The Palace at Shushan

The Palace at Shushan

ON THE outskirts of the city of Shush in western Iran lie the remains of Shushan, winter palace of the kings of Persia and the setting of the Bible book of Esther. Esther was the Jewish queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus (Persian kings had various names, it’s generally agreed he was Xerxes I who reigned approximately 486–465BC). Some modern scholars have dismissed the book of Esther as a work of fiction which bears no relation to historical facts. However, excavations at Shushan have provided fascinating evidence that the book is actually highly accurate in its descriptions of the royal city and palace—indicating that we can also be confident of the other historical details. For example: •             Chapter 2:11 describes Esther’s con- finement in the ‘women’s quarters’ to which the public had no access. Archaeologists have identified the harem, containing a series of apartments each with its own small courtyard.

The Most Beautiful Sight in the World

The Most Beautiful Sight in the World

DID YOU KNOW that the word ‘beautiful’ was specially invented for the Bible? When William Tyndale was translating the Bible in the early 1500s, he came across a Hebrew word that meant ‘lovely to look at’ and he couldn’t find an English word that properly expressed its meaning; so he took the French word ‘beau’, which means someone who is handsome or pretty, and added the German ending ‘ful’, and came up with ‘bewtifull’ (that’s the 16th Century spelling). It means “full of loveliness to look at”. What Would You Say? What is the most beautiful sight in the world? We could ask ten people and get ten different answers. This is one man’s answer: “Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion” (Psalm 48:2). Mount Zion is the hill on which the original city of Jerusalem was built. The name ‘Zion’ is often used for

The Devil

The Devil

ALTHOUGH there is a lot of good in the world, nobody would deny that there is also a lot of evil. Have you ever asked yourself where all the evil comes from? Jesus of Nazareth gave us the answer: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…” (Matthew 15:19). Evil deeds come from evil thoughts and evil thoughts arise in the hearts of people like us. The same message is found throughout the Bible. For instance, not far into the history of the world a thoroughly rotten and corrupt society had developed: Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their

Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes

The alternative title of this book is “The Preacher”, and the opening verse identifies the writer as “the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem”. It was probably King Solomon. “All Go to One Place” Solomon was famous for his riches, wisdom and exploits. He had everything the world could offer, so he was well qualified to talk about the meaning of life. In this book he underlines the emptiness of life without God. Without God’s word, and our response to it, all would be pointless. We would all end up, like animals, in the dust of death; for in the grave all life and consciousness ceases (Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20; 9:4–6). This is the consistent teaching of the whole Bible, but in Ecclesiastes it is repeated time after time. “Remember Now Your Creator” Chapter 12 describes in vivid poetic language old age, and the deterioration of the different parts

A Little Can be Fatal

A Little Can be Fatal

“A LITTLE BIT won’t hurt me—it looks lovely,” Ian begged. “No!” insisted his father. “You’re allergic to it and even a little bit could hurt you a lot.” Some people are intolerant of certain foods and eating them makes them ill. Others are allergic to even the slightest trace of a food (for example nuts). They have to learn, like Ian, to be constantly on the look out and to avoid them. This involves reading food labels and asking about possible cross-contamination in kitchens. Carelessness could be fatal. Although symptoms can usually be relieved if action is taken quickly, there is no cure for the actual allergy. Sometimes small amounts of something can have large effects. Things like mould, germs and cancer cells spread quickly. A little leaven (yeast) will cause a whole batch of dough to rise, and the Apostle Paul says that bad influences can corrupt our lives

A Confession of Faith

A Confession of Faith

IT WAS a beautiful African morning and the sun shone down from an azure sky. My companion and I sat in the shade of a eucalyptus tree awaiting our first candidate. Several people had requested to be baptised into the Lord Jesus Christ. It was important that they knew what they were committing to. We were there to hear their ‘confessions of faith’—that is, to hear them express what they believed and show a sound understanding of Bible teaching. Many who would come had never spoken to us before, and so we would be sure first to put them at their ease by chatting about general things; then we’d turn the conversation toward spiritual matters. Most of the candidates were well prepared, and although often somewhat nervous they were able to give a more or less fluent confession of their faith. I particularly remember Philip. He seemed very young to

No Hero

No Hero

THE BIBLE contains inspiring accounts of men and women of faith who achieved great things in their service to God. John Mark was not one of them—in the great drama that unfolds in the Bible’s pages, he plays a bit-part, and he was no hero. But as is usually the case, we can learn a lot from the little we’re told about him. Mark was the writer of the Gospel of Mark. It’s likely that his information came first-hand from Peter (under the inspiration of God). In the Acts The first time he’s mentioned by name is in the book of Acts. Peter had been freed from prison by an angel, and “he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12). This was in Jerusalem and it’s thought that this was the house where Jesus and

Made in God’s Image

Made in God’s Image

ANIMALS are amazing. An eagle’s eyesight is so sharp that it can spot a rabbit two miles away – and it can keep the rabbit in focus as it dives out of the sky at 200 miles per hour. A sniffer dog has been known to detect a packet of drugs sealed inside a bottle submerged in a can of kerosene. Migrating birds can travel from one side of the world to the other with incredible accuracy, using a variety of navigational aids including the sun, the stars and the earth’s magnetic field. But you and I are more amazing than any other animal—because unlike all other animals, we’re made in the image of God. In the Beginning Right at the beginning of the Bible, Genesis chapters 1 and 2 describe the creation of the world and everything in it. Humans were the last to be created—the culmination of God’s

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

The Gospel of John records a number of sayings of Jesus which begin “I am …” In this series we think about some of the profound things he said about himself. JESUS had some close friends—Lazarus, and his sisters Martha and Mary. They lived in the village of Bethany outside Jerusalem, and Jesus and his disciples would often stay at their home. John chapter 11 tells of the time when Lazarus fell ill and died, and Jesus raised him back to life. He ‘resurrected’ him—the word ‘resurrection’ means to bring back to life. Jesus and his disciples arrived at the house to find Martha grieving for her dead brother. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him,

A New Heaven and a New Earth

A New Heaven and a New Earth

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1–4 GOD’S CREATION is incredible. Whether it be gazing in awe at the sheer scale and intricacy of outer space or smiling