Joshua and the Israelite People / Karolingischer Buchmaler, ca. 840
“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”–Joshua 1:9, NRSV
Moses was dead. Joshua was scared. How do I know that? Because the Book of Joshua begins with God giving him a pep talk. Three times during that pep talk, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. When he got up from there and went out among the people, they told him to be strong and courageous.
So, was it wrong for Joshua to be scared? No.… Read the rest
Map of Abram's journey
We know Abraham as the father of many nations. Arabs and Jews both claim him as their ancestor. His life story forms the very foundation of the basic Christian concept of justification by faith. He did not start out that way. We first meet him as a name at the tail end of one of the tiresome genealogies that make parts of the Bible so dry: “After Terah had lived 70 years he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran” (Genesis 11:26). How did this Abram grow to become the Abraham so many people revere?
God called Abram and he answered.… Read the rest
What do you know about Samson? Is he a Bible character you particularly admire or respect? His story, told in four chapters in Judges, is full of foolish choices. He had a special weakness for Philistine women. His last Philistine girl friend, Delilah, kept bugging him to tell her the secret of his strength. Twice he lied to her, and twice she sent Philistine men to capture him. What kept him from turning his back on her instead of finally telling her the truth? And he had such a great start in life!
The angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s mother, a barren woman.… Read the rest
The stoning of Achan, Mid-fifteenth-century Flemish miniature
Achan appears in the seventh chapter of Joshua. All the spoils of Jericho were supposed to be devoted to the Lord. All of its gold and silver should have been taken to the treasury in the tabernacle and everything else destroyed by fire. Achan helped himself to some gold, silver, and a beautiful robe and buried them in his tent. God’s anger became apparent when the Israelite army suffered a humiliating defeat. He told Joshua to cast lots to find who sinned to cause it. The lot fell to Achan. He confessed his deed.… Read the rest
People don’t like to wait for answers to prayer. But what about when God warns of something bad that will happen some time in the future? In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream that involved a large tree being chopped down. Daniel interpreted it and said the king would be driven from human society for seven years and then be restored. He also said that Nebuchadnezzar could avoid his fate by repentance from his sin. The king forgot all about it. God did not.
28 “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon.
… Read the rest
The book of Daniel contains some of the most obscure visions in Scripture. Weird looking beasts represent empires in Daniel’s future, but mostly our past. We can identify many rulers by name and understand references to what each of them did. The evil doings of Syrian King Antiochus IV appear at greater length, except there always seem to some details that don’t fit. They point to a coming Antichrist. I have recently touched on one of the visions in Thoughts on Bible prophecy: reading the future in Scripture. Daniel’s final vision relates the ultimate destruction of Antichrist and promises bodily resurrection for everyone afterward.… Read the rest
Why do bad things happen? Some people seem to think it’s God’s job to make everyone happy all the time. Some people even point to the suffering in the world as justification for not believing in God at all. No one seems to mind if “bad” people suffer; they have it coming to them. But good people? Righteous people?God allows them to suffer, too. Why? Why?
There is an answer that no one likes much: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, quoting Psalm 14:3 and Psalm 53:3, NKJV), “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).… Read the rest
The story of Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3) is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. Pharaoh had ordered all Hebrew baby boys killed. Instead, Moses’ mother put him on a raft so Pharaoh’s daughter would find it, and then joined her household. Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s court with all of its privileges, but also with full understanding of his heritage. In his zeal for justice, he murdered an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, then fled. God met him in the burning bush forty years later. Sometimes the story’s very familiarity keeps us from understanding its meaning.… Read the rest
All we know about the birth and lineage of Jesus comes from accounts (including genealogies) in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. But they seem so different! That’s because they have different emphases and different perspectives. Before exploring the differences, it is important to emphasize what Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-3 have in common:
- Jesus was born in Bethlehem
- Jesus was raised in Nazareth
- He was a direct descendant of King David
- His parents were named Joseph and Mary
- Mary was a virgin until after Jesus was born
- An angel told both parents (separately) to name him Jesus.
- Herod reigned as king in Jerusalem
Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ legal lineage from Abraham and David in order to establish his royal credentials.… Read the rest
We probably all have our favorite images of Jesus. In a well-known scene from Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby preferred to pray to the Baby Jesus. Others of us might be drawn to the healer, the teacher, the man who loved children. I suppose all of the favorite thoughts come under the heading “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” So what about the violent man who upset tables and drove the money changers out of the temple?
It is one of the few incidents in his life mentioned in all four gospels: Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-22. According to the synoptics, Jesus erupted after his triumphal entry.… Read the rest