The Stoning of the Blasphemer / Charles Foster: The Story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation (1873)
In John 8:59, a crowd wanted to stone Jesus. Today I’m going to start there and work backwards for a while. Why, you might ask, would I do that?
Careful writers often proofread from end to beginning. They have worked on their draft for so long they know what it’s supposed to say.
So they read the last paragraph, then the previous paragraph, and so on to the beginning. It shows what they otherwise might easily miss.
Reading familiar Bible passages from the end to the beginning can also show details we have probably read past before.… Read the rest
Construction of the ark, from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)
According to Romans 1:18, the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. It seems at first that Noah’s flood could be Exhibit A.
Except that a careful reading shows that nowhere in the Genesis account of the flood does “wrath,” “anger,” or any synonym occur!
The first time “anger” occurs in the King James Bible is Genesis 27:45 to describe Esau. “Wrath” first occurs is Genesis 39:19, which describes Potiphar after his wife accused Joseph of attempted rape. Abraham asked God not to be angry in Genesis 18:30 when the two were bargaining over the fate of Sodom.… 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.
The attitude, which we all have, that causes divine judgment
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.… Read the rest
Some people seem to thing sin is a good thing. It means fun, pleasure. Remember when Weight Watcher soft drinks were advertised as “sinfully delicious”?
The sculpture pictured here was taken on the grounds of Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. It seems more like an enticement than warning. We all know that God hates sin, though. Let’s take a closer look.
… Read the rest
The oddest thing about Jesus’ remark? No one was offended!
If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, now much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!–Matthew 7:11, NKJV
Imagine! In a very offhand way, Jesus told everyone who had gathered to listen to him that they were evil! Who would dare suggest such a thing to anyone today? That would even offend inmates in a maximum security prison.
Mass media did not yet exist in Jesus’ day, but today the leading outlets in print, broadcast, and online media seem to love nothing more than to hear of someone’s gaffe and jump on it.… Read the rest
No one goes looking for hard times to go through, but no one escapes them, either. David described encountering and overcoming the valley of the shadow of death. What kind of hardship is your valley of the shadow of death? A path in a valley might wind through a dense forest. In David’s time, there might not even have been a real path. It might be impossible to see very far ahead. In this metaphorical valley, when we don’t know quite where we’re going, I can attest from personal experience how easy it is to be afraid. How can we come to David’s boldness in claiming to fear no evil?… Read the rest
Ground zero, Jan. 10, 2002. ©Stefan Plogmann
Most everyone in America rejoiced at the death of Osama bin Laden. So did many elsewhere in the world. After all, he was a mass murderer and spent the past few years actively plotting to murder more people. What does God, who is love, have to say about him?
One thing that immediately came to mind is this: “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? . . . The One enthroned in heaven laughs: the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:1, 4). But Scripture also reminds us, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice” (Proverbs 24:17).… Read the rest
Today, fanatical Muslims blow themselves up in crowded market places in the name of their god. They didn’t invent terrorism and are not alone in dishonoring their own religion by their actions. Christians, too, have been guilty. What else can serial murders of abortionists be called?
Many historians describe the tactics of radical abolitionist John Brown an injection of terrorism into American politics, and he though he was acting for God. The religious policies of Spanish King Philip II and Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II amount to state-sponsored terrorism in the name of God.
Not all wickedness is violent. Those who devise Internet scams, those who choose profits over human lives in board rooms, and any others who steal at long distance do not sin violently.… Read the rest
Christians today find it easy to hold the scribes and pharisees of Jesus’ day in contempt. If Jesus was so critical, then they must have been evil religious hypocrites, right?
We forget that they were among the most highly respected people in their society. Most of them, at least, must have been sincere and honorable. Alas, too many modern Christian leaders take after the ones Jesus scolded. (One, of course, is one too many.) When they come under criticism, many of their followers go to great lengths to defend them.
Indeed, religious leaders who live less than godly lives have always presented a quandary. … Read the rest
“What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. — Matthew 26:15
What was Judas thinking? He had followed Jesus as one of the twelve chosen apostles for three years. He had received teaching not trusted to outsiders. He had not only seen miracles but performed them under Jesus’ tutelage.
He had been present when Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. From that time on, he must have known that whenever he looked at Jesus, he saw the face of God.
John’s gospel points out that Judas kept the money for the group.… Read the rest