Glad Tidings As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. Psalm 103:15
Volume 1 7, Issue 3
Glad Tidings May/June 2013
Congo Connection ..................... p.9 by Kennedy Kutukwa
Something To Consider ............... p.3 by Vince Finnegan
Esther .......................................... p.11 by Iris Jumper
Seek Yahweh: Changes In First Century Judaism.................. p.4
Read The Bible ........................... p.15 by John Greenaway
by John Cortright Your Gentle Spirit Be Known ...... p.7 by Mary Ann Yaconis
Bodily Pleasures ........................ p.16 by Sean Finnegan
Mark these important dates on your calendar!! May 3131-June 2nd 2nd Womenâ€™s Conference Living Hope Community Church June 3030-July 6 Family Camp Silver Bay July 2222-26 Vacation Bible School Living Hope Community Church July 2828-August 2 Teen Camp Silver Bay August 2323-25 Royal Family Reunion Living Hope Community Church
Glad Tidings is published six times per year by Living Hope International Ministries 458 Old Niskayuna Road, Latham, New York 12110 USA
Glad Tidings is mailed free to anyone who requests it. Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER: The Essence Love is the essence of Christianity. We are commanded to love one another for therein we are connected to God as His children and can know Him. Failing to love, we are disconnected and do not know God. God is the origin and standard for love because He is love. 1 John 4:9-12 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. Understanding and accepting Godâ€™s unconditional love for us compel us to love Him. When we struggle to love others, more-than-likely we have forgotten Godâ€™s love for us. The temptation to love God into loving us seems to be common yet is very debilitating to our relationship with Him and our walk as Christians. We do not love Him into loving us; rather, we love Him because He first loved us. When we have this concept backwards, we are prone to many problems such as condemnation, religious hypocrisy, being judgmental, apathy, and so on. The woman that washed Jesusâ€™ feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and anointed them with perfume from her alabaster box was responding to the loving forgiveness she had already experienced from our Lord. She was not doing these things to gain forgiveness and love but because she had already received them. As with her, we love because we have been loved. We forget to love others when we fail to embrace His love for us. 1 John 4:20 and 21 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
Love like God,
By John Cortright
Changes in First Century Judaism
t is evident from early manuscripts that the Tetragrammaton, the four letter Hebrew name of God, was still being written in the first century. The extent of its usage is uncertain. And to ascertain whether or not the name was spoken is much more difficult to establish. Second Temple Judaism offers a variety of speculation in this regards. The New Testament reveals divisions among the various factions of Jews. Acts 23:6-8 But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!" As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Jesus was continually confronted by various groups of Jews. In Matthew chapter 22, three distinct Jewish sects
are mentioned: Pharisees (Matthew 22:15), Herodians (Matthew 22:16-17), and Sadducees (Matthew 22:23). The first century historian, Josephus, mentioned different sects “…the sect of the Pharisees, another sect of the Sadducees, and another the sect of the Essenes” (Ant. 13.5.9). There was yet another spinoff group called “zealots” who were also around during Second Temple Judaism. This group “opposed the use of the Greek language in the Holy Land.”1 Even Christians, in the early days of the church, were considered a Jewish sect (Acts 24:5, 14; 28:22). In his Jewish Antiquities, Josephus mentions Jesus as the head of “the tribe of Christians” (Ant. 18.3.3). Authors who have written about this time in history acknowledge this diversity in early Judaism. “The heyday of Jewish sectarianism was from the middle of the second century BCE to the destruction of the temple in 70 CE.”2 “These classes and sectarian divisions manifested a vigorous manner of life, with politics revolving about peculiarly Jewish issues such as matters of exegesis, law, 4
doctrine, and the meaning of history.”3 “If we cannot describe competing Judaic religious systems, we can take for granted that diversity characterized Jews’ religious practices and beliefs. First, the pages of the Talmuds attest to conflict between the rabbis, that is, the sages of Rabbinic Judaism, and ordinary folk.”4 “In the first century CE, Judaism was marked by numerous sects and groups: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, the Jews of Qumran, Zealots, Sicarii, the Fourth Philosophy, Christians, Samaritans, Therapeutae, and others.”5 To try and explain early Jewish practice without acknowledging these diversities would be an oversight. Perhaps during the early first century, the use or disuse of God’s name was also handled differently among the various sects. This might explain why hundreds of years later when the Mishnah was redacted around 200 AD, there are variations as to use of the Name. In Yoma, it is said that “when the priests and the people which stood in the Temple Court heard the (Continued on page 5)
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Expressed Name come forth from the mouth of the High Priest, they used to kneel and bow themselves and fall down on their faces and say, ‘Blessed be the name of the glory of his kingdom for ever and ever!’” (Yom 6.2); In Sotah it is said that “in the Temple they pronounced the Name as it was written, but in the provinces by a substituted word” (Sot 7.6); In Tamid it states that “from Jericho they could hear…the voice of the High Priest when he pronounced the Name on the Day of Atonement” (Tam 3.8); and in the tractate Berakoth it indicates the Name was pronounced in more casual, every day usage, as it states that “it was ordained that a man should salute his fellow with the use of the Name of God” (Ber 9.5). So, the Mishnah reveals that the
Name of God was being verbalized in second Temple Judaism. However, the tractate Sanhedrin condemns such practice altogether and warns that “he that pronounces the Name with its proper letters” will “have no share in the world to come”(San 10.1). Perhaps, this last sentiment, as expressed here, eventually became the norm in Rabbinic Judaism. Whatever variations of Judaism existed in the early first century, everything changed after 70 AD and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Jacob Neusner, a scholar in Judaic studies, explains:
“The decisive event, cutting across all classes and movements of history, the caesura of the life of the cult, the classroom, and the clerks
of government alike, was the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. …the theological side to Pharisaic Judaism before 70 C.E., however is not easily accessible, for the pre-70 beliefs, ideas, and values have been taken over and revised by the rabbinical masters after that time. We therefore cannot reliably claim that an idea first known to us in a later rabbinical document, from the third century and afterward, was originally both known and understood in the same way.”6 After the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., it is believed that members of the Sanhedrin, Jews from the sect of the Pharisees, moved to the city of Yavneh (also known as Jamina), a city on the western coast of Israel and south of modern day Tel Aviv. Here they convened in what is known as the council of Yavne to preserve the Jewish Traditions. From here, this surviving remnant of Rabbinic Jews possibly began laying the foundations for what has become modern “Judaism.” Josephus was a Jew, born son of a priest, who was alive during first Jewish war with Rome and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. He surrendered to the Romans in Galilee and eventually became a servant to the Roman commander Titus, serving as (Continued on page 6)
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interpreter and mediator. After the war, Josephus returned to Rome with Titus and eventually earned the rights as a Roman citizen. He is particularly noted for his historical writings, The Antiquities of the Jews and The Wars of the Jews. His Antiquities was written around 90 AD. One very interesting statement regarding the name of God comes up when Josephus writes about Moses at the burning bush. He writes, “He would also tell him his name, that when he offered sacrifice he might invoke him by such his name in his oblations. Whereupon God declared to him his holy name, which had never been discovered to men before; concerning which it is not lawful for me to say any more.” (Ant. 2.12.4). From this translation, it sounds as if they had been permitted to pronounce the name of God at one time, but by this time, in 90 AD, something happened. Perhaps by this time, oral laws were now in place that restricted the use of speaking the Name. In a footnote about this statement in his translation of Josephus from the 1700’s, William Whiston writes: “This superstitious fear of discovering the name with four letters, which of late we have been used falsely to
pronounce Jehovah, but seems to have been originally pronounced Jahoh, or Jao, is never, I think, heard of, till this passage of Josephus; and this s u pe rs t it io n, in not pronouncing the name has continued among the rabbinical Jews to this day… It is however no doubt but both these cautious concealments were taught Josephus by the Pharisees; a body of men at once very wicked and very superstitious.”7 After the destruction of the Temple and then on into the second century, “two Jewish sects (or sect-like groups) outgrew their sectarian origins to become independent religions. Out of the Christian sect came Christianity, and out of the Pharisaic sect came rabbinic Judaism, also known simply as Judaism.”8 By the fourth century, both these religions were entrenched in tradition, and neither of their tenets included God’s name. Jewish tradition held the name as too holy to utter and its usage was restricted, while in Christianity the name of God, Yahweh, was all but forgotten. This restriction and lack of understanding has continued for almost 2,000 years. However, the prophets have spoken of a day when God will make Himself known among the nations, and they will know that He is Yahweh.
Ezekiel 38:23 "I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the LORD [Yahweh].” 1
Kenneth Baker, editor, The ZonNASB Study Bible, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, Copyright © 2005), Pg 1401.
Shaye J.D. Cohen, From the Mac-
(Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, Copyright © 2005) Page 138. 3
Jacob Neusner, Judaism in the of Christianity , (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA, Copyright 1984), Page 28.
Jacob Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, Copyright © 2002), Page 9. 5
Cohen, op cit, Page 216.
Neusner, op cit, Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, Pages
43, 48-49. 7
William Whiston, A.M.(16671752), The works of Josephus:
(Hendrickson Publishers, copyright 1987), Page 71. 8
Cohen, op cit, Page 120-121.
Your Gentle Spirit Be Known By Mary Ann Yaconis
ould it not be wonderful to be known for your gentle spirit? Paul wrote about how this can be a reality in a believerâ€™s life.
One who lived among great strife and had ample reason to be anxious and not gentle in spirit was the Apostle Paul. Amazingly, he remained in the peace of God throughout it by allowing God to safeguard him. Paulâ€™s letter to the Philippians was written while he was in a Roman jail awaiting trial. He was far away from his home of Jerusalem and was incarcerated in a foreign country which was awash with huge pomp and circumstance of the Roman Empire. Yet, he was able to live in practical application what he wrote about in Philippians 4:4-9. Philippians 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will
guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. We are exhorted to rejoice in the Lord always. This is the second time in a few short verses that Paul wrote that we are to rejoice in the Lord! Rejoicing comes with a benefit. Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. Rejoicing in the Lord benefits us because it is a safeguard for us. A safeguard is something that is intended to prevent undesirable consequences from happening. Keeping our minds away from words of anxiety and negativity and on rejoicing in the Lord will cause us to have peace and calm in our lives. Like Paul, we might be in prison for preaching the 7
Word or reviled by people who do not like our Christian beliefs, but we can still be at peace within and be safe knowing Yahweh is taking care of us. What happens to us all too often is that we allow ourselves to get caught up in the negativity of everyday living, certainly not a gentle spirit. We may believe that we are thinking according to the Word but are actually thinking negatively about a situation. This pattern of thinking causes us not to rejoice in the Lord but to instead become anxious and negative. How this kind of thinking may be like is this: Alfred is excited about sharing the gospel with his new coworker who seems to be somewhat interested. As Alfred is thinking about sharing the gospel and is excited that he is going to practice what God wants him to do, he begins to think that maybe he does not know enough of the Scriptures to share. He does not want to tell the man something that is wrong because the Word says not to do this. The Word says he might be persecuted for speaking up, and maybe that will happen. Then he thinks that he wants to be strong in faith and share the Word no matter what hap(Continued on page 8)
Your Gentle Spirit Be Known Continued... (Continued from page 7)
pens, but can he really do this? The Word says he can do all things through Christ, but can he? Alfred would probably say he is thinking the Word, but what he has done with the Word is turn it into an anxious thought pattern by the worry and questioning. What would be better thinking is: I (Alfred) pray that I would like to share the gospel with my new coworker. Yahweh, please give me the ability and words to do this. I want to be pleasing unto You. Please help me. This prayer about covered all the anxious thoughts. Both thought patterns have the Word in them. The second scenario depicts keeping his mind on things that are pure and of good repute (or character). Another example is that a person may be thinking about how our culture is forsaking Yahweh and the Scriptures by all the evil things that are happening. That person may think how awful the world is getting and how hopeless and ungodly
people are becoming and how frightening it is getting with all the weather, political, health, and social problems.
Yes, things are much worse and don’t look like they are turning around anytime soon, BUT Christ is returning and all this will be over. We think about how Yahweh sent His Son, Jesus the Christ, so that we will not have to perish with the world. We can go out and share the Word with others to help them not get caught in the evilness of the day. We may fool ourselves that we are being righteous in our anxious thinking, but in reality we are dwelling on the negative. Matthew 6:25 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than 8
food, and the body more than clothing? Being worried in life brings anxious words to our conversations. We may think that we are “speaking the Word” about a situation, but what we are actually doing is glorifying the evil that is present. Again, Philippians 4:8 states: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Dwell or reside in thoughts that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and good repute. The matter is settled when we remember that God will safeguard us and keep us in peace. When we rejoice in the Lord, our gentle spirit will be known, and the Lord is near to us. A gentle spirit comes from faith that God is safeguarding us and He gives us peace in our hearts as our thoughts are righteous.
Congo Connection Marriage in the Congo: A Feat of Faith By Rev. Kennedy Kutukwa * Note: The following article was submitted by Rev. Kennedy Kutukwa Nsilulu of The Way Restored. After translation, it was edited for clarity by Richard & Cheryl Elton.
n the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), there are three different kinds of marriage: custom, civil, and religious. In our ministry, we recently had the privilege of celebrating religious marriages for some of our believers [which you’ll see from this article are a real cause for celebration].
At the same time, some of our brothers and sisters began the process of making their engagements official between both families. This is commonly called the pre-dowry period and is the first stage of the custom marriage. The pre-dowry is a ceremony in which the young man comes with his parents and his uncles (from both parents’ sides) to the young woman’s family, including her parents and uncles, in order to confirm their engagement. During this ceremony, or some days after it, the young man receives a bill called a dowry. This is a list of goods and an amount of money that he will give to his fiancé’s parents and relatives before the feast of the custom marriage.
They then present themselves before the Civil State Office in order to celebrate what is recognized by the Congolese government as civil marriage. Only after the custom and civil marriages have been completed is the religious marriage celebrated. You may be astonished and say, “Is marriage something this difficult to achieve?” Elsewhere it may be easy, but in the DRC it is a difficult process and almost miraculous. It’s a big testimony when a young woman gets married. It’s common to find families with grown children in which the parents didn’t marry until many years later because they lacked the finances needed for these three marriages. The social phenomenon of young couples cohabiting before marriage has become more and more frequent. It’s commonly called “yaka tofanda” – meaning “come so that we can live together.” The young woman, tired of waiting for the young man who is unable to marry her for lack of finances, arranges herself to get pregnant by him. When the parents of this young woman 9
Sister Sekouba’s Testimony Sister Sekouba gave a testimony about her 15 years of living single. This was due to the evil bondage of “night marriage,” which she frequently had in her dreams. She sometimes dreamt of her uncles having sexual intercourse with her. This is called “night incest.” Each time after such a dream, the fiancé that she had would leave and never return. She was trapped in a hopeless cycle. Our church held intensive prayer for her for almost three years. Finally, all those phenomena disappeared. She married in December 2012, and hers was the first marriage I had the privilege to perform. Rev. Armel Ngo from Living Hope International Ministries of the Congo attended this marriage.
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realize their daughter’s pregnancy, they are obliged to let her go live with the man responsible. “Yaka tofanda” is considered a Congolese shortcut to getting a spouse. So you can see what a big witness it is in our country when a young woman gets married. It’s a great joy when the couple honors Yahweh by celebrating a Christian religious marriage. It is the biggest feast in which all the new couple’s relatives, friends, and all the members of their church participate. We know that marriage is the will of Yahweh our Father, and He is the author of it. He said in Genesis 2:18, 24 KJV:
....“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and
they shall be one flesh.” Why do these three marriages constitute such a tremendous blessing? Simply because it’s not easy to get married in the DRC for these reasons: Economically speaking, the DRC has an average unemployment rate of 94%. Sometimes we are astonished to read that Westerners are upset when unemployment reaches 10%. In the DRC, those who do work earn an average salary of $40 - $100 per month. The minimum dowry amount for marriages sometimes is as high as $1,000. This is in addition to the material goods required − such as a suit, two shirts, two ties, and a pair of shoes for the young woman’s father and top quality clothes, a head handkerchief, and sandals for the young woman’s mother. In addition, the dowry can require 36 cases of beer, around 12 cases of wine, 40 kilos of salt, 10 kilos of sugar, an oil lamp, two goats or sheep, four hens and four shehens, linens and bed blankets,
and a big pot that can contain 10 liters of water (called a “nzungu ya ma famille”, or “my family’s pot”). These items can cost more than the dowry itself. There are some tribes in our country that require living cows as dowry. The cost of this kind of dowry is evaluated according to the number and the quality of the cows. When one considers the large financial burden the dowry requires, achieving marriage in the DRC is quite a testimony in itself. Spiritually, there are often devilish attacks that happen in people’s lives to hinder them from getting married. It’s a spiritual phenomenon that Africans understand well. In a family where marriage comes under attack by family witchcraft, I’ve observed that the young women from that family don’t get married. Men will come to ask for engagement, but they all leave one after another, for indiscernible reasons.
Sister Kivuido’s Testimony The second marriage I had the privilege to perform was the kind we call “yaka tofanda,” which I explained means “come so that we can live together”. Sister Kivuido lived 10
with brother Makukani Emile without being married. After several sessions of spiritual counseling, they believed to get married and got married in our church on on page 12) December(Continued 29, 2012.
Esther: The Queen Who Saved Yahweh's Portion By Iris Jumper
he Book of Esther is the only book in the Bible, other than The Book of Ruth, named after a woman. Both women were instrumental in preserving Yahweh’s promise that a messiah would be born from the house of Judah to bring salvation to His people.
The Book of Esther takes place in Persia during the reign of King Ahasuerus. The Kingdom of Judah, because of her continued disobedience to Yahweh, had been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, until that kingdom was conquered by Cyrus, king of Persia. Many of the captive Jews had returned To Jerusalem with Zerubbabel about 50 years before (Ezra 3:8), but many, like Mordecai and his orphaned cousin Esther (Hadassah) whom he had raised, decided to stay and live in Shushan, the capital city of the Persian Empire (Esther 2:5-7). In the third year of his reign, Ahasuerus had a huge feast and invited all of the princes of the 127 he ruled over from India to Ethiopia. After several days of feasting, he commanded that the queen,Vashti, be brought from her own feast in another part of the palace to be shown to all the princes
that were present. When she refused, the king, now very angry, listened to several of his advisers and removed Vashti from being queen. He then made a decree that she was never to come before the king again (Esther 1:1-22). After some time had gone by, the king decided to replace Vashti by having all the young women in his provinces gathered together so that he could choose one to be his queen. Esther was gathered up with all the other women in Shushan and placed in the palace under Hegai, one of the king’s chief chamberlains. Mordecai instructed Esther not to reveal her Jewish identity. (Her name would no longer be Hadassah, a Hebrew name, but Esther, a Persian name). She spent a year in the palace with hundreds of other women being purified under Persian law and waiting to be called before the king. Esther had not revealed who she was, but Yahweh was with her, and found favor with Hegai who helped her to find favor with the king. When she finally appeared before him, the king chose Esther above all the other women to be his queen (Esther 2:1-20). She did not know it yet, but her position as queen would serve a vital part in helping to save her people. 11
Esther then used her influence to get her cousin Mordecai appointed to the King’s Gate which was considered a high position of importance in the governing of the city. While at the King’s Gate, Mordecai overheard a plot to assassinate the king. He told Esther who revealed to the king what her cousin had found. After an investigation, the two guilty men were hanged on the gallows. Mordecai's part in discovering the plot was favorably reported in the chronicles of the king, but he went unrewarded (Esther 2:21-23). Sometime after this event, the king promoted one of his advisors, Haman the Agagite, to a position of power and leadership. The king decreed that all must show reverence and bow before Haman, but Mordecai would not bow before him. When Haman found out that Mordecai would not bow to him, he became extremely angry. When he found out that his refusal was because he was a Jew, he wanted to kill not only Mordecai but all the Jews in all 127 provinces of the Persian Kingdom (Esther 3:1-6). Haman was an Amalekite and a descendant of King Agag. The Amalekites were the most (Continued on page 12)
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hated enemy of all the nations that came against Yahweh's people. They were the first to attack the children of Israel while they wandered in the wilderness. They also attacked them from the rear where the weaker and feebler were (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Some 600 years earlier, King Saul had been instructed by Yahweh through the Prophet Samuel utterly to destroy the Amalekites. He disobeyed and even lied to Samuel when con(Continued from page 10)
Marriage in the Congo: A Feat of Faith Continued...
Usually, when the young Christian woman becomes aware of this problem in her life, she searches for spiritual reasons through intensive prayer. The non-Christians will seek witch sorcerers to call upon the spirits of their dead ancestors. They sometimes discover curses that have been placed on their families. In those curses, the young women are usually married by night to what is called a “night husband.” The men that are under such curses bond to a “night wife.” What are these? The woman dreams that she has sexual intercourse with someone, while in reality she’s not married. Likewise, the man
fronted. This act was so grievous to Yahweh that He removed Saul from being king and instructed Samuel never to see him again. Even though Samuel hacked King Agag to death the next day, following the revelation that Saul had spared him, the damage was done. The Amalekite king’s descendants would go on persecuting Yahweh's people like Haman was now doing in the book of Esther (1Samuel 15:1-35). Haman started to put his plan of extermination into place before getting the approval of dreams that he has sexual intercourse with a woman, but in reality he is a single man. As a consequence, this brings into the lives of those under these curses a prolonged state of singleness and poverty. If the people finally get married, they experience infertility or miscarriages if they are not first freed from those devilish bonds. In Africa, dreams play a great role in a person’s life. Sometimes in our counseling sessions, people ask us to pray for them so that they can have dreams and are able to remember them. Others worry because they have forgotten a dream or have not had dreams at all. So marriage in the DRC is not only a blessing, but allows a person freedom from the family witchcraft evil spirits. You will hear a cry of joy from a song in 12
the king by casting lots (in Hebrew, pur). This was a method used in ancient times like throwing dice or tossing a coin to determine what day would be right for his venture. The lots landed on the 13th day of the 12th month making the massacre about a year away. The delay would make sure that the order reached every corner of the empire. He then convinced the king that the Jews were detrimental to him and his kingdom and how profitable it would be when the property of the executed crimi(Continued on page 13)
Lingala during the marriage feast – “celibate ekweyi” – which means “the evil spirit of the single life is gone forever.” It’s obvious that the dowry is excessively expensive in our country. That’s why we’ve begun advising Christian parents and those in our church to avoid asking high amounts of money for their daughter’s dowry. There is an African proverb that says “marriage doesn’t end with the dowry.” This means that when someone gets married to your daughter, you need to be considerate of the in-law’s family. They will always be obliged to help in time of need. In spite of the difficulty of these customs, we remember that marriage is God’s will and He will provide.
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nals was forfeited to the crown. He even promised to contribute 10,000 talents of silver to finance the work. The king agreed, and a proclamation was sent out to all 127 provinces saying that on the day chosen by Haman, all men, women, and children of Judah were to be destroyed, killed, and caused to perish (Esther 3:7-15) . When Mordecai found out about the decree, he rent his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes. As the decree went out about the kingdom, the Jews in every province also put on sackcloth and ashes and mourned and wept. Under the law, this was a way of showing repentance and asking Yahweh to have pity and show mercy on His people (Esther 4:1-3). When Esther was informed that her cousin was walking around the Kingâ€™s Gate in sackcloth, she offered to send him some clothes because she had no idea about the decree. Mordecai refused the clothes and sent Esther back a mes-
sage and a copy of the decree. He also asked her to intercede to the king for her peopleâ€™s sake. This presented a problem for Esther because the king still did not know of her Jewish identity, and under Persian law and with the threat of death, nobody could appear before the king without being summoned. The king also had not called for her in 30 days (Esther 4:4-12). Mordecai believed Yahweh would deliver His people, but he also believed that Esther would play a part in that deliverance. He reminded her that if the decree went forward, she would be killed as well and asked her to consider that perhaps she was made queen just for the exact and immediate purpose of helping to save Yahweh's people (Esther 4:414). Mordecai convinced Esther of what she must do. She asked him to have all the Jews in Shushan fast for her for the next three days (which was understood to be accompanied with prayer). She and all her maids at the palace would do the same. Esther needed
united prayer and fasting to build her faith in asking Yahweh's favor and protection in what she was resolved to do âˆ’ risk her life by appearing before the king, reveal her true identity, and ask him to spare her people (Esther 4:15-17). What happened after the three days can only be described as being miraculous. Esther risked standing in an area of the palace where she was in view of the king but far enough away. When he noticed her, he invited her to come forward and was so pleased to see her that he offered her anything she wanted. Esther's inspired response was to request that the king and Haman attend a banquet that she would hold over two days. After the first banquet, Haman, puffed up with pride and elated at being invited, bragged to his wife and all his friends. Convinced he had the king's favor and still despising Mordecai, he built a 75 foot tall gallows to hang him on (Esther 5:1-14). That night, the king was unable to sleep. (Maybe the noise of the gal-
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lows Haman was building kept him up). The king called for his chronicles to be read by a servant, and amazingly, the reading happened to fall on the record concerning the time Mordecai had discovered the assassination plot by two of the kingâ€™s servants. The king was disappointed to find out that Mordecai was never rewarded for this good deed and decided to make up for it (Esther 6:1-3). The next morning, Haman arrived at the palace to ask the king's permission to hang Mordecai on the gallows. The king, still thinking about the last night, invited Haman in and asked him for ideas about rewarding a faithful servant. Haman thought the king was talking about him and described all the rewards, riches, and honor that should come to such a man. The king finally revealed it was Mordecai he was talking about, and according to one of Haman's own suggestions, he was to parade Mordecai dressed in royal robes around the city on one of the king's finest horses. After he finished this task, Haman returned home and was dejected, ashamed, and completely humiliated. His wife and all the friends he had bragged to the day before, when they found out what had happened, compound his mis-
ery by telling him it would be a lost cause to stand against Mordecai now (Esther 6:1-14). While they were all still talking, a messenger came to the door of Haman's house and summoned him to the second banquet. Haman was fearing for his life, especially after Esther at the banquet revealed her relationship to Mordecai and that Haman had devised to kill them and all her people throughout the kingdom. The king upon hearing this got so angry he left the room. Haman begging for his life fell on Esther's knees. When the king returned, he thought Haman was molesting the queen and immediately ordered his death. Conveniently, there were new gallows erected by Haman right outside. In a miraculous turn of events, Haman was hanged on the very gallows he built for Mordecai (Esther 7:1-10). The next day, the king elevated Mordecai to second in command of the kingdom and gave all of Haman's property to Esther, who then gave it to her cousin. The decree to kill all the Jews was still in place because according to Persian law, once given by the king, it could not be reversed. The king honored Esther and Mordecai and let them write a new decree with his official seal that allowed all the provinces, including Judea to arm themselves 14
against the coming attack. When the decree went out and news of everything that had happened in Sushan became known, there was so much joy, amazement, and awe in Judea that many of the Gentiles in the kingdom turned to worship Yahweh (Esther 8:117). Mordecai called for a special joyous feast of remembrance on the 13th day of the month Adar (March) that is called Purim after the lots (pur) that Haman cast to destroy Yahweh's portion (Esther 9 and10). On the day chosen by Haman, instead of being defeated, Yahweh's people were victorious. The enemy and his ten sons were dead, and Yahweh's people were saved. Esther, because of her faith, courage, and obedience, was able to do hundreds of years later what her ancestor King Saul (they were both from the tribe of Benjamin and related through Kish) would not do. She utterly destroyed the Amalekites (Esther 9:1-14). Yahweh had promised to obliterate the memory of the Amalekites. He told Moses to write down His promise on a scroll, as something to be remembered (Exodus 17:14). Many centuries later, the events in the book of Esther fulfilled this promise.
Read The Bible
By John Greenaway (10 years old) ello, my name is John Greenaway, and I have written this essay to persuade more people to read the Bible. If less people believe what God has written in the Bible, less people will enter God’s holy Kingdom.
In Exodus 20:3, it says, and I quote, “‘Do not put any other gods in place of me.’” This is the first commandment in the Ten Commandments, and it is a very important one. For example, some people put themselves in place of God, and other people put money in place of God. These selfish acts can make God very angry. Also, in John 3:16, it says, and I quote, “God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.” Now that is good news to behold! Imagine eternal life in God’s Kingdom. That’s a good reason to believe in Jesus Christ. In conclusion, I leave you with one final thought. If you look closely at the Bible, you will see more than just a boring book. You will see joy, hope, and happiness.
Bodily Pleasures By Sean Finnegan
n the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and put the two first humans in a garden. After surveying His creation and declaring it good repeatedly, the first fact that displeased God was that Adam was alone. “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Once the Lord formed Eve and Adam called her “woman,” the Genesis narrative states:
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:24 and 25 NASB). God’s mandates in the Garden of Eden (“Eden” means pleasure, by the way) were not “remain celibate,” “eat only tasteless grains,” and “submit.” Rather, God’s commands were “be fruitful,” “eat freely,” and “have dominion.” God so loved His first two humans that He wanted them to reproduce and fill the new world with many more people. The earth was not an exercise in testing people for some other realm, but a home for His own crowning achievements to delight in and rule over. Although He forbade eating from one tree in the garden, the rest of them were
for their pleasure.
The God of Genesis is more an Epicurean than a Stoic. He does not design bodies without pleasure sensors but instead squeezes onto the human tongue 10,000 taste buds. He does not make reproduction an onerous or bland affair but loads human genitals with thousands of erotogenic nerve endings. In His extravagant kindness, He engineered eating and intercourse to give us pleasure and then commanded His first two humans to engage in both. It’s no wonder the first two chapters of Genesis declare creation “good” seven times over. The second chapter of the Bible concludes with two humans, in a garden of pleasure, totally naked, who are commanded to have sex, eat fruit, and rule the world. Not only does God’s design of the body shout to us that He engineered us to experience pleasure, but the Law He gave Israel on Sinai likewise indicates His penchant for enjoyment. Consider the holy days built into the Law of Moses: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Although the Day of Atonement was a single day of fasting and repentance, the 16
rest of these were multi-day celebrations or festivals. The Feast of Unleavened bread followed on the heels of the Passover meal when families roasted lambs, enjoyed wine, and told stories of God’s deliverance from Egypt. The rule for the rest of the week was no working other than preparing food. The Feast of Weeks commemorated the first fruits of the harvest. According to the Mishnah, the festival was “accompanied by a large celebration, in which pilgrims gather in the towns of their district and go as a group with their ripe produce to Jerusalem. There they are greeted by Levitical singing and celebration.”1 The Law of Moses was for an agrarian society and built into the rhythm of the farmer’s calendar times of worship that coincided with times of rejoicing. Although sometimes Christians misinterpret the Law as some terrible straightjacket strapped onto the people of God until Christ could free them from it, in reality, it was a way God provided to connect with Him by taking time out from the monotony of their toil. In antiquity, most people worked every day, but God’s chosen ones worked only six days a week. The seventh day they took off to rest and enjoy the fact that they were no longer slaves in Egypt when they had to labor relentlessly. The (Continued on page 17)
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Sabbath was a day separated off from the rest of the week to take a break and connect to the Creator.
they live; 13 moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 NRSV 7 Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. 8 Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. 9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.
Sex, eating, drinking, and work are for our pleasure. Proverbs encourages young married couples to enjoy each other’s bodies. After all, finding a wife is not a curse, but a gift from God (Proverbs 18:22). Far from forbidding alcohol, Ecclesiastes flatly affirms the goodness of drinking alcohol and eating food. Furthermore, it shows that even work itself is good: “It is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil” (Ecclesiastes 3:13; see also 8:15). The Law of Moses, once again, bears out these facts when it legislates the rules for military participation. The first year of marriage qualified a soldier for exemption from service, so that he may “be happy with the wife whom he has married” (Deuteronomy 24:5). Furthermore, if someone had just planted a vineyard, he was likewise excused from duty until he could enjoy its fruit (Deuteronomy 20:6). Wealth itself is not seen as inherently evil, but a blessing from God (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19). Even in the coming age, Isaiah speaks about a banquet involving fine wine and prime meat (Isaiah 25:6; see also Matthew 8:11; 13:29).
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as
Perhaps the best book to look at on the subject of pleasure is the Song of Solomon. This elaborate collection of poems
Beyond the created order and the holy days instituted in the Mosaic Law, the Scriptures contain quite a few statements endorsing pleasure. Although the Bible is sometimes stereotyped as prudish or anti-sex, it does not shy away from the topic, nor does it prohibit physical pleasures. The following texts ably illustrate this point: Proverbs 5:18-19 NRSV Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. May her breasts satisfy you at all times; may you be intoxicated always by her love.
brims with sexual imagery. It does not disparage but extols sexual union and all the attendant buildup leading to it. The book opens unapologetically with the words, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine” (Song of Solomon 1:2 NRSV). For the author, wine is an obvious good, but the kisses of his lover are better still. By the time we reach the fourth verse, we read, “Draw me after you, let us make haste. The king has brought me into his chambers...” (Song of Solomon 1:4 NRSV). In one riveting scene, the woman awakes in the middle of the night with an intense desire to find her lover. She gets out of bed and begins searching through the city streets and squares. She encounters the night watchmen and inquires where he might be, but they are no help. Song of Solomon 3:4 NASB “Scarcely had I left them when I found him whom my soul loves; I held on to him and would not let him go until I had brought him to my mother’s house, and into the room of her who conceived me.” Later on we encounter romantic poetic descriptions of Solomon’s lover. Song of Solomon 7:7-12 NRSV You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. (Continued on page 18)
Bodily Pleasures Continued... (Continued from page 17)
parties often, consumed alcohol, and discouraged fasting. That his enemies called him a drunkard and a glutton is unthinkable if he was against all bodily pleasures.
asceticism (when all pleasure is considered evil). When members of the church at Colossae fell into asceticism, Paul corrected them with the following words:
flourishes...We have rules, but
if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch?" 22 All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting selfimposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.
I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches. Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of Even so, the Bible does place your breath like apples, Colossians 2:18-23 NRSV clear boundaries on bodily and your kisses like the best 18 Do not let anyone disqualify pleasures. Sex is limited to the wine that goes down smoothly, you, insisting on self-abasement marriage bed; eating is regugliding over lips and teeth. and worship of angels, I am my beloved's, and his dwelling on visions, puffed desire is for me. up without cause by a hu“Biblical Christianity is not licenCome, my beloved, let us go man way of thinking, 19 tious; we certainly do have forth into the fields, and and not holding fast to the boundaries...God has graciously lodge in the villages; head, from whom the whole put these in place to protect us let us go out early to the and to encourage human flourish- body, nourished and held vineyards, and see whether together by its ligaments ing...Imagine a tomato plant in the vines have budded, and sinews, grows with a the wild. It can grow only so tall whether the grape blossoms growth that is from God. 20 before it bends over on itself. have opened and the pomeIf with Christ you died to But, if a farmer comes along and granates are in bloom. There the elemental spirits of the stakes it—essentially limiting its I will give you my love. direction for growth—the plant universe, why do you live as Such words as these they are not to suppress us, they would never be allowed are to help us grow.” in a Bible that was at its core against pleasure. Throughout the Bible marriage is the norm. Sure lated by bodily needs; alcohol eunuchs and prophets like is consumed in moderation. John the Baptist remained Take any of these outside of celibate, but these are exceptheir boundaries, and we fall tions, not the rule. The Bible into adultery, gluttony, and celebrates weddings right drunkenness. Thus, unlike from creation onwards. When bacchic hedonism or the lechJesus went to a wedding, they ery of Mardi Gras, God reigns ran out of wine. Rather than in the pleasures His people scolding them for their should indulge in to safeguard merriment, Jesus turned 120 them from ruin. Many Scripgallons of water into wine—not tures2 convey the importance just any wine—quality wine of restraining the flesh from its (John 2:1-11). In fact, the lustful drive, but too often Gospels portray Jesus as somethese New Testament texts one who attended dinner are taken to the extreme of 18
Furthermore, when some Christians in Corinth likewise began advocating celibacy, (Continued on page 19)
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even within marriage, the apostle addressed them as follows: 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 NRSV Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is well for a man not to touch a woman." 2 But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Paul takes for granted that people are sexual beings who
will fall into illicit behaviors if they cannot enjoy sex within marriage. Christians today often react so strongly against the lasciviousness and lewdness of our own time that we tend to fall back into anti-social restrictions that ultimately besmirch our witness and exclude us from evangelistic opportunities. Rather than promoting Christianity as a holistic, fulfilling, joyous, and satisfying experience, we sometimes sell it short by portraying it as a restrictive religion that evacuates fun and enjoyment from the human experience. Christians don’t dance, don’t play cards, and don’t listen to rock and roll. We feel guilty about eating fillet mignon, going on vacation, or living in a nice house. We abstain from sex unless for procreation, alcohol unless for communion, and film unless it supports a Christian agenda. Is it any wonder that outsiders take one look at us and run the other way? Now, I want to be clear that I
am not saying we should do whatever feels good. Biblical Christianity is not licentious; we certainly do have boundaries and limitations that hem us in. God has graciously put these in place to protect us and to encourage human flourishing, not stifle it. Imagine a tomato plant in the wild. It can grow only so tall before it bends over on itself. But, if a farmer comes along and stakes it—essentially limiting its direction for growth—the plant flourishes, growing much bigger and producing much more fruit. We have rules, but they are not to suppress us, they are to help us grow. Perhaps we need to loosen up a bit so we can spend time with non-Christians in order to share the gospel with them. 1
Jacob Neusner and William Scott Green, eds., Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period: 450 B.c.e. to 600 C.e. (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 573. 2
Hebrews 11:25-26; 2 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Timothy 5:5-6; 2 Timothy 3:3; James 5:5; 1 Corinthians 7
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