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    • When we look through the Bible, there are often subjects that come up repeatedly. One of these is the difference between God's agenda and the agenda of humans. There are numerous examples of this in the Tanakh (aka Old Testament) but I will limit myself to two unless there is a request for more examples.

      Example 1

      God decided that after the land was conquered it would be ruled by what translators have called "judges." (That's not quite what the Hebrew means but I don't want to chase down rabbit trails.) For four centuries, there was a cycle of events that followed this pattern:


      Oppression by a foreign power

      God selects a deliverer (another term for judge)

      The oppressor is defeated

      The judge leads the people back to serving God

      and then the cycle begins again (usually after the judge died)

      The people wanted to be militarily strong and have a stable country so they asked for a king who would be a permanent war commander. 1 Samuel 8

      The Israelites did become physically stronger as a nation but while the judges had primarily brought people back to God, the kings primarily led them away from God. God's agenda was one in which each generation would be challenged but then brought back to God.

      Example 2

      In the days of Eli the priest who was the next to the last of the Judges, the Philistines and the Israelites were in constant conflict. God was using the Philistines to oppress Israel because of the two adult sons of Eli and Eli's failure to exercise his office as High Priest in controlling his sons. (This has nothing to do with a father's role when children are young.)

      When the Philistines were winning a battle, the Israelites sent for the ark of the covenant:

      And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath Jehovah smitten us to-day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of Jehovah out of Shiloh unto us, that it may come among us, and save us out of the hand of our enemies. So the people sent to Shiloh; and they brought from thence the ark of the covenant of Jehovah of hosts, who sitteth above the cherubim: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

      But man cannot compel or coerce God. the Philistines won the battle. The sons of Eli were killed, and the ark was captured and taken away to Philistia. (What happened while it was there is a great narrative but its off-topic.

      Now let's move forward to the New Testament.

      Paul tells us that God deliberately chooses things which man considers insignificant or insufficient. He also tells us why God does this, but before I get into that allow me to dive back into the Old Testament to illustrate the point which Paul makes.

      In 2 Kings 5, we are told that Naaman of Aramæa was a great and honorable man who was honored by the king of his country. We are also told that he was a leper. When Naaman comes to the house of Elisha seeking healing, Elisha does not come out to him. Instead Elisha sends a servant who tells him to go wash in the Jordan river and he would be healed and "clean". (Another rabbit trail that I don't plan to go down.)

      But this was not what Naaman had been expecting and he got very angry and started talking about what he had expected. His servants came to him and said:

      My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?

      Paul tells us that the reason that God chooses insignificant things is because man is not glorified by those things which man considers as nothing. God doesn't call on his people to slay dragons, rescue fair maidens, or do deeds of great renown. The works which God has prepared for the faithful are not things which man would choose.

      When JFK died or when Princess Diana died, there was much pomp and circumstance, but for the death of Jesus, God chose bread and the fruit of the vine.

      This is typical of the choices found in the Bible. The first century Christians were not instructed to turn the Roman Empire into a democracy. Anyone who thinks that the agenda of Christ's crucifixion is to make the world a better place or to change society has not really been reading the scriptures with an unbiased eye. The first century Christians did not start any political movement.

      These pictures are an example of humans trying to take a human agenda and bring the ark to the battlefield. There are several places in which the Bible states that the exercise which God desires of his people is an exercise of the spirit rather than an exercise of the physical. This is not to say that God rebukes physical exercise but rather that he teaches the same thing about it that he teaches about earning one's living. These things have their place in the life of a Christian but they are not the main agenda.

      Two of the passages that contrast physical exercise and spiritual exercise are:

      1 Corinthians 9:19-27

      1 Timothy 4:7-8

      Another passage about spiritual exercise is: Hebrews 5:14

      There is nothing wrong with helping a child to get a proper amount of exercise but we need to remember the lesson found in John 6:25-36 (especially verse 27) and also the reason that Jesus did no miracles in Nazareth. Luke 4:24-28

      A weakling that dwells in eternity in heaven is far better than the Olympic champion or star athlete who does not.

    • What a well-written essay. There was, dare I say, a bit of mystery as to what the story of Eli’s sons and the ark of the covenant had to do with the paintings, but you masterfully connected the dots in your subsequent paragraphs.

      Thank you for the explanation and #TIL moment.


    • No, that isn't at all what I'm saying.

      Abraham Lincoln desired that the Union would defeat the Confederacy but he understood enough about spiritual matters to realize that his wants were not God's wants. Lincoln wrote:

      The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true -- that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.

      When Jesus performed the miracle which fed 5000 people, He did not do so any order to feed those people. He did so in order that those who saw this occur might believe His claims and His message.

      After He performed this miracle, the people wanted to make Him king, therefore He departed. The next day, many of the same people came to Him asking to be fed again and this time He did not feed them. Why? Was it because He "wasn't on their side"? No. It was because they had missed the point of why He had performed the miracle.

      There are times when the outcome which someone desires "intersects" with a completely different agenda of God's and therefore the outcome occurs but not necessarily for the reason of fulfilling the human's desires.

      God does not want His people (in the age of the gospel) to crave earthly things. If a person has a desire for something to such a degree that it is a craving and that thing is spiritually irrelevant then this is what translators call a lust. God does not approve of any earthly cravings.

      If a person craves that his team might win, this longing might cause God to be displeased with that person, but the agenda of the humans on either team is not God's agenda.

    • Great question, and you’ve piqued my curiosity to want to find out.

      I started reading through the replies to the original tweet and didn’t have to go far into the replies to find the answer from the original poster:

      I got them from a photojournalist friend. He explains: "I was taking photos and video during recovery efforts in NJ following Hurricane Sandy (2012). A shuttered Catholic high school gym was serving as a meal station for first responders. These were hanging on the wall."

      Another reply shared that they were also seen in a B&B in the west of Ireland.

    • (I thought that I had posted this last night, but found it still unposted in a browser window.)

      The problem with illustrations is that hearers or readers sometimes confuse the illustration and the message.

      If a political cartoon shows a donkey landing an uppercut on an elephant's jaw, most adults in the USA would not think that a literal punch was thrown. (At least, we hope not)

      I prefer whenever possible to use the narratives in the scriptures to illustrate the points found in passages which are not narratives but argumentations. Yet I am aware that sometimes the telling of the story can distract the attention, that is why (as an example) I skipped over part of the Naaman account and went directly to Naaman's arrival at Elisha's house.

      Yet, I firmly believe that the Bible is its own best commentary and that it is designed for this approach to teaching.

      Stephen used this approach in the sermon he presented before he was stoned. Paul later uses the same approach in Acts 13. The more that I have studied the Bible, the more I have discovered ways in which it is interwoven.

      The three accounts of a man meeting a woman at a well in Genesis and Exodus are intended to join up with John 4.

      The seven signs God performed through Elisha which are weaker versions of miracles which Yah-shua (Jesus) would later perform. (The reason for giving the Hebrew name of Jesus is to draw a comparison between Eli-shua and Yah-shua)

      Judah offering to go into slavery so that Benjamin might be freed is a foreshadow of Jesus going into death that the saved might be freed.

      The list could go on and on.

      The point is that many of the points found in sermons, discourses or epistles in the Bible are amply illustrated by narratives in the Bible.

    • the agenda of the humans on either team is not God's agenda.

      This is pretty much what I thought you were trying to get through originally, and it jives with the idea that Jesus isn't necessarily on any 'team's side' since no team 'wins every time'.