The 3 stories of Ezekiel as watchman, chapters 3, 18 (implied), and 33, have challenged me over the years to plot the presentation in a simple, but comprehensive graphic. After several attempts, I have a draft that I would appreciate response to. I have never tried this before, but if all goes well I may share other info graphics that I have prepared over the years. So, let me know what you think!
Way back when I used to think that one sinned less as they matured (not necessarily “aged”): I pictured a uniform, upward slope of one’s sanctification, one’s living for God. Later I came to realize that God’s testing, life’s events, or my failures caused that upward path to be composed of hills and valleys, some of the latter very deep; thus a zig-zag graph, but still generally upward.
At the advanced age of 63, I realize how naive these representations were. I now picture my sin’s committed graph as horizontal; that is, I commit as many sins today as I did yesterday, and, as a matter of fact, as how many I committed 20, 30, or 40 years ago.
The only difference being that whereas I used to be unaware of many of my sins, now that I am more “mature” I am more sensitive to them. And hopefully I do something about them after committing them, confess, seek forgiveness.
If this is true, and I believe so, it helps better explain the lives of God’s spokesmen, those who so readily condemned their own behavior. They truly were saints, but they were able to see more of their sins, since they were closer to God. But concurrently, they also were able to appreciate God’s mercy (OT) and grace (NT) more.
If managed biblically, this mature recognition of one’s sins drives one closer to God, and that it good. It’s almost as if he had thought of that in advance–nice. Thanks Jesus.
We just were challenged with a well articulated revival message from Isaiah 64–read it; it’s a great text. During a pause in the presentation, I glanced down to chapter 65, wherein God responds with his interpretation of their confession and plea for him to come down to deliver them.
It’s not nice what yhwh says. He has grown tired of hypocritical repentance. Words, words, words, it’s just words–pious though they be. But the lives behind that confession tell another story. In the temple one praises God, outside the same one’s behavior runs rampant over the 10 words–violating most of them. And that without concern that this Janus-life greatly grieves his God.
yhwh has had enough; new heavens and earth will be created. Few though will remain to experience them, rather the creative fire will toast them along with their hypocrisy.
Revival is great; it is needed, just don’t pretend; you may get burned.
Just completed 8 weeks with my Sunday school class on Nahum; they seemed to enjoy the study. So what is a Christian supposed to get out of this vitriolic message of this 7th century prophet, as he rails against the current evil empire? Several thoughts come to mind, but one stands out. Nahum as with all of Israel’s prophets (there is an exception or two) was not sent to Nineveh to deliver his message but to Judah itself. Thus his was not a word of warning but one of hope. “Assyria, you are about to let my people go; thus says yhwh.”
How then was Judah to receive this word from their god? After all their nation was vassal to Nineveh: a heavy tax burden was due every year, a rather large Assyrian idol occupied a central place in the temple, and a constant flow of foreign traders, soldiers, and politicians traveled through often stopping to ensure that Judahites understood who was in control–of everything.
This, more than anything else defines God’s relationship with his people; it’s one of promise, the fulfillment of which yet lies over the horizon. God could get rid of Assyria at anytime, either miraculously via cosmic events or through normal, divinely controlled, political events.
But then if he always acted on his people’s demand, who would be god?
Rather he has chosen to speak the future, while calling upon his people to live in the present having to realize that the God who would deliver them is more than capable of taking care of them until that deliverance occurs.
In other words: God wanted them, he wants us, to (learn to) live well in an ugly world. Yes, Jesus will soon return, but in the meantime, live with full assurance that he is in absolute control of the mess that we call this life. Live now as if then.
This is a fascinating read that changed my thinking. I used to imagine that one could achieve beyond their station of birth–after all this is the land of the free and the home of the brave, the one place on earth where hard work, diligent study, extra hours returned their investment: what one merits one becomes.
In contrast what really happens is that merit does work but for a very short time. It doesn’t take long before the new generation of those who worked up to the top become the old aristocracy in different form.
For instance, most if not all who enter Congress leave as millionaires, Republicans and Democrats alike. Regardless of what they say, laws passed slant toward the wealthy, as in keeping them wealthy.
The adage that the wealthy should not be taxed at a higher rate, because they reinvest their profit in the economy is bogus. What they reinvest their profit in is making themselves more money! The rich are getting richer as the poor get poorer. Who’s going to stop that, your wealthy congressman?
After reading, and enjoying, my way through his book, I anticipated the conclusion–what can be done to redistribute wealth. I wasn’t disappointed, but I was discouraged. What Hayes proposes is a cross-party uniting of those who want to improve our broken system. Whether Republicans or Democrats or libertarians or conservatives, these have to put aside some of their differences and unite for the greater good.
And that’s where I became discouraged. Not in the history of the world has such happened. Man has been and ever will be short-sighted. The only cure is bankruptcy. We would rather fail then work with those on the other side, even if our differences are minor. Hayes is only 34 years old–he needs to read some history.
Now God, way back when, had a solution. Every 50 years Israel had a jubilee during which all land reverted to its original owners. Those who had expanded lost, those who lost regain, economic life started all over again. Nice.
“I am Joseph” With those words Joseph introduced himself to his brothers after not seeing them for 14 years. Remember the last time he was with them? They had thrown him into a dry cistern, sat down to eat a meal, heartlessly listened to his pleading cries, while they plotted his death, or what turned out to be a better deal–they sold him to slave traders bound for Egypt, an equivalent death.
What a story. God worked, Joseph prospered those for whom he worked, slaved–Potiphar, jailor, Pharaoh: rags to management, prisoner to COO, Hebrew to #2 in the country. All for the purpose of protecting those to whom he had promised.
I am fascinated by the conversation that the brothers have with Joseph after returning from burying Jacob. “On his death-bed our father asked us to ask you to forgive us for what we had done to you those many (~44) years ago.” Did Jacob actually say that or did the brothers make it up? After all why didn’t Jacob ask Joseph directly?
The bigger question is: did Jacob ever know what his sons did to his favorite? Regardless, Joseph acted magnanimously–“you meant it for evil but God meant it for good.” Of course the bothers had to demonstrate that they were not the heartless bunch, who had sold their sibling to rid themselves of his and their father’s obvious relational preferences.
Here Judah came to the fore. In the longest paragraph in the Joseph story, Judah pleads with Joseph to spare his aged father’s grief if his beloved son Benjamin would fail to return from Egypt. Judah says “take me instead”; that’s all Joseph had to hear. What had been prejudice was now concern.
No wonder the tribe of Judah had the place of honor in the tribal distribution.
Are you a Joseph? would you forgive?
Or better, are you a Judah? do you learn from your mistakes?
The final four chapters of Zechariah may be the most difficult 4-verse unit to understand in the entire Bible. One may easily get lost in his forest of obscurity (give chapter 11 a quick read for example) and miss the fact that the prophet foretells of Judah’s turning away in spite of the fact that they had just returned from exile.
Restoration of the people to their homeland would not guarantee that they would live in obedience to God’s commandments, his torah, just as God’s previous deliverance of his people from Egypt did not ensure that they obeyed him. Zechariah “saw” God’s people continuing their pattern of disobedience.
Not good, but doesn’t it tell us much about ourselves? Doesn’t it also tell us much about our plans for the future? As Israel’s inclination tended toward disobedience, requiring correction by God, so also is that of the church. If we realized that, perhaps our planning would be more sober. Are we so naive that we expect our church, our school, my life to succeed when all others have not. Let’s be smart; let’s build into our processes, plans time to reflect upon, address, and correct inevitable failures.
What would Zechariah say about us? Would his message be any different than the one he gave to ancient Judah? I doubt it!