Friday, August 19, 2011

Uzzah: Can’t Touch This (I Chronicles 13:10)

What happened when Uzzah tried to keep the Ark from falling off the cart on which it was being carried? He died (I Chronicles 13:10).

Tragedy struck when King David finally had the opportunity to give the Ark of the Covenant, Israel’s most holy relic and the very symbol of God’s presence, a permanent residence in his capital city (II Samuel 6:1-11; I Chronicles 13:5-14). The procession from Kiriath-jearim to Jerusalem was an event with great fanfare that included music and 30,000 witnesses (II Samuel 6:1; I Chronicles 13:8). The Ark had been stored at Abinadab’s house and a new cart driven by Abinadad’s sons, Uzzah and Ahio, was enlisted to transport the sacred ark (II Samuel 6:3; I Chronicles 13:7). The cavalcade ran smoothly until the oxen stumbled at Nacon’s threshing floor and Uzzah instinctively acted to steady the cart, touching the holy vessel and dying on impact (II Samuel 6:6-7; I Chronicles 13:9-10). The procession stopped dead in its tracks with Uzzah. Stunned and angered, David stored the ark with Obed-Edom the Gittite and the project was shelved for three months (II Samuel 6:10-11; I Chronicles 13:13-14).

It appears the ox stumbling was not an accident as the misstep came on a threshing floor. A threshing floor is a region of hard packed soil used to separate grain from the chaff. By definition a threshing floor is hard and level. The oxen stumbled on nothing. This is further evidenced by the fact that the ambiguous Hebrew could just easily read that the oxen shook as if the animals sensed that it was wrong for them to carry the ark. The text suggests that God stopped the procession.

The festivities’ sudden turn from triumph to tragedy and the finality of God’s action take the reader by surprise and many are left with the same reaction as David - becoming shocked, disturbed and even angry (II Samuel 6:8; I Chronicles 13:11). Was Uzzah killed for a reflexive reaction trying to protect God’s own treasure? What did Uzzah do to deserve death? What should Uzzah have done? Should he have allowed the sacred object to fall from the cart to be covered in filth or potentially shattered?

When the ark of the covenant was built, God designed very specific rules as to its transportation David must not have read the directions as none were followed on the day in question. Two significant breaches of protocol occurred in transporting the ark. First, the ark was carried by an ox cart. The ark was to be covered (Numbers 4:5-6, 15), carried only by members of a branch of Levites known as the Kohathites (Numbers 3:30-31, 4:15, 7:9), and even then only on their shoulders (Numbers 7:9) and only using poles (Exodus 25:13-16, 37:5). In fact, the Kohathites were the only chapter of Levites not to be bequeathed with carts (Numbers 7:9). Secondly, Uzzah touched the Ark, a violation punishable by death (Numbers 4:15).

Though the parallel account in II Samuel does not explain the incident, I Chronicles reports that David realized that he had not followed proper protocol (I Chronicles 15:12-15). He admits “we did not seek Him [God] according to the ordinance (I Chronicles 15:13, NASB).” Decorum seems to be a factor as when etiquette was followed, the ark was moved safely to Jerusalem without incident (II Samuel 6:13-16; I Chronicles 15:25-26).

The alternative plan David utilized appears to have been copied from the last time the ark was moved, by the Philistines. They had captured the ark in battle and after it had caused them no small trouble, returned it via cart (I Samuel 6:1-12). Like the Philistines, David employed a new cart (I Samuel 6:7; II Samuel 6:3; I Chronicles 13:7). It had been over 400 years since the law had been written. Whether David was ignorant of the law or he noticed that this method worked for his rivals and saw it as an improvement over the prescribed mode is unknown. What is clear is that David ignored God’s instructions and transported the ark in a manner that seemed right to him without seeking God’s approval. The party was for God but David did not consult God first and God crashed the party.

Many have viewed this passage as indicative that divine judgment is executed even against technical violations and that God engages in ritualistic perfectionism. The rules are nonnegotiable. The underlying assumption to this interpretation is that Uzzah’s intentions are pure.

The charge against Uzzah is “irreverence” (II Samuel 6:7 NASB). Since the ark had been housed at his home for twenty years (I Samuel 7:2; II Samuel 6:3) many believe that an over familiarity with the ark precipitated the incident. He may have become accustomed to its presence leading to an attitude of casualness that minimized its sanctity in his own mind.

Whether this is accurate or not, Uzzah instinctively touched the ark. Uzzah felt it was his responsibility to save the integrity of God and he assumed he was qualified to do so. The purpose of the laws regarding the ark were not to protect it from contact with mud but rather to insulate it from contact with sinful human hands. It was not the filth of the ground that would defile the ark but the contamination of human sin. In short, Uzzah thought that his fingers were cleaner than the dirt the ark might fall into. His misjudgement demonstrates that he either held a high view of himself or a low view of God’s holiness.

At a conference in 2007, R.C. Sproul (b. 1939) summarized, “Uzzah believed that mud would desecrate the ark, but mud is just dirt and water obeying God. Mud is not evil. God’s law was not meant to keep the ark pure from the earth, but from the dirty touch of a human hand. Uzzah presumed his hands were cleaner than the dirt. God said no.”

The tragedy did served to re-instill the fear (or holy awe) of God in King David (II Samuel 6:9; I Chronicles 13:12).

Have you become so familiar with God that you have little to no fear of the divine?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Miriam: Snow White (Numbers 12:10)

What woman turned as white as snow? Miriam, Moses’ sister (Numbers 12:10).

While the Israelites were encamped at Hazeroth (Numbers 11:35) during their wilderness wandering, Moses’ siblings, Aaron and Miriam, criticized his marriage (Numbers 12:1). God summoned the trio to the tent of meeting and arbitrated the family feud siding with Moses (Numbers 12:4-8). When God left, Miriam was leprous, “as white as snow (Numbers 12:10 NASB)”. The pallidity indicates that the disease materialized in its most malignant form (Exodus 4:6, II Kings 5:27).

After constantly dealing with criticism from the outside, Moses faced conflict within his own household from people who ought to have proved his greatest support. It is not unusual for a prophet to be without honor among his own people (Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4; John 4:44).

Has your family ever disapproved of your actions? Can we criticize a leader under whom we work? What is the real source of Aaron’s and Miriam’s animosity?

Two factors are connected to the dispute: Moses’ marriage and his position.

Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this. (Numbers 12:1-2, NASB)
The public issue was Moses’ marriage. The wife’s identity is shrouded in mystery as scholars debate her nationality (“Cushite” is ambiguous) and whether the woman in question is Moses’ first wife, Zipporah (Exodus 2:21). Some have seen this as a racist response to an interracial marriage. Those who feel that a second marriage was the sole reason for the dispute note that Miriam’s exile was seven days, the typical duration of a Hebrew wedding feast.

There also seems to be a dispute over hierarchy as Aaron and Miriam remind themselves that God has spoken through them as well as Moses (Numbers 12:2). This is true as Aaron (Exodus 4:15-16; 28:30) and Miriam (Exodus 15:20) had indeed spoken for God. In making this claim, they were asserting their right to lead. In the previous chapter, God granted the prophetic spirit to seventy elders and to Eldad and Medad (Numbers 11:24-29), cementing a hierarchy with Moses at the top. Moses’ delegating power was an idea originally suggested by Jethro, the father of Zipporah (Exodus 18:14-26). This could connect the diluting of Aaron’s and Miriam’ s power to Moses’ wife.

The rabbinic interpretations connect the two seemingly divergent strains of the story by imagining that Miriam challenged Moses because she believed that he was neglecting his wife (e.g. Rashi (1040-1105) on Numbers 12:1). In this reading, Aaron and Miriam were, in effect, saying that they were also prophets yet had not disregarded their family obligations. This does not fit the tone of the text as the they name the woman’s nationality unnecessarily and do not name her, which hardly sounds like they are advocating for her.

It appears Moses’ marriage was merely pretense concealing a power play. Moses, the youngest of the three siblings, had become the leader (Exodus 2:3-4, 6:20; Numbers 26:59). The timing of the event in connection with the appointment of the seventy shows that Aaron and Miriam’s power was waning. The otherwise needless parenthetical aside regarding Moses’ humility (Numbers 12:3) signals that pride played a role in this incident. Most decidedly, when God rebukes Aaron and Miriam at length nothing is said of Moses’ marriage, attesting that it was not the issue (Numbers 12:6-8).

Though Aaron acknowledges his own complicity (Numbers 12:11), Miriam receives all of the punishment. Why does Miriam take one for the team? Does gender play any role? What is God’s purpose in afflicting Miriam?

The text subtly demonstrates that Miriam was the instigator in the sedition. Though no modern English translations (outside of [Robert] Young [1822-1888]’s Literal Translation) indicate it, the verb used for “spoke” (dabar) used in Numbers 12:1 is the feminine singular form (v’tidaber). It should literally read “and she spoke” connoting that it was Miriam who spoke against Moses. That Miriam is named ahead of Aaron is further evidence that she spearheaded the attack. In every other instance when the two are named, including two in this story, Aaron is listed ahead of Miriam (Numbers 12:4, 5, 26:59; I Chronicles 6:3; Micah 6:4). Aaron simply followed as he had done at Sinai when he made the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:1-6). Even so, Aaron was involved and appears to go undisciplined. In a similar incident, Adam was reproved for his part in “The Fall”, even though he was not the instigator (Genesis 3:17-19).

The Talmud argues that Aaron’s status as high priest excluded him from leprosy as the high priest could not become unclean (Leviticus 21:10-12). In fact, as high priest, Aaron would have been responsible for pronouncing Miriam leprous (Leviticus 13). Had he contracted leprosy, Aaron would no longer have been able to perform his duties as high priest and worship would have been interrupted. Though many priests and preachers have been spared for the sake of institutions they represented, this would set a bad theological precedent as the priest would be allowed to sin more than the populace rather than be held to a higher standard (James 3:1).

Miriam’s contracting leprosy may have been an ingenious method of conflict resolution. The brothers’ protectiveness of their sister kicked in and they reunited immediately to face the issue. Their emotional response to the situation indicates their concern for their sister (Numbers 12:11-13). They may have been close to her in ways they were not to each other. When Miriam contracts leprosy, the group’s focus shifts and all three are reminded that before they were the exalted leaders of a burgeoning nation, they were family. Perhaps God was not making an example out of Miriam but rather reuniting a family, gaining repentance from the offending parties and restoring community. In an instant, that is what happened.

Micah 6:4 remembers the trio as the leaders of the Exodus. Together.

“Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt
And ransomed you from the house of slavery,
And I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam. (Micah 6:4, NASB)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sadducees: Sad-You-Sees (Matthew 22:23)

Which Jewish group did not believe in the resurrection? Sadducees (Matthew 22:23).

The Sadducees were a powerful political/religious party during the New Testament era. Like most Jewish sects, the New Testament presents them in opposition to Jesus (Matthew 3:7, 16:1, 6, 11, 12, 22:23, 24; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 4:1, 5:17, 23:6, 7, 8). In Matthew, the Sadducees are often grouped with the Pharisees (Matthew 3:7; 16:1, 5, 11, 12; 22:34). Accurately characterizing the Sadducees is difficult as they left no written records of their own history, organization or beliefs. All of the documents that remain concerning them were written by their competitors: the New Testament, Flavius Josephus [37-100] (Jewish Wars 2.119, 164--66; Antiquities of the Jews 13.171-73, 293-98; 18.11; 16-17; 20.199; The Life of Flavius Josephus10-11) and random rabbinic texts.

The Sadducees emerged around 150 BCE and disbanded after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. They were so bound to the status quo that the absence of a temple made them obsolete. In contrast to Matthew’s presentation, rabbinic literature (as well as Acts) depicts the Pharisees and Sadducees as bitter rivals. It is generally agreed that the name “Sadducees” (Greek: Saddoukaios) is related to the Hebrew tsadaq which means “to be righteous”. Their precise connection to the word is disputed. The most common suggestion associates the sect’s name with the personal name Zadok, either the Solomonic priest Zadok (I Kings 1:39) or another individual of that name. In any case, the doubling of the second consonant is problematic etymologically.

Interestingly, the Sadducees were more known for what they did not believe in than what they did. The New Testament defines the Sadducees by what they rejected, namely resurrection, angels and spirits (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 23:8). Likewise, when chronicling the Sadducees’ beliefs, Josephus also discusses more what they disavowed than what they accepted. According to Josephus, the Sadducees renounced fate, the concept that God commits evil (all evil emerges from humanity’s free will), the immortality of the soul, an afterlife, and postmortem rewards or penalties.

The Sadducees also rejected resurrection. In the New Testament era, resurrection was a divisive issues amongst Jewish factions. When on trial before the Sanhedrin, Paul invoked the topic to divide his accusers amongst themselves (Acts 23:6). Though the Sadducees appear infrequently in the New Testament, the fact that they did not believe in the resurrection is explicitly stated four times (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 23:8). The Sadducees’ most prominent appearance in the Bible comes when they challenge Jesus with a hypothetical scenario involving one bride for seven brothers (Matthew 22:23-32; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-38). In an effort to make resurrection seem ridiculous, they ask Jesus about a widow who married seven brothers sequentially. The fact that the New Testament writers would focus on this aspect of the Sadducees is not surprising as resurrection is obviously foundational to Christian thought. A classic corny preacher joke asks “Why were they called ‘Sadducees’? Because they didn’t believe in the resurrection so they were ‘sad-you-see’”.

Josephus confirms the Sadducees’ denial of the soul, eternal rewards, and the world to come (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews , 18.1.4 [16]; Jewish Wars , 2.8.14 [165]). The Sadducees appear to have denied the supernatural entirely and kept their focus on this world

Do you know any organizations who are defined more by what they are not than what they are? The Sadducees were debating the resurrection before Jesus was raised. When and why does the concept of resurrection register on the theological radar? Why did the Sadducees reject resurrection?

The Sadducees actually rejected the concept of resurrection because they saw it as an affront to God’s sovereignty. John Riches (b. 1939) explains:

Rejection of belief in resurrection again indicates a traditionalist stance. Jews had long believed that so long as Israel obeyed the law then God would rule over them and reward the righteous and punish the wicked in this life. Belief in the resurrection, on the other hand, was linked to beliefs that the present age was in the grip of dark powers, so that in this life the righteous would suffer, although God would ultimately vindicate them. Those who had died would be raised so that they too could receive their due rewards. To reject belief in the resurrection and, indeed, possibly also in demonic powers who controlled this world in the present age, was then also to reject the belief that this present age was radically corrupted; in fact, from the Sadducees' point of view, those who argued the contrary view may have appeared to deny the continued existence of the covenant between God and Israel. (Bruce M. Metzger [1914-2007)] and Michael D. Coogan [b. 1942], The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 272).
The Sadducees are not all that different from modern religious people. They held firm to their tradition and rejected new beliefs like resurrection.

Though the Pharisees are often remembered as Jesus’ primary rivals, Jesus advised his followers to “beware” of the teaching of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matthew 16:6,11, 12).

Who are there modern-day Sadducees? What Sadducean tendencies do you have?

“It is not the brutal skeptic who is the Sadducee, he does not destroy anybody’s shrines, it is the woman with particularly bright conceptions of their own, but who are far more concerned with the visible success of this world than with anything else. You go to them with some insurgent doubt in your mind, and they smile at you, and say, ‘Oh, don’t exercise your mind on those things, it is absurd.’ That is the Sadducee who has done more to deface in modern life what Jesus Christ began to do than all the blackguardism and drunkenness in our modern civilization. The subtle destruction of all that stands for the invisible is what is represented by the Sadducee.” - Oswald Chambers (1874-1917), “The Base Impulse”, The Highest Good,

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Peleg and The Great Divide (I Chronicles 1:19)

In whose days was the earth divided? Peleg’s (I Chronicles 1:19),

Peleg is a name that appears eight times in the Biblical record, all in genealogies (Genesis 10:25, 11:16, 17, 18, 19, I Chronicles 1:19, 25; Luke 3:35). He first appears amidst the “Table of Nations”, the record of the dispersing of Noah’s sons (Genesis 10). Twice the tantalizing detail is added that “in his [Peleg’s] days the earth was divided (Genesis 10:25; I Chronicles 1:19 NASB).” In fact, Peleg’s name actually means “division”. His very name commemorates a monumental event that made things different after his time than they were before it.

Peleg was born in the fifth generation (101 years) after the Flood and yet was the first patriarch born after the Flood to die. His father, Eber, lived 464 years (Genesis 11:16), but Peleg died at the age of 239. Eber outlived Peleg by 191 years and Noah and his son Shem were still living when Peleg died. No one after Peleg lived much longer than he did. The genealogies also take the highly irregular tact of mentioning Peleg’s brother, Joktan (Genesis 10:25; I Chronicles 1:19). Joktan’s name means “smallness” or “a lessening”. Life spans did indeed decrease dramatically after the time of Peleg and Joktan.

Do you have a moment in your life where things were not the same after an event as they were before? What division is Peleg related to and why is he so associated with it? Did Peleg in any way cause the division?

Traditionally, the split in Peleg’s time is associated with the failure of the Tower of Babel and the resulting diaspora (Genesis 11:1-9). James Ussher (1581-1656)’s famed chronology dates the Tower of Babel five years after the birth of Peleg. The connection between Peleg and Babel still represents the dominant view. Of the divisiveness, Walter Kaiser (b. 1933) writes “Here is a clear allusion to the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel (Kaiser, Hard Sayings of the Bible, 118).” Proponents of the traditional view include G. Charles Aalders (1880-1961), Victor P. Hamilton (b. 1941), Kaiser, C.F. Keil (1807-1888) and Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890), H. C. Leupold (1892-1972), Henry M. Morris (1918-2006), Allen P. Ross (b. 1943) , John Sailhamer (b. 1946), and Richard T. White. Babel does mark an epic irrevocable change in human life as presumably the world went from one language to today’s estimated 7,299 primary languages.

Some segments of creation science pose that Peleg’s schism references a continental division. This theory holds that the earth was once a single landmass, often called Pangaea, and that Peleg lived at a time when a geological event precipitated continental drift. The belief that the contingents were once unified is supported by God’s command at creation to “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear (Genesis 1:9, NASB).”

Supporters of the continental drift view cite etymological considerations based on Peleg’s name which suggests that the division involved water. The associated noun peleg occurs ten times in the Old Testament and in each instance refers to water (Job 29:6; Psalms 1:3; 46:4, 65:9, 119:136; Proverbs 5:16; 21:1; Isaiah 30:25, 32:2; Lamentations 3:48).

Bernard E. Northrup (1925-2008) writes of the hydraulic connection to Peleg:

[Peleg, palag, or PLG] often contains within it a reference to water. It is used to refer to a stream of water in Hebrew, Coptic, Ethiopic and in Greek. The root is used to refer to irrigation canals which carried the water throughout the farming land of Mesopotamia. However, an examination of the Greek usage (of the family of Japeth) of the root letters PL and PLG clearly shows that in the majority of the instances this root was used of the ocean...It is used to mean: “to form a sea or lake,” “of places that are flooded and under water,” “of crossing the sea,” of “the broad sea” itself, of “being out at sea,” “on the open sea.” It is used of seamen and ships. The noun with the result suffix is used of “an inundation.” I continue: it is used of “a being at sea,” of “a creature of or on the sea,” of “one who walks on the sea,” of “running or sailing on the open sea,” of “a harbor that is formed in the open sea by means of sandbags,” and in many ways of “the open sea itself,” of “going to, into or toward the sea,” of “roving through the sea,” of “being sea-nourished,” of “turning something into the sea or into the sea or of flooding.” It is quite apparent that every Greek usage here involves the sea in someway. (Northrup, “Continental Drift and the Fossil Record,” Repossess the Land (Minneapolis: Bible Science Association, 1979), 165–166)
Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960), Northrup and Alfred Wagener (1880-1930) support the view that continental drift occurred at the time of Peleg.

Other simpler theories have also been posited. One suggests that “divided” implies that the land was surveyed and divided into grids. The division could also be one between Peleg and his brother, Joktan. Genesis states Eber had “two sons”, a phrase which often denotes a territorial issue in Genesis. The Biblical genealogies follow Peleg’s line while Joktan became the father of Arabian people (Genesis 10:26-30).

Regardless of what event is being referenced, Peleg is associated solely with divisiveness.

Who do you most associate with divisiveness? Are you known more for divisiveness or unity? In what ways are you actively building bridges with others?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Elijah’s Exit (II Kings 2:11)

Who went to heaven in a chariot of fire? Elijah (II Kings 2:11).

The prophet Elijah knew the day that he was making his final exit from the earth (II Kings 12:3, 5). On that day, he along with his protégé, Elisha, made one last circuit, revisiting places of importance in Israel’s history. They traveled from Gilgal to Bethel (II Kings 12:2) to Jericho (II Kings 12:4) back to the east side of the Jordan River (II Kings 12:6) where they crossed to the other side (II Kings 12:8). The journey encompassed 50+ miles. At each stop, Elijah appears to attempt to do as he had done previously in the desert and leave his servant so that he could die alone (I Kings 19:3). At each site, Elijah ordered Elisha to stay behind and each time his apprentice refused to leave his master (II Kings 12:2, 12:4, 12:6). After crossing the Jordan, Elijah and Elisha were separated by a chariot and horsemen of fire (II Kings 2:11). Elijah “went up by a whirlwind to heaven” (II Kings 2:11 NASB) departing the earth and leaving his successor with only his mantle (II Kings 2:13).

The heaven to which Elijah ascended is not the ethereal place the modern word evokes. Jesus said, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man (John 3:13 NASB).” The Hebrew, shamayim, indicates the sky. This is evidenced by the fact that the fifty prophets who witnessed Elijah’s exit (II Kings 2:7) assumed that the prophet was taken elsewhere and searched for him for three days (II Kings 2:15-18). Regardless of his destination, Elijah went out in style.

Elijah’s end in a fiery blaze of glory was fitting. His greatest triumph was calling down fire to defeat the prophets of Ba’al (I Kings 18:38) and in one of his finals acts, he again called down fire to consume the soldiers of the rebelling king Ahaziah (II Kings 1:10, 12, 14). The horse and the chariot were symbols of battle. The fiery prophet who had spent his life battling for God was given an honorary military procession.

Tradition, reenforced through hymns (“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”) and paintings, has evoked Ben Hur images of the chariot carrying the prophet away. Elijah was actually taken by a whirlwind, not a chariot of fire (II Kings 2:11). The fiery chariot served to separate the two ministry partners (II Kings 2:11). The horses may not have even been drawing the chariots as Elisha describes them distinctively (II Kings 12:12). Perhaps the fiery horses and chariot were merely Elijah’s escorts.

Elijah knowingly spent his last day on earth traveling Israel, presumably saying his goodbyes. Missionary Jim Elliott (1927-1956) who was martyred at age 28 in Ecuador, wrote in his journal on March 25th, 1951, “When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die (Elliot, The Journals of Jim Elliott, 324).”

If you could, would you want to know the exact day on which you would die? If you did know that today was your last day, where would you go? Why does Elijah exit the earth in this manner? For whose benefit were the “chariots for fire”?

“Chariots of fire” is now part of the cultural lexicon. Chariots of fire later come to Elisha’s rescue (II Kings 6:17) and similar imagery is used in Isaiah (Isaiah 66:15-16). Though it has numerous religious overtones, the 1981 Academy Award winning film Chariots of Fire is not actually named for this Biblical passage. Rather the title is taken from a line from a hymn sung in the movie, “Jerusalem”. The hymn, written by C. Hubert H. Parry (1848-1918) in 1916, was based upon a William Blake (1757-1827) poem. Blake’s poem was inspired by the apocryphal story of a young Jesus, accompanied by Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; John 19:38), visiting Glastonbury, England.

It is said that only two Biblical characters did not die: Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24) and Elijah (II Kings 2:1-11). Not surprisingly many legends have arisen around the two figures. Elijah did not die in the sense that his body never decayed but he died like everyone else in the sense that he moved from this life to the next.

What, if anything, do you fear most about death? Do you more dread the transition to the next life or the destruction of the body?

But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting? (I Corinthians 15:54-55, NASB)