Where do the books, and novellas come from?

Books

Books and novellas come from the writers’ minds.  I can only tell you about my books and the process of writing them.

If you arrived here via the ‘welcome’ page you would have seen the cover and part of the blurb for the latest novella – ‘No Evil Shall Befall You.’ I change the page for each of the new books and novellas I publish. There is a third novella coming. (Stay tuned.)

My books and writing

Apostle John series, all 5 cover images

I have been asked before about how I write, but that was a long time ago, and now there are more. The Apostle John Series is complete, five books in all. Originally, they were inspired by a detailed series of Bible studies that set me wondering… and researching. Then, as I have seen other authors mention, the characters take over, so, I have to ask if I will ‘allow’ that, or if it takes the book in a different direction. Writers are often asked if they are ‘plotters’ or ‘pantsers.’ In other words, is each book plotted out chapter by chapter, or written by the ‘seat of the author’s pants?’

Mine are a mixture. I know what will happen, and key points on the way to the end, but the bits in between are the result of inspiration, research and sometimes a bit of correction. (The characters have to remain consistent over the book series, and in the case of the first novella, to the way they were in the books in the series.)

Please allow me to explain

After the Thirty Days is the completing of Esther’s story. This novella picks up some threads from the middle of Hell Shall Not Prevail (before we join John on Patmos.) Her cousin, Judah, heir to their grandfather, ‘Old Simon,’ and the workers in ‘Old Simon’s’ shop are also carry-overs from the series to this novella. All of them needed to be consistent with where they appeared in the books in the series.

No Evil Shall Befall You follows After the Thirty Days – loosely. Simon, son of ‘Old Simon’ returns to Egypt where he has lived for many years to an unpleasant situation he must deal with before he can act on his plans.

In the third, and final, novella, Simon returns to Ephesus.

(Any more at this point would be a ‘spoiler’ and although it is written in my head, it is just over halfway in the manuscript.)

I check everything from the start each time I write.

Making the books authentic

book research

It takes a great deal of research to make the books true to the times. Someone once commented that it would have been better if there had been a kiss in one of the books in the Apostle John Series between a couple whose betrothal was being planned. This would have been totally inaccurate to the time and culture… unless the young woman had been a different ‘type’ of person.

 

I knew this type of information because of extensive research, but my readers do not necessarily have these facts.

This is why I have added ‘Marriage in the 1st Century, AD’ to the ‘Starter pack’ of background information for VIP Readers.

For current VIP Readers a link to download this new PDF will be in the next newsletter, together with ‘Death and Mourning in the 1st Century, AD.’ There is another planned – background to the Egyptian aspects in the second novella. ‘No Evil Shall Befall You.’

Biblical Fiction Books

All the books in the Apostle John Series, as well as the novellas are Biblical fiction. (Spoiler alert – the characters in the novellas are not Christian, but the fiction is Biblical.)

My aim with all of them was, and is, to tell the story of the times. I have been told that through the characters I succeeded and I am grateful to my readers for their feedback.

Remember, you can always ‘pay it forward’ and leave a short review where you bought the book and help other readers make up their minds if it is for them.

Hope you enjoyed the ‘peep behind the scenes’

Till next time,

Susan

Alpha and Omega

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and was and is to come—the Almighty.
Revelation 1: 8 Berean Study Bible

Some translations leave out the definite article before ‘Alpha and Omega.’

What is the Alpha and Omega?

Alpha and Omega, Greek letters

: Alpha (Α) and omega (Ω) are the first and last letters, respectively, of the classical (Ionic) Greek alphabet. Thus, twice when the phrase “I am the alpha and the omega” appears it is further clarified with the additional phrase, “the beginning and the end” (Revelation 21:6, 22:13). The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet were used because the book of Revelation is in the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_and_Omega

What does Christ mean, the Alpha and Omega?

Sometimes when a person hears something over the course of time, it is merely words that have always been known. Alpha and Omega – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, but why did Christ say He was?

Is it possible He meant He was at the beginning of the Book and the end of the Book – the beginning of time and the end of time?

Let’s check.

Sometimes when a person hears something many times over the course of time, it is merely words that have always been known. Alpha and Omega – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, but why did Christ say that?

Is it possible He meant He was at the beginning of the Book and the end of the Book – the beginning of time and the end of time?

Genesis
Revelation, the end

The gospel of John might have a clue there…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
John 1: 1 – 3

I was surprised to find there is some debate about what this means. Years ago when I was in Bible College it was taught that Jesus Christ was the Word of God,

I saw a short YouTube video (not linked) where two Biblical scholars were discussing this ‘controversial’ section. The concluded it was a choice of the translators to use a capital for Word.

That view does not make sense of John 1: 1
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Let’s look at Genesis – the Alpha

“In the beginning God, created the heavens and the earth”
Genesis 1:1

 

The word used for God in Genesis 1:1 is “Elohim,” which is a form of the word “El.” In the context of Genesis 1:1, there can certainly be no doubt as to who is doing the creating. In the Hebrew language the “im” ending imputes plurality. Therefore, “Elohim” is the plural from of the word “El.”
Chuck Missler: from his book ‘The Creator Beyond Time and Space.

The plural aspect continues…

“And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'”
Genesis 1:26, (Jewish Publication Society version, 1917)

The Alpha – the One who became Jesus Christ

Remember John 1: 1 -3 ?

That nails it for me. The Word of God, before he was born as a human being, was with God.

In fact, when researching for Hold the Faith I spent a great deal of time studying these first verses of the gospel of John.

Does God change His mind?

How could we trust Him if He did? We would never know where we stood.

God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?
Numbers 23: 19

And another

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Hebrews 13: 8

Conclusion

When Christ, at the end of the Book, says He is the Alpha – He was/is at the beginning of the Book.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ…
Revelation 1: 1…

The Omega

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Revelation 22: 12

At the end of the Book, Christ repeats…

I am the Alpha and Omega

In fact, he is all the way through the Bible.

Found on YouTube…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW1elxCB69A

A praise song.

Sharing,

Susan

P.S. – Don’t forget ‘No Evil Shall Befall You is only .99c US during the pre-release period, Which ends on the 1st of August. 

Read about it here https://www.susanprestonauthor.com/no-evil-shall-befall-you

Or buy it on pre-release here  https://www.amazon.com/No-Evil-Shall-Befall-You-ebook/dp/B07FVL99FJ

Also, on the first of August, the first novella, After the Thirty Days will be free for one day. 

These novellas are ‘the Jewish side.’ Another, the final in the series of novellas is coming later this year.

Nephilim – Angels or Men

Nephilim were as giants

There is a current ‘fascination’ on the subject of the Nephilim. I base this statement on the number of popular books on the subject to be found on Amazon… a couple even with the ‘bestseller’ tag. But does it mean they are telling the truth? I guess it depends on what you see as the truth. In this week’s blog I want to explore the subject of Nephilim from the Bible point of view.

Bible references on Nephilim

Pre-flood
Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.
Genesis 6: 1, 2 NKJV

Post-flood
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
Numbers 13: 30 – 33 NKJV

Grasshopper in the sight of the Nephilim

The identity of the Nephilim and the sons of God is debated in Christian circles. Many say the Nephilim are fallen angels, some say that they are men. Others suggest that the Nephilim were aliens.

(The latter has quite a large following also.)

 

Nephilim, fallen angel?

 

Currently, the most popular thoughts  seem to be that they are fallen angels who chose ‘daughters of men’ and had children with them.

Interesting, but fantasy, surely.

Why… read on.

On the Nephilim

In the beginning God created everything after its own kind.

God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1: 25

There are twelve other verses about ‘after its own kind’ here …

https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/According-To-Its-Kind

On Angels

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
(Job 38:4-7).

(Morning stars – generally interpreted as angels.)
Since according to that verse angels already existed and God created them before Genesis 1, it is reasonable to assume that they too were created ‘after their kind.’

With the benefit of modern science and technology mankind can crossbreed species. However, in creation I have not read of one species interbreeding with another. Not even mermaids. They are not real; there is no conclusive scientific evidence that proves their existence in real life. Mermaids are mythical creatures that have been a part of folklore and legends for thousands of years. (According to Reference.com)

Is it possible the Nephilim, being fallen, could breed with women?

Human beings were created ‘after their kind’ – angels ‘after their kind’ – which was spirtual. Even ‘fallen’ angels are still spiritual.

Answers in the New Testament

What higher authority is there but Christ? When answering a question on a different subject, He said this…

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.
Matthew 22: 30 NKJV

On Sons of God

The Apostle John recorded…

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
1 John 3: 1, 2

The phrase “sons of God” is found eleven times in the King James Version: twice in Genesis, three times in Job, and six times in the New Testament. Other than its usage in Job, (where it possibly refers to angels) the term ‘sons of God’ refers to those who follow after God and keep His Word.

Bible. One book, many stories

Although we use our imaginations, and sometimes have ‘fun’ doing it, there are many things we cannot know. For some things we must wait for the truth in the ‘hereafter.’

Thinking again,

Susan

Is Prayer Necessary Or Not

prayer, hands, Bible

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matt 6: 8 NIV

drawing, girl at prayer

So, is prayer necessary or not? Should we pray?

First of all, not all prayer is asking for things, or help. But the context of this verse is during the ‘sermon on the mount’. So the Son of God, (who prayed Himself) thought it important enough to teach His disciples and the others listening.

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
Matt 6: 6 – 8 NIV

If we deem prayer as unnecessary because He knows where He wants us to be, and in what circumstances, then we are saying that we do not have free moral agency.

God does not want puppets. Otherwise there would be no sin. Everyone, from Adam and Eve onward would have done what God wanted. No, from the scriptures, God wants US to choose.

God's view...

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?
Deuteronomy 10. 12, 13 NKJ

It is true that we are not the people that God spoke to at that time, but He did speak to us through the words of His Son. 

Here is an interesting article…

True Israel of God

What is the essence of being a true Israelite? It is not literal descent from Abraham, but faith in God. It’s in the Bible: “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” Galatians 3:7. “For they are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children… but the children of promise are counted for the seed.” Romans 9:6-8.

The children of promise are those who put their faith in Jesus. It’s in the Bible: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” Galatians 3:29.
Read the whole article here…

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/true-israel-god

Seems like the answer is that we SHOULD pray.

  • Praise God in our prayers.
  • Pray for others
  • Pray for help
  • Pray for guidance

So, let’s look at that verse again.

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matt 6: 8 NIV

Remember the ‘rules’ of Bible study – do not read just one verse. Read what was said before, and what is said after in order to see it in context.

Don’t be like who? The verse before gives the answer…

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
Matt 6: 7

Just thinking

Susan

The Cost of Faith

After last week’s post on ‘trials being par for the course’ my attention was drawn to the price others have paid for faith. One, William Tyndale, the man who brought us first the English translation of the Bible, and the other a lady I had never heard of until finding a poem she wrote.

First, cost of faith for William Tyndale…

William Tyndale, image

William Tyndale  was an English scholar who became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation in the years leading up to his execution. He is well known for his translation of the Bible into English. A number of partial translations had been made from the seventh century onward, but the spread of Wycliffe’s Bible in the late 14th century led to the death penalty for anyone found in unlicensed possession of Scripture in English.

(Featured image is  of John 1, Tyndale Bible.)

From one of his works ‘The Obedience of a Christian Man,’ William Tyndale wrote…

Mark this also, if God send thee to the sea, and promise to go with thee, and to bring thee safe to land, he will raise up a tempest against thee, to prove whether thou wilt abide by his word, and that thou mayest feel thy faith, and perceive his goodness. For if it were always fair weather, and thou never brought into such jeopardy, whence his mercy only delivered thee, thy faith should be but a presumption, and thou shouldest be ever unthankful to God and merciless unto thy neighbor.

Probably better than us, the man clearly understood that Christian faith was not ‘a walk in the park.’

From the same work…

The preaching of God’s word is hateful and contrary unto them. Why? For it is impossible to preach Christ, except thou preach against antichrist; that is to say, them which with their false doctrine and violence of sword enforce to quench the true doctrine of Christ. And as thou canst heal no disease, except thou begin at the root; even so canst thou preach against no mischief, except thou begin at the bishops.

William Tyndale was executed for heresy by the Roman Catholic Church of his day. He was strangled, then burnt at the stake.

Execution of William Tyndale

Legacy of William Tyndale…

In 1611, the 54 scholars who produced the King James Bible drew significantly from Tyndale, as well as from translations that descended from his. One estimate suggests that the New Testament in the King James Version is 83% Tyndale’s.

Read more about his life – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Tyndale

Cost of faith for Jeanne Marie de la Motte-Guyon

Jeane Guyon, image

I want to finish today with a poem written by a lady I had never heard of until I found the poem.

Here’s a little bit of background on her though. Persecuted for her faith, accused of heresy by the Roman Catholic Church of her day, she was in prison when she wrote the poem. Imprisoned in a dungeon below the level of the ground for ten years, no natural light came into her life. They did allow her to burn a candle at breakfast, lunch and dinner. She wasn’t getting a lot of sustenance, but whenever those meager meals came along, she was allowed to have a candle so that she wouldn’t be in pitch black, and she’d actually be able to feed herself. Well, she wrote this poem sometime during that ten years. Somehow it got out and it was preserved. Listen to the acceptance of God’s will, — the resignation that is here.
She says:

“A little bird I am
Shut from the fields of air.
Yet in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there.
Well pleased a prisoner to be
Because my God, it pleases thee.
Nothing have I else to do,
I sing the whole day long.
And He who most I love to please
Says, Listen to my song.
He caught and bound my wandering way,
But still He bends to hear me sing.

My cage confines me ‘round,
But abroad I cannot fly.
But though my wing is closely bound,
My heart’s at liberty.
My prison walls cannot control the flight,
The freedom of my soul.
Ah! It is good to soar
These belts and bars above
To Him whose purpose I adore.
Whose providence I love.
And in Thy mighty will to find
The joy, the freedom of the mind.”
                                                    Jeanne Marie de la Motte-Guyon 1648-1717

Read the rest of her story here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanne_Guyon

The cost of faith is a cost. No rose gardens here.

Thinking,

Susan

Trials are par for the course

Trials come in relationships

Par for the course… why? If we are trying to live by faith why do we have trials?  

On this subject, I came across a video clip on the site of someone who followed my older blog. It was an interesting song. ‘Before the morning’ (I will link to the clip at the end.)

It begins with questions about why ‘you’ are suffering if there is a loving God Who cares. Questions like this are quite common.

rose garden

Remember the old song “I never promised you a rose garden’? Well God does not promise us a life without pain and trials if we accept the sacrifice His Son made for us.

Trials never end – while we are alive.

As it was in the beginning of our faith…

  • In Hold the Faith, book one of the Apostle John series, Benjamin faced a faith-testing trial. Ours trials are different to those of the fictional characters, but some of ours are ‘faith-testing’ too.
  • In The Light of Truth, book three, I wrote about the trials of a background character who has moved to the foreground. Then someone who left in book two, Grow in Grace, made a re-entry in this third book.
    Here things are moving toward another arrest of the Apostle John.
  • In book four, Keep the Flame, one of my favorite characters dies.
  • Book 5, Hell Shall Not Prevail, completes the series, and it was not the end of trials.

The books are fiction but the trials and challenges are similar to those we face.

Apostle John series, all 5 cover images

So why am I talking about these books? Why mention the song? Because, although my book series is fiction, my primary resource book has been the Bible, and in writing this series I have learnt a great deal about why things happen.

Take for example Jesus’ words...

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Many people are told that because Jesus said “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’, that He has done it all for us. Not so.

Trials did not stop with Jesus’ resurrection

Look at the lives of those first disciples… only John survived into old age. The others, according to legend, were all martyred. Also, according to legend, John was put in boiling oil. That does not sound like ‘Jesus did it all’ to me.

And what about these scriptures...

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
James 1:2

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials
1Peter 1:6

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

These writers, who were Apostles, make it clear that we will have trials, and as we plod through them, our faith and trust in our Saviour grows.

Have you read this one?

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
James 1: 3, 4

The trust in His Father that Jesus had to exercise must have been enormous, and another scripture says that He learned obedience through the things He suffered. (Heb 5: 8)

Jesus was schemed against all throughout His ministry. He must have been one of the loneliest, most lied about, most misunderstood person who ever lived. Not to mention the most cruelly punished. He was scourged, mocked and crucified.

plotting against Jesus

Our trials

never leave you quote

Although what Jesus and the early Christians went through makes what we go through seem ‘mild’ by comparison, our trials are horrendous to us.

Sometimes all we can do is ask God for help…

and try to recognise the help when it is given.

You might enjoy this song if you are going through a painful trial…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=New8i_eX3x8

Just thinking again,

Susan

A Look at the Lord’s Prayer

The Lords prayer

When I was at school in Scotland – a long time ago, we had to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the start of classes.

Recite, we were not required to understand it. We memorized it and mumbled through it without thinking of the words much less the meaning.

To be correct though, this is NOT the Lord’s Prayer it is the ‘model’ prayer Christ gave when His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. The actual Lord’s prayer was on the night He was betrayed after His last Passover, when He changed the symbols. Recorded in John 17 is the Lord’s prayer. First, He prayed for Himself, then He prayed for the disciples, then for all believers.

Knowing what He was to face, and knowing that He knew, it is a moving prayer. However, here I want to look at what is commonly known as the Lord’s prayer… the model prayer.

Looking at the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father Who art in heaven. Did you notice? Our Father, not my Father.

Hallowed be Your name. ‘Hallowed’ defined in dictionary.com as “regarded as holy; venerated; sacred” Praising Him happens here.
Matthew 6: 9

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6: 10

The Kingdom of God is one of the key elements of the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.

Question

Do we really want His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?

His will is expressed in His laws and the Ten Commandments, which Jesus summarized when he gave the Two Great Commandments.

White lies cartoon
Slideshare image

To do His will means changing a great deal of our behaviors and attitudes.

  • No more ‘white lies,’
  • No more taking pens from our workplace without permission. (Yes, small as it is, it is still stealing.)
  • So is piracy of music, books, movies.
  • No more putting ‘other gods’ before Him.

If we sit and honestly think about it most of us have something that has our first attention. Statues – are ‘helps’ it is said.

But that is breaking a command of the great God of the Universe.

Moving on…

Give us this day our daily bread (again it is ‘us’ not give me my daily bread)
Matthew 6: 11

homemade bread picture

I know there are many places in the world where the food that most Western countries throw in the bin would be a banquet.

It is also a good place to add a prayer for clean, safe drinking water for those who need it.

The next verses can be a challenge

Matthew 6; 12 Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

This is conditional.

Where it can be difficult is if the person praying has been greatly hurt by another. We are still to forgive if we want to be forgiven.
Perhaps a prayer for help to forgive the person or persons would be appropriate.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6: 13

The first part of this verse has confounded many scholars because it is said elsewhere that God does not tempt us with evil. Why then would we ask him not to lead us into temptation?

Could it be that as we grow in the faith, He will lead us to a situation where we have to make a choice? God gave us free will. So, if we find ourselves tempted to sin the implication seems to be that we should turn away.

Remember Adam and Eve. Eve was tempted, and gave in. Adam disobeyed.

Last verse

For yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever, Amen
This Is missed out from many translations.

In the Greek/English Interlinear it is written. The only difference in the wording is that instead of ‘for ever and ever’ it is written ‘for the ages.’

A Question often asked

So, if the Kingdom and power IS God’s why does He permit evil? Why does He allow a loved child to die? Why does He allow rapists and murderers to commit their evil?

A question many West Australians have been asking in the last few days is why did He not prevent the worst mass murder ever in Western Australia.
(Margaret River region, murders and suicide.)
https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/western-australia/margaret-river-murders-tributes-flow-from-shocked-community-20180511-p4zesp.html

And it has shocked and saddened us.

Why allow all this?

Because He has given the bad as well as the ‘good’ free choice.
Our gift to the people who are grieving is to pray for them.

Your Kingdom Come

We have to cooperate. And when things happen that we do not understand, trust God and follow the instructions.

Bible. One book, many stories

He gave us His guidebook, His instruction manual. If we ignore it He allows us to go our own ways.
There are many scriptures that warn us of that.
(But this is not a sermon, it is me sharing my thoughts on what is commonly known as the Lord’s prayer.)

You don’t believe in God – that’s fine. He allows that too.

I remember a discussion with a family member many years ago.

I believe in God, the God of the Bible.

The family member disagreed, strongly.

I closed the discussion with the comment, “Well, one of us is right and one wrong. We will find out one day.”

A note for all who believe the evildoers should be punished. I believe they will be. By the only One who knows the hearts.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
2 Cor 5:10 (Christian Standard Bible.)

Musing again,

Susan

What was the Significance of a Betrothal?

Sunrise, Princeton Circle, WA

A long time ago when I was young, in school I read the story in the Bible of Mary and Joseph going off to be counted in the census. I puzzled over “…to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.”

Betrothed I understood to mean ‘engaged’ to be married. The teacher did not care to explain it. Since then, well, comparatively recently, I discovered the significance of what this meant.

Joseph, with his betrothed wife, Mary
Hold the Faith cover
Covers of books in the Apostle John series with awards

When I was researching for Hold the Faith, which I thought would be one book but turned into five, I needed to find out what betrothal entails.

One of the people in the book was about to become betrothed. What I found out explained such a lot, and even more about commitment to Christ. (The account of the full betrothal was moved, but the understanding helped in the five books in the series and in the free 1st novella.)

Betrothal in the Bible

Probably the most common way is for the fathers – the groom’s and the bride’s fathers agree when their children are young. Well, more accurately when the girl is young, because men did not seem to be considered ‘ready’ for the responsibility of marriage until they were older.

The agreement between the fathers could have been as soon as the girl was born. Some betrothals were part of business ‘deals’ between fathers.
The ‘formal’ betrothal was not held until the girl ‘showed signs’ i.e. started menstruating. Heirs were necessary.

Contrary to the beliefs of some ‘women’s rights’ groups, a girl was not generally forced into marriage. (Although in one instance in one of the books, pressure was exerted on the girl to agree.) It was necessary for the woman to agree in my story.

The Betrothal Ceremony

Several variations of this ceremony were researched, but the simplest one was what I used.

In front of the father (or the mother if the father was dead) and/or in front of witnesses, the groom offered a cup of wine to the bride. He asked her if she would drink of his cup. In this way he was asking her to share his life.

Sometimes I added the words, for clarity. If she drank from his cup, she was accepting the offer to share his life, marriage to him.

pottery cup, betrothal cup

Betrothal was binding. It was considered a marriage. (Which is why Mary was sometimes referred to as Joseph’s wife.)

The only way to end a betrothal, other than by marriage was divorce.

Matthew 1:19 (NIV) Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Barnes notes says…
The law of Moses gave the husband the power of divorce, Deuteronomy 24:1. It was customary in a bill of divorce to specify the causes for which the divorce was made, and witnesses were also present to testify to the divorce. But in this case, it seems, Joseph resolved to put her away without specifying the cause; for he was not willing to make her a public example.

Although the betrothal was as binding as marriage it was not consummated.

The bridegroom went to ‘prepare a place’ – it may have been an extension to his parents’ home, or he may have wanted to build a home.

The bride ‘made herself ready.’

There were no stores where she could buy a dress for her wedding, or the linen for the household she would be forming. She had to sew everything.

She purchased the material – probably at a market stall.

sewing by hand

She brought it home and sewed it, – by hand. There were no sewing machines.

For that matter… no electricity either.

When the bridegroom had prepared a home for his wife, he returned to claim his wife and take her to her home with him.

This is a significantly ‘potted’ version of  a betrothal, but if you are a Bible believer, perhaps you have noticed the significance.

Christ said – And since I’m going away to prepare a place for you, I’ll come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am. John 14: 3 (ISV)

His bride was making herself ready while waiting…

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Rev 19: 7 (NIV)

So the entire betrothal analogy has great significance for Christians, but for many the meaning is lost.

In the ‘throw-away’ society of the world we live in, not even marriage is binding, so – sadly, much of the significance is lost.

Perhaps though, this will help you understand something that is not often talked about in our time.

I hope so,

Susan

Hate Your Enemies – Really?

What did Jesus mean when he said, “You have heard it said ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  I have always thought of this as Jesus correcting an Old Testament ‘law.’ Not so!

I was astounded when I heard a preacher say that Jesus was correcting a ‘tradition’ not a law.

So, I checked it out.

I ‘ran a search’ of the whole Bible seeking another instance when ‘hate your enemy’ was mentioned. There was none. The closest ‘match’ was a scripture in Leviticus 19: 18 – the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

‘Hate your enemy’ … a tradition?

One site mentioned that Jesus might have been correcting a saying among the zealots that had become a tradition.

Checking out Zealots, I found the following in Wikipedia –

“The Zealots objected to Roman rule and violently sought to eradicate it by generally targeting Romans and Greeks. Another group, likely related, were the Sicarii, who raided Jewish habitations and killed Jews they considered apostate and collaborators, while also urging Jews to fight Romans and other Jews for the cause.”

Hate your enemy could fit their practices, but let’s look at traditions.

How come traditions become so entrenched we see them as laws?

I guess it is the ‘old saying’ that if something is repeated often enough we end up believing it.

In 2017 for the subscribers to my Reader’s Circle (now VIP Readers’ group) I produced a PDF series called Keys to Understanding the Bible in which I had included a great many Pharisaic traditions.

From Part 4 this might further clarify ‘traditions’ and their acceptance…

“It has been said that in an effort to prevent this [captivity] happening again, the sect of the Pharisees ‘arose’. Their original purpose was to prevent people from breaking God’s laws, including the Sabbath.

It developed into Judaism. Judaism is not the ‘religion of Moses’ as is generally assumed.

From ‘A history of the Jews’ by Paul Johnson – Judaism dates from the time just after the Babylonian exile.

American Rabbinical scholar Stephen S Wise stated, ‘The return from Babylon… marked the end of Hebrew-ism and the beginning of Judaism.”

Over the centuries for the most part, the traditions became accepted and incorporated into the Code of Jewish Law.

Jesus said...

“They worship Me in vain; they teach as doctrine the precepts of men.’ You have disregarded the commandment of God to keep the tradition of men.” He went on to say, “You neatly set aside the commandment of God to maintain your own tradition.…”
Mark 7: 7 – 9

traditions of men

He would know!

Traditions were very important to the rulers of the Temple in Jesus’ time.

One small section in the gospel of Matthew…

Then some Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem came to Jesus and said “Why do Your disciples violate the tradition (religious laws) handed down by the [Jewish] elders? For Your disciples do not [ceremonially] wash their hands before they eat.” He replied to them, “Why also do you violate the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition [handed down by the elders]?
Matthew 15: 1-3 (Amp)

These traditions and attitudes were very much alive and practiced in the late 1st Century and contributed to the hatred of the Jews for the Christians.

Decisions

Dictionary definition of ‘decision’ in the sense I mean it for this post.
“The act or process of deciding; determination, as of a question or doubt, by making a judgment.”

This is a follow-up to a recent post on blame. Sometimes we blame others for a poor choice we have made. However, if we have the full information, the responsibility for the choices we make rest squarely on our own shoulders.

one kind of riches

As someone who never had much in the way of physical ‘riches.’  When I was young, I thought God was a bit unfair taking the ‘talent’ from the man who had been afraid to do anything with it, but kept it safe.
Matt 25.

Now, I am older, I can see the spiritual meaning.

I took it literally before.

The man who had been given five talents, used those talents and was praised for the result – because he made some wise choices, and increased the money.

The man who had been given two talents also make good choices; he also made a one hundred percent return on what he had been given.

We all have some talent.

Some have the talent of encouraging others. Some are talented singers, musicians, some find it easy to teach others.
Many of us say, “I don’t have a talent,” but I doubt it is true.
Even if the talent we have does not bring us the attention of others, we all are gifted in some way.

My former neighbor would not have thought she had a talent. But her grown-up family all queued up for her mince pies, her cakes and pastries. She was truly talented in baking.
Another person I knew was brilliant at organizing the home, and another at budgeting.

Talents are not always obvious, but each is important!

Decisions can be costly

Remember the parable of the ten virgins. Five of them kept extra oil with them, five made the decision not to take extra oil.

In the Bible, oil often represents the Holy Spirit… and if the parable is looked at in that way, then it is understandable why the five who had enough were unable to give to the others.

Decision to keep lamp burning

We each make a decision

 

  • Will we pray?
  • Do we choose to study the Bible?

In this current fast-paced world, finding time to fit everything in is difficult.
Is prayer and study one of the things we trim, or cut so we can do everything that is required of us?

While it may be understandable, in the long-term will there be enough oil in our lamps when the Bridegroom returns?

Just wondering.
It is an answer for each of us to seek out.

Till next time,

Susan