August 10, 2003


In Mark 6:14-20, Mark tells us some of the events leading up to the death of John the Baptist. Herodias had divorced her rightful husband Philip and had married his brother, Herod Antipas. John had told Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Thereafter, though Herod respected John, feared the truth John preached, and even responded to some to degree to his preaching, Herodias wanted John dead. "Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. And when Herodias' daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, 'Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.' He also swore to her, 'Whatever you ask me, I will give you up to half of my kingdom.' So she went out and said to her mother, 'What shall I ask?' And she said, 'The head of John the Baptist!' Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, 'I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.' And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother." (Mark 6:21-28).

This passage gives us much insight to the moral decadence of the Herod family. Herodias had divorced her husband, Philip, without legitimate reason, and had married his own brother. According to historians, Herod Antipas had also divorced his legitimate wife in order to marry Herodias, thus for at least two reasons, the marriage between Herod and Herodias was not pleasing to God. 

Though Herod had some conscience, and some fear of doing what was clearly wrong, it seems that Herodias lacked any moral restraint. The preaching of John frightened Herod, but it only angered Herodias.

We can also detect the immoral surroundings in which Herodias' daughter, Salome, had been brought up. Her dance routine isn't described in the Scriptures, but whatever it was, it produced such emotion in her step-father that he made a promise that was almost unbelievably rash--anything she wanted, even up to half of his kingdom.

Another flaw in the character of Herod is evident when we see that he did not have the wisdom or the courage to repent of his rash oath and refuse to murder John, but rather "because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him," he proceeded from the rash oath to the sin of murder. Herod was not willing to lose face in the sight of his cronies, so John lost his head.

An unlawful marriage, a dancing daughter, a rash oath and a spineless man combined to snuff out the life of John, the forerunner of Jesus.

--Clarence R. Johnson


In this chapter (1 Tim. 5:16) Paul is teaching that children who are able to assist their parents when their parents are in need of assistance, or even if they are just relatives, not so closely related as fathers and mothers, the church should not be burdened when relatives are able to care for the matter.

The church should not be charged with many things by men today which the Lord never intended should be a part of the work of the church. Take, for example, the question of recreation. If there be any such a question, it should be solved in the homes and not the church. The church is no more in the recreation business than it is of providing for those whose people can assist them. That a certain amount of what we call recreation is necessary for the well-being of us all goes without question. But such matters do not belong in the realm of religion. Christian parents should see to matters of this kind and not depend on the church for such things. The church that goes into such business will be lost to the Lord.

--Cleon Lyles in Gospel Digest


The plainest statement on what to do to be saved is Mark 16:15-16: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." 

Now that verse cannot be simplified and it cannot be misunderstood, without help. He shall be saved that believeth and is baptized. It does not read, he shall be saved that believeth. It does not read, he shall be saved who is baptized. It reads, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. 

The principal sentence is, he shall be saved. The dependent clause is, that believeth and is baptized. The word that points out the fellow - that shows who shall be saved. 

This is the simplest statement in all the Bible on what to do to be saved. 

--Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Gospel Preceptor, April 2003


The land of Iraq is prominent in the Bible. You will not find the name Iraq there, but you will find the Land of Shinar, Mesopotamia, Assyria and Babylon, all of which occupied parts of the land we now know as Iraq. Mesopotamia means the land between the rivers, which would be the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The name Iraq means "deep roots." And indeed Iraq has deep roots in the history of mankind and the Bible. There were events in that land from creation, and the earliest history of mankind. 

Some scholars have put the Garden of Eden in Iraq because of the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that defined the garden. They thus place the garden of Eden in the far south of Iraq at Eridu. Later information looks at the other two rivers, the Pishon and Havillah (Gen. 2:11-14), that are mentioned in relation to the garden. Infrared Satellite photos have disclosed the beds of two ancient rivers, no longer existent, but now buried under the sand. They join the ancient connection of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers under the waters of what is now the upper Persian Gulf, just South of Iraq. Thus the Garden of Eden may be submerged beneath the waters there. 

The Tower of Babel which would later provide the site of Babylon was in Iraq, 50 miles south of Baghdad near Karbala one of the cities defended by the Republican Guard. The city of Ur, from which Abraham originally came, was in the south of Iraq near Nasiriyah, where there was much recent fighting. The city of Ninevah, the capitol of Assyria, where Jonah preached, was in northern Iraq at what is today the oil city of Mosul, one of the last cities to fall during the war. 

An article going around the Internet says that Rebekkah, Isaacs' wife was brought to him from Iraq, and that Jacob spent twenty years in Iraq and thus got Rachel there. However, Rebekkah was from the city of Nahor. (Gen. 24:10). Nahor was Abraham's brother. The Interrnet article must assume that the city of Nahor, Abraham's city, was Ur. However, Nahor left Ur with Abraham and settled at Haran. Thus the city of Nahor was Haran, where Abraham lived after Ur, before he finally journeyed to Canaan (Gen. 11:29-32). And it was to Haran that Jacob went and worked for Laban (Gen. 27:43). Haran is in Southern Turkey just above the border of Syria today, but not far from where Syria, Turkey, and Iraq meet. 

Looking at Saddam Hussein's atrocities, one is reminded that things have not changed much where tyrants rule. The Assyrian King Nabopolasser was displeased by the ruling of a certain judge. He thus had that judged skinned and had a pillow covered with the judge's skin. It was upon this pillow that subsequent judges sat as they made their rulings. No doubt they were afterward quite aware of what kind of rulings the king wanted. And there was Nebuchadnezzar, who in his earlier years could slay the sons of Zekekiah as Zedekiah watched, and then have his eyes put out (II Kings. 25:7). Nebuchadnezzar threatened his counselors with having them cut to pieces and their houses made a dung hill (Dan. 2:5). And when his idol was shown disrepect he could throw Shadrach, Meschech, and Abednego into a furnace of fire so hot it even destroyed those who cast them in (Dan.3:22). And you may remember that two of the units of Hussein's Republican Guards were named Hammurabi, and Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel and Ezekiel were in Iraq when they prophesied. Indeed the country has roots. Some good, some bad. 

--Dale Smelser, Wildercroft bulletin, Riverdale, MD


I'm going to share with you one of my "pet peeves." I don't like the word "lucky…"

I enjoy many good things in life. I have a had lot of wonderful things happen to me. And there are times that I am tempted to say, "You know, I've been pretty lucky." But then I recall that my good fortune is due not to luck or happenchance, but to the hand of Almighty God. I'm not lucky; I'm blessed! God has richly provided for me in ways far beyond what I expect or deserve.

Can you picture Esther saying, "Wasn't it lucky that the king was willing to hear my plea?" Can you picture Paul saying, "Wasn't it lucky that we weren't killed in that shipwreck?" Can you picture Daniel saying, "Wasn't it lucky that the lions didn't eat me?"

Then why would I dare speak of how "lucky" I've been in my life? It's not luck -- it's the providential care of a loving God.

--Tim Smith (from his daily humor list)



August 11-14

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