Tag Archive | Abomination of Desolation

Fox Byte 5775 #25: Tzav (Command)

צַו

Operating in deadly environments. Clockwise from top: James Franciscus, Gene Hackman, and Richard Crenna in the 1969 space drama Marooned (photo: Movie Hunger); Peter Coyote, Samuel L. Jackson, and Dustin Hoffman under the sea in Sphere (photo: Torrent Garden); Gregory Peck sends John Meillon ashore in the radiation charged atmosphere of San Diego in the film adaptation of On the Beach (photo: Senses of Cinema); Dustin Hoffman in a virus-infected hot zone in Outbreak (photo: ET Online).

Operating in deadly environments. Clockwise from top: James Franciscus, Gene Hackman, and Richard Crenna in the 1969 space drama Marooned (photo: Movie Hunger); Peter Coyote, Samuel L. Jackson, and Dustin Hoffman under the sea in Sphere (photo: Torrent Garden); Gregory Peck sends John Meillon ashore in the radiation charged atmosphere of San Diego in the film adaptation of On the Beach (photo: Senses of Cinema); Dustin Hoffman in a virus-infected hot zone in Outbreak (photo: ET Online).

Consider the fragility of human existence.  We survive within a specific set of environmental parameters – a fixed range of temperature, hydration, radiation, and atmospheric content.  From a cosmic perspective the margin of error is very small; the slightest adjustment in even a single factor, such as the amount of oxygen, quickly moves the environment from pleasant to deadly.  Yet we have learned how to venture into the realm of the deadly when necessary.  Thanks to protective clothing, equipment, and protocols, our species can operate within the vacuum of space, in the ocean’s depths, in the radiation-charged atmosphere of a nuclear reactor, and in the hot zone of an infectious disease laboratory.

We venture into these deadly environments, but we do not live there.  We cannot survive there without observing the strictest standards.  Those who enter these realms understand this.  Astronauts, deep sea explorers, nuclear engineers, and epidemiologists are professionals who have answered the call to highly specialized career fields.  Not all who enter the paths of these professions advance to the point that they can operate confidently in the most dangerous places.  The selection and training standards must be established at the highest possible levels for the simple reason that the slightest error can produce lethal results.  Richard Preston explained this principle in The Hot Zone, an investigative look into the origins of viral hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola.  We learn from his book that the protocols for entering, working in, and leaving an infectious disease lab are elaborate and time-consuming, but necessary.  No amount of caution is excessive when microscopic killers can infiltrate through the tiniest puncture of a protective suit or escape through an improper seal of an airlock.  The viruses create the hot zone, whether it is in the lab or in the human body.  Because of the radical transformative nature of these microorganisms, the highly trained professionals who work with viruses like Ebola in a very real sense act as mediators between them and the general population.

In fact, the role of these professionals is not unlike the role of the Levitical priests.

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Fox Byte 5775 #24: Vayikra (He called)

וַיִּקְרָא

In this scene from The Cat in the Hat, the son takes action to stop the desecration of the house.  (Picture from The Cat in the Hat, read by RC Ward, on Just Books Read Aloud)

In this scene from The Cat in the Hat, the son takes action to stop the desecration of the house. (Picture from The Cat in the Hat, read by RC Ward, on Just Books Read Aloud)

A standard feature of civilization is the rules of the house, the guidelines by which a person can be welcomed into and remain peacefully within someone’s home.  At the most basic level these are rules children learn from their parents at the earliest age.  Parents explain proper behavior and children grow up doing what they have said, or suffering the consequences if they disobey.  As adults the children pass on these rules to their children so they may act properly when visiting Grandma and Grandpa.  This maintains peace in the family, not only ensuring respect for the elders, but establishing and reinforcing a foundation for loving relationships.

If this is so, then how should we approach The Cat in the Hat?  Since its publication in 1957 by Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), The Cat in the Hat has become one of the world’s most popular and successful children’s books.  Geisel wrote it as an attempt to find an easier way for children to learn to read, but his creation has become much more than that; the Cat is now a cultural icon.  The book has everything that would appeal to children:  an engaging story told in simple, silly rhyme, colorful illustrations, and an outrageous degree of irreverence for the house rules.  The story opens with a rainy day in a normal house, where a Boy and his sister Sally are left at home with nothing to do while their Mother is out.  Suddenly their quiet boredom is interrupted by the entrance of the Cat who promises, “Lots of good fun that is funny”.  He then proceeds to violate every rule of the house by using everything he sees – including the pet Fish in its bowl – as a plaything.  Just when we think it can get no worse, the Cat introduces his friends Thing 1 and Thing 2.  The three anarchic intruders accelerate the mayhem, and in a very short time everything that is sacred, including Mother’s new gown and her bedroom furniture, have suffered violence.  At the height of the disaster, the Fish alerts the children to the approach of their Mother and urges them to do something to stop the destruction.  The Boy jumps into action, grabbing a large net with which he captures the Things and orders the Cat to pack them up and take them away.

With the intruders gone, the children and the Fish contemplate how to clean up the enormous mess.  To their surprise, the Cat returns with a machine that puts everything back in order just in time.  Thus The Cat in the Hat ends on a good note, with the house rules mended.  Yet that is not the end of the lesson.  While Dr. Seuss may not have intended it, his story resembles the tale of another Son concerned about violation of the house rules established by His Parent:

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”  (Matthew 21:12-13 NASB)

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Thanksgiving in the Kingdom, Part II

The various offerings for guilt, trespass, or sin were important elements of the Temple service, but they were only a small part of the many types of offerings God specified for His table.  (The Sin Offering, Christian Image Source)

The various offerings for guilt, trespass, or sin were important elements of the Temple service, but they were only a small part of the many types of offerings God specified for His table. (The Sin Offering, Christian Image Source)

More Than Just Sin

At the heart of our misunderstanding of the sacrificial system is the assumption that it is all about sin.  Since the blood of the animals foreshadowed the atonement that would come in Messiah’s sacrifice, and since that atonement came to pass through Messiah’s sinless death on the cross, the assumption is that sacrifices are no longer necessary.  Sadly, such reasoning betrays incomprehension of the reason God instituted sacrifices.  Messiah Yeshua did indeed die as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29-34; see also Isaiah 53 and Revelation 5).  His death most certainly provides the only provision for willful, rebellious sin against our Creator (Genesis 22:6-8; Numbers 15:27-31; Hebrews 10:26-31).  However, the sacrificial system included many more offerings than those which had connection to sin.

If we are to understand the full nature of the Temple sacrifices, we should start with the meaning of the words used for the items offered on the Altar.  “Sacrifice” and “offering” are the usual English translations, and quite often the meanings are not entirely distinct in the minds of English-speaking readers.  The English definition of “sacrifice” refers to something valuable offered, often to a deity, in exchange for something or someone else.  A sacrifice also means something that is “written off”, or lost for good.  In that sense, the olah would be considered a sacrifice because it is a burnt offering intended to be entirely consumed on the Altar.  Yet that is not the intent for everything presented to God, which is why the term “offering” is important.  The Hebrew word in this case is korban (קָרְבָּן; Strongs H7133), a term usually translated as “offering”, but occasionally rendered as “sacrifice”.  Christians should recognize the term from one of Yeshua’s key confrontations with the Pharisees:

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”  (Mark 7:9-13 NASB, emphasis added)

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Thanksgiving in the Kingdom, Part I

Doing Business With God

Messiah Yeshua said something very peculiar when His disciples asked for the sign of His return at the end of the age.  He mentioned one unambiguous event that would signal the beginning of what is generally called the Tribulation:

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.  (Matthew 24:15-16 NASB)

What makes Yeshua’s statement peculiar is not that this Abomination of Desolation first occurred nearly two centuries before He spoke these words, nor that something like it happened again a generation later.  The peculiarity is that this unambiguous sign of Messiah’s return concerns the Temple in Jerusalem and the sacrificial system of worship codified by God through Moses in the Torah.  A consistent theme in Christian doctrine is that the death and resurrection of Yeshua made the sacrificial system obsolete.  Why, then, does Yeshua ratify Daniel’s description of this interruption of the sacrifices as the “Abomination of Desolation”?  Why is it an abomination if the sacrifices no longer matter to God?  Why is it a desolation?  Who or what is made desolate, and why?  These questions direct us to look closer at the sacrificial system of worship so we can understand more clearly how our God does business with humanity.

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When Empires Die: Thoughts on the Centennial of World War I

When Empires Die was originally published June 28-July 28, 2014, as a six-part series.  The original six part format is accessible here.

I.  THE ROAD TO SARAJEVO

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie with their three children in 1910

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie with their three children in 1910

The world took a giant step toward death on June 28, 1914.  On that day a young atheist shot and killed a prominent Catholic and his wife in an obscure Southeast European city.  Within five years, four world empires were dismembered and two new ones arose in their place.  Within 40 years, three more global empires breathed their last as the new world system spawned in 1914 grew to maturity.  Today, one hundred years later, that world system wheezes with its own death rattle, soon to expire in the process of giving birth to yet another global system which may be the last – and worst – of its kind.

As a historian, a political scientist, a soldier, and an intelligence professional, I cannot let the centennial of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination pass without pausing to remember what his life and death meant to the world.  The circumstances that brought the Archduke and his wife, the Duchess Sophie, to Sarajevo, Bosnia, are not difficult to explain, but to understand the significance of their deaths, both in their day and in ours, requires a detailed explanation.  If that explanation seems too focused on Europe, the simple reason is that Europe in 1914 ruled the entire world.  No nation outside Europe – neither ancient India, nor populous China, nor even the rising powers of America and Japan – was immune to events that shook the state system of the Continent.  If we are to know why the world went to war in 1914, we must look at the major players of that state system.  Only then can we begin to discern what happened to the world in the summer of 1914, and what is happening to the world now in the summer of 2014.

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Winning By Losing

The Arabic letter "N" ("noon"), indicating "Nasrani", or Christian (Nazarene).  IS has placed this letter on the homes of Christians in Iraq as a warning to convert ot Islam, pay the Jizya tax for non-Muslims, or be executed.

The Arabic letter “N” (“noon”), indicating “Nasrani”, or Christian (Nazarene). IS has placed this letter on the homes of Christians in Iraq as a warning to convert to Islam, pay the Jizya tax for non-Muslims, or be executed.  (Reposted from the blog by Australian youth pastor Dave Miers.)

The world’s attention has at last focused on the genocide happening in Iraq.  Tragically, this story is not new.  What is new is that the Islamic State (IS) has undertaken the brutal, systematic eradication of every group that does not adhere to its barbaric and quite literal interpretation of Islam.  The murder, rape, starvation, and enslavement of Iraq’s minorities who have refused to convert to Islam is now making headlines in the mainstream media.  Hopefully all the world now knows about the Yezidis of Iraq who have suffered these brutalities, many thousands of whom are only now finding refuge after being trapped on the Sinjar Mountains.

Yet the Yezidis are not alone in this suffering.  The Christians of Iraq have undergone severe persecution since 2003.  The estimated Christian population of Iraq in the 1990s was 1.2 million; today it is perhaps 300,000.  Many have fled to the Kurdish region of Iraq, where they have found refuge.  Many others have fled the region altogether, finding new lives as refugees.  The plight of Iraq’s Christians prompted Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) to speak out recently, saying on the floor of Congress, “Christianity as we know it in Iraq is being wiped out.”  His remarks highlighted the atrocities of the Islamic State against Christians in Mosul, indicting the United States and the West for silence on this matter.  Congressman Wolf called on the church to speak out on behalf of Christians who have been persecuted in the extreme, not only in Iraq, but in Egypt, Africa, and elsewhere that Islamic extremists have taken control.  He could also have mentioned Syria, where the Christian population has been literally under siege since the civil war in that nation began in 2011.

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When Empires Die: Thoughts on the Centennial of World War I, Part VI

TO SURVIVE THE COMING NIGHT

"Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" Viktor M. Vasnetsov

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Viktor M. Vasnetsov

Is the Apocalypse Nigh?

If this truly is the beginning of the end of this age, then we should expect wars and rumors of war to increase until the entire globe is consumed, just as it was in the Great War of 1914-1918, and again in the Second World War of 1939-1945.  Depending on one’s perspective, the Tribulation either begins with or is immediately preceded by this period of escalating war.  This is the time of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the rider of a White Horse going out to conquer, the rider on the Red Horse who takes peace from the earth, the rider on the Black Horse bringing famine, and the Pale Horse bearing Death and Hades.  In short order these Horsemen bring an end to the lives of one fourth of the population of the planet.  The Horsemen are followed by the revelation of multitudes of martyrs slain for their adherence to the Word of God who ask how long before the Lord will judge the world and avenge their blood.  They are told to wait until the number of martyrs yet to die is complete.  Then comes a great earthquake and many signs in the heavens, followed by the selection of the special servants of God (12,000 from each tribe of Israel, 144,000 total) and the deliverance of multitudes from the Great Tribulation.  After that comes silence in heaven for a short time, and then the judgment of God begins in earnest.

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When Empires Die: Thoughts on the Centennial of World War I, Part V

THE LAST SUMMER OF THE WORLD

"Interview Between Jesus and Nicodemus" James Tissot Brooklyn Museum

Interview Between Jesus and Nicodemus
James Tissot
Brooklyn Museum

A Matter of Life and Death

In truth God has placed the choice of life or death in front of every person from the beginning of time.  Consider what He said to our ancestors.  In the Garden of Eden there was the stark choice between the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which brought death (Genesis 2:8-16).  When the Lord spoke through Moses to explain His standards of righteousness to our fathers and mothers on the edge of the Promised Land, He said,

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.  (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NKJV, emphasis added)

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Forbidden Tears on the Temple Mount

"For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." Isaiah 56:7 The Temple Institute

“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7
The Temple Institute

Why should Christians care about the Temple in Jerusalem?  Maybe because the Bible says it is in our future.  Consider this:

Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod.  And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.  But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles.  And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.”  (Revelation 11:1-2 NKJV)

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