Tuesday, October 17, 2023



The writing is on the wall:


An ominous or certain warning, often that disaster is imminent.


Daniel 5:5-6 (NIV) "Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking."

The phrase comes from the Biblical story in Daniel 5, where, during a feast held by King Belshazzar, a hand suddenly appears and writes on a wall the Aramaic words “numbered, numbered, weighed, and they are divided”) (Daniel 5:25). Daniel interprets the words as pointing to the downfall of the Babylonian Empire.

Baptism of fire


A difficult initial experience


Matthew 3:11 (NIV) "I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

Luke 3:16 (NIV) "John answered them all, "I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

The phrase baptism by fire or baptism of fire is a Christian theological concept originating from the words of John the Baptist in Matthew as quoted above.

It has been suggested that the phrase "baptize you ... in the fire" also refers to the day of Pentecost, because there was a "baptism of fire" which appears as the tongue of fire on that day. Parted "tongues," which were "like as of fire ... sat upon" each of the apostles. Those brothers were "overwhelmed with the fire of The Holy Spirit" on that occasion.

It also has related meanings in military history and popular culture.

In the military usage, a baptism by fire refers to a soldier's first time in battle, having entered the English language in 1822 in this context as a translation of the French phrase baptême du feu. From military usage the term has extended into many other areas in relation to an initiation into a new role.

The phrase 'baptism of fire' has also entered into popular culture, an example is Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits, which covers the British involvement in the Falklands war:
Through these fields of destructions
baptisms of fire
I've witnessed your suffering
as the battle raged higher.

Go the extra mile.


Go above and beyond what is necessary or expected.


Matthew 5:41 (NIV) "If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles."

Under Roman law, a soldier passing a Jew could press him into service to carry his pack a mile. Jesus stated one should carry it for two as both a form of defiance against the Roman law, as well as to turn the other cheek.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.


A call for unity, lest a group disagree and falter.


Matthew 12:25 (NIV) "Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.'"

Mark 3:25 (NIV) "If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand."

Luke 11:17 (NIV) "Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: 'Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.'"

For context, the words are spoken after Jesus performs certain miracles (casting out demons and healing). The Pharisees who witness this accuse Him of operating in the spirit of Beelzebub, another name to describe Satan. To them, this would explain how Jesus was able to cast out demons, because they were His own kind. In response to these accusations, Jesus asked of them how “Satan could cast out Satan?” He explains that any kingdom divided against itself will be destroyed, and any house divided against itself cannot stand.

The most famous example of the use of the expression in modern times is Abraham Lincoln’s House Divided Speech, an address given by him a senatorial candidate in 1858, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, after he had accepted the Illinois Republican Party's nomination as that state's US senator.

The nomination of Lincoln was the final item of business at the convention, which then broke for dinner, meeting again at 8 pm. The evening session was mainly devoted to speeches but the only speaker was Lincoln, whose address closed the convention.

Lincoln's remarks in Springfield depict the danger of slavery-based disunion, and it rallied Republicans across the North. Along with the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address, the speech became one of the best-known of his career. It begins with the following words, which became the best-known passage of the speech:
"A house divided against itself, cannot stand."

I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new – North as well as South.
For completeness, I also set out President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which I regard as the greatest speech ever written and/or delivered.

The speech was given during the American Civil War at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery, now known as Gettysburg National Cemetery, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on the afternoon of November 19, 1863, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated Confederate forces in the Battle of Gettysburg, the Civil War's deadliest battle.

I quote the speech in full, which consists of only 271 brief words but contains so much . . .
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
By the way:

Lincoln was not a highly regarded orator and he was preceded by a speech by orator Edward Everett, which was intended to be the Gettysburg Address. Everett's now seldom-read oration was 13,607 words long and lasted two hours. The next day Everett had a letter delivered to Lincoln which included the following: “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Lincoln at Gettysburg

Edward Everett

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