Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Route 66:26 Dread, dreams, and destiny

Mighty Jerusalem had fallen sometime after Ezekiel was taken into exile. Of priestly lineage, he was granted visions of behind the scenes on earth and in the heavens.

We see three themes, progressing from doom to destiny, from gore to glory. First there is the judgment upon God's people for their sin. Then there is an assurance that their enemies would be held responsible, being judged according to their part in God's plan.

Finally, though, Ezekiel gives a firsthand account of a vision of future Israel and Judah. The symbolism is heavy, but the message of mercy and grace is clear.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Route 66:25 Crying over Jerusalem

The historical record of the life and times of Jeremiah was not confined to the book holding his name. In fact, the book we call "Lamentations" was from the beginning published along with the "book" of Jeremiah.

In five acrostic poems, Jeremiah pours out his heart for his hometown--the place God had chosen since King David's time to call His own--the city of Jerusalem. As he and others had predicted and warned, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed, and Jeremiah was there while it was happening. This poetry is perhaps the best in the Old Testament, even including metered lines in a form that became known as the Lamentation form.

God had warned that this would happen as far back as his revealed will to the people in the Exodus. Disobedience has consequences, and the people of Judah had found out the hard way. The wrath of God--manifested in the armies of Babylon--served as a vivid illustration of the coming judgment of mankind in general.

However, there was hope in the future. The wrath of God would be poured out upon Jesus the Messiah about 450 years later. In this act of love, the Son of God would take the full punishment due to all his true people, wherever and whenever they may be. When the final days of mankind on this old earth come, the judgment poured out on it will be a magnification of the fall of Jerusalem to an unimaginable level. The only hope any of us have is to be covered by the sacrifice Jesus made.

Route 66:24 When Nobody Listens

Jeremiah had a problem, God wanted him to warn a nation that didn't want to hear him. Nevertheless, when he was told to preach, he obeyed God. Almost all the prophets in the land were telling the king and his court just what they wanted to hear. When Jeremiah pointed this out, he was ostracized and even imprisoned. But with his friend and secretary Baruch, he persisted.

His message was simple, but blunt: "It's too late for repentance, judgment is coming and will last for 70 years." He told the people to not resist the force of the Babylonian army, but rather to go obediently into exile for a multi-generational stay. When he was offered a safe place to stay by the occupying regime, his countrymen kidnapped him and brought him to Egypt.

There was hope in his message, though. God would always have His remnant among national Israel and Judah. This small percentage would be the foundation of a universal, worldwide assembly of those who believe God for Who He says He is. God will always work within the inner person of all those who truly believe Him. This truth was displayed in the New Covenant, which was an extension of the Old to those outside of the commonwealth of national Israel.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Route 66: 23 The Gospel according to Isaiah

The road to New Jerusalem seems to have been paved by the Adversary! I began with the intention of filling my 66th year with reflections on the Bible, one book at a time. With 52 weeks, that was to be less than two a week -- 11 every two months. Easy for me to say back then.

I have done well in reading the Bible, but commenting on it has been sporadic. I am reading in the minor prophets (the Twelve) and the book of the Revelation right now. Anyway, in the "chronicle" of the path, I have only made it through the History of the Old Testament. 

So, I will now do a whirlwind tour of half the Bible in three weeks! First off, Isaiah, the prophet of justice and mercy.

At this time of year, the judgment to come to Judah and Israel takes a back seat to the prophecies of Isaiah and his contemporary Micah. Together, they give a view of the Messiah from a viewpoint far in advance of the events that unfolded sometime between 6 and 1 BC. According to these prophets, speaking about 600 years before Christ, the Messiah would be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem and move for a time to Egypt before ministering to his people.

However, the coming of the Messiah was not to be a conquering savior, but rather one who interacted with regular folk in a special way. However, he would speak prophetically to them, causing many, or most, of his people to reject Him. This was not a new thing for the prophets. According to the record, and then looking to tradition, Isaiah suffered for his message, even to death under King Manassa. Notably, when the Ethiopian eunuch asked about Isaiah 53, he wondered if Isaiah was talking about himself.

The good news, though, is that Isaiah spoke about Jesus, the Messiah, who would come to suffer and die to save sinners from their sin. In context, that meant living as a suffering servant among a people who would kill him. Better news, though, is that Jesus would rise up from the grave to return at a later time in judgment-- the main theme of all the others.  It would become clearer among the writers of the first century AD that the Messiah had two comings: as Saviour and as Judge. 

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Route 66:22 Trial and Triumph

While touring the ancient plain of Shinar, we might as well visit the foremost prophet of the time.

Before the future queen Esther was born, a young man named Daniel was already in the court of a previous king, the great Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The king had thought himself to be supreme, only to be first praised and then warned of his folly. He came around only after being humbled by God.

Unlike his grandfather, Belshazzar never came to his senses. His only recorded meeting with Daniel was right before Persian forces took the city. Before he had been killed, the king had promoted Daniel, who soon was to serve under Persian kings.

As pagan kings looked on, Daniel and his friends stood for God in spite of the rules laid down by the king. Neither fire nor hungry lions could prevail against them.

Their message was clear, God is in control. Dreams and visions made it clear that God knows the future and will not let anyone get in his way to stop His plan.

The lesson we can take away from the recorded history of God's people is that He will honor those who honor him. All others survive due to his good will.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Route 66:21 For Such a Time as This

Babylon had started things, but God had punished that empire by sending their neighbors in. Persia spread from Greece to India and was ruled by a strict law: the king's word could not be broken--not even by the king!

A young Jewish girl, Hadassah (Myrtle), followed her uncle's instructions to become Queen Esther (Star) only to find her people threatened with destruction. 

Without naming God, the story teller showed that the holiday Purim was His work behind the scenes. It was a lesson in politics and faith, all rolled up on one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Route 66: 20 Against All Adversity

*Note to my readers: It seemed like an easy task, Sixty-six posts in 52 weeks! But alas, I have only posted 19 in 10 months. Now I am looking at just under two months to post 47 more. Please feel free to nag me with email.

Nehemiah had received bad news from "back home" in Jerusalem. The city was in bad shape. Even though he had a good job with the government, he saw a need to get personally involved in making things right. But first, he prayed to God.

This was a good idea, of course, even if you are not in a position to seek aid from earthly powers. Nehemiah knew that if he tried to do things in his own strength, his relationship with the king was no guarantee. After prayer, though, the next opportunity to meet the boss landed a "promotion" from advisor to governor!

However, once back home in the then Persian province of Judah, Nehemiah faced opposition even among his own people. Certain rich folk, party bosses as it were, had a "good thing" going. But God was on Nehemiah's side and the wall got built. After that, his duties were done and he turned the project over to Ezra, the priest.

With a wall, the new temple was safe. Proper worship was now resumed. In time it would degenerate into a man-made religion that only God could correct by stepping into history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus would follow the example of God's man of the hour, Governor Nehemiah; for He would bring the challenge before the throne of God. Any earthly obstacle does not stand a chance.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Route 66:19 When Religion meets Politics

With all the regime changes going on, it only seemed right for Cyrus to let potential trouble makers go back to their homeland. One doubts if the king realized that the Jewish prophets had predicted his actions even before his predecessor had conquered Jerusalem.

As it turned out, there was resistance  to his orders, leading to political pressure. Lies were spread, based only on past history, that the Jewish leadership wanted full freedom to go with their religion.

And so, the king changed his mind and called for the temple project to end. Ezra, as the priest in charge, obeyed, waiting patiently for official permission to continue. The next administration saw through the bureaucracy of his predecessor's staff and gave another decree.

God is patient and works with and in spite of politicians. It is hard to fight city hall, but impossible to fight God.