Psalm 53: Commentary—What a Bunch of Schmucks

The foolish one says in his heart: “There is no Jehovah.” Their unrighteous actions are corrupt and detestable; No one is doing good.  (vs 1)

[He doesn’t say it out loud. He just acts as though it were so.]

But God looks down from heaven on the sons of men To see whether anyone has insight, whether anyone is seeking Jehovah. (2)

[Can’t you just picture that? ‘Hmm—how they doing down there?’]

They have all turned away; They are all alike corrupt.  No one is doing good, Not even one. (3)

[‘What a bunch of schmucks!’]

Do none of the wrongdoers understand? They devour my people as if they were eating bread. They do not call on Jehovah. (4)

[‘What on earth is wrong with them?’]

But they will be filled with great terror, Terror they have never felt before, For God will scatter the bones of those attacking you. You will put them to shame, for Jehovah has rejected them. (5)

[‘No matter. I’m gonna mess them up.’]

O that Israel’s salvation may come from Zion! When Jehovah gathers back his captive people, Let Jacob be joyful, let Israel rejoice. (6)

[All’s well that end’s well.]


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Do God a Favor Through Sacrifice? — Psalm 50 Commentary

Do God a favor by sacrificing to him?

The best answer to that question is Psalm 50:12. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you.

9FA37A99-17AF-4056-9998-2E0249C0C0C6Of course not. We’re in position to help God out? Isn’t it the other way around? People bluff as though they hold the better hand when they don’t.

Instead, it works this way:

Offer thanksgiving as your sacrifice to God, And pay your vows to the Most High; Call on me in the time of distress.  I will rescue you, and you will glorify me.” (vs 14-15)

Other reasons to conclude you’re not in position to bail God out of a spot:

I do not need to take a bull from your house, Nor goats from your pens.  For every wild animal of the forest is mine, Even the beasts upon a thousand mountains. I know every bird of the mountains; The countless animals of the field are mine. . . . For the productive land and everything in it is mine.

Don’t think you can lend him a chicken a help him out.  (vs 9-12)

Then He lays into pig-headed and surly people who carry on as though they do hold all the cards:

But God will say to the wicked: “What right do you have to relate my regulations Or to speak about my covenant? For you hate discipline, And you keep turning your back on my words.”  (vs 16-17)

How’s that working out for them?

When you see a thief, you approve of him, And you keep company with adulterers. You use your mouth to spread what is bad, And deception is attached to your tongue. You sit and speak against your own brother; You reveal the faults of your own mother’s son.” (vs 18-20)

Thieves and liars are put in high places, their misdeeds ignored. Adultery and slander is the way to go. How many will say this isn’t reality today?

And then (doesn’t this resonate?) when they’re not rebuked instantly, they figure they have the green light:

When you did these things, I remained silent, So you thought that I would be just like you.” (vs 21)

But now I will reprove you, And I will state my case against you. Please consider this, you who forget God, So that I may not tear you to pieces with no one to rescue you. The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me, And as for the one who follows a set course, I will cause him to see salvation by God.” (vs 21-23)

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Jehovah’s Witnesses: an American Religion? I Don’t Think So: An Exploration of Psalm 33

Most Russians think Jehovah’s Witnesses are an American religion. In this age of poisoned East/West relations, that’s not good.

That’s not the main reason the Witness organization was banned in that country in 2017, but it’s a sabotaging corollary. Obviously, their HQ is in America. Everyone has to be somewhere. But do they pick up on and push the nationalistic policies of the country? They do not. They just exist there.

So how to fix that misconception that they are an American religion?

1A5C7823-40C7-484F-B578-099BCA0F1447A) You can’t. If the tract ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses: Christians or Communists?’ designed to fix just the opposite impression, doesn’t do the trick, nothing will. First published in 1951, it was used into the early 1970s. I remember carrying it myself at that tail end of that period, though I rarely used it. By then, everyone knew Witnesses weren’t communist. Imagine. Russians are saying Witnesses are American, and just a few decades ago Americans were saying Jehovah’s Witnesses were Russian [Soviet]! The 70-year-old tract has become a collectible. And to think you used to be able to pick up a handful of them for free!

1BA3D765-5DD0-4917-923E-502998D6511AB) There is also a second, more complicated solution (said 1974 Murder on the Orient Express Hercule Poirot, before opting for the simpler one even though he knew the second one was right).

The more complicated solution presents when Dwight D. Eisenhower, at his swearing in as president, suggested either that his country was or would be the country identified with Psalm 33:12: “Happy is the nation whose God is Jehovah, The people he has chosen as his own possession.”

‘Oh, no you don’t!’ the Watchtower said in effect. ‘That verse is referring to something else—the Israelite nation of antiquity whose God really was Jehovah* and the modern day spiritual descendant of it, which is NOT the country in which HQ is located, nor is it any other earthly nation.

*(“Now if you will strictly obey my voice and keep my covenant, you will certainly become my special property out of all peoples, for the whole earth belongs to me. You [ancient Israel] will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:5-6)

How’s that for evidence Jehovah’s Witnesses is not an American religion, Mr. Putin? [whose leadership is being considerably undermined by some ‘anti-cult’ loons] Eisenhower says his country is “the nation whose God is Jehovah.” Oh, no it isn’t, says HQ.

It’s from a two-paragraph segment wedged in to the Watchtower Study article of November 15, 1968. The entire congregation would have considered it. It reads downright strange today. It would have read downright strange to non-Witnesses even then, most likely. But active Witnesses would have picked up on it instantly. It would have been ‘food at the proper time’ for them.

What few of the general public knew then, and none of them do today, is that the 34th president of the United States had been raised a Witness. Back then it was called ‘the International Bible Students’—the name ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ was adopted in 1931. Eisenhower was raised as one. He left his Witness background behind upon reaching adulthood (and his family to this day does all it can to obscure that former connection), but he was raised that way.

My question is—did any Witnesses of his era come to regard him as ‘our guy’ who became deliverer—almost like a Moses? If so, I’ve never heard it before, but it makes sense that some might. He liberated the Nazi concentration camps where many of them were imprisoned. He won World War II—it was he who was appointed Supreme Military Commander of Allied troops. Even today’s Watchtower, without naming names, necessarily include him in the earth that swallows up the waters of persecution emitting from rivers, the more stable elements of this world vanquishing the more unstable.

Eisenhower followed a familiar path: the victorious general gets elected president. It worked for Washington, Jackson, Taylor, Grant—it worked for Eisenhower. The prestige of the United States rode very high immediately after World War II. Learning a lesson from World War I, it was magnanimous towards its beaten enemies, and worked to rebuild their economies. True, it had to dump that megalomaniac McArthur, who in time wanted to pepper North Korea with 50 of those new-fangled atomic bombs (if that country is unhinged today, it is not as though someone didn’t seed their paranoia). But he was most magnanimous in rebuilding Japan. (Historians attribute the reason to his desire to be adored, but that still does not mean he was not that way.) Moreover, under the Marshall plan, Germany too was rebuilt.

President Eisenhower would have overseen all this—he, the one raised a Jehovah’s Witness, though never baptized. Some training would have stuck, though. I’ve gone so far as to suggest his warnings of a coming “military-industrial complex” (it was going to be “military-industrial-congressional” complex, but he didn’t want to offend that prickly body) is patterned after those one-time continual Witness characterizations of a big business, big government, big religion deleterious triumvirate—a characterization you never hear today but used to be heard frequently.

So were there some Witnesses then who regarded him as a deliverer? I guess he was in the sense that Cyrus was also a deliverer. But Cyrus has no background in Jehovah’s worship. Eisenhower did. Did Witnesses regard his as one of ‘theirs’—the hometown boy that turned out incredibly good, swatting a grand slam, not just for them, but for the whole wide world?

Any such notion is tamped down firmly in that November 15th Watchtower. Two paragraphs of the 22 paragraphs are devoted to it. ‘The Happiness of the Nation Whose God is Jehovah’ is the title of that article, and the remaining 20 paragraphs identify just what is that nation. It is neither Eisenhower’s country nor any other earthly one today.

“No, it is not the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth today,” said that Watchtower in paragraph 3. It wasn’t the one whose “thirty-fourth president was being inaugurated for his second term in office. Following the custom, he was being sworn in with his right hand resting upon an open Bible. This Bible was not the British King James or Authorized Version Bible, but was the American Standard Version of the Bible as published in the year 1901 C.E. This particular copy had been given him by his God-fearing mother when he was about to graduate from the national Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1915 . . .”

Good old mom, who, like moms everywhere, never gives up hope that junior will return to the fold.

During that inauguration, Eisenhower’s hand “purposely rested at Psalm 33:12, which, in the American Standard Version, reads as follows: ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is Jehovah, the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.’”

‘Don’t even think it,’ is the thrust of the next paragraph (4):

“By this gesture the reinaugurated president may have been suggesting that the United States of America was that blessed or happy nation or that he would serve in the presidency to make it such. But during his two terms in the presidency did he lead his nation into the blessedness or happiness spoken of in Psalm 33:12?” then the article goes on to document a litany of unhappy woes, such as we are good at doing—though by today’s standards those woes seem downright cheery.

So if there is some historical context to think that the victorious U.S really is that Ps 33:12 nation in which all is hunky-dory, the Watchtower does not let that notion stand. Does it anticipate or acknowledge that some brothers did?

On the JW Library app, if equipped with research notes, pressing the number of any particular Bible verse will bring up, in the adjacent column, a host of previous articles that have commented on the verse. Pressing ‘12’ for the 12th verse brings up that November 15th Watchtower, but not as the first offering. Pressing ‘10’ does bring it up as the first offering. What is verse 10?

Jehovah has frustrated the schemes of the nations; He has thwarted the plans of the peoples.” as though one of the “schemes of the nations” is to claim that one of them is the happy nation whose God is Jehovah! As though Eisenhower himself is trying to pull a fast one, but the Watchtower won’t let him get away with it!

There’s two other locations (verse 16 and 17) which also pull up that November 15th Watchtower, though not as the first item. “No king is saved by a large army; A mighty man is not saved by his great power. The horse is a false hope for salvation; Its great strength does not ensure escape,” they read. Okay? Just because you have a large army—horses being the ancient equivalent of tanks, don’t think you get Psalm 33:12 status from it. U.S. has huge military might these days. So does Russia, for that matter. So does China. Doesn’t make them the happy nation.

See what projects you can get into when you supplement Bible reading with the Research Guide?


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Psalm 11: What Are the Foundations that Are Torn Down?

Back up a psalm to #11. “When the foundations are torn down, What can the righteous do?” (verse 3)

Q: “What are “the foundations” that are torn down?

The foundations are justice, law, and order​—the foundations on which society rests. When there is a breakdown in the social order, with no possibility of justice, what should the God-fearing person do? Trust in Jehovah. He is on his heavenly throne, sees everything that is going on, and will not fail us.” (Watchtower: August 15, 1986)

Yeah, that works pretty well as an explanation. There are people who instantly grasp this. To others, righting the ship of human self-rule is only a politician away. Just throw the current bums out for a new set of bums and you’re golden.

And if we’re trusting in Jehovah it probably has corrosive effect to be watching those revenge movies in which the tormented hero finally gets to extract payback, since “Jehovah examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one; He hates anyone who loves violence.” Verse 7 carries the day: “For Jehovah is righteous; he loves righteous acts. The upright will see his face.”

***Meanwhile, on Psalm 13

Only 6 verses in Psalm 3. Look at how this fellow is just baarrrrrelllly holding on

How long, O Jehovah, will you forget me? Forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” has “anxious concern” “grief in my heart each day.

Desperate plea, “Look upon me and answer me, O Jehovah my God. Give light to my eyes”

In the end, he hangs onto: “trust in your loyal love” “rejoice in your acts of salvation” and “will sing to Jehovah, for he has richly rewarded me.”

It’s in keeping with that recent Watchtower Study on prayer which made the point that thanksgiving and praise ought ever to form the backdrop of prayers even when the immediate subject of the prayer is much different. Or that psychologist I spoke to once who made the point that it is well not to entertain certain thoughts, “even if those thoughts seem the most accurate way to view matters.”

Falling back on ‘the greater picture’ will do it for those who believe God’s promises, but maybe not for those who don’t.


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Come on Everybody—Clap Your Hands: Psalm 30

“You have changed my mourning into dancing;” (Psalm 30:11)

Whoa. Footnote on this leads to a 1962 Watchtower article on dancing. In it is quoted this 1961 New York Times article:

“CAFÉ society, having ignored rock ’n’ roll for years, has suddenly, by an apparent process of mass hypnosis, embraced the teen-age craze. The elite of the social set and celebrities of show business have discovered a sensuous dance called the Twist, performed to rock ‘n’ roll, and are wallowing in it like converts to a new brand of voodoo.”

Changing times.

“Come on everybody, clap your hands! Ah, you're lookin' good! I'm gonna sing my song. It won't take long. We're gonna do the twist and it goes like this...”

Chubby Checker—and you know he just called himself that because Fats Domino was already taken.

***“The White House firmly denied today that President Kennedy or anyone else danced ‘the Twist’ at a party there.” (New York Times, November 15, 1961)


An exhaustive article, mainly on whether you should do the Twist or not, appears here in 1962. It’s not that Witnesses took a firm stance on it—so what else is new?—it’s that the overall world, as represented by NWT and Newsweek, also did. The Times even felt obliged to point out that Kennedy wasn’t doing the Twist, so shocking was the notion, so detrimental to the well-being on the nation’s youth. It calls to mind a circuit overseer saying, ‘50 years ago the difference between Jehovah’s Witnesses and the world in general was doctrinal, not moral.’

This was before the Beatles—the British group that upended society. Their signature long hair inspired others (like me) to do the same. My ‘long hair’ was outlandishly short by today’s reckoning, yet my dad had a fit. He’d been brought up on the farm where you shear animals. He would pick up a pair of barber clippers and would do the same with his kids. Typical of my haircuts was a complete buzz cut, save for a little tuft of hair front and center, like a hood ornament.

Yet, some thought the Beatles a step up from the ‘decadence’ of the Twist. Their first song (in the US—it was different overseas) was “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” See? apologists said. That’s all they want to do—not like that bad Twist.


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Psalm 12: The Word is Greater Than the Deed as the Pen is Mightier than the Sword.

Psalm 12 is a psalm about words. Words are greater than deeds, same way that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ The two statements run parallel: Words > deeds. Pen > sword. 3145F958-2C08-4399-93B6-6084EC55EEE4It’s not that deeds are nothing. It’s that words are more.

Somehow the verse that punches most is vs 8: “The wicked walk around unrestrained because the sons of men promote depravity.” What a picture to visualize: ‘promoting depravity.’

It is a dire picture because “faithful people have vanished from among men,” something to be expected “for the loyal one is no more”—loyal to God, or in fact, anyone. No wonder the psalm begins with the cry, “Save me, O Jehovah.”

They speak lies to one another; They flatter with their lips and speak with deceitful hearts.” They say, “We will prevail with our tongues.  We use our lips as we please; Who will be our master?” Prevailing with tongues? Slick people do it all the time.  It’s because the word is greater than the deed, as the pen is mightier than the sword. No wonder James likens the tongue to the tiny flame that sets the forest ablaze and the small rudder that steers the huge ship.

There is the appeal to Jehovah, whose sayings “are pure,” who “will rise up to act,” and “will save [the afflicted] from those who treat them with contempt.” Of course. “You will guard them, O Jehovah; You will protect each one of them from this generation forever.” Why does one think of that verse about the generation that is pure in its own eyes, whereas in reality they’ve not been washed from their own sh*t? (Proverbs 30:12) Whoa! How’s that for an image? ‘Promoting depravity,’ they are.

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Psalm 18–Bending Those Heavens Like Einstein

Imagine needing rescue from “the faultfinding of the people.” (Psalm 18:43) Bad news to be harangued by those characters—dinging away at you while they claim to be on your side. “When you know as well as me you’d rather see my paralyzed,” Dylan puts it.

It’s not so bad as being caught up in a “flash flood of worthless men.” (vs 9) Weathering Hurricane Ian is less terrifying than that—even B2D285A7-C155-4AC6-9090-7FEA9FAB3A5Dthough Ian completely took out the Fort Myers Beach pier that I had walked on many times.

That devastated resort area completely gives the lie to my remark in ‘Go Where Tom Goes,’ that while many of the book’s short travelogues were written years ago, including that of Fort Myers Beach, not much will have changed. My bad. There’s nothing left of it.

“Flash floods of worthless men” trigger God to “bend the heavens down and descend,” an image for which you can be forgiven if you think of Einstein. It is trouble for the troublemakers when he does that. They’ve been encircling the loyal ones with whom God himself will act loyally (vs 25) with “ropes of death, (vs 4) “ropes of the Grave,” and “snares of death.” They call to Jehovah and he heeds them.

It’s all but target practice then. Thick gloom is beneath his feet as he descends (vs 9), but he lights it up with “his lightning” to throw “them into confusion.” (vs 14) Things covered are uncovered: “The streambeds became visible; The foundations of the land were exposed by your rebuke. (vs 15) Things (like the psalmist) in danger of being covered over are uncovered: “He reached down from on high; He took hold of me and pulled me from deep waters,” like pulling a Floridian from Ian.

Upon which, the psalmist is thankful. Would you not be too? “[Jehovah] rescues me from my angry enemies; You lift me high above those who attack me; You save me from the man of violence. That is why I will glorify you among the nations, O Jehovah, And to your name I will sing praises.” (48-49)

Only a small minority of translations render Psalm 18:4 as “flash floods of worthless men.” Most don’t add any human element at all—a common rendering is “torrents of destruction.” But the fact that some do suggests to me that the ones that don’t are wussing out. Maybe they succumb to the modern trend that while its okay to judge actions, one ought not judge people—whatever harshness the Hebrew writer has uttered they will soften. “Rivers of wickedness” is a common choice, as though rivers themselves can be wicked.

Floods “of ungodliness” or of “ungodly men” is the better choice of some. One might think of the Watchtower’s explanation that “the knowledge of Jehovah” being widespread throughout the earth is a circumstance that does not affect zebras, or any other animal. Rather, it is a circumstance of humans who once lived as animals. Therefore, while the Isaiah 11 prophesy of “the lion shall lay down with the lamb” may well find fulfillment in animals getting along, the real fulfillment lies in how persons who once ripped and devoured each other like wild beasts will no longer do so.

Similarly, waves don’t get ungodly all by themselves, but waves “of the worthless” (YLT) do.

***five of the Biblegateway translations had significantly different readings. NABRE is an example, which renders 18:4 as: ”Praised be the Lord, I exclaim! I have been delivered from my enemies.” There’s a note somewhere that it is a Masoritic correction. I have to research it further. It does have in common with the others that the trouble is with humans—enemies—and not just with some vague ‘forces of destruction,’ or ‘perdition’ as some translations say. 


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Psalm 13: Preparing Those Prayers Like Incense

Even while lodging strong complaint, this fellow (Psalm 13) does not neglect praise and thanksgiving:

Complaint: “How long, O Jehovah, will you forget me? Forever?” (vs 1)

P & T:  As for me, in your loving-kindness I have trusted… I will sing to Jehovah, for he has dealt rewardingly with me. (5-6)

Though not in the article, it illustrated well certain points of October 2’s Watchtower Study: ‘Treasure Your Privilege of Prayer.’ (Theme scripture: “May my prayer be as incense prepared before you.”​—PS. 141:2)

Not every prayer is going to be praise and thanksgiving. But put it in the backdrop if you can.

It squares too with counsel from a certain psychologist that it’s good to view matters in certain lights even if those lights do not seem to most accurate ways in which to view them. Gratitude works best, even when one seems not to have immediate reason to be grateful.

Since you prepare your prayer “as incense,” 9C2B5B58-C4E2-4988-95BF-CA7B6216E43DExodus 30:34-35 was cited: “Then Jehovah said to Moses: “Take equal portions of these perfumes: stacte drops, onycha, perfumed galbanum, and pure frankincense. Make it into an incense . . .skillfully blended, salted, pure, and holy.

Don’t screw it up. Best not get too sloppy about it, in other words. You can only take this application so far because you were toast if you got the incense wrong whereas it is not so with prayer—but still, best not get too sloppy over it. It’s not a barroom chum you’re addressing.

Praise and thanksgiving is always in the background, always constitutes the greater framework of the prayer. As with music. Note all notes go together. Most don’t. Make sure yours do—like a harmonious backdrop even in a prayer with pointedly another object.


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Gibbon: Decline and Fall—Why the Fall? Part 2–a take on Psalm 2

From Part 1: “Anti-cultists in particular build upon the notion that it is wrong to depart from the mainstream of rule by human efforts. Any serious consideration of a ‘God’s kingdom’ that calls the shots is disagreeable to them and, they would have you believe, also to you. The human experiment of self-rule is what must consume people. It’s wrong to sit it out, they maintain.”

The cacophony of ‘cult’ accusations over the past 20 years helps to understand Psalm 2. It’s a little hard to understand otherwise, though I’ve tried. I used to play with Psalm 2 in service, observing that nations today are not in agreement on anything, but there is one thing upon which they do agree:

“The kings of the earth take their stand And high officials gather together as one Against Jehovah and against his anointed one.” (Psalm 2:2)  

They’re all united in that. They can’t stand Jehovah and his anointed one. But in what practical way is that loathing manifested?

“They say: ‘Let us tear off their shackles And throw off their ropes!’” (vs 3)

It’s not at all clear how that applies—until one considers accusations from the anti-cultists. Service to that ‘cult’ that is the Jehovah’s Witness organization, they say, ‘shackles’ a person. But those anti-cultists would work to ‘free’ them from that ‘bondage’—‘throw off their ropes.’

Their underhanded doings are disguised as efforts to ‘help’ individual Witnesses, freeing them. In Russia, Dvorkin charges that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a “rather oppressive cult which violates the rights of its members, abuses people, and . . . often ruins their lives . . . They deprive them of normal human existence [and] deprive people of normal social life.” (the quotation included in chapter 18 of Don’t Know Why)

It’s crazy talk. Witnesses do the only thing reasonable people can be expected to do: they don’t understand it, at least not at first. But, crazy or not, this kind of reasoning is all the rage today among those who point the ‘cult’ finger.

There must have been similar accusations made toward Christian’s in the first century, for Paul feels obliged to push back at them. “We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. (2 Corinthians 7:2) Why would he write such except to counter charges that they had?

Another Psalm says,

“Jehovah will extend the scepter of your power out of Zion, saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies. 118B1CE8-0395-42CF-9C08-213FAA15D1F5Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day of your military force. In splendid holiness, from the womb of the dawn, You have your company of young men just like dewdrops.’” Psalm 110:2-3

‘They’re our dewdrops, dammit, not yours! You can’t have them!’ fume ‘the nations’ as their “peoples [keep] muttering an empty thing?” (Back to Ps 2:1) The ‘empty thing,’ the Research Guide’ points out, and it makes perfect sense, has to do with their sovereignty. Humans can rule the earth their way. They do know what is good and bad, just like the god of this system of things said: “For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Gen 3:5) They don’t need no stinkin ‘God’s kingdom’ to put them in ‘shackles’ and ‘ropes’ with its own notions of what is good and bad.

This thinking puts pressure on Witnesses everywhere. Paul writes Timothy to “urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made concerning all sorts of men, concerning kings and all those who are in high positions, so that we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with complete godly devotion and seriousness.” (1 Tim 2:1-2) That sounds reasonable. If you keep out of the king’s way, obey all his laws, and never speak ill of him, won’t he leave you alone?

Increasingly he will not. It is not enough to not pull against him. He requires you pull for him. Thus, Christian ‘neutrality’ is increasingly not tolerated in ‘authoritarian countries.’ But it also starts to come under fire in more democratic countries too. There you don’t have to pull for the king. You can pull against him if you want. You can pull for his opponent. But you have to pull for someone! If you don’t, you are part of a weird cult and come under fire for not serving the purpose of the greater god of this system of things who champions human rule in all of its manifestations, not just those of authoritarian kings but also of those ‘kings’ who acquiesce to sharing power with the clay of the more democratic governments.

It’s not wrong to consider the human (political reasons) but to be blind to the underlying spiritual reasons is to present a misleading picture


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Are We Looking at a Bait and Switch?

In the manner of the Lord’s death, Roman soldiers break legs to hasten death. But they don’t do it to Jesus. He is already dead. The apostle John says: “In fact, these things took place for the scripture to be fulfilled: ‘Not a bone of his will be broken.’” (John 19:36)

He is quoting Psalm 34:20: “He is guarding all his bones; Not one of them has been broken.”

Yet, if you read the verse in its Psalm 34 context you would never get the impression that the subject dies.

They cried out, and Jehovah heard; He rescued them from all their distresses. (17)

Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit. (18)

Many are the hardships of the righteous one, But Jehovah rescues him from them all. (19)

He is guarding all his bones; Not one of them has been broken. (20)

Disaster will put the wicked to death; Those hating the righteous will be found guilty. (21)

Unbroken bones runs parallel to ‘rescued from all distresses,’ ‘saves those who are crushed,’ and ‘rescued from all hardships.’ If you’re rescued from all your distresses, you don’t expect to die. The only one who dies is ‘the wicked’ of verse 21, the one ‘hating the righteous!’


Are we looking at a bait and switch? 2D95125F-6A6D-4B31-9BDA-2CECD47C1F21 Is John doing some ‘quote-mining,’ pulling a verse out of context? Better to think that in applying it to Jesus he adding a new dimension to Psalm 34:20. Was Jesus’s life unbroken? Anyone seeing him impaled, his disciples included, would have to say no. What was unbroken, however, was his integrity.

Bones likened to integrity works pretty well. What gives a body ‘integrity’? What makes it stand up? Bones. Break the bones and it no longer stands.

Bones are often not literal in scripture. They can be “filled with dread,” in the case of a fearful person. (Job 4:14) “Jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Pr 14:30) On the bright side, “pleasant sayings are . . . a healing to the bones.” (Pr 16:24) The fear of Jehovah is ‘a refreshment to the bones.’ (Pr 3:8) In all of the above, ‘bones’ are symbolic.

But if the bones that not one will be broken are not literal then probably the other items of Psalm 34 are not literal either. ‘Rescued from all your distresses?’ You may still die, but with your integrity unbroken. It’s a little like the sparrows that “not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.” That doesn’t mean they don’t fall to the ground. It just means God knows about it. This is a downright bummer to those whose sole focus is the present life, and it’s a bit of a check even for those whose is not

Still, in the long run, integrity is life. Jesus was resurrected. Those who keep integrity toward God, though they die, are resurrected. They may yet live forever, just with a little hiccup at the beginning.

This brings no comfort to those whose sole horizon is the short run, but it does to those who have the big picture. See what a difference your time frame makes. People do die in this system of things. Sometimes your faith gets you out of a jam even now, and when that is the case—well, you won’t hear me complain about it. They throw Felix into the hellhole (related Saturday AM at the Pursue Peace Convention) where prisoners are broken, and he emerges with the toughest one of them saying, ‘If anyone messes with you, they’ll have me to answer to.’ It’s his faith on display that protected him, in combination with qualities engendered by the Word of faith—don’t repay evil for evil but repay evil with good, consider others as superior to oneself, treat others with deep respect, keep a primary eye, not on your own concerns, but that of others.

The qualities instilled by application of Bible principles go a long way in safeguarding a person. They are very hard to instill in the absence of Bible study, since they go so contrary to the dominant spirit today. Even now, they bail a person out of trouble. But when they don’t, one is fortified by knowing that keeping integrity means resurrection, and resurrection means life. That confidence, in turn, strengthens the resolve not to break one’s integrity. All the people manipulated to do terrible things through fear of being killed themselves, whom Bro Sanderson spoke of? Doesn’t happen to those who trust in God.

One’s time frame makes all the difference. ‘Keep your eyes on the prize,’ as the song taken from 1 Corinthians 9:24 says. Make life in this system count, but even so, know it is not the ‘real’ one. John Maynard Keynes, the economist, shot back at those who insist the economy would always revert to normal ‘in the long run’ with, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”

He is right with regard to the time frame of persons whose sole reality is the present system of things. But in the time frame of those who trust in God, it is, “in the long run we all live.”


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