April 30, 2011

The Body of Him

Many things strike me as I learn more of the Gospel of John and wrap up 16 weeks of reading about it and studying it for a second time this year. I had studied it for a personal Bible study before my class also. The first...

"At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid." John 20:41
In John’s story of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus he states that Jesus is laid in a tomb in a garden. He is the only on to do so. So I suppose it is not ironic that Jesus is resurrected in that Garden so to overturn the curse in Adam (and Eve) who sin is initiated with and subsequently imputed to us. Thereby they are kicked out of...a garden.

The second... When John speaks of the body of Jesus he does so with reverence. John is distinct and careful not to mention the body of Christ as an “it” or anything less than a body with a personal pronoun attached to it in the Greek. It is always referred to as the “body of Jesus”.

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body [of Him- σωμα αυτου in Greek which refers to the antecedent] away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds] Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. John 19:38-42
I am not sure if there is a deliberate reason John states verse 42 the way he does but it is stated in such a way that…if you didn’t know Jesus had been crucified and killed, it could be inferred as if Jesus was there in person. It is interesting and clever usage of words. It is as if John is saying they are actually placing the person of Christ in the grave even though at the time it is only the body. This is an immense and deliberate amount of reverence for a body from which the Spirit had departed. Knowing that John writes this in hindsight reinforces his whole stated thesis…”so that you may believe”. John knows that this body will, in three days be transformed into the Resurrection body of Christ. Wow!

Minor Prophets LXXIX: Some People Never Learn

We see the phrase, "The day of the LORD," declared clearly in Zephaniah. It is the most abundant frequncy of its use in the Minor Prophets outsode of Joel. 

Zephaniah 1:2-[Judgment on the Whole Earth in the Day of the LORD ] “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.

Zephaniah 1:7-Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.

Zephaniah 1:14-The great day of the LORD is near— near and coming quickly. The cry on the day of the LORD is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry.

Zechariah 14:1-[ The LORD Comes and Reigns ] A day of the LORD is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls.

The other prophets that contain this coming day are Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Zechariah and Malachi are the other prophets (both major and minor).

In Zephaniah 2, in light of the coming "day of the LORD," Zephaniah offers a prophets advise in verse 1-3. Judah is summoned to repent. Period. Judah is addressed as a nation. They are called to seek the Lord before it is too late which leads one to believe that they were not looking for Him or not acknowledging Him. It is clear judgment is imminent. For the same reasons we can believe that they were not trying to be righteous, were not being humble and because of this they were provoking God’s wrath and anger.
As a point of comparison I will now list the various nations that are promised judgment Zephaniah 2:4-15 and then the lists of the nations promised judgement in other prophetic books.

Philistia: The names Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron (and Gath not mentioned) were City-States in Philistia. These names are intentional wordplays in Hebrew to create similar sounds. Woe to you who live by the sea.

Moab and Ammon: The Lord speaks in the first person here. He says He has heard the insults of Moab and the taunts of the Ammonites that insult His people and makes threats against them. They will meet the same demise as Sodom (Moab) and Gomorrah (Ammonites). They will become a place of weeds and salt pits and a wasteland forever.
Cush: Cush’s promised judgment is succinct, “You Cushites, too, will be slain by my sword.”

Assyria: Assyria’s end will not be pretty either. He will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, leaving Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert.

...and now the list of nations found in Isaiah 13-23, Jeremiah 46-51, and Ezekiel 25-32.

Isaiah 13: Prophecy Against Babylon, Philistines
Isaiah 15 & 16: A Prophecy Against Moab
Isaiah 17: Prophecy Against Damascus
Isaiah 18: Prophecy Against Cush
Isaiah 19: Prophecy Against Egypt
Isaiah 20: Prophecy Against Egypt and Cush
Isaiah 21: Prophecy Against Babylon, Edom, Arabia
Isaiah 22: Prophecy About Jerusalem
Isaiah 23: Prophecy Against Tyre

Jeremiah 46: Message About Egypt
Jeremiah 47: Message About the Philistines
Jeremiah 48: Message About Moab
Jeremiah 49: Message About Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, Elam
Jeremiah 50: Message About Babylon

Ezekiel 25: Prophecy Against Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia
Ezekiel 26: Prophecy Against Tyre
Ezekiel 27: Lament Over Tyre
Ezekiel 28: Prophecy Against the King of Tyre and a Prophecy Against Sidon
Ezekiel 29: A Prophecy Against Egypt Judgment on Pharaoh
Ezekiel 30: A Lament Over Egypt-Destruction of Egypt and their allies.

I sense a pattern with some of these nations like Egypt, Tyre, Babylon, etc etc…duhhhh. When we see these patterns repeated ad nauseum in the Old Testament it is understandable that God would judge them since He is a just God. Modern readers (or any readers for that matter) really show their misunderstanding of the Bible when they make ridiculous statements like, "The God of the Old Testament was harsh or more judgemental" the God of the New Testament is much more loving and friendly. First off, if man got what he really deserved as many  often demand of God...they would be incinerated and burnt to a cinder where they stood because of their sin. Second, they have not done a really good job of reading the book of Revelation either. Because The Revelation of Jesus Christ is clear. The Tribulation will be worse than anything that has come before it bar-none. That includes World Wars, the Holocaust and the all the death and destruction of the Old Testament. In other words: All Hell is going to break loose.

Perhaps we in this day and age can learn a lesson vicariously through our ancient counterparts? Or maybe not. I dare say we are repeating in a mirror form the same sins of these ancient peopless and we see how they ended up. Do we want to meet the same end? Do we repent or continue on this path of sinfulness and wickedness? I dare say we have definitively turned our back on the only One who matters and we have not just begun to walk away from Him...we have begun to run.

April 28, 2011

The Light Betrayed In Darkness

Jesus is troubled three times in the Gospel of John. The first time was when He approached Lazarus' tomb (John 11:33). The second was after His entry into Jerusalem and the Greeks approached and want to speak with Him and He declares that, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." The third is the fact that one of His disciples will betray Him. It doesn't surprise Him as He knew beforehand this would occur as it was the will of the Father. It did trouble Him though. It is indeed troubling even for us as readers and believers when we come across this set of passages in John. Who in their right mind would betray the Son of God. I guess that is the point. No one would betray the Son of God in their right mind. Only a mind or minds broken would.

It is within the 13th Chapter of John that something dark and twisted begins to take place. Something twisted and profound. The period of this Passover had been deeply disturbing and from all outward appearances - tormenting. They would continue on this course also. Jesus not only anticipated His death, He spoke of it with His disciples and told them that they were, "going to have the light just a little while longer". The anticipation of knowing your death is coming cannot be easy--even for Jesus. It is in the shadow corridors of chapter 13 that things turn downright sinister.

Who shall betray the Chosen One? We and Simon Peter are told via the disciple whom Jesus loved that it will be, "the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas...as soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. Not just a demon but Satan. this is the first mention in John of the proper noun. Before this time he had been referred to as the devil (John 6:70) but now we see the bastard son of lies and perdition, Satan himself. This is done to show definitively that Judas comes under the sway and authority of someone other than Jesus Himself.

The giving of bread is ironic if not symbolic. In His ministry Jesus had referred to Himself as the Bread of Life that had come down from Heaven (John 6:32-40, 48-51). Whose body and blood (a metonymy for life) results in eternal life. Such a powerful statement being misunderstood drives disciples away from Jesus and they stopped following Him. It was at that time when some of the disciples left that Jesus had made the comment, (v.71) “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!”

Back in Chapter 12 we see Jesus give Judas the piece of bread before he departs under the power of Satan. John emphasizes bread and the giving of bread in the Gospel of John by repeating. We must pay close attention to anything in Scripture that is repeated. It is being repeated to draw attention to it due to its importance. With this act of giving bread to His betrayer Jesus symbolically offers Himself to Judas a final time. It is exactly at this time that Satan enters him. The power and principality that holds sway in this sinful and fallen world system. Judas not only betrays Jesus at this point but he betrays Him to His death.

What I find remarkable in this John 13:27 is the usage of grammar and syntax in Greek. The verse literally reads:

"μετα το ψωμιον - τοτε εισηλθεν εις - εκεινον - ο σατανας"
"after the morsel - then entered into- that one- the satan"

"That one"...as if Judas has now lost a sense of identity and has become something more than himself...or less. Judas, now under the authority of the powers of the dark. Not under the power of a demon or and evil spirit(s) but Satan himself. Scumbag. God has allowed the slanderer a foothold in Judas to use him as a tool to carry out the biggest miscarriage of justice in history---The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

"So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night." John 13:30

So Judas departs into the dark. He leaves the Light of the World to enter the betraying darkness.
In John's Gospel he uses the word [παραδίδωμι / paradidomi] or betray/betrayal. This words speaks of not only Juda's deed but also the Temple leadership. They too betray Jesus (God) when bringing Him to Pontius Pilate(John 18:30). Paradidomi implies the transfer of something or Someone from one realm of authority to another one. Jesus is given into the hands the world system (Satan's). he is delivered up to the custody of the world, to be judged, condemned, punished, scourged, tormented and put to death.

This is in stark contrast to Jesus Himself and God. God...and the act of giving. In contrast to the paradidomi of Satan, man and the world we see  [δίδωμι / didomi] or the give/gave from God. God gave us His Son (John 3:16). Paradidomi or betrayal is the behavior or act of one who does not believe. It literally means to toss, throw away or reject. Didomi or give is an act (of grace) out of love such as giving a gift (to the world). God gives His Son, in turn Judas and the religious leaders reject Him and take His life instead...or at least they thought they did. In actuality Christ "gave" [παρεδωκεν] or "surrendered" it of His own accord. Those boneheads couldn't even get that part right...unless God allowed it.

"So Jesus said to them, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going." John 12:35

What is Jesus saying here? HE is the light and they would be well advised to walk in It [Him]. It is clear that Jesus views the darkness as a realm or sphere that must be resisted. The realm of Satan. If you are of Christ and in Christ you will shine like a light in the darkness. What must also be considered is this...a light in the darkness is easily spotted and that skunk the Devil will do whatever he can to snuff it out. He will at least try to dim it. The more He can trip you up or get you to trip yourself up the dimmer he can make your light. Dwell fully in Christ and blaze like a torch in this dark world.

April 27, 2011

Minor Prophets LXXVIII: Searchlamps

In Zephaniah 1:4-13 we see the same ethical, moral, and religious conditions that we have seen all throughout Judah's history.

(v.4) mentions Baal worship in Jerusalem and it clearly involves their idolatrous priests. They were swearing by the Lord and Molech and they were not seeking the Lord and this was despite official action by Josiah to eliminate it. Pockets of Baalism still existed.

(v.5) “Those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host” is reference to pagan worship. Housetops were flat and were therefore good places for worship and viewing the sky. Astrology and the worship of heavenly bodies in view here. Moses warned against worshipping the “starry host” (Deut. 4:19). These people were seriously messed up in the head. They were quite confused. Not unlike those today that think they can mix what the culture idolizes and the Lord too.

(v.6) Faithless and indifferent is how these folks come off in v.6. They neither seek not ask of Him.

(v.8) Royalty (officials: sarim) and the king’s sons are singled out. They should lead people to righteousness not down the path to sin, evil and destruction. Josiah due to his righteous leadership is exempted but not others. The “foreign clothes” mentioned is more than likely an allusion to the fact that the people were dressing in the styles of other nations and this indicates their first inclination was away from their God and towards the mores and desires of the culture which were leaning more and more towards pagan nations.

(v.9) “On that day I will punish all who avoid stepping on the threshold” Appears to be a reference to a cult practice that is mentioned in 1 Samuel 5:5 (Longman et al 666) where pagan priests would not step on of a sacrosanct threshold. They fill the temples of their gods with violence and deceit.

(v.12) “…I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs” I actually get a visual here of God with a police searchlight and pinpointing in a beam of light the guilty where they stand. Caught dead to rights, the complacent that are like the bitter waste at the bottom of a bottle of wine.

Are we doing something we shouldn't? Will God's spotlight be turned on us at some point for our infractions? When the light from God comes to bear on us will we be found doing something that will compromise our rewards in heaven? What if we are just called to task and it isn't even our judgment yet? What if we are caught doing something that brings shame not only to ourselves but to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must always consider our actions may not just adversely affect us but those that we love.

So...are you still willing to commit the sin in light of knowing there will be others that you will hurt?

It may not have embarrassed you, will it embarrass others? Bring them shame? Bring a black mark against the Church. Against the name of Christ? Are you prepared to do that? Think before you act people. Eternal lives and salvation of many depend on it. The higher profile you are the more people will see your bad behavior when you crash and burn.

Longman, Tremper, and David E. Garland. "Judgment for Judah" The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Daniel-Malachi . Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2006. 666. Print.

April 26, 2011

Minor Prophets LXXVII: Zephaniah Superscription

"The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, during the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah"  Zephaniah 1:1
We can glean quite a few historical facts about the prophet and his times from verse 1. We know the word of the Lord comes to Zephaniah during the reign of Josiah king of Judah. If the naming of the sons is sequential and linear we know that Zephaniah is the great-great-grandson of Hezekiah (yes, the king). It is interesting that Zephaniah’s lineage is traced back four generations. We also can determine from other sources that Josiah became king at the age of eight. His father was Amon who was assassinated. We know then that both Zephaniah and Josiah have a common ancestor in Hezekiah, who ironically was a good king. Josiah and Zephaniah were both good at least initially. It is not surprising that we see a sort of mini-revival when there is good secular and good spiritual leadership in Judah. Some references even goe as far to assume Zephaniah’s royalty.

"I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD. “I will sweep away both man and beast; I will sweep away the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea-and the idols that cause the wicked to stumble.” “When I destroy all mankind on the face of the earth,” declares the LORD" Zephaniah 1:2-3

We then confront a judgment statement to nearly dwarf all other judgement statements. No hem and no haw. in verses 2-3. There is a bold declaration right off the bat. It is clear in its scope also. The Lord “will sweep away both man and beast; sweep away the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea…and the idols that cause the wicked to stumble.” Even more boldly we hear: “I destroy all mankind on the face of the earth”. This is a universal judgment “all mankind”. Zephaniah uses the words “sweep away” three times in two verses. We see total and abrupt judgment on men/animals then air/birds and finally sea/marine life. We see the reversal of creation. God will destroy what he created. This is essentially what man would consider a death penalty. It should be understood that this is a penalty on the wicked.

Hannah, John D. "Micah: Micah’s Confidence In The Lord ." The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition Of The Scriptures. Ed John Walvoord & Roy Zuck. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1985. 1490-1492. Print.

Laetsch, Theodore Ferdinand Karl. "Zephaniah." Bible commentary: the minor prophets.. Saint Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1956. 354-382

April 25, 2011

Minor Prophets LXXVI: Decay Crept Into My Bones

"I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior." ~Habakkuk 3:16-18   

Habakkuk 3:16-18 reveals a heart for God and a fear for God that every believing Christian should understand firsthand. If they do not feel the way Habakkuk does in these verses they are not understanding God correctly and they are not paying God the proper respect that He deserves. In these verse we see something akin to Isaiah's "Woe is me!" moment when his human frailness and finiteness rush in and overwhelm him. Same here with Habakkuk. Same with anyone that truly understands that they have had a encounter with the divine. I will also admit right now that if a person has had an encounter it will affect them both physically and psychologically. I shakes you to your core.

Even after being confronted with the fact that his nation is about to be ransacked Habakkuk finds the time and condition of heart to acknowledge God’s greatness. He sees his world on the edge of a precipice ready to fall in. When he looked to God in faith he saw hope in Him and rejoiced in his Savior. I know these feelings, especially the heart pounding, trembling legs and the decay creeping into my bones. You actually feel God's presence (at least I have). When your world shatters and is turned upside down. Anxiety and apprehension absolutely derail your life and there is nowhere else to look for help except up. In this situation, in this encounter you do not walk away from the Living God unchanged. This is how I am certain I was converted. This is how I know it was Him.

When God is present, the room I am within seems too small. The area I am in seems too small. I become acutely aware of my mortality and my humanness. Yet I will wait and by God’s grace survive the encounters when they happen. This is fear and awe of the Lord. I knew (and so did Habakkuk), no matter how disastrous things become and no matter how far off track things get, God is still God. God is still sovereign and sitting in the driver’s seat. I know that if someone dies, God is there when they go. If plans fail it is because God wanted them to for whatever reasons He has. I also know that these things happen for the good of those who love Him.

Once we realize this fear is a natural reaction to us coming in contact with Someone that is wholly "Other" we then realize that we need not fear if we are obedient and repent. We should still have a healthy sense of awe and reverence but not unmitigated abject fear. That fear and dread should be reserved for the unrepentant and disobedient. Unfortunetly, those people are either so far gone or so arrogant thy have become too numb or to stupid to fear God. This is just like a child whacking a hornets nest and has no clue they are about to have a world of hurt brought down on them.

April 24, 2011

He Opened Their Minds To The Scripture

“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”" Luke 24:13-32

This is the passage my pastor preached on today for Easter. He had a good sermon. The focus point or take away is that we are journeying in life just as these two men were walking away from Jerusalem after Christ’s death. They are dejected because their plans that they had are shattered they did not get what they wanted. But Jesus enters the scene and explains to them what has happened and it changes their perspective. The very way they have viewed this episode of Jesus’ death and resurrection has been turned on its head. They have had a paradigm shift. They have not gotten what they wanted which was more than likely a conquering King that would overthrow Rome. Instead they have gotten what they needed. They got a salvational sacrifice in the form of the Lamb of God. Didn’t get what they wanted but when they had it explained to them and communicated in the correct manner they then see and hear what they needed. What God wanted them to have all along. All in all a good sermon. I of course have just encapsulated it in a paragraph. I have done so because there is something more that I walked out of that sanctuary with.

As a courtesy to new members there was something new in the church today. Today there was a signer in the front or a person who communicates to the deaf. Apparently we now have a person that is deaf or hearing impaired in our congregation. As I listen to my pastor I watch with fascination to see how many words I can pick out from the gestures. As a child my best friend had a sister who was hearing impaired and as is often the case, through exposure I picked things up.

I sit and watch the hands move to communicate to the man in the front row. I hear the voice of my pastor over the PA system. I think about the fact that I am in school and translate the Greek text into a language usable to those that read English so that I can better illustrate the “feel”and the “color” behind the Koine Greek of the 1st Century. I hear the pastor use colloquialisms and wonder..."what is the signer actually saying to the man as she communicates the pastor’s message?” I am not totally sure but I am pretty sure that there is no direct translation of “boondoggled” in sign language. So how was it translated? Is it true to the context of the message? Is it true to the intent of the pastor? Does it really matter? Does the joy and emphatic nature of my pastor translate through the signer like I am hearing it? How the pastor delivers often time puts the liveliness back into God’s word because, after all, he his translating and trying to explain a text over 2000 years old. He is trying to contemporize it in a manner that people in 2011 will understand it…exactly the same way that the men on the road to Emmaus would’ve understood it when Jesus told them. So that our hearts would burn within us also.

Then I think to the message itself. God had done something so mind-boggling for humanity that even those close to Christ couldn’t figure out on their own, they had to have it explained to them… by the very God man that had to endure it first hand to make it happen. It is only through the act of translating the idea in words by the very person that endured these travails that it makes sense to them. It is the power of the Word. It is the power of God’s Word, the power of God’s spoken word…or perhaps not spoken. Perhaps communicated and expounded upon until the moment of recognition sparks in another person. Isn’t that what the Gospels about? Communicating the message until another party “gets it”? To use any method necessary to get the point across? We do it for our children. We will bend over backwards to assure that our children are exposed and explained the Gospel as young as possible. Why? Because we want them brainwashed as early as possible? NO! It is because the message we are sending is that important! It is the Good News. The blessed hope. As for our behaviors, as Christians we do things within communities because we love our neighbors. But others see the things we do…and this too sends a message.

Soooo…. I hear the pastor explain the passage to the congregation. I sit watching the silent exchange between the “signer/speaker/translator” and the “listener”. It is then that all of this starts to click into place and I begin to “get it” more than I had anticipated or prepared for.

Jesus explains the Gospel, from Moses to the Prophets and at some point Cleopas and the other man walking with Jesus “get it”. At some point I hear my pastor and I “get in” too. Same message, same God. Different words, different vehicle for delivering the words. Although the words are delivered on different dates, to different people it communicates the same hope and same joy. It is the idea we communicate and we do it any way we can because the message is that important.

The pastor explains the Scripture to the entire congregation just as Jesus explains things to our ancient friends that are sixty stadia (7 mile) from Jerusalem. What do these men do as soon as they “get it” These men immediately turn and go back Jerusalem to tell others. The word of this is too important to keep to themselves.

“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” Luke 24:33-35

Back to modern day...
The signer having heard the pastor explains or translates this message and what the pastor meant to convey to the congregation...and to a man who cannot hear or understand the pastor directly since there is a seperation

The message of the Road to Emmaus has transcended death in Christ to be explained to two men walking on a dusty road leaving Jerusalem. The message or story of these men and Jesus has transcended the intervening centuries and millennia to reach the eyes and ears of my pastor and his listeners. The message has transcended all the intervening sin of both senders and receivers of the message to arrive at Northpointe Community Church on Easter April 24th, 2011. Once it arrives here it then transcends the barrier in place due to a man’s hearing impairment. It jumps from the verbal and audible to silence and gesticulation…yet it is still “heard”.

It is the belief of the men in the story that drive the story forward. The belief in Christ. It is the belief of my pastor and his conviction that creates a contemporized version of this story simplified enough that all in attendance could understand. It is the belief of the signer and the deaf man that have them seated in that service at that time. It is the belief of the signer that puts her hands into motion. It is the belief and desire of this man who cannot hear that makes him fixate on this woman’s gesticulations so that he can “hear” this message…and believe.

I wonder how far this deaf man will now travel to “speak” and "communicate” this message to others. I wonder what form of communication it will be. Will it be signed or will it be typed like I type to you now? You read these words and you hear them (in your head) yet I have“said” nothing aloud. These words speak for themselves. Even If I said nothing of the Lord…the stones would cry out. Perhaps this is kind of what Jesus meant when he speaks of keeping the disciples silent in Luke 19:40?

The Word will find a way, it always does. The Word will be heard one way or another. I saw the Word today and when I saw it I heard it too. It was my heart that did the listening. I saw the Word of God in that signers hands and I believed...

Believe: Signposts That Point To the Kingdom

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:31

What does John mean when he says belief/believe? He means a personal response to Jesus' claim of being from God, is one with God, that He is the Son of God who has come into the world (time and space). To believe that everything He did and said were the works and words of God. To trivialize this, to deny this or to demean this in any fashion constitutes unbelief and is worthy of condemnation, not conversation. 

Elsewhere in the Gospels we see Jesus' amazing works referred to as miracles. In John we see them referred to as signs. John had his theological reasoning for doing this. Mostly because John wanted to show that Jesus' signs [σημειων] were signposts or indicators that the Kingdom of God [βασιλεια του θεου] had arrived in the form of Jesus and His signs pointed the way. To show that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. If the Kingdom had come in power as Jesus had said it was, it was best revealed in the works that Jesus did that transcended the normal or nature/natural. It is where we would expect to find God. In the supernatural. The signs. The very thing that modern liberal scholars reject because of their improbability are the very things that we as believers should look for when attempting to sort out what is purely naturalistic and that which is from beyond. The very things that are unexplainable through naturalistic human means should be the focal point of man's desire to encounter the Divine in Scripture. That which is from God. So that we may believe.

The outcroppings and manifestations of the Kingdom of God. The point at which we see the absolute holiness of Christ and His grace and mercy pierce time and space and blossom into our vision. We see seven distinct "signs" in John.

Water to wine John 2:1-12
Healing of the official’s son John 4:43-54
Healing a paralyzed man John 5:1-15
Feeding 5000 John 6:1-15
Walking on water John 6:16-24
Healing a man born blind John 9:1-12

Then the most dramatic sign before Jesus' crucifixion which itself is a signpost to the Kingdom is the raising Lazarus from the dead. This also was so that the people would believe.

"So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face." John 11:41-44

Signs inspire and inspired belief. We see this plainly stated by Jesus in the episode of Lazarus.

"So then he told them plainly,“Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” John 11:14-15

In these seven signs we see heaven or the Kingdom of God break through to us through Jesus' works. In the crucifixion we will see Jesus bridge this chasm completely when He is "lifted up"...to be suspended between heaven and earth. Between the holy and the sinful. Between man and the divine. Forever connecting the two. 

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." John 12:32

When we look at the disciples and followers of Jesus we see that Nathanael believes in Jesus because of a sign (John 1:50) . Other disciples believe because of the miracle/sign at Cana (John 2:11) . The royal official believes because of the sign of His word (John 4:48) . The man born blind believes in Jesus as the Son of God because He sees (John 9:35-38) . Many people believed after the raising of Lazarus (John 11:45) . Before Jesus raises Lazarus we see Jesus challenge Martha to believe and she responds commendably. She states, "You are the Christ, Son of God who is to come into the world." Great answer. What we see interwoven with these signs that also solicit belief are Christ's words (John 4:39, 41, 50; 5:24, 27; 8:30; 17:30, etc).

All of these signs and words point to Jesus' death...and ultimately to His resurrection. The first seven signs initiate the final sign. It is especially at the raising of Lazarus from the dead that we see the immediate preceding parallel of what Jesus will go through. It is also at this preceding parallel that we see the wicked actions and heart condition of the religious leaders and the powers of the dark. The raising of Lazarus so infuriates the religious leaders that they seek to kill Lazarus and plot to kill Jesus (John 11:45-57) . In these verses the Sanhedrin meets and ask:

“What are we accomplishing? Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” John 11:47-48

Even they religious leaders understood how the signs were resulting in belief. In addition, their rejection of Jesus and embrace of their own legalistic twisting of God's law they have shown exactly who is their master...and it isn't Jesus

Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:42-47

We also see the temple come up again. Little do they realize that Jesus himself is performing the function of the temple. Jesus’ presence among His people as a sacrifice is the final once and for all connection between heaven and earth. Then Caiaphas unwittingly prophesies of the final sign in John by saying:

“You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (11:50)

Jesus speaks all throughout His ministry of belief. He tells Nicodemus that:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son." John 3:16-18

In Jesus' last discourse (Upper Room Discourse)  He speaks to the disciples about belief:

“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. John 13:19

"Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:10-12

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. John 14:28

"I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe." John 14:29

Jesus tells Thomas after His Resurrection that those who have not experienced His earthly ministry yet still believe are blessed (John 20:8) . Belief /faith is the key theme through Jesus' ministry and the Bible at large. It is Jesus' primary teaching outside of His death which itself was according to Scripture. We then have His burial...according to Scripture, and then His Resurrection according to Scripture. Jesus constantly and continually challenges those around Him to respond in faith and belief. In belief of His claim that He has come from the Father. In the belief that these signs that He has produced were solely for the benefit of glorifying God.

What Jesus' ministry does not allow is for one to be apathetic. It does not allow one to not act. The very act of inaction in and of itself constitutes a lack of faith and thereby makes one condemned. You must either believe or not believe and inaction is unbelief. To not make a decision actually constitutes a decision...a bad one. One must decide if Jesus has come from God. One must decide if He is God. One must respond to His words. Jesus' words do not fall on deaf ears, they fall on ignorant ones. Even Lazarus heard Him, a dead man! Dead men don't hear folks! Living ignorant people have no excuse. To claim you have not heard when a dead man could hear Jesus leaves one no excuse at all. It just shows selective hearing or brazen ignorance/arrogance.

Unbelief is to deny Jesus' works. Unbelief is deny Jesus' words. To deny Jesus is to deny the Father. This denial results in condemnation because it exposes one to the wrath and justice of a holy God. To deny who Jesus is shows that the observer does not recognize that Jesus is indeed from the Father. If you cannot recognize what is and what is not of God...this shows just how separated that person is from God and the things of God.

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son." John 3:18

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them." John 3:36

Christ and His works were not only the signpost to the Kingdom, he was the way to the Kingdom. He was the Way, The Truth and the Life. The religious leaders and sinners like them are the road blocks or speed bumps. Inhibitors. Sinners are inhibitors to progress to the Kingdom until they too become signposts remade as new creations in the image of their Master. Signs that are there to give you direction to your intended destination are only as good as the one who creates the sign. If you have a liar giving you bad directions you will never arrive at your destination or the wrong one but if you have the One who came from the Kingdom, who came from the Father telling you how to get there and you accept His directions...you are as good as there already.

As for the Pharisees and those pharisaical we only need to read the following passages to come to grips with the end of those that put themselves or other men before God.

"But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “ Lord, who has believed our report?And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:“ He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn. So that I should heal them.” These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. John 12:37-41

The fact that many failed to believe in Jesus' words about Himself is a fulfillment of two passages from Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13, 53:12). The Servant-King-Shepherd. The man of sorrows rejected by His own people (John 1:11). He will take upon Himself the transgression, iniquity and affliction due others. But yet...

"Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." John 12:42-43

The word praise [δόξα/doxa] (better understood as glory) is used to describe life giving nature but here it is attributed to certain religious leaders that prefer the δόξα of men to that of God. They prefer the status or "glory" attained in the eyes of men rather than that of One much more important...that of God. They thereby reject the status they would have personally attained had they gone with the Son of God. In John 12:42 the word "confess" is [ὁμολογέω/homologeo] in the imperfect tense. This indicates that these Pharisees were retreating from a view or opinion they once held. In other words they are being peer-pressured and influenced by other people to abandon their beliefs....that Jesus is the Son of God and then subsequently His teachings and words. This shows why the prophecy of Isaiah is filled. Man abandons God. God never abandons men.

One's response to Jesus is a response to God. Those that come to the Light (Jesus) and those that do the Truth are true believers. Jesus states that He did not come to judge the world but to save it (John 3:17-18). People judge themselves by their response to Jesus' words. By refusing to accept Jesus and accept His words (and work), they have chosen to live in darkness rather than the Light. They condemn themselves.

These words applied to the Pharisees and religious leaders then...and they apply to us now. May the Spirit of Christ dwell in you richly and may His words reshape and remake your life. Happy Risen Christ Day.

April 23, 2011

When Good Men Do Nothing

I don't know, I guess I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Perhaps it is because the flesh has reared up in me. Perhaps it is righteous indignation. Perhaps it is because every time I turn on my television I am being lied to by the media. It might be because every time I hear a politician speak or see their lips move it is because they are probably lying or deliberately being deceptive to serve their ends. Perhaps it's because of the recent controversy over Rob Bell or televangelists on TBN raking the poor and downtrodden over the coals for their last dollar by promising healing and riches (contrary to methodologies outlined in Scripture). Most likely it is because I am a disciple of Christ in search of His truth. Because of His truth I can more clearly see what amounts to deception in contrast to Him.

Of late people not making clear statements has been annoying me to no end. People communicating in half truths and not being clear is driving me batty and nuttier than a fruitcake. People not being decisive has become the scourge of our world. People say what they don't mean and mean what they don't say. Any communication from people that deliberately does not come right out and state a clear truth or purposely makes things more difficult to understand makes me question their motives.

Another issue on the table in terms of communication is we Christians who have become to gun-shy or tentative in our approach to addressing untruth's or even our willingness to make clear statements when confronted with these ambiguities or outright stated untruths or heresies. We have begun to tiptoe around clear statements of denunciation. We do it while we are staring vapidly in the face of what is a statement contradictory to the Bible or a statement so close to being contradictory to the Bible that the difference is indistinguishable.

People tell me that my annoyance with these things make me intolerant and shows me for the sinner or hypocrite that I am. Intolerant. This might be the most aggravating word today in the English language (or any language for that matter). In my desire to be clear and make clear statements of my position and condition I am labelled as exclusivist and intolerant. Because I make a clear, definitive and positional statement I am being anti-whatever. When others will make no statement of position whatsoever. Who is being duplicit and deceptive here? Because I make a clear statement and steer clear of postmodern goobly-gook I am anti-conformist, and working against the norm. Who da thunk it? So be it. Better to be hated and misunderstood for who I am than loved for something I am not.

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." ~Matthew 5:37

"Above all, my brothers, do not swear--not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned." ~James 5:12

People in power or positions of notoriety make deliberate statements or what appear to be deliberate half-truths purposely obfuscating (clouding) thoughts to be able to embrace as many people as possible. In a race to be as appealing to as many as possible and offend as few as possible they don't tell the truth plainly. Then people like myself are always stuck in a crux where we need to be either devisive or polarizing to determine what truth is. We need to dee if the words match the picture and when they don't we are forced in a decision of conscience. Do we attempt to force clarification and potentially offend people sitting on the fence with the culture? More plainly put, do to we state the truth outright and let the chips fall where they may? Conversely, do we "beat around the bush" and fall victim to the very scourge that is sweeping modern conduits of communication? Many Christian's fall victim to the latter of the two. In an attempt to not "offend" people with the truth or a reasonable facsimile thereof, we either chose to respond in a tentative or tepid manner or we don't respond at all. By little response or no response we do not clear the waters for anyone (even ourselves). As Christians we need to place on the table the possibility (that many are unaware of) that unclear statements from some people are deliberate deceptions. If not deceptions they are uninformed and uneducated heretical statements...or worse... deliberate heretical statements.

I have often been told that we need to keep the dialogue open if we want to help correct a false teaching or heretical statement. To some extent I agree...but not to the extent where it allows the person making those asinine statements to continue to make them unchecked. Jesus did not maintain lines of communication with the Pharisees for continued conversation. Jesus saw that they were making converts "twice the son of Hell" that they themselves were. Did he have a conversation with them? NO! He condemned them! Openly and publicly. Of course they decided they were going to do Him in and kill Him too. Such is the nature of wicked men.

There is a price to be paid to follow Christ in a system controlled predominantly by the Devil. We need to take up our cross. We need to understand that those that carry a cross most often carry it to their death. Those that followed Christ also follow Him to death. We will often times need to be willing to forsake what we believe is "safe", "comfortable" and "conducive" to a peaceful existence to do what is right. Sometimes that means condemning what is wrong flatly and plainly, not having conversations about it. When there is room for chit-chat we need to be able to recognize it but not compromise doctrine and tenants of our faith to maintain the conversation that is undermining to our faith. When in doubt and when the statements being put forth are ambiguous or unclear ask the speaker to clarify. If he refuses to clarify the statement or makes the issue more muddled....you then know what you are dealing with. As Christians we should allow people the benefit of the doubt but if they continue to subvert or cloud the truth...address it. The worst thing a Christian can do in this situation is nothing. You know the old saying.

The only thing evil men or evil powers need to triumph in the realm of man is for good men to do nothing.

We wonder nowadays why many of our civil and religious leaders are falling like dominoes in a wind storm. Our leaders and others like them are not being held accountable for what they say (or do). Actions start with ideas. Ideas often verbalized or acted on. People are following them in droves like lemmings running off a cliff. They never once are questioned for the things they say. People, too afraid to disturb the status quo are scared into silence. People not educated enough in their own faith are afraid to speak truth that their heart tells them is true because of the Spirit of Truth that is in them. Because they are not versed enough in their own faith to hold a consistent debate they avoid the debate entirely allowing those that area clearly wrong to continue spreading their lies. What is worse, they cannot expose a blatant wrong or lie for what it is when confronted with it.

The liars and deceivers have gotten the upper hand in this society and the world a large. We as Christians are called to be beacons of light in a dark world. We need to know the Truth and are called to defend it (1 Peter 3:15) effectively. We need to speak up and stop being afraid of defending the Truth when it is clearly being violated and intruded upon. Otherwise when people all start running for the cliff at the same time, we will be in no situation or condition to stave of disaster. In the mad rush we will be swept over the cliff with the masses. Unless someone comes forward to tell the truth many will perish in their ignorance. If you know better, why do you remain silent?

April 21, 2011

Show Not Tell

 "Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." Matthew 1:19

In Joseph, the earthly surrogate father of Jesus we see an interesting balance that we will also see in Jesus. Joseph by law could've embarrassed Mary horribly and her family by making this episode public. Also, by law, he could've had her put to death because of the shame her pregnancy would've had on him. He chose to do neither because...

"...after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." Matthew 1:20

We see in Jesus' earthly masculine role model a balance of righteousness and love. This is the man God chose to raise Jesus. A carpenter and a carpenters son. A man full of grace and truth. We need to understand that it needs to be a balance too. Too much grace and we cripple a person, too much truth and we can kill them. A man that, by law could've had Mary put away but by mercy and grace not only accepted what was told to him (that it was conception by the Holy Spirit) but was also willing to marry her but also face the lifelong ridicule of flapping gums in Nazareth. Gums that surrounded tongues that spewed salacious rumors and biting comments about his wife, his son and himself. A man that put is own needs and wants in submission to his wife and his son. Mary too would put many of her needs into submission also. It is a quiet submissive leadership that serves to nurture Jesus. We must remember that Jesus

"...grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Luke 2:52

We know that the example of humility and servant leadership that He gained and learned in His youth primarily came from Joseph. Joseph adopted Jesus as his own. Jesus would take on the sinners as His own. Through His work on the cross the Gentiles would be adopted into the family also.

In Jesus we see a man that would be willing to suffer humiliation and suffering for the well-being of another. Another (one) that wasn't necessarily his (at least not yet ;) at the time as they had not even been born yet. Yet Jesus would suffer even death on a cross for those unborn sinners yet to be born and sin.

The example of mercy over law shown by Joseph in the birth narrative will again surface in other places in Jesus' life. The one that comes to my mind is Jesus being Lord of the Sabbath.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:23-28

What we see happen here is quite simple. The Pharisees had created so many legalistic rules that fenced in and surrounded the Law. The true purpose of the Law had been subverted. What did Jesus say all the laws and prophets hung on?

"Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39

The purpose of the Law was to bring the people back to God and the first sign of this would've been a love for others of God (or your neighbor). If you love someone you are more concerned for their well-being and comfort if they are within the acceptable practices outlined by God. You will not care if they are bending some unknown legalism outlined by the culture. The Pharisees and their stupid rules? Their legalism alienated man from both their fellow man and God. If a man is loving God and his fellow man  he probably wouldn't be sinning to begin with which then wouldn't require atonement. No sin no need for forgiveness. Hosea outlined this thought quite nicely...

"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

Jesus comes not to judge but to save. He came to dwell among the sinners and save them. To dwell among the sick and heal them. To dwell among the poor and help them.

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him,  and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” Isaiah 42:1-4

The Pharisees in their arrogant hypocrisy made laws that separated themselves from people. Separated themselves from the sinners that they were charged with shepherding and teaching the ways of the Lord. Jesus came to build the sinner up and help them understand the errors of their way. The Pharisees came with their legalism and bludgeoned them over the head with nonsensical rules surrounding the Law that not only did not make anyone holy it made the Pharisees sons of Hell and made their converts something even worse...They made the blind even blinder (if that's possible) and made to sinners more wretched.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are." Matthew 23:15

The suffocating 613 legalistic rules of the religious leaders built a fence around the true Law never allowing the sinners to even approach the true commandments of God. The rules of these hypothetical dopes burdened the people and beat them down. The people never had a chance.

Conversely, Jesus came to build people up. He explained to people that in an emptied state and in a contrite humbleness, man is most usable by God. An empty vessel can be filled but a full one overfilled with junk needs to be emptied first or it is worthless...and Jesus did this by example.

"And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:8

The Pharisees rules were a burden over the Law but Jesus...came to remove that burden. The burden in the following verse is the Law itself (the yoke). Jesus came to fulfill it thereby removing the yoke from the backs of the people (who could not attain it) and put it on Himself. The only requirement would then be to believe in the work Christ had done in His ministry.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus made things easy for us. We can only make it harder by trying to add to Jesus. We need to accept Jesus for who He is and what he did. We do not need extra rules or additional works to add to Jesus. When we add to Jesus we toxify Jesus and pollute the Gospel. We minimize what Jesus did. We demean it. Belittle it. That is atrocious. Our intents of adding to these things Jesus did are honorable but they can only work to destroy what He has already done.

God desires the mercy folks. Compassion for the sick (from illness and sin). Not divisiveness and argumentativeness that leads to division. Perhaps if we treated everyone like a father treats his son or the Father treated the Son we would learn to better understand how to handle and deal with a person that stumbles in sin. When our children fall or stumble in sin do we berate them because they have not agreed with our exact form of non-salvational doctrine or do we coax and guide them through lessons, ideas, stories. Do we bludgeon them with stupid comments or tell them how it should be or do we show them through example. Sometimes it pays to show not tell, instead of a show n' tell of all our self-righteous arrogant verbosity.

Do we use the words "you" rather than "we" or "us"? Do we tell people what they "ought to do" rather than "how to do it"? Do we extend our hands to point a finger or to lift someone out of miry clay?

April 20, 2011

Minor Prophets LXXV: The Holy One of Mount Paran

Habakkuk 3 is a familiar literary form or at least it should be. The notes to a choirmaster and "selah" should be dead giveaways.

This chapter is clearly a Psalm. Verse 19 even ends in a standard Psalm note “to a choirmaster”. Verse 3 to 7 is an answer to Habakkuk’s prayer in (v2) “LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” God answers Him in the form of a theophany. He is portrayed as coming from the wilderness region (Teman) south of the Dead Sea in Edom (v.3-7). God then mounts a campaign against His enemies pulling His bow and arrows (v8-12). He wins deliverance for His people (v.13-15). Habakkuk responds in confidence to the Lord: “he makes me tread on my high places.”

What events of OT history is Habakkuk referring to here in Habakkuk 3:1-15?

The works of God of “olden” days fill Habakkuk with wonder and awe. He knows that whatever God has done before, He can do again. We today should understand this also. God will move mountains for those that believe. He even came to a man on a mountain-Sinai. Habakkuk begs to renew these type of works in his time. So what works of old would solicit a sense of awe from a Prophet of God that can speak to God? What works that took place that would have God described as the Holy One of Mount Paran (v3) in the Sinai Peninsula? Events that would warrant the mention of places like Midian (v.7)? A place where God would come again out of the wilderness and make Himself known to His people and now to His prophet? That would speak of His people’s deliverance (v.13). It is a passage riddled with reference to Moses. Moses had said the Lord’s appearance was like a light shining “from Seir…and from Mount Paran” (Deut 33:2) and Seir was the name used in Moses’ time for none other than…Teman. It was in these southern regions where many of the miracles and wonders of old took place. The references in verse 5 most likely refer to the plagues of Egypt. These events referred to by Habakkuk can be none other than the Exodus and deliverance of His people and their journey in the Sinai Peninsula area culminating in the eventual entering into the promised land by Joshua after the wilderness wandering.

Even after all this time God’s people still remembered His works and took them as serious as a heart attack.

We should do the same. We should view them through the same lens as Habakkuk. Many of us as Christians do not. We see them more as fables. Shame on us.

Minor Prophets LXXIV: Dead Replacement For A Living God

"But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." Habakkuk 2:20

Habakkuk 2:20 is theological in its context with Habakkuk and with us? What is its significance to the prophet Habakkuk us?

This book primarily deals with the Babylonians and the Jews. We must understand the in order for Babylonians to seek revelation they needed to create the god that supposedly gave them the revelation. To keep v.20 in context we must clearly see that verse 18 and 19 speak of an “idol carved by a craftsman”, “an image that teaches lies” and “the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.” He then beckons it to come to life or wake up. The Babylonian gods could give no guidance for they were nothing more than glorified lawn ornaments. We must also understand that the Jews fell into this sin also and were just as guilty of it. The difference for those in Judah is that they were in violation of covenant which made what they were doing that much more repulsive. Romans 1:25 describes this sin the best when it says, "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised."

Conversely the Jewish God, the Lord…”is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” The Jewish God, our God is real and has real power. We should be humbled and awed. Not only that, it He that created us not us creating Him. Sadly, just like in Habakkuk's day-I see this in our culture even today. To a lesser extent we see things that we put before God every single day. Even we as Christians do this all the time whether we admit or like to admit it. Anything we place in priority of precedence to God becomes and idol to us and is condemned by God. I am guilty of this too. To a greater extent we see it in the society at large and it is ubiquitous. Self-images have become a majority of people’s god. We use to be a country of character driven traits now it is purely image except for a select few who attempt to live to a higher moral standard and ostracize the culture’s damning influence with its twisted pluralism and relativistic indecisiveness.

In reality we need to remind ourselves that God comes first in all in our Christian lives. Idolatry in any form is not just disobedience and sin it is flat-out stupid. What value is a god made by man in comparison to the God that has made humanity. A dead lifeless substitute for the Living God.

April 19, 2011

Minor Prophets LXXIII: As Waters Cover The Sea

“See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness" Habakkuk 2:4

Within Habakkuk's oracle of woe for the Babylonian empire there are two small nearly hidden treasures of eschatological and messianic significance. The first is Habbakuk 2:4b "but the righteous will live by his faith". When we see this we immediately know that it has a New Testament counterpart in Romans 1:17. So what did it mean to Habakkuk in his day and what did it mean to Paul in the New Testament age after Christ's Resurrection.

Those that lived by faith in the Old Testament did so in a manner akin to Abraham. They believed in the promises of God and this belief was “accredited” to them “as righteousness”. They had faith in God and a belief that He would do what He said He would in His covenants. At this point in the history and relationship with His chosen people they knew that they could expect a Messiah or a deliverer. Also they would benefit from the blessings of adhering to and in the precepts of God which would amount to an abundant life if they obeyed His statutes. A blessed life in contrast to the Babylonians who did not obey God and would not live abundant and blessed lives, instead they would be leveled.

They had faith in a Savior yet to come (future tense). In Paul’s time it was faith in a Messiah who had already come-Jesus Christ. Paul discusses the righteous that can only be imputed by God through faith. This is the Gospel or the Good News as we understand it today as Christians. The truth is, the underlying concept is the same it is just chronologically different between the Old and New Testaments. That because one believes God and His covenant truths and promises, one is made righteous and granted eternal life. Jesus fulfilled the Law and therefore fulfilled the covenants. Rather than self-righteous pious acts (mostly obeying the Law, which justifies no one in God’s eyes) man is dependent on his faith in God’s faithfulness to him. The referent in Paul’s case is so obvious he doesn’t even mention the pronoun in Galatians 3:11 (faith in Christ).

"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." Habakkuk 2:14

Our second treasure is ten verses later in Habakkuk 2:14. How has or when will 2:14 be fulfilled?

One day the entire earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD. A Matthew passage comes to mind. “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.”Matthew 24:30. This is in reference to the signs of the End Times. When the Messiah rules in His kingdom, knowledge of the Lord will be worldwide (all the peoples of the earth”. Knowledge of Him will be so extensive it will be like water covering the sea. This verse Habakkuk 2:14 is actually a modified quotation from the description of the peaceful Messianic kingdom of Isaiah 11:9. Because of this it changes its single reference to the Babylonian defeat to something additional, something much more-at an eschatological level (Baker 65). In the last days God will move powerfully to bring the Kingdom into the Creation. Violence like that of Babylon will be replaced by God’s peace and because of the that His glory will be there also. Like many prophecies of the Old Testament there would be an immediate fulfilling of this and there would also be a long term fulfillment when God’s kingdom would come in power to the earth.

Baker, David W.. "Taunting Woes." Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah: an introduction and commentary. Leicester u.a.: Inter-Varsity Pr., 1989. 65. Print.

Minor Prophets LXXI: Stormfront

Habakkuk 1:1-4: (Habakkuk to God-Complaint 1) The times were difficult and dangerous for a righteous man. Habakkuk complains and whines about the wickedness and injustice going unpunished. He feels God is indifferent to his plight. Everywhere he turns there is violence, strife and conflict abounds. The law is “paralyzed and justice never prevails” instead justice is perverted. Habakkuk is praying that God would do something about it but he feels his pleas are falling on deaf ears.

Habakkuk 1:5-11: (God to Habakkuk-Part 1) The Lord assures that this situation will be dealt with. Not just in a blasé manner either but in an amazing way. Even as God spoke to Habakkuk He as concurrently at work among the nations remedying the problem. He was at work in a way that even Habakkuk would believe. I am betting he wished he hadn’t heard it once he heard it too. The Lord was raising up the loathsome, godless and lawless Babylonians to punish the Jews. Paradoxically, they were a law unto themselves coming to exact a punishment against God’s own people that…did not obey God’s laws. They were a people “fiercer that wolves at dusk” intent on violence. The hordes of a Babylonian empire would descend on them like a desert wind…and they would be unstoppable.

Habakkuk 1:12-2:1: (Habakkuk to God-Complaint 2) In Habakkuk’s mind God’s answer wasn’t really and answer, it was only another conundrum for him, another question to puzzle over. How could a holy God, his Holy One appoint such a heathen nation such as the Babylonians to exact a judgment against his people? How could God chose a more depraved nation than His own people to punish them? Habakkuk focuses on the holiness of God while simultaneously questioning the decisions and mind of God. He believes the punishment God is about to bring is too severe. It appears God will allow evil to be perpetrated on His own people in contrast to His holy nature. He then switches over to a fish analogy, that all people are like fish (helpless) and the wicked (Babylon) pull all of them up with hooks and catches them in his net, so he rejoices and is glad. Habakkuk then appeals to the haughtiness of the Babylonians and the fact that they trust in their own military might and that they worship gods of power and violence. He just doesn’t understand how God could honor them by letting them get a leg up on His people, it bewilders him. What he fails to see is that those who God raises up…God can also destroy.

Habakkuk 2:2-5: (God to Habakkuk-Part 2) The Lord tells Habakkuk to write down the revelation He is about to reveal. Write it in a plain manner so that a herald can run with it. It is about the end in a future time. What end? The immediate application would be the Babylonian captivity. The writer of Hebrews seems to think it refers to Jesus Christ. The Jew in captivity would wonder, “Will God deliver us?” Yes, He would deliver his people. Jew and Gentile alike and the “righteous person will live by his faithfulness”
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