Acts 8

Why???? Why did the Jews persecute just the church? There is no record of them doing the same thing to other religious, in their minds, demagogues? Even more significant, why did the Roman government allow this sect of people to operate a government and court system within the Romans established? Was not the Roman authority there to govern the people?

At this time in history Christianity in the eyes of the Romans came out of Judaism. Jesus was a Jew. The disciples were Jews. Jerusalem was predominantly Jews. Christianity mistakenly was viewed by Rome as a sect of Judaism. The Jews were allowed a certain amount of autonomy in keeping their own people in line making it easier for the Roman authorities, so they believed. We must recall though, the crucifixion of Jesus required the blessing or permission of the Roman authorities. The Romans saw Christianity (first to the Jew) as a sect or subdivision of Judaism. The first Christians were all Jews. The entire Bible is written by someone who was an Israeli (mistakenly called Jews). We do have instances where even in the life of Paul Jews might hold Roman citizenship. It was a crime for Sanhedrin authorities to judge or criminally punish those of Roman citizenry (Acts 25:10).

Saul witnessed the execution of Stephen in Acts 7. He was a Jew, a member of the Sanhedrin, a Pharisee of the most stringent group, well-educated under Gamaliel, adherent to the “Law of Yahweh.” Saul (Paul) was so dedicated to his persecution and arresting of Christians, Acts 8:3 the (ERV) “all believers but the Apostles LEFT JERUSALEM for other parts of Judea and Samaria.” The Jews of Germany tried to flee their country prior to WWII for the same reasons of persecution by another Saul (Hitler); same fervor; same dedication; same goal.

Acts 8:4 states that where ever these Christians fled they took the good news of Christ with them and shared it with fellow Jews. We get a very odd introduction to Phillip, one of the seven chosen to “wait tables.” Luke simply tells us in verse 5 that “Phillip goes to Samaria.” We can probably safely assume it was Paul’s persecution that chased even Phillip out of town. For better understanding and since verse 3 states that all but the Apostles (the 12) fled Jerusalem, we must understand that there are two prominent “Phillips” in the Bible. One is Phillip the Apostle. The other is Phillip the Evangelist; waiter of tables. This Phillip in Acts is the evangelist, not the Phillip the Apostle. No contradiction of scripture!!!! Two different men.

Phillip is an example of a message spread, thanks to Saul who chased Christians like Phillip out of Jerusalem in the first place. People in Samaria witnessed the works of Phillip ((table waiter) and believed in his Messiah. Evil spirits were driven out; cripples were healed; as verse 8 puts it in the ERV…”What a happy day this was for that city.”  The King James says there was great joy in the city. This is the same city Jesus healed the ten lepers. It was the second capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and eventually its name became synonymous with the Ten Tribe Kingdom of Israel. Sargon II of Assyrian conquered and renamed it Samerina. Today it is the West Bank but still a former territory of Israel B.C.

Phillip the evangelist encounters a well-known local sorcerer named Simon. According to the ERV he bewitched the people of Samaria with his magic. Verse 11 says he had been a practicing sorcery for a long time in this area. Amazingly or perhaps half-heartedly, Simon heard the message of Phillip and his cohorts and claimed to be a believer.

JIV: this part of scripture gets sticky but facts are facts. We teach – You Decide

Simon was truly impressed with the miracles of Phillip and his associates in Samaria. SO much so he claimed to become a believer. The theological question raised here; did Simon believe in the God of these miracles or did he believe these miracles to be a new kind of magic? Which belief was it? He believed in God and Jesus or the obvious miracle magic of Phillip.

The answer is alluded to when Simon witnesses Phillip’s laying on of hands for baptism of the Holy Spirit in new believers (Acts 8:18-24). He didn’t ask for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He asked for the skill and power to do this thing he saw as a great magic. He was willing to pay for it. Phillip in verse 23 tells him to REPENT. This is our insight to the heart of Simon. He wanted the power but by not seeking to be baptized in the Holy Spirit he did not want to “live” as a Christian. His motive for asking was for himself. It had nothing to do with living a life in Christ.

JIV NOTE: This is still true today. People claim belief in Christ but often as fire insurance instead of eternal assurance. I want to be, one thinks in his or her heart, but not conform and live as a believer. Our churches, pulpits, and pew dwellers are full of these people. No action or desire beyond hiring a preacher to do it for them.

In verse 24 Simon begs Phillip to “pray for me so that these bad things you just said (verse 22) won’t happen.” Here is a classic example of wondering about someone requesting prayer but no willing to humble him or herself to the point of seeking forgiveness directly instead of through a third person. 1 John 1:9 reads if“if you confess your sin” leaves no room to ask someone else to do it for you. It should shed light on what it actually means to pray for someone but it certainly does not mean to pray as a substitute. Simon KNEW (YADDA) what he was told by Phillip to personally do! Acts 8:22 …PRAY & REPENT!

JIV: This passage in scripture is why at times when someone asks for prayer I assure them that I will but after s/he seeks God him or herself first. I can pray for your understanding of scripture but I cannot pray, as no one else can, in absentee. 1 Timothy 2:3, 4 is specific. Even Jesus can’t do it unless we first seek him. He wants all to be saved but cannot make that free-will decision for anyone. He paid the price but we must seek its rewards.

At this point in Acts 8, Luke immediately changes topics. Phillip does not tell the man to quote the Lord’s Prayer or that they put hands on him to pray for him. It all abruptly stops at verse 24. Verse 25 finds them witnessing on their way back to Jerusalem.

What follows is one of those amazing facts that one is unlikely to hear from any other source. The information is there but seldom seen or put together. 1,000 years earlier in the Old Testament we find King Solomon on the throne of Israel. His wisdom is widely known. Many  many seek counsel with him.

In the Bible we are introduced to an unnamed queen from the land of Sheba who travels to Jerusalem to meet King Solomon (see 1 Kings 10; 2 Chronicles 9). Accompanied by many attendants and camels, the Queen of Sheba brings a large quantity of spices, gold and precious stones with her. She is drawn to Jerusalem because of Solomon’s fame, and she tests the king with hard questions. Solomon is able to answer them all. In return King Solomon gives the Queen of Sheba gifts and “every desire that she expressed” (1 Kings 10:13). After receiving these gifts, the queen returns to the land of Sheba with her retinue.ark.jpg

Is this the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant? Many Ethiopians believe that the Ark of the Covenant resides within the “Chapel of the Tablet” next to the Church of Maryam Tsion in Aksum, Ethiopia. They believe that the Ark traveled with Solomon’s firstborn son, Menelik, from Jerusalem to the land of Sheba. Where is the land of Sheba? According to the *Kebra Nagast, it is ancient Ethiopia.

* The Kebra Nagast is a 14th-century account written in Ge’ez, an ancient South Semitic language that originated in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Need more understanding as to the question “is it possible Menelik was the son of Sheba and Solomon? His name means “son of the wise king.” Ethiopians claim the Queen of Sheba as part of their heritage, and through her union with King Solomon, Ethiopians today claim a connection between their kings and the Davidic monarchy of Israel. Judaism was for centuries the dominant religion of the Kingdom of Ethiopia. It spanned the Horn of Africa and across the Red Sea to Yemen territories of today. Haile Selassie (1930 to 1974) claimed to be a descendant of Sheba and Solomon. Emperor Menelik to Haile Selassie is 225 generations of continual rule in Ethiopia.

Now for the 1,000 year connection between Old Testament  King Solomon, Queen Makeda of Sheba, New Testament Phillip and the Ethiopian leaving Jerusalem on the “desert road” with Judaism scrolls he did not understand (Acts 8:30-34). After the Queen Makeda returned to Ethiopia Judaism became their national religion. See the previous page picture of “Chapel of the Tablet” in Ethiopia. Genesis 49:10 states the scepter will not depart from the lineage of Judah.

JIV NOTE: The Bible never states the scepter won’t leave the Land of Judah. It says that it will not leave the lineage of Judah until Christ, himself a descendent of the Tribe of Judah, returns to earth with the New Jerusalem and His Millennial Reign.

The Ethiopian Eunuch, a royal member of the Ethiopian kingdom, was in Jerusalem seeking scrolls of Judaism scripture. Phillip was told of God to take the Desert Road out of Jerusalem but not told why (Acts 8:26). This is the same road the Ethiopian was taking to return to Ethiopia. Here Phillip and the Ethiopian cross paths. Phillip climbs into the royal chariot and explains the scripture to him about how the savior was “lead to the slaughter like a lamb.” Then Phillip introduces the Ethiopian to Christ the promised Messiah. He becomes a believer, is baptized and returns to Ethiopia to bring this good news to his people.epthopia

Fact: Today Ethiopia is one of two African nations where Christianity is still the dominant religion. Ethiopia is surrounded by nations that are over 95% Muslim yet it remains Christian. Judaism played a dominant role in Ethiopia since 950 B.C. In the 1st century A.D. Christianity became their dominant religion. All because of King Solomon, Queen of Sheba and a 1,000 years later, the “table waiter” Phillip and an Ethiopian dignitary. These are the facts. What do they add up to? A direct connection between the Queen of Sheba giving birth to Solomon’s first son (Menelik) who was the first Emperor of Ethiopia and his lineage continuing until 1974; almost 3,000 years.

PS; The name Haile Selassie means: The Trinity. 

This is the Imperial standard of Ethiopia up to the recent past. Note the Lion of the Tribe of Judah as its center piece. 

cropped-minijim1Rev. Dr. Jstark
August, 2018

 

Jeremiah – Chapter 17

Dr. JThis sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron and with the point of a diamond: It is engraved upon the table of the heart…” (KJV).

Powerful picture words in the opening verse of Jeremiah 17. In this case the CEV is more understandable and not off doctrine… [The CEV is written plain English. At times excludes important words in a given verse or passage not giving a good picture of the verse’s intent].engrave forebver

“People of Judah, your sins cannot be erased. They are written on your hearts like words chiseled in stone or carved on the corners of your altars.”

This statement throws the doors of theological debate wide open, as if the doors are torn from its hinges. Unforgivable and eternal? Not really. What message is God telling Jeremiah to convey to his people? He is telling them (Judah) through Jeremiah that he (God) has tried for centuries to make a point they (all Israel) keep rejecting. There is only one GOD and he will not accept any other god before him; nothing; nada; gar nichts…! This is also why we find later in Jeremiah 31:33: (NIV) “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” God simply tells Jeremiah to convey to the people of judah there is a price to be paid for their persistence and pentchant toward departing from or replacing worshiping HIM for other values first in thier life.

Jeremiah 17 is full of things for us to put in our heart and recall daily. Let’s discuss them as we go through this chapter today. An immediate aha moment can be found in the first four verses of Jeremiah 17. The Hebrew 70 scholars and scribes who translated their own Hebrew scrolls into Greek under the instructions of Ptolemy of Egypt opted to not include them in the Septuagint or first Greek translation. If we look closely at these four verses it is easy to see how scolding and incriminating they are to the Jews and their scribes.

Verse 1 is blunt. There is little to NO wiggle room for misunderstanding. Rejection by ideologists, yes! Even the translators of the Hebrew by the hired scribes of Levite descent did not wish for the Greek to see it. But then so is God’s offer to salvation. Their continual sin and returning to it is so reprehensible, God is no longer going to defend them as his pride and joy. Yes Israelis remain Gods chosen, but we might identify this scene as being sent to one’s room for a 70 year timeout.

Judeans at this time is similar to what God did to this in individual Pharaoh of Egypt during the final five plagues. Pharaoh kept hardening his own heart until God finally refused to offer any intervening spirit to convince this ruler to “Let my people go.” He turned Pharaoh lose to his own vises. This example of the time of Pharaoh and his heart is similar to what is happening to those of Judah, civilian and ruler-leaders, at this time in the life of Jeremiah. God released them to their own vises.

Verse 2: The idols and particularly the Asherah poles are seldom discussed or properly identified in other commentaries or from the pulpit. The Asherah Pole is the same thing in practice as the dance poles used in strip clubs. They are for one purpose and it is the youth of Judah who hang around them lusting and fantasizing. This is the “children” referred to in V2. Not really children but more like a den of sin and enticement for those of early ages.

Verse 3: God tells Judah (Israel) that what they had will now belong to others. Possessions are one of the greatest identities of these people. It is all about self, wealth, pleasure and thinking themselves exclusive; nothing about true worship. ..throughout all their borders.” It means not only Jerusalem but all of Judea including the already occupied lands of the former Northern Kingdom of Israel (10 Tribes).

Verse 4: Strangely enough, verse four is Arab-Islam’s claim to what they say was formerly the blessing of Jacob but now the blessing by default to the descendants of Esau and Ishmael. In other words, this passage if out of context could read, “Israel/Judah, you have now forfeited God’s blessing that Jacob stole from his twin brother Esau. I am giving it back to its rightful owner the first born of Abraham (Ishmael) and the first born of Isaac (Esau). I will cause you to serve your enemies; an anger that will be forever.”  Only is this true when taken out of context. God will fulfill all of his promises (covenants).

We can easily see why the Hebrew translators DELIBERATELY left these verses out of their writing of the first Greek copy of the Hebrew bible (Old Testament) that being the XXL or Septuagint. They begin their translation with 5th verse as it can be applied across the identities of the human race; not exclusive to the Jew (Israelite).

Jer 17:5 I, the LORD, have put a curse on those who turn from me and trust in human strength. (CEV) 

Jeremiah 17:5-10 are applicable to all (kole in the Hebrew) mankind. Jeremiah steps aside from criticizing Judah specifically and takes a global look at the dynamic nature of God and his original creation. The Contemporary English Version (CEV) mistakenly returns to Judah by inserting their name in verse 9. I am not familiar with any other translation that does the same thing. Taking liberties with God’s true word is dangerous both to the author who takes the liberty and to those who use a given translation exclusively in his or her bible studies.

Quotes to all mankind from 17:5-10…

    1. Bad things happen to those who put their trust in man
    2. Bad things will happen to those who depend on human strength as it means trusting God is not primary.
    3. To be like this is like a bush in an isolated part of a dry parched desert. It lacks any knowledge of fertile, well-watered environments
    4. Those who trust “fully” in the Lord will be blessed. This does not mean or include those who simply believe in God or a supreme being. They fully believe but not fully trust.
    5. To know God is to (study) know his covenants with man.
      1. They are confident even during a dry season
      2. Like a tree next to a brook that does not seasonally run dry
      3. Their leaves are always green
      4. They always produce fruit.
    6. The human mind is deceitful and can call bad good and self-justify any evil committed.
    7. V10…”But I am the LORD and can look into a man’s heart (mind)” (ERV).
  • Although the CEV does miss in its interpretations from time to time, they do put it in plain English. 17:10b…”I [God] will make sure you get what you deserve.” The ERV puts it… “I (God can) give each person the right payment for what they do.” 

A unique characteristic of some birds such as the Quale (Partridge) is it will sit on or steal the eggs of another bird until they hatch. But the birds do not recognize the surrogate mother. They will fly the coop. The ERV v11 puts it well in comparison to humans:

“Sometimes a bird will hatch an egg that it did not lay. Those who cheat to get money are like that bird. But when their lives are half finished, they will lose the money. At the end of their lives, it will be clear that they were fools.”

Look closely at this passage (above). It does NOT SAY wealth in and of itself is a sign of misgivings or wrong doing. It is the wealth gained unjustly or by cheating that condemns him or her who selfishly gathers it.

Jeremiah again beginning in verse 13 shifts thought. First he praises God just like the opening of the Lord’s Prayer. We should begin every prayer with a praise to and recognition of who God is. Simply put, He is sovereign.

Verse 13b is something we all need to pay attention to. (KJV) “…and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD,…” Written in the earth means their value is now like the dust. It will easily be swept away.

Jeremiah asks God a question in verse 15. It shows the depth of Judean’s contempt for God. They actually challenge the prophecies of Jeremiah by saying PROVE IT! If God has said it, let it happen now because we challenge your prophecies and HIS authority to accomplish it. WOW! What dangerous grounds to be upon. Jeremiah who once pleaded with God to forego his condemnation of Judah now asks God to fulfill it (V18). Jeremiah aches in heart and soul for his countrymen. Their arrogance and stiff-necked attitudes are the issues at stake and for which God has already condemned them in verse 1. It hasn’t happened (yet again; forgetful memories they have) so they feel immune. Woe onto men who feel their superiority and self-reliance.

Jeremiah again switches topics and begins discussing the Sabbath Day. The last few verses of Jeremiah 17 including Exodus 20:8-11 is the basis of 7th Day Adventists (and Judaism) setting aside Saturday as the day of worship instead of Sunday. We can discuss this topic in the future as it has holes, but not in this blog. One three simple considerations: On what day was man created? Was it identified by God as anything other than sequential day 6? What day of a week was the 7th day if there were no calendars back them; just a sequence of days?

JIV NOTE: Beginning with verse 24 but prefaced with v19 – 22, God offers another “If you ____, then I will ____. Just like every covenant promise made by God in the Old and New Testament we are given the same condition. If we firs do this or that, then God will fulfill his end of the offer; and offer made by GOD, not man. Somehow this also has hints of End Time conditions. It also includes a promise beyond the 70 year Babylonian captivity they (Judah) has yet to endure.

The Covenant Promise: (in short) Honor the Hebrew Sabbath “Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David…”. For how long? The end of this same verse says forever. Read this passage closely. It refers ONLY to entering the gates of Jerusalem, God’s holy city, bearing a load or work detail (V24). People will come from throughout the lands to worship but the reference to the Sabbath work load is in reference to bringing the work load into the city of Jerusalem via any of its 12 gates.

Once again this supposition of it being exclusive per work on the Sabbath, the concluding verse on chapter 17 states in part… “‘But if you [Judeans] don’t listen to me and obey me, bad things will happen. If you carry loads into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, you are not keeping it as a holy day…’” 

END NOTE: Something for each of us to remember about bad habits “One cannot break a habit. S/he can only replace it with something else, good or bad” (Jstark). Israel replaced their worship of the true God with works of their hands and other motionless and useless gods. They could not simply stop their false worship as many good Kings of Judah tried to do without returning to a full-faith worship of Yahweh.

There is something similar to this passage and a well tilled and cultivated garden. Initially it appears to be without weeds. Then, they begin to appear amongst the crop or garden. They were either hidden weeds (sins) or inherited from it environment. This is Israel of old.

miniJimRev. Dr. Jstark

February 2017