August 31, 2010

Encouragement: Those About To Engage In Battle

Dig the cleats of the Gospel of Peace into the ground so that you have a stable base beneath you and lean into the barrage of flaming arrows with the Shield of Faith. Be prepared to defend with the Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God if necessary as it is alive and can judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart and cleave soul and spirit, joints and marrow. Nor must we neglect the other pieces of armor as they work together synergistically to properly clad and guard us in our duties and service in the King's world...a world that is in complete rebellion against the King. Tighten the Belt of Truth so that it holds up our clothes to keep our feet free and allow us to be nimble. Fasten the Breastplate of Righteousness snugly and finally place the Helmet of Salvation on out head as we go out to engage the enemy. Remember to be praying always. Always!

Trials and Temptations

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:2-8

I hate double-minded men, but I love your law. You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.
Psalms 119:113-114

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9-10

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. Psalm 34:17

Let us not waver in our times of need. Let us call on the One who is steadfast and unchanging. The Lord God Almighty.

Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26: 3-4

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

Onward and upward...

August 29, 2010

Examining The Scripture CLIII: The End Is The Beginning

This is the last post in my Examining The Scripture series. Final tally of posts for the series: 153. We have reached the end and it is anything but subtle. We have reached the end...yet it is only the beginning. The Old Testament goes out with a bang and lays the ground work for the ushering in of the New Testament. Malachi 4 mentions Moses and Elijah and this is a suitable and appropriate way to end the Old Testament for many reasons that I will mention now.

To properly roll up nearly three months of work I need to tie a lot of stuff together. This post will be a doozy. I will also space stuff apart for clarity and continuity. This will not be a short post but hopefully it will edify, clarify and make you think. Well, here it goes.

Moses is mentioned in association with the Law given at Horeb (Mt Sinai). The whole point of the Law was to make people holy or able to approach God. It is more or less the underlying principle in the Old Testament. From the Fall in Genesis 3 man spends the rest of the Bible trying to get back to that state, a state where man walked with God in harmony. Why the Law and holiness? So that God could look upon us without sin. Why? So that He could have the relationship He had with us before The Fall in Genesis 3. Why? It is because if we were not without sin He would have to judge us in His perfect justice and the wages of sin is death. But man could not fulfill the Law, it was as a curse to man. So what then?

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." Galatians 3:13

We now we cross over to the New Testament or more specifically we come to the centrality of the Bible and the tipping point in God’s creation and the “fullness of time”. The Old Testament converges on this God-man and the New Testament diverges from this God man. He is Jesus Christ. Christ becomes sin for us. He becomes the once-and-for-all propitiatory/atoning sacrifice for our sin. So that we are free to approach the Father! We can boldly approach the Father with our praise and petition. We can take them right before the throne with Jesus as our high priest, our intercessor. The veil of the temple has been torn in two.

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8

Jesus Christ abrogated the ceremonial law and put away the need to continue to offer sacrifices for sin in the manner and method of the Old Testament Levitical system. How? Through His blood. Why Jesus Christ's blood? The absolute clearest and distinct statement in the Bible of why blood sacrifices of the Old Testament had a substitutionary significance and was indispensable to atonement for sin is found in Leviticus 17.

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. Leviticus 17:11

More specifically, blood is a "word-symbol" for the death of said life or the price paid for it. Blood shed is a removal of life from the flesh. By draining the blood we remove the life from the flesh. Physical death not spiritual. drink Christ's blood at the Last Supper/Communion is to take part in His death and the benefits of the life he laid down for all of humanity's sin. By sharing in His death we also share in His life, eternal life that is. Why? Because God said so! God is sovereign and all-powerful, who are we to question Him? This is what He has revealed as the acceptable and satisfactory atonement or covering for our sins. So be it! A life for a life. What do I mean? Our lives are demanded of us in return for our sin. How so?

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" Romans 5:12.

We were/are all guilty of sin and worthy of death. Period. PERIOD! No exceptions. Blood was given by God for this specific purpose. i.e.: "I have given it to you..." in Leviticus 17:11. "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." Hebrews 9:22

"For since the law was but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." Hebrews 10:1-4

Impossible for blood of bulls and goats to take away sins?!?! Say what? Then why did they do all those sacrifices in the Old Testament and kill all those animals?

"the law was but a shadow of the good things to come"

What things came? Not what, WHO. Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament sacrifices were but shadows of the only sacrifice worthy and suitable for human redemption. Jesus.

"Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.’”First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrews 10:5-10

More importantly we now arrive at a parallel in Christ's work that also directly relates back to the ceremonial Levitical system for priests. Not only did Christ pay the ransom to redeem us He also acted as the priest that entered the most holy place (Heaven/the Father's right hand) when he died offering His blood. All previously symbolically carried out by the priests in the Old Testament now carried out for real by Jesus in a once-and-for-all sacrifice that truly removed the sins of men.

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16

As for Malachi 4:5 This appears to be one final double entendre or sorts of metonymy. The Elijah referred to here is not the Elijah of the past (but it could) but the Elijah of the future, John the Baptist. The herald or messenger sent directly by God to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. In a historical context he is the forerunner of Jesus at the spiritual level. He comes to pave the way for our Messiah. If Malachi is the last word of the Old Testament then one of the last things it mentions is one of the first things we will see in the New Testament.

If we make comparisons of Moses and Elijah (older version in the Book of Kings, not John the Baptist) simultaneously we see an interesting parallel in that both of their exact departure methods from life/earth are sort of a mystery or anomaly. Elijah’s departure is anything but ordinary due to the flaming chariot in front of Elisha. Moses departure is nearly as interesting since he leaves life as a robust mountaineer taken while his health and eyesight was still good. It appears both of these men were taken by God directly into his arms. This is a direct parallel to the way the NT ends also with a rapture or God taking people directly. Taken up…not unlike the ascension of the Jesus in His resurrection body…I could go on for days with these comparisons but I feel like my eyes are starting to bleed. I’m done. Jeez, so much God, so little time on earth. Where to begin, where to begin!?!?!?

I suppose it is no suprise then that these two men who departed earth under what should be considered dubious circumstances would make and appearance with Jesus' at His Transfiguration which was a visible sign in the presence of reliable witnesses from both the Old & New Testament of the reality of the power of God and the glory, which is Christ Jesus. Symbolically, the appearance of Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets. He is the fulfillment of the Law and the countless prophecies in the Old Testament. Also, in His glorified form they saw a preview of His coming glorification and enthronement as King of kings and Lord of lords.

One more thing...what we see in the very last verse in Malachi 4:6 is mention of a/the curse. It is the very curse that will be overturned by Jesus Christ whose birth initiates the New Testament. He comes. Can you see Him? He comes to save the world and to glorify the Father. Holy Holy Holy. Blessed be the name of the Lord...Jesus Christ. Name above all names.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:8-12

Some of the Art above by ~eikonik

Examining The Scripture CLII: Messenger of The Covenant

A really short post today as a lead-in to my final Examining the Scripture post.

Who is the "Messenger of the Covenant" in Malachi 3:1?

If we refer to the original Hebrew of Malachi 3:, the Hebrew tells us the messenger is [Strongs H4397: mal’ak] “messenger-of-me/Me” or literally “a messenger; specifically, of God. Whomever this is is coming directly from God himself. This first messenger will also prepare the way for God or in this context/case Jesus Christ and as suddenly as this messenger will come, the Lord they are seeking will come to His temple. This verse is the Old Testament counterpart to Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2 and Luke 7:27. It is also the Old Testament companion to Isaiah 40:3: “A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. The Messenger is John the Baptist.

Knowing this makes the identity of the One that will usher in the New Covenant and the One who will abrogate the Old Covenant obvious in hindsight. It is Jesus Christ or the One who will prove He is God by purifying His people like a “refiners fire” and punishing sinners. He will fulfill the ceremonial law once and for all. He will up the ante on the moral laws as these laws were not abrogated but further elaborated upon and the true implications are brought to the surface by Christ in places like the Sermon on the Mount. "You have heard it said...but I say to you..."

He will be the fulfiller of the Old Covenant in that He will fulfill the demands of the covenant in His life and with His life. When He rises from the dead he will usher in the new covenant with His marvelous work of redemption.

August 28, 2010

Examining The Scripture CLI: Polluted Offerings & Polluted Priests

Wow. We've reached the last book of the Old Testament. A few years ago I'd wouldn't have even believed that I would read the entire Old Testament let alone write 150+ articles on it. I guess when the power of Christ compels you things in life take on more gravity...

Malachi 1-3 is a series of rebukes to the post-exilic people of Jerusalem. God has serious issues with the temple priests and their behavior in 1:6-2:9.

There is a lot going here so I will outline this...

Malachi 1

God is indicting the priesthood. Instead of living exemplary lives they were guilty of breaking the very Law they were charged to uphold. They way they were “serving” the Lord was disgraceful and a dishonor to His name.

(1) First and foremost they were treating their obligations and subsequently God, with utter contempt. This head and heart attitude pretty much formed their precepts and concept for behavior for and towards God. It tainted how their duties were performed for Him and towards Him. Inevitably it led to contemptuous behavior towards God and worthy of God’s wrath. It showed that they were totally insensitive to their sin and others which didn’t allow them to realize they were “despising” God.

(2) They were offering blemished sacrifices. Levitical priests where raised and taught what was considered defective sacrifice but did so anyway and thereby defiled God’s name. The priest where then na├»ve enough (or brazen enough) to ask, "How have we shown contempt for your name?” and “How have we defiled you?” They just didn’t get it, they were clueless and shouldn’t have been. It is like saying a builder doesn’t know how to hammer a nail. They could not plead ignorance. They had become so hardened in their sins they were behaving as if they had gone insane.

(3) Then a stinging and convicting reproach …they say that the Lord’s table is contemptible by their actions by bringing blind animals, when sacrificing crippled and diseased animals.
(3a) He asks them if they think that is wrong and their answer should’ve been “yes”. We sadly see the depraved condition of their minds and hearts. These are animals that wouldn’t even have been offered to the governor in a banquet. So why would God accept them?

(4) Malachi implies that it would be better to shut the doors to the temple than to continue such worthless sacrifices.
(4a) God would no longer accept the offerings from their hands
(4b) He was not pleased with them…at all. If they couldn't serve Him with their full hearts He didn’t want any of their worship. God is either worthy of all our praise or none of it. Either put on your big boy/big girl pants and buck up or go home.

(5) We then see the reason for the Lords refusal to accept the sacrifices. At some point in the future, “His name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations…"
(5a) As designated by the word “will” a time was coming when the message of salvation would be taken to all nations (gentiles included)
(5b) What the priests failed to understand is that it is better to obey completely rather than to sacrifice negligently.

Malachi 2

(1) The priests are then are admonished harshly.
(1a) If they did not listen [obey], and if you do not set your heart to honor my name” God was going to send a curse upon them, and even curse their blessings.
(1b) As a matter of fact He had already cursed them, because they had not set your heart to honor Him.
(1c) He would rebuke their descendants
(1d) He would spread on your faces the offal (term used to refer to the entrails and internal organs of a butchered animal) from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.

(2) The Lord then reminds the priests because it is clear they are either spiritually calloused or purposely recalcitrant and/or filled with contempt for the Lord. He states that His covenant was a covenant of life and peace and He gave it to them and because He did this there was reverence and awe expected in return. They have obviously failed to live up to the covenant. They took their privileges for granted.

(3) They are essentially cautioned against the perversion of their duties and their office. The Lord had made a covenant with Levi and what he was expected to do is EXACTLY what the post-exilic priests were failing horrendously to perform: Faithful service.

(4) What is worse is their apostasy and turning away has led others astray because they were following the lead of the priests…and that is worse than leading one’s self astray. “It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” Luke 17:2

Baldwin, Joyce G.. "A Privileged Priesthood." Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary (The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1981. 224-231. Print.

Longman, Tremper, and David Garland. "The Sacrilege of The Priests." Daniel-Malachi (Expositor's Bible Commentary, The). New Rev ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2009. 846-856. Print.

Wiersbe, Warren. "The Sins Of God’s People" Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament: The Prophets (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 2003. 478-482. Print.

August 27, 2010

SoulJournaler not Sojourners

Oh boy. I must once again define my worldview and theological stance.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures..." 

I am Reformed Protestant. I lean heavily towards Calvinism but as Mark Driscoll says, "I am a charismatic with a seat belt". I also have a  past steeped in Dispensationalism (but am no longer) that tends to "color" my views on eschatology. I was Premillennial but now lean towards Amillennial, and undecided on Tribulation position...I tend towards Pretrib but cannot find any correctly interpreted Scripture to back it up. Mid-Trib is not wholly out of the question then and post-trib is a stretch for me. What I have come to learn from Daniel and Revelation tends to make me believe that there is a high probability that believers will at least be here during some of the Tribulation (See my series on Apocalypse Prophecy). What else have I missed?

I can tell you what I am not into: Liberal Theology, Interfaithism, Easy Believism, Prosperity Gospel, Emergent, Christian Mysticism, Seeker-Friendly, Legalism, Antinomianism, Methodological Naturalism and Evangelical or Militant Atheism. Regardless of a persons presuppositions, I am willing to have conversations with anyone on the topic of God, Religion, Salvation, Sin, Ethics, etc.

I believe that Pentecostals or the more enthusiastic denominations that look down their nose at Calvinists or less lively denominations, and view them as prudes or as being too rigid are missing out on good teaching and fellowship. Likewise, Calvinists that look down their noses at the more "animated" of our brethren are also missing out on a huge portion of teaching and a lot of what the Holy Spirit has to offer. I am not willing to give up on that "still small voice" as the King James has so eloquently put it.

To summarize: You need not be a stoic stick in the mud to be Calvinist and you don't need to be a rodeo clown to be Pentecostal. These are opposite ends and extremes and quite frankly I find them to be unfair stereotypes (usually). Rarely, if ever, are either of them true. I persoanlly am quite willing to get emotional about my God but not at the cost of sound doctrine. I care how people feel after I have run things through a Scriptural filter since our emotions can often lead us astray. We are to discern the spirits. That can only be done by the word or through the word...never against it. God's Word and Holy Spirit move me. We are brethren/brothers & sisters, we should stop acting like the siblings Cain and Abel or Jacob and Esau and act more like James and John (minus thunder) or Moses and Aaron.

Anyone that has heard Paul Washer preach knows exactly what I am talking about. The people I adhere closely too in terms of sermons and teaching besides my own church and school are John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Paul Washer, 9Marks (occasionally), Ravi (apologetics), James M. Boice, C.H. Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, etc.

Oh, I also take the Great Commission from our Lord very seriously:

Matthew 28:19-20
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Okay, now that my position is out of the way. Many are probably wondering, "What got under his skin?"

Some folks with poor reading comprehension (or willful ignorance) are confusing me with a site that is promoting doctrinally divergent views as opposed to some of my views. My site is called SoulJournaler because I am attempting wordplay at various levels. I chose this name because of its similarity to other words or allusions that could be drawn from Scripture:


Countless references throughout Scripture.


2 Timothy 2:3-4
Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.

Ephesians 6:10-18
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Journal/Journaler: (i.e.: scribes, etc) as they were often keepers of legitimate doctrine or teachings unless they had gone AWOL (absent without the Lord). Ezra was a scribe.

Journey/Journeyer: Self-explanatory

The actual word "Sojourner" is also used in Scripture, fifty (50) times in the Pentateuch alone.

Its proper definition in Webster's as it relates to my dual citizenship as a believer on earth acting as a sojourner for the Kingdom. I do not really belong here.

Noun 1. Sojourner: a temporary resident.

John 17:14-19
"I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 

Philippians 3:20
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ...

These are the only other ways I would like the word "sojourner" associated to the SoulJournaler website.

Now that I have all that nonsense out of the way.

I am in no way associated with the political/social activist group Sojourners. What I am associated with is social compassion such as soup kitchens and outreaches to the community that are for the destitute and forgotten of society. Donation of time and money to those less fortunate in our neighborhoods. The homeless in Pottstown, Reading...our own communities or in Africa, Haiti or hard hit areas. I do not believe political or social activism is where the Lord is calling me to affect a change for the Kingdom. Although I will say that I am socially conscious and do everything I can to assist in my community and other's as this is a living embodiment of the Gospel and does what Christ told us to do. I just cannot reconcile in my mind a social activist organization with political agendas that entail socialistic policies. It may be a call for others to be politicians, activists or both but I believe my call is to expound on the Word in pastoral ministry or pastoral teaching and let the Word do the work. To me a Pastor should concern himself with the things of God and let the politicians concern themselves with politics. I am not a politician. I am God's man.

What I will admit to is that I saw the comparison early on between the two names and figured, if I siphon off one or two Sojourner followers here or there because they accidentally stumbled into my site thru a typo...**wink wink nudge nudge** ;)

So...that's it. I'll bet that what I have disclosed here is more than most reading this blog will ever care to know about me. 'Nuff said.

Philippians 2:5-11
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." 

August 23, 2010

Examining The Scripture CL: Clean Garments For The High Priest

In Zechariah 3, Zechariah is having another vision and this one is either at the Temple or a court of some kind and we see Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord. I believe after having read this that Joshua and his sinful condition is representative of Judah at-large and her spiritual condition. Ominously, Satan is standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord is rebuking Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan!” The Lord that chose Jerusalem rebuked him. Joshua is dressed in filthy clothes which represent his dirty, sinful condition. He is told to remove his clothes. The Lord then says to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin and will put rich garments on you”. As we get to this point in the chapter we sense that this is more of a judicial court setting as Joshua/Judah has just been deemed righteous or his sins have been removed which is a form of judgment on God’s behalf. The Lord has to deem whether or not something is sinless (remove sins) or holy(ier) as He is the ultimate and final judge of such things.

The Lord then tells Joshua to "Put a clean turban on his head" which gets done. This seem as though it is a re-commissioning to the office of priest of God. Then it is made quite clear in a condition clause that “If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house (judge my house) and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.” We are talking total commitment here, not half-hearted, half-baked actions but total faithfulness to duty. Joshua/Judah will judge and will have direct access to the Lord in the presence “among those standing here”. In this entire vision we see the fingerprints of Jesus Christ all over it. The high priest of the Old Testament (Joshua; in this case Judah too) is nothing more than the perfect high priest that is to come, The Branch (messianic title) Jesus Christ. The Old Testamental sacrificial system was but a shadow of the only sacrifice worthy and suitable for human redemption. Jesus.

More importantly we now arrive at a parallel in Christ's later work that also directly relates back to the ceremonial Levitical system for priests. Not only did Christ pay the ransom to redeem us He also acted as the priest that entered the most holy place (Heaven/the Father's right hand) when he died offering His blood. All previously symbolically carried out by the priests in the Old Testament now carried out for real by Jesus in a once-and-for-all sacrifice that truly removed the sins of men.

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16

A future promise is alluded to now. We arrive at the final portion of this chapter in the last two verses. There is an abrupt change in metaphor from The Branch to a stone. My first impression is that this is a stone for/from the Temple but it says there are seven eyes [facets] on it and the Lord will engrave and inscription on it also. Additionally, He will remove the sin of this land in a single day and in that day “each of you [in Judah] will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” The setting of the stone before Joshua implies that it is not a building stone but nor does it sound like a jewel. In a single day denotes that something will happen quickly at a single point in time or a decisive point in history. Neighbors inviting neighbors under a fig tree is an image of peace and prosperity and dare I say harmony (considering the time this is written). The Stone is another Messianic title and parallels other teachings of Christ being some form of stone, a cornerstone, a stumbling block, a rejected stone, a smitten stone, etc. I am guessing the seven eyes allude to God’s omniscience or omnipresence.

Baldwin, Joyce G.. "The High Priest Reinstated." Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary (The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1981. 112-118. Print.

Wiersbe, Warren. "God And His Leaders" Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament: The Prophets (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 2003. 451-452. Print.

Examining The Scripture CXLIX: Man With A Measuring Line

The first thing we see in Zechariah 2 is a man with a measuring line in his hand. As stated before a measuring line is a symbol of restoration. God will restore His people. Also as we had seen in Chapter 1 of Zechariah there was a man that would stretch the measuring line over Jerusalem (including the Temple). Zechariah asks him where he is going and the not so surprising answer is that he is going “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is." The man with the measuring line appears to be the Angel of the Lord, Israel’s Messiah. By measuring His city He is declaring that it is His and He will eventually use it to fulfill His Divine purposes no matter what has happened in the past or who controls it now. The people that were contemporaries of Zechariah, the remnant, were keeping the city alive for the day the Messiah would come.

Another angel then approaches Zechariah and says "Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the LORD, 'and I will be its glory within.” This statement alludes to the fact that Jerusalem will be free from walls and seems as if it will know no bounds, open to all that wish to enter. The implication is that it will not become overcrowded. The idea of Jerusalem without walls also implies that it will be safe to live there. Why? The Lord will be their wall of fire and the Lord will be its glory within. In light of these statements we also see that the covenant is still valid.

We then see a practical application in the oracles that follows. It is in the form of Hebrew poetry (which cannot be gleaned from English versions). It is divided into two equal stanzas (v. 6-9) and (v. 10-13). An introductory command (v. 6 & 10) is followed by a clause beginning with “for”. These are followed in later verse with “and then you will know” (v. 9 & 12).

(v. 6) "Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north," declares the LORD, "for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven," declares the LORD.

(v. 7) "Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!"

(v. 8) For this is what the LORD Almighty says: "After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye-

(v. 9) I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me.

The first stanza speaks to admonishing the Jews still in Babylon to leave the city and join the others in Jerusalem. They should not remain in comfort or a pagan city when they are needed in their own ruined city that needs to be rebuilt. Some Jews were putting comfort ahead of what they were obliged to do as a covenant people. Besides, there was coming a day when Babylon would be judge for the atrocious things they had done to God’s people and the Jews probably didn’t want to be present in Babylon when it happened.

We as Christians would be well advised by this thought. We are called to take the Gospel to the world, not wait for it to come to us. By sitting and waiting in comfort we are not always doing what we were commanded by Jesus Christ. Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Just because it’s the easy thing doesn’t mean it is the better thing. Jesus never said it would be easy to follow in his footsteps to evangelize people and try to bring them to Him. As a matter of fact He said "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” Denying one’s self is hard, taking up his cross is even harder.

(v. 10) "Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the LORD.

(v. 11) "Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.

(v. 12) The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem.

(v. 13) Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling."

The second stanza of Zechariah 2’s poem is an exhortation to praise. A people who know that they are God’s people should rejoice. This is especially true knowing that He himself will bless them and all of humanity (many nations) with His presence “in that day”. In verse 12 we have the only place in scripture where the area of Palestine is referred to as the holy land (Wiersbe 451). The Messiah will actually come to reign.

One additional note about verse 8: It mentions the “apple of God’s eye”. The figure of speech the "apple of the eye" means the pupil of the eye. He [God] keeps His covenant people as if they are/were the pupil of His own eye. The pupil of the eye is the most vulnerable part of the body and the one most in need of protection. Protection for the eye is also one of the fastest reflexes in the human body as the eyelid covering the eye protects it from damage the pupil from damage. When objects approach the eye the body's reaction intuitively is to blink or close the eye. Deuteronomy 32:10…He kept them [Israel/chosen people] as the apple of His eye. Reference : The Apple of God's Eye

Baldwin, Joyce G.. "Jerusalem Has A Divine Protector." Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary (The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1981. 105-112. Print.

Wiersbe, Warren. "God Will Restore His People" Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament: The Prophets (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 2003. 451-452. Print.

Words And Their Effect Y'all (Subtitle: Rappin' Ron)

I need to thank my neighbor for this newest post. He just turned 60 and when I stopped over to speak with him (he is sound in doctrine and a Christian brother) I was pleased to hear sound doctrine and it was coming out of a boombox playing Christian Rap. A week later I begin to read a book about delivery of Biblical narratives from the New and Old Testament in the oral/aural tradition and begin to learn about the ancient techniques of memorization for maximum retention and sound devices for conveying messages and ideas of paramount importance. So the gears in my brain creak to life and things start rattling and clicking...I begin to see parallels between ancient techniques and modern culture. Strikingly parallels and frankly, relevant ones. You are free to disagree but I do not believe I am introducing anything heretical or apostate here so bear with me.

The Gospels were written with the intent that they were going to be either read aloud or memorized for oral/aural dissemination or transmission (spoken out loud). Reasons for their memorization were portability and another had to do with the form of the writing itself. There were no chapter numbers, no verse as there are today, as chapters and verses were added in after the fact. If there were divisions in the Old Testament they were done in accordance with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet as in Psalms 119 and are called acrostic(s). Additionally there were no spaces, no punctuation and all single case letters of characters in original manuscripts. When scribes got to the end of a line they literally jumped to the next line, even if they were in the middle of a word. As an example I will show you a passage from the Gospel of John 1:29-34.

Obviously, this was not very conducive to reading. If you want to see what I mean, try reading this passage out loud to someone and see how it sounds. You must always keep in mind that when the original autographs/manuscripts were written they were done so with the oral/aural tradition in mind. To understand how halting and broken speech would be reading something like this it is only fair that you do so now. When you are done you realize that you sounded like a stammering, partially uneducated reader with a mild speech impediment. Especially when you need to double back because you thought you were reading the word "the" when in actuality it was "them", "these", "then" or "theirs". Other common errors would be "she" and "he", "whose" and "who" and the list goes on.

Other things that need to be taken into consideration are that words are actually sounds and as we understand from rhymes, certain sounds in speech are intended for effect or impact just as any good rhyming storyteller or rapper can tell you. The words were not just meant to be read silently. If anything they were predominately meant to be read out loud...or sung. To a crowd.
"It's craziness!/ we're obsessed with hysteria/ atheist patriots say 'God Bless America'/ it occurred to me/ we praise awful lusts/ and currency/ that says 'In God We Trust'/ it's ludicrous/ you lunatics are consumed in this/ and confused by the news and computer chips/ God's exuberance allows you to exist/ but you insist we're produced from a huge abyss (big bang theory)/ you all are bluffing/ think we evolved from nothing?/ hopefully this psalm will stall your fussing/ this universe was spoken into existence (Gen. 1:1, Psalm 33:6, 148:5)/ but man rebelled and he's broken in his resistance (Gen. 3:6, Psalm 14:1-3)/ you try and defy the Divine Maker?/ if you deny God, how do you define nature? (Romans 1:20)/ He is Lord and He provided proof (Romans 1:19)/ but you liars tried to hide the truth (Romans 1:21-25)/ God created man- man created evolution/ this was man's attempt to explain his fusion/ but isn't that like man creating robots, then robots make up their own creation conclusion?" ~Timothy Brindle - It's Obvious

Am I saying the Apostle and writers of the books of the Bible were rappers? No, that would mean I was contemporizing the Scripture and that is a no-no. What I am saying is that there are strong parallels from today that are undeniable and can be used as "living examples" of the past. I am trying to draw audible comparisons. This is especially useful for those that are struggling with audiblization (is that a word?), technique and the hows, whys and what-fors of the authors original intent or "authorial intent" in terms of sounds and effect of sounds. The only distinction that I can see between the cadenced verbal delivery of scripture and modern rapping or rhyming appears to be that rapping is done to a beat or count/measure.

So perhaps some of the scripture was meant to be read or sung in a cadenced manner? We know that this is the case in some verses, especially Psalms. Were they in meter or measured rhyme in Hebrew? In the strictest sense, in most cases I would have to say no but I have not memorized Psalms. Interesting to research though. I'll have to look into that for a later post. I do not know how to speak Hebrew, I will need to consult with a language major at school or online.

Although we do understand the intent of the authors, some of the effects of the originals are lost because they have been separated, punctuated, capitalized and transliterated to new languages from the original. If we truly want to "hear" the words as intended we need to be able to also work with the original languages to some extent. I sort of noted this is an older post here: Examining The Scripture: Equivocal. Does this change doctrine or affect our salvation, no, probably not. Does it add vibrancy and color to an otherwise monochrome passage, yes, it does.

What we find when we go back and read these originals is repeated themes, ideas and sounds. Assonant, alliteration and consonance sounds to be precise. Just like rhymes. Just like rap.

From lyrics above:

Assonant: "bluffing...nothing?/ hopefully this psalm will stall your fussing"

Alliteration: "it's ludicrous/ you lunatics"

Consonance: we praise awful lusts/ and currency/ that says 'In God We Trust'/ it's ludicrous

There are probably other examples of these three sound devices within this short portion of rap. Some of the alliterations can also double as assonance and consonance also. They are all interchangeable depending on how clever the usage of words. Regardless of whether they are rhyming or not, Chirstian rappers and storytellers are carrying on an age old tradition (albeit in a slighty different form) when they perform that dates back into the far reaches of the Old Testament. I do find it rather interesting and ironic that many rappers are very skilled in their use of these techniques and ability to create a desired physiological effect through manipulation of word sounds. I am also impressed with the ability of the rapper and the listeners (in general) of Christian rap to "pick up" and retain the lyrics after minimal exposure to the words. The sounds and repetitive nature allows for quicker and more solid retention of the words (case-in-point).

Why were these audible nuances intended/added into the original language sound when the Bible was written? Same reason they are used today. To aid in the internalization of words. We can feel them in our gut or "take them to heart". The best word for "feeling" these words is used in the Bible in Mark 1:41 in relation to Jesus having compassion or pity on the leper.

"Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" ~Mark 1:41

Jesus took this to heart. It was called [Greek: splagnizomai] which literally meant "to turn over the bowels". I guess the closest our language today hits on this is "it made my stomach roll", "it made my heart sink" or "it breaks my heart". When this happens to a human being...whatever it is...when we feel it in our sticks with us indelibly.

Words are ideas. The Word is (in my mind) the only idea. If we internalize the words/The Word we will also take in the Idea and the righteous ideal. Ideas spur righteous action. In other words if they are righteous ideas they will often spur righteous actions/works. Righteous actions/works propel the Gospel forward. Layman's translation: The Gospel propels the Gospel forward.

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." ~James 2:14-18

So what is faith?

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." ~Hebrew 11:1

How do we get it, stay strong in it?

In terms of instruction in this the Scriptures are clear that we are to:

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." ~John 17:17

"Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true." Psalm 119:142

"The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever." Psalm 119:160

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The "man of God" meaning a messanger and by implication, a person that has faith in God.

It is a self-fulfilling cycle:

The Word
Internalization of The Word
Internalization of the Idea in The Word
Action/Actualization of the Idea (from The Word)
Evangelical Outreach

It looks and sounds as if it was planned that way. :)

Examining The Scripture CXLVIII: The Other Four Horsemen

Zechariah’s first vision in chapter 1 verses 7-17 is apocalyptic and the Lord reveals the purpose for the future of Israel, Judah and Jerusalem in particular since Jerusalem was the seat of the Davidic dynasty and location where the Davidic Covenant was made. It is a message to the post-exilic people of Jerusalem. It is a vision of the horseman riding a red horse among the myrtle trees. Behind him were red, brown and white horses. These horsemen/horses are surprisingly similar to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in Revelation. Interestingly, the horsemen serve as messengers in Zechariah just as they do in the Revelation of John but unlike Revelation they are not harbingers or agents of destruction and judgment. Zechariah's horses are also different from Revelation's in that colors do not seem to symbolize anything in particular about characters or their purpose.

Zechariah respectfully queries the Lord on what they are or what they stand for and He answers...and here is where it gets quite odd. It is the horseman that actually does the explaining. The horses/horsemen are ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth. Why? They are angelic messengers (The Lord’s Hosts) sent like messengers sent from an empire to the outer reaches of the empire (missionaries) to report to the horseman among the myrtle trees. They report that the whole world is at rest (sitting) and at peace (quiet). Although we see that there is “peace” it appears to be the product of oppression or injustice based on the literal translation of the Hebrew in verse 11. What seemed like everything was okay because it was resting and at peace turns out to be “sitting/seated” and “quiet”. It turns out this is a situation similar to a person being subjugated by injustice as shown in verses 14 & 15 as we will see. It is a peace that is doomed to be devastated.

The horseman among the myrtle trees is actually the angel of the Lord and he is acting as a captain of the hosts or other horsemen/angelic messengers (he is also acting as an interpreter). He responds to the latest news by asking, “LORD Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?"

The LORD then speaks comforting words to the angel who talked with Zechariah. That angel then says to Zechariah, “Proclaim this word: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity.”

As we have in the past we again see the curtain lifted on the spiritual realm and we see God working behind the scenes orchestrating and pulling the strings of nations to work things to His purposes and his glory. Having seen all of this it is now Zechariah’s responsibility to get the word out to the nation(s). God is Jealous and this type of jealousy is akin to anger. It is God’s unrequited love for His people. The absolute holiness of his love only ends up intensifying suffering of those who abuse His love(d). So why is God intervening to trying to save them from the death they are heading towards. One word: Covenant. Having chosen Jerusalem as His city He will honor His covenant even in spite of their human failings.

God’s anger has turned against Judah’s enemies that have treated His love harshly. It is kind of like the old saying, “no one berates my wife except me”. Therefore the nations God had used to chastise and discipline His people like Assyria and the Babylonians which are now secure, soon will not be. These are the nations that “added to the calamity mentioned in verse 15. They not only tried to annihilate the Jews they also prolonged the Jew’s torment and carried it on too long.

Finally in verse 16 and 17 we see that, because God has a jealous love for Israel and a jealous anger towards her enemies the following promises will be fulfilled (a future hope as always after a time of suffering). The wrongs suffered by God’s people will now be compensated for because He loves them. It is like spanking and child to let them know what they did wrong and then hugging them to let them know you still love them.

(a) The Lord will return to Jerusalem with mercy
(b) There my house will be rebuilt.
(c) The measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem. This is a symbol of restoration over all of Jerusalem not just the Temple
(d) His towns will again overflow with prosperity. The Temple and Jerusalem seem inseparably linked here.
(e) ...and the LORD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.

Baldwin, Joyce G.. "Now or Never." Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary (The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1981. 93-101. Print.

Longman, Tremper, and David Garland. "Patrol of The Whole Earth Reports." Daniel-Malachi (Expositor's Bible Commentary, The). New Rev ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2009. 741-744. Print.

Examining The Scripture CXLVII: Down But Definitely Not Out

Haggai 2:1-9: We learn from these few verses that the Temple must have been in really awful shape. After a month of working at rebuilding it the folks in Judah must have been getting just about nowhere in terms of progress and quite discouraged as is indicated by Haggai’s round of questioning. He is commanded by God to do so.”Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?”

These questions are to acknowledge that: Yes, the condition of the Temple is poor and it shows that God is quite aware of this fact. God also knows that people of God that draw on the Lord for strength can do all that God empowers them to do. People with enough faith can move mountains. God then exhorts and encourages them, “But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,' declares the LORD. 'Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,' declares the LORD, 'and work. For I am with you,' declares the LORD Almighty. God is telling them straight that He is with them and when God is with anyone He is an enabling presence. This statement and idea is highly reminiscent of Isaiah 40:31 ~but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

They are encouraged three times in verse 4 to be strong at varying levels of society, at the political leadership level in Zerubbabel, at the spiritual leadership level in Joshua and directly to the people. God is essentially bolstering the entire structure of society so that they act as cooperative support for one another. Focused leadership so all the people do not lose sight of the physical task, focused spiritual leadership so all the people do not lose sight of the most important focus, God himself and the people themselves, to hold the leadership accountable.

Verse 5 warrants special mention due to its use of the phrase “My Spirit remains among you [abides]. It is actually the Hebrew word for standing and is used as a Hebrew participle that denotes a continuous action. This means He has been “standing among them” since they repented, even during apparent disaster. In this case, during their arduous labor and pain of rebuilding the Temple that seemed as if they were running in place. The moment they repented, He was “there”.

God then goes on to make His purposes manifest. He will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty. The “desired of all nations” is understood as a Messianic title meaning this is a Messianic prophecy referring to the coming of THE ONE: Jesus Christ. The future temple will be filled with glory...His glory. The was coming a day when the Son of God will minister in its confines (John 1:14). This could also mean Christ in the end of the age at His second coming. The gold and silver that had once been in Solomon’s possession was now transferred to the Persians but in reality all of it was God’s and eventually He would do with it as He wanted. Eventually the true owner would be The One who made it, to His Temple. The coming temple would be greater than the glory of the former.

August 22, 2010

Fiery Serpents & Scorpions

“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.
~Deuteronomy 8:11-16

August 19, 2010

Examining The Scripture CXLVI: ...And Now For Something Completely Different

If you open your Bible to the first chapter of the Book of Haggai (the prophet) you will see something rare and highly unusual in terms of a Jewish prophet and the society he is living in. When Haggai prophesied to the Jews in the society around him, the Jews actually obeyed! Whoa! Imagine that! The year is 520 B.C. the second year of King Darius. On the first day of the sixth month the Lord sends through Haggai a call to the people to “give careful thought to their ways” because they had “planted much and harvested little”. They “ate but never had enough”, “drank but never had their fill”, “earned wages only to put them in a purse with holes”. God was essentially challenging the people through Haggai about their priorities and asking them a rhetorical question about what appears to be a poverty-stricken existence that they are living in. The clinching statement in the challenge is verse 4. He asks them if it is time for them to be living in paneled houses, “while this house remains a ruin”. God is referring to the Temple which had not been repaired or rebuilt since coming back to Jerusalem from captivity because people appeared to be focusing on themselves and their destitute condition (spiritual and economic). The irony of the “paneled” statement is that God was saying these people had lavished so much, time, effort and finances to their own homes that they were paneled…like Solomon’s Temple use to be (1 Kings 6:9, 7:3-cedar).

I guess what really surprises me here is God’s people were still either spiritually ambivalent or just hadn’t gotten the point of the exile. Because the people had gotten so use to thinking that they had found God in the material things of Israel and things like the Temple and not worshipping God proper He had sent them away to Babylonian exile to basically help them sort out their priorities and make them realize that God wasn’t the rituals and sacrifices and the Temple itself but they were only symbolic (this is the problem with idols, even the ones certain Christian denominations don't realize they have). God even said that he would not be with the people if they stayed behind in Jerusalem he would only dwell with those in exile, in Babylonian exile.

Jerusalem and the returnees from Babylonian exile seem to be in a state of moral paralysis and their priorities were completely messed up. Having expected to return to their land and having it be in a state they were familiar with the returned to a city nearly overrun by the desert and things were in ruins. They had no clue where to start or what to do. God was essentially telling them, “WE are starting from scratch and WE are starting with MY house”. God knew that everything else was secondary and being so…already the correct priority (1st, 2nd, 3rd…) of rebuilding was beginning to be established: God first, families, others, and self. It is just a shame that a prophet need to be utilized to get these folks to snap to attention and get with the program. As the first few verse in in this chapter allude and hint at, these people were sort of spiritually empty and “wandering in a spiritual desert”. We could learn a lesson about our priorities and importance of things in our lives today from this episode also. We are often naturally inclined to think of ourselves first before even thinking of even our family. It is sad that we think of the “me” and the “I” before the “we” and the “us”. What we should be doing before we even think at the human level is to think of how God would want us to handle a given situation.

He again exhorts the people to give careful thought to their ways or get their priorities right. Having realized that He should be their first priority God then tells them to go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house (Temple), so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the LORD. He also mentions that they expected much but it turned out to be little. We begin to get the understanding that there is a direct correlation between the problems of the people and the condition of the Temple because of the statement, "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” His signs of withholding blessings from His people were all over and they couldn’t claim ignorance of this fact. He withheld their dew and the earth its crops, He called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.

So they obeyed. Whole-heartedly. Zerubbabel, Joshua, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD. Because of this Haggai (God) gave this message of the LORD to the people: "I am with you," declared the LORD.

Baldwin, Joyce G.. "Now or Never." Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary (The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1981. 37-43. Print.

Lindsey, F. Duane., John Walvoord. "A Judgmental Call To Rebuild The Temple" Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 1985. 1538-1540. Print.

Art: Elevate Bible Story background by jermilex

Examining The Scripture CXLV: Roaring Lions & Evening Wolves

Despite Judah's and Jerusalem's sins, God plan to eventually bless His people Zephaniah 3. Before dwelling on what God promises in Zephaniah 3, the first thing we see is negative attributes of Judah/Jerusalem or as verse 1 says, the “city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled!” as Jerusalem is confronted about her sin and lack of repentance. Sadly the name Jerusalem means: City of Peace. In Zephaniah’s day it was also referred to as the “Holy City”. She obeys no one and accepts no correction. Nor does she trust in the Lord or draw near to Him. Her political leaders and leaders are “roaring lions” and “evening wolves” that leave nothing for morning. Her prophets are arrogant treacherous men and priests profane the sanctuary and do irreparable harm to the Law. This is in stark contrast to what they should’ve been doing which was acting as intermediaries between God and His people. What we see is that leadership was clearly broken and when leadership political and spiritual is broken more often than not those under this leadership are damaged also.

At this point in Judah’s history we see that it is God who is being faithful to the covenant as opposed to God’s covenant people. God’s people are behaving like pagan nations. He then speaks and says, “I have cut off the nations, their strongholds are demolished and their streets are deserted….their cities are destroyed”. In God’s detailing of these actions He is showing what happens to those that do not obey and acknowledge Him as God. God calls Jerusalem to worship in live in fear and awe of Him (respect). This is not to be just a simple emotional reaction to and angry God but a behavioral change indicative of having accept chastisement and repented. There is mention of a cataclysmic end to all those on the earth “The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.”

These statements build the contrast to what follows in the latter portion of this chapter. The chapter as we have seen in other portions of the Old Testament starts out with an itemization or listing of a person or peoples sin, which is quickly followed by the required justice or punishment from God. These dark, ominous and often judgmental tones that open chapters of judgment usually always end in a promised hope of the future and Zephaniah is no different. The chapter shifts gears around verse 9 and the gracious forgiveness of the Gentiles or all the ones that call in the name of the Lord and serve Him shoulder-to-shoulder. The is an idea being presented here of the Gentiles being converted. These aforementioned judgments will not be to annihilate the nations but to purify them and burn off their dross or impurities. Just as God’s Seraphim purified Isaiah’s lips in Isaiah 6 so God will again purge or burn-off man. Only a righteous core will remain after the fire of judgment.

We then reach the passages referring to the remnant or those that are still around after all the judgment and the Day of The Lord. The Jews will finally look by faith upon the Messiah whom they crucified. At that time the Jews will not need to be put to shame because they will be ashamed of what they have done when they see Christ and recognize Him for who and what He is. This will also produce a deep repentance over their transgression. Faith in Christ will make things new. For the first time the Jews will have no enemies because the Lord will have defeated them all. God’s people will rejoice. The people will sing and shout because of all the things that He has done for them. Their punishment will have been taken away. The Lord God will be with them and MIGHTY TO SAVE. God will take great delight in them like a loving parent and they will be content with His love.

Zephaniah then ends with what appears to be a series of blessings promised by God. During 70 years of captivity in Babylon and then in the worldwide dispersion after 70 A.D. the Jewish people will be gathered back together or at least this is hinted at by Zephaniah. His lame people will be rescued. The sorrows for the appointed feasts will be removed from them. The nation will be restored. God’s intervention is evident and imminent in (v. 18-20). In a list the interventions show up as “I will’s” (“some prefaced with “at that time”)

I will remove from you (The sorrows for the appointed feasts)
I will deal with all who oppressed you…
I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered.
I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame.
I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth

Baker, David W.. "The Nature of The Day." Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah.. Downers Grove: Inter-Varisty Press, 1988. 115-121. Print.

Wiersbe, Warren. "The Glory of The Kingdom" Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament: The Prophets (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 2003. 429-432. Print.

Examining The Scripture CXLIV: That Day (of the Lord)

There are a load of references in Zephaniah 1-2 to “a/the day” or “that day” or “that great day of the LORD.” So what is he talking about?

Chapter 1

(v. 7) Be silent before the Lord God! For n the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests.

(v. 8) And on the day of the Lord's sacrifice-“I will punish the officials and the king's sons.

(v. 9) On that day I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold...

(v. 10) “On that day,” declares the Lord, “a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate,

(v. 14)The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast;

(v. 15) [This verse is chock full of “days” and they all allude to “the day of the Lord” in some shape or form].
(v. 15a) A day of wrath is that day,
(v. 15b) a day of distress and anguish,
(v. 15c) a day of ruin and devastation,
(v. 15d) a day of darkness and gloom,
(v. 15e) a day of clouds and thick darkness,

(v. 16) a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.

(v. 18) Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord.

Chapter 2
(v. 2) ...before there comes upon you the burning anger of the Lord, before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the Lord.
(v. 3) …perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord

The great day of the Lord. It is a term coined sporadically throughout the Old Testament but is very heavily used in Zephaniah, chapters 1 & 2. It is a day of judgment but also a day of hope. It is a day specifically relevant to God and His covenant people in that it will be the historical fulfillment of eschatological and apocalyptic prophecy and expectations related to prophecy. Additionally it is also a day of significance to non-covenant people also. It will be a day when God will act in perfect justice and judgment and loving mercy. Specific faults will be numbered against the perpetrators centering on God’s people, Jerusalem first.

Not just any judgment, The Judgment. It is eminent and it is inevitable. It is viewed as a day of reckoning when a person's

“deeds will return upon your own head” Obadiah 15

When sinners will not repent and offer themselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) while allowing Jesus to act as their substitutionary atonement to satisfy God’s wrath, then they themselves become the sacrifices for sin. Then they become victims of their own sins because the wages of sin is death. Sin demands either Jesus’ or yours, if it’s yours you suffer damnation and separation from God for eternity as punishment.

The Judgment of God’s People (v 1:8-13):

Comes first, centered on the religious and economic practices there. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

The Judgment of The Gentiles/The World (v. 1:14-18; 2:2-3):

Comes second. It is during this period that we see allusions to cataclysmic battles encompassing or involving the entire world. In particular we see a grocery list of characteristics in verse 15 given in a staccato manner like blasts from a machine gun, Day of Wrath, Day of Distress, Day of Anguish, Day of Ruin, boom boom boom. Also, although we do not see anymore mentions of “the day” or “day” we do see certain nations called out by name for judgment. This perhaps could be because of the strained or poor relationship they had had with God’s chosen people. They are:
(1) Philistia (v. 4-7)
(2) Moab & Ammon (v. 8-11)
(3) Cush (v. 12)
(4) Assyria (v. 13-15)

Baker, David W.. "The Day of Yahweh." Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah.. Downers Grove: Inter-Varisty Press, 1988. 94-102. Print.

Blue, J. Ronald., John Walvoord. "The Reasons For God’s Judgment on Nineveh" Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 1985. 1508-1516. Print.

Wiersbe, Warren. "The Prophet Worrying" Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament: The Prophets (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 2003. 412-417. Print.

Examining The Scripture CXLIII: Habakkuk Ponders God's Greatness

Habakkuk 3: The structure of this chapter is that of a “prayer psalm” which are leaders or lead into lament or petition Psalms. If we are looking for the closest parallel to a Book is is Psalms. It is closest akin to Psalms 7 (Baker 68). The closest it comes in terms of topic to one that we reviewed the Examining the Scripture series is Psalms 19: Examining The Scripture LXXX: Psalm 19 - Revelation of Creation which also sort of praises God for His design of His creation. The prophet has turned to praising the Lord rather than criticizing and questioning Him as if He was on trial (v. 2).

The prayer to God in verses 1 to 15 are Habakkuk pondering the greatness of God just as David did in the first few verse of Psalm 19. There are also some striking similarities in terms of the topic of Habakkuk 3 to the Song of Moses in Exodus 15, although the structure of Habakkuk is not quite the same as Exodus 15 nor is the entire storyline.

(v. 3-15) God is Praised for His Presence of Majesty

(v. 3a) God’s Arrival: God comes down to His people as a theophany at Sinai to establish His covenant and to liberate His people.
(v. 3b-7) God’s Appearance: At Sinai God had come like a storm sweeping down from the mountain. “His glory covered the heavens and His praise filled the earth”.

(v. 8-15) God’s Actions

(1) We see his actions in nature (v. 8-11)
(1a) Wrath against the rivers, streams, rage against the sea
(1b) The mountains saw God and writhed
(1c) Sun and moon stood still in the heavens

(v. 12-15) God's Actions and Among the Nations

(2) Threshed the nations
(2a) Crushed the leader of the land and stripped him
(2b) To save His anointed
(2c) Trampled the sea with you horses churning the great waters

(v. 16-19) Habakkuk’s Peace in Ministry

(3) His heart pounded, lips quivered, legs trembled and decay crept into his bones (his nervous system went bonkers or internally he was a mess as often happens to people under severe anxiety or stress)
(3a) Even in his weakened state he found a peace and a sense of purpose in his prophetic ministry because a sovereign God was his strength. A God that made his feet like a deer so he could go to the heights.

Baker, David W.. "Habakkuk’s Psalm." Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah.. Downers Grove: Inter-Varisty Press, 1988. 68-77. Print.

Examining The Scripture CXLII: The Question of Evil & God's Gavel

Habakkuk’s dialogue with God is seperated into speeches in 1:1-4, 1:5-11, 1:12-2:1, and 2:2-20.

Speech I
Habakkuk 1:1-4

Habakkuk’s first dialogue is actually a clarion call of every person that has ever sat there and asked “Why does God never answer my prayer?” or “Why does God allow good people to suffer and bad to prosper?” Habakkuk is puzzled why the Lord appears to be doing nothing when everything Habakkuk understands about God dictates in Habakkuk’s mind that God should do something like judging, sending fireballs from heaven, smiting somebody or zapping something and burning it to a smoldering cinder. Habakkuk wants to know why God continues to make him look upon injustices without doing something about them. He wants to know why God is dragging His “feet” tolerating and the abounding conflicts, destruction and violence that are before Him. (v. 4) The people had even neglected God’s Law. Therefore the “Law is paralyzed (numbed)” and the wicked have “hemmed in the righteous”. Why doesn’t God care? God needs to act according to Habakkuk! We see similarities here to the book of Job where a human being thinks he knows what God should be doing (see Examining The Scripture LXXIV: Job's First Discourse & The Problem of Suffering). What we should realize right off the bat is that we need to take what we've learned from the story of Job and also apply it here. We do not know the mind of God nor should we assume to. God does things in His own time for His own purposes and we neither have the ability to nor the position to understand why. What we see in Habakkuk similar to the Book of Job is that God actually condescends to give Habakkuk an answer. An answer that he views as troubling as the allowance of evil and injustice that he is faced with. Habakkuk is in a Catch-22.

Speech II
Habakkuk 1:5-11

The Lord replies to Habakkuk and tells him to “Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed. God through His sovereignty over all nations was about to do something that would knock Habakkuk’s socks off (sorry, I thought all the K’s were funny). The Lord was about to raise up the Babylonians and they would sweep across the land and seize places that were not their own. According to the Lord they would be fearful and dreaded, a law unto themselves solely out to further themselves and their own honor. By implication, nothing would stand in their way and they would march over the land like an unstoppable juggernaut. They would “fly like a vulture swooping to devour…bent on violence. Their hordes would advance like desert wind, gather prisoners like sand. Nothing would stop them not kings, fortified cities. There only belief is in their own power. You get the sense this will be a merciless onslaught.

Speech III
Habakkuk 1:12-2:1

As if the Lord’s first response isn’t enough, Habakkuk goes looking for trouble by leveling another complaint or lament at God based off of God’s answer (he’s a glutton for punishment). Like a good believer should he starts out praising God’s justice and holiness attribute(s) . He really concentrates on God’s holiness and everlasting nature. That he is perfectly just and it is proper that He judge men. This is then contrasted with the fact that the people would be helpless against Babylonian incursion. How could God allow His weak people to be invaded by a people that would ruthlessly steamroll them and annihilate at will. Why would God employ a people worse than Judah to punish them? Habakkuk couldn’t grasp God’s reasons. He never questions whether or not they deserve it, it is the severity he is now concerned with. Habakkuk closes his lament stationed on the ramparts to see what God would say in reply.

Speech IV
Habakkuk 2:2-20

God replies not only to Habakkuk but also to the people by telling him to write down the revelation and make it clear on tablets so that a herald can run with it. An end is coming and it is certain although it may not happen immediately. It would happen at God’s “appointed time”. We see a threat of impending doom being made that would now hang over Judah like a dark cloud. The threat/promise itself would be its own punishment in the form or anxiety for any that heard and believed it. No one would know for certain when that day would be.

In verses 4 and 5 we see an introduction to verse 6-20 which are described as “taunting woes”. This introduction alludes to the fact that Babylonians were puffed up (like a bloated toad). Their desires are not upright which is in stark contrast to people that need to live by faith. Their wickedness like wine betrays them. Their arrogance doesn’t rest and their greed is like the grave, never satisfied with its totals of victims.

So begins the “taunting woes” of chapter 2. The interjection woe is used to show pronounced distress in the face of a disaster and was used quite often by the prophets, especially here in Habakkuk.

The Woe of Self Ambition and Intimidation (v. 6-8)

(a) Woe to him who piles up goods: In accruing ill-gained plunder leads to the next question
(b) How long will this go on? How long would evil aggressors be permitted to keep ill-gotten plunder?

Having not gotten an answer the questioning continues...

(c) Will debtors not suddenly arise? Won’t victimized nations not revolt
(d) Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Babylon would become the victim by the very nations they victimized.
(e) The spoiler would be spoiled

The Woe of Hedonism & Covetousness (v. 9-11)

(a) The Babylonians are guilty of unjust gain. God hats injustice. They also used this gain to self-aggrandize.
(b) To elevate themselves by stepping on the necks and backs of those conquered and because of this they will forfeit their own lives
(c) The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it. Even if every single person was exterminate the remaining woodwork and stone would bear testimony to the Babylonian’s cruelty

The Woe of Iniquity & Exploitation (v. 12-14)

(a) The very foundation of Babylon were built on bloodshed this is especially true of Nineveh as indicated by the word “city”.
(b) All the efforts of Babylonians will amount to zero . Their labor will only add to their downfall. As opposed to the Lord whose glory will fill the whole earth.

The Woe of Indignity, Drunkenness & Violence (v. 15-17)

(a) The Babylonians are pictured as barbaric like a drunk giving neighbors wine to intoxicate them so that they can engage in evil and and expose their victims to shame.
(b) There is mention of the “cup of the Lord’s right hand” which is a cup of wrath coming to be poured out
(c) Not only did Babylon commit atrocities against other men but apparently against animals and lands too.

The Woe of Idolatry (v. 18-20)

(a) Idols are of no value for they are deader than the stone they are made from, they are not gods, just lawn ornaments.
(b) To trust in such an object was to trust a lie. People were deceived and deluded by these things. If they were receiving guidance from them it certainly was guidance and knowledge from God but from a satanic source.
(c) The Lord on the other hand is the Creator or the creator of the idol and is therefore worthy of honor. The Lord, giver and taker of life.

Baker, David W.. "The Problem of Wickedness." Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah.. Downers Grove: Inter-Varisty Press, 1988. 52-67. Print.

Blue, J. Ronald., John Walvoord. "The Reasons For God’s Judgment on Nineveh" Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 1985. 1508-1516. Print.

Wiersbe, Warren. "The Prophet Worrying" Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament: The Prophets (Bible Knowledge). Acambaro: Victor, 2003. 412-417. Print.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...