Understanding the Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon
I do not claim to have all the answers, but I do know where to get the information I don’t have personally. Someone recently asked about why the book Song of Solomon is in the Bible. I have quoted Song of Solomon 1:5-6 where a lover tells her lover in a poem to love her not because she is black, but because of who she is. This passage shows the stupidity of racial prejudice, but that is clearly not the purpose of the book. To understand this book I researched the work of Yakov Rosenberg who is at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies. Here is his response:

The Most Peculiar Book of the Bible- The Song of Solomon is an unusual biblical book. At first glance, it seems to be nothing more than a sensual love poem describing the passion between two young lovers. But upon closer examination, it becomes clear that this is a carefully crafted religious allegory. For Jews, the male and female lovers symbolize God and his people, Israel. For Christians, they symbolize Christ and his bride, the Church. How can we access this veiled meaning?

The Authentic Love in Hebrew- The best way to unlock the Song of Solomon’s concealed allegory is to appreciate the beautiful poetry in its original language. Take for example the verse “your lips distill nectar, my bride” (4:11). In English, this does not make much sense. But in the original Hebrew, the words נֹפֶת תִּטֹּפְנָה שִׂפְתוֹתַיִךְ nofet titofnah siftotayih are a wonderful example of onomatopoeia. Listen to the repeated letters P and T. Can you hear the sound of dripping honey? It embodies the sweet Torah, which God gave Israel.”

Students of literature will understand Rosenberg’s explanation of Song of Solomon better than I, but even this physical scientist can understand that many biblical passages need honest study and broad educational experience to understand them completely.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Church of Scientology: A Dangerous Cult

Church of Scientology: A Dangerous Cult
Actress Leah Remini was a member of the Church of Scientology since the age of nine. She left the cult in 2013 and has actively campaigned against it since then.

Remini wrote an article in the November 27, 2017, issue of Us Weekly (page 48). She told of her many years as a follower of Scientology and how mind control and extreme coercion were a part of her experience. She has gone on a mission to make people aware of the dangers of this organization through books and documentaries and a TV series on the A&E network.

The Church of Scientology, founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, has some big Hollywood names associated with it. Scientology claims to be scientifically supported and that a human is an immortal, spiritual being called a thetan. Before coming to Earth and taking up residence in human physical bodies, thetans lived in extraterrestrial cultures. Thetans supposedly have had innumerable past lives that can be sighted by a process called auditing. The human spirit according to Scientology is the creator of all things. Scientology teaches that people have innate, suppressed power and ability which they can reclaim if cleared of enforced and unwanted behavior patterns and discomforts.

The Church of Scientology requires that all members sign a legal document waiver before engaging in Scientology services. Remini’s article gives some personal insights into the control and deception that she discovered in her many years in the organization.

The difference between a cult like Scientology and biblical Christianity can be seen in what people are required to do. In Christianity, people can read the teachings of Christ for themselves and decide either to accept it and live by it or to reject it. They can change their minds at any time. In a cult like Scientology, one person tells you what to do, and the cost of trying to leave the cult is huge.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Science Standards Battle

Science Standards
During September and October of 2017, the New Mexico Public Education Department was embroiled in a battle over what was called The Next Generation Science Standards. Those standards were edited by the department to weaken the treatment of evolution, climate change, and the age of the Earth. There was a major outcry led by the National Center for Science Education against the attempts to weaken the standards.

This battle over science standards continues in state after state, with religious groups and creationist organizations trying to stop the teaching of these concepts. The battle is unnecessary, and the attempts to stop the teaching of these subjects is misguided. The opposition is often based on denominational beliefs that are not biblical, and a poor understanding of science. Taking the three subjects that were the focus in New Mexico:

Evolution: The subjects being taught are factual change in living things which is the basis of agriculture and animal husbandry. The Bible speaks about these things in the story of Jacob and Laban in Genesis 30. There is little if any emphasis on theories about human history in the standards, and atheistic concepts are not in the textbooks.
Climate Change: The climate of planet Earth is changing, and it has changed in the past. Much of the area where Jesus walked and taught is different climatically today than it was in His day. Global warming has happened in the past, and all evidence shows us it continues to happen. The Bible makes no statements about climate change. The fact that humans have caused much suffering by our mismanagement of what God has given us is not contestable. This certainly includes the wastes that we put in our waters and our atmosphere.
Age of the Earth: There are major Protestant denominations that have a doctrinal position called dispensationalism. This doctrine teaches that the planet has seven dispensations that are each roughly 1000 years. The doctrine is that Jesus will come to Earth to war with Satan, and establish a political kingdom in Jerusalem on David’s throne for 1000 years. This denominational teaching does not take the Bible literally and contradicts what Jesus said His kingdom was about. (See John 18:36.) For a review of this teaching see “Destructive Dispensationalism” in our journal for November/December 2008, page 11.

We bring reproach to Jesus and the Bible when we oppose things that are clearly factual in educational science standards. There is no battle between science and the Bible. Human creeds and misunderstandings contradict facts and are eroding the faith of many of our young people. We need to follow 1 Peter 3:15 by understanding what the Bible teaches. We also must avoid false science and atheistic traditions.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Great Pyramid of Giza Hides Secrets

Great Pyramid of Giza
Egyptians constructed the Great Pyramid of Giza around 4500 years ago. Ever since then people have admired it, and in recent generations, they have speculated about its construction. Some have maintained that aliens built it because of the complexities of its structure and its relationship to the Sun, Moon, and other planets.

The main interior section of the pyramid is called the “grand gallery.” It is a sloping corridor in the heart of the pyramid linking the burial chambers of the king and queen. Egyptologists have established many facts about the ruler who built the pyramid, and there is now very little question about how they constructed it and how it fits into the religious views of the ancient Egyptian culture.

As scientific tools become more refined, we discover new information about the pyramid. Recently muon radiography has allowed scientists to investigate areas within the pyramid that they were not able to explore. What they found was a room above the grand gallery that is 98 feet (29.3 m) long and 26 feet (7.9 m) high. Scientists don’t know why the room is there and what, if anything, might be stored in it. Unfortunately, they cannot get access to the room without damaging the structure of the pyramid. What it does show is that the engineering and architecture of the Great Pyramid of Giza are even more amazing than we had understood in the past.

We tend to think that our technology and engineering skills are solely a product of our recent evolution. We overlook the fact that ancient people had the same intellectual capacity that we have today. We stand on their shoulders and have the blessing of the foundations they gave us to advance our technology. That does not mean that we are superior in any way.

We must remember God’s comment in Genesis 11:6 that humans have “nothing that will be restrained from them.” God stopped the construction of the “Tower of Babel” by problems in communication when He confounded their language. Language is still a limitation today, but one that we can largely overcome. What we need is unity in purpose and a guide as to how to treat one another. That is the missing part that the teachings of Christ can provide.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Holiday Season and the Black Friday Kickoff

Holiday Season Black Friday
We are at the beginning of the so-called Holiday Season which is supposed to be a time of religious significance, good will, love for others, and gift giving. The chances are that you have had some kind of reaction to “Black Friday.” In 1952 Black Friday was the name given to the day after Thanksgiving because it was the day when shopkeepers balance sheets turned black (positive) from red (loss) for the year.

What began as a commentary on business profits and margins has become a time of greed and in a few cases, even violence. In 2008 a crowd of shoppers at a Walmart in Valley Stream, New York, broke down the door to the store and trampled a 34-year-old employee to death. On the same day, two people were shot to death in an altercation over a toy in Palm Desert, California. In 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin, police arrested a woman who threatened to shoot other shoppers who objected to her cutting in line. In 2011 a woman at a Walmart at Porter Ranch, California, used pepper spray on fellow shoppers to get to the front of a line to buy a discounted Xbox. The list of abuse and violence on Black Friday is long and tragic.

Some of us can remember a time when gifts at Christmas were hand-made or involved food. Thanksgiving was a religious day recognizing how blessed we are individually and as a country. Christmas was a time of Christian celebration in song and art. Our emphasis on things has pushed us to compete for whatever is the current toy of the year. Television ads show us how important it is for us to give our mate or child a new car or an expensive piece of jewelry. For many people paying for holiday gifts goes on for months or even years,

Christians should reflect on the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-33, “Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat or drink or even for your body and what clothes you shall put on. Is not life more than meat and your body more than your clothes? Look at the birds of the air, for they do not sow and they do not reap or gather into barns. Still, your Father feeds them. Aren’t you much better than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to your height? Why do you worry about clothing? Take a look at the lilies of the field, how they grow, and they don’t work at it… And yet even Solomon in all of his splendor was not arrayed like one of these… So take no thought saying what shall I eat or drink or what shall I wear. Your Father knows you have need of these things, but you should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be added to you.”

Don’t allow atheistic materialism to rob you of the great joys that come from times of thankfulness, helping others, and spending time with the Lord in thankfulness and joy at the opportunity you have to be a Christian and to bring blessings to others. Let’s make this holiday season a holy season.
–John N. Clayton

Reincarnation and Christianity

Reincarnation and Christianity
Webster’s Dictionary defines reincarnation as “A fresh embodiment, a rebirth in new bodies, or forms of life, the rebirth of a soul in a new body.” Various versions of Hinduism and Buddhism advocate reincarnation in a variety of different forms. There is no justification for bringing reincarnation into the belief system of Christianity, and there is nothing in the Bible that suggests in any way that reincarnation takes place.

There are those who teach that Enoch was reincarnated based on the fact that Hebrews 11:5 says that he was “translated that he should not see death.” This is a reference to Genesis 5:24 which says, “…Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him.” These passages do not say that Enoch lived in a physical form on Earth all over again. He simply didn’t die as we do.

Some people hold up Elijah as an example of reincarnation. In Malachi 4:5 God told Israel, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” At the transfiguration when the disciples saw Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah, they remembered the prophecy of Malachi and they asked Jesus about it. Jesus responded, “’…Elijah has already come, and they did not know him but did whatever they wanted. Even so, shall the Son of man suffer because of them.’ Then the disciples understood that he was talking about John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:12-13). John the Baptist had that same Spirit as Elijah, but John was his own person, not Elijah living in a new body.

We seem to confuse the words resurrection and reincarnation. The Bible clearly teaches that we will all be resurrected (John 5:28-29). But 1 Corinthians 15:44 makes it clear that the resurrected body is new, but it is us–not a resurrected body of someone else. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that “…it is appointed to men to die once, and after that comes the judgment.” Reincarnation would suggest more than one death. If the version of reincarnation one holds to is that the reincarnated body is that of an animal, then the whole message of heaven is lost.

I am thankful reincarnation is not true. It would not be encouraging to believe that the best I can hope for after I die is to return to this same contaminated, evil-saturated Earth and live again with all the pain and loss I had to endure the first time around.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

What Is Your Sanctuary?

Sanctuary
Where do you go to get away from the problems and pressures of life? Don’t say that you don’t have a sanctuary because we all do. It may be a “man cave,” or a place in the woods, or the bathroom, but there is some place where we escape. The problem is that the physical place we go to doesn’t get us away from the things we want to escape. Many people turn to a chemical solution to find our sanctuary. It may be alcohol, or pot, or a prescription drug. The problem with those escapes is that they can become what we need to escape from.

In the Old Testament, two different Hebrew words were used to identify the sanctuary. One was “miqdash” which means “a place set apart” where God was accessible to the people. The other was “qodesh” which referred to a place of physical separation. Both of these uses referred to a physical structure. It was a consecrated holy place–first the tabernacle and later the temple.

The Israelites identified the sanctuary as the “house of God.” (See Judges 20:18; 2 Chronicles 5:1; Ezra 7:20; and Nehemiah 6:10.) The limitations of a physical sanctuary are obvious. You can’t always be where the sanctuary is! I have a place in Hyalite Canyon in Montana where I love to go to when I need to get away, but it’s a long way from Michigan to Montana.

In the New Testament the “house of God” is “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Peter writes, “You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). First Corinthians 3:16 tells us that we “are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in (us).”

The church is not a building where we can go as a sanctuary. Second Corinthians 6:16 says that we, the church, “are the temple of the living God, even as God has said, ‘I will dwell IN them and walk IN them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.’” Notice that God is IN us!!! God’s Spirit can take that which presses on us and change us so we can bear it. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God makes that promise to us!!

We can be in our sanctuary any time and any place we choose. Frequently I will get in my boat and float down the river that flows behind my house where I can talk to God and watch the wildlife around me and feel removed for a while from the current problem. I can also go to that place in Hyalite Canyon beside the waterfall and be in my sanctuary. I can be in my sanctuary wherever I am because I am not limited by time or place. In God’s wisdom He has given us a way of escape that works.

I return to my original question. What is your sanctuary? Don’t rely on buildings or temples or chemicals or anything physical. “But you are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Thankfulness and Being Human

Thankfulness
We had just left a sandwich shop where we ate lunch. A woman with a smile on her face came up to our car window holding a sandwich. I rolled down the window to see what she wanted. She said, “Are you the ones who paid for my sandwich?” She said the employee in the store told her that a person ahead of her had paid, so she didn’t owe anything. I told her that I was glad for her, but we were not the ones who had done this generous act. As she went away, it was obvious that the small kindness had made her day, but she was disappointed that she didn’t get to express her thankfulness to her benefactor.

We have many people to thank, such as soldiers, police, firefighters, and teachers; but most of all our thankfulness should be directed toward God. There is something about humans that makes us want to express our gratitude. It’s part of what makes us different from the animals. Our pets are loyal to us because we feed them, and they get excited when they see us open the food container. But only humans are motivated to express true gratitude. The Psalms often express thankfulness to God for the things He has done. Reformer Martin Luther called thankfulness “the basic Christian attitude.” G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.”

We often show thankfulness toward each other, but our greatest debt of gratitude is to God. One evidence of God’s existence is that not only does He give us many good things, but He also has given us the desire and ability to say, “Thank you.” In Romans 1:21 the apostle Paul wrote about godless people, “…they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Thank you for reading our daily posts. We hope that you will express your thanks to God who has given us all good things.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Respectable Bird– Confusing Name

Respectable Bird
Benjamin Franklin called this animal a respectable bird. They are large birds native to North America where they’re called “turkeys.” The origin of that name is disputed, but it apparently has a connection with the country of Turkey.

Turkeys were brought to England from America, on merchant ships from the Middle East area of Turkey. After being domesticated in England, turkeys spread throughout the British Empire, including India. From India, they were taken to various other countries where they were known as “a bird from India.” For that reason, the name for turkeys in several languages is connected to India. In the country of Turkey, turkeys are called “Hindi” which means “India” in Turkish. To make things even more confusing, in Portuguese a turkey is called a “peru” which is apparently derived from the name of the country of Peru. To further compound the confusion, there are several other birds in other countries that have “turkey” names but are not related to the American turkey.

Native Americans first used turkeys for their feathers in about 800 BC. It was almost 2,000 years later before they used turkeys for meat. In the United States, turkeys are a popular food on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.

The founders of the United States chose the bald eagle as a national symbol. Benjamin Franklin was famously critical of that. He called the eagle “a bird of bad moral character” and wrote that “the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.” With respect for Mr. Franklin, the truth is that the only creature God created that has “moral character,” whether good or bad, is the human creature. All other creatures do what God created them to do. Humans often choose to do otherwise.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Animals Farming and How to Define Humans

Animals Farming
When I was in high school in the 1950s, a human was defined in terms of making tools and cultivating food. The idea that tool use is unique to humans has been disproven many times. Birds, apes, and some fish have all been shown to use tools. We even have examples of animals farming.

In 1967 studies were released showing that Attine ants were gathering fungi into groupings, and then using the fungi as their sole food source. Recent studies have verified that Attine ants get the amino acid arginine from the fungus that they grow in plots. The ants provide the moisture the fungus must have, and the fungus provides the arginine the ants need. This symbiotic relationship is one of many in the natural world that show a critical balance in the processes and workers that allows complex life to exist on Earth.

The definition of what is “human” from a scientific standpoint is very difficult, because complex chemical relationships exist in both the plant and animal kingdoms. These processes can duplicate what is considered to be unique to humans. Things like brain size also cannot be used because of the huge variations that exist among all living things.

Since we have observed animals farming, we know that even that is not a human peculiarity. In recent months scientists have found human remains with brain sizes smaller than what is usually ascribed to humans. So how do we define humans? Humans were created in the image of God, and that definition is the only one that really works. You can see it by observing a human’s ability to create art and music, to worship God, to feel guilt and sympathy, and to be able to learn to think and reason.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: Science News, November 11, 2017 page 4.