Tag Archive: Christ Jesus


Violence is defined as “physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing,” and sadly, violence is a part of everyday life. It’s in our movies and television shows, and we live in a world where power is often established through violence. But for Christians, the way of the world is always trumped by the truth of the Word. So what does the Bible say about violence?

First of all, violence in the mind is just as hurtful as violence by the hands. Leviticus 19:17 says, “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.” When we know someone is in sin, is it more loving to keep it quiet and build up hate and resentment towards them? God says that we should speak frankly, and Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:21-22 that murderous anger can lead the angry man to judgment from God as quickly as a physical blow. The violence he exhibits toward someone else can be brought back upon himself by God.

What about violence in war? Exodus 20:13 had been incorrectly translated as “do not kill,” but it literally means “do not murder.” God has allowed for just wars throughout the history of His people. From Abraham to Deborah to David, God’s people have fought as instruments of judgment from a righteous and holy God. Romans 13:1-4 tells us to submit ourselves to government authorities and that nations have the right to bear the sword against evildoers, both foreign and domestic.

Violence occurs, but we must recognize the difference between holy judgment on sin and our own personal vendettas against those we dislike, which is the inevitable outcome of pride (Psalm 73:6). While men are more prone to accept violence (especially as cultures depict real men as those who never cry, always have a plan, and carry a gun), the wisest man of all time wrote, “Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways” (Proverbs 3:31). Prayer and patience beats violence and anger on any day.

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A Christian martyr is someone who died for his or her faith, rather than renounce Christ. Ever since Stephen was stoned to death outside Jerusalem (Acts 7), Christians around the world have suffered and died for the sake of Christ. There are many lessons we can learn from the testimony of the martyrs. Each person who is bold enough to give up his life for Christ has a unique lesson to teach us. This article will discuss a few lessons we can glean from Christian martyrs as a whole.

Christian martyrs teach us that we can stand for God no matter the circumstances. Millions of people throughout history have willingly died for their faith. If they can do it, so can we. That does not mean we should seek out suffering or death for Christ, but it does mean that, if we are presented with the choice of “die or deny Christ,” we should be bold and cling to Christ. Our love for God should take us as far as God’s love for us took Him—to death. Jesus prepared His disciples for persecution: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32–33). Martyrs show us what it looks like to stand firm in not denying Jesus.

Another lesson Christian martyrs teach us is that we will receive a reward for standing for our faith. Revelation 20:4–6 paints a picture of the reward awaiting the Christian martyrs who die during the future Tribulation: “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. . . . This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.”

Jesus attached a blessing to the suffering Christians face in this world: “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22). As he died Stephen caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him: “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Interestingly, the Greek word translated “crown” in the New Testament is stephanos (the source of Stephen’s name).

Christian martyrs are a model of grace under pressure. They teach us how to handle persecution of any kind. Stephen died with grace on his lips: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). He forgave his murderers, and his forgiveness echoed that of Christ Himself (Luke 23:34).

Those who persecute Christians often have a goal of humiliating them and making them believe the hatred toward them is justified. But Jesus told us ahead of time of their true motivation: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18–19). The numerous Christian martyrs throughout history were killed because they were chosen by Christ and do not belong to the world.

Christian martyrs also provide evidence that the Bible is true. The writers of the Bible, most of whom were martyred, held to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection to the very end. Some people might die for a lie they think is true, but no one dies for a lie he knows to be false. The Christian martyrs knew what they believed was true.

When we press into knowing God personally and truly begin living for God, we will become a target for those who hate God. The spiritual battle is real, and so are the rewards. We are serving a real God who really loves us, who was really willing to die for us, and who really rewards us for standing for Him.

For more on Christian persecution go to our search engine and type in Persecution.

Researching Christian martyrdom through the centuries is a worthwhile study. There are some great books available that tell the stories of those who gave everything for Jesus. John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments is one example, and D. C. Talk’s book Jesus Freaks is another.

First Corinthians 13 offers one of the Bible’s richest expositions regarding love. Verse 4 notes that love “does not envy.” So, selfish jealousy is at odds with God’s type of love.

The Greek word translated “envy” means “to burn with zeal.” Literally, the sense is “to be heated or to boil over with envy, hatred, or anger.” In the context of 1 Corinthians 13, the idea is that love does not focus on personal desires. It is not eager to increase possessions. God’s type of love is selfless, not selfish.

Envy is the opposite of God’s command not to covet (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21). “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). The one who truly loves will be in conformity to the Ten Commandments, and envy will be excluded.

In contrast to God’s command, the Corinthian believers were ranking some spiritual gifts as more important than others and envying those who had the “best” gifts. In chapter 12, Paul points out that the different gifts are meant to serve one another and build up the church. No one person has all the gifts, but each child of God has at least one, and love demands that each gift be used to serve others rather than self.

“Envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). When we crave what someone else has rather than being grateful for what God has given, we hurt ourselves. Instead of envying others, we are called to love them.

True love—God’s love—rejoices when others are blessed. There is no room for envy. Love does not seek to benefit itself and it is content with what it has, because its focus is on meeting the needs of the loved one.

The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees are early Jewish writings detailing the history of the Jews in the first century BC. Both books are part of the canon of Scripture in the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Coptic, and Russian Orthodox churches, but they are not recognized as canon by Protestants and Jews. The books outline the history of the Maccabees, Jewish leaders who led a rebellion of the Jews against the Seleucid Dynasty from 175 BC to 134 BC. The first book portrays the effort by the Jews to regain their cultural and religious independence from Antiochus IV Epiphanes after his desecration of the Jewish temple.

The book of 2 Maccabees consists of a Greek synopsis of a five-volume history of the Maccabean Revolt written by Jason of Cyrene. The authors of both books are unknown. The first book, although written from a biased perspective, does not directly mention God or divine intervention. The second book has a more theological slant, advancing several doctrines followed by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The book of 1 Maccabees was written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek. Scholars believe that the author was a Palestinian Jew who was intimately familiar with the events described. The author opposed the Hellenization of the Jews and clearly supported and admired the Jewish revolutionaries led by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers.

In the second century BC, Judea existed between the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Syrian Seleucid Empire, kingdoms formed after the death of Alexander the Great. Judea fell under the control of the Seleucids in approximately 200 BC. During this time, many Jews began to adopt a Greek lifestyle and culture in order to gain economic and political influence. They avoided circumcision and advocated abolishing Jewish religious laws.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes became the ruler of the Seleucid Empire in 175 BC. He was inconsiderate of the views of the religious, traditional Jews in Palestine. To Antiochus, the office of high priest was merely a local appointee within his realm, while to orthodox Jews the high priest was divinely appointed. Antiochus appointed a high priest named Jason, a Hellenized Jew, who promptly abolished the Jewish theocracy, followed by Menelaus, who had the rightful high priest, Onias, murdered. After Menelaus’ brother stole sacred articles from the temple, a civil war ensued between the Hellenized Jews and the religious Jews. Antiochus subsequently attacked Jerusalem, pillaged the temple, and killed or captured many of the women and children. He banned traditional Jewish religious practice, outlawing Jewish sacrifices, Sabbaths, feasts, and circumcision. He established altars to Greek gods upon which “unclean” animals were sacrificed. He desecrated the Jewish temple. Possession of Jewish Scriptures became a capital offence.

In a small, rural village called Modein, an elderly priest named Mattathias lived with his five sons—John, Simon, Judas, Eleazer, and Jonathan. Sometimes referred to as the Hasmoneans (a designation derived from Asmoneus, the name of one of their ancestors), this family more frequently has been called the Maccabeans (a nickname meaning “hammerer”). In 167 BC Antiochus sent some of his soldiers to Modein to compel the Jewish inhabitants to make sacrifices to the pagan gods. Mattathias, as a leader in the city, was commanded by the officers to be the first person to offer a sacrifice as an example to the rest of the people. He refused with a powerful speech (see 1 Maccabees 2:15–22).

Fearing violence against the people for Mattathias’ refusal, another Jew volunteered to offer the sacrifices to the pagan gods in the place of Mattathias, but Mattathias killed this Jewish man, as well as the soldiers of the king. He then destroyed the altar to the pagan gods, after which he, his sons, and a number of followers fled to the mountainous wilderness. These men formed a large, guerrilla warfare army and soon began to launch raids against the towns of the land, tearing down the pagan altars, killing the officials of Antiochus, and also executing those Jews who were worshipping the pagan gods.

Mattathias died in 166 BC, just as the revolt was gaining momentum, leaving his son Judas in charge of the rebel forces. Even though greatly outnumbered, Judas and his rebels defeated general after general in battle, winning decisive victories against overwhelming odds. The rebels even won a tremendous victory south of Mizpah against a combined army of 50,000 troops. The people of Israel gave Judas the nickname “Maccabeus” because of his success in “hammering” the enemy forces into the ground.

Antiochus, who had underestimated the scope of the revolt, now realized the serious nature of the rebellion in Palestine. He dispatched Lysias, the commander-in-chief of the Seleucid army, along with 60,000 infantrymen and 5,000 cavalry, to utterly destroy the Jews. This vast army was additionally commanded by two generals serving under Lysias—Nicanor and Gorgias. This powerful army came against Judas, who fought with a force of only 10,000 poorly equipped rebels, in the town of Emmaus. He prayed to God for strength and deliverance (1 Maccabees 4:30–33), and God answered and they won a huge victory over the Seleucid army.

Subsequently, the Maccabees marched into Jerusalem, cleansed the temple, and resumed traditional Jewish religious practices. The festival of Hanukkah commemorates the cleansing and rededication of the Jewish temple. Judah’s brother Jonathan became the new high priest after the rededication of the temple and ultimately succeeded Judah as commander of the army. His brother Simon assumed control from 142 to 135 BC, followed by Simon’s son, John Hyrcanus. With the death of Simon, the last son of Mattathias, the Maccabean Revolt came to an end. The author concludes his narrative in 1 Maccabees with these events.

The Second Book of Maccabees was written in Koine Greek, most likely around 100 BC. This work coheres with 1 Maccabees, but it is written as a theological interpretation of the Maccabean Revolt. In addition to outlining the historical events, 2 Maccabees discusses several doctrinal issues, including prayers and sacrifices for the dead, intercession of the saints, and resurrection on Judgment Day. The Catholic Church has based the doctrines of purgatory and masses for the dead on this work. On the other hand, an important tenet of the Protestant Reformation (1517) was that scriptural translations should be derived from the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament, rather than upon the Septuagint and Jerome’s Vulgate. Statements were included in the Protestant Bibles indicating that the Apocrypha was not to be placed on the same level as the other documents.

Despite centuries of severe persecution, these Christians from the Italian Alps, through the strength of their commitment to Christ, the Bible, and a life of poverty, maintained their evangelical identity, and faithfully carried the Gospel torch from the 12th century to the Reformation.

THE LATE 12TH CENTURY in Europe was a time rich in spiritual ferment and in its various expressions of religious experience. It is in this distant, shifting period that an ancient group of evangelical Christians— the Waldensians—first appear in the regions of Lyons (France) and, slightly later, Milan (Italy). In the earliest days the members of this movement were simply called “The Poor.” From their seemingly insignificant beginnings, with the odds against their survival as a distinct group, they did survive, and their difficult journey of faith stands out in history.

More than three centuries would pass before the Waldensians would build their own church buildings and view themselves as outside of the mother church; they would eventually melt into the Protestant Reformation. But until that time in the 16th century, The Poor would live as a scattered but closely knit movement within the Roman Church, with a central devotion to Christ, the Scriptures, and a life of poverty in conformity to the example of the Apostles.

In the context of their turbulent time, the emergence of the Waldensian Movement was not exceptional. What is surprising is their survival for such a long period of time. Far from being welcomed by the Church authorities, the Waldensians were harshly repressed. (As opposed to the case, for example, of the great monastic founder Francis of Assisi [1181-1226] and his followers—whose ideas were quite similar in spirit and intention with those of the Waldensians.)

In light of this, the fact that during three centuries the movement of The Poor was able not only to survive but to expand, always attracting new adherents and bringing its testimony into new areas, merits our recognition and special consideration.

Why the Waldensians?

Where can we turn to find an explanation for this success? To the strength of the convictions of single believers? This does not seem to be the case, for in the same period there were other believers just as fervent, of whom every trace has been lost, often cancelled by repression. No, conviction of faith, courage in the face of persecution, and force of spirit do not provide in themselves a satisfactory explanation for the survival of the Waldensians.

We might turn instead (and recent historians have) to reasons of a social and economic nature. Perhaps, since they were simple believers from the most humble classes on the fringe of society, the Waldensians did not constitute a threat to the establishment. They could, therefore, conduct their underground existence without any great risk.

However, this interpretation of the Waldensian phenomenon is contradicted by the evidence: the documentation shows that the Waldensians were present and active in all social classes, in the countryside and in the cities, among farmers and among merchants.

Our answer to the mystery of Waldensian survival and growth is of a different nature: The movement of The Poor was able to survive the Middle Ages because it never closed itself with a sectarian spirit (that is, it did not see itself as an exclusive group, spiritually superior to other Christians); rather, it knew how to continuously renew itself spiritually and theologically. This was possible because, though their social structure and their way of life might change, from their time of origin the Waldensians had a clear and original message to which they held firmly, and to which they remained faithful.

We could say that the Waldensian strength can be found exactly in certain terms we have used so far in referring to them: they were a movement, and a movement of the poor.

Waldo of Lyons and Waldensian Beginnings

These essential Waldensian characteristics already appear clearly in the experience of the founder of the movement, Waldo of Lyons [see A Prophet Without Honor]. This merchant, who lived in the French city at the end of the 12th century, did not intend to give life to a new community that would oppose the Church. He did not intend to found a sect, nor to gather around himself a faithful group to carry his name and espouse his ideas. He did not present himself as a preacher with new ideas, new revelations, or particular interpretations to communicate (something which has occured frequently in the history of the Christian Church).

He had but one purpose: to live the Christian faith according to the teaching of the Gospel; or, to express it in terms closer to the spirituality of his time, to follow Jesus as the apostles did. He wanted to relive the experience of Jesus’ first disciples. And in this sense we can apply to Waldo and his followers the curious and fascinating definition used at a later time by an inquisitor who was intent on persecuting the Waldensians: they were Nudi nudum Christum sequentes (naked disciples of a naked Christ). The unusual (and to us probably startling) use here of the adjective “naked” can be understood in two ways: with nothing on—that is materially poor, and also, without religious extras, in the sense of Christ only. For the Waldensians, Christ was to be followed in his poverty, and also as the only reference point for faith.

Following Jesus as the apostles did involved certain things for Waldo and his followers. They emphasized the importance of hearing and understanding the Word of God—the Bible; it was from the Scriptures that men and women would know Christ as the center of their faith. They lived in voluntary poverty and were persistent in their intent to preach in public. This last activity was the one that particularly offended the religious leaders of their time, and which brought the wrath of the Catholic Church down upon them. The archbishop of Lyons attempted to stop Waldo from his public preaching. When he found he could not, he expelled him from the city. Already a group of friends had gathered around Waldo who were devoted to following his example. They did not call themselves “brothers” or “disciples,” as was commonly done in the monastic orders in those days, but referred to themselves as Waldo’s “comembers,” and to their group as a “society.” They took these terms from the business language of the time and not from the religious; it is as if they feared that other Christians would think that they were claiming to found a new religious association superior to the existing Church. They wanted only to be a group of laypersons who were collaborating for a precise goal: in this case, to preach the Gospel. This dedication to preaching provoked a strong reaction from the Church, which led to a search for The Poor of Lyons and to their excommunication as heretics.

By Whose Authority?

It will be helpful here to refer to the Church’s theology at the time. Public preaching, according to the medieval theologians, was reserved for the clergy. They were, as the successors to the apostles, and in virtue of their ordination, the only ones qualified to exercise this ministry. (This notion of apostolic authority being passed down from generation to generation by ordination in the Church is called Apostolic Succession.) So according to Church belief and practice at the time, Waldo the merchant, not being ordained, was not a successor of the apostles, and therefore did not have the right to preach.

Now this is precisely the idea that Waldo contested. He, as one who had called upon the Lord, affirmed that he was called to be a disciple of Christ, even as were the apostles. And who are the real successors of the apostles? Not necessarily those who are ordained, he argued, but rather those who respond to the Lord’s call and live like the apostles of old. What makes one a true heir to the apostles is not ordination, but fidelity to God’s word. Authority to preach did not come through the visible Church order, but by Christ himself.

The consequences of such a belief as this would have been enormous for the Church in Waldo’s time, for the Medieval Church believed that it was the exclusive channel through which God administered his Spirit. If Waldo’s idea had been accepted, the Church could not have been looked upon as the sole depository of the Spirit. Waldo believed that God’s Word and his Spirit do surely act in the Church, but are not solely administered by it.

Probably Waldo did not realize the radical implications of his affirmations, and he continued to feel in full communion with the church, with its tradition, and with all believers. However, the Roman curia (i.e., the Catholic Church government) recognized the danger and after a few years the Poor of Lyons were considered heretics, thus starting their long call to martyrdom.

Against the Donation of Constantine

In the 13th century, especially at its beginning, The Poor were present in Languedoc and Lombardy, that is, Northern Italy (where they were called The Poor of Lombardy). A century later the inquisitors found numerous communities in the Danube Valley in Austria, and in Northern Germany. Already in these periods there appeared an organization, divided into small groups with certain individuals responsible for the care of each group. (In some cases the terms of the official church were even used for these leaders, such as apostle, or prefect.) These various small groups, to a certain degree, were independent, and able to pursue their particular vision of the religious life.

Formally, however, the Waldensians continued to be a part of the Roman Church, where they baptized their children and took communion at least once a year, as was the common practice. They were still within the boundaries of the Church of Rome, and they did nothing that would highlight their criticisms of the Church.

Essentially two things distinguished them from those around them:

1) Before everything else they sought an absolute fidelity to the words of Jesus, in particular to the Sermon on the Mount. Consequently they rejected any form of violence. Not only did they oppose the violence of war and particularly that of the Crusades, but they also opposed “legal” violence, the kind practiced by the courts.

2) They refused to take oaths (based on Matthew 5:33-37), and opposed the practice of lending money at interest. These positions not only stirred reactions from the religious establishment, but the political powers also came to view the Waldensians as dangerous rebels also. What was the Waldensian motivation for such radicalism? Harsh moral standards, a desire for purity, and coherence with the Gospel? This has often been the explanation. Weren’t the Waldensians just simple people, without influential persons in their ranks, merely trying their best to interpret the Gospel and follow it as best they could? This does not appear to be the case.

To be accurate, the Waldensians were in fact not naive, simplistic interpreters of the Scriptures, but they had an acute understanding of the place of Christian faith in history. They believed that the Church, when it is faithful to its true calling, follows in the steps of the apostles. They also knew that the Church can be unfaithful—and that this infidelity shows itself when Christ’s spirit of humility and poverty are abandoned for the worldly quest for temporal riches and power. They were convinced that when the Church becomes a worldly power it loses its spirit. The strength of their interpretation came through their pinpointing the moment in history in which they believed this betrayal took place: the 4th century, when Christianity was consecrated as the state religion by the emperor Constantine. That event (which is generally considered a great victory) was in reality, according to the Waldensians, the beginning of the Church’s decline; it was a compromise with the world.

“We,” said the Waldensians, “are the true disciples of Christ because we deny the Donation of Constantine” [see “The Donation of Constantine”], that is, the compromise of the Church with the world. In this they avoided two attitudes that would have been self-destructive: 1) a feeling that they were outside, or excluded from the Church, which would have led to a sectarian spirit—a closed-group mentality; and 2) a snobbish attitude of seeing themselves as the only true examples of faith, and therefore against the Church. They certainly did have a sense of being the most faithful part of the Church, but without a sense of sectarianism, or of separatism.

The Influence of Hus

This view of being a movement to return to the true apostolic example within the Church, without being separatistic, helps us see why, at the start of the 15th century, the Waldensians became followers of the renewal movement within Christian theology guided by the great Bohemian (Czech) preacher and theologian John Hus.

Hus was condemned and burned at the stake in 1415 for his teachings. He was a devoted Catholic, but taught that the Catholic Church’s authority was secondary to the Bible’s (not equal, as the Church taught), so even laypeople could judge the Church’s actions by Scripture, and therefore the Bible should be translated for public use. He also taught that the real spiritual Church of Christ was not equivalent to the earthly Catholic Church; this implied that even the highest Church officials might not be part of the true spiritual seed of Christ.

Hus argued that the corrupt and extravagant lives of many Church leaders, as opposed to Christ’s life of poverty, made this clear. Though Hus was martyred for his stand, his ideas later had a large influence on Luther and others, and pointed the way, along with the teachings of John Wycliffe, towards the Protestant Reformation. Hus’s followers became known as the Bohemian Brethren. It is not hard to see how the ideas of the Waldensians lined up in many ways with the teachings of Hus, and why they became associated with the movement of the Bohemian Brethren.

The Age of the Barba

The 15th century represents a noteworthy moment in the vitality of the Waldensians. A particularly fascinating characteristic of this vitality was the barba. The term is significant in itself. In the Provencal dialect, in the Alpine area, this term meant “uncle,” but, in its corresponding feminine form, it referred also to a leader who merited respect and obedience. The Waldensians used this term to refer to their pastors, perhaps in deliberate contrast to the Catholic practice of calling priests “father.&rdquo:

We do not have a lot of information about the barba, but what we have is sufficient to give us an idea. The young persons who decided to respond to this calling were aware of the risks. They prepared for their ministry in two ways. First, there was a fixed period of time in a “school.” These were not only places of study and research, but places where one acquired a familiarity with Scripture, and culture in general. Above all they were places of training, retreats where one experienced life in community with others, young and old, to arrive at that spiritual and moral maturity that are essential in a life full of risk.

A barba received still deeper training, however, by accompanying an older barba in his missions of contact with the dispersed faithful. This on-the-job, practical work gave them the experience necessary to carry on the effort.

The activity of the barba was evidently, in the light of the little we know, prodigious—they accomplished a great deal. They traveled from Northern Italy to Provence, from Bohemia to the Alps, preaching, instructing, receiving the confessions of the faithful, following precise itineraries. They were almost always disguised, for example as religious pilgrims, or travelling merchants, in order to avoid being identified by the Inquisition [the Catholic Church’s organization for exposing heretics]. They have often been presented as simple folk, with a great experience of faith and life, but of little learning.

The truth is quite different. We know this from numerous manuscripts in their Provencal tongue that have been found. These writings were obviously used by the barba. The minute, pocket-sized volumes containing sermons, tracts, poems, and grammar lessons are only the tip of an iceberg, revealing to us the vast cultural world of the Waldensians. Many of them are theological works coming from Hussite sources, which were not only translated, but adapted and elaborated. These accomplishments required sensibility and competence beyond that of the simple and uneducated.

Around the barba there was a well-organized clandestine world [see The Pearl]. In twos (according to the biblical model) they visited the faithful on well-defined itineraries, held assemblies to discuss their problems, and gathered and administered donations. The fact that in the course of the century very few barba were arrested, among the many that were active, is testimony to the perfection of their system.

Waldensian Theology

The Waldensians, probably in part due to the Hussite influence, experienced a growing consciousness of themselves and a new sensibility, which renewed their traditional spirituality. Their consciousness grew of being the “true church,” the authentic community of Christ, in contrast to the Church of Rome, which always seemed to them to take on the form of Antichrist, not only in its compromise with worldly powers, but also in the violence with which it crushed the spiritual renovation in Bohemia.

A second characteristic is related to their concern for individual salvation. From this, the Waldensians showed a particular interest in penance, the Sacraments, and Christian virtue. The barba had the power to hear confessions. They were believed to be the only persons capable of doing so because, in contrast to other corrupt and immoral clerics, they were authentic ministers of Christ. (Waldensians believed, it should be mentioned, that as it says in one of their early poems, “It is God alone who pardons, and no other.”)

Also, for these generations of Waldensians, salvation was clearly and certainly the work of Christ. It was the fruit of his sacrifice, but also the finality of a pure and consistent Christian life; a life of faith could not be separated from a life of obedience. Therefore, we can understand why in the 16th century a central point of debate among barba and the reformers was justification by faith, and how faith related to works.

The Waldensian position was looked upon from a Lutheran perspective as being too influenced by Catholic tradition. In reality, however, barba doctrine was plainly in contrast with the Catholic theology of that century, for it dismissed the major Catholic teaching on purgatory. The Waldensian rejection of purgatory was radical.

One of the most well-known and significant poems of the barba, La Nobla Leiczon (a possible translation is “The Teaching of Profound Things” [included in our From the Archives section]), is constructed entirely on the comparison between the two ways, that of salvation and that of damnation. It formulates a radical criticism of those Christians who expect to resolve their problem of salvation with purgatory and its corollary of mass, indulgences, and good works (teachings that Martin Luther would later challenge in Wittenberg).

These things represented for the Waldensians a negation of the Christian faith, and the triumph of the Constantine Church, that is, of a church which utilizes power and riches to govern the world. What more radical comparison can one imagine than that between the pilgrim barba, messenger of forgiveness to his clandestine communities, and the popes of the Renaissance with their sales of indulgences, claiming their “power of the keys,” the power to forgive sins and grant entrance to heaven? It is clear that these are two very different approaches.

The Great Reformation

To the scattered Waldensians concentrated mainly in the Alps in Provence and in Calabria, and greatly reduced through persecution, but having a solid theology and organization, news of the work of Martin Luther arrived in the period between 1518 and 1520.

What was to be done? Certainly the believers around Luther expressed themselves similarly to the Waldensians, but were the motivations the same? Could the Waldensians safely associate with the new communities coming together as a result of the reform movement, or would it be more prudent to keep a distance and maintain autonomy? It was not the first time that the problem arose for The Poor of collaborating with groups judged heretical by the official church. It had happened before with the Hussites and with the Albigensians. [The Albigensians were a radical group, which originated in southern Italy, and taught that all material things, including the human body, were evil. Among other things, the Albigensians rejected the Sacraments, Hell, the Resurrection, and marriage, and taught a life of extreme denial. They were a part of a much larger worldversus- spirit “dualist” movement in the Middle Ages called Catharism.]

Beginning in 1526 the barba, at their annual reunions in Piedmont and Provence, examined the news which came from Germany with the result that a group was sent to evaluate the situation at first hand, and to question major representatives of the new theology. On the journey a meeting occurred with William Farel, the fiery Swiss reformer who would play an instrumental part in the Waldensians’ future; contact was also made with Oecolampadius, the reformer in Basel, and Martin Bucer of Strasbourg. From these contacts it was clear that a fundamental unity of purpose did exist, especially in reference to a belief in Scripture as the only rule for faith. However, at the same time the approaches the two groups took to Scripture were different: the Waldensians, on the one hand, emphasized the moral demands made by the Bible, and its teaching on the climactic end of history—its apocalyptic message; the reformed group, on the other hand, emphasized the importance of deep, academic study of the Bible, and the system of theology founded upon such study—”dogmatics.”

The consequences of these emphases on the different groups were shown in the way they applied their faith to their lives in society. The fact that those promoting the Reformation in the cities of the Rhine were the city councils, and in Germany it was the princes, profoundly baffled the Waldensians. Could the men of the world, whose daily lives were given over to the use of riches and power, now be the defenders of the apostolic faith?

This was hard to comprehend. Was this not the process of Constantine renewed—a new mixing of the spiritual with the worldly? Was it possible to transform a local parish (a church district set often by geographical boundaries and determined by men), the typical form of “imperial” Christianity, into a community based on the Gospel?

The Synod of Chanforan

The solution to these questions arrived in 1532 during an assembly held at Chanforan in the Angrogna Valley in the Piedmont Alps. 140 barba participated along with leaders of the Reformation in Switzerland, including William Farel. After days of debate the assembly decided to accept substantially the principles of the new reformation, and to apply them internally to the Waldensian movement itself.

The Waldensians in this way were as integrated into the world of the Reformation. It is necessary, however, to be precise. It must be remembered that in 1532 Protestantism did not yet exist as a confessional and cultural phenomenon. The Reformation at that moment was a movement of opinion, it was not a church.

By declaring themselves in line with the reformers, the Waldensians simply acknowledged their unity with the reformers’ protests for a faith based on the Gospel, for a return to the origins of the Church, and for an abandonment of the compromises with the world. The reformers were rejected by the official church for these beliefs even as the Waldensians had been for generations.

It is also significant that the decisions agreed upon at Chanforan by the barba and the reformers were not limited to the religious dimension, but had social and political importance also. The return to the Gospel meant not only a rediscovery of the purity of the faith, but also a liberation from the burden of economic slavery, of ecclesiastical taxation, and of the dependence which the Medieval Church had placed on the shoulders of the Christian populace.

By adhering to the Reformation the Waldensians expressed in new form the spirit of independence and autonomy which in the Middle Ages had characterized the Alpine peoples in the face of central powers. It was a realization of their sense of independence.

Furthermore, the meeting at Chanforan was but the beginning on a long journey that would lead the Waldensians to eventual organization as Protestant churches. In the face of a Roman Catholicism that assumed the characteristics of unbending worldly control, and that readily used the Inquisition and political power to repress whatever it declared heresy, the Waldensian communities developed increasingly along reformed lines according to the ideas coming from Calvin’s Geneva.

A New Church and the First War of Religion

This difficult search for a specific Waldensian identity culminated around 1555 (twenty years after Chanforan) in the decision to build facilities for preaching and the administration of the sacraments. For years services in the local dialect had been conducted in the open air or in private homes, with the singing of hymns and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. However, the absence of buildings for these services underlined both the temporary, provisional nature of the situation, and the continuing hope for an agreement with the Church of Rome.

Once these hopes vanished it was necessary to recognize the existence of two churches, even from the point of view of architecture: two churches, two bell towers, two services, two theologies, two ecclesiastical organizations, two forms of piety, and two cultures. In the middle of the 16th century these two identities (the Reformation and the Catholic, or Counter- Reformation) began a conflict that would last 150 years, and have in the area of the Alps where the Waldensians lived, a particularly violent character.

The first battle took place in 1560. The Duke of Savoy, who had recently regained possession of his region, forced the Roman Catholic religion on all his subjects. He based this on the principle established a few years previously at the Diet of Augsburg and accepted by all the rulers of Europe, according to which the religion of the prince must be that of his subjects.

While all the followers of the Reformation in the plains and cities moved to Protestant areas, particularly to Geneva, the Waldensians in the Alpine Valleys stayed put and rejected the imposition of Catholicism. They continued to profess their reformed faith—even against the edict of their ruler. As a consequence the Duke intervened militarily to restore order. This action spurred a response of armed rebellion. Under this severe trial, the Waldensians, who had always opposed violence, had reached the point where they decided they must defend themselves, and fight for their faith.

This was the first war of religion in Europe, and also the first case in which subjects of a ruler rebelled to defend their religious freedom. The conflict lasted several weeks and concluded incredibly with the victory of the Waldensian farmers, who benefitted from a series of complex strategical, political, and geographical elements.

The Duke, taking an historic position unique in Europe at this time, conceded to his Waldensian subjects the right to profess their religion within a specified territory, with the number of worship centers and ministers defined by law.

These remarkable events were enough to assure the Waldensians’ survival. But in subsequent decades the battle would continue, and proceed with tragedies, varying successes, and great risks.

Credits: Dr. Giorgio Bouchard is currently President of the Protestant Federation of Italy. He is a Waldens-pastor and serves a congregation in Naples. From 1979 to 1986 he was moderator of the Waldensian Church.

 

The Jewish Bible (also called the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh) is another term for what Christians call the Old Testament portion of the Bible. More specifically, a 1917 English version of the Old Testament was called the Jewish Bible and was prepared by the Jewish Publication Society of America.

One distinctive feature of the Jewish Bible is that it divides the Old Testament into its traditional Hebrew sections. The four sections include the Chumash (The Five Books of Moses), the Neviim (The Prophets), the Treisar (The Minor Prophets) and the Ketuvim (The Writings). The order of the books in the 1917 Jewish Bible, including the Hebrew names, is as follows:

Chumash / Torah / The Five Books of Moses
Bereshit / Genesis
Shemot / Exodus
VaYikra / Leviticus
BaMidbar / Numbers
Devarim / Deuteronomy

Neviim / The Prophets
Yehoshua / Joshua
Shoftim / Judges
Shmuel A and B / 1—2 Samuel
Melachim A and B / 1—2 Kings
Yishiyah / Isaiah
Yermiyah / Jeremiah
Yechezchial / Ezekiel

Treisar / The Minor Prophets
Hoshea / Hosea
Yoel / Joel
Amos / Amos
Ovadiyah / Obadiah
Yonah / Jonah
Michah / Micah
Nachum / Nahum
Habakuk / Habakkuk
Tzefaniyah / Zephaniah
Haggi / Haggai
Zechariyah / Zechariah
Malachi / Malachi

Ketuvim / The Writings
Tehilim / Psalms
Mishlei / Proverbs
Eyov / Job

Megilot, which includes:
Shir HaShirim / Song of Songs
Ruth / Ruth
Eichah / Lamentations
Keholet / Ecclesiastes
Esther / Esther
Daniyel / Daniel
Ezra / Ezra
Nechemiyah / Nehemiah
Divrei Yamim A and B / 1—2 Chronicles

In summary, the Jewish Bible can refer to the entire Old Testament or to a particular translation of the Old Testament in 1917 by the Jewish Publication Society. In most cases, people use the terms Hebrew Bible, Jewish Bible, and Old Testament interchangeably.

The role of the pastor who specializes in evangelism and/or outreach varies widely from church to church. The person who engages in evangelism and outreach should first be gifted by the Holy Spirit in these areas and that gifting should be clear to both the pastor and those he serves. Ephesians 4:7-8 and 11-13 state, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive,…And gave gifts to men.’ And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Whatever the role and duties of the evangelism/outreach pastor, his primary goal should be to equip others for service within the body of Christ.

A pastor who specializes in evangelism may go out into the community himself, perhaps in a door-to-door ministry, sharing the gospel of Christ with all he meets and inviting them to church. He may conduct regular evangelistic crusades or meetings in other areas for the goal of spreading the gospel and calling others to Christ. The evangelism pastor uses the biblical method of evangelism, sharing both the bad news of sin and judgment and the good news of salvation from sin through the shed blood of Christ at Calvary.

Outreach is another function of the evangelism/outreach pastor that can have many facets. The outreach pastor may be in charge of reaching out in a practical sense to those in the church with special needs, such as widows who need help with home maintenance and repair, single mothers who need childcare help, the unemployed, the homeless, etc. The outreach pastor may have a staff of volunteers he can call upon to help identify and meet those needs. Outreach can also be another word for discipleship. Some outreach pastors meet regularly with young people in the church to help them grow to spiritual maturity. He may conduct formal Bible studies or simply meet over a meal to come alongside and encourage them.

Again, whatever the individual duties of the evangelism/outreach pastor, his primary role is “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).

In the very beginning, God was already there. For His own good pleasure, God created time and the universe by the power of His word, turning nothing into something. On the sixth day of creation, God made something unique: mankind—a man and a woman—created in His likeness. As God created the first two humans as male and female, He instituted the covenant of marriage (Genesis 1–2).

God placed the man and his wife in the Garden of Eden, a perfect environment, and gave them the responsibility of tending the garden. God allowed them to eat of any fruit in the garden but one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden to them. They had a choice to obey or disobey, but God warned them that death would result if they disobeyed (Genesis 2:15-17).

Meanwhile, a mighty angel named Lucifer rebelled against God in heaven. He and one third of the angelic host were cast out of heaven. Lucifer came into the garden where the man and his wife were. There, he took the form of a serpent and tempted Eve, the first woman, to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit. He told her that she would not die and that the fruit was actually good for her. She believed the lies and ate some of the fruit. She then gave the fruit to her husband, Adam, and he ate it, too. Immediately, the couple knew they had done wrong. They felt ashamed and vulnerable and exposed. When God came looking for them, they hid (Isaiah 14:12-15; Genesis 3).

Of course, God found them. Judgment was meted out. The ground was cursed for the man’s sake: it would no longer bring forth its fruit easily; instead, man must toil to produce a crop. The woman was cursed with pain during childbirth. The serpent was cursed to crawl in the dust from then on. And then God made a promise: one day, Someone would be born of a woman who would do battle with the Serpent. This One would crush the Serpent’s head, although He would be injured in the process. God then slaughtered an animal and provided coverings of skin for the sinful couple before He drove them out of Eden (Genesis 3:15-19, 21).

The struggle between good and evil continued in the first couple’s family. One of their sons, Cain, murdered his brother, Abel, and was cursed for his deed. Another child was born to the first woman. His name was Seth (Genesis 4:8, 25).

Several generations later, the world was filled with wickedness. Violence and a disregard for God were rampant. God determined to destroy the wickedness of man and begin anew. A man named Noah, one of Seth’s descendants, was extended grace (God’s blessing on the undeserving). God revealed to Noah that He would send a great Flood to destroy the earth, and He gave Noah instructions on building an ark to survive the Flood. Noah built the ark, and when the time came, God caused animals of each kind to enter the ark. These animals, along with Noah and his family, were spared. The Flood destroyed every other living thing on the earth (Genesis 6–8).

After the Flood, Noah and his family began to repopulate the earth. When their descendants began building a monument to themselves in defiance of God, God confused their language. The inhabitants of the earth separated according to their language groups and spread out over the face of the earth (Genesis 11:1-8).

The time came for God to begin His plan to introduce the Serpent-crusher into the world. The first step was to create a people set apart from Himself. He chose a man named Abraham and his wife, Sarah, to begin a new race of people. God called Abraham away from his home and led him to the land of Canaan. God promised Abraham innumerable descendants who would possess Canaan as their own. God also promised to bless Abraham’s seed and, through that seed, to bless all the nations of the earth. The problem was that Abraham and Sarah were old, and Sarah was barren. But Abraham believed God’s promise, and God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousness (Genesis 12:1-4; 15:6).

In due time, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son, Isaac. God repeated His promise of many descendants and blessing to Isaac. Isaac had twins, Esau and Jacob. God chose Jacob to inherit the promised blessing and changed his name to Israel. Jacob/Israel had twelve sons, who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 21:1-6; 25:19-26; 28:10-15; 35:23-26).

Due to a severe famine, Jacob moved his entire family from Canaan to Egypt. Before he died, Jacob gave prophetic blessings to each of his sons. To Judah, he promised there would be a King among his descendants—One who would be honored by all the nations of the world. Jacob’s family increased in Egypt, and they remained there for the next 400 years. Then the king of Egypt, fearing that the children of Israel would become too numerous to handle, enslaved them. God raised up a prophet named Moses, from the tribe of Levi, to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt and back to the land which had been promised to Abraham (Genesis 46; 49; Exodus 1:8-14; 3:7-10).

The exodus from Egypt was accompanied by many great miracles, including the parting of the Red Sea. Once safely out of Egypt, the children of Israel camped at Mt. Sinai, where God gave Moses the Law. This Law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, was the basis of a covenant God made with Israel: if they kept His commandments, they would be blessed, but if they broke His commandments, they would suffer curses. Israel agreed to follow the Law of God (Exodus 7–11; 14:21-22; 19–20).

In addition to establishing a moral code, the Law defined the role of the priest and prescribed the offering of sacrifices to atone for sin. Atonement could only be made by the shedding of the blood of a spotless sacrifice. The Law also detailed how to build the holy tabernacle, or tent, in which God’s presence would dwell and where He would meet with His people (Leviticus 1; Exodus 25:8-9).

After receiving the Law, Moses led the Israelites to the border of the Promised Land. But the people, fearing Canaan’s warlike inhabitants and doubting God’s promises, refused to enter. As a punishment, God turned them back into the wilderness, where they were forced to wander for 40 years. In His grace, God miraculously provided food and water for the entire multitude (Numbers 14:1-4, 34-35; Exodus 16:35).

At the end of 40 years, Moses died. One of his last prophecies concerned the coming of another Prophet who would be like Moses and to whom the people must listen. Moses’ successor, Joshua, was used by God to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. They went with God’s promise that none of their enemies would be able to stand against them. God showed His power at Jericho, the first city they encountered, by causing the walls of the city to fall down flat. In His grace and mercy, God spared a believing harlot named Rahab from Jericho’s destruction (Deuteronomy 18:15; Joshua 6).

Over the next years, Joshua and the Israelites succeeded in driving out most of the Canaanites, and the land was divided among the twelve tribes. However, the conquest of the land was incomplete. Through a lack of faith and simple disobedience, they failed to finish the job, and pockets of Canaanites remained. These pagan influences had an effect on the Israelites, who began to adopt the worship of idols, in direct violation of God’s Law (Joshua 15:63; 16:10; 18:1).

After Joshua’s death, the Israelites experienced a tumultuous time. The nation would lapse into idolatry, and God would bring judgment in the form of enslavement to an enemy. The people of God would repent and call on the Lord for help. God would then raise up a judge to destroy the idols, rally the people, and defeat the enemy. Peace would last for a while, but, after the death of the judge, the people invariably fell back into idolatry, and the cycle would repeat (Judges 17:6).

The final judge was Samuel, who was also a prophet. During his time, Israel demanded a king to rule over them, in order to be like the other nations. God granted their request, and Samuel anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. Saul was a disappointment, however. He disobeyed God and was removed from power. God chose David, of the tribe of Judah, to succeed Saul as king. God promised David that he would have a descendant who would reign on the throne forever (1 Samuel 8:5; 15:1, 26; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

David’s son Solomon reigned in Jerusalem after David’s death. During the reign of Solomon’s son, civil war broke out, and the kingdom was divided: the northern kingdom was called Israel, and the southern kingdom was called Judah. The Davidic dynasty ruled in Judah (1 Kings 2:1; 12).

The kingdom of Israel had an unbroken series of wicked kings. None of them sought the Lord or attempted to lead the nation according to God’s Law. God sent prophets to warn them, including the miracle-working Elijah and Elisha, but the kings persisted in their wickedness. Finally, God brought the Assyrian nation upon Israel in judgment. The Assyrians deported most of the Israelites, and that was the end of the northern kingdom (1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 2; 17).

The kingdom of Judah had its share of wicked kings, but the chain was broken by an occasional godly king who truly loved the Lord and sought to govern according to the Law. God was faithful to His promise and blessed the people when they followed His commandments. The nation was preserved during the Assyrian invasion and endured many other threats. During this time, the prophet Isaiah preached against the sins of Judah and foresaw the Babylonian invasion. Isaiah also predicted the coming of the Servant of the Lord—He would suffer for the sins of His people and be glorified and sit on David’s throne. The prophet Micah predicted that the Promised One would be born in Bethlehem (Isaiah 37; 53:5; Micah 5:2).

Eventually, the nation of Judah also fell into gross idolatry. God brought the nation of Babylon against Judah in judgment. The prophet Jeremiah experienced the fall of Jerusalem and predicted that the Jewish captives in Babylon would return to the Promised Land after 70 years. Jeremiah also prophesied a future covenant in which the Law was not written on tablets of stone but in the hearts of God’s people. This new covenant would result in God’s forgiveness of sin (2 Kings 25:8-10; Jeremiah 29:10; 31:31-34).

The Babylon captivity lasted for 70 years. The prophets Daniel and Ezekiel ministered during that time. Daniel predicted the rise and fall of many nations. He also predicted the coming of the Messiah, or Chosen One, who would be killed for the sake of others (Daniel 2:36-45; 9:26).

After Babylon fell to the Persians, the Jews were released to return to Judah. Many Jews returned home to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Nehemiah and Ezra led those endeavors, with encouragement from the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. One of Zechariah’s prophecies included a description of a future King who would come into Jerusalem humbly, riding on a donkey (Nehemiah 6:15-16; Ezra 6:14-15; Zechariah 9:9).

Not all of the Jews returned to Judah, however. Many chose to stay in Persia, where God still watched over them. A Jewess named Esther rose to the rank of queen of Persia and was instrumental in saving the lives of all the Jews in the kingdom (Esther 8:1).

Malachi wrote the last book of the Old Testament. He prophesied that the Lord would come to His temple, but, before His arrival, another messenger would prepare the way for the Lord. This messenger would be like the prophet Elijah of old. After Malachi’s prophecy, it was another 400 years before God spoke directly to man (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).

The Old Testament is the story of God’s plan to bring about the redemption of man. At the close of the Old Testament, God has a unique Chosen People who understand the importance of blood sacrifices, who believe the promises made to Abraham and David, and who are awaiting a Redeemer. In short, they are ready to receive the Serpent-crusher of Genesis, the Prophet like Moses, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, the Son of David, the Messiah of Daniel, and the Humble King of Zechariah—all to be found in one person, Jesus Christ.

Author: Malachi 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Malachi as the Prophet Malachi.

Date of Writing: The Book of Malachi was written between 440 and 400 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Malachi is an oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi (1:1). This was God’s warning through Malachi to tell the people to turn back to God. As the final book of the Old Testament closes, the pronouncement of God’s justice and the promise of His restoration through the coming Messiah is ringing in the ears of the Israelites. Four hundred years of silence ensues, ending with a similar message from God’s next prophet, John the Baptist, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).

Key Verses: Malachi 1:6, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord Almighty. It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.”

Malachi 3:6-7, “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty.”

Brief Summary: Malachi wrote the words of the Lord to God’s chosen people who had gone astray, especially the priests who had turned from the Lord. Priests were not treating the sacrifices they were to make to God seriously. Animals with blemishes were being sacrificed even though the law demanded animals without defect (Deuteronomy 15:21). The men of Judah were dealing with the wives of their youth treacherously and wondering why God would not accept their sacrifices. Also, people were not tithing as they should have been (Leviticus 27:30, 32). But in spite of the people’s sin and turning away from God, Malachi reiterates God’s love for His people (Malachi 1:1-5) and His promises of a coming Messenger (Malachi 2:17–3:5).

Foreshadowings: Malachi 3:1-6 is a prophecy concerning John the Baptist. He was the Messenger of the Lord sent to prepare the way (Matthew 11:10) for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. John preached repentance and baptized in the name of the Lord, thus preparing the way for Jesus’ first advent. But the Messenger who comes “suddenly to the Temple” is Christ Himself in His second advent when He comes in power and might (Matthew 24). At that time, He will “purify the sons of Levi” (v. 3), meaning that those who exemplified the Mosaic Law would themselves need purification from sin through the blood of the Savior. Only then will they be able to offer “an offering in righteousness” because it will be the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Practical Application: God is not pleased when we do not obey His commands. He will repay those who disregard Him. As for God hating divorce (2:16), God takes the covenant of marriage seriously and He does not want it broken. We are to stay true to the spouse of our youth for a lifetime. God sees our hearts, so He knows what our intentions are; nothing can be hidden from Him. He will return and He will be the judge. But if we return to Him, He will return to us (Malachi 3:6).

Speaking of the nation of Israel, Deuteronomy 7:7-9 tells us, “The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.”

God chose the nation of Israel to be the people through whom Jesus Christ would be born—the Savior from sin and death (John 3:16). God first promised the Messiah after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin (Genesis chapter 3). God later confirmed that the Messiah would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:1-3). Jesus Christ is the ultimate reason why God chose Israel to be His special people. God did not need to have a chosen people, but He decided to do it that way. Jesus had to come from some nation of people, and God chose Israel.

However, God’s reason for choosing the nation of Israel was not solely for the purpose of producing the Messiah. God’s desire for Israel was that they would go and teach others about Him. Israel was to be a nation of priests, prophets, and missionaries to the world. God’s intent was for Israel to be a distinct people, a nation who pointed others towards God and His promised provision of a Redeemer, Messiah, and Savior. For the most part, Israel failed in this task. However, God’s ultimate purpose for Israel—that of bringing the Messiah into the world—was fulfilled perfectly in the Person of Jesus Christ.