Betch'a didn't know that...  76-90

Very few of the parables of Jesus were actually original with Him.  That proven fact troubles some people but
I actually find it very gracious.  Jesus chose to use stories already very familiar to His audience, but He always
put a twist in them that took the listeners to a better and deeper truth.  Just as He would begin I am sure
people would say, "Oh, I know that one...  wait a minute, that's not the way I heard it before... that says
something about God that I never knew before."  It's a genius method of teaching and I admire it.

You get a much better understanding of Jesus' famous parable in Matthew 18 when you read a kids' word
into the story... "There was a man who owed the King a quajillion-quajillion dollars..."  You might as well
read it that way because that's what Jesus meant.  In the language of the New Testament ("Koine' Greek")
10,000 was the biggest number available.  You can say something like "144 thousands" but for a single block
number when you want to express 100 million you have to say "ten thousand times ten thousand."  That's
why Jesus couldn't go any higher than 10,000... which still would have been 200 years of taxes to Rome
from the two regions of Judea and Perea combined!  Now, that's a quajillion!


In the King James Bible there's an untranslated Hebrew term that is really helpful for understanding the
actions and intentions of God in the Exodus story- MITZRAIM.  That's a name for Egypt but it's also very
closely related to another important term in Hebrew, a word for "birth canal."   Genesis 50:11 opens the
door to this consideration and I find it very colorful.  Mitzraim implies both Egypt and the fact that Egypt
was the birth canal for a new, baby nation that got expelled through the water sack of the Red Sea.  Isn't
that great? 

One element of the Passover story (Exodus 12) reminds us of how very considerate and concerned God
is for the poor.  Part of the mandates of how the Hebrews were to prepare to leave Egypt was how God
defined their "going-away meal."  They were absolutely required to have a lamb as part of it, but what
if a family was too poor to have a lamb?  No worries.  God made it clear that He would accept their
intentions even if it took a whole group of families pooling their resources to be able to get a lamb.  You
didn't have to be rich enough to have one of your own.  Isn't that wonderful?

There's a really provocative symbol that's evolved as part of the Passover Seder today that all of us
would do well to consider for our lives.  Early in the ritual people around the table will dip their fingers
into the cup of wine and splatter the juice ten times on the plate that sits clean before them.  What's
up with that?  It's a symbol of "tears for Egypt."  It's a way of remembering that there were many,
many innocent bystanders who paid for the obstinancy of the Pharaoh.  In this enactment the
participants acknowledge that not every Egyptian was as responsible for the whole tragedy as the
leadership... and they need to be remembered as victims, too.

It's a curiosity that Elijah is such a dominant figure of the Bible.  We certainly don't have anywhere
near the volume of biography of that man as we of his student and disciple, Elisha.  Elisha is recorded
as having performed more miracles.  Elisha is even recorded as having "performed" a miracle after
he was dead!  So, why is Elijah so huge?  One reason is the lingering prophecy of Malachi 4.  That
passage guaranteed that Elijah would cast a long shadow.  And, it's a prophecy that many of us
still need to explore because it still speaks in ways that many have yet to capture I believe.

Paul had to go to synagogues before he approached pagans when he went into a new town.  He HAD to.  But
have you ever wondered why?  When you track his modus operandi in the book of Acts you find this is always
the pattern... first to the Synagogue and then out to the streets.  I believe it was primarily because of the
Jewish bigotry in his age.  If he went to the Synagogue and made a few converts there first the pagans didn't
care.  It wasn't going to effect their receptivity to his message.  But, had Paul tried to introduce a gentile
"church" into the Synagogue the doors would have been slammed in his face before he could get in the door.

It should not be surprising, but Paul grew up, too.  It's supposed to work like that.  And, it becomes really
evident when you read the writings of Paul in the order in which he wrote them.  Granted, we don't
perfectly know the chronology but we have a pretty good grasp of it and when you start with I Thessalonians
and work your way to II Timothy you find a man who is changing, mellowing, and becoming somewhat more
humble... really!  But, then again, why should that surprise us?  As I said, it's supposed to work that way.

Even though God never promised that we'd be immune from trial and persecution and challenge, He still has
an ultimate goal... huge blessing.  One of the best proofs of that is found in Zechariah 8.  In that passage
God reveals that His desire for blessing you is related to the influence that your blessing can have on drawing
others to God.  If and when God brings you blessing His target is not just to make things better for you but
in order to attract others to Him.  He wants others to see how you progress and have them say, "What do
you have that I don't have?"  It's an open door to introduce new friends to God when we relate well to our

Judas was not seen as evil by the other disciples.  In fact, at times I wonder if they didn't feel some sense
of pain and loss over how things evolved that horrible weekend.  I believe they lost a friend in Judas.  That
may be a new thought to you, but I believe its supportable by the words of the disciples themselves.  When
Jesus shared that a traitor was among them, the Bible records that they all said, "Lord, is it I?"  Not one
person in the room said, "Oh yeah, we knew that Jesus would eventually unmask you, Judas!"

If we want to look at one New Testament church to admire it has to be Antioch.  Man, those people just
got it right.  They are the church that raised funds to send Paul on his way for the first assault of the
empire.  "We will hold the fort down here, Paul... you go out where we can't go!"  Then, when others were
trying to rip the church in two they refused to play the game.  They immediately appealed to the apostles
to help them clarify which side they should land on.  Little wonder that this was the church where the
name "Christian" was coined.  They were the closest thing to "little Christs" that was available!

God privileged Peter in a very unusual way.  He opened the door to Peter knowing how he was going to
die and gave him about 35 years to think about it and prepare for that inevitable fate.  What a curious
gift that was!  In John 21 Jesus clearly revealed Peter's destined fate far in advance of the day and in
I Peter 1 the apostle shares that he absolutely understood what Jesus had said and he knew he was
closing in on the day of his execution.  What a poignant blessing that was for the old fisherman!

There's a very logical explanation to how and why things turned sour so quickly for the Hebrews in
Exodus 1.  When you finish Genesis 50 they are protected and privileged in Egypt.  You turn the page
and Exodus begins with "a pharaoh who knew not Joseph."  History very easily explains this.  Joseph
went to Egypt at a time when the pharaohs in power were actually not Egyptian.  They were an
occupying force called "the Hyksos" or "the Shepherd Kings."  They were invaders who actually came
from the region that had been Joseph's native land so it more easily provided a pathway of acceptance
and elevation for Joseph.  But, when the invaders were thrown back out of Egypt anyone who looked
like the old regime became despised and distrusted and displaced.  It's perfectly logical. 

The land of Goshen, too, is easily seen to be a target of concern for any Egyptian pharaoh.  If you look
at the geography of Egypt that northeast region is easily the only territory of risk for invasion.  The
Sahara is to the west.  The Mediterranean is to the north.  The vast desert extends to the south and a
largely barren Africa for a great distance.  To the east there's little population... only that northeast
corridor was the access point of invasion throughout Egypt's history.  That's where Goshen was.  That
was the frontier of risk... so you'd better hope that those who populate that land would not be
potential allies to an invading force.  And, didn't those "Hyksos/Shepherd kings" come from that
direction too?

Gilgal, Shiloh and Bethel have the lingering notoriety of one thing- once upon a time, randomly, they
would host the presence of the tabernacle.  Those little villages were (for reasons I don't know) the
privileged sites of the Tent of the Lord's presence.  We don't know how long it would stay at one village
before it went to another.  We don't even know, for sure, how it was defined that it was time to move
once they were in the land (unlike the actions of the cloudy Shekinah in the wilderness.)  All we know
is that these three villages linger in history as the sites of the Lord's privilege whether or not they
ever had any other significance in Israel's history (which Gilgal and Bethel did.)