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A Humiliating Death

“And he left. Then the servants came and behold, the doors to the upper room were secured! And they said, ‘Maybe he is relieving himself, standing in the cool part of the upper room.’  They wavered until they were ashamed, but still the doors were not opened to the upper room. They took the key and opened it, but behold, their lord had fallen dead on the ground.”

(Judges 3:24-25)

It’s not nice to bother your king when he is doing something privately in his upper chambers. Yet an emissary from an enemy nation had just been in there and now some strange sounds were coming from the room. So, what do you do? These servants of the king found themselves in exactly that spot, and in their case, they stood around, wavering back and forth, trying to decide the right course of action. Do they go in and perhaps disturb their master doing something very private? Do they wait and fail to rescue their master if something bad is happening? You can almost envision these servants looking at one another and saying, “So, what do you want to do, George?” And when the decision to open the door was made, saying, “I’ll open, but you go first.”

There is a curious choice of words found at the end of this verse. When recording that Eglon had fallen dead, instead of stating that he had fallen on the floor, it states that he fell on the X®rRa (erets), which means “ground” or “earth.” This seems to tie us back again to verse 22 and the translation of NØwdVv√rAÚp (parshedon). One of the possible translations of this term is “dirt,” which would be considered a euphemism for dung. If X®rRa (erets) is meant to be a play on words (and this account is filled with plays on words), then it could be suggested that after the dirt (dung) came out, the dead king fell on top of it (on the earth). In other words, they found him laying in his own feces. Again, a humiliating death for the big fat cow, Eglon. A proper death for the enemies of God. All the while Ehud is escaping.

And He Died…

“And Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of Yahweh, died; a son of a hundred and ten years.”

(Judges 2:8)

As humans we are tempted to think ourselves immortal and to cling to the things of this earth with clenched fists. Yet, this earth is passing away and our immortality is often not how we imagine it to be. Indeed, we will live forever and resurrected bodies are promised to all — though those who are not born-again believers in Jesus Christ will be resurrected to eternal torment. How we have our lives upside down, though, clinging to that which cannot last and neglecting that which does. And then again, even that tendency is a result of the fall and our sin.

Thus the theme, “and he died,” is pronounced through the scriptures and is one that yet haunts us today. Too many people die way too young and many more, though they grow old, suffer maladies which do not permit them to live like they would like. And that reality, as grim as it is, is designed to point us back to Christ, for in Him is the only solution to death and the grief that accompanies death. For in Christ is life and life eternal…and not eternal life in this frail and fallen world, either. We are promised eternal life in a remade heavens and earth that will be free from the devastation of the Fall. For that we wait in hope, but for now, we grow old and die as a reminder to those who follow us of mankind’s sad state.

“We do not want you to be without knowledge, brethren, regarding those who sleep, in order that you may not grieve as others do, even as those who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and arose, in the same way God, through Jesus, will bring those who have fallen asleep to himself.”

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)


“And he was ill, coming near to death, but God showed mercy on him — but not him alone, also on me so that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow.”

(Philippians 2:27)

As Christians we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We grieve with a knowledge that those who depart from us in faith are being taken into the presence of Christ and there they will know no end to the fullness of their joy. So, we rejoice for the believer who passes from this shadowland to the presence of the light of the glory of Christ, but we grieve our own loss of fellowship as those whom we love move out of our presence and into Christ’s.

What disturbs me is that I have heard many Christians saying things like: “there is no room for grief when a believer passes away” or that “a funeral is only a time of celebration.” On one level, we do celebrate…a beloved believer has traveled on to glory — that person has moved on from being a part of the “Church Militant” and has become part of the “Church Triumphant.” But is there no room for our own grief? The Apostle Paul reminds us here that there is room for our own grief as we lament what the person who has departed means to us here in this life.

Indeed, it might be said that remaining in grief indefinitely is not healthy for our souls and often distracts us from the calling that God has placed in our lives. Yet we all grieve differently and sometimes we go through seasons that are a kind of “re-grieving” process. These are seasons…it is not that we don’t grieve, we just grieve with hope — hope of joining the departed in the presence of Christ and hope that one day all death will be cast into the lake of fire and it will be no more. So, the next time that someone tells you not to grieve…point to this text where Paul speaks of God sparing him grief while at the same time remembering that while there is a time to rend your garments (a Hebrew expression of grief) there will be time for sewing them back together (Ecclesiastes 3:7).

Live for Christ and Him Alone!

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

(Philippians 1:21)

“In the event of my death, celebrate.” You know, as a pastor, I spend a lot of time with people who are sick and dying and very rarely do I come across a person who is genuinely excited about their impending death…especially when the person dying is younger, at least in a relative sense. We have become accustomed to speak about heavenly things with anticipation but when we face the reality of heavenly things, it seems that we cling to earthly things with vigor…just the opposite of our Lord who did not heaven as something to be clung to but abased himself and became man. While we affirm intellectually that heaven is a far better place for us than earth, our hearts don’t often embrace that intellectual reality.

I believe that our problem with genuinely embracing the second half of this statement stems from our problem with embracing the first half of the statement, for until you become so focused that everything you do in this life is for Christ and to His honor, then the thought of ending those labors here, where we do things imperfectly, and beginning them in glory, where we will do things perfectly, just does not resonate with us. Yet, for Paul, this mindset — that all I do is for Christ — is the only way to live…or die.

As people, particularly in the western world, we have become jaded, self-centered, prideful, narcissistic, greedy, sensualistic, and focused on personal gain. Life, we are often taught, is about what I can achieve, accumulate, and experience. Those things that do not meet our personal “needs” are cast to the side as unnecessary and irrelevant. Striving for virtue has been replaced with striving for vainglory and “Self” has become the Baal and the Ashtoreth of our generation. And, as a result, the culture is collapsing all around our ears.

The solution: Christ and Christ alone! Living for Christ in all things puts the things of this world in their eternal perspective and shows them to be the pale and fleeting things that they really are. Living for Christ and seeing His glory in all things is also the corrective to our view on death. For the believer, indeed, our death is gain, for it is being ushered into the presence of our risen Lord. Yet, we also long to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” For that we must embrace a life that is lived not for self and selfish things, but for Christ and for Christ alone. Then again, for whom better can we live?

No Basis for a Charge…

“And Pilate said to the chief priests and to the crowds, ‘I find no basis for a charge in this man.’”

(Luke 23:4)

As I read this, I can almost envision Pilate in his frustration kind of thinking to himself, “What now? Here I am, woken up early, trying to get some breakfast, and I have to deal with this. It’s bad enough having Jerusalem so swollen with people due to their Passover celebration, but now I have to deal with this? Can’t these people give me even a little peace?” Perhaps I am reading a bit too much into Pilate’s thought here, but as a pastor, I know that I have had this kind of thought at times… “You guys are angry at each other over what? Did you listen to any of my sermon last week on Philippians 2?” When grown adults who know what the Word of God teaches on matters of dispute can’t seem to act upon the Scripture’s teaching and choose to behave more like Kindergarteners…well, you get the picture.

This is a little different as Pilate is a pagan and much more interested in pragmatic solutions that will preserve the peace in this very turbulent region of the world. Though the Jews were not a mighty military force, their region of the world was historically a difficult one to hold for long periods of time and the Jewish people were notorious for overthrowing larger and more highly trained armies through the use of guerrilla tactics. Pilate had no intention of having such happen on his watch. Even so, he begins at least, with integrity.

Some of our Bibles will render the term ai¡tioß (aitios) as “guilt.” Yet, the term is better translated as “basis for a charge.” Pilate has not examined the man, Jesus, as of yet, so he could not know anything of actual guilt. What he is doing, based on the ramblings of the priests and the shouts of the crowds, is making a kind of preliminary ruling — “you don’t have a basis for a capital case against him” — is essentially what Pilate is saying here. More will develop as the dialogue continues, but for now, Pilate is still insisting that this is a local case to be decided according to local laws. The bottom line is that this is an answer that the Priests could not accept because they wanted to put Jesus to death. If last night was a height of wickedness; this day would see new peaks by its end.

Were you there when they falsely tried my Lord?

Were you there when they falsely tried my Lord?

Oh, Oh, Oh, Sometimes it makes me want to Tremble

Tremble, Tremble…

Were you there when they falsely tried my Lord?


A Debt of Love I Owe…

“But when he said this, one of the subordinates who was standing there gave a blow to Jesus saying, ‘Is this how you answer the High Priest?’”

(John 18:23)


Again, many of our English translations like to render this word as “officer” when it comes to the one who slapped Jesus, giving the impression that this was one of the military guards. A better translation is subordinate, particularly recognizing that this term often refers to governmental offices, not military offices. Thus, we should see this man not as one of the soldiers, but as one of the underlings of Annas, perhaps even one of the Sadducees in authority — we are just not told. And this man strikes Jesus because Jesus refuses to submit himself before Annas in this false trial.

It is interesting that this subordinate also refers to Annas as the “High Priest” although the title rightly belongs to Caiaphas. Thus adds a further degree of support to the theory that Annas is still pulling the political strings of the High Priest’s office from behind the scenes and has likely arranged the events of the night to bring Jesus under Caiaphas’ judgment.

The blow that is struck upon Jesus will be the first amongst many, though it stands out as one of contempt and pride — it is the blow of an underling, likely trying to gain credibility in the eyes of his master, though truly only doing the devil’s deed. Many of our English translations render this phrase in such a way as to argue that the man slapped Jesus. That could be the case, though the word could also refer to one clubbing another with a stick or another blunt object. Were this man one of the mob that was so armed with torches and clubs from earlier that night, it could conceivably be the club and not the hand with which this man struck our Lord.

Loved ones, the one thing that we must keep painfully clear and before our eyes is that Jesus did not need to endure such suffering. Yet, in an outpouring of his grace, he chose to suffer for us by the hand of wicked men. Jesus could have called legions of angels to his defense and left the entire countryside scattered with the bodies of his enemies, but he chose to go like a lamb to the slaughter, be beaten and abused, falsely tried, and then horrifically executed on the cross. He did that for me. He did that for you, that is, if you are trusting in Him as your Lord and Savior. They say that the story of the Gospel is the “Greatest Story Ever Told” and there is truth in that claim. Yet, it is a story that not only travels to great heights in terms of the resurrection and promise of glory — but it is a story that travels to the greatest depths of misery — human and divine — as Jesus enters the household of the wicked to bear the sins of the wicked (you and me!) on his shoulders — and not only facing false judgment by the hands of wicked men, but facing righteous judgment by the hands of a holy God, who crushed him for our sin. Jesus was our substitute, so when you are tempted to wag the finger at these hypocritical Jewish authorities, remember first that he did this for you … and he did this for me. We are the reason Jesus gave himself into the hands of these men, thanks be to God! But oh, my soul, what a debt of love I owe to the King of Grace!

Reu the Companion in Death

“And it came to pass that Peleg was thirty years old and he begat Reu. And after he begat Reu, Peleg lived two-hundred and nine years. And he begat sons and daughters.”

(Genesis 11:18-19)


Here we find the first real indications that the effect of the Fall upon our lifespan is progressive, for Peleg’s lifespan is significantly shorter than that of his fathers’ before him. Shem lived to be 600, Apakshad to 438, Shelach to 433, Eber to 464, and now Peleg dies at 239 — a comparatively young man compared to those who have gone before him. And, as we continue to see the lives of these Old Testament saints go forward, we find that their life expectancy continues to drop until they are within our range. Isaiah speaks in terms of the new creation to come that those who only live to 100 would be counted as cursed (Isaiah 65:20) — how accursed a race we are then!

This change in longevity is worth noting because Peleg is the first of these patriarchs to die before his father. In fact, he died before his father, before his grandfather, before his great grandfather, and before his great-great grandfather. In fact, Peleg dies ten years before Noah, his great-great-great grandfather, dies. What a devastating reminder that while the world has been remade new through the flood, people still are under the weight of the fall and thus death still reigned in their bodies. To put things in even clearer perspective, Shem outlives almost all of his named descendants for nine generations — only Abraham and Eber outlive their great ancestor — and Eber (Peleg’s father) outlives Abraham by four years!

Reu’s name means, “companion” or “friend.” How profound a name that is given the context of death that the descendants of Shem now need to face. How often, in the wake of death, what we need most is friendship — those who will comfort and not condemn. Loved ones, we live in a dark and fallen world, we need those Godly friends and companions that he gives us to accompany us on our way. May there be many “Reu”s in your life.

Not Withholding our Lives

“And the Angel of Yahweh called to Abraham — a second time from heaven. And he said, ‘In myself I swear, utters Yahweh; because of this thing that you have done in not sparing your son, your only one, I will surely bless you and your seed will surely be great as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the lip of the sea. And your seed will take possession of the gates of his enemies. And in your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed on account of your obeying my voice.”

(Genesis 22:15-18)


There is truly a ton of material in this passage, but it is valuable to keep the whole statement of the Angel of Yahweh, the pre-incarnate Christ, as we look at the parts. Once again, He speaks for God and with authority. He states to Abraham that “you have not withheld your son from me.” Notice too, the language of Abraham sparing his son. Jesus uses similar language in teaching his own disciples:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If someone desires to come after me, then he must renounce himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For the one who wants to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it benefit a man if he acquires the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?’”

(Matthew 16:24-26)

Now our English translations of this passage in Matthew do a bit of a tricky switch on us, that I am hopefully remedying here. In each of the cases that I have translated as “life” the Greek word yuch/ (psuche) is being used. This is the term from which we get the English word, “psyche,” and it means much the same thing in both English and Greek. The yuch/ (psuche) refers to the seat of one’s person or you could say his personality. It is what makes us tick and what makes us individuals and different from one another. It is also typically seen as the primary place in which we bear God’s image. It can be used to refer to our physical life here on earth and sometimes it can be used to refer to the ongoing nature of our spiritual life, though it is a distinct thing from the pneuvma (pneuma) or spirit.

The dominant English approach to translating this passage of Matthew is to presume that Jesus is talking about one’s physical life in the former part of the statement and talking about one’s eternal spiritual life in the latter part, but that is not what is literally being stated. If we render the word consistently, all of the way through, we realize that the emphasis is not so much on eternal things but on temporal ones. And what good does it do for you if you spend all of your energy building an empire for yourself, but it kills you in the process? As people often say, “you can’t take it with you…” Jesus is not condemning a man to eternal fire for building a financial empire, but he is asking the question, “are the sacrifices you are making worth the riches you have acquired?”

Abraham is a wealthy man at this point in his life, but the greatest wealth that he holds is found in the person of his son Isaac and in the promise of God that Isaac and his children will be multiplied greatly on the face of the earth. God has thus asked Abraham to place even that on the altar of sacrifice. On a purely human level, Abraham and Sarah could have lived the life of a king in terms of their wealth, but then they would be gone and their witness forgotten. This child was everything, yet they were willing to lay even that to the side if God so desired it — choosing to be in submission to God’s design and not to their own.

This is the heart of what Jesus is teaching his disciples. Their obedience would cost them their lives in a variety of ways. Most would die martyrs deaths. But for all of them, the real cost would be that they would set to the side their personal plans and aims and follow God’s plans for them. Ultimately, God’s plans for us are far better than any plans that we could make on our own, but it takes faith and obedience to go through the process of getting there. It means picking up the implement of our suffering and death (the cross) and following Jesus wherever he would lead. It is counter-cultural to do so, but in the end, it is far better. Ask any pastor or missionary who has left a life behind to follow Christ, and like Abraham, they will affirm, “Yes, it is infinitely better than what I could have designed on my own.”

Is the Bible Inerrant?

One of the things we talk a lot about in church circles is the authority of scripture—that it is given by God and is designed to instruct us in every area of life.  One of the terms that we use when we speak of why the scriptures are authoritative is the term “inerrant.”  But I have found that while we often throw that term around, a lot of times, people aren’t entirely sure what the term means.

To be “inerrant” means far more than something has no errors in it.  When I was in school, I regularly had “error-free” mathematics tests; when I was in seminary, many of my Hebrew vocabulary tests were found to be “error-free,” but none of these were inerrant.  The word inerrant means not only that something has no errors, but that it is incapable of making an error.  The Oxford American Dictionary defines “inerrant” as “incapable of being wrong.”  One writer described the inerrancy of the scriptures in this way: “They are exempt from the liability to mistake.”

So why do we ascribe such a nature to the scriptures?  To begin with, they are God’s word, and if God is incapable of making a mistake, then his word also must be incapable of making a mistake—remembering that those who wrote down God’s word were “moved along by the Spirit” as a ship is blown by the wind filling its sails (2 Peter 1:21).  In the language of the Apostle Paul, scripture is exhaled by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and thus is the source of all training and guidance for the believer.  These are God’s words and not man’s and thus we ought to expect them to carry the authority and attributes of God’s character and not man’s character.

It is granted that there are many these days that doubt the inerrancy of scripture.  For some, it is a plain matter of unbelief.  For others it is misinformation or not having studied the evidence.  For others it is the fear that if one acknowledges these words to be the inerrant word of God then one must submit one’s life to scripture’s authority and demands, and such is true.  Regardless of the reason that people doubt, Scripture has withstood every test and challenge that has been leveled at it.

There is one other thing that is worth noting about such a book as we have.  Not only are the scriptures our only guide for faith and life, but they are the only book to guide us as we go to our deaths.  The Bible shows us Jesus Christ, our need for him as a redeemer, and his promise that if we trust in him in life, confessing him with our lips and believing in him in our hearts, he will confess us before the Father and guarantee us eternal life in paradise.  For the one who is facing death, this is the kind of knowledge that brings peace and enables them to leave this world with grace and not fear.  It is no wonder that the Scriptures are what most people ask to have read to them on their deathbeds, and not Shakespeare or Coleridge.  The Bible is the one book that transcends death because it was written by a God who died and rose again—promising that he would do the same for us.

Works of Men and Works of God: Zechariah 1:1-6

“Your fathers, where are they?  And the prophets, do they live forever?  But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?”  -Zechariah 1:5-6a, ESV


What a contrast that is set before us by the prophet.  All of the works of man will eventually fade, but God’s works and his word will last forever.  As mighty as many of the prophets were, they died.  Abraham died; Moses died; Elisha died; Isaiah died; our generation will die.  Yet, God’s word will remain; it will remain unchanged; and it will still carry with it the power and authority that it had from the very day it was spoken through the various inspired writers.  If Moses was nothing more than a faithful servant in God’s house, in what have we to boast?  Nothing save the cross of Christ.

How often, when we read the Bible, do we focus on the various characters of the story?  What did King David do next?  Will Elijah survive the attacks on the prophets?  How will Nehemiah get the people to work?  These are important questions to ask, but when we ask these questions, let us never forget that these men were nothing more than servants of the All-Mighty God. 

In turn, we need to ask ourselves just where we are placing the emphasis in our own lives and in our own ministries.  Do we see the ministries as something that we are doing?  Or is the ministry God’s and we simply have the blessing of being able to participate?  Do we conceive of ourselves as being anything more than an unworthy servant?  If we do, we are placing the emphasis on things that will not last (namely ourselves).  Let us seek to place all of the emphasis in our lives on something that will last forever, and that is God and His word.  And even though in the new heavens and the new earth, the written word and the law will pass away, he who fulfilled the law perfectly will be in our presence and we will be able to commune with the very Word of God face-to-face.

Reminders (1 Corinthians 15:1)

 “Now I reveal to you, brothers, the gospel which I preached to you, and which you received, and in which you have stood,”  (1 Corinthians 15:1)


As Paul is bringing this letter to a close, he closes by putting before the Corinthian church both the hope that they have (resurrection) and the reason for that hope (the resurrection of Christ).  Do understand that when Paul says that he is “revealing” these things, or making them known, that this is no new information for the Corinthians.  The death and resurrection of Christ is the single-most important aspect of the gospel and was at the heart of Paul’s preaching.  Yet, in light of the church’s problems, it is very appropriate for him to remind them of these things—reminding them to put first things first.

One of the things that you will find in the New Testament model for preaching and teaching is that when there are problems within churches, the Apostles taught doctrine.  How doctrinal teaching is lacking in our churches today!  People often think of doctrine as something that is dull and lifeless, and that impression could not be further from the truth.  Doctrine is rich with truth and it is doctrine that allows us to live out our lives faithfully in this world.  Doctrine is the rudder of the church, without it we will drift to and fro without direction.  Doctrine keeps us from drifting into the shallow reefs of error.

Thus it is important that we always keep these things before us, but more importantly, it is important that we stand upon these things.  Paul reminds the Corinthians that they did stand on those teachings at one point, but given that they have drifted into problems, the implication is that they are no longer standing firmly on the doctrines, which Paul preached. 

And this doctrine, which Paul is reminding them of, is the heart of all doctrines.  Apart from the death and resurrection of Christ, we can have no hope.  There would be nothing for us but sin and condemnation.  In Christ, there is life and hope.   Loved ones, keep this doctrine before you and ground your hope in it.  In Christ, there is life.  Keep that before you always.

Teaching Rebels God’s Ways: Psalm 51 (part 14)

“I will teach rebels your ways,

and sinners will return to you.”

(Psalm 51:15 {Psalm 51:13 in English Bibles})


What then should be the outward response of the believer to the forgiveness of God?   While praise is usually the first thing that comes to mind—and it is an essential response, and part of David’s psalm—there is another response that is oftentimes missed.  That response is to begin to work to teach others of the ways of God.  And notice, this is not just telling others how God has blessed you, but it is teaching them God’s ways.  That means deliberate application of God’s holy law as a teaching tool to guide others in the ways of holiness.

Yet, there is a catch—how is it that you can teach others to live a holy life if you are not modeling it yourself?  How is it that you can model it if you do not study the scriptures and diligently apply them to yourself?  Beloved, be well aware that God is a forgiving God, but never forget that in repentance, our God expects us to turn from our sinful ways and walk a path that glorifies him in every way.  And then, in walking on that pathway, teach others the ways of God—by word and deed.

Friends, spend some time thinking about what it means to be genuine in your testimony before the world.  What do unbelievers believe about God as a result of getting to know you?  What would your co-workers or your neighbors say about the way you live out your faith in all aspects of your life?  What would your spouse or children say?  Do your actions match the words that you speak?  Dear loved ones, so often in our lives there is not parity between our words and our actions, yet Christ needs to be the reason and the motivation behind everything we do.  It is our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior that defines who we are, down to the very fibers of our innermost being, and it is this relationship that must define all our actions, and our actions need to be visible enough to point others to Christ.

One last note on sin and transgression:  it is rebellion against God.  Do not downplay sin in your life or in the life of those around you.  Don’t simply say, “well, it was just a little lie” or “everyone else does it.”  When you justify sin like this, what you are really communicating is that God is as capricious as you and I are, and were he capricious, he could not be holy.  God cannot condemn one sin as rebellion and pass over other sins as if they were not, that is the behavior of sinful men and not of a holy and righteous God.  Sin is sin and it must be condemned and punished, and loved ones, if you are a born again believer in Jesus Christ, he bore that punishment for you.  When you say that your sins are not so bad, you are also saying that Christ’s sacrifice and death is not so important, and oh, loved ones, what a wretched statement that is.  Such a statement can only come from the pits of hell and the children of the evil one.  Do not let your actions make you smell of the sulfur of the Lake of Fire.  Live for Christ and His holiness and proclaim his righteousness and grace in all that you do.  Let your witness guide others in the paths of righteousness for Jesus’ name’s sake—Amen!