Signs of the Times

‘Son of man, turn towards Jerusalem, utter your word towards the sanctuary and prophesy against the land of Israel.  Say to the land of Israel, “Yahweh says this: Now I am against you; I am about to unsheathe my sword and rid you of the upright and the wicked alike.  Since I am going to rid you of upright and wicked alike, I shall unsheathe my sword against everyone alive, from the Negeb to the north,  so that everyone alive will know that I, Yahweh, am the one who has unsheathed my sword; it will not go back again.”  ‘Son of man, groan as though your heart were breaking. Utter your bitter groans where they can see you.  And if they say, “Why these groans?” reply, “Because of the news which is about to come, all hearts will sink, all hands grow weak, all spirits grow faint and all knees turn to water. It is coming now, it is here!-declares Lord Yahweh.” ‘ (Ezek. 21:7-12)

Quote of the Day

Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord.  Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head.  Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.  (Rom. 12:19-21)

A New Low Price for The Commentary

I’ve gotten a good bit of email from Sunday School teachers, Pastors, and interested lay folk who have expressed an interest in obtaining the Commentary on the Bible which I’ve written in PDF format but who have been unable to afford the $199 price tag.

So I’ve made a decision:  I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to make the collection more affordable.  Accordingly, as of today, the set will run $75.  I would lower it more but I feel that all the work put into it over the course of many years falls under the ‘the laborer is worthy of his hire’ category.  Still, I feel that the set aids layfolk to understand the Bible better, so I’m very keen to make it accessible.

At $75 it’s less than any other commentary on the entire Bible, so a bargain indeed.

So if you or someone you know has wanted to get a copy of the collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.

Here’s what a couple of folk have thought of it:

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I have already read the Pastoral Epistles portion entirely.  I read the same way as I eat; first portions I just worry about satiating my hunger; then the following portions I really savor the food, and slowly digest it taking the most of its nutritious benefits. Right now, reading Jim’s commentary, I am at the second phase of “my eating habits”. I am loving the new information, not the run-of-the mill type of commentary, not the customary supporting material, but every point is perfectly didactically placed and scholarly supported.

As one of the demonstrations of God’s sense of humor and “uncommon management” skills, He made me a pastor (now temporarily in modern terms, without a flock, other than only a few people who seek me for guidance) and I think Jim’s commentary will be most valuable as I take this interval as a unique opportunity for further preparation for when God places me back in full pastoral ministry.   – Milton Almeida, Oklahoma, USA.

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Jim West is a man of very decided opinions. However, and this is much to his credit, in the Commentary I’ve read he does not advocate his opinions about Scripture. What he does is explain and simplify, working from the original language, without being simplistic. And this is to be commended. – Athalya Brenner

Scripture for the Day

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets. “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, “bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. “To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. “Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.  (Lk. 6:26-36)

Quote of the Day

“[My prophets] said,`Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. `Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you.’ “Yet you have not listened to Me,” says the LORD, “that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. (Jer. 25:5-7)

The Tell All Book: From the Bible’s ‘Esther’ to ‘Fire and Fury’

Sarah Bond writes

Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White Househas been flying off shelves since its publication. In addition to bookstore purchases and Kindle downloads, the book is now also the most pirated in recent history. While the characters may be new, the genre is not.

Eyewitness exposés that report palace intrigue, backstabbing and salacious gossip are as old as civilization itself. In the ancient Mediterranean, readers similarly clamored for tell-all books that revealed the juicy details of life among the ruling elite.

The Old Testament contains an early example of writing focused on the inner workings of a palace and imperial court, though (much like Wolff) it is difficult to say if some of the tales are historical fact, fiction or a mix of the two. In the book of Esther within the Jewish Tanakhwe are introduced to a Hebrew woman named Hadassah. She is later known by her Persian name, Esther. The tale takes place during the Achaemenid dynasty of the 5th century BCE although it was likely written about two centuries later. The Achaemenids were the powerful Persian rulers of the Near East depicted rather inaccurately in the movie 300. 

Esther’s story occurs when the court was stationed in Susa, now near the border of modern Iraq and Iran. She is taken into the royal harem and lavished with cosmetics, pampering and sumptuous clothing, all while constantly attending feasts. In ancient literature and even today, how we eat can say a lot about who we are. Thus just as Persian feasting demonstrated moral decay to Jews reading the book of Esther, Wolff’s anecdote about Trump eating McDonald’s in bed for fear of being poisoned is meant by the author to reveal a princely paranoia.

Eventually, Esther’s immersion in the Persian life of luxury pays off: She becomes queen and then saves her people from being killed. Yet the book is a rather odd one within the texts that make up the Old Testament in its lack of religious focus. It does not even employ the word “Yahweh,” and is what many scholars have termed a kind of novella that reports on the differences between the Persian court and the Jewish people. It also allowed Jewish readers an insider’s look into a foreign demimonde that they did not have access to.

Etc.  Fun stuff.  Thanks Sarah!

Why Do We Have a New Testament?

According to James Barr, R.H. Lightfoot once claimed that the origin of the New Testament should be sought in the moment the early Chris­tians, under the impression of the first Roman persecutions, lost faith in the survival of their religion. As a result of their fear, they decided to write down their traditions and recollections, in order that these might not be lost or deliberately perverted.  (Cited by NP Lemche in his essay ‘The Old Testament: A Hellenistic Book).

Lightfoot is probably right.  And if so, it’s a good thing that they were driven by the fear of extinction.  History has shown their fear to be misplaced but the result of that fear is itself a historical monument without which the world would be an utterly different place.

Unfit for Office

Any Pastor fit for office is a biblical scholar and theologian, not a businessman and entrepreneur.  The Body of Christ isn’t a business opportunity and if you believe, even momentarily, that it is, you are unfit to serve it.  If you lack biblical and theological understanding (gained by the discipline of study), then no matter who you are or what you say, you are unfit for office.

σπούδασον σεαυτὸν δόκιμον παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ, ἐργάτην ἀνεπαίσχυντον, ὀρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας. (2 Tim. 2:15)

Quote of the Day

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that`by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established’. “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matt. 18:15-17)

Who is the Lord of the Church? Christ

I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.  And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:16-23)

Ben Sira on Friendship

When you gain a friend, gain him through testing, and do not trust him hastily. For there is a friend who is such at his own convenience, but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.  And there is a friend who changes into an enemy, and will disclose a quarrel to your disgrace. And there is a friend who is a table companion, but will not stand by you in your day of trouble. (Sir. 6:7-10)

And

With friend or foe do not report it, and unless it would be a sin for you, do not disclose it; for some one has heard you and watched you, and when the time comes he will hate you. (Sir. 19:8-9)

And

Every friend will say, “I too am a friend”; but some friends are friends only in name. Is it not a grief to the death when a companion and friend turns to enmity?  (Sir. 37:1-2)

And in each instance, he is correct.  Many who call themselves friends really aren’t and though it’s sad it’s best not to open your heart to any but family, because even those you think friends will betray you and, accordingly, wound you.