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Articles designed for the purpose of bringing edification to the Church and relating practical life matters to archaeological discoveries.

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Dear ABR family,

As I was pondering the message that the Lord wanted me to share with you today a familiar and poignant passage came to mind from chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel. In the larger context of this passage we observe Jesus instructing His disciples as He prepared to send them out to proclaim the Good News in the towns and communities of the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”. The world they were entering was filled with “wolves” who would strongly resist their message and would use the court system to harass and even physically abuse them. But there is more…

Under demonic delusion – speaking of “Beelzebul” - some powerful and influential people would hear the gospel message and identify it as hateful and evil speech and would perceive themselves as doing good for persecuting the disciples and by seeking to silence them. Consider the behavior of  the Apostle Paul before his salvation experience, whose conscience was clear, but whose mind was gripped with delusion in his efforts to persecute the early church. Here, in Matthew 10, Jesus boldly challenged and charged the apostles: “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” 

The Gospel of Jesus brings light and salvation to the soul, exposing the rottenness and poison of sin that has been suppressed and kept carefully hidden away. This light has the power to bring a holy brokenness and a spirit of repentance so that the truth of grace may come flooding in. As the Gospel exposes personal sin in the human heart, it also works to expose the sin of society and culture and can even expose the lies and corruptions of the forgotten past….even those things buried away from sight from ancient times. Consider 1 Corinthians 10:6, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did,” where God calls us to look back, to be warned, and to understand. 

Although God has the power to remove our transgressions “as far as the east is from the west” by his grace, he desires that hidden things be revealed, and thus we are reminded and warned about falling into the errors and sins of previous generations. Just as the Gospel can lead us to humble faith, it can also ignite resistance, even to the point of violence. We are reminded of John the Baptist being imprisoned and his eventual execution because he exposed the behavior of Herod’s brother Philip for taking Herodias as his wife; John told him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." 

Only God’s Word has the penetrating power of the pure and the true. Only God’s word will go forth and always accomplish its purpose, being undeterred by the schemes of man. In Psalm 43, one of the sons of Korah has written, “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” God’s truth always draws us to His presence. He proclaims, “Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!” When we choose to welcome the illumination of God’s gracious light we are set free; but those who wish to hide from God and truth can sometimes go to incredible extremes to cover their sin.

And thus, we are living in days when certain men believe that the events of the past can be hidden from the eyes of justice and the light of truth. That they can simply re-write the history books, and tear down statues, and burn down buildings and bury the past in fire and ashes. Deceitful men do these things for their own agendas, especially power, but rarely for truth.  Whether its Herod in his treatment of John the Baptist, the men of Ephesus guarding business interests in their practice of idolatry (Acts 19), or those who rushed upon Stephen to stone him to death in Acts 7. Even after the burial of Jesus, deceitful men concocted a story about how Jesus’ body was stolen (Matt 28). Over and over again the lies and deception of mankind is on display, and drawing their inspiration from the father of lies. We must be fully aware of these things even more clearly in our day, personally, culturally, and even as we reveal the past archaeologically. There are always forces of darkness at work to distort the past, to subvert the Scripture, and to blind the minds of even the most sincere and honest scholars. We must humbly fall on our knees and seek God’s grace and truth in this awesome and difficult spiritual battle. 

We are living in extraordinary days as ABR seeks to “shout from the rooftops” what God has done in Jesus Christ. That the Bible is reliable. That Jesus sets us free. Our desire is to tell the truth, using archaeology as a tool in the important calling the Lord has given us. The world shouts to us, “you don’t follow the science” (we do science…intently) or “you follow myths and fairy tales” (we do not – 2 Peter 1:16) and smugly pretend that their motivation is full intellectual integrity. In reality, even some of the most respected scholars have fallen into the trap of accepting utterly false paradigms to explain the past.  Consider the impact of the false assumptions within Darwinism and Evolution in science, or the Documentary Hypothesis in historical and theological studies. These powerful paradigms are often left unchallenged because those who hold them ferociously guard them and fight for them, as those protecting the idols they serve. Some would prefer to “cancel” and erase the views of Christians and create an environment where perspectives outside of their protected worldview assumptions are intentionally and forcefully locked out from any consideration. 

At ABR we keep before ourselves the reality that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” As we work and reveal the secrets buried in the ancient past, our goal is to honestly and transparently tell the truth. The exciting thing is this: our extensive efforts in conducting original archaeological fieldwork and research have resulted in overwhelming affirmations of the biblical text! Do we have detractors and those who report falsely on our work? Of course. Popular online sources, like Wikipedia, are openly and blatantly biased against us. They simply will not allow those who hold to the historicity of the biblical Creation accounts or who believe in the inspiration of the Bible to be represented as legitimate scholars. They intentionally remove quotations, references, and research performed by ABR staff because they have deemed us the “creationist fringe” or “Bible literalists”, and thus, even in areas of research where ABR staff are the leading experts, they are systematically “cancelled”. Such disgusting bias is part of the battle we face, and why your support for ABR is so very critical. 

As the Scripture so clearly commands, we lead by the way we love. So even when entities like Wikipedia try to intentionally silence us, or our detractors make false statements about us, we find the amazing favor of the Lord upon all we do. Often hearts are won over, not just because of the excellent quality of our work or due to our cutting-edge technologies and methodologies, but most importantly, because we seek to love them with Christ’s love and grace.   

With the battles ahead would you please consider a gift to help ABR at this time? Our fall season of ministry is so very important as we continue in our preparation to return to Shiloh in the spring, as we complete our two-volume Maqatir Final Reports (February 2021), in the many hours spent in the studio producing our Digging for Truth TV shows, in the development of our Stones Cry Podcasts, and in preparation for several new books featuring the ABR staff. 

Thank you for standing with us. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for your generosity in supplying the needs of ABR. We are grateful for your love and encouragement.

Shining His Light,

Scott Lanser 

Director

Associates for Biblical Research


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https://biblearchaeology.org/supportabr

April 2020

Dear ABR Family,

The COVID-19 virus is on everyone’s mind these days. Many are calling it “a plague of Biblical proportions.” Is that a valid description? Yes and no. Definitions.net defines the statement “of Biblical proportions” as: “Of or pertaining to a natural disaster or other cataclysmic event so immense that it brings to mind biblical accounts of horrific catastrophes.”

The current pandemic finds no parallel in Scripture. The accounts of infectious plagues in the Old Testament are all local in nature and brought about by God’s judgement against the sins of Israel.  Probably the most widespread of these plagues was a three-day plague throughout Israel because David had conducted a census (1 Chronicles 21).  The only Biblical event that would be comparable to our present situation was Noah’s Flood, which was world-wide. That seems to be what people have in mind when they use the expression “of Biblical proportions.”

As if the world did not have enough to worry about, there is currently a plague of locusts ravaging east Africa.  The UN released the following statement: “This is a scourge of biblical proportions…Yet as ancient as this scourge is, its scale today is unprecedented in modern times” (www.un.org).  Locust plagues are familiar to us in the Bible, especially as the eighth of the ten plagues against Egypt at the time of the Exodus:

Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and the Lord made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night.  By morning the wind had brought the locusts; they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers.  Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again.  They covered all the ground until it was black.  They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees.  Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.  (Exodus 10: 13–15)

B wood map

My dear friend and well-known Old Testament scholar Gene Merrill sent me the following poem:

In Memory of COVID-19

The end is near, the pundits say,

The plague of death has come our way;

The politicians wring their hands,

Their “what to do’s” are in all lands.

Scarce help, it seems, from medicine,

From pharmacy, self-discipline,

Or from good wishes, cheerful word,

What folks should say, or should be heard.

Has ever such a thing occurred

Through history’s long and winding past?

T’was thus and more in God’s own word;

The plagues in Egypt strong and vast.

Blood and frogs and gnats and flies;

Livestock slain and boils and hail,

Death of child, were all just lies?

Through all we read did sin prevail?

No! The Scriptures loud proclaim,

Those of faith were spared and more.

They lived and stood in Yahweh’s Name.

So we, like them, will reach God’s shore.

  by Eugene H. Merrill

    March 31, 2020

One lesson that comes through loud and clear in all of this is that God is in control!  Who would think that a tiny microscopic organism could bring the mighty United States of America and the other countries of the world to their knees?  The only certainty that we have in this life is that as believers in Jesus Christ we have been washed in His blood and have an eternal home with Jesus waiting for us in heaven, no matter what may come to pass on earth.  This is good news that we can share with our neighbors, friends and family.  Even though our country is in “pause” mode, the bills keep coming in.  Your continued support is much needed and appreciated during this difficult time.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  (Psalm 46:10–11)

Contending for God’s truth,
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Jesus calms our fears and speaks peace into our hearts, even (especially) in times of crisis.

Right now, fear of COVID-19, the coronavirus that the World Health Organization has just this week declared to be a global pandemic, is sweeping our nation. The newness of the virus, its rapid expansion across the globe, and the relatively small amount of information we have about it has generated much anxiety and uncertainty in the past month. The effects of the outbreak have been numerous. This past Monday was referred to by some as a “black Monday,” a term historically associated with stock market crashes, and stocks have continued to suffer through the week. Institutions and businesses across the country are encouraging their employees to work from home and to avoid congregating. Entire countries have closed access through international travel, and some have mandated self-quarantine before permission will be granted to enter. Sports games have been cancelled and large events postponed indefinitely.

In the uncharted waters of this global crisis, Christians and church leaders are left wondering how best to respond. There have been many good pieces written on appropriate measures to take, answering questions on the spectrum from “how can I individually avoid the virus?” to “should believers continue to meet publicly during this crisis?” Here we’re not looking to address the practical and pragmatic concerns surrounding the virus, but rather the internal panic that tempts our souls to sink into despair, fear, worry, and hopelessness. These should not be the dispositions of believers whose minds are to be preoccupied with our Savior. When crisis befalls us, we must determine to steel our nerves and fix our gaze all the more on Jesus Christ.

Into the Storm

In Mark 4:35-41 Jesus asks his disciples to travel with him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They leave the crowd, collect Jesus, and depart in their boat for the eastern side of the lake. Jesus, likely exhausted from his public ministry thus far, had found himself a soft cushion and fallen asleep. While he slept, a fierce windstorm arose and caused the waves on the sea to crash over the boat onto the deck. The disciples wake Jesus in fear for their lives. They say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

Put yourself in the place of the disciples. It should not be hard in our current environment. Just a short while before they had been enjoying Jesus’ teaching, completely unaware that their lives would be in danger that day. The storm had come upon them so suddenly that these experienced fishermen were taken by surprise and afraid for their lives! What seemed to them as a normal task of sailing across the lake turned out to be a life-threatening crisis that they were powerless to control.

Who would have thought two weeks ago that we would be where we are today? And in another two weeks, how will the outbreak have progressed? How bad will COVID-19 prove to be for those in our local communities? How long will the pandemic last? These questions have answers that are unknown to us at present. It makes us feel like we’re in the middle of a storm on Galilee, being rocked to and fro, helpless to do anything about our situation.

Except there is something we can do.

Calming the Storm

The disciples did the one thing that was in their power to do. They went to Jesus for help. What happened next was beyond their imagination and their expectations. Jesus woke up. Jesus rebuked the storm, the wind, the waves, the chaos, the panic, the confusion, the turmoil, all of it. With just two Greek words he undid the undoing of the disciples and gave them back their lives. After the miracle Jesus addresses the disciples’ fear directly: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). When we read this passage, we often emphasize the wonder that Jesus could calm creation through a word, and his rebuke of the disciples’ lack of faith. But think of the relief the disciples must have felt as they saw the natural world obey Jesus and realized they were safe. Jesus not only calmed the seas, he brought peace to his followers’ hearts.

In our present crisis, we should turn to Jesus as well. In a world of sudden uncertainty, Jesus is not caught off guard. He is not alarmed by this outbreak. It is not a wrinkle in his plan. Our Savior is God himself, absolutely sovereign over this created universe. He is not surprised by sin nor its effects in the world, and neither will his purposes fail to be accomplished because of it. He has the power to do the impossible in any and all situations, even this current epidemic.

Jesus is present with us through this storm. He hears our prayers. He calms our fears. He stills our nerves. He speaks to our hearts, “Peace, be still.”

The Storm in Retrospect

The outcome of this account is that the reader is left to wonder with the disciples, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41). The answer to this question is the focus of the author, and really the focus of the Scriptures. Jesus is God himself, the only one capable of calming wind and waves, controlling creation. The story of Jesus calming the sea, then, is not really about the miracle at all. Instead it is about the unveiling of the person of Christ. In the sovereign plan and purpose of God, the storm was necessary for the disciples to understand more about Jesus’ identity and mission.

We cannot say with certainty why God is allowing the spread of this novel coronavirus. From our limited perspective we might guess at some reasons, but our knowledge is far from comprehensive. In the eye of the storm we tend to focus on ourselves, our worries and fears, our suffering. It is hard for us to consider that God might be doing something greater and more magnificent than we can presently grasp. Perhaps this current crisis is part of the Lord’s design to bring about the powerful advance of the gospel into hearts that were formerly hardened. Is it beyond the capacity of our Savior to work even through this awful epidemic to stir up his church from its current condition toward the fire of revival? Who can predict how God will be glorified even through this pandemic?

 Peace, Be Still

Christ’s calming of the windstorm on Galilee demonstrates that in the crises of this life Christians must avoid the temptation to focus on self and instead focus on their Savior. In our media-saturated society feelings of nervousness, fear, and anxiety about the future threaten to pull us under the waves and into the depths of hopelessness and despair. We possess nothing in ourselves that can still the storm. Instead we must turn to Christ, meditation on his perfections, holding fast to his promises, delighting in his presence. He is with us and has promised not to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We can be confident that his purposes in the pandemic, though unknown to us at present, will ultimately bring glory to his great name.

The old hymn by Edward Henry Bickersteth is like a breath of fresh air, a soothing aroma in these uncertain days:

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?

  The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?

  To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?

  On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.

Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?

  In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.

Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?

  Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

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 Originally published March 13, 2020: https://blog.emmaus.edu/calming-the-winds-of-chaos-and-crisis/

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
     - William C. Dix, The Manger Throne, 1865.

Even though I don’t carry a tune very well, I love to sing Christmas carols! They call up memories of Nana visiting our house for several days around Christmas every year, dusting off the seldom-used baby grand piano in the den, and filling the house with their sweet strains. Those were the wonder years, before I lost my hearing at age seven…

Yes, the music of the classic hymns of the season is beautiful. Yet more than their melodies, it is the words we should linger over and savor for the message they convey. What Child Is This is one of those treasured songs of the season that turn our thoughts from the mundane to a contemplation of things of a deeply spiritual nature. Join me, won’t you, in a brief meditation inspired by this song?

A dominant theme of this hymn is “Christ the king,” the “King of kings.” Put another way, it is about the Messiah, the Anointed Ruler, for “Christ” is an anglicized form of christos, the Greek rendering for the Hebrew term mashia, “anointed.” Our knowledge about spiritual matters is only correct to the degree it matches with what inspired Scripture reveals, so how do the words of the song compare with the biblical text? Two particular passages of Scripture piqued my interest in this regard (ESV):

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Micah 5:2).

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’” (Matthew 2:1-6).

This passage in Matthew is worth examining in more than a superficial manner. Their reference to the “king of the Jews” shows that the wise men, or magi, clearly knew their Old Testament. Some skeptics try to make a big deal out of the textual differences between Micah and Matthew, as if Matthew misquoted Micah and this alleged misquote indicates the Scriptures contain errors. That, however, is a false premise, for the passage tells us not that Matthew is quoting the Hebrew text of Micah, but is quoting the chief priests and scribes of his day, in a way that reflects their apparently paraphrased, yet still fundamentally accurate, understanding of Micah 5:2. The Bible of Herod’s time was primarily the Greek Septuagint, so the differences in the wording of Micah and Matthew can easily be attributed to different underlying manuscripts. In the end, what we know without doubt is that there are no contradictions of fact between the Hebrew of Micah 5 and what the chief priests and scribes told Herod: Bethlehem Ephrathah was indeed in the land of Judah; though the hometown of Israel’s greatest king, David, it was a relatively small village; and the ruler to come was to be over all of Israel.

Of particular note is the concept the magi had of this King of the Jews, not that of the chief priests and scribes. As Matthew relates the story, no indication is given they told Herod anything more than that a ruler of the Jews had been born. Nothing was said about the “where” of this birth; in fact, they had to resort to asking for directions, forcing Herod to make further inquiries of others. They knew enough, though, to realize that a King of the Jews had come, and that this King was deserving of worship, not merely honor and respect! They regarded this birth as such a significant event, it warranted a long trek over rugged country to an unfamiliar land far from home.

What might the magi, residents of a distant country for whom an ordinary king would have scarcely merited their attention, have known that drew them to the little village where David had been born a millennium earlier? Although we cannot be absolutely certain of their homeland, since the word magus is of Persian origin (modern Iran), it is quite likely that they hailed from there. Daniel and a sizeable group of Jewish exiles had lived in Babylon, bringing with them their Scriptures and the knowledge of the One True God. These Scriptures would have included scrolls of the prophet Isaiah (lived 739-685 BC), while the prophets Jeremiah (627-580 BC) and Ezekiel (593-570 BC) were contemporaries of the great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC). His defeat of Jerusalem resulted in the deportation of its inhabitants to Babylon in 587 BC, an exile which lasted until 539 BC. At that time the Medes and Persians took over the Babylonian empire, inheriting the knowledge the educated had acquired about the Jewish Scriptures.

Here are a few of the Old Testament passages that could have provided the magi with their concept of the King of the Jews (ESV):

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this (Isa 9:6-7).

 

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins (Isa 11:1-5).

 

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11:6-9).

 

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness” (Jer 33:14-16).

 

And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore (Eze 37:22-28).

This is an impressive amount of information that the magi could have been aware of from studying the Hebrew Scriptures. When I compare it with our hymn and the popular concept of this King of the Jews today, though, I find the two pictures do not match that well. The hymn gives us the sense most of us seem to default to when we are caught up in its beauty: it speaks of Jesus figuratively “reigning” in our hearts. This is made most clear in the third stanza when we sing, “The King of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him.” But we must ask, does this match up with the picture the Bible gives us? The hymn presents us with a non-literal view of the kingship of Jesus that humanity on the whole is quite comfortable with, not only at Christmas but all through the year. It puts Jesus in heaven and keeps Him there, where He does not meddle in the affairs of men and nations. As I look over the compilation of verses above, however, I am struck by how earthly their focus is! Do you not see it?

Isaiah writes that this King, who will be called “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” – and as such is truly worthy of the worship the magi offered – will sit upon the throne of David and reign over a kingdom characterized by an expanding and never-ending government. Since the historical throne of David was located in Jerusalem, it is apparent that by traveling to Israel, the magi at least reached the right country! Moreover, Isaiah’s King is said to be a just, righteous Judge, such that “they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain” – “holy mountain” being an expression characteristic of the literal land of Israel – “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” – the whole earth, not just Israel, and not heaven. And even more incredibly, the prophet adds that in this mortal kingdom where people will procreate and bring forth little children, the world of nature will no longer be “red in tooth and claw.” One begins to get the impression that the magi were seeking to do homage not to the idea of a spiritualized, heavenly king, but to a real Ruler of the Jews.

What about Jeremiah? This prophet tells us that the King the magi worshiped will be a literal descendant of King David, who as Judge will “execute justice and righteousness in the land.” If the realm which He rules over is “in the land,” where can it be but in the land of Israel? Besides, we are informed that in the days of His reign, “Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely.” The obvious way to understand these references to ethnic Jews and the city of Jerusalem is not to interpret them figuratively, as referring to His “reign” in our hearts, but to a literal political rule over human beings.

The picture that is emerging appears to be fully fleshed out in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 37. “And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel,” can be taken at face value, and has a lot of faith value when one does so. He will first regather all Israel back to their homeland, which we can see unfolding today before our very eyes. “And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.” No more will there be the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, but they will all be one people under one King. And moreover, He will also save them from their sins: “But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” Under this King of the Jews, this greater Son of David, at that time “They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived.” This verse securely anchors the prophecy in the real world, in the literal land of Israel where the Twelve Tribes lived. It cannot be figuratively understood; only a future kingdom in Israel makes any sense. To paraphrase Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings:

One King to rule them all, One King to find them,
One King to bring them all, and by His love refine them,
In the Land of Promise where your fathers dwelt.

Ezekiel continues: “They and their children and their children's children [mortal, procreating human beings] shall dwell there forever, and David my servant [Jesus, the Messiah, prefigured in David] shall be their prince forever.” It will be a time of unparalleled blessing as long as this present earth endures, the fulfillment of the words of the prophets when understood in a straightforward manner. Contemplating it should cause an upwelling of deep joy and worship in our hearts at having such a truly good and great King to look forward to! This is the only kind of King who could have drawn the magi to undertake their long journey, and to offer up not only their rich gifts but their worship as well.

In closing, as we approach Christmas and enjoy the Christmas carols and all the other blessings of this sacred season, may we not merely figuratively enthrone Jesus Christ in our hearts, but look forward to His coming again as King of kings and Lord of lords as well. Certainly, He brings salvation to us in the here and now, causing us to be born again when we yield our wills to His and allow Him to metaphorically “reign” in our hearts. But we should not lose sight of this fact: the magi sought after One who would someday literally reign in Israel as King of the Jews. Let us do likewise.

I have been in pastoral and ministry leadership for 35 years now. Along my journey as a follower of Christ, and as a mentor and coach for other believers, I have regularly perceived a tension among members of the Body of Christ in grasping the dimensions of love signified in Jesus' statement in Mark 12:30...

One archaeological site in Israel that has always intrigued me is the Canaanite high place at Tel Gezer. When archaeologist Stewart Macalister excavated there in the early 1900's, he found a line of standing stones that represented Canaanite gods and goddesses. His interpretation of the site, based on discovering the standing stones, was that he had discovered a high place, a place of ancient, pagan worship.

We are blessed to report that, since we shared with you at the end of May that we faced a budget shortfall of $30,000, as of today (6/24/15) we need only $10,000 to meet our budget for the fiscal year, which ends on June 30th. Over the past several months we have seen a significant slowing in our stream of financial support that is needed to conduct our ministry effectively. The Lord has blessed us with enormous opportunities, but with that comes increasing financial pressures and demands. We are extremely careful with the funds you entrust to us. We operate ABR's ministry by faith, and the operations are often run on a shoe-string. We believe that the Lord is honored with the great care we bring to carrying out the fiscal objectives and processes He has called us to. As Director, I donate half of my time to ABR because I believe so strongly in our mission. All of our staff sacrifice greatly to see the Lord's work at ABR move forward. So PLEASE consider a generous gift in the next week. Your help will allow us to finish our fiscal year without the need to make drastic cutbacks that could significantly weaken our ministry efforts. You have asked us to let you know when we have serious needs

At the time of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Rome ruled most of the world. This required lots of men and lots of money and salt. Soldiers were often paid with salt. Octavian was the king of Rome at that time, and he was given the title of Augustus as an honor. Caesar, Kaiser and Khan all mean king, so we know him as Caesar Augustus. And so, to get money to pay his soldiers, he taxed everyone in his empire. To ensure complete compliance and have good records, he ordered all Jews to register in their tribal areas...

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ABRT 28 | 8/1/2019