Ronny H. Graham: Have we ever wanted to be a part of an entourage? According to the Random House Dictionary, an entourage is "a group of attendants or associates, as of a person of rank or importance. ...
Ronny Graham, focusing upon the topic of entourages (bands of people accompanying "the rich and famous") reminds us that many kings and would-be kings in the Bible, such as Adonijah and Absalom, used entourages as a means to telegraph their political prowess. The greatest entourage that will ever assemble will be the 144,000, described in Revelation 14:1-5 as the firstfruits who will be identified with a special seal, perhaps both figuratively and literally, on their foreheads, emphasizing the sophisticated thinking skills possessed by God's firstfruits, as well as their guilelessness and purity. As God's called-out firstfruits, we must guard God's name from being sullied by the world. The world has nothing to offer which is more important than being in this assembly. David will be in the entourage—will we?
Ronny Graham, reflecting on his experience in finding a new barber, observed the wide kaleidoscopic spectrum of color for women's hairdos, from pink to green to red, white, and blue, as well as long hair on men, dreadlocks, multi-varieties of beards, or shaving the head totally bald. To be well-groomed almost makes one stick out like a sore thumb. During the 1960's, the Hippie movement intended long hair to be the quintessential symbol for rebellion against society. The hippie rock musical Hair, ostensibly a political statement condemning the Viet Nam War, glorified rebellion against morality, displaying 'free love,' sexual 'freedom,' profanity, and drugs, ushering in the Age of Aquarius. Experimentation with hair has always been associated with rebellion in the world's cultures. David's son Absalom's rebellion seemed to be inextricably tied to his vanity over his long hair. Samson, having taken the Nazarite vow not to cut his hair, became a prime target for Israel's enemies who desired to know the secret of his strength. Shaving hair to the skin was considered a symbol of extreme humiliation. In Leviticus 19:27, men were advised not to shave the sides of their heads or shave the corners of their beards, mimicking the pagan Egyptian culture. When young hoodlums mocked the prophet Elisha, calling him "old baldy," they were mauled to death by bears. Paul instructs men that having long hair is a shame to them, even though they consider it a statement of self-expression. Paul also instructs women that obsessing about hair could indicate excessive worldly mindedness. God expects both men and women to exercise modesty and common sense in their tonsorial management.
Richard Ritenbaugh reminds us that the two principle themes of Book One of the Psalms are the Torah, or the instruction of God, and the Messiah, or God's Anointed, set apart for a particular purpose—His Son whom He has sent to rule and judge the world. The Messiah is the perfect model of all that instruction. We need to absorb God's instruction and develop a personal relationship with the Son, understanding His character and personality. We have to know the word of God—His instruction—and the Word of God—Jesus Christ. Part of Psalm 19 is a precursor to Psalm 119, honoring the Law, while the opening portion focuses on the creative power of the Son. The creation, as we witness with the naked eye, shows design, order, and precision, enabling mankind to calculate years, seasons, and times, allowing us an insight into the mind of Almighty God. The Creator is infinitely greater than the whole galaxy and the whole universe. Man foolishly worships things that God created, but ignores the Creator. The Law of the Lord has been given to us personally by Yahweh (Jesus Christ), to guard us against making mistakes and presumptuous sins. The words He gives us in His written Word makes the creation more real. Jesus Christ cleanses us by the washing of water by the Word. The third prominent theme in Book One of the Psalms is trust and faith in God. We must live by faith, especially now when harassment and hatred is leveled at Christianity. David, in the midst of Absalom's rebellion, expressed confidence that God still heard him in the midst of what appears to be temporary disaster. David knew that God was his shield and would ultimately deliver the victory to him. Psalm 37 is an instructive psalm, counseling us not to be agitated or unduly concerned about the wicked, reminding us that God will cut off the wicked and will give us salvation. Nothing good will ever come of envious, burning wrath. If we trust in the Lord, doing something positive, He will give us the desires of our heart.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on his changing attitudes toward conspiracy theories, investigates the establishment of the Federal Reserve System, a nefarious institution bent on legal thievery. The break-up of the Worldwide Church of God was but a faint preview of what will happen to the United States. The Bible has recorded a number of events in which conspiracies within families hopelessly fractured long-established dynasties. Satan successfully conspired to draw one-third of the angels into fighting against God. This same ruler of the world still motivates sinister conspiracies working in our very midst right before our eyes.
Richard Ritenbaugh, continuing his exposition of the parallels between the divisions of the books of the Psalms with the Torah, Megilloth, and seasons, focuses again on Book II of the Psalms (written largely by David and showing how he reacts to some gruesome trials by surrendering to God's redemption). He points out that some of the emergent themes in this work consist of redemption and deliverance (paralleled by the book of Ruth with Boaz as a Christ figure, as well as the great grandfather and Ruth as the great grandmother of David and a progenitor of our Savior Jesus. The Psalms David wrote in this section describe his humbling experience caused by his own sin (Psalm 51), betrayal by Doeg the Edomite (Psalm 52), feigning madness to escape from the Gathites (Psalm 56), hiding from Saul (Psalm 57) metaphorized as escaping from lions (Psalm 58), the betrayal by Ahitophel , and the helpless feeling experienced by a tired and spent senior citizen (Psalm 71). His experiences, as well as our experiences in our symbolic 50-day walk through our spiritual journey to sanctification, is symbolized by the Israelites' baking of two loafs to be offered to God on Pentecost. This journey to sanctification is the focus of Book II of the Psalms, the Books of Exodus and Ruth, as well as the Feast of Weeks.
Living by faith is not easy in this world—not by any stretch of the imagination. Among the spiritual realities that a faithful Christian must understand is God's sense of justice. John Ritenbaugh uses the instantaneous deaths of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, to illustrate the differences between His sometimes swift and terrifying—but perfect—justice and our own imperfect judgments.
Of all of the Ten Commandments, the seventh, "You shall not commit adultery," most clearly covers the subject of faithfulness. The prophet Amos exposes Israel as a people who have a particular problem with this sin and with faithfulness in general. John Ritenbaugh reveals how unfaithfulness in marriage and other areas of life devastates family and society.
John Ritenbaugh profiles the narcissistic personality, characterized by a highly self-absorbed and manipulative individual who, on one hand, has abused his God-given gifts and, on the other hand, neglected the responsibility of using them properly. Probably the biblical character best exemplifying the narcissistic personality is David's son, Absalom, clearly a spoiled son in a dysfunctional family. David was not noted for his childrearing skills, rarely calling any of his children into account for their behavior, but pampered them and indulged their multiple transgressions. Moreover, in both David's and Jacob's polygamous marital situations (tolerated but not condoned by God), fairness would have been next to impossible. Absalom developed a highly deceitful charm, able to "sweet-talk a bird out of a tree" with his disarming verbal eloquence, learning to be a controller par excellent. Using his scheming manipulative skills, he stealthily (taking the law in his own hands) arranged the murder of his older brother, a competitive contender for the throne. Absalom, using his manipulative charm and unctuous verbal skills, won the hearts of the common people, undercutting his father's honor and authority. For his vanity, his self-aggrandizement, and super-inflated ego, he became a "pin cushion" at the order of Joab. Absalom used his gifts and talents only for himself. With Absalom's negative example in mind, we need to make sure we do not use our spiritual gifts for self-service or self-aggrandizement, or worse yet, not to use them at all. Our children are gifts from God; we as parents must pass on to our children the sense of responsibility that has been given to us. We have to make ourselves answerable and responsible for their behavior, disciplining them for their carelessness and reinforcing their thoughtfulness. If Absalom would have been reared with these principles, much of David's bitterness and heartache would have been alleviated.
John Ritenbaugh insists that a Christian's perspective or point of reference should always be from God's point of view, as determined by the pages of the Bible. Our human heart, looking and evaluating on the outward appearance, perpetually drawn to the world, must be replaced with the motivation from God's Holy Spirit- cleaning up character and removing defilement from within. How we dress and how we act on the outside is determined by what is in our heart. God desires that we dress, behave, and act according to His upgraded standards. Both clothing and hair length have been perennial flashpoints, signaling and reflecting areas of rebellion, defiled attitudes, and spiritual health providing a reliable barometer of a person's character, as in the cases of Absalom and Nebuchadnezzar. Casualness or carelessness in matters of hair length show rebelliousness in acceptance of covenant prescribed governmental or gender roles.
John Ritenbaugh points out 700 references to the act of eating, all providing contexts or vehicles of serious spiritual instruction. Banquets invariably provide springboards for instruction, from Abraham's entertaining of angels, to Joseph's banquet for his brothers, to Esther's banquet for Haman to Belshazzar's feast featuring the handwriting on the wall to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Banquets- eating or refraining from eating- not only display God's faithful provisions and human righteousness, but eating (or refraining from eating) displays tests of a person's morality such as Adam and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit, the sign of keeping the covenant (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14) and Christ's refusal to be tempted by food (Matthew 4). Eating reminds us that God's provision and human need also apply on a spiritual level.
John Ritenbaugh addresses the controversial topics of conspiracy theories, Sovereign Citizenship and the New World Order. These, for too many, burn up countless hours of precious time in vain speculation and useless anxiety. The drive toward one world government is a transparent reality having several biblical prototypes (Genesis 10:8-13; Daniel 2:36-44), all inspired by demonic opposition to God's rule. There is nothing new in this game-plan; conspiracy seems to be a part of our human nature. Satan, manipulating self-interest and pride in various groups and individuals, will only be able to hold his inharmonious confederation together for a short while. If our fear is not in God, this conspiracy will distract, immobilize, and paradoxically tempt us to compromise with it. Our fear ought to be in God who has sovereignty and the final say over all things (Isaiah 8:11-13).
For the past 40 years sexual sins have topped the list of social issues in America. Divorce is at an all-time high. John Ritenbaugh examines the seventh commandment, the penalties paid for breaking it and how to become faithful to God in the keeping of it.
Parents are responsible to instill in their children a deep, abiding sense of responsibility toward God, prepare them for life, and fashion them as responsible citizens in God's government. As parents, we need to analyze and learn the right principles of government as they apply to management; this is the chemistry of government. In governing the family (childrearing), understanding the simple makes the complex more achievable. Three elements - expectation of reward, fear of disadvantage, and charisma - constitute the chemistry of government and childrearing. In the right proportions, positive governmental and childrearing results can be produced, but in the wrong proportions, the results can be explosive and deadly. Parents must learn to combine these elements artfully to prepare their children for a productive role in God's Kingdom.
John Ritenbaugh takes issue with a misguided teacher in the W.C.G. who claimed that fleeing is nothing more than a "cop-out," using Psalm 91 as his proof-text. Many biblical examples, including Jesus, David, and Jacob all fled for their lives in a prudent common sense move(proving that discretion is often the best part of valor.) On the other hand, Noah, Lot, and Enoch received forcible nudges from God. Scriptural hints seem to indicate a literal location (Revelation 12:13, Isaiah 42:11, Isaiah 16:3-4) for a refuge protecting a remnant of the church. God wants us to use both faith and common sense, recognizing that God's purpose may run counter to what we may think is best for us.
John Ritenbaugh reveals that modern Israel's national sins consist of fraud, deceit and faithlessness- reflected in sexual immorality and idolatry (spiritual adultery or spiritual harlotry). Modern Israel has proved to be faithless in her covenant with Almighty God, boldly, shamelessly, and lustfully pursuing her lovers, showing fickleness toward God's standards of morality, turning instead to a syncretistic mixture of rank paganism with a thin veneer of God's truth. Israel, whose loyalty is unstable like quicksilver, has trouble being faithful to anything; this disgusting unreliable behavior—emanating from Satan's nature—seems to be in the genes. It is absolutely impossible for lust (or perverted taste based upon lust) to bring about any kind of satisfaction. Adultery cannot be entered into without irrevocably damaging relationships.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that since a nation is, for the most part, a family grown large, respect for the fifth commandment constitutes the basis for all good government. The family provides the venue for someone to learn to be hospitable and to make sacrifices for one another, learning the rudiments of community relations. For the child, parents stand in the place of God in the family structure, as the child's creator, provider, and teacher. Successful parenting involves sacrifice and intense work. The quality of a child's relationship with his parent (as well as the quality of parenting) determines his relationship to the community as well as to God. Compliance to the fifth commandment brings about the built-in, promised blessing of a long quality life. Our obligation to honor and to take responsibility for the care for our parents (as well as those more elderly than we are) never ends.
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