Does the Bible Condemn Bad Handwriting?

There is this little Hebrew word that is only used three times in the Old Testament. The word is באר (ba-ar). It means to make something really, really plain. The first place this word is used in the Bible is in Deuteronomy 1:5 where Moses “explains” the Law. Literally, he makes the Law plain and clear to the people. Preachers should take note here that it is important we make God’s Word clear and understandable to those who listen but this doesn’t just apply to the spoken word. In Deuteronomy 27:8 Moses told the people to write the Law on some stones that they were to set up at Ebal. He told them to write “very clearly”. The thought here is not that they change the words of the Law to be more understandable but that they write them neatly so they are legible. Last, we have Habakkuk 2:2 where God told the prophet Habakkuk, ““Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” In other words, write it so largely and legibly that people can read it on the fly. As the herald runs around with the message there will be no mistaking what it says. Why is that important? It is important because God has a message for His people that He wants them to pay attention to.

Of course today, few of us hand write much of anything. We have nice fonts that are easy to read set against clean and clear backgrounds of the color of our choice…and you can make them as large or as small as you like with the click of a button. Legibility is not the issue today and no, the Bible is not really condemning poor handwriting at large. But what God does want from us is to be able to communicate His message to the world and to Christians in a way that is clear and easy to understand. In a single word the Gospel needs to be made accessible to whoever is willing to look or listen. It is important that we learn to communicate things well and really think about our words whether through the written word (writing books, blogging, facebook, twitter, email, texting) or through the spoken word (preaching, teaching, personal conversations).

The difficulty of  באר (ba-ar) is that making something clear and simple usually takes more time and is more difficult than making something complex. You have to work at it.

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New Lessons Posted on Deuteronomy, Daniel, And Missional Church By Mark Hamilton & David Wray

Thanks to Mark Hamilton for allowing me to post his lessons on Deuteronomy & Daniel. Mark is a professor of Old Testament and Associate Dean of their graduate Bible department at ACU. The material looks great.

Deuteronomy – Now Choose Life

Daniel – Keeping Faith in a Distant Land

Thanks also to David Wray for allowing me to upload his series on Missional Church (12 lessons, 61 pages) to the Bible Class Archive. The archive is now over 700 free lessons and over 2500 pages! Thanks to all who keep submitting lessons. It is much appreciated.

You can find more free Bible lessons on ACU’s website at this link.

Gospel of John 8:12-59 – Jesus Gets Testy

John 8:12-59 contains some of the best known lines in John but they aren’t said to a loving, accepting mob of fervent believers. They are spoken to a mostly obnoxious and rebellious group in Jerusalem. In 8:12 Jesus says he is the light of the world. One of the great “I am” statements and one of the better known verses in John. The response? The Pharisees challenge his words and question his acting as his own witness to the truth of his comments. In 8:31-32 we have the famous line, “then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The response? We have never been slaves to anyone! Most of them just aren’t getting it and Jesus is about to lay into them for it.

In John 8 Jesus is finally getting testy. For instance, in John 5:31-47 Jesus answers their apparent questions regarding his authority by appealing to multiple witnesses. According to the Law there had to be 2-3 witnesses for testimony to be considered valid (See Deut 19:15). If Jesus is the only one speaking for himself it doesn’t hold up in court. In John 5 Jesus freely admits that his testimony concerning himself cannot be considered valid (5:31) but that he has more witnesses who have testified concerning who he is: John the Baptist (5:33), Jesus’ miracles (5:36), God (5:37), the scriptures (5:39), and Moses (5:36). But now in John 8 Jesus says that he has two witnesses that make his case valid: himself and God. That seems to contradict his point in John 5. It seems to me that the first time around Jesus was willing to work with them to prove his point. He was patient and willing to lay out his case. But by John 8 he is ready for them to get it. By this point his testimony and words should speak for themselves and be heard as valid. If God himself spoke to them would God need 2-3 witnesses to confirm it as true? No. And neither does Jesus (the point he is making in John 8 – sent by God, obedient to God, etc). No more time to go back to the basics and lay out his case again. They should get it by now! His message should be producing its intended effect – faith.

Jesus doesn’t hold back in John 8. He says they are “from below” and “of this world” in 8:23, that they would die in their sins if they don’t believe in Jesus (8:24), that they are children of the devil for not loving and believing in him (8:44), and that they do not belong to God (8:47). None of these were popular expressions in their day! The crowd started eyeing the stones around them to see who would get dibs on the big pointy ones. Don’t you wonder why the Romans didn’t try to do a better job of keeping the temple area free from stoning usable stones?

What is crazy to me in the whole matter is by their actions they confirm exactly what Jesus said was in their heart. Jesus said they follow their father the devil who was a murderer and deceiver. They reject the claim and then try to stone Jesus for exposing the deceit that was in their hearts! In 8:12 Jesus told us he was the light of the world and starting with the woman caught in adultery, then her accusers, and last this crowd by the temple Jesus thoroughly exposes either life and light or death and darkness in the lives of those around him.

How do we respond when the truth about our lives is fully revealed? Do we embrace it or do we kick, scream and fight against it? Most of the crowd in John 8 were determined to hold Jesus at arms length and to reject him no matter how futile their efforts to prove him wrong were. You see it in the way they jumped from one thing to another. We are children of Abraham, no…children of God. Under Rome but not slaves to anyone…yadda, yadda, yadda. They tried to discredit him rather than listen to him – Aren’t you are a Samaritan and demon possessed (8:48)? As if they expected him to say, “Why yes I am.”?

The ultimate exposure of their hearts was seen in what their hearts told their hands to do – pick up rocks to keep from having to undergo the paradigm shift of Jesus as Lord. Do you ever guard your heart so tightly that you keep God out and make it impossible for him to effect any possible change to your thinking, actions, and attitudes? Or are you willing to embrace the truth even if it dings our pride, forces us to admit we were wrong, and humbles us to the point of total surrender? Hopefully it doesn’t take Jesus getting testy with us before we finally put our faith in him but if that’s what it takes he is certainly willing to bring it.

American Parallels with Deuteronomy 8

Read this and see if you think we as a nation or you as an individual fit in this text:

Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

19 If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.

I don’t think it is necessarily healthy to read yourself back into every text or think that this texts are talking directly about us. But I do think there are some interesting parallels. The one striking difference is that God has not called out America by name and established a covenant with us as a nation the way He had with them or made us any specific promises as a group. But I think the basic human tendencies that God saw as a threat to the well-being of a well provided for people are the same for us today.

[incredibly long sentence warning] – We fall into the same trap they did because it is human nature that once we get comfortable and satisfied and begin to make decisions on how to use what God has entrusted to us, somehow we get the misguided notion that all we have really does belong to us instead of recognizing that it all came from God and that someday all we possess will have someone else’s name on it.