Spoiling the Vineyard

In this article, Rev. Jefferson Vann explains a Hebrew term for hell that reflects the idea of a spoiled vineyard.

In this series of studies on hell, so far we have examined two Old Testament terms that help explain the biblical warnings about hell and describe its nature. We looked at the term חרם in “Set Apart for Destruction” and found that all items or souls so dedicated were to be completely destroyed as offerings to God. We also looked at the term אבד (abad), the word normally translated “perish,” in the preceding article. We saw that it always refers to death or annihilation, never meaning merely being marred and separated.

So far, we have uncovered nothing of the concept of a never-ending place of suffering. Instead, we have seen that the biblical audience would have understood these warnings as threats to their lives, so that if the words were used to describe hell, the listeners would expect hell to be a second death, an ultimate death.

Today, I would like to center our focus on the Hebrew word שחת (shachat), which can have the meaning of “mar” or “spoil.” Could this be where people get the idea that hell is simply going to be suffering and not ultimate death? As usual, I want to look at how the term is actually used in the Bible.

The earliest use of the term is the account of Noah’s flood. Noah’s flood is referred to in the New Testament as a type, a prefiguring of what the final judgement will be like.[1]

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with wickedness. God saw how corrupt the earth was, for every creature had corrupted its way on the earth.[2]

The word describes the sinful state that humanity had quickly descended to. It was as if God were a vintner who had left his vineyard on its own and come back to find the vineyard spoiled. If we had only these verses, we might certainly conclude that if שחת (shachat) is a word floating around in the minds of the biblical audience, then warnings of hell might involve some kind of perpetual decay. But we must read on:

Then God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to every creature, for the earth is filled with wickedness because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth.[3]

You see, God goes on to pronounce the judgment of destruction upon the planet, destruction that will “put an end” to every creature. What was the verb Moses used for “destroy”? It was the same verb that had been translated “corrupt” in the previous verses. It was שחת (shachat)! A ruined, spoiled vineyard is one where the grapes have died. Such a vineyard must be destroyed and replanted.

The Greeks used the words φθείρω and καταφθείρω to translate שחת in the above verses. These words are useful because they also have that double meaning of both “ruin” and “destroy.”

Note how φθείρω is used in the New Testament to describe the final judgement:

If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and that is what you are.[4]

You can see the idea of spoiling the vineyard here as well, although the metaphor Paul uses is that of defiling a temple. Both ideas (that of spoiling and of destruction) are present in the same verse and use the same word.

But these people, like irrational animals — creatures of instinct born to be caught and destroyed — slander what they do not understand, and in their destruction they too will be destroyed.[5]

But these people blaspheme anything they do not understand. And what they do understand by instinct — like irrational animals — by these things they are destroyed.[6]

Both Peter and Jude use the word shachat as well to describe the ultimate destruction of false teachers. It is a helpful word because it weds the idea of a spoiling crop with the destruction of that crop to make room for a new one. That is the idea behind שחת in the Old Testament.

Shachat is sometimes translated “the pit,” as if describing death by referring to the grave where the dead are placed.

to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.[7]

He draws near to the Pit, and his life to the executioners.[8]

and to be gracious to him and say, “Spare him from going down to the Pit; I have found a ransom …”[9]

He redeemed my soul from going down to the Pit, and I will continue to see the light.[10]

The Greek words used to translate שחת in these instances were either θάνατος (death) or διαφθορά (decay). Both words show that the pit was not seen as a place where anyone goes alive.

The term שחת is used prophetically of the fact that, when the Messiah descends to the place of the dead, he will not stay there long enough to rot:

For you will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful one to see decay.[11]

This parallelism shows the connection between being in the grave (Sheol) and what you do there (decay). Here again, the image of a spoiled vineyard helps us to see what is being expressed. There is no concept of continued existence once a person has gone down to the pit. Death is all there is, unless God intervenes, as he will with the Messiah.

To go down to the pit is to be reduced to dust:

What gain is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your truth?[12]

To go down to the pit is the opposite of living forever:

… so that he may live forever and not see the Pit.[13]

Isaiah uses the term with a heavy dose of that (spoiled vineyard) allusion.

The Lord says this: “As the new wine is found in a bunch of grapes, and one says, ‘Don’t destroy it, for there’s some good in it,’ so I will act because of my servants and not destroy them all. …”[14]

The prophet expresses God’s love for his people, and his desire to rescue them from their corruption and to restore his vineyard.

What can we learn about hell from this study? We learn that hell is not what God wants. He wants his people to live and be fruitful. But hell awaits all those who become corrupted and are never restored to spiritual fruitfulness. It is death. It is decay into dust. It is ultimate destruction.

By Rev. Jefferson Vann

(Rev. Jefferson Vann is a graduate of Berkshire Christian College, Columbia International University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife Penny have been involved in Advent Christian ministry since 1984, serving as missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand. Jeff is the author of “An Advent Christian Systematic Theology” and “Another Bible Commentary” and is a contributing editor to “Henceforth …”)

References

[1]  Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26.

[2] Genesis 6:11-12. Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this article are to the Christian Standard Bible.

[3] Genesis 6:13.

[4] 1 Corinthians 3:17.

[5] 2 Peter 2:12.

[6] Jude 1:10.

[7] Job 33:18, NIV.

[8] Job 33:22.

[9] Job 33:24.

[10] Job 33:28.

[11] Psalm 16:10.

[12] Psalm 30:9.

[13] Psalm 49:9.

[14] Isaiah 65:8.

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Young Christian Girls Forced Into Marriages

Pakistani Christian girls trafficked to China as brides





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In this April 14, 2019 photo, Mahek Liaqat, who married a Chinese national, shows her marriage certificate in Gujranwala, Pakistan. Poor Pakistani Christian girls are being lured into marriages with Chinese men, whom they are told are Christian and wealthy only to end up trapped in China, married to men who are neither Christian nor well-to-do, and some are unable to return home. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

GUJRANWALA, Pakistan (AP) — Muqadas Ashraf was just 16 when her parents married her off to a Chinese man who had come to Pakistan looking for a bride. Less than five months later, Muqadas is back in her home country, pregnant and seeking a divorce from a husband she says was abusive.
She is one of hundreds of poor Christian girls who have been trafficked to China in a market for brides that has swiftly grown in Pakistan since late last year, activists say. Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides. They are being helped by Christian clerics paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters.  
Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told that their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts. The grooms turn out to be neither, according to several brides, their parents, an activist, pastors and government officials, all of whom spoke to The Associated Press. Once in China, the girls — most often married against their will — can find themselves isolated in remote rural regions, vulnerable to abuse, unable to communicate and reliant on a translation app even for a glass of water.

LanternLanterns hang over the front door of the former home of Chinese man, Li Tao, and his Pakistani bride. Mahek Liaqat in Li’s hometown of Chenlou, in Pei County in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
“This is human smuggling,” said Ijaz Alam Augustine, the human rights and minorities minister in Pakistan’s Punjab province, in an interview with the AP. “Greed is really responsible for these marriages … I have met with some of these girls and they are very poor.”

Augustine accused the Chinese government and its embassy in Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the practice by unquestioningly issuing visas and documents. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that, saying China has zero tolerance for illegal transnational marriage agencies.
Human Rights Watch called on China and Pakistan to take action to end bride trafficking, warning in an April 26 statement of “increasing evidence that Pakistani women and girls are at risk of sexual slavery in China.”
On Monday, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency arrested eight Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis in raids in Punjab province in connection with trafficking, Geo TV reported. It said the raids followed an undercover operation that included attending an arranged marriage.
The Chinese embassy said last month that China is cooperating with Pakistan to crack down on unlawful matchmaking centers, saying “both Chinese and Pakistani youths are victims of these illegal agents.”  

Mahek Liaqat

Mahek Liaqat weeps as she recounts her ordeal in an arranged marriage to a Chinese national, in Gujranwala, Pakistan. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
The Associated Press interviewed more than a dozen Christian Pakistani brides and would-be brides who fled before exchanging vows. All had similar accounts of a process involving brokers and members of the clergy, including describing houses where they were taken to see potential husbands and spend their wedding nights in Islamabad, the country’s capital, and Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.
“It is all fraud and cheating. All the promises they make are fake,” said Muqadas.
___
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
In China, demand for foreign brides has mounted, a legacy of the one-child policy that skewed the country’s gender balance toward males. Brides initially came largely from Vietnam, Laos and North Korea. Now men are looking further afield, said Mimi Vu, director of advocacy at Pacific Links, which helps trafficked Vietnamese women.
“It’s purely supply and demand,” she said. “It used to be, ‘Is she light-skinned?’ Now it’s like, ‘Is she female?’”

Graffiti advertising a marriage agent who procures Pakistani brides is spray-painted on the wall of a warehouse in Pei County in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. (AP Photo/Dake Kang) 
Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist, said he first began to see significant numbers of marriage to Chinese men in October. Since then, an estimated 750 to 1,000 girls have been married off, he said.
Pakistan’s small Christian community, centered in Punjab province, makes a vulnerable target. Numbering some 2.5 million in the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim population of 200 million, Christians are among Pakistan’s most deeply impoverished. They also have little political or social support.
Among all faiths in Pakistan, parents often decide a daughter’s marriage partner. The deeply patriarchal society sees girls as less desirable than boys and as a burden because the bride’s family must pay a dowry and the cost of the wedding when they marry. A new bride is often mistreated by her husband and in-laws if her dowry is considered inadequate.
By contrast, potential Chinese grooms offer parents money and pay all wedding expenses.
Some of the grooms are from among the tens of thousands of Chinese in Pakistan working on infrastructure projects under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, a project that has further boosted ties between the two countries in recent years. Other grooms search directly from China through networks. They present themselves as Christian converts, but pastors complicit in the deals don’t ask for any documentation.
They pay on average $3,500 to $5,000, including payments to parents, pastors and a broker, said Iqbal, who is also a journalist with a small Christian station, Isaac TV. Iqbal has gone to court to stop marriages and sheltered runaway brides, some as young as 13.
Muqadas’ mother Nasreen said she was promised about $5,000, which included the cost of the wedding and her daughter’s wedding dress. “But I have not seen anything yet,” she said.

Muqadas Ashraf

Muqadas Ashraf was just 16 when her parents married her off to a Chinese man who had come to Pakistan looking for a bride. Less than five months later, Muqadas was back home in Pakistan, pregnant and seeking a divorce from a husband she says was abusive. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
“I really believed I was giving her a chance at a better life and also a better life for us,” Nasreen said.
___
PRIESTS AND BROKERS
Dozens of priests are paid by brokers to find brides for Chinese men, said Augustine, the provincial minorities minister, who is Christian. Many are from the small evangelical churches that have proliferated in Pakistan.
Gujranwala, a city north of Lahore, has been a particular target of brokers, with more than 100 local Christian women and girls married off to Chinese in recent months, according to Iqbal.
The city has several mainly Christian neighborhoods, largely dirt poor with open sewers running along narrow slum streets. Tucked away in the alleys are numerous evangelical churches, small cement structures unrecognizable except for small crosses outside.
Pastor Munch Morris said he knows a group of pastors in his neighborhood who work with a private Chinese marriage broker. Among them, he said, is a fellow pastor at his church who tells his flock, “God is happy because these Chinese boys convert to Christianity. They are helping the poor Christian girls.”
Morris opposes such marriages, calling them an insult. “We know these marriages are all for the sake of money.”
Rizwan Rashid, a parishioner at the city’s Roman Catholic St. John’s Church, said that two weeks earlier, a car pulled up to him outside the church gates. Two Pakistani men and a Chinese woman inside asked him if he knew of any girls who want to marry a Chinese man.
“They told me her life would be great,” he said. “Everything would be paid for by them.”
They were willing to pay him to help, but he said the church’s priest often warns his flock against such marriages, so he refused.
Brokers also troll brick kilns, where the poorest work essentially as slaves to pay off debts, and offer to pay off their workers’ debts in exchange for daughters as brides.
Pakistani and Chinese brokers work together in the trade. One prominent broker in Gujranwala is a Pakistani known only as Robinson. He refused to talk to the AP, but his wife Razia told the AP that they make arrangements through a Chinese marriage bureau in Islamabad.

Young Pakistani woman, Mahek Liaqat, shows her marriage certificate to a Chinese man. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
Moqadas and another young woman from the same neighborhood, Mahek Liaqat, said Robinson arranged their marriages, providing photos of potential grooms. Afterward, they each described being taken to the same, multi-story house in Islamabad, a sort of boarding house with bedrooms. There, each met her husband for the first time face-to-face and spent her wedding night.
Mahek, 19, said she stayed there with her husband for a month, during which she saw several other girls brought in. She attended several weddings performed in the basement.
Other brides told of meeting their husbands at a similar house in a posh neighborhood of Lahore.
Simbal Akmal, 18, was taken there by her parents. Two other Christian girls were already there in a large sitting room, picking grooms. Three Chinese men were presented to Simbal, and her father demanded she choose one. She told him she didn’t want to marry, but he insisted, claiming “it was a matter of our honor,” she said.
“He had already promised I would marry one,” she said. “They just wanted money.”  She married, but immediately fled. She was joined by her sister, who refused her parents’ demands to marry a Chinese man. Both escaped to a refuge run by the activist, Iqbal.
___
IN CHINA
Muqadas said her husband had claimed to be a man of money, but when she arrived in China in early December, she found herself living “in a small house, just one room and a bedroom.”
She said he rarely let her out of the house on her own. He forced her to undergo a battery of medical tests that later she found were attempts to determine why she was not yet pregnant. On Christmas Eve, when she pressed him to take her to church, he slapped her and broke her phone, she said.
“I don’t have the words to tell you how difficult the last month there was,” said Muqadas. “He threatened me.”  Finally, he agreed to send her home after her family said they would go to the police.
Mahek said she hadn’t wanted to get married, but her parents insisted. Her Chinese husband was possessive and refused to let her leave the house. “He was just terrible,” she said.
In China, her husband, Li Tao, denied abusing Mahek. He said he was a Christian convert and worked for a state-owned Chinese company building roads and bridges when he met Mahek through a Pakistani matchmaker introduced by a Chinese friend.
He was taken by her at first sight, he said. “If you look at her and you see she’s right for you, that’s it, right?”
Li returned with Mahek last winter to his hometown of Chenlou, a village surrounded by wheat fields in coastal Jiangsu province. They moved into his mother’s home, a one-story courtyard house.
After Malek’s family reached out to their government for help to bring her back, the police showed up at Li’s home and said they were told he was illegally confining a woman in his home.
He said it was Mahek who refused to go outside.
“I wouldn’t force her into doing anything,” Li said. “She just had to learn to adapt to a new environment. I wasn’t asking her to change right away.” Still, he bought plane tickets to take her back to Pakistan.
Others, however, are unable to come back.
Mahek’s grandfather Idriis Masih said he contacted the parents of several other Pakistani girls whom Mahek had befriended through a phone app in China and who were desperate to return home. All the parents were poor and shrugged off his attempts to convince them to retrieve their daughters.
Each told him, “She is married now. It is her life,” he said.
___
Kang reported from Linyi, China. Associated Press researcher Shanshan Wang in Beijing contributed to this report

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brutal chickens

four assorted color roosters

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Psalm 35:11-16

Psalm 35:11 Malicious witnesses come forward; they question me about things I do not know.

Psalm 35:12 They repay me evil for good, making my soul desolate.

Psalm 35:13 Yet when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting, and my prayer was genuine.

Psalm 35:14 I went about mourning as if for my friend or brother; I was bowed down with grief, like one mourning for a mother.

Psalm 35:15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in happiness; they gathered against me. Assailants I did not know tore at me and did not stop.

Psalm 35:16 With godless mockery they gnashed their teeth at me.

brutal chickens

When I was a boy, my family owned a chicken farm. We raised 30,000 chickens from one day old to harvest – between seven and ten weeks. While tending the chickens, I discovered that they have an interesting way of dealing with their wounded ones. If a chicken got an injury, it would be its death sentence. The other birds would gang up on it, pecking at its injury. It soon would be dead. They are brutal animals.

David discovered that people can be that way too. Those he had considered his friends took advantage of his failure, gathered in glee, and pounced upon him.

We do not have to be that way. We can be agents of healing and comfort to those who stumble.

Lord, show us how to be friends to those who need friends the most.

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One Step At A Time

Asia Bibi’s Cell Now Holds Another Christian Woman on Death Row for Blasphemy

Victorious lawyer’s next case, the plight of Shagufta Mausar, shows how Bibi’s long-delayed reunion with family in Canada doesn’t end the widespread problem facing Pakistan’s Christians.

Asif Aqeel
Lahore
May 10 2019
Christianity Today

Asia Bibi’s Cell Now Holds Another Christian Woman on Death Row for Blasphemy

Image: Piroschka van de Wouw/AFP/Getty Images

After securing acquittal for Asia Bibi (top left), Pakistani lawyer Saif-ul-Malook (right) will take up the case of Shagufta Kausar (bottom left).

Now that Asia Bibi has finally left Pakistan and been reunited with her family in Canada, her prison cell has a new resident: yet another Christian woman condemned to death over blasphemy charges.  Bibi’s lawyer, Saif-ul Malook, told CT he will now take up the case of Shagufta Kausar, a 45-year-old mother of four, and her husband.

Christians are Pakistan’s largest religious minority after Hindus, comprising about 1.6 percent of the Muslim nation’s population of 210 million. However, the highest number of blasphemy charges are filed against Christians because of their poor status, their origins in the downtrodden “untouchable” caste, and their association with the West. [CT’s Quick to Listen podcast explains more.]

Bibi was accused in June 2009 of speaking blasphemous words against Muhammad, a crime punishable with death in Pakistan, and was convicted in November 2010. The Supreme Court of Pakistan finally acquitted Bibiin October 2018 over “contradictions and inconsistent statements of the witnesses.”

Now Kausar is locked in the same prison cell in Multan Women Jail where Bibi has been incarcerated for many years.  Kausar and her husband Shafqat Masih, 48, were condemned to death by a trial court in February 2014. The Christian couple hails from the infamous town of Gojra, where in 2009 more than 100 houses were set on fire and 7 Christians killed by a violent mob over blasphemy allegations. Since then, tensions between Christians and Muslims have regularly flared.

Masih is bedridden because of a spinal injury from 2004. Their four children, ages 5 to 13, were dependent on Kausar, who worked as a domestic helper in the house of Gojra bishop John Samuel until Muhammad Hussein, a prayer leader at a local mosque, accused Masih of texting blasphemous text messages from Kausar’s cell phone with her “connivance.”

Hussein alleged that around 10 p.m. on July 18, 2013, he was praying in the mosque when blasphemous text messages started pouring in. He said that he showed the text to others, including lawyer Sajjad Asghar Khokhar who called the number and said there was no answer, but blasphemous text messages were then also sent to Khokhar’s cell phone.

The people of the area surrounded the Gojra Police Station after Kausar and Masih were arrested. The mob demanded that the couple be handed to them so that they could be killed. The police resorted to including the harshest charges in order to disperse the protestors.

Malook told CT that the Gojra police also extracted a confession which was illegal and carries no validity under the law. “As was in Asia Bibi’s case, the trial court lawyers in this Christian couple’s case could not properly plead the case.”

Malook said the couple has been waiting five years for the Lahore High Court to hear their appeal against the trial court’s verdict. He plans to file another petition for a hearing.  “The couple is innocent,” Malook told CT, “and there is no legal substantial evidence available that proves they actually texted those messages.”

While the lawyer recently received a wave of global media attention for securing Bibi’s freedom from the Supreme Court, Malook told CT that he won’t necessarily pursue Kausar’s case the same way he did Bibi’s.  “Every legal case requires a different strategy and I have decided a different strategy for this case as per the facts and relevant laws,” Malook told CT.

However, he did offer some criticism on how inaccurate some of the Western advocacy over his cause célèbre client became.  “Sending false persecution news [in the West] does not help the Pakistani Christians back at home, as was in Asia Bibi’s case,” he told CT. “These days, social media is playing a central role in spreading false news. Several NGOs created hype to draw attention to themselves, which backfires for the local Christians.”

For example, Malook told Morning Star News that advocacy reports about Bibi’s failing mental and physical health were “totally baseless.” “Bibi never complained of mistreatment during her incarceration, but even then rumors claiming that she had been subjected to torture, both mentally and physically, were spread on the social media by people who were only interested in making the most out of her ordeal,” he told the persecution watchdog.

Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws go back to the Indian Penal Code, enacted by the British in the mid-19th century. These laws were applicable to people of all faiths.  According to a report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, from 1927 to 1987 only seven cases under the British blasphemy laws were registered. Then in the 1980s, the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq introduced stringent blasphemy laws through an executive order that were only Islam specific.

After these laws were introduced, from 1987 to 2014 at least 1,335 cases were registered and 57 people were extra-judicially killed. Through 2014, only 21 cases had been registered against Hindus, the largest religious minority in Pakistan, while 187 had been registered against Christians. (No blasphemy cases have been registered against Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Baha’is or Buddhists.)

Most Pakistani Christians are abhorred by majority Muslims because of their origins in the so-called “untouchable” Dalit background. Often blasphemy charges initially arise from conflicts over this perceived social status. For example, Bibi was accused over touching the drinking water of Muslim women.

Malook has faced negative attention from many fellow Muslims since he started defending Christians, and the Netherlands even offered him nationality if he wanted to leave his homeland for his safety. But he told CT, “I am back to defend these defenseless people.”

Christianity Today

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delighting in his rescue

woman wearing red hat and sunglasses

Photo by Nashua Volquez on Pexels.com

 

Psalm 35:9-10

Psalm 35:9 Then my throat will celebrate in Yahveh; I will delight in his rescue.

Psalm 35:10 All my bones will say, “Yahveh, who is like you, rescuing the poor from one too strong for him, the poor or the needy from one who robs him?”

delighting in his rescue

The final result that David is looking for is not vengeance on his enemies – it is worship. He wants to be able to turn the unfair way he was treated into cause for magnifying God for his rescue. He is able to stop dwelling on how badly he was treated and focus on something wonderful that can come from it.

So, instead of saying “Lord, make me strong enough to get revenge on my enemies” David says “Lord, you take care of them – I want to worship you.” He turns his adversities into a potential cause for celebration.

Lord, fight our enemies – take care of what we cannot. We want to delight in your rescue.

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Perish the Thought

In this article, Rev. Jefferson Vann explores the Old Testament background behind the term “perish.”

When I taught Bible College, I told my students to always try to get into the bubble. By the term “bubble,” I meant the historical and literary background that original readers and listeners shared with the biblical authors. Since we cannot get into a time machine and go back to that time, the only way we can share the “bubble” of the biblical context is by studying those times, cultures and texts. Today I want to get into the bubble of the biblical word “perish.”

A modern preacher tells us confidently that to perish simply means to be “marred forever, for that is the meaning of ‘perish,’ and not annihilation.”[1] Is that preacher’s confidence based on actual knowledge?

I want to go back to the Old Testament and examine how the people during those times used the term אבד (Hebrew abad), the word normally translated “perish.” This word corresponds to the Greek ἀπόλλυμι, which is the word for “perish” used in John 3:16. When the New Testament was translated into Hebrew, they used אבד in John 3:16.

Pharaoh’s officials asked him, “How long must this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, so that they may worship the Lord their God. Don’t you realize yet that Egypt is devastated?”[2]

The context of this quote is the locust plague in Egypt. Perhaps we might delay judgement on this text and say that maybe Pharaoh’s officials were saying that their land had been marred forever. I do not think that is what they are saying, though. Look at how this modern version translates אבד. To perish is to be devastated. It is to be consumed by locusts!

I will destroy among his people anyone who does any work on this same day.[3]

The punishment for those who violated the Sabbath laws was death, not being “marred forever.” God did not keep Sabbath violators is a special place, secluded from his community, and keep punishing them. He destroyed them:

You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you.[4]

If the Israelites disobeyed God’s covenant, they would be taken into exile in foreign lands and devoured by those lands. The enemy lands would not simply mar their appearance. They would consume them:

They went down alive into Sheol with all that belonged to them. The earth closed over them, and they vanished from the assembly.[5]

This is a rather weak translation, given the history of the word seen above. Remember that this passage is describing the deaths of those who participated in Korah’s rebellion. They were swallowed up by the ground as punishment for rebelling against Moses and Aaron’s leadership. But, the word “vanished” does preclude any idea that אבד can mean a mere marring. The rebels who followed Korah were wiped out.

Then the Israelites declared to Moses, “Look, we’re perishing! We’re lost; we’re all lost![6]

God vindicated Aaron by having his rod bud with life, and the Israelites, who had been complaining about his leadership, thought that they were all going to die. Here, they use two words which could be translated “perish,” so the CSB translates אבד as “to be lost.” But do not think that the word means anything like what the immortalists are saying. To be lost is not to live separated and isolated from God. To be lost for those Israelites was to die. They expected to be annihilated as a people.

… you must drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you, destroy all their stone images and cast images, and demolish all their high places.[7]

Here, the Israelites getting ready to invade the pagan nations in the promised land are told to אבד the idols and אבד the sacred places of these nations. Simply marring these idols or hanging up “do not enter” signs on the high places would not be enough. These symbols of rebellion against the Lord had to be eradicated or else the land would not be fit for the Israelites to inhabit.

“… I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that you will quickly perish from the land you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. You will not live long there, but you will certainly be destroyed. …”[8]

Here, Moses warns the Israelites that they will quickly perish in Canaan if they do not stay true to the Lord. In fact, the word “perish” in this text is actually a combination of two forms of the word אבד. The phrase אָבֹ֣ד תֹּאבֵדוּן֮ is an intensive way of expressing the idea of אבד. The KJV translated the phrase “utterly perish.” That this expression cannot imply anything other than complete extinction is made clear as well by the accompanying statement: “You will not live long there, but you will certainly be destroyed.”

When Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to annihilate all the royal heirs.[9]

Athaliah’s murder spree was another example of someone causing someone else to perish. In this case, it was the entire royal family she annihilated (אבד). Athaliah did not imprison the royal family. She had them killed. How can anyone say that the word means to keep someone alive when it is obviously used in passages like this for the exact opposite? The CSB translators even use the word “annihilate” for אבד.

So the Lord said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night.[10]

Jonah’s plant had died overnight. It was not simply isolated or marred. It ceased to exist, and that was why Jonah was sad. It was no longer there to offer him comfort from the heat.

So, when the New Testament warns us that unbelievers will perish, what are we to believe about their fate?

Here are some other passages containing the Greek ἀπόλλυμι, which mirrors the idea behind the Hebrew אבד:

After they were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.”[11]

Herod did not want to simply mar the future king of Israel. He wanted to kill him.

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.[12]

If you gouge out your eye, it is lost. It perishes. Likewise, anyone thrown into hell, will perish — that is, be destroyed.

Then Jesus told him, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up the sword will perish by the sword. …”[13]

The sword can mar someone, but Jesus’ use of the term here indicates death by the sword. Any other definition of ἀπόλλυμι does not fit the context.

Immediately the Pharisees went out and started plotting with the Herodians against him, how they might kill him.[14]

The Pharisees did not want to simply mar Jesus’ appearance. They wanted him dead.

He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?[15]

The disciples were not afraid of getting stuck on the boat for eternity. They feared being capsized and drowning.

Through these the world of that time perished when it was flooded.[16]

The flood of Noah’s day did not keep its victims prisoner for eternity. It destroyed them.

So far, we have examined two Old Testament terms[17] that help explain the biblical warnings about hell and describe its nature. So far, we have seen nothing of this concept of a never-ending place of suffering. Instead, we have seen that the biblical audience would have understood these warnings as threats to their lives.

The wages of sin is death,[18] and that death is hell. It is an ultimate death from which there will be no resurrection. It is destruction, annihilation and nothing less.

By Rev. Jefferson Vann

(Rev. Jefferson Vann is a graduate of Berkshire Christian College, Columbia International University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife Penny have been involved in Advent Christian ministry since 1984, serving as missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand. Jeff is the author of “An Advent Christian Systematic Theology” and “Another Bible Commentary” and is a contributing editor to “Henceforth …”)

References

[1] Al Bryant, Sermon Outlines on the Death, Resurrection, and Return of Christ. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications,1998), 26.

[2] Exodus 10:7, CSB. Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this articles are to the Christian Standard Bible.

[3] Leviticus 23:30.

[4] Leviticus 26:38.

[5] Numbers 16:33.

[6] Numbers 17:12.

[7] Numbers 33:52.

[8] Deuteronomy 4:26.

[9] 2 Kings 11:1.

[10] Jonah 4:10.

[11] Matthew 2:13.

[12] Matthew 5:29.

[13] Matthew 26:52.

[14] Mark 3:6.

[15] Mark 4:38.

[16] 2 Peter 3:6.

[17] The term חרם was discussed in the previous article.

[18] Romans 6:23.

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Another Sobering Piece From Gospel Coalition Australia

Israel Folau Decision May Set a Course for the Future

Christians across Australia have been given a message, “don’t commit social blasphemy” and “be careful if you choose to use the Bible”.
After three days of deliberations, a three person panel has found Israel Folau guilty of a “high level breach” of Rugby Australia’s player code of conduct.  Not that the outcome was much in doubt, given that Rugby Australia and the Waratah’s had bypassed due process and instead announced to the nation that Folau’s contract was terminated and that he would never be selected again to play for his country or club. Last night’s verdict was little more than a formality.
A three person panel has found Israel Folau guilty of a ‘high level breach’ of Rugby Australia’s player code of conduct.  Not that the outcome was much in doubt, given that Rugby Australia and the Waratah’s had bypassed due process
Whatever Izzy’s motives may have been for posting on social media, he has forced a public debate on an issue that has been hitherto been pulled, tugged and tested in quieter forums across the country: can statements of traditional orthodox Christian belief be permitted in the public space?
What was his offence? It is believed that Israel Folau declined to sign a document in addition to the standard players’ contract, which would have placed greater restrictions on his use of social media. He did, however, sign his contract, which presumably includes a clause about adhering to the players Code of Conduct which requires that players:
Treat everyone equally, fairly and with dignity regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural or religious background, age or disability. Any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination has no place in Rugby. (Part 2 Article 1.3)  
Of course, interpretation of this clause depends on one’s a priori beliefs and moral framework. But the panel have deemed that summarising 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is a “high” form of harassment—even though the point of that passage (and Folau’s post) is quite the opposite.

Legal Concerns

Legal experts are expressing concerns over the handling of the issue. Professor Nicholas Aroney has interpreted the allegations against Folau with reference to International law. He explains that:
[What] Folau has said is not an example of hate speech, and he should not lose his rugby career as a result.” Indeed, he reminds us of the broader framework in which Folau has posted comments, “In addition to repeatedly expressing his love and acceptance of all people, Folau has confessed to having committed many of the sins about which he now warns his readers. This makes it difficult to attribute any intention on his part to advocate hatred against these classes of people, for he numbers himself amongst them.
Leaving such legal questions to the experts, however, what is clear is that Rugby Australia and many social commentators who’ve joined the scrum have defined ‘orthodox’ religion. Whether Rugby Australia realise it or not, they have taken a theological stand on Israel Folau and have determined to define what is and isn’t acceptable religious belief and speech. Remember, Folau was quoting the Bible and summarising basic Christian teaching.
Yes, as I and others have said a thousand times, Folau’s comments were not seasoned with grace and kindness. They appeared blunt and insensitive—much like a Rugby player. Was his manner lacking? Probably, yes. Were his words untrue to 2000 years of Christian belief? No.
Was his manner lacking? Probably, yes. Were his words untrue to 2000 years of Christian belief? No
Footballers from both the NRL and AFL have been forgiven for all manner of social and even criminal offences over the last few years—have we forgotten the scandals? But Israel Folau isn’t to be forgiven.
And what of the teammates who have spoken out in support of Folau and have even agreed with his post? Surely Rugby Australia can’t afford to lose any more players before the World Cup? Is Folau to be a sacrificial lamb, served up to warn others of what might happen should they transgress again?
Let’s not be fools. Christians and non-Christians alike are praised for quoting the Bible when they squeeze it to fit with progressive social agendas. Kristina Keneally wasn’t removed from the Labor Party after quoting the Bible against Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Peter Fitzsimons hasn’t been sacked by Fairfax for repeatedly speaking of Jesus Christ? Why not? Because no matter how poor their handling of Scripture, their speech doesn’t challenge the cultural narrative.

Soon to be Law

Lest we conclude that this story will soon be forgotten as a blip on the cultural radar, Rugby Australia’s stance may well soon find legislative legs. The Australian Labor Party (as the Greens have already done) have announced that they are considering expanding “anti-discrimination legislation to shield gay and transgender ­people from harmful speech if elected, in a move that has alarmed lawyers and free-speech advocates.”
When prejudice against LGBTIQ people contributes to harassment by the written or ­spoken word, such harassment causes actual harm, not simply mere offence, to people who have suffered discrimination and prejudice, and causes particular harm to young same-sex-attracted, gender-questioning or intersex people. Labor considers such harmful harassment is an unacceptable abuse of the responsibilities that come with freedom of speech and must be subject to effective sanctions. Labor will ensure that anti-discrimination law provides such effective sanction.
Depending on how the language of “harm” is understood, all manner of reasonable speech may be found on the wrong side of the law. For example, former rugby league player, Ian Roberts, last week alleged that comments like those of Israel Folau play a role in teenage kids committing suicide as they come to terms with their sexuality
There are literally kids in the suburbs killing themselves—and I say that with the greatest sense of respect—I’m not implying that Israel’s responsible solely for that, please don’t take it that way. But it’s these types of comments and these off the cuff remarks, when you have young people and vulnerable people, kids in the suburbs who are dealing with their sexuality, confused, not knowing how to deal with it, these types of remarks can and do push people over the edge.
If explaining the Christian view of sexuality is deemed to be a trigger for teenage suicide, we can anticipate further public outrage and potential legislation that will restrict and prohibit words that conform to and explain the Christian message. One might respond by pointing out that thousands of Christians are killed every year simply because they are Christian, therefore we must not limit or silence Christians freedom to speak their beliefs. If we are to be morally and logically consistent, Robert’s argument works in different directions. Leaving that aside, Roberts’ comments could be taken offensively by some Christians because we too are concerned for the wellbeing of teenagers. It is good to be reminded that these conversations are not merely academic or theoretical but they relate to real people who matte. We can thank Ian Roberts for this reminder.  No one wants teenagers despairing of their worth and believing they are unloved. I am reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, a woman who’s sexual past was complicated, to say the least. Jesus didn’t affirm or applaud her but he did love her and speak a powerful word of compassion and hope to her.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life….The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”… Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:13-14, 25-26)
In the midst of all the myriad of questions and issues relating to the Folau case, it is important to repeat an observation that was made last month: while Folau’s offending posts are in line with orthodox Christian teaching, he has on other occasions said things that show he is no theologian—and that he may be unclear about the doctrine of the Trinity. This matters because it would be unwise to look to Folau as a champion for Australian Christianity while knowing he may well reject an even more foundational belief. At the very least, this is a reminder as to why it is incumbent upon Pastors to teach the Bible clearly and faithfully in order to aid their congregations to understand such crucial doctrines.

Authoritarian Secularism

The controversy over Israel Folau was not the first case and it is far from being the last. School children in Victoria are force-fed gender theories which are often unsupported by science and best medical practice, and many families have already felt pressured to leaving the public system and forced to pay the expense of independent schooling because of this Governmental pressure in Victoria. We can expect more corporations and organisations falling for the kinds of pressures that have been exposed by the Folau situation. Australia is moving toward introducing limitations on religious freedom that we see in parts of Europe and in Canada. We are heading closer toward the situation found in China, whereby Christians cannot join a political party and they cannot speak openly about Christianity and churches must be approved of by the State. This isn’t hyperbole, this is the natural progression of authoritarian secularism who will use the sexual revolution and identity politics to push all but their sanitised version of religion out of the public square.
We are heading closer toward the situation found in China, whereby Christians cannot join a political party and they cannot speak openly about Christianity and churches must be approved of by the State.
A culturally palatable Christianity will entail deleting most Bible verses: any references to hell and to judgment; removing the core of the faith which is the atonement; and, of course, we must let go of any teaching about marriage and sex and the roles of women and men. We will be left with a very tiny Bible and one that makes little sense, and one that has no power to give life and hope to this world.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That saying of Jesus will need to go. So too will Jesus’ introductory summary of his ministry, “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Anything that challenges personal autonomy and freedom to define self realisation cannot be tolerated.
I have said it before, Christians need to start taking Jesus’ words seriously, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” We cannot afford to give up gentleness and compassion, grace and kindness, for these are indispensable attributes of the Gospel we claim to believe. We cannot respond to cultural shifts with hate but with enduring love because God has loved us. However, we have to accept the fact that loving others will not always be read as love because today’s secularist police will not permit views that transgress their narrow understanding of righteousness. Don’t give up on love, and don’t sacrifice truth and goodness for doing so means that we have also evacuated love from the picture.
If Christianity’s demise in Australia has been party due to its seduction by the culture, then perhaps clarifying disjunction between Church and culture will help believers regain Gospel convictions, compassion, and expectations. After all, it was communist China that created a moral and epistemic environment which catalysed the explosion of Christianity and the conversion of tens of millions of Chinese.  We may be disturbed by the implications these developments have for our job security, education, and financial stability; but we are hopeful and joyful because Jesus Christ remains true and good today as ever. By the grace of God, some our Aussie neighbours may come to realise that we are not against them but for them and that we have a message of hope that will alter their lives in the most satisfying and liberating fashion.

First published at https://murraycampbell.net/

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trusting your enemies to God

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Psalm 35:4-8

Psalm 35:4 Let those who intend to take my soul be disgraced and humiliated; let those who plan to harm me be turned back and ashamed.

Psalm 35:5 Let them be like chaff in the wind, with the angel of Yahveh driving them away.

Psalm 35:6 Let their road be dark and slippery, with the angel of Yahveh chasing after them.

Psalm 35:7 They hid their net for me for no reason; they dug a pit for my soul for no reason.

Psalm 35:8 Let ruin come on him unexpectedly, and let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it– to his ruin.

trusting your enemies to God

David continues to ask God to fight his battles. He is asking God to treat his enemies the way they have treated him. This can be interpreted as seeking vengeance, but there is a difference. David is not asking God for permission to seek vengeance. He is turning over the whole of his fight to God himself. He is essentially saying that his enemies are now God’s problem. David has been unfairly treated, but he is asking God (who knows what is fair and right) to vindicate him.

Lord, deliver us from evil – even the evil we might want to do to those who have harmed us. We trust you to do what is right and fair.

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Second Verse, Same As the First. Boring . . .

Ignore the UN’s Species Extinction Report

James Delingpole
Breitbart

The United Nations has produced a report warning that a million species are threatened with extinction.  Here is why you shouldn’t take it seriously.

It’s politics, not science

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which produced the report, is a political organisation not a scientific one. Just like its sister organisation the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — IPCC — in fact.

As Donna Laframboise notes here, both exist purely to give a fig leaf of scientific credibility to the UN’s ‘sustainability’ agenda.

When the IPBES was established in 2010, we were informed point blank that its purpose was “to spearhead the battle against the destruction of the natural world.”

In other words, there’s all sorts of deception here. This is no sober scientific body, which examines multiple perspectives, and considers alternative hypotheses. The job of the IPBES is to muster only one kind of evidence, the kind that promotes UN environmental treaties.

That’s how the United Nations works, folks. Machinations in the shadows. Camouflaging its political aspirations by dressing them up in 1,800 pages of scientific clothing.

This is the usual suspects crying wolf. Again

No one would dispute that habitat loss is a problem for plants and animals. But it’s a big stretch from there to suggest that a million species are ‘threatened’ with actual extinction. The ‘E’ word has long been overplayed by environmentalists because it’s so dramatic and final and because everyone has heard of the dodo. There is no evidence whatsoever, though, that the world is heading for its so-called Sixth Great Extinction. As Willis Eschenbach once pertinently asked at Watts Up With That? – Where Are The Corpses?

Harvard ecologist EO Wilson once estimated that up to 50,000 species go extinct every year. How did he calculate this? Using the same method the IPCC uses for its junk-science prognostications on catastrophic climate change: computer models. 

Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore exploded this myth long ago:

Moore said in 2000: “There’s no scientific basis for saying that 50,000 species are going extinct. The only place you can find them is in Edward O. Wilson’s computer at Harvard University. They’re actually electrons on a hard drive. I want a list of Latin names of actual species.” Moore was interviewed by reporter Marc Morano (now with Climate Depot) in the 2000 Amazon rainforest documentary:

Environmental activist Tim Keating of Rainforest Relief was asked in the 2000 documentary if he could name any of the alleged 50,000 species that have gone extinct and he was unable.

“No, we can’t [name them], because we don’t know what those species are. But most of the species that we’re talking about in those estimates are things like insects and even microorganisms, like bacteria,” Keating explained.

R-i-g-h-t. So there are all these species going extinct. But we don’t know what they are because we haven’t yet discovered them. Hmm. Sounds terrible. Let’s cancel Western Industrial Civilisation right now, just in case.

Seriously, these people are like a stuck record

Here – h/t Dennis Ambler at Homewood’s place – is the Independent from 2006:

Life on earth is facing a major crisis with thousands of species threatened with imminent extinction – a global emergency demanding urgent action. This is the view of 19 of the world’s most eminent biodiversity specialists, who have called on governments to establish a political framework to save the planet.

Scientists estimate that the current rate at which species are becoming extinct is between 100 and 1,000 times greater than the normal “background” extinction rate – and say this is all due to human activity.  Anne Larigauderie, executive director of Diversitas, a Paris-based conservation group, said that the situation was now so grave that an international body with direct links with global leaders was essential.

The scientists believe that a body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could help governments to tackle the continuing loss of species.

They get away with presenting it as “news” every time because the mainstream media is so thoroughly compliant and dutifully bigs up each scare every time it appears.

“Nature is in its worst shape in human history’

This is exactly the kind of scaremongering claim the report was designed to generate. It gives environmental correspondents from on-message outfits like the BBC and CBC the excuse to put in a call to their favourite eco-alarmists, who helpfully respond with hysterical drivel like this:

“Humanity unwittingly is attempting to throttle the living planet and humanity’s own future,” said George Mason University biologist Thomas Lovejoy, who has been called the godfather of biodiversity for his research.

Actually, as Patrick Moore notes, there have been many worse times for species extinction.

Moore, in an interview with Climate Depot, refuted the claims of the species study. “The biggest extinction events in the human era occurred 60,000 years ago when humans arrived in Australia, 10-15,000 years ago when humans arrived in the New World, 800 years ago when humans found New Zealand, and 250 years ago when Europeans brought exotic species to the Pacific Islands such as Hawaii,” Moore explained.

“Since species extinction became a broad social concern, coinciding with the extinction of the passenger pigeon, we have done a pretty good job of preventing species extinctions,” Moore explained.  “I quit my life-long subscription to National Geographic when they published a similar ‘sixth mass extinction’ article in February 1999. This [latest journal] Nature article just re-hashes this theme,” he added. Moore left Greenpeace in 1986 because he felt the organization had become too radical.

Polar Bears and Tigers

By curious coincidence perhaps the two most overhyped of all doomed species are now enjoying a remarkable recovery, not least because – contrary to the claims of environmentalists – humans actually do care about flora, fauna and diversity and have made great strides in preserving them.

It has been a century since the last species of any significance – the passenger pigeon – died out. Almost all the species extinctions that have occurred in the last two centuries have been on islands, the result of predation by invasive species such as rats or cats accidentally introduced by sailors.

Polar bear populations have exploded from about 5,000 60 years ago to around 26,000 now – making a mockery of their status as an emblem of man-made environmental catastrophe.

Meanwhile, the number of tigers in India has risen dramatically in the last decade, according to the Irish Times:

The estimated population of the endangered big cat has increased from 1,411 in 2006 to 2,226 in 2014, according to the report published by the Indian government’s National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Read the small print

When you get to the bottom of the scaremongering report, the authors show their true colours.

Here is the BBC’s summary: 

The study doesn’t tell governments what to do, but gives them some pretty strong hints. One big idea is to steer the world away from the “limited paradigm of economic growth”.

They suggest moving away from GDP as a key measure of economic wealth and instead adopting more holistic approaches that would capture quality of life and long-term effects.  They argue that our traditional notion of a “good quality of life” has involved increasing consumption on every level. This has to change.

Yes, we’re back to our old friends – Agenda 21 and sustainability – the UN’s code phrases for a new world order in which technocrats of the international elite impose their globalist agenda of wealth redistribution, regulation, enforced renewables, higher taxes and enforced rationing on sovereign nations in the name of ‘saving the planet.’

If the UN really cared about species extinction, of course, it would be doing the exact opposite.

As Jo Nova points out:

1. The worst pollution is in countries with a low income per capita — when people are hungry they raze forests. The most polluted cities are in places like Ghana, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Zambia, Argentina, and Nigeria.  The most deforestation occurs in Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, and Mexico. The worst air is in India and China.

2. Only rich nations have the resources to save the environment.

3. Countries that produce more CO2 are richer.

Ignore everything the UN tells you about the environment. It’s drivel – and dangerous drivel at that.

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extra help

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Psalm 35:1-3

Psalm 35:11 Oppose my opponents, Yahveh; fight those who fight me.

Psalm 35:2 Take your shield and standing shield and come to my aid.

Psalm 35:3 Draw the spear and double axe against those who chase after me, and tell my soul: “I am your rescue.”

extra help

Recently my family started playing a board game with some peculiar characteristics. The players draw cards which identify the race, class, and powers they have. But some of the cards give the players extra strength capacities. Some cards add another person to the player’s team, and the player then gets all the special strengths of the added assistant.

David is talking about the extra strengths he has because God is fighting on his team. Instead of the protection of one shield, God provides two (2). Instead of the attack force of one weapon, God provides two (3). In addition, God provides motivational support by reminding David that he is his rescue (3).

Lord, thank you for strengthening us as you join us in the fight.

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1 superscription: Of David.

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