Issue No. 28

28 - 3 August 2008

Mickey Chiang : 
Watching the bad guys too

Whenever we read the Holy Bible we tend to focus on the good guys. After all, we want to follow their example, don’t we? Not that they are good examples all the time, mind you. But should we pay serious attention to what the bad guys do too? Obviously there are lessons we can learn about what NOT to do.

Recently, I learnt some lessons from one of the bad guys in the Holy Bible about what to do. Politicians often say for fear of being sued, “I shall not reveal his name”; in truth, I don’t even know his name. It is not revealed in the two accounts about him: 2Kings 18:17-35 and 2Chronicles 32. He is referred to in 2Kg 18:19 as the Assyrian King Sennacherib’s “field commander” of the army besieging Jerusalem.

He was not Sennacherib’s “supreme commander” nor his “chief officer”, who are also mentioned, but someone clearly of a lower rank. Nevertheless, with bold impertinence he summoned King Hezekiah to come out and speak to him. Hezekiah wisely stayed behind the safety of his city walls. His palace administrator, Eliakim son of Hilkiah, his Secretary Shebna, and his Recorder Joah son of Asaph went out instead.

The Assyrian field commander spoke in a loud, derogatory, insulting manner. He ran down Hezekiah, sneered at Egypt on whom Hezekiah was relying to come to his rescue, and called for Jerusalem to surrender in the face of vastly superior forces. Worse, he even insulted the God of Israel. Every theological student knows all this. To me a very interesting fact stands out: the field commander spoke all this in Hebrew.

His speaking in Hebrew alarmed Eliakim, Shebna and Joah, who pleaded, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall (of Jerusalem)!” They did not want the people of Jerusalem to hear what he was saying. But that was precisely what the field commander wanted them to do, to hear in their own language all these things. He wanted to weaken their fighting spirit, dampen their resolve to resist and just give up without a fight. Why should he speak in Aramaic, which only merchants and diplomats understood?

Isn’t it amazing that a field commander with so many duties and so much to learn about war would spend much time and effort to master his enemies’ language? It tells us of forward planning and preparation long before forces were sent into the field. And when you learn a language, you absorb the culture of the people and learn how they think. Thus the field commander knew how to wage psychological warfare again Israel, and how to attack them. I wonder: is this how meticulously we prepare our missionaries to go out into the field?

Oh sure, we all know that language training is a must. Yet we often send out a missionary to attend language training while he serves as a missionary in his assigned country. Unlike the Assyrian field commander, our missionary is not up and running the moment he reaches the field. Instead, he arrives unable to communicate with the people he meets. His bumbling efforts to communicate make him look like a fool, and the people may even despise him for not speaking their language correctly. Would it not be better if he was already fluent in the local language and needed just a few weeks to acquire local jargon and slang so as to interact effectively with local people? The Assyrian field commander was effective, and commanded the attention, if not the respect, of the people of Jerusalem.

The field commander knew that Hezekiah had removed the high places and altars (2Kg 18:22), even though he was wrong in thinking these were dedicated to the God of Israel. He knew of Israel’s reliance on Egypt. He knew what Hezekiah had been saying to his people, and surely he knew much more. His intelligence apparatus was pretty good and was feeding him with material he could use in speaking to the Israelites. Similarly, we need knowledgeable people to tell our missionaries the kinds of things to say and not to say in their sermons and conversations. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, yet in every city he visited he went to the local synagogue or the place where Jews met. Why? Could it be that he needed just such information and local backup to be more effective?

However, while we need to prepare our missionaries at least as carefully as the other side prepares its people, all our preparations must be guided by God. God must be in charge at every stage.

Introducing Our Recent Graduates ...

Mr Govindaram s/o Sirinivason Venkatachalam (Grad DipCS, 2007; MCS, 2008)

Govin spent twenty years in the shipping industry and sailed as a Ship Captain on various types of ships and after that worked for shipping companies before becoming a Lecturer with Singapore Polytechnic. He presently is working as a Consultant, Auditor and Trainer in the shipping industry. He has been involved with the Boys Brigade ministry of the church and the Youth Christian Fellowship at Woodlands. He intends to serve in the mission field and also study towards his Grad Dip and MA in ECF at BGST. His life vision is ‘Making Disciples for Christ in His Kingdom.’

Mr Lam Yuen Foong (Grad DipCS, 2002; MCS, 2008)

Lam Yuen Foong has been working as a Franchise Consultant for more than ten years. He has been serving as a volunteer Pastoral Staff at The Singapore Thomson Road Baptist Church since he graduated from BGST with a Grad Dip CS seven years ago. He intends to go into a mission field in the coming year. His life verse is James 1:22: ‘But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.’

Weekly Highlights

Chapel Speaker- 2 July   Mrs Peck S.M. is a Training Director (Chinese), with World Teach 
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She provided a summary of the chapel message, “Looking Beyond!”

The man in John chapter 5:1-8 is a reminder of how we are sometimes.  He had been ill for thirty-eight years when Jesus encountered him.  The simple question “Do you wish to get well?” drew from him an answer that revealed his sole preoccupation in life: to be helped into the water when the water was stirred.  Therein lay his hope for healing.

At times, we too can be caught in this trap of narrow perception.  Like the man at the pool of Bethesda, we need to look beyond where we are, and what we do to possibilities provided by God.  Illustrations were drawn from how the ministry of WorldTeach has changed and expanded “beyond” what is used to be in the past.

So whether in work or study, let us all Look Beyond with our Lord Jesus!

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