Posted in bible, hermeneutic, life verse, what this verse means to me

When it’s right to be dogmatic: Rejecting ‘What does this verse mean to me?’

By Elizabeth Prata

Hermeneutics. It’s not a word you hear often inside of churches. In our watered down state, preachers and pastors rarely use the “big words” any more. If they do, they’re abashed and even apologize for saying theological words like ‘justification’ or ‘inerrancy.’ However hermeneutics is a battleground in our continued spiritual warfare against the schemes of the devil. You must know what it is.

Continue reading “When it’s right to be dogmatic: Rejecting ‘What does this verse mean to me?’”
Posted in bible, encouragement, sailing

Our Captain of the Mighty Seas

By Elizabeth Prata

O Lord of the oceans,
My little bark sails on a restless sea,
Grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely;
Suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course;
Let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals;
Bring me to harbor with flying pennants,
Hull unbreached, cargo, unspoiled.

Excerpt from ‘Voyage‘, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Edited by Arthur Bennett


I simply love the Valley of Vision Puritan devotionals. They are so Jesus-centered. It’s refreshing to read and ponder written prayers devoid of anything from today’s toxic effects of me-centered, prosperity, self-esteem nonsense.

Our sailboat. EPrata photo

I lived aboard a small yacht for two years, and through that experience I have a deep appreciation for the biblical allusions related to anything nautical. The Lighthouse, the stormy seas, the waves, reefs, and lee-side are all familiar to me and I can deeply identify with them. I suppose it is the same with the believing farmers and fishermen regarding the agricultural or fishing metaphors. Not that one needs to have had a certain life experience before understanding, but the life experience Jesus causes us to have does deepen some aspects of the Word and we gravitate to them on a different level. It’s like when a person becomes a parent for the first time, they understand the biblical verses related to parenting on a different level then they did before.

Though our boat is at anchor in this photo, we spent many a day where the sea looked as calm and as flat as it is in the picture as we tried capturing wisps of wind flowing here and there and inching along over tiny waves.

The sailor is ever restless. We want to go and we thus pray for wind. The wind comes but it’s not enough, or it’s too much. When the boat finally settles on a loping rhythm up and down the waves, the sailor wishes he was in port. Of course the moment one is in port, one wishes for the freedom of the sea. And so it goes.

The frustration of no wind can’t be overstated. The luffing sails, slack and listless seem almost an affront. One cannot manufacture wind. One cannot control the wind. One only waits, hopes, prays, and looks. The sailor learns patience. The sailor learns to relinquish control.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

The opposite is a problem, too. Too much wind can damage the boat, set the sailor off his course, or even swamp him and all will be lost at sea. The storms can be terrifying.

But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. (Jonah 1:4-5a)

Luke wrote of the travails Paul endured when he put on a ship that set forth too late in the year. In their part of the world, winter was a time when many storms brewed up and winds became contrary in a moment.

The Storm at Sea:
Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. (Acts 27:13-15).

And putting out to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. (Acts 27:4).

Sailors know the prevailing wind‘s direction given the time of year. Prevailing winds are winds that blow predominantly from a single general direction over a particular point on the Earth’s surface. They try to use islands as their shelter, making it a lee. This means if the prevailing wind comes from the east toward the west, if you sail or anchor on the west side, the island has blocked the wind and you will have more peaceful waters upon which to sail or sleep. Like this:

source

As the poet stated in Valley of Vision, “Bring me to harbor with flying pennants, hull unbreached, cargo, unspoiled.” That is always the sailor’s main objective- get to harbor. Sailors are not made to voyage permanently, or Christians are not made to pilgrimage permanently. We are all voyaging toward one and only one harbor, the feet of the risen Jesus in the safety of His harbor, the Kingdom of God.

Until then we have a great and powerful Captain, our Rock to shelter and protect us from the storms and winds that try to blow us off course or drown us. Our Lord is our ever-present and mightily capable Captain of safety. Thus, thanks to Jesus Christ, it is well with our sail soul.

Posted in berean, bible, end of days. prophecy

Paul: What does it mean to be a Berean?

By Elizabeth Prata

“In Berea”

As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.(Acts 17:10-12).

How many times have we heard some celebrity caught in a traffic stop or in an indiscretion and when called to account on it, says “Don’t you know who I am?” They balk and they yell and they squirm and try to escape accountability due to their position. Quite often, their ego is inflated to a large enough degree that they never expect they’ll be asked to support their views or explain their mistake. Even more often, the person calling them to account are seen as the ones with the problem. “Don’t you know who that is?” they are told. “Don’t ask him to explain himself!” as if there ever comes a point when someone is above the law.

Continue reading “Paul: What does it mean to be a Berean?”
Posted in bible, God, prayer

Peter’s impetuousness

By Elizabeth Prata

Picture Peter and friends on the boat, in the middle of Lake Galilee.

Suddenly one of the men in the boat looked out and said, “Someone is walking on the water!” Sure enough, with robes flowing in the wind, here comes Jesus walking across the whitecaps.

Peter cried out, “Is that You, Lord?”
The Lord answered, “It is I”
Peter said, “Can I come?”

Continue reading “Peter’s impetuousness”
Posted in bible, prophecy, shepherd

Banquet Reclining at Jesus’s bosom

By Elizabeth Prata

Growing up, I used to watch the PBS Masterpiece Theatre classic “I, Claudius”. It was about one of the least known Emperors of the Roman Empire, Claudius. Claudius is not as well known, being sandwiched in history between the more famous emperors Caligula and Nero. I was fascinated with the Roman banquets, of which the show “I, Claudius” had many. I used to wonder why they ate while reclining. It seemed cumbersome to me.

Continue reading “Banquet Reclining at Jesus’s bosom”
Posted in bible, encouragement, good shepherd, sheepfold, shepherd

His sheep know His voice

Jesus only calls those sheep whose names have been written down since before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4). Those sheep know His voice and listen to them. Those sheep follow Him out of the sheepfold and into green pastures. He doesn’t put a general call into the sheepfold and wait to see who will come out. He knows them by name, and He calls them.

EPrata photo

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (John 10:1-4)

John 10:1–2. Verses 1–5 describe a morning shepherding scene. A shepherd enters through a gate into a walled enclosure which has several flocks in one sheep pen. The enclosure, with stone walls, is guarded at night by a doorkeeper to prevent thieves and beasts of prey from entering. Anyone who would climb the wall would do it for no good purpose.

John 10:3–4. By contrast, the shepherd has a right to enter the sheep pen. The watchman opens the gate, and the shepherd comes in to call his own sheep by name (out from the other flocks). Shepherds knew their sheep well and gave them names. As sheep hear the sound of their owner’s familiar voice, they go to him. He leads them out of the pen till his flock is formed. Then he goes out toward the fields with the sheep following him. 

John 10:5–6. If a stranger enters the pen, the sheep run away from him because his voice is not familiar. The point of this figure of speech consists in how a shepherd forms his flock. People come to God because He calls them (cf. vv. 16, 27; Rom. 8:28, 30). Their proper response to His call is to follow Him (cf. John 1:43; 8:12; 12:26; 21:19, 22). But this spiritual lesson was missed by those who heard Jesus, even though they certainly understood the local shepherd/sheep relationship. In their blindness, they could not see Jesus as the Lord who is the Shepherd (cf. Ps. 23).

John 10:7–9. Jesus then developed the shepherd/sheep figure of speech in another way. After a shepherd’s flock has been separated from the other sheep, he takes them to pasture. Near the pasture is an enclosure for the sheep. The shepherd takes his place in the doorway or entrance and functions as a door or gate. The sheep can go out to the pasture in front of the enclosure, or if afraid, they can retreat into the security of the enclosure. The spiritual meaning is that Jesus is the only Gate by which people can enter into God’s provision for them.

When Jesus said, All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers, He referred to those leaders of the nation who cared not for the spiritual good of the people but only for themselves. Jesus the Shepherd provides security for His flock from enemies (whoever enters through Me will be saved, or “kept safe”). He also provides for their daily needs (the sheep come in and go out, and find pasture).

Source: Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 309–310). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

The People’s Bible Encyclopedia, Charles Barnes
EPrata photo
Posted in behold, bible, prophecy, thankful

Behold the man! And The Four Beholds

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

We know Jesus is the Man-God. His divinity was on display when He healed, did miracles, or taught with such authority that the hearers were astounded.

His human nature was on display when He was weary (John 4:6), hungry (Mark 11:12), or thirsty (John 19:28).

When Jesus appeared before the magistrate, Pilate said to the crowd, Behold the man. Here is the verse:

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” (John 19:5)

Most of us are familiar with that phrase, and that momentous event in the life of Jesus. But did you know that Zechariah said it first? In one of the many visions God gave the prophet Zechariah, the phrase appears. Thus Pilate’s utterance was a fulfillment of an Old Testament picture pointing to a New Testament truth.

And say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. (Zechariah 6:12)

Though the vision actually shows Joshua being crowned, it is in reality a picture of the crowning of Jesus. The Jamieson Fausset Commentary explains further:

Behold, the man—namely, shall arise. Pilate unconsciously spake God’s will concerning Him, “Behold the man” (Jn 19:5). The sense here is, “Behold in Joshua a remarkable shadowing forth of Messiah.” It is not for his own sake that the crown is placed on him, but as type of Messiah about to be at once king and priest. Joshua could not personally be crowned king, not being of the royal line of David, but only in his representative character.

[Source: Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 723). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Roy Gingrich’s outlines on the prophetic books are helpful here explaining Zechariah’s vision of Joshua’s crowning, and the Heavenly utterance “Behold the Man whose name is the branch!”

THE SYMBOLISM OF THE CROWNING OF JOSHUA 

The crowning of Joshua, a priest, with a regal crown symbolizes the future crowning of Christ, a priest (after the order of Melchisedec), with a regal crown (as Israel’s and the world’s, King) at His Second Advent. 

During Christ’s earthly ministry, He was crowned with a crown of thorns, Matt. 27:29; during His present sitting at His Father’s right hand, He is crowned with a crown of glory and honor, Heb. 2:9; at His Second Advent, He will be crowned with many crowns, Rev. 19:12 (as the King of Israel, Matt. 27:37, and as the King of all the earth’s Kings, Rev. 19:16). 

THE PROPHECIES CONCERNING THE MESSIAH (Zechariah 6:12, 13, 15) 

(Here we have one of the Old Testament’s most complete, yet concise, prophecies concerning the person, the office, and the work of the coming Messiah.) 

1. The Messiah will be the antitype of Joshua (6:12). 

To “behold the man,” Joshua, was to “behold the man,” the Messiah, for the one is typical of the other. The Jews, at Christ’s first advent, “beheld the man,” the Messiah, crowned with thorns, John 19:5. The Jews, at Christ’s second advent, will “behold the man,” the Messiah, crowned with many crowns, crowns of glory, Rev. 19:12.
See the four “beholds,” Zech. 6:12; Isa. 42:1; Zech. 9:9; Isa. 40:9.

[Source: Gingrich, R. E. (1999). The Books of Haggai and Zechariah (p. 34). Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing.]

Here are the four Beholds Mr Gingrich mentioned.

Behold the Man!

And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. (Zechariah 6:12)

Behold the Servant!

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
(Isaiah 42:1)

Behold the King!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
(Zechariah 9:9)

Behold your God!

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”(Isaiah 40:9)

We’re entering the Thanksgiving season, and gratitude and thankfulness are much on our minds. I am thankful for the fact that I shall behold Him! All knees will bow and all tongues will confess, meaning all peoples will behold Him, their God. But I’m grateful I shall behold Him as one who is forgiven by His grace, not ashamed or crushed by fear – but worshiping Him rightly- in Spirit and in truth. My gratitude for Him having delivered the means by which to dwell in righteousness now and forever and to behold His face in love knows no bounds. Brethren, WE SHALL BEHOLD HIM, OUR MAN-GOD, Savior, Lord and King!

Posted in abimelek, abraham, bible, lie, prophecy

Abraham and Abimelech: Lies of omission and half-lies are still lies

By Elizabeth Prata

Abimelech rebuking Abraham by Wenceslaus Hollar

After Abraham was personally visited by angels and by Jesus, (Genesis 18:1-3, 14), and after Abraham personally asked for the LORD to protect his nephew Lot from destruction in Sodom, (Genesis 18:22-23), and after Abraham personally witnessed the destruction of four of the five Cities of the Plain (Genesis 19:28), despite having had another reassurance by God of His chosen plan involving Abraham (Genesis 15:6), thus knowing his God’s sovereign power, holiness, and mercy, in the next chapter Abraham lied. And why? To help God out.

In Genesis 20:1, Abraham is journeying in King Abimelek’s lands. (“toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar.” Gen 20:1). Abraham thought to himself that since the people in that area are not God-fearing, I am going to need to lie about my beautiful wife Sarah.

And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. (Genesis 20:2).

Twenty-five years earlier, Abraham said that of his wife when he feared Pharaoh. Pulpit Commentary said of Abraham’s lie then and in this chapter, that lying was “an ignoble expedient.”

Did Abraham think God didn’t know that the lands in the Negev were filled with pagans who did not fear God? Did Abraham think God needed to be helped out? Did Abraham not want to bother God with a prayer-petition for safety for his wife and himself? Or did Abraham just not trust God enough?

Let’s look at what Abraham’s lie did to himself and others. Then I’ll look at the sovereignty of God and how He worked through Abraham’s sinful lie.

Now, Sarah really was his sister, or half-sister to be specific. “she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.” (Genesis 20:12). So Abraham’s lie was a half-truth. Alternately it can be called a lie of omission. It is still a lie. Lies we tell have effects upon the people who hear them. In this case, Abimelek went forward with an action that was based on faulty information, and he took Sarah. Then night God came to him in a dream with a message. And the message was not good.

Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” (Genesis 20:3b)

Thanks a lot, Abraham.

Now the King did plead with the LORD earnestly. I mean, Abimelek was told that she was not a wife. Here is where God’s sovereignty over ALL FLESH comes in.

Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.” (Genesis 20:6)

God is sovereign and can and does control ALL that happens on earth and even within the hearts of men and allows or prevents certain actions. Example: God would not let Abimelek touch Sarah. Did God put a wall around Sarah or consign her to a room in chains far away from Abimelek? No. He invisibly ordained that Sarah would remain untouched and in His power He made that come to pass, even though the King, Sarah, and the entire household was not aware of His workings. This is Providence.

God told the King to release Sarah and not to touch her or the King would certainly die. Abimelek called all the servants together and told them all that had happened, and followed God’s commands immediately. (So much for NOT being God-fearing, eh? Not that the King was a believer, but the king did recognize God’s authority and His power, and submitted to it in this instance.)

Then the King severely rebuked Abraham.

What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” (Genesis 20:9b-10).

That is the problem with lying. Not only did Abraham sin, not only did Abraham lead his wife into sin, but it caused the King to sin also, albeit unknowingly. He had a right to be angry. As did Pharaoh 25 years prior. Pulpit Commentary says of Abraham’s current lie and the 25 year old lie,

Abraham should a second time have resorted to this ignoble expedient after the hazardous experience of Egypt and the richly-merited rebuke of Pharaoh, but more especially after the assurance he had lately received of his own acceptance before God (Genesis 15:6), and of Sarah’s destiny to be the mother of the promised seed (Genesis 17:16), is well nigh unaccountable, and almost irreconcilable with any degree of faith and piety.

Of course we know Abraham was faithful and pious. (Hebrews 11:11). Our Bible is so great to show us the successes and the foibles and fumbles of the great men and women who are recounted in this record. We are all sinners, tending toward doing wrong most of the time, yet our God uses us again and again in His plan to move history forward to the end goal of displaying His glory to an unspotted Bride. Abraham was no different. But more gloriously, God is no different. He is totally sovereign over all that happens. After Abimelek gave Abraham 1000 pieces of silver, animals, and free passage through the land, he said you have been vindicated and this matter is concluded.

Just as God had promised Abimelek, (Genesis 20:7) Abraham then prayed to God on the King’s behalf (Genesis 20:17). God opened the wombs of all the women in the house of Abimelek because he had closed them on behalf of Sarah. God is sovereign over wombs, minds, flesh, and events. He is also merciful, in sparing Abimelek, in not punishing Abraham, in protecting Sarah, and in allowing the females of the house of Abimelek to conceive babies once again.

Genesis 20 is a tremendous chapter on the sinfulness of man, of what lies do to people (even lies of omission). Imagine what Abimelek might have been thinking. ‘Why would God pick THAT guy, he’s a liar.’ Do you want your witness on behalf of Holy God to be polluted by a legacy of lies?

The chapter is also a wonderful example of God’s sovereignty and Providential outworking, and His mercies.

Gill’s Exposition on Genesis 20:2-

And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, she is my sister,…. This he gave out in all conversation he came into, and said it to every one that asked who she was, which was little better than a lie; it at least was an equivocation and deception, and not at all justifiable, and tended to expose his wife’s chastity, and discovered a distrust of divine Providence; the same infirmity be had given way to, and the same evil he had fallen into in Egypt, Genesis 12:11, and therefore was the more inexcusable now; good men not only fall into sin, but have their relapses:

BibleGateway’s All the Men of the Bible explains of Abimelek:

THE MAN WHO REBUKED ANOTHER FOR LYING

Abimelech would have taken Sarah, Abraham’s wife, into his harem, but learning that she was the wife of another, returned her uninjured. Abraham appears here in a bad light. He deceived Abimelech, but when found out was justly rebuked by the God-restrained Abimelech. Certainly the righteous should rebuke the ungodly (1 Tim. 5:20), but how sad it is when the ungodly have just reason for rebuking the righteous. What a degradation it was for Abraham, then, to be rebuked by a heathen king!

Abraham sought to palliate his deception by claiming that Sarah was actually his half sister, daughter of the same father but not the same mother (Gen. 20:12, 16).

A lie if half a truth Is ever the worst of lies.

Abraham was the more blameworthy because he had done the same thing before (Gen. 12) and had suffered much in the same way as upon this occasion. How grateful Abimelech was for the dream warning him of his danger! The covenant made with Abraham is somewhat significant—

I. It was proposed by Abimelech who, although knowing how Abraham had failed God, yet saw how favored he was of God (Gen. 21:22).

II. It revealed certain distrust of Abraham. Abimelech requested Abraham not to be tempted to sin in such a direction again (Gen. 21:23).

Wow, a pagan praying for the righteous!

We faithful Christians sure do have relapses. We are redeemed by, governed by, supported by, sustained by, and provided for by a gracious and loving God. He knows all the details, He is calmly in control of all that happens. He even forgives our sins (like when we lie). We don’t need to “help” God in His plans but we do need to submit to them. We need to remember that our actions and words affect other people. We need to have integrity in all that we do for Jesus (Colossians 3:17).

PS: trivia- did you know that Genesis 20 is the first time we read the word “prophet”? God said Abraham was His prophet. (Genesis 20:7). The Bible is so wonderful to read!

Posted in bible, encouragement, scripture

Some encouragement: The Long and Winding Road ends at Jesus’ feet

By Elizabeth Prata

I really enjoy photography, looking at photos and taking them. I have many photos that I enjoy digging out and looking at and playing with as digital software technologies continue to be made available.

As I look at them, more often than not, a Bible verse comes to mind. like the Penobscot Bay schooner I’d snapped it was while passing by the schooner we were on, the ‘do not drift away’ verse from Hebrews. It’s here.

I’ll be doing this more often. A short burst of encouragement from a verse, with photo. Here is today’s-

Friends, the road is long and we cannot see around the curve. However we know the end of the story. It ends in glory. Keep walking in Jesus’ name, rejoicing as you go.

New song by Matt Papa and Matt Boswell at the Getty’s site, “Almost Home”. Every day that passes is one day closer to seeing Jesus, our eternal Rest, and reunion with loved ones. Hang in there, walk joyfully toward the Great Light!

Posted in bible, boat, galilee, truth

Jesus taught from the boat

Jesus taught from the boat…

Water carries sound and it amplifies it. The crowds were so crushing that in order to even have space, Jesus launched into one of the sailboats (not a dinghy as depicted above, lol) and He spoke to the crowds. Note, He was sitting, they were standing, indicting His important presence, as was the custom of the day.

Were they thirsting for the truth from the Living Waters? Or were they rubberneckers hoping for a personal miracle? Both. We know the end of the story, most people turned out to be rubberneckers only out to see the latest thing in Galilee. Most of these same people eventually rejected Him. (Mark 6:4-5).

What a momentous occasion on that shore! To be present and taught directly by God Himself. We are blessed, we believers in this present Church Age. We have the Holy Spirit in us to teach us these things. This Spirit will never leave us.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

The blessings from our Lord are manifold, beginning with our indwelled Spirit, and His word which was later written down at the inspiration of His Spirit. Study His word today, worship Him by praising Him for those words, and bless Him by being obedient to them. He is a gracious and magnificent God, who taught His sheep from the boat.