Jesus

Longing

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that I used to teach the Bible to children on Monday nights.

If you’ve ever been a Children’s Leader in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), you know how it works:  At some point during the summer break the age group you will teach the following school year is selected for you. Then, at the Leader’s Workshop in late August, you are given your assignment.  You can make your age-group preference known, but you likely won’t get it.

One of the reasons I stepped down from teaching this year is because I didn’t want to risk being assigned the first and second graders, the third and fourth graders, or even the fifth and sixth graders.

The only level I could remotely imagine teaching this year is Level 5 – the senior high students.

Why?

Because we’re studying the book of Romans and I’ve taught it before, to youngsters, in BSF.

BSF is well structured, organized and uniform – which is a good thing in the adult program – but it’s too much of a good thing in the Children’s program.

For instance, the leaders in every level – whether they are teaching 6-year-olds or 18-year-olds – are given the same outline from which to teach.  They have the freedom to make the illustrations and applications age-appropriate, but the aim and the principles must be stated exactly as written.  It can be awkward in any study to be teaching in your own voice and then have to abruptly switch to the the writer of the principle’s voice to deliver it exactly as written.  And in the case of Romans, it’s not just awkward, it’s HARD.

Or, more accurately, it’s HARSH.  The principles can be very harsh, causing the youngsters to appear browbeaten by week 6.

Because Paul – or at least the way his letter is presented – wants to make sure they know that they are horrible sinners.

“But hang on,” we tell them, “good news is coming.”

But what if we framed it differently (and no less accurately) right from the start?

Here’s what I mean.

Wrath.

Paul begins his letter by stating that he is a minister of the gospel and then, in verse 18, he abruptly switches from gospel to wrath.

And I say, “What?”

So I look up the Greek word translated “wrath” and I learn that the word is orgē, pronounced or-gā’.

And I see that the KJV translates the word in various places as wrath, anger, vengeance, indignation.

And then I read Strong’s definition: properly, desire (as a reaching forth or excitement of the mind), i.e. (by analogy), violent passion (ire, or (justifiable) abhorrence); by implication punishment:—anger, indignation, vengeance, wrath.

Strong’s definition is taken from the root word for orgē, oregō – which means “to stretch oneself out in order to touch or to grasp something, to reach after or desire something.”

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines orgē this way:

ὀργή, ὀργῆς, (from ὀργάω to teem, denoting an internal motion, especially that of plants and fruits swelling with juice (Curtius, § 152); cf. Latinturgerealicui forirascialicui in Plautus Cas. 2, 5, 17; Most. 3, 2, 10; cf. German arg, Aerger), in Greek writings from Hesiod down “the natural disposition, temper, character; movement or agitation of soul, impulse, desire, any violent emotion,” but especially (and chiefly in Attic*) anger. In Biblical Greek anger, wrath, indignation… (bold added)

So the original Greek word could be translated as a ripening desire; a longing; reaching out for something.

And then, beginning with the writings of a poet named Hesiod, an element of anger was attached to the desire/movement of the soul.

Did you notice that last bit of Thayer’s defintion? I hope so because I emboldened it for you. In Biblical Greek, orgē is translated as anger, wrath, indignation.

Why? And what is Biblical Greek anyway?

Why isn’t it translated as longing, desire, a movement of the soul, as it was originally used?

At what point did God’s longing for us become a browbeating?

Did Paul intend that the word be interpreted that way? Was his intention to browbeat the Christians in Rome to whom he was writing  – Christians whom he had just commended for having world-famous faith? Did he want them to fully appreciate just how good the good news is by reminding them of their wretchedness? Why spoil the good news by rubbing their noses in their past? Or was he addressing any Pharisees who might get their hands on his letter thus blurring his audience? (I ask that because in several places throughout his letter he seems to be presenting an argument to those who think like he used to think, i.e. Pharisees.)

If Paul was indeed trying to lay out his (already saved) audience’s need for a Savior, Isaiah did it so much better. And faster.

In just one chapter Isaiah laid out the tangled condition of the world. Click here to read it.

And then, at the dawn of the next glorious chapter, he told the world what God’s longing/desire was going to do about it.

He left His throne and stepped into our darkness.

To redeem us.

And that’s how I’d be teaching Romans this year, if I were teaching it.

I’d define wrath as God’s longing for us, as His desire, the movement of His soul toward redemption. Any anger associated with the word is directed at the tangled mess we’ve made of things, at the mess we and His enemy have made of things, not at us, whom He loves. Paul said so himself in chapter 5: “While we were still [a tangled mess], Christ died for us.”

God’s longing is for us, His wrath is against that which entangles us.

If I could put the principles in my own words, I’d write them with God’s longing in mind. I wouldn’t alter any facts, I’d just sift each one through the good news: God knows how to untangle the mess.

*Attic is a dialect of Greek.

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P.S.  Please don’t take this post as a dis of BSF, I love BSF and I’m studying Romans with them as a general class member – but this time around I’m going to take a look at the book with fresh eyes.  I’ll probably show you the stuff I see.

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Light, Revelation

Pregnant Women

It was 1952 when 5 women knocked on a California door and asked Audrey Wetherell Johnson to teach them a portion of the Bible. She wrote:

These were all earnest Christian women, well versed in Bible content. My heart fell! What had I come to? There in San Bernardino was such an abundance of churches where people could hear God’s Word, while by contrast in China were millions who had not even heard His name. Am I to give more to those who already have so much? I wondered. In reply I promised to pray about their request, and when they had gone I poured out to God my longing to teach pagans. He reminded me of Jeremiah 45:5, “Seekest thou great things for thyself?” (such as seeking to train teachers for China’s millions), “Seek them not!” Again He gave me His message to Zechariah (4:10) “For who hath despised the day of small things?” It seemed He had meant this for me. “You are here, not yet recovered in health; cannot you do this small thing for Me with these dear ladies who desire teaching?”

A few days later, when these ladies returned for my answer, I said, “I will not spoon-feed you. Are you willing for me to dictate a few questions which will help you in your study of each passage? I would then like you to first share with all of us what God has given you, after which I will share with you what He has given me.” – A. Wetherell Johnson, Created for Commitment p. 200

Thank God for Miss Johnson’s method of teaching. Her willingness to teach those five women gave birth to an international, non-denominational Bible study, which is still going strong today. Bible Study Fellowship: More than 1,000 classes on six continents in 39 nations, including China. I’m forever amazed by what God will do with a little yes.

Miss Johnson taught me to take a good look at the Scriptures for myself, under the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Katherine Bushnell inspired me to take it one step further. Dr. Bushnell was an amazing woman – physician, missionary, Bible scholar and social activist. While in China as a medical missionary, she discovered that the Chinese Bible was mistranslated to support cultural prejudice against the ministry of women.  She wondered whether the same male bias might have prejudiced English translations as well. On the long sea voyage home, she renewed her study of Hebrew and Greek in order to investigate for herself. In 1911 she published Women’s Correspondence Bible Class, later titled, God’s Word to Women.  It is reported that she died believing that her work had made little impact.

It made an impact on me.

It caused my discerning ears to perk up yesterday, for example, when I heard a pastor on a video promulgate the identity theft I wrote about here.

This morning when I was reading my BSF notes on Revelation 12, I came upon this sentence:

“Finally, he was called a serpent because he is that ancient serpent who appeared in the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve (and who was cursed to ongoing enmity with them.)”

“Not them, her,” I wrote in the margin. Her. The enmity was with the woman and her offspring. Not with Adam’s offspring. I explained why here.

One of the BSF questions asked who we think the three main players in this chapter are. The identities of the dragon and the son are pretty obvious. The identity of the pregnant woman, however, is not as clear. To most. It’s pretty clear to me.

The BSF notes give several possibilities as to who the pregnant woman might be:

  • Mary
  • The Jewish people, who gave birth to the Messiah
  • The Church
  • Both believing Israel and the Church, giving birth to many people of God

The problem I have with possibilities 3 and 4 is verse 17. If the woman is the church (or all Jewish and Gentile believers), then who are “the rest of her offspring”?

No one in the leaders’ meeting Saturday morning, and no one in the notes, mentioned Eve as a possibility.

And I think she might be Eve.

Because Eve is “the mother of all the living.” The mother of all who humbly confess their sins. (You did click on the link and read Winning the War on Women, right?)

It’s interesting that Eve is fashioned in Genesis 2, but she isn’t named until the end of chapter 3. It wasn’t until after she sinned and confessed that she was named “the mother of all the living.” (Do you get what I’m saying or do I need to publish the book that lays it all out?)

It makes sense that the players at the very beginning of the epic battle (Genesis 3:15) – Eve, her offspring and the serpent – would be the same players at the end of the epic battle. (Revelation 12).

Right?

I realize that most ordinary people don’t care all that much about Revelation, but I’m not talking to ordinary people here.

And I’m hoping to hear from your extraordinary brains.

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Light, Revelation

Rev Sev

Bits and pieces are coming together. And that gives this clue gathering lover of the puzzle a thrill.

Two weeks ago I was studying Revelation 7 and I wondered why the tribes of Dan and Ephraim were not included among those whose foreheads were marked for preservation.

The list of tribes in Revelation 7 resembled a military census. If that’s what it was, why aren’t representatives from Dan and Ephraim being enlisted in the Lord’s army?

First I made us a table so we can all keep it straight:

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(Yes, I do know I’m a nerd.)

Then I did a little looking and found out some stuff:

As soon as the Danites captured their first city, they set up for themselves an idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses (or Manasseh, depending on the manuscript)  and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan.  (Judges 18 if you want to see for yourself.)

Two violations there:

  1. “Do not make for yourselves an idol.”
  2. God designated Aaron’s descendants, the Levites, as priests, not Moses’s. You can’t just willy-nilly ignore God and choose your own priests.

And then there is 1 Kings 12.  Two golden calves were made. One was set up in Bethel and one was set up in Dan. People came from far and wide to worship them. And if you know anything about God and Exodus and the Ten Commandments, you know how He feels about the worshiping of golden calves.

Okay now Ephraim. The reason Ephraim’s name is missing from the third column is pretty clear:

Ephraim will be laid waste
on the day of reckoning.
Among the tribes of Israel
I proclaim what is certain.

Judah’s leaders are like those
who move boundary stones.
I will pour out my wrath on them
like a flood of water.

Ephraim is oppressed,
trampled in judgment,
intent on pursuing idols. Hosea 5:9-11 [italics added]

But [Ephraim] continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High. Psalm 78:9-17 [italics added]

Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.
He beat back his enemies;
he put them to everlasting shame.
Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim. Psalm 78:65-67 [italics added]

It looks like it was due to severe, persistent idol worship.

If you know anything about the history of Israel, you know that lots of tribes got into trouble at one time (or two or three or ten+) for worshiping idols, but Dan and Ephraim seemed intent upon it.

So then last week I moved on to study chapters 8 and 9.

Chapter 8 described the frightful events at the opening of the seventh seal and the sounding of the first four trumpets.

And then in chapter 9 the fifth trumpet was sounded and some truly terrifying locusts prepare for battle. Seriously, read their description. I’m thinking I’ll forget all the contemporary means of evangelizing. All the youthtastic stuff, the climbing walls (a church near me has one) and the sporting event outreaches and replace my small talk – things like, “What about those Tigers,”  – with, “What about those LOCUSTS?”

The sixth trumpet was sounded and a third of mankind was killed.

And then there it was, at the very end of chapter 9, the piece of the puzzle that joined it together, more evidence of the reason the descendants from the tribes of Dan and Ephraim are not listed among those marked for preservation:

The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.” [italics added].

I read ahead:  A giant earthquake is coming. The terrified survivors of it will FINALLY give glory to God.

When this BSF study of Revelation began in September, many of the women expressed trepidation over looking into this book. They feared God’s wrath against people.

But having studied the first nine chapters and read two more, I don’t see it as God’s wrath against people. I see it as His wrath against His enemy, the devil. Against the sin and evil that destroy people. (God hates the sin, loves the sinner.)

It’s like He’s rooting out the cancer of sin/evil. He cuts it out and then He uses radiation and then, on whatever is left, He uses chemo.

After He levels all his weapons against it, He succeeds in eradicating it.

Chapter 11 ends with earth in remission and then chapter 12 (okay, I read ahead three chapters ‘cuz it’s a page turner) shifts the battle from earth to the heavenly realm. To the woman and the dragon.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

Now comes the really BIG battle…

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life

A Simple Please & Thank You

Last Saturday morning I re-entered the pain and privilege of BSF leadership.  Or, as the hub and I used to call it back when we were BOTH leaders, “Brutality.”

Brutality?

Yep, because you have to drag yourself out of bed at 5:15 every Saturday morning in order to be in your seat at the leaders’ meeting by 6:40, ready and raring to go.  It’s not so hard now, while global warming is making its brief visit to Michigan and the temperatures are unseasonably warm, but it will be full on brutal in January and February and March.  Especially this time around because we won’t both have to get up.  Seeing the hub all slumbering and warm under our down comforter Saturday after Saturday – though I will be truly be happy for him – is gonna’ make me wanna’ smack him every time I feel that first assault of not-under-the-comforter winter air.

Brutality aside, it really is a privilege to be in the leaders’ circle discussing what we studied with those who take studying seriously; serving alongside those who are committed to excellence.

One of the first things we do in leaders’ meeting each week is get on our knees and pray.  We cover every aspect of the upcoming Monday night class, which means we are on our knees for a long while.  Provisions are made for those who have back and knee problems – they can stay in their chairs. I thought about staying in my chair, because of my still-healing foot, but, since it was my first meeting back after an eight year absence, I didn’t want to appear high-maintenance. So down on the floor I went.

That was a mistake.

Get off your chair or sofa for a second and get on your knees, all the way down so your butt is on your heels.  See how the top of your feet flatten out? If you have a frayed peroneal tendon, putting your foot in that position, as I discovered that fateful morning, is a big, BIG mistake.

About three quarters of the way through prayer time I couldn’t take the pain any longer and I rolled unto my hip into a semi-sitting position, knocking into the woman on my left.  (It’s a tight circle.)

It’s been six days and my foot still hurts.  A lot.  And I’m limping again.

So as I pulled into Costco this morning, rounded the parking lot to the top of an aisle and surveyed the long line of parked cars before me, I thought, Crap, I’m going to have to walk.  And it was going to hurt.

Which brings me to my final quote of this Three Day Quote Challenge:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  – Jesus (There’s no one better to quote than Jesus.)

In the same split second that I surveyed the sea of cars and thought, Crap!, I also asked, Father, will you please open up a spot for me?

And just like that the back-up lights lit on the car parked in the space right in front of me. The space right next to the handicapped space, The CLOSEST space I could possibly get without a handicapped sticker.

Hey! Thank you!

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And thanks for leftovers for lunch.

Now I’m passing the Three Day Quote Challenge to the following bloggers because I’d like to read what they have to say:

  1. Marie Griffith of Full-Time
  2. BJ of Between Two Seas
  3. James Radcliffe of jamesradcliffe.com
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Light, Revelation

Prophecy: Telling it Like it Is, Telling it Like it Will Be

Elkl Rapids marina storm

Did you know that twenty-seven percent of the entire Bible is prophecy?  28.5% of the Old Testament and 21.5% of the New Testament.

At least 737 separate prophetic topics are covered in the Bible.

Sixty-two of the Bible’s 66 books foretell future events.

Ruth, Song of Solomon, Philemon and 3 John are the only books of Scripture that have no explicit prophecy.

All those facts are from my BSF notes.  I’m back in BSF studying Revelation.  This is week 2 and we’re still in the overview phase, and I’m itching to getting into the nitty gritty.  So as I share my daily life from now ’til May, it will likely be seasoned with Revelation this and Revelation that.

Yes, it will be scary at times, but then chapter 19…

Hallelujah.

Don’t worry, it’ll be good for you.

And it will be good for me, should you choose to toss in your two cents.

Oh and here’s something that wasn’t in the notes:

If you include the FORTHTELLING aspect of prophecy with the FORETELLING, then a much greater percentage of the Bible is prophecy.  It is one unified story of the glorious things God has done, is doing and will do.

And it’s all pretty thrilling.

In case you were wondering.

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