11/25/15

From Mark Copeland... "ISSUES OF DISTINCTION" The Identity Of Jesus Of Nazareth


                        "ISSUES OF DISTINCTION"

                   The Identity Of Jesus Of Nazareth

INTRODUCTION

1. So far we have considered two "Issues Of Distinction":
   a. The Existence Of God - which differentiates between...
      1) Atheists and agnostics on the one hand
      2) Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Moslems, Christians, etc., on the 
         other hand
   b. The Identity Of God - which distinguishes between...
      1) Buddhists, Hindus, etc.
      2) Jews, Moslems, Christians, etc.

2. In doing so, we briefly surveyed evidence that supports a belief...
   a. That God does exist
   b. That the God of Abraham (i.e., the God of the Bible) is the one
      true God

3. Our next "issue of distinction" concerns "The Identity Of Jesus Of
   Nazareth"...
   a. Jews and Moslems believe he was just a good man, perhaps even a
      prophet
   b. But Christians profess much more, that He was the Messiah, even 
      the Son of God!

[In this study, we shall briefly review the claims made about Jesus, 
and some evidence which supports these claims...]

I. THE CLAIMS MADE ABOUT JESUS

   A. THE NEW TESTAMENT MAKES BOLD CLAIMS ABOUT JESUS...
      1. Presenting Him to be the Messiah, foretold by the Old 
         Testament
         a. As seen in the confession of Peter - cf. Mt 16:13-17
         b. As seen in Luke's description of Jesus' conversation
            following His resurrection - cf. Lk 24:25-27,44-48
      2. Presenting Him to be the very Son of God!
         a. Again, as confessed by Peter - Mt 16:16
         b. As introduced in John's gospel - Jn 1:1-3,14

   B. THE NEW TESTAMENT ALLOWS ONLY TWO ALTERNATIVES...
      1. Jesus is everything the New Testament authors claim
         a. The Christ, the Son of God
         b. Indeed, the King of Kings and Lord of lords 
            - cf. 1Ti 6:14-16
      2. The New Testament is a carefully orchestrated fraud, written
         purposefully to deceive!
         a. The authors leave us no other choice - cf. 2Pe 1:16-18
         b. Either their story is true, or they were false witnesses! 
            - cf. 1Co 15:14-15

   C. WE CANNOT SAY THEY MIGHT HAVE BEEN SINCERELY DECEIVED!
      1. Especially in reference to the resurrection of Jesus, which is
         offered as the ultimate proof of His deity and Messiahship
         a. They claim they ate and drank with Him afterwards 
             - Ac 10:39-41
         b. They claim they saw and touched Him - 1Jn 1:1-4
      2. They leave us NO ROOM for saying they were but MISTAKEN or 
         DECEIVED!
         a. Some skeptics have tried to offer this as an alternative
         b. That perhaps in their grief and loss over the crucifixion
            of Jesus they "hallucinated" or saw grief-inspired 
            "visions" of Jesus
         c. But "hallucinations" and "visions" are highly 
            individualistic experiences
            1) One person might see the hallucination or vision
            2) But several or many people don't see the same vision at
               the same time!
         d. As outlined in the gospels and also 1Co 15:4-8, the 
            resurrection appearances of Jesus were often witnessed by
            many at the same time (over 500 on one occasion!)

[So we really have no other choice; either the New Testament with its 
claims about Jesus is a "Book Of Truth," or it is a "Book of Lies."

Which is more reasonable to believe?  To help us decide, consider...]

II. IMPLICATIONS IF CLAIMS ABOUT JESUS ARE NOT TRUE

   A. THE NEW TESTAMENT IS A CAREFULLY ORCHESTRATED LIE!
      1. With great accuracy the authors described events, places, and
         people (at least those we can confirmed by archaeology) 
         - Lk 2:1-5
      2. If the record of miracles and the resurrection is false, then
         they very carefully intertwined fact and fiction!
      -- IS IT REASONABLE TO BELIEVE THAT?

   B. THE AUTHORS SUFFERED EXTREME HARDSHIP FOR WHAT THEY KNEW WAS A
      LIE!
      1. Many people will lie if they can get something out of it (such
         as money, power)
      2. But what did the apostles get out of it? - cf. 1Co 4:9-13
      3. What did Paul get for holding to his testimony? 
         - cf. 2Co 11:24-29
      4. How do we know they really suffered this hardship?
         a. The fact that the letters of the New Testament were even
            saved!
         b. For example, consider the letters 1 & 2 Corinthians...
            1) These letters are filled with rebuke of the Corinthians
            2) The Corinthians would have every reason not to save 
               these letters which exposed their faults
            3) The Corinthians had first hand knowledge as to whether
               the apostles and Paul really suffered the hardship
               spoken of in their letters
            4) If they knew the accounts of such hardship to be false,
               they would have quickly destroyed these letters written
               by a liar who embarrassingly wrote about their problems!
      5. So especially the author of half the books of the New
         Testament (Paul) suffered extreme hardship for a lie, if the
         New Testament is not true
      -- IS IT LOGICAL TO BELIEVE THAT?

   C. THE AUTHORS WHO WERE MARTYRED KNEW THEY WERE DYING FOR A LIE!
      1. True, many people in history have died for what was actually a
         lie...
         a. They sincerely believed it be true; sadly, they were 
            mistaken
         b. But we have seen that the nature of the apostles' testimony
            as eyewitnesses of the resurrection does not allow for the
            possibility they were sincerely mistaken
      2. History and tradition record that:
         a. JAMES was stoned to death
         b. PAUL was beheaded
         c. PETER was crucified
      3. If the New Testament is a lie, they went to their deaths 
         KNOWING they were dying for a lie!
      -- IS IT RATIONAL TO BELIEVE THAT?

   D. IN SUFFERING AND DYING FOR A LIE, THEY WENT AGAINST EVERYTHING
      JESUS AND THEY THEMSELVES TAUGHT!
      1. "But let your 'yes' be 'yes', and your 'no' be 'no'." - JESUS
         (Mt 5:37)
      2. "Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his
         neighbor..." - PAUL (Ep 4:25)
      3. "Therefore, laying aside all malice, all guile, hypocrisy, 
         envy, and all evil speaking" - PETER (1Pe 2:1)
      -- DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO BELIEVE THAT?

   E. THE BOOK WITH THE WORLD'S HIGHEST STANDARD AND LOFTIEST GOALS WAS
      COMPOSED BY LIARS, FRAUDS, AND DECEIVERS!
      1. What book presents a higher standard of love and morality than
         the New Testament?
      2. For example, Jesus' "Sermon On The Mount" (Mt 5-7) and Paul's
         "Discourse On Love" (1Co 13)
      -- CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

CONCLUSION

1. This is what one MUST believe if they do not believe the New 
   Testament when it speaks of the miracles, fulfilled Messianic 
   prophecies and resurrection accounts of Jesus:
   a. It is a carefully orchestrated lie!
   b. The authors suffered extreme hardship for what they KNEW was a
      lie!
   c. Those authors who were martyred KNEW they were dying for a lie!
   d. In suffering and dying for a lie, they went against everything
      Jesus and they themselves taught!
   e. And somehow, these liars, frauds, and deceivers came up with a
      book containing the world's highest standard morality and 
      loftiest goals!

2. I am convinced that those who do not believe the New Testament are
   those who:
   a. Have never read the New Testament carefully
   b. Have not considered the logical implications of simply regarding
      it as a mixture of fact and fiction!

3. But to those who will read it, I believe that they will find...
   a. That it has "the ring of truth" to it
   b. That it will convince one of the true identity of Jesus of
      Nazareth!

4. As John wrote toward the end of his gospel:

      "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His
      disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are
      written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the
      Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
                                                 (Jn 20:30-31)

5. What is YOUR view of Jesus of Nazareth?
   a. Are you willing to accept the evidence that "Jesus is the Christ,
      the Son of God"?
   b. If so, then with such faith you have the right to become a child
      of God, and have "life in His name"! - cf. Jn 1:12; Ga 3:26-27

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2015

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The Imprecatory Psalms by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=4707

The Imprecatory Psalms

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The book of Psalms in the Old Testament contains 150 separate psalms written by David and various other individuals inspired by the God of the Bible to write them, initially, for the nation of Israel. Critics of the Bible, who question its divine inspiration, insist that the “imprecatory” psalms are proof of the human origin of the Psalms. For example, Psalm 5:10 states: “Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against You.” Psalm 18:40-42 declares: “You have also given me the necks of my enemies, so that I destroyed those who hated me…. Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets.” Psalm 35:1-8 asserts:
Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Also draw out the spear, and stop those who pursue me…. Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor who seek after my life; let those be turned back and brought to confusion who plot my hurt. Let them be like chaff before the wind, and let the angel of the LORD chase them. Let their way be dark and slippery, and let the angel of the LORD pursue them…. Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly, and let his net that he has hidden catch himself; into that very destruction let him fall.
Psalm 58:6-10 is equally graphic:
Break their teeth in their mouth, O God! Break out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD! Let them flow away as waters which run continually; when he bends his bow, let his arrows be as if cut in pieces. Let them be like a snail which melts away as it goes, like a stillborn child of a woman, that they may not see the sun. Before your pots can feel the burning thorns, He shall take them away as with a whirlwind, as in His living and burning wrath. The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
And Psalm 55:15 exclaims: “Let death seize them; let them go down alive into hell….”
Critics of the Bible claim that the imprecatory psalms are proof that the Bible is not inspired (e.g., McKinsey, 2000, p. 394; Vjack, 2009). They say that the psalms are hateful, vindictive, and manifest an unchristian spirit. They say such “hate speech” demonstrates that the author(s) of the Psalms could not have been inspired by a divine Being. Atheists say these psalms prove that the Hebrew God is a blood thirsty, tribal deity like all the other pagan deities conjured up by mere men. Of course, the New Testament is not exempt from this same accusation, since Old Testament words of imprecation are quoted in the New Testament approvingly. For example, John 15:25 quotes Psalm 109:3, Acts 1:20 draws from Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8, Romans 11:9-10 quotes Psalm 69:22-23, and Romans 15:3 refers to Psalm 69:9.
What’s more, the New Testament contains its own imprecations that are comparable to those in the Old Testament. Paul declared: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Timothy 4:14-15). When hauled before the Jewish authorities, Paul suffered when “the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?’” (Acts 23:2-3; cf. Dungan, 1888, p. 319). Such sarcastic exclamations by Paul are also seen in his suggestion that the Judaizers be castrated (Galatians 5:12), and his remarks to the Corinthians:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works…. For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! (2 Corinthians 11:13-15,19, emp. added).
And when Simon attempted to bribe the apostles in hopes of receiving miraculous ability,
Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you arepoisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:20-23, emp. added).
Further, Paul minced no words when he denounced his fellow Jews:
For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; butwrath has come upon them to the uttermost (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, emp. added).
And the faithful martyrs of persecution “cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (Revelation 6:10).
Are such Bible passages inappropriate, unkind, unchristian, and unloving? Does the Bible contradict itself in this regard? Is the inspiration of the Bible writers compromised by the imprecatory psalms? How are we to make sense of this seeming disparity? Consider the following seven observations.

PROPHETIC, PERSONAL FEELINGS, & POETRY

In the first place, some of these psalms are merely prophetic: the psalmist announces what the enemies of God deserve and what, in fact, will come upon them—without conveying the actual desires of the psalmist (Barnes, 2005, 1:xxx). Second, some of these psalms may be expressions of the feelings that would be felt by those who would take vengeance on the enemies of God—those armies that God would use to punish the wicked (Barnes, 1:xxxi). Third, the English reader must understand that Hebrew poetry used extravagant language that is often exaggerated, passionate, and picturesque—not intended to be taken literally (cf. Barnes, 1:xxix-xxx). The oriental mind often expressed itself in terms that the Western mind might consider disrespectful when, in fact, the speaker was not being disrespectful (e.g., Jesus referring to Mary as “woman”—John 2:4; cf. Lyons, 2004).

SIN IS REALLY BAD

While these first three observations (identified by Barnes) have merit, a fourth clarification, one that is more to the point, concerns the fact that most humans fail to realize just how heinous sin is, and the need for human sin to be denounced for its extreme ugliness. We humans simply do not have a handle on the gravity of sin. In a day when merely stating that a certain act is sinful is regarded as “hate speech,” “mean-spirited,” and “intolerant,” it is increasingly difficult for Americans to grasp the heinousness of sin. It is absolutely imperative that people train, shape, and mold their moral sensibilities to mimic God’s. They must strive to “have the mind of Christ” so that they have the right balance and the correct assessment and attitude toward every human action. An accurate assessment of spiritual reality requires that we must “abhor what is evil” (Romans 12:9) and “hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104). We must possess the same righteous revulsion that God possesses for those things that are spiritually repulsive and harmful.
The case of the Israelites at Peor provides a proper example of what it means to approximate the proper, righteous reaction to sin. When Phinehas followed a fornicating couple into their tent and, with a single thrust, drove a spear through the two of them, God’s assessment of his action is seen in the following words:
Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, “Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel” (Numbers 25:11-13, emp. added).
One prominent reason atheists and the like are disturbed by the imprecatory psalms is because their spirits have been shaped by their own flawed conceptions concerning the nature of an infinite, eternal God who is perfect in all of His attributes. If such a God exists (and He does), the imprecatory psalms capture the essence of perfect love in harmony with perfect justice. This thought brings us to a fifth clarification.

GOD IS PERFECT

God is righteous. The very nature of God is contrary to evil. God’s very character and essence—His justice, His goodness, His holy hatred of all that is evil—demands that He take two actions: (1) express His love by atoning for sin in order to make a way for people to be forgiven, and (2) then punish those who choose not to avail themselves of that love. Since we humans have indulged in sin, we lack a proper perspective for offering a correct assessment of the righteous nature of God. Hence, we lack a clear understanding of why the psalms of imprecation are spiritually pure.

PUNISHMENT IS NOT EVIL

A sixth clarification concerns the fact that punishment is right and good—and not in conflict with true compassion. Current culture has difficulty conceptualizing the fact that retribution is a godly, righteous principle that applies to individuals as well as groups of individuals (e.g., nations). All laws from God have attached to them appropriate, just penalties—which are right and good to invoke. In fact, laws without penalties would be a farce! Consider the inspired historian’s report regarding the reign of Zedekiah:
And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak; He gave them all into his hand (2 Chronicles 36:15-17, emp. added).
Observe that God “had compassion” on people in that He provided them with warnings and information that would enable them to be happy and righteous. But they spurned that instruction (even as Americans are spurning God’s moral framework today), which naturally and rightly elicited the “wrath of the Lord.” That wrath manifested itself in the form of enemies wreaking havoc on the people. The enemy “had no compassion,” which implies that God’s perfect compassion does not mean that He will exempt people from the punishment that is due them because of their own behavioral choices.
Interestingly, we humans have built into our nature a realization of this spiritual principle (that cannot be accounted for on the basis of naturalistic evolution). We, in fact, approve of punishment when properly inflicted—from the proper discipline of children to the punishment of a mass murderer. We are no more to be blamed for approving the punishment of the guilty than we are for approving the acquittal of the innocent. God authored both the law and the proper penalties of law (the “curse” of Galatians 3:10). Peter implied the appropriateness of punishment when he asked Christians: “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?” (1 Peter 2:20). Corporal punishment for certain faults is right (cf. Deuteronomy 25:2; Psalm 89:32; Luke 12:47-48). Indeed, the Bible insightfully affirms: “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart” (Proverbs 20:30). [NOTE: Parents who refuse to spank their children, mistakenly buying into current culture’s warped assessment of what constitutes proper discipline, fail to grasp God’s own directives on the matter (e.g., Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15,17).]
God’s nature defines sin and punishment. Law was given by God to define crime and designate its just penalty. The more our society moves away from firm commitment to law and punishment, the more our society will be crime-ridden and filled with anarchy and bloodshed. Liberals—in both the church and society at large—continually chip away at the divinely bestowed power of law and its due punishment. This incessant dissolution has been transpiring in the penal system of America for over 50 years. It is associated with the significant shift from focus on the rights of the victim to the rights of the criminal.

Due Punishment

One sample of this malady is seen in the liberal media’s attempt to paint punishment as somehow mean, cruel, and barbaric. As an example, the media tried to create public sympathy for a woman convicted in 1984 of murdering two people in Houston, Texas. Karla Faye Tucker participated with her boyfriend in the brutal, horrifying death of a couple lying in bed when she used a pickax to puncture her victim with multiple stab wounds. After sitting on death row for nine years, her lawyer and other supporters insisted that “she has now undergone a startling change. She has found religion, has pursued an education and does not deserve to die” (“Texas Set…,” 1992). Tucker, herself, contended that she is “a changed woman who has found God and can serve as a resource for others if her death sentence is changed to life in prison” (“Woman’s Texas…,” 1998). Observe that by accentuating the perpetrator as a woman—and the first woman to be executed since the Civil War—as well as stressing that she has “found religion,” the media sought to divert attention away from the gravity and heinousness of her behavior by playing on emotion and pointing to completely irrelevant information. The transparent assumption is that due punishment for flagrant crime is somehow inherently evil, unmerciful, or unforgiving.
Such notions are fraught with misconception and spiritual confusion. They betray the critical realization that such people are unacquainted with the infinite, perfect God; they lack an accurate assessment of the nature of deity. They fail to understand that God’s forgiveness of sin extends to theguilt of sin—not its physical consequences. Contrast Karla Faye’s uninformed, biblically illiterate attitude with that of Paul who, when he stood before Porcius Festus, the Roman procurator of Judea, to give account of accusations made against him, declared: “If I am an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying” (Acts 25:11, emp. added). Here is inspired, tacit acknowledgement of the validity of capital punishment—due punishment for behavior that is worthy of death. Imagine if Karla Faye had known her Bible well enough to announce to the world that, while she now understood the Gospel and had submitted herself to Christ, nevertheless, she fully recognized her guilt and was perfectly willing to receive the proper punishment due for her crimes against society. The liberal media, no doubt, would have immediately silenced her by refusing to report such a statement—a statement that would have immediately “taken the wind out of the sails” of their propaganda.
God has always harnessed civil government to take vengeance on those who need to be punished. As Paul explained to Christians in Rome: “For he [the civil government—DM] is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4). For the government to “bear the sword” (i.e., utilize capital punishment) is “good” and it is not “in vain,” i.e., it is not an inappropriate or useless action. It is God’s will for those who perpetrate crimes on society to be confronted and properly processed in accordance with righteous principles. God requires each person to bear responsibility for his or her own actions. This principle was articulated repeatedly by God in the civil law code He gave to the Israelites by means of the phrases “his blood shall be upon him” (Leviticus 20:9,13,27; Deuteronomy 19:10; Ezekiel 18:13; 33:5) and “his blood be on his own head” (Joshua 2:19; 2 Samuel 1:16; Ezekiel 33:4; Acts 18:6).

Misdefined Compassion

Much of American society has been severed from the moral framework God gave to nations to make sense of human behavior. Most people merely make their moral and ethical decisions based on their personal opinions, rooted largely in their emotions and feelings—how things seem to them. They misdefine “compassion.” Only Deity is capable of defining compassion, and harmonizing it with justice and punishment. The Law of Moses provides God’s delineation of appropriate punishment in the broad, summarizing declaration of the lex talionis: “Your eye shall not pity; but life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21). This prescription was neither unloving nor immoral. It was intended to promote just and fair punishment.
By altering God’s laws, thinking we are being compassionate and merciful (i.e., allowing our “eye to show pity”), we can be guilty of circumventing and frustrating the purposes of God. Indeed, many arrogant politicians and judges are guilty of thinking they are more loving than God. They redefine love to mean sentimentality, subjective feelings, and an attitude of “tolerance” that insists on all people being allowed to do anything they desire—without question or condemnation. They are unable or unwilling to grasp the idea that God will continue to love every person consigned to hell—even as loving parents reluctantly inflict pain on their children in the form of proper discipline. True compassion does not and cannot exclude the application of just punishment. Indeed, genuine love embraces it.
The wholesome blending of compassion and justice is actually seen in the imprecatory psalms themselves. For example, in Psalm 109 David explains that the wicked had exchanged the love and goodness that he had extended to them for hatred and evil: “In return for my love they are my accusers, but I give myself to prayer. Thus they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love (vss. 4-5, emp. added). Psalm 83 couples the psalmist’s call for the shame and dismay of the wicked with a desire that they come to their senses, abandon their evil behavior, and get themselves right with God: “Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O LORD. Let them be confounded and dismayed forever; yes, let them be put to shame and perish, that they may know that You, whose name alone is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth” (vss. 16-18, emp. added). The psalmist even prayed for his enemies (35:12-14), even as Christians are admonished to do (Matthew 5:44). Following through with appropriate punishment of the one who spurns love is, in reality, a further extension of love—love for good and right, love for God, and yes, love for the wicked. Today’s distorted understanding of these eternal principles would imply that those who would condemn Satan himself ought to be derided as “intolerant,” “unloving,” and guilty of “hate speech.”

Justifying the Wicked

The same malady has infected the criminal justice system, which has been transformed into a bargaining establishment in which prosecutors and defense attorneys barter with each other over the guilty—the prosecutor seeking to get as stringent a punishment as possible for the accused, while the defense attorney seeks to get his client minimal punishment. The premiere and ultimate concern of guilt or innocence has been swept aside. How many murderers have received prison sentences—some of which even permit eventual release? The words of God spoken through the Law of Moses desperately need to be heard today: “Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murdererwho is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death” (Numbers 35:31). The justice system has come to specialize in “plea bargaining”—another expression for taking ransom for the life of the murderer. How dare any judge or jury spare the life of a person that God demands to be executed! God warned the Israelites: “Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will notjustify the wicked” (Exodus 23:7, emp. added). God declares that He will not justify the person who kills an innocent person. Yet, how many lawyers seek to acquit their guiltyclients, thereby justifying the wicked? [NOTE: For the Bible view of capital punishment, see Miller, 2012.]
Writing over a century ago, Moses Lard commented on the negative impact on American society of the crime of murder (listed in Romans 1:29), and predicted a frightful reaction from God for America’s failure to address the crime in accordance with His will—
This crime, according to the Bible, should always be punished with death. But in our day, especially in our country, it generally brings with it only a good deal of notoriety, and not death. But we may rest assured of this, that God will one day visit on the people of this country a fearful retribution for the indulgence which they show to the crime. Take the life of him who willfully and with malice takes the life of his fellow man—do this surely, do it in all cases, and murder will cease. Fail to do this, and you breed mobs; for the world is apt to feel that a murderer hung by a mob is a less evil than a murderer turned loose by a corrupt court of law, to murder again at will. That is a morbid and most pernicious sentiment which forgets what is due to God, to society, and to the murdered, through sickly sympathy for the murderer. It is devoid of justice; nor is it any proper expression of mercy (1875, p. 64, emp. added).
Writing 70 years later, R.L. Whiteside echoed similar sentiments:
It is foolish to expect anything but an increase of murders…. Three things will decrease murders—: namely, (1) quick and sure punishment of the killer, (2) impress upon the growing generation higher regard for human life, and (3) teach them a deeper reverence of God and his word by impressing upon them that God is the rightful ruler and that we must give account to him. And it would do a lot of good for people to be reminded that a lot of foolish speculation does not abolish hell (1945, p. 42, emp. added).
These observations suggest that American society has been traveling down a road for over a century in which a healthy, sensible, indispensable view of crime and punishment has been steadily eroding. We are now reaping the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).

CONDEMNING EVIL IS RIGHT

A final clarification that establishes the legitimacy and divinity of the imprecatory psalms is seen in the fact that pronouncing a person’s dire spiritual predicament is holy, right, and good (Proverbs 27:5). The current “politically correct” portion of society, no doubt desiring to justify their own sins (Luke 10:29), claims that pinpointing misconduct is “mean-spirited,” “judgmental,” “intolerant,” and “hate speech.” But the spiritually-minded person, the one who has sought to emulate the spirit and temperament of Deity, understands the value and the necessity of being forthright in the condemnation of behavior that endangers society and souls. That is why Peter, quoted earlier, reacted so abruptly to Simon’s attempt to bribe the apostles with money. That is why Paul could write by inspiration concerning the Judaizing teachers who sought to subvert souls: “I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!” (Galatians 5:12). And it is why, in Matthew 23, Jesus Himself pronounced seven “woes” on the Pharisees, labeling them “hypocrites,” “sons of hell,” “blind guides,” “fools and blind,” “whitewashed tombs,” “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness,” and “serpents, brood of vipers.” Imprecations were designed to signal a spiritual state of emergency in which the righteous person is fighting desperately for God’s honor and reputation—while attempting to reclaim the recalcitrant. Imprecations even provide encouragement and reassurance for the faithful, motivating them to take courage and press the spiritual battle.

SUMMARY

All of these observations point to the fact that it cannot be inherently wrong to desire the downfall and appropriate punishment of God’s enemies. Those who are intensely interested in seeing God’s will done on Earth (Matthew 6:10), will yearn and pray for God’s justice to be done for all—with punishment inflicted on those who deserve it. This may be done without personal malice, or a vindictive or revengeful spirit. Indeed, the imprecatory psalms are—
  • Pure, unselfish zeal for the honor of God;
  • Holy hatred of that which is contrary to the nature of God and His divine purposes;
  • Righteous indignation—anger without sin (Ephesians 4:26);
  • A desire to see the righteous character of God vindicated;
  • A desire that those who hold God in contempt be held accountable;
  • A desire to give glory to God’s justice and goodness.

One Question

But what are we to make of the apparent tension between the exclamations of the “imprecatory psalms” and the passages that warn the faithful not to glory in the death of the wicked? For example, Obadiah 12 warns: “But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother in the day of his captivity; nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; nor should you have spoken proudly in the day of distress.” Proverbs 24:17 states: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” [NOTE: Jonah was wanting in this regard (Jonah 4:1).] Jesus commanded love for enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:35). Paul said Christians are to bless those who persecute them, overcome evil with good, and never render evil for evil (Romans 12:14,21; 1 Thessalonians 5:15). Peter said the same (1 Peter 3:9).
The answer lies in the fact that, like God, we do not desire that anyone be lost eternally. We take no joy or delight in those who die lost and face eternal torment. We hold no ill will or desire for personal vengeance against those who wrong us. Concerning this feature of the divine nature, Ezekiel 33:11 quotes God as saying: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die?” Paul alluded to this feature of divinity as well when he said that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, emp. added). Peter added that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emp. added). It is God’s will that no human being go to hell! Hence, all who are consigned to hell will have chosen to be there, based on the choicesthey made during their one and only probationary period on Earth. They cannot logically or justly blame anyone else for their own choices.
In perfect harmony with this principle is the fact that we should desire that those who refuse to turn from their evil ways be held accountable accordingly (cf. Moses’ attitude in Numbers 14:13-23). What person in his or her right mind does not want to see a child rapist—say one who has sexually assaulted a five-year-old girl—be caught and punished for his foul deeds? While we should not harbor hatred in our hearts for such a degraded individual, we should possess a righteous desire that he be called to account for his heinous behavior and properly punished. This rational, righteous desire is one critical principle that is reflected in the imprecatory psalms.
For all wicked behavior (as defined by God Himself), we should desire to see His righteous character vindicated. Like the psalmist, we should be content to trust God that He will render suitable vengeance in His own way, in His own good time. Though God does not want anyone to be lost; though He loves—with a perfect love—every single person who has lived on Earth throughout the thousands of years of human history; nevertheless, He has plainly declared that He will consign the vast majority of them to a place of unending torment (Matthew 7:14; cf. Butt, 2012). We must respect this logical principle—and urge all humans to emulate it.

CONCLUSION

The imprecatory psalms cannot rationally be used by atheists and skeptics to disprove the divine origin of the Bible. Indeed, such material is precisely what we would expect to encounter in a document produced by a holy, infinite God. No logical argument, using the imprecatory psalms, may be set forth that proves that the Bible is not inspired by God.
All people on Earth are under obligation to face spiritual reality before it is too late. The ultimate imprecation looms before us. Hear the words of Jesus: “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5, emp. added). The threat of, and consignment to, hell is neither unloving nor unholy. All persons of accountable age and mind have the ability to choose the right course in life that will terminate in the heavenly home (Revelation 21:10-27). The God of the Bible earnestly desires and expects us to exercise that ability. Each individual decides his own eternal destiny by his own actions while on Earth.

REFERENCES

Barnes, Albert (2005 reprint), Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Butt, Kyle (2012), “Why Did God Create People—Knowing That Many Would Go to Hell?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=4194.
Dungan, D.R. (1888), Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Lard, Moses (1875), Commentary on Paul’s Letter to Romans (Lexington, KY: Transylvania Printing and Publishing).
Lyons, Eric (2004), “How Rude!?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=770.
McKinsey, Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (New York: Prometheus Books).
Miller, Dave (2012), “Capital Punishment and the Bible,” Reason & Revelation, 32[7]:62-64,68-71.
“Texas Set to Execute First Woman Since 1863” (1992), The New York Times, June 21,http://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/21/us/texas-set-to-execute-first-woman-since-1863.html.
Vjack (2009), “Psalm 109:8 Reveals Christian Extremist Hate,” Atheist Revolution, November 23,http://www.atheistrev.com/2009/11/psalm-1098-reveals-christian-extremist.html.
Whiteside, R.L. (1945), A New Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Saints at Rome (Denton, TX: Inys Whiteside).
“Woman’s Texas Execution to Proceed” (1998), CNN, February 2,http://www.cnn.com/US/9802/02/tucker/index.html.

Robotic Hummingbird Defies Evolution by Kyle Butt, M.A.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=3832

Robotic Hummingbird Defies Evolution

by Kyle Butt, M.A.

Imagine looking out your window one morning as the birds come to the feeder and seeing a hummingbird. As you look closer, however, you realize this is no ordinary hummingbird. It hovers, moves forward and backward, and is about the same size as other hummingbirds that you have seen, but this one has some striking differences. It is made out of lightweight, synthetic material and has a camera in its stomach, which is pointing right at you, filming everything you are doing! Anyone staring at a camera-laden hummingbird droid would immediately wonder who designed the machine and why it was sent. No one would entertain the idea that the perfectly functioning robot somehow evolved from natural processes that were at work in a junkyard down the street.
While this hummingbird robot sounds more like science fiction than science, it happens to be the latest gismo produced by the California-based company AeroVironment (Watson, 2011). Watson reported that the “Pentagon has poured millions of dollars into the development of tiny dronesinspired by biology” (2011, emp. added). The product of this research is a robotic hummingbird “with a 6.5-inch wing span” that weighs “less than a AA battery and can fly at speeds up to 11 mph” (2011). The device has taken AeroVironment five years to produce and cost about four million dollars.

NAV program  http://www.apologeticspress.org/MediaPlayer.aspx?media=3830

When compared to a “real,” living hummingbird, this contraption looks clumsy. Real hummingbirds can fly 25 miles per hour, and reach diving speeds of 60 miles per hour. They normally flap their wings about 50 times per second, but can flap them up to 200 times per second. If the amazing mechanical hummingbird took millions of dollars, several years, and a host of brilliant engineers to design, what are we forced to conclude about the real thing? Whoever designed it must have been more intelligent than the combined intelligence of the entire human engineering populace, since this latest hummingbird robot represents the very best humans can do. The supposed naturalistic process of evolution could never account for a creature like the hummingbird, nor for a mechanical imitation of it. When God asked the patriarch Job, “Does the hawk fly by your wisdom?” (Job 39:26), He was stressing the fact that flying creatures like hawks and hummingbirds provide outstanding evidence that God exists, and He knows infinitely more about everything than man does.


REFERENCE

Watson, Julie (2011), “Tiny Spy Planes Could Mimic Birds, Insects,” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110301/ap_on_re_us/us_hummingbird_drone/print.

Dragon Legends and Dinosaurs by Eric Lyons, M.Min.



http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=815

Dragon Legends and Dinosaurs

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Q.

What place do dragon legends have in a discussion about dinosaurs?

A.

If dinosaurs and humans once walked the Earth together (as the Bible implicitly teaches—cf. Exodus 20:11), it is reasonable to conclude that humans would have left behind at least two different types of evidence. First, similar to how we take pictures of places we visit and wildlife we see in modern times, those living in previous centuries or millennia would likely have drawn or carved pictures of dinosaurs, as well as many other animals. (Indeed, the evidence indicates such artwork was left behind; seeLyons and Butt, 2005). Second, just as we tell stories today of things that we have seen and heard, ancient peoples would also have told stories about dinosaurs, if they ever encountered these creatures. Do such stories exist? They certainly do.
A wide variety of stories of reptiles have been passed down from cultures all over the world (see Shuker, 1995, pp. 6-7). Many of these creatures sound very much like dinosaurs, or dinosaur-like (marine or flying) reptiles. However, they are not called dinosaurs in these stories, but “dragons.” Since the term “dinosaur” (from the Greek words deinos, meaning “fearfully great,” and sauros, meaning “lizard” or “reptile”) was not coined until the early 1840s, stories told previously of “fearfully great reptiles” would not have included the word dinosaur. Instead, the name attached to these creatures was “dragon.”
Have some elements of “dragon legends” been embellished over time? Of course. But, such inaccuracies do not negate the overall truth that reptiles of many different shapes and sizes once lived with humans—no more than the differences in worldwide flood legends mean we must discount the idea of a worldwide flood (see Lyons and Butt, 2003).
What rational explanation exists for the hundreds of dragon legends around the world? Although such stories are not the most powerful proof for the one-time coexistence of dinosaurs and humans, they still testify loudly to the fact that dinosaurs and humans once lived together.

REFERENCES

Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2003), “Legends of the Flood,” Reason & Revelation, 23[11]:102-103, November.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2005), “Our Trip Out West—To See the ‘Dinosaurs’,” Reason & Revelation, 4[3]:9-R-11-R, March.
Shuker, Karl (1995), Dragons: A Natural History (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster).

Must the Children Suffer? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=4185

Must the Children Suffer?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Arriving at the border of the Promised Land, the Israelites sent out 12 spies to reconnoiter the areas. When 10 of the 12 spies brought back an “evil”(Numbers 13:32) analysis of Canaan’s conditions and the people accepted their faithless assessment. God condemned the population to 40 years of desert meandering until all those 20 years and older had died (Numbers 14:29). God would only permit the next generation to enter the land (Numbers 14:30-31).
But what, in the meantime, were these children, the younger generation, to do? Must they actually suffer for their parents’ sin and wander in the desert for 40 years as well? Notice God’s answer: “And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity…” (Numbers 14:33). Other translations render the last phrase “suffer for your unfaithfulness” (NASB, NIV; cf. ESV, RSV). The children would suffer for the unfaithfulness of their parents. Many people simply do not accept this biblical principle. They cannot see how the innocent can suffer for the sins of others. This misconception easily leads to further error: seeking to offset the unavoidable consequences of man’s disobedience to God (cf. Numbers 14:40-45).
When parents forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:25), their sin takes its toll on their children in the form of lost teaching, poor parental example, absence of Christian association, etc. The childrensuffer for their parents’ sin.
When parents abuse their bodies by taking drugs, drinking alcohol, smoking, contracting venereal disease, etc., their children experience physical problems at birth and later hardships in the form of inadequate nutrition, insufficient finances, neglect, etc. The children suffer for their parents’ sin.
When parents hypocritically instruct their children to conduct themselves in certain ways, but then fail to follow their own advice and excuse their behavior by telling their children to “do as I say, not as I do,” the children grow up rejecting the parents’ good instruction. The children suffer for their parents’ sin.
When parents divorce and remarry in violation of God’s law, forming an adulterous union that, in God’s sight, cannot continue, the children experience rejection, loneliness, bewilderment. If the parents obey God and terminate the unlawful marriage, the children will live in a home environment that’s not all it could have been. The children will suffer for their parents’ sin. But such is no justification for encouraging the parents to continue committing adultery in order to minimize the children’s suffering.
Must the children suffer? Sadly, tragically, yes—when parents sin. But rather than change God’s law, doubt God’s mercy, or dodge the consequences of sin, put the blame where it belongs: man’s defiance of God. Then, obey God—no matter what.

The Land of Nod by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


http://apologeticspress.org/AllegedDiscrepancies.aspx?article=696&b=Genesis

The Land of Nod

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

After Cain killed Abel and was declared a “fugitive and vagabond” by God (Genesis 4:12), the Bible says that he “went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod” (4:16). It was in this land that “Cain knew his wife” (4:17), and it was here that his son, Enoch, was born.
When a person reads about Nod in Genesis 4, he often pictures a land where a large group of people already were dwelling by the time Cain arrived. Because the Bible gives this land a name (“Nod”), many assume it was called such before Cain went there. Furthermore, many believe that it was in this land that Cain found his wife. Based upon these assumptions, some even claim that God must have specially created other humans besides Adam and Eve, otherwise there would not have been a land of Nod, nor would Cain have been able to find a wife there. Are these assumptions and conclusions correct? What can be said about these matters?
It is very likely that when Moses wrote the name “Nod” (Genesis 4:16), he was using a figure of speech called “prolepsis” (the assignment of something, such as an event or name, to a time that precedes it). People often use prolepsis for the sake of convenience, so that the reader or audience can better understand what is being communicated. For example, I might say, “My wife and I dated two years before we got married,” when actually she was not my wife when we were dating, but a very dear friend. We may see a special on television about when President George W. Bush was a boy, but the fact is, George W. Bush was not President of the United States when he was a child. From time to time, even the Bible uses this kind of language. In John 11, the Bible speaks of a woman named Mary who “anointed the Lord with ointment” (11:1-2), yet this anointing actually did not occur for about three months. John merely spoke about it as having already happened because when he wrote his gospel account this event was generally known. Another example of pro­lepsis is found in Genesis 13:3 where we read that Abraham “went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel.” This area actually did not wear the name Bethel until years later when Jacob gave it that name (Genesis 28:19). However, when Moses wrote of this name hundreds of years later, he was free to use it even when writing about a time before the name actually was given.
When Moses used the name Nod in Genesis 4, the reader must understand the land probably was not given that name until sometime after Cain moved there. This is consistent with the meaning of the name Nod (“wandering”), which in all probability was given because God told Cain he was to be a wanderer upon the Earth (Genesis 4:12). Thus, the land of Nod almost certainly was not an area filled with people whom Cain would eventually befriend. It would become that in time; nevertheless, it probably was not such a place upon his arrival.
But, someone might ask, did Cain not find his wife in the land of Nod? Actually, the Bible never tells us that Cain’s wife came from Nod. The text simply says that Cain “dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch” (Genesis 4:16-17).
To conclude that God specially created others besides Adam and Eve because “there was a large group of people living in Nod when Cain arrived” and “from this group Cain got his wife” is faulty reasoning and sheer speculation. Scripture does not teach the above premises, nor does it ever hint that God specially created others than Adam and Eve. In fact, the Bible teaches the very opposite when it explicitly states that Adam was the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45) and that Eve would be the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20, emp. added). It seems clear that there could have been no other people on the Earth contemporaneous with them (except, of course, their own children). Even though some allege that God specially created other people in addition to Adam and Eve during the creation week, such cannot be defended logically in light of what Scripture teaches.

From Jim McGuiggan... SEARCHERS ON A ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

SEARCHERS ON A ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

     The Acts 8 story is about a black gentleman riding in a chariot on a “desert road” making his way back home to the Sudan area. He’s been to church in Jerusalem and he just happens to be reading the Bible when the gracious and mysterious God meets up with him.
     Fancy that! This man was lucky wasn’t he? The time and place just happened to coincide—I mean that deserted road, just at that time; a couple of hours later and they wouldn’t have met. What if an axle had broken in the outskirts of Jerusalem, what if he had met one of his friends who begged him to stay another couple of days; what if this or that?
     Yes, but we can’t go along with that “good luck” story. Luke tells us this wasn’t chance when he tells us that the angel of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, the gospel preacher and the living Scriptures all worked together in the historically important event.
     But while it’s clear in Luke’s story that this wasn't good luck we’re still tempted to reduce so much in our own experiences to “luck” or “chance”. We can't prove that God was at work, don't you see, and there are too many ways of interpreting what is happening in our lives. I get that! That makes sense and that’s one purpose for the miracles wrought by Christ and his Church in those days when a new creation came into being. Miracles clearly aren't chance events  (be sure to see John 14:11; 15:22-25; Acts 2:22 and elsewhere for the evidential power of miracles though miracles are more than proofs of an extraordinary claim).
      When we’re hungry for something better, for hope that’s real, for something greater than the powers that be, something better and bigger than ourselves and God comes looking for us, it doesn’t matter if it’s on a deserted road or in the middle of a bustling city, in a prison cell or in a dismal little apartment—when God comes looking for us it has nothing to do with “luck”.
     I don’t understand God’s reason for working as he does. Like many others I can say some “sensible” things but there are too many questions left unanswered, too many other ways of looking at “the facts”. Life is what it is but stories like this one invite us, even encourages us to believe that there’s more to life than what meets the eye and more than can be worked out by our very limited insights.
     We must remember that Luke frames the story with truths invisible to the eye and the eunuch experienced nothing out of the ordinary. His story would have been: “I was heading home from Jerusalem and was reading the prophets and this man happened to meet us. We got into a Bible study and he told me about Jesus Christ…” He saw no angel, the Holy Spirit didn’t work wonders and the man was just a man like other men though he knew the Bible. It was all perfectly “normal” except that the God who seeks us all, wherever we are, was at work in the “normal”.
     From Meröe (in Sudan) to Jerusalem is a long way but the gentleman made the trip. Overland it’s something more than 1,800 miles via Cairo. He would have begun his journey in the highlands of central Africa and sailed down the longest river on earth for more than 1,300 miles to Cairo. Then he would have got off the boat and traveled overland more than four hundred additional miles to Jerusalem. The story’s told in Acts 8:26-40.
     What a journey! And why does he make it? We’re told he wanted to worship! But, bless me, he could have worshiped just about anywhere; he could have done that at Meröe, without leaving home! And on both banks of the Nile there were green strips of fertile land made possible by the life-giving river, but immediately beyond them in the wilderness areas with their intimidating cliff formations dwelled the gods of Egypt. He could have worshiped at Luxor or Karnack or Thebes; he could have worshiped at shrines in numerous places; there were plenty of priests and temple servants around but he would have none of it—he sailed by them because his heart was set on the one true God whose central place of public worship had been Jerusalem! The truth is, it wasn’t a place he sought—it was a Person! He wanted to be where that Person had made his presence and truth known for centuries.
     He knew what he was seeking but what he hadn’t known until that day when God met him on a road not much used was this: the Holy One was more fervently looking for him.
     No one seeing him would have pitied him because he was the Finance Minister to one of the famed queens of Nubia—the Kandake. Look at him, an educated, accomplished, esteemed and God-hungry man who didn’t mind confessing he needed help to glorify God. “I need help to understand what I’m reading,” he said at a critical moment in his life. When the man asked him if he understood what he was reading he didn’t sneer or take offense; he didn’t let his education and grand status go to his head. “I need help,” he said!
     He’s never named but he’s called the “eunuch” five times.1 In some sense a eunuch, along with foreigners, was excluded from membership in the People of Israel. The idea that God despised eunuchs (or anyone else) is simply not true but eunuchs were not permitted to live and function as a part of Israel.2
     Whatever happened at Jerusalem, however exclusion showed itself, it might well have been that among all the thousands of God-worshipers present that the purest heart present was the heart of that eunuch who despite his devotion to God was to stay on the outer fringe. One of the beauties of this man is that despite his knowing that he was in some sense not permitted into the “inner circle” his devotion to the God who knew about Deuteronomy 23:1 was profound and pure and God must have been pleased.
     It would help us to understand what is going on here in this story if we keep all this in mind. The man’s social or intellectual status is not in question; his religious convictions are not disputed and certainly his religious sincerity and practice is an example we’d all be pleased to follow.
     So what’s the central message of the event? He’s an “outsider,” he’s been excluded! For all his accomplishments society would see him as “damaged goods”; for all his sincere religious devotion he was “excluded” from fellowship in the People of Israel. 3
     As Isaiah tells the story (52:13—53:12) Israel itself was misunderstood. It too was abused by nations more powerful than them and they would have been despised but the abusive kings would be startled when they learned that Israel’s sufferings were the way to world blessing (52:13-15).
     Apostate Israel as a whole would come to understand that the faithful remnant within them was sharing their suffering in order to bring them blessings (Isaiah 49:1-9 and Acts 13:46-47, note the “us”). And the faithful would come to know that Jesus shared the suffering of his own nation that salvation might come to all the nations of the world, that all the “outsiders” could experience the full salvation and fellowship of God.
     That’s what the eunuch heard! He found himself spoken of in the Bible and couldn’t wait to get “in”.
     One of the central themes of Luke’s writings as he tells the Story of God as it climaxes in Jesus Christ is this: God has come to embrace all those who are clearly “outsiders”; he has come to offer them fellowship in the person of Jesus Christ. Jews. Gentiles, women, the truly poor, the despised rich, those who wander the earth on the moral outer fringes, Samaritans and all those who in one way or another and for one reason or another are imprisoned and enslaved, the abused and the despised. (See Luke 4:15-21 where Jesus lays out his Spirit-given program for life and note the stress on the Holy Spirit throughout the book of Acts and in this story—8:29, 39.)
     Once more, the man in Acts 8 would not be pitied and Luke shows no interest in making him appear pitiful. Just the same, this person without a name, especially in light of his devotion to God and his reading OT Scripture would have been aware of the “distance” between God and him, would have been aware of the “distance” between society (even religious society) and him.
     Now from the very Bible that spoke of that “distance,” he hears about Jesus who is central in the very section he is reading (Isaiah 53). He hears of Jesus, who is the revelation of God—the God who has come to obliterate “distance” and to give childless people like him a name that is better than children (Isaiah 56:3-4). In hearing about Jesus he knows he is being offered more than a grudging “tolerance”.
     No wonder he wants to know, “Well, then, that means I can be baptized too, doesn’t it?” He’s claiming the privilege! He isn’t asking if he must be baptized; he wants to know why he would be refused it! That question never occurs in the entire NT and it certainly isn’t being asked here. This is an excited man who wants fully “in”! In various ways and from various perspectives, despite his moral decency, his religious sincerity and loving grasp of truth he has been classed as an “outsider”. Now he knows that in Jesus he can find all that God offers and so he claims the right to be baptized.
     The last Philip saw of him he was heading south a joyful new man. I’m pleased and choose to believe what Irenaeus tells us in Against Heresies, 3.12.8-10. The eunuch evangelized Ethiopia.

[Holy Father, so many for one reason or another are required to live on the outer fringe of society and religious life though they love you with all their hearts. There are people behind bars who can only vainly beg, “Let me out” and there are those who live in isolation and are dying as they ask, “Let me in.” Come near to them to bless them and convince them that you keep them near to your heart and that you seek them as you sought out the noble heart of the nameless man on Gaza’s road. Holy Father help us to come to believe that you run after us down the desert roads we often take, even as you did when you came to meet us on the dusty roads from Bethlehem to Golgotha. And in the light of that truth, wherever they are—in prison for just reasons, in terminal wards, in jobs that crush their spirits, in poverty that kills hope, as people without physical grace or beauty and so are forced to live in loneliness, childless and with ceaseless tears, or warring against moral weakness that leads them to believe they aren’t wanted, or in being uneducated they are insolently sent to the back of some line—in light of that truth assure them by someone and in some way of your love for them, with a smile, a word that brings hope, a look that speaks not of scorn but of sincere respect, an offer of a job, an opportunity to become equipped for something better. And bless them Loving Father with courage, even gallantry and without blinding resentment, as they search for you because by abuse and loss and being unforgiven by people around them multitudes are led to doubt you, though you are looking for them even as you went looking for this outsider. Help them Father to embrace with faith and joy the privilege of baptism into the Lord Jesus and the complete freedom when it comes to them from your loving hand through your ministers who often appear on strange and deserted roads. And may they then be pleased to spread the gospel in and around their home. In Jesus this prayer, Amen]

1. There’s good reason to believe that the biblical words behind “eunuch” should all be understood as someone who’s been castrated. It seems clear that lexical work can’t settle the issue.
2. “Exclusion” in such situations has nothing to do with “discrimination” in a hostile sense. Note that God takes responsibility for the existence of the dumb, the blind and the deaf as well as the gift of speech, hearing and seeing in Exodus 4.11.
Deuteronomy 23:1 does not say, “He that has been castrated is not loved by God!” It’s the case that we’re all “excluded” from certain functions. It’s a part of daily living and we all live happily with that unless it’s clear that the “exclusion” is unjust or due to spite, cruelty, arrogance or some such thing. In the OT the exclusion of the deformed or the mutilated is not without a loving purpose. I mean to develop this matter (God enabling) but this isn’t the place. This we need to note: had you asked the eunuch in Acts 8 about his exclusion, whatever he might have said he would not have thought it evil for he knew GOD and was pleased to worship him even in his exclusion. God’s critics, who sneer at him and aren’t prepared to give him a patient listening to, might think they’re doing the eunuch a service when they say that God despises him but he wouldn’t take their view. Among the other things the eunuch might say to the critics is this: “It wasn’t God that castrated me! His enemies did! When I’m excluded it’s one of God’s ways of marking out the self-serving evil that his enemies perpetrate on people. You call my ‘excluded’ status an outrage; I call it my opportunity to serve him as a living protest against all that marginalizes, all that’s evil—yours included.”
3. You’ll remember in Alice Walker’s marvelous book Color Purple that Celie who through no fault of her own has been badly abused by her wicked father is called “damaged goods” and for years she believes she is. Sigh.
Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan