Falling Towers

On September 11, 2011 millions around the world remembered the tragedies that struck a decade ago, when some terrorists in acts of kamikaze, flew airplanes into the World Trade Center towers in New York, bringing to ground these colossal structures and killing many innocent lives. My heart goes out to all those who were directly impacted by the loss of lives of their loved ones and our family wishes all those impacted, God’s peace that passeth all understanding that is found in Christ Jesus.

Luke 13:4-5 records of another tower that fell during the days of Jesus. This was the Tower of Siloam and when it collapsed, eighteen people were killed. Close introspection of the text, reveals certain hidden treasures. The first is that the fall of the Tower of Siloam was not due to the sinfulness of any of those who were killed. Secondly, Jesus in fact, cautions, that anyone that does not repent will perish as well. To repent is to ask God to forgive us of our sinfulness for when we confess with our mouth, repenting in our hearts, God is faithful and just to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). In other words, Jesus was saying that man made towers fall, but only in Him, can one find safety, for the name of the Lord is a strong and mighty Tower and the righteous (those who have believed in Jesus and repented) run into it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).

Have you repented? Have you run into the Tower that can and will never fall?

Luke 13:4-5 (KJV)
4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

1 John 1:7-9 (KJV)
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Proverbs 18:10 (KJV)
10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

Lesser known characters :: Hophni and Phineas

One of my favorite movies that is based on a true story is “The Ghost and the Darkness” which is the story of two lions that terrorized and killed over a hundred people in Tsavo (Kenya) in the late 1800s. The people in that land felt that these lions were in fact evil incarnate as they continued their rampage, until John Henry Patterson, a military engineer, sent to build a railroad bridge.

In the Bible we see another kind of “The Ghost and the Darkness“; Eli’s two sons – Hophni and Phineas. Even though they were the sons of God’s priest, Eli, the Bible calls them the sons of Belial (the lawless, rebellious and worthless one who can have no concord with Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 6:15)). In order to gratify lust of their eyes (their own SELFish desires), they rebelled against God by abhorring the sacrifices and taking the choicest portion of the meat from the sacrifice even before it was offered to God, even by coercion; in a sense robbing God (1 Samuel 2:13-17). In order to gratify the lust of the flesh (their own SEXual desires), they slept with the woman who assembled at the entrance door of the tabernacle, making the LORD’s people to sin (1 Samuel 2:22-24). Hophni and Phineas were wicked and they brought judgment on Eli’s family, that no one in Eli’s bloodline will reach an old age (1 Samuel 2:31). God informs Eli through another person (referred to as the man of God) that both his sons will die on the same day (1 Samuel 2:34). Eli’s sin was that he honored his children more than he honored God (1 Samuel 2:29) and God had to send a priest (man of God) to a priest (Eli) because of the wickedness of his children and his misaligned priorities.

When the Philistines attack the armies of Israel, the ark of the Lord that held the glory of God is taken captive by the Philistines and both Hophni and Phineas die that day.  Upon hearing the news of the ark of the Lord being taken and the death of his sons, ninety-eight year old Eli falls back from his chair, breaks his neck and dies as well. His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phineas, who was carrying child and near her due date, upon hearing the news of the ark of the Lord being taken and the death of her husband, and in-laws, goes into labor and delivers a child whom she names, “Ichabod” meaning that the glory [of the Lord] has departed from Israel (1 Samuel 4:11-22).

What can we learn from Hophni and Phineas?
We may be children that hail from Christian priestly families, but we can still be called the sons and daughters of Belial, if we do not have concord (communion) with Christ Jesus and if we continue in the ways that war against the Spirit of God, gratifying our SELFish (lust of the eyes) and SEXual (lust of the flesh) desires. As children, when we rebel in such manner and sin, without giving God the honor that is due unto him, we are liable to inherit a curse, not just on ourselves, but on our bloodline as well. As parents, if we honor our children more than God, it is possible that God’s voice can be stopped from directly reaching us. But the worse of all is that a wicked lifestyle that gratifies the evil desires of the eyes and flesh can lead to Ichabod – the departure of God’s glory from one’s life. Let us be warned and be careful that we do not follow in the ways of Hophni or Phineas.

1 Samuel 2:13-17; 22-24 (KJV)
Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
And the priest’s custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand;
And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.
Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.
And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.
Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.

Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.
Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’s people to transgress

1 Samuel 4:11-22 (KJV)
11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.
12 And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.
13 And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out.
14 And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli.
15 Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see.
16 And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to day out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son?
17 And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.
18 And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
19 And his daughter in law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.
20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it.
21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband.
22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.

Lesser known characters :: Hiram

Hiram was a king of Tyre who entered into a partnership with king David (2 Samuel 5) and later with David’s son, king Solomon to build the house of the LORD. When Hiram found out that king Solomon was appointed the king, Hiram took the initiative and sent his servants to king Solomon. Solomon sends word to king Hiram that he desired to build the house of the LORD, upon which Hiram rejoices and blesses God for having given David, his friend a wise son. Solomon recognizes that the servants of king Hiram were skilled workmen (unlike any other in the land) and the two make a league together. Hiram supplied the best skilled workers (2 Chronicles 2:13-14) to hew the timber and stones to build the house of the LORD (1 Kings 5:1-18).

What can we learn from Hiram?
Like king Hiram, we must take the initiative to reach out to those whom God has instituted in power. We must bless the Lord when we learn of one’s allegiance and desire to serve the LORD and build his tabernacle (house) in the hearts of many. We must provide our very best to serve in God’s work. We must partner and work alongside others who have a desire to build God’s house in the hearts of people, as did Hiram’s men with King Solomon’s men.

1 Kings 5:1-18 (KJV)
And Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants unto Solomon; for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father: for Hiram was ever a lover of David.

2 And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying,
3 Thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the LORD his God for the wars which were about him on every side, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet.
4 But now the LORD my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent.
5 And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build an house unto my name.
6 Now therefore command thou that they hew me cedar trees out of Lebanon; and my servants shall be with thy servants: and unto thee will I give hire for thy servants according to all that thou shalt appoint: for thou knowest that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians.
7 And it came to pass, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly, and said, Blessed be the LORD this day, which hath given unto David a wise son over this great people.
8 And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, I have considered the things which thou sentest to me for: and I will do all thy desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of fir.
9 My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon unto the sea: and I will convey them by sea in floats unto the place that thou shalt appoint me, and will cause them to be discharged there, and thou shalt receive them: and thou shalt accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household.
10 So Hiram gave Solomon cedar trees and fir trees according to all his desire.
11 And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food to his household, and twenty measures of pure oil: thus gave Solomon to Hiram year by year.
12 And the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him: and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and they two made a league together.
13 And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men.
And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses: a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home: and Adoniram was over the levy.

15 And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains;
16 Beside the chief of Solomon’s officers which were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work.
17 And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house.
18 And Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house.

Lesser known characters :: Hanani

When the king of Judah, Asa, sought the help of Benhadad, king of Syria, to fight against king Baasha, the king of Israel, instead of relying on the LORD as he did once earlier, when the Ethiopian Zerah came against him, Hanani was the seer that brought the rebuke of the LORD to king Asa (2 Chronicles 14). Hanani reminded Asa that he should have relied on the LORD and then stated that the eyes of the LORD are searching the entire earth to find out if there is one, even one, whose heart is perfect toward God. He then tells Asa that since the king had acted foolishly to rely on man (the king of Syria) instead of God (the King of all kings), that Judah will have wars and the peace that prevailed would be taken away. When king Asa hears of this rebuke through Hanani, he is angered and he imprisons Hanani (2 Chronicles 16:1-10).

What can we learning from Hanani?
Like Hanani, we must rebuke those who rely on man instead of relying on God. We must remind all those who act foolishly in trusting in others besides God, that God is searching for one with a perfect heart, even if the outcome of our rebuke and reminder may not be in our favor.

2 Chronicles 16:7-10 (KJV)
7 And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.
8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand.
9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.
10 Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time.

Lesser known characters :: Hanameel

Hanameel was the cousin of Jeremiah and the son of Jeremiah’s uncle, Shallum. Jeremiah is imprisoned by Zedekiah, the king of Judah for foretelling about the fall of Judah and how Zedekiah would be taken captive by Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon. This account is given in Jeremiah 32. In fact, Hanameel is mentioned as, what would seem to be an absurd and unrelated response, to the question that king Zedekiah has for Jeremiah. The king’s question to Jeremiah was, why do you prophesy about the impending doom of Judah and my captivity? Jeremiah’s response is that “Hanameel, the son of his uncle Shallum would come and ask Jeremiah to buy his land that is in Anathoth”. This response that Jeremiah gives is indicative of the fact that despite the fact that Judah will be taken captive, God will be gracious to let his people be restored and have possession. And just as the Lord had promised, Hanameel came and offered his land to be bought by Jeremiah, according to the word of the LORD. Hanameel’s actions and response confirmed the word of the Lord for Jeremiah and Jeremiah buys that property.

What can we learn from Hanameel?
Cursorial inspection of this character Hanameel reveals that he obeyed the voice of God and did as he was told by God, even if it meant that he would have to sell his own property.  In obeying, he confirmed God’s word to his cousin Jeremiah. Sometimes God wants us to give/sell our possessions as a means to demonstrate our obedience to Him. In obeying God, we may be confirming God’s word for someone else.

Furthermore, deeper inspection reveals a hidden treasure from the Bible. Hanameel was the son of Shallum. Hanameel in Hebrews means “God is gracious”; Shallum in Hebrew means “payback” or “revenge”. Though God is Just and requires payback for our sinfulness, He is also at the same time a loving and gracious God. Hanameel represents the grace of God over His payback or revenge. Infact, God’s grace must never be separated from God’s justness to payback sin. Jesus represents the grace of God, but the Cross represents God’s payback for sin, for the wages of sin is death. We cannot speak of Jesus and his grace without talking about God’s hatred for sin and the Cross as his payback. Hanameel – God is gracious.

Jeremiah 32:1-12 (KJV)
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar.
2 For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house.
For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it;
4 And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes;
5 And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the LORD: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper.
6 And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
7 Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.
8 So Hanameel mine uncle’s son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.
9 And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle’s son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.
And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.
11 So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:
12 And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding Fathers of the United States of America is attributed to have quoted, “Early to bed, early to rise; makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise.” Early to bed implies that one needs to rest at the right time and early to rise implies that one must not rest for more than what they are supposed to. The pursuit of health, wealth and wisdom has always been in man’s interest but as America celebrates labor day on the first  Monday of September, even the most ambitious seem to regard this day as a day of rest.

Rest is necessary to be rejuvenated and renewed. It is important to rest. The Bible says that God worked for six days to create the world and everything in it and on the seventh day, He rested. Unfortunately, in today’s world everyone wants to be healthy, everyone wants to be wealthy and everyone wants to be wise, which has made the world system a hamster wheel and you and me caught in its perpetual cycles. We are often foolish in our pursuits. We pursue health, wealth and wisdom and seldom take time to rest.

Rest does not mean laziness or sloth. Remember, Jesus said,”The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Rest, on the contrary requires action and is a reward that is given or a treasure that needs to be found. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He then added, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  (Matthew 11:28-30). To receive and find rest, we must act i.e., Come to Jesus, Take from Jesus, Be Yoked with Jesus and Learn from Jesus. Only then will we find true rest (for our souls). When we come to Jesus, we receive rest (Come; I will give); When we take Jesus’ yoke and are yoked with him and when we learn from that, we find rest for our souls.

Points to ponder:
Today, are you caught in the malady of busyness, spinning perpetually in an hamster-wheel world? Take time to rest as you are prompted to pursue health, wealth and wisdom. Remember the wise man is the one who does NOT spend the first part of his life, spending his health to pursue wealth and then the second part of his life spending his wealth to hold on to health. Rest was made for man and not the other way round.

Happy labor day, or should I just say: Happy Rest Day!

Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Lesser known characters :: Gaius

Gaius is the individual to whom the writer (elder) of 3 John addresses his letter. But what is noteworthy of Gaius is that he was said to be one whose was spiritually very healthy, i.e., the one whose soul prospered (3 John 1:2). The elder wishes that in like manner, may Gaius have physical health (3 John 1:2). Additionally the testimony of believers about Gaius was that he walked in the truth and was hospitable not only to those whom he knew, but also to strangers (3 John 1:3,5). Gaius is counseled to follow God and not evil (3 John 1:11).

What can we learn from Gaius?
First, we must be spiritually healthy, meaning we must live in such a manner that our soul prospers. Remember, Jesus’ question, what profit is it to a man (or woman) who can gain the whole world and yet lose his soul (Matthew 16:26). We must deny ourselves and take up our Cross and follow Jesus daily (as Gaius did). Second, we must walk in the truth. To walk in the truth is to have fellowship with Jesus Christ, for the Bible says, “If we say that we have fellowship with him [Jesus], and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6,7). Third, we must be hospitable accepting our own and strangers, especially ministers who have committed their lives to going out and preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. This way, like Gaius, we would be deemed as fellow helpers to the truth (3 John 1:8).

3 John 1:1,2,3,5,7,8,11 (KJV)
The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;
Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.
Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

Lesser known characters :: Festus

Porcius Festus was the Roman governor after Felix who had left Apostle Paul imprisoned for two years, in order to please the Jews. The Jews who were against Paul for his faith in Jesus Christ, sought that Festus send Paul from Caesarea where Paul was imprisoned to Jerusalem so that they could lie in wait for Paul and kill him enroute. In order to please the Jews, Festus asks Paul if he would go to Jerusalem, but Paul appeals to Augustus Caesar and according to Roman customs, Festus, a Roman himself, is obliged to send Paul to Rome. In the meantime, king Agrippa and his pompous wife Bernice visit Festus. Festus shares with Agrippa about Paul and Agrippa wishes to hear from Paul. Paul defends himself and the gospel of Jesus Christ being resurrected from the dead, by the Power of God before Festus, Agrippa and Bernice. While Paul was still speaking about his personal life changing encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, and Jesus’ resurrection, which Festus thought was a superstition (Acts 25:19, 20), Festus interrupts Paul and in a loud voice, and accuses Paul to have lost his mind. Festus then sends Paul to Rome for trial since Paul appealed to Caesar. This account is recorded in Acts 25 and Acts 26.

What can we learn from Festus?
Pleasing men over pleasing God can have dire consequences for God’s people. We must be not be like Festus who sought to please the Jews that falsely accused Paul of deserving to die for being a follower of Christ. Additionally, when we share of the gospel of Jesus Christ; his death and resurrection, it is likely that even officials in power (like Festus) can interrupt us and brand us to be lunatics. This is because the preaching of the Cross is foolishness to them that perish, but unto them that are saved, it is the Power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). When we preach the good news of the Jesus’ death and resurrection for the salvation of all, we must deem it an honor to be branded a mad (out of our mind) man or woman, for Jesus Christ, the One who is madly in love with you and me.

Acts 26:22-26 (KJV)
Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:
23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.
24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.


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