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Posts Tagged ‘prophetess’

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4,5)

Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day saying, “That the leaders led in Israel, that the people volunteered, Bless the Lord! … In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath; in the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, and travelers went by roundabout ways. The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel. … Awake, awake, Deborah; Awake, awake, sing a song! … Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord; But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.” And the land was undisturbed for forty years. (Judges 5:1, 6, 7,12, 31)

Last week we began the story of this amazing woman that God’s Holy Scriptures devotes two whole chapters to (Judges 4 and 5). Just as Sarah, Hannah, Ruth, Mary and many other godly women did, Deborah made herself available to follow God’s calling in her life. Deborah has the honor of being called “a mother in Israel” and that is a special honor like being called a patriarch. God chose this remarkable woman to lead His people in their time of trouble.

God called Deborah to be a judge and a prophet. These were special positions. The judges were leading in Israel until the time that God would give them a king. Judges did not only decide cases but they were also spiritual, political, and in most cases military leaders. As a prophet, Deborah was called on by God to speak His word to His people. Deborah would be the one that the people looked to in order to hear God’s will for their lives.

Deborah sat under a special palm tree where anyone who wanted to come to her for deborah judgeadvice or for adjudication could find her. Though she was a married woman, this was the job God called her to do. We know that her husband’s name was Lappidoth but the Bible says nothing more about him. In those days the husband’s family name identified the household. It is important to see that though Deborah was the one called to be a judge, and not her husband, she in no way was going against the traditional roles for women as wives. Because of her godly example, both she and her husband were honored. This amazing woman found time to be a wife, a judge, and a prophet.

There were two ways in which Deborah was different from the other judges in Israel. First, she was a prophet. Other than Samuel who was a judge, priest, and a prophet, none of the other judges were prophets. If you look at the lives of some of the other judges, there is a clear difference in the godly way Deborah lived. Just look at Samson’s behavior with Delilah for example. Gideon showed less than stellar trust as well. Deborah’s life showed her complete trust in God, and the Israelites recognized her as a spiritual leader. They honored her recognizing that Deborah’s other special calling besides judge was as prophet.

Secondly, Deborah was not a military leader. Some writers assume that she was because all of the other judges were. Yes, she went with Barak to war, but notice that Barak was the military commander, not Deborah. Her place in God’s plan was as the spiritual leader to appointed Barak at the command of God. When Barak showed less than perfect faith in God, Deborah the prophet foretold that the victory over the leader of the Canaanites, Sisera, would go to another woman – Jael.

Deborah was with Barak to witness the victory over their enemies. She could not help but burst into song to praise God as the One Who really brought the victory.

Song of DeborahEven today Deborah’s song is considered second only to the song of Moses. In the first part of the song, Deborah tells of God’s might from the time of the Exodus and Israel’s wanderings in the desert. God gave them the law at Mount Sinai and brought them to the Promised Land. Deborah recounts how much the Israelites have suffered since being in the land. Of course we know that their suffering was due to their disobedience to God, especially when they turned to the idols of the surrounding pagan people.

Deborah tells how beginning with the days after Shamgar, the judge who immediately preceded her, the Israelites were under such oppression that they could not even walk on public roads safely. “Travelers went by roundabout ways” (Judges 5:6). The people had no weapons with which to defend themselves. The people seemed to be helpless.

Then God chose Deborah, a mother to her people in Israel. Deborah appointed Barak to lead the Israelites in battle against the Canaanites. Men from the tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, and Issachar came to fight in the war (Judges 5:14,15).

In poetic fashion, Deborah then describes the battle and gives the victory to the Lord.

“The stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera” (Judges 5:20). This is obviously a metaphor for the Lord. She goes on to describe the miraculous way in which the Lord defeated Jabin’s mighty army. “The torrent of Kishon swept them away” (verse 21). Once again God delivered His people in a miraculous way by sending the flood that bogged down their chariots.

Her song goes on to praise Jael, the woman to whom God chose to give the honor of the defeat of Sisera. The story is gruesome but true.

Most blessed of women is Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite;
Most blessed is she of women in the tent.
He asked for water and she gave him milk;
In a magnificent bowl she brought him curds.
She reached out her hand for the tent peg,
And her right hand for the workmen’s hammer.
Then she struck Sisera, she smashed his head;
And she shattered and pierced his temple.
Between her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay;
Between her feet he bowed, he fell; where he bowed, there he fell dead. (Judges 5:24-27)

Deborah’s song next makes an interesting comparison with her identity as a mother in Israel and another mother’s story. While Deborah the mother in Israel is rejoicing, the mother of Sisera is lamenting. “Why does his chariot delay in coming? Why do the hoof beats of his chariots tarry?” (Judges 5:28) While Deborah has witnessed the Lord’s victory, this other mother will be waiting in vain. Her son was defeated by the Lord.

Deborah concludes with a prayer:
Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord;
But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might. (Judges 5:31)

The land had rest for forty years after this. The Lord’s victory with His servant Deborah was complete.

How many leaders can claim to have done so much for their people?

 

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Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4,5)

Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day saying, “That the leaders led in Israel, that the people volunteered, Bless the Lord! … In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath; in the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, and travelers went by roundabout ways. The peasantry ceased, they ceased in Israel, until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel. … Awake, awake, Deborah; Awake, awake, sing a song! … Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord; But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.” And the land was undisturbed for forty years. (Judges 5:1, 6, 7,12, 31)

When the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land after the Exodus, they were supposed to rid the land of the Canaanites. They succeeded to a large extent. We saw in the last post that the land was then divided up according to the tribes of Israel. (“Daughters of Zelophehad”, November 4, 2014)

However many pagan nations did not get driven out and these became a snare to the children of Israel. Over the next few centuries the Israelites would fall to the temptation to serve the false gods of the Canaanites. God would send persecution at the hands of one of these nations and the Israelites would have to serve these pagans. Eventually the people would repent and ask God to forgive them and save them from their oppressors. This “cycle” in the book of Judges would be repeated over and over again. The people would sin with idolatry, God would send oppressors against them, the Israelites would cry out to God, God would forgive them and send a judge to lead them out of their bondage, the people would have rest for a few years, while at ease they would fall back into idolatry, and the whole cycle would start over.

Deborah was the fourth judge in Israel. Two chapters in the Bible tell her story – Judges 4 and 5. The oppressor that God sent against the Israelites this time was a king of Hazor – Jabin. Jabin had a very strong army that included 900 chariots of iron. The commander of his army was the formidable Sisera. The Israelites did not master the craft of ironworking until much later during David’s time. So these Canaanite oppressors were able to take over the Israelites and dominate them completely with their superior advantage of iron weaponry and chariots.

Notice in Deborah’s song that the “highways were deserted, and travelers went by in roundabout ways” (Judges 5:6). The Israelites had no matching weapons with which to fight Sisera’s army. The people were hiding out in fear avoiding the main roads that were full of soldiers. Things were looking really dire for them.

Deborah and BarakThe Lord heard their cry and was merciful again. Judge Deborah selected an Israelite commander, Barak, and went with him to battle against Sisera and his 900 iron chariots. Deborah told Barak to place himself on the high ground of Mount Tabor and wait for Sisera’s army to come to him. Barak chose 10,000 men to go with him. Then Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go” (Judges 4:8).

Many people think that Barak said this because he was a coward. But note that 10,000 men from only two tribes, Zebulun and Naphtali were willing to go with him. Barak would not have gotten this following if he had the reputation of a coward. A mere 10,000 men against the formidable army of Sisera would never have followed a weakling. They had faith in the Lord and in Barak. Barak was willing to go and fight as long as he had some assurance.

Barak was merely seeking to have Deborah, God’s spokesperson with him in the battle. Deborah was not only the judge, but also recognized as a prophetess. All Israelites honored Deborah as the one who spoke for God. Barak’s faith in his own strength was weaker than Deborah’s, but he was no coward. Nevertheless for his weak faith in God, Deborah told him that he would not get the glory of killing the leader, Sisera. That honor would go to a woman.

The Israelites went to battle and they were successful with a lot of help from God. The battle took place near the Kishonbarak battle River. God sent heavy rains that made the ground soft and muddy, causing the heavy iron chariots to sink. The frustrated Canaanite soldiers lost their advantage.

Deborah told Barak, “Arise! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hands; behold, the Lord has gone out before you” (Judges 4:14). Barak realized that the Canaanites were struggling in the mud and took advantage of that to go down with his 10,000 men and fight with them. All of the Canaanites were killed except for their commander, Sisera.

jael and siseraSisera fled on foot to the tent of Heber the Kenite. Heber was away but his wife Jael was there. Jael bravely killed Sisera. Indeed, as predicted by Deborah the victory of the conquest over the leader of the enemy would go to a woman – Jael. (For the complete story along with more details see the posting on March 30, 2010, “Jael”. It is interesting that in this story in Judges, God used two women to accomplish His purposes.)

Another reason why we should not think so little of Barak is that he, along with Deborah, sang the song of victory. In this song Barak is praised for his part in leading only 10,000 men against the mighty Sisera. Barak was the military leader that led Israel to victory with God’s help.

After this victory Israel had peace for forty years. We do not know how much longer Deborah lived. Eventually she died and unfortunately the Israelites would do evil in the sight of the Lord again. The next judge would be the famous Gideon.

Next week, we will look at Deborah as a person whom God used. The Lord does gift women for leadership often. This is not because there are no men available. There are plenty of men available to do the work of the kingdom, but the job that Jesus gave the Church to evangelize the world is a huge task. Men and women are both needed. Let us seek God’s guidance and be willing to serve in whatever calling He has given us.

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Then she (Jochebed) put the child into (a basket) and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. His sister (Miriam) stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him. (Exodus 2:3,4)

Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them,

”Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;

The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:20,21)

Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite women whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses: Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the Lord heard it. (Numbers 12:1,2)

Miriam was the first recorded singer and prophetess in Israel. She has always been highly honored and respected among Jews and Christians. She was courageous, faithful, gifted, and loving, but not without human faults.

MiriamMosesColorWhen only a child of about seven years of age, Miriam showed the tenacity, intelligence, and courage that would characterize her for her whole life. Miriam’s family lived with all of the Israelites in the land of Egypt. The Israelites had been there for hundreds of years and the current Pharaoh was a wicked and cruel tyrant. The Israelites had multiplied in number so Pharaoh called for the deaths of all baby boys. One brave woman Jochebed decided to try and save her son. (You can read more about this in the September 23, 2014 post on this blog.) Thanks to Miriam’s help, the boy would be raised by Pharaoh’s daughter and grow up to be Moses, the leader of God’s people.

The Bible doesn’t tell us more about Miriam until after Moses led the people out of Egypt. Recall that Moses and his brother Aaron went before Pharaoh many times and told him to let the people go. Pharaoh refused and God sent ten plagues as punishment and to show Pharaoh and all the Egyptians that He alone is mighty God.

The Israelites were exempt from these plagues, but Miriam must have seen the devastation and horror as frogs, lice, boils, hail, and many other horrible things happened to the neighboring Egyptians. Her parents would have put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts to spare their firstborn. They would have celebrated the first feast of unleavened bread – Passover. They would have gone around to their neighbors and accepted silver and gold from the Egyptians who were so glad to see the Israelites leaving. Miriam would have rejoiced as all of the preparations were made for the Israelites to finally leave behind lives of slavery and follow God’s man Moses – her brother – to the Promised Land.

Finally Pharaoh tells the Israelites they can go and so hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children begin the Exodus out of Egypt. They haven’t gone far though when Pharaoh has second thoughts and goes after them with his army. This must have been horrifying to the Israelites on foot, carrying their food and belongings. The Egyptians on horses were riding down on them and seemed to have them trapped against the Red sea.

But God did a miracle when the Israelites got to the sea. He parted the waters for them. After Miriam and the other Israelites were safely across, God caused the waters to come back together just as the Egyptian army was crossing. All of the soldiers and their horses drowned.

When the Israelites saw this, they joined Moses in a great song of praise to God for His deliverance. Then Miriam took a moses-redsea Miriam-timbreltimbrel and began to lead the people in a song and dance rejoicing over their great deliverance. Don’t forget that Miriam was over eighty years old by this time. Her brother Moses had gone away when he was about forty years old and then lived in Midian for forty years, so he was eighty. Miriam was probably about seven years older than that. What amazing vitality and exuberance she had as she led the people in worshipping God in song and dance.

Miriam continued to encourage the people as they traveled on their journey to Canaan. The people needed all of the help they could get. They complained to Moses about everything. Moses interceded with God for food for the people. God gave them manna. Moses interceded for water and safety. God provided for all of their needs. The people did not seem to have as much faith as they should have. Whenever things went wrong they too easily complained to God rather than trusting Him. It is easy to picture Miriam coming along side of the women in the congregation showing by her example how to trust God to take care of them.

The Bible tells us that Miriam was a prophetess. Her brother Moses was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament. How amazing that God raised up two great prophets in the same family. Their brother Aaron would be the first high priest in the newly formed congregation of Israel. This family had tremendous responsibility in leading the people to the Promised Land. Aaron failed in his task when he let the people talk him into making a golden calf for them to worship while Moses was on the Mountain receiving the Ten Commandments from God. The Bible doesn’t say what part if any Miriam played in this. I believe that as God’s prophetess she would have stayed away. Maybe she even tried to talk Aaron out of it. We don’t know.

Miriam seemed to be a model leader but one day she and her brother Aaron fell to the temptation of pride to criticize their brother Moses. Miriam and Aaron went to Moses to chastise him for marrying a Cushite woman. We do not know who this woman was. Perhaps Zipporah had died by this time. In any event Miriam did not think that it was right for Moses to marry this Cushite woman.

A careful reading shows that Moses’ marriage to the Cushite woman may have been only a pretext for Miriam’s complaint. Perhaps there was really more going on in her heart. She had fallen to the temptation to desire the honor or glory of leadership that her brother Moses had. She asked, “Has He (God) not spoken through us as well?” In other words, Miriam as a prophetess was a respected leader of the people, but she wanted to share in the primary position of authority with Moses.

But the Lord heard what Miriam and Aaron said and called the two of them together with Moses for a talk in the tent of meeting. God came down in a cloud at the door of the tent and addressed them. He made it very plain that Moses was His chosen leader. How dare Miriam and Aaron speak against God’s servant? When the cloud lifted and God departed, Miriam was white as snow with leprosy.

Moses cried out to God to heal Miriam. She would be healed but she had to spend seven days outside of the Israelite camp. Yet, such was the honor and esteem that the people had for Miriam that they waited to travel on until she could be received into the congregation again.

Some wonder why Aaron seemed to get off without punishment. They have tried to say that Miriam got an especially harsh punishment because she was a woman and should not have been such a bad example to the other women by not submitting to male authority. But what actually happened in the story goes completely against that. God honored Miriam by including her in the group that met with Him at the tent of meeting. She was asked to meet with God as one of the leaders of the Israelites. The purpose of the meeting was to make sure she understood her place beneath Moses. It was not because she was a woman, but because she tried to give herself equal authority with Moses. God had already chosen Miriam, a woman, to be His prophetess. Miriam was punished to show the people that they should not rebel against God’s chosen leader.

After Miriam returned to camp, the Israelites traveled to the wilderness of Paran. They were close to the Promised Land at last. The story of the sending of the twelve spies into the land is well known. The people as usual were fearful and did not trust God to take care of them. They had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Sometime during this wandering Miriam died. (Numbers 20:1) Neither Aaron nor Moses would enter the Promised Land either.

Miriam was gifted, though she had human faults. It is a temptation to compare our lives with the lives of others as Miriam did. We need to be content with the place that God has given us. We must also remember that leaders have a greater responsibility to honor God and others in authority as an example to those who are following them. When Miriam challenged Moses, it was not good. But God was gracious and forgave her. The people showed that they also forgave her and continued to love her by waiting for her when she had to go outside the camp. When Miriam repented trust was restored to her. We should imitate her example of humility and faithfulness.

miriam prophetessMiriam played a significant role in the Exodus. She was the first of many women prophets in both the Old and New Testaments. Miriam is a godly example for women today. She answered her call from God as a prophetess and worship leader. Those who think that women should not help in the worship services need only look at Miriam’s life to see that God calls women to help with men in the community of faith.

 

 

 

 

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So Hilkiah and those whom the king had told went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, the keeper of the wardrobe… and they spoke to her regarding this. (II Chronicles 34:22).

It is popular at this time of year to make predictions about what the coming year will bring. Sometimes predictions are wild guesses; sometimes they are wishful thinking; but many times they are more like prophecies. What is the difference? What makes a prophecy?

The prophets in the Bible were inspired by God and so they could make accurate predictions about the future. Not all of the prophets were men; there were a number of women including Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah.

Our story this week is about Huldah. I’d be willing to bet that most of my readers have never heard of her. Even if you have, I wonder what percentage of folks have ever heard a sermon on her – probably less than 1% would be my guess.

Yet, in her day, Huldah was a very important woman. God used this faithful woman to give a very important prophecy to King Josiah. Here’s her story.

King Josiah reigned near the end of the Jewish Southern Kingdom before the Babylonian Captivity. The Northern Kingdom had already fallen due to God’s just judgment on them for hundreds of years of disobedience and idolatry. As God had warned them, they were carried off into captivity. The people in the Southern Kingdom had been more faithful and God was holding off the judgment of captivity on the Southern Kingdom for a few more decades.

Josiah was only eight years old when he began to reign. He sought God with all of his heart. He purged the land of Judea of all of the idols and cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. Then he ordered the rebuilding of the newly purged temple. While the workers were cleaning it, the “book of the law” was found. It had been missing for many years. Previous bad kings, like Josiah’s father Amon, had never bothered to read it much less think it important enough to obey.

When portions of the book of the law were read to Josiah he was truly frightened. He realized that the Israelites had been disobeying God for many years without repenting. He knew that God’s wrath was very great because the people had been disregarding God’s word. He wondered if God would bring the disasters on Israel that were foretold by other prophets.

Huldah,prophetessJosiah wanted to know if the book that was found was genuine. If it was, then he knew that God’s wrath would soon be on them. Josiah sent a few men, including his personal seer, to seek out Huldah, a prophetess, so that he might learn whether or not the book was the actual “book of the law” and what he should do if it was.

Now in our day, many people jump to the conclusion, due to their preconceived ideas about whether or not God uses women to minister, that Huldah was the only prophet available. These are the same folks who say that God only used Deborah to be a judge because there were no men available (See Judges, chapters 4 and 5). While it is true that God used more men than women to serve as prophets, we should not take that to mean that women are second best. If God used a woman, then she was the right person for the job. We should let God be God and not second guess HIm.

Anyway, the story of Huldah will blow away the reasoning that God only uses women when He has no men available.

Consider the fact that there were five other men available. Who were these men? Were they just youngsters or lesser prophets?

They were Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Jeduthan (the king’s seer). There are four Old Testament books bearing the names of the first four of these prophets. They were all alive at the time, but the king’s messengers went to Huldah’s house. It would have been so easy for Josiah to turn to his personal seer and ask him what God would have him do, but he sent his men to ask Huldah.

They knew that Huldah was a mature, Godly woman and that she was well respected by all. They did not need to go any further than her house to find out what God’s will for the king was.

Huldah responded with the message that God gave her. It was pretty horrific for the Jewish people. “Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place and it shall not be quenched” (II Chron. 34:25). However, since Josiah had repented and sought God, Huldah gave him this promise, “‘Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,’ declares the Lord” (II Chron. 34:27).

Truly, Huldah was a remarkable servant of God. It could not have been easy for her to give such a scaryHuldah, Jerusalem prophecy to her people, but it was the truth and she boldly spoke it. Whether or not Christians have honored her as much as they should have, the Jews have held her in high regard as a prophet. Today you can see the monuments in Jerusalem that they constructed in her honor.

There are a couple of other things to note with this story.

One, does it have something about it that sounds familiar? Do you recall Solomon’s words when he finished building the temple and dedicating it to God? Solomon asked God to bless the people. Solomon also knew that the people might not continue to obey God as faithfully as they should. Solomon knew that God promised the Israelites that they would be taken into captivity as punishment for their sins. Of course we know that this would indeed happen a few years after King Josiah died. The Babylonians would come and defeat the people and carry them away as God foretold.

Recall that Solomon asked God to remember His people and forgive them if they should fall into idolatry. If the people should remember God again and humble themselves and ask forgiveness Solomon beseeched God to “hear from Heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and supplications, and maintain their cause and forgive Your people who have sinned against You” (II Chronicles 6:39).

King Josiah certainly knew that God had been patient with the Israelites for hundreds of years. He knew that righteous judgment was upon them. But he humbled himself and sought God’s forgiveness. Huldah assured Josiah that God had heard his prayer and forgiven him. Because Josiah found favor with God, Huldah foretold, “Behold, I will gather you to your fathers and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place and on its inhabitants” (II Chronicles 34:28).

Josiah read the words of the book of the law to the people and they decided to obey God during Josiah’s reign. After Josiah’s death, the kings of Egypt and Babylon took captive Josiah’s sons as foretold.

Huldah was a true prophetess. We know this because her message came true. That was God’s test for His prophets. And her message was both a reminder and a fulfillment of the one that Solomon had given many years before.

We don’t have “inspired” (I mean like those in the Bible) prophets today, but can we prophesize to a certain extent? May we, by using God’s Word predict what will happen this year?

I believe that we can. If we continue to mock God, we will have judgment. I do not know what form that will take, but we already have a “bad king” in the form of the current evil administration and so some predictions are possible.

If Christians don’t wake up and do something it is a sure thing that many more innocent unborn babies will die. It is a sure thing that much more injustice will be done. It is a sure thing that the hard won freedoms for which our forefathers fought and died will disappear one by one. God has told us what the consequences of our sins will be. Even a quick study of Biblical and Church will show that God keeps His promises to bless and to judge.

The answer to solving our problems is the same as it always was – we must repent of our sins, ask God to forgive us, and beseech His mercy. Then He will hear from Heaven and forgive His people (II Chron. 6:39). He has also promised to bless us richly if we obey. I pray that we will get back to focusing on God and His glory. When we follow God we will have much happier things to predict!

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