When you are away from home, do you ever long to be back and start missing particular settings? Perhaps you remember the past and people who are no longer alive. Perhaps it is when you are at worship in a foreign land that memories of worship ‘back home’ come flooding into your mind.
The Israelites in captivity in Babylon seem to have experienced some of this. Although they hadn’t been faithful to God in their homeland they still had fond memories of the temple and the worship that went on there. They longed to be home. Perhaps where they were had an impact on them as well, as the area around Jerusalem is very mountainous and they were exiled to a flat country. Listen as they describe what they were missing. Continue reading “Remembering home”
Have you ever felt pressured to do something or go along with what others are doing, even though you knew it was wrong? After all, everyone is doing it, so why not do it too? If you don’t do it then you will stick out.
This is the situation that three Jewish young men faced as exiles in Babylon. They had been trained for King Nebuchadnezzar’s service. They were respected and doing as well as they could as captives. The problem came when the king had a huge statue made and then ordered everyone to bow down and worship it. He summoned all his government officials to assemble and take part in a ceremony to worship the image he had made. Continue reading “Trial by fire”
Years ago a colorful mobile hung above my son’s crib. Funny thing about mobiles, if you pick them up by any part other than the center string they collapse into a tangled mess. However if the center string is used to support it, everything falls into its proper place. Mobiles can teach us a lot about theology and religion. Continue reading “Neither grace nor discipleship nullifies the other”
Organizers of a spiritual event disinvited a speaker they had previously invited. I heard about it because they asked me to speak in his place. They gave no reason why the person got disinvited, nor even mentioned who it was, and I didn’t ask. I figured it was none of my business. I never found out, either. Just as well.
My estimation of the organizers remained high. Maybe they should have known something about the speaker before inviting him. But whatever they learned after the invitation, they didn’t feel embarrassed to disinvite him. They were committed to hosting an event that would edify and instruct in truth. Continue reading “Disinvited”
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”