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Bible Studies by The Beatitudes People

“Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod,” Mark 8:15.

Some people fast and pray. I clean and pray.

For the past three years, I have noticed that during times of preparation for a new spiritual season, some series of events unfold that uncovers a hidden source of yeast in our home. Yes, by yeast, I also mean mold as they are one and the same, ya know.

In one instance it was the yeast in my daughter’s diet that was affecting her sleep; enter probiotics, enter sleep! In another, it was just a generally motivated cleaning frenzy preparing for COVID; where we did a Passover-style hunt for yeasts and molds and all other germs! Most recently it was uncovering a little overlooked seam in our bathtub that needed to be bleached. It was one of those, “Definitely would have been cleaning this if I knew this little gap was here, and I’m so grossed out that now everything gets bleach” kind of things! The timing of these gross finds always lines up with God showing me how I need to clean up things in my heart to be ready for what’s coming next.

It’s kind of embarrassing to talk about yeast spores and mold in your house, but I heard something great from Tomi Arayomi this week: “Embarrass your sin before it embarrasses you.”

The Bible talks a lot about clearing the leaven (yeast) from our lives. Leaven most generally symbolizes sin. More specifically pride. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus gives us an even more surgical description of what leaven is and how it rots our faith.

You have heard, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees,” Luke 12:1.

You have heard, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadduces” Matthew 16:6.

Have you heard, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod?” (Mark 8:15)

I first “heard” Mark 8:15 (I put “heard” in quotations to mean that I first processed what it was saying) a few days ago, in a prophetic word about the religious, anti-Christ spirits operating on the two sides of the political divide in the church today. I’d never noticed the nuanced phrase “and Herod” in Mark 8:15 before.

Since the 1970’s, the non-denominational American church has tried to shuck off the reputation of the Mainstream churches’ religiosity that has historically paraded itself in the form of stiffness and moralism. The non-denominational church embraced a way of being that has been more accessible to our culture. The non-denominational church has leaned into the ethos of Paul, rejecting mainstream traditionalism for an evangelistic style of church life that “is all things to all men,” while also rejecting most of the practices of the charismatic and Pentecostal movements that are deemed confusing to the unbelieving church visitor.

As a self-deprecating battle cry, we have preached, and taught, and finger-wagged concerning the leaven of the Pharisees by grouping all three of these verses into being a warning of just one thing: religiosity.

We’ve made it so that religiosity can mean whatever we want it to mean to suit the homiletic. A warning to the wise: whenever you make a word’s meaning over-reach its bounds, you can manipulate it to be a pejorative against anyone you don’t like or agree with. The same is true for defining a term too narrowly. Christians love denouncing and de-platforming other Christians as “religious” according to a standard of the accuser’s own devising.

We’ve pushed a culturally crafted definition of religiosity onto the conservative camp. However, religiosity has a biblical definition that applies to everyone in all camps– religious and irreligious alike, conservative and liberal alike. I don’t know about you, but when I think of Herod, his religiosity doesn’t really jump out at me. Yet, he had the same leaven as the Pharisees. How does Herod’s inclusion in a trifecta of verses on the leaven of the Pharisees inform us about what that leaven is?

In the synoptic gospels, Jesus turned a conversation about forgetting to pack bread into an operative doctrine to help his disciples discern when their faith was becoming polluted by the religious spirits of that day. What we’ll find is that “religiosity” is not a one-to-one synonym for religious practice or holiness. Ok, let’s turn it over to Matthew for a second:

“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Matthew 16:12 specifies, “Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

So the leaven of the Pharisees is false teaching. In the context of the bread conversation, Jesus was rebuking the disciples for forgetting about the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Therefore, I’d color this warning against the Pharisees false teaching with three specific components: forgetting your testimony, forgetting Jesus’ God nature, and forgetting about the miraculous.

When you forget what you’ve seen, who Jesus is, and how Jesus operates, you become a prime target for the leaven of the Pharisees– false teaching from within the church that burdens rather than frees people.

At the root is unbelief. Why couldn’t Jesus do many miracles in Nazareth? Because of their unbelief. Those in Jesus’ hometown couldn’t accept his God nature because they were overly familiar with the mundane aspect of Jesus’ person.

The Sadducees inclusion in this phrase also emphasizes the false teaching of rejecting the resurrection. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The Book of Revelation says that anyone that adds or takes away from the prophecies recorded in Revelation will have no share in the tree of life and will be afflicted with all the judgments of the tribulation. In Revelation, two resurrections are described– the believers’ resurrection to assess what rewards will be given to the faithful servants based on the degree to which they sought to invest their lives into the Kingdom of Heaven, and the general resurrection for all to stand judgment for sin. Only those who stand behind Jesus, their sins washed by his blood and hidden under his grace, are deemed innocent.

Luke 12 gives a different dimension of the leaven of the Pharisees. Jesus does not include the Sadducees in this rebuke, but he adds a defining phrase. Luke 12:1: “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

We just established that the leaven of the Pharisees is a teaching style rooted in unbelief, and it is also hypocrisy.

In Luke 12:1-2, Jesus alludes to a day of reckoning saying: “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

I think this day of reckoning is two fold. One, it is the White Throne of Judgement I described above. None of us, not even Christians, gets off without giving a full account of how we spent our terrestrial lives. But, I think it is possible that Jesus was talking about how his death and resurrection was going to blow open the religious oppression that the Pharisees had laden the Jewish people with; and it was going to unmask them as people in complete opposition to God. In so doing, a spiritual highway would be cleared for the gospel to stream forth from Jerusalem.

Since we have allowed 13 yr. old’s to define the word hypocrisy based on how they feel about their parents, an important feature of the meaning of hypocrisy has been lost. The full official denotation of hypocrisy is that you don’t actually believe what you say you believe. It’s not just, “you’re such a hypocrite because you fail at your own standards” or “you set standards for me that you don’t or can’t keep.” It’s that “you’re a hypocrite, and I know you are, because your actions reveal that you do not believe what you profess to believe.”

The leaven of the Pharisees is unbelief and feigned belief.

Suddenly, Christian hypocrisy isn’t just about parents and pastors, it is about anyone whose actions reveal that they are touting an allegiance to the Kingdom of Heaven that they do not have. The Pharisees touted a severe allegiance to Torah and God. Their actions weren’t just missing the mark. Their actions were the fruit of being imposters parading as faithful men in order to attain the easiest access road to power, prestige, and social visibility.

Now there is a definition of hypocrisy that applies to both sides of the political aisle, people young and old, people in church and outside of it. Most people today jockey their “beliefs” for the sake of social standing and moral authority. On the right it’s called “truth” and on the left its called “narrative.”

We presume to be in possession of righteousness that we do not have in order to lord it over other people.

You see, hypocrisy is not just about failing the standards you set up for other people. It’s about not even being serious regarding the standards you set for yourself. It is less about “imposing” and more about being an imposter.

The biggest imposter of Jesus’ day is the target of our final verse, Mark 8:15. “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.”

King Herod was not the King of the Jews. Obviously, because Jesus was. But also, because he wasn’t a Jew. He was an Edomite.

In 2 Chronicles 21:8 we find out that the Edomites, who were descendants of Esau and consequently Ishmael, rebelled against the Kingdom of Judah and set up their own state. This was allowed to happen as a judgment against the king of Judah, Jehoram who was wicked. It was also really sad because it is the first time you become really aware of the “balkanization” of the Kingdom of Israel. First, split in two by the Tribes of Israel, now falling to groups without the right of inheritance to the Promised Land.

King Herod was installed as king of Judea by Rome as a mockery of the Jews. And that was his entire spirit– mockery.

Christians have largely come to believe that as long as you are relaxed, can take a joke, and don’t get too involved with holiness that you aren’t a hypocrite. But the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod includes mockery.

Right before the warning against the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, we see what’s happening backstage after the miracle of the loaves and fishes. After Jesus feeds the masses with a miracle, the Pharisees approach Jesus and start pestering him for a sign. Jesus says, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? None will be given to it.”

Immediately afterward, in the boat, Jesus’ disciples realize they only brought one loaf of bread. Jesus asks, “Do you still not understand?”

He had just done a miracle multiplying bread and they are still hung up on the amount of bread they had with them. They missed the sign! And so did the Pharisees. They asked for a sign because they were ignoring all the signs given. They wanted to dictate what sign would be good enough for them and therefore ignored every sign God gave them.

That is what mockers do. They rail against authorities. Trying to set the bar themselves, they become a law unto themselves.

Jesus uses two opposite personality profiles to encompass the breadth of this kind of leaven. First, the Pharisees with their unbelief and pride. Then, Herod with his lasciviousness and illegitimacy. Both, a law unto themselves mocking the supernatural and spiritual authority of Jesus.

Jesus asks the disciples in Mark 8:17-19: Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?

The questioning regarding hardness of heart and failing to understand what you see and hear should sound very familiar. In Matthew 13, Jesus explains that he speaks in parables about the Kingdom of Heaven so that those who are not inheritors of it won’t understand it. He said, “it is for you, but not them.” After each kingdom parable, Jesus says “let those who have ears to hear let them hear.”

When Jesus questions the disciples in Mark 8:17-19, he is asking them, “Are you like them? Are you not inheritors of the kingdom? Do you not have the spiritual faculties to sense the activity in the heavenlies?” In other words, “are you unfeeling?”

The leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod is a disregard for what God is working in the spirit. More than a lack of discernment, it is an unfeelingness. The leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod is a mold, a rot. It does what leprosy does– it is a rot that deadens your sense of touch.

Don’t store up treasure where things rust and get infested. Don’t cling to yesterday’s move of God, as even manna molds.

Have you become deadened in your ability to feel? Are you able to feel what is happening in the spirit while you mull over what you see in the flesh?

I heard a great quote from Jeremiah Johnson. I’m not sure if he originated it, but he said “Where are you getting your news from? Does the media tell you what’s happening in the world?” This insinuates that we know there is no such thing as an unbiased, unvested opinion, and nothing coming from the news networks is godly, so what is the source of true insight into our world? It’s your senses being sensitive to feel the spiritual consequence of what is happening.

The leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod is not two different kinds of leaven. It is one kind with two profiles. In the one, the leaven foments a passion that cries out, “Bring me the head of John the Baptist!” In the other, the leaven rises up and screams, “Crucify him!”

Both heads on the leaven coin are anti-Christ and anti-prophetic. Jesus was the Word of God. His entire being was prophecy. Jesus told the disciples that he said nothing unless he heard it from the Father. The leaven of the Pharisees and Herod says– “kill the prophetic.”

Let me tell you how the prophetic was killed in America. It was imitated, exaggerated, monetized, sensationalized, and then discredited. Imposters feigning belief for power and money silenced the prophetic in America.

This leaves us in a situation today, where God’s people are sitting in a boat full of miracles asking, “What about the bread?” We are worried about bread just like everyone else, when Jesus told us to go do all the miracles he did and more. But, we’re afraid to approach the prophetic and the power of God because when we look at it, all we see is leaven.

Discern what the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herod is, what hypocrisy is; so that you don’t pass on a portion of the Bread of Life because you think “all bread has leaven so all bread is bad.”

Our sense of touch is the prophetic. It is time for the American church TO FEEL again.

Atlas Judged 2021

Iran Can Buy Arms Starting Tomorrow. How the Persian Empire Has Once Again Become the Most Important Place on Earth.

Ok, first. I want to apologize to the 12 or so people who read “Vote for Pompeo in November.” It was a partisan rant. I read some news regarding Iran that made me really angry and shocked, and I took it out on my keyboard. This is the post I should have written. It is of course still from my bias, but it doesn’t have the same vitriol that the first post on this subject did. I have tried in this writing campaign I’ve been on to speak the truth as I know it with a loving motivation not an angry motivation. I wrote the previous post on this subject with an angry motivation. Please accept my apology and accept my second attempt. I hope it is informative even if it is not how you digest the same information set.

with love, Natalie

The Middle Eastern Cold War has everything to do with the election next month. Have you heard about it? It’s been ongoing between Iran and Saudi Arabia since 1952. And Iran is getting a foot up tomorrow— the arms embargo is lifting. The United Nations denied the United States request for an automatic renewal, a “SnapBack,” that the UN has every right to enact. In effect, Iran is now able to buy arms from other nations and other nations can sell arms to Iran. In response, Trump is petitioning Congress to put sanctions on the South American countries that Iran launders money and arms through, which they apparently then supply to Hezbollah.

Cold War is always about strategic alliance. Donald Trump has been touted as unqualified “to have his finger on the bottom”— meaning America’s first strike nuclear capacity. November’s presidential election is not about who in the White House has their finger on the button, it’s about who holds the pen. I mean the pen that signs the treaties that decide who wins the Middle Eastern Cold War. The hand that holds the pen that decides whether it’s Iran or Saudi Arabia that will rule the Middle East.

It’s not a leap of the imagination to say our lingering proxy war with Russia is currently played out through Iran’s proxy war with Saudi Arabia. Yet, in actuality, it is our trade war with China that Iran and Saudi Arabia have become proxies of.

“The bomb” is the least of our international affairs concerns as sneakier traps are being laid. As Iran destabilizes the Mideast, China has swooped in to colonize the pieces broken by the bad actor. Beginning in North Africa where Libya and Egypt were left in shambles by the Arab Spring, China is asserting itself into power vacuums that open new opportunities for its own trade dominance.

Seriously guys, let Pompeo finish what he has started in the Middle East. A power vacuum in our state department is the last thing anyone needs right now.

For your consideration:

  1. Look into how Iran’s destabilization efforts have led to war and famine in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
  2. Look into how China stepped into the power vacuums we (Obama & Co.) created in Libya and Egypt.

There are more people in the Trump administration than just Trump. And if you don’t want to vote for Trump, vote for Pompeo. Pompeo is a lion in his approach to Iran.

The folly of Iran appeasement in our previous administration cannot be overstated. It is seriously as though Obama/Biden/Clinton were actively steering our international affairs against the interests of the United States! And not just in terms of security, in terms of trade dominance. The American involvement in the Middle East is far from being about the Bushs’ egos or a supposed evangelical “obsession” with Israel. Today, American involvement in the Middle East is about China not crushing America via the trade doors that Iran opens for China through destabilizing its Arab neighbors.

Overthrowing America’s position as the hegemonic military and economic power in the world has been a chess game China has been setting up on many fronts for a long time. COVID is her moment. And she will take it. I recently read a headline that explained: China is reorganizing its own economy for a globalism that relegates the US to one side. One small side. This is why the Trump tariffs that put globalism on the verge of extinction were survivalism not nationalism.

The end of globalism was reality in January of this year, before COVID jumped the Pacific. You can google “end of globalism January 2020” and see what the headlines were. Why would anyone want the end of globalism? In order for globalism to be achieved, America cannot have the strength it has. Putting America into a less economically advantaged position is necessary for globalism to work in the long run. So as globalists, Obama/Biden/Clinton did have incentive to steer our foreign policies away from our interests.

People will say China’s move against America is because of Trump. These pieces have been in play far longer than Trump has been in politics. Which is for 4 years. He has only had any kind of political decision making power for four years versus more than 40 years for Biden and Clinton each. Who has really had the time and influence to shift China’s foreign relations and economic stratagems?

The US returning to less than a full court press in terms of brokering Israel’s strategic alliances, which allows us to undermine Iran’s standing in the Arab League, would not be foolish, it would be catastrophic. The strategic alliances that Pompeo has been brokering for Israel are all about checking Iran in an aggressive enough way that doesn’t just keep them from nuclear armament, it isolates them from other Arab nations. Nothing chills bedfellows like an Arab nation befriending Israel, and Pompeo has six lined up.

Iran is a meddler in other Arab nations affairs, if I’m to vastly understate it. They have been an instigator of unrest and a terrorist equipper in their neighboring countries. In fact, their actions in Iraq since we pulled back troops almost guarantee that we will have to go back in and start over. We have an obligation to Iraqis to continue working toward a stable government for their nation.

Iran’s tactics always involve raising up protest movements and instigating class/ethnic/religious contention. They have been the gasoline behind the civil wars in Syria and Yemen. As Iraq rebuilds from Saddam Hussein’s regime and from war generated by us, Iran has been confounding the efforts of the foundling democracy opportunistically as less and less American presence remains.

Also announced in the last two days: China is now supportive of Iran’s nuclear capacity. In fact, Russia and China have both said they would sell arms to Iran. Venezuela and Colombia have already voiced intentions to buy arms from Iran. I hope it is now clear that Pompeo’s mission to create normalized relations between Israel and her neighbors is not (just) Christian Zionism, it is practical! The only way to stop Iran is to isolate them. America’s best defense against being utterly toppled by China is via Iran through the series of Mideast peace deals that people think mean nothing.

Just because the peace deals don’t create a two-state solution in Israel, commentators feign ignorance as to why these deals matter for all nations and ethnic groups, not just Israel and Palestine.

Zoom out, please. Our Middle Eastern affairs concerning Israel are not always actually about Israel, or Palestinians. Yet, for America’s benefit, Pompeo’s simple obedience in relentlessly supporting Israel has led to brilliant foreign relations that are decidedly effective to protect America’s ability to remain an autonomous and self-determined nation.

Vote Trump to vote for Pompeo. After all, a president’s real realm of influence is foreign relations, on which front Trump is killing it even if it is just by appointing Pompeo.

In contrast, the Obama/Biden/Clinton foreign relations plan allowed Iran to train and install ISIS and empower Hezbollah, and generate an Arab Spring in six countries. The end result of the Arab Spring was autocratic overthrows that created even more extreme government— Islamist theocracy rather than democracy. In 2015, Obama also spearheaded the UN resolution that set the October 18, 2020 expiration date for the arms embargo, which was indefinite until then. A return to such folly wouldn’t just destroy the Middle East, America’s largest rivals would be the biggest winners. And don’t overlook that Turkey is the newest country being groomed by Iran. Look out Europe.

The following is an alarming set of headlines from various points of time and a variety of sources (none of which are Fox News):

“The Weapons Ban on Iran is Ending.” from the Economist. October 13, 2020.

“Bill Introduced to Congress Aims to Stop Hezbollah Money Laundering.” from the Jerusalem Post. October 16, 2020.

“Obama Should Never Have Appeased Iran.” from the Atlantic. January 12, 2020

“In Rebuke of US, China backs Iran nuclear deal, calls for Mideast security forum.” from the Times of Israel. October 11, 2020

“UN Arms Embargo on Iran.” from SIPRI databases. January 20, 2016, includes UN resolution document links and UN voting records on those resolutions.

“The Cold War Between Saudi Arabia and Iran That’s Tearing Apart the Middle East, explained.” from Vox. January 4, 2016.

A Country by Country Breakdown of Saudi and Iranian Influences in the Middle East.” from The Globe and Mail. April 14, 2011.

“Famine Emerges as UN Theme, Crystallized by Yemen Disaster.” from The New York Times. September 24, 2020.

“Why Iran is Getting the Blame for an Attack on Saudi Arabia Claimed by Yemen’s Houthis.” from the Washington Post. September 16, 2019.

“China in the Mediterranean: Implications of Expanding Sino-North African Relations.” from the Brookings Institute. July 2020.

For an American administration to maneuver alongside Islamic radicals and China the way that Obama’s did, there had to have been a common interest between such ideologically opposed world powers— the only thing they all three have in common is a desire for Christianity to decrease in global influence. Christianity is monochromatically cast as the intolerant colonizer though it is the most culturally adaptable religion in history, as Mario Murillo interestingly asserts. We did colonize, but we also acculturated in equal measure to the acculturation we acquired. Many of our customs and traditions and all our holidays are from other cultures.

Funnily, Christians were persecuted as atheists in Rome for not worshipping enough gods! We weren’t religious enough for the Romans. Our freedom in Christ to “be all things to all people” still confounds the stridently religious as much as it does the rest of the world. This is why Islamists call us the Great Satan– because we corrupt Muslims with our free-wheelin’ ways.

If you digest the news through the lens of the Apocalypse then the peace Pompeo and Kushner are brokering on behalf of Trump and Pence really could be a harbinger of the end of the world! But if they don’t finish the job they started, it is more than likely just the end of America— Christianity’s haven of world influence.

You might say, “Natalie, it is not for Christians to have vested interests in their own nation, we are a global church.”

Yes, however, Paul wrote to Timothy saying to “pray for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life, godly and dignified in every way.” 1 Timothy 2:2.

See this: In the Bible, every empire that God’s people were exiled into had just as much pluralism and freedom of religion as America does today. Egypt, Babylon, and Persia (Egypt, Iraq, Iran) — in each case we arrive on the scene of a story of God’s rescue at the precise moment when the empire’s leader has legislated a sudden shift from religious freedom for foreigners to forced worship of a state religion or religious suppression of Jews specifically. From Moses to Shadrach, Mishach, and Abednego then on to Mordecai— we meet God’s people in the moment religious freedom has been revoked. Test me on that in Exodus, Daniel and Esther.

It was always when freedom of religion was taken away in the empire that God judged the empire and delivered his people from them. We do need to be vested in threats to America’s freedom at home and abroad. Praying above all. America is protector-in-chief of all religious freedom globally, not just Christian privilege.

For the spiritual context that got me looking into studying this history, find my posts from September: “11 Arab Nations Are Ready for a Revolution” and “A Dispatch for Intercessors: An Angelic Messenger and the Inheritance of the Nations.”

If you read these dreams, it would be significant to note that there are 10 nations caught between the influence of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Which nation will overcome the other and lead 11 nations in a free and open marketplace of ideas and finance, giving an 11th Hour Release of the Gospel in the region?

I’ll say this— I think it’ll be Iran. If Iranians win their own freedom from radical Islamist oppression, they will lead the Arab nations caught up in the Middle Eastern Cold War to religious freedom. Pray for Iran.

Imagine how a mighty move of God in just one country could change the world. The gospel breaking forth in just one nation could change history. Pray for Iran.

The last time Persia was this important Esther was queen.

LAST UPDATED: October 19, 2020

Fall Feasts

“It is I– and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,” Job 42:3

I first wrote this post as part of the “Too Much Talking: Spiritual Warfare in the Book of Job” devotional series from 2019. This post is about our confession of faith as spiritual warfare, and measuring what it is to call yourself “born again.” We are born again of water and of the Spirit as Jesus describes it in John 3:5.  This post is above all a reconsideration of the sufficiency of Christ and a heart check on how self-sufficient you may have become spiritually over the course of this year. I felt like revisiting this post was perfectly appropriate for the season we are in biblically and culturally. Enjoy, and find a personal bible study guide to delve deeper into these topics on your own at the bottom of this page. Here we go…

Confession is warfare speech. Whether confession of sin, or confession of belief, there is power in straightening out the facts. 

Job’s confession is that he sinned by speaking out of turn. The man who maintained relentlessly his innocence throughout a brutal trial of public opinion, confesses his sin of presumption, in that he spoke of “things far too wonderful for [him].”

God had called him blameless in the beginning of his story. His dutiful commitment to sacrifice, offering, prayer, and conscientious living was unparalleled. Indeed he was rich in integrity and in possessions. Before his trials he had experienced exactly what the psalter proclaims in Psalm 112:

How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying His commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed. They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever. Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly. Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust in the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor. The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away their hopes thwarted. Psalm 112

Before Job’s afflictions, this psalm described his life perfectly. He was committed to goodness and from his giving he received.

Yet, here is the gospel that Job had to encounter, the one he learned through a battering ten rounds in the ring with Satan and his henchmen– the wretched and poor and blind and naked, the unclean must look to Jesus so that from His giving they might receive.

Job’s most damning affliction was his skin disease, the boils and oozing sores. The reason this was more oppressive to his spirit than losing everything, even his children, was that it mortified his attempts at righteousness. A skin disease made him unclean.

Job of course predates Levitical law, but even if just by foreshadowing, let’s contemplate the spiritual weight of his ceremonial uncleanness.

His religion was useless if he couldn’t perform it. An unclean person could not sacrifice. They were quarantined. They couldn’t be touched, less they render the other person unclean.

If the skin disease was chronic they were required to leave their hair uncombed, tear their clothes, and call out as they passed other people, “Unclean! Unclean!”

For a person who did heal, they had to present themselves to the priests to be examined, receive a purification ritual involving sprinkling on of blood, shave their head, wash their clothes, and take a bath. (Leviticus 13 & 14)

I want to draw a parallel here between pre-affliction Job– wealthy, religious Job– along with his wealthy, religious friends and the church of Laodicea.

We meet the Laodicean church in the books of Revelation and Colossians.

Paul instructed the Colossians to pass the letter he wrote them on to the Laodiceans. Paul also told the Colossians to read his letter to the Laodiceans (which is unfortunately lost to antiquity.)

“And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea,” Colossians 4:16. 

The two churches must have had a bit in common for their individual admonitions to be mutually applicable.

In Colossians and Revelation you will find 4 shared themes: 1. references to riches, treasure, inheritance, wealth, and gold; 2. references to “putting on,” “clothe,” “clothing,” and “white robes;” 3. terminology about baptism and water; and 4. mentions of the identity of Christ as the only saving, renewing, justifying authority in the universe.

The Colossians are told to “put on your new nature.” Putting on our new nature is our baptism in Christ as we have died with Christ, are hidden in Christ, and have been born again a new creation– find this argument everywhere in the epistles of Paul.

Paul also tells the Colossians to “be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him,” Colossians 3:10.

The problem with the Colossians, and also with the Laodiceans, was that they did not think very much of Jesus. They didn’t take very seriously what Jesus did by sprinkling His blood on their uncleanness and being the living water baptismal font into which they were cleansed.

The Colossians bought into a lie that Jesus was an angel. So Paul begins his admonition to  the Colossians with a strong statement about Christ:

Christ is the visible image of an invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realm and on earth. Colossians 1:15-16a

In Revelation, Jesus introduces Himself to the Laodicean church saying:

This is the message from the one who is the Amen– the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation. Revelation 3:14

The Amen is the “let it be so.” In other words, there is nothing God does without materializing it through Jesus. Strong parallels between Colossians and Revelation!

But also to the book of Job! Oh my goodness, if only Job and his friends could know what we get to know through our inheritance of scripture:

That our works do not save us. That Jesus is not just a good teacher or our chummy guru. His is the blood for our purification and the baptism that makes us clean–

A clean that we must have to approach God!

We are baptized once to be cleansed, and it is enough, because Jesus died once for all to purify us and we only need to be baptized once, not over and over and over as it was under the old law, because Jesus is the Amen; once you’re baptized in Him “it is so.”

Jesus could easily say to Job and Job’s friends what He said to the Laodicean church:

Buy from Me gold that has been purified in fire! Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be ashamed of your nakedness. Revelation 3:18 (paraphrase of NLT). 

“Trade in your good works for My good works!”

The Laodiceans are famous for their indifference. If they were anything like the Colossians, indifference does not mean that they lacked in religious fervor and diligence. Job gave fastidiously and energetically to his religious practice. So does the American church.

The Laodiceans water, of course, is also famous. They had no water of their own, so they piped it in and travelled it through valleys using a siphon. A Roman siphon was basically a big U. How it worked was: a great enough amount of water had to pour down into the bottom of the siphon from one side of the valley to create sufficient force to push the water at the bottom of the siphon up the hill and out the other side of the pipe.  

Because the water was piped in from an outside source rather than being generated from a natural spring, I’m imagining that water could settle at the bottom of the siphon for a while before there was enough water accumulated to move it up and out. The pipes of the siphons of Laodicea are still scattered about its ruins. They are heavily corroded and are thought to have gone into disrepair frequently while in use because of quick calciferous build up.

Colossians 2:21 tells us of the works of the ceremonial laws: “that such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them.” Just like the Laodicean water pipes.

In comparison, Jesus is Living Water.

“Living Water,” is even today a term used by Jewish rabbis, as the name designating a baptismal font that is connected to a natural source of water. Being tapped into a natural water source causes the baptismal to stay clean as opposed to a bath that would need to be emptied, purified, and refilled.

The Laodiceans, and Job, and his friends were indifferent about their baptism. They were indifferent about the glorious, praise-worthy, awesome, re-creating power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and our partaking in His work through our one-time cleansing baptism.

They instead preferred their own riches of goodness. Lame.

They say, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing! Revelation 3:17

Presumption of the highest order! They were so satisfied with the heady perfume of their own trifling, ceremonial rightness, that they didn’t want very much for Jesus. And they didn’t think very highly of His taking away of their uncleanness and His washing of their garments.

They’d rather crucify Christ over and over for justification, and empty and refill that baptismal font over and over and over for their purity.

Job’s oozing, chronic, boil-y, skin disease is the best thing that ever happened to him.

The one thing that he couldn’t fix himself– the one point of righteousness he couldn’t attain himself– lead him to the Living Water, which alone could make him clean.

And that is what he confessed when he said, “It is I– and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things that are far to wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen, I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard of you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” Job 42:3b-6

Buy from Me… ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. Revelation 3:18

Our confession, what we must speak out, especially if you have been a Christian for awhile is: I will never stop needing Jesus.

For a more detailed study read:

Revelation 3:14-22; Colossians 1-4; Zechariah 3; John 1; Hebrews 7-9; Matthew 23; Matthew 8:1-4; John 7:37-39; John 2:23-4:42; Luke 4:27; 2 Kings 5:1-19; Leviticus 13 & 14; Hebrews 6:1-6; Nehemiah 8 & 9 (Nehemiah 7:66 – 12:43 for bonus points).

Fall Feasts

“For He cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:7

living waters matisseThe story of Jesus’ encounter with the Woman at the Well portrays better than anything why we can trust Jesus with our cares.

Typically we think of our “cares” as earthly needs for provision and protection. Perhaps you, as I, separate your “cares” from your “burdens,” with burdens having a more emotional connotation.

It makes sense that we’d parse definitions this way being that even alternate versions of the Bible translate “cares” as anxieties or worries.

The context in which 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to, “Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you,” is an exhortation to humble ourselves to God’s sovereignty– His “mighty hand.” We are to allow Him to be the one to take care of us no matter how our life circumstances look. We are to believe beyond belief that He is in control of even the most chaotic situations. In this framework, we cast our cares on Him.

Putting ourselves under the execution of God’s mighty hand is scary. It is scary when you aren’t certain that He cares for you. This shadow of uncertainty in God’s care is darkest when you are a person with a guilty conscience.

When you carry a burden of guilt the fear of punishment, feelings of shame, and knowledge of judgment makes it very difficult to trust God with anything physical and emotional, temporal or eternal. Guilt erodes our belief that God is for us and cares to sustain us through life’s trials.

The cares of this world and emotional burdens get tied together by a guilty conscience. The result is an inability to cast our cares on the only one who can take care of them.

Enter the Woman at the Well.

The Woman at the Well was drawing water in the heat of the day because no one else would be there at that time. She wore the scarlet letter. She was judged by others and had done everything they gossiped about. In the middle of the day, she was avoiding all the other women in town who’d come draw water once dusk cooled the day.

Uncomfortably, this woman with a terrible reputation found herself alone with a man at the very time of day she was trying to escape her reputation as a seductress.

Truth be told, I feel really sorry for the Woman at the Well. She had had five husbands. The sixth guy didn’t even marry her in an age when cohabitation was not a thing. And within two minutes of conversation with this stranger, Jesus displayed His supernatural quality to the woman by telling her that He knew these secrets and sins about her. Oddly, it was kinda her miracle. Some people understood Jesus’ identity after a healing or receiving forgiveness, the Samaritan woman’s miracle encounter with Jesus was just Him stating the elephant in the room— that her life was dominated by sexual impropriety.

As far as I know women couldn’t divorce men at that time. A women caught in adultery would be killed. So, I’m not sure what she did, but I am guessing her husbands left her, not the other way around. And the sixth took advantage of her sullied history to the extent of not having the decency to accept her as his wife.

For the Woman at the Well, guilt had crystallized into a ton of rejection. Those rejections had greater implications than just emotional insecurity. A woman who wasn’t legally married in that day had no legal rights or inheritance. She had no security of future provision.

I have been discovering lately that guilt, rejection, and a deprivation mentality are clandestine bedmates.

When I think of rejection I think of feelings of being unlovable or overlooked or insufficient. Recently, God has been working things out in my own heart regarding rejection. I never even considered how an abiding sense of guiltiness under the law could be a platform for a pattern of rejection in my life.

A sinfulness complex and a rejection complex are twin specters in our lives.

Rejection is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Particularly because we can perceive rejection where it really doesn’t exist. Our response to fictitious rejection often culminates in real rejection as people’s limited grace for our insecure oddities runs out. At the root of it, we expect to be rejected because we feel guilty and ashamed of ourselves.

Worse than any rejection we can suffer at the hands of parents or parental figures, employers and mentors, potential lovers or actual lovers, is the rejection of God. Rejection by God implies death. Where God rejects there is not just pain but annihilation.

The law lets us know that being rejected by God is not just a possibility it is an inevitability. Unless we receive the Holy Spirit, which is the Living Water from Jesus, we will be cast out to where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth– a place of consuming anxiety and cosmic wanting (John 7:37-39; Matthew 22:1-14; Hebrews 10).

I am one of those people who has an unfortunately sensitive conscience. My conscience is easily piqued. The awareness I have of the righteous requirement of the law expands far beyond its natural bounds. I lay a heavy burden on myself much like the Pharisees did to the people in Jesus’ day (Matthew 23:4).

“They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden,” Matthew 23:4.

 All growing up I had an abiding sense of guilt. I felt inherently immoral. I was always waiting to get in trouble for something even though I almost never (seriously) did anything that could get me into trouble.

My guilt burden, or sinfulness complex, resulted in an expectation of rejection. I had this weird “un-fantasy” when I was young that I would do something bad and that my parents would abandon me for it and then I would become homeless. To me, homelessness was the end result of rejection for your sins. Of course as it happens, I was born genetically predisposed to bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness closely associated with homelessness. As Job said, “The thing that I feared came upon me” (Job 3:25).

I carried an inflated burden of guilt that fortified a stronghold of rejection that gave a throne in my heart to a spirit of deprivation. A spirit of deprivation manifests as: cares, worries, anxieties, want, lack, scarcity, torment, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We must receive the forgiveness of our sins and the atonement for our guilt that Jesus offers, so that we might also receive the rich provisions of His mercy. We cannot have relationship with God without the removal of our guilt. Otherwise, our rejection stronghold will make us unable to feel the love of God; and a pervasive belief that we are chronically deprived will make us unable to receive the saturation of His grace.

The Woman at the Well was a Samaritan. When she met Jesus she had an immediate expectation of rejection because of the animosity between Judeans and Samaritans. She was born the wrong kind of person– she had inherent guilt.

Jesus engages with the Samaritan woman despite her being the wrong kind of person morally and ethnically; and He engages with her in a very generous and intimate way.

In John 4, there are three references to the woman’s response to Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of her multiple sexual partners:

  1. First, she says to Jesus: “I can see you are a prophet.”
  2.  Second, she tells the towns people, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could he be the Messiah?”
  3. Third, the narrative explains that the Samaritan townspeople went to hear Jesus themselves because of the testimony that she gave: “He told me everything I ever did.” The passage says that they came to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world because of both what she said and that she encouraged them to go listen to him for themselves. 

The Woman at the Well’s response to Jesus grew from “You are a prophet” to “maybe You’re the Messiah” to “You are the Savior of the world.”

Jesus defied the woman’s expectation of rejection by requesting her hospitality

Jesus disabled her guilt by taking the veil of secrecy off of her sins.

Jesus also dispossessed the woman’s spirit of deprivation by telling her to ask him for the satisfaction he had available to her.

Her problem was sin and shame, but Jesus addressed her cares– her need for satisfaction.

First, He addresses her profound thirsts. Then He shares with her something he shared with very few people. He shares with her the mystery of God– that Jesus came to offer salvation to the Jews and to the Gentiles, to the half-breeds like her (Ephesians 3:5-6). He tells her the secret that God’s plan is to make right even the people who were born wrong. He offered her knowledge of Himself and His life’s passion. 

This is how Jesus handles our cares too: He requests entry to our hearts, removes the secrecy from around our sin, tells us to ask Him for satisfaction, and then resolves all of our ambivalence toward Him into perfect peace by revealing intimate information about Himself to us.

This is relationship with Jesus. Not only does He know us, but He assures us that our hearts are safe in His hands by entrusting to us privileged information about Himself.

It’s hard to describe what “a personal relationship with God” means in practical terms. But here’s my best guess: Relationship with Jesus is realizing that Jesus is a person who knows the secret of my sins and lets me know the secrets of His glory.

The transformative power of casting our cares on Jesus is that He cares for us. Paternalistic relationships are one way. But Jesus displays His tender care for us by knowing us and being known by us.

The power center of my testimony is the way that Jesus cares for me.

Sharing our testimonies grows our satisfaction and our conviction that Jesus is the Savior who is able to handle all manner of cares. Again- the Samaritan woman’s conviction about Jesus’ identity grew from prophet to possible Messiah of the Jews to Savior of the whole world in the course of two days by sharing her testimony.

Her testimony— “He told me everything I ever did,” unfettered her from guilt under the law and released her into dignity. It removed her cloak of rejection and clothed her in security. It filled her up with self-replenishing, life-giving waters.

My instructions to you for taking care of your soul’s cares is to share your testimony. It’s the most tangible action step in the effort to psychologically cast your cares on Jesus.

Tell anyone and everyone about the One who knows everything you ever did and extended an offer of friendship to you anyway. And– sharing your testimony isn’t really to evangelize anyone else. That’s just a byproduct.

Sharing your testimony is about evangelizing yourself. It is about growing your capacity to cast your cares on Him because you know He cares for you. In such your capacity to receive from Him also grows. Your capacity to feel love grows.

When Jesus first asked the Woman at the Well for a drink of water, she said, “but you have nothing to draw it up with.” He replied, “If you knew who you were talking to, you would ask me for living water and you would never thirst again.”

Let Jesus remove the guilt that excuses you from dipping into the well of God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  Your sin is not a secret to Jesus.

You don’t have to worry what he’ll do if he finds out.

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

This post was originally published in 2019 as part of the devotional series titled “Instructions for the Care of Your Soul.” I feel heavily that the emphasis of Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles this year is baptism. The Apostle Peter talks about Noah’s Ark being a story about baptism. Nehemiah’s praise during the reinstatement of Sukkot includes praising God as the Lord of Deliverance through the Sea and “the Water from the Rock.” There is nothing so significant in “times in between” than the crossing over into new covenant that baptism represents.

Fall Feasts

“Leviathan makes the water boil with its commotion.” Job 41:31

So, this topic has become one of fascination for me: Behemoth and Leviathan. What I consider to be the spiritual principalities of speech.

The Book of Job, a biblical treatise on the theology of human suffering, dedicates no less than a chapter describing the strength of Leviathan and Behemoth. 

There are really not that many spiritual principalities that are mentioned by name in the Bible, but the “beast” and the “serpent” appear from one end to the other of scripture.

A principality, such as what the Apostle Paul talks about in Ephesians, is a demonic ruler. It is a prince of demons. It has jurisdiction in a place, and power over other spirits.

It seems that Paul emphasizes the nature of principalities by describing them three repetitive but slightly different ways in Ephesians 6:12. He couples the ideas of authority and realm calling them: “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world,” “mighty powers in this dark world,” and “evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

So there exists entities such as Behemoth and Leviathan who have a realm to rule; they have actual authority; they are unseen as they are active on earth; they are strong; they operate away from Christ’s light; they are evil in nature yet are angelic evidenced in that they are privy to the heavenly court– just as we see Satan is in the heavenly court in Job chapters 1 & 2 (and also in Zechariah 3). 

Behemoth and Leviathan are probably familiar vernacular for most people outside of spiritual warfare talk.

Behemoth is a term in English language that usually connotes something large, immovable, entrenched, and with far-reaching power. Most often it would be used as a description for a company or an industry or a baron.

The ties we have made between Behemoth and commerce are completely appropriate. The word behemoth is literally an ancient Canaanite word for “beast.”

We first find the “beast” in operation in Genesis 11 where the first world system was created in Babylonia– a city called Babel.

“The Beast” in apocalyptic prophecy in Daniel and Revelation have to do with empires and world systems. Stodgy, huge, engulfing presences that enslave, weigh on, dominate, and break the people into acquiescence and compliance.

There are two victories prophesied in Revelation– the throwing of the serpent into the pit and the destruction of Babylon.

Leviathan, “the serpent of old,” “the dragon,” makes his first appearance in Genesis and his last in Revelation. Leviathan is throughout the Bible attributed as having the power of deception. Sometimes he is considered Satan, himself, as the lies he propagates are so utterly destructive to our relationships with God and each other.

In Revelation, the dragon is absolutely called Satan (Revelation 20:2).

What impresses strongly on me is that both of these principalities operate in the unseen. The most powerful unseen world that I personally experience is the transfer of human communication. Our words fly here and there, invisibly shaping and shaking the world.

Behemoth loves to operate in philosophy, politics, logic traps, confusion, riots, uproar, outrage, propaganda, and government. It wields influence in the transference of goods between nations, currency, trade agreements, armistices, alliances, and treaties. Oppressive regimes, indoctrination, the release or restriction of free speech– that is Behemoth.

Behemoth draws people into a world view and traps them into a world system that is incredibly difficult to break free from. It is difficult to break free from because every essential function of our humanity happens within a network, a web of social connections and shared interests.

All over the globe, throughout the history of evil world systems, people have had to completely break ties with everyone and everything they knew in order to follow the one true God. It happened to Abraham, it happens today. It is the process that we are witnessing in Job, as God breaks Job free from all wrong thinking and corrupt communication.

In Job, the fight to gain that freedom from the Behemoth of pre-YHWHist world religion was fought on the battleground of interpersonal communication. We see it through the entire book of Job as the battle between his friends’ worldly approach to theology versus Job’s reliance on a future Advocate, Mediator, and Redeemer.

Blasphemous words and deceptive speech are the charges against Behemoth and Leviathan respectively, in the Book of Revelation.

Called the “fleeing serpent,” the “twisting serpent,” the “shining one,” “the dragon,” Leviathan is famous for his deception of Eve. In Revelation, we find him in a retrospective trying to devour Israel before Jesus could be born out of her population. We get a brief heaven’s-eye-view of Jesus ascension and rule in heaven, before being told that right now, there is a war in heaven led by Michael and warring against Satan– the “one deceiving the whole world,” Revelation 12:9.

When this war is won, Satan and his angels will no longer have any place of access in heaven. They will be thrown down to earth and they will engage in a furious attempt to deceive and enslave (Revelation 13) with a power surge of authority as they know that soon they will not have any authority at all or ever again when Christ’s reign is completely consummated.

As Ephesians says, Satan and his princes operate in the unseen world, in the dark world. We have to take seriously that when Revelation talks about the blasphemy of the beast, the torrent of water against Israel from the dragon’s mouth, those vile words and persuasive speech are being spoken through human mouthpieces.

From the unseen world projected into the darkness of human hearts, Satan puts out his propaganda, deceiving (Leviathan) and enslaving (Behemoth) through human agents and earthly systems.

We know that Jesus establishes His kingdom on earth in His chosen day for complete and final victory over the Behemoth world systems that set themselves up against the knowledge of God (Revelation 18; 2 Corinthians 10:5).

It is believed in Jewish tradition (2 Esdras) that a feast will be made of Leviathan in the “time to come.” In Revelation, it is the dragon that is thrown into the pit last after all other evil spirits for a final and forever internment in hell (20:7-10).

Were you to read the Book of Job, what is thought to be the oldest book in the Bible, you will find the whole scope and grandeur of God’s eternally derived plan for the world. The Book of Revelation’s cast of characters are right there in this early, poetic scripture.

You will find, in the Book of Job: God’s heart for mankind and His mechanism of salvation. You will find man in our deceived and deceiving condition. You will find Jesus fixing everything; and God clearing the decks with a thunderous, sweeping, awe-inducing truth bomb. You see God silencing Leviathan and breaking Behemoth.

You see how the Spirit of Truth has the final say in the end, just as it has since the beginning.

Finally, you will find in the Book of Job, the one and only key that you need to fight in this unseen, dark world; your only necessary weapon of spiritual warfare:

To keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Psalm 34:13

A man is not defiled by what comes into your mouth but by the words that come out of your mouth. Matthew 15:11

Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. 1 Peter 4:11

Behemoth and Leviathan are word-powered spirits. Your talk either aligns you with them against God… or with God against them.

 

This post was originally published in 2019 as part of the “Too Much Talking: Spiritual Warfare in the Book of Job” devotional series. This Feast of Tabernacles season we are in, October 2-9, 2020, the themes that keep coming up for me are: water crossings, forgiveness, and speech. For speech, what continues to come to mind is the difference between derisive speech and praise. More to come on this, hopefully. God bless and stay prayerful!