Carbon Dating, Camel Bones, And The Reliability Of The Bible. It’s More Interesting Than You Might Think.

camelOops, they did it again. (Apologies to Ms Spears). The media has once again grabbed hold of a ‘sensational’ (double entendre intended) story and run with it, only to find the truth has slipped through their fingers.  This time it isn’t related to life on Mars, or the military record of a politician, but rather the assumption that carbon dating of camels from the Holy Land has disproved the Bible.

Most of the time, no one gives rat’s Gluteus Maximus about carbon dating results, but when the (hasty) conclusions suggest an error in the Bible, well, Katy bar the door. Suddenly, everyone wants to publish the big news.

I mean, how much have you read about the very interesting discoveries in Jerusalem that are demonstrating that there really was a kingdom there during the time of David and Solomon? Excuse me?  You hadn’t heard that?

Ok, then, how about the digs 9 miles outside of Jerusalem that are showing strong evidence that the tiny city of Ai from the Book of Joshua really did exist right where (and when) the Bible said it did?  Sorry, what’s that?  You didn’t know?  Of course not; archaeology is boring to the Main Street Media. People don’t want to read about rocks and pottery and old bones. Journalists certainly don’t want to write about them. They want to write about murder and mayhem and politics and snowstorms in Atlanta.

If, however, something pops up that could make the Bible look bad, it’s everywhere.

Earlier this week, following the lead of an article in National Geographic, the Press went wild, reporting that carbon dating of camel bones shows that the Bible is in error when it describes Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as using camels, because camels weren’t domesticated in Canaan until a thousand years later.

The conclusion of the article was that Genesis must have been written much later than Christians and Jews claim.  Some of the ‘scholars’ quoted, condescendingly accepted that the Biblical authors did not intentionally deceive anyone. They merely assumed that the modes of transportation in their day must surely have been practiced all those centuries before.  It was an honest mistake. You know, kind of like someone today writing about Charlemagne and assuming he traveled about Europe in a Volvo.  Poor, dumb, misinformed, Biblical authors; we can’t blame them for being accidental idiots.

Well, let’s just hold our horses (since those DID exist in Canaan, er, I mean Palestine) for a minute.  Let’s dig into this a little deeper and see what the Bible actually says on the matter.  Perhaps we may find there is much ado about nothing in these stories.  I realize I was educated before Common Core, so maybe I can be excused for not wanting to jump to conclusions or following the herd, and maybe you will indulge me a few moments more.

Let us grant the 10th century dates as the earliest known domesticated camels in Palestine. The key word is ‘domesticated’ and I’ll return to it later.

All that is proven is that no earlier domesticated camels have been found.  It doesn’t PROVE there weren’t any.  Until recently, we hadn’t found evidence of Ai, now we have. New species of animals and plants are discovered every year.  Did they not exist before they were found?

Flora and fauna long thought to be extinct have reappeared. Were they extinct until they weren’t?  That’s like saying you were for something before you were against it. And, who would be that silly?

I understand that logic and reason are dying art forms, but I’m determined to employ them anyway. Please humor me.

My real basis of prosecuting my case, that Journalists have once again drawn hasty, errant conclusions about the Bible, comes from the very texts they malign. I want to show you what the Bible ACTUALLY says, rather what these articles imply it says and means.

Abraham is from the city of Ur in the Eastern Mesopotamian region.  Camels were domesticated there at least 500 years BEFORE Abraham’s time.  Abraham, his father and brothers are wealthy nomads. Is it unreasonable that they might use and even breed camels like other wealthy nomads in their region did?  I think not.  It makes perfect sense.

The first mention of Abraham and camels is in Genesis 12. Abraham, at that time still called Abram, goes down to Egypt because of a famine.  While there, out of fear for his own skin, he passes his wife off as his sister. Not one of his prouder moments.  After God warns Pharaoh not to touch Sarah (Sarai), the Egyptian king buys off Abraham with gifts (in order to appease God), including camels. Read it for yourself.

Where does this take place again? That’s right, Egypt.  Carvings and pottery have shown camels were domesticated in Egypt from at least 2500 B.C. and maybe as early as 500 years before that.  They didn’t become really popular until the time of the Persians (after 535 B.C.), but they were known and in use.

So far we have a guy from a country that has camels traveling to a foreign country that has camels. Talk about a historical scandal! Poor, dumb Biblical writers; they forgot to screw up their history….again.

Fast forward to Genesis 24 where Abraham sends his servant to go to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac.  Abraham packs up some camels for the journey.  Wow, that’s odd.  Who could believe that a guy from camel country would send a few camels on a journey back to camel country?

Similarly, later in Genesis, when Jacob runs away from his brother Esau (and for good reason), he runs to his mother’s family in Mesopotamia.  While there, he picks up some camels.  Talk about far-fetched. Next, you’ll try and convince me that when Benjamin Franklin was in France, he dated French women. No one will ever buy that one either, sir!

When the book of Genesis ends, all of Jacob’s family has packed up and moved to Egypt. Everyone and everything is gone.  That would mean their camels, too.

See where I’m going with this?  Genesis describes ONE family from aplace where camels are used, settling in another camel friendly country with about 150 years in between.  It doesn’t describe a thriving camel industry in Palestine, or even a little ‘Buy here, Pay here on a street corner in Shechem.  Instead, it talks about camels in and from countries that were already known to use them. Then the one family the Bible describes as breeding them, all leave and take their herds with them.

Interestingly (to me), camel bones have been found that date from the time of the patriarchs, but the skeptics write them off as undomesticated; wild herds that occasionally passed through.  That is entirely possible. Might it also be possible that these herds were the property of a nomadic family that also passed through the region?

During the time period of Joshua and Judges, still before the carbon dated domestic camels, the Bible mentions camels again, but each time they are the possessions of invading armies from the East (where camels are known) and not as belonging to the Israelis.

The later we go in history, the more frequently the animals are mentioned, peaking during the time of the Persian domination. This is exactly what one would expect from both the carbon dating results and what we know about the spread of camels before, during and after the Persian Empire.

Just one more thing in passing; this ‘camel bones disproving Genesis’ is a tired old shoe.  I am not the first to debunk it.  I bet you hadn’t heard that, either.  After all, the truth doesn’t fit the narrative, and the truth would be VERY INCONVENIENT.

If The Bible Is Right, Ayn Rand Was Wrong

Anyone who has read my profile knows I call myself a Christian, conservative, libertarian, capitalist.  It’s in that order for a reason.  I am a follower of Jesus above and before all else. I make no apology for that, though it may cost me readers and followers.  After that, I believe in fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets, limited Government, individual liberty and responsibility, and the free market.

It is the Christian part that drives my bus and creates the lanes for those other three core values to travel in.  My faith shapes the boundaries, the limits and the scope of all my other beliefs and practices.  With that caveat, I’d like to address my evolving thoughts on capitalism and the free market.

First, the daggum Government should stay out of the market.  Frankly, Government never makes anything better. Most regulations serve a special interest and not really the common good.  They are frequently couched in language that sounds noble and in the public interest, but almost always are really about more Government control over us.

When we look closely and think critically (which most have lost the ability to do), it is clear to see that if we follow the money, we’ll discover that most regulations are sponsored by and enrich certain interest groups, resulting in big donations and votes for the promoters of the regulations.

A case in point; food safety.  We all want to be assured that what we eat is fit to eat. Since, though, many of us want nothing to do with taking responsibility for our own food chain, Government (this is a bi-partisan matter) steps in to take care of us and create food safety regulations.  A deeper dive, though, will easily reveal that food safety regulations, benefit and often exempt big Agra and big Business at the expense of small producers and individual freedoms.

The overwhelming majority of food borne illness comes from big, rather than small producers.  Yet, it is the small farmer and rancher who bears the burden of heavy handed regulation while the deep pockets of the big nationals and multinationals provide them virtual immunity.  But I digress.  I will return to this subject another day.

While I believe Government should largely stay out of the market, I believe business owners, small and large, have a moral obligation to police their own integrity and practices.  This task is much easier for the small, and/or private company that for a publicly traded one.

Most, if not all, companies begin with a notion that they can provide a product or service that will solve problems or provide benefit to their customers.  In return for those products and services the provider will be remunerated; a win for all parties.  Care is taken to look after the best interest of customers and employees.  Loyalty is seen as mutually beneficial.

Many businesses stay true to those values and become beacons in a dark, grey world.  Knowingly, or unknowingly, said companies are practicing a Biblical principle.  St. Paul, the apostle, wrote in his letter to the Philippians (Chapter2), “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. ”

Imagine what the world could look like if all businesses followed such a code.  It is my opinion that everyone’s standard of living would improve.

Some businesses, and nearly all publicly traded ones, somewhere along the way, lose sight of their origins and move the goal line.  Profit itself becomes the target, the end game, which inevitably leads to customers and employees becoming pawns, tools to be used to drive the bottom line.  When that happens, Capitalism becomes a nightmare come to life; a Frankenstein’s Monster.

In Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, the antagonist Socialists are rightly portrayed as misguided buffoons who blunder through their lives wrecking corporations and society.  Sadly, though, her heroes, who see profit as the stand alone prize, are equally selfish and immoral, gratifying their own appetites without giving a thought to the lives and relationships they are harming. Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden and Francisco D’Anconia are as empty, morally bankrupt people as are James Taggart (Dagny’s brother) and Lillian Rearden (Hank’s wife).

As a side note, I continue to be shocked at the number of Christians I meet who love “Atlas Shrugged”.  They see it as a triumph of free market Capitalism over Socialism.  I see it as a tragic parable of a fallen humanity living in a world without Christ.  The book makes my heart hurt.

On more than one occasion, I have been in meetings at various times and places over the years, where I  heard corporate leaders say, regarding price hikes, “We should make them (customers) squeal, but make it impossible to leave.”  When asked what the customer receives in return, the reply is a blank stare.  I find that chilling.  I’m old enough and have traveled enough that I have even seen Churches so focused on budgets that ‘church growth’ is about paying the bills. It makes me shudder.

It is especially difficult for publicly traded companies who are forced to appease the unquenchable hunger and thirst of the shareholders.  The best interests of customers and employees becomes subject to the relentless pursuit of profit and share price. The business becomes Seymour to Audrey II’s demanding, “Feed me.”  In the end, “Little Shop of Horror’s” Seymour is reduced to a killer who is consumed by his own monster.

Unfettered Capitalism and Govt. controlled Socialism both result in manipulation and enslavement a hapless population. I can’t find any good guys in that scenario.

In addition to Paul’s admonition to look after the best interest of others, Jesus himself said, “Whoever wants to be the greatest among you, should become the servant of all”, Mark 10:43-45.

I guess what I’ve taken a long time to say is, I have come to a place where I realize that profit is not bad as a by-product or a secondary goal. In fact, it’s a blessing, but when it becomes the quarry, the pursuit of profit can become something dangerous and turn us into loathesome creatures.

Again, it was Jesus of Nazareth who said it best; “You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

 

Duck Calls, Boycotts, Political Correctness and The Gospel of Christ. It Must Be Christmas

duck dynastyI don’t watch Duck Dynasty.  I’ve never seen a single minute of the show.  My wife and I have not had television (cable or network) in three years. It was a waste of money considering how little we watched and how little was worth watching.

The phenomenon that is the Robertson family, however, has not escaped our awareness. That would be virtually impossible here in ‘the land of the free’.  This last week, especially, has been quite the fishbowl for that family.  On the other hand, when you run a gazillion dollar corporation, have a reality show, dress head to toe in camo, wear your beards to your knees, appear on camera with a duck call in one hand and a Bible in the other, accompanied by runway model wives, you’re probably going to garner attention like no other fish in the bowl.  But, I’m just guessing.

America fell in love, or at least in awe, with this eccentric, successful family who reminded us of a bygone era in our country, that we thought was lost forever. A weekly dose of faith, family, love, hard work and Uncle Si, was just the tonic we needed to help us navigate in a world that seemed to have slipped from its moorings.  For an hour we could forget our under or un employment, our healthcare worries, our dysfunctional politicians (from all parties), our wars and rumors of wars.

Then, surprise of surprises, the ‘Duck Commander’ himself stirred up a hornets nest in an interview with GQ magazine.  Suddenly, the December season of cheer, was all abuzz with talk of political correctness, free speech, intolerance, violations of the constitution, hate speech and competing calls of ‘crucify him’ and ‘reinstate’ him. ‘Boycott’ became the rallying cry of the nations ‘duckophiles’, while the mainstream media shook their heads in wonder at the outrage of these unwashed masses and their commitment to hate.

From my perspective, we must be in a very slow news cycle.  ‘Robertsongate’ should barely be a blip on our radar, yet it has dominated headlines for days and days, with lines being drawn, ultimatums given, and op-eds filling our newspapers, radio waves, television screens, and websites.  Facebook and twitter have ‘blown up’ over the issue.  Phil Robertson’s image must be the single most viewed face in America right now.

Someday, at the right time, I intend to address the constitutional and moral agendas behind this conflict.  They are interesting to me and important to us as a nation, but this is not that day.

Instead, I’d like to take just a moment and speak to the Christian contingent of the ‘Boycott A&E, Reinstate Phil’ movement.

Is a public call for boycotts in the best interest of the Gospel?  Would Jesus use boycotts of secular industry as a way to further His cause?  Has a single heart or opinion ever been changed by a boycott?  Is it a win if we get our constitutional way, but lose the hearts and respect of people with opposing world views, or those on the fence?  Do angry letters to leadership of GLAAD make Christianity appear more attractive?  Are we more concerned about our constitutional rights or the redemption of the human race?  Am I an American, or a Christian, first?  How do calls for boycott differ from cries of, ‘crucify him?’  How does Jesus’ teaching (‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him water. If he takes your coat, offer him your shirt as well) apply, if at all, to situations like the A&E suspension of Phil Robertson?  What would Jesus do in this situation?

I love the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.  There are two stories in the first 6 chapters that, to me, are extremely relevant here.  I’d like to summarize them.

After the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the kingdom of Judah, several prominent youngsters were taken off to Babylon to be trained in the ways of Babylonian culture, philosophy and religion.  Some of these young men became very prominent in society.  Their religious practices and influence soon got on the nerves of the mainstream leadership.  A plan was devised to silence them.  A decree went out that at certain times of day, a trumpet would sound and everyone would do the politically correct thing and bow down to a giant image of the King that had been set up for public adoration.

Obviously, this was going to be a problem for our God fearing young men.  They did not protest, call an attorney, stage a boycott or hold a press conference.  They simply, firmly, steadfastly and humbly said, “We can’t do that” and took the path of peaceful, civil disobedience.  God honored their action, and a mighty miracle followed.  In the end, even the King apologized.

In the second story, which happened many years after the first, several of the key leaders in the kingdom were sick and tired of Daniel’s influence in the King’s council.  He had to be silenced.  They devised a plan to convince the King that for a season, the people should pray to no deity except the king, himself.  They knew Daniel could not comply.

The law was passed.  Daniel’s response is quite interesting.  He does not ask for an audience with the king.  He does not make a scene or cry, ‘outrage’.  He merely continues his daily practice of prayer to his God.  He is caught, arrested and convicted.  God then tames lions and Daniel is rescued from certain death.  The king honors God.

Are those merely stories from an ancient time, or could Shadrach, Meshack, Abednego and Daniel, serve as role models for our own responses when our faith and practice become intolerable to the civic authorities of the day?

For what it’s worth, when the news came down to Phil Robertson that he had been suspended, my understanding is that his response was to join a group of men from his Church and go minister to a woman in their community who was in need.  Maybe he doesn’t have a Facebook account to update.

 

 

 

 

I’ll Have One Customizable Jesus To Go, Please

Luk 4:14  And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. Luk 4:15  And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. Luk 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. Luk 4:17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, Luk 4:18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, Luk 4:19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luk 4:20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Luk 4:21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luk 4:22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Luk 4:23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” Luk 4:24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. Luk 4:25But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, Luk 4:26and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. Luk 4:27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” Luk 4:28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. Luk 4:29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. Luk 4:30 But passing through their midst, he went away.  English Standard Version

 

One does not have to look at me very long or very hard to realize that I like to eat.  I like to eat, a lot.  And, I like a lot to eat.  I am fond of buffets, for example, if I get there early, that is,  while the food is still fresh.  Once it gets a little feeble and pawed over, I’m not nearly so enthused.

I like those option menus, too.  You know, take one from column A, two from column B, places.  One of my favorite eateries B and I frequent is like that.  It’s called “Starch R Us” or something along those lines.  Anyway, there’s a list of meats and a list of side dishes.  You can mix and match as you like.  It’s great fun. And so healthy, too…NOT!

Last weekend, Brittan and I went out to eat at a nice family steak place.  As we studied the menu, B showed me an item that looked good.  It said (I paraphrase, but am pretty close), “a juicy sirloin served with two skewers of grilled shrimp over a bed of rice, with tomato butter, one side and your choice of a side salad topped with garlic croutons and your favorite dressing or a Caesar Salad, along with unlimited warm soft brown wheat bread.”

“That’s it!” I exclaimed with much enthusiasm.  When the waiter came to take our order, I turned to him with great aplomb and said, “I’ll have the sirloin and shrimp, please.  But instead of a sirloin, I’d like a filet.  Instead of rice, I’d like broccoli.  No bread please.  I’ll have the side salad please.  No croutons and I’d like the blue cheese dressing on the side instead of on top.”

I’m guessing both Brittan and the waiter are still speechless.  What I ordered was certainly based on the menu item, but was customized to my liking.  Fortunately for me, there was no notice in the menu carrying the dreaded phrase, “No substitutions.”

Here in America, we’re pretty spoiled.  We’ve come to expect to have our every wish accommodated.  We are the mix and match generation.  We want our food that way, smart phones that way, our wardrobes that way, our relationships that way and, yes, we even want a customizable Messiah.  Introducing the all new iJesus.  Download the features you like from our convenient app store and configure the Savior just the way you want.

“Yes, I certainly want the salvation part.  I’m big on the ‘friend of sinners’. Oh, and definitely hook me up with the water into wine feature.  You can never have enough of that.  That ‘take up your cross and follow me’? Nah, not so much into that.  ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone’…definitely.  ‘Go and sin no more’, I can do without.  As for ‘hungering and thirsting after righteousness’…well you can just forget that one too, honey.”

Desiring a customizable Savior isn’t new.  We’ve just made it high tech.  Take a look at Luke, chapter 4, which is where we are in our study.  Jesus has been on the road making headlines, making friends, making enemies, changing lives.  Now He’s come home to Nazareth and has been invited to be the guest Rabbi in the local synagogue.

I have no doubt that the place was packed.  Homeboy makes good and comes back to wow the locals.  That’s always a draw.  Jesus does not disappoint.  He begins his sermon by reading a very popular passage of Scripture from Isaiah that everyone would recognize as Messianic (see text at the beginning of this post).  The coming rescuer of Israel would indeed liberate them from poverty and set them free from the prison of oppression to the Roman invaders.  Messiah would set up His kingdom and restore the fortunes of the nation.  This is just what the crowd wants to hear.

The synagogue is ripe with anticipation, filled with wonder and awe as Jesus reads them this favorite scripture.  When He’s finished, He rolls up the scroll, takes His seat and listens for a second to the pregnant silence. Finally, He speaks, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Oh yes, this is the stuff heroes are made of.  Jesus, the home grown prophet has just declared Himself the fulfillment of a most important prophecy.  The crowd is filled with excitement and hope.  They love this guy.  They love this message.  It fits all their expectations.  Then, in the blink of an eye, He becomes the ultimate buzz kill.

Jesus follows His announcement of Messiahship with a story about God reaching beyond the people of Israel to the nations around them.  When Jesus reminds the people of Elijah raising the son of the widow from Sidon, they instantly understand that He is saying that He doesn’t merely want to rescue the Jews; He’s come to save the Gentiles as well.

Unfortunately, that message was incompatible with the desires and expectations of the people.  They didn’t want a Savior of the World; they wanted a Savior for Israel.  Jesus message did not fit their view, so they quickly went from adoring Him to wanting to murder Him.  Jesus, though, took advantage of the chaos created by their rage and escaped through the mob.

Jesus is not always going to meet your expectations.  He is not the creation, He is the creator.  We don’t get to customize Him.  He wants to upgrade us.  There is no Jesus shaped box to keep Him in.  He’s way to big, way too awesome.  He is still saying, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  He’s also still saying, “Leave everything and follow me.” Jesus is not customizable, neither is the Gospel.  There are no substitutions. He is, and always has been perfect just as He is; out of the box.

Jesus, Honey Boo Boo, Me and You – We’ve All Got Wacky Branches in the Family Tree

Luk 3:31  … the son of Nathan, the son of David,

Luk 3:32  the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz…    English Standard Version

“My favorite part of the Bible is the ‘begats’”, said NO ONE,  EVER!

I grew up reading the King James Bible, as did most everyone in my generation (and all those before me).  I remember when the New International Version and the Good News Bible (Good News For Modern Man in those days) first came out.  We felt like we needed to read them in hiding, because we feared using modern translations would result in us being cast out of society as heretics, possibly even burned at the stake.  Those were dark days.

Just kidding, except for the growing up reading King James, that is.  For the most part, it was no big deal.  I say, for the most part, because there were certain sections of the Bible, namely the genealogies that were virtually impossible to get through with your eyelids still open.  We called them, ‘the begats’, and avoided them like the plague.

The Old Testament is peppered with ‘begat’ chapters.  The Book of Genesis is especially loaded.  It’s hard, when you’re 12, to commit to reading the Bible from cover to cover when you can’t get past Genesis 5 without being assaulted by ‘begats’.  Heck, it’s hard for adults, for that matter.

I was well into my 30s before I finally realized those genealogy lists are laced with fascinating nuggets of information.  Seriously.  Stop laughing.  They really are.  Let’s use Luke 3 as our example.

There are two genealogies in the New Testament; Matthew, chapter 1 and Luke, chapter 3.  Both are genealogies of Jesus.  With the exception of a few overlaps, they are as different as night and day.  These differences cause heartburn for many people, but they shouldn’t.

As we’ve mentioned before, Matthew tells the birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective and introduces Jesus as the Messiah, heir to the throne of David, the hope of Israel.

Luke, on the other hand, tells the birth narrative from the viewpoint of Mary, and his gospel emphasizes Jesus as, ‘The Son of Man.’

Their genealogies follow the same pattern.  Matthew gives Jesus Royal family tree through the family of Joseph.  Luke gives Jesus physical family tree through Mary.  That’s why there are some differences, even though in a couple places they converge.

Yip, yip yippee, did I hear you say?  Well, hold on, I’m getting to the good part.  Geez, you’re impatient.

The royal and physical family trees of Jesus converge completely at King David.  Through Joseph, the line goes back via the kings of Israel.  Through Mary, the line goes back by way of David’s son, Nathan.  Still with me?

Here’s the nugget; Solomon, the king who followed his father, David; and Nathan, had the same mother, Bathsheba.  Now that’s cool.

Genetically, Solomon and Nathan are identical.  Jesus human and kingly lines both make Him, The son of David. He is the heir to the throne legally, spiritually and physically.  God covered all the bases. Wow!

One more tidbit and I’ll let you rest.  Solomon and Nathan both were born from a relationship that began in a very ugly fashion. Frankly, it was sinful and disgusting. Yet is has this incredible, glorious happy ending that only God can bring about.

Bathsheba was married to a gentile, Uriah, the Hittite.  Uriah was a war hero, a close personal friend of David’s, and a neighbor.  David had an affair with Bathsheba that resulted in her becoming pregnant by the king.  As a part of the cover up, David arranged for Uriah to be killed, then he married the widow.

The story of David and Bathsheba is as ugly and sordid as anything that could ever come out of the mind of Hollywood.  Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Anyway, God dealt harshly with David and the child died in infancy.  David repented of his actions and begged God for forgiveness.  You can read that repentance in Psalm 51 (my favorite chapter in the Bible).  God heard David’s prayer and forgave him completely.  So completely, that the next King, and ultimately the Savior of the World came from the offspring of that marriage.

If God can take a soap opera like David and Bathsheba and turn it into the salvation of the human race, just think what He can do with the soap opera that is my life; or yours.  All we need to do is follow David’s example and return to Him.

 

See?  I told you there was gold in them there hills.  What other good stuff can we find in the ‘begats’?  I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned and find out.  Or better still, study it for yourself. The trip is worth the fare.

 

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear: Shepherds and Kings and Surprising Things

Outside of Joseph and Mary, the very first humans to lay eyes on the Christchile were Bethlehem’s shepherds.  How absolutely marvellous and appropriate that is, and on multiple levels.

On a similar night, a thousand years before, another shepherd was called from these same fields to receive God’s message and become King of the Jews.  His name; David, son of Jesse.  Now, the heirs of David’s first occupation were the first to gaze upon the heir to David’s throne.  This King’s reign however, would not be limited to 40 years like His ancestor.  As the prophet Isaiah had said, “And of His kingdom, there shall be no end.”

In the first century, outside of Jerusalem, Israel was still primarily an agrarian society.  Sheep and goats, along with cattle and donkeys, were the primary symbols of wealth.  Shepherds tended to be servants, men too old to go to war anymore or the youngest sons of the landowners.  They were men and boys of little station, yet given the awesome responsibility of guarding and guiding the wealth of the nation.

Sheep and goats are far from the stupid creatures they have been portrayed to be over the years.  As someone who has owned many of them over the years, I can attest to the fact that they are quick learning and crafty creatures.  In fact, it is said that a sheep can remember a human face for up to two years.

While not stupid by any stretch of the imagination, sheep and goats are, however, prone to wander.  They don’t pay attention to their surroundings and are easily lost.  They are also prey animals, hunted by creatures as diverse as hawks, owls, bears, wolves and lions.  It was the shepherd’s responsibility to keep the flock safe from themselves and from the many predators roaming the hillsides and the skies surrounding Bethlehem.

Shepherds were not men of standing, but they were frequently courageous.  David, himself, described how as a boy, he was forced to tackle both a lion and a bear in defense of his father’s flocks.  And it is these men who are the very first to see the Savior and carry the good news of His arrival.  They were nearly two years ahead of the Wise Men.

By the time the Magi arrived with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, Jesus was a toddler and the shepherds had already spread the message of the Messiah’s arrival to the surrounding villages.

Not much has changed in the last 2,000 years.  It seems that the wealthy, the important, the positioned in society, take a little longer than the ordinary citizen to catch on to God’s truth.  It’s not that they are bad people, at least not any worse than anyone else, but on occasion, money, privilege and power distract their possessors.  The rest of us, having fewer speed bumps, are able to get on board a little faster.

The good news is, the Wise Men, did catch on and did follow the star and did arrive at the party.  Sure they were a bit late, but it’s never too late.

God is still calling shepherds and Wise Men to meet his Son.  Young and old, male and female, from all races and languages we are invited to sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will towards men.”

 

 

Easter’s Prequel, AKA – The Christmas Story

And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.       Luke 2:6,7 King James Version.

Just in time for Easter: The Christmas Story.  How convenient is that?  As we focus on the Passion and Resurrection of the Christ, it’s a great time to reflect on some of the events surrounding His birth.

The only narratives regarding Jesus’ birth, are found in Chapter 1 of Matthew and Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke and they record totally different aspects of the event.  They don’t contradict each other, but rather tell the story from different angles.  Matthew gives us some of the events from Joseph’s perspective, while Luke (the detail obsessed doctor) gives us much more information, and does so from Mary’s view.

Luke, Chapter 2, is the first chapter of the Bible I remember memorizing as a child; King James version, of course.  To this very day, I still love the poetic, lyrical rhythms of that translation of this particular chapter.

I want to focus our attention on verses 6 and 7, if you have a minute.  These two short verses, tell us many things about Jesus arrival, some of it counter to what we may have thought all our lives.

‘ She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  There are so many layers in this one sentence that it’s hard to know how many of them to peel back.

It seems to me that growing up, I had this idea that Mary’s labor pains caught everyone by surprise and that she and Joseph were scrambling around trying to figure out what to do.  ‘….wrapped him in swaddling clothes’ suggests something quite different.  These strips of cloth were not scraps left laying around the barn.  Every baby born was wrapped in these. I would almost compare them to a combination diaper/receiving blanket kit.  The point is, Mary and Joseph were not surprised by the onset of labor.  They travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem because they had to and they knew full well that the baby would arrive while they were out of town.  They came prepared.  They had their ‘diaper bag’ kitted out so that wherever they were when labor hit, they would be ready to handle the situation.

‘…because there was no room for them in the inn.’  For some reason, I get the impression that there are still folk who have the notion that Mary and Joseph were poverty stricken, homeless and in despair and were forced by their situation to hole up in a stable.  That’s not exactly the case.  In point of fact, we don’t know anything about Joseph’s and Mary’s financial situation.  We know Joseph was a carpenter of Royal Descent and they lived about 70 or so miles north of the family home.  The reason Jesus was ‘laid in a manger’ was because there was no room for them in the inn.  The census had caused an influx of visitors to the village and the hotel was full. The No Vacancy sign (or it’s equivalent)  was in the window.

The sad part to me was not the absence of hotel space, but that no one MADE room.  Here is Mary, clearly ‘great with child’, and not one person said, “Oh my, here take my room,” or, “you know what, we’ll crowd you into our space with us.”  They were all so busy, so focused, dare I say it, so selfish, they left the expecting couple in the streets to fend for themselves.

I can’t help but wonder how many ‘Marys’ we pass each day, who need a bed, a room, a meal, some water, a dollar, a hug, or maybe just a smile, but there’s no room in our day or our hearts to notice anything but our own needs.

You know who did make room?  The cows moved aside, the goats stepped to the back of the stable, the sheep left their feed trough, the donkeys walked away.  Even the snake slithered into his hole and made room for the Creator.  The created world recognized their Lord and rejoiced to see Him, while the people, the humans created in His image had ‘no room’.  The apostle John, in the first chapter of his Gospel put it this way, “He came to that which was his own, and his own people did not receive Him.’

Before this night was over, angels would sing, shepherds would marvel and the very stars of heaven would shine down in worship of the Word who became flesh. The citizens of Bethlehem, though, revelled the night away, or slept blissfully in their own little self centered worlds.

Those of us who are Believers, know that Jesus is coming back.  His first trip began in obscurity and ended in a cocktail of gore and glory.  There was no room for him to be born in Bethlehem, so He was laid in a manger. There was no room for His message in Jerusalem so they nailed Him to a cross, There was no room for Him to be buried, so He was laid in a borrowed grave.  There was no room for Him in the grave, because He is Life itself, so He rose.

Even today, there is no room for Him.  There is no room for Him  in the School House and there is no room for Him in the Court House. There is no room for Him in the public square or in the city park.   Is there room for Him in MY house?  In Your house?  What about in our hearts?

Mary and Joseph knew the time was near for the baby to be born and they were prepared.  The place and time didn’t matter, they were ready for any circumstance.  They had their ‘swaddling clothes’ all in order.  When He returns, this time in triumph rather than obscurity, I wonder how many of us will be prepared, or whether or not we’ll have room at all?  I choose to be ready.  I hope you make that choice, too.