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Bible Insights

We Need to Take God’s Instructions Seriously

Understanding the Background behind the Death of Uzzah

The book of Numbers contains details that are easy to gloss over or dismiss as irrelevant, even boring. Yet they’re in the Bible for a reason, and we can learn something from each one of these verses, no matter how trivial they may seem. Such is the case with Numbers 7:9. It includes one of God’s instructions that they shouldn’t have dismissed.

The Ark of the Covenant

This passage details what Moses does after he sets up the tabernacle, according to God’s instructions. Since the people are nomadic at this time, everything must be portable. Easy transportation is key. To accommodate this Moses accepts gifts of carts and oxen from the tribes so that the Levites can move the items they’re responsible for.

The Levites have three clans: the Gershonites, the Merarites, and the Kohathites, each with specific duties. Moses gives two carts with four oxen to the Gershonites and four carts with eight oxen to the Merarites. But the Kohathites receive none. This doesn’t seem fair. Why not give each clan two carts and four oxen? This would keep everything even.

But Moses has a good reason. The Kohathites are supposed to carry the holy things they’re responsible for on their shoulders. This means no carts drawn by oxen. One of the holy things they’re responsible for transporting is the ark of the covenant (the ark of God).

God had already specified the ark of the covenant was to be carried by two poles (Exodus 25:14). This means no carts and no oxen. God’s instructions are clear.

The Death of Uzzah

Fast-forward about four centuries. The people have settled in the promised land, and David is their king. He wants to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem.

With great fanfare they put the ark on a cart. As the processional makes its way to Jerusalem, one of the oxen stumbles. One man, Uzzah, reaches out to steady the ark. I’d have had the same reaction. I’m quite sure he did this without thinking, desiring to keep God’s ark safe.

God sees things differently. Uzzah shouldn’t have touched the ark, and God strikes him dead. Uzzah dies on the spot (2 Samuel 6:6).

David’s angry at God. Frankly, I’m a bit dismayed as well.

Yet the ark shouldn’t have been on a cart. Levites should have carried it using poles, just as God had instructed. And Uzzah shouldn’t have been nearby.

Uzzah’s death was unnecessary and could have been avoided had David and his people followed God’s instructions. Click To Tweet

Uzzah’s death was unnecessary and could have been avoided had David and his people followed God’s instructions.

This is a solemn reminder for us to never dismiss what God says.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Numbers 7-9 and today’s post is on Numbers 7:9.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What is Eternal Life?

When Does Eternal Life Begin

The phrase eternal life occurs forty-two times in the Bible. But what exactly does this mean? Do you know that eternal life begins now?

Some think that it is a synonym for heaven. If we believe in Jesus, we will go to heaven when we die. That is what eternal life means. That’s a good start to our understanding of the phrase, but that’s not all there is to it. There’s more, much more.

As we read the Bible, we get a sense of our life eternal beginning now, here in this world. We learn this from the apostle John, whose references to eternal life are often present tense. This means that it begins now.

Eternal life begins here on earth through Jesus. Click To Tweet

When we follow Jesus, our life eternal with him, and through him, begins immediately. Right now. Today. It begins here on earth through Jesus and continues into heaven when our physical bodies die.

If you follow Jesus, you can begin enjoying his eternal life today.

[See verses about eternal life in the NIV Bible, John 5:24, John 3:14-21, John 5:39-40, John 3:34-36.]

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

A Caring Church: It Only Hurts When You Care

Discussing Church 3

The third church is more established like Church #1 but more midsized like Church #2. It is a caring church.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #3:

1. Many pages on their website are “under construction” or “coming soon.” The sections for members have information, while the pages for visitors are incomplete.

What can you do to keep your website up-to-date and relevant for visitors?

2. Finding the church is a person’s first challenge. Knowing which door to enter is next. This facility has several doors, all unmarked. We don’t know which one to use.

How can you better guide people to the correct entrance?

3. These folks dress up for church. I don’t. My appearance doesn’t bother me, but it might be a problem for others—both visitors and members.

Will visitors who dress differently feel comfortable at your church or out of place?

4. As we walk in, a friend spots me. She says, “This won’t be a typical service.” One of their members died by suicide. The service will address their loss.

If your service will have unexpected content or be difficult to deal with, what can you do to alert guests to help them avoid unpleasant surprises?

A caring church makes the difference when dealing with difficult situations. This church exemplifies this well.

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Raised from the Dead: More Biblical Mentions of Resurrection

Raised from the Dead: More Biblical Mentions of Resurrection

Discover What the Scripture Says About Overcoming Death

Last week we talked about the ten times the Bible records people raised from the dead. Now we’ll expand that thought and explore more Biblical references about people rising from the dead.

Valley of Bones

Ezekiel records a vision in which he sees the bones of a human army reassembling themselves and coming back to life. Although we could interpret this as a literal resurrection, it’s better seen as an allusion to what God plans to do in a spiritual sense.

Attached to this evocative vision is a prophetic word to the people of Israel telling them that God will bring them back to life and return them home to the promised land. It’s also a pledge of restoration into a spiritual afterlife (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

Two Witnesses

In similar fashion, John’s epic vision of the end times talks about two witnesses raised from the dead after three and a half days. Their resurrection terrifies all who see them. Then God calls them to join him in heaven.

Though we could interpret this vision in a literal sense that two people will come back to life at the end of time, we may be better off understanding the whole vision as allegory with us being raised from the dead and joining God in heaven (Revelation 11:1-14).

All Who Are God’s Children

As followers of Jesus, we carry a hope of being raised from the dead, too, and spending eternity in heaven with our creator and our Savior. Paul confirms this in his letter to the church in Ephesus when he reminds them that we’ll be raised from the dead through Jesus to join him in heaven (Ephesians 2:6).

Paul again addresses this in his letter to the church in Thessalonica. When Jesus comes again we’ll rise from the dead, be caught up in the clouds, and live with him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Women Who Received Back Their Dead

In the book of Hebrews, we have one short sentence that states a fact without explanation. In the chapter about faith, the writer references women who received back their dead, people raised to life again. (Hebrews 11:35).

We don’t know who these people are or how many. It could refer to the son of a widow in Zarephath and the Shunammite woman’s boy, raised from the dead by Elijah and Elisha, respectively. Or could refer to other instances we aren’t aware of.

Regardless God raised people from the dead in the Old Testament.

Enoch

We must mention the Enoch, even though God didn’t raise him from the dead. This is because Enoch didn’t die. He skipped that step. He faithfully walked with God, and God took him away, presumably to join him in heaven (Genesis 5:24).

Elijah

Similar to Enoch, Elijah didn’t die either but went up to heaven in a whirlwind when his time here on earth was over (Elijah 2:11).

Isaac

We have the Old Testament story of God telling Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Though Abraham is willing, God provides an alternative to stave off Isaac’s death (Genesis 22:1-19).

The New Testament adds clarity to this passage. It says that Abraham was willing to carry out God’s command confident that God could resurrect Isaac, in effect raising him from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

When Jesus comes again, we’ll rise from the dead and live with him forever. Click To Tweet

Jesus Raised from the Dead

God provided Abraham with a ram, an alternate sacrifice instead of Isaac. For us today, Jesus is our alternate sacrifice.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he proved he was more powerful than death. Don’t miss this truth. And through him we, too, can move from this life to death to life again—eternal life.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

10 People Raised from the Dead in the Bible

Resurrections Occur in Both the Old and New Testaments

In the Bible, dead people return to life. This happens on ten occasions, with three resurrections occurring in the Old Testament and seven times in the New. Check out these stories of people supernaturally raised from the dead.

1. Son of a Widow in Zarephath

The first person the Bible records as raised from the dead is the son of a widow in Zarephath. Her boy gets sick, his illness gets worse, and he dies. The woman lashes out at Elijah, blaming him and God.

Elijah shoves aside her hurtful words. He goes to where the boy’s body lays, and he cries out to God. Three times he stretches himself over the dead body and asks God to return the child’s life. God does, and the boy’s mother affirms Elijah (1 King 17:17-24).

2. Shunammite Woman’s Son

Elijah’s successor, Elisha, also raises a boy from the dead. The boy labors in the field with his father and gets a headache. The pain intensifies, and at noon the boy dies. His mother, a Shunammite woman, searches for Elisha and tells him what happened.

He sends his servant Gehazi to go to lay Elisha’s staff on the boy to bring him back to life. Gehazi tries but is unsuccessful. When Elisha arrives, he prays to God and lays on top of the boy. The boy’s dead body begins to warm. Elisha paces the room a bit and tries again.

The boy sneezes seven times, and his eyes open. He’s alive (2 Kings 4:18–37).

3. An Unnamed Man

In one of the more bizarre resurrections, a dead man’s body is hastily thrown into Elisha’s tomb. When the dead body touches Elisha’s bones, it comes to life and stands up, very much alive (2 Kings 13:20–21).

These are the three resurrections that occur in the Old Testament, one from Elijah and two from Elisha, albeit the second one after Elisha’s death. Interestingly, when Elisha gets ready to succeed Elijah, Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.

God grants it, and we see it come to pass, with Elijah raising one person to life and Elisha resurrecting two (2 Kings 2:9–12).

4. Son of a Widow from Nain

In the New Testament, Jesus goes to the town of Nain. He sees a funeral possession and stops it. He tells the grieving mother, who is also a widow, to not cry. He commands the dead boy’s body to get up. The corpse sits up and talks (Luke 7:11–17).

5. Jairus’s Daughter

Another time, a synagogue leader, Jairus, begs Jesus to come to his house to heal his sick girl. Jesus agrees but another hurting person delays him along the way. Before he can get to Jairus’s house, the girl dies. Jesus tells Jairus to not worry and believe.

When Jesus arrives, he proclaims to the mourners gathered that she isn’t dead but merely sleeping. They mock him, knowing that she’s dead. Jesus takes her hand and tells her to get up. Life flows back into her body and she stands (Luke 8:40–56).

6. Lazarus

Lazarus is sick. His sisters, Mary and Martha, send for Jesus to come heal their ailing brother. Jesus doesn’t leave right away, and Lazarus dies.

By the time Jesus shows up, Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days. After interacting with the two mourning sisters, Jesus goes to the tomb were Lazarus’s body lays.

Jesus tells them to unseal the tomb, but the people object. They worry about the stench from Lazarus’s decaying body. But eventually they roll away the stone, unblocking the entrance to the tomb. Jesus commands Lazarus to come out. Lazarus does (John 11:1–44).

7. Many Holy People in Jerusalem

When Jesus dies, the curtain in the temple rips in half, the earth quakes, and tombs crack open. The bodies of many holy people buried in the cemetery come to life. They experience resurrection.

We don’t know their names or how many there are, but their reappearance would surely have astounded everyone (Matthew 27:50–53).

This mass resurrection symbolically shows Jesus’s victory over death, confirmed by many people rising from the dead. We see Jesus raising three specific people from the dead, along with many more who had lived holy lives.

8. Tabitha/Dorcas

In the early church, Peter also raises someone from the dead. Her name is Tabatha, also called Dorcas, and she lives in Joppa. When she dies the people in her hometown send for Peter.

When he arrives, he kneels and prays. Then he turns to the dead woman and tells her to get up. She opens her eyes, sees Peter, and sits up. Everyone is amazed (Acts 9:36–42).

9. Eutychus

Paul raises someone from the dead too, Eutychus. As Paul speaks to the people gathered, Eutychus, who sits in a window, falls asleep, and tumbles three stories to his death. Paul rushes down and throws his arms around the young man. He proclaims him alive. Then they celebrate (Acts 20:7–12).

Jesus’s victory over death changes everything forever. Click To Tweet

10. Jesus

These are all amazing, eye-opening resurrections, but the most significant is Jesus’s resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:1–10, Mark 16:1–7, Luke 24:1–49, and John 20:1–29).

Jesus’s victory over death changes everything forever. By rising from the dead, he takes that power away from the devil and frees us from the grip of death (Hebrews 2:14–17).

Thank you, Jesus!

(Read about other biblical references about dead people coming alive.)

[Discover more about the Bible at ABibleADay.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Deuteronomy Hints at the Horror of Jesus’s Sacrifice

We Discover Parallels Between Deuteronomy and Jesus’s Death

The book of Deuteronomy, which most people skip and the rest of us skim, does contain interesting passages for us to consider. In one short section, God addresses capital punishment. Though the idea of executing people for their offenses may offend our sensibilities, don’t dismiss this passage.

Learn from its words. It gives insight into Jesus’s gift of the ultimate sacrifice.

This passage in Deuteronomy talks about executing criminals on a pole. It commands people not to leave the body hang overnight but to bury it the same day. Further it goes on to state that anyone hung on a pole is under God’s curse.

Let’s relate this to Jesus:

Jesus Died on a Pole

We don’t know the exact configuration of the cross Jesus died on, but we can understand that in simple terms, it was a pole. Jesus died on a pole, and his body hung exposed on a pole, exactly aligned with this passage in Deuteronomy. There he suffered and served as our sacrifice.

Jesus died under God’s curse to free us from the curse. Click To Tweet

Jesus Was Buried the Same Day

When Joseph of Arimathea requested Jesus’s body for burial, he likely had this Deuteronomy passage in mind: that God instructed his people not to leave an executed body hang on a pole overnight. Joseph, a righteous man, made sure that Jesus’s body didn’t suffer this final indignity.

Jesus Was Under God’s Curse

It’s hard for us to think of Jesus being under God’s curse, yet as he died on the cross, suffering the consequences for what we’ve done wrong, he was under God’s curse. He suffered God’s punishment for our wrongdoing. Paul confirms this in his letter to the Galatian church.

He tells them, and reminds us, that when Jesus became our curse, he freed us from the curse that we deserve (Galatians 3:13).

Jesus died under God’s curse to free us from the curse.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 19-21, and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 21:22-23.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

How Much Do We Love Others?

The depth of love is revealed by how much we are willing to give up

It is easy to say we love others. It is harder to show it, to prove our words through action. Despite what I may profess, I fear I may be more selfish than I care to admit. I may not love those closest to me as fully as I think I do. And to be honest, I may not love those who are not so close that much at all.

However Jesus shows his love for us by dying in our place. We mess up; we deserve punishment. In fact our mistakes are so many, that our sentence is death.

Out of his deep love for us Jesus volunteers to take our place and receive our punishment. He dies so we don’t have to. This is the ultimate expression of true love.

Yes, there are some I would die for. But not everyone. My love has limits. God’s love does not. Jesus proves that.

Yet as incredible as it seems, Paul offers to take love one step farther. His love for his people is so deep, his compassion so strong, that he is willing to be forever separated from Jesus if it will save them, the Jewish people.

Not some of them, but all of them, even those who are trying to kill him and want him dead.

Paul loves the Jews so much he is willing to be forever separated from Jesus if it will save them. Click To Tweet

Paul claims he is willing to spend eternity in hell, forever separated from Jesus, so that his people can spend eternity in heaven, forever in community with Jesus.

He offers to give up so much. Frankly I wonder if he really means it or maybe it’s just hyperbole, an exaggeration to make his point.

Of course he can’t actually carry out such a grand offer, an extravagant show of love. Yet this certainly gives me something to consider, professing love deeply like Paul and showing it profoundly like Jesus.

Are we willing to die for others? Would we go to hell so others can go to heaven? 

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Romans 8-10, and today’s post is on Romans 9:3.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What is the Second Death?

The curious phrase the “second death” only occurs in John’s prophetic vision as recorded in the book of Revelation, with just four verses that mention it. But what is the second death?

  • Regarding the church in Smyrna, John writes that those who persevere in persecution, who are victorious, will avoid harm by the second death.
  • Later, John notes that martyrs will be resurrected and reign with Jesus for a thousand years. They, too, will escape the power of the second death.
  • A few verses later, John says that the lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name isn’t recorded in the “book of life” will be tossed into the lake of fire, that is, they will encounter the second death.
  • Last, John lists some people who will experience the second death: cowards, unbelievers, vile people, murderers, sexually immoral persons, practitioners of magic arts, idol worshipers, and all liars. That’s a sweeping list and a cause for trepidation, if not for the prior section that says those listed in the book of life will escape the second death. Perhaps this implies that when we follow Jesus and have our names recorded, that the power of these other traits is diminished.

None of these, however, explains what the second death is. What we can learn is that it’s something that can occur after physical death (the first death), and it may be a synonym of hell or a reference to eternal suffering or punishment.

What’s important to realize is that martyrs and those who withstand persecution will sidestep the second death, as well as all those who follow Jesus. And if we know how to avoid the second death, understanding what it means isn’t important.

[Revelation 2:8-11, Revelation 20:4-6, Revelation 20:14-15, Revelation 21:8]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What Does it Mean to Have Fallen Asleep?

The Bible sometimes uses the quaint phrase fallen asleep. It’s a polite way to say that someone died. I smile at this ambiguous language and wonder why Bible writers used a euphemism instead of being direct.

But I think there might be more to it. To say fallen asleep is not merely an understated way to communicate that someone’s life is over. It’s a hint that there is another life awaiting us after death, that we will awake to a new kind of existence.

To say “fallen asleep” is not merely an understated way to communicate that someone’s life is over. Click To Tweet

Just as natural sleep is a respite between one day and the next, so too figurative sleep is a transition from one form of life to another. While our body ceases to function, our spirit moves on to a new dimension. And we must first fall asleep to make that transition.

When the Bible talks about those who have fallen asleep, it’s more than a gracious way to say someone died, it’s the suggestion there is even more to look forward to as we move into the spiritual realm. But first we must sleep; we must die.

Read more those who have fallen asleep in Matthew 9:24, Mark 5:39, Luke 8:32, John 11:11, Acts 7:60, Acts 13:36, 1 Corinthians 11:30, 1 Corinthians 15:6, 18, 20, and 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15.

[Discover more about the Bible at ABibleADay.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Did Jesus Have Second Thoughts?

Before Jesus is captured and executed, he spends some time praying. At one point in his prayer, Jesus asks God for a reprieve—that he won’t have to die—even though that was the plan all along. But he’s quick to add an addendum, confirming he’ll do whatever his papa wants.

I wonder if Jesus is thinking about the test God gave Abraham, commanding the patriarch to kill his son Isaac. Just as Abraham is preparing to plunge the knife into his son in total obedience, God says, “Wait.” Then he provides a different sacrifice, a substitute. Isaac is spared.

I wonder if Jesus pauses, hoping that God will again say, “Wait” and provide a substitute sacrifice or a different solution. But this time God the Father doesn’t, and Jesus willingly dies as a once-and-for-all way to reunite us with Father God.

When it comes to Jesus dying instead of us and taking our punishment on himself, he doesn’t have second thoughts, but he is open to alternatives.

When John writes about Jesus, he records a different prayer. In this prayer, Jesus admits his anguish about dying, but he knows he can’t ask God to intervene. He acknowledges that dying is why he came to earth.

He will do it—and he does. Jesus dies to make us right with the Father. Though our wrongs separate us from him, Jesus takes our punishment upon himself, thereby making us right with the Father.

[Matthew 26:39-42, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42, Genesis 22:1-19, John 12:23-29]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.