Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Magnum Opus of Relationship Skills

When one boils down life to its core, one finds it is both defined and described by relationships. It makes little difference if one leads millions as Prime Minister or President or if one leads a few like parents or principals, relationships are the DNA of one's in life. With the world open to you via the Internet, it is possible to see both good skill sets and bad skill sets at work as people try to get along with others. Though relating to friends is like putting on an old pair of comfortable jeans, it is much more difficult to learn to get along with people who are not personal friends. Whether they be subordinates in a work setting, or peers in a cultural and competitive environment, or new acquaintances met during normal routines of life, the people with whom we will relate well are those who experience from us excellent relationship skills.

I've put together a relationship principle that is based on an old French proverb. I've added an entire second phrase to the principle, tweaked it through changing a few words, and then brought it over into our English language. I believe this relationship principle is the magnum opus of relating well, and that it is supported by a host of Scriptures, particularly the Proverbs and the words of Christ. The principle takes about ten minutes to memorize, but a lifetime to apply. It goes like this:
You steady another soul through your kindness,
 and you sway that same soul through your calm.

I believe every marriage, every business, every non-profit, every family, every organization, and every living organism that strive to build healthy relationships will profit from learning and applying this principle daily. Try it next time you are at an airport counter among a group of angry passengers. Put it into practice in a long line at the restaurant. Think about it the next time someone is shouting at you. Remember it when your spouse is hurt and angry. We don't speak King James language anymore (i.e. "heaping coals of fire"), but the principles of God's word still apply -- particularly when understood in modern language.  Put this principle in your relationship tool box and you might find your road in life much smoother and more enjoyable.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

We Are All Worms, But I Do Believe I Am

Two times I've visited Churchill's Underground Bunker in London, England. I consider it to be the finest WWII museum in all of England and Europe. Margaret Thatcher ordered the British Government to open the secret bunker, located underground near the Finance Ministry, after it had been sealed for 40 years. It was used by England's Prime Minister Churchill for six years during World War II as shelter from the bombing raids and attempted German assassinations, as well as the center for coordination of Britain's military response to Nazi aggression. I believe Winston Churchill to be the finest leader of the 20th Century, and the museum is a wonderful tribute to his life and leadership. As one enters the museum portion of the underground bunker there is a quote from Churchill in big, white block letters.
We Are All Worms, But I Believe I Am


When I first read the quote, it puzzled me. We are all familiar with the old hymn that speaks of God saving "such a worm as I," but this quote seemed to put a unique spin on Churchill's understanding of his own depravity. As I contemplated the quote, I assumed Churchill was acknowledging ALL people are depraved, but he--unlike most--believed himself to be depraved. But something didn't feel right. The quote didn't fit with what I knew of Churchill. Nor is it a quote I think appropriate for a man of honor, integrity and confidence. Then, as I came back through the museum on my way out, I discovered there were two additional words that were hidden from view. These two words were typed on a bend in the board that turned away from the entrant's direct eyesight. The two words I missed walking in were:

A Glowworm

Wow. What a turn to the phrase via these two words. They change the entire meaning of the sentence. Churchill is saying, "I'm special." That made sense to me and seemed consistent with what I knew of Churchill's character. Application: Every child of God is a glowworm. We evangelicals are often reminded of our depravity and our sinfulness by preachers. We are reminded that we are worms. However, any depraved man or woman for whom Christ died is a glowworm. You cannot be a recipient of God's grace and remain a common worm. You can't participate in union with Christ and remain a simple ground crawler. You and I are glowworms. Many Christians make the same mistake I made when walking through the entrance of Churchill's museum -- I didn't go far enough. It's true we are worms, but it is quite a different matter to believe oneself a glowworm. Confidence, self-assurance, purpose, significance, and fulfillment in life come from the glow. God's grace puts the glow in this worm, and I'm hoping He does for you too.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

All The Ekklesia Have Voices

In I Corinthians 14:34-35 the Apostle Paul writes:

"As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but they should be subordinate, as even the Law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church" (I Cor. 14:34-35).

I believe Paul is "quoting" the views of the Judaizers in these two verses, not expressing his own views, in order to correct their false teaching. Judaizers in the Corinthian church sought to bring the synagogue traditions into the Christian assembly. These Judaizers were "zealous for the Law," or the teachings of the Talmud (Acts 21:21), and caused all kinds of problems in the early church. Paul is blunt about their them in II Corinthians 11, calling them "false apostles" and "deceitful workers" (II Cor. 11:13), and telling the Christians at Corinth to resist the false practices of the Judaizers and stand firm to the New Covenant "traditions" that Paul had taught them (see  I Corinthians 11:2).

Paul taught that all the members of the assembly, both male and female, could participate in congregational worship (see I Cor. 14:31 and 14:39), and it is expected that women in the church will publicly pray and teach just as men publicly pray and teach (see I Corinthians 11:5). The entire discourse of the New Covenant Scriptures is that God's priesthood is composed of males and females, slave and free, Jews and Gentiles. There is no separation of race, nationality, gender or color in the God's New Covenant priesthood. Each of us has been made a priest (Revelation 1:5) and we all form a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9).

So, the startling prohibition of I Corinthians 14:34-35 seems discordant and unconnected to the rest of the New Covenant Scriptures. There's a reason for this -- it is discordant and unconnected.

Paul is quoting the views of the Judaizers regarding women in I Corinthians 14:34-35. He quotes it in order to correct the Judaizers' false views which were being imposed upon the Christian churches, including the church at Corinth. The Judaizers had been taught four things about the role of women in the synagogues when they were Jews, and they wished to make "the church" conform to these restrictions.

(1). The Jews believed women were not qualified to be learners in the synagogue because the talmudic literature forbad them from learning. Their presence in the synagogue was tolerated, but they were to be unobtrusive and silent, never interferring with the work of the men. The Judaizers wished this tradition to be carried over into all the churches. But Paul argues throughout I Corinthians for full participation of women within the assembly (see I Corinthians 14:31 and 39).

(2). The Jews recognized that a woman in the synagogue might at some point wish to move from passive attendance to actually learning something in the synagogue, but this was viewed as an exceptional occurance and not the norm. Therefore, on the rare occasion a woman desired to ask a question in order to learn, she was instructed to maintain her silence in the assembly and wait to ask her husband after leaving the synagogue and returning home. The Judaizers wished to keep the same passivity of women in the earkt Christian churches. But Paul expects women to pray and prophesy, the two acts of worship in the assembly, in the same manner that men pray and prophesy. Women compose half the priesthood (see I Corinthians 11:5).

(3). There is the assumption in the synagogue that all Jewish women would be married; it was even expected by leaders in the synagogue that Jewish women would marry. The Judaizers believed the same thing should be true about all women in the early church. But Paul argues his preference that Christian women remain single for the purpose of ministry (see I Corinthians 7:34).

(4). The Jews believed, and it was reinforced by the Talmud, that only the males should receive religious instruction. Jewish husbands were the source of their wives learning. Women should remain silent within the context of the synagogue. The Judaizers carried this tradition into the early churches and taught just as firmly that all Christian women should be silent in the churches. But Paul has taught that the priesthood of God is composed of both males and females, and there is an equality within the priesthood in both role and function (see I Corinthians 11:11 and Galations 3:28-29)

Paul states the Judaizers beliefs about women in I Corinthians 14:34-35 to only refute it. In other words, the "women keep silent" passage is not God's commandment, but corrupt teaching about to be exposed! Gilbert Bilezikian writes:
"It is worth noting that in 1 Corinthians more than in any of his other Epistles, Paul uses the é particle to introduce rebuttals to statements preceding it. As a conjunction, é appears in Paul's Epistles in a variety of uses. But the list below points to a predilection for a particular use of é which is characteristic mainly of 1 Corinthians."The verses he listed I also list below, in the order they appear, with a notation indicating the appearance of the é particle, in each case translating it as "Nonsense!" as Bilezikian did to indicate its flavor:1 Cor. 6:1-2--"If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? (é Nonsense!) Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?"
Likewise in I Corinthians 14:34-35 Paul states a belief that he then refutes using the Greek eta. I Corinthians 14:35 states: "If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church."

Now look at I Corinthians 14:36: "What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?"

The "What" is the Greek eta, the conjunction Bilezikian points out that Paul uses throughout Corinthians to refute false teaching. There are actually two of these eta particles in this text, so Paul is expressing his disbelief (a compounded disbelief) that anyone would think that men only are the mouth pieces of God and that women should be silent in their presence. Paul states his objection to that kind of thinking very clearly.

"Did the word of God come only to you? What! (Note: this "What!" is the second eta in the text) Are you the only one's it has reached?" Paul is utterly refuting the belief that men only can speak in the church.

A few years ago I taught from this I Corinthians 14:35-36 passage,  and as always we had a question and answer time after the study. A woman about seventy years of age who had been a life long member of a traditional SBC church in Nevada, desired to comment about what I had taught. She was seated next to her husband, and she raised her hand to be recognized and was called upon, she spoke and disagreed quite strongly with my interpretation. She believed I Corinthians 14:33-35 was a COMMANDMENT FROM GOD and after explaining her reasoning, she conluded emphatically that God wanted women to be silent "in church."

When she was finished I gently suggested that if she believed my interpretation of I Corinthians 11:34-35 was wrong and her's was right, then she should have never raised her hand to be recognized, she should have never voiced her beliefs in the assembly, and she should have waited until she and her husband arrived  home before she asked a question of HIM or made a comment to HIM about what I had taught. That is what the text says! So either she must believe that what I'm teaching is right and then she is FREE to ask questions of her pastor, at any time, any place, for any reason the assembly is gathered, or she must be true to and consistent with her beliefs and remain absolutely silent in church.

Her response?

She said she was not "in church," so she could speak. Mind you, we were in our Fellowship Hall on Wednesday night with a couple of hundred believers present. There were numerous other small groups from our church meeting throughout our facility and around the city that night. But, in our new member's mind, we were not "in church" that night because we weren't in the "auditorium" and having a typical Sunday morning "church" service.

Her comment led me to to think many Southern Baptists don't have a working, biblical understanding of what the church is. Traditional Southern Baptists often seem more Jewish or Roman Catholic in their views of the assembly (church) and authority (clerics) than the writers of the New Testament. I believe that the Bible teaches that where two or three are gathered in the name of the Jesus Christ, the assembly is gathered and Christ is at the center of His people. So Wednesday night is as much church as Sunday morning. Tuesday night small group is as much church as Wednesday night Bible study. Tuesday morning's gathering for fellowship, service and worship is as much church as Sunday night's discipleship classes.

We, the people, are His church, and when or where we assemble, as few as two or three, His church is convened.

So move over Judaizers; all the people of God, men and women, are free to function.

Friday, September 13, 2013

God in the Thoughts of Angry Sinners

Years ago I memorized Jonathan Edwards message Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and presented it to a seminary theology class at Philips Theological Seminary. Jonathan Edwards is rightfully considered one of the premier American theologians of all time because of his wonderful grasp of the biblical languages, his brilliant mind, and his artful ability to communicate profound principles with simple sentences. Though I memorized the entire message, I was troubled by it. Over the course of the next decade I began to understand why.

In Jonathan Edwards classic message he made the profound mistake of intermingling Law and Grace (Old Covenant vs. New Covenant).  Rather than seeing the love of God in sending the Messiah to fulfill the Law and pay completely for the sins and transgressions of His people, Edwards presents God as being both angry and loving at the same time toward the same sinners. Pardon the crude language, but the bi-polar God of Edwards is not the God of Scripture.  For example, Edwards writes "And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell (emphasis mine), whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God's word and providence."

John Gill, the Baptist contemporary of Jonathan Edwards and the mentor to the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, rightly corrects the error of Edwards in his classic work God's Everlasting Love to His Elect. Gill writes: 
The everlasting love of God, the Father, Son, and Spirit, is the bond of the elect's union to the sacred Three. What may he said of the three divine Persons in general, is true of each of them in particular. They have all three loved the elect with an everlasting love, and thereby have firmly and everlastingly united them to themselves. Christ has loved them with an everlasting and unchangeable love, whereby his heart is knit unto them as Jonathan's was to David. He loved them as his own soul, as his own body, and the members of it. This is that cement which will never loosen, that union knot which can never be untied, that bond which can never be dissolved, from whence there can be no separation; for who shall separate us from the love of Christ? I am persuaded, says the apostle (Rom. 8:35, 38, 39), that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
God's people are never dangled over the "pit of hell" as a spider on a thin web (Edward's imagery). From eternity God has chosen to deliver an innumerable company of fallen sinners from every nation, every family, every people group and every language group (Rev. 7:9).  These redeemed rebels God calls "My people" for thy are the rebels for whom God has sent His Son as Deliverer.  "You shall call His name Yeshua (Jesus) for He shall deliver His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).

Again, God's people and "the world" are synonymous; they are from every race, every ethnic group, every nation, every tribe, and every family. God has chosen to save far more sinners from their rebellion than He has chosen to judge in their rebellion. The kingdom of God is compared to a vast sea (Revelation 4:6); hell is a compared to a small lake. The kingdom of God is compared to a vast city (Hebrews 11:16); hell is compared to a small prison. The kingdom of God represents lives (and eventually the earth) where the curse of sin is reversed; hell is the abyss where the curse  of sin is submersed.

When rebellious hearts are captured by God's grace and love in Christ, they begin to show evidence of His kingship in their lives. Jesus said, "A new command I give you that you love one another as I (God) have loved you. By this will all know you are mine, if you have love one for another" (John 13:34-35).

The real love of God for us translates into real love for others from us. The rebel transformed by the love of God will always be receptive to the message of Christ, because it is through the death of Christ that the love of God is fully magnified.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son" (John 3:16). Our love for others is the evidence of God's deliverance and love for us not the means of His deliverance and love for us. God saves sinners through Christ.

A few of my close friends have been discussing on-line this week the question, "Could infants who die go to hell?" Answer: Yes, they could.  Death is "the wages of sin" (Romans 3:23). Everyone born into this world is constituted and condemned as sinners because "all died" when the first Adam rebelled against God (Romans 5:12-21). Babies are born sinners, grow in their rebellion toward God over time, and unless delivered by God, will die as sinners. When an infant dies in infancy, God could judge the infant for the first Adam's sin.

Some dislike the federal representation of Adam. At the heart of their consternation with this doctrine is a three-fold objection: (1). It's not fair that anyone should bear the consequences of the actions of the first Adam, and/or (2). God must be to blame for original sin because He could have created somebody better than the first Adam to represent us, and/or (3). I would much rather be judged by God for my own actions rather than the actions of the first Adam. Those who hold to the third belief are adamant that infants who die in infancy have done nothing wrong and so they cannot be judged by God.

I find it interesting that we live by representation every day of our lives without complaint, but when the Bible says Adam represents us before God we object. Doctors represent us in the operating room. Politicians represent us in Washington. Attorneys represent us in court. Why do we object to the first Adam representing us before God?

What troubles us is that Adam failed. We blame God for Adam's failure, for we must blame someone other than Adam. However, there is a sure truth proclaimed by Scripture: "God made man (Adam) upright" (Ecclesiastes 7:29). The rebellion of Adam as our federal head was free-will rebellion. More than that, Adam was constituted righteous by God, given every advantage and freedom in the world to follow after God, and so his free-will rebellion against God was extremely grievous. The consequence of this first Adam's rebellion affects everyone born into the world.

The good news is that when we begin to understand we are condemned by the actions of the first Adam, we begin to be able to rejoice over the marvelous biblical truth that we are redeemed by the actions of the last Adam (Jesus Christ). The people who have the hardest time resting in the work of the last Adam (Jesus Christ) are those who continually labor to move away from the truth that condemnation comes from the failure of first Adam.

Now, back to the question of infants: Could God judge infants who die in infancy for the sin of the first Adam? Yes. However, the better question would be does God judge infants who die in infancy all for the sin of the first Adam? Answer: No. Why? Because He redeems them through the actions of the last Adam.

It seems every infant who dies in infancy is reached by God, redeemed by Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. In Scripture all the examples of infants dying in infancy contain not one instance of an infant experiencing the judgment of God. You can't say they were innocent, for they died. You can say they were redeemed by God through Christ.

Some believe the last Adam (Christ) reversed the curse of the first Adam for every human being at the cross and now everyone becomes their own Adam when they are born (i.e. "the age of accountability"). However, I believe the Scripture teaches that we all bear condemnation for the original sin of the first Adam (see Romans 5:12), but God in His love redeems infants who die in infancy, imbeciles who never comprehend the cross, and an innumerable company of rational rebels whom He transforms from hardened, hateful sinners into loving, kind human beings who live life the way Christ lived it. God saves sinners through His love.

There are some sinners in the hands of an angry (just) God; but it is a comparatively small group of rebels whom God will judge for their personal rebellion and their refusal to love God and their fellow man. All others will be delivered by God from their hatred of God and man, for they will be redeemed by Christ. For those who object, "But the Bible says 'Narrow is the gate that leads to life and few there be that find it'," I respond: "The parables of the King tell us the Kingdom of God begins with 'few' but mushrooms into an innumerable company. The gospel starts as a seed and expands to a tree. Since God saves sinners, and the King establishes His Kingdom on earth, there will be no thwarting of the expansion of God's Kingdom for 'The gates of hell shall not prevail.'"

If it also be objected "But if God could save everyone, why does He not?" Answer: The judgment of the wicked in their sins is as much a glorious display of the attributes of God (holiness and justice) as the deliverance of the wicked from their sins is a glorious display of different attributes of God (grace and love). I'm not sure where we got the idea that God's judgment for sinners is something ugly, brutal, senseless, evil , and maybe even sadomasochistic (maybe Dante?), but the truth is God's judgment of sinners is just, righteous, holy, beautiful and ultimately good for the universe.

If I were to preach a sermon like Edwards, I might title it "God in the Thoughts of Angry Sinners."  It seems the only ones with an unholy anger are people.  God's sovereignty in graciously redeeming sinners seems to cause emotional consternation because:

(1). Sinners seem to believe man's rebellion against their Creator is "no big deal."
(2). Sinners want to believe God owes it to rebels to redeem them from the consequences of their rebellion.
(3). Sinners tend to believe God is weak and 'altogether like unto themselves,' unable to accomplish what He intends
(4). Sinners believe God can't judge some rebels in their sins and save many rebels from their sin because "that would be unfair" and God is always "fair." What He does for one, He must do for all.
(5). Sinners want God to be like they want Him to be rather than the way He reveals Himself to be in Scripture.

God is love. He is also just. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but indeed, He will righteously judge the wicked. The man who loves God with all his heart and his fellow man more than himself will never be judged by God. The rest of us who fall short of this Royal Law of Love need a Redeemer. The good news is God's love for sinners transforms His people (i.e. former rebels) into people who love God and others.

That's why I want the homosexual to know Christ. That's why I desire the adulterer to meet God. That's why I wish the child abuser could be transformed. That's why long to see the thief changed. That's why I long for the murderer to see the wickedness of his crime. The sinful nature that led them to hateful actions toward their fellow man was also in me - until God removed it by His grace. I tell the rebel who hates God and his fellow man the good news of the Redeemer. We are all born with the same inclination toward hatred of God and our fellow man because of Adam's sin. Our only hope is the Deliverer. Only He can transform our stony, wicked hearts into soft hearts that love God and our fellow man.

My philosophical friends who ignore the teaching of Scripture respond, "Why bother? If the wicked can't change their hearts unless God chooses to save them, why share Christ?"  Answer: Because my heavenly Father is in the business of changing lives and He has asked me to share Christ with sinners. I do what my Father asks. In addition, in my experience, I find my Father does what I ask (i.e. "Father, please deliver Brenda from her sin of not loving you and others"). We have not because we ask not.

When people blame God for their sin and ignore God's redemption in Christ, we live in a perverted world. When people blame man for sin and reach out to God for redemption in Christ, we live a perfect world. Unfortunately, our world is not perfect - yet. It's coming. Little by little, the kingdom of God is growing. His love and justice ultimately win, for His kingdom ultimately reigns.

God in the thoughts of angry sinners leads to all sorts of convoluted theology and confusing religions. The simplicity of the gospel--God saves sinners through Christ--is the power of the good news. This is a faithful saying and worthy of your acceptance, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief." (I Timothy 1:15).


Saturday, September 07, 2013

A Very Funny Baseball Photograph

This picture just might be the funniest photograph ever taken at a professional baseball game (click on the photo for a better view). The more you examine it, the funnier it gets. The photograph was taken by Jim Davis of The Boston Globe during a Red Sox-Orioles game in Boston this past week. It is a passion of mine to get to know peoples' stories. Each of us has one, and it doesn't take too much imagination to come up with a story line for the fifteen main people featured in this photograph. Though I know none of them personally my proposed story lines below are all figments of my imagination, see if you think they fit with what you see. Congrats to Jim Davis for capturing an American classic!

"I so love Benny Hinn!"
"My son's the brave one."
"What'd you expect? I'm married to Army Dad."
"Four more beers please."
"I got it! I got it! I got it!"
"I don't help with the dishes either."
"Watch the HAIR!"
"I played girls volleyball in H.S."
"Catching a baseball is similar to a corporate acquisition."
"I told dad the glove's too big."
"Life is so scary!"
"Life is so fun and exciting!"
"Forget the ball. I want that purse?"

"I'd rather watch it on T.V."
"I'm no Jim Davis."

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Why Americans Ought to Cry Over Spilled Coffee: Isaiah 17 and the Destruction of Damascus

Two years ago United States Congressmen Louie Gohmert (R-TX), John Fleming (R-LA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Randy Forbes (R-VA) met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the capital city of Jerusalem. Congressman Louie Gohmert accidentally knocked over Netanyahu’s coffee cup as he presented a gift to Israel's Prime Minister. The gift was a book about the destruction of the city of Damascus called Damascus Countdown. Congressman Gohmert was so taken by author Joel Rosenberg's latest sequel in his series about the end of the world, that he brought a copy of Damascus Countdown for Prime Minister Netanyahu to read for himself. As the congressman slid the book across the tabletop to the Prime Minister of Israel, the book knocked over Netanyahu's coffee cup, spilling coffee all over the table.

Congressman Gohmert, author Rosenberg and a gaggle of American people and politicians believe the city of Damascus will be utterly destroyed before the battle of Armageddon breaks out. They base their belief on Isaiah 17.  In fact, Christian dispensationalists are currently freaking out over events in Syria. With Congress set to vote on authorizing the use of military force in Syria, Christian writers, pastors and politicians are touting that the world is hurtling toward Armageddon because the prophet Isaiah predicted as such:
"Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city and will become a fallen ruin" (Isaiah 17:1 NAS).
According to these end time buffs, Damascus is about to be turned into "heap of ruins."  United States politicians have long been influenced by evangelical dispensationalism and Christian Zionism, but I find it extremely sad that those charged with overseeing United States foreign policy base their politics on faulty interpretations of a biblical text.

To believe Isaiah's prophecy of destruction in Isaiah 17 is speaking to today's city of Damascus is to completely take Isaiah 17 out of its context. I learned a long time ago that "any text lifted from its context is a pretext." That is so true about the Bible and Damascus today. One might believe Damascus is about to be destroyed as a city and the world is about to end, but one would be wise not to base his or her conclusions on Isaiah 17.

Isaiah did indeed predict the "destruction of Damascus" in Isaiah 17.  However, he said that Damascus was "about to be removed" (17:1). That means in his day (8th century B.C.). The prophet Isaiah also predicted that "the strong cities (of Israel)" were about to become like "the forsaken places in the forest" (17:9), for Isaiah predicted that "the glory of Jacob (Israel) will fade" (17:4).

Isaiah nailed it. Everything happened just as he said it would. Soon after Isaiah made his Isaiah 17 predictions about the city of Damascus and the cities of Israel, a powerful Assyrian king (note: Assyrian is not the same thing as Syrian) named Tiglath-Pileser III laid siege to the city of Damascus and the northern kingdom of Israel. Tiglath-Pilesar destroyed Damascus. In his autobiographical chronicle of events, Tiglath-Pilesar said "I made 714 cities (including Damascus) to be like mounds after a flood." John Gill writes in his commentary on Isaiah 17:
"Damascus had been a very ancient city of great fame and the head of Syria, and though it underwent this predicted calamity (Isaiah 17), done to it by Tiglath-Pileser, the city was rebuilt again and later destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, after which it was raised up again, and was in being in the apostle's time and still is."
In other words, the prophecy of Isaiah 17 was fulfilled precisely in Isaiah's day. Not only was Damascus destroyed as a city, the northern kingdom of Israel was eventually conquered by those same Assyrians as "the glory of Jacob faded" and the "strong cities of Israel" became like forsaken places in the forest."

A couple of years ago Rachelle and I stood with a group of people from our church at the excavations of Hazor in northern Israel. Hazor had been a strong, fortified city of Israel in Isaiah's day. Solomon had built it with high walls in a high place to protect the kingdom of Israel from invasions from the north. In 732 B.C. Tiglath-Pilesar destroyed Hazor, burning it to the ground. The city of Hazor was destroyed the same year, in the same manner, by the same king, as the city of Damascus. Hazor and Damascus were two of King Tiglath-Pilesar's 714 cities that he "made to be like mounds after a flood."

We've been taught as Americans that we should never cry over spilled milk, but I'm not too sure we ought not to collectively cry over spilled coffee when we have our politicians sliding books to ministers of foreign governments that are filled with faulty interpretations of Scripture. We may be in for a wild ride in Syria in the near future, but we would do much better as Christians and believers of Scripture to promote the principles of the King and the glory of His reign in the human heart than to push political policies built on popular pretexts of Isaiah 17.