Daily Devotion for April 21, 2015
Elijah teaches Jezebel's priests who really controls the “elements”.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
If you've never heard “Operator (Get Me Jesus on the Line)”, I hope you'll let this play through the (long) introduction.
For God's Help
Lord God, Enlighten what is dark in me,
Strengthen what is weak in me,
Mend what is broken in me,
Bind what is bruised in me,
Heal what is sick in me,
Revive whatever peace and love that has died in me.
Restore me, Father God, as you would have me,
That I may better serve you
And show your Glory to all the world.
In the name of Christ, I pray,
To Love Lost Souls
Lord Jesus, I want to love with Your love those souls that are withering or lost. Enable me to remove any prejudices, judgments, and assumptions from my heart so that I may see them as You do: glorious and beloved children of the Father who have the opportunity for eternal life with Him. Remind me that You love them as much as You do me, and that at some point, You used someone to revive me as I withered and to bring me into Your flock when I was lost.
[Showing love for souls that are withering and lost.]
May I go in peace, with God and with his other children, and may we love one another as Christ taught us. May I follow the example of good men of old, and may God comfort and help me and all who believe in Him, both in this world and in the world which is to come.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much.
~ Mother Theresa
Galatians 4:3, 8 (Daily Prayer Bible)
Slavery to the Elements (Galatians #42)
3, 8-9 Humanity is born into slavery, its master the elemental forces of nature. These forces are not gods. We were enslaved to a new master, the Law, so that we might be ready to know the only actual God through Christ.
3 And just so we, when we were children, under bUnder can mean physically under, or subordinate to, just as in English. the elements of the universe cThe meaning of this expression is heavily disputed. It has a range of meaning similar to English “elements”, but has also been taken by scholars to mean a) elemental religions (i.e. more primitive pre-Christian religions, including Judaism and pointedly the Mosaic law); b) elemental spirits, the gods of ancient religions corresponding to earth, air, fire and water; c) stars in the sky and/or the zodiac. All of these are reasonably well attested and should be taken seriously. I take the simplest choice, a person responding to the “elements of nature” before knowing God, a person who reacts only to the visible world, as this is the plain lexical meaning, and the reader may supply the interpretation. we were enslaved
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8 But then indeed not knowing god you were enslaved to the nature not being gods fThe phrase describing to whom they were enslaved is grammatically unclear. Most translators decide on “by those by nature not being gods,” meaning other non-godly human beings, but this translation is not totally convincing either in grammar or theology. “To nature (you) not being not gods” - i.e. we, not being gods, are enslaved to nature or our natural instincts - is a bit more theologically sensible but more of a grammatical stretch.
About the Daily Prayer BibleThe “Daily Prayer Bible” is a paraphrase translation. This means accuracy to the original text has been sacrificed, to make it more readable and readily understood. This is especially useful in the Epistles of Paul. Verses are often out of order and often explanatory matter is included in the actual translation.
It is part of a larger work, DP 3-Column Bible, a Bible translation with 3 different levels of literal accuracy, which you can access by clicking the link at the bottom of the Scripture section. We call the most readable and least accurate translation the “Daily Prayer Bible”. The middle translation (“The American Bible”) is what is called a “literal” translation, accurate to the original text but using English grammar and idioms.
The third translation is a unique transliterative text, called “Verbatim Bible”, that has an unparalleled degree of accuracy but is not readable except with difficulty. It gives the non-Greek-reading user the ability to see the inaccuracies and ambiguities that become invisible in even the best so-called “literal” translations, such as the NASB or our own American Bible..
Notes on the Scripture
here are at least two great teachings in this short passage. The problem with interpreting it lies in the translation, not the understanding, because it can be translated in a number of different ways — very different from each other — yet, all of the possible translations are full of meaning!
Paul says that when we are children we are enslaved to the “elements.” Period. What he meant by this is wide-open to interpretation. But it is a sound rule of Bible interpretation that, when there are more than one possible meaning — an ambiguity — we should read the passage as if it has both meanings. In everyday speech, multiple-meanings are usually the province of jokes. “The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.” But in Biblical interpretation, we often take more than one serious teaching from a single phrase.
We must keep in mind how Paul is using the word “children” here. It is a metaphor for those who have not come to know Christ. There are two primary ways that pre-Christian people are enslaved to the “elements”.
First, the Greek word “elements” was used to describe the elemental forces of nature. We are slaves to nature when we are born; and people who do not find God remain enslaved to them their entire lives. This slavery further unfolds into two related kinds of slavery. First off, we are completely captured by the world; our greatest natural fear is death, and yet, we will surely die. This is the great freedom we find in Christ, for Christ overcame death and, when we accept Him, we cast off the shackles of death.
Also, though, we are born enslaved to our own nature. By our nature, our motivation is always the satisfaction of our animal instincts and the glorification of ourselves. Even our love is selfish. Atheists love their children, but this is not a selfless love: it reflects an inborn drive for genetic dominance, a reproductive imperative. We seek to avoid death by propagating our DNA. It is in this drive that we find the ultimate root of social behaviors such as racial dominance, nationalism, politics, etc.
Second, “elements” can refer to “elemental religion,” and this reading also leads to multiple variations. One very clear example: the stars are part of nature. They are not gods. Yet, from the earliest recorded history people have treated them as gods. You can open a newspaper today and find your horoscope, the remnant of a silly, complex religion based on the assumption that the stars have supernatural power over our lives. Our Greek word “elements” was specifically used at times to describe the Zodiac. Thus, we can read this passage to mean: “Before we knew God, we were enslaved to the fictional religion of astrology.”
Another clear possibility corresponds more closely to an English-language meaning of “elements,” which is the four elements of nature: Earth, air, fire, and water. Countless philosophies, religions, and quasi-religions are based on the hypothesis that all reality comprises combinations of these four essential forms. Moloch was a fire god; Poseidon and Osiris, gods of water.
But elemental religion might refer to Judaism as well as pagan religions; specifically, the false belief that one might become righteous before God by following the Law of Moses. This “elemental religion” is quite different from the others, obviously, because the god it worships is God. And given Paul's emphasis on the Law's inability to give life, Judaism could be his primary meaning.
In summary, what we take away from the verse is a sense of myriad ways in which we might be enslaved, and that the final, highest (and necessary) system of slavery was the Law. But while the Law was good, and was given by God as the penultimate step to freedom, it was slavery nonetheless.