God commanded Ezekiel to pose a riddle and speak a parable to his people, which comprises Ezekiel 17. At the time, it was a commentary on current events. For us, it’s ancient history. Many people these days have trouble grasping why ancient history matters today. In fact, the difference between Ezekiel’s time and ours is no more than window dressing. Today’s societies all exhibit the same sins as his.
The parable concerns two eagles and a vine, which all behave like humans in both their glory and shame. We don’t have to guess what it means for ancient Israel. The chapter explains the allegory in detail.… Read the rest
The kingdom of heaven is a major theme of Matthew’s gospel, including most of the parables in Matthew 13. The chapter begins with the parable of the sower (or the four soils) and its explanation. All the other parables in the chapter compare the kingdom of heaven to something or someone. Four other chapters include parables that illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is like.
This post will examine the short parables at the end of Matthew 13. He spoke these parables to the disciples alone, not to a crowd.
Christians have been awaiting the return of Jesus Christ since the very beginning of the church. In fact, as early as Amos (almost 800 years before Christ), people were looking forward to the Day of the Lord. And beginning with Amos, the prophets and apostles have warned us it won’t be a pleasant time.
The coming wrath of God is not a pleasant thought. Many Christians recoil because they can’t reconcile it with his love. But we must remember that every syllable of the Bible perfectly describes God’s love. Even the parts we don’t like. With that in mind, let’s take a careful look at 2 Peter 3.… Read the rest
Someone in my Sunday school class suggested studying the book of Revelation. Someone else immediately vetoed the idea. She didn’t want to spend much time being scared.
Lots of people apparently think Revelation is scary and that therefore they shouldn’t read it. Actually, it’s the only book in the Bible that promises a special blessing for anyone who does read it (Revelation 1:3). In fact, the only people who ought to be afraid of it are the scoffers who won’t bother to look at it.
When the book of Revelation is explained, we can face it calmly and hopefully
John the Baptist burst on the scene with such power that people wondered if he could be the Messiah. He identified Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah.
In explaining what the Messiah would do, he didn’t refer to anything Jesus did in his earthly ministry. He pointed to Jesus’ post-resurrection work and used an agricultural image to do so. The message was plain to those who heard John, but it’s obscure to us today.
Do you ever feel like you pray and pray and God doesn’t listen? It may or may not be true.
Once when I was feeling really down and rudderless, I opened my Bible at random and found Isaiah 1. It contains this passage:
11The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the Lord.
I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
Rahab the harlot, or prostitute, dominates Joshua 2. Such a woman would hardly seem worth mentioning. Indeed, the whole story hardly seems necessary to the overall plot of the book.
Jump directly from the end of chapter 1 to the beginning of chapter 3. Then continue reading the rest of the book, skipping some verses in chapter 6. Doesn’t the narrative make perfect sense without Rahab?
If she doesn’t matter to the narrative of Joshua, she matters a great deal in the narrative of grace. For one thing, the outcome of her story fulfills the blessing of Abraham that in him all nations would be blessed.… Read the rest
The story of Noah in the Bible marks a turning point. From creation to Noah, the Bible mostly records only genealogical data: a man’s name, the name of his son, and how long he lived. Some men rate a brief description. Noah’s faith gets three chapters in Genesis. Isaiah and Ezekiel both mention him.
In the New Testament, Jesus mentions Noah a couple of times. He appears in the faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11, where it says that by faith, Noah condemned the world. Peter calls him a “preacher of righteousness.”
Most of us know something of the story of Noah and the ark, but how much attention do we pay to Noah himself?… Read the rest
As I originally wrote this, most of the world had shut down on account of the coronavirus outbreak. Plenty of people are wondering about where God is in the modern plague of Covid-19.
We might as well wonder about God in modern plagues, plural. After all, Covid-19 isn’t the first plague outbreak in this century. Remember MRSA? SARS? H1N1? And maybe I’ve forgotten some. In any case, seasonal flu kills more than any of them.
Common and facile responses seem to divide into three groups:
Some Christians always come out of the woodwork to proclaim that this or that crisis is God’s judgment on whatever sin most upsets them.
If people know nothing else about Christianity, they know that it doesn’t approve of sexual sin. Unfortunately, large swaths of the church have forgotten that.
Child abuse and sexually predatory behavior scandalize both church and society. Too many people who grow up in the church reach adulthood without learning biblical standards of morality. Children of ordained ministers shack up with their blessing. High ranking denominational leaders favor homosexual marriage and ordaining homosexual clergy.
Many point out that Jesus himself said nothing on the subject of homosexuality. As if that means he had no objection to it. But homosexuality is a kind of sexual sin.… Read the rest