The Pastor’s Corner is written by the pastor of Coronado Bible Church.

It happened again …

It happened again … fresh insight from a familiar passage of God’s Word. Psalm 119 was written on as an acrostic poem in praise of God’s law. In the Hebrew, each section has eight lines all beginning with the same letter. There is one section for each of the twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. With a grand total of 176 lines (or verses), Psalm 119 is not only the longest Psalm, but the longest chapter in the Bible.

The authors of my Bible reading plan decided to dole out Psalm 119 … one section a day. So this one psalm took 22 days to read. Psalm 119 has always been challenging to me. Not just because of the length, but because of the professed piety of the author. He uses the personal pronoun “I” incessantly. One proclamation after another about what he has done or plans to do in his pursuit of God and God’s Word. Here’s a sampling from just three verses …

  • I have chosen the way of truth
  • I have set my heart on your laws
  • I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord
  • I run in the path of your commands

Now, there are plenty of pleas for God’s assistance, but they seem overwhelmed by 115 “I” statements like the ones above. So part of me has found it difficult not to dismiss the author’s statements as pharisaical and arrogant. This time, maybe because my pace was slower I saw an “I” that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s the very last verse … Psalm 119:176, I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.

For all the psalmists love of God and His Word, for all his pursuing, the reality was that he strayed … he was prone to wander from God. A proud man would not end his psalm this way. Notice how the psalmist doesn’t say “I’ll come back to you,” but rather “seek your servant.” He has and intends to keep pursuing God, but his confidence is in God pursuing him. I finally heard the psalmists heart and mine resonates with his.

Superior Numbers

Here’s one last look at that ominous number from Revelation 13:18; This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
Since John penned these words, people have generated hundreds, if not thousands, of obviously mistaken identities for the Antichrist.Speculators have employed many spurious methods to make their calculations work; using numbering schemes that weren’t in existence in the time of John; translating the Greek text into other languages, etc. As I mentioned previously, the easiest name to arrive at is Nero Caesar … but only after you translate his Latin name into Hebrew. That might have occurred to John’s audience … but most other attempts push the bounds of incredulity.
Some Bible scholars have suggested that arriving at the actual name of the beast was not the point. Instead, John’s emphasis was that for all his power and pretension, the Antichrist’s number is just the number of “a man.” The Greek reads, “because it is man’s number and the number of his is 666.” The world dominating ruler is just a man! He does everything he can to pretend to deity, but he’s simply flesh and blood.
Here’s how that might have encouraged John’s first readers. There is one surprising number that requires no manipulation. The comparison between the number of the beast and this number would have sent an instant and uplifting message. This inset graphic from the Holman New Testament Commentary series reveals a superior number. ἸΗΣΟῦΣ … the Greek spelling of Jesus equals 888. In any language, even mathematics, the name of Jesus is superior to all His foes … to all our foes. As Philippians 2:10-11 proclaims: God exalted Jesus to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!



The number 666 is being “discovered” by people everywhere:
  • The logos for: Monster Energy Drink, Taco Bell and Google Chrome
  • The trademark scrolly writing of the name “Walt Disney”
  • The hand gestures of President Donald Trump
  • The ancient Christian symbol for the Trinity
  • Even a pan of cinnamon rolls (That should help you with your diet).

I’m not making this stuff up, but someone is. People have also been multiplying theories for who the number might identify as the Antichrist. One of the strongest candidates ever put forward was Ronald Wilson Regan. It was so obvious! Each of his names had six letters and he and Nancy did live at 666 St. Cloud Road, Bel Air, Los Angeles. U.S. Presidents have always been popular targets. As I mentioned, Donald Trump is currently being identified as the Antichrist … but then so was Barak Obama. I don’t want to leave out my Canadian friends, so I think you should be warned that Justin Trudeau has been identified as a likely candidate … look it up! On second thought, don’t bother.

Revelation 13:18 describes the “Mark of the Beast” as follows; This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Hebrew, Greek and Latin all uses letters to represent numbers. John was using an ancient practice known as Gematria. Based on letters of the alphabet, John gave the name of the Antichrist a numerical value … of six-hundred and sixty-six. It’s quite easy to convert a name to numbers … it’s much more difficult to go the other way. John invited his readers to “calculate the number” and people have been at it ever since. Let me point out that John also said that the process would require “wisdom” and “understanding.” Don’t be taken in by people who think they spot it in Trump making the “okay” symbol. Tune in next week when I’ll try to give some more insight into the meaning of 666. For now, have a cinnamon roll … you’ll feel much better.

Bible Heroes

This is David … the shepherd boy … standing on the corner of my desk. I found him in a bin of church stuff. It all makes sense now; how an adolescent could have killed a lion, a bear and then a trained Philistine warrior over nine feet tall. If the toymakers are right, David was no regular prepubescent. The testosterone kicked in way early for this boy. And look at that stone! I read in 1 Samuel 17 how David chose “five smooth stones” that fit in his shepherd’s pouch, but who am I to argue with a Chinese toy manufacturer. Slinging cannon balls like that is probably how David defeated Hannibal’s army of Elephants when it crossed the Alps into Israel. No … that didn’t happen either, but if you’re not going to stick to the text of Scripture, anything goes.

I looked up the toymaker online and discovered they use the same mold for Joshua, Goliath and Lachmi (that’s Goliath’s brother). I know you don’t remember Lachmi, but he’s in there (1 Chronicles 20:5). They probably picked this obscure character because there are only so many body builders mentioned in the Bible. The company also makes Samson. His figurine comes with removable hair (sad, but I’m not joking). I have a theory about Samson. I think he was about as imposing as Kenny G … a little thin guy with a wild mop of hair. If he had looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger, they wouldn’t have kept asking about the source of his strength. And if he looked like he could push down a temple, they probably wouldn’t have put him between the pillars. Samson’s story is not a story about a man bound with muscle, it’s the story of a man filled with God’s Spirit.

It’s dangerous manufacturing Bible Heroes. It misses the point of God’s story. It misses the point that … God is the point of the story. When we make the men and women of the Bible extra-ordinary, we miss that God did mighty things through ordinary, flawed humans. We miss that He could use us. Our extraordinary God is the hero of His book.  

When the Rooster Crows:

“Research done in North-Central India, where the sun only becomes visible after it has risen higher than surrounding mountains, documents the onset of crowing approximately two to three hours before sunrise with initial intervals of about 30 minutes that decrease to about seven minutes at the time of sunrise—even though the sun is not actually visible at the moment of sunrise.”

Do you remember Cornelius the Rooster? He was the mascot for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. In my childhood commercials, the sun didn’t come up until Cornelius crowed. Television was my only exposure to Roosters and I thought they only crowed right at sunrise. I was totally confused when I moved to Panama and heard them crowing 24/7. While Panama roosters don’t seem to have much sense of time, according to researchers, other parts of the world have pretentiously punctual poultry. In fact, a new study (done by Nagoya University in Japan) “shows that roosters don’t need the light of a new day to know when it’s dawn—rather, their internal clocks alert them to the time.”

Roosters are reliable enough that prior to our chronographically fixated age, people told time by them. The Greek word alektorophōnía, literally means “roosters voice” but is sometimes translated “third watch.” Although the Greeks and Romans had developed other ways of marking time throughout the night, the three hours prior to sunrise was still called “cockscrow.” Mark 13:35 uses the word in Jesus’ parable counseling vigilance in watching for His return,

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.”

Interestingly, Jesus mentions only the watches of the night … the times when it is most difficult to be alert and aware. This was exactly His point. Jesus continues, “If (the master) comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!”  The specific servant mentioned in Jesus’ parable was the door keeper. While others slept, he stayed alert through the dark watches of the night, ready to welcome his master home. Many considered the final watch, just before the breaking of dawn, the most difficult time to stay awake. The night has been long, the Master tarries … but He is coming. Wake up!

Sources: Scientific American article, “What time does the cock crow?” by Krystal D’Costa, November 30, 2011; National Geographic article, “How a Rooster Knows to Crow at Dawn” by Jane J. Lee, March 19, 2013.