A month or two ago I received a 4 volume set of the bible from Bibliotheca. It is a beautifully formatted set of volumes with a new text setting, no verses or chapters, and 4 distinct volumes. In essence, it represents the bible as a book - or books - to be read. Pure and simple. You can check it out here.
In the course of reading a few favorite passages, I noted that the editors have chosen to translate The Lord as Yahweh, God's actual name. I was pleasantly surprised, and it got me wondering why most other translations appear to use The Lord, adding an article and a title (and it is always The LORD, but that is tricky with Weebly...).
Today I found two posts via Challies (see the Favorite Links to the right) that deal with this, and they are worth sharing, both by the same author. One is here, and the other here.
(The title of this post is a quote from Motyer, ref the second link in the above paragraph.)
Acts 3 in today's readings contain a very appropriate passage for this day, Good Friday. (Incidentally, the Good in Good Friday comes perhaps from either God's Friday, in earlier versions, or Holy Friday, with Holy being 'good,' and eventually being replaced by the word).
At Acts 3:18, we read "...what God foretold by the mouth prophets of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled."
It is often asked, who killed Jesus. The answers include the Roman authorities, the Jewish religious leaders, or the crowd calling for his death. The answers include us. We all killed Jesus. Martin Luther said "We all carry about in our pockets His very nails."
But the text today tells us God fulfilled the plan of Jesus' crucifixion. The prophets said it would happen, and He, God, fulfilled it.
Christ's death and resurrection was not plan B, an alternative version of history that God had hoped to avoid but resorted to as a backup.
Christ's death and resurrection were THE plan. At Acts 2:23 we read "this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Scripture says this everywhere [emphasis added in each of the texts]:
Luke 22:22 "For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined."
John 10:17 "No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority t lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."
Mark 10:14 "For the Son of Man came...to give his life a ransom for many."
Mark 14:21 "For the Son of Man goes as it has been written of him."
On the road to Emmaus, after his resurrection, Jesus encounters two followers of his who're walking along and discussing his crucifixion and resurrection. They still did not grasp the significant of it all, or that it had been meant to happen. In what I have previously called in a previous post one of the best sermons of the bible, we read at Luke 24:25:
""O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."
This Good Friday, think on the intent and purpose of his coming, the foreknowledge and plan of God the Father and Christ the Son, the deliberate plan of salvation to redeem a people from sin through atonement.
Good Friday indeed!
How appropriate as we head into Easter that our reading is from Acts 2, which includes Peter's impromptu sermon to those gathered around who had witnessed the Holy Spirit fall with power.
Those gathered assumed that what they saw - people speaking in different (intelligible!) tongues - were amazed and astonished, asking what it meant, and some assuming that they were drunk!
Peter grounds it all in two things: God's promises and Jesus' resurrection.
First, he says at v16, this is what the prophet Joel had said:
"And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams."
Peter cites Joel at length (showing great familiarity with the Old Testament, as he and we should).
Then he places it all in the greater context, God's appointed time and plan: "this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified...[but] God raised up." v.23
He also grounds that in what David said and knew, at vv 29-31: "[David] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ."
Finally, we come to the title of today's post, at v.32: "This Jesus God raised up."
This is a fact - a truth - at a real point in time in real history: "This Jesus God raised up."
And it is the ground of all faith, belief, and hope. It is not a vague story, illustration or analogy. It is the truth of what happened, in God's own plan.
Christians do not and should not believe because it might go well with us in this life, because it might give us something to cling to, or a philosophy of life that helps us bear with trials or explain away hard things. Paul said that would be in vain and foolish. It would be pitiful.
"And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)
Instead, with Peter in Acts 2, we saw and believe, "This Jesus God raised up."
In Exodus 10:1-2, God tells Moses that he is working his miraculous works for a reason: "...that I may show these signs of mine among [the Egyptians], and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson...what I have done among them, that you may know that I am Yahweh."
In today's reading in Judges 18, we read that a grandson of Moses, Jonathan, became a priest to the Danites, the people of Dan. The apple, in this instance, falls far from the tree! Moses has been told that Gdd's wonders will be told to sons and grandsons, that His name would be known by the Egyptians, the Israelites and the whole world. And yet as the people of Israel take their place in the promised land, his own (apparent) grandson becomes a priest of idolatry.
Two thoughts. First, it serves as a caution in biblical reading and interpretation. While some say this is indeed Moses' literal grandson, others say the timeline would not fit, given Moses' son Gershom was born in Midian and Jonathan would have been born in the exile period between Egypt and the promised land. They suggest this would make Jonathan well over 100. It may be that Moses here is not 'our Moses,' and some bibles will show his name as Manasseh. Though Moses did have a son named Gershom, elsewhere we are told of another son of Gershom, with no mention of this 'Jonathan.'
Second thought: the same lesson applies, even if Jonathan is not literally Moses' grandson. My family has its roots in Ireland. In the broadest sense of the word, I am a son of Ireland. My family tree on my father's paternal side has been traced back for centuries. I could pick anyone in that tree, and say, in a figurative~literal sense, I am a son of X. It may be that Jonathan is from the lineage of Moses, but that he is several more generations removed from Moses than two steps. The genealogy here, in other words, might be compressed.
These are the kinds of things that merit some further study, but we should not avoid the lesson from the passage because of these kinds of issues. The point that struck me is that anyone of the people of Israel - especially someone in the lineage of Moses - would became a priest of idolatry.
What a caution!
The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in today's readings from Luke 24 is a favourite.
The story is quite simple. The same day of the resurrection, two disciples (not of the 12, ref v18) are walking to the village of Emmaus. As they walk, they are discussing all the things that have happened, and are joined by Jesus, whom they do not recognize. When he asks what their discussion is about, they ask if he is the only visitor to Jerusalem who is not aware of what has happened? (i.e. that Jesus was crucified, and now apparently risen from the grave). When Jesus asks 'what things,' they tell him as follows:
"Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that that had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive."
When they finish, Jesus (still unrecognized by them), calls them foolish, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken. Then we read at v27, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."
That is where I marked in my bible, some years ago, "world's best sermon." Imagine, having Jesus himself open up the Old Testament and explaining the passages concerning himself. At vv44-45, we read something similar, when Jesus appeared to the disciples back in Jerusalem: "Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures."
World's best sermon? There are many candidates in the Bible, but one of these has to be in the running: Jesus himself, opening the scriptures - and the minds of his listeners - to see and understand everything written about him, 'in the Law, and the Prophets and the Psalms.'
In today's reading from Luke 23, the words in the title of today's post both stand out and yet are easy to miss. "And the curtain of the temple was torn in two."
Reading quickly, one might think it is a small part of the story, the sun going dark, the temple curtain being torn in two. Other accounts in the gospels talk about the land being dark until the ninth hour, and the response of the centurion who said, at the moment of Jesus' death, "Truly this man was the Son of God."
But the significance of the torn temple curtain is great. It merits some reflection.
In Exodus we find detail descriptions and proscriptions for the construction of the tabernacle, including various curtains. One curtain, called a veil in Exodus 26, was special. It separated the most interior portion of the tabernacle, called the Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies, from the rest of tabernacle. The High Priest would enter here once a year to perform the required ceremony for the atoning of sins of the Jewish people.
The significance here for us is that on Jesus' death, the veil was torn in two (Matthew says "from top to bottom"). We now have access to the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies. Hebrews 10:19-20 reads “We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh”
A brief devotional from Ligonier Ministries on this new access is available here.
2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and as such, a good occasion to read more in depth about the Reformation.
Together with a friend from church, we are reading Calvin's Institutes of Religion (he is making more progress than me!) . Now added to that is another 'big book,' which is also recommended reading. Reformation Theology, an edited volume by Matthew Barrett, put out by Crossway. The book comes highly recommended, including the following:
“Matthew Barrett is certainly to be congratulated on bringing together this outstanding group of top-tier theologians and Reformation scholars to produce this wonderful resource. Not only are readers given a masterful survey of historical theology illuminating the key reformational themes of the sixteenth century, but also we are provided thoughtful and insightful guidance to wrestle with the important theological issues facing the church in the twenty-first century." David S. Dockery, President, Trinity International University
The review credits the book with putting theology back into our current understanding of the Reformation, in its historical context and with application for the modern church and believer.
I think it will be a masterful read, and look forward to it.
(The ebook is available for just $10 at Amazon Canada, though a physical copy on your shelf might be worth it for its reference value, generally more difficult to access in an e-book).
In today's readings (Judges 7) the story of God using Gideon and 300 men to strike the Midianites is worth our consideration. It is a wonderful story wherein God continually pares down the number of men who will go into battle with Gideon, lest the Israelites boast in themselves and take credit in conquering the Midianites in their own strength. God deserves and wants the glory, and to illustrate it most vividly, he wants less - not more - men fighting alongside Gideon.
But the line that caught my eye as I read this morning was the part where two princes of the Midianites are caught and killed at v25. It reads "And they captured the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb,
and Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb."
"And Zeeb they killed at the winepress of Zeeb." As I looked at the turn of phrase, the thought occurred to me, 'Some would take that verse, re-read it and pronounce it as an example of the folly of wine.' It would likely not take too long on google to find an example.
And that provides the thought for reflection in God's word this morning. Reading an anti-alcohol message into this verse is obviously wrong. The verse is not about wine. In its context the story is about God leading the people of Israel, and exacting judgement against the Midianites. The fact that Zeeb owned a vineyard is completely incidental. Misreading it would be an example of eisegesis, which means reading meaning into a text that is not there, neither in grammar, context or intent, etc.
Zeeb indeed pays the price opposition to God, and history tells us his fate, but not for being a vineyard owner. But Judges 7:25 serves as an example of an 'opportunity' to misread a text and misinterpret its meaning and teaching to us. One needs to read a text, hopefully in context, and not read into a text. One has to ask what the original author is telling us, again, including the larger context.
Likewise, the point of this post is not to address a question around alcohol or wine in the bible. It is to reflect on how we extrapolate from biblical texts to see meaning not in the original author's - and God's - intent.
Worth reflecting on.
In today's readings from Judges (chapters 4, 5 and 6), we find the story of Deborah, whom the Lord used to provide counsel to the people of Israel. She was a prophetess, and the people would come to her for judgement (4:4-5).
After her counsels and actions in defeating the Canaanite king Jabin's army and his general Sisera, she and Barak (another judge who preceded Gideon) sing a song of their victory, which is the Lord's victory. It includes the words from the title of today's post, "March on my soul with might."
Christians are not always as bold as we might be. We are timid or possess fear even in the face of God's promises to be with us and provide peace. We worry instead of rejoice. Philippians 4 has a word to say on that, and so does this passage from Judges.
In God's strength and in his will, we can sing with Deborah and Barak 'March on my soul with might.' The might we possess is God's might, God's strength.
I think that is evident in the next story, about Gideon in chapter 6. Gideon is told at 6:14 to 'go in this might of your's.' But at v. 17, he is assured that he is not alone. Even with his fears and trepidation, ('Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is weak, and I am the weakest of my clan!' v15), the Lord can use him and his strength will be enhanced. The Lord (speaking it appears via an angel of the Lord) says to him "But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man."
To have God with him and to be doing God's will has the effect of Gideon's fight being the fight of one man, the Lord and Gideon together.
Hence the song, "March on my soul with might" when you walk with the Lord. It applied to Deborah and Barak against the Canaanites, and it would apply to Gideon against the Midianites.
Faith is about more than believing in God, or believing the right things about God. Those things are of course important. But faith, walking in the faith, keeping faith, believing, is also about right living.
Everybody draws lines, somewhere. Christians draw lines about what constitutes right behaviour, about good and bad. We come into criticism from the world for that, but the world - nonbelievers and believers in other things - also draw lines. They have ethical boundaries and definitions or conceptions of what constitutes right and wrong. They would quickly say that Christianity's teaching (evangelical, orthodox, not the mushy centre or left) about sexual or family ethics is now outdated and - wait for it - wrong.
The question about ethics and right living is not whether there should be lines, but where should the lines be. What constitutes right behaviour and what constitutes wrong.
In today's reading in Psalm 16, a favourite, we read some very simple but profound words, at v11: "You make known to me the path of life; In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures evermore."
Two points to reflect on:
1. God makes known the path of life. There are truths, counsels (v7) and a path of life, of living, that comes from God. Ultimate truth is metaphysical, beyond physical. It comes from revelation, and that is the ultimate truth Christians believe. The truth about how we should live, right living and righteous living, comes from revelation from God. God makes that known. There is a natural law argument here as well, but ultimately, all truth is God's truth.
2. Being with God, found with God, and walking with God, is fulness of joy. People wonder what will make them happy. Materialism for some, debauchery for others, self-fulfillment in some other form for still others. But fullness of joy, pleasures evermore, are found in the truth of God and his ultimate revelation to us, Jesus. If people want meaning in life, find Christ.
That will provide for us a life of meaning and joy now, v9, and for eternity, v6.
Worth reflecting on.
Derek Butler - I am a Christian, husband, father, son, brother, friend, reader, et al, all inadequately. This blog is a tool to encourage daily bible reading, for myself and others.
Click above to access the 5 Day Reading Plan used here. I am using the 5 readings Monday through Friday, with other postings on topics of interest Saturdays and Sundays.
Some Favorite Sites
Desiring God Ministries
Bible Design Blog
Calvary Baptist Church