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Crucified Before the Foundation of the World

"Crucified before the foundation of the world." What does that mean? How could that even happen? Historians and archaeologists ta...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Salt--Seasoning, Preservative, or Symbol?

Salt farmers harvesting salt, Pak Thale, Ban L...
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The Bible says some very interesting things about salt. Salt was required in all the sacrifices (Leviticus 2:13). Bread offered on the altar was to be made with salt. Meat sacrifices were to be salted.
The prophet Elisha healed a spring that had bad water by putting salt in it (2 Kings 2:19-21). The proclamation that David and his descendants would reign on the throne of Israel was sealed with a covenant of salt (Chronicles 13:5).
Salt is used as a seasoning. It makes things taste good. Paul advises in Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (NIV). Paul wants his readers to understand that they should used words that are meaningful and worth hearing. Salt does not dull the taste or leave a hint of bitterness.
As a preservative, Christians are called to be a witness and to preserve the nation, the society and the world against the ravages of sin and disaster. Abraham performed that service when he pled for Sodom and Gomorrah asking “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” And God answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it”(Genesis18:24, 33)
In Ezra 7:22-23 King Artaxerxes ordered the treasurers to provide the priests with the supplies for sacrifice when the Jews returned to Jerusalem. He listed a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil and salt without measure. This strikes me as amazing. Make sure they don’t run out. Bring the salt until they are finished with the sacrifices. Have a plentiful supply.
I like the concept that salt represents other things that we don’t specify an amount. God gives us some things that don’t have a limit–grace, the Holy Spirit, forgiveness. There are things that God expects us to surrender in unlimited amounts, too: love, obedience, worship. Make your own list.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

What Goes Around. . .

English: Map showing states around Israel and ...
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The Book of Obadiah is one of the books of the Minor Prophets.  The term Minor does not denigrate or insult the writer or his message.  Minor just means he didn't write much, maybe he didn't prophesy for very long.  

The people of Edom were considered to be the descendants of Esau the brother of Jacob.  I suppose they settled there before the children of Israel sought safety and sustenance in Egypt.  Edom was well established and could have made the Israelites journey to Canaan shorter, but they would not allow them to pass through, so Moses led them to the River Jordan at Jericho.  This is the first insult, but the rant concerns another event: Presumably this occurred about 587b.c.e. when the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem.  Edom delighted in it, and even took part.  

The prophesy describes Edom as full of pride making her home in the clefts of the rocks, but she will be despised and small among the nations.  

Though you soar like the eagle 
   and make your nest among the stars, 
   from there I will bring you down,
            declares the LORD. (NIV)

Obadiah describes the details of the destruction of Edom: Esau will be ransacked and pillaged.  The wise men will be destroyed and the warriors will be terrified.

Edom should not stand aloof when a brother is being destroyed, "when strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates."(NIV)  Edom was like one of them.  Obadiah may be warning Edom of judgment to come.  Is it too late to repent?  "You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down fugitives or hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble."(NIV)

15 "The day of the LORD is near 
   for all nations. 
As you have done, it will be done to you; 
   your deeds will return upon your own head."(NIV) 

 This verse may be the most damning of all.  You punishment will be what you dealt out.  When I worked in the prison system, this was a favorite proverb:  What goes around, comes around.  It is measured to you with the same scoop you dish it out to others.  The most fearful part of this is that the person who was injured doesn't have to be the one to retaliate.  

In the case of Edom,  it may be the other nations or God himself that responds.  For us on an individual level, it comes from any angle and with unknown force.  Edom was destroyed and it is not mentioned in historical sources after the Jewish Wars in 68 A.D.  The region of Idumea was mentioned as late as 400.

This whole book consists of one chapter.  Read it judgments and consider whether you are might be included.  

The final verses give a hopeful prospect.  Verse 21 says:

Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion 
   to govern the mountains of Esau. 
   And the kingdom will be the LORD’s.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

A Command: Follow Me

An Invitation: Come Follow Me is a post I wrote some time ago.  It seems Jesus said that a lot, and here in John 21 after the resurrection he says it to Peter twice.  First, he took Peter's admission of love for him as agreement and indicated that Peter's life would go in a painful direction.  Peter did not question or argue, but then he saw John.

"What about him?"  he asked.  I wonder what his tone was.  Was he just curious about John's assignment?  Did he fear that John would be left out?  Did he think John was being favored?

Jesus dismissed the question.  "What is that to you?"  John had a different assignment than Peter.  Jesus did not treat everyone the same.  He loved everyone, but the invitation to come and follow meant different things for different people.  

Then he shares with Peter that his future holds some distressing  events, and he continues with indications of a different path for John.  He doesn't indicate that either one will be more or less favored; they will just be different.

Jesus says "What is it to you if he stays till I come.  You follow me."

We have he same sort of questions Peter had.  What about my sister or husband or child?  I have friends who need to be here; what about them?  Jesus looks at us with the same questions he asked of Peter:  What is that to you?  It won't change your mission to check out the mission of others.  You must be obedient to your own call.  You don't get see if they have a better deal than you.  Jesus calls you to serve in the place chosen for you. 

We each have a place of service in obedience to the call of Jesus.  The greatest joy and ultimate fulfillment of our lives comes in obeying the call.  It really doesn't matter what others have or do or what their call is.  Like Peter, we are called to follow him.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Lamb of God

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What does it mean to be the Lamb of God?  We use that phrase a lot, and it means different things to different people.  What did it mean to the Pharisees, the Disciples, the little kid in Sunday school, the sinner afraid to come to church.  What does it mean to me?  What does it mean to God?

The Lamb of God: John's View
John the Baptist was preaching and teaching on the banks of the River Jordan, and there he baptized Jesus.  The next day he was standing with some of his disciples and Jesus was there.  John said,  “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)  There were other people there too.  The Pharisees came out to see John, and they heard his proclamation.  They were very well versed in the Law and they knew the scriptures  concerning the Passover well.  John did not know all the details, but he knew this one thing:  Jesus was the one he came to proclaim as the Lamb of God.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law knew the lamb of the Passover to be the one who took away the sin of a year, but it had to be repeated every year.  Was he saying Jesus was more than that?  Moses had given them the Passover so that they could come before God sinless for one day, but the day after the sacrifice they began to rebuild the store of sins and trespasses.  It only lasted for a day.  A man as the Lamb of God--how could that be? 

The Lamb of God: The Disciples' View

The Twelve came to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. After Peter's confession in John 6:68 and in Matthew 16:16 Jesus began to emphasize that he would go to Jerusalem and die.  It disturbed them when he talked about his own death.  In Matthew 16:22 Peter chastised him and counseled him not to say things like that.  But Jesus returned the rebuke.  He knew his destiny:  He would go to Jerusalem.  That meant pain, rejection, suffering, death.  The Disciples could not look beyond the death or even understand resurrection.  He spoke about his death to them more after this,but their understanding was still faulty.  They could accept he was the Son of God, but being the Lamb took longer.  The Son could be kind or gracious or majestic.  The Lamb meant pain and suffering and crucifixion.  

In John 6 and Matthew 16 Jesus went to great lengths to explain the meaning of feeding on his flesh.  He had blessed bread and they sought more.  Now he tells the crowds he was the bread of life.  That was sort of hard to take, but when he said "eat my flesh and drink my blood," they couldn't take it.  Many of them followed him no more. (John 6:66 )  These words bring the Lamb of God into sharp focus.  

Lamb of God: Spiritually Immature View

Little children in Sunday school are not ready for the very mature reality of Jesus as the Lamb of God, so we effectively inoculate them with Jesus as docile and defenseless.  It is true that he came before Pilate without defense.  He did not call a legion of Angels to defend him.  He was meek and mild.  When adults who can approach this concepts still have the picture of Jesus as a victim without power, we have failed to teach the reality of who Jesus is.

Lamb of God: Sinners' View,  in or out of the Church

Sinners, the lost, and the worldly who hear the words of Jesus, the Lamb of God, may know there is something more to this than they understand.  Like the crowds that turned back and the Pharisees that sought the law, they are seeking something more concrete.  Jesus has only himself to offer, and the sinner has a load of guilt he doesn't know what to do with.  He feels he has to clean it up and make it look better before he can stand before God.  He misses the point:  Jesus will take care of it.  Name the sins and leave that baggage beside the door.  Jesus will take you and love you and redeem you, when you go in to dinner with him.

The Lamb of God:  My View
Jesus is the Lamb of God who has done for me what I could not do for myself.  He reveals places in me that I didn't know were there; places of sin and darkness and places of joy and light are revealed as he shows me myself through his eyes.  He feeds me on his own presence as I abide in him.

The Lamb of God:  God's View

The Lamb of God is the person of Jesus who participated in our lives in the world.  He knows our needs and our blessings.  God himself saw our need for salvation before he ever created the world.  He knew we would be willful creatures before Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden.  He could have created us sinless and perfect, but he wanted us to have freedom.  He wanted us to love him when we had the option to do otherwise.  Because we would be capable of sin, he wanted a way to remove the sin if we chose to take it.  

Revelations 8:13 says that Jesus was "the Lamb slain from the foundations of the earth."  In the mind of God, if there was going to be a race of men, there must be a sacrifice for sin.  This is a weighty concept:  God knew before man was ever created that sin would be a reality.  In the mind of God the sacrifice for sin was a fact before the creation ever began.  He loved the world and created humans with the remedy for their sin already in place.
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