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phrases

The writing is on the wall

In the Fuhrerbunker, Hitler married Eva Braun and the generals toasted the “Thousand Year Reich.”  But the writing was on the wall.  The phrase denotes the judgement of doom that gatecrashes the dinner party. The original party-pooping happened to the Babylonian King, Belshazzar.  In all probability, the invading Medes were already upon them and so […]

Feet of clay

It’s the biblical equivalent of the Achilles’ heel.  When a leader has a flaw that makes him vulnerable he has “feet of clay.” The phrase orginates in the book of Daniel which, like Ezekiel, is set in the Babylonian captivity.  Daniel, along with others, is carried away to Babylon and then hand-picked to serve in […]

Thus saith the LORD

“Says who?” Children learn that phrase very quickly.  A sibling tells them to set the table.  What happens next depends entirely on the source of the command.  If the reply comes: “Thus saith mum!” things might just get moving. Hundreds of times the bible contains this phrase:  “Thus saith the LORD.”  Even when it’s the […]

Sour grapes

They looked so nice on the vine but the acid bursts into your mouth and you realise they are unripe. You spit them out proclaiming, “I didn’t want them anyhow!” “Sour grapes” has come to mean disparaging something you had previously desired – probably because you can’t attain it.  That particular meaning originates with Aesop […]

Great is thy faithfulness

Much of the bible’s description of exile sounds at a distance. It happens to those people who deserved it for having committed those sins.  Lamentations feels very different.  Here the anonymous author (traditionally thought of as Jeremiah) lays bare the horror of Jerusalem’s destruction.  He describes the whole thing as a first person lament.  He […]

Can a leopard change his spots?

Can people change?  Really change? Aristotle thought so.  And here’s how he thought change can happen: “it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man.” If you want to change, well then, perform righteous acts and you will become righteous.  It’s ancient wisdom.  But […]

Be horribly afraid

What could be so bad that it warrants this warning?  A scientist morphing into an insect?  An alien monster rampaging through a spaceship?  What could have possibly produced: “Be horribly afraid”?  What dread terror might have birthed this saying? Answer:  The refusal of God’s abundant grace.  According to God, that is the horror of horrors! […]

A new heavens and a new earth

Isaiah could be called a tale of two cities.  Yet both cities are Jerusalem. There’s an old Jerusalem – the Jerusalem in which Isaiah’s listeners live.  They face a terrifying judgement that is first threatened by Assyria and then effected by Babylon.  The city is sacked, the house of God (the temple) is destroyed, the […]

Holier than thou

Isaiah addresses the blindness of human unbelief.  He proclaims the LORD’s word to a “people walking in darkness.”  But while he insists that human wickedness is a disease, he never prescribes human religion as the cure.  No, healing is found only in the Righteous King- He is the LORD of the temple vision, He is […]

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard

It’s probably Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 64 that has become the best known version of this phrase: “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man…”  (1 Corinthians 2:9) Such words can be the equivalent of the magician’s puff of smoke.  When a bible teacher […]