Observation — H

In town the other day, I saw a mother and her child. They used the crosswalk to get across the street in front of us. They caught my attention because of HOW they went across. The mother was stiff-legged and stiff-armed, walking like a robot. Her little girl was imitating her. Their smiles and laughter told me of their delight in one another.

I kept watching them as the went down the sidewalk, the mother in the lead.

Her daughter wasn’t beside her, so she looked back.

With a knowing, loving smile on her face, she had stopped, turned partway around, and stretched out her hand for her daughter to come hold.

The girl saw the reaching hand. But, first, she fingered a chain stretched across a stairwell.

Still, the mother waited. Her expression remained the same. There wasn’t irritation. There were no reprimands. No expressed urgency. Just that Mona Lisa smile and the hovering, still, outstretched hand.

In the process of going toward her mom, a pretty flower got the girl’s attention. She remained on the sidewalk and examined the flower.

Staying still, the mother waited. The love remained on her face. The offered hand didn’t drop.

Meanwhile, the girl stayed on the sidewalk and was slowly making her way closer to that hand. Then, something at her feet caught her eye. An ant, perhaps.

The mother remained, still smiling, still ready to hold hands for the journey ahead.

————–

It seemed to me like that’s the relationship we can enjoy with God.

This mother and daughter knew each other. The bond was evident. The journey was together. They weren’t holding hands in the crosswalk, but they were still together, still delighting in one another. They weren’t holding hands yet on the sidewalk, but the mother was still watchful. The little girl had obviously been trained to use the crosswalk and to stay on the sidewalk.

Did the little girl have to run up and grab her mother’s hand immediately?
Obviously not.

Had the mother seen danger, would she have leapt into action or shouted a command?
I have no doubt of that.

If danger had suddenly loomed, would this little girl have responded immediately because of the change in posture or change in voice?
I think that is likely. Trust and love had already been established.

How do I know that?

I base it on the look of affection that little girl had given her mom as she imitated the robot-walk and they crossed the street the way only those two in their own little world could have.

I base it on the fact the little girl looked and saw the offered hand and started moving that direction.

I base it on the stillness of the mother and the steadfast love exhibited as she remained and watched with quiet understanding.

Although I couldn’t hear anything the girl might have been saying, I know most kids would be giving a running commentary and belting out questions about the chain and the flower and the ant and the sky and that tree over there and…

Although we turned the corner and I never saw whether or not their hands ever connected, do I think they did?
I think it is likely. And, I don’t think it would have been the first time they held hands. Probably not the last.

And, once their hands finally connected and the mother led the way, did the child know the destination? I don’t know. Does it matter?

What if the child had managed to run off, get lost, finally find out where home is, and went running to the door? Is this the likely scenario?
Opening the door, the mother says, “Depart from here. I don’t know you!”

Matthew 7:7-14 (LEB) — “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you, if his son will ask him for bread, will give him a stone? Or also if he will ask for a fish, will give him a snake? Therefore if you, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him? Therefore in all things, whatever you want that people should do to you, thus also you do to them. For this is the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate, because broad is the gate and spacious is the road that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it, because narrow is the gate and constricted is the road that leads to life, and there are few who find it!”

Let’s stick to the narrow sidewalk, beside Him every day and grasping at those opportunities to imitate Him and to grab His offered hand. It is a wondrous thing to be called His son or His daughter!

Am I an apologist?!….Are you? — H

Late last year, I had been listening to the YouTube videos of a pastor I thought was a Messianic Jew. I was learning a lot of Jewish history that helped me see the Bible in new ways. Then, though, I came across one teaching that didn’t jive with what I knew from Scripture about Jesus. Listening to more from him, I realized he was Jewish and was saying some correct things about Jesus, but was thinking of Him as an excellent teacher and A son of God rather than THE Son of God. I was thankful for what I had learned that did hold up under scrutiny. But, I moved on.

Meanwhile, in its recommendations, YouTube listed a video that drew my attention. The descriptive title was a Bible question I’d been puzzling about. The video supposedly answered the question. So, I clicked to watch.

Following along in Scripture, it made sense to me. I prayed. I studied some more. I was satisfied.

“So, who is this person?” I wondered.

I clicked on their channel to find multiple Bible questions and their answers.

I went to the “About” section.

A Christian.
“Okay, good. We’ll see.”
I kept reading.

Hmmm. She used “apologist” as one of the labels for herself.
“Uh oh.”

Although I was truly clueless about what “apologetics” is, I had a bias against apologists because I figured they “made apologies” for Scripture.

My thoughts stood in rebellion: “No one needs to make apologies for my Father’s words!”
I paused, though. I pondered.
“Perhaps I’m wrong about what apologetics is. Yet, maybe these are the argumentative types who potentially give a bad name to Christians.”

“Wait, though,” I continued, arguing with myself. “This video was fine. She sounds like a reasonable, respectful individual. And, I’ve sometimes been seen as argumentative simply because I stick by what I’ve learned from the Bible is true. Same goes for others I know and love. This self-proclaimed apologist just answered my long-held question. I am satisfied with this answer. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll listen to just a couple more videos on this channel.”

Several hours later, I was not only familiar with her material, I’d found videos where she’d collaborated with other apologists. I’d gone to the channels of those other apologists and learned some things. They, in turn, had collaborated with other apologists. Before long, YouTube was recommending the work of other apologists.

“Hmmm. Maybe I’ve been really misunderstanding what apologetics is. These people just seem to be seekers. Some are pastors, but some aren’t. The difference between them and the seekers I know in person is that they’ve used social media to share what they’ve learned.”

My thoughts continued. “And, they are tenacious seekers. I like that. They not only refuse to give up on God or the Bible when faced with a puzzle, they sink their teeth into the challenge and plunge ahead. I like people like this. I want to be such a people.” (grin)

Then, I was faced with a question, “Am I already an apologist?!”

When one is a thinker who picks up on seeming inconsistencies or “conflicts within Scripture,” there can be a strong temptation to treat the Bible in certain ways:
* Toss it aside as a whole, or,
* Focus only on parts and ignore other parts, or,
* See it as just another book with segments that are inspirational but no more special than the books held aloft by other religions.

From what I’ve seen and heard from favorite apologists, they seem to have similar traits:
* When they have been or are faced with “hard questions,” they have the tenacity and stubborn faith to cling to the Bible and really “study it out” until they are satisfied, at least temporarily, with an answer.
* They’ve done this studying-until-satisfied process enough that they’ve become awed by the sheer genius and wonder of what the Bible really is. They come away, saying, “Surely, the hand of God accomplished this feat!”
* All are driven to reach out to others with what they’ve found.

Based on my observations, my favorite apologists have these practices and perspectives:
* If you think one part of the Bible conflicts with another part, it isn’t the Bible that is wrong; it is the reader’s current confusion or lack of knowledge. Keep digging.
* Some have live question-and-answer videos. They seem to all practice this: If you don’t know, say so. If whatever you say next is a guess based on what you do know, say it is a guess.
* Encourage others to read the Bible.
* Pray, asking for wisdom and understanding. Read the context. Keep reading the Bible with the hard question in mind. Study Bible history and Jewish culture. Listen to what other Bible scholars have found and see if their explanations are valid.
* Now that I have this answer, I’m going to put it out there and see what sort of feedback I get. I may be wrong. I don’t currently think so, but I’m willing to learn. I trust my fellow Christians to engage with me so we can learn from one another. I may someday modify what I currently think. That’s part of the learning process. I trust my viewers to point out where they think I am in error.

What I think and do when I am faced with a hard question:
* I go to the Bible first in order to see if I can find the answer. Sometimes, I find it, and I am satisfied. Sometimes, I don’t, so I figure someone has done a study of Bible history or Jewish culture that I haven’t. So, I go see what I can find from others. Inevitably, I find that someone else has been wrestling with the same question.
* There are sometimes missing or unsatisfactory answers as I go through the writings and videos of the apologists I trust most. Same goes for commentaries from Bible scholars I trust most. Either I haven’t found the right commentary or video yet….or, it’s a question that I myself need to keep searching out.
* I’ve found that, if I don’t let go of the question nor the Bible, an answer often comes. After all, we are told repeatedly to wait on God.
* When that answer comes, I see that as a signal I need to do my part and share that with other believers. Perhaps others, like me, have said, “It is possible that the answer isn’t to be grasped right now, but I have faith it will be.” And, the treasure I have found might be an answer to their held faith! Maybe their wait is over because God worked through me.

So, as I read commentaries, watch videos, and listen to sermons, I think the answer to what I puzzle over may come through someone else. Or, maybe there’s a question someone else is puzzling over that I can help answer.

I’m thinking this phenomenon is by design and is yet another excellent reason for the body of Christ. And, if none of us have a Biblically-sound answer, it may be we’re not supposed to know now. The “aha moment” will come later in earth’s time or once we are all face-to-face with our Saviour.

Mercifully, we’re actually told of one answer we won’t get through study — the day and the hour of His return.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:35-36 ESV)

That leaves room for a lot of fruitful learning! Being told what we won’t know tells me we can still study to try to find other answers.

Yet, what if I’m just not finding an answer?

It is a temptation to focus on the current “thorn” rather than see all that has gone right. Sometimes, when there isn’t an answer to a question yet, I avoid getting discouraged by thinking back through all the answers that HAVE been found. I consider all of the satisfaction I have received in what the Bible says — what I have already experienced as true.

I find that keeping a journal or taking notes of thoughts and discoveries during Bible study is really valuable for this purpose. Reading back through my journals and notebooks helps to strengthen my faith and warms up my Bible-studying “muscles.” It helps me see how and where I have grown over the years. It makes me want to learn more and grow more. It makes me hungry to devour more Scripture. It causes me to want to follow Him even more closely.

“Hard questions.” That is what one of the apologists calls them. They can also be called “doubts.” It is normal to have doubts. I choose to believe anyway, waiting on the Lord. I think  doing so is part of the growth process. Faith is what one must have in order to cling to the Bible even harder when faced with doubt. Like Jacob continuing to wrestle, I trust that an answer has been found by someone or will be found, perhaps by me.

What I try to do in the face of doubt:
* Pray. Talk to God about it.
* Dig into the Bible harder.
* Go to the apologists and pastors. See if what they share makes sense. If not, then it’s a case of needing to add “yet” to that negative statement in my head:
— “I don’t know the answer…yet.”
— “None of the apologists are talking about this…yet.”
— “Pastors/commenters aren’t addressing this. Maybe they aren’t seeing this issue…yet.”

Maybe the doubts are an opportunity to step from passively consuming what others are feeding me toward joining the army that is actually doing some of the feeding.

May that opportunity give glory to God and to His Word!

Pentecost 2021

Pentecost (Feast of Weeks/Shavuot)  2021

We’ve kept Saturday as the Sabbath for decades, but we are fairly new to the concept of mindfully keeping the other Biblical festivals (Genesis 1:14; Leviticus 23), making God’s other appointed times as our recognized holidays. In the past couple years, we’ve been doing so privately. See the blog post about that.

For the first time, this year we planned an event for the body of believers to attend. We did so for Pentecost/Shavuot, which is a festival Sabbath. So, Saturday was our weekly Sabbath, and Sunday was one of the seven festival Sabbaths. We thought we’d share with you what that event was like.

Our chosen “theme” for this year was the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, including Who He is (with an emphasis on the fact He is a Person of our Triune God).

Below, we’ll share the “script” we used. All the attendees were to follow a path as the mixed multitude being freed from Egypt, going through the “wilderness,” and arriving at Mt. Sinai. We’ll also note within the script the “stations” of learning and what was located at each one.  It was a park setting, so our starting position, stations, and “Mt Sinai” were a garbage bin, parking lot, trees, picnic bench, hill (Mt. Sinai), and ending at an outdoor amphitheatre.  Our pastor and a church elder took turns reading  and taking inspiration from the script (words in bold) as we were stopped at each location. Instructions and tips in brackets. Our comments to you, the blog reader, in parenthesis.

As people arrived, they mingled together at a quick snack bar filled with finger foods that might have been found in the Promised Land (dates, figs, fruits, bread, nuts, pomegranate juice).

Then, we made our way to the start (“Egypt”).

—————————

[PRAYER: Ask for God’s teaching. Thank Him for His Word and for Holy Spirit.]

[START: Garbage bins (representing starting out in Egypt; spiritually, in bondage to sin/garbage).]

[ON DISPLAY: Two loaves of homemade, leavened bread.]
(Yes, we know that they carried no leavening nor leavened bread on the journey. These were props for the start when talking about the two loaves for wave offering. Then, while the group was walking through “the Red Sea,” a festival facilitator quietly moved them to be on display at “Mt. Sinai” when the group arrived.)

[Shavuot (how to pronounce)]

Elder/Pastor: This festival is a Sabbath called Feast of Weeks or SHAH-VOO-OAT.  In history on this day, we entered into a covenant relationship with God at Mt. Sinai. Also, in Biblical history on this day, PENTECOST occurred.  (Talking points below.)

  • Jesus died as the Lamb of God on the day and hour when the lamb in the Temple was to be slain on Passover.
  • Jesus rose from the grave on the Festival of Firstfruits.
  • 40 days after Firstfruits, Jesus ascended to Heaven. 
  • The 50th day after Firstfruits is the Feast of Weeks. 
  • In Jesus’ day, on the Feast of Weeks, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ disciples at what we now call, “Pentecost.” 
  • “Pentecost” means 50. You “count omer” for 49 days, starting the day of Firstfruits. Then, on the 50th day is Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. 
  • 50 represents jubilee, freedom.
  • As we somewhat re-enact the journey of the mixed multitude fleeing from Egypt into the wilderness, we will have 6 stations where we will learn more about the Holy Spirit and one about the Mt. Sinai experience, 7 stations in all — one for each Sabbath during the 49 days.
Station Signs

(Each sign had the station’s name, a unique “flame” made with colored office paper, and the number associated with the station so the leaders knew what text in their 3-ring binder corresponded.)

Leviticus 23:15-17 about Feast of Weeks:

“‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day of your bringing the wave offering’s sheaf—there shall be seven full weeks. Until the day after the seventh Sabbath you shall count fifty days; then you shall present a new grain offering for Yahweh. You shall bring from your dwellings for a wave offering two loaves of bread made with two-tenths of an ephah of finely milled flour; they must be baked with leaven—the firstfruits belonging to Yahweh.”

PENTECOST:

Acts 2:1-11 (ESV): When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

[POINT OUT TWO LOAVES OF BREAD]

We know that, for the Feast of Weeks, there’s a wave offering of two loaves of leavened bread.  (The elder pointed out that Bible doesn’t tell us what the two loaves represent but that some scholars say one loaf represents the Jews, and the other loaf represents the Gentiles. Some say the Old and New Testaments. Some say they are the two tablets given at Mt. Sinai, the first loaf representing the Law regarding our relationship with God and the second representing the Law regarding relationship with our fellow man.)

In Acts 10:44-48, it talks about another day when the Holy Spirit descended upon people: “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.” 

[Pass out bags to the attendees.]

Gold mesh bag, full
Gold Bag Contents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Each adult got a gold mesh bag packed by a couple ladies in our church. See photos above; Contents: a small journal on a ribbon (some had a black cover with white writing; made by one of these sweet ladies), pen, baggie of Skittles.)
(Each kid got one of the filled gold bags in a 9×12″ colored canvas bag, along with 2 coloring pages (Moses receiving the tablets on Mt. Sinai and the apostles with tongues of flame over their heads), an extra pen, and a 10-pack of crayons.)

NOW, FOR OUR JOURNEY. In your bag, you’ll find a pen and a mini-journal for the trip. If there’s a word or thought that stands out to you, write it down or even draw on the circles, either while at the station or later when you think back on our journey.
Kids, in your bag, you have a pen, crayons and pages to color. If you want, you can write or draw on the back of the coloring pages.
Bring your bags, for you might discover things to put in them.

God freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. They chose to trust God, following Him into the wilderness.

Exodus 13:20-22 ESV And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

Exodus 14:19-22 ESVAnd the angel of God who was going before the camp of Israel set out and went behind them. And the column of cloud set out ahead of them, and it stood still behind them, so that it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. And it was a dark cloud, but it gave light to the night, so that neither approached the other all night. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and Yahweh moved the sea with a strong east wind all night, and he made the sea become dry ground, and the waters were divided. And the Israelites entered the middle of the sea on the dry land. The waters were a wall for them on their right and on their left. 

[HAND COLUMN OF CLOUD TO VOLUNTEER TO CARRY.]
(Column of cloud made by a brilliant fellow in our church. White balloons tied to a long, sturdy stick. A teen volunteered to represent the Column of Cloud, carrying this along in front of us.)

Column of Cloud

[RED SEA KIDS TAKE THEIR STATIONS AND PREPARE TO “PART.”]
(We had two blue foam boards. Each kid stood with his foam board close to the other, then they parted to let the people file between them, following the Column of Cloud. The multitude, thus, transitioned from the parking lot to the grassy, tree-filled “wilderness.”)


(Station 1) Water

(sign tacked to a tree; bowl of “water droplets” at base of tree)

In the Old Testament, we learned that, in the wilderness, God gave the Israelites food and water — manna to eat and water from a rock. In the New Testament, we know Jesus started His ministry by being baptized in water. John was the baptist. 

John 1 ESV — “19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John 4:4-14 (NIV) — “Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water,
Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 ESV — For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV — “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

[GIVE AWAY BREAKABLE GLASS “DROPLETS” (Blue-tissue wrapped) TO KIDS.]
(We ended up having enough for some of the adults, too. They were made using 1″ glass craft gems. The flat side is coated with colored nail polish (clear with glitter first, then swirl lines of light blue then darker blue, then coat fully with darkest blue, then finish with a layer of clear coat.) Photo below shows an unpainted and a painted gem, each looking down through the clear, rounded top.)

Water Droplets, in process
Water Droplets, wrapped in blue tissue paper


(Station 2) Dove

(Sign tacked to another tree; festival helper quietly carrying paper bag.)

John 1:14-18 ESV — And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him. John 1:29-34 talks about that moment: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

In Matthew 13-17 ESV, we read that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God were all present during this baptism John is talking about: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

Then, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to stay and be tempted by Satan for 40 days.

The Israelites were led through the wilderness for 40 years.

[GIVE AWAY PAPER DOVES TO ALL.]
(Several industrious ladies in our church made origami doves. It was quite a flock! A paper grocery sack full of paper doves was given to a kid for distribution to all journeyers.)

Paper Dove


(Station 3) Attributes of the Spirit
(sign tacked to a tree; white-painted 1″ wooden craft coins sprinkled in grass around tree)

If you want, we can email you the scriptures where these concepts and others can be found in the Bible. Meanwhile, listen to these Biblical statements about the Holy Spirit.

  • Derived from “The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit” by R.A. Torrey:
    • “Statements, which in the Old Testament distinctly name the Lord or Jehovah as their subject are applied to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, i.e. Isaiah 6:8-10 refers to Jehovah while in Acts 28:25-27 Paul quotes Isaiah and applies the passage to the Holy Spirit. Then also read John 12:39-41 where the same passage is ascribed to Christ. 
    • “So in different parts of Scripture, we have the same passage referring to Jehovah, the Holy Spirit, and to Jesus. In Isaiah 6:3, the angels cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy. Each Holy refers to one of the Godhead. ‘And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.’…A further suggestion of this tri-personality of Jehovah of Hosts is found in the eighth verse of the chapter where the Lord is represented as saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’”] [Exodus 16:7 where the murmuring is against Jehovah. But, in Hebrews 3:7-9, this reference is referred to and we read, ‘Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith,…When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years.’ 
    • “This leaves it beyond question that the Holy Spirit occupies the position of Jehovah (or Deity) in the New Testament.”
    • “The name of the Holy Spirit is coupled with that of God in a way it would be impossible for a reverent and thoughtful mind to couple the name of any finite being with that of the Deity.” [1 Cor. 12:4-6: “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”][Tell kids to search in the grass for the 1″ white coins.]
      Each coin has on it one of the many titles the Holy Spirit holds.

      (As the kids found the coins, they graciously gave them to the teens and adults who then read them aloud to the group. Each coin contained a title for Him on one side and the supporting Bible reference on the other.)(We didn’t get a photo of the coins, but here’s one of the tree.)

      Attributes Station; Isaiah 11:1-2 quote


(Station 4) Fruits of the Spirit
and Gifts of the Spirit
(tacked to deciduous tree: station sign; paper heart with “faith, hope, love”; Fruits of the Spirit ribbon, paper leaflet listing the Gifts of the Spirit )(hanging from branches of nearby evergreen, at kid height, cardboard cut-outs for each Fruit of the Spirit)

FRUITS

Galatians 5:LEB 13-15 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
22-26 — “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh together with its feelings and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

[Tell kids to go find the Fruits of the Spirit on the evergreen and they can check if they have them all by looking at the ribbon list on the deciduous tree.]
(The clever kids counted the number of fruits listed, then counted the number of cardboard cut-outs they’d found. ((chuckle)) Again, they, then, graciously passed the cardboard cut-outs to individual adults at random.)

FHL Heart, Fruits Ribbon

GIFTS
1 Corinthians 12 ESV1-13 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 13 ESV“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

[GIVE ONE HEART TO EACH PERSON.]
(One talented lady in our church made origami hearts. She and the kids passed those out to everyone. They were white so that they could be colored or written on, if desired.)(The pastor and his wife also got glass heart ornaments filled with sweet-n-sour Nerds (colorful candy bits).)

Paper Heart


(Station 5) Wind/Breath
and Still, Small Voice 
(station sign tacked to a tree; Voice rock set at base of tree; bamboo wind chimes hanging from a branch and gently tapping notes; 10 sparkly silver and iridescent pinwheels stuck in dirt of a nearby flower bed)

“Still, Small Voice” Rock

With His Voice, God spoke creation into existence. Genesis 1 again, 1-3 LEB: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth — Now the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light.”

John 3:1-8 LEB — “Now there was a man of the Pharisees whose name was Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to him at night and said to him [Jesus], ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one is able to perform these signs that you are performing unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is an old man? He is not able to enter into his mother’s womb for the second time and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born of water and spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘It is necessary for you to be born from above.’ The wind blows wherever it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”

Jesus rose from the grave on Firstfruits. The counting of the omer (the 49-day count) starts on the first day of the week (Sunday) after Firstfruits. Let’s read about something that happened on this first day of the count.
John 20:19–23 LEB — “Now when it was evening on that day—the first day of the week—and the doors had been shut where the disciples were because of fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ And when he had said this, he showed his hands and his side to them. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”

Acts 2:1-4 LEBAnd when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in the same place. And suddenly a sound like a violent rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. And divided tongues like fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability to speak out.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 LEB — “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all these things are from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as if God were imploring you through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made the one who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, in order that we could become the righteousness of God in him.”

Back in 1 Kings 19, when Elijah was afraid for his life and went one day’s journey into the wilderness and said to God, “It is enough now, Yahweh; take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” (verse 4),
God didn’t deal with him harshly. God took care of him. 

1 Kings 19:5-8 ESV — “He lay down and fell asleep under a certain broom tree, and suddenly this angel was touching him and said to him, “Get up, eat!” He looked, and behold, a bread cake on hot coals was near his head and a jar of water, so he ate and drank. Then he did it again and lay down. The angel of Yahweh appeared a second time and touched him and said, “Get up, eat, for the journey is greater than you.” So he got up, ate, drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights up to Horeb, the mountain of God.”
So, he’s on Horeb, the mountain of God, which is another name for Mt. Sinai. This is where God spoke through the burning bush to Moses. This is where the Law, the Covenant, was given to the people. So, Elijah finds a cave on this mountain.

9-14 RSV — “And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’ And he said, ‘Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.’”

Then, God sent Elijah out to anoint a king over Syria, a king over Israel, and Elisha as a prophet in his place.

We need to have moments of rest to drink of His Living Water He gives us and eat from the Bread of Life, His Word.

[Time of silence, listening to the wind in the pinwheels perhaps. :)]
[HAVE KIDS EACH TAKE A SPARKLY PINWHEEL.]

10″ Holographic Pinwheels

 

(Station 6) Oil
(picnic bench with clay oil lamp filled with olive oil; bell jar over the lamp, since it was a windy day)

[Designated adult helper lights lamp and places jar over it.]

Olive oil was used for food and in the lamps for light (Exodus 27:20-21). 

Oil was used to consecrate the priests (Leviticus 8:30).

Oil was used as part of the healing ritual (Leviticus 14:1-18, cf. James 5:14). 

Oil as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit’s presence and action is clear in the anointing of prophets, priests, and kings. 

Isaiah 61:1-3 LEB — “The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives and liberation to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of Yahweh’s favor, and our God’s day of vengeance, to comfort all those in mourning, to give for those in mourning in Zion, to give them a head wrap instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit. And they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, to show his glory.”

Acts 10:34-38 LEB — “So Peter opened his mouth and said, “In truth I understand that God is not one who shows partiality, but in every nation the one who fears him and who does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the message that he sent to the sons of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—this one is Lord of all—you know the thing that happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism that John proclaimed: Jesus of Nazareth—how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him.”

Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins, Matthew 25:1-10 LEB: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.
“The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.”


(Station 7) Mt. Sinai
(tacked to a tree at the top of the hill above the amphitheatre: station sign; sign with question, “Which commandment is most important?” and Mark 12:29-31)

[Present: Commandment Tablet(s), 2 loaves displayed on a tray, big white hearts to give to kids] 

Redemption was found at the Cross through Jesus. Revelation was given at Mt. Sinai through the Word of God, via Jesus breathing on the disciples and their receiving the Holy Spirit, and via the Holy Spirit descending on those in the Upper Room. We were taken out of Egypt, redeemed from sin. But, without the revelation and help from His Spirit, we would regress back into the slavery of sin. 

God wanted to break the slave mentality of His chosen people. He took them out of Egypt, then He began taking Egypt out of Israel. God gave us the gift of His Word and the gift of His Spirit so that we can transform and be spiritually free.

Ezekiel 11:19-20 ESV — “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

Ezekiel 36-26 ESV — “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Jeremiah 31:33 ESV — “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Tablet(s) reverently held by teen volunteer. Hebrew numbers, 1-10, representing the Law.

[Each kid gets a large, unique paper heart.]
[Tell them to pick up an Exodus 20 hand-out sheet as they make their way to sit on the amphitheatre terraces.]

(One of our talented singer/musicians was seated in front of us, guitar and portable speakers ready for use.)

[Once people are seated, tell them to take out baggies of Skittles.]

(A neat thing happened here. Some of the folks had eaten most of their Skittles. Others hadn’t. Since we each needed 10 Skittles, those who hadn’t eaten many or any shared with those who didn’t have 10. <3)
(The Elder read aloud each of the 10 Commandments that had been rephrased as promises by Jill Morikone on a 3ABN Sabbath School Panel episode. After each promise was read, the elder shouted, “God is good!” Singer shouted, “God is good?” The attendees shouted, “God is good!” Singer quietly confirmed, “God is good.” We each ate a Skittle. Another promise would be read, then the process repeated.)

  • From Jill Morikone: “We see God’s promises in the Ten Commandments… The word in Hebrew isn’t ‘commandments’ at all. It’s simply the ‘words of God,’ or you could say the ‘sayings of God.’  When you look at the Ten Commandments, or the ten words, the ten sayings, we tend to look at it in language of ‘do’ and ‘don’t,’ ‘thou shalt,’ ‘thou shalt not.’ But, if you look, it’s actually written in the second-person, singular imperfect. You may say, ‘What in the world does that mean?!’ The imperfect verb form notes action or state that is still in progress. So, it’s not something that’s completed nor something that’s already done in the past. It’s something that is still in progress. The same verb tense, the same wording, is used in Judges 6:23, ‘And the Lord said unto him, “Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.” Now when you hear that, Pastor Johnny, I wouldn’t think, ‘Now that’s a commandment, “Don’t die.”‘ What do I think?  ‘That’s a promise.’ You’re not going to die. The same thing in Psalm 91, verse 5, this same verb tense, ‘Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;’ so when we read that, we don’t think a command: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ It’s a promise; you don’t have to be afraid. So, I took the liberty to rewrite the Ten Commandments, this is Jill’s version — Ten Promises:
    1. You will desire only Me, nobody and nothing else.
    2. You will have no need for other gods or other support systems because I will give you everything that you need.
    3. You will reverence and respect Me — My Name and My Character — and will do everything you can to guard our relationship.
    4. You will delight in spending time with Me on our special day, the seventh-day Sabbath; no interruptions, no distractions, just quality time with Me.
    5. You will love those who have given you life and respect the family that I gave to you.
    6. You will respect others’ lives and hold them sacred as you would your own.
    7. You will delight in and love the spouse that I gave to you.
    8. You will have enough with what I have given to you and will have no need to take from somebody else.
    9. You will speak truthfully and well of your neighbors and associates.
    10. You will be content with what I have given you and will rejoice in My gifts for your life.

“That is the promise of grace that God gives to His people.”

(Then, our singer taught us a new song, Kadosh, and we all sang it.)

Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh
(Holy, Holy, Holy)
Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh
(Holy, Holy, Holy)
Adonai Elohim Tz’va’ot
(O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts)
Adonai Elohim Tz’va’ot
(O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts)
Holy, Holy, Holy.
Holy, Holy, Holy.
O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts.
O Lord, Our God, Lord of Hosts.
Asher hayah V’hoveh v’yavo
Who was and Who is and Who is to come.
Asher hayah V’hoveh v’yavo
Who was and Who is and Who is to come.

 

Preamble to “Journey with H”

Father, in the name of Jesus, if Your discernment, love, and wisdom are to be found in the words on this blog, may they be found by the reader (and writers) and kept tight in our minds and hearts. May all other words and concepts fall to the wayside and not find soil in which to grow. I take it as Your truth that we all fall short of Your glory and Your perspective of perfection. Please help us to rely upon You and Your will in not only what we all share with others but what we bring into our belief system from others. Thank You for guarding our ears, our minds, our souls, and our hearts, preserving them for You. Help us to have ears to hear and eyes to see what You are saying to Your Church.


With the global pandemic and unrest of the last year or two, some are feeling like the end times are nearer and nearer. In that position, there seems to be a lot of focus on the potential things the enemy is doing to lead the elect astray.

It is a good thing to be watchful and alert. Jesus, Himself, addressed this: “And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came up to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you! For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and they will deceive many.'” (Matthew 24:3-5 LEB)

So, there are understandable concerns. Am I going to be one of the elect that caves? Am I going to make a wrong move? Is the enemy going to pull a fast one, and I lose my footing without even realizing I was off the path?!

How do we find the narrow gate talked about in Matthew 7? How do we remain level-headed and not filled with fear? How do we have faith like Daniel in the lions’ den, hope like Moses in the wilderness, and a heart like David’s as he faced Goliath? How do we gain that confidence?

Keep our focus on our God. Prayerfully read the Bible. A lot. When we go about our day with His Word (instructions and love notes) streaming through our minds in relation to occurrences around us, I think this happens:  “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28, KJV)

I think our mutual enemy likes to see fear, confusion, and chaos. I do think he wants us to focus on him in the spotlight while he works subtly and quietly in a more vulnerable location. He dances before our eyes while he works around to a spot where he can stab us. We can get distracted by a big uproar in the news over there while he is sneaking his way into the churches.

So, yes, we can get deceived, as Eve was. Sometimes, we are not deceived but we still make a choice that is pleasing to our fellow rather than to God, as Adam did. Same fruit. Both sin. Same promise from God for both. Same promise for each of us.

1 John 1:5-10 — “This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (RSV)

Go on into the next chapter — “My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says ‘I know Him’ but disobeys His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His Word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in Him: he who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” (1 John 2:1-6 RSV)

* * *

When I went off to college, I was new to extensive interaction with churchgoers. Thankfully, I met some fabulous people. But, then I came across those who used the Bible as a weapon against me and others.

It was a mess, and I ran. In that flight, I gave up on the Bible and who I thought were Christians.

And, I tried to run from God….heh…you know…the One talked about in Psalm 139:7-12 (ESV): “Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your Presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You.”

Now, I’m back to clinging to Him. I don’t want to run or to stray again, so I’m staying in His Word and relying on Him to hold me.

Indeed, there is chaos in this world. It can get tiresome, I know. It can get confusing about what is true and what is not. It is easy to throw up one’s hands and go, “I give up on humanity. They’re all a bunch of loonies and meanies!” (chuckle)

When I feel like that, there’s a snippet of Scripture I remember that brings the whole context to mind and what I learned from it. That lesson is what reels me back in. “…let us not grow weary of doing good.” (Galatians 6) It gently says to me, “Don’t give up on humanity.”

That promise from 1 John 1:9 is great for me. It’s also great for that person who is, at the moment, behaving as the enemy. They can be forgiven, as I was. They, too, can be cleansed of all unrighteousness. God is faithful and just. I am so thankful for those who did not grow weary of being instruments of God to guide me back to Him.

I’m saying these things about people because, when I wrote most of my autobiography, it was not long after the events occurred. The upcoming posts from me about my journey through religion are extracted from that autobiography, mostly written during my 20s and early 30s.

So, although you, as the reader, are not getting the “full flavor” that would come from details, you will likely hear some of the hurt and snarky perspective from the “freshness” of the feelings that arose from the experiences described.

However, 20+ years later, the bitterness has faded into forgiveness. The hurt has been transformed into prayerful understanding. As I read through these writings now, I can look back and realize I have the real potential to behave just as hurtfully toward others. I often need a note floating in front of my eyeballs that says, “Be gentle and loving. Chill!”

That said, there’s a reason I’m sharing here.  As I run the course, I am not to be mute about the hazards and traps! I’m to be helpful to my fellow runners. Brief video on this: https://youtu.be/2Pmhs6aVezo

I don’t know whether you caught my earlier allusion to being fairly isolated from the body of Christ up until my college years. There were some lessons I learned after longer exposure. (grin) I think the most useful lesson for me was the first one on this list:

    • People are just people, whether they go to church or not. Most have the same motivation. Most just want to be respected and loved. We just have different ways of trying to gain that love and respect.
    • Because of this motivation, we all have moments of thinking the world revolves around us.
    • Regardless of our beliefs, people can be a poor representation of who God is. Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV) — “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
    • Not all who say they are Christians are fully trustworthy.
    • Not all who are leery of churches are untrustworthy.
    • We are made in His image; not the other way around. To me, this is one of the many reasons why we are to make Him #1 in our lives.
    • We all seem to go through distinct places in our Christian journey, and we aren’t all in the same place at the same time.

In a Christian’s walk, there are deserts. There are oases. There are quagmires. There are high points above the tar pits. There are places where you stand and wait, a place where He will take care of the fight and reveal Himself as the LORD, as in Exodus 14.

It SEEMS to me like I’m in a better location than I was because I’ve been studying the map so much more than I had. Yet, pride goes before the fall, right? I need to lean heavily on the One who created the map. Otherwise, in thinking “I’ve got this” and running out ahead of Him, I could easily land myself in the very next tar pit. I know this because I’ve done it. No matter how hard I try on my own, that’s where I can end up.

Again, I must remind myself to be drenched in His Word and have an ongoing communication stream with Him.

I strayed from Him. Yet, God is good. Our ever faithful Shepherd will listen to the cries of His sheep. I can be there, up to my armpits in muck or even floundering in deep waters, but He is able to rescue. He’s made promises about this.

Psalm 40:1-2 (RSV) — “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”

Psalm 18:16 (RSV) — “He reached from on high, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.”

The whole of Psalm 40 is good. All of Psalm 18 is worth reading, too, for it shows the quick and mighty delivery method He can enact for us. Boom! Smoke is rolling from His nostrils, and He means business, people! He’s saying, “Step aside! That’s My Child!” Whoa! You can see in Psalm 18 that, unmistakably, the Rescuing Steam Engine is a’comin’!

Both psalms were favorites as a kid, and I leaned on the promises there a lot. I saw Him work just like He promised He would. I still do, when I’m actually stopping long enough to watch (eye roll at myself), which I’m trying to do.

In upcoming posts, I am going to write about my journey in “religion.” Sometimes, it was a walk with Him. Sometimes, I strayed. Looking back, I know He was always near and listening for my cry.

Psalm 23 was a source of comfort in my childhood. So, now, as I ponder the act of sharing with you about my road, I think of Psalm 23:4 (RSV) — “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

One last thing I want us all to keep in mind:
We sheep are not dumb. I honestly don’t think that’s why we are called “sheep.” I think it is because we are small and defenseless on our own. We need the Shepherd. I personally am comforted to know that He can prod me back into His fold with His staff. I personally am comforted to know that He can roar in and combat the predators away with His rod.

When I willfully and/or pridefully go astray, thinking I can handle life on my own, that’s when I get into trouble. This sheep is an adult with free will, but I need Him in order to live in this world. I am not wise and discerning on my own, nor am I gentle and loving on my own. May it be that I turn to Him for both.

Matthew 10:16 (ESV) — “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

** On a side note, I tend to quote my favorites in RSV because that’s the Bible version I had access to when I was little. Its cadence and melody is what resonates for me, giving me the “down home with God” comfort I experienced in Him.

What starts the prophecy of Daniel 9:25?

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What starts the prophecy of Daniel 9:25?

Daniel 9:25 LEB  And you must know and you must understand that from the time of the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one—a leader—will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be restored and will be built with streets and a moat, but in a time of oppression.

Many books have been written in response to this question. Entire denominations have been established based on the answer to this question.  Millions of people have had their faith in God strengthened based on the idea that this is a prophecy predicting Jesus.

Thousands of churches teach that the answer to this question is BC 457. Any challenge to this date is met with a full range of reactions from incredulity to hostility.

Click on image to view full size.

Some variation of this graphic is seen by everyone who studies Daniel 9.

There are two key events which never change, regardless of who is presenting the topic. One is the year BC 457, and the other is Jesus dying in the middle of the 70th week.. 

The question is whether the BC 457 date is correct. This paper explores when the instruction was given and by whom.

Who was the last high priest in Solomon’s temple when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the first temple?

Answer: Seraiah

Credit – William Struse for his genealogy work

Seraiah was arrested and killed when Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. (2 Kings 25:18-21)

Seraiah had at least two sons. One was named Jehozadak, who was taken to Babylon as a captive. His other son was Ezra, who wrote the book of Ezra. Ezra was the son of the last high priest of Solomon’s temple. Ezra listed his ancestry in Ezra 7 and we can compare that to the genealogy given in
1 Chronicles 6. 

Solomon’s temple was destroyed in 586 BC. It was in 586 that Seraiah was killed by Nebuchadnezzar.

Two of Seraiah’s sons were taken to Babylon. The reason we care is that this lets us know who wrote the book of Ezra, and it tells us under which Persian ruler it was written. The reason we care about these two things is that it tells us which dates we should use when we look at the prophecies given to Daniel by Gabriel in Daniel, chapter 9.  The upcoming graphic helps us see who was in power in the various years that we are considering. 

According to Jeremiah, the Jews were to be held captive in Babylon for 70 years. During this time, Jeremiah wrote a letter to the Jews in Babylon, telling them that God wanted them to cooperate with their captors because, as the captors prospeed, so would the captives. (Jeremiah 29:7

During this captivity, a number of events happened that are very important — not only to the people who experienced them, but also to us today. Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Nebuchadnezzar all wrote parts of our Bible. Cyrus and Darius played very important roles in the history of God’s people. Our most important prophecies come from this time. It is what was written during this time that Jesus tells us to look to for a better relationship with Him.

Was Seraiah really the father of Ezra?  Many Bible commentators will tell you that Ezra was not the son of Seraiah.

If Ezra was alive when the temple was destroyed in 586 BC and in BC 457, then he would have been at least 129 years old — or more likely 140 or 150 — in BC 457. Everyone agrees that humans didn’t live to be that old after the days of Moses. 

This leaves many commentators with a problem. There is a desire by many for the events of Ezra 7 to happen in the year BC 457 so that the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 can be used as a prophecy foretelling Jesus.  Others want to use 457 as a start date for the 2,300 evenings and mornings of Daniel 8:14. The year 457 as the year for the decree to build and restore is an extremely important foundation for many people. 

So, there are two options.

  1. The first option is that Ezra was the son of Seraiah. And, we’d need to read the events of Ezra 7 as having happened in the reign of Artaxerxes Darius in the year 515 BC. If we do this, Ezra would be at least 71 years old and more likely 81 or 91 when he reads the law in Jerusalem as described in Ezra 7.
  2. The second option is that we would need to read that the events of Ezra 7 happened in the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus in the year BC 457. This would mean that Ezra did not accurately name his father.

For many commentators, making sure that the events of Ezra 7 happen in BC 457 causes them to decide that the genealogy of Ezra must be inaccurate.  

It is not uncommon for genealogy lists in the Bible to skip generations. In Zechariah 1:1, we are told that Zechariah is the son of Berekiah who is the son of Iddo. In Ezra 5:1 and Ezra 6:14, we are told that Zechariah was the son of Iddo. Berekiah is not mentioned. If the only thing we had to go on was the genealogy of Ezra, we would not be able to state with certainty that the author of Ezra was alive in 586 when the 1st temple was destroyed. 

For many commentators, BC 457 is more sacred than the accuracy of Ezra 7:1.

However, the genealogy of Seraiah is a minor challenge compared to the prophecy of Jeremiah 29:10.

While God’s chosen people were in exile in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter. He sent the letter from Jerusalem to Babylon, giving instructions from God about what the exiles were to do. Along with this, God told the exiles that they would be captives for 70 years. 

The 70 years began when Nebuchadnezzar’s general destroyed the temple and took thousands prisoner in 586. The story can be found in 2 Kings 25.

When does the word to restore and build Jerusalem occur?  There are four times when decrees are issued in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. These are highlighted with our numbers 1 through 4a.  There is universal agreement that the temple was destroyed in BC 586 or 587. The difference is dependent on whether the new year began in the Fall or Spring. Here, we will use the most commonly used year for the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. We will also use the Spring as when the new year begins, as directed by God when the Hebrews left Egypt. 

We will examine each of the decrees. Our goal is to identify the year in which the decree to restore and build Jerusalem occurs. 

Click on image for full size

Nebuchadnezzar caused the destruction of Jerusalem. It is he who caused thousands of Jews to be killed and exiled. He also wrote some of our Bible.  The captivity began in the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar. 

During the 70 years of captivity, there was a succession of rulers of the Babylonian and Persian empires. After Nebuchadnezzar died, there were four more Babylonian rulers. Three of them are shown in our graphic.  One is not shown, as his time was so short. The font for Amel Marduk and Nerigliassar is small because they do not play a role in the story.

Nabonidus is the father of Belshazzar. Nabonidus apparently didn’t enjoy being ruler and spent his time restoring temples in places far away from the palace. He is also the first known archeologist. Belshazzar was responsible for running the empire while his dad was away. 

The dates we use come from a variety of sources; but they are based on the clay tablets that were found at the Assyrian and Persian ruins and from the histories written by the Greeks. 

Cyrus issued the most famous decree, which we find referenced in Ezra 1. He issued this decree, allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem 23 years before God had told them they would be freed from captivity.

Cyrus issued his decree in BC 539. It was given during his first year of rule. The story can be found in Ezra 1. 

Ezra 1:1-4 LEB  “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to accomplish the word of Yahweh by the mouth of Jeremiah, Yahweh stirred the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia and he sent a message to all of his kingdom and also put the message in writing:  2)  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: Yahweh, the God of the heavens, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. And he himself has appointed me to build a house for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  3)  Whoever among you who is from all of his people, may his God be with him and may he go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and may he build the house of Yahweh, the God of Israel. He is the God who is in Jerusalem.  4)  And let every survivor, from wherever he resides be assisted by the men of that place with silver and gold, with possessions and domestic animals, and with the freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.””

The decree by Cyrus is an attractive start date for the Daniel 9:25 prophecy. It is an interesting story. It has a date that we can use. But, most Bible students choose not to use this date (539) because it doesn’t get us to Jesus, and that is the end goal for many. It also does not match the prophecy of Jeremiah, which has the Jews captives for 70 years. When Cyrus issued the decree, the Jews had only been in captivity for 47 years. They had another 23 to go. We will return to the decree by Cyrus. 

Another series of decrees were issued in the year BC 520, which was the second year of Darius’ rule. Ezra 6 gives us the story of the governor of the province Beyond the River, also called Trans Euphrates, and also called Eber-Nari. The governor sent a letter to the new ruler asking Darius if he wanted to continue to block the work on the new temple in Jerusalem, as the previous Artaxerxes had done. Darius responds with explicit instructions that, instead, the block would be removed and the decree by Cyrus would be upheld. He added funds to make sure it was done. Darius also included a threat to anyone who attempted to interfere with the temple being built. 

We also learn, in verse 15 of chapter 6, that the temple is completed in year 6 of Darius, which is the year BC 516.  

The temple was destroyed in 586

The 2nd temple was completed in the year 516

There were seventy (70) years between the destruction of the 1st temple and the completion of the 2nd temple. 

Part of the reason that Darius confirmed the decree of Cyrus is that, when he took power, there were a lot of people challenging his rule. So, Darius emphasized that he had a common ancestor with Cyrus. He was appealing to the loyalties of those who followed Cyrus by confirming the decrees of Cyrus. 

But, even more important than the confirmation by Darius that the decree of Cyrus should be honored is what we find in the book of Haggai. It is a short book with only two chapters; yet, in that book, we find God Himself issuing an instruction to build the temple in Jerusalem. God sends this message to those charged with building the temple in the same year that Darius confirms the decree of Cyrus. 

Here, we quote all of the book of Haggai. We emphasize the sections that tell us when God gave this message and what the message was.

To summarize, we have decrees issued in two years so far.

  • Cyrus – BC 539 – Rebuild
  • Darius – BC 520 – Confirm the Cyrus decree
  • God – BC 520 – Inspires people to build His temple

Ezra 6:15 tells us the temple is completed in the 6th year of Darius.  

It would seem that the decree to restore and build would be given before, not after, the temple is completed.

Next, we look at the decree that we find in Ezra 7. This is the basis for most evangelistic series and sermons on the topic of the Daniel 9 prophecy. 

Darius ruled for 36 years. In the graphic, each year is marked with a white dot. 

In year one of Darius’ rule, Daniel had his vision and interaction with Gabriel, which is our focal point.

Ezra chapter 7 does not include any instructions to build. Rather, the decree we find in chapter 7 is an emancipation act freeing all Jews from their captivity in Babylon. 

The question is: when does this emancipation happen? Does it happen immediately after the 70 years of captivity, or after 129 years of captivity?  

Ezra 7:8 tells us that the emancipation happens in “the seventh year of the king.” 

Ezra 6:15 tells us that the temple was completed in the last month of the 6th year of king Darius. 

Some suggest that there is a 58-year gap between Ezra 6 and Ezra 7.  

I believe a more accurate way to read it is that, on the first day of the following month, Ezra set out for Jerusalem with everyone who wanted to leave. This would be day 1 of the first month after the temple had been completed. 

The temple was destroyed in 586. It was rebuilt in 516, which was 70 years after the temple was destroyed.  Less than a month later, Darius issued the decree we find in Ezra 7 which:

  • Frees all of the Jews at the end of the 70 years. 
  • He makes a donation of silver and gold. 
  • He allows a fundraising drive in Babylon. In Haggai 2:7 God says that He would shake the nations and cause the treasure of all nations to come to Jerusalem. 
  • He allows the Jews to appoint their own judges so that they are no longer ruled by their enemies.
  • They are allowed to set up schools to teach people God’s law. 

Which makes more sense to you? Should we read Ezra 7 to happen at the end of the 70 years of captivity, or should we place it 58 years later? 

Jeremiah says that the Jews would be captive for 70 years. If we place Ezra 7 in the 7th year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, then they would have been captive 129 years, not 70.

Ezra 7 does not have a decree to restore and build Jerusalem. It is a decree to release the captives. 

I believe that the 70 years of captivity ended with the completion of the temple in BC 516 and the travel in BC 515.

The return to Jerusalem was a second Exodus with everyone freed from Babylon. They would have had all of their belongings and wagons of silver and gold. Ezra 8 tells us they had about 50,000 pounds of silver and 8,000 pounds of gold. That treasure was guarded by God. There would have been a number of older people in the group. They would have moved slowly. Their travel took four months.

We have another decree to consider. This is the decree that we find in Nehemiah, chapter 2. It was year 20 of King Artaxerxes. The wall still had gaps. This is either 14 years after the temple was completed in 516, or it is 72 years later in 444. 

Nehemiah had been the king’s cupbearer or wine taster –“Take a sip of that and tell me if it has been poisoned.”  

The king must have liked him, as he gave Nehemiah “letters”  which authorized him to take from the Governor of the province whatever he needed to repair the walls. Along with being given the authority to repair the walls, Nehemiah was made governor of Jerusalem for 12 years. 

He returned to Jerusalem and, within 52 days, repaired the walls that had been in disrepair for a long time. Why did the walls still have gaps for years?  Remember one of the arguments that was presented by the enemies of Jerusalem was that if the walls were repaired, it would be harder to force them to pay their taxes should they become rebellious like they had a history of doing.  

However, the king trusted Nehemiah and allowed him to repair the walls. Nehemiah named the people who were involved in helping repair the walls. In the list of names, we find some who were released by Cyrus in BC 539. Since we are choosing to accept the idea that people in the era might have a hard time remembering who their father is, we look for other evidence to decide which Artaxerxes Nehemiah is referring to.

We know that Ezra and Nehemiah are contemporaries. When the wall was completed in the 20th year of the king, Ezra led a choir procession around the top of the wall in one direction, and Nehemiah led another choir procession around the wall in the other direction. (Nehemiah 12)  The Ezra who led the procession of freed Jews in Ezra chapter 7 immediately upon the completion of the temple was still alive and leading the choir around the wall in the year BC 501. He would have been at least 85, and that assumes that he was taken from Jerusalem to Babylon while a fetus. If he was taken when he was 13, he would have been 98 as he led the choir around the wall.

Persia exacted tribute from the provinces of its empire. Egypt sent silver and grain. India sent timber and gold. The province of Beyond the River sent gold and timber. Scythia sent 100 eunuch boys each year. We are told that Daniel was managed by the master of the eunuchs.  The empire pulled people from across the empire to fill its armies and to administer the empire. Ezra was known as a scribe. His job was to mark clay tablets with the affairs of the state. 

This graphic considers how things would look if we decide that there was a 58-year gap between Ezra chapter 6 and chapter 7. The box in the bottom right reports how many years would elapse between various events, in BC 515 or BC 457.  

Haddassah, aka Esther, became queen in the 7th year of one of the kings. Of the Bible scholars who believe her story is true (most don’t), most choose to put her story in the time of Xerxes, the son of Darius. I believe her story fits best with the timeline and events of the life of Darius. Whether you place her story here or 36 years later, we know that the reign of Darius was of major importance in the story of the Jews.

The idea that we should use BC 457 as the starting point was suggested by George Rawlinson. He translated the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus. He worked with his brother, Henry, and completed the translation in 1860. He wrote a number of histories and contributed to religious commentaries. 

His brother, Henry, was an officer in the British East India Company army. The British government had army officers embedded in the company and provided protection for the company’s interests. The British government saw the company’s interests as national interests.

Henry Rawlinson transcribed the Persian portion of the Behistun inscription. He spent many years in Iran and was responsible for helping us learn how to translate the clay tablets.. 

His brother, George, translated the works of the Greek historian Herodotus. Herodotus is called the Father of History, as he was the first to have collected stories and arranged them in a narrative form. Herodotus was born in the Persian empire during the reign of Longimanus. Herodotus was Greek and wrote from the Greek perspective. He also reported that he didn’t always believe what he wrote but was just relaying things that he heard. 

The Rawlinson brothers were major contributors to our understanding of the Persian empire. Their translations of Greek and Persian are very important and provide us with much of our secular understanding of the era. 

As a part of George Rawlinson’s commentary on the family of the Achaemenids — which Darius, Xerxes, and Longimanus were are part of — he said that Herodotus mentioned Longimanus once but that there was every reason to believe that it was this Artaxerxes who sent Ezra and Nehemiah to Jerusalem. (History of Herodotus volume 4, page 217)  George published this in 1860.

The idea was picked up twenty years later by Robert Anderson, who was a preacher. He suggested in his 1881 book, the Coming Prince, that we should use the year 457 as the starting date for the decree to restore and build Jerusalem.  Credit William Struse for his research on the origin of the idea.

This supposition became popular with much of Christiantity because it allowed the seventy sevens of Daniel 9 to be used as a prophecy to foretell Jesus. 

Artaxerxes Longimanus began his reign in 464 or 465. Rawlinson said 465. According to popular theology, the decree to restore and build Jerusalem started 59 years after the temple was actually finished and 44 years after the walls of the city were actually completed and dedicated. The popular theory (that uses BC 457) has the year of the decree to allow all of the Jews to return home, which then causes the Jews to have been captive for 129 years.

This is not logical. The only reason we use BC 457 is because we need this date to be correct, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. We do this so we can use Daniel 9 to foretell Jesus.  

All of us are prone to confirmation bias where everything we see is interpreted to confirm what we want. Be careful that this is not happening to us as we study. 

A summary of the things we have shown:

  • Daniel was given the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 after the decree of Cyrus in BC 539 and before God’s word to build the temple. 
  • In BC 520, God instructed His chosen people to build His temple. In BC 520, God also inspired Darius to confirm the decree of Cyrus. This was 19 years after the decree of Cyrus.
  • Four years later, in BC 516, the second temple was completed. The second temple was completed 70 years after the first temple was destroyed.
  • The decree of Ezra chapter 7 does not include any instructions to build. Instead, Ezra 7 is an emancipation proclamation. In less than 30 days after the temple was completed, all Jews were released from Babylon and allowed to return to Jerusalem. This was 70 years after they were exiled. This was when the prophet Jeremiah said they would be allowed to return.
  • There is no evidence that the Jews were held captive for 129 years, as they would have been if we place Ezra 7 in the era of Artaxerxes Longimanus.
  • The temple building was finished in BC 516. The wall was repaired in BC 501. A decree in BC 457 to restore and build something which had already been built and dedicated doesn’t make sense.

We have demonstrated from the Bible that the decree to restore and build the second temple happened in either BC 539 with a decree by Cyrus or in BC 520 with the Word of God to Haggai and with the confirmation by Darius of the Cyrus decree. We have no evidence that any decree to build something that was already built and dedicated happened in BC 457.  In fact, we have Biblical evidence that no such decree would have been given in BC 457.

If we use the decree by Cyrus in 539 or the Word by God in 520, then the way we typically use the prophecy of Daniel 9:25 does not get us to the birth or ministry or death of Jesus. Yet, for many people, this is a must. Anything that fails to associate the Daniel 9:25 prophecy with Jesus must be wrong. 

This causes us to ask, “Are we so determined as to what an answer must be that we are willing to believe something that cannot be?  How many contortions are we willing to go through in order to get an answer we want?”

We have several options in dealing with the start date. 

  1. Decide that BC 457 is correct, regardless of any evidence otherwise.
  2. Decide that the 70 sevens of Daniel 9 are not 490 years but some time unit other than years.
  3. Decide that Daniel 9 is not a prophecy that takes us from the building of the 2nd temple to Jesus but, rather, that it has some other purpose.
  4. Decide that it is too complicated — too difficult — to understand and that the only thing that matters is that we love our neighbor and let someone else worry about this faith-shaking problem. 

Our understanding of what time period is associated with “the word to restore and build Jerusalem” should strengthen our faith and relationship with Jesus. Knowledge and understanding brings us closer to God. 

Daniel 9:25 LEB  And you must know and you must understand that from the time of the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one—a leader—will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be restored and will be built with streets and a moat, but in a time of oppression.

Deciding that something is true even when the evidence says otherwise doesn’t make us stronger. 

When we decide that Daniel 9:25 must get us to Jesus regardless of what the text says, we ignore anything in the text that doesn’t support our desires. 

Ask yourself, why must the Daniel 9:25 text go from a Persian ruler to Jesus?  Why is that interpretation a requirement? Can we consider any other options? If the answer is that there is only one way to understand it, regardless of the evidence, then we are choosing to ignore the Bible and exalt our own theories.

When Jesus was on Earth, He tried to convey the idea that He was here for a reason that was very different than what most people could accept. Many Jews had an expectation of what their Messiah would do. When He didn’t match that expectation, many rejected their Savior. Are we doing something similar? Have we decided that we know what we want the answer to be and, in doing that, reject the correct answer?

God gives us the freedom to believe what we want to believe. He doesn’t force us to accept Him. He doesn’t force us to understand Him. The promise is that He will give understanding to those who study and follow His commandments. 

I have tried very hard to make BC 457 the year of a decree to restore and build Jerusalem because I know that, for many, their faith in the Bible is dependent on the year BC 457 being the beginning of the prophecy in Daniel 9:25. So what do we need to do to cause BC 457 to be correct?

To make BC 457 correct, we need to do several things.

  1. We need to decide that the Ezra who wrote chapter 7 and who says his father is Seraiah is not accurately telling us who his father is. Perhaps the lineage he gives only includes “important” people and his real father and grandfather didn’t merit mention.  We have no reason to insert a couple of individuals into the lineage that Ezra gives other than we want BC 457 to be correct. However, there is evidence that generations do get skipped in lineage lists; so, perhaps we should not base our beliefs on Ezra’s ability to name his father accurately. 
  2. We need to decide that the Ezra who wrote the book is not the same Ezra who was a contemporary with Nehemiah. We could decide that the Ezra who wrote the book that bears his name is someone other than the Ezra that Nehemiah talks about in his book.
  3. We could decide that both Ezra and Nehemiah are not contemporaries with Darius. Instead, we must read all references to Darius in their books as referencing a historical figure. 
  4. In Ezra 7, the Persian king gives a decree permitting all Jewish people to return to Judea. This happened in the 7th year of the king giving the decree. We want this to be BC 457 because our faith is dependent on this being the year. The temple was destroyed in BC 586. The Jews were taken captive in BC 586. Jeremiah says that they will be captives for 70 years. Yet, 586-457 is 129 years; whereas, 586-516 is 70 years. BC 516 is the 7th year of Darius’ rule. But, we don’t want to use Darius; we want to use Longimanus. We will need to figure out how to add some more years to Jeremiah’s 70-year prophecy.  This issue seems insurmountable.
  5. We could decide that the year numbers given for the destruction of Jerusalem and the years that the kings ruled are not correct. Perhaps our conversions from the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman dating systems are not correct. Perhaps Jerusalem wasn’t destroyed in BC 586. Perhaps Cyrus didn’t take control of Babylon in BC 539. Perhaps the temple wasn’t rebuilt in BC 516. Perhaps the freeing of all the Jews did not happen in BC 515. Perhaps the only date that is correct is BC 457. We will need to come up with a better reading of the cuneiform tablets and Greek histories on which historians base their numbers. 

The Bible histories, dates, people, and stories all work and match the secular versions of history, if we accept Ezra and Nehemiah as living and acting during the reign of Darius. Trying to force Ezra to BC 457 creates some serious problems.

The most difficult change we would need to make in order to make BC 457 correct is the 70-year period of captivity. We would have to find a way for the 70-year prophecy of Jeremiah to actually be a 129 year prophecy. I can’t think of a way to do that.

Aftermath:

What is Daniel 9:25 about, if the events regarding the building of the 2nd temple do not take us from a Persian ruler of our choice to Jesus?

Millions of people have believed in Jesus because an evangelist told them that BC 457 was an important date. At least one Protestant denomination has this date as their foundation. Doesn’t the fact that millions have believed in God make everything the preacher teaches to be true?

Does the teacher who has taught BC 457 as the starting point for the prophecies of Daniel 8:14 and Daniel 9:25, lose credibility when they learn the start is really BC 539 or BC 520? Will our pride allow us to correct what we have been telling people?

Can we tell people that BC 457 is not correct before we have a suitable replacement to explain what starts the 70 sevens? Isn’t it better to assure people that BC 457 is correct?  We don’t want to shake anyone’s faith.  

The alternative is to open our Bibles and study. 

The next study looks at the prophecy given by Gabriel to Daniel without using BC 457 as the starting point.

If you read through this again, note the references to God’s festivals that we see. There are multiple. One of these includes God giving instructions to build His temple on the Feast of Shouts. 

Prepared March 2021 by Steve Smith
Orcas Island, WA
ServantsVoice.com