by Dave Harris
To write out the number that is the title of this editorial would necessitate a 3 followed by 23 zeros–the newest calculated estimate of the number of stars in the universe! Contrast this unimaginable number to the very few thousand stars one might see if we look up into the night sky.
The majesty of this universe is the signature of God–the very proof that He offers of Himself to mankind (compare Romans 1:18-22). In fact, throughout His written Word, God challenges us to understand Him through His creation:
“”To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:25-26).
Considering the grandeur and the glory of God’s creative power instills us with awe! Even among His angelic realm, God is worshipped as Creator:
“‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created'” (Revelation 4:11, NASB).
God also reveals His purpose in creating not only the vast universe but this earth, as well, when He states:
“For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other'” (Isaiah 45:18).
The earth is the focus of His Work at this time. The earth is where He sent His Son, and it is where He is preparing mankind to enter His Family to live eternally with Him and His Son in the new heavens and the new earth which He will also create (compare Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13). Paul wrote, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19).
Jesus taught that God the Father is very concerned, very aware and very involved in what happens on this earth. Note how He explains this:
“‘Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from Your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows'” (Matthew 10:29-31; compare Matthew 6:26).
Perhaps it is sometimes easier to acknowledge God’s creation from afar than to make the personal connection as to what that means to you and me–to realize the extent to which this same Creator is involved with each one of us!
Jesus taught, “‘ …for with God all things are possible'” (Mark 10:27); and, “‘…If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes'” (Mark 9:23).
While we can take the time to step back and drink in the power of God in His Creation, let us also step forward to claim the personal relationship that is ours in our calling as Christians–as brethren of Jesus Christ and as sons and daughters of the Living, Eternal God!
An interesting article in the New York Times describes in vivid terms America’s fascination with its allies—and brings to mind the biblical prophecies, warning the USA and Great Britain against hiring “lovers” and submitting to their ideologies and politics.
As was to be expected, Wikileaks finds itself under attack—especially by those who don’t like the revelations and are anxious to persecute the messenger, rather than focusing on the deeply disturbing and extremely embarrassing messages. To be clear, we do not, of course, endorse the publication of any sensitive documentation which would jeopardize the security of the USA or the lives of American citizens. It is for this very reason that we are deleting in our quotations from news sources any references to names, locations or identities. On the other hand, the hatred against the messengers, rather than against some of the deplorable messages, is telling and revealing in the light of biblical prophecies.
Additional reports discuss the “Christmas traditions” of the “Three Wise Men” and of “Santa Claus” and “Black Peter,” as well as the incredible appeal to the “moon goddess” for inspiration and guidance during UN climate negotiations. We also report about a tragic injury during a German TV show which was broadcast live—showing the degeneration of our societies and bringing to mind the situation in ancient Rome just prior to its fall and destruction.
We conclude with several articles on Europe and the fiscal situation in the USA.
This Week in the News
The New York Times wrote on December 4:
“… going through the WikiLeaks cables has made for some fascinating reading… It is a rather sobering message. America is leaking power…
“Saudi Arabia and its Arab neighbors want the U.S. to decapitate the Iranian regime and destroy its nuclear facilities so they can celebrate in private this triumph over the hated Persians, while publicly joining with their people in the streets in burning Uncle Sam in effigy, after we carry out such an attack on Iran — which will make the Arab people furious at us. The reason the Arab people will be furious at us, even though many of them don’t like the Persians either, is because they dislike their own unelected leaders even more and protesting against the Americans, who help to keep their leaders in power, is a way of sticking it to both of us…
“While the Saudis are urging us to take out Iran’s nuclear capability, we learn from the cables that private Saudi donors today still constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide — not to mention the fundamentalist mosques, charities and schools that spawn the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So basically our oil payments are cycled through Saudi Arabia and end up funding the very militants whom our soldiers are fighting…
“Yes, these are our allies — people whose values we do not and never will share… America lacks leverage in the Middle East because we are addicted to oil. We are the addicts and they are the pushers, and addicts never tell the truth to their pushers… We’re… supporting a regime that… uses our money to fund a religious ideology, schools, mosques and books that ensure that Al Qaeda will always have a rich pool of recruits in Saudi Arabia and abroad. We also lack leverage with the Chinese on North Korea, or with regard to the value of China’s currency, because we’re addicted to their credit…
“Fifty years ago, the world was shaped in a certain way, to promote certain values, because America had the leverage to shape it that way. We have been steadily losing that leverage because of our twin addictions to Middle East oil and Chinese credit — and the WikiLeaks show just what crow we have to eat because of that…”
The Bible warned ancient Israel and the modern descendants of the ancient house of Israel–mainly the USA and Great Britain—not to hire “lovers” for themselves– allies with different interests (compare Hosea 2:4-5; 8:8-9). These warnings were ignored then, and they have been ignored today, and the predictable consequences were and are devastating (compare Jeremiah 4:30; 30:12-14; Ezekiel 16:36-42).
WikiLeaks Under Attack
NPR wrote on December 5:
“WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange…has been widely praised and criticized. Supporters view him as a savior of the media and free speech; critics vilify him for brazenly unleashing diplomatic secrets… PayPal, a subsidiary of U.S.-based online marketplace operator EBay Inc., said the WikiLeaks website, which specializes in disclosing confidential documents, was engaged in illegal activity…
“[Wikileaks] said it noticed an increasing number of supporters creating ‘mirrors’ of the WikiLeaks site on their own servers, meaning that copies of the site would remain up and running even if WikiLeaks were somehow to lose its own site.
“Starting Friday, the Swiss Web address… became the site’s main access point after… a company based in Manchester, New Hampshire, stopped accepting traffic to the site’s principal address… saying cyberattacks threatened the rest of its network. Amazon stopped hosting WikiLeaks’ Web site and governments and hackers were continuing to go after the organization…”
The release of confidential and secret diplomatic US documents is highly embarrassing for the US government and its allies, and any mutual relationship of trust has been damaged or irreparably destroyed. No wonder, then, that many react with hatred toward the messengers, while trying to ignore the message. As mentioned above in our introductory comments, this is not to imply that we in any way endorse or support the publication of any confidential or secret information—but the fact that these documents are now available to the broad public reveals the ongoing nightmare scenarios which are being created for the USA.
Biblical Dimensions of the WikiLeaks Cables…
Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 6:
“The cables… have shocked, alienated and appalled the world… former Saudi Arabian intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faisal says that American’s ‘credibility and honesty are the victim of these leaks’ and assumes that from now on people ‘will no longer speak to American diplomats frankly’…
“Those at the right end of the American political spectrum feel threatened by a foreign power once again. Whoever passed on this information is guilty of treason, says former Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee, one of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. According to Huckabee, ‘anything less than execution is too kind a penalty.’ His rival Sarah Palin wrote on her Facebook page that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be hunted down like a terrorist. ‘He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. … Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders?’
“One leading politician who hasn’t said much is President Barack Obama, whose handling of the WikiLeaks affair thus far only confirms his political adversaries’ criticisms. Just like with the controversy over an Islamic center in New York and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama is once again being accused of not taking decisive action, showing weakness and putting America’s superpower status at risk…
“Turkey has considered taking legal action because of the leaks. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan… wants to strike back at US diplomats in a big way. ‘Those who have slandered us will be crushed under these claims, will be finished and will disappear,’ Erdogan announced in Istanbul, where he is considering filing a lawsuit against the diplomats. Many Turks suspect that a massive conspiracy by the Jewish lobby is behind the WikiLeaks campaign, a view held even by the deputy chairman of the governing party, the AKP. The goal of the reports, he says, is to weaken the Turkish government…
“Last Thursday, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticized what it called a ‘political campaign’ against Assange and Manning. According to the IFJ, the ‘calls by right-wing commentators for Manning to be executed and that Assange be hunted down as a spy … show a mood of intolerance and persecution that is dangerous not just for the two men but for all journalists engaged in investigating public affairs.’
“The US government is now doing its utmost to prevent the spread of the documents. The Social Security Administration was the first government agency to warn its employees, 62,000 in all, not to disseminate the WikiLeaks documents to others, copy them or even read them. Government workers caught in violation of the order could face criminal consequences.
“Manning, who was 22 when he copied the files, has repeatedly been accused of being motivated by a desire for recognition. But Manning himself offered a different explanation before he was taken into custody. He said that he had been told to cover up a lot of things during his time in Iraq, and that this had outraged him. After seeing the now notorious Baghdad helicopter video, he apparently decided to search for more material. When he found the cables, he said, he wanted the world to find out about them.”
There are important revelations which we can glean from the article. First, as mentioned above in the lead article, worldwide trust in America deteriorated, and America’s allies—or “lovers”—are turning against the USA. Secondly, as was also prophesied in Scripture, Turkey (biblical Edom) is turning against “Israel” (the peoples of the USA and Great Britain are the modern descendants of the ancient house of Israel, and the Jewish people are the modern descendants of the ancient house of Judah). And thirdly, messengers of highly unpopular messages, who are being perceived as threatening US security or even America’s reputation, will be hated and hunted down.
God has given His Church a very unpopular message to proclaim—the fact that God will punish modern “Israel”—including the USA and Great Britain–for their many sins. The Bible is very clear that modern “Israel” will be defeated in war and end up in slavery and captivity. When Jeremiah proclaimed a message of inevitable doom to the ancient nation of Judah, he was called a traitor and imprisoned, and his life was in great jeopardy. How could it be any different today for God’s true servants? In addition, God’s Church must also proclaim to ALL nations that God will punish all of them for their sins. God’s people will not be liked for the bold and uncompromising proclamation of His message. In fact, Jesus said that His true disciples who are doing His Work will be hated by ALL nations.
“Assange’s ‘Martyr Status’ Further Damages US Reputation”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 7:
“WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested in London and denied bail on charges of rape and sexual molestation. German opinion makers are split on what the arrest really means. One thing they agree on: The reputation of the US continues to suffer…
“The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes: ‘The reputation of the United States has been damaged by the WikiLeaks-controlled release of secret documents. That is true… But the United States’ reputation is being damaged much more right now as they attempt — with all of their means — to muzzle WikiLeaks and its head, Julian Assange. By doing so, the US is betraying one of its founding myths: Freedom of information. And they are doing so now, because for the first time since the end of the Cold War, they are threatened with losing worldwide control of information.
“‘The first real information war has begun,’ writes US civil rights activist John-Perry Barlow. ‘The battlefield is WikiLeaks.’ He is right. With the doctrine ‘Free Flow of Information’ the US has dominated the flow of information and most of its content for decades. They said that every person had the right, everywhere, and without limitations, to collect information and to broadcast and disseminate it. That was a tremendous doctrine, as long as only American companies had the power, the means, and the logistical capabilities, to make use of this freedom. That changed somewhat with the Internet, but companies like Apple, Windows, Google, Facebook and Amazon advance US-domination in the supposedly democratic Internet. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the first who have used the power of the Internet against the United States. That is why they are being mercilessly pursued. That is why the government is betraying one of the principles of democracy’…
“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘The arrest is as potentially scandalous and it is superfluous. The operation has produced a martyr… The already damaged reputation of the United States will only be further tattered with Assange’s new martyr status…’
“The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘In the so-called ‘war on terror’ the democracies of the US and Europe have not only instigated wars without satisfactory reasons but have also tried to reduce the privacy, civil rights and liberties of their citizens…’
“The Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel writes: ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’: this Anglo-Saxon saying still holds true in the Internet age. To the US, Assange is a terrorist; to the Internet community, he is a pioneer of freedom. The favourable view of Assange seems to have more sympathy here in Germany…’”
The “Powerlessness” of the US Superpower
Deutsche Welle wrote on December 8:
“No one knows what really happened on those two August evenings in Sweden, but it’s difficult to see the subsequent and diligent attempts to catch Assange by Swedish prosecutors as anything other than a part of the dogged US pursuit of WikiLeaks. It’s painful for a superpower to have to look on, powerless, as a small group publishes its secrets for the whole world to see. First, there were the revelations on the Afghan war, then the military log books from Iraq, and most recently the slew of diplomatic dispatches.
“But this powerlessness has transformed into anger, and it’s the display of anger – not the WikiLeaks files – that might cause the US to really lose face… The US image abroad is more likely to be damaged when Hillary Clinton blows ‘Cablegate’ out of proportion, calling it ‘an attack on the international community,’ or when Assange is dubbed a traitor, terrorist, or hardened criminal.
“The US really loses face when the online payment service PayPal blocks WikiLeaks’ account, when Mastercard stops transferring donations to the whistle-blowing organization, and when the internet service provider Amazon suddenly stops hosting the website online.
“Bear in mind that freedom of expression was the first amendment ever made to the US Constitution; at least in theory, the US places far greater emphasis on this right than many other democratic countries, including Germany. Already, participants on Internet forums in China are asking just how committed the US really is to freedom of expression, considering its handling of the WikiLeaks case…
“In ancient Greece, the bearer of bad or sensitive tidings was sometimes executed – but we’re in the 21st century, and the world should have moved on. As the world’s superpower, the US is forever under pressure to show its quality – this crusade against Julian Assange is doing precisely the opposite.”
Overreaction by US Government and Legislators?
NPR wrote on December 8:
“The legal and political troubles that WikiLeaks has encountered… may have troubling implications for more traditional media outlets… A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation last week, the SHIELD Act, which would make it illegal to publish the names of U.S. military and intelligence informants.
“Jeffrey Dvorkin, a former NPR… vice president for news, agrees that the WikiLeaks episode illustrates the blurred ethical boundary lines of the new media age… Dvorkin… shares the concerns of civil libertarians… ‘The big immediate danger for all of us now is an overreaction by legislators or governments — or Internet service providers who are worried about lawsuits,’ Dvorkin says…
“U.S. courts have maintained that news organizations may publish government documents, even if the documents were obtained illegally. The most famous decision in this regard came from the Supreme Court in 1971, when it upheld the right of The New York Times to print the Pentagon Papers, which were volumes of secret documents about the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Electronic publishers have enjoyed the same protections as traditional publishers…”
US Failure in the Middle East
Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 9:
“The Middle East peace process has been left foundering after Washington admitted its efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table have failed… The stand-off over the issue of Jewish settlements has left President Barack Obama’s policy in the region in tatters and the two sides more entrenched in their respective positions than ever… The Palestinians are now left with grave doubts that the US will ever be able to broker a final peace settlement if it cannot even persuade Israel to temporarily freeze settlements. There are indications that they could now push ahead with their Plan B, a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state…
“The German papers on Thursday take a look at the failed policy and many blame President Obama for allowing the Palestinians to set a settlement freeze as a precondition to talks.
“The conservative Die Welt writes: ‘It was a tactical mistake to present the settlement issue as the main problem in the conflict. From the beginning it was unrealistic to believe that the right-wing coalition in Israel would agree to a moratorium in the long term…’
“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘The peace process is at an end. The most powerful man in the world has capitulated to a bunch of settlers on the hills of Judea and Samaria… Instead of being principled, his policy is marked by ridiculous zig-zagging… Obama had his chance in the Middle East and it is hardly likely he will be given another one during the remaining two years of his term…. The Israelis know now that they have nothing to fear from him…. The Palestinians on the other hand have learnt that they cannot trust him…. Now, an escalation can be expected…’
“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘The Middle East strategy was a vision that Obama couldn’t back up with successes. Now the region is going back to square one… The US should never have allowed the Palestinians to make the settlement freeze the condition for starting talks…’
“The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘… It is now likely that the US failure will lead to improved relations between Fatah and Hamas… Consideration for the US may dwindle considerably.’
“The business daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘… The peace process will have to hit the “reset” button once again. But who can, or who ought to take over the role of mediator, if the Americans haven’t succeeded? The EU takes a courageous stand on the side of the Palestinians by condemning settlement construction as illegal and demanding fresh talks. Neither EU Commissioner for External Relations Ashton, nor German Foreign Minister Westerwelle appear to have a “Plan B” up their sleeves. Empty phrases are not enough. The EU must do better than that if it wants to be taken seriously as a mediator…’”
Interesting Traditions About the Magi
USA Today wrote on December 5:
“The story of the Three Wise Men is one of the most familiar and beloved parts of the Christmas story. But for all of their popularity, the mysterious travelers from the East — known as the Magi — appear in only one short passage in the New Testament, following a star to the site of Jesus’ birth and bringing gifts of gold, francincense and myrrh…
“Brent Landau, a professor of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma and an expert in ancient biblical languages, found references to a text about the wise men in writings from the Middle Ages and learned that a collector in the 18th century had discovered in a Turkish monastery a manuscript called ‘the Revelation of the Magi’ with a narrative about the wise men…
“Landau spent seven years translating and analyzing the text, written in Syriac, a language used by early Christians throughout the Middle East and Asia…Landau’s book, ‘Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem’ describes the Magi as [having] descended from Seth, the pious and virtuous third son of Adam and Eve. From Seth they inherited a prophecy of ‘a star of indescribable brightness’ someday appearing and ‘heralding the birth of God in human form.’ This same star had initially hovered over the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
“Among the book’s other revelations:
“The Magi are described as coming from a land called Shir, ‘located in the extreme east of the world, at the shore of the Great Ocean’…In Syriac, the word Magi means ‘to pray in silence.’ Landau says it has no relationship to magicians or astrologers, sometimes cited in stories today. The text names 12 Magi, not three, while other parts of the text suggest that ‘a group the size of a small army’ traveled to Bethlehem, says Landau…
“Although the text claims to be personal testimony, ‘it seems unlikely that it could have been written by the Magi themselves,’ Landau says. He cites a number of anachronisms, such as references to Christian writings recorded years after Jesus’ death…
“When they first encounter the long-prophesied star, the text says it initially appears in a celestial form that then transforms into a human form… who instructs them to go to Bethlehem…”
We should not give too much credence to apocryphal uninspired texts, as they include many errors. But some statements in the article above are interesting; for instance the concept that twelve (!) Magi visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem (perhaps representing the twelve tribes of Israel); that they were not astrologers; and that the star was in fact an angel. These are concepts which have been considered for a long time (compare our free booklet, “Don’t Keep Christmas.”) The additional statement that the star “had hovered over the Tree of Life” is remarkable in light of the fact that a cherub (an angelic being) guarded the Tree of Life after Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden.
The Netherland’s Santa Claus and Black Peters
Deutsche Welle reported on December 5:
“For the Dutch, Sinterklaasavond (St. Nicholas Eve) on December 5 is the biggest celebration of the year – bigger than Christmas… Sinterklaas’ helpers, the Zwarte Pieten or ‚Black Peters,’ are portrayed according to degrading racial stereotypes. They’re typically dressed in 19th-century Moorish outfits, curly Afro wigs, and painted red lips. It is common for both adults and children to dress up as Zwarte Piet, complete with their faces painted black
“… nowadays the Zwarte Pieten are friendly characters that are clever and mischievous, and adored by children. Yet in the original Sinterklaas story, the Zwarte Pieten were slaves. Gradually, the tale evolved and they became Sinterklaas’ helpers, but they were portrayed as being stupid and spoke broken Dutch with a Surinamese accent. They were also frightening figures: It was their job to punish misbehaved children by beating them…
“It’s not uncommon for St. Nicholas figures to have a devilish companion – such a figure exists in both Austrian and Swiss traditions – but the Netherlands is the only place where he is imagined as a black man.“
Devilish companions of Santa Claus are actually very common. In German tradition, the companion of the German “Nikolaus“ is called “Knecht Ruprecht.“ Of course, the entire stories of “Santa Claus“ or “St. Nicholas“ are not Christian, but of pagan origin. Please read our free booklets, “Don’t Keep Christmas” and “Is That in the Bible?—The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation.”
UN Prays to the Moon Goddess
The Washington Post wrote on November 29:
“With United Nations climate negotiators facing an uphill battle to advance their goal of reducing emissions linked to global warming, it’s no surprise that the woman steering the talks appealed to a Mayan goddess Monday.
“Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, invoked the ancient jaguar goddess Ixchel in her opening statement to delegates gathered in Cancun, Mexico, noting that Ixchel was not only goddess of the moon, but also ‘the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving. May she inspire you — because today, you are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools.’
“Delegates from 193 countries are gathered in Cancun for the two-week meeting, which kicked off today at 10:20 a.m. local time, or 11:20 a.m. Eastern… Two weeks from now, we’ll have a sense of whether Ixchel — and the delegates — were listening to Figueres’s appeal.”
This is really shocking, but it shows where this world is heading. We wonder how many “Christian” delegates bowed their heads to the moon goddess and participated in this pagan ritual–and how many appealed to the one and only true God of the Bible for inspiration and guidance.
The next article also shows to what extent our liberal societies have turned away from the true God.
British Prisoners Allowed to Practice Pagan Festivals
Mail On Line reported on December 6:
“Hundreds of criminals are to be given four days a year off prison work – to celebrate pagan festivals. Prison governors have been issued with a list of eight annual pagan holidays and told pagan inmates can choose four to celebrate.
“The festivals include Imbolc – The Festival of the Lactating Sheep – which falls on February 1 and is dedicated to the goddess Brighid. Another is the festival of Beltane, which falls in early May… devotees are urged to celebrate the Sun God with ‘unabashed sexuality and promiscuity’. The Yule festival involves pagans ‘casting spells’ and dressing up as ghosts.”
“Bread and Games”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 6:
“On the weekend, German television audiences watching one of the country’s most popular shows were shocked when they saw a live stunt go horribly wrong… Viewers watching the popular German television show, ‘Wetten, Dass..?’ (‘Want to Bet?’) are used to seeing members of the public doing crazy things. The prime time show, which regularly attracts 10 million viewers to ZDF, the public television channel that screens it, is based upon ordinary people doing strange feats…
“But on Saturday evening, the television audience got far more than they had bargained for. They were shocked to see Samuel Koch, a 23-year-old drama student and part-time stuntman… fall heavily after an attempt to leap lengthways over a moving car wearing spring-loaded stilts. His own father was driving the vehicle.
“While the cameras rolled, Koch ended up face down and unconscious on the ground. He was then taken to a hospital in Düsseldorf where he was put into an artificial coma after doctors operated on him for two-and-a-half hours. He has serious spinal injuries and until he is re-awakened, doctors say, there is no way of telling the extent of Koch’s injuries.
“The show itself was halted for the first time in its 29-year history… German commentators praised the show’s makers for halting the broadcast and contemplated whether the program had a future. Commentators also lamented the fact that the battle for prime-time ratings on the weekend may have been partially responsible for the tragic accident.
“The conservative Die Welt writes: ‘…Thomas Gottschalk… must be asking himself how things went this far — and not least because the candidate fell badly twice during rehearsals. TV stations, like editors, may have lost their sense of perspective in the fight for the ratings crown… The constitutional obligation of the public broadcaster, funded by public money, has been deformed beyond recognition by ratings pressure. Thanks to their dual incomes through broadcasting fees and advertising, ARD and ZDF have outrageous advantages in the fight for market share…’
“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘… Is Samuel Koch the first victim in the fight for ratings, injured by “friendly fire”? Higher, faster, further? Ever more spectacular, ever more dangerous?…’”
This horrible story reminds us of the atmosphere in ancient Rome, just prior to its fall. The people were basically interested in receiving two things from their government—to have bread on the table and to be able watch horrific dangerous “games.” Man has not changed, and we are seeing a repeat of such desires. We should not be surprised that God will very soon make an end with our way of living.
Austria’s Strache a Friend of Israel?
The Austrian Independent reported on December 7:
“Officials in Austria are at odds over Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache’s decision to travel to Israel. The right-winger visited Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a territory Palestinians are also claiming. Speaking about the ongoing conflict about the area and the throwbacks the peace talks have suffered, Strache said in the West Bank area today (Tues): ‘One who comes to this place can understand the real problems. Our hearts are with you, Israel!’…
“Fritz Edlinger, the general secretary of the Society for Austrian-Arabian Relations (GÖAB), said it was ‘incredible’ Strache decided to travel to Israel. Edlinger explained he was ‘surprised’ the head of a party which was ‘still the political home for old and new anti-Semites in Austria’ would find dialogue partners in Israel…
“Strache was elected federal leader of the FPÖ after its former spearhead Jörg Haider walked out to form the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) five years ago. Polls have shown that most right-wing Austrians consider Strache as the political heir of Haider who died in a car crash in 2008… Israel withdrew its ambassador from Vienna in a reaction to the coalition agreement between the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) and the FPÖ in 2000 before sending a diplomat to become ambassador in the Austrian capital three years later.
“Haider caused outcry in Israel and Western Europe by meeting with late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein several times in 2002… The FPÖ’s election campaigns have been branded as ‘xenophobic’ since Haider became federal leader in a party summit revolt in 1986. Hundreds of thousands of Austrians took to the streets to protest against the FPÖ’s ‘Austrians must come first!’ referendum in 1993. Strache has revealed plans to initiate a similar referendum next year, citing growing fears of ‘growing “Islamisation”’ in Western Europe. He also voted to press on with a referendum against possible new mosques in Vienna where one in 10 residents are Muslims… a majority of 52 per cent of Austrians opposed the idea of more mosques with minarets.”
A Hard Core of EU Member States
On December 7, the EUObserver published a thought-provoking interview with former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. We are bringing you the following excerpts:
“Europe lacks leaders, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt has said in an exclusive interview with the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum. Set to mark his 92nd birthday later this month, Mr Schmidt… predicts a hard core of EU member states defined by common foreign policy perspectives…
“Helmut Schmidt: … I would say that, in general, Europe lacks leaders. It lacks people in high positions in the national states or in the European institutions with sufficient overview of domestic and international questions and sufficient power of judgment… Additionally, the present German government is composed of people who are learning their business on the job. They have no previous experience in world political affairs or in world economic affairs… The mistake was made around the time of Maastricht, in 1991-92. At this time we were 12 member countries in Europe. They not only invited everybody to become a member of [the] European Union but they also invented the euro and invited everybody to become a member of the euro area. And this was done without changing the rules or clarifying the rules beforehand… What we are suffering now is the consequence of that failure… So far the idea of a common currency still has my full backing, even if the European leaders did fail to set the rules and made the enormous mistake to take in anybody.
“Over the next 20 years, I think it is rather likely, at least 51 percent likely, that a hard core of the Union will emerge. And it would comprise the French, the Germans, the Dutch – I’m not so sure about the Italians. I’m rather sure [that] the British would not be part of it, the same may come true of the Poles. It would not be a hard core in written paragraphs of paper but it would be a hard core de facto and [not] de jure… Probably Austria [would be part of it], conceivably Denmark and Sweden. The Danes are very cautious – they would still look to London… Not necessarily would this [the hard core] pertain to the field of currencies but it would probably pertain to the field of world policies whether vis-a-vis China, Iran, Afghanistan or a new coalition of Muslim states, which is one of the great dangers of the 21st century, that you get a coalition of Muslim states. If there was a president in Washington and he wanted to drop the atomic bomb on Tehran, the Europeans would be strong enough to say: ‘We are not part of it.’ Right now, no one is strong enough in Europe to be in that position…
“It’s difficult to say [whether France would be part of the core nations]. I said the probability would be 51 percent – that makes 49 percent left… It depends very much on the behaviour of the Germans… The Germans indeed sometimes behave like the strongest nation, they tend to give lessons to everybody. In fact they are more vulnerable than they think… I used to believe in British common sense and state rationale… I was brought up in a very Anglophile way. I was a great supporter of Edward Heath who brought Britain into the European community. But then we had Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher, who didn’t always behave so sensibly. And then we had Tony Blair who brought himself into a position of far too great a dependence on America. You can’t have this dependence on America and at the same time play a responsible role in Europe…”
“Fiscal Situation in the United States Much Worse than in Europe”
Reuters reported on December 8:
“The U.S. dollar will be a safe investment for the next six to 12 months because global markets are focused on the euro zone’ s troubles but America’s fiscal health is worse than Europe’s, an adviser to the Chinese central bank said on Wednesday.
“Li Daokui, an academic member of the central bank’s monetary policy committee, said that U.S. bond prices and the dollar would fall when the European economic situation stabilized. ‘For now, market attention is still on Europe and for the coming 6-12 months, it will not shift to the United States,’ Li said…
“’But we should be clear in our minds that the fiscal situation in the United States is much worse than in Europe. In one or two years, when the European debt situation stabilizes, attention of financial markets will definitely shift to the United States. At that time, U.S. Treasury bonds and the dollar will experience considerable declines.’”
Mail On Line reported on December 8:
“As unemployment in the U.S. nears the dreaded 10 per cent mark, it is a chart to chill the bones of any job hunter. Comparing previous recoveries from all 10 American recessions since 1948 to the current financial crisis, the stark figures show almost no improvement in employment. Some commentators have described the comparison as ‘the scariest jobs chart ever’…”
How long were the Israelites in Egypt before beginning their journey to the promised land of Canaan? I have heard several numbers such as 210, 215, 400 and 430 years. What can be proven from the Bible?
To best answer this, we want to look first at a more general time frame, by reviewing both Old and New Testament Scriptures. In Galatians 3:16-17, we read, “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to SEEDS,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘AND TO YOUR SEED,’ who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.”
Many believe that this should be reckoned from the first time that God expressed His intentions to Abram when he was 75 years old (compare Genesis 12:1-4). But there are two important points that we can glean from Paul in the Scripture above that will show that this may not be the case.
Firstly, he uses the name “Abraham” and not “Abram.” Abram was his name at the time God first talked to him in Genesis 12 as well as through the next 24 years of his life. This means that the first two covenants that God made with this man were during the time he was called Abram. In Genesis 15:18 we find the first covenant or agreement, and the second one is mentioned at the beginning of Genesis 17. Interestingly enough, in the first four verses of this chapter God makes the covenant with Abram and then in the very next verse He changes Abram’s name to Abraham (verse 5). Technically then, Galatians 3 is not citing one of the first two agreements with Abram, but rather referencing one of the subsequent covenants with Abraham.
(For further information on the covenants which God made with Abram or Abraham, please read our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…”).
Secondly, the context of Galatians 3:16-17 was the covenant confirmed in “THE SEED”—Jesus Christ. This would therefore rule out the covenants God made with Abraham in Genesis 17, which included merely physical blessings for the SEEDS or descendants of Abraham, as well as the covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17:10; Acts 7:8). This is in no way related to what Paul was talking about. However, when we come to the final covenant in Genesis 22:18, we find something that was not previously promised, THE Seed. The verse reads, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
Acts 3:25-26 refers to this statement specifically as a covenant: “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” It also clarifies that the Seed that would truly do all the blessing would be Christ.
This brings us back to Galatians 3:16-17 where Paul has reiterated the fact that the Seed is Christ. Therefore, when he writes “the covenant that was confirmed before by God IN CHRIST,” it seems obvious that it can only refer to the FINAL Abrahamic covenant of Genesis 22. This then gives us a starting point for the 430 years.
The 430 years in Galatians 3 are an allusion to Exodus 12:40-41 which states, “Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.”
The problem that some often have with this passage is that they assume this is stating that the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years. What it is actually saying is that the Israelites, the off-spring of Abraham, who had lived in Egypt, sojourned 430 years; they temporarily dwelt in several areas, and only one of them was Egypt.
According to the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary, the Septuagint renders it thus: “The sojourning of the children and of their fathers, which they sojourned in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt.” This naturally makes it clearer that the 430 years include time leading up to the beginning of the residency of the Israelites in Egypt. This can be further substantiated by the fact that the time between the commencement of the covenant until Jacob (who became Israel) and his family moved into Egypt was spent in many different places in the land of Canaan:
Immediately after the final covenant of Genesis 22, Abraham returned to Beersheba (Genesis 22:19); 37 years after the birth of Isaac, Sarah died and was buried in the land of Canaan (Genesis 23:1-2); Abraham was buried in Machpelah (Genesis 25:9) with Sarah (Genesis 49:31), and shortly thereafter Isaac moved to Beer Lahai Roi (Genesis 25:11), which, according to John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, was near the wilderness of Beersheba and Paran. In fact, we read in Genesis 26:1-6 that Isaac was specifically told not to go down to Egypt, but rather remain in Gerar. After a conflict with the locals, Isaac returned to Beersheba (Genesis 26:23). Years later, Jacob fled from Esau and went to Haran (Genesis 28:13), which was in Syria, the opposite direction of Egypt (Hosea 12:12).
After his time there, Jacob and his family (the Israelites) returned to his homeland of Canaan (Genesis 31:13, 18; 33:18). After the incident with his daughter Dinah, God directed Jacob to Bethel, still in the land of Canaan (Genesis 35:1). After moving around in that immediate area (Genesis 35:16, 21), Jacob later caught up with his father at Mamre or Kirjath Arba, where Sarah had died (Genesis 35:27). We read in Genesis 37:1 that at the time when Joseph was being sold into slavery, Jacob was still in the land of Canaan. This is also the area from where Joseph’s ten brothers came, when a famine affected them, forcing them to seek food in Egypt and eventually move there.
How do we understand Genesis 15:13 which quotes God as saying to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.”
Most commentaries agree that the time span of 400 years does NOT refer to the sojourning of Israel IN EGYPT.
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible states:
“Four hundred years are to elapse before the seed of Abram shall actually proceed to take possession of the land. This interval can only commence when the seed is born; that is, at the birth of Isaac [that is, it cannot begin prior to that; but does not have to necessarily begin at that time, see our comments below] … During this interval they are to be, ‘first, strangers in a land not theirs’…; and then for the remaining… years in Egypt: at first, servants, with considerable privilege and position; and at last, afflicted serfs, under a hard and cruel bondage.”
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds:
“…this term ‘four hundred years’ is not to be joined either with the word ‘afflict’ or ‘serve’; for their hard servitude and severe affliction did not last [that] long…; but with the phrase, ‘a stranger in a land not theirs’; and the rest is to be included in a parenthesis thus, and ‘thy seed shall be a stranger in the land not theirs (and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them) four hundred years’; so long they should be strangers and sojourners, as they were partly in the land of Canaan, and partly in the land of Egypt, neither of which were in their own land, however not in possession; within which space of time they would be in a state of subjection and servitude, and be greatly afflicted and oppressed, as they were particularly by the Egyptians before their deliverance from them…”
We have seen, then, that it is very well documented that before the Israelites moved to Egypt, they had sojourned in and around the land of Canaan. The other significant fact in Exodus 12 is that the 430 years ended on the same day that the Exodus began. By examining these preceding two sets of Scriptures in Galatians 3 and Exodus 12, it appears that the 430 years refer to the time span between the execution of the final covenant with Abraham (in Genesis 22) and the moment when the Israelites left the enslavement of Egypt.
In this context, we need to discuss the ages, as they are recorded in the Bible, since they formulate a significant length of time. We know that the age of Jacob, when he and his family entered Egypt, was 130 (Genesis 47:9). Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob was born. How old was Isaac at the time of Genesis 22 when Abraham was about to offer him as a sacrifice and God subsequently made a final covenant with Abraham?
The Bible does not give enough information to pin down Isaac’s exact age with any reasonable accuracy. What we do know is that the event occurred between the time that Isaac was weaned and when his mother died. At that time, Isaac was approximately 37 years old (compare Genesis 21:8; 23:2). However, many scholars do not agree on the age of weaning (stating that it occurred somewhere between the ages of 2 and 5, and even then they are just making an “educated” guess). There are other factors that may or may not come into play in narrowing down Isaac’s age at the time when Abraham was willing to sacrifice him, but we will leave it as a broad spectrum to ensure that we are within the parameters as outlined in the Bible.
In all likelihood Jacob was not exactly to the day 130 years old when he arrived in Egypt, nor is it likely that Jacob and Esau were born to Isaac on his 60th birthday. This fact can be readily confirmed, when reviewing other biblical genealogies, where the month is omitted – much in the same way that adults speak today when telling their age. This being the case and depending on their rules of rounding ages in ancient times, the final number we are looking for could be off by several years, depending on whether we add together the actual or rounded ages.
From this information we can calculate the duration of how long the Israelites dwelt in Egypt. We need to subtract from 430 years (the length of time from the final covenant with Abraham until Israel LEFT Egypt) the length of time from the final covenant until ENTERING Egypt. The formulas (since we are using a range for Isaac’s age of 3 to 37 years) are:
By adding and subtracting up to 3 years to each end of the solution (to compensate for any extra months not included in the ages of Isaac and Jacob), it would appear that the Israelites were in Egypt for somewhere between 240 to 280 years. While men such as Dr. Bullinger, in his Companion Bible, and Bishop Usher’s dating set the time span at 215 years for the children of Israel being in Egypt, other researchers do offer different conclusions; however, most chronologies seem to conclude that both the 400 years of Genesis 15:13 (also, Acts 7:6) and the 430 years of Exodus 12:40 (also, Galatians 3:17) refer to the more general period, encompassing time on both sides of the Israelites’ sojourn in Egypt.
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
A memorial service for Lois Bargar will be held on January 16, 2011, commencing at 1:00 pm, at the Ramona Women’s Club. For further information, please contact Johanna Link (Johanna.Link@cox.net; 760-788-8033).
The member letter for December was sent out this week. In the letter, Norbert Link addresses the unchristian nature of Christmas and some of the reasons why true Christmas don’t participate in Christmas celebrations, but he also raises the question of how many times we might be engaging in other unchristian conduct, perhaps without realizing it.
A new StandingWatch program was posted on the Web, titled, “Trust in the USA Gone.” The release of secret diplomatic memos by Wikileaks caused incalculable damage for the USA. Notwithstanding some nice lip services from embarrassed politicians, the overall consensus in the European media is that the revelations are “a disaster for America,” “hugely damaging” and “a political meltdown for US foreign policy”; and that they “expose the superpower’s weaknesses” and “create a crisis for German-American relations” with “unpredictable consequences.” One German paper wrote that “America’s reserve of trust is empty” and those documents are “like a weapon of mass destruction on the last traces of trust.” Why is all of this happening? The answer, even though VERY clear, might surprise you.
Our new booklet, “Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians,” has entered the finalization stage.
A new AufPostenStehen program was posted on the Web, titled, “Kein Euro Crash” (“No Euro Crash”)
A new German sermon was posted on the Web, titled, “Die Welt der Engel, Teil 2” (“The World of Angels, Part 2).”
The Best Candidate
by Shelly Bruno
Through the years, I’ve had friends and family members who I felt would be great additions to God’s family. A close friend who is extremely zealous for God, a coworker who has admirable Christian dedication, or the family member I simply want to share the truth with. I could reason and justify why they would make good candidates, because they seem to possess godly character. Their positive qualities appear so plain to see—so why doesn’t God see those characteristics?
Pray as I might for others to come to the Truth, the fact is that God calls whom He wants, according to His timeframe. And I’ve realized I must be thankful for this fact. I see only the outward person—which is not as reliable as the way God sees the inward person.
I wonder if other true Christians look at me as a good candidate for God’s family. Am I exhibiting the characteristics they would deem worthy? I need to make sure that I, too, am a good candidate for God’s family, by living up to His expectations for my calling.
I’ll continue praying for those I hope will be called today, but I can also take comfort in the fact that soon, every person will be given an opportunity to have the same precious gift that I have been given—an understanding of God’s truth.
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
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
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
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