Wednesday, 27 December 2017

AMEN

     The English word “amen” is transliterated from the Hebrew אָמֵן [aw-mane'] and the Greek ἀμήν [amēn], meaning “so be it” or “truly.” It is derived from the same Hebrew root as āmán (“faith” or “faithfulness”) and is related to amanah (“truthfulness”). The God of amen” is the God of truth or faithfulness (Isa. 65:16; Rev. 3:14).
     The term “amen” served as a Jewish liturgical formula (BAGD 45) spoken by the congregation at the end of a prayer, a reading of scripture, or a prophetic declaration.1 It was adopted by Christians (cf. 1 Cor. 14:16) and by Paul in particular (see below).

The Old Testament

     “Amen” occurs in the earliest Jewish documents, appearing thirty times in the Hebrew scriptures.2 Three usages are found: (a) the initial “amen,” introducing an affirmative statement and referring back to something previously stated (1 Kings 1:36); (b) the detached “amen,” referring back to something previously stated but not followed by another statement (Neh. 5:13); and (c) the final amen (Psa. 41:13).

The New Testament

     Usage of the initial “amen” (“verily,” “truly”) in the New Testament, sometimes in double form, occurs only in the sayings of Jesus, affirming and emphasizing his own teaching rather than referring back to someone else’s.3 Nothing comparable is found anywhere else in the Bible. The Lord occasionally employed the final “amen” (Matt. 6:13; Mark 16:20),4 which is the most common form in the rest of the New Testament, especially in Paul’s writings.5 Outside of Paul and the Gospel narratives, the word is used in Hebrews, the Petrine letters, Jude, and the Apocalpse.6
     In the Byzantine Majority Text, several other Pauline texts also include the term.7 In fact, according to the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, all New Testament documents conclude with amēn except Acts, James, and 3 John. M. A. Robinson observes: “There is no logical reason why the Byzantine MSS would leave out an amēn at the end of three books while supposedly adding it everywhere else – unless the inclusion or exclusion truly reflects the original text of each book” (The NT in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 551 n. 59, emp. in the text).

Conclusion

     The practice of concluding prayers with “amen” was taught by Jesus (Matt. 6:13) and appears in a number of written prayers or doxologies (Psa. 41:14; 72:19; 89:53; 106:48; Rom. 1:25, 9:5, 11:36, 15:33; 16:24, 27; etc.). The New Testament itself concludes with a final “amen” (Rev. 22:21).
     Every word spoken by God is true. May every word spoken about God and to God be true. Amen.
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 1 Chron. 16:36; Neh. 5:13; 8:6; cf. 2 Esdr. 15:13; 18:6; 3 Macc. 7:23; 4 Macc. 18:24.
     2 Num. 5:22; Deut. 27:15-26; 1 Kings 1:36; 1 Chron. 16:36; Neh. 5:13; 8:6; Psa. 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; 106:48; Jer. 28:6.
     3 Single: Matt. 5:18, 26; 6:2, 5, 16 [6:13]; 8:10; 10:15, 23, 42; 11:11; 13:17; 16:28; 17:20; 18:3, 13, 18; 19:23, 28; 21:21, 31; 23:36; 24:2, 34, 47; 25:12, 40, 45; 26:13, 21, 34; Mark 3:28; 6:11; 8:12; 9:1, 41; 10:15, 29; 11:23; 12:43; 13:30; 14:9, 18, 25, 30; Luke 4:24; 12:37; 13:35; 18:17, 29; 21:32; 23:43. Double: John 1:51(52); 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24, 25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53; 8:34, 51, 58; 10:1, 7; 12:24; 13:16, 20, 21, 38; 14:12; 16:20, 23; 21:18.
     4 In a number of manuscripts, also in Matt. 28:20; Luke 24:53; John 21:25.
     5 Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; 16:27; Gal. 1:5; 6:18; Eph. 3:21; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; 2 Tim. 4:18; cf. 2 Cor. 1:20.
     6 Heb. 13:21, 25; 1 Pet. 4:11; 5:11; 2 Pet. 3:18; Jude 25; Rev. 1:6, 7; 3:14; 5:14; 7:12; 19:4; 22:20, 21.
     7 Rom. 16:20, 24; 1 Cor. 16:24; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 6:24; Phil. 4:23; Col. 4:18; 1 Thess. 5:28; 2 Thess. 3:18; 1 Tim. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:22; Tit. 3:15; Philem. 25.

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Thursday, 21 December 2017

What Were the “Acts” of the Apostles?

     The fifth book of the New Testament has traditionally been labeled “Acts of the Apostles” because it records the acts–actions–activities of those commissioned by the Lord to continue his work on earth. Although not all the acts of all the apostles are documented, the primary focus of their work falls into two main categories.
     Prior to the command to preach the gospel to all nations, Jesus set the example and then commissioned his disciples to pray (Matt. 9:37-38; 21:22; Luke 10:2). As they went on to fulfill what they were directed to do, here is a concise summary statement in their own words:but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4, NKJV). The two fundamental components of their mission, neither to the exclusion or neglect of the other, were (1) prayer, and (2) ministry of the word.
     The evangelism textbook of the New Testament is replete with allusions to and examples of prayer (Acts 1:14, 24; 2:42; 3:1; 4:24, 31; 6:4, 6; 8:15, 22, 24; 9:11, 40; 10:2, 4, 9, 30, 31, 46; 11:5, 18; 12:5, 12; 13:3; 14:23; 16:13, 16, 25; 20:36; 21:5; 22:17; 27:29, 35; 28:8, 15). Evidently our first-century brethren understood their activities as God’s work and regularly requested his involvement and solicited his help.
     The acts of the apostles were the acts of God. The Great Commission and how to go about fulfilling it have not changed. As we are diligent and faithful in learning, obeying, and proclaiming the word of God, we must also be diligent and faithful in our prayers to God. This is his work. Let us, therefore, give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
--Kevin L. Moore

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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Nahum

     The prophet Nahum was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. His hometown was Elkosh (1:1), believed to have been somewhere in Galilee, perhaps Capernaum (meaning “town of Nahum”). His written prophecy was recorded after the fall of the Egyptian No Amon (a.k.a. Thebes) in 663 BC (alluded to in 3:8-10) and before the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC.
     Nahum’s message is written in poetic style and concerns the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire.1 At the time Nineveh was one of the oldest inhabited cities on earth, having been built by Nimrod son of Cush, son of Ham, son of Noah (Gen. 10:6-11).
     The name Nahum, meaning “comfort” or “consolation,” is an abbreviated form of Nehemiah (meaning “comfort of Yahweh”). Nahum’s words were certainly no consolation to the Assyrians, but did bring comfort to those who were tormented by the Assyrians (cf. 3:19).
The Background
     The rising Empire of Assyria had repeatedly afflicted the Northern Kingdom of Israel, conquering and exiling them by 722 BC (2 Kings 15:19–17:23). With divine judgment on the horizon, God sent a prophet to Nineveh to call them to repentance (Jonah 1:1-2). Despite his reluctance, Jonah’s preaching was so effective that “they turned from their evil ways” (Jonah 3:10).2 Unfortunately, about a century later they had reverted back to their corrupt behavior and continued to afflict the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
The Message
     The prophecy begins with “God” [Heb. el] (1:2a), followed by thirteen references to Yahweh [God’s personal name] (1:2b–3:5). There can be no question about the source of the prophecy and the executer of its fulfillment. Divine attributes are highlighted, namely God’s holiness (1:2a), wrath (1:2b), longsuffering (1:3a), justice (1:3b), sovereignty (1:3c), power (1:4), and goodness (1:7).
     Whether God’s human creation cooperates or chooses to rebel, “The LORD has His way” (1:3c). “The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him” (1:7). Nineveh’s doom is assured: “an utter end of its place” (1:8b); “an utter end of it” (1:9b); “they will be cut down” (1:12b); “utterly cut off” (1:15c). The people of God are reassured: “For now I will break off his yoke from you, And burst your bonds apart” (1:13); “For the LORD will restore the excellence of Jacob Like the excellence of Israel” (2:2a) – a promise involving the whole nation.
     What a terrifying revelation to hear, “‘Behold, I am against you,’ says the LORD of hosts …” (2:13a; 3:5a). The instrument of divine judgment is the combined forces of the Babylonians, Medes, and Scythians (2:3-13). The result is that “Nineveh of old …. is empty, desolate, and waste!” (2:8-10; 3:7b).
     The Assyrian capital was to reap what it had sown after about 130 years of tyranny. “O king of Assyria …. Your injury has no healing, Your wound is severe. All who hear news of you Will clap their hands over you, For upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually?” (3:18-19). Nineveh fell in 612 BC. Today it still lies in ruins near the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq.
Lessons to Learn
1. God is in control (1:3, 9; cf. John 19:11; Rom. 13:1).
2. God is patient, but his patience is not limitless (1:3, 7-8; 2:13; 3:5; cf. Rom. 11:22; 2 Pet. 3:9-10).
3. God holds sinners accountable (1:2, 3, 9; 2:13; 3:5, 7; cf. Num. 32:23; 2 Cor. 5:10).
4. God hates evil and so should we (1:8-9; 2:13; 3:5; cf. Psa. 5:4-5).
5. God does not forsake his people (1:13, 15; 2:2; cf. Heb. 13:5).
6. God keeps his word (1:8, 9, 15; 2:13; 3:7, 19; cf. Rom. 3:4; Heb. 6:18).
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Cf. Jonah 1:2; 3:10; Isa. 10:1-27; 14:24-27; Mic. 5:5-6.
     2 Scripture quotations are from the NKJV.

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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Daughters of Germanicus, Jairus, and Jesus

     As Jesus of Nazareth was working as a carpenter in Galilee and young Saul of Tarsus was studying under Rabbi Gamaliel in Judea, far away on the western end of the Roman Empire a baby girl was born into the imperial family. She was the second daughter of the well-known and well-respected General Germanicus, who was responsible for maintaining order on the western frontiers and enforcing Roman Law. The mother was Agrippina the Elder, and the baby’s name was Julia Druscilla.1 She was a great-granddaughter of Emperor Augustus, great-niece of Emperor Tiberius, sister of Emperor Caligula, niece of Emperor Claudius, and maternal aunt of Emperor Nero.
     That same year, a Jewish couple on the far eastern boundary of the Empire welcomed a baby girl into their family. The child’s father was the well-known and well-respected Jairus, who would go on to serve as an administrative official in the local synagogue. He would be in charge of arranging weekly services and keeping order, with the weighty responsibility of enforcing Jewish Law.
     Around this time a young lady was having complications with her menstrual cycle. The bleeding wouldn’t stop, and as long as it continued, there would be physical, financial, and social repercussions. Her health would deteriorate, as prolonged menstrual bleeding leads to anemia, along with fatigue, weakness, and pain. She would eventually spend all that she had on doctors and medical treatments, only to get worse.2 Because of ceremonial uncleanness she was untouchable (Lev. 15:19-27, 31), and it would be up to the synagogue officials to enforce segregation policy.

Twelve Years Later …

     Julia Druscilla was living the life of luxury and privilege as a pampered little girl in Rome, while her great-uncle Tiberius reigned in decadence and corruption.3Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” (Jer. 12:1b).4 On the other side of the Empire, the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus was critically ill, and the feeble, impoverished, ostracized woman was still bleeding. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psa. 34:19a). 
     Then Jesus came to town.5 He was thronged by a multitude of curious and needy people, but when Jairus arrived on the scene, they made enough room for him to fall down at the Lord’s feet. The distraught father urgently pleaded with Jesus to come quickly to lay healing hands on his dying daughter. With no time to waste, they headed toward Jairus’ house.
     Along the way the procession was interrupted. A desperate, hemorrhaging woman needed to make contact with Christ, but the crowds made no room for her as they did for Jairus. She had to fight her way through from behind, apparently on her hands and knees reaching through legs and ankles to touch the very bottom of his garment. The Lord stopped. The only one who could save the only child of an anxious father, stopped! Turning around in the opposite direction, he asked, in the groping crowd, who touched him?
     As Jairus feared for his precious daughter, Jesus affectionately calls the fearful woman, “daughter.”6 This is the only occasion in the biblical record he uses this endearing address. Jairus had asked the Lord to come touch his ailing daughter, and on the way the Lord was touched by his own ailing daughter. Despite her consigned impurity and the Law forbidding that she be touched, Jesus could do what the Law was incapable of doing. Her faith had brought her to Christ, and she was healed at once and told to go in peace.
     By this time Jairus’ little girl had died, robbing her heartbroken loved ones of their peace. If it hadn’t been for the interruption, the Lord would have gotten there sooner. Others advised Jairus not to trouble the teacher, but the teacher advised the troubled father to replace fear with faith. The Great Physician dismissed the ridicule of unbelievers, and with the grieving parents and three of his disciples he enters the little girl’s room, taking her by the hand. Immediately she is raised back to life.

Ten Years Later …

     At the age of 22 Julia Druscilla became terminally ill. If only the Messiah were there to take her by the hand and restore her life. Unfortunately, her great-uncle Tiberius had appointed a military prefect, Pontius Pilate, to govern the imperial province of Judea, and he had ordered the Messiah’s brutal execution a few years earlier. Julia Druscilla died in Rome on the 10th of June AD 38. Her loved ones, especially her brother Caligula, greatly mourned her loss. With no hope beyond this physical world, Emperor Caligula had the Roman Senate declare his sister Panthea, “all-goddess.”
     Meanwhile, on the far eastern side of the Empire, the Lord’s disciples “throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified” (Acts 9:31), including those who had been touched by his healing hand. Saul of Tarsus, now himself a follower of Jesus, was back in his hometown (v. 30) getting prepared to carry the message of the risen Savior all the way to Rome. It would take several years through numerous obstacles and hardships. He would be falsely accused of inciting insurrection against Julia Drusilla’s uncle Claudius (Acts 17:7) and eventually stand trial before her nephew Nero (Acts 27:24; 28:19). From Rome the apostle would go on to write, “All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22).

The Moral of the Story

Jesus is the answer, for the world today. Above him there’s no other, Jesus is the way.7

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Julia Druscilla was born in Abitarvium, Germania (modern-day Koblenz, Germany) on 16th September AD 16. It was the Roman year 769 Ab urbe condita (from the founding of the city of Rome), but since the medieval period dates have been calculated according to the purported year of Christ’s birth: anno Domini (AD), “in the year of the Lord.” At the age of 3, when Julia Druscilla’s father died, her mother moved her and her siblings to Rome.
     2 Mark 5:25-26.
     3 Tacitus, Annals VI.50, 51.
     4 Scripture quotations are from the NKJV.
     5 Parallel accounts are Matt. 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56, although Matthew appears to give an abridged version of the story.
     6 Matt. 9:22; Mark 5:34; Luke 8:48.
     7 Lyrics by Andraé Crouch.

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