Thoughts From The Prophets: God Hates Divorce

You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands.  Yet you say ‘For what reason?’  Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant… For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garments with violence” (Malachi 2:13-16).

God hates.  Some imagine a God who hates nothing.  However, the Bible is clear that there are things God hates (e.g. Deuteronomy 12:31; 16:22; Proverbs 6:16-19) and considers  an abomination (e.g. Deuteronomy 7:25; 17:1; 18:9-12; 27:15; Proverbs 6:16-19; 11:1, 20; 12:22; 15:8, 9, 26; 16:5; 17:15; 20:10, 23).

It is important that we learn to view sin as God does.  The Psalmist wrote, “You who love the LORD hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10 cf. 119:104, 128).  Solomon wrote, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and ignorance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate” (Proverbs 8:13).  Paul taught, “Abhor what is evil.  Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).

God hates divorce.  His intention is that marriage should be for life (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:3-6; Romans 7:1-2; 1 Corinthians 7:39).  When divorce occurs, at least one party is wrong.  God hates divorce because: (1) It is a breaking of vows.  John Kackleman Jr. comments, “God says, ‘I am a covenant God and I expect people (all people) to keep the covenants they make.  All are to honor covenants.  I hate divorce because it reveals that either one or both partners ARE NOT committed to keeping their covenant vows!’” (Kackelman, Studies in Malachi, p. 98).  Notice the word “treacherously” (NKJV) or “faithless” (ESV) appears five times in the immediate context (Malachi 2:10, 11, 14, 15, 16).  (2) It covers one’s garment with violence.  Meaning?  The E.S.V. Study Bible suggests, “The expression… is probably a figure of speech referring to the defiling of one’s character with violent wrongdoing (see the similar image in Psalms 73:6; 109: 18; Revelation 3:4; and see the opposite in Job 29:14; Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 59:17; 61:10).”  John Kackleman Jr. comments, “Those who casually divorce and live for selfish reasons do not wear robes of righteousness but have put on garments filthy with sin!” (Kackleman, p. 99).  (3) It causes much sorrow.  It brings “weeping and crying” (Malachi 2:13).

When one mistreats his spouse there are consequences.  It hinders one’s relationship with God (Malachi 2:13; 1 Peter 3:7).  Homer Hailey comments on Malachi 2:13, “The expression is a metaphor in which the rejected wives were covering the altar with their tears, weeping and sighing to such a degree that the fire was extinguished and the sacrifices were never received but rather rejected by Jehovah.  The tears of these mistreated wives stood as an impenetrable barrier between the worshipper and Jehovah” (Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets, p. 416).  Does God care about how you treat your spouse?  Absolutely!

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Thoughts From The Prophets: Is It Useless To Serve God?

 “ ‘Your words have been harsh against Me’ says the LORD, “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’  You have said “It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinances, and that we have walked as mourners before the LORD of hosts?  So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free” (Malachi 3:13-15).

Many of the difficulties that Israel suffered at this point were of their own making (Malachi 3:8-12 cf. Leviticus 26:14, 20; Deuteronomy 28:15, 38-40).  Yet, they blamed God.  “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD” (Proverbs 19:3 ESV).  Some people are like this.  However, one should not blame God for things one has actually brought upon himself.

They noticed that the wicked, at least sometimes, seem to prosper and go unpunished in this life (Malachi 3-:15).  Centuries earlier, Job noticed this same thing.  He said, “Why do the wicked live and become old, yes become mighty in power?  Their descendants are established with them in their sight, and their offspring before their eyes.  Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them… their children dance.  They sing… and rejoice.  They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.  Yet they say to God, ‘Depart from us, for we do not desire the knowledge of Your ways.  Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?  And what profit do we have if we pray?’… How often is the lamp of the wicked put out?  How often does destruction come upon them, the sorrows God distributes in His anger?” (Job 27:7-17).  Asaph also noticed this (Psalm 73:1-9).  The wicked do not always receive punishment in this life.  Justice does not always come in this life.

However, they are told of “a book of remembrance” (Malachi 3:16).  God knows and remembers the righteous.  One day it will be evident that it is not useless to have served God (Malachi 3:17-18).

May we keep the end in mind.  Asaph said, “My feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm.  They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued as other men.  Therefore pride serves as their necklace… Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than the heart could wish… When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me- until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understand their end” (Psalm 73:2-17).  Things are not always as they appear in this life (Luke 16:25).

Do you have enough faith to serve God, with or without apparent blessings in this life?  Ed Matthew comments on Malachi 3:13, “The reluctant say that it is ‘futile’ to serve Him.  There is no ‘gain’ in keeping His commandments, Malachi 3:14, 15.  Those people believe religion ought to pay big dividends now.  It ought to bring great reward immediately.  The general feelings is that folks surely will not serve God for nothing, Job 1:9.  In spite of that sentiment, the faithful may live a lifetime without seeing a reward, Hebrews 11:13” (Randal Matheny, A Lifetime Without Seeing A Reward, Microblog).  Job’s faith caused him to say, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15).  Again, “For I know that My Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).  May we serve Him with such faith.

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Thoughts From The Prophets: Robbing God

Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!  But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’  In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8).

The children of Israel had returned from captivity about a century earlier.  Many things had been accomplished.  The temple had been rebuilt, about 80 years earlier.  The walls and gates of Jerusalem had been restored a decade earlier.

However, spiritual complacency and lethargy had developed in them, as time passed.  They were giving God their “leftovers” and unwanted things.  They offered in sacrifice to God blind, lame, and sick animals (Malachi 1:6-8; 1:11-14).  The law required that only the best was to be offered in sacrifice to God (e.g. Leviticus 22:17-24, esp. v. 22; Deuteronomy 15:21; 17:1.  Note: The words “without blemish” and “without spot” occur 37 times in the Pentateuch).  Furthermore, they were not tithing and giving as they should (Malachi 3:8-10).  “Will a man rob God?” Who would be so bold as to do this?  Yet, this they did by not giving their full tithes.

There were consequences.  First, their worship was vain (Malachi 1:10).  Homer Hailey comments, “It is better to lock up and stay at home than to be guilty of their practices.  No worship at all is better than one that rejects the divine honor and insults God with contempt.” (Hailey, A Commentary on The Minor Prophets, p. 409).  Second, they had profaned the name of the LORD, instead of honoring and magnifying Him (Malachi 1:11-14).  Homer Hailey comments, “The Jews, the people of God in the midst of heathen nations, who should have been a living example of faith in Jehovah and of devotion to Him in worship, were actually making a mockery and scandal of their exalted responsibility.  This was their reaction to Jehovah’s love; they held both the altar and the offering in contempt” (Hailey, p. 410).  Third, they were cursed (Malachi 3:8-9 cf. 2:1-2; Haggai 1:6, 9-11).

Change was needed.  God wanted to physically bless them.  He challenged them to try to out give Him.  He instructed them, “ ‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that they may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ Says the LORD of hosts; ‘And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:10-12).

Will a man rob God today?  Many, I am afraid, still do.  This hinders the work of the church.  Wayne Jackson asks, “A sober question that all of us must consider is this: Is it possible that some Christians rob God today by not giving generously into the treasury of the local church upon the first day of each week (1 Corinthians 16:2)?  And if 10% was the minimum under the law of Moses, what should be the response of those who live under the better new covenant (cf. Hebrews 7:22)… Failure to support God’s work is robbery” (Jackson, Notes From The Margin of My Bible, Vol. 1, p. 181).

Questions to ponder: (1) The Jews were required to give a minimum of 10% of their increase.  Am I giving at least this much?  Is there Biblical evidence that God will accept less?  (2) If every member gave the same percentage of their income as I do (note: I am talking percentage, not dollar amount) how would the local church be doing?  Would it be better off or worse off?  (3) When I miss a Sunday morning due to illness, travel, or some other reason, do I make up my contribution?  Whether one is present or not the work continues.

Money is not the only way that one can rob God.  Roy Deaver suggested, “Men rob God: (1) by failing to use their time properly and wisely, to the glory of God (cf. Ephesians 5:15); (2) by failing to present their members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:13); (3) by failing to present their very bodies as living sacrifices unto God (Roman 12:1-2); (4) by failing to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4); (5) by failing to give as they ought to give, keeping for themselves that which actually ought to be ‘given’ to the Lord’s work; (6) by failing to labor constantly in the Lord’s work (cf. Mark 13:34)” (Editors Thomas B. Warren and Garland Elkins, The Minor Prophets, Power Lectureship, p. 326).

May we not be guilty of robbing God.  Let us strive to give God our best.

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Thoughts From The Prophets: Not By Might Nor By Power

This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

Immediately before this, Zechariah saw a vision.  The vision included a lampstand of solid gold and two olive trees (Zechariah 4:1-3).  The olive trees were symbolic of two anointed ones (Zechariah 4:11-13).  Some believe these to be: Zerubbabel, the Governor (Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 4:6-7) and Joshua, the High Priest (Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 3:1, 6, 8).  Other believe these to be: Haggai and Zechariah, prophets of God (Ezra 5:1-2; 6:14; Haggai 1:1, 3, 12-14; 2:1, 10, 20; Zechariah 1:1; 7:1, 8).  I believe that the first view fits the context better (cf. Zechariah 4:7).  Either way, these two anointed ones would cause the lamps to burn.  Zerubbabel had laid the foundation of the temple; and he would finish it (Zechariah 4:9 cf. Ezra 6:4).  The prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, motivated Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people to do this work (Ezra 5:1-2; 6:14; Haggai 1:12-14).

Now to our text.  Zechariah was to deliver this message to Zerubbabel: “ ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).  The E.S.V. Study Bible comments, “God’s word to him is a reminder that the obstacles that faced him in the rebuilding task will not be overcome by conventional resources of might or power.  Instead, the resources will come from God’s Spirit.”  Robert Taylor Jr. comments, “The job will be completed not by human power and might but by the Spirit’s aid” (Editors Thomas B. Warren and Garland Elkins, The Minor Prophets, Power Lectureship, p. 288).   (1) This may have been intended to encourage Zerubbabel that they were not alone. Haggai encouraged the people saying, “I am with you, says the LORD” (Haggai 1:13).  (2) This may have also been intended to caution the man that the things that they would accomplish would not be accomplished through their own might.

These two points have application to us.  (1) We should remember that we are not alone.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).  He has not placed a tasked on us.  Which is too great for us to complete, with His help.  “No temptation has overtaken you, except such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  (2) Furthermore, we should remember to acknowledge that the things that we accomplish, we are able to accomplish because of Him.  “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).  “It is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13).  “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through who you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).  “He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).

 

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Thoughts From The Prophets: A Bag With Holes

Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: consider your ways!  You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:5-6).

A remnant of Israel returned home from captivity in 536 B.C. (Ezra 1-2).  Haggai addressed them in 520 B.C., sixteen years later (Haggai 1:1).  They had rebuilt their houses, but the temple had not been rebuilt.  Notice: “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4); My house… is in ruins, while everyone runs to his own house” (Haggai 1:9).  True, there had been opposition (Ezra 4).  However, they were now procrastinating.  Notice: “This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built” (Haggai 1:2).

Therefore, God was not fully blessing them, as He wanted to bless them.  Notice: “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away.  Why?’ says the LORD of hosts.  ‘Because of My house that is in ruins, while everyone runs to his own house.  Therefore, the heaven above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit.  For I called for a drought on the land and the mountain, on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands” (Haggai 1:9-11).  Many of the promised blessings and cursings to Israel, under the old covenant, were physical in nature [e.g. Exodus 23:25-26; Leviticus 26:3-8, 14, 20; Deuteronomy 7:12-16a; 28:1-14, 15-68 (esp. vv. 38-40); 30:1-10].

It was time to build.  The LORD instructed them, “Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified” (Haggai 1:8).  They obeyed (Haggai 1:12-15), and were blessed (Haggai 2:15-19).

Some today have a Christianity full of holes.  Consider: (1) Some hear God’s word, but do not put such things into practice (Matthew 7:24-27; James 1:22-23).  (2) Some never study, never grow (Hebrews 5:12; 2 Peter 3:18).  (3) Some claim to be Christians, but do not faithfully attend (Hebrews 10:24-25).  (4) Some claim that they desire the church to grow and prosper, but they are not actively involved in the work, and only meagerly support the work (2 Corinthians 9:6).

Some churches are full of holes.  Consider: (1) The whole counsel of God is not preached (Acts 20:20, 26-27).  (2) Shepherds are not shepherding the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Ezekiel 34:1-10).  (3) Church discipline is not practiced (Matthew 18:15-17; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; Titus 3:10).  (4) Some have little zeal or passion; they have left their first love (Revelation 2:5).  (5) Some do not have fervent love for one another (1 Peter 1:22; 4:8).

Some families are full of holes.  Consider: (1) Some emphasize secular education, but not Biblical training (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Ephesians 6:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).  (2) Some emphasize material things, but not spiritual things (Proverbs 11:4; Zephaniah 1:18; Mark 8:36-37; 2 Peter 3:10-111.  (3) Some are not trying to help one another to heaven (1 Peter 3:1-7).  (4) Some lack love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a; Ephesians 5:25, 28; Titus 2:4) and forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35; Luke 17:3-4; Ephesians 4:31-32; Colossians 3:12-14).

Some people pursue things which really do not satisfy.  Solomon said, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance with increase” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

  Johnny Ramsey once listed seven modern bags with holes (1) superficial responses; (2) Social club religion; (3) Preachers who seldom study; (4) Elders who fail to watch for souls; (5) Parents who stress material values; (6) Folks who postpone obedience; (7) Brethren who drift away from God”  (Editors: Thomas Warren and Garland Elkins, The Minor Prophets, Power Lectureship, p. 271 quoting Johnny Ramsey, The Firm Foundation, February 25, 1986).

Can you think of others?  No doubt you can.

Let’s get rid of all bags which lead to disappointment.

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Thoughts From The Prophets: Seek The LORD, Righteousness, and Humility

Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice.  Seek righteousness, seek humility.  It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3).

Judgement was coming on the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem (Zephaniah 1:4-6).  The prophet, Zephaniah, sounded the warning, saying – “The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly.  The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; There the mighty men shall cry out.  That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of cloud and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers” (Zephaniah 1:14-16).

Why was God bringing judgment to them?  The kingdom had become greatly corrupted.  Consider: (1) Idolatry (Zephaniah 1:4-5).  God would purge the land of this.  (2) Mixed devotion (Zephaniah 1:56).  They were trying to serve both the LORD and other gods.  Such will not work (cf. Matthew 6:24).  (3) Apostasy (Zephaniah 1:6).  They had turned from following the LORD.  (4) Corrupt leadership (Zephaniah 3:3-4 cf. 1:8; Micah 3:11; Jeremiah 5:31; 6:31).  The civil leaders (princes and judges) and the religious leaders (prophets and priests) were not serving and protecting the people.  There were preying on the people (cf. Ezekiel 34:1-6).  (5) Violence and deceit (Zephaniah 1:9).  Some believe that leaping over the threshold refers to idolatry (cf. 1 Samuel 5:4-5).  Others believe that the wording is of robbery.   Darrell Conley combined these two thoughts, commenting, “The superstitious believed that the threshold of a house was protected by the household gods.  Therefore, those bent on robbery or mischief would leap over the threshold in an attempt to escape the notice of the household deities” (Editors Thomas Warren and Garland Elkins, The Minor Prophets, p. 241).  (6) Complacency (Zephaniah 1:12).  Some did not believe that God would punish them (cf. Ezekiel 8:12; 9:9; Isaiah 29:15; Psalm 10:11; 94:6-7).  He would correct this error.  (7) Some trusted in the wrong things (Zephaniah 1:18).  This verse reads, “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath.”  Proverbs 11:4 reads, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

What should be done?  (1) “Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice” (Zephaniah 2:3a).  This was not the time to give up.  Continued faithfulness was needed.  We are told, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).  Those who needed to repent, urgently needed to do so.  Isaiah pleaded, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7).  (2) “Seek righteousness” (Zephaniah 2:3b).  We are told to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).  (3) “Seek humility” (Zephaniah 2:3c).  We are told, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…” (1 Peter 5:5-6).  Judgment on the nation was coming.  However, God might be providentially with the faithful (Zephaniah 2:3d).  Homer Hailey comments, “Righteousness and meekness are essentials of escape but the prophet does not promise certain escape.  Rather, “it may be ye will be hid’; for the wickedness is so great and the judgment so terrible that even these who seek righteousness may suffer vicariously for the sins of society.  If there is to be any way of escape, Zephaniah offers the only possible hope for that escape in righteousness and meekness” (Hailey, A Commentary on The Minor Prophets, pp 234-235).

This is the best hope for any people.  “Let us not grow weary while doing good…” (Galatians 6:9).

 

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Thoughts From The Prophets: Keep Silence Before Him

But the LORD is in His holy temple.  Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20).

The context concerns idols.  The previous two verses read, “What profit is the image, that its maker should carve it, the molded image, a teacher of lies, that the maker of its mold should trust in it, to make mute idols?  Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’ To silent stone, ‘Arise!  It shall teach!’ Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, yet in it there is no breath at all” (Habakkuk 2:18-19).  These words seem to be about Chaldea (Babylon).  Jeremiah described them saying, “It is the land of carved images, and they are insane with their idols” (Jeremiah 50:18).  Trust in idols is foolishness (Isaiah 41:21—29; 44:9-20; Jeremiah 10:14-16).  They are mute, silent, and have no breath (Habakkuk 2:18-19).  However, it is a teacher of lies (Habakkuk 2:18), through its false prophets (cf. Zechariah 10:2).  In reality, “an idol is nothing in the world” (1 Corinthians 10:14).

Habakkuk 2:20 sets forth a great contrast.  Notice the word “but.”  The LORD is in His holy temple, that is in heaven (Psalm 11:4).  The ESV Study Bible comments, “There is a tremendous contrast between silent, inanimate idols and the awesome living God who sits enthroned in heaven and rules over the earth.  He is the one who deserves the honor and reverence bestowed on worthless idols.”  Let all the earth keep silence before Him.  What does this mean?  Homer Hailey comments, “Silently submitting to His divine rule and judgment, rejecting the dumb idols that cannot answer or help” (Hailey, A Commentary on The Minor Prophets, p. 288).   Stephen Wiggins writes, “Jehovah God is on His heavenly throne.  He is in complete control and all are to silently submit to His divine rule and judgment” (Editors Thomas B. Warren and Garland Elkins, The Minor Prophets, Power Lectureship, p. 218).

It is a bit off subject.  However, someone once pointed out to me that many will not walk into a room when prayer is being offered to God, but do not even give a second thought to walking into the same room when scripture is being read.  He asked if we thought our words to God were more sacred than His words to us.  Do we respect the word of God as we should?  When Ezra the priest read, we are told, “the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:3).

“The Lord is in His holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before Him; keep silence, keep silence, keep silence before Him” (Song: The Lord is in His Holy Temple by William J. Kirkpatrick)

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