He Has Done All Things Well

“He Has Done All Things Well”

“and from thence having risen, he went away to the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and having entered into the house, he wished none to know, and he was not able to be hid.” [1] Mark 7:24  (following verses from the YLT)

This area was on the western coast of the Mediterranean about 30 miles away. An area given over to idol worship and paganism.  The Jews did not like this area and despised those people. Consider the miracles and healings he had performed in the past weeks and you can see why Jesus just needed some time alone.

Mark 7:25-26  “for a woman having heard about him, whose little daughter had an unclean spirit, having come, fell at his feet, 26and the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by nation–and was asking him, that the demon he may cast forth out of her daughter.”

This woman didn’t care what god Jesus represented, she just wanted relief for her daughter. 

Mark 7:27  “And Jesus said to her, ‘Suffer first the children to be filled, for it is not good to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to the little dogs.’” 

Jesus was referencing to his coming to the lost sheep of Israel: children = Israel, dogs = gentiles. Notice I underlined three words: ‘filled’, ‘bread’, and ‘it’. Each word represents the same thing: The Gospel. Jesus came to the Jews first, no argument about that. Jesus was making a point in front of His disciples; He was there for the house of Israel and once they rejected him, the salvation promised would be extended to the world. Here is a transliteration of this verse that Jesus was “parabling”:“Be patient while the Gospel is presented to the Jews. It is not in the Fathers plan to preach to the gentiles first. Once they reject it, you can reap the benefits of miracles, healings and everything that accompanies this new covenant I bring.”

Mark 7:28  “And she answered and saith to him, ‘Yes, sir; for the little dogs also under the table do eat of the children’s crumbs.’” 

Interestingly, this is a prophetic statement in that the Gospel went first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles. 

Mark 7:29  “And he said to her, ‘Because of this word go; the demon hath gone forth out of thy daughter’ 30and having come away to her house, she found the demon gone forth, and the daughter laid upon the couch.’” 

We see Jesus dealing with demonic activity.  It might have even been just a day earlier that He was not labeling certain personality traits as demonic, but as originating from the heart. He was clearly balanced in his approach to the differences. I have seen believers supposedly set free from the demon of beer drinking…. Jesus didn’t see it that way. 

Mark 7:31  “And again, having gone forth from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis”

They returned back to the Sea of Galilee which was due East 30 miles. Decapolis being the 10 towns surrounding the sea, mostly to the western areas.

Mark 7:32-34 “and they bring to him a deaf, stuttering man, and they call on him that he may put the hand on him. 33And having taken him away from the multitude by himself, he put his fingers to his ears, and having spit, he touched his tongue, 34and having looked to the heaven, he sighed, and saith to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, `Be thou open’” 

Jesus spoke Hebrew and Aramaic.  This is interesting to note because a lot of scholars believe no one spoke Hebrew in that century.  Supposedly it died during the 2nd Century b.c. and Aramaic took its place.  But here’s proof, along with the inscription on the cross, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.  Jesus spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus in Hebrew.  When Jesus read in the Synagogue, he was reading Hebrew.  Hebrew was alive and being spoken. 

Mark 7:35 “and immediately were his ears opened and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he was speaking plain.” 

I’ve heard of people having a demon of speech and deafness. We see Jesus operating in three distinct functions; pointing out where sin originates, casting out a devil, and healing a man. 

Mark 7:36  “And he charged them that they may tell no one, but the more he was charging them, the more abundantly they were proclaiming it.”

Jewish custom was that if you wanted something spoken of and spread that you request it not be shared. Vice versa, if you wanted it kept quiet, tell the person to share it everywhere. Jesus was operating in the culture of that time by making sure this news traveled quickly. Mark 7:37 “and they were being beyond measure astonished, saying, ‘He hath done all things well. Both the deaf he doth make to hear, and the dumb to speak.”


[1] All verses from Young’s Literal translation unless noted otherwise

Symbolism

“Symbolism is symbolic of the symbol it symbolizes”

                                                                      TJ Smith

Man, that was deep!  I don’t even know what that means.  But it is true that what something is meant to identify or express is far for important than the object itself.

Use the wedding ring as an example: it can be cheap or expensive. Ornate or simple. It can be of white or yellow gold, or a cigar band.  The ring itself has little value alone, but its significance is far greater. How about a gold crown?  That should speak for itself, right?  Maybe not.  I saw the fry cook at the local hamburger joint wearing a gold-colored paper crown.  Does that mean I should bow to him when he hands me my order?  Maybe he was a descendent of royal peanut-oil?  The point is the symbolism of a crown was being marketed by the fast food restaurant to induce the image of royalty wanting to eat a burger at this place. We all understand the imagery of a crown. The entire world understands. But the symbolism is what is always more influential that the actual object. 

The Wedding dress: though Mary Queen of Scots wore a white wedding gown in 1559 when she married her first husband, Francis Dauphin of France, the tradition of a white wedding dress is commonly credited to Queen Victoria’s choice to wear a white court dress at her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. Around the world, brides use all colors and fabrics to celebrate their wedding.  Yet they all pale when compared to the symbol the dress represents.  Ironically, the Western church believes the bride mentioned in the book of the Revelation wore a white dress, though the color was never mentioned.

Even the ensigns the children of Israel carried in the desert, as well as the ensigns the Roman guards carried, were not as important as what they represented. Just as the Police Officers badge is just a piece of metal shaped into a star, it represents something far more powerful: Law and Order. 

One mistake we make when reading the Bible, and especially books like the Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah and others, is to not look beyond the physical item to understand the symbolism behind it.  Let’s face it, Revelation 21 is not about a real dragon being tied to a real chain and thrown into some bottomless pit.  First, there is no such thing as a bottomless pit.  Eventually you would fall out the other side of the earth   if you didn’t burn up in earth’s magma 1800 miles down.  The chain in Rev. 20 represented God’s power and authority to restrain wickedness, and the bottomless pit represented the darkest doom and gloom with no control over the circumstances, at the mercy of the one who placed you there. Finally, I think we can agree that the dragon symbolized Satan.  The Greek word is “drakon”.  In this usage, a dragon was not fire breathing nor did it have wings. In fact, just the opposite: Revelation 12:16 “And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.”(ERRB)  The word “flood” has definitions all related to water.  This particular dragon did not breath fire, but water.  Nor do we find any reference to it flying.  It would be best to ignore Hollywood and medieval western European folklore of what a dragon looked like.  The Greek word came first, then over the centuries the physical representation has morphed into what we understand today: a gigantic flying-fire-breathing, mythical creature living in a cave, who might be able to speak english, with a Sean Connery accent.  Probably just heartbroken from some past dragon-love gone awry. 

The symbol John saw in his vision was only to help the reader (or listener) get an idea of what this vision  represented.  If a woman calls a man a snake, we can probably assume he is a womanizer. 

Remember this principle when you are trying to understand the symbolism in the book of the Revelation.  It was not intended to paint a physical picture of actual scorpions stinging men for 4 months, nor to have us understand that someday, stars will “fall” out of the sky.  Since there is no gravity in space, and since even the smallest of stars are many times larger than our Sun, and since there is no direction in space and therefore a star cannot “fall”, this phrase is ‘symbolic’ of earthly rulers and powers being displaced.  We learn this from the dream that Joseph tried to explain to his father in Genesis 37:9-10:

9And he dreamed another dream, and related it to his father, and to his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed another dream: as it were the sun, and the moon, and the eleven stars did me reverence. 10And his father rebuked him, and said to him,‘What is this dream which thou hast dreamed? Shall indeed both I and thy mother and thy brethren come and bow before thee to the earth?’”  (Brenton)

Be a Berean and study for yourself. Begin to filter your understanding according to the type of Biblical genre you are reading. Is the passage apocalyptic, poetic, historical, Epistolic, Prophetic? Learn this first, then proceed.

Here is a quote from Pastor Mel Lorenz[1]

“Later today I will go to my mailbox, remove its contents, go into the kitchen, and sort the mail. I will be able to tell from the size, packaging, and addresses on the mail which pieces are advertising, bills, and personal mail. This sorting into types helps me discern the value of the different pieces.

There is a large bookstore I frequently visit. I know just where to find histories and biographies, novels and picture books, technical manuals and reference works. Knowing the different genres and where to find them helps me gain what I am looking for.

And when I open the Bible, I know from having studied it for decades whether I am reading a gospel passage, a prophecy, a Psalm, or an epistle. I do not expect Isaiah to lay out the details of the history of Israel as do the books of Kings and Chronicles. I know when I’m studying a Psalm that the forms of a poem or song will help me understand the meaning. And when I read 1 Corinthians I know I’m listening to one side of a two-sided conversation.


[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2016/03/the-many-genres-of-scripture/

Eye of the Needle

“Eye of the Needle”

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25  (ESV)[1]

Though the eastern cultures used “elephant through the eye of a needle”, the only reference using the camel was when Jesus used it here. Maybe a cultural tie that camels were a part of society and elephants were not. However, I found more information which lead me to a different conclusion.  Also, the modern-day explanation that the entrance in the wall was called the eye of the needle and that was the reference Jesus gave, would go against the point Jesus was making. I will explain this:

“The Eye of the Needle has been claimed to be a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it stooped and had its baggage removed. This story has been put forth since at least the 15th century, and possibly as far back as the 9th century. However, there is no widely accepted evidence for the existence of such a gate.[2]

Cyril of Alexandria claimed that “camel” is a Greek misspelling; that kamêlos (camel) was written in place of kamilos, meaning “rope” or “cable”.[3]

The tradition of using an exaggeration to make a point was probably the reason Jesus used it.  They understood it.  But more than likely, it wasn’t a tiny opening in a wall.

Is there any earlier Jewish evidence of the use of this phrase? 

The Babylonian Talmud applies the aphorism to unthinkable thoughts. To explain that dreams reveal the thoughts of a man’s heart, it was recorded that some rabbis said: “dreams do not show a man a palm tree of gold, nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle.”[4]

The problem with this is the Babylonian Talmud was writtenduring the 3rd century a.d. There is no earlier proof that this phrase was used before Jesus said it. 

Here are two other Bible translations of Mark 10:25. 

“It is easier to pass a cable through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Jub)

“Again, I say to you, it is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  (Lamsa NT)

Sometimes it is better to let go of our sacred cows (or camels) when seeking truth. 

Finally, Josephus, the first century historian, wrote that Elephants were commonly seen and used in Judea. I thought only Africa and India used them?  This would validate the sayings of rabbis speaking of elephants and dreams.

You read about the Indian influence on Judaism in chapter 1, so you can now see the relationship.

Next verse: “And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’” Mark 10:26 

The word saved is Sozo: which means:[5]

  1. to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
  2. 1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health

1b1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue

1b) to save in the technical biblical sense 1b1) negatively 1b1a) to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment   1b1b) to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance.

This “save” Peter is asking about was not spiritual salvation, eternal life, or heaven. The Greek word ‘Soteria’ is the word used for spiritual redemption.   It is possible Peter was once again thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom and being redeemed from the grip of Rome and a soon coming destruction Jesus has been speaking of.

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’” Mark 10:27  (BSB)

When Jesus said, “with man it is impossible” he would be telling a lie if he did use the figure of speech: ‘camel through the wall opening’.  

That would have destroyed his own argument about being impossible for man.  Because if a man just unloaded the camel, and made the camel get down on all fours, then was patient, worked at it really hard, applied himself, then he could get his camel through this fictitious “eye of the needle” and gain security and protection for himself. This would mean mankind could also make his own salvation possible. However, push a camel or rope through an actual needle… now it’s impossible!

It makes more sense that Jesus was speaking of a real needle and a camel, cable or rope. 

Also, the eastern cultures used the elephant/needle motif, but we don’t know if they had tiny entrances in their city walls that they referred to as “eye of the needle”.  It makes a good story, but it might not be true, and therefore does not hold up under the scrutiny of historical Biblical Interpretation.


[1] All Verses in ESV unless otherwise noted

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_of_a_needle

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_of_a_needle

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_of_a_needle

[5] Thayers Definition

Riches in Glory

“Riches in Glory”

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)

I have seen this verse abused over and over again by the “blab it and grab it”, “name it and claim it”, prosperity sycophants.  I guess they think uttering this incantation will bring them whatever they desire.

Part of the art and science of interpreting Scripture is to determine the original meaning of the text, what the Author was trying to convey,[1] and what the original audience understood about it. If anything is left for “life application” for us today, then great!  As R.C. Sproul taught, there is only one meaning of Scripture, but many applications. Before we apply this to our lives, let’s first try to understand it in its historical, grammatical, literary, cultural, and theological setting. Applying another rule of interpretation, let’s look at every passage that uses the phrase “riches in glory” or similar, to determine a pattern of understanding that was relevant for them, but may not be as noticeable to us. Let’s begin.   (verses from the ESV)

“in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” Romans 9:23

“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16 

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles, are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27 

Ok. There are the four verses we will be studying. The first verse listed is part of the following passage: reading the surrounding verses is part of understanding ‘context’.

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” Romans 9:22 

If you have not studied Jewish history, covenant theology, or just aren’t that familiar with this terminology, here’s a quick lesson: the “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” were the Jewish leaders of the first century. The “vessels of mercy, prepared beforehand for glory” were, and are, believers in Christ. Especially those in the first century who were entering into persecution from both Rome and Judaism. How can we know that? Paul confirms it in the next verse when he wrote: “even us whom he has called, not from Jews only but also from the Gentiles.”  Those Jews who were brought into the kingdom were known as the “remnant” and the gentile believers were ‘grafted’ into the kingdom via the early (all Jewish) church.  For the first 15 years or so, everything Christian had deep Jewish roots. But this doesn’t answer what the ‘riches of his glory’ were, or does it?  What did Paul say about his message?

“but we preach Christ crucified…”1Corinthians 1:23 (ESV)

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2 (ESV)

The Riches of His Glory was Christ.  Next verse of our four verses comes from the previous page.

“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16  This verse also has a place inside a deeper passage:

“For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”. Ephesians 3:14 

In both these verses, the “riches of His glory” have belonged to the Father.  Again, it is another poetic way for Paul to describe Christ. Here is verse 3 of our 4:

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27  (ESV)

Again, Jesus is the focus of the verse.  I need to clear up a Greek issue here as well: the use of the word “are” in the phrase “how great among the gentiles are the riches of the glory…” should not be there. It is not in the Greek manuscripts.  Using the word “are” is typical of indicating the plural tense of a word.  Jesus is not plural.  Translators added this word to clarify the meaning. They failed.  Also, since I’m picking on translators, “riches” in the plural, is incorrect.  The Greek indication is the singular.  This might be confusing as it could render the understanding as these ‘multiple riches’ being utilized by the Father to bless us.  We could miss the entire focus of Paul’s writings.

The Greek word used for ‘riches’ is “pluotos”. It can also mean enrichment, bestowment, abundance, richness.  Any of these words would have been more helpful to understand the verse than “riches”. Let me give you an example of how the verse would read with my transliteration: “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles the bestowment of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Doesn’t that read better?  Just saying.  Ok, our last study verse:

 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches (singular) in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 

I want to introduce a study technique I have found useful over the years. As the writers of the New Testament were Hebrew (writing right to left) yet wrote in Greek (left to right) you can take certain verses and read them backwards and sometimes get a ‘richer’ understanding.  The technique is not restricted by Biblical warnings, it’s not heretical, and not the same as changing a jot or tittle.  It’s just reversing word order.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  I think it works with this instance.

Actual word order: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his bestowment in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Reversed: “In Christ Jesus, according to God’s bestowment in glory, every need of yours, my God will supply”.  Not an earth-shattering revelation, but it does freshen up a verse that you might have been reading. Use this technique if you found it helpful.

This was a shorter chapter, but it didn’t need to be “Les Miserables”[2]. Scripture always points to Yeshua as the beginning and end of all blessings!  Not wealth, health, success, or prosperity.


[1] This principle is called “audience relevance”.

[2] Novel by Victor Hugo 1,462 pages