When Will They Ever Learn?
Still More Proof That Cheating Is for Losers
by Web Minister Paul J. Bern
It’s been all over the news all week long. The financial elite, including some of Hollywood’s most visible celebrities, have been caught up in the most massive college cheating scandal ever uncovered in American history. Interestingly enough, this matter only came to light as a byproduct of an unrelated securities fraud case that extended overseas, and not to Hollywood at all. The Boston Globe posted a fairly detailed article about this a week or so ago, which you can view from here. But this week’s commentary is not about that investigation. This week’s posting is concerning the evil forces behind this flagrant cheating. I am also writing this to take a stand against those who feel entitled just because they can afford to buy their way through life.
The handbook for humanity, the Bible, has a few things to say about that. I’m sure you can relate, but even if you can’t, please don’t bail out on me just yet. The thing is, if the Bible is really being taught properly, you don’t need to push it on people. Those who use the Bible as moral justification for driving people away have completely missed the point. The Holy Spirit of the risen Lord is never aggressive and never pushy. It is never accusatory, and it keeps no record of wrongs (see 1st Corinthians 13: 5). The true Holy Spirit is peaceful and gentle. The only exception would be if someone were in a state of sin, in which case the Holy Spirit would be convicting that person in their heart. If such conviction does not change that individual, it is at that point that their personal salvation begins to be endangered. Whatever that individual decides to do, it is imperative that we pray for such people, and to do everything possible to help them whenever we find ourselves in a position to do so.
It is written in First Corinthians chapter 6, “ 6) But instead, one brother takes another to court – and this in front of unbelievers! 7) The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8) Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.” Isn’t this really close to how things are today? People sue one another at the drop of a hat. They take great offense against stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run. In so doing, they make themselves difficult people at best, or impossible to get along with at worst. Why not rather be cheated? Instead, those who accuse certain individuals of cheating or even of engaging in criminal activity, are often the ones who engage in such activities themselves. You know, like our politicians?
It is also written in the Gospel of Luke that cheating must be repaid 4 times the amount, as we see in the story of Zachaeus in Luke chapter 19: “ 5) When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ 6) So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7) All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ 8) But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ 9) Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10) For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.‘”
Zacchaeus was a smart man. He knew he was a sinner, as are we all. He didn’t pause to consider questions about the degree to which he had sinned, or against which people. He confessed his sins to Christ on the spot, and he was not concerned about how people would view him as a result. Frankly, I find this refreshing. It took a lot of guts to do what Zacchaeus did, and I note that Jesus appreciated the candor of Zacchaeus. But the bottom line here is that Zacchaeus knew he had cheated people, and so offered to pay them back fourfold with Christ himself as an eyewitness, not including the rest of the crowd around them. So does anybody think those who have been indicted in the recent college bribery scandal will get the same kind of punishment? In light of how broken America’s educational and court systems are, I would be pleasantly surprised if any such thing were to occur.
The US judicial, educational, political and economic systems are broken, and it is looking increasingly like things are slowly going from bad to worse. Moreover, it appears that it is the rich who are engaged in the majority of the wrongdoing. The apostle James had something timeless to say regarding this matter: “ 1) My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2) Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3) If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ 4) have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5) Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6) But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7) Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of Him to whom you belong?” (James 2, verses 1-7)
I can’t help but love the apostle James. He’s so direct and to the point, but without being blunt or derisive. But you can already see where I’m going with this, so I’ll skip the long, drawn out explanation. Our educational and our court systems, like the others I mentioned further above, are guilty of showing favoritism to those who were willing to pay the price of admission. Our entire country, from the governmental system on down, reeks of the foul stench of corruption. Moreover, the majority of people don’t seem to care, which troubles me even more. If only more people would memorize, or at least familiarize themselves with, the above 7 verses from the beginning of James chapter 2, the currently unfolding college entrance cheating scandal would never have occurred. Where has America’s conscience gone?
The underlying issue here can be summed up in 2 words: economic inequality. I have written about this extensively in the past, and you can visit my ‘author’ website for more info. But for right now, suffice it to say that the most deserving students are being pushed to the side in favor of those whose wealthy parents bought their children’s way into a future in college, with their degrees in the subject of their choice already taken care of. Welcome to the United States of America, Inc., where everything can be bought for a price (subject to negotiation, of course!). Unfortunately, all of this buying and selling of influence is, for me at least, a bit unsettling and seemingly inappropriate. It is grossly unfair to those who got cheated out of an admission they deserved to get. And I will never stop standing up for truth and justice, and I will never stop standing against America’s atmosphere of corruption. It’s what Jesus would do.
What It’s Like for a Technology Guy to Have to Do Without a Computer for an Agonizing 19 Days, or: The Lessons On Patience That God Just Took the Time to Teach Me
by Web Minister Paul J. Bern
By now most of my regular readers have seen the automated postings coming from myself, sent from public libraries, a Fed Ex Office downtown that’s conveniently located just a block from the subway station, and a suburban UPS Store, all with IP addresses you’ve never seen before. Hopefully those postings didn’t end up in someone’s ‘spam’ folder in their inbox. But I’m back now with a newly rebuilt desktop PC, having been forced to scrap my old HP Pavilion notebook. Not to pan HP’s products – my old portable was a 2012 model, a Pavilion 2340DX, so it lasted nearly 7 years; that’s pretty darn good.
It all started when my notebook computer started acting cranky. Actually, it had been that way for weeks. Once I realized it wasn’t a virus, I immediately backup up my hard drive. I later discovered that I got all but about the last 3-4 weeks worth of my postings, which partly defeated the purpose of my data backup. But that is when the real “fun” began. That’s when I rediscovered an old truism called “Murphy’s Law”. In case some of my younger readers haven’t seen this one before, it simply means: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment.”
So there I am with a broken computer. So? So I have 2 websites, 2 blogs, plus a social media campaign that I was about to launch when all this happened, all at once. So I ordered 2 replacement parts for my notebook from 2 different suppliers, paying both of them extra money to send the parts 2nd day air. Instead, the parts arrived 2 days late, sent USPS Priority. Their priority, I suppose, it sure as hell wasn’t mine! You’ve already guessed the 2nd part. The wrong parts were sent by both suppliers. So I sent a brief social media post to my subscribers telling them why there wouldn’t be any postings for that week. Back the parts went, at which point I was forced to the conclusion that my formerly trusty notebook PC was not going to be worth the effort to repair. Not while my blogs and websites sat idle. No way.
So back to the public computers I went, this time to order a replacement desktop PC and monitor (I had a used 750Gb hard disk I was going to use). I stuck with the UPS Store for this one, since it was the closest and had the most secure network. In the meantime, a new but fairly basic model ‘smartphone’ that I ordered had arrived, and I began the frustrating task of learning how to use it (it was my first touch screen device, since I had been hanging on to my old flip phone for eons). After 3 more days, the computer arrived on time, but the monitor didn’t arrive until (predictably) 2 days later, and it was broken when I opened the box. Back to Fed Ex Office, this time for a 2nd social media update to be broadcast with Zoho.com, my social media manager app, updating everyone on my current status.
By this time I had received the refunds from the first two suppliers, so I went out and put most of that money into a used 19 inch monitor. Eager to get cranked up again, I went home and hooked everything up, only to find the hard drive I was going to use was defective. It had worked at one time, having tested it myself, but it wouldn’t work with my replacement computer because it’s a Dell, and sometimes Dell’s can be picky about what hard drives and expansion cards you can use with them. I should know – I’m retired from IT with 21 years in the business. So back to the local parts store I went, where I had sourced the monitor, and I found a new 1Tb hard disk drive at a reasonable price. It’s now installed in this rebuilt Dell tower I own, and I’m back in business. Thank God my computer skills aren’t as obsolete as the majority of Atlanta employers seem to think they are. But this seems to be the lot for older tech workers like myself.
All this has been a nerve wracking adventure, to say the least. But I didn’t lose my cool, or go off and snap on somebody, although I do remember having a few choice words for my new phone as I was learning to use it. The waiting for the parts was nerve wracking, that much is for sure. That, and the feelings of helplessness while I waited for my parts to arrive. This whole ordeal has, at several points, nearly drove me crazy. But the Bible, which is like a human owner’s manual, has plenty of things to say about the ways in which God develops patience in his followers. In this context, that means acquiring the skills to be able to put up with seemingly impossible situations.
The apostle James had this to say about enduring impossible people and situations: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James chapter 1, verses 2-4) Again further down in verse 12 of that same chapter, James wrote, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” This means that to follow Christ sometimes means putting up with a lot of people’s junk, especially when they drop it in your lap, as nefarious individuals and circumstances are so prone to do.
So as I close out this week’s message, I’d like to publicly thank God for putting me through what he has over the last 2 ½ weeks. I’m a stronger man because of it, and a little wiser too. I was already a fairly patient man, but now I’m even more so. Some would complain about going through what I just did, being faced with the possible loss in followers if I didn’t get my technical issues fixed. At one time way back when, I was a lot like those who want everything right now, or even yesterday if it were possible. But not anymore, because God has shown me the folly of such obstinate thinking. My point? Had God not taken the time to teach me these things, I would never have learned them. Not only that, but had I not made myself receptive and completely open to God’s teaching over these last 60 years, what I just went through would have sent my entire life down in flames. My whole purpose, which is sharing God’s teachings on the Web, would have been in jeopardy. But I am intact because He has made me so. And next week, I’d like to write about what would happen to us if the internet ceased to exist, owing to the fact that I just had a similar experience. Until then, shalom everyone!
Bottles of Water and Eternal Rewards
by Minister Paul J. Bern
Those of you who from here in Atlanta who know me personally are well aware that every time I’m out and about, I keep my eyes wide open for anyone in significant need. I’m not talking about the usual cadre of panhandlers posing as beggars. Atlanta is a town full of professional paupers, who hang around the MARTA light rail system that threads its way throughout Atlanta acting like little lost puppies. Since Georgia’s minimum wage is still stuck at a downright stingy $7.25 an hour, one can often make better than the minimum wage just by begging. Unlike some, however, I don’t necessarily see this as being the beggar’s ‘fault’ per Se. It’s more like capitalism has created these professional panhandlers by trapping them in the economic situations they are in.
Why do I think this way about those who are stuck in poverty? I am right in there with them, that’s why! I spent 16 years in IT, followed by 4 years as a contract delivery driver before my vehicle and my health abruptly gave out. In 2006, four months after my 50th birthday, I had a stroke which I was fortunate enough to survive relatively intact. It took about 3 years for me to get to the point where I felt like I was healthy enough to go back to work. But I was never able to return to the work force, and so I’ve been writing here at home ever since. One of these days, I’m going to make myself some real money for all my efforts, but for now let me get back on topic.
Earlier this week I had to make a trip to my neighborhood Off-the-wall Mart to pick up one of my prescriptions, plus a few other odds and ends. When I came out, I was tired from being on my feet for nearly an hour, and my little folding shopping cart that I currently use to get my groceries – plus those “odds and ends” – home, was full. So I sat down on one of the benches to take a break before walking my stuff and myself back to the bus stop about ¼ of a mile away. There was this younger Black guy, roughly about 30 or so I’d say, sitting there who looked like he was waiting on someone to come out of the store. After a couple of minutes, these 2 Latina ladies came out with a shopping cart full of stuff, and one of them was carrying a case of 20-ounce bottles of water. As they were walking by, the younger Black guy asked her if he could have one of those water bottles. He explained that he was in between jobs and was homeless, and hadn’t had anything to drink all day.
The Latina lady flatly refused him, and stormed off as if she were insulted by being asked for anything, let alone something she had just paid for ‘with her hard-earned money’. I remember being struck by her refusal to give a single bottle of water that, considering how big that case of water was, couldn’t have cost her more than about 40 cents or so. It was right about then that I noticed that the young Black man was dressed in worn-out clothes, and that he probably was being truthful about being unemployed and homeless. The guy sat back down, dejected, looking down at the pavement as he muttered, “Man, ain’t that enough to p**s off just about anybody? All I asked her for was a (bleeping) bottle of water.” At that point I took a dollar out of my wallet, plus most of my spare change, and I gave it all to him as I said, “Here, go inside a buy yourself a water and a small bag of chips. Never mind her.” After praying over that man and giving him my ‘elevator pitch’ about Jesus, I headed off to the bus stop.
I don’t know for sure if that homeless man gave his heart to Jesus, but even if he didn’t, something tells me he eventually will. But that got me to thinking about two related but distinct things. First, how cold that Latina lady and her friend pushing the cart, who was also Latina, had acted towards the homeless Black man. That man did not ask her for money, and he didn’t ask me either. That poor guy was in such bad shape that no one would help him, which is why I did. And second, I was struck by the realization that I had just seen inequality in action. People are talking about an impending civil war here in the US, but there is considerable argument as to the combatants will be. Many say it will be liberal against conservative, but I think it will be the wealthy elites and their mercenaries against everybody else. A few even try to claim this civil war will be racial in nature. Dylan Roof used that as his reason for killing 17 people engaged in Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina several years back, and look what that got him. No, Dylan, there will be no race wars. Enjoy your life sentence. Repent, and you can yet be saved, Dylan and all you other racists. Repent and turn to Jesus.
Jesus prophesied about those days, and about the turbulent and chaotic days still to come, in chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel. “34) ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35) For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – 36) a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’” This could be considered a prophecy of any number of civil wars that have happened throughout the course of human history. Wars happen for all kinds of reasons, and they have divided families. But so has religion. I was raised a Catholic, but my former family will have nothing to do with me because I have renounced all belief and confidence in the Vatican. I place my full confidence and belief in Jesus Christ instead, having come to the realization that I could have a personal relationship with Him without the need for the papacy as intermediary. So all my conclusions here are based on personal experience, not merely my opinion.
As we continue together, it reads beginning in verse 37, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38) Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39) Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” The two Latina ladies with their case of water and shopping cart full of goods had everything they needed, and there was no way they were going to share it with anybody. So many fortunate people have good jobs, great families, decent incomes, and some own their own homes. Those who keep it all to themselves – their family, social and educational lives – and yet insist that they believe in Jesus, are deceiving themselves. They claim to serve Christ while serving only themselves, and sometimes their immediate families.
That’s the root cause of economic inequality. As wealth continues to be concentrated into a global cadre of about 400 families, while the remaining 7.6 billion individuals remain in grinding poverty, or are just barely keeping their collective heads above water, an ever-widening divide continues to form. That’s why all of us, both rich and poor, have a moral imperative to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Because, if we don’t do this while continuing to accumulate ‘stuff’ for ourselves, at some point that’s going to sneak up from behind and bite us really bad. So we can either take care of our own business exclusively, or we can take care of God’s business exclusively. The choice is truly ours to make. I made the choice to take up my cross for Christ’s name’s sake a long time ago, and I’ve never regretted it.
Which brings us around full circle to the homeless man, bottle of water and the words of Jesus, beginning at verse 40 to close out this week’s commentary. 40) “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41) Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42) And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matt. 10: verses 40-42) For some additional context, Jesus has been speaking to his apostles during their commissioning as such. So in verse 40, that’s what Jesus meant by, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me….”
Anyone who recognizes and welcomes a prophet gets the same reward as that prophet. Anyone who recognizes and welcomes a righteous (that is, faithful and/or proven trustworthy) man gets the same reward as that righteous man. Moreover, “…. if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…. that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Or, for that matter, a bottled water, whether it is cold or not. Which brings us full circle to my friend in front of the Off-the-wall Mart, and the ladies with the case of water and a shopping cart filled with goods. I could not give that homeless man a cup of cold water, but I did give him the means to get one. Those two ladies I wrote about won’t get their reward, or anything else but eternal condemnation, for that matter. I’m sure they were basically ‘good people’, but that won’t get anyone into a state of eternal life. Refusing to give somebody a bottle of water when they could easily have afforded it, however, can put you into a state of eternal death, even while you are still alive. That’s all for this week, but everyone please find a less fortunate person to help this week, even if you only give them your spare change. It could end up saving their life.
Today’s guest column is from David Allan of CNN. Weekly commentary will return next week.
Which side of ourselves will prevail?
By © David G. Allan, CNN; November 16, 2016
This essay is part of a column called The Wisdom Project by David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness. The series is on applying to one’s life the wisdom and philosophy found everywhere, from ancient texts to pop culture. Don’t miss another Wisdom Project column; subscribe here.
(CNN) “A fight is going on inside me,” said an old man to his grandson. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves, one good and one bad”. So goes a version of a traditional Cherokee legend (or a modern Billy Graham story).
The first wolf embodies emotions and vices such as hate, greed, arrogance, dishonesty, anger, false pride, superiority and ego. The other wolf represents values and virtues such as peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth and compassion.
The grandson considers the metaphoric battle and asks, “Which wolf will win?”
The grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”
This struggle is ours. Every day, we have the opportunity to embrace a darker path or to act in a more helpful and hopeful way.
The same struggle is sometimes evident in entire nations, which can be deeply divided along a number of overlapping fault lines: political, socioeconomic, racial, gender.
This story holds a mirror up to ourselves, individually and collectively. And we should take a long look in it. If we’re honest about the struggle and understand it more, we can begin feeding one wolf over the other.
Starve one wolf
The feeling of anger or the impulse of greed is often triggered by other emotions such as fear, rejection or desperation. Often, we’re not even aware that secondary emotions like anger have a deeper root cause. “Fear is the path to the dark side,” Yoda explains in one of the “Star Wars” films. “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
The first step in managing your emotions is simply being more aware of them. Ask yourself what triggers them. Look at your life experience for clues to how you react.
And of course, in some circumstances, anger and even hate are justified, perhaps useful. We should be angry at disparity. We should hate injustice.
But whether an emotion is justified or not, negative emotions often lead to negative actions. If you take a primary feeling like fear or uncertainty and avoid turning that into hate, you are less likely to act in a hateful way. Embrace the feelings, but guide them toward the good.
“I can’t choose how I feel, but I can choose what I do about it,” explained the late Andy Rooney, the Yoda of television news magazines.
You are also in control of your social and media influences. If you are barraged with messages of hate and bitterness, they will more easily impinge on your self-control. It’s important to stay informed, but be wary of listening to those who are in the business of feeding angry wolves.
Feed the other wolf
Staying in a positive and empathetic head-space is challenging, especially in times of stress, but again, being mindful of your emotions is vital.
And just as hatred and closed-mindedness can eventually lead to acts of violence, love often leads to acts of peace and kindness.
Committing ourselves to sustaining such action is the way to personal and institutional progress. Seek out and employ strategies to staying committed to something over time, whether it’s the repetition-and-reward of a new habit or the tracking of a New Year’s resolution.
What feeding the good wolf looks like, practically, can include these actions:
• Send a positive message. Whether it’s on your Facebook feed or in conversations, communicate the good, the hope, the love.
• Get involved. Give money or time, as you can, to a cause or effort that will use it to amplify positive change. It doesn’t need to be political, either; it could be supporting public media or improving the environment or literacy, or an organization supporting folks who need financial help or are sick.
• Share love. Make a list of 12 people in your life and check them off as you express in a conversation, email or letter how important they are to you.
• Listen. We all need to be heard. Take a little more time and really give your attention to others. Listening is love, and it naturally creates bonds of empathy and support.
• Help someone you know. Identify one person among your friends and family who is particularly struggling, and understand more about what they need and how you can help.
• Be kind to strangers. Kindness is contagious, a fact backed by real science. Be a patient zero to everyone you come across.
• Add to this list, and share. Come up with more things you can do to increase the total amount of goodness and positivism in the world, do some of those things and share those ideas with others.
We can fix everything that’s wrong with us by what’s right with us. And to crib another presidential campaign line, we are the change we’ve been waiting for.
Don’t miss another Wisdom Project column by subscribing here.
This call to action is echoed by a lyric in the song “Man in the Mirror,” by Michael Jackson, who arguably struggled with his own inner wolves. “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”
Putin’s Re-election and Bible Prophecy:
Closing In on Armageddon
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
[Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39, part 3]
For better small screen viewing click here 🙂
Last week as we finished part 2 of this 3 part series on the Biblical significance of Vladimir Putin’s re-election as president of Russia, we left off at Ezekiel chapter 39 and verse 6 (for anyone who missed part one, click here). In the first 6 verses of chapter 39, God declared through his servant Ezekiel that all the military forces that would swoop down from the far north, as well as most of the Islamic nations of the horn of Africa and Libya, will be stopped in their tracks by a series of natural disasters, starting with the troops being pelted by huge hail stones as well as by fire sent from God. The Bible doesn’t specify the origin or nature of this fire. It only says in verse 6, “I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in safety in the coast lands….” This could be anything from being trapped in a wildfire, or series of wildfires, to a huge fire-fight of some kind or another, all the way up to nuclear warfare. There’s simply no way to tell for sure, but I would not be surprised at all if this war were to go nuclear.
This week as we move on to the third and final part of this series on current events juxtaposed with Biblical prophecy, we’ll be starting at verse 8 of chapter 39. “It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord. This is the day I have spoken of. Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use their weapons for fuel and burn them up – the large and small shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 39, verses 8-10)
This massive war is most assuredly coming, definitely and without question! Although a first-time reader may not believe this, if God says it’s going to occur, then it’s going to occur; it’s only a question of timing. Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq, together with mercenaries from the Russian Islamic republics, will attack Israel from the north and the east in a gigantic pincer attack. But they will be driven back, and Russia will have to come and bail them out since Iran and Syria are Russian allies. It is that precise day that the prophet Ezekiel was writing about! When Russia comes to the aid of Syria and Iran, they will fall back to a mutually agreed upon rendezvous point before mounting a huge counterattack on Israel and her people. Again, as before, they will be defeated, but this time by the forces of nature as described in detail in these passages of Scripture.
“Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use their weapons for fuel and burn them up – the large and small shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel.” Now let’s understand right here that this is written from the viewpoint of a man who lived at least 2,600 years ago. So he is writing to his contemporaries as well as for posterity and, most of all, out of obedience to God. Ezekiel is describing weapons as he understood them from his own time frame. Shields, bows and arrows and spears were the weapons of his day. Today, everything is motorized and digitized, so it appears the fuel from all the tanks, amphibious assault vehicles and all kinds of trucks of various sizes and purposes will be used instead. Tires will be burned in big piles to enforce road blocks and in small ones for cooking and burning trash. This is a likely scenario that fits with what Ezekiel wrote, as dictated to him by the “Sovereign Lord”, or Almighty God.
“They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign Lord.” In this verse, I’m fairly sure that Ezekiel is referring to the wooden gun stocks on all the rifles the troops from the Russian confederation carried with them into battle. Since the homes of many will have been destroyed by the war, the wooden gun stocks of the Russian, Syrian, Turkish and Iranian troops will be used for campfires, along with the tires and fuel from their vehicles. In this way, the comfort of the Israeli people will be seen to even during this traumatic time to come, because that is what God will do for his people Israel. Their every need will be met, even in the rubble of an earthquake and a military invasion. And now let’s move on to part 2 of this week’s message, starting at verse 11.
“On that day I will give Gog a burial place in Israel, in the valley of those who travel toward the sea. It will block the way of travelers, because Gog and all his hordes will be buried there. So it will be called the Valley of Hamon Gog. For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them in order to cleanse the land. All the people of the land will bury them, and the day I am glorified will be a memorable day for them, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 39, verses 11-13)
This will be the fate of all the troops from Russia, her allies, and the other countries I mentioned who would presume to attack Israel. “The valley of those who travel towards the sea” is an ancient expression for the Jordan valley that runs between the Sea of Galilee southward towards the Dead Sea. And so according to the Scriptures, this is where the armies of the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel 38 and 39 will be buried. It will take 7 months to bury all the dead because there will be so many of them, and the entire populace will be pressed into service for this arduous task, presumably to expedite things for health reasons. But what is so understated is that the tiny little nation of Israel, a country the size of New Jersey with a population of 8.4 million people, just defeated the combined armies and air forces of Russia, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and you may as well include Iraq and Jordan in the fray. Their combined military forces will be decimated by Israel and her ally, the Sovereign Lord!
There is one more thing that needs to be said about this, and that is regarding the country of Israel itself, together with her people. There are many individuals who, frankly, despise the nation of Israel and her people. Some say that this is because of the conflict between the Palestinian and Israeli people, but there is more to it than that, and it has a long history. It was the newly created universal church of King Constantine 1st, from which the modern name ‘Catholic’ originates, that began teaching around the year 300AD that it was the Jews and not the Romans who crucified Christ, when in fact it was the other way around. Nevertheless, this wrong teaching has persisted to this day. While the first reason for hatred of the Jews was religious in origin, the second reason was and still is racial. Antisemitism – the extreme hatred of Jewish people and all things Jewish, including her homeland Israel – is raw racism, pure and simple. But more than that, since Jesus Christ walked the earth as a Jewish man, to express antisemitism is tantamount to having contempt for Jesus Christ. Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany is one of the most glaring examples in human history of what happens when antisemitism is carried to its utmost extreme.
This inevitably brings up the debate about what the fate of the Palestinian people should be. Should they get their own homeland? Of course they should, but so should the Kurdish people just a few hundred miles to the north, but they’re not having any luck either. Arbitration is the only fair way to settle both these disputes, that much is certain, and both conflicts must be peacefully resolved. One other thing is certain – the Gog-Magog War of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 (of which I only used select portions for the sake of brevity and focus) will occur. But more than that, the stage is being set even as I write this for this massive and incredibly deadly war. Russia has forward bases in Syria and Iran, plus a critically important naval port in Syria, and has still more troops – many more – just to the north in Georgia and the Ukraine. I think we’ll have to see what happens once the American embassy moves from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the nation of Israel on May 14th, 1948. I would be quite surprised if this anniversary comes and goes without incident. You know, like a 7-year peace treaty that divides Jerusalem?