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Category Archives: Bible in One Year

Luke 23 – King of the Jews?

Luke 23

Is Jesus the King of the Jews? How big of a threat is he to the ruling authorities? Is this another “would be messiah” who is going to try and lead a rebellion against the Romans?

Pilate and Herod, newfound best friends, find Jesus to not really be much of a threat and try to set him free. Herod, the current “king of the Jews,” is not too concerned and is excited to see Jesus because he hoped to see some cheap party tricks. When this alleged king didn’t have anything to say or do they mocked him and sent him back wearing the robes of a king.

The people quit arguing and simply started shouting, “Crucify him!”

As Jesus is being led away he makes an interesting comment, “For if the people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” N.T. Wright, in his “For Everyone” commentary, points out that this is one of Jesus’ darkest sayings but if we can find our way into the heart of the meaning of it then we will have a better understanding of what he thought the cross was all about.

Anyone who has built a fire knows that dry wood is what is needed for burning. Rebel leaders who are causing riots in the streets and trying to overthrow Rome are the dry wood ready for burning. Jesus is not this kind of wood. He, the green wood, is on a mission of peace and repentance, a mission about God’s reconciling kingdom for Israel and the nations. If they are willing to do this to him, the green wood, how much worse will their actions be to those rioters who are looking for excuses to create violence and mayhem? If the Romans are willing to crucify the prince of peace, what will they do to people who genuinely are trying to overthrow Rome? Jesus knows the kind of death he is dying as a holy revolutionary and he stops to tell these women to weep for themselves because things are going to get a lot worse.

Luke contrasts the two criminals in order to show the contrast in what is going on in this situation. Jesus is bearing the sins of many. He is making the sacrifice for all people though he is being executed as a criminal and a rebel. Those around him are mocking him and even one of the criminals mocks him. The other criminal brings reality to the situation. He provides the reader with context as to what is going on.

Jesus invites the criminal on the cross to Paradise with him. In Jewish thought, paradise wasn’t necessarily the final resting place, but the place of rest and refreshment before the gift of new like in the resurrection.

Jesus gives up his spirit into the Father’s hands. It is not taken from him! The curtain in the Temple is torn in two, representing the judgment that will come on the city, the system and the Temple itself that has rejected Jesus and his kingdom message.

The centurion gives witness to Jesus being a righteous man. This is slanted a bit from Mark’s declaration of Jesus being “God’s son” by the centurion. Luke is emphasizing Jesus’ innocence, which he has been doing all along. This way, no educated Roman can comment that if the Roman justice executed someone then they must have had a good reason.

Jesus has died on Friday, which is the last day of creation. The next day is the Sabbath, Saturday, the Day of Rest at the end of creation. We will see this a lot more clearly in John’s Gospel but I wanted to point this out because of the powerful implications. Jesus is then resurrected on Sunday, the first day of the week, the first day of the New Creation.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Bible in One Year, Luke

 

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Luke 21 – Not Quite the End of the World

When you start talking about the end of times, people tend to perk up and listen. If we can decode this passage, we can somehow unlock the mystery of the end of time and predict when everything will take place. For generations it seems as though some of these passages have been quoted and applied to what is going on at the time. In this section, verse 6 provides the context for everything that is about to be talked about.

Jesus lets his followers know that there will be times of suffering and waiting for these things to happen. They should be prepared for this to happen. When they see Jerusalem surrounded by the Gentile armies, they should flee to the mountains (20-24). He’s telling them to not have national pride when these events take place. They are to get out while there is still time.

When this time comes, there will be vast changes in the land. Chaos and fear will reign. Nothing will seem settled much like the roaring and tossing of the sea (25-26). “They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (27). This verse is often thought of literally in that Caesar might look out his window to see Christ coming down in the clouds. This must be understood as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 7, one of the most popular prophesies of that day. This passage speaks of a time when God’s true people will be vindicated after having suffered at the hands of the pagan oppressors, the “beast.” The image in the prophesy is of a courtroom scene where God, as the judge, rules in favor of his people, “The son of man,” and against the oppressor, “the beast.” At this final judgment, the pagan nations will fall and the vindicated “son of man” is then brought on a cloud to share the throne of God himself!

The best way to interpret this passage is to see that when Jerusalem falls and is overthrown because they have opposed Jesus’ message, Jesus and his people will be vindicated, the sign that Jesus has been enthroned at his Father’s side in heaven (As we read last Thursday in 20:42-43). Does this mean that the Second Coming isn’t going to happen? No! Luke still believes in the Second Coming (Acts 1:11). It just means that this passage is not about that. This passage is about the vindication of Jesus and the rescue of his people from the system that has oppressed them.

What does this passage say to us today? God’s Kingdom has come near but God’s city has rejected it. The fulfillment of the Kingdom will involve the destruction of the Jerusalem, which will take place within a generation. As we live out and preach the gospel, bringing about the Kingdom of God, the world will often reject its message as Jerusalem rejected the Kingdom message when Jesus brought it. We have the duty to warn those around us of the destruction that comes with rejecting God’s invitation to be part of His Kingdom. We must continue to practice patience till these things come to pass, knowing that it is our God who is on the throne no matter how bad things seem to get before all of this comes to pass.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Bible in One Year, Luke

 

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Come Elijah and Come Lord Jesus

Malachi 3-4 

In chapter three, Malachi warns the people that God desires to take them to trial.  His accusations against them are that they have cheated him with lousy sacrifices and by withholding their tithe.  The people question this as if they don’t understand and God tells them that then they don’t give to God what is God’s, they might as well be stealing from Him.  He also accuses them of saying terrible things about him and questioning why they should serve a God like Yahweh.  These things are unacceptable and God will judge them, but he will also save and protect a group who has repented and remained faithful to Him.

In chapter 4, we have a promise that God has a plan and that He is going to deliver Israel and again begin to accept their sacrifices.  It’s clear that while things haven’t been very good lately, God’s intention is to restore His relationship with Israel.  The final prophet concludes with a statement that God will sent Elijah before the day of judgment.  Traditional Hebrew thinking is that this means Elijah would come before the Messiah arrived.  The Gospel writers indicate that this was the function of John the Baptist and the stage is now set for Jesus to come and set things to rights.

Revelation 22

We have gone from the Tree of Knowledge in Genesis 3 (one year ago) to the Tree of Life.  While Adam and Eve were once removed from the Garden for the stated purpose of being kept from eating of the Tree of Life (having already eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), those who are in Christ are now invited to enter the Holy City and eat of the Tree of Life.  God has restored and made new everything that was lost and he did it through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.  It’s a beautiful and powerful image and one that brings everything back together.  What more can I say, but to share with you the invitation of Revelation 22:

“The Bride and the Spirit say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who is thirsty come.  Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”

And to that, I can only echo the sentiments of John, “COME, LORD JESUS!”

May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s Holy people.

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

 

Awful Offal and New Jerusalem

Malachi 1-2

The first half of Malachi begins with God telling Israel that despite his great love for them, Israel doesn’t give Him the respect or honor that a father or master deserves.  Because of that, they must repent or face God’s judgment.  Israel has begun bringing lousy offers to God’s table that show no respect.  They sacrifice blind and lame animals.  It’s become so bad that God is setting up other nations that worship him and respect him as an example for Israel to follow.  The nation that was supposed to be a light to the nations must now look to the nations as a light.

God is angry with the priests who have allowed this to happen and sanctioned the sacrifices that God finds so offensive.  In chapter two the text says that if they don’t change their ways that God will “splatter their faces with the manure from their festival sacrifices and throw them on the manure pile.”  The NIV is a bit more tactful and simply states that God will spread the offal from the sacrifices on their face.  It’s a disgusting disgrace but it  shows how angry God is with the priests, who once he is done with them will be good for nothing but to be thrown out into the waste pile.

Revelation 21

Three thoughts on this chapter.  First, we so often picture this scene as everybody floating up and ending up in the sky.  And yet, everything in this chapter seems to indicate the opposite, that God will come down.  The New Earth and New Jerusalem will come and be a part of the world we live in now.  Certainly things about it will be different and better and more complete (the measurements of the city indicate its completeness and perfection).  God will dwell among people again and the Old Testament covenant will finally be perfectly fulfilled, “They will be His people and He will be their God.”

The second thing is that the scale and scope of this new creation will be beyond description.  John is using all of the best, finest, most beautiful items he can think of to describe how gorgeous and wonderful this final resting place will be, but you get the idea that he can’t even begin to describe the wonders of this dwelling with God.

And finally, God and Jesus will be the Temple.  Throughout the Old Testament the Temple was the place where God intersected with our world.  Hebrews tells us that Jesus has become a more perfect Temple by being God living among us.  Now, God and Jesus are both dwelling eternally with people and the need for a temple of any kind has passed.  We will then have the real thing and live with God.

Sounds pretty good to me.

Proverbs 31

This proverb is a simple reminder of how blessed I am to have married the wonderful and faithful woman who I get to share my life with.

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

 

Fall of Jerusalem – And Fire Came Down and Consumed them

Zechariah 14:1-21 

Zechariah 14 and Matthew 24:3-35 share a lot of similarities. Jesus is describing the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 A.D. and it seems as though Zechariah 14 is describing Christ’s ascension, his confirmation as Lord of the nations, and the flow of the Gentiles into the Church.

Revelation 20:1-15 

This passage is possibly one of the most debated passages in the Bible. When is the 1000 year reign?! I find it funny that we take all of the numbers in Revelation as figurative and then we try and make the 1000 years fit somewhere in history. This passage says something very specific to its original readers and when you step back from it a little it still says a lot to us today. These are passages of hope.

Verses 7-10 have been one of my favorite passages in Scripture for years now. I love the buildup of this great climactic battle. It looks grim for the People of God. A vast army who has a leader who is ruthless and dangerous surrounds them. Anxiety and anticipation are taking over as Satan and his army begin to close in. And then fire from Heaven comes down and devours them. It is in this that I find hope! No matter how grim things can seem to be at times. No matter how big Satan looks and feels in this world. God is bigger. God is greater. God is more powerful. And we are His People. The One who is with us is greater than those things that seem so big. Rest in this peace. Know that God wins. He wins easily. Join Him in what He is doing in this world and don’t worry about the opposition. No matter what the debates are in these passages, find hope in that God wins and He’s on your side!

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

 

Songs of Zechariah and Revelation

Zechariah 12-13

As I was reading today, I kept reading the lyrics of Christian hymns.

There’s a fountain free, tis for you and me.  Let us haste or haste to its brink…

Purify me Lord, from ways that aren’t of you.  Take away my shame and make my heart brand new…

Sweet Lamb of God, O how I love the Lamb of God, Please wash me in his precious blood…

Purify my heart, Help me to be like gold, pure gold, refiner’s fire…

It’s remarkable how much of the words we use to talk about Jesus come from the prophets.  Our songs are filled with lyrics that have their origins in the foretellings of the one who will come and restore Israel and begin God’s glorious redemption of his entire Creation.  Unfortunately, we see here in Zechariah that not all will be part of that kingdom but that some will.  And those who will finally will live in covenant with God and they will say, “This is our God,” and God will say, “This is my people.”

Revelation 19

Revelation 19 also starts with singing.  Lots of singing from a huge crowd.  Earlier in the book, this crowd of Christian martyrs cried out, “How long until the persecutor is punished.”  Now that Rome has fallen they have reason to celebrate and worship.  The Harlot, Rome, is defeated and now only the two beasts and the dragon remain.

And now a white horse with a rider enters.  This horse and rider are different from the ones that came out of the seal earlier.  This rider is Jesus and he rides out to do battle against the two beasts, the Roman Empire and the cult of Emperor worship.  But it isn’t much of a battle.  There doesn’t seem to be any back and forth and the sword in the mouth gives the idea that the battle is more spiritual than a physical struggle.  The text indicates that a vast army gathered with the beasts to do battle with the one on the horse, but there doesn’t even seem to be a battle.  The beasts and simply captured and thrown into the lake of fire.  They step onto the battle field and are already defeated.  The power of the rider is ultimate and the victory is total.  Meanwhile, his followers stand behind him clothed in white robes, completely pure, without even a worry of getting a drop of blood on their garments in the midst of battle because a great champion fights the battle and wins the victory for them.

The city and empire of Rome and the worship of its leaders has come to an end.  Jesus has done battle with all of it and defeated them.  Their is vindication and justice for those who were persecuted and heaven rejoices.  Now only one remains, the dragon, to be dealt with.

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

 

The Good Shepherd – Alas, Babylon

Zechariah 10:1-11:17

A good shepherd is coming. One who will be the cornerstone, the tent peg, and the battle bow. We see where the Messianic expectations are in this. Jesus refers to himself as the cornerstone in Matthew 21:42. This whole passage is filled with excitement for the coming Messiah. In chapter 11 we have foreshadowing of Judas betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and his money being used to buy the potters field.

Sometimes we wonder how the Jews would have reacted to many of the things that Jesus said and did. Through these passages we see how specific Jesus was with his actions. Did Jesus know he was the messiah?! Reading through the prophets…I’d say yes!

 

Revelation 18:1-24

Babylon fell in the 6th century BCE and represents the great Kingdom who is ruling the world of the day, Rome. While this is obviously talking about Rome, there are plenty of parallels that can be made to this passage. Whoever is the largest nation is the one who sets the cultural agenda. They set the standard. All too often, it is not the same standard that God sets. Those who have heavy investments in these nations will weep and wail at their destruction. Much like Lot’s wife looking back to Sodom and Gomorra, those who care more about these Babylon-type nations than the Kingdom of God will be destroyed with them. The ship is going down and those who are on it are going down with it. This is a good time to remember where your citizenship is.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Zion’s New King and the Great Harlot

Zechariah 9

Only a humble king would ride a donkey, because you just can't look tough on a donkey.

I have to admit that Zechariah would have been on my list of “Biblical Books I Don’t Know Much About.”  Having spent several days reading it, I am somewhat surprised you don’t hear more about it.  It has a ton of great Messianic prophecy in it.  Whenever I think of Messianic prophecies, I think Isaiah or Jeremiah.  But I will henceforth include Zechariah in that list.

Today it talks about how the future King will bring defeat to Israel’s enemies.  If you are an Israelite, this is really good news and you pay a lot of attention to this part of the passage.  What is interesting is what Zechariah says will happen to the Philistines who are left after they are defeated.  They will worship God and become like a clan in Judah!  The Israelites were all about annihilation and destruction of their enemies, but assimilation and integration…not so much.  And yet here we read that this is part of God’s plan and that it is tied to the future King.

Additionally, the King will bring victory and yet be humble, arriving on a donkey’s colt.  Sound familiar?  Think Jesus riding donkey into Jerusalem.  The people were ready to anoint the one who fulfilled this prophecy and then he tossed the Temple.

This same passage describes the coming King as one who will destroy the tools and methods or war and usher in a time of peace and prosperity.  There will be blessings aplenty and the King’s reach and authority will be global.  God will come and rescue his people as a shepherd rescues his sheep and his followers will be like jewels on his crown.  Sounds pretty good to me.

You can look pretty tough riding this thing though.

Revelation 17

We’ve learned previously that the dragon is Satan, that the first beast is Rome and the second is the cult of emperor worship.  We now have a fourth evil creature in the prostitute or harlot.  This horrible woman sits on the back of the beast and drinks the blood of the martyrs.  The key to the woman’s identity is in verse 18 which says that the woman is the city who rules over the kings of the world.  The letter, written to first century Christians, certainly then speaks of the city of Rome.  This city, like Babylon, has become drunk on its own power and immorality and feasts on the persecution of Christians.

I’ll give you a hint about what’s coming…it isn’t good news for the Harlot.  I also want to briefly say that the temptation for every generation is the take the book of Revelation and apply it to their time and situation.  In doing so, every generation chooses the new “harlot.”  This is the person, country, or organization that they feel is the biggest threat to and persecutor of the church.  While I do think there are patterns of judgment and overcoming persecution that exist in Revelation that we can learn from today, I think it dangerous to take a letter to first century Jews in Rome and

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Does the World Know God is With Us? – Bowels or Bowls?

Zechariah 8:1-23 

When the people strengthen their hands and the Temple is rebuilt, God will return His blessing back to His people, and the whole world will long to join His people because they will know that God is with them. I feel like I’ve been repeating myself often but it needs to be said over and over again. WE are the People of God. WE are His Temple. Does the world know that God is with us? What are we doing to draw the world to Him?

Revelation 16:1-21 

Once when I was doing a very brief look through Revelation with my teens, one of the girls asked “What are the seven BOWELS of the wrath of God?” I told her I wasn’t very sure but I didn’t want to find out. I then informed her that they were bowl and not bowels…though that’d make for an interesting reading of the text.

Bowl 1 – The first Bowl is poured out on the earth and those who have the sores are those who have the mark of the beast and who have worshiped his image.

Bowl 2 – The Second Bowl is poured out on the sea and it turns to blood and everything in it dies.

Bowl 3 – The rivers and those who have shed the blood of the saints and prophets receive the third bowl of wrath.

Bowl 4 – The sun now burns people who curse God and do not repent and glorify Him.

Bowl 5 – The throne of the beast receives the next bowl. This plague will bring darkness on the leadership of the nation. Rome is going to fall.

Bowl 6 – The Euphrates River will dry up so that kings and their armies can come to attack. Revelation is predicting that invasions from beyond its borders will be a major factor in its fall. The final fall of Rome came in about 475AD with the attacks of the Goths, Visigoths, Huns, and Vandals.

Bowl 7 – A voice from heaven says, “It is done.” The final outcome cannot be avoided. God will do as he promised.

At this point, the basic story of the Book of Revelation is complete. (1) The church has been persecuted and the martyrs ask how long until God brings down the persecutor. (2) God replies that it will be a while because still more will be martyred before the persecution ends. (3) God first warns the persecutor but the he starts a more intense period of persecution led by the Roman Empire and the Cult of Emperor Worship. (4) After this persecution has run its course, God brings down the persecutor through natural disasters, the Empire’s own corruption, and by a series of attacks from outsiders.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Bible in One Year

 

Four Chariots and Victory over the Beast

Zechariah 6-7 

This eighth and final vision is similar to the first (and Revelation) with four groups of horses of different colors that do God’s will on earth.  It emphasizes that God is involved and in many ways in control of world events and that God will judge those who have persecuted Israel (and in Revelation those who persecuted Christians).

The prophecy then turns to the crown for the coming king, mentioned in the visions from yesterdays reading.  There is a Messianic royal priest who will serve as both ruler and priest for Israel.  The prophecy here refers to him as Joshua, the Hebrew name that in Greek is Jesus.  This doesn’t leave a lot of room for guessing who we might be talking about here.

In chapter 7, the book turns to one of the major themes of Jesus’s ministry, which is that God isn’t interested in people who fast and celebrate religious ceremonies but live unfaithfully.  Rather, God wants people who understand that those ceremonies are supposed to teach them about God and how they should be living as His people.  They were to serve as reminders of who God is and what he’s done for them.  God wants followers who pursue true justice, show mercy and compassion, take care of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor.  God desires people with a heart for the things that God’s heart longs for.

Revelation 15

Imagine you are a persecuted Christian who has lost loved ones to the Roman Empire because they wouldn’t renounce their faith in Christ.  This chapter is immensely meaningful and powerful.  Those who appeared to be defeated, we now see are in face victorious over the one who killed them.  Through the eye of John’s revelation, we see that death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.  In fact it isn’t even bad at all.  Those who were killed for their faith stand alongside the Lamb.  And their earlier question, “How long until the persecution will end?” is about to be answered.  The time for judgment and justice has come.  Now seven angels come out of the Temple with seven bowls of wrath ready to be poured out on the enemies of Christ.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Bible in One Year