Biblical Commentary by Ken Westby

Ken Westby

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Islam’s Sabbath

Allah, Islam’s God, didn’t rest after the six days of creation and Moslems see no need to rest on their “Sabbath” which is Friday, the sixth day of the week.

Jews and Christians find authority for their concept of “Sabbath” primarily from the example of the Creator who “rested” or ceased from his labors on the seventh day, blessed it and made it holy. Observant Jews and most Christian Sabbatarians continue the practice of “ceasing” or “stopping”normal business activities on the seventh day to celebrate God’s good gifts and to worship the Creator of heaven and earth.  Read Article.

Originally published 2/8/2007


The Humor of Jesus

A gambler died. The funeral was well attended by his professional friends. In the eulogy, the minister said: “Spike is not dead; he only sleeps.” From the rear of the chapel a man shouted: “I got a hundred that says he’s dead.”

Religion is a rich target for humor and provides grist for the best of jokes. Yet we don’t often associate humor with the Bible, the source of our religion. Read Article. 

Originally published 10/27/2006


Scholars… Who Needs Them?

“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.”  –Mark Twain

I’m with Twain. My struggle is to live boldly and honestly in the light of what I understand the Bible plainly instructs me to do. Can there be confusion with “love your neighbor as yourself,”  “do not steal,” “do not sin,” “practice hospitality,” “bear the burdens of the weak,” “let your light shine,” “humble yourself before God,” “draw near to God,” “live holy and godly lives,” etc? The complete list is quite long, easy to understand, but more difficult to actualize. Read Article.

Originally published 10/27/2006


Slaughter at Sabbath Services

This past Sabbath (3/12/05) an unusual terrorist attack took place at a church service in the Milwaukee area. Eight people were shot to death including the suicide/homicide shooter. This ghastly act of evil was especially distressing as I know many people in that church organization, although I didn’t know any from the local Milwaukee congregation. Read Article.

Originally published 3/15/2005


Abortion and the Sabbath

Looking for a fight, just bring up the subject of abortion in mixed company. Strongly state your opinion and soon there will be “blood.” Abortion is one of those incendiary topics that sit at the intersection of religion and politics like a lit match between two open cans of gasoline. But why has the subject of abortion become so charged with emotion, vitriol, and even, at times, violence? Read Article.

Originally published 11/24/2004


Two Scenes from Israel

Travel brochures romance every foreign destination with words like enchanting, quaint, beautiful, and of course, unique. Occasionally the hype fits, frequently it doesn’t. How would I write a brochure on Israel? What would I tell the innocents traveling abroad to expect of Israel? Among nations, Israel is in a category all its own. Read Article.

Originally published 2/16/2004


Making Yourself Sick

Ever since Norman Cousins wrote his book, Anatomy of an Illness,[1] some 35 years ago there has been a general awareness that laughter and a happy spirit are good for your health. Readers Digest’s popular feature, Laughter is Your Best Medicine, has been around as long as I can remember. The features’ title is a take off of the biblical proverb, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” But how common is a cheerful heart? It’s probably safe to say most of us don’t laugh enough. I guess there’s just too much heavy stuff out there. Occasions for genuine laughter are rare. When we’re of a glum, negative, overly serious spirit, humor doesn’t easily arise in our heart. It may pop up here or there but evaporates quickly. And watching inane sitcoms won’t fill our need for mirth—minus real humor the canned laugh-track does the laughing for us. Read Article.

Originally published 2/20/2003


What Will 2003 Bring?

Greetings to you and to your family. I pray that 2003 will be your best year yet as you serve His Majesty.

In this letter I want to report to you on what the ACD is doing and plans to do, and to look ahead to 2003—sure to be a critically important and pivotal year in modern history. But before I reflect on current events and prophecy, I have some suggestions for maintaining a sane and balanced attitude in the face of the real and present danger. It is a principle of true reality to which I often retreat in times of stress. Read Article.

Originally published 1/30/2003


A Case of Rigor mortis

Sure evidence of death is the progressive stiffening of the corpse as muscle proteins coagulate. The condition is called rigormortis, and forensic specialists can determine the time of death by measuring how far along the stiffening has progressed. When rigormortis is complete the body is stiff. The low brow vernacular for a dead body, frequently heard in gangster movies, is simply: “a stiff.”

The sight of a pale, prone, and stiff corpse lying on a morgue’s cold stainless steel table is a depressingly hopeless scene. If the corpse is a loved one, the scene is oppressive, heavy with sadness. Apart from the power of our life-giving Creator to vivify that loved one, life itself would ring with hopelessness. Read Article.

Originally published 3/12/2002


Underestimating God, Overestimating Evil

The big event has happened, its now 2000 AD! Your friends at ACD join in wishing you your best year yet. I know that God can make it so.

As we make the big turn into the year 2000 fears of evil and the unknown abound. But I don’t think such fears are justified—certainly not in the hearts of those who know God. Yet Christians have been among the most caught-up with paranoia over Y2K doomsday forecasts. Why?

We underestimate God and we overestimate evil. We don’t see what God is doing and conclude that he is doing nothing. We see everything that evil is doing and think it is in control of everyone. The problem is that our eyes see only what our mind is prepared to comprehend. If comprehending God and his activities are off our radar scope, we won’t have a grip on reality—”true reality.” We think we see things as they are, but we’re dead wrong. Read Article.

Originally published 1/5/2000


Was Adam’s Great Commission to Become a Gardener?

Genesis 2:15 reads: The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it (RSV).

. . . to work it and take care of it (NIV). . . . to dress it and keep it (Jewish Publication Society). . . . to till it and guard it (Moffatt). . . . to cultivate it and guard it (TEV).

The King James version reads like the JPS, “dress it and keep it” and is the understanding I had of the event for most of my life. I even preached a sermon once on the nobility of work using Adam’s God-given job description as my central illustration. But in time I began to feel there was something missing in this picture. We see Great Yahweh with grand theater creating a new and beautiful earth in six days of incomprehensible activity, energy and intensity.

All for what? For mankind, of course. But why for mankind? Because man and woman are “made in his image”! Made in his image for what great and noble purpose and activity? To mow grass, pick bugs, prune trees, dig dirt, and protect the fruit trees from the deer, of course. To me, this common job description didn’t seem to fit the context of Genesis 2 and in some ways contradicted it. Why such creative spectacle just to put Adam and Eve into a garden with a command to keep it up — “and Oh, by the way, don’t eat fruit from that tree over there.” Something seemed to be missing, but I didn’t know what. Read Article.

Originally published 3/20/1998


Daniel and The Net

The Internet . . . Beast or Benefactor? For sure the latter, notwithstanding that some religious types see a “666” in its footprint. It’s neither a superhighway to heaven nor hell. In fact, it isn’t even a superhighway. It’s a network of unprecedented communication and information available to the average person with a phone modem connected to a computer linked to the Internet. And like many marvelous tools of man, it will be used for good and evil. I suspect this tool will function like a sharp knife—a hundred thousand good and helpful uses for every destructive one. Read Article.

Originally published 2/16/1998


Is Human Cloning Possible?

Before they can clone Charlie, scientists must first read and map the Human Genetic Code — and that is a long way off.

Consider that every complete molecule of human DNA contains a 3-billion-step code that describes the owner’s unique life print. It is a chainlike structure that contains the blueprint of life, a genetic code from which all 350 human cell types — hair, skin, eye, bone, brain, etc. — emerge. What mysteries awaiting discovery are now hidden within this elegantly wound double helix (two intertwined strands of base pairs) — discoveries which could cure diseases, extend life by finding and cutting out the “death gene,” or, God forbid, allow genetic engineers to breed a master race? Read Article.

Originally published 2/1/1998


 

The Great Christmas Exchange

Q “Doesn’t our celebration of Christmas have some roots in pagan religious practices? How do you feel about Christians participating in that sort of thing?”

Actually, the above question wasn’t asked of me or of The New Millennium, the journal I edit. It was the lead question from Dr. James Dobson’s Q & A column in a recent issue of Focus on the Family magazine. It’s a good question, as is Dr. Dobson’s fair, honest, and reasoned answer. I challenge his conclusion, but admire his candor. Here is the entirety of his answer, followed by my comments. Read Article

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

To The Heart

Let’s get to the heart of the matter: What does God really want out of us? Are there clear statements in Scripture that hit the bull’s eye of God’s expectations for us as individuals? There certainly are, and many of them, but centuries of religious obfuscation, traditions, incense, stained glass, and theological fog blowers have all but hidden them. Getting to the heart of God’s desire for us is probably our most important responsibility. Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

Waiting for the City Foursquare

Now we wait…and hope. We wait for the arrival of God’s judgment and the bursting forth of the everlasting Kingdom of God. We also seek…and we endure. We, like Abraham, have in our minds a picture of a beautiful, shiny city coming from heaven to earth. It is to that city we seek our never-ending future in the presence of our Father and his Son. From the New Jerusalem a voice calls to us, “Come, lay down your burdens, sing for joy, and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.” Soon the waiting will be over. Then what? Read Article. 

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

Last Man Standing

Often the outcome of a conflict is decided by the actions of a single individual, an election decided by a single vote, a family saved by the bravery of one, disaster averted by the skill of a single pilot, a nation saved or lost by the decision of one man, or the entire human race saved by the righteousness of but one lone man.
Individuals matter in the course of human events. Individuals matter with God—you and your actions impact your world and make a difference within God’s plan. Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

The Accidental Life

Socrates’ famous dictum, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” is overstated for sure, but there is truth to it. Logically, we should be living “The Examined Life” — examined with the wisdom and insight that the Maker of Life offers us.

Sadly, many of us stumble through life with nary a plan much less a notion of a divine direction, a purpose to fulfill. Clueless to ultimate reality, many folk live life accidentally as if life itself is an accident of undirected, random evolution. The results of such stumbling in the dark are wasted lives, unhappy lives, and joys missed. Evolutionism says the heart of the life process, DNA, is filled with worthless, accidental junk. To them it is proof life has no Designer. But recent scientific examination has exposed the myth of “junk DNA” and revealed its intelligent design and purpose. The Examined Life is what God calls us to live. Be surprised by what it reveals. Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

The First Intercessory Prayer

Intercessory prayer is praying for someone else. What’s the logic of this? Why would the heavenly Father hold back giving help and good gifts to his children until someone else asks him to do so? Do such prayers actually work? For them to work, if they do, pleas from humans must affect God’s behavior–by doing something he wasn’t planning to do, or not doing something else, or by intervening in human events in some specific way. Yet if God’s will is perfectly set from the beginning and all things that happen are predestined to happen, then what is the point of praying if God cannot be moved? If God can’t be moved by our requests, why pray? Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

When Churches Split

Splits happen. There’ve been many and there’ll be many more. They occur in all denominations and for that matter in just about any human organization. I experienced a big one first hand.

They called me “the Devil,” well, maybe not THE Devil, or THE Satan, but a bad hombre under the devil’s influence. I was accused of being used by the Prince of Darkness to attack “the church,” to cause a split. Heavy stuff. I was innocent of the charge and wasn’t pushing for a split, but what does that matter?

Who were the “they” to which I refer? The “they” were the human heads of God’s One and Only True Church, the OTC. They were the most important humans on earth, spiritually speaking, to use the proper caveat. More heavy stuff. Read Article. 

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

God’s Boardroom

God is a master delegator as well as a master designer and creator. He has organized his vast heavenly realm as it pleases him. This diverse and awesome administration of heavenly beings is supremely functional; they have job descriptions and they do their jobs. Recall that the book of Revelation portrays twenty-four enthroned “elders” surrounding God’s heavenly throne. They are not there for looks. They offer advice and do things as do the four living creatures positioned even closer to God’s throne. This divine council ranks high among the “hosts of heaven.” God has not only delegated various and great authorities to these heavenly angelic powers, he has already begun to delegate far superior authorities to man.  (Part One) Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

Apocalypse: Now? Later? Never?

The book of Revelation (Greek: Apocalypse, “unveiling” or “disclosure”) is the most Old Testament-like of New Testament books. The Apocalypse is typically dismissed as irrelevant by many, avoided by most, obsessed over by others, and the sweet nectar for paranoid doomsdayers. John Calvin wouldn’t include it in his NT commentaries. Martin Luther was sure he lived in the last days but considered the book of Revelation “neither apostolic nor prophetic,” and relegated it to an appendix in his New German Bible. Scholars are divided; some say its visions were fulfilled 2000 years ago, others say they are imminent, yet others hold for distant future fulfillment. What should we take from this extraordinary book that closes Scripture’s message? Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

The Ever-Changing You

“Change,” beyond being a political slogan largely empty of substance, is the very heartbeat of life itself. Living things grow, move, and change. Whether plant or animal, living things change. Trees grow, form leaves, respond to the moving sun, paint their leaves brilliant colors and discard them, adding a ring to their trunk marking yet another year of life. And so moves your life as a dynamic, constantly changing creature of God. Consider the ways in which you are spiritually changing and the big question: Is that change moving in the best direction?

I shake my head mock disbelief as I view old pictures of myself. Was that scrawny 7-year-old really me? Was I that slim, cool looking 25-year-old with the nice full head of hair? Then I look in the mirror…What happened? Well, you know the routine. I rather enjoy seeing the pictures chronicling the change of my children and grandchildren over the years. It brings back a flood of pleasant feelings and memories. But looking at my own physical progression from youth to old age isn’t quite as inspiring, actually rather depressing. Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


9-1-1 Calls To God

The 9-1-1 emergency phone system we have in America it a tremendous service. Dial it for medical emergencies, during a home break-in, when witnessing a crime, when coming upon an automobile accident, seeing a house on fire, reporting a lost child, or any emergency that might require police, rescue, or fire department assistance. A few other nations have a similar services. My life was once saved after 9-1-1 help arrived. It shouldn’t surprise us that God has been answering 9-1-1 type calls for thousands of years. Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


The Prophecy Pit

Speaking of “the end” and his Second Coming, Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour…,” yet his warning has not dampened thousands of prophecy buffs who claim they do know. For over two thousand years there has not been a single generation void of predictors calling for “the end” and weaving elaborate scenarios full of numbers, scriptures, historical dates and current events to support their claims. Their accumulated predictions, however, resemble a junkyard full of old rusting crashed and mashed cars. How could so many sincere believers get it so wrong? Is there something about the nature of biblical prophecy they didn’t understand? Prophetic preachers fill the airwaves and their books crowd the shelves of Christian bookstores, yet they persist in following the same failed approach toward understanding biblical prophecy. Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


The Man Who Circumcised Jesus

Shepherds in the Judean hills east of Bethlehem were the first to see something unusual was taking place. It was a dark night as the new moon of the seventh month had yet no light to cast. Bethlehem lay dark in the distance, typical for all small towns before the modern age. During the day there had been much travel on the road passing through Bethlehem leading to Jerusalem, but now deep into the night all was quite and the stars shone bright.

It was fall and the Feast of Tabernacles was fast approaching and soon Jerusalem and the Temple courts would be thronged with Jews celebrating the most joyous festival of the year. In addition to the festival crowds the Roman overlords, for taxation purposes, had ordered another census of Judea requiring males to travel to their ancestral territory. Many were traveling in Israel that season including a humble couple who had journeyed from Nazareth in the north to be registered in Bethlehem, Davidic territory. Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

Angels and the Thirteen Sabbath Songs

Among the most intriguing discoveries from the Dead Sea Scrolls are the thirteen songs of Sabbath sacrifice. These songs address an angelic priesthood, God on his chariot, and an elaborate heavenly temple thronged with spiritual beings. What can we learn from these ancient songs? Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

A Sabbath Journey

Life is the path we tread and along the way there are surprises and discoveries. A pastor of Baptist background made a discovery that reordered his life and that of his family. What is this story behind a Sunday-keeping minister of thirty years taking the costly step to embrace Saturday as God’s Sabbath? It is a story you must hear. Read Article. 

Author’s note: I had the pleasure of meeting Pastor Doug Howard, his wife Elaine and several of their seven children this past December. My daughter Kari and her husband Lance Stafford are neighbors to the Howards who live a quarter mile away down a country road in a farming community about fifteen miles north of Spokane. They were surprised to discover that the Howards celebrated the Sabbath and invited me and JoAn to meet them for a Sabbath meal one Friday night. We arrived from Seattle in time for a delightful evening of food and fellowship capped off with a family musical presentation of some Sabbath evening songs they had written and put to music. I found the testimony of the Howard’s religious and spiritual journey both moving and inspiring and I want to share it with the readers of TSS. 

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

A Sermon to the Wind

Preachers and religious writers often wonder if their messages are simply sermons to the wind.  Without a doubt many are. What makes an article or sermon have a constructive impact upon an audience? Is it the quality of the message or the attitude of the individual receiving it . . . or both? Read Article. 

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

Story of Samson – Story of Hope

The life of Samson has always made good Hollywood copy, and colorful stories for Sunday School classes. Some see a shaggy, long-haired Samson chasing after bad women. They see a wild man slaying a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass in hand. They see a blinded, bitter Samson ending his life in a last fit of vengeance. But few have seen the lesson of Samson’s life, the reason God had these accounts recorded in His Holy Book. Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

Stingy Christians and a Generous God

If you can describe yourself as a generous Christian—as evidenced by your acts of generosity toward God and man—feel free to skip this article.

The Rabbi called on a member of his congregation for a pledge to enlarge the synagogue’s sanctuary. “Sam, our congregation is growing larger every year and we really need this addition. Could you pledge a hundred dollars?”

“No, Rabbi, I can’t.”

“Well, then, how about fifty?”

“I can’t do it, Rabbi, I’m heavily in debt and I got to pay my creditors first.”

“But Sam, you owe a great debt to God, too, and don’t you think He deserves your generous response?”

“He sure does, Rabbi, but God isn’t crowding me like my other creditors.” Read Article. 

Original Publish Date Unknown


 

The Amazing 7-Day Cycle

By surprise, science has discovered amazing seven-day cycles in the very building blocks of plant and animal life. These newly found sevens, or “septans,” also lie buried in us humans — deep in our metabolic, hormonal, and neuronal networks. This startling discovery has wide-ranging effects that you will want to understand. The following article explores those effects by answering three questions. First, does the formerly unknown, automatic rhythm of sevens hold the secret to one of history’s most perplexing enigmas — the origin of the seven day week? Second, what could these innate, autonomous rhythms mean for us? And lastly, what will this new knowledge tell us about the biblical Sabbath and the Creator God? Read Article.

Original Publish Date Unknown