LivingEd – Charlotte: Orientation Week 2021

On August 6, eleven students arrived in Charlotte to begin a brand new year at Living Education – Charlotte.

After taking some time to settle-in and spend the Sabbath together, the students prepared to leave on Sunday with some of the faculty for their first adventure together in the mountains of North Carolina. The students and faculty arrived in Blowing Rock that evening in time to eat a delicious meal and to fellowship together for a while. Over the next two days, the students spent time listening to presentations by the faculty on all topics LivingEd, sharing yummy meals, learning about each other through games and fellowship, and testing their courage on a white-water rafting adventure.

The presentation portion of the trip not only helped to welcome the students to the program, but meant to explain the program expectations and the LivingEd culture, and to give an overview of what the students had to look forward to during the next nine months. Along with Mr. McNair’s overview of program expectations and opportunities,  Mr. Kenneth Frank presented to the students a history of education in the church, and Mr. Ruddlesden encouraged the students to take advantage of their opportunity and to consider ways they could serve others, both in the program and in the local church congregation. The topics seemed well-received as the students enthusiastically engaged in the interactive aspects of the presentations.

The students at Blowing Rock

After the presentations, the group took some time to drive over to The Blowing Rock, which is a beautiful look-out point to the surrounding mountains. The students enjoyed walking around the park and getting some cool pictures before heading back to the cabins for dinner.

Tuesday was a full day of white water rafting thoroughly enjoyed by all, after which the students and faculty got back on the road for the three hour trek home. However, Orientation was not yet over for the students. The rest of the week was used as an introduction to their core classes, instructors, work-study positions at headquarters, and dorm life. Via webex, the students met each of the Living Church of God department heads and learned a bit more about operations at the headquarters building. They also heard from several of the leaders at headquarters on topics to help prepare them for student life such as “The Myth of Multi-tasking”, “Goal Setting”, “Study Less, Study Smart”, and more.

At the conclusion of Orientation week the students got to spend some time settling-in, and preparing for classes to begin on Monday. As a Friday morning bonus, the guys had the opportunity to take a special class with Chef McNair on the topic of “Expert Bachelor Cooking” which was certainly beneficial for all involved. The McNair’s hosted all the students for a special Friday night dinner. The rain could not stop the evening from being a splendid ending to an exciting week. The students look forward to the upcoming weeks and all the unique and inspiring opportunities in store for them.

Forum Summary: Your Pillars

Author: Caanin Fausone | Student, LivingEd-Charlotte

Estimated reading time: 1 min. 18 sec.

“What are Your Pillars”?

This week in a lecture addressed to Living Education students, Mr. Wally Smith brought attention to this thought-provoking question—How should we as Christians invest in and develop our ideological pillars—and more importantly, as members of the church what should our “pillars” be? Pillars, simply put, are ideals and beliefs that hold up our worldview, and they can range from something as trivial as “red M&M’s are the best flavor” to fundamental truths such as “God exists.” 

Invest Time in Your Beliefs

  “Your worldview is like a pair of rose-tinted sunglasses,” Mr. Smith explained. It affects how we see the world and influences the decisions we make.  Because of this, it is important that we spend some time developing our beliefs and lay a solid foundation to build our worldview upon. Mr. Smith went on to read Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” 

“Can Your Pillars Stand the Test of Time”? 

“Choose your central pillars with care” Mr. Smith admonished the students. It is important that during our younger years we take advantage of our time and establish moral pillars that can stand the test of time and will endure disaster and the collapse of other less important ideals. With these strong foundational beliefs, we as Christians will be able to weather the uncertain moral landscape of our world today.

Caanin headshot

Caanin is a student at LivingEd – Charlotte and is excited and interested in learning more about God’s way of life and developing a closer relationship with God during his time at Living Education. Caanin has past experience working as a sales representative, and currently works as a server at Southgate Brewing Company. In high school, Caanin participated in basketball, football, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Academic Decathlon. For his work-study position, Caanin is on the program staff for Living Education and works with data analytics and statistics reporting.

Course Spotlight: Biblical Meaning of “Elohim”

The very first name that God applies to Himself in the Old Testament is “Elohim.” “In the beginning God [Hebrew Elohim] created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Elohim is used 31 times in the first chapter of Genesis—and clearly identifies “God” as the Creator. But what does Elohim mean?

Course Spotlight from The Life Ministry and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 1) The Early Life of Christ

Digging Deeper: Fire Shut Up In My Bones

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min., 56 sec.

Did you know that when God commands a man to preach His message, he feels compelled to comply?

Even when he tries to refrain from doing so, he senses an overwhelming urgency to deliver the message regardless of the consequences. Jeremiah was one such prophet who, because of his suffering for preaching God’s word, tried to restrain himself from doing so but found he could no longer hold back. Today’s Digging Deeper considers this compulsion of God’s chosen men who speak for Him.

Our focus verse comes from Jeremiah’s experience: “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay [stop, hold back](Jeremiah 20:9 KJV throughout). Later in his book, Jeremiah states, “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29 KJV). Fire and a hammer are two of several metaphors for God’s word used in Scripture.

Not of their own will

The NET Bible Notes explain the phrase “speak…in his name” from Jeremiah 20:9: “This idiom occurs in passages where someone functions as the messenger under the authority of another. See Exodus 5:23; Deuteronomy 18:19, 29:20; Jeremiah 14:14” (e-Sword 13.0). God had called Jeremiah at a young age and sent him to preach to the House of Judah before the final collapse of this kingdom to the Babylonians (Jeremiah 1:4-10). In Jeremiah 1:9, God put His words into Jeremiah’s mouth to proclaim to others. When God’s word becomes a part of a person’s inner life, that person is never the same again. That person has been given precious, divine truth that must be shared with others (Jeremiah 26:2).

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges describes what God’s prophets experienced: “These vv. shew us that the prophets did not speak of their own will. It was an influence which they could not resist that urged them forward, in spite of the certain ills that should follow to themselves. ‘Here there rings out clearly the prophet’s unfaltering certainty of the real inspiration which is the source of all his message.’ Pe. Cp. Jeremiah 23:29; so Amos 3:8 and 1 Corinthians 9:16″ (e-Sword 13.0).

Discouraged yet conflicted

When Jeremiah acquiesced to begin preaching after he was first called, he did not receive the kind of response he expected and hoped for. By Jeremiah chapter 20, he had been preaching for some time but was receiving little positive response. From king to pauper, Jeremiah’s message fell on deaf ears. People spoke back to him, threatened him, imprisoned him, and even lowered him into a slime pit to die. He became very discouraged and challenged God about why He had sent him when so few, if any, were willing to heed and respond positively to his message. The Dake Annotated Reference Bible summarizes Jeremiah’s debate with God in Jeremiah 20:

“Tenfold Complaint Of Jeremiah:

  1. Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived (Jer 20:7).
  2. You are stronger than I, and You have prevailed.
  3. I was in derision daily.
  4. Everyone mocks me.
  5. Since I spake, I cried out violence and spoil (Jer 20:8).
  6. God’s word was made a reproach to me, and a derision daily.
  7. I determined not to speak the word of the Lord anymore in His name; but it was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I could not keep from speaking out (Jer 20:9).
  8. I heard the defaming of many (Jer 20:10).
  9. Fear was on every side.
  10. All my familiars [intimate friends] watched for me to quit speaking, thinking they would prevail against me and get revenge” (Bible Analyzer

The Common Man’s Reference Bible Notes explains Jeremiah’s internal debate: “This account reveals the mental conflicts of Jeremiah during the conflicts with the apostate priests and people. Jeremiah desired to quit because he was upset with the LORD (Jonah 4:9). Everyone was against Jeremiah and they wanted him to quit or slip up (1Cor 4:9). At this time Jeremiah was against himself, but God called him to this work. Jeremiah had memorized much Scripture and the words of God burned inside his heart. When a man has the word hid in his heart, he cannot be silent (Prov 21:28). It is not the beliefs, fundamentals, message, or principles, but the words that motivate a man to preach (Psa 12:6-7; Acts 4:31; Col 3:16)” (Bible Analyzer

The tremendous battle in the heart

The College Press Bible Study Textbook Series describes further this struggle in Jeremiah’s mind: “A tremendous battle rages in the heart and mind of this sensitive man of God. On the one hand he wanted to resign his ministry and retreat to the peaceful and quiet life at Anathoth. He could not bear to face the prospect of continued ridicule and opposition. He wanted to forget all about his recent unpleasant experiences and never preach another sermon again. On the other hand his heart was burdened with a sense of prophetic obligation and divine mission. The fire of God’s wrath against sin burns fiercely within him. He tries to hold it back but cannot. He becomes utterly exhausted from trying to fight his compulsion to preach. In spite of himself he must follow the divine call, he must resume his ministry (Jeremiah 20:9)” (e-Sword 13.0).

Once Jeremiah realized his precipitous mistake in trying to resist speaking God’s word, he realizes he has no choice but to do so, as explained by Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible:

I wilt not make mention of him – I will renounce the prophetic office, and return to my house.

As a burning fire shut up in my bones – He felt stings of conscience for the hasty and disobedient resolution he had formed; he felt ashamed of his own weakness, that did not confide in the promise and strength of God; and God’s word was in him as a strongly raging fire, and he was obliged to deliver it, in order to get rid of the tortures which he felt from suppressing the solemn message which God had given. It is as dangerous to refuse to go when called, as it is to run without a call”.

(e-Sword 13.0)

Another prophet, Amos, expressed his compulsion to proclaim God’s word faithfully: “The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). In the New Testament era, the apostles Peter and John said: “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). The apostle Paul too sensed his absolute necessity to preach God’s word: “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” (1 Corithians 9:16-17).

The Defender’s Study Bible explains what compelled these servants of God: “The Word of God simply cannot be quenched for one who truly loves God and understands what God’s Word has done for him and what it means for the world. Even though that man is the object of reproach and derision because of it (Jeremiah 20:8), he must proclaim it to others in whatever way he can” (e-Sword 13.0).

The message must be proclaimed

Sometimes God’s people tire of proclaiming God’s word because, seemingly, it is without many positive responses. Ger de Koning’s Commentary on the Whole Bible offers food for thought: “We may also be overcome by the feeling that we no longer want to continue our service, that we no longer want to think about the LORD. After all, there is no point to it all. But then, like Jeremiah, we will still have no choice but to continue because we are inwardly convinced of the truth. The heart is burning, even though we are disappointed with the results of our service. When we see the state of corruption and the judgment that threatens, we cannot help but speak God’s words” (BibleTime 3.0.1).

These personal examples should move those whom God has called today to continue to proclaim the gospel to the world. It desperately needs to hear God’s word. We must proclaim it, or else God will hold us accountable (Ezekiel 33:1-9). God will strengthen us despite much opposition. In the end, if we are faithful, we will hear these words from our Savior: “…Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:23).

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Digging Deeper: God is Watching Us

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated Reading Time: 8 min., 54 sec.

Did you know that God observes everything on our blue-green gem of a planet floating in the blackness of space?

He sees it all – the good, the bad, the miraculous, the appalling, the beautiful, and the ugly. Many live as if He does not exist, or if He does, as though He is unobservant of the goings-on here below. This Digging Deeper highlights a proverb that demonstrates God’s observing eyes over this miracle planet of life that humankind is threatening to destroy.

The music world lost a singer/songwriter and guitarist last week whose career was vaulted by her recording of a song composed by Julie Gold entitled “From A Distance.” Nanci Griffith had a long musical career whose recordings transpired genres including folk and country music. Many people prefer her beautiful rendition of this song in which the words of the chorus are “God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us – from a distance.” The aspirational theme of the song imagines what the world could be if only humankind lived in peace and harmony with God, itself, and the natural world. Instead, it suffers from war, disease, deprivation, hatred, and chaos because of global sinfulness.

Our focus verse is: “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3 KJV throughout). Ger de Koning’s Commentary on the Whole Bible contrasts these two groups of people: “The evil people are both the great sinners and the friendly people who live decently, but none of them allow God into their lives. They are both those who openly sin and those who secretly sin. God wants them to become aware that He sees them, so that they may repent. The good people are in themselves also sinners, but they do good because they have acknowledged to be sinners. They live from a good relationship with God. That relationship has become good by their confession of sins and their faith in the forgiveness of those sins by God” (BibleTime 3.0.1).

His eyes run to and fro

We will consider a few parallel cross-references. Bible reference works, both printed and electronic, make it convenient to perform such side studies. One cross-reference is especially pertinent in the light of recent world events. This was spoken by God during the reign of King Asa of Judah: “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars. ” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Proverbs has a good deal to say about God’s overview of humankind, as illustrated by The ESV Study Bible: “The eyes of the LORD is a major theme in Proverbs: the Lord knows the actions and hearts of all, so he is neither pleased with nor fooled by one who offers sacrifices while continuing in the way of wickedness (cf. vv. 8–9, 11, 26, 29)” (Tecarta Bible App). Some may think they can appease God by their “religious” activities like monetary gifts to charities, hoping God will overlook their habitual sinfulness. God is not so easily fooled.

The College Press Bible Study Textbook Series declares that God is a perfect witness when it asserts: “Since He beholds both the evil and the good, God is not human, for human beings tend to see only the evil of their enemies and critics and to by-pass the evil in their friends and close relatives” (e-Sword 13.). Our problem is that we cannot read people’s hearts (minds) like God can. This proverb explains how observant the Almighty is: “Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men”? (Proverbs 15:11 KJV). We cannot hide anything from Him.

Beholding with a loving eye

Sometimes parents inform misbehaving children that God is watching them. To a point, this may remind children of what is expected of them by God. On the other hand, parents need balance, as explained by the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 3: “Beholding. Better, ‘keeping watch.’ Sometimes children are given the impression that God watches them in order to find cause for blame; but our heavenly Father watches with the pitiful, loving eye of One who knows the frailty of our nature (see Hebrews 4:13; Psalm 33:13; 90:8; 103:13-14″ (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977, p. 999). The cross-references from Psalms listed here are heart-warming: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).

The Hebrew word translated beholding has a colorful usage in the Old Testament, as explained by The Holman KJV Study Bible: “The Hebrew word for beholding or being vigilant implies that proper action will be taken with regard to what is observed. It is used of the capable wife who watches over her household (31:27), of the watchman in Ezekiel who is obligated to sound the alarm (Ezek. 33:6), and of God Himself who watches and judges the nations (Ps. 66:7)” (Tecarta Bible App). The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges adds further: “The word is commonly used of a watchman (1 Samuel 14:16; 2 Samuel 13:34;18:24), and calls up the figure of the Almighty observing, as it were, from His lofty watch-tower in heaven all the doings of the dwellers upon earth.” (e-Sword 13.0).

Seeing the good and evil

Proverbs 15:3 not only alarms the wicked but encourages the faithful, as explained by The NKJ Study Bible: “That the eyes of the LORD are in every place watching everything chills those who do evil and comforts those who submit to Him (see Ecclesiastes 12:14)” (Tecarta Bible App). The cross-reference verse they offer is pertinent to our study: “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14 KJV). Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible assures God’s people: “The wicked shall not go unpunished, nor the righteous unrewarded, for God has his eye upon both and knows their true character; this speaks as much comfort to saints as terror to sinners” (e-Sword 13.0).

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible describes our focus verse’s instructional balance: “And if the consideration that his eye is in every place, have a tendency to appal those whose hearts are not right before him, and who seek for privacy, that they may commit iniquity; yet the other consideration, that his providence is everywhere, has a great tendency to encourage the upright, and all who may be in perilous or distressing circumstances” (e-Sword 13.).

God is extremely patient with human behavior, but there is a limit to His patience, as explained by Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: “Beholding the evil and the good.—Waiting till the iniquity of the one is full (Genesis 15:16), watching to aid the other (Psalm 34:15,17)” (e-Sword 13.0). When some cross the line of no return in their evil, God will act – but within His overall plan. By contrast, the cross-references in this source from Psalms offer strong encouragement to God’s faithful people going through extreme troubles:

“The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” (Psalm 34:15)

“The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17)

He sees and will act

Suffering people sometimes wonder if God truly sees what is happening here below. Joseph Parker’s The People’s Bible assures them: “Such words are at once a comfort and a terror. The universe would be but an infinite darkness were it not for the assurance that the eyes of the Lord watch every throbbing heart, every thought, every purpose, every action of the multitudinous life of men” (e-Sword 13.). God is watching and He will act on His own timetable. In the meantime, His people must continue to trust Him to rescue them.

God not only sees all, but He also knows our thoughts. Another cross-reference reminds us: “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off” (Psalm 139:1-2). Joseph S. Exell’s The Preachers Complete Homiletical Commentary explains these verses: “God is the one potentate and judge who can claim a perfect knowledge of all His subjects from personal acquaintance with each individual. Not one is lost in the crowd; each one stands before Him as distinctly as if He were the only creature in the universe” (e-Sword 13.). Now that is personal attention!

The righteous may be assured that, though God bears long with them in their suffering while they continually cry unto Him (Luke 18:7), He will finally act and reward them accordingly. Daniel Whedon’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments explains that God beholds the evil and the good in order: ” …  as is implied, to judge accurately of their character and conduct, and to reward and punish accordingly. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (e-Sword 13.0). The Bible reference this source just summarized was spoken by Abraham to God as He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). God is fair and can be trusted to fairly punish the wicked and reward the righteous for the “eyes of the LORD are in every place…”

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: Faith and Healing

In the Bible, we see that faith and healing often go hand in hand. But as we read examples of healing, we see that faith takes on a different role in different scenarios. Take a look at this outline to identify these scenarios!

Course Spotlight From The Life, Ministry, and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 2) The Galilean Ministry

Digging Deeper: The Chemarims

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated Reading Time: 8 min., 19 sec.

Did you know that in ancient Israel a mysterious group of religious officials known as Chemarims served in God’s sanctuary and at pagan shrines?

Some authorities suggest they were attired in black robes. Historically, black robes have been associated with clergy in the Christian world. The Catholic order, the Jesuits, was referred to as “Black Robes” by native peoples in the Americas during colonization. This Digging Deeper explores this unfamiliar term Chemarims to discover something about who they were and why they were referred to by this name.

The word Chemarims appears only once in our King James Bible. Here is the verse:

(Zephaniah 1:4) “I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests.” Notice that this worship is associated with the god Baal. This verse describes two groups of religious leaders, as explained by The New English Translation Notes: “The first word (כְּמָרִים, kemarim) refers to idolatrous priests in its two other appearances in the OT (2 Kings 23:5, Hosea 10:5), while the second word (כֹּהֲנִים, kohanim) is the normal term for ‘priest’ and is used of both legitimate and illegitimate priests in the OT” (e-Sword 13.0).

Who were the Chermarims?

The English word Chemarims is related to the Hebrew word (komer), which appears in two other verses also associated with heathen worship:

(Hosea 10:5)  “The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests [komer] thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.”

(2 Kings 23:5) “And he [King Josiah] put down the idolatrous priests [komer], whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.”

Good King Josiah rid his land of these idolatrous priests (2 Kings 23:5). The NIV Study Bible, concerning Zephaniah 1:4-6, states that this passage: “Seems to indicate that Zephaniah’s main ministry took place before 621 bc, since the practices condemned here were abolished in Josiah’s reforms (see 2 Kings 23:4-16 and notes). Perhaps Zephaniah’s message was partly instrumental in motivating King Josiah to undertake his reforms (cf. 2 Chronicles 34:1-7)” (Tecarta Bible App). Josiah was one of the best kings of the House of Judah. His spiritual reformation of cleansing his empire of paganism is an epic Old Testament story.

Those in black robes

Several older sources associate the Chemarims with those who were attired in black robes. For example, The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature by John McClintock and James Strong declares: “According to Gesenius (Thes Hebrews p. 693), the corresponding Syriac word signifies ‘a priest in general; but this, as well as other Syriac words relating to divine worship, is restricted by the Hebrews to idol-worship. As to the etymology, the singular form כֹּמֶר, ko´mer, is properly blackness, sadness, and concretely, one who goes about in black, in mourning, hence an ascetic, a priest'” (e-Sword 13.0).

Then, relating this to Christian history, this source continues: “The priests who officiated in the service of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel were called chemarim (see the other passages referred to). Even to this day the Jews retain the word, and apply it in derision to Christian ministers, on account of their black robes” (e-Sword 13.). John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible describes some clergy today even more particularly: “The word is used now by the Jews for Popish monks that live in cloisters; and Elias Levita (m) thinks these here are so called from their living in such like recluse places” (Ibid.).

An older work from the 1600s by John Trapp called A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments is even more pointed when it refers to these religious leaders as “Baal’s chimney chaplains” and then asserts: “The Vulgate rendereth it  Aedituos, underlings to the other priests: Elias in Tisby, saith they were such as were shut up in cloisters, Chemarim Atrati they are called, either from their black garments, or because they were smutched with burning incense, or from the brandmarks they had superstitiously set upon their bodies, or because of their pretended fiery zeal and fervency in their religion, such as are the Sacrifici Seraphici among the Papists, who falsely and foolishly call them the lights of the world, sc. to light them into utter darkness” (e-Sword 13.0). We are not used to such bold declarative statements today!

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible in its comment on 2 Kings 23:5 goes even further with this challenging thought: “Probably they were an order made by the idolatrous kings of Judah, and called kemarim, from כמר  camar, which signifies to be scorched, shriveled together, made dark, or black, because their business was constantly to attend sacrificial fires, and probably they were [wore] black garments; hence the Jews in derision call Christian ministers kemarim, because of their black clothes and garments. Why we should imitate, in our sacerdotal dress, those priests of Baal, is strange to think and hard to tell” (e-Sword 13.0).  That is certainly something for current clergy to consider seriously!

A Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke also relates the word to black robes: “Bishop Patrick thinks, that they were so called from being clothed in black; for the Egyptians, as well as many other pagan nations, made use of black garments when they sacrificed to the infernal deities: in opposition to which, the Jewish priests were clothed in white at their sacrifices” (e-Sword 13.0).

Uncertain etymology

However, not all sources associate Chemarims with black robes. A comparatively newer source, The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, edited by Merrill C. Tenney, declares the word’s uncertainty: “Its etymology is uncertain, none of those suggested being widely accepted … However, in the OT it is used only of the priests of idols or foreign gods, thus with an unfavorable sense” (Regency Reference Library, 1976, p. 786).

Another reference work, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia’s article on Chemarims, also expresses its uncertain meaning: “The question of the root idea of the word remains unsettled. The traditional supposition, which finds some support even among modern scholars, is that the verbal form means ‘to be black,’ the priests being supposed to have been clad in black. But it is doubtful whether the root had this meaning. Another conjecture takes the root to mean ‘to be sad,’ the priest being a man of a sad countenance, an ascetic” (e-Sword 13.).

This source then adds this further explanation: “It is at all events probable that the priests, both in Israel and in the surrounding nations, employed white vestments, rather than black, when in the performance of their official functions. According to the Mishna, Middōth, verse 4, a Levitical priest who had become disqualified for service put on black garments and departed, while the others put on white garments and went in and ministered. The reference to the Baal worship in 2 Kings 10:22 seems more congruous with this view; hence, probably blackrobed priests (Chemarim) of Baal and the unfaithful priests of Yahweh shall be cut off together. G. A. Smith (BTP, II, 56) reads ‘the priestlings with the priests'” (e-Sword 13.0).

Let the Bible interpret itself

As you can see, the original meaning of Chemarims is still not fully understood. However, whatever is meant, our English Bible defines it sufficiently using English words. Notice that in all three instances of the Hebrew word komer, the Bible has given its definition as idolatrous priests. This is an important principle of Bible study: search for a particular English word with an English concordance of the Bible to find other verses that explain its meaning. This way, the Bible interprets the Bible.

Another useful study tool is to look up the original Hebrew or Aramaic word for the Old Testament or the original Greek word for the New Testament and perform searches in concordances for these original languages. Today, this process is very fast and convenient using electronic Bible study tools available for various devices. However, beware of lexicon definitions. Some of the classic original language lexicons were produced by men who gave definitions for original words of the Bible by quoting non-biblical dictionaries, literature, or other sources. Instead, rely on the word of God to defines its own words.

Whatever its origin and definition, Chemarims described men who were illegitimate religious leaders at different times of ancient Israel’s history. God’s true servants have continually been challenged by imposters and dangerous religious opponents since the beginning of human history. It behooves diligent and truth-seeking servants of God to discern between those who speak God’s word faithfully from those who speak deceptions. Christians must “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 KJV).

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: The Sign of Jonah

Christ’s miracles were amazing signs of God’s power and ministry. His works testified of Him (John 14:11). To the disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus showed signs of healing the blind and cleansing the lepers—which the Messiah was prophesied to do (Isaiah 61:1). Yet Christ said that the primary sign to identify Him as the Messiah would be “the sign of Jonah.”

What was the sign of Jonah—and what does it have to do with us today?

Course Spotlight From The Life, Teachings, and Ministry of Jesus Christ: (Unit 3) The Judean Ministry

Digging Deeper: Mutual Submission

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated Reading Time: 8 min., 40 sec.

Did you know that Scripture teaches that Christians are to submit to one another in the fear of God?

Our age has become increasingly skeptical of authority figures. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some are losing patience with mask and distance mandates and recommendations from local officials. Regrettably, this reluctance to comply can endanger others’ lives. What Scriptural admonition guides believers during this crisis? This Digging Deeper considers the words of the apostle Paul to offer a reassuring perspective for observant Christians.

Our focus verse is: “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21 KJV throughout). On the domestic scene, some Bible-reading husbands occasionally recite verse 22 from Paul that wives are to submit to their husbands in order to persuade their wives to surrender to their wishes. What they may not have realized is that the previous verse (v. 21) is God’s command to every Christian to submit one to another in the fear of God – i.e., as an act of respect for the authority of God. Have you ever noticed how you can read a Scriptural section and yet its significance does not fully register on your mind?

Let this mind be in you…

Ephesians 5:21 parallels another passage of Paul to the Philippian brethren: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 KJV). Christ is our role model of submission. He gave up His personal “rights” to become our atoning sacrifice. He submitted to all legitimate authorities of His time – even those who killed Him.

Ephesians 5:21 serves as a “bridge” in this section of the Ephesian epistle. The ESV Study Bible explains: “Verse 21 is transitional, connecting with the previous section and leading to what follows. Submission is illustrated in various family relations in 5:22–33 (wives/husbands), 6:1–4 (children/parents), and 6:5–9 (servants/masters)” (Tecarta Bible App). Paul modifies some traditional first-century codes of behavior, as The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible clarifies: “Household codes instructed male heads of households how to rule wives, children and slaves; while continuing to uphold the call for subordinates to submit, Paul here goes beyond traditional expectations in calling for mutual submission (cf. general Christian servanthood to one another in Mk 10:42–45; Jn 13:14–15; Gal 5:13). This places Paul among the small proportion of ancient thinkers who valued mutual concern and sensitivity” (Tecarta Bible App). Notice how Paul reinterpreted these historical codes for believers.

The meaning of submitting

The word submitting is a keyword, as the ESV Study Bible explains: “Grammatically, ‘submitting’ is a participle in Greek and is dependent on the verb in v. 15. It explains further how to walk in wisdom (vv. 15–21 are one long sentence in Gk.)” (Tecarta Bible App). The NIV Study Bible takes this idea a step further: “The Greek grammar indicates that this mutual submission is associated with the filling of the Spirit in v. 18. The command ‘be filled’ (v. 18) is followed by a series of participles in the Greek: speaking (v. 19), singing (v. 19), making music (v. 19), giving thanks (v. 20) and submitting (v. 21)” (Ibid.). Mutual submission is essential in Christian spiritual wisdom.

The word submitting is expressed very positively, as The NKJ Study Bible notes: “The Greek word for submitting does not refer to being under the absolute control of another but to voluntarily placing oneself under the authority of another” (Tecarta Bible App). The Expositor’s Dictionary of Texts by Sir W. Robertson Nicoll adds further: “It is a sacrifice of ourselves. Submission in the Christian sense is an act of strength and not of weakness; a victory and not a defeat; a victory over self, felt and realised” (e-Sword 13.0).

This Christian perspective on submitting is so contrary to unbelieving behavior. Human pride can consider itself autonomous and answerable to oneself alone, which is true of some in free democracies. This verse prohibits pride, egotism, and self-will, as The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges explains: “The primary point in the spiritual ethics of the Gospel is humiliation; self is dethroned as against God, and consequently as against men. Here the special, but not exclusive, reference is to fellow-Christians” (e-Sword 13.0).

Contrary to the uninformed views of some, Christianity teaches that there are ranks of authority figures to whom Christians must submit. David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary offers historical etymology to the word submitting: “The word submitting here literally means, ‘to be under in rank.’ It is a military word. It speaks of the way that an army is organized among levels of rank. You have Generals and Colonels and Majors and Captains and Sergeants and Privates. There are levels of rank, and you are obligated to respect those in higher rank” (e-Sword 13.0).

Subject to various authorities

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers lists various authorities Christians are to obey: “The strong and frequent emphasis laid in the New Testament on subjection, whether (as in Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17) to the civil powers, or (as here, in Colossians 3:18 to Colossians 4:1, and 1 Peter 2:18 to 1 Peter 3:7) to domestic authority, or (as in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 14-15) to ecclesiastical authority, probably indicates some tendency, in the first exuberance of Christian liberty and enthusiasm, to disregard the wholesome restraints, laws, and conventions of outward life. Hence St. Paul’s general caution here, prefatory to the more detailed teaching of subjection which follows” (e-Sword 13.0).

Cross-references reinforce these instructions:

“Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5 KJV).

“Obey them [church authorities] that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17 KJV).

What makes the difference for Christians is that their submission to these authorities is modeled upon their Savior’s. The Popular Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Philip Schaff, notes: “Such submission is not cringing obsequiousness, which is always selfish; but it is opposed to rudeness, insolence, haughtiness, and kindred manifestations of unchristian temper. The relation to Christ involves humility, and only true humility can produce the submission here required. The example of Christ teaches the same lesson: ‘The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister’ (Mark 10:45)” (e-Sword 13.0).

Submitting with godly fear

The last part of our focus verse, “in the fear of God,” is also critical for understanding. David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary enlightens us: “In the fear of God: This is an important point, because Paul repeats the idea all through the extended section speaking about submission:

  • Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
  • Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
  • Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ.

The words in the fear of God describe what should be our motive for submitting to one another. We should submit to one other – see ourselves no longer in an individualistic way, but as a unit, as a company or a battalion – out of respect for God the Father and out of respect for Jesus Christ” (e-Sword 13.0).

The Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament by William Burkitt offers this commentary: “Learn hence, That where that noble and divine principle of the fear of God prevaileth in the heart, it will make a man conscientiously careful of his duty towards man: the fear of God in him will have both the force of a motive to quicken him up unto, and also of a rule to guide and direct him in, that submission, which, in obedience to God is due and payable to his neighbours” (BibleTime 3.0.1).

Today’s highlighted passage is critical to the peaceful, loving, and smooth operation of a local church, as Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains: “The general meaning here is, that Christianity does not break up the relations of life, and produce disorder, lawlessness, and insubordination; but that it will confirm every proper authority, and make every just yoke lighter. Infidelity is always disorganizing; Christianity, never” (e-Sword 13.0).

Christianity does not free believers from submissive behavior to due authority but refocuses it as service to God. As a fitting conclusion to our study, Kingcommments by Ger de Koning extends this point further: “We are connected to one another in the body of Christ, and also connected with Him. When we understand that, we would not want to raise ourselves above the other. There will be a healthy ‘fear’ not to dishonor Him with a mind of pride and rebellion. Only when I totally surrender myself to the glory of Christ and when I live with reverence for Him, I will be able to submit myself to the other” (BibleTime 3.0.1).

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: Lessons from Kingdom Parables

There is much to be gleaned from Christ’s parables in Matthew 13 regarding the Kingdom of God. Christ spoke in parables, not so that the people would understand, but so they would not understand (Matthew 13:11-15). It was only given to a few to know what they mean at this time: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:43).

Course Spotlight From The Life, Ministry, and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 2) The Galilean Ministry