The Perfect Minister
On November 17th, 2012, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “The Perfect Minister.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)
The day following the recent US Presidential election, I tuned in to BBC radio and television programmes to see what the reaction was. One question was asked about what the Republican party now had to do in the light of this defeat. Answers given by several commentators and American politicians were that President Obama and his team had understood the mood of the country about such matters as gay rights and abortion, as the liberal agenda moved forward. In fact, one “blogger” said that the Republican party was primarily a religious party and would have to leave religious matters alone, if they ever wanted to get elected again. Such, it appears, is the antipathy towards God and His Word.
A few days before the election, hurricane Sandy hammered the eastern coast of the United States and caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage. Hurricane Katrina caused huge damage to New Orleans in 2005, and there have been many other disasters in between.
Not one commentator I heard mentioned the sowing and reaping principle. The agenda of approving perversion, killing in war and murdering the unborn (just three of a raft of immoral behaviours) seems to have no connection in their minds with the punishments now being experienced. But the Bible says: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
God promises blessings for righteous behaviour and punishment for unrighteous behaviour (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28–these are principles that still apply in our time). There seems to be little or no recognition of this in society today, and these connections still go unrecognised.
The Church of God has forecast the downward spiral of our nations for many decades but, unfortunately, as people grow ever more distant from God and His ways, so the punishments will continue and increase. If ungodly practices were repented of and eliminated, countries would benefit enormously, but there seems to be no general recognition that behaviour is wrong!
As our nations continue to lurch from crisis to crisis, many more bad days lie ahead. After the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, the world will have the righteous rule and government of God on earth. But until that time, with no leaders having the answers and none of them truly trusting God, more punishments will inevitably follow.
With this edition, we are focusing first on the devastating situation in the USA, beginning with the suspicious timing of CIA Director David Petraeus, and continuing with America’s insurmountable problems, as evidenced by the fiscal cliff and the entitlement cliff, leading more and more commentators to conclude that America’s downfall has begun and appears inevitable.
We are reporting on interesting developments in Europe, pertaining to new Euro bills and the desire of most in the UK to leave the EU; speak about the precarious situation for Israel; and conclude with a report on India’s “Christmas”—the Festival of Lights.
This Week in the News
CIA Director David Petraeus Resigns Over Marital Infidelity Affair
Last week, Petraeus, 60, resigned as Director of the CIA and admitted in a statement to having an affair. He is a four-star general and led the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Reuters, November 9, “Petraeus’ name had circulated speculatively as a possible Republican presidential nominee before Obama tapped him as CIA chief.”
On November 11, Newsmax published the following article by Ronald Kessler, chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is the New York Times bestselling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA:
“FBI agents investigating CIA Director David Petraeus’s affair were shocked when told by bureau officials that despite the national security implications, no action would be taken on their findings until after the presidential election: Only then would President Obama ask for Petraeus’ resignation. The White House claims President Obama and his national security advisors were first informed of the Petraeus’ affair on Thursday, two days after the election.
“But the official timeline strains credulity. Senior FBI officials suppressed disclosure of the highly sensitive case, apparently to avoid embarrassment to Obama during his re-election campaign. On Oct. 10, I was contacted by a longtime FBI source who told me that a bureau investigation had uncovered Petraeus’ affair with a journalist and that it could potentially jeopardize national security. The veteran agent related to me that FBI agents assigned to the case were outraged by what… they were told by senior officials: The FBI was going to hold in limbo their findings until after the election…
“My source said the FBI had been investigating the matter since last spring and the probe was considered among the most sensitive investigations the bureau was handling. Both FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and the Justice Department were aware of the investigation, according to my source. The source did not specifically know whether Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder or FBI Director Mueller had given the order to delay taking action until after the election.
“However, Mueller meets at least once a week with the president and routinely informs him of highly sensitive investigations and threats. An FBI investigation of the CIA director should have been at the top of that list. In fact, it would have been a scandal if the FBI had not informed the president or the attorney general of an investigation of the CIA director… If the president genuinely did not know about the probe, it would constitute malfeasance by the White House. But my FBI sources doubt the order to suppress the probe’s findings until after the election — while taking a chance with the nation’s security — was made by the bureau…
“In my opinion, Mueller is a man of impeccable integrity. He would not have acquiesced to delaying action on the bureau’s findings unless ordered to do so by the attorney general or by the president…
“As FBI agents and CIA officers tell me, such a delay could have meant that foreign intelligence service officers or criminals who may have learned of the affair could have blackmailed Petraeus into giving up the country’s most sensitive secrets. Given his position, those secrets would have included penetrations of Russian communications, bugging of foreign embassies, identities of assets risking their lives to give the U.S. valuable information on terrorists, and identities of terrorists who are about to be killed by drones…”
Holder Knew About CIA Director David Petraeus Investigation
Newsmax wrote on November 12:
“Attorney General Eric Holder knew as early as late summer that former CIA Director David Petraeus was the subject of an FBI investigation that eventually uncovered an affair that Petraeus was having with his biographer…
“The revelation raises questions of whether Holder, already under fire for the botched ‘Operation Fast and Furious’ gun-running scheme, should have – or even would have – told President Barack Obama once he was notified about the FBI investigation. ‘The idea that the White House didn’t learn of this potential problem until Election Day, I just find incomprehensible,’ John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under George W. Bush, told Fox. ‘Did the attorney general sit on this information for two months?’… Bolton told Fox that it begged the question ‘of whether the information was suppressed.’
“According to the White House, Obama did not find out about the Petraeus affair last Thursday when the highly decorated general met with him in the Oval Office… given that Petraeus came up in an investigation was enough reason to notify the White House, several congressmen told Fox… Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz told Fox:….The heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees should have been informed… ‘Notification should have also gone to the president – immediately.’”
“White House Lied and Covered Up”
Newsmax wrote on November 13:
“Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tells Newsmax it’s an ‘absolute certainty’ there has been a cover-up involving the Benghazi terrorist attack and the White House ‘flat-out lied’ to the American people about it… And Huckabee, who sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, says he won’t rule out another White House run in 2016. Gov. Huckabee is now the host of ‘The Mike Huckabee Show,’ broadcast on 190 stations in 44 states, and a Fox News contributor…
“In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Huckabee was asked if details of [Petraeus’] affair were covered up by the White House to help Obama win re-election. ‘The answer to that is I don’t know, but there are certainly some very curious things about the whole timeline,’ he says. ‘There are some things in Benghazi that the White House has covered up. That much is a pretty absolute certainty. They were dishonest with the American people. They flat-out lied to us about what happened. They knew they were lying to us. And they’ve been covering it up. That we know and we’ll stick with that until we find out what the White House did know.”
The Daily News reported on November 14:
“The seedy scandal surrounding Gen. David Petraeus has now imperiled his successor as commander in Afghanistan, given the U.S. military a black eye and embarrassed America on the world stage. The fallout from the shenanigans has also left President Obama with a huge headache as he tries to pull American forces out of Afghanistan by 2014, ending the country’s longest war…
“With the frat house-like atmosphere surrounding the top defenders of the United States, no one is sure where this ‘Greek tragedy,’ as one politician called it, will wind up. The sexcapades that have made America’s top brass a laughingstock came to light when raven-haired bombshell Jill Kelley [a Lebanese Catholic who came to the U.S. as a child]… complained to the FBI about sketchy emails and touched off the probe that doomed Petraeus as CIA director. Now, the collateral damage from Petraeus’ two-timing has hit Gen. John Allen, whose appointment to head NATO forces in Europe has been put on hold after it turns out he and Kelley exchanged a blizzard of sometimes ‘flirtatious’ emails.”
These articles raise and address some interesting questions, but in light of the government’s and Congress’ investigative “results” of other troublesome issues in the past, it is highly doubtful that we will ever learn what really happened—until Christ’s return, that is, when all the hidden things will come to light and be revealed.
The Fiscal Cliff
Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 8:
“The US has more in common with heavily indebted southern European countries than it might like to admit. And if the country doesn’t reach agreement on deficit reduction measures soon, the similarities could become impossible to ignore. The fiscal cliff looms in the near future, and it’s not just the US that is under threat…
“Americans are now facing a… real horror scenario… if the country is allowed to plunge off the ‘fiscal cliff’ at the beginning of next year. Coined by Federal Reserve head Ben Bernanke, it refers to the vast array of cuts and tax increases which will automatically go into effect if Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on measures to slash the US budget deficit.
“… the US is staggering under a monumental pile of debt and could potentially begin to face the kinds of difficulties that have plunged several euro-zone countries into crisis. It is a viewpoint shared by the ratings agencies… the ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans in the face of a horrendously imbalanced budget looks catastrophically absurd. As their country heads toward the edge of the abyss, lawmakers preferred to debate whether or not French fries and pizza should be considered vegetables…
“Were taxes to be ratcheted up at the same time as state programs were slashed, it would have an enormous effect on the economy. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 2013 growth would immediately drop by four percentage points, making a recession unavoidable. The number of unemployed would be two million higher than without the cuts.
“It is an eventuality that doesn’t just put fear into the hearts of Americans. In its annual report on the US, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) referred to the fiscal cliff as the largest risk currently facing America. Investors have already reportedly become more cautious in the face of the looming cuts. Should politicians not agree to a credible plan for reducing US debt, it could ultimately harm the credibility of the dollar as a reserve currency…
“US politicians, no doubt, would not be fond of hearing their country compared to Greece. After all, the heavily indebted euro-zone country was used during the presidential campaign as a caricature for the horrors of European-style socialism. But their current finances are not dissimilar, with one difference being that the US can’t count on outside help as the Greeks have received.
“It remains to be seen how US politicians choose to approach the problem. Republicans, having defended their majority in the House of Representatives, could simply let the country plunge off the cliff in the hopes that it would be blamed on Obama. Or, on the other hand, their willingness to compromise may have been increased by virtue of losing the presidential election badly… Greece’s economic problems and the resulting austerity packages it has passed have plunged the country into five straight years of recession. Germany, Europe and the world are hoping that the same fate is not in store for the US.”
America’s immediate economic future looks grim. But as the next article shows, America’s not-too-distant economic future looks even grimmer.
Fiscal Cliff and Tax Cuts
Newsmax wrote on November 12:
“Most Americans believe the federal government should extend a variety of tax cuts, including those implemented during the George W. Bush administration, a new poll reveals… Most voters believe Congress and the president should work to extend the tax cuts set to expire at the end of this year, but don’t think they should allow the automatic spending cuts to take effect at that time…
The Entitlement Cliff
Newsmax wrote on November 11:
“Much has been said about the ‘fiscal cliff’ coming at the end of the year, when tax cuts are set to expire and automatic spending cuts begin, but that ‘pales in comparison’ to the ‘entitlement cliff’ looming for the country in coming years, a new report warns.
“Entitlement spending is already so high that the cost of all entitlement programs plus interest on the debt is nearly equal to total federal revenue. That means virtually everything else the government does is being paid for with borrowed money, the report from the Institute for Policy Innovation discloses.
“Entitlements include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and means-tested welfare programs, plus veteran benefits, unemployment pay, disability pay, and more. A number of these programs have grown substantially since President Obama took office. Medicaid has grown from 46.9 recipients to 56 million, disability beneficiaries have increased from 7.5 million to 8.8 million, and the food stamp program has grown from 32 million beneficiaries to 47 million.
“All told, more than 120 million Americans receive entitlements of some kind, according to the Institute, a Texas-based think tank. Add to that an estimated 16 million new Medicaid beneficiaries resulting from Obamacare, and some 18 million people who enter the health insurance exchanges beginning in 2014.
“The bottom line: For fiscal 2012, the federal government spent about $2.2 trillion of its $3.7 trillion budget on entitlement programs, while gross annual revenues stood at $2.6 trillion. Add interest on the federal debt of $220 billion to the entitlement payout, and that leaves less than $200 billion to pay for everything else, including defense, transportation, education, and homeland security. So the government makes up the shortfall by borrowing, or printing, money.
“The problem will only get worse in coming years. Since 1980, Medicare and Medicaid have grown at more than 9 percent annually, and an estimated 77 million baby boomers are beginning to retire and collect Social Security. At the same time, the pool of workers who pay for these programs is not growing. The Tax Policy Center reports that only 53 percent of households now pay both income and payroll taxes…”
America’s troubles are not limited to the economy, as the next article explains.
The Downfall of the USA Is Obvious
Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 10:
“… the signs of the downfall [of the USA] are obvious. One must only take a look at the condition of the streets (every fourth bridge is crumbling!), or the entirely outdated power grid, to come to the conclusion that this country has its future behind it. A nation that has its utility lines hanging from poles in the street, instead of burying them in an orderly fashion underground, cannot really be taken seriously…
“There is hardly an issue about which Germans as so united as they are by their desire to see America on its knees. It unites both the left and the right. Wherever they look, they see decay, a lack of culture and ignorance. ‘A perverse mixture of irresponsibility, greed, and religious zealotry,’ as… columnist Jacob Augstein, furiously argued on Monday…
“The childish excitement over Obama, that once again took hold over Germans during this election — fully 93 percent of the country would have voted for him in this election — is the flip side of this desire for America’s demise. That the Germans, of all people, should see themselves in a black civil rights attorney from Chicago can only be explained by the fact that they see him as the opposite of what they consider to be normal Americans.
“Since Obama spoke to the world in front of the Victory Column in Berlin during his first presidential campaign in the summer of 2008, he has found a firm place in the hearts of German citizens. They will always be grateful to him for this honor. That’s why they forgive him for keeping Guantanamo open and for sending out drones like other people would send postcards…
“Obama has no interest in Europe, and all of his attention goes to Asia. If this president calls the German chancellor’s office, it is only to try to sweet talk her into finally implementing euro-bonds, so Wall Street can sleep again. But that is one of those facts that is better to suppress…”
However one wants to analyze the situation, it should be rather obvious that America’s downfall has not only begun—total collapse seems to be inevitable.
Princess Europa and the New Euro
The Wall Street Journal wrote on November 8:
“No matter what happens with its high-stakes debt negotiations, Greece is staying in the euro. Literally.
“The European Central Bank said Thursday that it would begin issuing new bank notes in May of next year, starting with the five-euro bill. A new feature: The portrait of Europa, a beautiful Phoenician princess and figure from Greek mythology who gave Europe its name, will be part of the new note’s security watermark and hologram. The overall design of the notes, featuring generic bridges, arches and windows, won’t change—Europa will serve as a new security feature.
“After the five-spot, the ECB will include the watermark in 10s, 20s and 50s, all the way up to 500-euro notes over the course of several years. As the ancient tale goes, Europa was abducted by Zeus, who somehow turned himself into a bull to capture her. Thanks to the Europa design, ECB bank notes will be ‘even more secure,’ the ECB said. In other words, Greece will protect the euro, not the other way around.
“Eventually the Europa design will replace existing bank notes. Europeans holding stashes of current bills need not fear. Those notes ‘will retain their value indefinitely and can be exchanged at the Eurosystem [national central banks] at any time,’ the ECB said.”
The EUObserver added on November 9:
“In Greek mythology, the Phoenician princess Europa was abducted and raped by the king of the gods, Zeus. But her image will from next year replace pictures of windows and doors on euro banknotes as a security and decorative feature. ‘Portraits have long been used in banknotes around the world and research has shown that people tend to remember faces. Is there any better figure than Europa to serve as the new face of the euro?’ the chief of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, said on Thursday (8 November) according to Bloomberg…
“Europa’s face will be shown as a watermark and as a hologram. Until now, euro notes carried pictures of windows and doors in various architectural styles in a symbol of openness designed not to offend national sensibilities.”
It appears that the concept of the pagan god Zeus enticing the princess Europa, as well as the concept of the Tower of Babel, representing many different languages, have had a direct conscious influence on the desire of Europeans to resurrect the ancient Roman Empire.
A Great Britain Without Europe?
The Telegraph wrote on November 8:
“The leaders met in London to try to iron out differences over the EU’s €1 trillion (£800.5bn) budget that threaten to block a deal and fuel fears that London is drifting away from the 27-nation union. Describing plans to increase the EU budget as ‘ludicrous’, Cameron has threatened to veto any deal he thinks is not in Britain’s interests and will push for a real-terms freeze.
“However, German officials are exasperated by what they see as London’s slide towards Europe’s margins, a feeling reinforced last week after the British parliament voted to call for a real-terms cut in the EU’s budget. Before meeting Cameron, the German Chancellor told the European Parliament she could not imagine a Europe without Britain, the world’s sixth largest economy, which relies on the EU for half its trade.
“‘I believe you can be very happy on an island, but being alone in this world doesn’t make you any happier,’ Merkel said after British politician Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-European UK Independence Party, urged her to tell Cameron that Britain should quit the EU…
“Cameron was humiliated by last week’s defeat in parliament and opponents say he has lost control of Conservative Party anti-Europeans, a group that helped topple former leaders and that wants a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. Debate over a referendum on Britain reworking its EU role or even leaving has climbed the agenda. A YouGov survey in October found 49pc of those polled wanted to leave the EU, against 28pc who wanted to stay in it.
“Talking tough on Europe can play well with ‘eurosceptic’ British voters and Conservative politicians, but Cameron risks angering EU neighbours and his pro-European coalition partners, the Lib Dems… Cameron’s threat to block a deal could delay a funding increase for the poorest east European member states and isolate Britain from disgruntled EU nations. He has already angered some by talking of using closer eurozone integration as a chance to repatriate some powers from Brussels…
“Germany is the biggest net contributor to the budget while Britain, which receives an annual rebate on its payments, is the fourth largest net payer after France and Italy.”
Britain’s exit from the EU seems to be a foregone conclusion.
“Netanyahu Has Few Options in the South, None of Them Good”
The Times of Israel wrote on November 12:
“Israel’s situation today vis-à-vis Gaza, from the bottom up, is quite untenable.
“Hamas and other groups have fired some 11,000 rockets at Israel since 2001, according to Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter — 160 or so of them since Saturday evening. Israel’s sovereignty has been violated time and again. The residents of the south have found themselves on the front lines on innumerable occasions…
“People living in Sderot and Netivot are outraged: They know that if this rocket fire was being directed at Tel Aviv, Israel would be at war. They also know that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak only promised to fortify the houses situated between 4.5 and 7 kilometers from Gaza on October 24, in the midst of an elections campaign. (Homes closer to Gaza are already fortified.) Moreover, they know that for years the IDF and the government decided against investing in short-and-medium-range rocket protection…
“Toppling the Hamas regime is not a sensible option — the consequences range from chaos, to the rise of a still more extreme Islamist regime, to a draining, vehemently unwanted restoration of Israeli responsibility — and victories against guerilla groups are difficult to attain and nearly impossible to secure. The government owes its citizens some sort of solution. Speaking with Hamas, however, as advocated by former defense minister Amir Peretz, is not something Netanyahu is likely to do, and least of all while under fire.
“A limited operation…is a possibility. But even that means throwing Israel into a small war in Gaza – and, like all wars, one knows where it would start but not where it would end. This is especially meaningful today, with the Muslim Brotherhood presidency in Egypt, the Syrian border heating up and the entire region in a once-a-century sort of flux.
“Internationally, Netanyahu has little goodwill to call upon… It is difficult for the prime minister to commission a report that deems the settlements in the West Bank legal by international law – disregarding the opinion of every Western government – and at the same time to expect full-throated backing from the governments whose support Israel would need for a bloody resort to force. It is impossible to appoint a man such as Avigdor Liberman to the post of foreign minister – a virtual persona non grata in Washington DC and some of the capitals of Europe — and then think that you can count on the leaders of those countries for robust support in Israel’s hour of need…
“The best case scenario for Netanyahu may be to ready the country and the world for war – much as he has done on the Iranian issue – while clandestinely urging and fervently hoping that someone else will intervene in its stead. But if they do not, if Egypt cannot or will not broker a deal, and if the US is disinclined or unable to help at this time, then however discouraging the circumstances, the Israeli government will have to act.”
Since this article, spectacular events happened pertaining to Israel, the Gaza Strip and Hamas.
Hamas Military Chief Killed in Gaza Air Strike
The Telegraph reported on November 14:
“Hamas has said an Israeli air strike in Gaza killed Ahmed Jabari, the head of its military wing, in an attack on a vehicle on Wednesday. The military wing of Hamas said in a statement that the assassination ‘has opened the gates of hell’. Israel’s military said the strike was the ‘start of targetting Gaza militants’, according to AFP… Jabari is the most senior Hamas official to be killed since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago. He has long topped Israel’s most-wanted list, the Associated Press reported.
“Israeli officials had said in recent days that they were considering assassinating top Hamas officials following a wave of heavy rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service confirmed it had carried out the attack, saying it had killed Jaabri because of his ‘decade-long terrorist activity’…
“Meanwhile, an Israeli official said they may try to topple President Mahmoud Abbas if he carries out a plan to ask the United Nations this month to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority. The upgrade would give the Palestinians a place in the world body akin to that of the Vatican – short of full membership as a sovereign state but as close as they can get without the full recognition that Israel says can only come from a peace treaty… Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman… said Israel must confront this challenge by means that could include ‘toppling (Abbas) and dismantling the Palestinian Authority’. Lieberman said in a speech at the settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank that if the Palestinian upgrade request was accepted by the UN General Assembly – as is widely predicted – it could force Israel to punish the Palestinians.
“‘If the … proposal is adopted at the United Nations General Assembly, as far as we are concerned this would be a complete breaking of the rules and it will elicit an extreme response from us,’ Lieberman said on Wednesday. Newspaper reports say Israel instructed its ambassadors to warn it may revoke all or part of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which set up the Palestinian Authority under an interim peace agreement.”
The Jerusalem Post added on November 14:
“IAF hits 20 underground sites housing long-range launchers capable of striking Tel Aviv; strikes mark start of targeted anti-terror campaign… The IAF struck and killed Hamas armed wing Izzadin Kassam Brigades commander Ahmed Jabari in central Gaza on Wednesday. The strike marked the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense to target Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations in Gaza, IDF spokesman Yoav Mordechai announced… Mordechai added that Gaza is a ‘forward Iranian base,’ adding that the latest campaign of air strikes targeted most of the long-range offensive capabilities in the hands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad…
“Shortly after Mordechai’s annoucement [sic], the IAF struck over 20 underground rocket launchers belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The airstrikes targeted long-range rockets in the possession of terror organizations, such as the Fajr-5 and other rockets that are capable of striking Tel Aviv from Gaza. Palestinian sources said that six Gazans were killed in the IDF strikes… The majority of the Gaza weapons storage sites were located in civilian residential buildings, the IDF confirmed. “This is further evidence of the pattern of Hamas to use the population in Gaza as human shields,” the IDF stressed… Wednesday’s violence came after a four-day rocket barrage which began Saturday appeared to have come to an end on Tuesday evening. The hostilities saw over 100 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel and Israeli retaliatory strikes which killed six Palestinians.”
An escalation of the situation would of course have devastating consequences for the entire region, but it seems that this is exactly what the Bible says, will happen.
All-Out War Looms
Reuters wrote on November 15:
“Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip targeted Tel Aviv on Thursday in the first attack on Israel’s commercial capital in 20 years, raising the stakes in a showdown between Israel and the Palestinians that is moving towards all-out war.
“Earlier, a Hamas rocket killed three Israelis north of the Gaza Strip, drawing the first blood from Israel as the Palestinian death toll rose to 19, six of them children.
“Israeli warplanes bombed targets in and around Gaza city for a second day, shaking tall buildings. In a sign of possible escalation, the armed forces spokesman said the military had received the green light to call in up to 30,000 reserve troops…
“Egypt’s new Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, viewed by Hamas as an ally, led a chorus of denunciation of the Israeli strikes by Palestinian allies… After watching powerlessly from the sidelines of the Arab Spring, Israel has been thrust to the centre of a volatile new world in which Islamist Hamas hopes that Mursi and his newly dominant Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will be its protectors…
“The new conflict will be the biggest test yet of Mursi’s commitment to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which the West views as the bedrock of Middle East peace. The Muslim Brotherhood, which brought Mursi to power in an election after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, has called for a ‘Day of Rage’ in Arab capitals…”
An escalation of the situation would of course have devastating consequences for the entire region, but it seems that this is exactly what the Bible says, will happen.
Deutsche Welle reported on November 14:
“India’s Festival of Lights, or Diwali, is the most important Hindu celebration. The high point in 2012 is on November 13. Due to its spiritual and social significance, the festival is often compared to Christmas. In northern India, Diwali also coincides with New Year’s Day… The key element of the Diwali Festival is light. In the past, little oil lamps were placed in rows along window sills or in doorways. Today, more and more electric lights are being used to illuminate homes, businesses and streets all across the country with decorative strings of tiny lightbulbs…
“In Hindu tradition, every worship or prayer begins with praise for Ganesha, the elephant god. He is the god of success and prosperity… and the god who clears all obstacles out of one’s path… Traditionally. Diwali is dedicated to the sweet goddess of good fortune, Lakshmi. But in some eastern India states – for instance, West Bengal – it is Kali who is worshipped. Also known as ‘the Black One,’ she is the goddess of death and destruction…In 2009, US President Barack Obama celebrated Diwali for the first time in the White House. Some three million ethnic Indians live in the United States. At the same time, Obama congratulated Hindus around the world as they marked their New Year…
“Diwali is a festival for the entire nation. The Festival of Lights is observed by all ethnic groups in every region of India, as well as by other religious groups. Across the country schools are closed for the holidays… The manufacturers of all kinds of sweet things have to work overtime in the weeks before Diwali. It is a tradition to give your neighbors, friends or colleagues some delicious treat. Milk, sugar, grits, pistachios, or almonds are the main ingredients…
“Strings of real flowers, but also plastic ones, decorate doors all over India. The most important doorways, like a home’s main entrance, are especially colorful. Lakshmi, the goddess of good fortune, after all, needs to find the house!… For Diwali, people often wait until the last minute to buy gifts for the family, friends and neighbors… A few days before this year’s Diwali Festival, activists from an NGO in Kolkata protested against child labor and released homemade balloons into the night sky. Children are still commonly exploited in India for manufacturing fireworks and the elaborate but tiny ‘diyas,’ or oil lamps.”
The parallels with Christmas—another festival with pagan origins—are indeed striking. That President Obama should keep this Feast is ample testimony for the accuracy of biblical condemnation for this end time, as pointed out in Isaiah 2:6-9.
Are the Old Testament Laws regarding the ancient “Sabbatical Year” or the Land Sabbath and the Jubilee Year still in force and effect today?
As this is a very broad subject, we will provide answers in several Q&As. This Q&A constitutes the first installment, to be continued next week.
The purpose of this first installment is NOT to answer most of the questions about the Land Sabbath and the Jubilee Year. Answers will be provided in future installments. In this installment, we will mainly be quoting from commentaries to show the different positions applied to the issues—which are somewhat reminiscent of SOME opinions and concepts which are occasionally raised by some Church members as well. In subsequent installments, we will discuss the substantive accuracy or inaccuracy of many of those statements.
Let us first look at the biblical provisions in detail, and analyze what exactly they provide. In that context, we must realize that there are ritual temporary laws (which are not in force for us today), spiritual eternal laws (which are immutable and always effective for man), physical and spiritual laws binding today for individuals, and laws which were given to the nation of Israel in the Promised Land, which were in force while God was their Supreme Ruler, and which may not presently be in force (although underlying spiritual principles might be). We need to ascertain to which category the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee Year injunctions belong.
The first mention of the Sabbatical Year or the Land Sabbath can be found in Exodus 23:10-11, long before Israel entered the Promised Land. We read:
“Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove.”
Please note that this provision is immediately followed, in verses 12-19, by the injunction regarding the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days.
Let us now review several statements, opinions and interpretations, as set forth in commentaries regarding the nature and purpose of the provisions of the Land Sabbath, as referred to in Exodus 23.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says: “This is the first mention of the Sabbatical year; the law for it is given at length in Leviticus 25:2…”
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds: “And six years thou shall sow thy land, The land of Canaan, given to their ancestors and to them, and which they were now going to inherit…”
Wesley’s Notes write: “The institution of the sabbatical year was designed, To shew [sic] what a plentiful land that was, into which God was bringing them, that so numerous a people could have rich maintenance out of the products of so small a country, without foreign trade, and yet could spare the increase of every seventh year. To teach them a confidence in the Divine Providence, while they did their duty, That as the sixth day’s manna served for two days meat, so the sixth year’s increase should serve for two years subsistence.”
The Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary writes: “Even in the year of rest they must not think that the sabbath day was laid in common with the other days, but, even that year, it must be religiously observed; yet thus some have endeavoured to take away the observance of the sabbath, by pretending that every day must be a sabbath day…”
We will address the substance of some of these comments in subsequent installments.
The next reference to the Land Sabbath can be found in Leviticus 25:1-7, 18-22:
“And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you; for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food…”’”
“’So you shall observe My statutes and keep my judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety. And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?” Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years, And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest.’”
Again, let us review some statements from several commentaries in this regard.
Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says: “It may be asked here: if it required all the annual produce of the field to support the inhabitants, how could the people be nourished the seventh year, when no produce was received from the fields? To this it may be answered, that God sent his blessing in an especial manner on the sixth year (see Leviticus 25:21, Leviticus 25:22), and it brought forth fruit for three years.”
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds: “And now this law did not take place as soon as they came into the land, for it was to be sown six years, and then was the year of rest; and indeed not till after Joshua had subdued the whole land, which was seven years a doing; nor till they were quite settled, and it was divided among them, and every man had his field and vineyard apart, which this law supposes…”
The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary agrees, writing: “When ye come into the land which I give you—It has been questioned on what year, after the occupation of Canaan, the sabbatic year began to be observed. Some think it was the seventh year after their entrance. But others, considering that as the first six years were spent in the conquest and division of the land (Jos 5:12), and that the sabbatical year was to be observed after six years of agriculture, maintain that the observance did not commence till the fourteenth year.”
The Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament writes: “The omission of sowing and reaping presupposed that the sabbatical year commenced with the civil year, in the autumn of the sixth year of labour, and not with the ecclesiastical year, on the first of Abib (Nisan), and that it lasted till the autumn of the seventh year, when the cultivation of the land would commence again with the preparation of the ground and the sowing of the seed for the eighth year; and with this the command to proclaim the jubilee year on ‘the tenth day of the seventh month’ throughout all the land (Leviticus 25:9), and the calculation in Leviticus 25:21, Leviticus 25:22, fully agree.”
Wesley’s Notes say: “When ye come into the land – So as to be settled in it; for the time of the wars was not to be accounted, nor the time before Joshua’s distribution of the land among them. Keep a sabbath – That is, enjoy rest and freedom from plowing, and tilling. Unto the Lord – In obedience and unto the honour of God. This was instituted, For the assertion of God’s sovereign right to the land, in which the Israelites were but tenants at God’s will…”
Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary points out: “The law of this chapter concerns the lands and estates of the Israelites in Canaan, the occupying and transferring of which were to be under the divine direction, as well as the management of religious worship; for, as the tabernacle was a holy house, so Canaan was a holy land; and upon that account, as much as anything, it was the glory of all lands. In token of a peculiar title which God had to this land, and a right to dispose of it, he appointed… [that] every seventh year should be a year of rest from occupying the land, a sabbatical year (v. 1-7). In this God expected from them extraordinary instances of faith and obedience, and they might expect from God extraordinary instances of power and goodness in providing for them (v. 18-22)… All these appointments have something moral and of perpetual obligation in them, though in the letter of them they were not only peculiar to the Jews [Israelites], but to them only while they were in Canaan…
“In the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land… This sabbatical year began in September, at the end of harvest… The Jews say they ‘began not to reckon for the sabbatical year till they had completed the conquest of Canaan, which was in the eighth year of Joshua; the seventh year after that was the first sabbatical year…’”
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible states: “The express prohibition of sowing and reaping, and of pruning and gathering, affords a presumption in favor of the sabbatical year beginning, like the year of Jubilee Leviticus 25:9, in the first month of the civil year Leviticus 23:24, the seventh of the sacred year, when the land was cleared of the crops of the preceding year.. Its great spiritual lesson was that there was no such thing as absolute ownership in the land vested in any man, that the soil was the property of Yahweh, that it was to be held in trust for Him, and not to be abused by overworking, but to be made the most of for the good of every creature which dwelt upon it.”
Again, we will discuss the substance of these statements in subsequent installments. However, to conclude this first installment, we would like to briefly point out the following:
While many of the above-quoted comments are very good, some statements are misleading and will be addressed and clarified, as we proceed. For instance, the argument, which seems to be associated with some of the comments above, that this was a law which only applied to Israel while in the Promised Land, will have to be rejected. We read, for instance, that Israel was ordered in Exodus 23:10-11, long before entering the Promised Land, to keep the Land Sabbaths (without any reference there to the Promised Land), and in the same context, they were ordered, in Exodus 23:12, to keep the weekly Sabbath (again without any reference to entering the Promised Land).
We addressed the issue of the ongoing validity of the Land Sabbath or the Sabbatical Year in previous Q&As, which we will cite and discuss in the next installment. These Q&A’s quoted numerous commentaries to the effect that they do not feel that the Land Sabbath only applied to the nation of Israel for the time while in the Promised Land, even though it is quite obvious that the provisions only began to be applied sometime AFTER Israel had left Egypt and entered the Promised Land, because, while in the desert, they had no land to cultivate. It should also be noted that there is no indication that any of the provisions regarding the Land Sabbath are mentioned prior to Exodus 23, while there were undoubtedly righteous people who cultivated land. Still, the omission of such provisions is no conclusive evidence that they were not in effect prior to Exodus 23, nor, that they have no validity today.
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
The draft for our newest booklet, covering the timeline of prophecy and titled, “Biblical Prophecy From Now Until Forever,” has entered the first review cycle. Look for the publishing of this astonishing and biblically comprehensive booklet in the weeks ahead. If you would like to have a hard copy mailed to you, please contact us with your request.
Following up on his live sermon given last Sabbath (“The Trap of Idolatry”), Norbert Link has recorded a German sermon (“NEU! Goetzendienst im Christentum?“) covering the same topic. This will be played by the brethren in Germany this coming Sabbath.
“The Petraeus Scandal and the Fiscal Cliff” is the new StandingWatch program recorded by Evangelist Norbert Link–here is a summary: What is the real scandal behind David Petraeus’ marital infidelity and resignation? And why should you be concerned about the fiscal cliff and the entitlement cliff? Why do all these and other developments show that the signs of the downfall of the USA are obvious? Why the desire of the world to see America on its knees?
Other recent StandingWatch progams include: “Why I Don’t Vote!” and “Americans Voted for Nothing!”
StandingWatch Radio (http://www.standingwatch.org/radioPrograms) also airs the audio portion of each video presentation. If you are in an area receiving these broadcasts, please tune in and give us your input–as we work to bring biblical truth to a world so desperately in need of the good news of the coming Kingdom of God!
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Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
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