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Author Archives: Dr. Grover B. Proctor, Jr.

‘Truly, before Abraham was…’

 
I have seen several Facebook memes similar to the one shown here, all with the identical Christian message. Maybe you’ve run across them, too. They display what are called the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus:
       • I am the bread of life.
       • I am the light of the world.
       • I am the door (or gate).
       • I am the good shepherd.
       • I am the resurrection and the life.
       • I am the way, the truth, and the life.
       • I am the true vine.

Each of the seven “I AMs” may be found in the Gospel of John, and of course — inescapably and profoundly — Jesus is most certainly each and every one of them. That knowledge is vital in our attempts to more completely understand Him, His earthly Mission, and His plan for our salvation.

But I can’t help it. Every time I see one of the “Seven I AMs of Christ” memes, my response is always the same: Yes, you’re right! Jesus is all of that. But you’ve left out His most astounding, and perhaps the most important, “I AM” claim of all.

 
That greatest “I AM” is also found in the book of John. In Chapter 8, Jesus is responding to increasingly virulent verbal questioning and accusations from a group of Pharisees (or “the Jews,” as John refers to them). As the replies from Jesus hit closer and closer to home, the Pharisees finally (metaphorically) throw down on the table their ancestral trump card: “We are the descendants of Abraham!” they cried. The implication was clear: “We are Abraham’s offspring! As such we are God’s chosen — and therefore we cannot possibly be guilty of the accusations You are making against us!

It all comes to a head when Christ tells them that they are far from acting like God’s Chosen People. You are instead, Jesus tells them, “of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.” Their response to this is the classic playground bully retort, used by those who have no rational, legal, or (in this case) spiritual arguments to fall back on — “Yeah, well if we’re bad, you’re worse!”

The Jews responded to Him, “Aren’t we right in saying that You’re a Samaritan and have a demon?”
“I do not have a demon,” Jesus answered. “On the contrary, I honor My Father and you dishonor Me. I do not seek My glory; the One who seeks it also judges. I assure you: If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death — ever!”
Then the Jews said, “Now we know You have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste death — ever!’ Are You greater than our father Abraham who died? Even the prophets died. Who do You pretend to be?”
“If I glorify Myself,” Jesus answered, “My glory is nothing. My Father — you say about Him, ‘He is our God’ — He is the One who glorifies Me. You’ve never known Him, but I know Him. If I were to say I don’t know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know Him, and I keep His word. Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it and rejoiced.”
The Jews replied, “You aren’t 50 years old yet, and You’ve seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.
At that, they picked up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus was hidden and went out of the temple complex. [John 8:48-59]

 
I truly believe a strong case can be made that, of all the things Christ is quoted as saying in the Bible, this one statement packs the biggest explosive power. The Pharisees understood perfectly well what He was telling them. They needed no sages, commentaries, or apologists to explain it. But just in case the full meaning is not yet completely clear today, 2000 years later, here is what two highly respected New Testament Commentaries say about Christ’s “I am” statement and its profound message:

Jesus gave one of the most important answers to any question posed to Him in the entire Gospel of John. “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’” What was Jesus saying? That He was God Himself! The only other time the phrase “I am” was used to describe someone was in Exodus 3:14, where God used that very phrase as His name. Here Jesus claimed that name for Himself. No identity statement could be clearer. Jesus claimed to be God Himself in human form.
[Holman Concise Bible Commentary]

The words rendered “was” and “am” are quite different. The one clause means, “Abraham was brought into being”; the other, “I exist.” The statement therefore is not that Christ came into existence before Abraham did, but that He never came into being at all, but existed before Abraham had a being; in other words, existed before creation, or eternally [John 1:1]. In that sense the Jews plainly understood Him, since “then took they up stones to cast at Him,” just as they had before done when they saw that He made Himself equal with God [John 5:18].
[Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible]

Greek: Before Abraham was...

SOURCE: BIBLEHUB.COM


Now, don’t panic. I know you’re eyeing this chart with all the Greek writing in it with trepidation, bordering on fear and loathing. Don’t let your eyes (or your brain) glaze over. Breathe in; breathe out.

Understanding Greek is not in any way a prerequisite for continuing to read this article! I’ve only included this graphic because I want us to fully share and savor the meaning and import of every single word and phrase in Christ’s momentous declaration. Read through the English on the bottom line, and when you are finished, we’ll walk together on a journey through Christ’s amazing declaration.

On first reading, Jesus’ “I AM” statement (in brownish-orange on the chart) might seem simple. But then you notice that, strictly speaking, it doesn’t make grammatical sense. (Past tense and present tense, in the same sentence?) By the time we’re finished, however, I hope you’ll agree that Jesus said it perfectly correctly and it contains an infinitely powerful truth.

Jesus almost certainly spoke this sentence in the Aramaic language, and John’s translation of His statement into Greek comprises only 9 words. In order to understand the profundity inherent in the message of those few words, let’s take them word by word (or phrase by phrase) and see how Christ’s one-sentence reply to the Pharisees answered the one largest question about who Jesus was — and at the same time raised a huge number of other questions.

A Walk Through John 8:58. Each of the five large text blocks below tackles one word or phrase from Christ’s sentence. In a box in the upper left of each text block, I have mirrored the Interlinear graphic above, putting John’s actual Greek word(s) on the middle line, the English transliteration on the top line, and the English literal translation at the bottom in red type. *

My commentary, inside each larger text block, attempts to reflect the thoughts that might have rapidly gone through the mind of someone present at the time Jesus had this confrontation with the Pharisees. As such, the phrases and sentences are often fragmented and jump quickly to new considerations. They are also repetitive, as one might go back to a previous thought in order to add a new insight gained and see if total meaning is emerging.

Just read the following in a flow, and with luck and God’s guidance, we’ll trust that His meaning will become clear.

Amēn amēn
Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν
Truly, truly

Did you know that every time Jesus began a sentence “Truly” or “Verily, verily,” He was using the Hebrew word “Amen”? It’s true. It means “Truth.” (The English equivalents most often given by NT Greek Lexicons for “amen” (pronounced “ahm-AIN”) include truly, verily, surely, certainly, of a truth, it is the truth, and so be it.) Using it to precede a statement of fact or an announcement was a common idiom at the time, indicating not only its veracity but also that it was of some significance. We do a similar thing in English when we start a sentence like this: “I’ll tell you the truth, that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done!” or “In all honesty, I think his new haircut looks silly.” [We even have a way of doing that in the vernacular (slang) when we start a sentence with “Seriously.” “Seriously, dude, where’s my car?” However, I don’t think I would use it to translate a statement made by Jesus!] That Christ used the word “Amen” twice to begin this sentence signified emphasis. He was calling attention to the fact that what He was about to say was not only true, but also important. When we get to the end of Christ’s sentence, that will seem like an understatement.

legō
λέγω
I say

Time is important and will play a large role in the meaning of this sentence. We’ve already gotten the message that the sentence is true and important, and now this single simple word communicates both subject and verb — “I say” (or “I am saying”). We can read a clear subtext in this one word: We start with “Truth. Very important.” and we add “Now. In the present. At this moment. As I look at you and you look at me, I SAY this to you. We are locked together in this time of the now. This is not something you heard in the past, and no prophecy of the future has revealed it to you.” Also by this, Jesus takes full responsibility for the unbelievable magnitude of what He is about to tell them.

hymin
ὑμῖν
to you

With the addition of this word, Christ’s hearers have been given this introduction: “Truth. Important. Present tense. I am saying… to you.” Still locked eyeball to eyeball, Jesus and the Pharisees have been engaged in a “knock-down, drag-out” verbal battle, and He has just heard the Pharisees play their ancestral “trump card” — “We are the descendants of Abraham! We are the spiritual Leaders of God’s Chosen People! And who are you? You are one of the hated, heretical Samaritans and are clearly demon-possessed!” The carpenter’s son from Nazareth, the Creator of the Universe, looks at them calmly and assures them that this “truth,” this “important truth,” is specifically for them. They will have to deal with its ramifications.

prin Abraam genesthai
πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι
Before Abraham was [born]

Jesus now makes time move within a single sentence. He started with the present tense: “Truth. Important. I am saying this now to you.” But He immediately reverses gear and casts them back to the ancient past: “What I am saying to you, the message I have for you, carries implications about and derives its authority from — the past.” In telling the Pharisees just before this that “Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it and rejoiced,” He was giving one huge hint of what He was going to tell them. But as we’ll see, the Pharisees never saw it coming. Jesus had picked this day, this time, this “now” to reveal His own “trump card” — His identity. And the Pharisees took the offered bait and ran with it. One can imagine the sneers on their faces and the revulsion in their hearts as they snapped back at Him: “You aren’t 50 years old yet, and You’ve seen Abraham?” They knew that Abraham’s day was estimated as much as 1800 years (!!) before this conversation. Preposterous, they were thinking! He’s mad and he has a demon! But now, the end of the sentence is almost here. Christ tells them “The important truth that I am saying to you now requires you to cast your mind back to the time ‘before Abraham was born’…

egō eimi
ἐγὼ εἰμί
I am.

I AM.”
Simple.
Wait, what did He say?
It hits our modern ears as incorrect, because He has switched back to the present tense. Or has He?
tick… tick… tick…
2, maybe 3 seconds of complete silence, as the universe-sized import and unbelievable meaning of what Jesus of Nazareth just said hits each of the Pharisees. There would have been no one present in the Temple that day who did not understand the clear reference just made to “I AM.”
Boom!   Explosion.   “Kill him! Stone him!! He is claiming to be God!” Actually, that last sentence may well have been the truest thing the Pharisees said the whole day.
I AM. The burning bush. “I am that I am.” “I am the one Who said, ‘Let there be light!'” “I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” And then, the climactic truth becomes clear…

Jesus of Nazareth, staring at the Pharisees,
with the unmistakable message to the Pharisees hanging in the air…
I AM your God


 
So now, with all of the above, the following three quotes have merged into one major, astounding, earth- and human-changing TRUTH: The eternal God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — the Creator of the Universe — emptied Himself into a human form for the benefit of each individual one of us, and He told us His Name as a sign, a token, and an unalterable proof of that fact.

Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what should I tell them?”
God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.”
God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.

— Exodus 3:13–15 (HCSB)

“Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it and rejoiced.”
The Jews replied, “You aren’t 50 years old yet, and You’ve seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.”

— John 8:56-58 (HCSB)

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM !

— Mark Lowry

Before Abraham was...

Jonathan Cahn videos, volume 4

YHVH: The I AM Mysteries is available in the 3-DVD set of Jonathan Cahn’s Biblical Teachings, volume 4, from WND Films.

A Parting Gift. To close out this study of Christ as the great “I AM” and of John 8:58, I have a gift for you. Noted teacher (rabbi) and Christian author (The Harbinger) Jonathan Cahn has some startling and uplifting conclusions about “I AM” as the name of God, and the fact that Jesus revealed that He was “I AM.”

Describing the facts he has uncovered as “cool” and “amazing,” Cahn makes the strong point that the study of God’s name is not just some dry, boring historical or theological stuff. Rather, he says, this has “everything to do with your life. The name of God actually applies to your life! In an amazing way, this can change your life.

Below, you will find a video of a message he delivered titled YHVH: The I AM Mysteries, and I strongly urge you to set aside 33 minutes of quiet time to watch it. Once you get to the 8-minute mark, put your mental roller skates on, because he’ll be taking you for a wind-in-your-hair, joyful, inspiring, and amazing ride!

To whet your appetite, but without spoilers, here are some of the truths Cahn talks about in the video. (Yes, including Moses’s socks.) I predict you’ll find it fascinating and uplifting.

  • Topic: Moses’s Socks — The dramatic way Yahweh revealed his name as “I AM.” (Exodus 3:13-15)
  • Topic: The Name — Does God have more than one name?
  • Topic: The Name — “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “It’s me.”
  • Topic: Goodness — We have the order of “doing good” and “being good” backward.
  • Topic: Love — “If people sin against you and give you no cause to love them, that’s the cause! Love them.” and “The person in your life who has given you no reason whatsoever to love them, that’s the one you have to love.”
  • Topic: Biblical Grammar — In Genesis 1:1, “God” is plural and “created” is singular. It’s not a mistake, and it reveals huge Truths.
  • Topic: Your Identity — “Who are you?” “I am Grover.”
  • Topic: Living Your Life — Joining your “I am” to His “I AM.”

Jonathan Cahn — YHVH: The I AM Mysteries (33:10)


 

Asking the Next QuestionsThese are questions you might want to prayerfully ponder, and perhaps take back to Scriptures for help in answering.

  1. What would you consider the most valuable meaning of God’s name “I AM” to your own personal life?

  2. How important is it for you to know that Jesus was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? And why?

  3. If you, knowing everything you know living in the 21st century, could be transported back to the moment that Jesus made the “I AM” statement — and if language were no barrier — what would be the very next question your mind would want to ask Him? What would your heart want to ask Him?

  4. How did you feel when you read the things that the Pharisees were accusing Jesus of and that they wanted to stone Him? How do you think they would have justified their words and actions?

  5. The song Mary Did You Know was mentioned above. How do you think Mary would have felt when she heard that her son Jesus revealed Himself to be “the Great I AM” ? How do you think this would have changed her already very special life?

    Extra question for those who watched Jonathan Cahn’s video:

  6. What do you feel is the most valuable meaning to your life after hearing Rabbi Cahn talk about living one’s life “in God” — that everything you do, you do with God doing it with you? How might this insight change your ideas about God? How might this insight change your feelings about God?

In honor of my mentor and dear friend Dr. Leonard Kaplan (1935-2013).


 

NOTES:

 * The word “transliteration” seems to give some Christian teachers great problems. I’ve seen it often confused with “translation” or “paraphrase.” Here’s what it really means. Merriam-Webster defines “to transliterate” as “to represent or spell in the characters of another alphabet.” Greek to English is a perfect example. Because the Greek alphabet is different from the English alphabet, it is often helpful to substitute the letter in English that makes the same sounds as each Greek letter in a word. Take the word Λόγος. In English its translation is “Word” and its transliteration is “Logos.” Here’s how we got that transliteration:
Λ = L, ό = o, γ = g, ο = o, ς = s and that gives us the transliteration of Λόγος, which is Logos.
It can even be done with languages that have no alphabet, such as Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese). The Chinese call this transliteration pinyin (pronounced peen-yeen). Since there is no Chinese alphabet, the transliteration is done just using the sound of each word. The capital of China is pronounced BAY-JING (with the “j” sounding like the j in “jingle,” not the sound of “prime rib au jus” or “Zsa Zsa Gabor”). So the people who created the transliteration pinyin for Mandarin used the Western alphabet letters “Beijing” to create that word’s pinyin.

 

SOURCES:

  • Brannan, Rick; Harwood, Theodore; Curtis, Andrew. English-Greek Reverse Interlinear Holman Christian Standard Bible: New Testament. Lexham Press, 2017.
  • Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 145). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  • Kaplan, Leonard. Asking the Next Question. Tichenor Publishing, (1986).
  • Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA. 2015.
  • Nestle, Eberhard. Η ΚΑΙΝΗ ΔΙΑΘΗΚΗ, Text with Critical Apparatus. British and Foreign Bible Society, 1904.
  • Van Der Pool, Charles. The Apostolic Bible Polyglot. Apostolic Press, 2006.
  • White, J. E. (1998). “John”. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman Concise Bible Commentary (p. 477). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
CREDITS:

IMAGE CREDITS —
(THE SEVEN “I AMs”) CatholicLink Library of Resosurces
(JOHN 8:58 GREEK) BibleHub.com
(“I AM”) Woodland Baptist Church, Columbus, MS
(JONATHAN CAHN DVDs, VOL. 4) WND.com
VIDEO CREDIT —
(YHVH: THE I AM MYSTERIES) Jonathan Cahn; Hope of the World

 

ARTICLE © 2018, DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

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Conspiring Against Yahweh and His Messiah

 

H E A D L I N E :
“The Rise of Xi Coincides with
Crackdown on Christian Worship in China”

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong,
Christian followers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically,
even as the country undergoes a religious revival.

(ASSOCIATED PRESS, IN MIAMI HERALD)

There is a documented hunger for (and a burgeoning of) the Christian faith inside China today. And that has become a most inconvenient truth for the country’s “President for Life” Xi Jinping. His actions against the Chinese Church are moving from harassment, to intimidation, and on to persecution, all in the name of collectivist, statist absolutism.

Chinese Christian funeral procession

(History tells us the Roman Emperors felt and acted the same way as Xi. Here we are, 2000 years later, and the worship of the God of the Bible has swept around the world. And where are the emperors? They remain with us merely as marble busts in museums. Is Xi doomed to repeat?)

Xi understands quite well that he will not be able to eliminate the worship of God, as he might wish. Christianity has, after all, been in China for over 1400 years now, and his “glorious” Revolution isn’t even 70 years old. From his position of power, therefore, his plan appears to be to force Christianity to incorporate and teach his own set of values — “Christianity with Chinese Characteristics,” it has been called.

Xi and the Burning Crosses

Xi Jinping and the Destruction of Crosses

These dubious values include forcing the Church to embrace and teach abject loyalty to the Communist Party and its leaders. As anyone who has even thumbed through a Bible must realize, this type of overt politicization of Christianity is absurd and heretical. “Rendering unto Caesar” [Matthew 22:21] is one thing, and our command to be “in subjection to the governing authorities” [Romans 13:1] is similar to it. But if Xi were successful in his goals, and the Chinese Church became merely a minor Ministry of Jesus with Chinese Characteristics, the resulting new religion would clearly not be Christianity anymore. Nevertheless, Xi’s elevation to “lifetime power” and his jingoistic chauvinism have deluded him into thinking that he and his comrades can successfully “conspire together against the LORD and His Anointed One” [Psalms 2:2]

ChinaAid is a highly respected international not-for-profit organization, committed to promoting religious freedom and the rule of law in China. Their leaders have called the existing and proposed regulations on religious affairs in China “the harshest and most strict policy on controlling religions and religious affairs since the time of Cultural Revolution.” Here are a few of the persecutions currently being inflicted upon Chinese Christians:

  • Teachers and soldiers are forbidden to become Christians.
  • It is illegal in China to give children a religious education, or in any other way to “indoctrinate minors with superstitious beliefs.”
  • Priests are forbidden to pray for the sick and dying in hospitals, and patients are not allowed to pray or read the Bible.
  • These are all against the law: “organizing citizens to attend religious trainings, conferences and activities abroad”; “preaching, organizing religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools”; and “providing religious services through the internet.”
  • Christians are banned from traveling abroad for religious purposes, and they are forbidden from taking teaching positions outside the country.
  • Chinese authorities raid a worship service

    Chinese authorities raid a worship service

    There are strict bans against the wave of underground churches which are thriving throughout the country. Raids on these churches have brought hundreds of arrests and imprisonments. Witnesses described one female church official being pushed into the back of a patrol car, being slapped across her face, and being grabbed by the scruff of her neck.
  • Local governments have been given the authority to close down and demolish places of worship, on the flimsiest of charges, with the result of numerous churches being bulldozed and crosses torn down. (See photo at bottom of this article.)

According to ChinaAid, for Christians in China, there is “no legal room for the existence of the house churches and Bible reading as well as prayer meetings without explicitly being approved by the Chinese Communist Party-controlled patriotic associations and religious affairs bureaus.”

And as if all of the above restrictions on people and their activities weren’t enough, a recent order from the Central Government threatened that “if unregistered churches are not willing to be managed by the government or guided by China Christian Council, the government shall guide and transform their thoughts.” This new trend of taking a hard line on “extreme religious thoughts” and “external influences” conjures images of “thought police” and inquisitions.

Our Lady of China painting by Chu Kar Kui

Our Lady of China painting by Chu KarKui

And it’s being sold to the Chinese people and the world in the (seemingly) harmless name of “Christianity with Chinese Characteristics.” Notice the beautiful modern painting (in an ancient style) of the Madonna and Child, dressed in Qing Dynasty robes — “Chinese characteristics” indeed. After all, in our art galleries we see that Western Renaissance artists painted Biblical characters wearing 16th-century clothing. Really, we nod knowingly, how bad can that be?

But, no, that’s not what Xi has in mind.

We saw something similar to what Xi has in mind four decades ago. In 1978, leader Deng Xiaoping recognized the need to allow markets to inspire and produce strong economic growth, as had happened universally in Free Market, Free Enterprise, Limited Government, Capitalist economies throughout the world. Unwilling to give up the centralized power and control that China’s brand of Communism afforded, Deng labeled his Western-style reforms “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.” The markets worked, the Chinese economy took off, but Socialist-style central planning kept its thumb firmly on the process.

The tyrant’s creed: If you cannot defeat it, change how you name it, and fight heresy as you define it.

God will, of course, dispense His grace and implement His plan anywhere He wills (Exodus 33:19; Romans 9:15). But you must understand that the current leadership in China fears Christianity, which teaches that God deserves His followers’ highest loyalty and most fervent worship — above and beyond any human or humanistic governmental system. The Central Government will fight (with force) any and every effort for God’s truth to be preached and believed in China. We are seeing the beginning of a very hard and systemic tribulation for our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ.

Follow this in the press, discuss it with your pastors, and pray for the Christians’ protection from persecution in China.



Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily. (Hebrews 13:3)


Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have affliction for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)



 
As important in the overall scheme of things as Xi believes himself to be, 3000 years ago a writer of Psalms described people like him and foretold their fate perfectly. Here is Psalm 2, showing on the left side who is speaking in each section.

PSALM 2 (HCSB)

Psalmist: Why do the nations rebel and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against Yahweh and His Anointed One [Christ, the Messiah]:
Kings & Rulers: “Let us tear off their chains and free ourselves from their restraints.”
Psalmist: The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then He speaks to them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath:
God the Father: “I have consecrated My King on Zion, My holy mountain.”
Messiah: I will declare Yahweh’s decree: He said to Me,
God the Father: “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father. Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance and the ends of the earth Your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; You will shatter them like pottery.”
Psalmist: So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth. Serve Yahweh with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling. Pay homage to the Son or He will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion, for His anger may ignite at any moment. All those who take refuge in Him are happy.

Destruction of Chinese Christian Church


SOURCES:
ChinaAid.org
Mansfield, Katie, “Chinese government shuts down underground churches to ‘transform thoughts’ of Christians”, 28 August 2016
Mansfield, Katie, “China launches ‘religious winter’ in bid to destroy Christianity in fierce crackdown”, 30 September 2016
Mansfield, Katie, “Christians fightback as China wages war to destroy Christianity and wipe out religion”, 8 October 2016
Wang Yanan, “Christian heartland opens window into fight for China’s soul”, 7 August, 2018
 
PHOTO CREDITS:
(PROCESSION) PETER PARKS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
(CROSSES) DAILY AND SUNDAY EXPRESS/GETTY IMAGES
(POLICE RAID) CURRENT NEWS, DAILY CATHOLIC NEWS
(MADONNA AND CHILD) CHURCH OF OUR SAVIOUR, BEIJING
(CHURCH DESCRUCTION) CHINA-AID

 
 

ARTICLE © 2018, DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

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… With Your Face Toward the Ground

 

Today is America’s annual National Day of Prayer.

 
This year’s theme is “Pray for America — UNITY,” and the National Day of Prayer Task Force has taken a small snippet of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as its motto. (See the “media graphic” below.)

Here is Paul’s entire thought (which is broader and far more profound) from which the short fragment was taken:

“Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope at your calling — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
— EPHESIANS 4:1-6 (HCSB)

We call on all Americans today to “bow with your face toward the ground” — in humble “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” to the “one God and Father of all.” Here is the promise we have been given:

“If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people,  and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
— 2 CHRONICLES 7:13-14 (HCSB)

In other words: “Be humble, seek God through prayer, and stop sinning as a Nation” is promised to bring personal forgiveness and national blessings. Looking around at the state of our country today, I think it’s about time we took the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob up on that promise.

National Day of Prayer - 2018

The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S Truman. In 1988, the law was unanimously amended by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Thursday, May 5, 1988, designating the first Thursday of May as a day of national prayer.
Every president since 1952 has signed a National Day of Prayer proclamation.


 

A Prayer for America

 
Our Father and Our God,
         We praise You for Your goodness to our nation, giving us blessings far beyond what we deserve.
       Yet we know all is not right with America. We deeply need a moral and spiritual renewal to help us meet the many problems we face.
       Convict us of sin. Help us to turn to You in repentance and faith. Set our feet on the path of Your righteousness and peace.
       We pray today for our nation’s leaders. Give them the wisdom to know what is right, and the courage to do it.
       You have said, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” May this be a new era for America, as we humble ourselves and acknowledge You alone as our Savior and Lord.
       This we pray in Your holy name, Amen.

— Billy Graham


 

 

COPYRIGHT 2018 DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 
 

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Billy Graham (1918-2018)

The elder Billy GrahamToday we learned of the death of Billy Graham, lauded by many as the greatest Christian preacher of the 20th century. He died at his home in Montreat, located in the beautiful moutains of North Carolina.

During the many decades of his evangelizing around the globe, broadcasting in all media, authoring books, and being the unofficial “Pastor to the Presidents,” his effect on the spiritual life of the entire world was incalculable. Never afraid to hold up a mirror to sin, Graham unabashedly and fiercely called everyone to repentance.

From the church pulpit or the podium inside a 50,000-seat coliseum or in city streets and parks, he had a powerful and polished speaking style, to say the least. He was able to bring emotions up to peaks of joy and expectation of God’s love, and take them down to the burning conviction of our own sins. Tears were common at his revivals, even from seemingly tough, steel-hardened men of the earth and the factories. When Mr. Graham believed that the audience had been fully convicted of their need for repentance and salvation, he would invariably issue an altar call, which usually brought huge numbers of penitents and converts.

But any outsiders looking into one of these arenas (or viewing a television broadcast, appropriately titled The Hour of Decision) would be totally in error to conclude that Mr. Graham’s ministry comprised only emotion and fervor. Anyone reading printed transcriptions of his sermons would immediately conclude they were theologically as well as logically sound, based on doctrines straight from Christian orthodoxy. His emphasis was always on examining oneself, the act of repenting, accepting the saving grace of God, and living a life in which one’s relationship with God is the most important thing in the universe.

Mr. Graham was a keen observer of the issues of the day, but his interest in them was solely limited to a Christian perspective. Trying to classify him as Left, Right, Conservative, Liberal, Democrat, or Republican (or any other similar label) was as nonsensical as trying to assign a gender classification to the Sun. Case in point — We would all do well to deeply consider this prayer of Graham’s which summarizes his view of this nation and the world:

Billy GrahamHeavenly Father,
We come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance.
We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done:
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Amen!

Mr. Graham lived the Christ-centered doctrines of love, repentance, and forgiveness that he preached. He told it like it was, even before that became a thing. And he was uncompromising in his Christian views on even the most controversial topics. A prime example was his early stand on issues related to the country’s racial problem.

    Billy Graham & Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • At a 1953 Tennessee rally (think about that date!), he himself physically tore down the ropes that the organizers had put in place to keep the audience racially segregated. When confronted about his actions, Mr. Graham informed the organizers that they were to leave the barriers down “or you can go on and have the revival without me.”
  • He once warned an all-white audience “We have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into hell because of our pride.”
  • As documented by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, “Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, Jr. experienced a unique friendship that dates back nearly 60 years. In the summer-long 1957 New York Crusade, the two friends took the stage together in Madison Square Garden and boldly took a stand to help end segregation in the United States. ‘I think both Dr. Graham and my father were trying to make the world a better place,’ said Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr.”

This morning, Mr. Graham joined all of “those who sleep in death” awaiting the Resurrection to eternal life as Paul described it throughout his writings.* Though parted from this life, this great modern evangelist has left a legacy of preaching total submission to God, abject repentance for sins, undeniable certainty of God’s grace and our need for forgiveness, constant service to our brothers and sisters, and the daily calling to mirror God’s love to the world.

We need that today perhaps more than ever.


A Tribute to Billy Graham (5:51)
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

“When we reach the end of our earthly journey, we will have just begun.”
WILLIAM FRANKLIN GRAHAM, JR.
(1918-2018)


NOTES:
*
ROMANS 13; 1 CORINTHIANS 11 & 15; EPHESIANS 5; 1 THESSALONIANS 4 & 10
PHOTO CREDITS: (TOP) CHRISTIANITY TODAY; (MIDDLE) BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOC.; (BOTTOM) BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOC.
VIDEO CREDIT: BILLY GRAHAM EVANGESLTIC ASSOC.

 

COPYRIGHT 2018 DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2018 in Today's World, Worship

 

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Jewish Insights, or Why We Shouldn’t Mess with Abraham

 
It is a great spiritual pleasure for me to introduce you to an author (a Jewish believer in Jesus as “the Jewish Christ”) who says the goal of his work is to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable in all areas of life.” I don’t know if you agree with me, but I think the first century Christians would most certainly have approved of that approach.
Eli Lizorkin-Eisenberg books
He is Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, and the adjacent photo shows the covers of his two latest books, Jewish Insights Into Scripture (2018) and The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel (2015).

The books were written for both lay-Christians and scholars alike, and they arose out of the author’s observation that, all too often, Christians’ understanding of both the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament has been clouded by “centuries of Western tradition and interpretation.” Writing in a precise yet understandable style, “Dr. Eli” (as he is known) pulls back the curtain and helps contemporary Christ-followers understand how the scriptures were understood by their original audience – up to and including the first century Christians.

Released just this month, Jewish Insights Into Scripture is a compact volume comprising 50 short (usually one page) essays designed to deepen our appreciation for familiar Bible passages and enhance our understanding of verses many of us have found difficult to interpret.

Over the last year, Dr. Eli has been emailing versions of these knowledge-rich nuggets to his mailing list, about once a week, and I confess that I search my inbox daily to see if his latest has arrived. I have yet to find one of them that either disappointed me or that did not make me want to research further and know more.

Dr. Eli is President of, and a professor at, the Israel Bible Center in Israel, which offers a steadily growing number of online, self-study courses in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, leading to a Certificate in Jewish Studies. Typical responses from students have praised the program’s “passion for the word of God,” calling it “not only engaging but also contagious” – and stating that it “reignited my passion for study of scripture!”

As part of its marketing for the study program, the Bible Center is making available a free unabridged eBook (.pdf) copy of Jewish Insights Into Scripture on their website. If you are interested in purchasing a bound copy, you can find how to do that here. (You may also download an abridged eBook (.pdf) copy of The Jewish Gospel of John – 86 out of the book’s 276 total pages – from them, as well.)

I have reproduced below the first of Jewish Insight‘s essays, to give you the flavor and feel for its content, style, and approach. I think you’ll find it fascinating, and certainly a thoughtful addition to your knowledge and understanding of Scripture. Below that, I have placed a video interview of Dr. Eli, in which he discusses the mission and goals of the Israel Bible Institute in greater detail. Enjoy!


Don’t Mess with Abraham!

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

Genesis 12:3 is a very well-known verse: “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” That sounds clear, but a very important nuance is lost in translation.

The Hebrew verb meaning “to bless” is  לְבַרֵךְ  (levarekh), from the root  ב-ר-ך  (B-R-Kh). This root is connected to the concept of a “knee,” and thus implies rendering service to someone (i.e., bending the knee). Hence, one possible meaning of the divine statement could be, “I will serve those who serve you!” To “serve” implies doing good for someone, bringing benefit to a recipient – thus “blessing.”

In the second part of the verse God promised Abraham that “the one who curses you”  מְקַלֶּלְך  (mekalelkha) will in turn “be cursed”  אָאֹר  (aor). Notice that this promise (or threat!) uses two different words that are both translated as “to curse.” The first of these,  מְקַלֶּלְך  (mekalelkha) comes from a root connected to the idea of “lightness” (as opposed to “heaviness”). The second word,  אָאֹר  (aor), derives from a completely different root that means something like “to utterly destroy.”

Taking these Hebrew insights into consideration, an alternative possible translation of this famous verse might be as follows: “I will do good to those who do good to you, and the one who makes light of you I will utterly destroy.”


EXCERPT FROM JEWISH INSIGHTS INTO SCRIPTURE, DR. ELIYAHU LIZORKIN-EYZENBERG,
TEL MOND, ISRAEL: ISRAEL BIBLE CENTER, 2018, P. 6



 

 

COPYRIGHT 2018 DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

 

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Live this Year ‘Wholeheartedly’

 

“He said: Lord God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven or on earth,
keeping His gracious covenant with Your servants who walk before You with their whole heart.”

—2 Chronicles 6:14 (HCSB)

Wholeheartedly by Allison T. Cain 
The calendar has flipped over to the New Year, the time we all of think about beginnings, resolutions, and annual plans. If God and our relationship with Him are not at the top of all our 2018 lists, no doubt you’ll agree that some major re-think is in order.

I suggest in the strongest possible terms that a great way to keep God first — 365 days of the year — is to live the year Wholeheartedly.

Christian author, motivational speaker, Bible teacher, devotionalist, and passionate-yet-humble Ambassador of Christ Allison T. Cain has now given us her seventh book, Wholeheartedly: A Chronological Journey through the Bible in One Year. You may not know it yet, but you will be wanting a copy. Here’s why.

Most of us have, at some time, toyed with the idea of using one of the many “Bible in a Year” volumes to read the Scriptures in 12 months — and no doubt some have successfully done it. But as Allison has discovered, reading it in a way that allows you to follow the exact order of the history of God and humans gives both captivating revelation and motivating theology. As you can see below, she believes this to her very core:


 
Allison T. Cain

Allison T. Cain

“Reading the Bible chronologically has made me want to dance like David in pure abandon, without a care of who is watching and throwing every bit of energy, love and might I have into worshiping our Creator. Not only has it opened my eyes to another incredible and easy way to study scripture, it has given me a deeper understanding of the thread God has woven through history since He created Earth and man. It’s given me an appreciation and eye for Him in my daily life and world events. It’s not that I ever doubted God’s existence, power or attention to detail – it’s just that sometimes I put Him in my “human” box when He is so much more – so much greater. I sometimes simplify the greatness and forget to look at Him with the awe, gratitude, praise and adoration that I should.”


 

Allison does two major things in Wholeheartedly which, in my view, set this book apart from any other similar volume:

First — Making the Case for Reading the Bible Chronologically
Before turning things over to Allison for her enthusiastic take on this concept, let me set the stage for how this reading Plan differs from others you may have seen. Most “Bible in a Year” Plans give you readings that comprise some chapters in the Old Testament, more from the New Testament, an average of 3 Psalms or so a week, maybe a Proverb or two, and that’s how you proceed. Reading various and scattered parts of Scripture is wonderful, because we know all of the text is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). But the myriad and varied subject matters you are asked to absorb each day in this sort of Plan can be disjointed and hard on the concentration. There is often no logical flow to the daily selections or thematic glue that binds them together.

A Chronological “Bible in a Year” Plan, on the other hand, does just what the name suggests — it selects and arranges the readings in the order they happened — from Genesis (“Let there be light”) to Revelation (“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”). And suddenly, the one entire, linear, and complete Story of the Bible becomes a true page-turner! The warnings God sends through the Prophets emerge logically from their historical context. Seeing how it grew out of the Babylonian captivity and events thereafter, the Judean social and religious backdrop with which Christ had to contend is much more easily understood, when one immediately follows the other.

If this sounds like you are being encouraged to “read the Bible out of order,” then I have not done well explaining the concept. But fortunately, Wholeheartedly‘s author does a great job. Take it away, Allison!


 
       “It’s a story. I know we already know that, but there is something about reading the story in order that makes it so much better! Imagine reading one of your favorite books out-of-order. Things just don’t make as much sense and are more difficult to grasp and understand (i.e. history timeline, descendants, story lines). I’ve been so excited about ‘the story’ at times, I’ve completed a week’s worth of reading in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down.”
       “Imagine reading in 1 Chronicles about David, all his struggles, sins, etc. when what comes next is the Psalm he wrote during that time. The Psalms are even more beautiful and full of meaning when they are put into the context of David’s life and trials.
       “When you read the Bible in order you have a fresh glimpse into how God’s hand REALLY is in every detail. It’s not just a saying anymore. It’s real. You see His hand at work as each leader or King gains or loses his power. You see how God raises up the shepherd’s son and understand how it all ties together.”


 

Full disclosure: my wife and I read the Bible chronologically at the time that Allison did, and the three of us eagerly compared notes throughout the year. I can truthfully say that her ebullient description of the experience is right on target.

Second — How to Read the Bible Chronologically
The first help Allison gives you is the invitation to make two choices — (a) which Bible translation you prefer to use and (b) which reading format works best for you. The great thing about the way it is approached here is that, while Allison provides her own suggestions for each of these two choices, Wholeheartedly walks with you, hand-in-hand, regardless of what decisions you make.

When Allison first read the Bible chronologically, she read it in a translation she’d never before read — the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). She found the HCSB to be a superb, highly readable, painstakingly accurate translation into modern 21st-century English. Her suggestion is that you use the HCSB for your Bible reading, and I agree. I use it exclusively, except when I am comparing translations. (More on the HCSB in “Additional Notes” below.) But the versatile strength of Wholeheartedly is that it marries seamlessly with whatever your preferred translation is.

The second choice you have is how you will make your way through 365 days of historical reading of Scripture.

  1. Do you want one single book which contains the entire Bible, published in the order of your daily readings?
  2. Or would you prefer a slimmer volume that lists which chapters are assigned to each day of the year, allowing you then to go to your favorite Bible and read them from there?

Option 1: If you choose the first option, there is a book titled Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible by George H. Guthrie. This one volume contains the complete text of the HCSB Bible, rearranged into the chronological order you are seeking. There’s no skipping around needed; you just read page after page straight through until the year is over. Allison supports this book’s approach: “I pray you will consider purchasing a chronological (HCSB) Bible as you begin this study.” (More on this book in “Additional Notes” below.)

Option 2: This option, which I urge you to strongly consider, is exactly what the book Wholeheartedly is all about. It provides a rich treasure of Allison’s personal commentary and reflections, ample set-aside space for your own note-taking and journaling, as well as the entire chronological listing of your daily readings (divided into each week’s seven daily readings). In this slim 120-page, easily portable volume, you find the readings for that day, go to your own Bible (whichever translation you wish to use), and read.

Regardless of which reading Options you choose, Allison gives you structured and thoughtful places for you to write your own musings, questions, discoveries, journalings, and notes, to be kept for your own future consideration.

And perhaps the most important part of the book — second, of course, to Scripture itself — are Allison’s myriad short, enthusiastic, and devotional Bible studies, pulled and expanded from the thoughts she recorded during her own chronological year. Here’s how I see the value of these writings in particular, and the book in general: If Scripture can be thought of as our Teacher and Coach, enabling us to learn truth and to climb higher and closer to God, then surely Allison’s heartfelt, God-centered reflections are like having our BFF-in-Christ sitting next to us, praising God with us, sharing insights and delights, urging us on, and cheering our progress.

Here’s an example of what you’ll find throughout the book in her personal, joyous, God-centered writings. It’s an excerpt from her thoughts about Genesis 2:1-3:


 
       “So, as you begin this adventure through the story of God, please consider that the creator of the Universe, the one who knew you before you were born, the one who knows every hair on your head, loves you and walks with you daily wants to sit down with you. How quickly would you drop everything on your calendar and pull out your credit card to buy a plane ticket if your favorite band, movie star, president or author called to have you over to their home for dinner and conversation?
       “Well, your Heavenly Father created this whole Universe, He’s the top dog, the CEO of Life, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the one who holds your life breath in His hand. He loves you so much that He sent His very own son, His only son, to die so that you could live forever with Him in paradise. AND … He wants to know you better. He wants to sit down with you and hear your heart’s desires. He wants to show you His promises of comfort, peace, love, forgiveness, and grace. He desires for you to seek Him when you need wisdom and direction. He wants to be your Living Well. Your stream in the desert. Your lifeline and your listening ear. He will not judge you, but He will love you. He will not disgrace you, but He will give you comfort. He will not condemn you, but He will forgive you.


 
Wholeheartedly clock
By now, you know how much value I find in this book. So, how can you most quickly purchase a copy of the 120-page Wholeheartedly? Allison’s website links to Amazon.com, and you can buy it directly online there. You can find information on her first six books online as well.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS FROM ALLISON:

Wholehearted(ly) :
fully; truly; sincerely; deeply; energetically; devoted; completely; earnestly; having or showing no doubt or uncertainty about doing something or supporting someone.

 
       “I encourage you to jump into this adventure Wholeheartedly — with an unconditional commitment, unstinting devotion, and wild enthusiasm.
       “You will never be more excited about the Bible story, and when you turn that page to find Jesus in the New Testament, you will discover and unravel mysteries you never noticed. You will find treasures on every page and learn more than you ever imagined about your Heavenly Father.
       “Make this yours, but seek God through His word. Pray He multiplies your time and understanding in ways you never imagined to complete this journey.
       “The word of God never grows old or stale. It is always fresh and relevant. I pray you will remain in Him wholeheartedly during the course of this study and revel in His truths and promises He will reveal to your obedient heart.”

 



 

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Chronological HCSB
       I mentioned above that Allison gave praise to the Chronological Bible she first read, and which was the inspiration for her current book. It is called Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible, and is available from various booksellers, mostly online. For now, at least, it is still available at Amazon.com and CBD.com.
       Allison also strongly recommended the use of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, along with her own book, to do the 365-day journey. The HCSB and Wholeheartedly are a great fit, as you will find that most of the scriptural quotes she pulls in the book are taken from that translation.
       Bad news, however. Holman Bible Publishers has effectively discontinued the HCSB, and issued its “replacement,” the Christian Standard Bible. For reasons too numerous to list here, I find my preference is still strongly for the HSCB. Perhaps I will write another essay here detailing exactly why I feel this way.
       So, we have to qualify any reference to the availability of HCSB or Reading God’s Story because of this publishing decision.
       At the very least, if you do not already own a copy of the HSCB, I would go to Amazon.com or CBD.com to order one — now!

COPYRIGHT 2018 DR. GROVER B. PROCTOR, JR. — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2018 in Bible Study

 

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‘A Father in the House’

 
For Fathers Day 2017, Christian Educational Ministries has re-released Ronald L. Dart’s 28-minute program “A Father in the House,” which you may listen to by clicking below. This is the 4th program in the 8-part series Marriage and Family, from his nationally syndicated daily radio program Born to Win.

After an introductory discussion of the importance of having a father’s actual and active presence in his family, Dart uses a retelling of the charming and spiritual Biblical story of Ruth and Boaz to finalize his teaching on a man’s broader responsibilities inside his family. In addition, he explains many of the legal imperatives and cultural traditions of the time — without this knowledge, many elements of the story sound strange to modern ears. At the end of the program, a reminder of the identity of Boaz and Ruth’s great-grandson provides a strong context and finale.

Click this box to listen to Mr. Dart’s program:
A Father in the House

(If you would like to listen to all 8 programs in the Marriage and Family series,
you may do so at the Christian Educational Ministries site.)


 

Not surprisingly, the story of Ruth and Boaz has inspired artists throughout the ages to produce great works of art to memorialize them. Here are three I found while preparing this post. If you click on each, you will see a larger reproduction of the work. They are presented here in chronological order of their creation:


 
BOAZ MUST SEND RUTH AWAY from The Crusader Bible (ca.1244-1254)

The Crusader Bible


 
RUTH THANKS BOAZ FOR LETTING HER GLEAN by Philips Galle (1585)

Ruth Thanks Boaz


 
RUTH IN BOAZ’S FIELD by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1828)

Ruth and Boaz


 
But Ruth replied:
“Do not persuade me to leave you
or go back and not follow you.
For wherever you go, I will go,
and wherever you live, I will live;
your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God.
Where you die, I will die,
and there I will be buried.
May Yahweh punish me,
and do so severely,
if anything but death separates you and me.”
(Ruth 1:16–17 HCSB)

 

 

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