DO YOU REALISE how many modern pandemics have originated with animals? The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2002–2003 was found to have originated in cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in the Yunnan province of China, and made the leap from animal to human infection somewhere in the Guangdong Province in late 2002. During the period of infection, there were 8,098 reported cases of SARS and 774 deaths. The pandemic was eventually brought under control in July 2003, following a policy of isolating people suspected of having the condition and screening all passengers travelling by air from affected countries. Scientists identified the culprit as a strain of coronavirus and found genetically similar viruses in masked palm civets sold in Guangdong’s animal markets, suggesting that the deadly strain probably originated in the bats, and later passed through civets before reaching humans. The MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2012 also appears
IRAN is a country with a long history and a rich heritage. Two and a half thousand years ago under its former name Persia, its most illustrious king Cyrus the Great built a world empire which lasted for two centuries. It has been at the heart of the life and culture of the Middle East since. But in recent years Iranians have been fleeing their country in increasing numbers. These people—men, women and children, mostly from educated and comfortable backgrounds—leave everything they have and everyone they know behind, put their lives in the hands of ruthless people-smugglers, and set off into the unknown. Why do they do it? We follow the real-life experiences of Meysam, a young Iranian who fled to England. A Muslim in Iran Meysam grew up as a strict Muslim. He lived in a region where Islam was taken very seriously, and although his parents were not
CYRUS THE GREAT was one of the major figures in all of history. He was a brilliant soldier and statesman, he built the biggest empire the world had yet seen, and because of his humane attitude towards his subjects he’s earned the reputation as the founder of human rights. He was also remarkable because his life was foretold in advance in the Bible. Isaiah’s Amazing Prophecy The prophet Isaiah lived around 100 years before Cyrus was born. His prophecy is wide ranging in its content. There’s an eye-witness account of the invasion of Israel by the Assyrian army, in the time of the Jewish King Hezekiah around 700bc (chapters 36–39); there is encouragement for the Jewish nation to trust in God, and warnings of the consequences should they be faithless (for example chapter 1); there are remarkable prophecies of the Messiah, which were fulfilled 700 years later by Jesus Christ
Heart disease kills many people. Several risk factors for heart disease are behavioural and so under our control. Health campaigns urge us to change our lifestyles in order to reduce our chances of developing heart disease. Our Sick Hearts In the Bible a person’s heart means more than a physical organ. The Bible refers to our hearts as the source of thinking (Matthew 9:4), emotion (John 16:22) and moral conscience (Hebrews 10:22). However, the natural state of our hearts is extremely unhealthy. An Old Testament prophet said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus reiterated this view in Matthew 15:19. This problem is so acute that an untreated heart leads inevitably to destruction. The Remedy Whilst we cannot help being born into this sick and sorry state, we can help what we do about it. In His great mercy, God
EZEKIEL was a Jewish priest who was taken captive about 597 BC when the Babylonian army attacked Israel. God called Ezekiel to be His ‘watchman’, acting out parables and speaking “the word of the Lord” to warn His people of the coming troubles (3:17; 33:7–9 etc.). Ezekiel was shown visions of the glory of God. He saw God’s glory with the captives in Babylonia (chapter 1), and he saw it with the Jews who remained in Jerusalem (chapter 8); he saw it leaving Jerusalem because of the people’s wickedness before the city’s imminent overthrow by Babylon (chapters 10–11). Prophecy of Christ God’s warnings, both to Israel and to the surrounding nations, are contained in chapters 3–24. Judah’s last King, Zedekiah, was to be removed because of his godlessness. There would be no Jewish king after him “until he comes whose right it is” (21:27). That king will be Jesus Christ!
AGAIN AND AGAIN in the Bible, we are reminded that God has great things in store for this earth. For example in the culmination of Daniel’s first prophecy: And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever (Daniel 2:44). The Kingdom of God is the reward for those who have faithfully followed Jesus (Matthew 16:27). And more than this, it is the great purpose for which Planet Earth was created. The apparent permanence and stability of this present world, with its countless millions living without God, is thoroughly misleading. “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen
This is the eighth in a series in which we examine this fascinating Bible book. You can catch up with the previous articles at www.gladtidingsmagazine.org. ONE OF THE more interesting methods of establishing whether a set of accounts provides an accurate record is to compare the various accounts and see whether they correspond with one another. The important comparisons are those which concern tiny details; these are called ‘undesigned coincidences’. An undesigned coincidence occurs where irrelevant details in two or more independent accounts fit together to provide a picture which is otherwise not present in any of the accounts. The point about coincidences like this is that they are very difficult to manufacture. They appear in accurately reported factual accounts, but they seldom appear in fiction. It is very difficult for someone who was not a part of the action concerned to include undesigned coincidences in their account. Acts and