When we only emphasise certain aspects of Jesus’ teaching, we often find something he said that does not agree with the conclusions we have reached. We often tell people about the peace that Jesus came to bring – in fact, was it not announced at his birth? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!” the angels proclaimed to the shepherds (Luke 2:14 NET). Jesus came to bring peace and he wants his people to be characterised by peace (James 3:13-18). But then we find something that doesn’t sound quite right. Continue reading “Loving Jesus”
Bible translations made for people with limited reading skills often remove many of the literary devices that enrich reading and communicate the message with powerful impact. It’s understandable why they do it, and not altogether inappropriate. At the same time, something is lost in this type of translation. (Something gets lost in every translation, so let’s not be too harsh.)
The prophet Malachi uses a series of three questions to accuse the people of Israel of breaking their covenant with God. The first two are rhetorical questions, that is, the answers are obvious. Then he comes in with a third question, based on the first two, that grabs the readers and demonstrates the inconsistency and folly of their actions. Some versions even start the third question with the adverb “then.” (See ESV: “Why then …?”) Continue reading “If one God created us all”
Micah was a prophet sent by God to deliver his message primarily to the people of Judah. He was a contemporary with a prophet better known to us – Isaiah.
“The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah – the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” (Micah 1:1 NIV)
Micah was from Moresheth, a town about twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem on the border with Philistia. He was not a ‘city-dweller’ but from a more rural background. His writing style seems to reflect this, being of a common man from the poorer class of society. Continue reading “The more important matters”
Although Amos was from Judah his message from God was for the northern kingdom. He was based in Bethel, where Jeroboam had set up one of the calf-idols for the people Israel to worship. Amos’ message to the northern kingdom was of their need to return to God: “Seek me and live.”
“This is what the Lord says to Israel: ‘Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba. For Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.’ Seek the Lord and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no-one to quench it.” (Amos 5:4-6 NIV)
With no punches held, Amos detailed what would happen to Israel for going after idols: God’s judgement was coming. He compared Israel to a basket of ripe fruit: the time was ripe for God’s judgement and he would spare his people no longer (Amos 8:1-3). There would be many dead bodies strewn everywhere because of their sin. Continue reading “Seek me and live”
It began to rain and it seemed that it would never stop. The tributaries rose steadily and without abatement for months. Slowly, the disaster began to take shape. Finally, in the spring of 1927, the levees along the great Mississippi River began to fail. Tens of thousands of square miles were inundated. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes and their jobs. The waters did not fully recede for months.
Many songs were written in the aftermath of the flood, including “When the Levee Breaks” by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. It detailed the sorrow of the inevitable. Where do you go when your protection fails and the flood waters surge? Continue reading “When the levee breaks”
It would seem Song of Solomon was written when Solomon was a young man, Proverbs in his middle age, and many would see Ecclesiastes being written in his later life. That it was written by Solomon is seen in the opening verse: “The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (Ecclesiastes 1:1 NET). Although some question Solomon’s authorship, if we accept this as being from the Holy Spirit, then it must be a son of David who was king, and the internal evidence fits Solomon well.
Like many who reach an older age, Solomon seemed to be disillusioned with life. Notice what he says: “‘Futile! Futile!’ laments the Teacher. ‘Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). He had lived a long life and what was there to show for it? Everything continued as it always had: generations come and go, the sun rises and sets, streams flow into the sea but never fill it, there is nothing new that ever happens. Even what is done will be forgotten in future generations. Continue reading “The meaning of life”
It took Solomon seven years to build the temple for God. He began it in the fourth year of his reign and completed it in the eleventh year (1 Kings 6:37-38). He also built a palace for himself which took another thirteen years to build (1 Kings 7:1-12).
Once the temple and all the items to be used in the worship of God was completed, Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant to be placed in the inner sanctuary. Israel’s elders, tribal leaders, and all the men of Israel came to witness the transfer of the Ark to the temple. Continue reading “Following and worshipping God”
Our title is but one phrase that emphasizes the importance of timely completion. It comes from the language of contracts and recognizes that delay causes harm.
When it comes to spiritual things, time is of the essence. Delay is dangerous. We are often reminded in Scripture of the brevity of life and the immanence of Christ’s coming. Continue reading “Time is of the essence”
“I am telling the truth in Christ (I am not lying!), for my conscience assures me in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed—cut off from Christ—for the sake of my people, my fellow countrymen, who are Israelites. To them belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 9:1-5 NET)
Why was Paul in anguish and would even wish he were cut off from the Messiah? It was because the Israelites, the Jews of his day, had rejected the Messiah. They did not accept Jesus as the Messiah who came to save all people.
Look at all the advantages the Israelites had (we can read about these throughout the Old Testament). They had been adopted as sons: God had taken a people who were in slavery and made them his people. They had access to his glory. He gave them his covenant through Moses to all the people. Part of this included his giving them his law, a law to live by to stay faithful to him in preparation for the coming Messiah. Later they received the worship in the temple. They had access to the promises of Abraham and eventually, through their line, came the Messiah. The Messiah is God over all. Continue reading “Don’t miss the trees for the forest”
Each society has proverbs, pithy statements that may or may not contain some general truth. Some are more useful than others. “All that glitters is not gold” and “two wrongs don’t make a right” seem particularly useful in today’s society. One of the more popular proverbs is “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But is that true?
Perhaps it is true in an extremely limited sense. Short periods of absence could cause one to realize how much another means to them. However, as a general rule, can we say that absence makes the heart grow fonder?