Dr. Mark W. Graham of Grove City College

I was happy recently to come across a video of a friend of mine. Dr. Mark W. Graham is a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. Mark and I met almost thirty years ago in a Latin class at The University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. We became quick friends and, though our paths have gone in different directions, I still try to keep up with Mark. Mark is one of the smartest guys I have ever met. And he is a dear brother in Christ. I was happy to find this video. It is a great and insightful conversation.

Matthew 16:1-12

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Matthew 16

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

“End of road for woman used by ‘pastors’ to perform fake miracles.”

That is the headline for an article that tells a very sad story of something that happened in in Nigeria. (Some of the translation in the article is a bit choppy.)

A 44-year-old woman, Mrs. Bose Olasukanmi who was used by several ‘fraudulent’ pastors to perform fake miracle has been arrested by operatives of the Inspector General of police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in Lagos after months of trail on her by the undercover operatives.

According to a source close to IRT, the suspect Olasukanmi used to relocate to another church after being paid for every successful performance so that their trick would not be exposed by people or relations who may see her in the drama.

Mrs. Olasukanmi was in an accident and has a broken arm that has never been set and has never healed properly. The false miracles were centered on the alleged healing of her arm. She was paid money to go up on the stages of various churches for the healing. Perhaps most tragic of all, this lady is not even a Christian.

“I am a moslem, but the pastor, prophet Goffrey Abbey would only ask me to bring my hand down and I will start bringing it down as if his power was the thing bringing it down and be jumping up in joy to the deceit of the congregation who often clapped with joy and praising God for the miracle.  I cannot remember the names of all the churches she took me to because their names were not disclosed to me.”

This is simply tragic. These pastors were using a Muslim woman to deceive the people of God and enrich themselves. The woman offers some interesting closing comments:

“My only regret is that I knew that it was a fake miracle performance, which deceived many genuine children of God and enriched the fake miracle performing pastors and prophets…”

“My advice to people who go to church is that they should open their eyes well and know the type of church they are worshipping. If they are careful, they would discover on time whether they are in a genuine church or with fake pastors and prophets.”[1]

It is a fascinating and troubling thing that a non-Christian woman would have to warn Christians about false prophets, but she is, of course, 100% correct.

There is something within human beings that desperately wants to see signs, wonders, miracles, and displays of power. This desire to see wonders can lay the groundwork for some truly pernicious things, as the article just quoted demonstrates. Of course, sometimes the motives behind these kinds of desires are good: a genuine desire for healing or for appropriate blessing. But sometimes they are not good: a desire to test God, a desire to be rich, a desire to have our curiosity satiated.

Matthew 16 begins with men who want to see a sign. It is abundantly clear from the get-go, however, that their motives were not pure!

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Revelation 7:1-8


Revelation 7

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

Roni and I were recently traveling and, during our vacation, we had a lazy day where we did not feel like doing anything in particular. We had had our fill of museums and statues and paintings and, well, history. We were sitting in a restaurant in Washington, D.C., and were talking about how we were very happy to be where we were but we did not really want to walk around anymore that day or do anything per se. But we had some more hours of daylight. I pulled my phone out and said, “Hey, there is a theater 3/10ths of a mile from where we are. Want to see a movie?” And she did. However, the only movie showing at that time was a scary movie called “The Conjuring.”

So I warned Roni: “This is going to be scary. Are you sure you want to see this?” And she said she did. “Why not!” We decided to see the scary movie. And so we went to Regal Gallery Place & 4DX theater in Chinatown in Washington, D.C.

Now, we are movie people, but I must say that I was unprepared for what happened next. I did notice that the ticket seemed more expensive than usual, but I figured that was just because we were in D.C. And then we noticed that the chairs in the theater were really unusual, but we figured it was just a really nice theater with updated chairs. But then the previews started and suddenly it dawned on me what “4DX” meant in “Regal Gallery Place & 4DX.”

The chairs began to move in synchronization with the screen. They would lurch this way and that. Lights flashed around us. Then I saw the nozzles in the plastic bar in front of me and realized, “We are going to be sprayed and wind-blasted and jerked around and jostled and jolted through this whole movie!”

Roni looked at me and said, “I do not like this.” Now you must understand that Roni was already on edge because this was a scary movie, but she had determined to watch it. Watching a scary movie is one thing. Actually being in a scary movie is another!

So we left and went into the lobby and asked the lady if we could possibly see “The Conjuring” that started 30 minutes later in a normal theater. I explained to the lady that I was unfamiliar with “4DX” and we did not know it would be such an immersive experience. I finally told her: “Ma’am, we’re from Arkansas. Our chairs don’t move in Arkansas.” We all had a good laugh and we saw the later movie.

It is one thing to know that something scary is coming. It is another thing to think that you are going to be a participant in the scary thing that is coming.

I think this helps us understand what is happening with the reticence that a lot of people feel with the book of Revelation. They know there are some scary things in Revelation. But what really jars people is the thought that they will be forced to be a participant in the scary things, that they might be the victim of the scary things.

I want to show you this morning a wonderful chapter that helps us understand this rightly. Revelation 7 tells us that, yes, we will be in the theater when the scary things happen, and we will go through some difficulties ourselves, but, ultimately, the scary things are not aimed at the people of God and God will protect us and see us through the scary things that are coming! Yes, some scary things will happen in the events leading up to the culmination of all things, but the people of God are driven by an assurance of victory and the presence of God with His people through the darkest moments of tribulation to come.

Revelation 7 is oftentimes referred to as an “interlude.” We are between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals. Before the seventh seal is broken, however, we are shown a powerful and beautiful image and vision of a truth that we most need to know. G.K. Beal puts it well when he writes of this interlude that “[t]he section stands as a kind of parenthesis explaining how God will keep believers safe during the tribulations of the church age.”[1] In other words, chapter 7 is here to show us how God will be with His people in the tribulation and how the scary things going on around us will not conquer and overwhelm us.

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Robert Gundry’s The Church and the Tribulation

41LpmNCXZtL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Robert H. Gundry is a New Testament scholar of no small reputation (and, occasionally, no small controversy: see here and here) whose work needs to be reckoned with. I find him curious at times and, frequently, quite helpful. So when I saw that he had published a book in 1973 that is considered by some to be the most stalwart defense of the post-tribulational position, I decided to read it.

The Church and the Tribulation is indeed an important work. Agree with Gundry or not, the depth of scholarship in this work, the seemingly exhaustive and careful consideration of the primary eschatological texts, and Gundry’s consideration of the various arguments and counter-arguments lend this work a certain weight. There is way too much shallow writing and thinking about eschatology in the conservative Christian book market, so works of genuine scholarship ought to be celebrated whether they are for your position or against it. Prior to reading Gundry’s work, I would have said that George Eldon Ladd’s The Blessed Hope was the most important work arguing for post-tribulationism that I have read (I do *not* claim that I have read enough to be able to have an opinion on “the most important work” on this or that position overall). Now I would say Gundry’s book is.

The book is a very detailed look at a very large number of passages as well as, at the end, an overview of the historical development of the pre-tribulational position. But to summarize, let us just say that Gundry does not see a pre-tribulational rapture of the church in the pages of the New Testament and does see a great deal of evidence for the presence of the church on earth during the tribulation. He offers a very interesting look at the whole question of the relationship between Israel and the church and offers a pretty strong biblical pushback against dispensational assumptions on this point (showing, for instance, how certain prophecies spoken over Israel were clearly fulfilled in and by the church). Gundry’s section on the Olivet Discourse is also an interesting pushback against certain dispensationalist assumptions and should be considered. The section on imminence is quite interesting and Gundry argues therein that a close examination of New Testament passages concerning expectation and watchfulness apply consistently to a post-tribulational rapture. Furthermore, he unpacks the phrase “the day of the Lord” and persuasively shows that it cannot include the tribulation and is to be applied to Christ’s return at the end of the tribulation.

That day cannot begin until after the revelation of the Antichrist and the apostasy, after the ministry of Elijah, after the celestial phenomena between the tribulation and the posttribulational advent, in short, not until after the tribulation. Paul’s admonition to be prepared for that day and his explanation that Christians will recognize the approach of that day require a connection between the last generation of the Church and the arrival of the day of the Lord. Hence, the Church will continue on earth throughout the tribulation until the beginning of that day. (Kindle Location 1577)

I think, after a first reading (and I intend to re-read this work sooner rather than later), that this is a sufficient conclusion to reach: if one holds to a pre-tribulational rapture or if one is curious as to the question of the timing of the rapture, Gundry’s book should be read. If, after having read it, you still hold to the pre-tribulational rapture, ok. But you will have engaged a serious and substantive counter-proposal in your reading of Gundry’s book and you will be the better for it.

Highly recommended!

Genesis and Matthew Sermon Series Updated in Sermon Archives

Just wanted to post a brief notice that the Genesis sermon series and the Wednesday night Matthew sermon series have now been added to the sermon archives of the Walking Together Ministries site. I had been posting sermon audio and links to the manuscripts on the sermon page of www.cbcnlr.org as well as weekly links in the sidebar of the homepage here, but they are now posted in the archives here as well. All sermons from here on out will be posted at www.cbcnlr.org as well as here each week, like we used to do. Thanks so much!

Matthew 10:34-39

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Matthew 10

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Afshin Ziafat has shared his rather fascinating story with Decision Magazine.

I was born in Houston and grew up in a devout Muslim home. My dad was very involved in the Iranian Muslim community…Growing up, I was taught the five pillars of Islam and told that if I did them to the best of my ability, then maybe I’d get to Heaven.

I spoke Farsi, not English, so God, in His incredible plan, provided a Christian lady who tutored me, teaching me the English language every day by reading books to me. When I was in the second grade, she said, “Afshin, I want to give you the most important book that you’ll ever read in life.” As she handed me a small New Testament, she asked me to promise to hold onto it until I was older…

Every day, I’d read under the covers in my bed with a flashlight so my parents wouldn’t see what I was doing. Meanwhile, at my high school, a Christian student sat across the table from me at lunch and told me about Jesus. I’d debate against him each day, and then at night I’d go home to read more about Jesus.

One day, I got to the Book of Romans, and the third chapter completely changed my life. I read about a righteousness that comes apart from what I do for God. This righteousness comes as a gift to be received by faith. I was struck by Romans 3:22, which says that this righteousness comes to all who believe. I thought I was born a Muslim and would always be a Muslim, but that verse said that this righteousness was for anyone who believes, of any ethnicity. A couple weeks later, a guy invited me to an evangelistic crusade, where I heard the Gospel proclaimed and came to faith in Christ…

I decided to hide my newfound faith. I would sneak out to church, intercept mail from the church I was attending and keep my Bible hidden.

But my dad found out. He’d seen my Bible, and he’d also seen other evidences in my life. He sat me down and said, “Son, what’s going on? There’s something different about you.”

I said, “Dad, I’m a Christian.”

“Afshin,” he said, “if you’re going to be a Christian, then you can no longer be my son.”

Everything in my flesh wanted to say, “Forget it. I’ll be a Muslim.” I didn’t want to lose the relationship with my dad. So even I was surprised when I said, “Dad, if I have to choose between you and Jesus, then I choose Jesus. If I have to choose between my earthly father and my Heavenly Father, then I choose my Heavenly Father.” My father disowned me on the spot.[1]

Ziafat would go on to become a pastor and, by God’s grace, he now has a relationship with his father, though his father has yet to come to faith in Christ. But the story raises a question that is, as we have seen, a most literal question for many people in the world today: if following Christ meant losing the peace of your home and family life or even losing your home or family itself, would you still follow Him? Would you follow Him if it cost you everything and everyone? Jesus speaks to this difficult question in Matthew 10.

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Will Willimon’s Accidental Preacher: A Memoir

41-B3hy3b8LMan, I just don’t know. Back in the day I considered Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon’s book Resident Aliens to be truly revolutionary. It had a counter-cultural ecclesiology that eschewed both Constantinianism and liberal enculturation. I have read more of Hauerwas than Willimon since then, but, based on this autobiography, Willimon has become as frustrating as Hauerwas has become in some regards.

Don’t get me wrong. The book is engaging and often laugh-out-loud funny. It is also often very insightful. Willimon’s take on the modern ministerial emphasis on self-care, for instance, was intriguing and most-welcome as was his righteous exasperation with, say, Robert Schuller. His recounting of his conversation with Schuller, by the way, was utterly fascinating.

A good friend recommended this book and, truly, I am glad he did. He thought that Willimon’s many references to South Carolina would interest me. They certainly did! Willimon grew up in the upstate whereas I grew up in the mid-state of South Carolina. We are of different generations, to be sure, but I truly did find his frequent allusions to South Carolina—the state, her history, her characteristics, and her foibles—familiar.

And I’ll say this: Willimon really is quite humorous and is a wit. There were some great turns of phrase and memorable lines, many of which are highlighted in my Kindle version of the book and will soon be catalogued in my database of quotes and quips and illustrations.

Also, I appreciated how Willimon was able to see the virtues of those with whom he would not normally be associated. Specifically, I thought that his handling of Billy Graham and his speaking at Duke Chapel was gracious and even appreciative.

So what’s my problem? My problem is that Willimon sometimes seems a bit too cute for his own good. Some of the provocating seemed a bit forced. Also, he takes some well-deserved swipes at ministerial ego while, sometimes quick on the heels of these swipes, demonstrating quite a robust ego himself. To be fair, he seems more than aware of his own struggles in this area and admits as much. And, to be even fairer, I myself struggle with this without the added benefit of having Willimon’s mind and accomplishments! Ha! So I should perhaps be careful. Even so, there are, at points, underlying currents of self-focus that were a bit jarring to me, perhaps because I understand these. So maybe these were cautionary for me as well.

But I suppose my main problem is the way in which Willimon (and Hauerwas) are so willing to betray their own brilliance and willingness to go against the liberal status quo when it comes to questions like homosexuality and gay marriage. Like Hauerwas, Willimon offers no attempt at a substantive biblical rationale for, say, allowing gay weddings at Duke Chapel or his disregard for conservative Methodism’s desire to remain orthodox on these questions and issues. His comments on these important issues (again, like Hauerwas’) seem so trite to me, so ill-formed, so very capitulatory.

Want an example? Here you go:

Same-sex marriage? Being in the fidelity-promoting, promise-keeping, forgiveness-receiving business, the church, you’d think, would be eager to find one more occasion to make people make promises, welcoming anyone who dared to put his or her life at the mercy of the future with another human being. Go figure. (Kindle Locations 2393-2396).

Yeah, go figure, Will. Surely those who agree with Willimon’s position here must admit that this kind of reasoning—with its utter lack of engagement with scripture, its avoidance of the fundamental issues involved with the question, and it’s quaint, shrug-of-the-shoulders dismissiveness of those who hold to the church’s view on this question (i.e., to what genders constitute a marriage biblically defined) as held for the greater majority of two millennia—is not the way forward. I anticipate the objection, “It’s a memoir, not an academic paper.” Yeah, I know, but this kind of thing is what I hear increasingly from guys like Willimon and Hauerwas who are hailed as fearless thinkers. It is because I appreciate their earlier work so much that I find this so very frustrating. Here’s another example:

Methodist political junkies predicted there was no way in God’s name the six hundred members of the 2004 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference would elect me as bishop. No campus minister had been elected bishop.

I had been absent from my home conference, South Carolina, for twenty years.

I had allowed Duke Chapel to be used for same-sex unions.

I had never led a prestigious Methodist church.

My negative paper trail was miles long.

Some were still sore about my Christian Century article “My Dog the Methodist,” a spoof of UMC evangelism fiascoes.

I had ridiculed the alleged evangelicals of the Confessing Movement as having nothing to confess but “I believe in straight sex.”

Few bishops forgave me for calling the Council of Bishops “the bland leading the bland.” (Kindle Locations 2779-2788)

Will Willimon sounds in this memoir like somebody who is titillated with his own naughtiness, with his own acerbic wit. Same-sex unions at Duke Chapel?The Methodist Confessing Movement has nothing to confess but “I believe in straight sex”? Oh Will! You’re such a rascal.

[Sigh. Pause.]

I think, if I try to get behind my own irritation, that I regret that I cannot take Willimon seriously. His mocking reference to the Confessing Movement has helped me understand why, and the reason why is this: Tom Oden. Tom Oden, the Methodist theologian who broke with the theological and leftist faddishness of his youth and rediscovered the classical orthodox consensus of Christianity via the church fathers, has had a major impact on me. And to hear issues that Oden considered very serious shrugged off with such patently absurd tripe really disappoints me. And it disappoints me because this is coming from the author of Resident Aliens, a book that is so very very brilliant and biblical and insightful.

I am a Baptist, but were I a Methodist, I must say I would be an Oden Methodist and not a Willimon Methodist on these issues. (And, yes, I know that Oden listed Willimon appreciatively in Requiem. There is much to be appreciative about when it comes to Willimon. But note too how, in Willimon’s 1995 review of Oden’s Requiem, his major beef is that Oden is making too much of homosexuality as a problem.)

I grieve to see Willimon and Hauerwas fold with accommodationist compromise on issues of biblical sexual ethics. And to see them do so with such seeming ease and disregard for the real issues at stake saddens me.

95% of this book was fantastic. 5% of it saddened me. 95% is pretty good, right? However, that 5% is pretty important stuff.

Apparently even the rebels we love can be domesticated by the dominant culture. It is lamentable.

Genesis 30:25-31:55

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Genesis 30

25 As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.” 27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you. 28 Name your wages, and I will give it.” 29 Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your livestock has fared with me. 30 For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?” 31 He said, “What shall I give you?” Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this for me, I will again pasture your flock and keep it: 32 let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and they shall be my wages. 33 So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen.” 34 Laban said, “Good! Let it be as you have said.” 35 But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in the charge of his sons.36 And he set a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob pastured the rest of Laban’s flock. 37 Then Jacob took fresh sticks of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the sticks. 38 He set the sticks that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, 39 the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. 40 And Jacob separated the lambs and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban. He put his own droves apart and did not put them with Laban’s flock. 41 Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob would lay the sticks in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the sticks, 42 but for the feebler of the flock he would not lay them there. So the feebler would be Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.43 Thus the man increased greatly and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

Genesis 31

1 Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock wasand said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not permit him to harm me. If he said, ‘The spotted shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore spotted; and if he said, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore striped. Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me. 10 In the breeding season of the flock I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream that the goats that mated with the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled. 11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ 12 And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’” 14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money. 16 All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children. Now then, whatever God has said to you, do.” 17 So Jacob arose and set his sons and his wives on camels. 18 He drove away all his livestock, all his property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. 19 Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20 And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee. 21 He fled with all that he had and arose and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead. 22 When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, 23 he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead. 24 But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” 25 And Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen pitched tents in the hill country of Gilead. 26 And Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done, that you have tricked me and driven away my daughters like captives of the sword? 27 Why did you flee secretly and trick me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre? 28 And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? Now you have done foolishly. 29 It is in my power to do you harm. But the God of your[c] father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30 And now you have gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”31 Jacob answered and said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force. 32 Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our kinsmen point out what I have that is yours, and take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them. 33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he did not find them. And he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel’s saddle and sat on them. Laban felt all about the tent, but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me.” So he searched but did not find the household gods. 36 Then Jacob became angry and berated Laban. Jacob said to Laban, “What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? 37 For you have felt through all my goods; what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two. 38 These twenty years I have been with you. Your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks. 39 What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you. I bore the loss of it myself. From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 41 These twenty years I have been in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.” 43 Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day for these my daughters or for their children whom they have borne? 44 Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I. And let it be a witness between you and me.” 45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 And Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” Therefore he named it Galeed, 49 and Mizpah, for he said, “The Lord watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight. 50 If you oppress my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no one is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.” 51 Then Laban said to Jacob, “See this heap and the pillar, which I have set between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and you will not pass over this heap and this pillar to me, to do harm. 53 The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac, 54 and Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread. They ate bread and spent the night in the hill country. 55 Early in the morning Laban arose and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned home.

In the early 90s there was a Christian rock band named “Big Tent Revival.” They were great and they lasted around a decade producing a number of award-winning albums. They also happened to be one of the few bands that ever actually came through my hometown of Sumter, SC! Their big hit was a song called “Two Sets of Joneses.” It is a really catchy song that compares and contrasts two different young couples and the different paths they took in their lives.

This here’s a song about two sets of Joneses
Rothchild, Evelyn, Rueben, and Sue

And just for discussion through random selection
We’ve chosen two couples who haven’t a clue

Rothchild was lucky to marry so wealthy,
Evelyn bought him a house on the beach.

Rueben and Sue, they had nothing but Jesus
And at night they would pray that he would care for them each

And the rain, came down,
And it blew the four walls down
And the clouds they rolled away
And one set of Joneses, was standing that day

Evelyn’s daddy was proud of young Rothchild,
He worked the late hours to be number one

Just newlyweds and their marriage got rocky,
He’s flying to Dallas, she’s having a son.

Rueben was holding a Gideon’s Bible,
And he screamed “it’s a boy” so that everyone heard

And the guys at the factory took a collection,
And again God provided for bills he incured

And the rain, came down,
And it blew the four walls down
And the clouds they rolled away
And one set of Joneses, was standing that day

So what is the point of this story,
What am I trying to say
Well is your life built on the rock of Christ Jesus
Or a sandy foundation you’ve managed to lay

Well needless to say Evelyn left her husband
N’ sued him for every penny he had
But I truly wish that those two would find Jesus
Before things get worse than they already have

And the rain, came down,
And it blew the four walls down
And the clouds they rolled away

There’s two sets of Joneses
Which ones will you be?

Li de di, li de di, li de di, li de di
Li de di, li de di, li de di, li de di
Li de di. li de di, li de di, li de di di di di[1]

It was a cool song, especially that closing Li de di, li de di, li de di, li de di part! Ha! A lot of early 90s evangelical youth group kids were singing those li de di’s!

I thought about “Two Sets of Joneses” earlier this week when studying Genesis 30 and 31. Moses seems to be clearly “Two Sets of Jones-ing” Laban and Jacob. As these chapters unfold the contrast becomes greater and great, with Laban taking one path (the path of control, manipulation, and self-centeredness) and Jacob taking another (the path of trust and faithfulness). We have already seen that both Laban and Jacob, his nephew, are flawed people, like us all. They were both capable of deceit, for instance. Even so, as these verses progress, we see that Jacob has matured and is taking a different path, whereas Laban had built his life on a “sandy foundation he managed to lay.”

Let us “Two Sets of Joneses” our text and consider the contrast between these two men.

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All the “like some’s” of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

blood-meridian-tSince I first read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian some years ago I have been fascinated and at times bewildered by his amazing use of language. Honestly, his often obscure turns of phrase and his sometimes arcane words are one of the delights of the book. One of his favorite tools is the “like some” comparison. Having just finished Richard Poe’s Audible version of the novel, I was struck again by the vivid imagery of these “like some” statements. So I pulled up my Kindle version of the book and copied and pasted the thirty-something instances. (After creating this list I noticed a longer list of similes from Blood Meridian here that was compiled in 2017. Biblioklept includes all of the “like” similes whereas this list is only the “like some’s,” but check out that longer list as well.) Enjoy!

like some fairybook beast (p. 2)

like some wholly wretched baptismal candidate (p. 26)

like some demon kingdom summoned up or changeling land that come the day would leave them neither trace nor smoke nor ruin more than any troubling dream (p. 45)

like some reeking issue of the incarnate dam of war herself (p. 52)

like some deserter scavenging the ruins of a city he’d fled (p. 55)

like some heliotropic plague (p. 71)

like some great pale deity (p. 86)

like some loutish knight beriddled by a troll (p. 96)

like some instrument of ceremony (p. 101)

like some drunken djinn and resolve itself once more into the elements from which it sprang (p. 106)

like some fabled equine ideation out of an Attic tragedy (p. 110)

like some tatterdemalion guard of honor (p. 114)

Like some ignis fatuus belated upon the road behind them. (p. 115)

like some crazed defector in a gesture of defiant camaraderie (p. 132)

like some fabled storybook beast (p. 132)

like some third aspect of their presence hammered out black and wild upon the naked grounds (pp. 145-146)

like some strange vendor bound for market (p. 151)

like some reeking outland nurse (p. 153)

like some changeling (p. 155)

like some pale and bloated manatee surfaced in a bog (p. 163)

like some more ancient ossuary (p. 170)

like some terrible hatching (p. 207)

like some egregious saltland bard (p. 214)

like some queer unruly god abducted from a race of degenerates (p. 248)

like some storied hero (p. 264)

like some great balden archimandrite (p. 265)

like some wild thaumaturge out of an atavistic drama (p. 266)

like some scurrilous king stripped of his vestiture and driven together with his fool into the wilderness to die (p. 275)

like some medieval penitent (p. 275)

like some immense and naked barrister whom the country had crazed (p. 277)

like some dim neolithic herdsman (p. 282)

him like some mad dowser (p. 283)

like some naked species of lemur (p. 291)

like some monster slain in the commission of unnatural acts (p. 319)