Star Gazing

I find the science behind the Star of Bethlehem fascinating. I have always loved astronomy and Psalms 8 and 19 are among my favourites. The heavens declare the glory of God in more ways than one.

If, like me, your faith is not a blind one but uses the reason that God has given us all to bolster it and if you, like me, enjoy scientific truth searching then I think this will encourage you.

The truth is that God announced His first coming with clear signs in the heavens – which you can see now using computer software that you can buy off the shelf. These include the Star of Bethlehem which turns out to have been a particularly close conjunction between Jupiter and Venus (the second and third brightest objects in the night sky after the Moon) that took place on June 17th 2BC.

I won’t repeat here what Rick Larson has dealt with in depth in his excellent website and DVDs. To understand what I have written below I strongly recommend you read the materials at that site first.

I have created two short stories below based around pivotal events which led to the Magi (or the three wise men as they are more commonly known) leaving their city in the East and coming to a stable in Bethlehem in Judea some time up to 2 years after the star appeared. You can read that story in full in Matthew’s gospel chapter 2 verses 1-12.

The first story deals with a hypothetical lesson taught by the old testament prophet Daniel to the children of his fellow Jewish captives in Ancient Babylon about 585 BC. During this lesson, which presumes knowledge about the stars from previous lessons, Daniel explains how the Magi would know when the Messiah was coming.

The second story tries to describe the reaction of the successors of the Magi, many generations and centuries later, when they finally see the events occurring in the heavens that they had been awaiting so long.

[The Magi themselves are a fascinating study in their own right. The empire appropriate administrative systems that Daniel and his fellow Jewish exiles (Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego) put in place lasted for over a thousand years from about 600 BC to 500 AD surviving numerous dynasties and bringing untold blessings to the peoples of central Asia for all that time (Gen. 12:3). But that needs another blog.]

Daniel the Prophet Teaches Messianic Astronomy

Asenah was looking forward to today’s lesson with his super “uncle” Daniel. It was going to be on his favourite subject: Astronomy. His uncle could be scary at times but he knew so much that was fascinating and never more so than when it came to the stars. He knew all about the names of the stars and the wandering stars and the comets and meteors and eclipses and….. and well everything there was to know about everything in the sky above them. So Asenah was excited.

“Today, I am going to teach you something very special about the coming Saviour of the world.” Daniel said. Asenah knew that the stars contained a very ancient story in them about this coming Messiah who would be his people’s salvation as well as that of the whole world.

“You know that God named the stars as our esteemed prophet Isaiah and a writer of the psalms has said. So can you tell me which stars are connected with the coming King?”

Asenah and the other students knew the answers, this was an easy question. He put his hand up.

“Go ahead Micaiah, son of Shadrech” Daniel had asked Asenah’s brother for the answer.

“The wandering star Jupiter, the King of the wandering stars, and Regulus the king star in the constellation of Leo, the symbol of the tribe of Judah.” Micaiah answered.

“Very good, Micaiah. Those are indeed the two main stars associated with the coming King.”

“Anyone else want to tell me what a conjunction is?” The question that Daniel asked this time was not so easy but still several hands went up.

“Yes, Samuel son of Meshach, what is your answer?”
Samuel was one of the brighter ones in the class. He answered confidently: “A conjunction is where a wandering star and a fixed star or another wandering star meet up and dance together.”

“Well done Samuel, that is true. So today I am going to speak to you about triple conjunctions and one to look out for in particular.”

At this stage Daniel brought down one of his large star charts and spread it out on the table in the middle of the classroom. On it was drawn an accurate picture of the part of the sky above them that included the constellation Leo:

(Daniel’s star chart might not have been quite like this but would have contained the same details)

“As you know, I have a lot of these charts.”, Daniel said, stating the obvious (they were all around the classroom from floor to ceiling), “You also know how I told you what Shem, the son of Noah, told our father Abraham about the coming Messiah, how he was to look out for His signs in the heavens.

We know from our fathers the importance of the king star, Regulus, and the king wandering star (or planet as you could call it), Jupiter. You also know that Jupiter, the king planet wanders in and out among the 12 constellations of the tribes of Israel doing dances with them. So, now I am telling you, that when you see the king planet Jupiter doing a dance around the king star Regulus in the constellation of our tribe Judah – when it crowns the king star with a triple conjunction – then know that the Messiah is about to come.”

Asenah never forgot that lesson.

The Capital of the Parthian Empire 3 – 2 BC

Melchior was on star gazing duty that evening. He and his Magi companions and ancestors had been observing, taking notes and drawing up star charts for centuries now. Always the focus was on the king planet Jupiter and the king star Regulus. For over 500 years they had continued to look for the predicted dance and so often it had seemed tantalizingly close. But over the last 9 months it had finally happened.

In September of the previous year, Jupiter passed as close as it ever has to Regulus and went on its way.

Jupiter passing Regulus in September of 3 BC

In December it was half way through the constellation on its way westward when it turned back for its second pass by Regulus. It reached Regulus this second time in February. In the middle of May it went back for its third pass thus fulfilling the requirements of a triple conjunction for the first time in all the centuries they had been looking for it.

So now Melchior was out again observing and his companions had joined him because something remarkable had started happening in June. Venus was coming closer to Jupiter and tonight it looked like they would be so close they would be indistinguishable from each other. Such a close conjunction was a rare sight, but it was even more significant after the triple conjunction that had been happening over the previous 9 months.

Melchior wondered if the Messiah had been conceived in September and was being born tonight in Bethlehem in Judea as the prophet Micah foretold. These were indeed exciting times!

Jupiter and Venus in an extraordinary conjunction on June 17th, 2 BC.

The three Magi loaded up their camels. They were taking a visit to the neighboring Roman empire on a mission to see their new born king. The king planet would lead their way westward.

An Explanation and some References

The above stories about Daniel and the Magi are mainly based on information that you can find at Rick Larson’s excellent website Bethlehemstar.com. If you haven’t already read the material on that site please do so before asking me any question about this post since most of the answers to your questions can be found there.

However, some of the above stories are at least partly speculation. I will deal with some of the more speculative points below.

  1. There is no direct evidence that Noah’s son Shem interpreted the gospel in the stars to Abraham. They were both alive at the same time on earth (Shem lived to a very great age) and it is possible that Abraham met Shem. Some scholars believe that Shem was Melchizedek (see Genesis 14:18–20 and Hebrews 7). But there is no biblical evidence to suggest that Shem told Abraham what to look out for nor that Abraham subsequently passed down that information to his descendants so that Daniel knew it. It is a nice idea though, it could have been true. Either way, we are left wondering why the Magi were so knowledgeable about the star that had appeared for just one day (June 17, 2BC) and why they thought it was so special.
  2. The gospel in the stars is a theory that many people have problems with. I like it and think that it glorifies God to say that He has written the gospel in the constellations. But since we have the bible it is not something I get hung up about. If you don’t agree I don’t blame you. Just don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is no better explanation that I know of for the Bethlehem Star than the one described in detail at Larson’s site. I have written more about the gospel in the stars in this post.
  3. There is a good reason to believe that each of the 12 tribes of Israel had a corresponding constellation. The connection between the constellation of Leo and the tribe of Judah is one of the more obvious ones. I am slow to say what the other ones are but, take it that Daniel and the Magi would have taken some of this for granted even if, these days, Christians are (understandably) not inclined to look to the constellations. Again, Rick Larson does a good job of dealing with this problem.

The pictures in this post are screen shots from a computer application called Starry Night: Complete Space & Astronomy Pack available online. I love the way it is possible to verify the positions of the stars and planets on any night in history (or in the future) using a computer program. God created the universe with such order inbuilt.

Oh, and yes, the implications of this are that Jesus was actually born on June 17th, not December 25th.

Misinterpreting the Times

Jeremiah was a very unpopular prophet.

Actually, he was a full on traitor.

At a time of extreme national crisis, when the very existence of the nation of Israel was at stake, he openly and consistently advocated surrender to the enemy (Jer.38:2, 17).

Throughout his prophecies, he warned people that God was bringing on disaster if they did not repent (e.g. Jer. 17:27, 18:11). Later, as it became obvious that no one was listening (Jer. 18:12 – 17) and when they turned against him (Jer. 18:18), his prophecies became more ominous and certain (Jer. 19).

We now know that God was indeed speaking through Jeremiah as he consistently said He was. But at the time the Word of God through Jeremiah was rejected on every side by both the kings of the time and many of the people.

In one particularly telling scene, Jeremiah gets his assistant to write down all the prophecies that God had given him. During a time of national fasting, his assistant reads from the book the words of Jeremiah (Jer. 36:9-10) in the house of he Lord. These words are full of specific warnings against Israel about the judgements that God was bringing upon them (36:2) and were written by the Lord in the hope that people hearing them might turn back to Him (v.3).

A man called Michaiah, son of Gemariah, hears the words and declares them to the princes of the land (v. 11-13). After hearing these words the princes become afraid (v.16) and decide to bring them to the king (v.20). However, the words that Jeremiah is bringing are so unpopular and against the nation that the princes advise him and his assistant to “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.” (v.19).

The king’s response is scary. He listened and every few minutes he cut the read sections out with a scribe’s knife and threw them in the fire. Eventually, he burnt up the whole scroll. (v.23).

The bible goes on to say that neither the king nor his close advisors were afraid or showed any symptoms of repentance despite hearing all these words (v.24). Some brave upright men who are called out by name (v. 25) pleaded with the king not to burn the scroll but he would not listen to them. He even commanded that Jeremiah and Baruch be seized but the Lord hid them (v.26).

This story is typical of Jeremiah. Throughout the book the same themes arise again and again:

  1. God warns the people that He is bringing destruction on them because of their sins.
  2. Jeremiah faithfully repeats God’s words. He is also instructed by God on exactly how to make them clear to everyone through everyday life pictures like a potter’s wheel (chap. 18) and smashing a clay pot (chap. 19).
  3. The kings (Jeconiah and Zedekiah)* and many of the people reject the words of the Lord.
  4. Disaster ensues. The enemy comes in, takes over the kingdom and the people of God are reduced to a remnant.

This theme is repeated in graphic and shocking fashion with the people left in the land (Jer. 42-44) after the loss of the king and their nobles to Babylon. They ask Jeremiah for the Word of the Lord (42:1-3) and promise to do whatever he says (v.5). But when they hear what God has said they reject it (43:2-4)!

One of the scariest parts is that they completely misinterpret what happened and why.

They say that the kingdom was taken by the enemy because they had stopped sacrificing to a false god (the “queen of heaven” 44:18). They determined to keep going to Egypt despite God’s words to the contrary. Eventually, even there, the enemy overtakes them and they are destroyed. Only a very small remnant escape as a warning to the others (44:28-30).

Of course, Jeremiah was not the only prophet of God who was right and rejected by the kings of the day. Micaiah, the son of Imla, suffered in a similar way (2 Chron. 18).

All this goes to show is that it is very easy to get it wrong when we are looking at impending disaster or are in difficult situations.

The most important thing to learn from all of this is that you, the President (elect or current) and all his and your friends could be wrong.

And that applies to whatever side of the divide you find yourself on. It was pride – specifically national pride – that caused the people of Israel to reject God’s will for them.

Ask yourself, are you on the Lord’s side? Really? If you are confused and don’t know which side to choose then you might be closer to the Truth than you think.

*Jeconiah rejected God’s words from the beginning and was consistently opposed to Jeremiah. He is sent as a captive to Babylon where he eventually dies. Zedekiah wavered and moved back and forth between supporting Jeremiah and abandoning him to his enemies. The king of Babylon catches him while he is fleeing Jerusalem, kills his sons in front of him, blinds him and takes him captive to Babylon. Neither of them do well.

Fine Dust in the Balance

If like me you have been distracted by an election in a country far away then I hope, like me, that you will be encouraged by the Lord’s view of nations:

Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,
Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.
17 All nations before Him are as nothing,
And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.

Isaiah 40:15-17

All the nations are as nothing to God, no matter what it may look like to us. The Scriptures are quite clear about this. We need to keep our minds off earthly things:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Philippians 3:20

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 12:28

Pathetic Fallacy

Back when I was doing my Leaving Cert English course Shakespeare’s King Lear was on the curriculum.  I’m not sure was it my teacher at the time or a textbook but one of the phrases used was “pathetic fallacy”.  It referred to Shakespeare’s use of the weather in the play to reflect the action on the ground.  At the height of the worst tragedies that fell on King Lear the storms raged the worst:

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our teeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurour and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!”

King Lear, Act 3, Scene 2 by William Shakespeare

So the now forgotten commentator called this kind of matching of the elements to the moral events on the ground “pathetic fallacy”.

The attitude that such connections are pathetic lies is now so ingrained into our thinking that anyone who even remotely suggests in our “enlightened” western humanist society that God might have something to do with the weather is likely to face the worst of scorn.   And, indeed, caution is always advised when attributing any specific elemental actions (e.g. fires, earthquakes, floods, droughts, etc.) directly to God’s judgments especially at macro levels like nations (notwithstanding the fact that these acts are all called “Acts of God” for insurance and other purposes).

However, the bible is quite clear that God is in control of the weather whatever we might be told by English teachers or otherwise.   Here is one example taken from Zechariah chapter 10 in the Old Testament:

“Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime;
    it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.
He gives showers of rain to all people,
    and plants of the field to everyone.”

Zechariah 10:1

I have a number of reasons for drawing attention to this current drought and asking the question:  “Is God judging Ireland?”

One of the reasons is that I woke up with a vivid dream this morning.  In it, I was in a train travelling through the hills along the coast.  It could have been from Greystones to Bray or somewhere similar.  On hills away from the coast fires were breaking out all over.  There was a solitary fire man fighting one of them.  I didn’t see any houses go up in flames just gorse and hedges.  But there were a lot of fires and not enough firemen.

To be fair, you wouldn’t have to be much of a prophet to predict that in this weather in this country.

We are all enjoying the fine weather.  Ireland is known for its rain during the summer or indeed at any time of the year and so any respite from rain is usually welcomed by the majority of the people.  However when it comes to judging nations the bible does have quite a lot to say.  Usually judgement comes in the form of an invading force but in Zechariah chapter 14 there is this verse:

 If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain.

Zechariah 14:17

The context in this case is (probably) the millennium rule of Christ on the earth which (probably) has yet to happen.  However the principle is the same:  When God holds back rain it is not a good thing.

Scarlet Yarn

There was a lot of Old Testament ritual going on around the time of Jesus’ death on the cross.  One of these rituals was that of the Red Heifer found in Numbers 19.  There is a man involved in that ritual who was neither a priest nor a Levite but who yet had a very significant role.  Some of the following is speculation.  It presumes that the Red Heifer ritual was occurring at the same time as Jesus’ crucifixion and that the man involved saw both things happening.  By putting the two events together like this we can see how this picture in the Old Testament points to Christ like so many pictures do.

The red heifer lowed and complained as it was brought outside the city walls.  Unlike the lambs that were sacrificed in the temple it wasn’t silent as it was led to the slaughter.  It was just like any other animal in that sense.  Otherwise it wasn’t a normal animal.  It had to be specially bred.  It was chosen from birth and reared for this day of its death.

I slaughtered the red heifer in the place chosen.  I could see the man from there, hanging on the cross.  The soldiers had even taken some of the sacred hyssop from the priest as he was coming out with it and used it when offering him a sedative.  Which he refused.  Why anyone would refuse that when going through such pain I couldn’t understand.

As I had been instructed and as my predecessors had done for the last 1500 years I burnt up the red heifer’s carcass, dung and all.   The priest then added the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop he had brought.  The wood reminded me of the cross on which that man was hanging.

I saw the soldiers gamble for his tunic.  It was full of scarlet yarn like the piece the priest had thrown in the fire.  Scarlet from blood.  Isaiah’s words come to my mind as I watch them:

“Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow.”

The ashes of the red heifer were mixed with the ashes of the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop and mixed with water to make the water of purification.  This was the whole point of that red heifer’s sacrifice.  That water would then be used if anyone was in contact with dead bodies, had a skin disease or was accused of adultery.

(The featured picture is from the blog https://freedailybiblestudy.com/)

Fruit

We have two fruit trees in our back garden, a plum and a pear tree.  Both have produced an abundant crop this  year, a crop unlike any of the other 8-10 years they have been planted.

For me the plum tree represents spiritual fruit and the pear tree financial fruit.  Don’t ask me why, I think it may be the Lord teaching me some prophetic lessons.

The fruit of the plum tree is super abundant.  It is hard to imagine how such a small tree can produce so many plums.  There must be at least a thousand plums on the tree.

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Over the last few Sundays we have brought a lot of the plums to the church we attend where they were eagerly devoured in a matter of minutes.  Olive also made a couple of plum tarts for the family which we all enjoyed.  During the weeks of the harvest I have been eating a couple of plums a day, the rest of the family have been eating some as well.

However a lot of the fruit is not as sweet as we would like it to be.  It’s quality is not great and we seem to remember that in other years the fruit tasted better even though there was much less of it.

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During the months leading up to the harvest we neglected the tree.  One day when I did get out to look at it late in the season before the fruit was ripe, I noticed that the tree was utterly infested with greenfly.  The leaves were curling and some branches had grown with no fruit but totally covered with greenfly.  I took away the worst infested of these.  This action seemed to improve the situation later.

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Nevertheless the fruit kept coming.  In the end a lot of it fell off the tree and was inedible as soon as it was on the ground for any length of time.  Slugs and other less visible insects quickly spoil the fruit.  Some of it shriveled on the tree and never fully ripened, others were attacked by wasps and spiders while still on the tree.

20170910_104427

At various stages I was torn as to whether to harvest the plums off the tree or not.  We didn’t seem to get enough sun and the plums didn’t seem ready to fall off the tree.

As I said I imagine this is a spiritual picture of what can happen if we neglect the spiritual fruit of our lives or allow sin to take over.  The results can be mixed.  Much of the fruit is good and useful but a lot is lost through neglect, disease and demon interference.


The pear tree has also produced a lot of fruit.  There must have been about 100 pears.

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In contrast with the plums this fruit is almost perfect.  We have lost a couple to windfall but on the whole we have been very successful in harvesting and using them.

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We brought some to the church, made cakes out of others and I and the family have been having one each per day for the last few weeks.  The cakes didn’t last long.


Fruit is a seasonal phenomenon.  Based on how little or how much attention we pay during the earlier parts of the year, and on the weather, next autumn there could be more or there might be very little fruit on the trees.  Professional fruit growers seem to know how to produce a large, high quality fruit harvest on trees year after year though I think even they are at the mercy of the weather.  It takes God’s favour, and a farmer’s skill, nurturing and time to create a consistently abundant, high quality harvest.

How is your fruit?

Magi, Empires and Prophets

When Herod was king of Judea, there were two great empires that disputed the ownership of his land. On the one side were the Romans who had conquered it some years earlier. On the other were the Persians who had been there long before the Romans.

Hundreds of years earlier (586 BC) Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians. Through a number of miraculous events that you can read about in the Book of Daniel, some Jewish exiles had risen to a place of great prominence in that empire. It wasn’t long before the Medes & Persians conquered the Babylonians. Remarkably, Daniel and his friends kept their positions of power through the transition.

The Pleiades

Daniel was probably the first of the Magi, the kingmakers of the Persian Empire. There is some speculation here but it would appear that he knew what star (or events in the heavens) to watch out for and told his successors. You can read all about the Star of Bethlehem and the astonishing (and verifiable) astronomical events that surround the birth of Jesus at this site.

When the Magi of Herod’s day saw the signs they headed off to Jerusalem following the star. There were probably a lot more than three of them. This was the Persian empire setting off a Cuban missile crisis type of event with their arch enemies the Romans. They were laying claim to the land of Judah. Herod and all Jerusalem were disturbed with bloody results.

A King had been born. Wise men sought him. They still do.

Matthew 1: 1-18

Prophesying in the name of the Lord

25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

30 “Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. 31 Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ 32 Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the Lord. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the Lord.

33 “When these people, or a prophet or a priest, ask you, ‘What is the message from the Lord?’ say to them, ‘What message? I will forsake you, declares the Lord.’ 34 If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ I will punish them and their household. 35 This is what each of you keeps saying to your friends and other Israelites: ‘What is the Lord’s answer?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 36 But you must not mention ‘a message from the Lord’ again, because each one’s word becomes their own message. So you distort the words of the living God, the Lord Almighty, our God. 37 This is what you keep saying to a prophet: ‘What is the Lord’s answer to you?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 38 Although you claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ this is what the Lord says: You used the words, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ even though I told you that you must not claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord.’ 39 Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your ancestors. 40 I will bring on you everlasting disgrace—everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”

Jeremiah 23:25-40

The Lord makes a point about prophesying in the name of the Lord in Jeremiah 23:34-40. He says that that phrase: “Thus says the Lord” and others like it have been misused so much that they now bring dishonor to His name. People have used this kind of phrase to give authority to their own ideas and in so doing have turned the words of God on their head.

In Jeremiah 31:34 God says no one needs to teach those who know the Lord. You don’t need to say “Thus says the Lord” or anything like that to a listening ear. If it is the word of the Lord He can speak for Himself.

Cursing while praying

The Imprecatory Psalms

Psalm 12

What is wrong? 2010-10-12-True-for-Now

Liars on every side, no faithful men to be found, people using powerful and clever words to achieve their own ends.  Sounds like a normal day in the business world.

What is the curse?

May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue. V.3

Application

The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honoured among men.  There needs to be honesty and truth in all our dealings with each other.  If a man says he will do something, he should do it.  Bluffers and wafflers need to be shown up, not honoured.  The “cute whore” nod-nod, wink –wink, mentality that pervaded Irish life and politics and was honoured in certain political parties led to the wicked freely having their way in corruption and theft.  It doesn’t appear so much now because we all see the consequences.  It would have been better if some specific prayer similar to verse 3 was sent up to God about some of these men.  We might have been saved a lot of trouble.

Psalm 35

What is wrong?

The author is under attack.  Some are seeking to kill him or ruin him, others to repay him evil for the good he has done them.  And others are gloating over his distress.

5-Wednesday-Day-Three-Pic-1-Saul-and-David-300x204

 

What is the curse?

 

LORD, do unto them as they would do unto me.  Put them to shame and confusion.

Application

I don’t think many of us have human enemies of the sort David did at the time he wrote this psalm.  However we all have spiritual enemies who would seek to do same things as described in this psalm.  They should be cursed in the same way, i.e. by calling upon God to judge them (cf. Jude 8-10).

Psalm 58

What is wrong?

Wicked rulers.00733518.jpg

What is the curse?

LORD, destroy their power and get rid of them.

Application

We all know dictators that it would be good to curse in this way even now never mind Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Phot and the list of other despots that there have been through the ages.  The amount of misery such men can inflict makes these curses wholly appropriate.

Psalm 59

What is wrong?

The author is under attack from a group of men who besiege him and are out to slander and kill him (probably Saul’s men according to the heading).

What is the curse?

LORD, punish them, show no mercy, but don’t just kill them, make them wander about and let them be caught first and then consume them in wrath and destroy them utterly.  I don’t know why David said not to just kill them, he could have saved himself many years of running around the mountains.

Application

I don’t think many of us have human enemies of the sort David did at the time he wrote this psalm but it can happen.  David had a long on-going battle with Saul and his forces – perhaps we need to be careful how we curse!!!

Psalm 69

What is wrong?

The author is in despair because as he seeks the Lord people begin to hate him without reason, scorn him and alienate him – including his own family members.  When people insult God he feels it personally (v. 9).  Scorn has broken his heart and left him helpless and there is no one to comfort him, in fact they do the opposite.

What is the curse?

May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
24 Pour out your wrath on them;
let your fierce anger overtake them.
25 May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute those you wound
and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
27 Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous.

Application

This psalm is full of prophetic statements that the NT writers use in relation to the life and death of Jesus. In John 15:25, the Lord quoted Psalm 69:4 in reference to His mistreatment by the Jews, “They hated Me without cause.”  The Apostle Paul quotes verses 22 and 23 in Romans 11:9-10.  The first part of verse 9 is fulfilled when the Lord cast the money changers out of the Temple (John 2:17).  The last part is quoted in Romans 15:3.

When I read the curses I cannot help think that they apply to those who reject Christ and oppose the church unreasonably  and for no cause.   In particular the curse that they should be blotted out of the book of life points to this.

The Book of Isaiah

When I was first born again (on the back of a bus travelling from Mullingar to Galway, Ireland – May 7th, 1980) one of the things that helped establish my faith at the time was the amazing prophecies and writings of the Book of Isaiah.

The Book of Isaiah has 66 chapters and these are divided in a way that reflects the structure of the 66 books of the bible. Chapter 40 of Isaiah starts with “Comfort, comfort My people” and ushers in 27 chapters with a tone as much reflective of the New Testament (27 books) as the previous 39 chapters are of the old.

Isaiah 53 is one of the great prophetic passages about Christ’s crucifixion and the reason behind it.  Psalm 22 is another one.     Among the Dead Sea Scrolls is a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah.  This is significant for a number of reasons:

1.  The latest date of the Isaiah Scroll is 100 B.C.  So the Book of Isaiah predates Christ’s crucifixion (@33 AD) and the canon of the bible (@100 AD).

2.  There have been many efforts to discredit the bible by liberal theologians in the 20th Century.  So called “Higher Criticism” has tried to lower the authenticity and authority of the bible.  One of the arguments was that there were several Isaiah’s including one for the last 27 chapters who was different from the Isaiah of the first 39.    However all the Book of Isaiah was discovered on one scroll with no divisions into chapters or parts and no indication of another author.

The whole book is worth reading of course as is all of the bible.  But here are some especially moving and pertinent verses from Isaiah 53:

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”

Thank God He has!  This is the Gospel – Good News that everyone needs to hear.