Jeremiah was a mighty man of God, a towering figure in the late history of the Kingdom of Judah. He was also considered a traitor to his beleaguered nation at one of the most awful times in their history. How did he endure in ministry over 40 years when it seemed the whole world was against him?
Prominent anti-Christians argue that religion is dangerous because it creates certainty. Several years ago, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC hosted an exhibit that read “Belief + Doubt = Sanity.” Pressure is overwhelming to “go with the flow.” Confidence in one’s convictions, when they differ from certain politically acceptable convictions of others, is condemned. This censure is so much the stronger when the opinions held seem to contradict “science,” whether or not they do. Someone said, “Few are those who see with their own eyes, think with their own minds, and feel with their own hearts.”
But it is not enough to be certain. Many Christians know the truth and yet do not speak it or practice it. Many think the Truth, speak the Truth, and act in Truth for a season, perhaps several years. But like Demas they start strong and then fade away. Some modern Christian celebrities have renounced their faith. To endure in service is to know, speak, and do, consistently and faithfully, for a lifetime.
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What happened in the Iron Age? Which empires rose and fell? How do these events interact with Bible events? Look here for answers.
This morning in Sunday School I was describing the background of the feast of Belshazzar in Daniel 5. In order to fully understand what this story, and what all Bible stories mean, we must understand the social, political, and cultural context. However it was hard for many in my class to remember and properly order each event so that they could grasp the full meaning of the passage. As a result, I promised to write and post a timeline of people and events that pertain to the eight centuries before Christ.
Keep in mind that these dates, specifically the dates of the reigns of kings, are approximate. Ancient chroniclers reckoned events by when they occurred in a sovereign’s reign (cf. Isaiah 6:1).
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In Exodus 33:3 God promised to take the Hebrews, recently freed from slavery in Egypt, to a “land flowing with milk and honey.” During my trip to Israel in March of 1995 when I approached Jerusalem, I was a little skeptical of the “milk and honey” description. Much of the land is dry and hilly, and it was warm even that early in the year. Israel more resembled where I grew up, arid Southern Calfornia, than the watered paradise I had envisaged. After many years and much study, I have come to realize that Israel truly was “a land flowing with milk and honey”, especially compared to the Arabian Desert and Egypt (beyond the Nile).
Even more important, it is impossible to understand much of the Bible without understanding the agriculture that it describes. Unlike modern industrial and information societies, in which food is so plentiful that only a small minority are involved in its production, Ancient Israel was agricultural. So was every nation around them. Every aspect of their lives, economies, religion, pleasure, and even war revolved around the cycles of nature in a way that few of us can understand.
Continue reading “The Land of Milk and Honey – Agriculture in Ancient Israel”