Category Archives: Bible Study

BibleWorks 10 Review, Part One

Welcome to the first of several installments in which I review BibleWorks 10 and show you how I have been employing it in my workflow recently. My primary use of BibleWorks 10 (hereafter referred to simply as BW) is for original language research and course preparation to teach classes at Calvary Chapel Bible College. While BW offers a good selection of additional resources as add on modules, it shines brightest in original language study and exegesis. It’s designed to keep you “focused on the text,” and this it achieves quite well. A brief statement taken from their website summarizes their company vision:

“The purpose of BibleWorks, LLC is to provide pastors, teachers, students, and missionaries with the tools they need to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). There are other companies that exist to do this as well, but BibleWorks comes to this task with some unique differences in approach and philosophy: We exist to serve the church, not to make a profit, and all of our business decisions are made with that in mind. Our goal is to provide a complete package containing the tools most essential for the task of interpreting the Scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew, and to do it at a price that poor pastors and students can afford.

In this latest iteration, BW has added a new and vastly improved interface compared to its predecessors. Since I’m new to the software and have just entered its userbase at version 10, I can’t speak authoritatively as to the magnitude of its enhancements over earlier releases. But in my initial (and only minimal comparisons), there are obviously well-thought-out changes to the former UI. My first impressions working with the program are very favorable and I’m genuinely excited to have this great software with its excellent array of language tools, available for my studies. While at first one might feel intimidated by the UI and overall capability of BW, it is quite simple to use and very stable. Admittedly, I’ve come across a minor bug in text rendition that occasionally appears, but is recoverable. Crashes have been non-existent.

Four columns (or windows) can be viewed simultaneously, allowing users a secondary analysis pane.

Four columns (or windows) can be viewed simultaneously, allowing users a secondary analysis pane.

The above screenshot (click it and all images to enlarge) is version 10’s new user interface, showing the optional, newly designed fourth window. More correctly, it is called the “Secondary Analysis Window.” The name is indicative of its primary purpose, analyzing the text through its many research tools, all of which are linked to the biblical text you are viewing. At the time of writing, I’m still in the learning curve of where to find things, precisely what certain icons represent and, what the more complex search commands are. But I’m able to navigate quite well for what I need to do. With a few basic instructions, one can dive in and get to work quickly. And yes, that is the Leningrad Codex you see in high resolution images above, tagged with verse references for searching  or scrolling in sync with accompanying Old Testament texts. Reference markers are hyperlinked for immediate viewing of user-defined versions in a popover. This is a very valuable resource, implemented well.

First in line below, I cover my use of BW for basic textual reference, searching and analysis.

This view is for the basic stage of proofing my teaching notes for class

This view is for the basic stage of proofing my teaching notes for class

In the screenshot above, I display only two of four possible windows. The “Search” window  is collapsed because at this point of my work, I don’t need to search. If I needed to, I could still search while it is collapsed (more on that below). And by the way, searches are extremely fast with virtually no measurable wait time. Each window column can remain open or be collapsed laterally, based on user preference of tool usage with a simple click of the mouse. This is a unique feature that I like a lot, because collapsing them does not close or remove the active content in them. With just the main “Browse” and “Analysis” windows, I’m able to view my target text and essential research tools while leaving room on my 14 inch laptop to snap my class notes adjacent to them. This useful “snapping” capability, by the way, is one of my favorite features of the modern Windows UI. Under normal circumstances, one would probably leave 3 or even 4 window columns open in BW.

The two-window layout is ideal for the simple proofing stage of my class notes where I verify important textual issues or answer any remaining exegetical questions by way of the many included lexicons and grammars that are conveniently linked to the text at hand. Entries from all lexicons containing the word of interest, or grammars that mention the verses in my browse window or grammatical concept, appear and update accordingly in the analysis window. Clicking on the truncated result opens the respective module directly to the lexeme or article . It couldn’t be more convenient or faster, and I absolutely love this unique feature. I haven’t seen it implemented like this in any other Bible software. See below.

Lexicon entry accessed via the Resource Window

Lexicon entry accessed via the Resource Window

Grammar article accessed via the Resource Window

Grammar article accessed via the Resource Window

I do this while making modifications to my notes directly in Microsoft Word, snapped to the right of BW.  Even when the “Search” pane is closed in BW, a simple keyboard shortcut allows the user to enter search commands or navigate to new passages quickly and without leaving the layout you see above. Simply hit the “Esc” key to prompt BW for your command. Next, type your reference (Gen 31, for example), and hit “Enter.” The new verse location will appear in the “Browse” pane. Not having to physically enter my cursor into the search pane allows me to maintain my layout the way I need it while moving along quickly and smoothly in my workflow. I do much more with BW for my study needs, but future installments will cover that.

Accordance’s Word Frequency Graphics vs. Word-Cloud Generators

Graphic Pie Chart

Recently someone had inquired about the possibility of implementing a word-cloud generator in Accordance Bible Software, which could be beneficial in identifying the most frequently used words in a Bible passage. By now anyone reading this has most likely already seen one, but just for clarity a word-cloud is a group of words clustered together in different font sizes with those most frequently used appearing as larger text, and those less common in smaller sizes.

While word-clouds are an interesting way to deliver such statistical information, in Bible software I find them a little static and rather limited. This is where Accordance’s “Search Details” not only comes in handy, but in my opinion far exceeds the capabilities of any word-cloud generator. And although this feature doesn’t produce the same exact visual graphic as a word cloud, the end result (word frequency statistics) is produced, and it is done in an even more versatile and more visually appealing way than a mere cluster of text.

Graphic Bar Chart

For those familiar with Accordance, simply run an asterisk (*) search in the limited text range you want, and then display the “Search Details” and choose, for example, the “Pie Graphic.” In this example, you would select “Display Words” rather than “Key Number” to get a visual graphic of every word in that range as I have done in my search here. In addition to the colorfully displayed word-frequency, you also see the word count with all the options to view and organize your search results in anyway you want. In this scenario, I have only shown two of the several display options available. But the flexibility is unsurpassed, ranging from the option of creating these different types of visual analyses to generating a true textual concordance in English, Greek, Hebrew, or any other language present in your Accordance library. This, to me, is quite amazing and very practical!

To run this kind of search, you simply type an asterisk in the search box in place of a word. This tells Accordance to show every single word in your chosen search range. My sample here is from an asterisk search in Ephesians 1:1-10 (my search range). The two graphic images I have inserted are from the same search but each displays the statistics differently. In either graphic one can immediately see how central Christ is to the entire passage as well as the key role of the preposition “in.” With a word-cloud, the word ‘Christ’ would appear in a larger font along with ‘in’ etc. But I find the ‘Pie’ and ‘Bar Chart’ graphic displays to be much more appealing to the eye than a word-cloud of mere text, not to mention the ability Accordance’s “Search Details” window offers to continue working with your search results in different ways.

Part Two of “Abraham’s Bosom; The ‘Holding Place’ for Old Testament Believers?”

In this second installment I want to address two of three remaining questions. My next post, the third and final, will cover thoroughly the last question which was raised by Dejan in a comment to part one “Abraham’s Bosom; The ‘Holding Place’ for Old Testament Believers?”. Because his question will require some word studies in the Greek and biblical exegesis of the entire passage of Ephesians 4, I felt it was best to isolate it. This post would  become too large otherwise. If you’re curious, Dejan’s question has to do with the typical Scriptural references used to support the teaching of Abraham’s bosom as a place of captivity until Christ’s death and resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-10; Luke 16:22).

The transfiguration of Christ is the next point I want to put on the table in this discussion, for it presents a serious logical and theological problem for the doctrine of Abraham’s bosom. If, as many suggest, all believers were held captive there prior to Christ “setting them free”, then what were Moses and Elijah doing on the mountain, talking with Jesus, Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:3)? Apparently they both were free to appear and not at all in “captivity” waiting for release. And remember, Jesus hadn’t yet died nor resurrected.

What was the physical state of Moses and Elijah as we can tell from Scripture?  Elijah, as mentioned in part one, was taken away alive by a whirlwind into heaven (2 King 2:11). This is very likely an Old Testament type of the rapture to come (1 Thess 4:17). Now the text says he was taken to heaven, and I believe that to mean not the sky itself but the spiritual realm of God’s throne as described in Revelation, and, which is the destiny of every believer (Col 1:5). This is reasonable because Elijah, as Abraham and every other Old Testament saint, was justified by faith in God’s promise, looking forward in belief though the messiah hadn’t yet come (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6). I explained this point more in “Abraham’s Bosom; The ‘Holding Place’ for Old Testament Believers?”.

Notice that Elijah’s rapture was before the cross of Christ, yet he was taken away into heaven. If Elijah was not taken to heaven, the only other option would be Abraham’s bosom or hell. We can rule out hell pretty easily. Now we’re left with Abraham’s bosom. Why sweep away a prophet to put him in a holding place? The entire picture of his rapture points to a glorious climax, not to a halfway point in the spiritual domain. The whole event becomes senseless if he wasn’t taken to heaven as the text says, and it certainly is not a picture of the rapture at that point. If he was taken to heaven, but other men and women of faith had to wait for Calvary, we have inconsistency with God’s standard, and that is not like his character.

As for Moses, we know he went the way of all men and died a physical death. God buried him but we don’t know where (Deuteronomy 34:5-7). The next we know of Moses he appears on the mount of transfiguration.

Last, but not least, consider the discussion between Jesus and the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). Jesus tells him that he will be with him that very day in paradise. This statement alone declares:

1. The thief to be justified at that very moment on the basis of faith in Christ prior to his death.

2. Jesus was about to enter paradise that day, not hell (as some teach without biblical merit) nor Abraham’s bosom (Luke 23:43). Although, we should recall that in part one we noted Abraham’s bosom was simply a synonym for heaven according to the Jews.

In part three, we’ll take a detailed look at the Scripture references often cited to support the doctrine of Abraham’s bosom.

Thanks for keeping up with us on uThinkology. And remember, you are what uThink!

Part Two of “Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Which Language was the New Testament written in, and should it matter?”

As promised, I have dug up (and will now insert below) my very first exchange written on the forum of a certain Messianic/Nazarene/Israelite group. This is the one that started the ball rolling and eventually made its way over to uThinkology, under the title “Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Which language was the New Testament written in, and should it matter?”

The above link to the article written on August 31, 2010, contains a fuller explanation of the issue at hand, and it has drawn a fair amount of attention from various parts of the world. If you have not read it, I recommend you do so for an understanding of the background prior to moving forward in this post. Although the subject is not entirely new, it is worth noting and being at least familiar with it, especially if you hold to the credibility of the New Testament canon.

These types of quasi-cultic movements, such as I seek to challenge in a loving dialogue, both here at uThinkology and elsewhere, all have their niche. They offer, as it were, secret insights for the Christian community. And generally speaking, many Christians seem to fear that there may be a portion of truth somewhere out there, unknown to the majority while lying in the possession of an elite minority. To the sincere seeker of truth, if he is unsuspecting or ill-equipped, these “secrets” and “insights” have a strong appeal when first encountered. And unfortunately, many do fall prey to them.

We all need a careful eye, and none of us can afford NOT to prayerfully ask the right questions when faced with anything that seems new or claims to offer an all-inclusive, never-before-seen package deal on truth. So what I hope to offer here is one more look at a real-life exchange. The holes in their wall should become immediately apparent to you as you take a closer look.

Lastly, if you find yourself with more questions than are answered for you here, feel free to post them in the comments section. I’d love to have other uThinkology readers join in with their thoughts and perhaps even help field some of the questions along with myself. At the very least, uThinkology can help direct you to the best resources available. Now for that forum post dated March 28, 2010. Please note the sad state of deception this dear sister finds herself in, while she also sniffs out some of the false doctrine from the forum to which she posted:

******

Paulette says:

I have not read “Fossilized Customs” – yet (plan to order it today). But I have read just about everything on the website. I “stumbled” upon this site when I went searching for the Truth about the word “Christian” – it is only found three times in the Bible and in at least one of these instances it doesn’t fit. The Holy Spirit has been showing me all kinds of things (I don’t go to church but I can’t find any that teach Truth, so I have to rely on Him to show me Truth) – such as we are supposed to celebrate the Sabbath and the Feasts. But He has also shown me that the Bible was translated by the Catholics – which made me want to find another copy straight from the Hebrew. I knew that Greek was not the original language the New Testament was written in. In my search for a English translation from the Hebrew, and for the word Christian I came upon this website – and found that I am a Natsarim! This was yesterday morning. I spent the day processing all this new info – plus I checked out many other sites about the Natsarim – all saying the same thing. This is real. This is Truth! We must follow the Torah!

A tiny little thing Lew – on one of your pages you mention that “immersion” will remove sin – perhaps I misunderstood what you wrote or perhaps you left out a word, but bapism in water is only an outward sign that one has accepted Yahusha Ha’ Mashiach as their Savior – He is the only One who can remove our sin.

Paulette

***********

Mark Nigro says:

Dear Paulette,

Where did you see that the Bible was translated by catholics? The NT has Greek manuscripts dating back to the second century, long before Constantine made “christianity” the state religion (325 AD), after which Roman, and I stress Roman, Catholicism became a hodgepodge of political and religious activities. Furthermore, I believe you are confusing translation for correlation of the New Testament canon, which, by the way, was done with the original texts in Greek and not in English.

Regarding the language the NT was written in, just think about this: The gospel of Mark, for example, contains several explanations for terms that were written in Aramaic (a close relative of Hebrew) and Jewish customs, because a Gentile audience would not understand them. This shows us that Mark wrote not to a Jewish audience (who would have no need of such explanations) but to a Gentile one. Likewise, Luke addresses his gospel to Theophilus, a Greek. Why would he have written his gospel originally in Hebrew if writing it to a Greek that did not speak Hebrew?

As for the other NT books being in Greek, let’s not forget that much of the early church’s ministry was to the Greek-speaking culture outside of Jerusalem. Just follow their journey through the book of Acts and you’ll see what I mean. Think about the letters written to the churches throughout Asia minor. There is nothing Holy or unholy about a language, it is the content, the message, that matters.

Be careful not to get caught up in things that have the appearance of holiness but offer nothing in the way of true sanctification which is by the Holy Spirit alone (1 Peter 1:2). And as you said, immersion in water for baptism DOES NOT remove sin. You were right on and have discernment regarding that aspect of the false teaching you see on the Fossilized Customs site. Keep looking with a prayerful eye and you’ll find a lot more!

In closing my post to you, consider these following verses from Colossians, and remember, be careful about knee-jerk reactions to what you read on the internet.

“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch! (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) – in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 2:20-3:2)

Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Which language was the New Testament written in, and should it matter?

There is a movement among some believers of the Messianic and Nazarene groups who, by their claims and their actions, are discrediting the Scriptures of the New Testament. While I believe they are sincere in their convictions, I also know that they are dangerously misguided, and misguidedly dangerous. Their position states that the New Testament writers did not pen their works in Greek, but rather in Aramaic; Matthew having employed Hebrew for his gospel in order to reach directly his Hebrew-speaking, Jewish audience.

The idea is an interesting one, at least when only touching its surface. And of course a case could be made for it. But it becomes nearly cultic upon closer examination, and as we will see in this post, completely irrelevant. One might liken the adherents of this movement to the Judiazers who, although they believed Jesus was the Messiah, were guilty of placing the unnecessary burden of first becoming a Jewish proselyte and receiving the Mosaic law so that one could be saved by Messiah. There is a very unhealthy allegiance to the Hebrew language and Jewish tradition among these followers.

This movement of believers whom I address in this post are similar to the Judiazers in that they are giving Torah preeminence over the whole of Scripture, an unhealthy view of keeping the Ten Commandments (not that I do not give them importance) and a foundation-less premise for the superiority of Hebrew and Aramaic as the languages for God’s revelation; Greek being an “unclean” language which God would never have chosen for his New Testament revelation due to the fact that the Greeks were so ungodly. They are pushing for a return to the superior and pure “Hebrew New Testament”.

While these positions do not necessarily affect one’s salvation (unless of course they believe they are saved by their obedience to Torah and hence, their good works), they certainly create unwarranted confusion and come quite close to dismantling all Christian confidence in the New Testament Scriptures.

It is rather clear that Jesus’ mother tongue was Aramaic, for nothing is more natural than to pray in one’s own language as Jesus did in fact do on the cross (Mark 15:34). Notice also that Mark keeps the Aramaic word for word, and then gives his Greek-speaking readers the translation of it. But it is also very, very probable that Jesus knew Greek and spoke it frequently while functioning within a Greek-speaking superstructure, such as the 1st century Roman Empire.

In addition, a quick glance at Jewish history and a comparative reading of the Old Testament citations found in the New Testament, make a solid case for the LXX (also known as the Septuagint), which is the Greek version of the Old Testament translated for the Greek-speaking Jews. There is no doubt the LXX was used, and followed, by most if not all early church Jewish believers. In particular, it was the Old Testament referred to by the New Testament writers,  and not the Hebrew texts.

Below is my latest reply, word for word, in a thread that is becoming a heated debate on this Messianic Nazarene group’s forum. I hope it gives you some helpful insights as to the folly of the arguments, and reinforces your position against this curious subject promulgated by what I believe is fast becoming a quasi-cultic movement. The recipient’s name is left out for anonymity. First is her refutation to an earlier post of mine in which I make the case for the need of writing in Greek when Luke compiled and sent his gospel and the book of Acts to Theophilus, a Greek-speaking believer. I will post that as well, later on uThinkology. No doubt, more exchanges will come and I’ll post them here on uThinkology too. Below hers is my latest answer. Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section.

K. B******* says:

Where is the evidence that Theophilus was Greek? Josephus tells us that he was probably Theophilus ben Ananas who was High Priest in Jerusalem from 37 to 41 C.E., so Acts and Luke were probably written originally in Aramaic. Even Josephus admitted that he wrote his volumes originally in the language of his countrymen because his knowledge of Greek was not good enough! An excellent comparison of the Greek and Aramaic is given by Andrew Gabriel Roth in his book, “Ruach Qadim”. I don’t see how any open minded person can read this evidence without being convinced of the Aramaic primacy of the New Testament.

Mark Nigro says:

Dear K. B******,

One simple reason why I do not believe Theophilus was the high priest is because he would have had firsthand knowledge of Jesus and no need for an explanation to be written by Luke in his gospel. Secondly, why would the high priest inquire at all, regarding Jesus, from a layman of religion such as Luke (layman in the eyes of the religious leaders) when he had the entire Sanhedrin at his disposal? But I can see already that the other points I have tried to make in my previous post are left completely unaddressed on this forum, and therefore a sincere search for truth seems to be lacking.

So let me ask, why does the language matter when the content (message) is YHWH’s Word? Do you think YHWH speaks Aramaic, or Hebrew? They are the languages of men, not of heaven. As for Aramaic, did you know that it was the language of the Babylonians, acquired by the Jews during their captivity, and this is why we have the Targums (portions of the OT in Aramaic, not Hebrew)? You adulate Aramaic, but were the Babylonians a holy people chosen by YHWH as his covenant people? Consequently, it had become the common language of Jews by Jesus’ day due to the many years of their captivity. The langauge stayed with the people, and therefore the language our Messiah spoke was once a Babylonian tongue, a people most despised for their iniquity. But that was not important to Yeshuah, because he came to communicate with men the truth of God for their salvation, and not to honor one language over another.

Now as for Hebrew, prior to Abram being called out of Ur by YHWH, it was the language of an “unholy” and pagan people. I say Pagan, because anyone outside of a covenantal relationship with YHWH is called such. Abram became holy (sanctified) when YHWH set him apart to make from him a people all his own. So, do you think the Old Testament was written in Hebrew because the language was holy and YHWH’s choice from heaven, or because that was the language spoken by the people YHWH called (Israel), and subsequently, the language of their offspring? YHWH has no need of a written language except that man cannot receive special revelation from him without it. Therefore, he communicates to us through written language (in addition to creation), and when he does, he uses the language of the recipient. Otherwise, had Israel not already known Hebrew, they and all their offspring would have had to learn a uniquely new, previously non-existant language created just for the OT, before they could understand what YHWH was saying. But of course, simple reason, logic and a little history (not to mention common sense) tell us this is not the case.

Can a language be holy or unholy, or is it the content and message that can be holy and unholy? I tell you it is the content and not the medium at all. Just as the ground Moses stood on was not holy except for the presence of YHWH revealed there at that moment. Otherwise, it was just the same dirt that lies beneath the feet of every sheep herder. One last thing, unbelievers speak Hebrew too, and they are not made sanctified before YHWH because of the language. Neither will Greek make one unholy or disqualified. But why are we debating about Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek, when we should be taking the message of the Messiah to those around us in whatever language it is that they and we speak? My suggestion to you and those on this forum would be to spend less time wrangling about Hebrew vs. Greek and start living and sharing the content of YHWH’s NT revelation instead.

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of YHWH shall be saved.” 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Ro 10:12–14)

Sincerely,

Mark Nigro

The Transfiguration of Christ, or the Appearance of Moses and Elijah?

Traditional site of Christ's transfiguration

Mt. Tabor as seen from the Jezreel valley. This is the traditional site of Christ's transfiguration. (From Photo Guide 3, Accordance Bible Software)

When Peter, James and John went with Jesus up the hillside of Mount Tabor (the traditionally accepted place of Christ’s transfiguration), they had no idea what was awaiting them (Mark 9:1-8). It is likely they expected to hear another teaching from Jesus, or perhaps to have occasion to ask him questions regarding the messianic kingdom they were anticipating. Or maybe they had hoped to eavesdrop on his prayer time and gain insight into the mysterious communion between the Father and Son. But the biblical account reveals none of the above. Not, at least, in the way one would expect.

The title “transfiguration” can be a little misleading, because Jesus was not transfigured into something other than himself – more beautiful or spiritual. It was simply a fuller revelation, the unveiling of Christ’s already-present, divine nature. His deity merely was cloaked in human flesh (Phil 2:6, Col 1:19) and “hidden” to all but the spiritually perceptive eye. Yet here, Jesus would give these three disciples a visual message that would speak volumes into their hearts and minds for the rest of their earthly lives, a message meant for all of us. It would prove to be a sight that they desperately needed to behold. Future persecution and challenges to their calling otherwise might have overwhelmed their impressionable hearts and paralyzed their global mission (Matt 28:18-20). The steeling of their confidence in Christ’s person began with this experience and concluded with the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus. In time the disciples would need to fall back on the reality of Christ’s glory soon to be shared by them in the coming kingdom. Envisioning Christ in the glory of his coming indeed helps steady us in the hardest of times.

But what about Moses and Elijah? Why the appearance of these two with Jesus and why did the Lord want us to know about it? Often we Bible teachers like to point out that Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets (although Isaiah might be more representative of the prophetic canon than Elijah), and how together they point to Jesus as the fulfillment of both collective writings. Jesus satisfied the demands of the law and he is the center subject of prophecy. No scholar is likely to debate this point, for Jesus himself declared that the law, the prophets and even the Psalms speak of him (Luke 24:44). In fact, Jesus is the Word incarnate, the embodiment of Scripture; its author and content, its source and its subject (John 1:14, 2 Peter 1:11).

The transfiguration alone would have been sufficient to reveal the power of God’s coming kingdom and the glory of the Messiah that we shall one day enjoy with him. But there appears to be one more element in this visual message whose color adds to the overall portrait of Christ. That the Messiah would be both man and God was in fact prophesied (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:23) but had nonetheless escaped the understanding of the most astute Rabbis of Christ’s day. Thus many of his statements were taken to be blasphemous (Matt 26:64-66; Mark 14:62-64; John 10:30-39) and punishable by death. I would submit that a significant part of the “transfiguration” message for us is found in the experiences of Moses and Elijah in the Old Testament (Exodus 19, 1 Kings 19). They both met with God, did so on a mountain, and while doing so received revelation from Him . Once again, here on a mountain Moses and Elijah (now also Peter, James and John) were meeting with God. They became the recipients of a most spectacular revelation, summarized and culminated in the very person and nature of Jesus – his deity and the Father’s audible affirmation of him as His beloved Son! Jesus is “Immanuel, God with us.”

One of These Little Ones…

“Children should be seen, not heard!” was the saying I remember hearing around my childhood house. Sadly, this is still the way children often are made to feel today. As though they were a disturbance, a nuisance, a distraction. Nothing to contribute to the world of adults. What they say is, well, terribly childish. And true enough, their hungry curiosity, bold sincerity and ceaseless energy try the patience of every cranky adult. Even the seasoned parent risks embarrassment with a child’s spontaneity. Our kids have said some things in public that made us wish we were just their babysitters.

But such are the God-given qualities that make children so very special. God has built in an inquisitiveness that keeps them asking, observing, and always wanting to learn more. They’re full of questions and anxious to share their discoveries. There are no pretenses with little ones. They can be abrupt but you’ll almost always know what they are thinking. And make no mistake about it, they have a capacity to grasp spiritual truths at a profound level. Kids are readily stirred towards genuine thanksgiving to God for the least suspected things in life. Like their pajamas, spill-proof cups and Transformer underwear. This is something to be desired and emulated in our stuffy adult lives. I don’t think I have ever thanked the Lord for my underwear! But what a blessing it is to be excited over the little things in life. Too often we take them for granted.

Not quite three weeks ago my four-year-old son drew a picture of three crosses, as one would imagine the scene at Calvary with Jesus in the middle. On his own initiative he drew it, then colored it and put his name on it. “This is for Jesus,” he said, handing it to me. “I am going to give it to Jesus in heaven. It’s a birthday present from me to him.”

That act of thoughtfulness and sincere love for Jesus brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. When was the last time I expressed such gratitude and care for my Savior, let alone prepared a gift for him? I believe Luka’s artwork rose to the heavens as a sweet smelling aroma to the Lord. His little heart birthed this simple worship, reminiscent of the spikenard poured over Jesus’ feet by Mary in spontaneous, thankful adoration (Jn 12:3).

“Can I go to heaven right now?” Luka went on to say. “I want to go to heaven without dying. Do we eat food in heaven? I want to fly around when I get there!” The thinking process of this almost-five-year-old is rather humbling when I consider how little thought we adults typically give to these subjects. I can’t recall the last time I heard any BIG people express such immediate and sincere desire to go to heaven and bring along a gift for Jesus. Isn’t it also revealing that children were the ones who spontaneously worshiped Jesus in the temple? And when the prim-and-proper religious leaders heard it they were indignant and told Jesus to make the children stop. Jesus then responded, …have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?” (Matt. 21:15-16)

No wonder the Lord sharply rebuked the disciples when they hindered the children from coming to him to ask for his blessing. He quickly told them that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these little ones (Matt. 19:13-14). Perhaps the disciples thought those children would be a nuisance to Jesus and “should be seen but not heard.” Maybe they felt those children were not important enough to merit the Master’s attention? Whatever the case, they couldn’t have been more misguided. Jesus set the record straight and gave a new example for all to follow. When asked who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus did the unthinkable for a 1st century Jew. He took a little child and put him in the midst of them as the object lesson for his answer. What Jesus said next was radical.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt 18:1-6 ESV)

We shouldn’t forget that Children are demanding, selfish, impatient, moody, terribly persistent and downright sinful at times. But so are most adults, no? We’re all born as sinners and it’s in our nature. Nonetheless, Jesus selected children as the exemplary recipients of God’s kingdom. Clearly these words puzzled every listener then present. Two thousand years later they continue to challenge this 21st century father to  learn from his own curious and bubbly children!

Kids have a lot to offer our adult world, so be careful to not exclude them from yours. Jesus certainly didn’t. And the next time you are around a five-year-old, take note of his thought process, sensitivity, curiosity and above all, his inquisitive ability to receive the things of God with joyful certainty! You will likely come away with a good lesson to put into practice.

Every blessing,

Mark at uThinkology