Thursday, July 30, 2009

Loved the Soil

Nothing to say about this verse, except that I find it remarkable that such a description is recorded in the Bible. I love the soil too.

And [Uzziah] built towers in the wilderness and cut out many cisterns, for he had large herds, both in the Shephelah and in the plain, and he had farmers and vinedressers in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil. - II Chron. 26:10

The Curtain Torn

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" - Matthew 27:50-54

In the Old Testament Temple, there was a veil that kept everyone out of the Holy of Holies, the most secret and holy place of God. When the Lord Jesus died, that veil was broken. It would not be long before the whole Temple would be destroyed, but Matthew is making an important point, for now all the people could go into the most Holy place and worship the Living God through Jesus. The Roman centurion could not have seen or known God in old times, but now He can know Jesus.

There something about what the centurion said that is very interesting. Now that the veil is torn I think Christians can see something clearly that used to be blurry. It is the mysterious understanding of God Christians call the Trinity. For even though Jesus was dead (at that point), the centurion could see that He was the Son of God.

The Trinity is very mysterious, so I will not say anything to explain it, except to say that it means that there is One God who made heaven and earth, and only One. And He exists forever in Three Persons who love and serve One Another. They are all of the same essence, which means that they are all fully God. And They are also distinct from One another.

That is something that Jesus' death on the cross reveals to us, and which we can look at and ponder about for thousands of years.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Psalm 127 and Chronicles Part II

Last week I made this post, in which I suggested how Psalm 127 could provide an outline of I and II Chronicles. At the bottom I asked this question:

Chronicles is clearly linked to the Restoration, and the Songs of Ascents possibly so. What other connections between Chronicles and the Songs exist? Psalm 132 is an easy one.

If Psalm 127:1-2 provides the outline for I Chronicles, it also provides the outline for Ezra-Nehemiah. I Chronicles is all about 1) organizing the people and material for Temple-building (Except Yahweh build the house...) and 2) organizing the people for Temple-guarding (Except Yahweh keep the city...).

I don't know why I didn't immediately make the next connection. Ezra is about Temple building, and Nehemiah is about wall building. The only thing missing in Ezra-Nehemiah is Sons.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David... - Matthew 1:1

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Search

Are you searching for Truth? Maybe you are not a member of a particular religion, but are looking for answers to life's questions. I want to point out something about this search that many people are doing.

I think it is good to search, but one problem for many modern searchers is that they really are not searching. They are just imagining things that might be true. They are asking themselves "If this thing I just thought of were True, would I like it?". They are not looking any farther than what's already in their heads. That's not searching.

Think about the problems with imagining. Could you imagine something you wished for twenty years ago, but would hate for it to be True now? If you imagined Truth in your own head, you would be limiting any future growth in your life! Can you think of something you wished would be true, but another part of you knows that wouldn't be good? How can you trust yourself to pick what's really True out of all the options?

So if you're looking for Truth, you have to get out and search. When you find the Truth about Life, it's got to come completely from outside of you. Someone has to say "This is the Truth about Life", and you'll need to accept as it is. In some ways you will resist it, because it will decide some of your conflicts in a way you wish it wouldn't. In some ways it will perplex you, because it will describe parts of the world that you haven't grown into yet. And in some ways you will love it because it is the Truth about Life that you have been looking for.

Furthermore, when you find someone who has the Truth, they will need to point out where they got it. They will be human too, with all the same limitations as you. They will have to point out how they arrived at the Truth. Maybe you can trace it back to the Truth itself.

And last, don't settle for a counterfeit. The first thing you will discover is that there are competing Truths. But one minute of logical thinking will let you realize that if the Truth comes from outside of us, then one of the Truths is really Truth, and the others are fake. They will come into conflict with each other, and you will need to sift through the impostors. There are many red-herrings out there. This search you have undertaken is not an easy thing!

So if you're searching, get out and search! Read every book in the library. Ask everybody you know, and really listen. Dig through lost tombs like Indiana Jones. Weigh the results and turn away from traps. But don't just imagine. The Truth is out there!

And if you're really searching, honestly, the answers may be very near to you. In fact, they are as close as this. God bless.

Monday, July 20, 2009

They Like Jesus

These are a list of chapter titles from Dan Kimball's book They Like Jesus But Not the Church, which I heard mentioned in a worship service recently. His book is about impressions that non-Christians have regarding American Christians, and is written to help us to correct problems so that we can have a better image in the world.

1. The church is an organized religion with a political agenda.

2. The church is judgmental and negative.

3. The church is dominated by males and oppresses females.

4. The church is homophobic.

5. The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong.

6. The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally.

Please pay attention to these six statements. Each one of them is a lie that the world tells about Christians in order to produce false guilt, with the goal of getting us to compromise our witness and be unfaithful to God. Every one of them. The goal is to get us to back off from a stand that we have taken in righteousness, witnessing to God's will for His creation, so that the world can go more quickly towards sin, death and destruction.

Can you recognize that these slanders all have to do with the primary fronts-of-attack by the world on the church and God in this age? The world hates the image of God and kills it in the womb at the rate of 40+ million times per year. America is one of the few places on earth where the church is involved politically to carry out a real mercy ministry in attempt to stop it. The world hates the image of Christ and His Church as shown in complementarian heterosexual marriages, and some parts of the American Church are still faithful to testify to God's character in this. The world hates Jesus and does not want to acknowledge that He reaches out to the lost clearly through His Scriptures that there is no other way of salvation.

Christian, do you see that these lies are designed to get you to stop being faithful to Him? Can you see that the world wants the clear teaching of God in His Bible to be silenced? And can you understand that their most potent weapon is to make you feel shame and false guilt before men? To manipulate the deep desire we all have to be liked, applauded, approved?

My question to you then is this- are you willing to wear these lies faithfully with him? Are you willing to be slandered and hated by men as our Lord Jesus was? Just how much do you love the approval and applause of men? Are you willing to rejoice when men speak evil of you, for so they persecuted the prophets that were before you?

It may be that you or your church needs to do better, and that there is a real falling short in one of these areas. In fact it may even be likely. Please wait until God reveals that to you from His Word, and take the course of correction that He reveals to you. But you have to know that in our modern age, His course of correction will still require you being willing to be hated and despised by men for His name's sake. And He will require faithful Christians to fight and die on these fronts.

May God give us ears to hear and hearts of strength.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Psalm 127 and the Chronicles

While reading through the Chronicles, it has occurred to me that Psalm 127 is a neat summary of the books, both in content and organization. Psalm 127 divides into two sections: vv 1-2 which deal with Yahweh's blessing on building and guarding the "house", and vv 3-4 which deal with the blessing of children. I want to suggest a very basic outline of Chronicles that shows how it is structured in the same way.

The two actions that Yahweh does for His people and their "house" in Psalm 127 are to build it and to guard it. I Chronicles can be divided into three main sections, each of which describe how God has done these things for Israel. Each section focuses first on the organization of people into the "house", then as the organization of people into a "wall". Chapters 1-10 concentrate on the genealogies of Israel. 11 and 12 then deal with numbering David's army.

In the second section, 13-17 talk about David's temple building, first bringing the Ark into its tent, then his plan to build God's "house". I keep putting "house" in quotation marks, because in this passage we learn that the "house" God is building is a house of kingly sons. 18-20 then deal with God's guarding of David's house by putting down his enemies in battle.

After David's sin in 21, the third section begins with David's purchase of the threshing floor of Ornan, which will become the site of the actual Temple. 22-25 deal with David's organization of the people for Temple worship (especially the Levites), then 26-27 once again deal with his gatekeepers and armies to protect the house. So perhaps you can see the connection there- God lines up the people, seats a King, and sets up worship. Corresponding to that, He gives armies, gatekeepers, and victories in battle to guard the House.

I Chronicles 28 through II Chronicles 7 are the center of the book, featuring David's final preparations to build the house, and culminating in his anointing of Solomon who actually builds and dedicates it. Solomon is the hero who brings to pass what David had prepared for. I will only point out two connections between Solomon and Psalm 127. First, Psalm 127 is ascribed "For Solomon", the only one of the Songs of Ascents to do so. (Not coincidentally, Psalm 127 is the central Psalm in the Songs). Second, "His beloved" in verse 2 is actually Solomon's second name, as II Sam 12:25 tells us.

Moving to the second half of Psalm 127, II Chronicles is concerned with "sons", describing the reign of fifteen sons of David, starting with Solomon and ending with Josiah. (It actually describes several more in chapter 36, but just fleetingly). In the detailed stories of the fifteen, it is remarkable to notice how the Chronicler points out their faithfulness in defending Judah by trusting in the Lord, and fighting against religious corruption through reform. Some highlights include: Jehoshaphat standing against the Moabites and Ammonites through prayer in 20, Joash and Jehoiada defeating wicked Athaliah in 24, Hezekiah turning back Sennacherib through faith in 32, and the great purge of the land by Josiah in 34. Even kings who are described as very wicked in I and II Kings (like Manasseh) are commended for how they build (33:16) and guard God's house (33:14).

So to summarize, Psalm 127 has two sections that line up very neatly with I and II Chronicles. It concentrates first on how Yahweh organizes the building and guarding, then shows how the Sons of David carry that plan out. I have many more thoughts about this, but for future consideration:

  1. Chronicles is clearly linked to the Restoration, and the Songs of Ascents possibly so. What other connections between Chronicles and the Songs exist? Psalm 132 is an easy one.

  2. If Chronicles and the Songs are tied to restoration, that means Psalm 127 is messianic, which could mean that Ezra and Nehemiah saw themselves as doing the work of David in I Chronicles (organizing the people and goods), while they waited for the Son who would fulfill the building. Are there explicit connections that the Gospels make to this effect, possibly referring to Psalm 127, the Songs in general, or the Chronicles?

  3. The central verse of Psalm 127 is that Yahweh "gives to His beloved sleep". This is a very mysterious verse, and could refer both to resting while God builds and guards (first half), or the sleep that results in sons (sleeping with - second half). Does this actually refer to anything in Chronicles? David "sleeps" right at the end of I Chronicles in death. Likewise, Solomon is asleep when God appears to him and gives him wisdom. This might be the more important point.