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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Your Mother’s a Hittite and High Priest Jesus

Ezekiel 16-17

The language of these chapters is so strong, personal and intended to be shocking to Ezekiel’s audience.  Your mother is a Hittite and your father is an Amorite.  (I did just stop blogging for a moment to go watch a clip of Remember the Titans where the guys are all making “yo mama” jokes in the locker room.)  Family connections to Gentiles was a huge insult to Israelites.  To have God making those insults through his prophet would have been shocking.  Even worse, it says that Israel has become so sinful and shameful that the evil pagan nations look good.  Keep in mind, we are talking about Sodom, which was destroyed by fire from the sky because there weren’t 10 good people.  Remember that we are talking about the Amorites and Hittites, part of the Canaanite people whose evil had become complete enough for God’s people to wipe them out.  Israel is not only associated with them, but told they have become even more vile than those people.

And yet, God doesn’t call down fire from heaven to destroy them.  God doesn’t wipe them out.  God will bring punishment on them in the form of exile, but throughout all of this he promises to be a sanctuary to those in exile and a safe return to those who remain faithful.  He is the God of the faithful remnant who refuses to give up on these unfaithful people.

Hebrews 8

The last time we saw a story about a high priest and Jesus, it was Caiaphas and other Jewish leaders conspiring to illegally and falsely arrest, convict and crucify him in the middle of the night.  Several Apostles were also called before the Sanhedrin and the high priest.  God has fulfilled his plan to be new life and new creation to the world and it didn’t happen through the order of Levitical priests.  In fact, it happened in spite of them.  The priesthood failed to be a light to the world.  The priesthood failed to anoint and crown the king, the Messiah of Israel, handing him over to Gentiles to be killed instead.  The priesthood failed to recognize God’s plan to offer grace and forgiveness to all people, choosing instead to become the primary persecutor of the New Testament church.

So as Christians, we are no longer under this failed priesthood.  We have a High Priest who sits alongside God.  We have a High Priest who sits in a heavenly Tabernacle, not a manmade Temple.  Our High Priest is one who provides for us a better covenant, based on better promises.  The new covenant has been ushered in and the old one is obsolete.

What does that look like?  Find out tomorrow when we continue our one year journey through the Bible…

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Worse Than a Prostitute – How Big Was the Sacrifice of Christ?

Ezekiel 14:12-16:41 

To My Wife,

Remember how you were discarded as a child? How both your parents walked out on you, leaving you to die? You spent your entire life looking for love. It was I who brought you out of this pit. I gave you love. I clothed you with worth and I adorned you with confidence.

In your beauty and worth you began to desire other men. I would feel bad about calling you a prostitute but at least a prostitute gets paid for her services. You give yourself to men for free! You have shared yourself with so many different men. Your body has become the sacrifice to the idols of their lust. You adulterous wife! At least prostitutes get paid! You’re paying them for the abuse of your body!

These men simply wanted to use you but I will give you over to them and you will be destroyed by them because they will not care for you they way I have. Your prostitution will cease. You will no longer pay your lovers.

– God

This passage really captures the story of Israel in a provocative and powerful way. Take time to reflect on your relationship with God. What kind of letter might He write to you? Israel had no desire for God. How would this letter have looked different if they desired God but messed up from time to time? God is incredibly patient with His bride as long as she still desires Him. At this point Israel has completely turned away from God.

Hebrews 7:18-28 

My Christology (how we understand Christ) has been changing over the years as I continue to read and study God’s Word. Hebrews has had a lot of influence on my changing Christology. We have a priest that lives forever and continues to intercede for us. If we hold to the view that Jesus is God in the flesh (which I believe) then the question came to me a while back, when did Jesus begin his sacrifice? When he became man (at conception), he set aside his deity in order to be one with humanity (we’ve seen this already in Hebrews). To what extent was this sacrifice? Dying on the cross? Jesus is a priest forever, holy, blameless, exalted above the heavens, and is the sacrifice that brings us to perfection before God. Jesus’ sacrifice was one that was forever a sacrifice and not temporary. He is the slaughtered lamb sitting next to the throne of God, exalted by God to the highest place. For me…this makes Christ’s sacrifice so much more exciting and powerful.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Punishing Proverbs and Melchizedek

Ezekiel 12-14

One thing I think I know as a parent: if you are always threatening consequences for your kid’s actions but never following through, your kid will decide that you are bluffing and ignore you.  You get a spoiled kid.  Israel had been warned by so many prophets for so long that they had become a spoiled nation, chasing idols and rejecting God.  So now God tells Israel that the time for warnings has passed and all the prophecies against Israel are about to come true. 

Hebrews 7

What does it mean that Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek?  The author of Hebrews recognizes that some people might argue that Jesus can’t be a priest and can’t make sacrifices on the people’s behalf because he isn’t a Levite.  Jesus is actually from the tribe of Judah.  So it’s important to see that a king like Melchizedek can make sacrifices as the representative for his people.  Melchizedek offered sacrifices for Abraham, the father of Israel, and he so recognized this act that he tithed 10% to the priest who was not a descendent of Abraham or Levi.  So by the same measure that Melchizedek can offer sacrifices for Abraham, Jesus can be a sacrifice for us.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Restoration and Faith Journey

Ezekiel 10-11

God has been taking Ezekiel on a tour of Jerusalem.  He goes to different regions, different locations, and shows him different people.  Each time they are committing acts of treason and adultery against God.  In today’s reading we see a group of the leaders and prominant men of the city gathering together and plotting evil and spreading it among the people.  God also has a message for those in exile with Ezekiel.  God wants the exiles to remain faithful and he promises to be a sanctuary for them while they are in exile.  He also wants them to know that he will restore their lands to them when God returns them to the Promised Land.  This is extremely important to the people maintaining their identity and hope in foreign lands.  When you believe that God will take care of you and that you will have a home when you return, you will continue to see the place where you are exiled as a foreign land.  However, if you think your home is gone forever, it’s easy to lose hope and decide to just make a new home where you are.  God reassures the exiles that they are still his people and he will still keep his promises and the should keep hope.

Hebrews 6

This chapter reminds us that Christianity isn’t a destination.  There aren’t people who have “arrived.”  I remember a kids song we used to listen to in the car when I was a kid that said, “I am a project.  I am a possibility.  I am a promise…with a capital P.  I am a great big bundle of potentiality.”  God wants us to move beyond the fundamentals.  Faith, repentance, baptism, resurrection, eternal life…these things are the basics.  As Christians, we should know about these things and move on to greater things.  What’s interesting is we often think of faith, repentance and baptism as the final goal.  When you believe, confess, repent and get baptized you receive the gift of salvation and eternal life.  We often see this as the goal.  However, Hebrews shows that these are just fundamental, basic principles. 

Christianity isn’t simply about joining the Kingdom and then sitting around enjoying the scenery.  It’s a process.  It’s a journey.  Every Christian is growing throughout their lives and we need to recognize that God isn’t done with us and we shouldn’t ever think we are done either.  We should always have goals that we pursue with discipline and perseverance, allowing the Spirit to work in us and through us to produce growth and fruit throughout our lives.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Know That I Am The Lord – Pursue The Mystery of God

Ezekiel 7:1-9:11 

A mentor of mine was dealing with his little daughter who had been misbehaving. He entertained her argument for a moment but when she kept persisting he simply placed his hand on her shoulder and asked her who the parent was and who the child was. She looked at the ground and conceded that she was in fact not the parent. She knows that if she doesn’t remember who she is and who he is then she will be disciplined.

God has reached His breaking point. All of this punishment is so that they will “know that I am the LORD.” The people refuse to acknowledge that He is God and they are not. I’m glad we don’t struggle with that…

Ezekiel then gets to go see “things that are even more detestable than this.” As we read through this it is tempting to shake our heads and respond that we’re glad we aren’t like them in many ways. Silver and gold will not deliver us from the day of the LORD’s wrath. Thinking God isn’t going to come to our aid we take things into our own hands and turn to other objects, worshiping them in hopes of deliverance. This isn’t the only reason God is angry. “The land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice.” God isn’t being flippant with punishment here. The righteous, though they seem to be few in number, are spared. The Temple is defiled with the slain. Ezekiel questions God on this but God is set on this punishment leaving Ezekiel to remember that he is not God.

Hebrews 5:1-14 

Here is one of the many passages that are hard to really get your mind around. There are a number of different ways to take some of these concepts about Jesus and I am hesitant to say that I have it figured out. I want to keep verse 11 in mind and keep trying to understand. This is a life pursuit for which we should never feel like we arrive. The mystery of God should always be at the forefront of our thoughts when struggling through hard concepts. So…here are my thoughts:

The high priest is someone that could relate to the people. God coming down to us in the form of Jesus is His way of stepping into our world and suffering with us so that we can be connected to Him in every way (2:17). Jesus does not exalt himself but is exalted by God.

“He learned obedience from what he suffered.” – This really challenges a lot of people’s theology. Did Jesus have to learn? We often have this picture of Jesus levitating around a few inches above the ground with a glow around him. Though he was fully divine, he set all of that aside to become a man (Phil 2:5-11), like us in every way. Jesus grew to knowledge of who he is in the same way that I have. We come to our identity in God in the same way Jesus did, through obedience, prayer, scripture, and being given the Holy Spirit in our baptism. Through all of this he was “made perfect” which I’m not sure I want to try and unpack right now.

This section ends with the Hebrew writer warning his/her readers to not become intellectually lazy. Keep pursuing your knowledge of Christ. Though we can never fully understand God we need to continue to pursue Him. The more you know the heart of God and what He did in Christ, the more you are able to distinguish between good and evil.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Great Responsibility and Rest

Ezekiel 3-6

At the beginning of today’s reading, God issues a stern warning to Ezekiel that is frightening.  If I give you a message for the evil ones in Israel and you don’t tell them and they don’t repent, then I will hold you responsible.  If you are given a message to the faithful and you don’t tell them and it causes them to fall away, then I will hold you responsible.  God expects his messengers to deliver his message.  Once the message is delivered, then it’s up to the recipients to decide what to do with it.

Does this apply to every one of us?  Perhaps yes and no.  Are you a prophet of God who is the only method by which people can learn and hear God’s Word?  Without you is there no other method of their knowing God’s will in their lives?  Well…no.  For Ezekiel, his answer to those questions was yes.  That makes it very different.  That being said, have you been given a message from God of infinite importance?  Are there people in the world whose very salvation depends on your decision to share the message God has given you?  Well…yes.  You have that message.  People need it.  So how important is it to God that we deliver his message to the world?

Hebrews 4

What the big deal about rest?  Why does the Hebrews writer think we need all this rest anyway?  We often think of Sabbath as part of the old law, and accordingly we think of it as cruel, boring, oppressive, and something we wouldn’t ever want to have to do.  However, Sabbath was a blessing and a gift to God’s people to remind them of the way things used to be and the way they will be again.  Remember that the curse on Adam and Eve was to have to work, suffer, enmity between one another and with the world.  Sabbath was a one day vacation from the curse and a reminder how things were supposed to be.  Hebrews 4 invites us into a rest that gives us the peace that passes understanding down in my heart.  Where?  Down in my heart.  When God’s Spirit lives in us, we receive peace.  We receive rest.  We join with the Creator God in the moment of Day 7 where he rests, enjoys a world behaving the way it’s designed to, and rests.  Now Christians get to join God in that rest.  It’s a pretty great invitation.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Eat This… – As Long As it is Called Today

Ezekiel 1:1-3:15 

I’ll be honest…I don’t even want to begin to try and understand what all imagery is taking place in Ezekiel’s vision.

Ezekiel is a prophet during the time of Jehoiachin’s reign. Jehoiachin is the king of Judah who was taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar  in 2 Kings 24.

I’m not sure what to make of all of this…He eats a scroll of lament and mourning but it was as sweet as honey in his mouth. When Ezekiel is finally taken to the rebellious Israelites, he went in bitterness and in the anger of his spirit. The strong hand of the LORD was on him. He sat among the exiles for seven days deeply distressed. I’m looking for all of this to make some more sense as the book unfolds.

Hebrews 3:1-19

“Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house” but “Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house” and “we are his house.” The people in the wilderness spent most of their time looking around. They saw everything they didn’t have. Bread. Meat. Water. Comfort. Not only did they fail to look at Moses as God’s representative leading them out of slavery but also failed to look forward at God leading them as a pillar of fire and a cloud.

We aren’t invited to be in God’s house…we are invited to be God’s house! Together, we become the House of God for the world to meet Him. We don’t set up a tabernacle as in the desert. We are the House of God and we invite people into us to experience the warmth of God’s house because the Son is faithful over the house.

Do not become like those in the desert who turned away from God and perished. Be sure to encourage one another daily so that sin will not harden you and keep you in the desert to perish. Basically…if it is called “Today” then you should be encouraging one another to not be hardened. Who have you encouraged today? Apparently this isn’t about a “Personal walk with Jesus” but a communal walk with Him. We have a responsibility to one another, that as long as it is Today we are to encourage each other in our walk. That’s an investment in others. This is tough…

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Lament and Jesus is the Man

Lamentations 4-5

The common structure of lament is:

  • Address to God
  • Complaint
  • Description of suffering
  • Petition for deliverance
  • Reasons for deliverance
  • Vow of corresponding to divine response
  • Praise and thanksgiving

When you are reading a lament, you can expect all of these to be there.  When one or more isn’t there, there’s usually something you can understand from that.  In the case of Lamentations there is no final offering of praise or thanksgiving.  The people of Israel are suffering so heavily that they can’t remember a time of blessing.  The closest you get is verse 19 which says that God remains the same forever and reigns on his throne from generation to generation.  And yet the author comes back to issue another final complaint after the thanksgiving.  This really speaks to the level of suffering that Israel is enduring that the lament is left almost unfinished and open ended as if to say, “God will you answer the lament and teach us what it is to praise you and give thanks again?”

Hebrews 2

Jesus was a man and is a man.  Much of the language here should remind us of Adam.  We are reminded that when Adam was created he was given authority to rule over the creation and to be its caretaker.  In fact, this creation was intended to have a human ruling over it, so when that isn’t happening, things aren’t the way they were designed to be.  We now have another man who has been given all authority on heaven and on earth.  God became a man so he could die to set the world to rights.  The passage here says that Jesus became the perfect leader through his suffering.  Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the Suffering Servant prophecy in Isaiah 63.

And now, because a man sacrificed everything, even his life he has been exalted and glorified.  But then comes the really great part: Jesus now invites us to be his brothers and sisters.  Through his sacrifice we become heirs to the Kingdom of God.  We are siblings to the one with all authority on heaven and on earth.  We don’t have royalty in our country so we miss out on the significance of this, but being the brother of the King is a big deal.  Being a sister of the King is a big deal.  We are restored to the role God designed us for, rulers over creation, co-heirs to the Kingdom of God with Christ.  That’s pretty powerful stuff right there.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Three Times the Lament – Greater Than the Angels

Lamentations 3:1-66 

As Kent has already pointed out, each chapter of Lamentations is written as an acrostic. Chapter three is a bit different in that it is three times longer…which I’m sure you noticed. It is still written as an acrostic but each letter of the Hebrew alphabet starts three consecutive lines. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 are written from the perspective of a communal lament but chapter 3 is in the first person. There are a lot of speculations as to who this lone lamenter is. It is quite possible that the first person voice coming out in this chapter is not supposed to be an individual but is supposed to represent the exiled people as one voice. Zion is personified as a woman in other parts so this could be part of the ongoing image of relationship, that the exiled people (represented as a male) longs to be reunited.

This chapter is a great one to point people to who are going through times of deep lament in their lives. When I counsel someone going through a major loss I always encourage them to tell God how they feel. They often look at me as though I am crazy because that would be irreverent! This chapter lets God have it for 20 verses and then has the powerful transition:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

This transition is where we can find our rest. It is these words that capture what it means to be able to have joy while still going through trial. Remember that the LORD is faithful with His love and you will never be consumed. Even though the trails may seem forever in their length. Remember that the LORD is faithful. He is your portion. Wait on Him.

Hebrews 1:1-14 

The book of Hebrews is theologically packed and somewhat of a frustration for scholars. I’m excited to jump back into Hebrews because I pull something new away from it every time and it challenges and convicts me deeper with each reading. It is frustrating because we have no idea who it is written by. Some scholars have made their guesses but none of them would ever try and stake claim as to having it all figured out.

The letter opens with a foundation of the Sonship of Jesus, not that he is simply a chip off the block of God, but that he is the exact representation of God. Looking at Jesus is as though you are looking at God. The Hebrew writer sets up lenses for us to look through history with. The writer will walk us through history with Jesus at the climax. He will often reference the prophets of old, how they looked forward to something and that something is Jesus. This is what the writer wants his readers to understand.

God is always moving forward. The only time to look back is to then see where things are going as they move forward. The Hebrew writer looks back to the Jewish scriptures to show that the Messiah was always intended by God to be superior to the angels, and therefore superior to the law that they brought. The law was not fixed for all time but was part of God’s preparation for the present, the gift, His own self in the person of the son. The letter warns us to not make the mistake of playing with the wrapping paper instead of with the present itself. When we get wrapped up in the law we loose sight of the present that is Christ.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Lamentations Poetic Structure and Philemon

Lamentations 1-2

An Acrostic for Ichthus: Jesus Christ God's Son Savior

Laments, which are psalms and prayers that openly cry out in pain for God to bring relief, are very common in the Old Testament.  They make up about 40% of the Psalms and occur in every prophetic book except Haggai.  However, Lamentations is the only book that consists exclusively of laments, mostly about the condition of a destroyed Jerusalem and exiled Israel.

Like Psalm 119, the entire book of Lamentations is poetic with filled with alphabetic acrostics.  You might notice that the first, second, fourth and fifth chapters are all 22 verses.  In Hebrew, each verse of those chapters begins with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

  • A terrible end has come upon Jerusalem, the mighty city of God.
  • Because of our sins, the sins of Israel and Judah, God has exiled our people.
  • Can God ever forgive us?
  • Do we even deserve it?
  • Everything is destroyed and we are left without hope.
  • Forever we will suffer.

You get the idea.  The middle chapter is 66 verses long and contains 22 three-line units similar to the others.  What’s unique about this lament is that while it contains the deep pain and hurt of individuals and community, it has organization and order.  It is well thought out and isn’t the raw emotional outpouring that we see in Psalms. While extremely passionate, these laments were composed with care.

Philemon

Paul sends a very personal letter to Philemon.  It appears that Philemon had a servant named Onesimus who stole from him and fled.  While fleeing, he came across Paul and became a Christian.  Paul has now sent Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter to ask that Philemon forgive and accept Onesimus as a Christian brother.  Keep in mind that stealing from your master was a death-penalty offense under Roman law.

There are three things I love about this short book of the Bible.  First, Paul could have told Onesimus that he was forgiven for his sins and that he could now be free to live however he wanted.  However, it appears that Paul’s instructions were instead to repair the broken relationship with his former master.  Can you imagine how hard it would be to walk back to your master’s house, who had the right to demand your death, and ask for forgiveness?  Onesimus was already forgiven of his sins, but Paul knew he needed more.  He needed repentance and reconciliation.

But Onesimus isn’t the only one who needed reconciliation.  Philemon did too.  This letter contains the idea that if God has forgiven your brother than you should too.  There is a slight wordplay in verse 19 where Paul responds to the unspoken objection, “But Paul, this servant stole from me.  He owes me his life.”  Paul’s reminder was simply, “…not to mention that you owe me your very self.”  When it comes to debts, each one of us has had ours cancelled, so we should in turn cancel the debts of our brothers in sisters in Christ.

The third thing I like about this book is that Paul tells him to keep a room prepared for him so he can come visit.  Paul is in prison and has so much faith that God will get him through that he doesn’t just say he would like to stop by sometime, but that a room should be prepared.  And not only does this show faith, but it builds in accountability.  Implied is “And if you don’t forgive him, it’s going to be uncomfortable when I get out of here and come visit you.”

And it makes me happy to see Mark and Luke are with Paul.  The unity of these pillars in the early church is so encouraging to see.  Can you even imagine what it was like to sit in a room with Mark, Paul and Luke while they discussed the global mission of the church and wrote letters to God’s people?

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Bible in One Year