For the past 150 years or so, some so-called biblical scholars have assumed that everything has a natural explanation, that the supernatural cannot be real, and that therefore the prophets of old could not possibly have predicted the future. In a recent post, Idolatry and redemption today, I mentioned a temporary redemption that came through the Persian emperor Cyrus, as predicted in Isaiah 44.
He reversed the long-standing Assyrian/Babylonian policy of removing conquered peoples from their homeland. He ordered the restoration not only of Jerusalem, but every other identifiable ethnic group in his empire. Today I’m returning to that chapter, verses 26-28, as an example of the fulfillment of predictive prophecy.… Read the rest
Every once in a while, someone will make the news by declaring that some event is God’s judgment on, well, fill in the blank. The immediate reaction in the media is outrage, often well deserved. Unfortunately, such dustups obscure an important fact: God’s judgment must come upon America. Let me approach the subject with three stories that, at first, will seem wholly unrelated.
Tom, a friend of mine, once told me about the first car he ever owned. To make a long story short, he never thought to change the oil. Of course he never read the owner’s manual.… Read the rest
Pontius Pilate famously asked, “What is truth” and turned away without waiting for the answer. He had no inkling that Truth stood in front of him. He had no inkling that he was about to condemn Truth to crucifixion.
Fulfillment of Scripture demanded that Jesus be crucified. The ordinary way of executing prisoners under Jewish law was stoning. Only the Roman governor, Pilate, could authorize a crucifixion. He was initially unwilling.
Pilate thought he was in charge of the situation. He was wrong. Jesus was in charge. In the face of many obstacles, he had to insure his own crucifixion. It turned out to be hard work.… Read the rest
Christians readily agree with the statement that God is all-powerful, all-loving, and all-sufficient. But when trouble turns up, how many of us really know how to respond as if we believe it? We turn to idols instead.
Our idols aren’t quite the same as those of the ancients, but they work the same way. We trust our own resources more than we trust God. Certainly God expects us to use our own resources much of the time, but we must not trust them. We must trust God. Otherwise, whatever we trust instead becomes, functionally, an idol, the god we truly worship.… Read the rest
In 1 Timothy 3:14-16, Paul explains his purpose in writing. Although he planned to visit Timothy and his congregation in person, he realized that he might be delayed. So he wanted to make sure that Timothy had clear instructions on how people ought to behave in the church.
But notice how Paul describes the church. It is the household of God. I suspect not many people nowadays understand what that means. On the other hand, I suspect any modern Christian would quickly agree that “godliness” makes a good one-word definition of proper conduct. Paul calls the source of godliness a mystery.… Read the rest
Many people draw comfort from favorite Bible verses. But what are we supposed to make of verses that aren’t comforting at all? Especially when they appear nestled among some of the grandest promises in Scripture?
In the Bible open on my desk as I write this post, Psalm 104 is titled “Praise to the Sovereign Lord for His Creation and Providence.” It extols God for creating the world and every living thing upon it. It describes in loving detail how he cares tenderly for all the birds and animals—which, it says, he made for the service of humanity.
But that psalm is not sweetness and light from beginning to end.… Read the rest
No one has any trouble understanding Jesus as a man. It’s the concept that Jesus Christ is God made man that causes problems. Peter, the first person to declare that Jesus is the Christ, had the same trouble.
Jesus first asked the disciples who men said he was. They could have mentioned that the Pharisees and others thought he was a menace to the community and unqualified to teach on Scripture, but apparently they didn’t.
All of the gospels record what the disciples had heard from the adoring crowds that had followed them. Some said John the Baptist, returned from the grave after his beheading.… Read the rest
God made a lot of promises to Abraham, including a key promise to him and his posterity, or literally in Hebrew, his seed. These promises became the foundation of the Jewish nation, but before Abraham’s posterity could inherit the land, they suffered slavery in Egypt. On the way to the promised land, they received the law.
According to the New Testament, no one can ever be good enough for God by obeying the law. So what’s the point? Paul raised that question and answered it in Galatians 3, beginning with verse 19. His answer comes in the context of explaining that the promise to Abraham and his seed is greater than the law, and that the law did not supersede it.… Read the rest
A young woman has a baby boy. That baby grows to adulthood and lives 33 years. How many times has that happened in the history of the human race? Millions?
The young woman and her boy were not members of the ruling class. They lived in an unremarkable village about 2000 years ago. He learned an unremarkable trade, and then became an itinerant teacher. Death at 33 was probably not unusual at that time, but this man was executed for his teaching, because the leaders of his community disapproved. Again, it seems pretty ordinary.
Yet today we are still celebrating the birth, life, and death of this man named Jesus.… Read the rest
I don’t know about you, but I’m tempted to skip over the introductions to Paul’s epistles and go right to what seems like the real meat. I recently noticed that in the Book of Common Prayer, one such introduction, Romans 1:1-7 is one of the appointed readings for the Sundays in Advent. It seems good to pay closer attention.
Paul had never been to Rome when he decided to write a letter to the Roman church. Therefore, he needed to introduce himself in greater detail than in the letters to churches he himself had founded.
On the other hand, he was too humble a man to write about himself more than absolutely necessary.… Read the rest