“Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” Daniel 4:27
Nebuchadnezzar was king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which had conquered most of the Middle East. This included the Kingdom of Judah (Israel had already been conquered by the Assyrians, whom the Babylonians supplanted). Daniel was a Hebrew, and thus a captive of the Empire. But he was an important political official, and the king relied on him to interpret dreams, since God gave Daniel prophetic power. The above passage is at the end of Daniel’s interpretation of a dream: Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of much of the known world, would be humiliated. But, if he follows Daniel’s advice, he might be spared.
Proverbs 31:30-31: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
The other night, I came across an article talking about women in the alt-right movement. One of the things mentioned in the article was how much importance these women place on beauty. And that perspective is not right, and deeply saddens me.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:27-29
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:11
What does your church look like? Not the building, but the people. Who comprises it? In the Old Testament, only those who were circumcised into Judaism and followed the Mosaic Law were part of God’s blessing and promises. While there were select times when mercy and blessing was granted to those outside of Israel, God’s chosen people were a particular ethnic group, confined within territorial boundaries. While anyone was welcome to join this people, they had to adopt Israelite customs in order to do so. Not anymore.
Since April, I have had the privilege of working at Hancock Shaker Village. This is a museum that straddles the border of Hancock and Pittsfield in Massachusetts, and I’ve been visiting there for about as long as I’ve lived here in MA (since 2003). This historic site was once part of a Shaker community which lived in much of Hancock, Pittsfield, and Richmond from c.1780, when the first locals converted to the faith, to 1959, when the last two Shakers moved out. Here we see a picture that my brother took of the iconic Hancock Round Stone Barn back in 2009:
Credit: Karl Mick
But who are the Shakers? Why are they called that? Since answering these question proves a lengthy discussion, I will break it into two installments.