What Sarah Palin states about “baptism” is completely antithetical to the Christian Faith and what a good number of Christians believe about baptism.
The Catholic Church has this to say about baptism:
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 342)
My own church, the Lutheran Church, has this to say about baptism:
Concerning baptism it is taught that it is necessary, that grace is offered through it, and that one should also baptize children, who through such baptism are entrusted to God and become pleasing to him. (The Augsburg Confession – German Text – Article IX)
I’m not going to go into infant baptism here, but I will focus on the first part of Article IX, mainly that grace is offered through baptism. That alone is sufficient to show that Sarah Palin has no real understanding of baptism. There is no grace offered through waterboarding; therefore, waterboarding is not in any way, shape, or form a baptism.
Furthermore, baptism is rooted in the Word of God.
What is baptism? Answer:
Baptism is not simply plain water. Instead it is water enclosed in God’s command and connected with God’s Word. (The Small Catechism; The Sacrament of Holy Baptism)
Last I checked, waterboarding was not commanded by God as baptism is. Waterboarding is rooted in the ways of humankind.
Finally, waterboarding fails Christ’s command to love your enemies:
“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 43-45, see also Luke 6: 27-36)
Comments like these are absolutely appalling, and to see people cheering the language of fear and torture makes me sick. Christians need to take a long, hard look at both Sarah Palin and Bryan Fischer and hold them accountable for words that are contrary to the Christian faith.
The post from Dr. Gayle mentioned below is still one of my favorites. I have updated it just a little and will continue to repost it at Christmas time.
I am no feminist. I am not involved in the egalitarian debate nor the complegalitarian debate. I believe that a woman has her proper place in the house; however, so does the man for that matter. One is not Lord over the Lady, however, as I do not agree with the old Southern Baptist definition of ‘submission’. I am no feminist, but if I were, I perhaps would celebrate Christmas as a sacred holiday. It is the birth of Christ, in the manner that it happened, in which women were freed from the tyranny of the Law, and the first event in Christianity relying such much on the Woman.
There was a post several years ago which has found root in my mind, nurturing a better understanding of bible translation, voices contained therein, and the audience. (It not merely the words which are read, but how we perceive those words that hold value to a translator) I realize that it might be impossible to believe that such a post could do these things, but it was one of the first posts that I read from the author commonly known as J. K. Gayle. It would be impolite to repost his entire post here, but allow me to post some and you go read the rest (after you read mine, of course. For his post, go here. He adds a new voice to the Nativity)
Let’s think about Mary, for a minute.
It was a terrible time in Palestine – the priesthood corrupt, Jews turning on Jews, the king a despot, and Rome raping more than the Land. In the midst of this, there was a young girl named Mary (Or Miriam, if you are Jewish). Mary would have been a young Jewish girl, somewhere between the age of 12 and 16 (if we were to stretch it) while her intended, Joseph would have been a man some years her senior. Her family was most likely strict followers of the Torah, as the cousin‘s husband’s was a member of the inner priesthood. They ‘espoused her’ (marriage unconsummated) to a man in the traditional way. Suddenly, due to no fault of her own, she had the hope of the world thrust upon her shoulders, and in such a way as to cause great concern among those that saw such a young and unmarried girl with child.
There is much to be explored in the Birth of Christ. As Dr. Gayle points out, there is the audience, who perhaps some years later, perhaps transformed by the One born that very night, would read of the account. We too form a certain audience today, in that we are far removed from the culture to which Christ was born. We are far removed from Mary, and fail to see her for who she truly was and what the ordeal most likely meant to her. There is, as always, much to discuss concerning any account given in the Scriptures, but we focus only slightly on Mary.
This is Mr. Gayle’s translation,
18 τοῦ δὲ ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ ἡ γένεσις οὕτως ἦν. μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ μαρίας τῶ ἰωσήφ, πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου.
This is the birth of the Anointed, Joshua. His mother Miriam was engaged to Josef; before they came together she held in her womb a child who came by the Breath of the Special One.
19 ἰωσὴφ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς, δίκαιος ὢν καὶ μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι, ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν.
Josef, her man, her husband, a just person who didn’t wish to make a show of her, counseled secretly to release her from himself.
20 ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐνθυμηθέντος ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος κυρίου κατ᾽ ὄναρ ἐφάνη αὐτῶ λέγων,
ἰωσὴφ υἱὸς δαυίδ, μὴ φοβηθῇς παραλαβεῖν μαρίαν τὴν γυναῖκά σου, τὸ γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ γεννηθὲν ἐκ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἁγίου·
These inner passions of his were angst. See. An announcer of the Master, in a dream, appeared to him to state:
“Josef, son of David, don’t be afraid to take beside you Miriam, your woman, your wife; the baby birthed in her, in fact, is by the Breath of the Special One.
21 τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἰησοῦν, αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν.
She will deliver a son, and you will call his name Joshua; he will, in fact, save his people from their wrongdoings.”
22 τοῦτο δὲ ὅλον γέγονεν ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ κυρίου διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος,
These events were born out entirely so that the things spoken by the Master would be fulfilled through the Prophet who stated:
23 ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν, καὶ καλέσουσιν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐμμανουήλ, ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός.
“See, the young virgin will hold in her womb a child, and will bear a son, and will call his name Emmanouel,” which is translated “With us is God.”
24 ἐγερθεὶς δὲ ὁ ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕπνου ἐποίησεν ὡς προσέταξεν αὐτῶ ὁ ἄγγελος κυρίου καὶ παρέλαβεν τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ·
When Josef got up from his sleep, he did what the announcer of the Master told him, and he took beside himself his woman, his wife.
25 καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως οὖ ἔτεκεν υἱόν· καὶ ἐκάλεσεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἰησοῦν.
And he did not know her until after she delivered her son; and he called his name Joshua.
Like any other man, the Christ child came into the world, born of a woman, perhaps the most central woman since Eve.
I also am mortal, like all men, a descendant of the first-formed child of earth; and in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh, within the period of ten months, compacted with blood, from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage. And when I was born, I began to breathe the common air, and fell upon the kindred earth, and my first sound was a cry, like that of all. I was nursed with care in swaddling cloths. For no king has had a different beginning of existence; there is for all mankind one entrance into life, and a common departure. (Wisdom 7:1-6 RSVA) (Note here and here)
Christ came not dependent upon man, or independent of any, but dependent upon His mother. Just as any child, he would had fed of His mother, being nurtured in a way to protect His life. In as much, He never dismissed a woman for being a woman, but pressed them, or was pressed by them, to a point that a great spiritual truth was manifested for the entire world. First, it was the prophetess Anna (Luke 2.38) which announced just a short time after His birth, that He was to bring redemption. It was His mother who in Cana pressed Christ to start His ministry. It was the prostitute in Jerusalem (John 8 – yes, I know) where Christ showed what forgiveness under Grace would be. Further it was the Greek (Gentile) woman in Mark 7 that pressed Christ to shed His grace beyond that of Israel, to the Gentiles. Finally (perhaps not), it was Mary Magdalen which announced Christ Risen to the cowering disciples.
It it these voices which we hear when we mediate upon Mary. Imagine being in the shoes of that young girl who had just been given the Blessing of Abraham, the Inheritance of the Faithful, the Word of God. She most likely would have had nothing to her name – her husband having given her ransom to her parents – yet she had suddenly become the richest woman in all the world, and indeed, the most hated and hunted. Yet is was her who was considered the most blessed among women (Luke 1.42).
Her song has been remembered, sometimes falsely, since it was first written down by Luke.
And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.” (Luke 1:46-55 NKJV)
It might do us well to put ourselves in the shoes of Mary, and perhaps the other women as we read this account, who sought Christ and pressed Him during this season that is focused on the birth of the Child but generally ignoring the womb which bore Him. In this season which we focus on the birth of the Child who would give His life for the salvation of all, we must not forget the womb which carried Him, and the breast which nurtured Him, and the mother who raised Him. It is not unconstitutional for either a fundamentalist or an evangelical to consider Mary in the light which she is portrayed in Scripture and the unwritten words found only in a culture long dead.
We have four gospels in the New Testament, but half of them mention the Virgin Birth (Matthew and Luke), and only at the announcement of that Birth. Further, that means only two books of the 27 in the New Testament mention the Virgin Birth. There is nothing beyond Matthew and Luke in the entire New Testament pertaining to the Virgin Birth (although Galatians 4.4 might allude to in a strictly Pauline way).
This is a pivotal prophecy – one which no Messiah could do with out. Granted the Jews believe that the Hebrew means ‘young woman’ and indeed, it very well may. (Of course, what great sign from God would be a young woman with child?) Of course the Septuagint’s Translators understood Isaiah to mean ‘virgin’. Even without the prophesy in Isaiah, we have the words of God in Genesis concerning the Messiah being of the seed of a woman (Genesis 3.15). The first mention of the Messiah concerns the Virgin Birth – yet, again, it is mentioned twice in the New Testament.
This point is used by scholars and liberal theologians to attack the Virgin Birth. But what is the answer? Why, if the Virgin Birth is so important to the Messiah, is it mentioned briefly, twice, in the New Testament?
The answer is simple. The great majority of Scripture was written by the Apostle Paul. He was not writing to unbelievers, but to long-established congregations. He was writing doctrine for the Church, not to the unbelievers. It was not Luke’s job in Acts to detail to the unbelievers prophesies of Christ, as his was the history of the Church. According to Papias,
Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements. Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.
We find that Mark is the preachings of Peter – Mark wrote as Peter preached. (This does not line up with the scholarly ‘Q’ source, but Papias is rather old.) John wrote his gospel to fill in the gaps, which is evident by his epilogue,
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31 NKJV)
So, John wrote what the others did not, and for a purpose, to declare without a doubt the deity of Christ. He started at the very beginning (John 1.1), before the Virgin Birth, but allude to the act of the divine in the birth (John 1.14).
Matthew wrote to a community, most likely of converts and unbelievers, as did Luke. Mark was transcripts of preaching; John had a different agenda of deity. Paul wrote to established congregations, to affirm their faith and to establish a continuing doctrine for the Church as did Peter, James, and Jude. It is not mentioned by Paul because it was unnecessary to to bring up such a basic principle of Christ for those Christians who were years removed from conversion.
The Virgin Birth was not the Evangelists’ way of exploring the uniqueness of Christ, nor was it a myth conjured from surrounding paganism. The indwelling of the Virgin by the Spirit (Breath) of God is the initial sign of the coming salvation. It is a real event, meaningful to the Jews as a sign of the Messiah. It was used to show that Christ was the promised Messiah, God with us, and indeed, to the Gentiles to show that He alone fulfilled the prophesies. Once past the miracles, as with Paul, it was necessary to build up sound doctrine that relied upon Tradition and Scripture. It was not that the Virgin Birth was unknown to Paul or refuted by Paul, but it was not Paul’s mission to those congregations, to relay the foundation of the truth of Christ.
One of the most forgotten men in the Scriptures is Joseph, who was a man from the line of David who had a certain Jewish girl espoused to him. He makes a small appearance in Matthew and Luke, the only two Gospels to record something about him. His name appears only a few times in all of the New Testament. It is only in Matthew’s work which we find him and his actions as any part of the story,
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ ” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. (Mat 1:18-25 NLT)
A wise man once said that the words that we read are the headlines, and this is especially true in this case. We find a great story of love and sacrifice in Joseph, in as much as he was willing to become an outcast – if only temporarily – in order to protect Mary, the young girl who he would have paid a dowry – the young girl who carried the public signs of a betrayal. The law required death for Mary. In this instance, we find the first shadow of the Grace which was to come.
The law is clear – death for Mary:
“If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 22:23-24 NKJV)
Mary was considered evil – a blot on the community, something to be killed and done away with – exterminated ruthlessly. We see something in the horror of the law that is not mentioned – the great love of Joseph for Mary. He would have paid a dowry, perhaps a goodly sum for the espousal. He would have made preparations for Mary in his home, and already giving her that which was sacred – his family name. I can only imagine what love he had for her and the loss he felt to have gone so far but to have been betrayed with such a great sin. She had slandered him, his family, and his family name.
Joseph had such a love that he was determined to take the ridicule, the shame, and give her the bill of divorce privately. Like anyone in pain due to love, with his heart breaking, he most likely took time, mourning, to determine his next course of action for the young Jewish girl whom he clearly loved.
If we step away from Joseph, to a higher plane, we can see the sovereignty of God in this matter. God did not just choose Mary, and because of that Joseph, for no reason. Joseph was a man of great love (Mary with her own qualities), a love that would rather endure shame and the outcast of a community instead of harming Mary. He would risk breaking the Law of Moses to protect someone who he loved. What better caretaker for the son of God?
Returning to Joseph, we find that it was in the middle of his deliberations – I can imagine them maddening and tortured – that the Angel of the Lord appeared to him with words of consolation. So, with this love of Joseph, we find faith. Joseph disobeyed the cultural mores of ancient Palestine, obeying rather the will of God, and held Mary as his wife, in the face of what would have been certain opposition from everyone, perhaps even his parents as well as Mary’s.
So, we have a picture of Grace and Love in the life of Christ even before He began His ministry. Joseph was ready to sacrifice his standing in his family and community to save the life of a pregnant girl – a trollop, a whore, a sinner – and to protect her and her unborn Son – the bastard child of this trollop and perhaps a Roman solider, Panthera – from the death demanded by the Torah. It was because of this love that the Angel appeared to Joseph the Carpenter and told him that this Child would be the deliverer of all Israel. His wife who was dead to him was now alive again.
If we remove the doctrine and traditions that surround both Mary and Joseph, we find a picture of grace – we find love – we find a truly holy family.
Bible League International will release The Prison Bible in January 2014. The Prison Bible is the Easy-to-Read Version with 52 lessons made especially for inmates. In addition to Scripture lessons that walk through various parts of the gospel of John, readers get serious content dealing with anger, violence, and mental health. There is also significant attention to preparing inmates for life after prison. The Prison Bible is available for pre-order until the end of the year for less than $5. Click the pic to see the promo video.
BT2013 just finished up in Dallas, TX. Bible translators and consultants, ethnologists and musicologists, and biblical studies scholars all met and presented papers on topics ranging from the history of Indonesian Bible translation to translation strategies for clause chaining languages. It was fun. I learned a lot. I got a t-shirt.
Some papers, handouts, and PPTs from BT2013 have been posted on MAP.
My church has bought something a lot of churches are buying— videos that teach so you don’t have to.
I’m sure you can tell I’m not too excited about the proposition, but I understand the need. Most folks aren’t scholars so having good, introductory-level educational resources is a must. And if you can stream it to your iPhone, all the better.
So my church is using RightNow Media, which allows users to stream “discipleship” videos from folks like Chip Ingram, Tommy Nelson, Margaret Feinberg, and Francis Chan. Already I’m nervous cause this has potential to continue the turning-leaders-into-celebrities syndrome that Derek Webb has sung ad nauseum about.
But you gotta try it before you knock it, right? So I see Matt Chandler has a new video series up called “Apologetics”. Matt Chandler has been the speaker at more than one youth camp I went to as a kid, so his was a recognizable face. I’ve also gone from reading Norman Geisler to Mark Noll, so I’m familiar with apologetics and what its proper place is.
Chandler’s first video in the series is called “Why Does God Allow Suffering and Tragedy?”. Some of the things Chandler says are helpful. Some things he says are stupid mistakes from the best of intentions. But some things he says are scary and dangerous, I think.
Good things- Chandler takes suffering seriously. He shares some of his own medical history and how it debilitated him for a time. He honestly shares that Scripture in the face of that pain seems trite and even rude to the person suffering. He also reminds victims of abuse that “no one gets away with injustice”. Its a confession Christians must repeat and remind ourselves of.
Not so good things – Chandler also makes some stupid mistakes that are easily fixed by doing your homework before you open your mouth. The first happens a few minutes. Chandler says,
“When he (God) created the world we live in, he created it good. The Hebrew word is shalom. He created it at peace, or really, in rhythm.”
Actually, the Hebrew word is טוב tov (good). In fact, the Hebrew word שלום shalom doesn’t happen in the Bible until Genesis 15. I’m not sure what source says that God created the world in shalom/rhythm, but it isn’t the Bible. Sounds like Chandler needs a Hebrew refresher before he preaches from the OT publicly. (He and 1,000 others here in North Texas. But you’d figure folks who put this up on the internet would know to check it with the biblioblogging community first. Sheesh.)
Sadly, Chandler builds a theology from this mistake and claims that God’s shalom was fractured when sin entered the world. But shalom doesn’t just mean peace in the shallow way we Americans talk about it. Shalom means wholeness, completeness. So to say that God’s shalom has been fractured is to say that God is not whole. But you’d have to read the Bible to get that. And who has time? Isn’t that why we need to stream these videos?
Another item that shows OT ignorance is a statement that Chandler makes that I hear a lot of people make. In fact, my old systematics prof said it too and he said it started with Augustine. The statement is “God uses, he does not cause, he uses suffering”. Well the Bible says the opposite. In Isaiah 45:7 Yahweh tells Cyrus and the prophet that there is none like him who creates light and dark, peace and violence. That word for violence (רע) is the same word that gets translated “evil” often times in King James style Bibles. No matter how you translate it, Isaiah says that God causes pain. (I’d like Chandler to answer the question “Why did God make the snake?”)
Okay, now the scary dangerous part- Chandler turns to Romans 8:18-22 to find encouragement in the face of suffering. He, like Paul, admits that the world is still waiting to be fixed. So how do we live in the midst of this suffering? Chandler says,
“If we can get our minds on 10,000 years from now, when Jesus Christ has made all things new, and everything has been redeemed, and restored, and put back into that Shalom— if we keep our minds there, our hope there, then we have hope for tomorrow.”
This is a common answer to people who suffer: One day, you won’t suffer anymore, so try to focus on that time to come. But this is cheap comfort. This is a back without a spine. This is scary in the face of suffering. And it is not the gospel.
Chandler should finish reading chapter 8 of Romans (v37 is a doozy!), because Paul certainly does not tell Roman Christians (some of whom were slaves) to focus on a liberating day 10,00 years down the road. Instead, Paul tells us to hope in what Jesus has already done. Jesus’ faithfulness is evidence that God keeps his promises. And since we share in his death, we also share in his resurrection (which has already happened! Ya’ know— Easter!). Because God makes good on his promises, we are more than conquerers even while we suffer in slavery. Paul raises Christian tolerance for pain, rather than convince us to focus on something else (or somewhen else) that is not painful. In this regard, Chandler’s ethic is more Buddhist than Christian or Jewish.
So, my church… This is level of education and excellence we expect from our preachers and teachers and its lower than a bull’s balls are to the floor. WTF.
Thought this may be of interest to US readers, especially given that I know Americans only read and trust the KJV as the authoritative translation of God’s Holy Word. Dry British Humor aside, there are no big surprises here:
#1 Psalms 23:4 – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
#2 Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
#3 John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
#4 Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
#5 1 Corinthians 13:11 – “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
#6 2 Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
#7 Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
#8 Ephesians 6:12 – “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
#9 2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
#10 Genesis 1:2 – “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
This is a long standing repost. I hope to visit it later to clean it up, etc…
Sundown approaches, darkness will cover the earth, and Hanukkah will being – it promises to be a bitterly cold night in some parts of the United States and moderately cool in Jerusalem. Here is song (and if you click the link at the bottom, it will take you to site to hear it sung in Hebrew) traditionally song, at least since the 13th century.
The last stanza strikes me, for God has indeed shown us His arm
But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke:
“Lord, who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (John 12:37-38 NKJV)
O mighty stronghold of my salvation,
to praise You is a delight.
Restore my House of Prayer
and there we will bring a thanksgiving offering.
When You will have prepared the slaughter
for the blaspheming foe,
Then I shall complete with a song of hymn
the dedication of the Altar.
My soul had been sated with troubles,
my strength has been consumed with grief.
They had embittered my life with hardship,
with the calf-like kingdom’s bondage.
But with His great power
He brought forth the treasured ones,
Pharaoh’s army and all his offspring
Went down like a stone into the deep.
To the holy abode of His Word He brought me.
But there, too, I had no rest
And an oppressor came and exiled me.
For I had served aliens,
And had drunk benumbing wine.
Scarcely had I departed
At Babylon’s end Zerubabel came.
At the end of seventy years I was saved.
To sever the towering cypress
sought the Aggagite, son of Hammedatha,
But it became [a snare and] a stumbling block to him
and his arrogance was stilled.
The head of the Benjaminite You lifted
and the enemy, his name You obliterated
His numerous progeny – his possessions -
on the gallows You hanged.
Greeks gathered against me
then in Hasmonean days.
They breached the walls of my towers
and they defiled all the oils;
And from the one remnant of the flasks
a miracle was wrought for the roses.
Men of insight – eight days
established for song and jubilation
Bare Your holy arm
and hasten the End for salvation -
Avenge the vengeance of Your servants’ blood
from the wicked nation.
For the triumph is too long delayed for us,
and there is no end to days of evil,
Repel the Red One in the nethermost shadow
and establish for us the seven shepherds.
For those who believe that the Bible does not contain thoughts on social justice, has never read it. (Read Amos). I spent three years with the coal mining union as their community organizer, meeting pastors and other ministers in a bid to attain a more fair system of organizing – and I have come to appreciate Labor Day.
To the Coal Miners, to the Steel Workers, to the stay at home mothers, to the workers who labour…God bless you.
Monday, September 1 is Labor Day in America. Labor Day is that special day when recognition is given to the millions who make up the nation’s working force. It’s a day of recreation, citywide parades, end of summer barbeques and political speeches. For some it will be just an extra day to relax quietly at home.
Both work and the worker are certainly worthy of a holiday of their own. Jesus placed much emphasis on the dignity of labor and the rights of workers. Interestingly, he never identified with professional religion as a career. Instead he was a simple carpenter by trade and his followers were working men. In Luke 10:7, Jesus said, “The laborer is worthy of his hire.”
Wherever the gospel of Christ has been influential the nobility of the worker has emerged. Many fail to realize that the improved working conditions of labor in the West are due much to the influence of Christianity. It was during the industrial revolution, for instance, that the devout Christian statesmen Lord Shaftesbury sought to change the abysmal working conditions for the masses in Great Britain. Men worked as much as sixteen hours a day – six days a week. Women and little children labored in the mines and in the factories. Little boys were hired as chimney sweeps. The necessary protections for workers were not provided and some died in accidents – others just from sheer exhaustion. Workers were little more than objects of an employer’s economic exploitations. Shaftesbury’s legislation brought relief to these injustices.
Work is inexplicably linked to the great truth that all persons are made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:36). God has made mankind like himself – able to create, to conceive, to build and to make a difference. Idleness in life, however, strikes at the very heart of an individual’s personhood.
In Jesus’ “Parable of the Laborers”, the men standing in the market-place were not just loafers lazily whiling away the hours. They were men who had come looking for a job. Many brought the tools of their trade with them in hopes of getting hired. Some would wait until late in the evening for work because they were desperate to feed and clothe their families. But then the master came and took pity on them, sending them into his vineyards and paying them generously. Commentator William Barclay notes: “This parable states implicitly two great truths which are the very charter of the working man – the right of every man to work and the right of every man to a living wage for his work.” 
It’s unfortunate that many every day have to go to a job that they don’t enjoy. But even when this is the case, work still has its value not simply for monetary reasons, but for reasons of the soul. “Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do that day which must be done, whether you like it or not,” wrote Charles Kingsley. “Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content and a hundred virtues which the idle never know.” 
The most sublime beauty of the Christian concept of work, however, is that it can be connected with a divine calling. The apostle Paul admonished, “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians. 10:31). “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23) The late D. Elton Trueblood expounded on this notion, saying, “There was a time when the idea of calling was applied, almost exclusively, to the work of clergy and missionaries…Why, it is now asked, should not a man be called to be a brick mason or a banker? Why should not a fireman be conscious of a holy vocation? After all, he is certainly engaged in a work which saves lives and prevents much misery. Why should not a woman sense that she is called to be a mother, a wife, or a librarian?”  Indeed, all service when performed to the honor of God ranks the same with him. God makes the work holy and richly blesses it.
Work also produces the necessity for rest. Thus Christ invites all laborers: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). There is no greater burden – nothing more “heavy laden” – than a broken relationship with God. The work of sinful passions is spiritually exhausting and completely unfruitful. Such panders with the promise of prosperity, freedom and happiness, only to disillusion with an impoverishment and restlessness of spirit. So Jesus adds, “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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:29).
Could there possibly be any finer celebration of Labor Day than for one to cease from sinful labors and enter into Christ’s rest? And what joy would also be brought to the celebration by entering into partnership with the gentle Savior – to learn to labor for his glory and reward – to render every service as the light load of his love.
Rev. Mark H. Creech
Director, Christian Action League of North Carolina