Christian Natural Health

Christian Natural Health is the podcast that teaches you about natural health from a biblical perspective. I'm Dr. Lauren Deville, a practicing naturopathic physician in Tucson, AZ. In this podcast, my guests and I will cover topics ranging from nutrition, sleep, hormone balancing and exercise, to specific health concerns like hair loss, anxiety, and hypothyroidism. Once a week, I'll include a bonus episode, meditating on a Bible verse or passage. I'll also interweave biblical principles as they apply throughout the podcast--because true health is body, mind, and spirit. Learn more about me at
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Oct 15, 2021

Justin Frandson is an Athleticism Performance Coach that has worked with amateur and professional athletes for over the past two decades. He saw his athlete breaking down from the excessive levels of EMF from their SMART watches, wireless earbuds, and electric cars. He has tested hundreds of homes and clients. He sells the Grounding and Faraday Bags at doctor  clinics throughout the country. The Grounding Bags are hand-mined crystals with moisture and magnetic properties to ground and repel EMF, all for a deeper night's sleep. This is Mother Nature's way of protecting us from the excess rollout of man-made radiation, not a man-made device attempting to keep up with the other man-made levels.

To learn more about Justin, see or 

Oct 8, 2021
Today's podcast is a meditation and retelling of 1 Samuel 8-10.
How disappointing for God. He had chosen this nation, and had a special relationship with them, promising nothing but blessings galore (Deuteronomy 28), if only they would obey Him. He always intended to lead them personally, through one judge as His liaison. He knew they wouldn’t be faithful to Him, but I doubt that made it any less heartbreaking when time and time again, the people abandoned Him and worshipped false gods. He was covenant-bound to withdraw from them when this happened, leaving them open to the enemy to steal, kill, and destroy. When they’d had enough finally, the people would cry out and God would send the deliverer who was to be their next judge—whoever was the best option He had at the time.
Samuel had been one of the good judges, and perhaps it wouldn’t have ended as it did if his sons had been like him. It is strange that Samuel thought his sons would succeed him though, since God’s judges were never meant to be a dynasty. Presumably Samuel also knew of his son’s shortcomings. 
It’s very clear in this story that God didn’t think a king was a good idea, and took it as a personal rejection (Hosea 13:11). Yet He granted what the people wanted anyway. It’s interesting how often in Old Testament stories God gives the people what they demand, even though He knows it isn’t for the best. God chose to make creatures with free will, and because of it, God rarely gets His first choice. I’m thinking of the story of Balaam: God told him not to go with Balak’s messengers the first two times he asked. Balaam should have left it at that, instead of pressing God to give in! But, Balaam wanted financial gain, just as the Israelites wanted to govern themselves rather than having to rely on God. Moses also permitted divorce, even though Jesus said that wasn’t God’s first choice either (Matthew 19:8). God gave the people what they asked for, consequences and all.
At the same time, I have to wonder whether the Israelites’ desire for a king was somehow premature. Saul reigned for forty years, Acts 13:21, and David began to rule when he was thirty years old, just after Saul’s death, 2 Samuel 5:4. That means David wasn’t even born until the tenth year of Saul’s reign, though God began to look for a “man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) in the second year of Saul’s reign. Saul’s beginning was certainly less than illustrious, and we can see seeds of the cause of his downfall, insecurity and fear of man, from the very beginning. It almost seems like Saul was just a placeholder, until David was old enough to be anointed and trained up in the “school of hard knocks,” as it were, to become ready for the throne. 
That said, it’s interesting how God used natural circumstances (Saul’s father lost his donkeys and had sent him and a servant to look for them) to bring Saul and Samuel together. Samuel’s prophetic insight to set aside the best cut of meat, expecting Saul to show up the next day, surely primed Saul to accept Samuel’s proclamation that he would become king. God knew that a man like Saul wouldn’t just believe such a word; he would need to be convinced. Then Samuel gave him a number of other confirmatory events to look for in the subsequent seven days, so that he would be ready for the big “reveal” of the man God had anointed a week later. Unfortunately, Samuel’s presentation fell flat when their new king was literally hiding among the baggage. Presumably his absurd behavior was why some of the men of Israel despised him. Shortly after this, God used an attack from their enemies as a means to galvanize Israel to fight under Saul’s leadership (1 Samuel 11). Thus Saul redeemed himself, earning a new and better coronation. 
Yet only a year later, in the second year of Saul’s reign, Saul disobeyed God for the first time, causing God to proclaim through Samuel that God would take the kingdom away from Saul and give it to a “man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). A decade or so later, after Saul again disobeyed, God formally rejected Saul as king. Saul’s response to this was interesting: he asked Samuel to at least continue to honor him before the people (1 Samuel 15:30), indicating what really mattered to him. He wanted the honor and respect of men, not God (Proverbs 29:25). This was exactly why God chose David instead. 
Fictionalized Retelling
I couldn’t help wondering, in the quiet of night, whether it was all my fault. 
The Lord had never told me that the position of judge should be hereditary, nor had it ever been so in Israel’s history. Yet I’d had it in my mind since my sons were born that as soon as they were old enough, they could share my load. I suppose I had this idea because Eli had practically raised me, and the priesthood was hereditary. 
Eli’s sons had turned out poorly too, though. I don’t know why I thought that would be a good model to follow. 
Yes, I did know. I had wanted to believe it. 
I wanted the latter part of my life to be easier than the first part had been, but I also had a romanticized ideal of sharing what mattered most to me with Joel and Abijah. I was so focused on this goal that I failed to see—I refused to see—the men my sons had become, just as Eli had done. The elders of Israel all assembled before me one day and shouted their accusations from all directions. 
“Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps!” one called.
Old? I winced inwardly. I was barely sixty—but I was certainly tired, after forty-eight years of ministry. I felt old. 
“They cheat us!” another of the elders cried. “They’ll rule in favor of whoever bribes them the most!”
These words struck me like a blow. I’d seen this tendency in my sons from their youths. I didn’t think either of them had ever heard from the Lord. Secretly I had worried that they did not truly fear Him, but I’d hidden those fears even from myself. Now, here was the proof.
“Appoint a king to rule us, just like every other nation!” 
I cannot vouch for my expression when I heard this demand. I was not a man given to tears, but after all I had done for them—after devoting forty-eight years to judging these people, delivering them from the Philistines and bringing them back to true worship of the Lord, they had rejected me. Their words felt like a personal betrayal.
“I will bring your request before the Lord,” was all I could manage before I retreated from them, slamming the door to my home in their faces. 
I’d continued in prayer from then until now, on my knees in the temple before the Lord. It was now past midnight, but the Lord never spoke according to my timeline. 
“Go ahead and do what they’re asking,” came the Lord’s whisper at last. “They are not rejecting you. They are rejecting Me as their King.” 
I swallowed, somehow both saddened and soothed to hear that the Lord felt exactly as I did. 
“From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving Me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you.”
I nodded. “I know they have, Lord,” I murmured, “they are a stubborn people. I don’t know what they think a king is going to do for them that a judge won’t do.” But as soon as I’d said this, I realized I did know. The judge acted in the position of Moses, constantly returning for the Lord’s direction before every decision, both militarily and in government. The king would not be in such communion. He would do as he thought best, without need to consult the Lord. He would be dependent upon human wisdom, though—and because of this, he would probably be even more prone to corruption than my sons were. 
“Let them have their own way,” the Lord said. “But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them what they’re likely to get from a king.” I knew enough of how kings of neighboring nations behaved to be able to guess what He meant, but He gave me a vision of it anyway. 
When the Lord’s vision finished, I rose, feeling desolate. I wasn’t entirely sure if I was now sharing in the Lord’s own heartbreak, or because my own vision for the latter part of my life had been destroyed, or because I had been forced to confront my sons’ corruption. I splashed water on my face and went to my own home, walking the dark, empty streets illuminated only by moonlight. I always imagined that the Lord Himself walked beside me on these moonlit strolls. Tonight, I needed the company. 
The next morning I sent for Joel and Abijah. I told them first what the people had said, so that they could get their own initial outrage out of the way before they encountered the news publicly. It went precisely as I had imagined it would. Joel sulked and turned stony and silent. Abijah threw a fit, shouting, throwing, and breaking things. 
“What are we supposed to do now, then?” he demanded. “You raised us to be Israel’s judges!” 
“That was my own fault,” I sighed heavily. “You both have other skills—Joel, you have some knowledge as a farmer, and Abijah, you can work for your brother—”
“Work for my brother?” Abijah ranted, “it’s his fault the elders of Israel rejected us! He’s the cheater!” 
Joel leapt to his feet, and the boys almost came to blows in a pattern they had repeated hundreds of times since they were children. I always inserted myself between them to force them apart, if I was present at the time. If not, someone got bloody. I played my role again now, but felt too tired to engage with their accusations. 
“The elders will assemble to hear the word of the Lord in one hour,” I told them. “It would be seemly if you were both present and in one piece. If you are not… well. That will be your choice.” Then I turned and walked away, ignoring their shouts and protests. 
My sons did not appear with the elders in front of the temple an hour later, to my sorrow but not to my surprise. To do so would have required a measure of humility I knew they did not possess. If they had, we might not be in this situation in the first place.
“This is the way the kind of king you desire would operate,” I called out to the people in warning once they quieted down. “He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”
The elders in the front row cried out, “We will have a king to rule us!” Another voice rose above the clamor of agreement, adding, “Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles!”
My heart felt so heavy. Didn’t they know that until now, God had fought their battles for them? Yet they wanted a leader they could see. 
Do as they say, I heard the Lord whisper to me. Make them a king.
I took a deep breath and cried, “The Lord has heard you! Go home, each of you to your own city.”
They dispersed slowly, and I stood there on the temple steps until the last of them had gone. Last of all, I wandered away. 
“Who, Lord?” I asked aloud once I was alone. “What man is there in Israel whom You would trust with such power?”
I heard no response that day, nor the next, nor the day after that. This silence, I knew, and the wait, were the very reasons why the people wanted a king in the first place. Hearing from the Lord was unpredictable. His timing was His own. I knew enough of Him to wait in peace, but the elders tended to fret in the silence, wanting to take matters into their own hands. A king would do just that. 
About a week later, the Lord finally spoke to me. 
“This time tomorrow, I’m sending a man from the land of Benjamin to meet you. You’re to anoint him as commander over my people Israel. He will free my people from Philistine oppression. I have heard their cries for help.”
“Huh,” I replied aloud. “Benjamin?” It was the smallest of the tribes, ever since the concubine incident several generations earlier which had almost wiped them out. I’d have expected the Lord’s anointed to come from any tribe but that one. 
The next day was a local sacrifice in the land of Zuph, where I lived. Tradition held that I should go and bless the people’s sacrifice to the Lord so that they could eat of it. Since the Lord had told me I would meet His anointed before the sacrifice would occur, I told the people to set aside the best portion of the sacrifice and give it the following day to the one I indicated to them. The day of the sacrifice, I went my way up to the high place, and stopped just as I exited the city. Two men approached: one was clearly a servant, and the other was a sight to behold. He was taller than any man of Israel I had ever seen, powerfully built, and had a head of thick dark hair and a full beard. He practically radiated with health and beauty. 
He’s the one, the man I told you about, the Lord said to me. He is the man who will reign over my people
Though I had previously been heartbroken when the people asked for a king, I’d gotten used to the idea in the intervening week of silence from the Lord. Now, the moment I beheld this incredible specimen of a man, I felt a throb of pride, almost as if he were my son. 
The man approached me directly. “Pardon me, but can you tell me where the Seer lives?”
“I’m the Seer,” I told him. “Accompany me to the shrine and eat with me. In the morning I’ll tell you all about what’s on your mind, and send you on your way.” Then in a flash of insight, the Lord revealed to me why they were here and what concerned them. “By the way, your lost donkeys—the ones you’ve been hunting for the last three days—have been found, so don’t worry about them. At this moment, Israel’s future is in your hands.”
The magnificent man looked thunderstruck. “But I’m only a Benjaminite, from the smallest of Israel’s tribes, and from the most insignificant clan in the tribe at that,” he stammered. I was struck by the strange contrast between his looks and his manner. “Why are you talking to me like this?”
I regarded him, but despite the temptation to reveal all now, I obeyed the prompting of the Lord. 
“I will tell you in the morning,” I reiterated, and let the way to the high place for the feast. 
When we arrived and found that all the people were already assembled, I gestured for the man, whose name turned out to be Saul, and his servant to take their seats among the people. I noticed how the people stared at him in awe, yet Saul did not seem to notice. Presumably he’d grown used to the stares over a lifetime. 
I pulled the cook aside and whispered, “Bring the choice cut I pointed out to you, the one I told you to reserve.” 
The cook looked slightly bemused, but did as I had asked, and brought out the thigh, placing it before Saul. 
“This meal was kept aside just for you,” I announced to Saul, loudly enough that all who were assembled could hear. “Eat! It was especially prepared for this time and occasion with these guests.”
Saul looked terribly embarrassed, but after a feeble protest or two, he eventually did as I had bid him. The rest of us took our portions of the sacrifice from what was left. We all ate and drank merrily before the Lord, and then Saul and his servant returned with me back to my house. I prepared a bed for them in the top of the house cooled by the breeze, and slept little that night myself. 
At daybreak I called to Saul, “Get up and I’ll send you off.” I offered them breakfast, and walked with them to the outskirts of the city, but then at last told Saul, “Tell your servant to go on ahead of us. You stay with me for a bit. I have a word of God to give you.”
After my promise the day before, and also my strange behavior at the feast, Saul had evidently been expecting this. He simply nodded to his servant, who sped up while we hung back. 
When the servant was far enough ahead that Saul and I were alone, I withdrew from my cloak a flask of anointing oil, and gestured for Saul to kneel before me. He did so, and I poured the oil over his thick black hair until it ran down his beard. He looked astonished, as I took his face in my hands, kissing him on both cheeks. 
“Do you see what this means?” I proclaimed, “God has anointed you commander over his people. This sign will confirm God’s anointing of you as king over his inheritance: After you leave me today, as you get closer to your home country of Benjamin, you’ll meet two men near Rachel’s Tomb. They’ll say, ‘The donkeys you went to look for are found. Your father has forgotten about the donkeys and is worried about you, wringing his hands—quite beside himself!’ Leaving there, you’ll arrive at the Oak of Tabor. There you’ll meet three men going up to worship God at Bethel. One will be carrying three young goats, another carrying three sacks of bread, and the third a jug of wine. They’ll say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept. Next, you’ll come to Gibeah of God, where there’s a Philistine garrison. As you approach the town, you’ll run into a bunch of prophets coming down from the high place, playing harps and tambourines, flutes and drums. And they’ll be prophesying. Before you know it, the Spirit of God will come on you and you’ll be prophesying right along with them. And you’ll be transformed into a new person! When these confirming signs are accomplished, you’ll know that you’re ready: Whatever job you’re given to do, do it. God is with you! Now, go down to Gilgal and I will follow. I’ll come down and join you in worship by sacrificing burnt offerings and peace offerings. Wait seven days. Then I’ll come and tell you what to do next.” 
Saul stared at me in mute amazement as I said all of this; I could almost see his brain spinning as he tried to process all that I had said. I gestured for Saul to rise to his feet, which he did as if in a daze. I marveled once again, now that he was right next to me, at what a tower of a man he was. Then I patted him on the back to give him the indication to get going and to catch up with his servant. 
Seven days later, I called all the people together at Mizpah. I was excited: today was to be the great day of the Lord’s unveiling of the people’s king. My sons, once again, were conspicuously absent—sulking, no doubt—but I did not let this bother me. I wondered if, after the Spirit of the Lord had come upon Saul, I would even recognize him as the timid man I had met on the road. 
When all the people were assembled, I stood up and spoke to all of them as I had weeks ago spoken to the elders. 
“This is God’s personal message to you: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt. I delivered you from Egyptian oppression—yes, from all the bullying governments that made your life miserable. And now you want nothing to do with your God, the very God who has a history of getting you out of troubles of all sorts. And now you say, ‘No! We want a king; give us a king!’ Well, if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get! Present yourselves formally before God, ranked in tribes and families.”
I wanted to maximize the impact of this ceremony—not just announce Saul as the king, but to really give the moment the build-up it deserved. When I chose the tribe of Benjamin, I heard the whispers. They were my own reaction, and Saul’s as well. I waited for the whispers to subside, and then announced, “Tribe of Benjamin, now arrange yourselves by families!” They did so, and I frowned—Saul was a head taller than all the men of Israel. I should have been able to spot him easily. Where was he? Yet I felt the Lord lead me to the family of Matri, so I chose them. The men of the family came forward, and I scanned the lot of them, searching for the face I expected. 
“Saul, son of Kish, is the man!” I cried out, with rather less impact than I had hoped. “But where is he?” 
I felt the Lord draw my attention to a pile of baggage brought by their tribe, since they had to come from all over Israel for this ceremony. I heard the Lord say to me, he’s right over there—hidden in that pile of baggage.
I felt a wave of—dread? embarrassment?—but I walked toward the pile of baggage with my head held high, gesturing for some of Saul’s own family to help me move the bags one by one. I uncovered Saul’s chagrined face, which was bright red, as well it should be. 
“Get up,” I hissed. “Fortunately for you, not everyone in Israel has a good view of this ridiculousness!” 
Saul crawled out from under the pile in which he’d been hiding, and brushed himself off. I pulled him up to the raised area from which I had been speaking, and added under my breath, “Head high, and for goodness’ sake, try to look like a king!” Then I cried to the people, trusting that Saul’s extraordinary looks would be the first thing they would notice, “Take a good look at whom God has chosen: the best! No one like him in the whole country!”
“Long live the king!” the people cried out, their voices joining together and rising in a crescendo. “Long live the king!” 
That was a good start. I hoped it meant the story of the baggage wouldn’t spread, but as I left, I overheard the whispers. 
“Deliverer? Don’t make me laugh!” 
“How can this man save us? He hid himself at his own coronation!” 
“What a marvelous leader he must be!” 
I closed my eyes but chose not to rebuke them on Saul’s behalf. He would have to do that himself. 
He was Israel’s leader now, after all—not me. 
Sep 24, 2021

Today's blog review comes from this blog post: Fiber and the Benefits of Butyrate.

Sep 17, 2021

Today's podcast is a meditation on the story of the Israelites' first attempt to take the Promised land from Numbers 13-14, when they finally went in and did it from Joshua 1-6, when Caleb took the mountain in Joshua 14, and the writer of Hebrews' reflection on what this means for us from Hebrews 4. 

Sep 10, 2021

Dr. Eric Zielinski is the author of the bestselling primer on using essential oils for general health, The Healing Power of Essential Oils, which is in 8 languages worldwide. Together, he and Sabrina Ann Zielinski run the top health website devoted to brand-neutral essential oil education Natural Living Family, with more than 4 million users every year. In THE ESSENTIAL OILS APOTHECARY: Soothing Remedies for Anxiety, Pain, High Blood Sugar, Hypertension and Other Chronic Conditions they bring their masterful and authoritative knowledge to the complexities of chronic illness. 

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Sep 3, 2021
  • Satan has power; he once had authority too (Luke 4:6), but Jesus won it back and gave it to us (Matthew 28:18, Colossians 2:15).
  • Satan still tries to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He's even more likely to do it if we're standing for God's word or against his plans (Mark 4:17, 2 Timothy 3:12). Now anything he tries to do to us is illegal, but he can still get away with it if we allow it. We must resist him, standing firm in faith (1 Peter 5:8-9, James 4:7).
  • How we resist:
    • Be aware who the real enemy is (Ephesians 6:12).
    • Recognize that our weapons are spiritual and can tear down the enemy's strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).
    • Our armor is God's, not ours--Jesus gave it to us (Ephesians 6:11, 13).
    • Keep the truth (God's word) always buckled around your waist (Ephesians 6:14), or before your eyes, meditating on it consistently (Joshua 1:8). It is not just the truth, but the truth we know, that sets us free (John 8:32).
    • Remember you are righteous through Christ (Ephesians 6:14)--unlike Old Covenant believers where disobedience took them out from under God's protection where Satan could curse (Deuteronomy 28:15), in the New Covenant, Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13) and gave us His righteousness. Now, every promise found in scripture is yes and amen for us (2 Corinthians 1:20).
      • Don't let Satan tell you differently. He's the father of lies (John 8:44). Sin can still give place to the devil to come in and steal from you (Ephesians 4:27), but only because your heart might condemn you for it and rob our confidence in prayer (1 John 3:20-22). We must believe we receive when we pray (Mark 11:24).
      • Unforgiveness is one way in which our own hearts may hinder our prayers (Mark 11:25-26). Remember you wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Forgive them, so you can fight the real enemy behind them.
    • Stay in peace (Ephesians 6:15). Confidence in prayer requires faith/trust (Philippians 4:4-7, Isaiah 26:3). The opposite of faith is fear (1 John 4:18). Since we have the authority Jesus won back from Satan for us (John 16:33, Matthew 28:18), Satan has to get us to fear him in order for him to get away with stealing from us. We do not have to accept the spirit of fear (Romans 8:15) but remember we have the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
    • "Above all," use faith to extinguish Satan's lies (Eph 6:16). We do this by renewing our minds with God's word (Romans 8:6, 12:2). We have the belt of truth already, but we have to mix the Word of truth with faith, or it profits us nothing (Hebrews 4:2). Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2); we must keep our eyes on Him.
    • The helmet of salvation (Eph 6:17). I assume the significance of this is the fact that it's protecting the mind. The Holy Spirit is the seal that proves we belong to God (2 Cor 1:22, 5:5, Eph 1:13-14, 4:30), and He bears witness that we have salvation and belong to God (Romans 8:16). So Satan can't lie to us and tell us otherwise.
    • The sword of the spirit (Eph 6:17): this is the only offensive weapon. Jesus used the Word as His weapon against Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13). It is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). The word of our testimony of God's goodness likewise has power (Revelation 12:11).
    • Pray with all kinds of prayer (1 Timothy 2:1), including supplication and intercession (Eph 6:18), praise and thanksgiving (Phil 4:7), and agreement (Matthew 18:19-20), with perseverance.
    • When you have done all this, stand your ground (Ephesians 6:13). This is the persistence in faith that achieves results and justice (Luke 18:1-8). Forcefully lay hold of what Christ died to give you (Matthew 11:12)!
  • The end: we will always triumph in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14). We will overcome the world and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) with our faith (1 John 5:4).
  • Even under the Old Covenant, God fought for His people in the spiritual realms (Exodus 14:13, 23:27; Leviticus 26:5-8; Deuteronomy 1:30, 3:22, 7:22-24, 9:3, 11:22-25, 20:1-4, 23:14, 28:7, 31:6, 33:29, Joshua 1:5, 23:10; Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 7:10, 14:15-20, 17:47; 2 Samuel 7:9-11, 22:33-37, 48; 2 Kings 17:39, 19:7; 2 Chronicles 18:31-32, 20:15-25; Isaiah 41:10-14, 43:1-2, 45:2-3, 54:17; Jeremiah 1:8, 33:27, 39:18; Esther 4:14; Psalm 6:10, 37:5-9, 59:10; Proverbs 3:21-26, 21:31). How much more will He do so today, when there is no more curse, but all the blessings of Abraham are ours through Christ (Galatians 3:13)!
Aug 20, 2021

Music by Ben Sound at 

Today's meditation comes from Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:22-26, Luke 22:14-23, and John 13:1-30


I found it rather difficult to synthesize the four versions of the Last Supper in the gospels, and particularly where Judas was, and where Satan was relative to Judas, at any given time. Matthew and Mark’s gospels kept the story simple and short, moving directly from Jesus’ mention that one of them would betray him into communion. There is no mention in those gospels that Judas left at all, or that Satan was present. They also both showed that Jesus started with the bread and then moved to the cup. There was no mention of anything Jesus told them afterwards, either; they just sang a hymn and then Jesus led his three closest disciples down to the Garden of Gethsemene. Judas clearly left at some point, because hours later he arrived in the Garden with soldiers; it just isn’t mentioned when. 
Luke went into more detail. He wrote in Luke 22:3 that Satan entered into Judas when he approached the chief priests and made a deal to betray Jesus. There was no mention that Satan departed Judas and entered into him again later, but perhaps he did, since John later makes mention that Satan entered into Judas after Jesus passed him the bread at the table (John 13:27). Also in Luke’s version, the cup came first and then the bread (not that this really matters). Jesus didn’t mention His betrayer until after communion in Luke’s version, suggesting that Judas was there at the time. Perhaps he was, though Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:27 that whoever eats and drinks the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. I suppose this would not be any truer of anyone in history than of Judas that night. 
John didn’t actually describe the Last Supper in terms of the bread and the cup at all, but he alone recorded that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. John 13:2 says that the supper was ended, though apparently the Greek phrase could have also been translated “during supper”—so I interpreted this as meaning they had eaten the Passover lamb and herbs, but Jesus had not yet instituted communion. Jesus’ comment that His betrayer was the one to whom He gave the bread after He had dipped it (John 13:26) is consistent with similar phrasing in Matthew 26:23 and Mark 14:20, just before Jesus institutes communion, suggesting this comment came first. Since John explicitly mentioned that Judas left right afterwards, and he was more specific about Judas’ whereabouts than Luke, his was the interpretation I used in the retelling. 
It also makes sense to me that Judas would not have been present for communion, for two reasons. First, Jesus hates hypocrisy (as evidenced by his many run-ins with the religious leaders), and he knew that Judas was not one of His, as He repeatedly said that night. If His betrayer were to take communion right before Him on the very night of His betrayal, it would have been the ultimate hypocrisy. Second, Jesus was always walking the fine line of trying to tell the disciples what was going to happen to Him in enigmas and riddles (Proverbs 1:6), but without spelling it all out until after He had already risen (Luke 24:13-49). There may have been many reasons for this, but one of them was surely that He didn’t want Satan to understand His plan, or else he would never have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8). Jesus knew Satan was in the room as long as Judas was. I suspect this was another reason why He didn’t want to explain about the body and the blood until after Judas had gone. 
Passover was instituted the night the Israelites left slavery. It was from then on both a ritual of remembrance, and also a prophetic act. The Egyptians painted the blood of their Passover lamb over their door posts, which protected those inside from the destroyer (Exodus 12:23). This was a perfect symbol of the blood of Jesus, God’s Passover Lamb, protecting believers from the destroyer. Here, Jesus took the last Passover meal with His disciples, and then instituted the new feast of communion on the eve of his crucifixion. Christians no longer celebrate the Jewish Passover feast, symbolic of the Old Covenant, but take communion instead, symbolic of the New Covenant. 
Communion, too, is both an act of remembrance (Luke 22:19) and also a prophetic act of the marriage supper of the Lamb (Luke 22:18, Revelation 19:9), when Jesus will wed His bride: the Church. That will be its ultimate fulfillment. 
Fictionalized Retelling
I felt an almost physical oppression in my chest as I climbed the steps to that upper room. My legs felt like wood, resisting My every step. 
This time tomorrow… but I stopped the thought right there. I had much yet to do between now and then. 
John approached and touched My elbow as I crossed the threshold of the upper room. I turned to see him searching My face with a concerned expression. I gave him a tight smile that did not quite reach My eyes, and a tiny nod that I was all right—relatively speaking. The servants came in and began to set the evening meal on the low table: the Passover lamb, the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread, and the wine. 
I could not stop staring at the lamb. 
I settled on to a cushion at the head of the table. John sat beside me, still glancing often at My face. The other disciples chatted amongst themselves, though the atmosphere felt strained. It had already been an intense week, even for them. They all knew the religious leaders wanted Me dead, and feared that by extension, their lives were in danger too. I knew they also wondered why we were celebrating the Passover a day early, on the thirteenth instead of the fourteenth day of Nissan. I’d told them repeatedly as plainly as I could, but they still hadn’t understood. Tonight I would be still more explicit. But not yet. 
I watched Judas, who fidgeted in his seat constantly. I needed him out of the room before I spoke plainly. The disciples still wouldn’t understand what I said until afterwards, but Satan might, if he heard it. If that happened, all would be lost. 
When they had finished all but the last loaf of unleavened bread, I rose from the table, wordlessly laying aside My outer garment and tucking a towel around My waist. An empty basin sat by the threshold along with a pitcher of water. I poured the water into the basin and carried it to Matthew, who sat nearest Me. I set it down beside his cushion and gestured to him to swivel around and remove his sandals. He stared back at Me in astonishment. 
I nodded and beckoned again with My fingers. Slowly he obeyed, though I could sense his acute embarrassment. The rest of the disciples watched in silence as I washed Matthew’s feet, and then used the towel about My waist to dry them. Next I moved to Bartholomew beside him, who obeyed more readily now that he’d seen the precedent. None of them knew what to make of this. 
Next I came to Judas. He removed his sandals and placed his feet in the basin at once, but he winced just slightly as his eyes met Mine. Up close, I could see his dilated pupils. He was nervous, not sure if I knew, or if I would publicly confront him for his treachery. As I washed his feet, I thought of Solomon’s proverb, You will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you
Without a word, I moved on to James, and then to Peter, who recoiled from Me. 
“Lord, are You washing my feet?” 
“What I am doing, you do not realize right now, but you will understand later,” I assured him. 
“Never shall You wash my feet!”
If it were any other night, I might have smiled. Tonight, though, I just said wearily, “If I do not wash you, you have no place with Me.”
Peter blinked as he absorbed this. Then he plunged his feet in the basin, leaning forward and spluttering, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!”
This wrung a short laugh out of Me, even tonight. Good old Peter. 
“He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet; otherwise he is completely clean,” I answered. Then I said to the rest of them, “And you are clean—but not all of you.” I glanced at Judas as I said this, whose eyes shifted this way and that. Now he knew that I knew. He was itching to leave already, probably trying to think of an excuse. 
When I’d finished washing all of the disciples’ feet, I placed the basin back by the door, removed the towel and replaced My outer tunic before settling back at the head of the table. They all watched Me uncertainly, not sure what to do or say. 
“Do you know what I have done for you?” I looked at each of them in turn, pausing to see if they had any reply. When they did not, I went on, “You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’; and you are correct, for so I am. So if I, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example, so that you also would do just as I did for you. Truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the One who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I am not speaking about all of you,” I added, with a sidelong glance at Judas. “I know the ones whom I have chosen; but this is happening so that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’” Judas squirmed again. How much more direct would I need to be? “From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may believe that I am He. Truly I say to you, the one who receives anyone I send, receives Me; and the one who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
Still no one spoke, and still Judas remained at the table. The oppression in My chest grew.  I needed him to leave before I did what needed to be done next. Time to just come right out and say it. “One of you is going to betray me.” 
Shock rippled around the table, and the disciples began to murmur amongst themselves—all except Judas, whose eyes darted this way and that, his breathing short and shallow. But the other disciples were so focused on themselves that they did not even notice. 
“It isn’t me, is it?” asked Peter first, loudly. Before I could reply, James cut in, “Surely, not I?” at the same time Philip and Bartholomew talked over each other. “Is it me, Master?” 
Instead of replying, I rose and took the last loaf of unleavened bread in My hands. I saw Peter make eye contact with John, and gesture at Me with his head in silent communication. When I sat back down again, John reclined against Me with his head on My chest and whispered, “Lord, who is it?” 
“It is he to whom I give this bread once I have dipped it.” I broke a piece of bread from the end of the loaf, and rose again to dip the bread in the dish of oil. Then I handed it across the table to Judas, and our eyes locked. The others at last noticed this, looking from Judas to me. 
“It isn’t me, is it, Rabbi?” Judas asked at last, his voice even. 
“You have said it yourself,” I replied.
The others looked at one another, their expressions a mixture of alarm and confusion. Judas took the bread from Me, and put it in his mouth. At that moment, though I did not see it with My natural eyes, I knew that Satan had entered into him. I could sense it. 
“What you do, do quickly,” I told him in a low tone. 
Judas rose from the table as soon as I said this and sped out of the room without looking back. As I watched him go, I felt an unexpected pang of pity for the suffering I knew he would yet endure. Once Satan had used him for his own purposes, I knew that Judas would come back to himself and would despair for what he was about to do to Me. He would be dead before I was. But he had made his choice long ago, and was beyond My help. There was nothing more I could do for him.
“Is… he going to make a purchase for the meal?” asked Peter, suspicious. Judas was our treasurer and had often gone on such errands in the past. “Or to offer alms to the poor, perhaps?” 
I met Peter’s questioning gaze, but did not answer. He would understand all too soon, and I had more important business to attend to at the moment. I took what remained of the last loaf of unleavened bread, and poured some wine into the simple chalice before me. Then I looked up to Heaven.
“Thank You, Father, for Your provision,” I prayed, “of this bread and wine, and also of the Passover Lamb it represents.” I saw the look of confusion that passed among the disciples at this. Surely, they were thinking, the Passover lamb we just ate represented itself? I went on, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then I took the loaf and broke it right down the middle, flinching only a little. I passed half to John on one side, and to James on My other. 
“Take and eat; this is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” 
James gingerly held the half loaf I’d handed him, a look of horror on his face. But John broke himself a piece and passed it to Philip on his other side without comment. James finally followed his lead and did the same. They were all now remembering the comment I had made which had lost me some ninety percent of my disciples early in My ministry. I had announced that My followers must eat My flesh and drink My blood, or else they would have no life in them. This had so confused and revolted them that the vast majority had left, and I never had explained Myself to those who remained. How could I? None of them dared disobey Me now, though I knew they still did not understand. 
Once they had all solemnly taken and eaten their piece of the bread, I passed around My chalice of wine. 
“Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it with you, new, in My Father’s kingdom.” 
Each man took a sip and passed the cup around in silence. When James finally handed it back to Me, I took the last swallow, savoring it in My mouth. Then I looked around the table, My heart burning as I looked into each man’s eyes one by one. I saw not the fearful, uncertain men before Me now, but the firebrands they would become when they had received the Holy Spirit. I saw some of them as old men; others, I knew, would not live long enough to see old age. The Holy Spirit gave Me just a flash of their futures—glorious ones, all. I swallowed the lump in My throat before I could speak again. 
“I am giving you a new commandment,” I managed, “that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” 
I had so much I wanted to tell them, and these were My last few hours in which to do so. I prayed silently for guidance. I knew they would understand none of it now—and because they did not understand, they would have three days of utter hell ahead of them. If they could just hang on through those three days which would look like the end of all their hopes… 
“Let not your hearts be troubled!” I almost begged them, praying as I said it that they would be able to hold onto My words in the the coming days, when they would need them most. “You believe in God; believe also in Me!” 
I told them all I could that night: of the coming Holy Spirit, of peace, of their direct path through Me to the Father, of the tremendous power of prayer, and of their sorrow turning to joy. I could tell from the heaviness of their expressions that all they heard was goodbye. They did not understand the manner in which it would come, but they felt the significance of My speech. 
I felt the same heaviness Myself. When I had finished, I ended the meal with a hymn: one of David’s psalms set to music. The others joined in with Me, and all of our voices merged together in a beautiful, if halfhearted, cacophony. The noise of it had always made me smile, though today the finality of it wrung tears from My eyes. 
I felt the pull in My spirit now. I desperately needed to withdraw and talk to My Father. I hadn’t much time left. 
Aug 13, 2021

This week's podcast comes from this blog post: Are Nightshades Inflammatory? 

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Aug 6, 2021
Today's podcast is a retelling a meditation on Numbers 22-25:1-3, Numbers 31:16, 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14
What an incredible illustration of the power of words! This Old Testament Seer, who was not even one of the Israelites, nevertheless was sought by princes and kings to bless and curse their enemies—and he was paid handsomely for it. Was there anything special about Balaam’s words versus anyone else’s? I don’t think so—stories of blessings and cursings abound in Genesis especially (consider the power of Isaac’s blessing stolen by Jacob to set
off a twenty year feud). Names also seemed to hold the power of prophecy (consider the power of Abraham’s and Sarah’s new names to foretell their destinies, and of Jacob’s “heel grabber” later turned to “Israel”). Solomon later had much to say about the power of words to shape a life (Proverbs 12:14, 13:2, 13:3, 14:3, 18:7, 18:20-21, 21:23). I suspect what made Balaam different from others was his faith in the power of his words to come to pass, whereas others might waver if the effects were not immediate. As Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” It’s the 'believing before you see it'
part that trips most people up. In this story, I imagined that Balaam didn’t struggle with this because he had a rare gift of seeing into the spiritual realm from time to time. If he could see the effects of his words before they were manifest into the physical, he’d certainly have had an easier time believing in their power. 
This is also an interesting story because Balaam wasn’t an Israelite, nor was his heart pure—yet still, God spoke to him. He had no covenant to cling to, but he clearly understood covenant, and he knew how to manipulate it to his own ends. The story in Numbers doesn’t actually show Balaam explaining to Balak how to get the Israelites to curse themselves; it cuts straight from Balaam’s oracles of blessing over the Israelites in Numbers 22-24, to the Israelites’ harlotry with the Moabite women and worship of Baal in Numbers 25. But we know that this was Balaam’s doing from Numbers 31:16, Jude 11, and Revelation 2:14. 2 Peter 2:15 reveals that Balaam’s motivation for this was financial gain. 
I used to think it was very strange that God gave Balaam permission to go with the Moabites and then sent an angel to kill him along the way because he went. That certainly seems contradictory. But God did tell Balaam no
the first time, which should have settled the matter. (Maybe there’s a lesson here: if God says no the first time, probably don’t keep asking?) The fact that Balaam asked again perhaps indicated that he was likely to do it regardless of what God said. Perhaps it wasn’t God’s best for Balaam to go, but He allowed it as a concession, knowing there was a potential danger in this loose cannon with impure motives. God’s concession, though, was for Balaam to wait until the men came to call him again in the morning; if they did, then he could go with them. There’s no indication that he did wait—Balaam just rose, saddled his donkey, and went. The fact that Balaam did not exactly follow the Lord’s instructions was a harbinger of what was to come. Balaam’s words had great power, and while God could use him to bless the Israelites, He could not afford to let this man say or do anything God did not explicitly authorize—hence the avenging angel.  
Once Balaam was sufficiently terrified into submission, God let him live and continue on his way. And indeed, he did bless Israel only... but he still wanted Balak’s money. So he found a loophole in God’s instructions, which he exploited to his own benefit.  
Fortunately for us today, we are now no longer under the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13-14), and we cannot curse ourselves with bad behavior as the Israelites could. Even so, we can still disqualify ourselves from receiving all the blessings God wants for us, if we do not mix His promises with faith (Hebrews 4:2).   
Fictionalized Retelling
I am what my people of Amau call a Seer. Most people perceive with their physical senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. So I suppose I must have been born with a gift, though I’ve never known anything different. I am as aware of the spiritual world as I am of the physical, though I cannot always perceive it with my eyes. Because of this, I learned from childhood that the spirit realm affects the physical—that in fact, it is the greater reality of the two. And yet, I could affect the spirit realm by my words. My words influenced the unseen, and then the unseen influenced and changed what was seen. 
There were some limits to this, though. The primary limit was that there was a Power in the unseen realm much greater than I. I knew a few details about Him: that He is One, not many, like so many other cultures seemed to believe. That He is righteous, balancing mercy with justice. He does not let the wicked go unpunished. This instilled in me a healthy fear of Him: I did not want to end up on the wrong side of that equation. I also understood that while my words had power to influence the physical realm through the spiritual, He did not always authorize me to use them. I wasn’t totally sure what might happen if I tried to speak that which He explicitly forbade, but I did not wish to find out. 
By rumor, as I grew, I also learned that He had favorites. In fact, He had one favorite people group in particular: the people of Israel. All the surrounding nations heard the stories of how the Lord delivered this band of former slaves from their captives in Egypt, and led them across the Red Sea. They had even plundered their former masters before they went. I heard how they had driven back the Amalekites, and defeated the Amorites. Now they were camped in the plains of Moab, on the other side of the Jordan from Jericho. I dwelt near the Euphrates with my own people, but even we felt the tension in the air. 
So when the messengers from Balak, king of Moab came to me, I knew why they had come before they spoke. But a young man I recognized from the king’s court drew near and bowed low before me. 
“I have come to you in the name of King Balak of Moab. Thus says the king to my lord, Balaam the Diviner: A people went out from Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they dwell next to me. And now, please come curse this people for me because they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I will prevail, and we will defeat them, and I will drive them out of the land because I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”
I glanced behind the messenger who had spoken, to another who held a small leather pouch in his hand, which jingled just a little as he moved. A little shiver of anticipation ran down my spine. If that pouch was filled with gold pieces, it represented a fortune! Little wonder: Moab was surely sick with dread of the Israelites. They knew that the Israelites’ strength came from the spirit realm, and that was the realm of my influence. No fee would be too high. I resisted the urge to ask to see the coins right then. 
“Lodge here tonight,” I told them, “and I will bring you word again, as the Lord will speak to me.”
They did as I asked, and I withdrew at sunset to inquire of the Lord. 
It usually took longer for Him to respond to me, but that night, He spoke at once. Whether the words were aloud such that other human ears could have perceived it, I do not know, but to me, it was audible. 
“Who are these men with you?” He said. 
I was pretty sure He knew the answer; He was just starting the conversation. I told Him, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent word to me, saying, ‘A people went out of Egypt who covers the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I will be able to battle them and drive them out.’” Please, please, please… I thought, my imagination filled with what I could do with the gold in that pouch. What a great man that would make me!
The Lord said, “You will not go with them. You will not curse the people because they are blessed.”
I deflated. “But… God…” I bit my lip. “Surely there’s some minor curse I could pronounce against them?” 
He said nothing more. I knew from experience that this meant the conversation was over. My father used to do that when I was young: he’d lay down the law, and then give me the silent treatment as I wheedled, begged, and threw tantrums, until I finally accepted that he meant what he’d said. I sighed. 
In the morning I returned to the men of Moab, and told them with great reluctance, “Go to your land. The Lord refuses to let me to go with you.” 
The messengers exchanged a look of consternation with one another. 
“Are… you sure?” one ventured, holding up the pouch and deliberately jingling it before my eyes. “The king will pay you handsomely for this service of yours.” 
I let out an involuntary groan and averted my eyes from the pouch. “Would that it were up to me,” I told them. “But it is not.” 
At last they returned the way they had come. When they had gone, I looked up at the sky and shouted, “Why?” When He still gave me the silent treatment, I added, “What is so special about this people of Yours? What makes them any better than Moab, or the Amalekites, or the Amorites, or the Amauites for that matter? Why do You bless them, and You won’t bless me?” 
Silence again, though I felt His reproach. He had blessed me. I had a great gift that apparently was quite rare. I’d often wondered if there was anything special about my words, or if anybody else’s words might have the same effect as mine—it was just that, since I could see into the spirit realm where they had an effect, I did not waver once I’d spoken them, nor contradict them by speaking only what I saw already manifested in the physical realm, thus negating the effect in the spirit. Because of this ability, I was already prosperous: I’d used the words of my mouth to bless my own flocks and herds, crops and home, and I had quite literally eaten the fruit of my lips. If that weren’t enough, I used this same ability on behalf of others, and was paid handsomely for my troubles. I did not get my hands on that delicious little sack of gold, though… I whimpered at the thought, and huffed, crossing my arms over my chest and glaring at nothing in particular. 
“You’re unfair,” I accused the Lord. “You play favorites. That’s inherently unfair!” 
Silence still. I heaved another put-upon sigh, and went about my business for the day, saddling my donkey and taking her into the marketplace. 
Late that day, just before sunset, I saw a large company on the horizon riding to my home. As they drew near, I saw their splendor: these were princes and warriors of Moab, not the messengers I had seen the day before. My eyes widened and my heart pounded with anticipation. Balak was not giving up then! 
One of the princes dismounted and bowed down low before me. I pasted on a smile as I scrutinized his fine clothing, imagining what it might look like upon me. 
“My lord Balaam,” the prince said by way of greeting. I could get used to being called ‘my lord.’ He went on, “This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.”
An involuntary groan escaped my lips at this. How could I continue to refuse? But I managed, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God. Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the Lord will tell me.” 
The men agreed, and I withdrew from them and fell prostrate before the Lord. 
“‘I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say’?” I quoted Balak to the Lord. “How can You expect me to refuse such an offer? I cannot! Let me go with them, I beg You!” 
There was silence at first. But then the Lord replied, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only say what I tell you to say.” 
“Ha ha!” I cried, triumphant. 
I could barely sleep that night. I rose at first light and saddled my donkey. My conscience pricked at me that the Lord had told me to wait for the princes to call me, but hadn’t they essentially already done that by coming the day before? I ignored this detail and went to rouse them. 
“The Lord gave me permission to go with you,” I told them breathlessly. “Take me to your king!” 
The princes seemed as glad to hear my response as I was glad to give it. They readied themselves quickly, and I mounted my donkey and followed them. 
At first we traveled in one company, but soon my donkey began acting strangely. She fell behind the others, and then even strayed from the path they were following, ignoring my tug upon her reins and venturing into one of the fields. 
“What are you doing?” I cried impatiently, tugging harder. She utterly ignored me, which both confused and infuriated me. I’d never seen her act like this before, and I needed to catch up to the others. From one of my saddlebags I dug out a switch, and used it to beat her flanks. She let out a sharp bray that made me wince. 
“Well, if you don’t want more of that, do what I tell you!” I retorted. 
At last, she returned to the road. I dug my heels into her flanks to try to get her to speed up to catch up with the company, but she refused—in fact, it felt like she was fighting me with every step. Presently the road narrowed, as a wall on either side delineated vineyards of different owners. Suddenly my donkey veered sharply toward one wall—but there was nowhere to go, so she just pressed against it and stopped altogether, crushing my foot against the wall in the process. I let out a roar and beat her harder. 
“What is wrong with you?” I shouted, gritting my teeth against her sharp bray of pain. “Come on!” 
She shuddered under me, and hesitatingly moved forward again, still hugging one wall but not so closely that she crushed my foot. Presently the lane narrowed so that she could no longer do even this: there was nowhere for her to turn aside. So she literally lay down under me, right there in the path.
“Why you worthless ass—!” I beat her as hard as I could, and she yelped and shuddered, but refused to budge. The third time I struck her, she half turned her head so that she could see me from one of her eyes. 
“What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” 
I blinked, and my hand froze in midair. I could see into the spirit realm from time to time, and I had spoken to God, but this was a new one. Still, the sensible thing to do would be to answer her. 
“Because you have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now!”
“Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”
“No,” I had to admit. 
Suddenly I perceived that she and I were not alone. A brilliantly glowing man stood directly in front of the path, barring our way, sword drawn. My mouth dropped open, and I slid off of my donkey’s back and fell to the ground before him. 
“Why have you beaten your donkey these three times?” the angel demanded. “I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her.”
I caught my breath, as a wave of terror passed through me. “I have sinned,” I admitted. I meant in beating my donkey, but as I said it, I realized that I’d also sinned in not waiting for the men to call me in the morning, as the Lord had instructed. “I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”
The angel sheathed his sword, and stood to one side, making a very narrow path for us. “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.”
I swallowed hard, understanding the emphasis. I had not explicitly obeyed the Lord’s instructions before. I was given safe passage now only on condition that I do better in the future. 
My donkey got to her feet and picked up her pace to catch up with the company of princes. I was rattled, and she probably was too. She never spoke to me again. 
When I arrived in Moab, King Balak hurried out to meet me. 
“Did I not send you an urgent summons?” he scolded by way of greeting. “Why didn’t you come to me? Am I not able to reward you?”
I had best disabuse him of any false expectations he had now, I realized, not much caring to face the avenging angel again. 
“Well, I have come to you now,” I told him. “But I warn you, I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.” 
Balak smirked. “I am sure God will see fit to allow you to speak whatever is in your own best interest.” 
Before I could protest again, he turned and said, “Come. We will sacrifice to your God to appease him.” He led the way, along with the company of princes he had sent to collect me, to a place called Kirjath Huzoth. There he offered oxen and sheep to the Lord, and he provided me and his princes with sheep to offer likewise. I considered telling him that if his intent was to ‘butter up’ the Lord to get Him to do what he wanted, that he was wasting his time. But Balak would learn that soon enough. 
The following morning, Balak beckoned me alone, and took me to the high places where their people sacrificed to Baal. I saw this, and knew what the Lord would think of it—there was no Baal, He was the only God, and this was precisely why He wasn’t likely to bless Moab—but I chose not to comment on it. There was no point; Balak wouldn’t listen, and that wasn’t why we were here. The king pointed down into the plains, and I blinked, taken aback by the sheer number of the Israelites. 
These are my enemies,” Balak told me unnecessarily. “Now, curse them for me!” 
I took a deep breath. Then I said, “Build seven altars for me here, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” I was kind of stalling for time, and kind of doing the very thing I’d mentally mocked Balak for the day before: trying to butter God up. Seven was a special number to Him, though I wasn’t entirely sure why. It was a number of completion. I also knew, as every nation knew intuitively, that He required blood sacrifices. I again considered telling Balak to tear down the altars to Baal while we were at it, but dismissed this. I doubted he would take kindly to this suggestion. 
Balak had the animals I requested brought to us, and while he built the altars, I prepared the animals for slaughter. Then the two of us offered one bull and one ram on each of the altars, and set fire to them. Then I told the king, “Stand beside your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever He shows me I will tell you.”
I ventured alone to a desolate hill connected to the one on which we had built the altars, and prayed to the Lord. 
“Oh Lord, may it please you to curse the enemies of Balak!” 
The Lord’s reply, I knew, was not one that would please the king. When He had finished, He said, “Return to Balak, and tell him what I have said.” 
I trudged back to the king with a heavy heart, and to my dismay, I saw that in the interim, the princes of Moab had also joined him. I groaned inwardly, but when I was near enough, I called out, “Thus the Lord has bid me speak: From Aram Balak has brought me, Moab’s king from the mountains of the East, ‘Come curse Jacob for me, And come, denounce Israel!’ How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? As I see him from the top of the rocks, And I look at him from the hills; Behold, a people who dwells apart, And will not be reckoned among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, And let my end be like his!” 
As I spoke, I had my back turned to Balak and his princes, but I could sense their gnashing of teeth. Sure enough, when I turned around, I saw Balak’s dark countenance. 
“What have you done to me?” he demanded. “I took you to curse my enemies, but you have actually blessed them!”
I felt miserable. But what could I do? I imagined the avenging angel, sword drawn, standing right beside me, ready to strike me down should I misspeak. “Must I not be careful to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” 
The king huffed, and then turned and conferred with his noblemen. In the interim, I looked up to heaven and shook my head at the Lord in annoyance. 
“Will you let me say nothing that pleases him?” I complained.
Balak turned back to me, his expression smoothed as if with renewed determination. “Please come with me to another place from where you may see them, although you will only see the extreme end of them and will not see all of them; and curse them for me from there.”  
I felt my hopes rise too, irrational though I knew it was. After all, God had changed His mind from forbidding me to go with the men from Balak the second time I approached and asked Him, had He not? True, He’d given me permission and then sent an angel to slay me along the way, but I think that was due to a technicality… 
At any rate, I went with Balak and his men, across the ridges of the adjoining hills, across the field of Zophim to the top of Pisgah. There, Balak and some of the princes built seven more altars, and the remaining men went to retrieve seven more bulls and seven more rams. We again offered burnt sacrifices to the Lord, though I also noticed and ignored the altars to other gods nearby. Again I told Balak and the princes to stay by the offerings while I went to consult the Lord.
No sooner had I wandered ashrimp inway from the group, the Lord told me, “Go back to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” It was no better than before. Feeling a little sick to my stomach, I turned around and trudged back to them.
“So soon?” Balak asked eagerly, eyebrows raised. “Come now, what did He give you to say?” 
I sighed. “Thus says the Lord: Arise, O Balak, and hear; Give ear to me, O son of Zippor! God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it. He has not observed misfortune in Jacob; Nor has He seen trouble in Israel; The Lord his God is with him, And the shout of a king is among them. God brings them out of Egypt, He is for them like the horns of the wild ox. For there is no omen against Jacob, Nor is there any divination against Israel; At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob And to Israel, what God has done! Behold, a people rises like a lioness, And as a lion it lifts itself; It will not lie down until it devours the prey, And drinks the blood of the slain.” 
I watched as the lines of Balak’s face deepened into a scowl as I spoke. I could hardly blame him. When I had finished, he shouted, “Do not curse them at all nor bless them at all!” 
I felt utterly wretched. “Did I not tell you, ‘Whatever the Lord speaks, that I must do’?”
Balak turned his back on me with a snort of disgust, and went to confer with his nobles once more. At this point, I just wanted the encounter to be over. 
He returned, his expression implacable. “Please come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will be agreeable with God that you curse them for me from there.” 
Why he still thought location would make any difference at all, I did not know, but I went with him without comment. Balak and his nobles led me to the top of Peor, a mountain which overlooked a wasteland. As before, I instructed Balak, “Build seven altars for me here and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me here.” The Moabites followed my instructions, and offered their sacrifices. 
Even so, I did not bother to withdraw to pray to the Lord this time and ask Him to let me curse the people of Israel. He would not. I could say only what He gave me to say. And yet… as I turned to look at the altars of Baal behind the altars the Moabites had just built to the Lord, the germ of an idea began in my mind. 
I turned my back upon them again for now, though, and turned to look out over the wilderness. I gave over my tongue to the Lord and uttered His prophecy as it came to me: “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened; The oracle of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered, How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, Like gardens beside the river, Like aloes planted by the Lord, Like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from his buckets, And his seed will be by many waters, And his king shall be higher than Agag, And his kingdom shall be exalted. God brings him out of Egypt, He is for him like the horns of the wild ox. He will devour the nations who are his adversaries, And will crush their bones in pieces, And shatter them with his arrows. He crouches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, And cursed is everyone who curses you.” 
Balak fairly shook with fury as he listened to this oracle. As if needing to lash out physically somehow, he clapped his hands together forcefully. Then he jabbed a finger in my direction and accused, “I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have persisted in blessing them these three times! Flee to your place now. I said I would honor you greatly, but the Lord has held you back from honor!” 
I shook my head. “Did I not tell your messengers whom you had sent to me, saying, ‘Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the Lord, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the Lord speaks, that I will speak’? I will go back to my people; but come, and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come.” The germ of what I intended to do had grown in my mind, but I had decided that I would first stoke Balak’s fear of the Israelites before I gave him my recommendation. That way, he might yet be disposed to honor me, though I could not do what he had summoned me to do. 
I turned back out to the wilderness where we could see Moab in the distance, and said, “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, The oracle of him who hears the words of God, And knows the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered. I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be a possession, Seir, its enemies, also will be a possession, While Israel performs valiantly. One from Jacob shall have dominion, And will destroy the remnant from the city.” Then I turned in the direction of Amalek, and pronounced, “Amalek was the first of the nations, But his end shall be destruction.” I turned in the direction of the Kenites, and declared, “Your dwelling place is enduring, And your nest is set in the cliff. Nevertheless Kain will be consumed; How long will Asshur keep you captive?” I opened my arms to encompass all these nations, and cried in a loud voice, “Alas, who can live except God has ordained it? But ships shall come from the coast of Kittim, And they shall afflict Asshur and will afflict Eber; So they also will come to destruction.”
I turned and beheld the stunned horror on the faces of Balak and all of his princes. I smiled. “Here is the end of the matter,” I said. “The Lord has blessed Israel; neither I nor you nor anyone on earth can curse those whom the Lord has blessed. But I will tell you what you can do instead.” I pointed at the altars of Baal. I saw confusion cross their faces as they turned to look where I pointed. “No one outside of Israel may curse them, but they can curse themselves.” 
King Balak whipped around to face me again, eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?” he demanded. “Why would they do such a thing?” 
“Simple,” I shrugged. “They are in covenant with the Lord, but it is not an unconditional covenant. If they violate their end of the agreement, they bring themselves out from under His protection. They will be as weak and susceptible as any other nation. In fact, the covenant itself enumerates the curses that will come upon them, should they cease to follow the Lord their God only.” 
Balak’s eyes widened, and his mouth fell open. He was practically salivating.
“What are these rules that they must keep?” he demanded. “And how can we entice the Israelites to break them?” 
“Your land is a land of beautiful women, is it not?” I asked casually. Balak and the princes nodded eagerly, and I went on, “And harlotry is included as one of the rituals of your worship to Baal, is it not?” 
“Yes!” Balak cried, the beginnings of understanding dawning on his face. 
I nodded. “Very good. The Israelites’ first two commandments given them by the prophet who led them out of Israel were these: ‘you shall have no other gods before Me,’ and ‘you shall not make for yourself a carved image; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me.’” I left out the part I had heard about His blessings to the thousandth generation of those who love Him. “So you see? I do not believe you could directly entice them to sacrifice to Baal, unless you gave them an incentive. But if your beautiful Moabite women were to entice the Israelite men into sexual encounters, provided it is in the context of Baal worship…” I opened my hands with a casual flourish, and Balak and the princes now shared my smile. “The people will curse themselves.” 
Balak’s grin hardened into a snarl. I kept my hand open before him and let it hang there, until he finally glanced at it and took my meaning. He smirked, and gestured to one of the princes beside him, “Pay the man. He has given us what we wished, after all.” 
Jul 30, 2021

This week's podcast comes from this blog post, Fat Burner Shots.

Jul 23, 2021

Today's meditation comes from Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13.


For the first thirty years of Jesus’ life, He did nothing that the gospel writers saw fit to record, save for the one episode where He remained behind in the temple at twelve years of age, listening at the teachers’ feet and astounding them with His wisdom (Luke 2:41-52). He otherwise appeared to be a normal young man, until He was anointed by the Holy Spirit and received power from on high. This marked the beginning of His ministry. He had the power to do miracles at this point, but He had never yet performed one. Strangely, the first thing the Holy Spirit did was lead Him into the wilderness, to be tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1). The Holy Spirit actually intended for the temptations to occur. Yet we know God never leads us into temptation (Matthew 6:13, James 1:13); Jesus was a special case, for this too. Why? 
In my retelling, Jesus recited to Himself the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness, believing that His own time in the wilderness was a parallel of theirs. They left Egypt (the life they knew), just as He left His old life of obscurity behind. They had never before known power, and then suddenly they were delivered with great signs and wonders. Then the Lord drove them into the wilderness, where they confronted daily needs, and with them, temptations to doubt the Lord’s goodness and provision. The story in the Old Testament does not record that it was Satan stirring up the people against the Lord, but then, the Old Testament had (almost) no doctrine of Satan. Presumably he was there, though, and the Israelites gave right in, every time. In order for Jesus to be our perfect sacrifice and substitute, He needed to be tempted in all ways as we were, and yet remain without sin (Hebrews 4:15). So the first temptation, according to both versions of this story in Matthew and Luke, was turning stone into bread. This parallels the temptations of the Israelites in the wilderness: much of their grumblings against the Lord had to do with lack of food and water. Notice that Satan waited to offer this temptation to Jesus until he’d been fasting for forty days, and was literally beginning to starve. Bread was not a luxury, but a legitimate need at this point. Yet would He trust in the Father to provide, or take matters into His own hands? If He did the latter, it would demonstrate potentially two things: lack of trust in God’s provision, and also doubt in His own identity. 
It’s interesting that Satan begins two of his temptations with “If You are the Son of God.” These would not have been temptations if Jesus had no inclination to doubt who He was. Yet after thirty years of doing nothing remarkable, how could He not? Giving in to this doubt would have been sin, though, as “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), and the root of all sin is unbelief (John 16:9). 
The order of the second and third temptations varies in the two accounts in Matthew and Luke, though the content was the same. According to 1 John 2:16, there are only three areas in which Satan tempts us: the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The temptation to turn stone to bread was lust of the flesh: putting the needs of His body above following God. He responded to this temptation by comparing God’s Word to bread: no doubt this was exactly what the original manna in the wilderness was meant to represent. 
Pride of life would have been showing off by jumping off the pinnacle of the Temple, just to prove to the Jews (and to Himself) that He had the power to call angels to His assistance. Satan even tried to twist scripture to convince Jesus to fall for this one, adding to and omitting portions of Psalm 91 to suit his purposes. Satan’s version of Psalm 91 made it sound as though God had promised carte blanche: complete protection under any and all circumstances. But Jesus understood that His power was not to be spent upon His own lusts (James 4:3)—and indeed, He did not benefit personally from any of the miracles He performed (unless you count taking His portion from the food He multiplied when feeding the 5000 and the 4000). Here too, Jesus responds to the temptation by quoting from Deuteronomy, as He does with all three. As Paul tells us, the Word is a sword, our only offensive weapon against the enemy (Ephesians 6:17).
The last temptation according to Matthew’s account was the lust of the eyes, as He beheld all the glittering kingdoms of the world. Luke’s gospel records Satan’s assertion, “this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (Luke 4:6). Notice that Jesus didn’t contradict this: the earth and all its kingdoms were Satan’s, and they both knew it. Jesus had come to earth, in part, to regain the authority that Adam had lost. Here, Satan offered it to Him freely. I doubt Satan realized that the alternative was the cross, since Paul tells us that if he had understood this, he would never have crucified Him (1 Corinthians 2:8). But Jesus knew it, which presumably made the offer all the more enticing. Yet even if Satan had kept his end of the bargain (which is doubtful), regaining authority for Himself only was never Jesus’ goal. He wanted us back, and there was only one way to get us. If Jesus had sinned, He could not have become the perfect Lamb of God, our substitutionary sacrifice. He could not have ushered in the New Covenant. 

Fictionalized Retelling (from Jesus' POV)

It was time. 
I had, from time to time over the last six months, lingered some distance away from the Jordan River as my cousin John baptized the hoards of Israel who came to him seeking repentance. I watched smiling, laughing, and sometimes weeping as the prodigals came home. 
“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few,” I murmured aloud on more than one occasion, bursting with pride in my cousin. But I had never revealed my presence to him over the past six months. His fame grew, though I remained in obscurity. 
Until now. 
My heart hammered in my chest in a blend of excitement and anticipation as I made my way right down to the banks of the Jordan this time. John was waist deep in the river, helping a middle aged man plunge beneath the waters and come back up again, his nose plugged and eyes closed while everyone around him cheered. Grinning, John released him. 
“Bear fruit worthy of repentance, friend!” John shouted after the man as he waded toward his friends, arms thrust into the air in victory and face streaming with water.
John turned to see who was next, and our eyes locked. His smile froze while mine widened. Understanding struck him. 
“Of course it’s you.” He was too far away and the rushing water was too loud for me to hear him, but I saw his lips form the words and his eyes fill with tears. Then he started laughing, even as the tears spilled over onto his cheeks. Answering tears pricked in my own eyes. I had always imagined this moment: how John would react when he realized that I was the Messiah. The reality was better. 
“Behold!” John bellowed to everyone around him, making a grand sweeping gesture to me with one hand as he wiped his cheeks with the other. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
My chest felt like it might burst with love for My cousin. I waded up to him as he spoke, positioning Myself to be baptized as the others before Me had done. His expression changed from awestruck to appalled, and he held up his hands in protest. 
“I need to be baptized by You,” he protested, “and are You coming to me?” 
“Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” I told him.
He shook his head, but in wonder, not refusal. I knelt down, plugged My nose, and closed My eyes, as My cousin took hold of my shoulders and lowered Me below the chilly rushing waters. He lifted Me out again, and I shook My hair and beard, water streaming from My face as I wiped it away. The sky above us was cloudless that day, but even so, it seemed to part like a pair of blue curtains. Beyond it, I saw the scene Ezekiel had described: a still sapphire sea, and a throne surrounded by an emerald rainbow. The One on the throne was all flame and rainbow, more glorious than the sun. 
“Father,” I whispered. It was the first time I had ever seen Him with My human eyes. 
He rose to His feet, and threw something in the air. As it descended through the parted sky, I could make out the form of a gleaming white dove. It landed on My shoulder.
“Holy Spirit!” I breathed, like embracing an old friend. He burned Me, but without pain, as Moses’ bush had burned without being consumed.
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” My Father declared. 
With that, the sky rolled back across the heavenly scene like a scroll. The dove too had vanished, and the burning faded—but He was upon Me still, just like He had come upon the prophets of old in power. I knew He would be with Me from now on, until My mission here was complete. 
I turned to John, curious whether he had seen and heard what I had, or whether that had just been for Me. His awestruck expression, still turned toward the sky, told Me all I needed to know. Then he looked back at Me. 
“How long have You known?” he murmured. 
I smiled back at him. “As far back as I can remember.” 
“And yet You never told me!” It was an accusation, but then he held up a hand and said, “No no, I understand. It was better this way. I’d have asked far too many questions, though by all rights I should have guessed.” He shook his head and added to himself, “I must have been intentionally blinded until now; it’s the most obvious thing in the world—Jesus! where are You going?”  
I was wading back to the banks, and already the crowds had parted to make way for Me. I pointed up to the heavens. “The Spirit compels Me away from here just as surely as if He tugged Me by the hand. I must go.” 
“Where?” John called after me. “I’ll come with You!” 
“Into the wilderness, and I must go alone,” I called, giving him an apologetic glance. “You, meanwhile, still have work to do here.” I cast him one more grin, and made my way through the crowds gazing at Me with amazement on the banks, My robes streaming with water and gathering mud at the hems.
I walked out into the lonely places of Israel, as the chatter of the crowds grew distant behind Me. My clothing dried and stiffened with the sediment from the Jordan as the day progressed. Wild animals heard my footsteps and fled as I drew near. The Holy Spirit pulled me deeper and deeper into the wilderness. 
Yet there was another presence here too, besides Him and Me. I felt, though I did not see him yet. His hatred pulsed all around Me, like the heat radiating from the sun. It was almost tangible. 
I made camp that first night after the sun went down, and lay My head upon a flat stone for a pillow. I closed My eyes. It was then that I heard the first whispers. 
You imagined it all, Satan taunted. There was no open heaven, no Father, no Holy Spirit. You suffer from delusions of grandeur. What are You but a poor dead carpenter’s son?
I huffed and turned over. “It just happened today,” I said aloud. “At least have the decency to wait a few days before you try to make Me doubt it.” 
He fell silent for perhaps an hour. Then when I hovered in that space between sleep and waking, he whispered, You’re not the Messiah. You’ve never done any miracles in your life. John is greater than You are! 
I groaned, mostly annoyed to be disturbed out of slumber. Aloud, I countered in a voice thick with sleep, “Born in Bethlehem, of a virgin, from the tribe of Judah and of the line of David. I was called out of Egypt, while Herod massacred the children two and under at the time of my birth. My cousin, also born of a miracle, came in the spirit and power of Elijah and has been my forerunner for six months…” I kept quoting prophecies I had fulfilled already until I sensed that Satan had given up for the night. Then I breathed a sigh of relief, and drifted off at last.
Day and night, this cycle repeated—intensely for the first three days, when I was hungriest. By the third day, my hunger receded, and so did the whispers. After that, Satan’s daily temptations seemed almost halfhearted, and he gave up easily.
“Isn’t that just like you,” I panted to him aloud as I crested a hill with a large tree where I could rest in the shade. “Not one to waste your efforts in a battle you know you cannot win!” 
I knew I would not feel hunger again for the most part until I literally began to starve, which would happen around day forty. I did not know how long the Holy Spirit intended for me to spend out in the wilderness, though I guessed forty days and nights—that number recurred throughout scripture. The hardest battle would come near the end, when I was at my weakest, both physically and emotionally. 
Until then, I walked, I rested, and just when I could stand my thirst no more, I came across streams and springs where I slaked my parched tongue. I quoted the Pentateuch to Myself aloud. I sang the Psalms, inventing melodies for some of them that had never been set to music in My day. I talked to the Father and to the Holy Spirit, though I got no more audible or miraculous responses as I had in the Jordan. 
What are You doing out here? What is the point? Satan whispered several weeks in. 
“Symbolism,” I informed him, as much for My benefit as for his. “The Israelites left their old life in Egypt, were ‘baptized’ as they passed through the Red Sea, and entered the wilderness, where they learned trust and dependence upon God day by day, despite constant opportunities to doubt. Forty years for them; forty days for Me. Then they entered the Promised Land, through the Jordan at flood stage. Jordan means ‘destroyer,’ which symbolizes you, of course. The waters of the ‘destroyer’ parted and were cut off all the way back to the city called Adam. It was, for them, as if the fall had never happened, as long as they remained on the right side of the covenant. You had no power over them anymore. Only then did they began their work of taking territory and slaying giants. In the same way, after I defeat you in the wilderness, then My ministry will begin. Then I will take down your ‘giants’ of sickness, death, and disease, set the captives free, and proclaim the good news of the kingdom.” 
If this is Your wilderness experience like what the Israelites experienced, then where is your manna? Satan sneered. God fed the Israelites, but He’s happy to let You starve. You know why? You’re not really His son. He’ll let You die out here like the blasphemer You are.
I rolled My eyes at this attempt, though in truth, My stomach responded differently. It growled at the thought of manna. 
The awakened hunger persisted after that. At first upon is return, it gnawed here and there and then quieted for the rest of the day. It was worse on the days when I did not come upon a stream. A belly heavy with water could soothe the ravenous beast for awhile. 
By day forty, though, the hunger was constant and nearly unbearable. I hardly felt the Holy Spirit’s presence at all, but Satan’s whispers seemed always just behind Me. 
I squinted against the glare of the midday sun, not sure if My eyes were playing tricks on Me. But surely if I were to see a mirage, the shriveled, misshapen being before Me is not what I would have conjured. 
“Satan,” I greeted the creature. I had never seen him before with My human eyes, yet I recognized him at once. I looked him up and down, noting the leathery skin like that of a bat, the emaciated features, the beady flashing red eyes. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen,” I commented. My human eyes had never beheld him in his pre-fall glory either, but I knew the story from Isaiah. 
His lip curled at this, returning the inspection. “I could say the same of You, if You truly were who You claimed to be. But You and I both know You’re not. At least I once glowed brighter than the morning star. You, on the other hand…” he gave a wheezy laugh. “A delusional carpenter whom God will permit to die of starvation in the wilderness, whose carcass will be picked clean by the vultures.” 
“How well-named you are,” I retorted. Satan meant accuser. 
If You are the Son of God,” he returned, circling Me like one of the vultures he had referenced, “command that these stones become bread.” He gestured at a large boulder at my feet. 
Immediately My stomach gave a loud, painful growl. Unbidden, I saw the hot loaf in My mind’s eye, dripping with butter, sweetened with honey. My mouth flooded with saliva I could ill afford to spare: I was dehydrated enough. 
But I had not quoted the Pentateuch for forty days and nights for nothing. I knew the stories: God gave Moses the rod that he used in power to deliver the Israelites from every one of their challenges, and yet he was only to use it as God had prescribed. He could not bring water out of any rock, nor could he do it by any method he chose. When he forgot this, he had forfeited his own right to enter the Promised Land. In the same way, the power of the Holy Spirit was Mine, but I could not use it when and how I pleased—lest I forfeit My Promised Land. 
“It is written,” I panted back, swallowing back the saliva, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Satan knew the reference as I did: it was from Deuteronomy. His beady eyes flashed, but he tried to control his expression. I should have felt a flash of triumph, but all I felt was hungry. 
Satan circled Me, and fastened his reptilian hands upon My wrists. In a whirl of wind and the blink of an eye, he spirited us together to the pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem. My eyes widened and I took a step back from the ledge, as down below I saw the bustle of the crowd of worshippers, or priests bearing lambs or goats they had just bought and washed for sacrifice. They did not seem to see us—yet. 
“Prince of the power of the air,” I murmured to Myself, amazed. It was an impressive trick. 
He smirked at me, and gave an exaggerated little bow. Then his proud expression hardened and he took a step closer to me—too close. “If You are the Son of God,” he hissed, and gestured at the ledge casually, “throw Yourself down.” His words again conjured a clear picture in my mind: the gasps, the cheers, the crowds flocking to Me in amazement. What a spectacular way to announce My ministry! Satan shrugged and added, “For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
I gnashed My teeth together. That was a misquote of Psalm 91. Technically it was correct, but it was completely out of context. It angered Me how subtle his lies were, though less for Myself, and more for all those precious ones whom I knew he would lead astray with exactly this kind of deceit throughout the ages. I retorted, “It is also written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God!’” This was also from Deuteronomy. “Don’t play this game with Me, Satan. You think you know the word better than I do? I am the Word. You cannot win.” 
“Oh, can’t I?” he whispered back, clutching My wrists in his fists once again. I did not know where he planned to take Me now, but I knew he would choose a different tactic this time. He couldn’t make Me doubt My identity, so—
I caught My breath. We were at the top of a snow-capped mountain, well above the clouds, though I did not feel cold. This was a vision, I realized. I looked down, and all around me I saw—time. All of it. From the beginning to the end, every glittering kingdom of earth merged with one another, their rising and falling, their wealth and their greatness. But even more than this, I saw the people in those kingdoms: great and small, young and old, good and evil. My heart ached. They were why I had come. I longed for them, so desperately—My sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, all lost and hopeless and hurting without Me!
Satan leaned so close to My ear that I could feel his breath upon My neck. 
“All this authority I will give you, and their glory. It has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. If You will fall down and worship me, all will be Yours.” 
I whirled on him, horrified at the longing I felt. Adam gave the authority of all the earth to him, and he offered it back to Me now. It was precisely what I had come to reclaim, and he now offered Me a shortcut—without the sacrifice. 
Without the cross. 
“Away with you, Satan!” I snapped. “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve!’”
His expression sank into a deep scowl, and he bared his pointed yellowed teeth at Me. Then in a whirlwind, he was gone. I found Myself alone in the wilderness once again, on My hands and knees, panting. 
Then I felt a hand on My shoulder. I jerked back, expecting to see Satan once again, but I softened when I saw a beautiful face I somehow also recognized. 
He smiled at me tenderly, and gestured behind him. There, I saw a cake sizzling upon a stone, and a jug of water. My stomach gave an answering, painful growl. I thought at once of the story of Elijah in the wilderness as he fled to Mount Sinai, and an angel met him along the way with just such refreshment as this. 
Gabriel hovered just behind me as I wolfed down the repast, closing My eyes in bliss as I savored the flavors. The cake was smaller than I would have liked, but I also knew better than to break such a long fast with a large meal. Nevertheless, had I had the option, it would have been hard to resist. 
When I had finished, I turned back to Gabriel. 
“I wonder that I have never met him before,” I said, meaning Satan. “But then, I’ve never drawn attention to Myself before.” 
The angel nodded, and pointed at the sky with a slight smirk. “That got his attention, I think.” 
I laughed, and then grew thoughtful. “Yes. But I needed it, too.” Of course, I literally needed the power of the Spirit to begin My ministry—but what I meant was that I had emotionally needed the open vision and the Father’s voice, too. After thirty years of obscurity, I had not doubted My identity per se, but the overt confirmation had certainly been a relief. Gabriel understood this.  
“That has always been the struggle,” Gabriel agreed. “Physical manifestations of power alert Satan to where the battle is.” Then he added, “He gave up for now, but he’ll be back, whenever he thinks You’re at Your most vulnerable. He’s like the Amalekites in that way.” 
I gave a short laugh, catching the reference to the tribe that had first attacked the Israelites in the wilderness by picking off the weak and stragglers among them. “Of course he is. The Amalekites got that strategy from him.” I sighed and mused to Myself, “I’ll have to be careful. Anything I say plainly or do in the natural realm is double-edged: he can see or hear it just as surely as those for whom it is intended. Which is why so many of the prophets spoke in mysteries and dark sayings.” 
Gabriel sank down to the ground beside Me, mimicking My posture with his arms around his knees. “He never understood any of the prophecies about You until it was too late,” the angel agreed. “Oh, he knew vaguely of course: Seed of Eve, line of Abraham, and that kind of thing—so he did his best to corrupt the earth, keep Abraham’s line barren until there were too many of them to bother with that strategy, and then kill or corrupt the Jews in general. But if he could have narrowed it down to Your exact line…” He shook his head. “Even at the time of Your birth, the best he could do was inspire Herod to kill all the babies two and under in Israel. He didn’t understand that—”
“‘Out of Egypt I have called My Son,’” I finished, quoting from Hosea. 
Gabriel nodded. “Right. He was looking for you in the wrong country. The truth was written in black and white—”
“But in a dark saying,” I agreed, and bit My lip. I thought of David’s seemingly superfluous musical gift of the harp, which turned out to be his ticket into Saul’s palace. I, likewise, had a gift for story telling. Now I understood why. I looked up at Gabriel. 
“I am to teach the people in parables,” I realized. “So that ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding’…” 
“Except for those whose hearts have been prepared to perceive and to understand,” Gabriel agreed. 
“By My cousin.” I gave a short laugh, and then sighed. “Even then, I’ll have to be careful what I say. He’ll be watching Me very closely from now on.” 
Gabriel stood and brushed himself off, which was also My cue that it was time to head back to Capernaum. 
“Yes,” he said, “I daresay Satan won’t take his eyes off of You for a second, from this moment on.” 
Jul 16, 2021

San Diego-based Joy Stephenson-Laws is a wellness warrior!  She is the founder of LA-based Proactive Health Labs (pH Labs), a national nonprofit health information company that provides education and tools needed to achieve optimal health. She is also author of Minerals – The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy, and founding and managing partner of Stephenson, Acquisto & Colman (SAC), the health care industry’s premier litigation law firm established in 1989. pH Labs’ includes a diverse team of health care professionals who are experts in making complex health and health-related topics easy-to-understand and easy to apply to your daily lives. 

To learn more about Joy, see her website: 

Jul 9, 2021

Krzysztof Czeczot is a Polish actor, director, and producer. Krzysztof has produced over 400 hours of dramatized audiobooks, among others: Game of Thrones, The Godfather and Blade Runner.  He is a winner of The Best European Audio Play and the founder and director of the Audio Bible Super Production, a one of a kind ecumenical project. It’s the world's largest 3D radio drama with Hollywood A-list artists, including some of the most famous names in business, has its own dedicated music and background sounds recorded in the Holy Land, and will be available on a modern mobile app. To top it all off, anyone has a chance to participate and share their voice. Apart from professional actors, they invite people from different walks of life to take part in the production. 

For more about the Audio Bible Super Production, visit 

Jul 2, 2021

Jane Wenning is a certified Medical Technologist with a degree in Clinical Laboratory Science.  She is an Athletic Trainer, and Health Mentor who has been helping women improve their mental and physical health for over 20 years.  During high school and college, she was overweight, struggled with eating disorders, had low self-esteem and brain fog.  Obtaining a degree in Clinical Laboratory Science and working with athletes, Jane merged these two worlds together to create a structured wellness plan focused on four pillars – Recovery, Emotional Energy, Nutrition, and Movement.   Outside of her degree she has spent hundreds of hours learning about nutrition, longevity, brain health, sleep, interval training, fasting, epigenetics and estrogenics.   With daily reading of the bible she finds confirmation in God’s word that He wants us to live abundant, healthy lives.  Jane now equips women (and some men) with the tools to transform into healthier and stronger versions of themselves to live life with vitality.  

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Jun 25, 2021

Today's podcast is a meditation on and retelling of John 2:1-11.

This retelling comes from Messiah: Biblical Retellings. The second book in this series is Daughters of Zion: Biblical Retellings

    Why was this Jesus’ first public miracle?
    It’s clear he didn’t actually intend it to be. He tried to tell Mary no, and that his time had not yet come, but Mary insisted. Presumably these were close friends of hers, and she was embarrassed for the host that they had run out of wine. She also knew Jesus could help, which is remarkable in itself. Up until this point, Jesus had been baptized by John in power, but he had not yet done any miracles. Mary surely knew that he could do miracles as the Messiah, but it’s remarkable that she had the faith that he would, even after he told her no and he never had before. It was her faith that made this one happen: she actually ignored his ‘no’ and told the servants to go ahead and do whatever Jesus said to do. What must they have thought, when they knew they’d filled up the vessels with just water, and then brought them to the master of ceremonies to taste? Were they snickering amongst themselves? Were they wondering what they would say as explanation?
    After Jesus was baptized by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit, he had the powerto do miracles. Satan tempted him in the wilderness to do miraculous signs to prove who he was to himself, since he had never yet performed any miracles. Satan wanted Jesus to doubt his identity. So when Jesus was beginning to literally starve after 40 days with no food, and Satan tempted him to turn a stone into bread, a necessity for himself—and he resisted. Yet now, when Mary wants him to turn water into wine—a luxury for others, he does it. Not only does he do it, he makes up to 180 gallons of it! It takes 5 normal sized bottles of wine to make a gallon, so this is 900 bottles of apparently exquisite wine. No matter how big this wedding, that’s way more than they could ever drink, even with a marriage celebration that went on for days. He continues this theme of abundance throughout his ministry: in the feeding of both the 5000 and the 4000, there was far more left over than he started with. When Jesus told Peter and his partners to cast their nets on the other sides of the boat, there were so many fish that the boats began to sink. He is a God of more than enough.
    Moses’ first miracle under the Covenant of Law was to turn a rod into a serpent (a symbol of sin). Jesus’ first miracle as the bringer of the New Covenant of Grace is to produce an excess of wine (a symbol of joy) for a celebration. This reminds me of the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut 16:9-15): in both cases, the people are to take a portion of what he has blessed them with and enjoy it themselves—all God asks is that they invite Him to the party. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).
Fictionalized Retelling: from Mary's POV
Deborah had been one of my dearest friends since the earliest days of my marriage to Joseph. She and her husband Zev had thought they were barren for many years, before the birth of their daughter Yasmin. Later they had two boys too, but Yasmin was the princess of the family. I watched her grow up with my own children, and loved her like one of my own. When Joseph passed away, her family and ours grew even closer. Zev cared for me like I was one of his own sisters, though my sons were old enough to take care of me then.
    Alas for Yasmin, though, her parents were too poor for much of a dowry, and she was never a beauty. When she reached eighteen with no marriage prospects, Deborah privately cried with me that perhaps Yasmin would never marry. What would she do in her old age, once her parents were not around to provide for her anymore?
    “Her brothers will no doubt provide for her,” I soothed my friend, though inwardly my heart broke for Yasmin, too. Yasmin did not let on, but I knew how it must hurt her not to be chosen, and how she must fear growing old without a family of her own.
    So when she met Tobias, a poor merchant’s son who seemed to see in her what all of us saw, we held our breaths… until the day finally came, when Tobias approached Zev for the Shiddukin, or commitment. When Zev asked Yasmin privately if she would consent to become Tobias’s wife, Deborah told me that Yasmin had burst into happy tears on the spot, choking out her yes with so much emotion that they could hardly understand her.
    I had been present for Yasmin’s Erusin, or betrothal ceremony to Tobias. I thought my face might split, I was grinning so hard as she and Tobias traded the wine goblet under the huppah. Betrothals typically lasted a year, and Tobias would need that long to prepare a place for his bride. From nine months after that day on, Yasmin kept her oil lamps burning in the house twenty-four seven, in case Tobias sounded the shofar and led the bridal procession to collect her in the night. I knew that Deborah and Zev privately fretted about this, since they could not really afford that much oil. But they dared not deny their girl this little luxury, after all she had suffered.
    The oil became a problem when nine months turned into a year, and twelve months became fifteen. Zev finally told Yasmin they could not afford to continue burning the oil lamps. Deborah told me of the tears that followed, and I understood why. Yasmin was not crying because she was denied the oil for the lamps. The oil lamps symbolized her hope that Tobias would ever return, and her hope was dwindling. Had he changed his mind? Would he return at all?
    So when the shofar sounded in the streets of Cana after a seventeen month betrothal, the entire town turned up to celebrate the Nissuin. We all loved Yasmin, Deborah, and Zev. I was relieved that Jesus had just returned home in time, as well: he had been baptized in the river Jordan and then went off into the wilderness for forty days, though I did not know how long he would be gone. He had made it clear to me that he would not necessarily share with me all the details of where and when he would be going from this point forward. I understood the significance of what he was saying. Since his very unusual birth, I had anticipated the day he would step into his role as the Messiah. I wanted to ask him what had happened in the wilderness, but he happened to arrive on day three of the Nissuin, at which point there was such hubbub and commotion that I could hardly ask him anything. He also arrived with a group of several men I had never seen before, orienting themselves around him like disciples. I beamed at my son and waved at him across the way when Deborah intercepted me, all aflutter.
    My face fell as I focused on my friend, and for one wild second, I thought, what crisis now?
    “We are out of wine!” she gasped. “It’s only the third day, and we are out of wine!”
    I understood what she meant immediately. It was considered shameful to run out of wine at all, let alone on day three. Although wedding guests typically helped to pay for the seven day wedding feast of Nissuin, none of our friends were wealthy people. There was no one to whom they could appeal for help.
    “This is because of the excess of oil burning all those months?” I guessed, and Deborah gave me a tearful nod.
    I bit my lip, and looked back at Jesus, then at Deborah again.
    “Leave it to me,” I whispered with determination, and crossed the room.
    I grinned and hugged my son, but when I got close enough to his ear I whispered pointedly, “They have no more wine.”
    When Jesus released me, I saw that he scrutinized my face with a slight frown. “What does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
    I narrowed my eyes at him. “I know about the dove from heaven,” I whispered back, referencing the rumors I had heard about the voice that had declared Jesus’ identity when John baptized him in the river. “You’ve stepped into your ministry now. You even have disciples. If Elijah and Elisha could both multiply oil and flour, I know you can do this! Besides, it’s Yasmin!” I insisted. “She’s practically your sister…”
    I saw that Jesus was about to protest again, so I turned away before I could hear it, gesturing at the servants nearby. I pointed them to Jesus.
    “Whatever he says to you, do it,” I instructed them, turning back to Jesus. I might have worn a slightly triumphant expression. He returned a mock glare, but the corners of his mouth turned upward. I knew I’d won.
    With a slight sigh, Jesus turned to the servants and pointed at six enormous empty waterpots used for ritual purification. “Go and fill the waterpots with water,” he instructed.
    I saw the servants frown at each other skeptically, but I reminded them, “Do it!”
    They shrugged, and went to do as they were told. It took two men to carry each filled pot back to Jesus, since they held about thirty gallons each, sloshing water over the edges as they carried them.
    When they returned, Jesus nodded at them and said, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.”
    The servants at first did nothing. One finally echoed, “Take him some… water.”
    Jesus returned the look I knew so well: that unblinking quiet confidence that said he meant just what he said, and wasn’t going to change his mind.
    The servant shrugged and said, “Well, okay then…” and dipped a goblet into the water. Then he looked down into the goblet and started. He looked back up at Jesus, then down at the goblet, then up at Jesus again. Jesus’ expression had not changed, though there might have been just a twinge more amusement.
    I smiled at Jesus with gratitude, but hurried after the two servants. They brought the goblet to Tobias’s father Uri, acting master of the feast. Uri was tipsy already, and gave a loud and cheerful “Hey!” when he saw that the servants had brought him another goblet of wine. He raised it to his lips, though his attention was elsewhere. All three of us watching eagerly for his reaction. He raised his eyebrows, lifted the goblet to his nose, sniffed it, and swirled it before bringing it to his lips again. Then he looked first to the servants, then to Deborah in amazement. He beckoned his son to him across the room, and Tobias came trotting over.
    “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” he cried out, clapping the boy on his back and drinking a long draught from the goblet. “Well done!”
    Tobias turned to us, looking confused. I giggled, and gestured to the servant.
    “Bring the bridegroom a goblet too!” I told them. “Bring me one as well!”
    They did so, whispering excitedly among themselves. Many of the guests turned to Jesus after they had no doubt heard the story, with expressions ranging from skepticism to amazement. Tobias shared his goblet with Yasmin, who went to Jesus to thank him. In minutes, the story had traversed the room, and the people swarmed Jesus, wanting to know if it was true. I could just see him through the crowd that now surrounded him, and I raised my goblet in the air to him in a silent toast.
    “To my son,” I whispered to myself. “The Messiah.”
Jun 18, 2021

Barbara Samuels is an international speaker, transformational wellness coach, CEO, and life strategist. She operates a successful lifestyle coaching company  "Living All Alive", that empowers individuals to take control of their health and reverse type 2 diabetes, and she is the author of the book, Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally.

Barbara has over 27 years’ experience working in the field of nursing as a registered nurse. Her experience in this field spanned on two continents. She has worked in England, Jamaica, and the United states. During her time as a nurse, she was deeply grieved as she witnessed the pain/suffering and untimely death of her patients from type 2 diabetes complications. 

She knew there must be more that she could do. She wanted to have a greater impact, and so she decided to become actively engaged in improving the health of others through education and wellness coaching. She left the hospital setting and has been making a major impact in helping to restore the lives of individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Barbara is married with 3 children. She is passionate about sharing the gospel, through avenues of health and wellness. Barbara’s mission is to help others live and experience the abundant life that they were created to have, enjoying all the blessings that God has for them.

For more about Barbara, see her website, Living All Alive, or find her on Instagram @LivingAllAlive.

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Jun 11, 2021
Shinar was in what is now modern day Iraq. The land of Babylon got its name from the Tower of Babel, so named because the Hebrew word Bāḇel means confusion. Presumably the etymology of the English word babble comes from its Hebrew equivalent.
It’s interesting what is not in the text in this story. The people of the earth built a fortified city and a tower, intending for it to reach up to heaven. We know from God’s reaction that what they did was somehow evil, but there’s nothing inherently evil in building a city or a tower. What was the problem? 
I think the clue is in the phrase, “…a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Remember that this was only one hundred (and one) years after the flood—Noah and his sons were still alive. Could the point have been that their descendants were trying to protect themselves against a future act of God, even though He had already promised He would never again send a flood upon the earth? Was the problem that they were trusting in their own might and seeking their own glory, leaning on “their own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Did the tower up to the heavens imply that they saw themselves as equal with God? 
Ultimately I think the issue was pride—and the fact that, left unchecked, the people might actually achieve their ends. God had to intervene once more; He had to make sure that the people of the earth did not once again become corrupted beyond redemption, beyond the point where He could bring forth a savior. The fact that He went about it by confusing their language is profound, though. He said, “the people are one and they have one language, and… now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Genesis 11:6-7). What a powerful statement about the power both of the tongue (Proverbs 12:14), and of agreement of vision and purpose! The Hebrew word for “nothing they propose to do” is zāmam, translated elsewhere as devise, imagine, or plot. We do nothing without first imagining or considering it, conceiving it in our minds. In the same way, the writer of Proverbs tells us to guard our hearts (or our minds or imaginations), “for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23), and “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). First comes the thought; then comes the word, and this translates into the deed or the action itself. We are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), and God spoke the world into being (Genesis 1:3). In the same way, our words have great power (Proverbs 18:21). When God saw that the descendants of Noah used this power to pursue their own ends and to forget Him, He dealt with it by confusing their language. He could not change their thoughts without violating their free will, so He intervened at a later stage in the process. Their words, lacking understanding, also lost the power of the unity of vision. Even with the loss of a huge percentage of his workers, Nimrod son of Cush, the son of Ham still went on to found Babylon, Assyria, and Nineveh, as well as many other cities (Genesis 10:8-12). Imagine what he could have done had they maintained the unity of language! In the same way, think of all the seemingly impossible advances in knowledge, understanding, and technology that have occurred even within our own lifetimes. All of these began as an idea, an imagination, a vision—which were subsequently communicated to others who caught the vision and could then add their own skills in pursuit of a common purpose. God Himself said of this process, “now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” (Genesis 11:6). What a statement! What incredible power He has given to mankind, to use for good or ill. 
I also find it interesting that while this initial incident of producing different tongues divided and scattered mankind across the globe, Pentecost had the exact opposite effect: the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church united those who had been divided by language in a common purpose and vision (Acts 2:1-12). The Lord brought men together with the supernatural understanding of one another’s languages, and as a result, the church swelled from one hundred and twenty people (Acts 1:15) to over three thousand in a single day (Acts 2:41). 
What struck me most about this story was that Noah was still alive at the time—in fact, he lived for another 150 years after this (Genesis 9:28). I’d never thought of that before. Everyone on earth at the time would have been family to him: his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. How did the patriarch let this happen? How did his descendants go astray only one century after the flood? And how awful for him to essentially lose much of his family when they could no longer communicate with one another. It wasn’t like they could just pick up the Rosetta Stone and learn; this was the advent of all the new languages of the earth. Even if there existed a written alphabet for the original language they all spoke, there certainly wasn’t one yet for any of the new languages. So those who shared a language in common presumably migrated together to found new nations with their new tongues (Genesis 11:8). 
Fictionalized Retelling: Preincarnate Jesus' Perspective
I looked down at the earth and frowned. 
It was desolate, compared to the lush world before the flood one hundred years earlier. The earth had given forth its fruit and prospered in the last hundred years, but it was nothing to what it had been before. The temperate climate I had intended, and the tropical forests and glades spanning the globe had now become predominately ocean, desert nearer the equator, and tundra toward the poles. Still, My intention was for Noah’s descendants to repopulate the inhabitable portions of the earth, such as it was. That was not what they were doing.     
There were just over ten thousand of them now. I had kept my covenant with Noah simple. I needed a nation of those whose hearts would follow Me before going into detail about morality, to both teach them that they needed the Seed of Eve to come and redeem them, and to keep them pure enough that He could come at all. They weren’t there yet. In fact to start, I needed one man whose heart toward me was pure. 
That was why I frowned upon the earth now. I had given my vow to Noah that never again would I wipe out the earth’s entire population, and yet here they were only a century later, already challenging that resolution. 
“We told them to fill the earth and subdue it,” the Father observed to Me. “Yet they have all settled in Shinar, and the rest of the earth remains uninhabited.” 
“Yes, and see what they are doing,” the Spirit growled. “They are building a great city, with a temple to reach to heaven. Nimrod thinks he is God.”
“Satan heard the covenant too, that we would never again destroy the earth in a flood,” I murmured. “He thinks that means if he corrupts mankind again, there will be nothing We can do to stop him.” 
The Father sighed. “If mankind can only get past this stage without complete corruption, and give Us something to work with—”
“Where is Noah?” I groaned. I knew the answer, but expressed my frustration. Noah was their patriarch, the eldest man of the earth and the father of them all, at over seven hundred years of age. Yet he had said nothing to hinder the rebellion of his descendants, or to remind them of Us. He had grown complacent. He had Our promise, repeated several times per year in the heavens after each rainfall, that We would never again destroy the earth in that way again. We had not explained to him Our ultimate purpose. We had not explained that he and all mankind had an enemy that longed to keep Us from bringing the Seed that would ultimately redeem them. He would not have understood if We had. So he watched as his grandchildren and great-grandchildren grew ambitious for their own legacy upon the earth, and forgot Us. He was actually even proud of their accomplishments. He did not think to warn them. He too was blinded.
We would have to get involved once again, since We lacked a man upon the earth to do it for Us. Yet We would need to do it without destruction, abiding by the rules of Our own covenant with Noah. 
“I will go,” I announced, “and see this city and tower which the children of men have built.”
So I descended from heaven to the land of Shinar, deliberately obscuring My radiance so that they would not know Me. I walked about the city incognito, like a stranger to those parts, dismayed at what I saw. Under the direction of Nimrod, son of Cush, all of the men of the land worked together toward Nimrod’s common vision. They had developed bricks and mortar, just like men had done before the flood, and had used them to create a sprawling city. At its center was a ziggurat, built with successive layers and a tower at the center which reached halfway to the sky. With an intricate system of pulleys, the people of Shinar continued to pile layer upon layer to the tower, with a spiral staircase on the inside so that they could still climb to the top. They worked well together. Too well. 
“In and of itself, the tower is not evil,” I murmured to the Spirit, who was with Me, but invisible to the men around us. 
“No,” He agreed, “but what is the motive for building it?”
This was rhetorical, but I answered anyway. “The people have become great in their own eyes, convinced they can accomplish anything they wish, without Us.” 
“To a large degree they are correct,” He replied, pensive. “They are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they have started to do, and now nothing which they plan to do will be impossible for them.”
I sighed, and made My way to the center of the ziggurat beside the tower, where Nimrod and his family lived. From there, he gave orders to all of his sons and nephews and cousins who built the tower with him. I frowned, listening and observing, until he had a moment of reprieve between the giving of orders. 
“You are in charge of this land?” I asked him. 
Nimrod looked at Me, narrowed his eyes, and sniffed with disdain. “Whose son are you? I do not recall.” 
“God’s son,” I told him. 
He gave Me an odd look followed by a little sneer. “Mmm, aren’t we all.” 
“Yes, though it seems you have forgotten it,” I said. “What is the purpose of this great city and the tower you have built?”  
He regarded Me again, as if deciding whether or not to dismiss Me. But, not willing to give up an opportunity to boast, he replied, “My grandfather, and probably Your great-grandfather, saw the earth destroyed in a great flood. This was only possible because the people had not fortified themselves against such disaster. We shall not make such a mistake.” 
I arched a brow at him. “You think that your ziggurat would save you against the hand of God, should He decide to destroy this generation?” 
Nimrod puffed out his chest. “Yes,” he declared. “My grandfather Ham told me that the flood waters rose above the peaks of the highest mountain of the earth. My tower shall reach higher than that, up to the very heavens themselves!” 
I considered telling Nimrod to ask Ham, or Noah, how it really was when the fountains of the deep broke open. The very idea that this ziggurat or its tower would have survived that was laughable. But it did not matter; Nimrod would not hear it, and the point was moot anyway. 
“You do recall the Lord’s covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood,” I said. “Why fortify yourself against a disaster which shall never recur?” 
“Ah,” Nimrod’s mouth curled at the edges. “Perhaps not a flood, but there are other kinds of disasters, are there not? This fortress would withstand a cyclone, or an earthquake, or a volcano, or a rebellion—whatever disaster may befall, my great name shall live on in the earth. My descendants shall still speak of me for thousands of generations to come.” 
“So your goal is your own glory, then,” I concluded. 
He shrugged. “Mine and that of my children after me. My glory is their glory. Why am I still talking to You? Get back to work!” 
I regarded him, and then murmured, “You have fortified yourself and your children against physical destruction, yes. But there is a kind of disaster that you cannot guard against, which shall destroy your best laid plans and bring them all to nothing.” 
He sneered. “‘Awh nem, wama hdha?” He blinked, confused, and then suddenly frightened. He clapped a hand over his mouth. “Madha faealt bi?” he demanded. 
“I have confused your language,” I informed him, though I knew he would no longer understand Me. “And not yours only. All around, you will find that your workers no longer understand one another. A few will share each tongue, and those few shall become tribes unto themselves, and will scatter together across the globe—”
“Madha faealt bi?” Nimrod wailed, lunging at Me. I casually raised a hand as if to deflect him, and lifted the veil from his eyes so that he could behold My true form. His eyes widened, and he collapsed to the ground in terror as My glory radiated all around him. 
I left him like that, groveling on the ground, as I strolled down the stairs of the ziggurat, joined by the Spirit as the cacophony of new tongues erupted all around Us. They shouted at one another now, as if that would help. 
Halfway down the ziggurat, We caught sight of the seven hundred year old Noah, and his son Japheth. I felt a pang of sorrow as Japheth shouted at his father, “Miért nem tudsz megérteni engem?” Noah shook his hoary head with dismay, as he at last realized that this was no joke. 
“I’ve lost my children,” he moaned to himself. “I’ve lost them forever—” He raised his eyes to Me then, and though I had again resumed My cloaked appearance, he knew Me. “We have forgotten You,” he whispered. “So you’ve made their language like the babbling of a baby to me.” 
“This is a mercy, not a punishment,” I told him gently. “Just as it was when We expelled Adam and Eve from the garden so that they could not take of the tree and live forever in their fallen state. Left unchecked, Nimrod and all your family in unity against Me would have corrupted the earth, just as surely as did the Nephilim.”
“Have you left me anyone at all?” Noah choked. 
“Shem, Arphaxad, and his children retain your language,” I murmured, laying a hand on his shoulder. “You will journey together with them to the land of Ur of the Chaldeans, together with their wives and children.” 
“What of Nimrod?” he asked me. “And Shinar?” 
“Nimrod will remain here, of course, along with all those who share his language. But he now has less than a tenth of the men he had before. He will continue to build here, and then will move on to construct the beginnings of other mighty nations. Your great-grandson will yet be great upon the earth, though not the absolute ruler he had imagined himself.” 
Noah covered his face with his hands, and I allowed him to fall into step beside Us. He looked back at the ziggurat once we had descended to the earth with one last look of sorrow, the unintelligible shouts mingling together in an angry, distant din. 
“Nimrod had called it the Tower of Shinar,” he murmured. “But hereafter I will call it the Tower of Babel.” 
May 28, 2021

Today's meditation is on Luke 18:1-8, the Parable of the Unjust Judge (or the parable of the persistent widow)

May 21, 2021

Denise Sultenfess lives in Maryland with her husband on the family farm where they raise grass-fed and grain-finished beef, wool sheep, and organic laying hens and grow organic herbs and cut flowers. She has six children, all grown and on their own except her caboose kid who is 14. Twelve years ago, Denise received a diagnosis of acute Lyme disease. She battled the illness for a decade. In 2018, she eradicated the disease through a skilfully curated integrative Lyme protocol which she continues today. Denise is a writer and is a faith-based certified integrative health and wellness coach who helps women with a health crisis or challenge build new habits and overcome obstacles so they can live life from a place of wholeness.

Learn more about Denise at 

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May 14, 2021

Today's podcast is a meditation on 1 John 5:14-15: "And this is the confidence we have in Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, in whatever we ask, we know that we already possess what we asked of Him."

May 7, 2021

Teresa Shields Parker has lost more than 250 pounds, more important she is keeping it off. Sweet Surrender: Breaking Strongholds is her sixth and most powerful book. She leads Overcomers Academy, a Christian weight loss group, that has numerous courses available to members. She also loves doing one-on-one freedom coaching. With more than 40 years of experience as a journalist and publisher, Teresa lives in Columbia, MO with her husband, Roy, where they are active in their local church. They have two grown children and have also been foster parents to 10 behaviorally and developmentally challenged young adults.

Learn more at, get her free ebook What Is a Stronghold? here, or get her book Sweet Surrender: Breaking Strongholds here. Her podcast is called Sweet Grace for Your Journey.

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Apr 30, 2021

As mentioned, Messiah: Biblical Retellings is here. Daughters of Zion: Biblical Retellings is here. Covenants: Biblical Retellings is coming soon.


I put the story of Job in a book about covenants, even though God never makes a covenant with Job, because I believe the only way to properly interpret the events in the story is within the context of the covenants that did (and did not) exist at the time. Most scholars place the story of Job after the flood and before Abraham’s covenant with God in Genesis 12. This means that the only covenant Job had with God are those of Adam and Noah. When Adam sinned and obeyed Satan, God was left on the outside of the world He had made, looking in—like a landlord whose tenants had turned Him out. Satan was now the god (little g) of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). While God had promised to bring the promised Seed of Eve (Genesis 3:15), He would need a people willing to more or less play by His rules in order to do so, and then the cooperation of generations of prophets to speak Him into existence. He hadn’t gotten that far yet.
Job is a righteous man, and so clearly favored by God that Satan takes notice. It’s actually God’s blessings that paint a target on Job’s back. While Satan of course comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), in this story he does so not for the sheer pleasure of it, but to prove his point to God, almost as if in a courtroom drama. He aims to establish that our love for God is contingent upon God’s blessings. If Satan can establish this for the most righteous man on earth at the time, it would follow that the same is true for all the rest of us. 
In Job 1, God brings up Job to Satan before Satan mentions him, which seems to indicate that it was God who placed Job in Satan’s crosshairs. But God is omniscient, and Satan’s immediate rejoinder showed that Satan was already thinking about Job. I suspect God just knew what Satan was thinking and cut to the chase. Many translations of Job have it that God “allowed” Satan’s attack against Job, which would seem to make God complicit in Job’s misery. But the context of the covenants in place at the time indicates that God allowed it only in the loosest sense of the word. Job lived at a time when God had not yet established a reciprocal covenantal protection for His people. God had to allow Satan’s request, even though He hated it. Did He have the power to refuse Satan? Technically yes, but He did not have the authority to do so—because He had given that authority to man in the garden. Man, in turn, had given it to Satan. At that point, Satan became the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). By nature, all of Adam’s descendants were slaves of Satan (Ephesians 2:3). So legally, Satan had the authority to do what he asked to do to Job. Had God refused, He would have violated the integrity of His word. The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is the integrity of God’s word that holds the very universe together (Hebrews 1:3). While in Job 2:3, God said to Satan, “You moved Me against him,” God only moved against Job in the sense that He withdrew the “hedge of protection” (Job 1:10) that He had placed around Job when Satan complained about it. Ecclesiastes 10:8 says, “whoso breaks a hedge, a serpent will bite him.” Without the hedge, the serpent had access to bite. 
Satan’s challenge put God in a very difficult position. Satan (meaning adversary in Hebrew) is only mentioned by name 18 times in the Old Testament, 14 of which are in the book of Job. He isn’t even mentioned as Satan in Genesis (maybe because he wasn’t the adversary yet—this was the story of how he became the adversary), or in Isaiah 14, where the story of his fall appears (there he is called Lucifer, meaning “Light Bringer”—his angelic name). As mentioned in the story, I suspect God did not warn mankind about Satan and his angels because there was nothing they could have done about them at this point in history anyway. Why tell someone they have a terrible, bloodthirsty enemy if they are powerless to avoid him? Would that not produce only terrible fear and paranoia, with no benefit? Yet because Job had no doctrine of Satan, that meant he had no context to explain his tragedy. He, and his three friends, believed calamity was a punishment for evil (which sometimes it is, according to the writers of Proverbs and Psalms). Since Job knew he had done nothing specifically wrong to warrant all of this, the only logical alternative in his paradigm was that God did this to him unjustly. Satan was counting on this, and counting on Job to curse God because of it, even though God was innocent. In Genesis, Satan essentially told Adam and Eve that God was holding out on them—that He didn’t truly love them. Job was the story of Satan doing the same thing to God: telling God that Job didn’t truly love Him. The adversary was busily trying to convince each side that they were not loved.
It isn’t until the fourth friend Elihu finally speaks in Job 32 that Job (and the reader) learns there is a third option. Andrew Wommack argues that Elihu was the writer of the book of Job, because the rest of the book is written in the third person until Elihu begins to speak in Job 32:15, when he transitions to the first person. This is important for context, because it tells us which chapters we can rely upon as divinely inspired, and which are mere opinions of the speaker. God later rebukes most of what Job and his three friends say, so that leaves only Job 1, 2, and 32-42 as accurate theological representations, at least of what was happening at the time. 
Elihu informs Job in 33:12 that Job is not righteous. From the perspective of the New Covenant, we understand that “there is none righteous; no, not one” (Romans 3:10). While Job’s specific sin may not have occasioned this attack, the general sin of Adam, the covenant head of mankind, had rendered all of mankind unrighteous. But then comes the bombshell verse: Elihu prophesies that God is working to provide the savior! “If there is a messenger for him, a mediator, one among a thousand, to show man His uprightness, then He is gracious to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down to the Pit; I have found a ransom’… He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit, and his life shall see the light” (33:23-28). 
Today, with the benefit of hindsight and the entire Bible, we have some ability to conceptualize what Job went through, but Job himself did not. He couldn’t read the first two chapters of Job, to learn that he had an enemy who was using him as a pawn to prove a cosmic point. He had no context to understand what God was doing behind the scenes. I think this is why God responded to Job the way He did. Explaining to a man in Job’s day about sin and the need for a savior to be born a man and die as a substitutionary sacrifice for all mankind would have been like trying to explain calculus to an ant. So instead, God’s approach was to remind Job of how much bigger He was than Job, and how little Job truly understood. Even though we can comprehend God’s predicament better than Job could have done, there is still much we don’t and cannot know. The message God gave Job—to magnify His glory and to trust His greater wisdom when He cannot give us a direct explanation—still applies to us today. 
Job’s initial responses to his tragedy in chapters 1 and 2 are often quoted by believers today as a godly response. He says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21), and then the writer of the book says, “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). A popular worship song actually quotes this verse, holding it up as an example of how believers should respond to tragedy. But while Job did not sin in what he said, he was still incorrect. God was not the one who had taken from Job; that was Satan. God did remove the hedge of protection from Job, but only because He had no choice: Job had no covenant which would have given God a legal excuse to protect him. We do. The Law of Moses made provision for blessings and protection from the enemy for God’s people, so long as they followed His law. God warned them that He could not protect them if they ceased to follow His law and uphold their half of the covenant, though. Disobedience would allow Satan access to them in order to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). These blessings and curses are all laid out in Deuteronomy 28. In most of the Old Testament, there is no distinction between the curses God inflicts and those inflicted by Satan due to God removing the protection of the covenant from His people—but again, I suspect this was because in the Old Testament, there was essentially no doctrine of Satan at all. That’s part of why Job is so fascinating: it gives us insight into the real chain of causality in Heaven. God was “responsible” only insofar as He withdrew His protection and blessing, and He did that much only when His hand was forced. It was never what He wanted to do. He is a good God! 
Even the curses of the law of Moses no longer apply to us today. Jesus followed the law perfectly, fulfilling it on our behalf (Matthew 5:17). He became a curse for us, redeeming us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). Now all that is left are the blessings for those who are in Christ Jesus. Accordingly, Satan’s name changed from the Old Testament to the New. Satan meant accuser, but in the New Testament Greek, he is referred to as diabolos, meaning false accuser. He could legally accuse us to God before Jesus came, but no more! There are no modern day Jobs. God can now protect and bless those of us who have accepted His New Covenant, ratified by the blood of Jesus. Praise the Lord!
Even in this time before covenantal protection, it’s helpful to place in Job’s tragedy in context. Job 3-42 takes place all in one day. The whole book covers a little over a week in Job’s life. He still lost his children and his servants, a lasting tragedy—but after this trial, God restored everything to Job so that he was twice as great as he had been to begin with (Job 42:10-17). He had the same number of children (seven sons and three daughters) restored, his daughters were known as beauties throughout the land (Job 42:15), and he lived another 140 years afterwards. God restored the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25).
(Side note: what are the behemoth and the leviathan mentioned by God in Job 40 and 41? To me, the former sounds like an herbivorous dinosaur, such as a brontosaurus (Job 40:15-24) while the latter sounds like a mythical dragon. It even apparently breathed fire (Job 41:18-21). This is why I had Noah take some of the dinosaurs onto the ark with him in my retelling: it appears they did survive the flood, at least. Also, particularly in Revelation, Satan is referred to as a dragon. I decided to give him the idea of taking that form as he listened to God wax poetic about how magnificent a creature it was.)
Fictionalized Retelling, from Satan's POV
This was Round Three: me against God. 
My first strategy was a raging success. Adam simply handed me his authority on the earth—it was almost too easy. God cursed the serpent for it, but what was that to me? I wasn’t the serpent; I’d just borrowed its body for awhile. 
The only part that bothered me was that Seed of Eve business. I didn’t understand what that meant, but I felt like it was important somehow. Presumably it required a human descendant of the line of Eve, though, whatever else it meant. So in Round Two, using the proverbial carrot of Adam’s authority, I enticed a third of God’s angel army to follow me to earth. My once glorious beauty had become shriveled and warped since my expulsion from the garden, but they crossed over into earth in all their godlike majesty. The daughters of men were helpless before them. So the earth swelled with their demigod progeny, perpetuating down through the generations until contamination of God’s original bloodline was almost complete.
Until that damn flood. I never saw that coming.
Since the flood waters had receded and repopulation of the earth had commenced, I’d prowled the earth, gnashing my teeth and looking for another opportunity to strike. I corrupted Ham’s progeny with my fallen angels once again, but it was halfhearted this time. I already knew God would not allow me to pollute the entire human race with defiled blood, so what was the point? There was some inherent value in corrupting, maiming, and killing those He loved, though, because it hurt Him. That was always the real goal; they didn’t matter to me one way or the other. I’d have completely ignored them, except for the fact that He loved them. 
But what I needed now was another master stroke that would enable me to win the whole human race; not just pick them off one at a time. 
As I prowled the earth in my own dimension, a curious flaming hedge drew my attention. It would have been strange enough to see a self-perpetuating wall of flame in the earthly dimension, but what in the world could it be doing in mine? I crept up close, and tested it with my finger, crying out as it singed my withered flesh. Instinctively I shoved my fingers in my mouth to tend the burn. Then I peered through the wall as best I could, ignoring the heat and trying to understand its purpose. It reminded me of the two angels God had placed on every side of the Tree of Life, with their flaming swords. They, too, were in the spiritual dimension. God clearly sent this wall—but why? 
Inside the hedge, I saw a man, his household, and the houses of presumably his progeny. The man, whom the servants called Job, seemed middle-aged by the standards of the day, around sixty years old. He also appeared to be fabulously wealthy: I crept around the perimeter of the wall of flame and counted seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a large retinue of servants. He also had seven grown sons and three grown daughters—who, I noted, took turns holding feasts in their homes daily for all their other siblings. They indulged themselves, and worked very little, as children of wealthy men are wont to do. Their behavior seemed to bother Job, who daily offered ten burnt sacrifices, one for each of his children, after each feast. 
Huh, I thought to myself, tapping my fingers against my chin and narrowing my eyes as I peered through the hedge. Then a slow smile curled my lips as I understood several things at once. 
Job was a righteous man. God loved him. God loved all his ridiculous creatures, of course, but He prized Job, because Job loved Him back, unlike most of them. Because of this, God had blessed Job hand over fist, on every side. The hedge of fire was in my dimension because God was protecting Job—from me
But that was illegal. By God’s own decree, He gave the earth to Adam, and all of Adam’s progeny after him. Adam obeyed me, and therefore, it was mine. I had the authority to afflict any man I chose, yet God saw fit to use His power to prevent me from doing so! 
I saw my strategy. 
God’s angels, those who still served Him, presented themselves before His throne in Heaven daily to receive their assignments. That day, I joined the queue. I went there as little as possible, as the sight of Heaven’s bounty, God’s glory, and the beauty of those who still served Him made me writhe inwardly. 
At last I got to the front of the line. Since I had received my new form after my expulsion from the garden, I could no longer look directly at God—He was too radiant. Instead I was forced to slink forward, bent double, with my head down. It was humiliating. 
“From where do you come?” boomed the voice of the one on the throne. 
“From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it,” I answered. Even my voice, once so resonant and lovely, now came out like a snivel—particularly in the massive and spectacular halls of the throne room.
I could feel God’s penetrating gaze piercing through my thoughts, though I could not look directly into His face. He already knew exactly why I was here. 
“Have you set your heart against My servant Job?” He demanded. Then His voice softened, like a lover waxing poetic about His beloved. “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man. One who fears Me and shuns evil.” 
I sneered, “Does Job fear You for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him, around his household and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. Stretch out Your hand and remove the wall of fire, that I might touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 
God was silent for a long moment. I risked a glance up at Him, and immediately regretted it, as the sight of Him seared. Then He heaved a great sigh, and said, “Behold, all that Job has is already in your power. Only do not lay a hand on his person.” 
“Ha!” I gloated, clapping my hands together and vanishing at once. I was eager to get out of Heaven anyway. 
I went straight to Job’s estate, and laughed and danced when I saw that indeed, the hedge of protection was gone. I had free reign! I prowled closer, to the home of one of Job’s children. It was the middle of the day, and all ten of them were in there eating and drinking like lazy gluttons. I tapped my chin with my fingers, musing how I might go about this. I could personally appear and wipe out everything Job owned… but if Job knew that I was responsible for his misfortune, that would defeat my whole purpose. He would be miserable, yes, but what did I care about that? I wanted Job to blame God for his tragedies, and to curse Him to His face. I wanted to prove to God that Job only loved Him for His gifts, not for Himself. So I needed to be crafty. Fortunately, that was my specialty. 
I roamed a short distance away and found a band of Sabean warriors. I could always use them to my advantage with little prompting. They were greedy, vicious, and bored, and I had trained them well to consider plunder and murder as the only antidote to boredom. So I whispered in the ears of the leaders, and led them straight to Job’s property, where the oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them. I watched with glee as they stole the animals, and relished the screams of Job’s servants as the Sabeans put them to the sword. This wasn’t even necessary—the servants feared the Sabeans and would not have fought them. The Sabeans slaughtered for the rush of it. It was utterly delicious. I caused the Sabean’s eyes to pass over one of the servants in the group, and whispered into that servant’s ear, “Go and tell your master what you have seen.” It was all the incentive he needed; he ran off in wild terror, as if I myself ran after him. 
But would a human raid cause Job to blame God? I mused. No. I needed something more supernatural. Humans called natural disasters ‘acts of God,’ which I thought was just fantastic—they didn’t know who was actually in charge here. 
Maybe more than one type of disaster, I decided, just in case he might otherwise think it was a coincidence
Even though Job had sheep and camels and more servants, I whispered in the Sabean chief’s ear that they were satisfied, and they rode off with their spoils. 
Next, I observed the hills where the sheep roamed. I sauntered over to them, and spooked them so that they all ran in the direction of the barn where the servants were. I needed them all in one place. Then I snapped my fingers. A bolt of lightning fell from the sky, setting the barn ablaze. The sheep and servants who had not been hit or already consumed began to flee, so I summoned another bolt and another, until only one servant ran helter-skelter down the hill to tell Job what he had witnessed. 
Perfect, I thought, rubbing my hands together. Job would have to blame God for that… but quite frankly, lightning wasn’t as fun as watching humans murder each other. What was it about murder? Was it the betrayal? That moment of utter hatred in the victim before the slaughter? Hmm… 
The Sabeans had already taken off, but the Chaldeans weren’t far away. I whispered in their ears that there was a cache of camels nearby, if they would only follow me. The leader separated his men into three bands, to sneak up on the remaining servants. Then with a war cry, swords drawn, they descended en masse, capturing the beasts and spilling every drop of human blood, save one. Once more, I protected a single servant, who set out at a run for his master, to share yet more awful news. 
“So,” I mused aloud once all was silent again, “Job is a pauper now, and it’s not even mid-afternoon. Now for the last and best blow…” I roamed back to the house where I had seen his gluttonous children. They had conveniently all gathered in the same place. One more ‘act of God,’ I thought—though not lightning again. I wanted to make very sure Job knew this was intentional. I prowled around the structure, observing its foundations. They weren’t particularly strong. A normal storm wouldn’t take them out, but if I sent a wind against each wall from all four directions, that should do it. Also, it had the added benefit of peculiarity. Normal wind blew in one direction or another, or at most, in a cyclone. A perfect hit on all four sides, though—that could only be God. In Job’s mind, at least. 
I called upon three of my demonic allies, and stationed one on each side of the house. With the gust of our mouths, the four walls collapsed, killing the revelers within—all except one servant from inside. He crept terrified but unharmed from the rubble, and ran to his master to tell him of the tragedy. 
My three demons were too busy cackling with enjoyment at their destruction to notice my disappearance. I enjoyed the death of Job’s children—but I wanted to be there when all four messengers reached Job. I wanted to hear and relish that moment when he cursed God. 
I appeared, brimful of delighted anticipation, beside the unsuspecting Job right at the moment that the first messenger reached him. Breathless, he burst out, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabean raided them and took them away—indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 
I watched Job eagerly, my grin stretching wide at the look of horror on his face. He barely had time to process this before the second servant arrived.  “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 
I hooted at his choice of words. The fire of God! Job let out a cry of anguish and clamped his hand over his mouth. But it wasn’t over yet… the third messenger right right on his heels. 
“The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
Job groaned and fell to his knees. I danced in place, so eager was I for the master stroke—here was the fourth messenger! He looked bedraggled, covered with soot from the rubble, and he gasped out, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 
Job gave an indiscernible wail, and tore his robe in his grief. He lay there in a heap, weeping for some time. My anticipation waned, and I grew irritated. 
“Curse God, you fool!” I whispered in his ear. “Come on!” 
My whisper did seem to rouse him, and he staggered to his feet, finding a knife. I raised my eyebrows. This might be interesting… but no, he just used it to shave his head, wailing all the more as he did so. Where his hair fell to the ground, he then knelt—and worshipped God
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,” he whispered, “and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 
My jaw hung open. I could hardly process this. I’d succeeded in making Job think God had done this to him… yet he worshipped Him anyway
I let out a shriek of fury, and ran at Job, prepared to tear him limb from limb. But as I got close, I saw the wall of fire spring forth all around him—the same one I had seen around his property in the beginning. 
Lay not a hand on his person, God had said. 
I shrieked again. “That’s not fair!” I raged at the sky, “he’s mine by right!” 
For the next human day, I rampaged, inflicting wanton destruction on any creatures that came in my path, since I could not afflict the one I truly wished to harm. I could have demanded God remove the hedge around Job’s person, but even in my fury, I recognized that killing him would be pointless. Satisfying for a moment, but I’d have ultimately lost the challenge.  
But then in a sudden stroke of insight, I realized what I’d missed. 
“A-ha!” I cried aloud, and vanished. 
I reappeared in Heaven, doing my best to ignore the envy gnawing at me as I beheld all the beauty I had lost. I was here on a mission. I merged in the queue to enter God’s throne room, annoyed that I was forced to wait my turn. 
“From where do you come?” God asked when I reached the front of the line. 
Bent double, not looking at him, I slunk forward, my voice coming out in the whine I hated, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” 
God’s next words practically radiated with pride. “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears Me and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” 
I snarled, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and remove the hedge from around him. Let me touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 
The One on the throne heaved a heavy sigh. “Behold, he is in your hand—” 
“I know he is, Your hedge is illegal! He’s mine!”
“—but, spare his life,” God added. 
I was just about to tell God that He had no right to withhold even Job’s life from me—he was of the line of Adam and therefore he was mine if I wanted him, and we both knew it. But I bit my tongue. I reminded myself that taking Job’s life would not win me the contest. In fact, it would rather be an admission of defeat. I needed him to live, and fester in his misery, until he railed against God for his misfortune. 
“Very well,” I sniveled, and vanished. 
Job was right where I found him: robe torn, head shaved, mourning on the ground. I crept up as close to him as I had been before when the hedge of fire popped up around him—but there was none. 
“Ha!” I gloated, and poked Job in the cheek. Where I touched him, a deep, angry red boil appeared. Job gasped with the pain of it, and his hand flew to his cheek. 
“Yes!” I cried, and planted my hands all over his body, from head to toe. Job cried out in agony. But I afflicted him everywhere, across the backs of his legs and buttocks, to the soles of his feet. He could not sit, stand, kneel, sit, or lie down without pain. He would have no relief. 
“Curse Him!” I taunted Job. “Curse God!” 
Job rose to his feet, crying out with each step. His hands too were afflicted, but he managed to grab a piece of pottery. It was filled with ashes. He poured them on the ground, and then dashed the pot against the ground where it shattered. He took one of the shards, scraping the boils on his hands and arms to lance the pus and relieve the pressure. This, I knew, would create a new kind of burning pain, particularly as he was now sitting in a heap of ashes. Job scraped and wept—but no curse did he utter! 
I let out another howl of frustration. But then I turned around and saw Job’s wife approaching. I’d forgotten all about her. Her face was tear-stained, but I saw that her expression was hardened. I grinned, and slunk up behind her. 
“Tell Job to curse God,” I whispered. 
As if it had been her own idea, the shrew put her hands on her hips and demanded with scorn, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity?” Job said nothing, scraping and sniffling in the ash heap.
“He ignores you, how dare he!” I whispered in her ear.
“Job!” she snapped, now shrill. “Give it up! Curse God and die!” 
“Yes!” I crowed, pumping my fists in the air, as I watched Job, holding my breath. 
At last, as if in a dream, Job turned his disfigured face to her, and managed through infected lips, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” 
I stared at Job, dumbfounded. 
“NoooOOO!” I shrieked, grabbing fistfuls of my hair. I fell to the ground and began beating it with my fists. 
When I’d spent my rage, I regrouped. I needed to step up my game. 
Job had been the greatest of the men of the East, so word of his sudden misfortune spread fast. I made sure word got to three of his friends whom I knew well: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Job respected them and would therefore be likely to listen to them. Yet while they considered themselves religious, they didn’t truly know God at all. Moreover, they were were haughty, judgmental, and could not bear contradiction.
This made them perfect for my purposes. 
Within a day of Job’s affliction, the three of them connected with one another, and together made the rest of the journey to his estate. But unfortunately I could not stop a fourth from joining them from a neighboring city: a much younger man named Elihu. I frowned. I did not like Elihu. I couldn’t use him at all; in fact, he might be a problem. But, perhaps I could use his humility to get him to keep his mouth shut, and let his elders do all the talking. 
When the four friends saw Job from a distance, with his head shaved, robe torn, disfigured with boils and sitting in a pile of ashes, they all cried out. 
“Is that him?” asked Bildad.
“It can’t be,” gasped Eliphaz. “I hadn’t heard he was diseased too, had you?” 
But when they got close enough to realize it was their friend after all, they tore their robes also. Each of them took of the dust at his feet and sprinkled it upon his own head as they came.
Tentatively they approached Job, kneeling in the ashes beside him. 
“Tell him this is God’s punishment,” I whispered to Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar in turn. “Tell him he must have committed some great sin to have deserved all this. Tell him!” 
But they said nothing at all. All four of them sat with Job in silence. For an entire week! Seven days and seven nights! Nothing I could do could entice them to speak. I paced. I whispered. I screamed. I ranted.
On the seventh day, I shook Job by the shoulders and cried out, “Don’t you have anything to say? How do you feel about everything that has happened to you? Speak it out, damn you!” 
At long last, the fool opened his mouth. ““Obliterate the day I was born. Blank out the night I was conceived! Let it be a black hole in space. May God above forget it ever happened. Erase it from the books! May the day of my birth be buried in deep darkness, shrouded by the fog, swallowed by the night.” He waxed poetic about his misery, which was gratifying at first, but I quickly grew impatient. I made a reeling motion at him with my withered hands as he went on and on about the stars and the grave and the light and all such nonsense.
“Curse God, come on!” I snarled. 
But he didn’t. He finished as he had begun, bemoaning his terrible lot in life, but casting no blame. I looked at the friends, and demanded, “Are you going to stand for this? He’s making it out like he’s a victim here! He must be guilty; tell him so!”
Eliphaz obliged. “Think! Has a truly innocent person ever ended up on the scrap heap? Do genuinely upright people ever lose out in the end? It’s my observation that those who plow evil and sow trouble reap evil and trouble.”
“Yes, yes!” I clapped my hands, turning to Job eagerly. 
Eliphaz went on, “So, what a blessing when God steps in and corrects you! Mind you, don’t despise the discipline of Almighty God! True, he wounds, but he also dresses the wound; the same hand that hurts you, heals you.” 
I got up in Job’s face. “Are you going to stand for this? Defend yourself! Who’s the real villain here? It’s not you, so Who’s left? There’s only one possibility!” 
Job replied with yet another long soliloquy of his sorrow, but at long last he began to get to the point. “Confront me with the truth and I’ll shut up, show me where I’ve gone off the track!” he demanded of his friend. “You pretend to tell me what’s wrong with my life, but treat my words of anguish as so much hot air!” 
“God is to blame!” I shouted at him, shaking my fists. 
At long, long last, he got there, and started to shout up at Heaven. “What are mortals anyway, that You bother with them, that You even give them the time of day?” he demanded. “Let up on me, will you? Can’t you even let me spit in peace? Even suppose I’d sinned—how would that hurt You? You’re responsible for every human being. Don’t You have better things to do than pick on me? The way things are going, I’ll soon be dead!” 
“Finally!” I roared, triumphant for a moment—until I realized that he had not actually cursed God, though he had blamed Him. That was a start. 
“Goad him,” I whispered to Bildad next. I was sure that if the others doubled down on blaming Job for his troubles, that Job would eventually do what I wanted in order to clear his own name. But I jabbed a finger in Elihu’s face. “You stay quiet in the presence of your elders, boy!”
What followed was a long, exasperating afternoon of high tempers, and no actual progress. I succeeded in getting Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to accuse and even yell in Job’s face. Job persisted in swearing to his own innocence, and in blaming God—even demanding that God explain Himself. Elihu, meanwhile, grew angrier by the minute, and I suspected I wouldn’t be able to shut him up forever. But if I could just get Job to curse God before Elihu opened his mouth… 
Suddenly Job declared, “I know that God lives—the One who gives me back my life—and eventually He’ll take His stand on earth. And I’ll see Him—even though I get skinned alive!—see God myself, with my very own eyes. Oh, how I long for that day!” 
“Whaaaat is wrong with you?” I shrieked at him, yanking on the tufts of my hair, “why do you want to see the God responsible for all your misery?” 
The sun rose higher in the sky, peaked, and then began its descent. Just before sunset, Job declared, “Oh, if only someone would give me a hearing! I’ve signed my name to my defense—let the Almighty One answer! I want to see my indictment in writing. I’m prepared to account for every move I’ve ever made!” 
At last, Elihu could stand it no more. “I’m a young man, and you are all old and experienced. That’s why I kept quiet and held back from joining the discussion. I kept thinking, ‘Experience will tell. The longer you live, the wiser you become.’ But I see I was wrong—it’s God’s Spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty One, that makes wise human insight possible. The experts have no corner on wisdom; getting old doesn’t guarantee good sense. So I’ve decided to speak up. Listen well! I’m going to tell you exactly what I think.” 
I swore and hissed, “Shut up, shut up, shut up—” though I knew it was useless. I had no influence over this kid at all. 
Elihu declared, “It’s impossible for God to do anything evil; no way can the Mighty One do wrong.” He held the floor as sunset streaked across the sky, declaring God’s power and majesty, and rebuking Job for asserting his own righteousness at God’s expense. I cringed away from him as he finally declared, “Mighty God! Far beyond our reach! Unsurpassable in power and justice! It’s unthinkable that he’d treat anyone unfairly. So bow to him in deep reverence, one and all! If you’re wise, you’ll most certainly worship him.”
All at once, the progressing sunset grew dark, like a snuffed candle. With it, a sound of blowing wind intensified, and condensed into a mighty whirlwind.
“Uh oh,” I muttered, knowing what the whirlwind portended. I dashed behind a corner of Job’s barn. Not that it mattered; I just didn’t like standing before God if I could possibly avoid it. 
All five of the men stared in awe as the whirlwind descended from heaven, and then fell on their faces. A burnished orange glow emanated from the inside, and I cringed away as the booming voice sounded from within. 
“Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” God demanded. “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.” 
Job managed a tiny squeak, understanding that God addressed him.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” God continued, His tone actually sarcastic. I raised my eyebrows at this—I’d never heard God be sarcastic before. I thought I’d invented that technique. “Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy?” 
I growled under my breath at the reference. All those ‘morning stars’ he referred to were the angelic chorus—who had been under my direction. I had been their leader, the most talented, most glorious, and most respected of them all. The memory of what I had been still made me gnash my teeth.
God continued with this same line of questioning, expounding upon the wonder and majesty of creation, while all five men trembled in their pile of ashes. He really drove the point home, starting with the planet, then the animals, particularly the dragon—already the stuff of human legends. I secretly liked that beast, actually. I liked to imagine myself the way God described it to Job: “any hope of overcoming him is false. No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up. With his terrible teeth all around… his sneezings flash forth light, out of his mouth go burning lights; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils and a flame goes out of his mouth.” 
A dragon, I mused, stroking my pointed chin with my shriveled hands. I might adopt that image, encourage the humans to think of me as a dragon… what a beast to strike terror into the hearts of all who envision it! 
Distracted with my own thoughts, I had not noticed that Job was speaking now. I had to creep out from my hiding place to hear his voice. 
“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ I admit I once lived by rumors of You; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.” 
I gave a snort of disgust, but then remembered myself and darted back into my hiding place before God could address me directly. God upbraided Job’s three pompous friends next, and demanded they repent and offer sacrifices for their sins, but I paid little attention to this. I knew what was coming next, and didn’t care to see it: God would forgive them all, and restore to Job all I had stolen from him and probably then some. I vanished into the wilderness, and there regrouped with a few of my demons. They watched me with baleful eyes. 
“Well, it wasn’t a complete failure!” I snapped before they could say anything. “He didn’t renounce God, but he did accuse Him of being unjust.” 
“That’s only because Job doesn’t know we exist,” Abaddon pointed out. “I don’t know why God didn’t just tell him…” 
I shook my head. “He can’t tell him. He knows if humans understood that nothing restrains us from stealing, killing, and destroying from them, and they have no power to stop us, they’ll be consumed with fear and thus, useless to Him. It’ll be just as if we’d already won the war.” 
“We could just steal whatever God restores to Job again?” Abaddon suggested. 
“I don’t care about Job! Job’s not the point!” I roared. 
No one spoke for a long moment, and I paced. We were all thinking the same thing, but no one wanted to say it. God made these wretched creatures with free will because He wanted them to love Him. To choose Him freely—for Himself, and not just what He could give them. I wanted to prove to Him that the whole exercise was pointless. They would never love Him the way He wanted them to. So I chose the best, holiest, most righteous human on earth, the one specimen He and I both agreed upon as fulfilling that role, as a type of all the rest. If Job would renounce God, it would prove there was no hope for the rest of humanity. God might as well give up now. 
But he didn’t. In Job’s logic, the only possible cause for suffering was the sin of the individual, or the wanton cruelty of God, and he knew he hadn’t sinned. He had no understanding of the spiritual world, no reason to think that a third option even existed. Even so, even as he railed against God, he did not ultimately renounce his love for Him. 
I had lost. 
“All right boys,” I muttered, looking at each of my demonic generals. “That was just a battle, not the war. On to Round Four.”
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