Miles to go...

I have miles to go... please pray each day for the next leg of my Biblical journey!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 68: Who Is That Wild Man?

Matthew 3:1-3

John The Baptist by Angelo Lopez, 2008
New Living Translation (NLT)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
    Clear the road for him!’”


A lot of things could be said to describe John the Baptist; Pretty boy is not among them. Scary looking, maybe. Hairy, unkempt, prehistoric caveman, probably. No doubt, this guy was quite a character!

He was the son of Zechariah, the priest, and on his maternal side, the barely older cousin of Jesus Christ. He was also the first prophet to come along in 400 years.To say that the people of Israel were hungry for a word from God is an understatement. But to say they were actually ready for their Messiah, well, that's another matter altogether. That was John's purpose; To prepare them.

God didn't need to send Slick Willy in to the crowds to get their attention. There were plenty of them already. You see, religion had begun to more closely resemble politics than anything else, and before I go on about John, I should include a brief 'who's who' about the ruling class of Israel.

The Sanhedrin:  Sum it up as the 'government', although the government was under the control of Rome at the time. 
The Sadducees: The aristocrats of Israel who comprised the majority of the Sanhedrin. They were wealthy and out of touch with the common man, and held powerful positions, like priests and high priests. Their one redeeming quality was that they believed in the authority of the written Word of God. But really, there wasn't much else good to say about their doctrinal views. They didn't believe that God gave a darn about every day life. They disputed any claims of dead people being brought back to life by Jesus and the apostles. They didn't believe in demons or angels, and they thought that when a person died, their soul just ceased to exist. They were more interested in their own political maneuvers than they were about the church and the spiritual well-being of the Jews, and so they paid little attention to John, or to Jesus, until they felt their control of the people was threatened. The Sadducee party was wiped out of existence in A.D. 70, when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.
The Pharisees: This branch of government was far more popular with the people. They were the minority, but they actually controlled the majority of the decisions made by the Sanhedrin, because they had the support of the people. They were more concerned with religious matters than with politics, but they were still a bit misguided. While they did believe the scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament, because that's all there was at the time) to be inspired by God, but they gave equal validity to oral, man-made traditions. In spite of that short-coming, they did believe in the spiritual realm, an afterlife (reward for godliness, punishment for lack thereof), and resurrection of the dead. They also believed that although God is ultimately in control, He allowed people to make their own decisions, and their actions contributed to the course of their lives. They opposed the rebellion that brought on the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and made peace with the Romans afterward.

I'll get back to John, now. Like I said, God didn't need another spit-shined and polished mouth-piece to tell either half a story, or a twisted story designed to suit a political agenda. As is characteristic of God, He chose to use someone who would jolt the average Joe from their sensibilities. He chose someone who would stick out like a sore thumb. He chose John.

Like a Nazarite who had voluntarily taken a vow, John abstained from consuming any alcohol or product of the vine, as well as from typical grooming habits like getting a haircut and a shave. He kept himself separate, in Holy dedication to God. He was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born, though, so he was a Nazarite from birth, rather than by choice, much like Samson had been.

He didn't like city life, and opted instead to live in the wilderness. He dressed like someone from ancient times instead of in modern clothing. He went around wearing some garb made of nsaty looking camel's hair with a leather belt around it. That's nothing compared to the things he ate, though. He lived off wild honey and locusts. Can you imagine eating grasshoppers and crickets? Yuck.

For some reason, though, people were drawn to him. Oh yeah, that reason would be the Holy Spirit that filled him from birth! Despite his odd appearance, people wanted to hear what he had to say even when it made them cringe. It's interesting, because he didn't waste time tickling people's ears like preachers do today. Nope, he was a fire and brimstone kind of guy. He wanted people to understand that they'd better get right with God, because He was about to rock their world!

He was brave, he was bold, he was an in-your-face kind of guy, and he didn't cower to anyone. He was right up front with King Herod about how wrong he was for marrying his brother's wife. He was about as blunt as a baseball bat to the  Pharisees and the Sadducees,, calling them a brood of snakes and telling them to prove their repentance through a change in their behavior (a warning they didn't heed, by the way.) He called a spade a spade, whatever the sin might be, and there was plenty go go around. He wasn't afraid to call anybody out.

He was constantly in the spotlight, because of the message he proclaimed. But he never let it go to his head. His message was always about the coming of Jesus, the coming of the Kingdom of heaven, and about preparing oneself for that inevitability.  He always remained humble, and when Jesus came to him to be baptized, John protested because he didn't consider himself worthy enough to do so. He conceded only when his younger cousin reminded him that it must be this way, because it was what God required.

Yet even though he was fully confident in God, in Jesus, he still had moments of doubt and weakness. After having publicly criticized King Herod, he was thrown in prison. It was during that time that he heard about the miracles Jesus was performing, so John had two of his disciples go to find Him. Once they caught up with Jesus, they relayed the question that John had asked; Are you really the Messiah, or should we keep looking? Jesus sent them back to assure his cousin that yes, indeed, He was.

Although Herod had him locked up in prison, he had a lot of respect for the guy, and enjoyed visiting him and hearing what he had to say. Of course, he was greatly annoyed by John's continued insistence that his marriage to his brother's wife was wrong. Still, he didn't want the man to die, and was even known to protect him. But he couldn't protect him from the wrath of his wife and daughter, so, sadly, John's life met with a tragic end. 

It was Herod's birthday, and he was having quite the party. All the high government officials, army officers, and leading citizens were there. The highlight of the evening was a dance performed by his daughter, a demonstration of beauty and grace that pleased the entire audience. Herod was so proud that he made a monumental mistake; He told the girl that he would reward her with anything her heart desired. Whatever it was, even up to half his kingdom. Famous last words, right? At her mother's request, his daughter asked for the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter.  As much as it grieved the king, he'd promised her anything, and there was a whole room full of witnesses. That very evening, John was killed, and his head was given to Herod's daughter, who in turn presented it to her mother.

So, John's work had now ended. But the work of the Savior he'd come to tell about was just beginning.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Day 67: Baby Steps

Zerubbabel - Abiud - Eliakim by Michelangelo; 1511--1512

Zechariah 4:8-10

New Living Translation (NLT)
Then another message came to me from the Lord:  “Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. 10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”


Reading the entire 4th chapter of Zechariah, we get an overall picture that God was trying to paint through the prophet, in a message delivered to Zerubbabel. The entire prophecy includes a lampstand and two olive trees, from which fresh oil was constantly flowing through straws. The theologians of the world might tell you that the items represent the church, and probably the Holy Spirit constantly flowing. Frankly I'm not sure what they say, because in spite of how many eloquent commentaries there are out there, I didn't read a single one of them. Really, I think I'd rather share what this says to me, because I take it kind of personally.

Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoachin, the Judean king who had been dethroned and taken into captivity. He and his friend, the high priest Jeshua, had led the first wave of exiles back from Babylon to their homeland, and had begun rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem.

As the returning Israelites settled into the towns and villages, they gathered with one purpose in mind... to rebuild the temple, starting first with the altar of God. They were leery of the locals who had been living in the area, but they didn't let it stop their work. The construction of the altar began in early autumn, and when completed, the Jews were relieved to begin offering sacrifices to God.

It was during the spring of the second year after they had returned that Zerubbabel's crew began construction on the Temple's foundation. What a day of celebration that must have been when the work was complete! The priests put on their robes and blew trumpets, the Levites clashed their cymbals, and all the people sang thanks to the Lord, praising Him because the foundation of the Temple had been laid.

But the celebration was short-lived. It wasn't long before the enemies of Judah and Benjamin started protesting the work that the former exiles were doing on the Temple, during the reign of King Cyrus of Persia. The bad guys kept harassing and thwarting the work for years, through the reign of Xerxes, and until the work finally ground to a halt under Artexerxes.

And then after what seemed like forever, King Darius took the throne, and things started turning around. That's when God gave this message to Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah.  It was a message of hope, a word of encouragement. Let me ad-lib a bit...

Don't worry about how long it's taking, Zerubbabel, it's in My mighty Hands! Through you, I will accomplish what I set out to do many years ago. Don't be discouraged by how long it has taken, and don't be in a rush to get it finished.  The Temple will be finished on My time table! Don't be discouraged at having to take such small steps. I don't even want you to take grandiose measures! The glory will always be Mine. But because you have a desire to do this work for me, it is My joy to ensure that you succeed.

See, God doesn't need our help. He never has. But he takes great pleasure in allowing us to work with Him. It's kind of like his analogy I heard one time, about a dad who is under the kitchen sink trying to fix a leak. Suddenly Junior toddles over and tries to crawl into the tiny space next to his father, with his plastic wrench. Daddy doesn't need Junior's help, but he knows two things; This moment with the two of them crammed into the cabinet together is a time of bonding between father and son, and secondly, the son is learning a valuable skill by imitating the work his father is doing under there.

That's the relationship we have with God when we're living our lives to please Him. A parent-child relationship. You, me, and our Heavenly Father.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 66: Man Overboard!

Jonah 4:1-3

New Living Translation (NLT)
Whale Shark by Jon Hanson, cc-by-sa-2.0

Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Mercy

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”


We've all heard of Jonah, right? The guy that gets swallowed by a whale and lives to tell about it? Yeah, well a lot of people don't believe such a thing could have happened, so let's get the elephant out of the room first, or the whale, if you will, and then we'll talk about the important stuff.

Whether you believe the Bible to be literal, figurative, or a mix of both, you've probably wondered just how a person could have survived a whale's stomach. I should point out that the Bible doesn't specifically call it a whale. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. Maybe whatever it was no longer exists all these thousands of years later. That's irrelevant. Could it have happened?

Yeah, it could have. There are whales that still exist who are capable of swallowing a human being (and even larger creatures). Some of these whales are even toothless. And they're huge animals! The whale shark, for example, can reach 30,000 lbs (that's 15 thousand tons!) and 45 feet in length. So here's how it happens. They open their mouths and take in whatever floats their way. Then somehow or other they spew the water back out. I'm not real knowledgeable about whale anatomy, but I did glance over some material about their digestive system.

Some of these toothless whales, maybe all of them, have multiple chambers in their stomach, some as large as a decent sized bedroom. In at least one of these whales there is even a 'storage chamber' of sorts located in the sinus cavity, where there are no digestive enzymes, so there isn't any decomposition going on. If the contents in the storage chamber cause distress, they can be emptied. Put another way, the whale can sneeze out anything that tickles its nose.

The big issue seems to be whether or not a human would fit down the esophagus. I don't know much about the anatomy of a 450 lb giant squid, either, but those are a favorite meal for some whales. There have been rumors of humans and animals being found alive in the carcasses of whales, but I haven't found anything to substantiate those claims. Still, it does seem as though it could be remotely possible, even if unlikely. In any event, nothing is too big for God, even a whale. He can make anything happen.

So now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's forget the whale for a minute. This event takes place somewhere around 750 years before Christ came along. Nineveh was the thriving capital city of Assyria. It was such a big city that it would take three days to see it all. They didn't have cars back then, so I'm thinking it would probably take three days to walk around a city the size of, say, Las Vegas. That's if you didn't stop to have fun along the tour. So it's a pretty big city, with an impressive population. God didn't like what was going on in the city, and told Jonah to go do something about it. Jonah didn't want to do as he was told though, and instead bought a ticket and boarded a ship headed in the opposite direction.

That night, Jonah was sleeping soundly in his room on the ship, when a terrible storm came up totally out of nowhere. The captain and crew had never experienced anything quite so severe, and were more than a little scared. They started pointing fingers at each other, accusing each other of doing something to anger the gods. They all swore to their own innocence though, and finally they cast lots to see who was to blame. Casting lots is kind of like rolling the dice, or drawing straws. What a thing to leave to chance. Seems about as reliable as shaking a Crazy 8 ball. But however they played this game of chance that they took so seriously, they were all convinced it pointed to Jonah as the culprit.

So the captain goes and wakes Jonah up from his sleep. It's a wonder he hadn't woken up already! The captain and crew weren't very happy with him, and started bombarding him with questions.
Who are you? What god do you serve? What could you have possibly done to make your god so angry? Most importantly, what can you do to fix it?

Jonah admitted he was guilty as charged. He was the one at whom God was directing His anger. What god? The God of heaven and earth, the one true, living God. Why? Because Jonah didn't want to go where God told him to go, didn't want to do what God told him to do, so he was headed for Tarshish instead. The only hope for everyone else was to throw Jonah overboard.

Yikes! The ship's crew had heard of the God of the Israelites, and knew He was a force to be reckoned with. They were afraid to throw Jonah overboard for fear that his God would turn His anger back on them. So they tried everything they could to get the boat to shore. The storm kept getting worse, though, and finally they agreed to throw Jonah into the raging waters; But not before they prayed to God!  They pleaded with God not to make them die for Jonah's sin, and with that, they threw him into the abyss.

Much to their amazement, the storm ceased immediately. They fell to their knees and thanked God for having spared them, and from that day on, they served and worshiped only the one true God.

Meanwhile, Jonah was sinking deeper and deeper into the sea. He described the water closing in over him, seaweed wrapping around his head and body, and sinking deep, deeper, and ever deeper. He may have been hallucinating when he said he sank to the roots of the mountains and was trapped in the earth. He remembered being aware that his life was slipping away from him. It was at that very moment as he was losing his grip on reality, that a some sort of great fish, probably a whale but maybe some other huge sea animal, swallowed him up. Barely able to form a single thought, from somewhere deep inside of him Jonah began praying. He didn't pray for himself, he prayed for those who worshiped false gods and turned their backs on the Lord's tender mercies. I can imagine he spent the next three days drifting in and out of consciousness. I'm sure he spent a lot of time praying even when he wasn't fully awake. I've done that, so it's easy to picture him doing it too. At some point he said his prayers became earnest and he promised to answer the call, and fulfill his vow to God.


Out came Jonah, sneezed out onto the beach. He must have dipped himself into the sea to bathe off the slime and whale-snot before he set off towards the great city of Nineveh. As soon as he arrived, he began shouting as loud as he could. 
In forty days, God is going to destroy this city!

In a world where nobody much cared what real prophets had to say, people stopped and took notice of Jonah. God had already prepared their hearts to be receptive, I guess, because instead of running him out of town or trying to kill him, they began to fast and pray, truly repentant. Even the king got off his thrown, changed from royal robes to a burlap sackcloth garment, and put ashes on his head in sorrow. He sent out a decree that nobody was allowed to eat or drink, and both human and animals had to be draped in burlap. No more violence or bloodshed was going to be tolerated. He demanded everybody repent and stop their wicked ways.

God was pleased with their response to His warning, and relented. Because they were sorry, He wasn't going to destroy them after all. That should have been cause for rejoicing, right? You'd think Jonah would have been happy that they'd just diverted tragedy.

But instead he got angry and threw a tantrum worthy of a two year old. 

See, God, this is why I didn't want to come here! From the minute you said to come warn the Nenevites,I knew you'd change your mind! You always do! You forgive too easily! That's why I got on the ship and set sail for Tarshish, I knew you'd make a fool of me! God, I'm going to have to live with the embarrassment of having a failed prophecy on my head! Just kill me now, it would be better than living with this shame!

Pretty selfish, huh? Yeah, God thought so too. Thousands of people had just been spared their lives because they repented, and all Jonah could think about was how it affected him. He could have, should have praised the Lord for the opportunity to have been a part of reconciling the people to God. Either way, he would never be forgotten for his role in the situation. But instead of going down in history as the whiny, selfish coward who would rather see a whole city of people perish than to be perceived as a false prophet, he could have been remembered as the man whom God used to bring salvation (of sorts) to a nation.

So what is the point here? I suppose it is this; No matter how weak, scared, cowardly, or stupid we are, God can use us to accomplish His will. Sometimes, just to prove a point, He will even use our rebellion to do double duty, as was the case with Jonah. Not only did the Ninevites live because they heard the message God sent through Jonah, but a whole boat load of people from different nations and religious backgrounds surrendered their faith to our heavenly Father.

Pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day 65: Joel; by Keith Tysinger

Guest author Keith Tysinger writes The Mighty God Blog
The book of Joel is fascinating because it is part history and part prophecy. Drawing the line between the two can be difficult. Some spiritualize the entire book. I will generally take the view that what clearly isn’t prophetic is factual history. Otherwise I could reinterpret the book to mean anything I desire.

The book of Joel takes on a familiar theme. The motif of God’s people finding trouble and ultimately God’s deliverance is seen throughout the OT. In these terms, the book is important today. The book is of special importance because Joel’s prophecy was for a future generation – a timeframe that overlaps our time, and culminates with the return of the Lord.

The book opens telling of a great locust plague that had caused abject famine in that day (Joel 1, NIV):

Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.

The locusts left the Jewish people with nothing. They were not even able worship God with their first-fruits and offerings (v. 9). Panic and unmitigated sadness filled the Jewish day (v. 12). Most Christians can relate to the locust invasion on some level. Especially in the current economy, it is very possible to be on top of the world one day and nearly destitute the next.

As with any catastrophe, collective or personal, God always provides a remedy. God exhorted the elders to “put on sackcloth” and to “declare a holy fast.” In Christian terminology, God wanted His people to repent and acknowledge Him (v. 2:13). It’s funny how the church wants everyone else to change their ways, but sometimes it is the church that needs to repent and acknowledge God. Indeed, sometimes the problem is our own compliancy.

Although the book was probably written during the reign of King Joash (835-796 B.C.), St. Peter recognized its prophetic significance during the first century AD. “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16, KJV). Peter continued, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy …”

Joel declared a time would come when not only the King could know God, as was believed in that day, but common people would come to know God. The Religious Order would no longer hold the copyright to salvation, but everybody – just anybody – could know God. In fact, Joel states that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (2:32).

We are living in that timeframe now, which St. Peter called the “Last Days.” We can now, through Jesus, call upon God directly. We can know God personally. We can be saved from the judgment that will soon follow. God has provided us the ultimate remedy through His Son.

© Keith Tysinger. Used by permission.

Day 64: A Ho And A Lyric

Hosea 2:14-16

By Dariamanu 16 CC-BY-SA-3.0
New Living Translation (NLT)

The Lord’s Love for Unfaithful Israel

14 “But then I will win her back once again.
    I will lead her into the desert
    and speak tenderly to her there.
15 I will return her vineyards to her
    and transform the Valley of Trouble[a] into a gateway of hope.
She will give herself to me there,
    as she did long ago when she was young,
    when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
16 When that day comes,” says theLord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’
    instead of ‘my master.’

Hosea 3

New Living Translation (NLT)

Hosea’s Wife Is Redeemed

Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”So I bought her back for fifteen pieces of silver and five bushels of barley and a measure of wine. Then I said to her, “You must live in my house for many days and stop your prostitution. During this time, you will not have sexual relations with anyone, not even with me.”This shows that Israel will go a long time without a king or prince, and without sacrifices, sacred pillars, priests, or even idols! But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness.


I spent yesterday reading the book of Hosea, the prophet whom God instructed to marry a whore. God's intention was to illustrate Israel's unfaithfulness to God through the domestic discord between Hosea and Gomer. It wasn't until I started digging a little deeper that I discovered how much controversy surrounds the couple. It seems that a lot of scholars and theologians just don't want to believe that Gomer was promiscuous, and more importantly, that God would never ask one of His people to marry such a woman. So many theories have been presented to explain away Hosea's misfortune that I couldn't possibly describe them in detail. Suffice it to say that maybe she was a hooker, maybe she was a temple prostitute, maybe she was just an unfaithful wife. Or on the hand, maybe Gomer was actually the ideal wife, but because of some mistranslation from Hebrew to English, she got mixed up with another wife who wasn't so good. Still others believe that Gomer wasn't physically promiscuous, but she refused to serve Hosea's God. And finally, there are those who believe that the entire story of Hosea's marriage was fictional, and Gomer never existed at all.

It really doesn't matter whether she existed or not. Scripture describes Israel so graphically as a whore that it's sometimes shocking, and almost embarrassing to read, even silently. The story of Gomer's infidelity isn't nearly as descriptive. And whether it was literal or figurative, sexual promiscuity was obviously as easy for one to relate to in ancient times as it is today.

Not long ago I shared the lyrics of a song that I had written many years ago. The song, Whispers, was based on the relationship between God and Israel as described in Isaiah 54. I'm going to share another lyric, written just as many years ago, also about Israel's rebellion and eventual restoration, this time from the perspective of Gomer. I hope you enjoy it.

Into the Desert

She knelt beside the alter
of the loveless god she served,
and sacrificed her self esteem,
her dignity and worth.
She left there feeling empty,
unsatisfied, alone,
wondering how her sense of freedom
had become a heavy stone.

She has gone out in the desert now,
her party is pain,
and she looks around her helplessly
as she whispers his name...
Then she cries out to the wilderness
"Why has everything changed?"
But the only one who hears her, (the only one)
the only one who hears her
speaks softly now,
and says "I am still the same"

She is stripped of all her masquerades
as she stands before the Lord.
He gazes at her lovingly,
this lost child He adores.
She says "I do not deserve your love,
I am guilty and unclean."
He says "You are just as beautiful
as any lamb I've ever seen..."
He says "Come, I'll be your strength".

So she follows him out
and she learns to trust
the one she calls Master
to be faithful and just.
She says "I'll serve no other now,
I'll worship you alone",
He says "you have learned your lesson well,
come, I'll lead you home".

She's come out of the desert now,
He is right there by her side.
She is clothed in royal linen
of pure and sparkling white...
and she marvels at the feast prepared,
(a wedding feast)
It is such a wondrous feast prepared
for the Master and His bride.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Day 63: Don't Bend Abednego!

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
copyright V. Gilbert and Arlisle F. Beers

Daniel 3:15-18

New Living Translation (NLT)
 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments.[a] But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”


Almost the entire book of Daniel deals with Daniel's ability to interpret the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and subsequent kings of Babylon, and the prophetic visions known as the end times prophecies. All except for one instance that centers entirely on his three best friends. It's an event that Daniel doesn't even figure into at all; He just tells the story of what happened.

The three guys had been exiled along with Daniel during the third year of Jehoikim's reign in Judah, when King Nebuchadnezzar and his armies laid siege to Jerusalem. Because each of them was from Jewish royalty or nobility, and had the good fortune of being strong and handsome, the four of them were selected to enter into royal service in Babylon. They were also each given new names, ones that suited the king's fancy.

Daniel's name became Belteshazzar. 
Hananiah became Shadrach.
Mishael was now known as Meshach.
And Azariah was renamed Abednego, which is pronounced A-BED-neh-go. There is no "bend" in its pronunciation!

Together the four close friends had proven themselves more than competent, and had each moved up in rank. But they didn't always tow the king's line. From the very beginning, even as they spent three years training for service, they bent the rules of the kingdom. They'd been ordered to receive meals heavy with meat and wine, but they insisted on following a vegetarian diet with no alcohol. When King Neb ordered to have all the wise men (mostly astrologers and sorcerers) in the kingdom killed for not interpreting his dream, Daniel requested more time so that he could ask God to reveal it. King Neb granted his request, and Daniel and his three friends fasted and prayed together until God revealed the dream and its meaning to Daniel. So together with God, they succeeded in saving the lives of all the king's wise guys. It's a good thing, too, because Daniel's gift of dream interpretation included him in that category.

King Neb was so grateful that Daniel had explained his dream (and probably that the dream foretold events that wouldn't occur til Neb was off the throne) that he promoted Daniel and his friends to high positions of authority; Daniel became the ruler over the entire province, while continuing to reside in the palace, and Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego lived outside the palace walls and governed all the affairs within the province.

Not everybody was pleased with the rise in rank of the four outsiders, and looked for opportunities to change the status quo. It happened that King Neb had a gold statue erected that was 9' wide and 90' tall. This thing was monstrous! Everybody was expected to bow down and worship the king's newest play-pretty every time they heard the sound of musical instruments. Anyone who rebelled against the new law would be thrown into a blazing furnace.

As usual, the boys weren't having any of that. They'd never caved in to pressure before, and they weren't about to start.  So some of the astrologers in the province ratted them out to the king. This really made King Neb mad. He had Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego brought before him so he could chew them out royally... no pun intended. Well, ok, maybe the pun is intended. Anyway, here's my version of how it went.

King Neb: What the heck, guys! Didn't you hear the order that was given that you have to serve my gods and worship my statue out there?
Shadrach: Uh, yeah, we heard something about that.
King Neb: You head something about it? Well why haven't you done something about it?
Meshach: Because you know we serve a different God, and we can't compromise our faith by worshiping that gleaming hunk of metal you stuck out there in the fields of Dura.
King Neb: Seriously? You guys are unbelievable. Listen, I'm going to give you one last chance. You will bow down and worship the statute I've made whenever you hear musical instruments. If you don't, I'll have you thrown into the furnace. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that you are going to be burned alive, and there is nothing your God can do about it. 
Abednego: We don't have to stand here and justify our actions to you, Neb. Go ahead, throw us in the fire. Our God can do plenty about it, if He chooses. He can protect us from whatever harm you wish on us. And even if He chooses not to save us, we're still not going to defy our God to worship yours.

Nebuchadnezzar went ballistic when he heard those words. His face became all twisted with rage and he started sputtering as he ordered some of the strongest men in the room to tie them all up. Then he demanded that more fuel be thrown into the furnace, to make it seven times hotter than normal. The three friends were then escorted to the door of the furnace, and pushed inside. It was so incredibly hot that the flames shot out and killed the death squad that had taken Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to the fiery pit. The king watched from a safe vantage point. All of a sudden, he jumped up in utter amazement and shouted to the servants around him;

King Neb: Hey, didn't we tie them up first? And there were only three of them, right?
Random Bystander: Yes, Your Magesty, we did. Why do you ask?
King Neb: Because look! There's four men in there, and they're walking around like it's a cool spring day! Who the heck is that other guy with them? He looks like a god or something!
Neb ran as close as he could to the furnace door and shouted at the top of his lungs.
King Neb: Guys, guys! I get it! You serve a bigger God than I do! Get out here!
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego all came out. Not a hair on their heads was singed, not a thread of their clothes was scorched, and they smelled as fresh as though they'd just stepped out of a shower. 

King Neb: I think I'd better start praising your God and not my own! You defied me and were willing to die for your God, and He honored that by saving your lives. So I am issuing a new decree; Nobody, and I mean nobody had better ever say a word against you three guys, because if I get wind of it, I'll rip their arms out of their sockets and burn their houses to the ground. No other god can pull off a feat like yours just did!
And then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were promoted to even higher ranking positions in the province of Babylon.

I remember when I was a little girl, there was a song I sung about this event. It's a song that is taught in Sunday School and children's church services to help little kids learn the stories of the Bible. I found several versions on youtube, and I'm going to include one here that I enjoyed the most. If you can, watch and listen. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 61 & 62: Tyre: Prophecy Failed or Fulfilled?

The Seige of Tyre 332 BC. (Public Domain)

Ezekiel 26:1-6

New Living Translation (NLT)
2On February 3, during the twelfth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity,[a] this message came to me from the Lord:“Son of man, Tyre has rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Ha! She who was the gateway to the rich trade routes to the east has been broken, and I am the heir! Because she has been made desolate, I will become wealthy!’“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am your enemy, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the waves of the sea crashing against your shoreline. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and tear down its towers. I will scrape away its soil and make it a bare rock! It will be just a rock in the sea, a place for fishermen to spread their nets, for I have spoken, says the Sovereign Lord. Tyre will become the prey of many nations, and its mainland villages will be destroyed by the sword. Then they will know that I am the Lord.


I have to admit, I am lousy with geography. When I started reading in Ezekiel about the prophecy regarding Tyre's demise, I had to get online and see what I could find out about it. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a city called Tyre is still on the maps in the same general vicinity as the ancient seaport that was supposed to have been destroyed! 

It really didn't disturb me too much. So much of Biblical prophecy is still unfolding even today, that I would have normally just brushed it off and thought no more about it. But a link caught my eye. It was an article claiming that the Bible was not inerrant, and that Ezekiel was a false prophet, because the city of Tyre still exists in Lebanon.

Ok, that shook me up. Obviously there are a lot of people who don't share my perspective that many of the prophecies in the Old Testament are still in the process of fulfillment. So if someone were to ask me about this, how would I respond? I decided I'd better dig into it and figure out what to say. Besides, it seems that the Holy Spirit has continually challenged me throughout these last two months, and I'm sure this won't be the last twister He throws in my direction before my 90 day journey through scripture has been completed. Even though I feel a little mentally and emotionally exhausted from the pace of my reading schedule and the depths to which I must dig in order to understand and then share the answers, God seems to give me the stamina that I need to get through it. Weary or not, I feel richly rewarded at the end of each chapter.

Ok, so Tyre. Is it pronounced like 'tire' or 'tear'? Apparently the answer depends on where you live. We Americans generally pronounce it like 'tire', but it seems that the proper pronunciation is 'tear'. That's how I say it; 'tear'. It just sounds prettier to me. Anyway, the question needs to be answered. If it still exists, then what of Ezekiel's prophecies? For the answers, I've poured over a half dozen different websites, some of which included a lengthy list of extra-Biblical sources. I'll be happy to provide the sites where I obtained the second-hand (to me) information, but since I haven't read the books and documents that are referenced by the authors of those websites, I won't cite the sources of my sources. How's that for a mouthful?

Tyre was one of the most ancient cities on the Mediterranean, dating back to around 2700 BC. Because of its location, it was very one of the most prosperous trading centers in the entire world. It was from here that King Hiram had sent cedar trees, carpenters, masons and builders to help build Solomon's temple and the other important structures long before Ezekiel predicted its ruin.

But as will happen with any city that becomes very prosperous and densely populated, it became a place of violence and bloodshed, religious diversity and idolatry, and every other type of sin. What ticked God off the most though was the greed, pride, and jealousy directed at Jerusalem, and how collectively, the Tyrians rejoiced in Jerusalem's misfortunes, and attempted to profit from them. They hated the Jews so much that they had started selling them off as slaves to the Greeks, primarily to rid the land of their presence. (That part is in Joel 3:6, but isn't found in Ezekiel.)

Nobody back then would have ever thought Tyre could be destroyed. Not only did it have a phenomenal naval fleet, its geography provided a natural defense that made it nearly impregnable. The city was actually divided; the mainland, and a small rocky island about a half mile off the eastern coast. The force of the winds between the mainland and the island were prohibitive to bridging the two areas, and the water was so deep around the island city that any sort of attack would have had to been made from ships in the tumultuous waters. It's no surprise, then, that during Nebuchadnezzar's 13 year seige against the mainland, the majority of the inhabitants relocated to the island.

I'm going to quote a lot of scripture here, so bear with me. You'll notice that the dates provided in scripture are dates that are consistent with our calendar. In the KJV, however, the dates are given according to the Hebrew calendar. I prefer the way the NLT gives dates that are understandable to me. However you look at it, the dates, in correlation to the year of Jehoichin's captivity, make this one of the easiest prophecies in scripture to place in an accurate time frame, because the date of his captivity is universally accepted as beginning in the year 597 BC. Ezekiel gives several specific years that correlate to the captivity throughout the prophecy (portions of which are included also in chapters 20, 24, and 29) and can be verified with both Biblical and additional historical records. Keep in mind, prophecies, by their very definition, are predictions given before the events occur.

Ezekiel 26:7-14, 19-21

New Living Translation (NLT)

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: From the north I will bring King Nebuchadnezzar[b] of Babylon against Tyre. He is king of kings and brings his horses, chariots, charioteers, and great army. First he will destroy your mainland villages. Then he will attack you by building a siege wall, constructing a ramp, and raising a roof of shields against you. He will pound your walls with battering rams and demolish your towers with sledgehammers. 10 The hooves of his horses will choke the city with dust, and the noise of the charioteers and chariot wheels will shake your walls as they storm through your broken gates. 11 His horsemen will trample through every street in the city. They will butcher your people, and your strong pillars will topple.
12 “They will plunder all your riches and merchandise and break down your walls. They will destroy your lovely homes and dump your stones and timbers and even your dust into the sea. 13 I will stop the music of your songs. No more will the sound of harps be heard among your people. 14 I will make your island a bare rock, a place for fishermen to spread their nets. You will never be rebuilt, for I, the Lord, have spoken. Yes, the Sovereign Lord has spoken!
 19 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will make Tyre an uninhabited ruin, like many others. I will bury you beneath the terrible waves of enemy attack. Great seas will swallow you. 20 I will send you to the pit to join those who descended there long ago. Your city will lie in ruins, buried beneath the earth, like those in the pit who have entered the world of the dead. You will have no place of respect here in the land of the living. 21 I will bring you to a terrible end, and you will exist no more. You will be looked for, but you will never again be found. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

So here, in a nutshell, are the predictions of Ezekiel:

  • Many nations would come against Tyre like waves of the sea
  • Tyre would be made bare like a rock
  • Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the mainland
  • The city would be torn down and the debris thrown into the midst of the water
  • The site would become a place for fishermen to spread their nets
  • The city would never be rebuilt.
While reading through all the information I've found on various websites, it occurs to me that many people think that just because a prophecy is able to be verbalized in five minutes, that the fulfillment of it should happen in one fell swoop. Couple that with the inclination for many nay-sayers to overlook the first prediction and thus assuming that Nebuchadnezzar would be entirely responsible for bringing the city to its ruination, and you have the substance of the disagreement. Oh yeah, and the little tidbit about it still being on the map. We'll get to that.

Chronologically, here's how the events played out. Nebuchadnezzar's armies began their siege against the mainland villages of Tyre shortly after Ezekiel's prophecy, and didn't stop for thirteen years. After the Babylonians had destroyed most of the mainland and killed those who had not moved to the island, Tyre reached a truce with Babylon without the island city having been compromised. This completes Nebuchadnezzar's portion of the prophecy.

It was a couple hundred years later when Alexander the Great entered the picture and more of the prophecy began being fulfilled. He had been warring against the Persians, traveling southward toward Egypt, calling on all the Phoenician cities to open their gates. It was his goal to prevent the cities from being used by the Persian fleets against him. Tyre wasn't about to obey Alexander's request, though. This made Alexander mad, so he began dismantling the ruins of Old Tyre, the mainland region, and used the debris to begin building a 200' wide causeway between it and the island region. Prophecy fulfilled: The old city of Tyre on the mainland was essentially torn down and thrown into the midst of the water. 

Tyre fought back with a vengeance. They had the advantage, both defensively and aggressively, because they had an enormous naval presence. They were causing Alexander's troops a world of hurt until he figured out he'd better get some help. So he gathered a fleet of ships from countries he'd conquered, and more from countries he applied pressure to, and ended up with a naval force that included Sidon, Cyprus, and 7 other nations. Now Alexander had the upper hand, and the prophecy about many nations coming against Tyre had been fulfilled. The causeway did get completed, the island's walls were breached, and there was a widespread slaughter in the streets and on the square. Those who had not been killed were sold into slavery.

None of the events described thus far in Ezekiel's prophecy are disputed. Non-Biblical historical records verify all of this. Even if we stopped right there, one would have to admit that there is no way that Ezekiel could have accurately guessed all these events when he first predicted them. Remember, a couple or three hundred years have now come and gone since Ezekiel's prophecies. 

A history textbook once used in high schools and colleges gives credence to two other aspects of the prophecy. It should be noted that Phillip Myers was a secular historian and was not writing from a Biblical perspective when he wrote that Tyre never fully recovered, and that for the most part, the original site of the city was bare as a rock. He wrote that fishermen regularly use the area as a place to spread their nets to dry. Prophetic? Check.

But what about the city not being rebuilt? Remember, Old Tyre was the mainland. It has been completely lost, buried under water. A 12th century traveler by the name of Benjamin of Tudela journaled that he found New Tyre to be a beautiful city with an exquisite harbor and first class sugar crops. From the top of the walls around New Tyre, one could see the ancient city of Tyre beneath the water. If one ventured out by boat toward the coastland, the ruins of the marketplaces, the streets, and the palaces were still clearly visible in the seabed. 

By the 20th century, a theological historian by the name of George Davis wrote that the remains of the ancient city had long been buried beneath the changing Mediterranean coastline, which is now a peninsula. In his book Fulfilled Prophecies That Prove The Bible he includes a photograph of Syrian fishermen hauling in their nets, taken where ancient Tyre is believed to have been located.

That leaves the final prophecy in question. The prophecy that Tyre would never be rebuilt and would be lost forever. This is what is hotly disputed. But is it really a failed prophecy? Is it even possible that the prophecy has not yet been fulfilled? 

The prophecy has not failed, and has already been fulfilled. How?

Neither the mainland city of Old Tyre nor the island city of New Tyre exist today. Even after Alexander the Great brought partial destruction to the island, the city continued to come under attack for centuries. In 193 BC, the city was attacked, plundered and burned. Between 1085 and 1155 AD, Tyre was frequently besieged by Egypt. In 1291, the city ultimately came to her ruin by the Sultan Halil. By the late 17th century, all that remained were "a few poor wretches" who subsisted primarily on fishing. In 1837, an earthquake devastated the remaining structures so completely that the area was not even passable.

A new city named Tyre was erected, however, and is now a thriving seaport community with a population of around 60,000. It should not be confused with the Biblical mainland city of Old Tyre, or with the Biblical island city of New Tyre. Although it is widely considered to be the same city founded in 2700 BC or thereabouts, there is no physical connection between modern Tyre and the cities of old. For a very long time, there was virtually nothing there at all. I'm not sure when the current version of the city was built, because even Wiki didn't provide that information. Regardless, the ruins that one can visit today aren't from the Phoenician cities of Tyre, but are of buildings erected during the Crusades. The modern day city of Tyre is on a peninsula that did not even exist in ancient times, and even the geographic location of the original cities has long been buried beneath water and sand.