I’m Not Voting for You

Next voting season I’m writing down every candidate who calls my house—especially the recorded calls. Then I will not vote for that candidate. I don’t care if the candidate stands for what I want or not. I’m not voting for that candidate. So just go ahead and count me out of the next presidential election.

As much as I disdain the so-called We’re calling to get your opinion calls, I dislike even more the ones where I can’t tell the caller how much of an invasion of my home it is to get a half dozen calls a day telling me to vote for their candidate.

Years ago, I started voting against any candidate who had someone come up to me with a sticker or nail file or handbill at the poll. I hate with an absolute hatred being told how to vote. The very idea of planting your candidate’s name in my head with a last-minute slip of paper is so insipid that it inspires me…not to vote for that candidate.

So imagine how much I dislike the telephone calls. I bet you don’t have to imagine. You hate them too. The only ones who don’t mind are the ones who want to tell you how to vote.What if the Church started a calling campaign that tells people how to believe? Hello. I’m calling for Jesus. I’d like to remind you to make your decision count by choosing Yahweh as your God. Go to church this Sunday and make a difference. The first ones to complain about those calls would be the ones who are calling us about their candidate.

So I’m doing them a favor next year since it’s so almighty important to them. I’m giving my opinion now. I’m letting them know exactly how I will vote. You call me and the vote goes the other way. You both call me, I’m voting Libertarian. If they’re wasting their precious funds on annoying the voters, I’m writing in a candidate. Okay. Okay. So my vote won’t count because my candidate won’t get elected. I haven’t seen too much difference in who gets in office anyway. There’s war and taxes either way—no matter what they promise us.

I realize I may end up voting only for the state soil commissioner. And that will be just fine. After all, I’m supposed to vote for what is important to me, right? Not calling my house is very important to me (and everyone I’ve ever asked about it says the same thing) but I wager the candidates don’t really care what is important to us. If they did, the National Do Not Call Registry would apply to political candidates as well. They too are selling me something. Don’t tell us that it doesn’t cost us. It costs us increased taxes, $30 a month for a phone, and the aggravation of having to stop what we’re doing to listen to some canned party line. Our time is worth something—just not to a politician or political party. My time is costly; it’s about time it cost them something too.

One final thought: Do any of these politicians think that we listen to these calls? Don’t you do what I do and hang up?

Next year, I’m not hanging up so fast. I’ll listen just long enough to find out who wants my vote so badly that they’ll call during supper or a Saturday afternoon nap. And when I hear your name, I’m writing it down, and I’m not voting for you. Count on it.

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Another ESV-SB Update

My Premium Calfskin English Standard Version Study Bible was waiting for me on the front porch yesterday. I opened the box, took off the shrink wrap, and opened it upon the table…and it laid there without closing up. It was almost like it was already broken in from months of use.

The bindery is much better than the ESV Greek/English Interlinear Bible. Some of the pages were dogearred when the books were cut and so they stick out now. This SB looks to have been carefully produced. The color maps and illustrations are well-printed and clear. The abundance of maps throughout the text (as well as in the back) should be very helpful. The amount of articles—beyond the study notes—is impressive. I look forward to using it with Susan in our devotions over the next 14 months.

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ESV Study Bible Update

Susan received her ESV-SB hardcover yesterday. Scott got his ESV-SB Trutone too. Scott said, “That Study Bible is like having Jesus right there with you.” From down the hall, we heard Brad say, “He is, Scott.”

My calfskin ESV-SB won’t ship until next week. Besides using it in my devotional reading with Susan, I look forward to reading all of the text and notes next year as my church reads through the Bible chronologically. We’ll see how good the binding is that way. 😉

My old, leather NASB that I purchased from the local American Bible Society representative back in 1974 or ’75 and used “religiously” for years has held up well but some (evidently favorite) pages from John and Acts are loose and the binding between John and Revelation detached years ago. If it had remained my primary Bible (which none do for long) it may have crumbled by now. Of all the Bibles I’ve had over the years, I used that NASB longer than any. Maybe this ESV-SB will now take the lead. I doubt it though since I really like my ESV Journalling Bible.

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Surrounded by Morons

A Character Study of Abigail

After the death of Samuel, the story of Abigail is related in scripture. Abigail was the wife a badly behaved, harsh man named Nabal, a Calebite (1Sa 25:13). David and his men were in the wilderness and hearing of Nabal shearing his sheep (perhaps an idiom not then used but appropriate to the story nonetheless), sent a delegation to him, expecting some tribute for keeping his sheep and shepherds safe—and also for doing some of the work of shepherding themselves. Instead of tribute, Nabal disrespects David, insinuating that he was a “nobody” or at best a disobedient servant who had broken away from his master (v10). David was told of Nabal’s discourteous response and wasted no time in forming his own, 400-man comeback.

Before he could reach Nabal, the worthless fellow’s wife, Abigail, closed the gap between David and Nabal, meeting David with a tribute she had prepared. Her hope was that she might at least take the edge off David’s sword response. She might have hoped for more as well. She fell at David’s feet and took all the blame for her husband. She made no excuses for him but painted him in a bad light, poking some fun at his name (naval, a Hebrew form or perhaps the root of the word for villainy or foolishness). She as much as said that he deserves what treatment he gets but at the same time apologized for not having met David’s delegation. Had she known they were there, she assured David that they would have received a better welcome.

Abigail asked David’s forgiveness for something David must have understood was beyond her control. She further requested David to spare Nabal’s life, which would also spare David of any bloodguilt. It is to be understood, of course, that part of the bloodguilt might have been David taking the life of this innocent woman too. Though it would have been the males his troops would have sought to annihilate (v34), perhaps she too would have been hurt (at least). David granted her petition for peace with Nabal.

When Abigail returned to her home, she found Nabal drunk. “In the morning, when the wine had gone out of him” (an amusing note on the morning ritual especially after a night of drinking), Abigail informed him of all she had done with David. The inference to be drawn was that she had treated David honorably and as one man should another man—but as Nabal had failed to do. A woman had done a man’s job, done it face-to-face, and in so doing had managed to spare her husband’s worthless hide. Nabal was stricken. Perhaps it was his conscience; maybe he was shamed. Then again he might have feared that David would still arrive with his 400 swords (Abigail would not have left out the detail of how many men had been on the way to deal with Nabal.). The scripture states that Nabal’s heart turned to stone, which some translations interpret as a seizure or heart ailment. Ten days later, Nabal died.

When David heard the news, he was happy that the Lord avenged him of Nabal’s insult. he must have been especially happy now that Abigail had convinced David to allow vengeance to the Lord’s (Deut 32:35). He then sent for Abigail, the new widow, who would surely still be as beautiful and discerning (v3) as when they had met. He sent for her, not so much to look after her needs but to take her as his wife (v39). Her only delay in coming to David was to first show respect to David’s delegation—the very thing that did not occur to her late husband during their first visit to the house of Nabal. Abigail then quickly mounted a donkey, not packing anything it would seem, but a retinue of five women, and hurried to David. She immediately became one of his wives. Abigail bore a son for David, his second, whose name was Chileab. 1 Chronicles 3:1 records Chileab’s name as Daniel.

Abigail was an honorable woman who took a stab at getting herself out of a loathsome predicament. She was surrounded by morons because she was married to one and the rest did his bidding. She was trapped in a bad marriage (probably one arranged by her family) but bad as the situation was, she could still do the right thing—and sometimes doing the right thing has a way of coming back round to one’s benefit. Though she could not have known it would kill Nabal, she must have known it would shame him when he heard how she had dealt with David like a man when he had not. Instead of being rude from the supposed safety of distance, she confronted David in person. In doing so, striking as she was, perhaps she also hoped to appeal to David on a deeper, emotional level.

If she didn’t…it worked anyway.

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Were You Raised in a Barn?

A Character Study of Eli

Eli was the great-grandson of Aaron (Exo 6:23-24 shows Eli’s father, Elkanah, in the Aaronic line) and so, being in that priestly lineage, we find him as both Judge and Priest at Shiloh when he is first mentioned in Scripture (1Sa 1:3). This introduction is one of an old priest, since his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, had taken over the priestly duties and since 1Sa 2:22 states “Eli was very old.” Still, he really must have been “very old” by the time Elkanah and Hannah have had six children. This would have been perhaps a decade following this introduction. Perhaps, since we find out in 1Sa 2:12 that Eli’s sons were “worthless men” that perhaps they had forced Eli into a diminished role while he was old but not too old to perform his ministry. Perhaps doing what duties might still be allowed him, he sat at the doorway of the temple where he observed a woman named Hannah crying and inaudibly mouthing words. He mistook her for being drunk. This is not too surprising, based on his sons’ behavior and his collusion in their priesthood, Eli was no great judge of character. Nor was he one to reprove a wrongdoer (at least not Hophni and Phinehas) so it is a little surprising that he had no problem correcting Hannah. When she set the matter straight, he was quick to give her a blessing, if only perhaps to get her out of the temple. It is interesting, if this is the case, since decorum in the temple did not seem to be of much concern to Eli. Surely his sons had caused more disrespect and trouble to the temple than Hannah did that evening. This is not flattering behavior on Eli’s part.

Hannah and Elkanah had their first child and named him Samuel. They later dedicated Samuel to the Lord’s service with Eli. Conceivably, because they had made such a sacrifice in giving up their son to the Lord’s ministry (1Sa 2:11) or perhaps in order to make up for his errant accusation of Samuel’s mother, Eli would bless the parents each year, asking God to give them more children (1Sa 2:20).

By the time we are certain Eli is “very old” (1Sa 2:22) he has been hearing of the sins of his sons against Israel. Though Eli would have understood his sons were not merely sinning against the young women by having sex with them (1Sa 2:22) or against God by treating his sacrifices with contempt (1Sa 2:17), he did not attempt to run them off as he had tried with Hannah. He did, however, make an effort to cajole them. Such efforts are futile when there are no “ears to hear.” Yet Eli heard, even if his sons could not, for the rumors were widespread. The people were informing Eli about his ill-behaved offspring. Still, all Eli had in him was to scold them in such a way as to insinuate his disappointment: I didn’t raise you to be like this. Their behavior was a sin against the whole of Israel and if it was not dealt with, all would pay for their sin. This is clearly seen in that Eli was called to account for his poor fathering skills, vis-à-vis his wayward sons. A man of God came to tell Eli in straightforward fashion that Eli loved and honored his sons with their sinful, faithless, and abusive character more than he esteemed the Lord (1Sa 2:29). Either Eli was associated with the actions of his boys or their uncorrected sins had at least spread to their father’s doorstep.

When Eli sat in the entrance of the temple and spied a young woman that he could easily correct, he was instead corrected by her. He quickly recanted and this paved the way for Samuel to become priest. But while he sat in that doorway, had Eli only looked within his own home, he would have found two men, also priests, who were sorely in need of correction. Eli spent that night on the outside of his home because he was not able to manage what was on the inside. Eli’s legacy is one of complicit corruption, disregard for the things of God, and a father who was incapable of raising and disciplining his children. This is a sad heritage for a priest who should have done better than raise a couple of selfish animals (Deut 6:7). As a result, his priestly line will be cut off altogether during the reign of Solomon (1Kgs 2:27).

What we fail to deal with, God will eventually straighten out. He didn’t raise us to act like this and he won’t put up with worthless, animal behavior forever.

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ESV Study Bible Update

I pre-ordered ESV Study Bibles for my wife and me on May 19th and have been looking forward to their arrival ever since. We both got the Literary Study Bible and read through it in the first 90 days of this year. I since got the ESV Reformation Study Bible and have been using it in my devotions for a few months. Still, I am anxious to get the new Study Bible. Why? Well, it’s like my wife says: “Mark, you’re a Bibleholic.”

About a month ago, I was notified by my credit union that my card number was found amongst 40+ million numbers that were stolen by some mob in Florida. The FBI notified my CU of my stolen number and the CU sent me a new card with a new number. The problem is that I pre-ordered the Bibles with the stolen number. About two weeks ago, I used the contact page on the Crossway website to let them know I’d need to give them a new number. Evidently the folks at Crossway are so busy getting ready to ship that they have not had time to respond to my message.

So I called today and Denise at Crossway ran the new number and we’re squared away. The new Study Bibles ship the week of October 20th. Mine is calfskin. Did I mention that I’m anxious?

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A Family Affair

A Character Study of Joab

Joab was the brother of Abishai and Asahel, and the son of Zeruiah. More distinctively, he was King David’s nephew. Joab’s name means “the Lord is Father.” But that was where the divine family connection ended; the rest was loyalty to David’s family. Early in 2 Samuel a competition arose between Joab, a leader in David’s army and Abner, a leader in Ishbosheth’s (son of King Saul) army. The contest between their soldiers turned into a furious battle and ended in deaths. The rivalry did not end there even though Abner eventually (and especially because) came to David’s camp.

Joab was a company man—he did what it took to advance his superior’s cause and to rise in the ranks. Becoming the top military man and resorting to murder would not be surprising developments in the life of Joab. We are not disappointed in either case. Eventually becoming commander of David’s army (2Sa 8:16; 20:23), he also ended up murdering Abner. This was probably done out of jealousy and a fear of Abner’s rising favor with David, though he blamed it on Abner’s having killed his brother, Abishai, an act of self-defense. Abner might well have become commander of David’s armies; Joab could not leave that prospect linger. He also had his men execute Absolom, David’s son and usurper to the throne. This was performed against David’s wishes. In fact, David asked Joab to “deal gently” (2Sa 18:5) with Absolom. Yet when Absolom was found defenseless, hanging in a terebinth tree, Joab used not one, but three spears, to finish Absolom’s life. Perhaps Joab did this more in repayment of Absolom once having burned his barley field (2Sa 14:30) than in loyalty to David. He also helped with David’s murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. At David’s bidding, Joab, Uriah’s commander, had him sent to the front lines of battle to die so that David would get the girl and be off the hook for getting her pregnant. Despite his discreet assistance, David eventually replaced Joab as commander with another of his nephews, Amasa. Joab slew him too. No one got in Joab’s way—except Joab.

The old saying goes, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” and it was never truer than in Joab’s case. When Solomon was rising to his father’s throne, David gave him the advice to kill Joab because of his dark, murderous past. Having him in the wings in Solomon’s new kingdom could prove devastating for the Davidic throne. Solomon took his father’s advice and had Joab eliminated in the Temple, of all places (as he became a sort of family sacrifice). In this latest segment of the story David was protecting his son and throne from someone whom he had schooled and who was devoted to the kingship of David. It might have been assumed he would also be loyal to Solomon but a family cannot take such chances. Indeed, David had once said that Abner’s death would fall upon the head of Joab one day (2Sa 3:29). It was not so much prophetic as a promise since David chose the day.

David’s advice to kill Joab might have been wise even if Joab could have been trusted. Killers lead other killers. After spearing the heart of Absolom three times, ten of Joab’s cronies stepped up to kill the prince too. Certainly Absolom was already dead, or at least moments from the end. Why strike him ten times over when the deed was done except for the pure, murderous passion? These were the kind of men Joab led and mentored. These men would now be in Solomon’s court and if they had eagerly killed one prince, what was one more?

It may be argued that Joab was just a loyal servant to David and his family. A case might also be made that Joab was a man who was in actuality loyal to self and used the king to advance his own causes. Abner was a threat that Joab snuffed out. Absolom had once offended and humiliated Joab but Joab dealt the final offense in a shameful way (Deu 21:23). Without question, Amasa was the king’s choice for a new general. Therefore, it was not loyalty to David that eliminated Joab’s cousin; it was Joab’s loyalty to Joab. Joab did not perform these dark deeds simply for king or kingdom; he also carried them out for his own advancement in that royal family.

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The Church Drunk

A Character Study of Hannah

Elkanah had two wives—Hannah and Peninnah. The former was barren and the latter had children (1Sa 1:2). The latter also provoked Hannah because of her infertility, grieving her beyond comfort. Elkanah’s love for her and his gifts seemed to mean little to her. She only wanted a child. She was inconsolable, reduced to fasting and weeping. Still, after an attempt by her husband to soothe her feelings, she evidently took food. This meal took place in Shiloh, where Eli the priest lived and where religious sacrifice was made.

Hannah’s husband was a religious man, if making a short annual pilgrimage to Shiloh for the purpose of sacrificial offering is tantamount to piety. His wife, Hannah was also devout, if perhaps self-seeking, promising God that she would dedicate her child if he would open her womb. Whether she realized the party responsible for her barrenness or not is unclear. If she did not know it was God who had closed her womb, she believed he could reverse the situation. But how could a child be so important if she would then give the child back to God? Was it that she simply wanted Peninnah to stop irritating her? Perhaps she did not want to be pitied by Elkanah and others? Did she need the security of progeny in case something happened to Elkanah’s double portion (v5)? Whatever the reason, she would eventually give her firstborn child to God.

After dining and drinking in Shiloh an undisclosed amount—though if it were a double portion, it could have been a goodly quantity of not only meat but wine as well—Hannah goes to the temple where Eli was presiding. Perhaps with good reason Eli accuses her of being drunk. He had undoubtedly seen many people come in to the temple from times of feasting a bit too much. He suspects Hannah is just such a tourist and accuses her of being drunk. Hannah defends herself and states she has not imbibed any alcoholic beverage. Instead she is upset again; evidently the nice meal with Elkanah did not assuage her grief. Once more, she focuses on gaining a child and this time she does so at God’s doorstep. She carries her heartache as directly to God as she can, right to the Shiloh temple, mouthing a silent prayer to God and more importantly, a prayer that came from the heart (v13) of a barren woman. If Sarai, Rebekah, Rachel, Samson’s mother, Elizabeth, and arguably Mary and the people called Israel and the Bride of Christ (Rev 21:2) are any indicators, God loves to answer the prayers of desolate women (Isa 54:1). Indeed, the psalmist sings that, “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.” (Psa 113:9 ESV) Perhaps they were all merely persistent, not to mention God being gracious. Without question though, Hannah is determined. She will not give up even when Eli tells her to dry up. She pleads her case to the priest and he gives her a blessing. He either knows of God’s beneficence to would-be-mothers or just wants to get rid of her. Regardless, without consulting God, he seems to imply some future divine intervention.

The text indicates Hannah too may have thought God would soon answer her prayer since nothing else is said of her weeping and not eating. In fact, it only states that she went home and had sex with her husband—probably not an activity for the disconsolate. In fact, God had heard her plea and she conceived. In another act of devotion, Hannah names the child Samuel (“heard of God”), indicating she believed that she had conceived because God had heard her.

Once Samuel was weaned (perhaps two to three years) she took him to Shiloh and offered both a bull (ESV, or three bulls, KJV; a three-year old bull is poetic if Samuel is also three) and a son to the Lord. Along with these sacrifices comes a song for both God and Peninnah (since her “mouth derides her enemies” {2:1} and she tells the proud to be silent {v3}). At the end of the song, Elkanah goes home (we are left to assume Hannah went with him at this time) but annually Samuel’s mother remembered the boy she had lent to God with a new suit of clothing. Furthermore, God remembered faithful and determined Hannah with five more children (2:21).

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Fleecing God

A Character Study of Gideon

Gideon follows Deborah (Jdg 4:1-5:31) in the list of Judges. Our first encounter with Gideon (Jdg 6:11-8:35) has him involved in an agricultural pursuit that shows the need for “judgment” in Israel. He is covertly threshing wheat so the Midianite oppressors will not notice there is produce to confiscate. One may assume that Gideon is weary of such subjugation—as anyone would be. It is under this domination that God calls Gideon to free Israel. An angel appears as Gideon beats the wheat and calls him a “mighty man of valor” (Jdg 6:12 ESV)—a curious thing to call an untested farmer. Surely Gideon thought so, as his later distrust of God’s call will demonstrate.

Gideon’s first encounter with God through the angel exhibits his questioning of God’s care for Israel. “If the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (6:13) God does not defend his character but puts the responsibility in Gideon’s hands and perhaps sarcastically says to go in his “valor” and deliver Israel. Gideon complains again, saying he could not accomplish much since he is among the weakest of all the men of Israel. God seeks to overcome the objection by answering that he will be with Gideon so as to strike Midian as “one man” (6:16). This is a powerful reassurance that should cause Gideon to move forward in God’s call. He does not, evidently still distrusting God.

He asks for a validation of God’s promise. In an Elijah-like display (1Kg 18), God consumes a wetted sacrifice with fire. Gideon is convinced now that the call has come from God but not thoroughly convinced—or at least not confident. He goes by cover of night to strike the Midianites. He does so by striking at the cause of God’s judgment on Midian and Israel, as well as Gideon’s own family. Gideon and ten men pull down his father’s Baal altar and Asherah pole. The people demand the perpetrator’s life and it is here in defense of his son that his father gives the inspiration for Gideon’s new name. He is now called Jerubbaal, meaning “Let Baal contend against him,” (6:32) meaning if Baal is god, he can take Gideon’s life himself.

Gideon’s ten men seem pathetic against the amassing Midianites, Amalekites, and if that were not enough, all “the people of the East” (v33). They were gathering as one army for war against Israel. God, however, had also promised to stand with Gideon as “one man.” Still, Gideon sends out messengers to join his army. In spite of this, Gideon doubts God’s call and puts him to the test again. This time Gideon goes the opposite direction from a fiery test and asks God to verify his call by causing a fleece of wool to become wet with dew but the ground all around to remain dry. He does but Gideon then asks him to confirm the confirmation by doing the reverse. God complies. At this point, one expects Gideon to continue testing God but surprisingly, Jerubbaal/Gideon takes the now gathered army of Israel and makes camp for war.

God returns the “favor” and tests Gideon, telling him there are too many soldiers. 22,000 troops were sent home, followed by an additional 10,000, until only 300 men remained. It is ironic that this testing came by using water (7:4)—since his fleecing of God involved water. Though the enemy was abundant as locusts (7:12), Gideon, now fortified by various tests of God and by God, as well as by a comrade’s dream (vv13-15), takes his 300 men into battle. Again, he does so by night, evidence of continued mistrust. Wary or not, Jerubbaal is clever. He brings fear in the night by making it sound and look like his small company is much larger than it is (vv17ff). Gideon continues to deliver the land from subjugation with such success that the people wish to make him king. He declines their request, asking for gold instead. From this he makes a golden ephod, which diverts Israel’s attentions from God. Their “whoring after” Gideon’s golden ephod turns to whoring after the Baals again as soon as Gideon dies. In a life of testing, Gideon failed to lead Israel back to God.

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