Tag Archives: Prophecy

Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

Any serious study of the Bible includes some basics of Bible prophecy. There are, of course, the prophecies that Jesus:

For me, the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament through the fulfillment of prophecy is sufficient proof of the Bible’s authenticity and Jesus’ authority as King and God. One of the things I love about God is how He frequently shows me new connections when I read His Word, in answer to a prayer I said many years ago (which you can read about here). Truly all of the Old Testament scriptures are about Jesus and His relationship to His people.

Last Monday I was in a Bible Study Fellowship seminar titled “Personal Quiet Time” given by our wonderful Substitute Teaching Leader Ginger. We learned a great method for reading God’s Word and listening for what He has to say to you in the passage you’ve read.

In the middle of this seminar, as we were each practicing a method of personal quiet time we had just learned, God revealed an Old Testament – New Testament connection to me in a most awesome way.

First of all, He worked ahead of time to make what He wanted to teach me possible for me to see. For some reason I went to the seminar without either my Bible or my phone (which has a Bible app on it). I left both in the room my group was to meet in after the seminar. As I entered the seminar I sat in the front row next to my friend and fellow Group Leader Gina. When it came time for us to open our Bibles to read the passage Ginger asked us to consider, Gina loaned me her study Bible and she used her iPad Bible app. If I’d had the Bible I bring to BSF (and had left in the room) what happened next would not have been possible because that Bible doesn’t have a concordance.

As part of this exercise, we read Mark 1:35-45, which begins, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” As I read this, I was reminded of another verse that I have long felt was a call to me to not sleep in so late but rather to get up early to spend quiet time with God, as Jesus did in the Luke passage. I knew the text of the verse, but not what chapter and verse it was. Using the concordance in Gina’s Bible I found that the verse was Isaiah 50:4, which says, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.” I was sure the Lord was trying to tell me that I had ignored His prompting to get up earlier long enough.

But then my eyes fell upon the next verses in the Isaiah passage that describe Jesus’ obedience and endurance in going to the cross, as well as His unwavering trust in His Father:

The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.
He who vindicates me is near.
Who then will bring charges against me?
Let us face each other!
Isaiah 50:5-8 (NIV).

Suddenly I knew that it wasn’t about what time I get up, but whether I desire to know Jesus more and spend time with Him in my otherwise busy day. I realized it was okay that I am not a very early riser even if Jesus was. He had to be to beat the crowds and have any time alone with His Father; I have other options. Then, to confirm what I had heard from Him, the Lord spoke again through Ginger. As we finished the exercise and discussed what we had learned from the passage, Ginger pointed out to the group, as an example of developing personal quiet time habits, that I had found a creative way to spend time with God, and that is by doing my BSF lessons while I eat my lunch at work.

What a blessing! I learned new prophetic connections and received wonderful encouragement, all because I made the time to arrive early for this one-hour seminar. And because God is good.

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That the Blind Might See

My church is putting together an Advent devotional for this coming Advent season. I was asked to write two of the devotions for the booklet. I am really looking forward to seeing what the other contributors wrote. I always like reading through a devotional for Advent and I think it will be extra special this year because I know all of the people who are writing them.

I finished one of my two assigned devotions yesterday. It is based on Isaiah 35:3-7 and Luke 7:18-30. I was limited to 250 words for the devotion section and the assignment called for also including a thought to ponder or Challenge, and a prayer. It was really hard for me to only write 250 words. I had to go back and cut some, but the final devotion was 249 words. I decided I wanted to share what I wrote here, but add back in some of the thoughts I didn’t have room for.

Devotion

Isaiah gave us many prophecies of the first Advent of our Lord Jesus. Many of those prophecies serve also as a promise of Jesus coming into the life of each believer as well as of His Second Coming. Isaiah admonishes us to not be afraid because we know the Lord will bring forth His promised blessings of sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and youthful agility to the lame.

John the Baptist continued the prophetic message of Isaiah, but unlike Isaiah he saw the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus. Not only did he hear his disciples’ recounting of the great healing work of Jesus, John saw it with his own eyes. What John witnessed was that the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the lame walked, the sick were made well, and the Good News was real.

Today Jesus continues to fulfill the prophecies about Him as He give spiritual sight to those who believe in Him and are baptized in His name. The Holy Spirit gives wisdom and hope to those who trust in Jesus as their promised savior.

But like the Pharisees and experts in the law, many people today reject God’s purpose in their lives because they have not believed in the saving grace of Jesus. They try to do what is right in their own eyes and by their own power. They try to live by the letter of the law, but they do not see the truth of God’s love and the wonder of His mercy. These people are spiritually blind.

We must not forget that we were once spiritually blind, too. Our place is not to judge, but to remember that Jesus came to give sight to such as these. He came to save the whole world if only they will believe. He came to remind us of our purpose, which is to be in relationship with our Creator. He came that we would have no need to fear.

Thought to ponder/challenge

Just as John the Baptist was a messenger paving the way for the first Advent of Jesus, we are called to share the Good News of how Jesus gives sight to the spiritually blind and purpose to everyone. “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV). How will you share the Good News today?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, bring to final fulfillment Your promise to bring spiritual sight to all who are still blinded by this world and who reject Your purpose for their lives. Give us wisdom to be as John the Baptist, preparing Your way into the hearts and lives of those around us.

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Palm Sunday Thoughts

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. It is the day on which the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus into the city riding on a donkey. They waved palm branches and laid their coats on the ground beneath His feet. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord,” they cried out. They believed He was the promised Messiah.

But not everyone believed or was happy about Jesus’ arrival.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:39-40 (NIV).

Palm Sunday is celebratory, but it doesn’t take long for the sentiment of the Pharisees to take hold among a larger group of people. In a mere five days the crowd will call for Jesus’ crucifixion following his joke of a trial before the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pontius Pilate. The majority of the people will turn against Him, one of His closest twelve disciples will betray Him, and the other eleven disciples will desert and disown Him.

But coming back to our Palm Sunday celebration, one has to wonder why the people were so excited about Jesus’ arrival to the city. I believe it was in large part because they had heard many things about Him that fulfilled the prophecies of the promised Messiah, only a few of which included that:

  • He was born in Bethlehem:
    “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2 (NIV).
  • He was born of a virgin:
    “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 (NIV).
  • He had healed many, giving hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind:
    “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” Isaiah 29:18 (NIV).
  • He entered the city riding on a donkey:
    “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9 (NIV).

There was no Facebook, Twitter, or even Internet blogs during Biblical times, but news still spread about this man who could calm the storm, feed the hungry, and heal the sick and lame. The crowds that He drew all throughout His earthly ministry clearly indicate that news spread quite well if it was news worth hearing.

News had spread of this amazing prophet who was able to best even the Pharisees and Sadducees in a religious debate, who spent time with riff-raff and sinners, and who claimed to be able even to forgive sins without an animal sacrifice. He offered the common people freedom from servitude and burden of living under the thumb of the religious rulers of the day.

We celebrate Palm Sunday today because He makes the same offer even today. He offers freedom from the burden of legalism and forgiveness of our sins. And the truly amazing thing is that even if, in the midst of the confusion and agony of Holy Week to come, we desert or deny Him, He will redeem us.

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What Are We Without God?

I’m still working my way through Ezekiel. It’s a tough book to get through, even though I know that after all the dire prophecies against Israel and the surrounding nations, Ezekiel eventually tells of the future restoration of Israel. But there certainly are a lot of dire prophecies.

As I was reading the other night I came to this passage describing the sins of Israel that led to God’s prophecy of punishment to come:

Every leader in Israel who lives within your walls is bent on murder. Fathers and mothers are treated with contempt. Foreigners are forced to pay for protection. Orphans and widows are wronged and oppressed among you. You despise my holy things and violate my Sabbath days of rest. People accuse others falsely and send them to their death. You are filled with idol worshipers and people who do obscene things. Men sleep with their fathers’ wives and have intercourse with women who are menstruating. Within your walls live men who commit adultery with their neighbors’ wives, who defile their daughters-in-law, or who rape their own sisters. There are hired murderers, loan racketeers, and extortioners everywhere. They never even think of me and my commands, says the Sovereign Lord. Ezekiel 22:6-12 (NLT).

As I read this it occurred to me that mankind hasn’t changed much. The behaviors enumerated in this passage can be found in our news today, or they have become so accepted that they don’t even make the news – unless the person engaging in such behavior is a celebrity. The final verse of this passage gets to the cause of this terrible behavior: it is that many people never even think of God or His commands.

In the New Testament, Paul warns that such behavior will increase “in the last days.”

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 2 Timothy 3:1-4 (NLT).

Thankfully, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord no longer judges people according to their nation, as He did the Israelites. In the Old Testament accounts, even the few righteous who remained in Israel suffered exile along with the wicked. But now each person is responsible for their own decision of whether they will think of God and His commands, or will instead scoff at Him and go their own way. Each person must decide whether they will become what mankind always becomes without God – boastful, proud, unloving and unforgiving, lovers of pleasure rather than God – or will instead choose to follow Christ and seek the indwelling of His Holy Spirit to guide them.

I choose to follow Christ. How about you?

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To Be Despised by All but God

I’m working my way through Ezekiel in the Old Testament, and before that I read Jeremiah. These are challenging books to read and to apply to our daily lives. Here and there is a nugget with direct – and easy – application, but I think these books are there for a much bigger purpose. The Old Testament prophets show us what is important to God. As I read, I find that God is primarily concerned with two things:

  1. That His people trust in Him and not in idols of their own making. This seems reasonable, since He alone is trustworthy. An idol made of stone or gold – or as we often trust in these days, of paper in the form of money and stocks – cannot protect us or provide a sure and trustworthy future. Only God can do that.
  2. That His people care for the “widow and the orphan,” that is, the less fortunate of society who are in need of a helping hand. This seems reasonable, too, since those of us who have been blessed should not find it a burden to bless others in return.

These are simple principles. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus echoed these two principles when He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:37-38 (NIV).

And yet the prophets were hated and ridiculed for telling the Israelites that they would suffer and were suffering exile and death, war and famine, because they failed to follow these two simple principles. Instead of loving and trusting the God who had seen them through so much and protected them, they trusted in idols and the ways of their neighbors. Instead of loving their neighbors and caring for the downtrodden, they cared only for their own gain and gluttony. The Israelites were warned over and over by the prophets. I believe that the message of the prophets – that these two principles are paramount – is just as relevant for our world today as it was for ancient Israel.

The other day I received this wonderful quote in my Quotemeal email from Heartlight.org. I believe it illustrates not only the struggle the Old Testament prophets faced, but also the struggle those who trust in Christ alone for salvation and seek to share His expectation that we love our neighbors with the world face today.

To be forged upon the anvil of God’s purpose, to be at once His hammer, His tongs, and His molten iron; to hear words that rend the heart, see visions that pierce the chest; to be emptied like an urn, again and again and again until one desires only rest, only an end to the refilling — and to know one cannot live without the refilling. To be given words that one dare not speak, and to feel those words churning and boiling in the belly until one must speak them aloud, or die. To be despised, soon or late, by everyone except Adonai — and to desire it so, while hating it. This is to be a prophet.
— Thom Lemmons

I’m not suggesting that I am a prophet, but there have been times in my life when I was compelled to speak, or to write, words I did not wish to say or write. I have had words churn and boil in my mind and in my heart, felt the fear of saying or writing them, but had to push through that fear and let those words fly and land wherever God desires.

Just writing that last paragraph makes it seem all so dramatic, but really it just is. Sometimes I don’t push through the fear and I fail to share the words that are on my heart. Although I have not yet died as a result, a small part of my spiritual growth does whither. Perhaps my faith would be stronger and more souls would have been saved if I had always spoken up.

But, in the end, I know that God loves me and knows I am being sanctified daily, though sometimes more slowly than I would like.

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Jesus Sets Me Free from My Own Prison

When I first started looking for and listening to Christian music, I came across the music of a band called Creed. They are not technically a “Christian band” because their music covers a number of different themes and they aren’t on a Christian label, but they definitely have some songs that are faith-based. One of my favorites is “My Own Prison.” When I was getting ready for work yesterday, it came on my iPod (currently on shuffle of my Christian playlist). I’ve been pondering doing a post based on this song for some time, and decided today is the day. I found this great acoustic version on YouTube to share. Listen carefully to the lyrics.

Although the band is not a “Christian” band, the individual band members do all identify themselves as Christians. The themes of many of their songs touch on Christian theology and spirituality. “My Own Prison” speaks of the cross as the key to freedom. It is in Christ that freedom is found. So many people live in a prison of their own making. They live in prisons of addiction, hatred, greed, selfishness, and more. They are held captive by sin. They don’t know that there is a way to not only escape, but to be truly free.

Luke records this account of Jesus’ teaching about why He came, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah:

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, 
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21 (NIV).

Jesus came to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners” and to “set the oppressed free.” But do we, as Christians, help those who are captive in a prison of their own making find the key to freedom? Or are we so busy pointing out their sins and faults that we forget that we were once like them, if not in degree at least in kind. We were all once sinners in need of grace to set us free.

Worse yet, many Christians continue to live in a prison of their own making and struggle to take hold of the freedom that Christ offers. They hold the key, but instead of using it to unlock their own prison they “drop and kneel” as their demons continue to taunt them, trying to do penance for their own sin. They can’t quite accept that Jesus would and did pay the full price for all their sin. Each new transgression or failure results in a crisis of faith, leaving them locked in a prison of doubt wondering if they are truly saved.

Are you still living in your own prison? If so, take hold of the key to Life itself, Christ Jesus our Lord, and unlock the door. When you walk free, slam that prison door shut behind you and walk with Him who set you free. And don’t forget, when you see others still imprisoned in their sin, don’t judge and point out their sin. Show them the key that will set them free. Tell them that “if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:36 (NLT)

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Psalm 22 – The Rest of the Story

For Easter, I thought it would be appropriate to post the rest of Psalm 22, the rest of the story. After the crucifixion, God did not turn His back on Jesus but listened to His cries for help. He was raised from the dead. As the pastor says in Lutheran churches on this wonderful resurrection day, “He is risen!” And the whole congregation responds, “He is risen, indeed!”

Because He is risen, we will praise Him in the great assembly. The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord Jesus and will return to God because of what He has done. He will be worshipped by whole families and His righteous acts will be shared from generation to generation. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

Psalm 22

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be sung to the tune “Doe of the Dawn.”

22 I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.
      I will praise you among your assembled people.
 23 Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!
      Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
      Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
 24 For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
      He has not turned his back on them,
      but has listened to their cries for help.

 25 I will praise you in the great assembly.
      I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
 26 The poor will eat and be satisfied.
      All who seek the Lord will praise him.
      Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
 27 The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him.
      All the families of the nations will bow down before him.
 28 For royal power belongs to the Lord.
      He rules all the nations.

 29 Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
      Bow before him, all who are mortal,
      all whose lives will end as dust.
 30 Our children will also serve him.
      Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
 31 His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
      They will hear about everything he has done.

(NLT)

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Psalm 22 – Prophecy of the Savior

Psalm 22 holds so much prophecy regarding the crucifixion. Verse one is one of the things that Jesus said as He hung on the cross, as the Father looked away from our sin piled upon Him. Verses six through eight speak of the mocking that Jesus endured, as the Roman soldiers spat upon Him and the people challenged Him to come down from the cross if He was really God. (I wonder if they realized their mocking was fulfilling prophecy? These were, after all, Jews who were familiar with the Psalms.)

Verses fourteen and sixteen detail the physical effects of crucifixion on the Savior, and the fact that He died before the Roman soldiers had to break His legs as they did with most crucified criminals. Verse fifteen was fulfilled when Jesus said, “I thirst” as He hung on the cross. And verse eighteen was fulfilled as the Roman soldiers cast lots for His clothing.

Psalm 22

For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be sung to the tune “Doe of the Dawn.”

 1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
      Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
 2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
      Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.

 3 Yet you are holy,
      enthroned on the praises of Israel.
 4 Our ancestors trusted in you,
      and you rescued them.
 5 They cried out to you and were saved.
      They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

 6 But I am a worm and not a man.
      I am scorned and despised by all!
 7 Everyone who sees me mocks me.
      They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
 8 “Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
      Then let the Lord save him!
   If the Lord loves him so much,
      let the Lord rescue him!”

 9 Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
      and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.
 10 I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
      You have been my God from the moment I was born.

 11 Do not stay so far from me,
      for trouble is near,
      and no one else can help me.
 12 My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
      fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!
 13 Like lions they open their jaws against me,
      roaring and tearing into their prey.
 14 My life is poured out like water,
      and all my bones are out of joint.
   My heart is like wax,
      melting within me.
 15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
      My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
      You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
 16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
      an evil gang closes in on me.
      They have pierced my hands and feet.
 17 I can count all my bones.
      My enemies stare at me and gloat.
 18 They divide my garments among themselves
      and throw dice for my clothing.

 19 O Lord, do not stay far away!
      You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!
 20 Save me from the sword;
      spare my precious life from these dogs.
 21 Snatch me from the lion’s jaws
      and from the horns of these wild oxen.

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Psalm 41 – Blessing and Betrayal

This is another Psalm that covers a lot of ground. It starts by noting the blessing of those who care for the poor and how God cares for those He loves. It moves on to a prayer for mercy. Then hidden in the middle is verse 9, which has been viewed as a prophecy of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus to the Pharisees. Not only did Judas share food with Jesus, it was in handing the bread to Judas that Jesus revealed at the last supper who it was who would betray Him. Matthew 26:20-24 (NIV)

Psalm 41

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

 1 Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!
      The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble.
 2 The Lord protects them
      and keeps them alive.
   He gives them prosperity in the land
      and rescues them from their enemies.
 3 The Lord nurses them when they are sick
      and restores them to health.

 4 “O Lord,” I prayed, “have mercy on me.
      Heal me, for I have sinned against you.”
 5 But my enemies say nothing but evil about me.
      “How soon will he die and be forgotten?” they ask.
 6 They visit me as if they were my friends,
      but all the while they gather gossip,
      and when they leave, they spread it everywhere.
 7 All who hate me whisper about me,
      imagining the worst.
 8 “He has some fatal disease,” they say.
      “He will never get out of that bed!”
 9 Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely,
      the one who shared my food, has turned against me.

 10 Lord, have mercy on me.
      Make me well again, so I can pay them back!
 11 I know you are pleased with me,
      for you have not let my enemies triumph over me.
 12 You have preserved my life because I am innocent;
      you have brought me into your presence forever.

 13 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
      who lives from everlasting to everlasting.
   Amen and amen!

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Prophecy – A Poem

In pondering what to write for my Thankful Thursday poem, I couldn’t think of a synonym for thankful that I wanted to write about (not even using my online Thesaurus). So I decided instead to write about something I am thankful for. The thing that has been on my mind lately (which you might have noticed if you’ve read any recent posts) is prophecy.

There are so many prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament that I love to read. Although my faith is primarily grounded in my own experience with how Jesus has changed me and changed my life, the analytical part of me that sometimes has doubts needs something more. The fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies by Jesus, often times in ways He could not from a human perspective have controlled, provides the “something more” that answers any doubts. For that, I am eternally thankful.

Prophecy

Prophecy foretold His coming
Righteousness He would bestow
On all who called upon His name and His
Punishment took as their own
Humbly He bowed to the Father’s will
Emmanuel, whose blood was spilled
Could not be held by death, He rose
Yahweh saved, His promise fulfilled

One of my favorite prophecies concerning the crucifixion (besides Isaiah 53) is Psalm 22:

My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
      an evil gang closes in on me.
      They have pierced my hands and feet.
I can count all my bones.
      My enemies stare at me and gloat.
They divide my garments among themselves
      and throw dice for my clothing.
Psalm 22:16-18 (NIV).

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