joseph rose to the second highest position in the land, just below Pharaoh. Joseph controlled the economy of Egypt . As  the Chief Administrator, he gathered and stored huge quantities of grain because he had been warned by God of a coming period of great trouble that would last seven years.

Because God gave him great wisdom and blessed his efforts, Joseph was able to save his own Jewish family  in the terrible famine that was wide spread, even into Canaan.  Jacob reunited with his son, and moved his family of 70 to Egypt to live in the best area of Goshen, where Joseph oversaw his care.  Jacob and his family died there.  Joseph took his body home to Canaan and  buried him in the cave at Hebron.

Egypt, Tomb, Egyptian, Culture, History

All returned to Egypt to live out their remaining days. Nearing his death,  Joseph has Jacob’s descendants promise to take his bones back to Canaan when they  would finally leave in the future–which turned out to be 430 years later, a nation now of about 3 million people, which introduces the Book of Exodus. The Israelites didn’t forget Joseph, and we remember him to this day.  Exodus 13:19

When speaking to his brothers who had been so cruel to him as a lad, Joseph understood ‘when life hurts’. He said ” Do not be afraid, be grieved, or angry with yourselves because you sold me. You meant evil against me. God  meant it for good. He sent me before you to preserve many people alive. Now, therefore it is not you who sent me here, but God.…I will provide for you, and he kissed all his brothers and wept on them and afterward his brothers talked with him.”

What a testimony of forgiveness, and grace– unmerited favour–and of love. Are these not the qualities we so long to have in our own lives and especially with our children and our siblings. It is a glory to overlook an insult, and Joseph kept on doing that all his life.  He rose above his pain, and turned it into blessing, and saved the lives of thousands because he did.

God has a plan for each one of us. What is your destiny? Are you another Joseph? Or,  are you like the Pharaoh who years later forgot him and hated the Jews and tried to kill them all.  Most of us, I think, are somewhere in between. It is a wise choice to embrace the lessons  from these people, and let the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob flow through us  to honour Him, above all else.

Pharaoh, Egypt, Statue, Sphinx, Luxor

The Book of Exodus

The history of Egypt as a growing world power was tempered by the invasion of the Hyksos, people using horse and chariot, which were unknown to the Egyptians, and who arrived from Asia to occupy the land about 1700 B.C for about a century and a half.  In time, the Hyksos were expelled, and three dynasties reigned in Egypt increasing its military power.

Under Thut-mose III, the Egyptian army marched to the Euphrates River in Mesoptomia, and sailed the Mediterranean Sea along the Phoenecian coast.

He was the greatest conquerer in Egyptian history, and his tomb is at Thebes.  He may have been the oppressor of Israel. If so,  then famous Queen Hatshepsut may have been the Pharaoh’s Daughter who rescued and brought up Moses. Otherwise, it was under Rameses II (1300 BC) that this event occurred.  Either way, Moses was raised by one of the two greatest Pharaohs of Egyptian history. Ramses raided Palestine several times.

Egypt’s power had weakened in the next two dynasties. It was a land of many gods. Temples were numerous in the land. Egyptians believed in a life after death. This is evidenced in the pyramids in which adequate provisions were made for the royal afterlife. Even servants were slain and placed beside their master’s bodies.

About 300 years pass between the Book of Genesis and Exodus,  from the death of Joseph to birth of a leader God chose from the Levites, a Jewish priesthood, named Moses.

Egypt had many Pharaohs, who became increasingly alarmed at the rapid increase of the Israelites, whom they saw as a threat to national security. They reduced them to slavery. The Israelite people,  forced into increasing  hard labor,  are credited with building the city of Ramses. Exodus 1:15-22. This period has been established as about 1450 B.C.  (We realize now that God was preparing his people physically for the arduous journey ahead. Could it be that God is working in the circumstances of your life today and mine for something yet to be revealed)?

A cruel Pharaoh  ordered the death of all Jewish male newborns. But one such baby, Moses, was hidden and then adopted by Pharaoh’s  daughter who paid his mother to raise him.

Moses was instructed in all the Egyptian wisdom and learning (Acts 7:22). This was the New Kingdom period of Egyptian history. The Book of Exodus is the life story of Moses and of the Chosen People that God sent him to lead out of the land and back to Canaan.

From a position of high esteem, however, Moses was forced to flee the land when he killed an Egyptian trying to help his own people. He lived for the next 40 years in the backside of the desert in Midian. Even his journey to get there and then back to Egypt may have taken him twice over the same ground he would later lead the Israelites. God prepared him.

But God also humbled him.

Moses married and had a son, and became a shepherd.  It was at Mt Horeb (Mt Sinai) that Moses received his miraculous call from God. With his brother Aaron as the spokesman, the pair returned to face the wrath of a new Pharaoh–probably Merneptah (1235-1220 BC) or Amenhotep II.

How amazing that today, we can see the face of the Pharaohs in Moses’ life. All four mummies  of these  leaders have been found and are on display in Cairo.

 

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