A Study Tip on a “Word Gone Forth”

A Study Tip on a “Word Gone Forth”

A useful tip for the Bible student who wants to truly get a better understanding of the text is this: always use more than one translation when doing an in-depth study. Most often translations will agree with one another, but sometimes you will come across differences in wording which will cause you to have to examine the meaning more closely.

study word

Different translations can sometime bring up questions good to examine.

A case in point: Daniel 2:5, 8. Reading through the King James Version, one encounters King Nebuchadnezzar in these verses saying, “the thing is gone from me.” A casual reader would be excused for thinking that the king was saying he had forgotten a certain dream. However, when reading another translation, the words are often rendered quite differently. The New King James says, “my decision is firm,” and the ESV reads, “the word from me is firm.” Which raises the question, which translation is right?

An investigation reveals to us an interesting thing. All three are reasonably correct, and, properly understood, all three are saying much the same thing. This becomes most clear when one finds that the word translated “thing” in the King James, can be understood as “word,” or “command.”

In the context, Nebuchadnezzar is in the middle of issuing a decree, threatening to kill all his wise men if they cannot do as he commands. His wise men think the request somewhat unreasonable. But the king will brook no argument from them. He essentially says, “The words have left my mouth.” In his mind, once he had given a command, there was no changing it.

The Persian government had codified a very similar concept, as detailed in Daniel 6:8-9, 12, 15 and Esther 8:8. When the Persian king signed a law and sealed it, it was impossible to ever revoke it. It was a law for all time. The Persians seemed to have the idea that there king was infallible, divinity in human form, and to show they meant it, they didn’t let even the king nullify his own laws. To do so would have meant confessing that he was less than perfect.

Can you imagine the responsibility that accompanies such a power? One would hope that if a person knew his words, once they had gone forth from him, were unalterable, that person would be very careful about what they said, giving careful thought to utterances, statements and commands. Historically, this was not, of course, always the case. Even the king might come to regret the decree he had issued with undue haste and a lack of consideration.

We may not be kings, but each of us still has a certain responsibility with our words. The Bible reminds us, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) Unfortunately, we tend not to think carefully before we speak. And when the words are gone from you, having left your mouth, while they may not carry the power of life and death, it is very difficult to get them back. Rash promises, words of anger, foolish and hurtful jesting; all these and more are examples of speech we too often end up regretting. Better to be slow to speak, giving careful consideration to the consequences of our words before ever we say them.

A second lesson, from this meditation, is the need for a little humility about the things that we say. Nebuchadnezzar lacked such humility, but he is not being held forth as a role model for us.

To the contrary, it was foolishness and pride which compelled these kings of old to imagine that their words, once issued forth as a decree, were perfect. It was common for monarchs of antiquity to elevate themselves by comparing themselves to gods, many even claiming to be gods in human form.

We know that God is infallible. His words are truth and He cannot lie (cf. John 17:17; Titus 1:2). As it is written, “For the word of the Lord is right, And all His work is done in truth.” (Psalm 33:4l NKJV)

But man is not God. No man is always right in everything he says. Not only are we going to say things we regret, but quite often we are going to be wrong in the things we say, and even the things we expect of others. We need the humility, when the words have gone out from our mouths, to have the willingness to revisit them and consider the possibility of admitting we were wrong.


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Racial Discrimination

Racial Discrimination

“Webster defines racism as the practice of racial discrimination or persecution.  The Jews were God’s chosen people, so were they not racist?  They called the Samaritans dogs because they were a mixed race, had nothing to do with the Gentiles, and weren’t permitted to marry Gentiles to keep the Jewish nation pure.  Maybe I’m wrong; if so help me to understand.”

The prohibition against marrying Gentiles was to keep the Jewish nation which would produce the Messiah pure in a religious sense (Ex. 34:13-16; Deut. 7:3-4; Josh. 23:12-13; cf. 1 Kings 11:1-8; Ez. 9-10; Neh. 13:23ff).  However, marriage to Gentiles was allowed in some cases (cf. Deut. 21:10-14).  Thus, the prohibition was not founded out of racist discrimination, but rather out of a desire to keep the Israelites loyal to God alone.

Discrimination racism

God embraces all men who seek to serve Him in love.

God has never shown partiality between Jew and Gentile (Rom. 2:9-11).  True, he set Abraham’s descendants apart to produce the Messiah because of Abraham’s faith (Gal. 3:6; Rom. 4:9-12).  Yet, remember that Abraham was an uncircumcised Gentile at the time God set him apart (Rom. 4:9-12).

God also communicated with and/or blessed in various ways individual Gentiles such as Abel, Noah, Job, Melchizedek, Jethro, Balaam, Rahab, Ruth, etc.  He also indirectly and directly reached out to and/or blessed many Gentile nations and their kings, such using Joseph with Pharaoh’s Egypt, Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, Daniel and Esther with Darius’ and Xerxes’ Persia, Jonah and Nahum with Assyria, Obadiah with Edom, Zephaniah with Ethiopia, and Amos and Ezekiel with Ammon, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Edom.

God also offered his Son for the whole world and the gospel to both Jew and Gentile (John 3:16; Rom. 1:16; Tit. 2:11).

Thus, any racist discrimination and prejudice against Gentiles by Jews did not originate with God.  Rather, it came about through the inordinate, selfish pride of the Jews who took their divine national sanctification to mean more than it did (Matt. 3:8-9; John 8:37-41).  Jesus reached out to and showed kindness to Samaritans and Gentiles, as did his faithful followers (John 4; Mark 7:24-30; Acts 8:5ff; 10-11; 15; etc.)  Prideful, racist Jews tried to either prevent or limit compassionate outreach to Gentiles (cf. Gal. 1-5; Col. 2: Rom. 2-11).

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A God like that of the Nations

A God like that of the Nations

The events which followed the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel are recorded in the seventeenth chapter of Second Kings. The Assyrians moved many of the Jews, who were part of Israel, and sent them throughout the Assyrian world. Then, they brought men from other nations and settled them in Israel. This was an attempt, largely successful, to destroy the ethnicity of the Jews.

nations worship

God only accepts that which he has given authority to do.

There was a problem when all of this happened. The Gentiles who came into the Promised Land brought their own gods and worshiped them. The anger of the Lord was stirred against this use of His land. “Therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them” (v. 25). So, the king of Assyria understood the reason for the problem and said the lions “…are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land” (v. 26).  His solution was to find a Jewish priest and send him to Bethel to teach them how to fear God (v. 28).

What was the result of all of this? “They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations…they did not obey, but they followed their formal rituals…so the nations feared the Lord, yet served their carved images” (vs. 33, 40, 41).

What happened in that land is happening in our own land. Those people of the fallen northern kingdom did not like what they had been taught about the God in whose land they now dwelt. They simply redefined the God of Israel and ignored what He had said. Perhaps their fear of the lions was greater than their fear of the Lion of Israel. It is obvious they accepted some of the “rituals” of Judaism but brought in a new god they defined. The actual truth about that situation is found in verse thirty-four. “They do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow…the commandment which the Lord commanded.” Isn’t this is what is happening in our land?

We have redefined God and, while ritualistically following Him in some ways, we are serving our newly defined God! Think of all that is happening with the elevation of our own ideas. God’s view of marriage has been laid aside, and the “new God” accepts our own definitions of marriage. God’s view of worship being centered on all humbly praising Him has been replaced with worship that is man-centered and is designed to make us feel spiritual. The applause is given to Christian entertainers instead of reverence directed toward heaven. Look at all of Christendom and see if we are not doing as those in Israel.

It is high time for our nation, and us individually, to truly fear God and keep His commandments.

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How to Strengthen the Church Internally

How to Strengthen the Church Internally

Wherever you find the Church, the question will be asked, “How Do We Strengthen Ourselves?”.  For ease of examination the question can be broken up into two major areas:  External Strength and Internal Strength. Authority for how this is done is found in the Bible as given by God.  Study will show that the Church of the first century was strengthened in the same way the Church of today is strengthened.

strengthen church

Strengthening the Church from the inside is simple, tried, and true.

Externally, the Church reaches out to the world to strengthen itself (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 2:47).  There are many authorized ways to “Go”, but going must be a united effort.  Going is done with a united message.  Going is done with a united motivation.  Going in the proper way builds a strong Church in which the building never stops.  Going done right builds one strong church, Christ’s Church, and no other.  If it is not built upon the Rock of Christ, it will not be strong.

Internally, the Church examines itself to make certain it is indeed the pure and holy Bride of Christ, serving Him only.  Is the worship the best it can be for God?  Are the Children of God mighty in His Word?  Do the Christians love one another?  Are the Christians working to present themselves unstained by the world?  Are they disciplining themselves so they might be strong?  These internal areas are what this discussion will now focus on.

The Church gathers every Sunday to worship God (Acts 20:7).  From early in scripture (Leviticus 10:3), God has commanded that He be approached in worship as holy and honored. Christians demonstrate their love to God in worship by obeying His instruction on how to worship (John 14:15, Colossians 3:17, John 5:19, John 8:28-32, John 4:24).   If man decided to bring in worship practices not authorized by God or leave out practices He has authorized, regardless of the good intentions behind them, God will not be treated as holy or honored.  The Church will be displeasing to God.  The Church worship will tear down its relationship with God rather than strengthen it.  A Church strengthens itself by teaching God’s Word, His authorized path of salvation (I Corinthians 1:21).  Not only in the spoken word is the Church strengthened, but the singing of God’s word to one another provides instruction and caution in living a Christian life (Colossians 3:16). Through the Lord’s Supper, properly worshipping Christians remember the triumphant life of Jesus and the establishment of His covenant of forgiveness (I Corinthians 11:20ff).  Recalling this victory, Soldiers of Christ find the courage to march on in this world of temptation.  In the gatherings of the early Christians, prayer and giving was practiced (Acts 2:42, I Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 9:7-15).  Both of these actions allowed the worshipper to glorify God with appreciation in their hearts and alternatively provided confidence that God does and will provide.  Strengthening a church begins with proper worship.

In order to strengthen the Church, truth must be taught from within.  God’s words are truth and when practiced, truth separates the Christian from the rest of the world (John 17:17).  While the Church is certainly the bearer of truth to the world, it must continually teach itself.  Pulpits are the most visible source of the sharing of the truth.  Paul warned Timothy that there would be times when men would desire to hear something other than the truth (2 Timothy 4:3).  If false words come from the preacher, then the entire congregation can be led astray.  Critically, the pulpit cannot continually teach simple beginning concepts (I Peter 2:2, Hebrews 5:12-6:2).  Many congregations composed of those who have been Christians for decades are spiritually starving.  After such a lengthy time, they have a blank stare when asked to summarize what each book of the Bible is about.  Elders and preachers are to blame for allowing this to happen.  However, they are not responsible for the majority of this blame.  Individual Christians need to be searching the scriptures daily, scholars of the word, watchmen who are able to defend and share the truth of the Bible, and continually growing ( Acts 17:11, 2 Timothy 2:15, Matthew 28:18-20, Ezekiel 33, I Peter 3:15, 2 Peter 3:18).  Equipped in this fashion they should be demanding more from the pulpit and from each other.  It is this constant feeding from the Word of God that will strengthen the Church (Psalm 119:25-28).

The Church is strengthened when Christians choose to love one another.  Being a Christian is choosing to be servant to God and others.  The household of faith is where this must begin (Galatians 6:10).  The worship aspect of giving not only glorifies God, but it communicates to those Christians in need and the minister who relies upon the generosity of the saints that they are loved (I Corinthians 16:1, I Corinthians 9:1-14).  The expression of Christian love can only in a small way be described by financial support.  Its true expression is seen in the behavior of one Christian to another. Do you have members who have no transportation?  Are you reaching out to make sure they have a way to come to services and to other critical life activities?  Are you contacting those who are sick asking what you can do to help them?  Are you spending time with the widow or single parent?  Are you praying for them?  Do you search out why someone missed the assembling of the saints? Do you reach out to those brothers and sisters who have moved? You can write them or call them.  Encourage them and ask about their well being and their spiritual life (Hebrews 10:24, Acts 15:36).  Don’t allow a sheep to wander from the flock because it was neglected and ignored.  Giving love, kindness, comfort, encouragement, and the fruit of your physical blessings strengthens the Church.

From the formation of the Church Christians spent their time together (Acts 2:42-47).  They left the world becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). They wanted to show obedience to God and not return to the former associations of their life (I Peter 1:14-16, I Corinthians 15:33).  The Christians resisted Satan and the evil things of this world (James 4:4-7).  A strong Church seeks out pure relationships, pure recreation, and pure entertainment in its daily life.  This means putting away sinful association in all its many forms:  Sinful relationships, corrupt television and internet, filth such as pornography and inappropriate books arousing lusts, clubs and dances, and a life surrounded by ungodly friends (Colossians 3:5-10).  The Church is strengthened when Christians open their lives and homes to others of a pure mind and hope.  Your spiritual brother and sister in Christ should not feel alone within their congregation.  They should not feel like strangers in Christ and neither should you.

The final aspect to be addressed is the strengthening of the Church through Church discipline.  A congregation will fall from the graces of God if it does not practice discipline.  Whether a congregation has elders or not, they are responsible for correcting one another’s behaviors and beliefs (I Corinthians 5, Acts 5:1-11, 2 Timothy 4:2, Acts 20:27-31).  Each of us has a responsibility in love (Ephesians 4:15).  We have the responsibility to go to our brother when there is trouble (Matthew 18:15-17).  Whether the issue is one of immorality, immodesty, practicing or teaching error, forsaking the assembly of the saints, or going back to the world in any form, we must try to correct and save them (Acts 18:26, Jude 1:22-23).  Our savior has given Himself to save us and can save all who will follow him (Jude 1:24).  Discipline is not a sign of cruelty, rather it is a sign of love (Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:11-14). Christ’s church is strengthened through the kindness of discipline.

There are many theories about how to strengthen a church.  Often these rely upon the wisdom, traditions, and innovations of men.  However, the church which Christ established finds its strength today as it did in the first century:  It follows Christ’s example and authority doing only what the Father has commanded we do and say.

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Bible Study is Eternally Important

Bible Study is Eternally Important

I daresay that it is far more than likely, that just about every congregation of the Lord’s church whose leadership has decided to give their members the opportunity to get together and study the Bible either before or after their Sunday worship assembly, encounters virtually the same phenomenon every Lord’s Day: Bible class attendance numbers that are markedly less than that same Sunday’s worship assembly attendance numbers. Why is that? (Now, obviously I am not talking here about those few folks in each congregation whose physical health limitations prevent them from being there and sitting through both – Matt. 26:41b.)

Study eternal

Destroyed for a lack of knowledge?

Is it perhaps because some have come to the conclusion that worship assembly attendance is a requirement in order to get to heaven (which it is – Hebs. 10:23-31), but that taking advantage of every opportunity possible to study God’s word and steadily grow in their faith after conversion, somehow isn’t all that important? Does not the Bible itself show that being in a constant and consistent state of Bible study, whenever possible and wherever the opportunity is presented, will provide both incredible earthly as well as eternal blessings to those who do so – including helping to guarantee their entrance into heaven? It certainly does (2 Ptr. 1:2-11). What else does the Bible say about the importance of taking consistent advantage of every opportunity one possibly can to study it?

  • God’s O.T. people were commanded to do so constantly (Dt. 6:4-9).
  • God promised prosperity/success to those who did so (Josh. 1:8-9).
  • God’s word is worth far more than anything else on earth (Ps. 19:7-11); therefore, isn’t spending time within it, far more beneficial than time spent doing anything else in the world (Ps. 119; 1 Jn. 2:15-17)?
  • God’s O.T. people were destroyed because of their lack of Biblical knowledge (Hos. 4:6-10; Matt. 13:14-15, 22:29) – and the Bible teaches that such destruction will not be limited to them alone (Matt. 7:21-27; Acts 17:30-31; Ro. 10:1-3).
  • In order to truly be His disciple, Jesus said one must “abide” (“take up residence,” “live”) in His word, and thus know the truth (Jn. 8:31-32).
  • Bible study is how we show we are approved of God (2 Tim. 2:15).

Yes, for all of these God-given reasons and more, it is easily seen that taking constant and continual advantage of every opportunity we possibly can to grow our faith through the study of God’s word (Ro. 10:17) is vital to our eternal life. Please consider coming and growing in your faith as we study God’s word together each Sunday and Wednesday as if your eternal life depended on it… because it does (2 Ptr. 3:14-18).


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