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Isaiah Chapter 3: Culture of Youth and Beauty — Post by Mary C. Findley

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Sounds like Jerusalem and Judah had it pretty good, right? Look over that list of material provision (support system, food, water) and leadership (military, judiciary, teachers, advisers, craftsmen, and someone who may have been a charismatic speaker or influencer). The use of the phrase skillful enchanter gives us a hint that they weren’t sourcing any of their things or their leaders from the right place.

We worship a culture of youth and have for a long time, and here God gives people what they want, youngsters in charge, with disastrous results. People begin to take advantage of each other and the honorable suffer at the hands of these childish rulers. One guy with an intact coat will be grabbed and thrust into leadership, if anybody can make him do it. Apparently nobody will have much more than a coat in those days. Certainly not a will to give proper leadership.

Verses 8 and 9 make it clear that the people oppose God and flaunt their rebellion. When disaster comes, they can’t pretend it wasn’t their own fault. Public sins have public consequences.

Time to reassure the righteous in verse 10. No matter how bad things seem to get, it will go well with them. And in verse 11 another reassurance we often need when, as the Scriptures say in other places, this question hangs in the air: “Why do the wicked prosper?” God says things will turn bad for the wicked. “Let the punishment fit the crime,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado says. God says the wicked will get what they deserve.

Once again God restates in verse 12 that His people are oppressed because they wanted unsuitable rulers – immature, inexperienced, leading the people down twisting paths.
God will judge these rulers. Make no mistake. I’m pretty sure those crushing and grinding references refer at least in part to taxes. People tend to think that government takes care of the poor with welfare and social services. But it doesn’t work that way when corruption takes hold. God is outraged at the twisted mentality that steals from people who already have too little.

Verses 16-24 detail a culture that should be very recognizable to us today. Is it a sin to want to be beautiful and have pretty things? Look at the words used: proud, seductive. Women can bring down a whole culture by worshiping self, sexuality, beauty. Dressing little girls in revealing outfits is starting them down the road to sensuality without reserve. Females scream about their rights and their freedoms Modesty has become kind of an obsolete term but God hates that mentality.

God will send scabs into that beautiful hair. He will make it fall out, or pluck it out. All that long list of pretty things will disappear and be replaced by stench, coarseness, and disfigurement.

The men they have gotten themselves dressed up for will be dying in battle, trying to save their women, but failing. All that emphasis on self, on attracting attention, will change to mourning and loneliness.

Questions for Further Study, Discussion, or Thought
1. What clues indicate that God’s people were prosperous but not by depending on Him?
2. Briefly explain what kinds of oppression take place when the wrong kind of rulers get into power.
3. What are some proofs that these people deserve what they get when destruction overtakes them?
4. Give examples in modern culture of women lacking understanding of modesty.
5. Do you think women have in some cases made it more difficult for men to protect them? Explain your answer.

Your Turn in the Microcosm
Can you see any way in which Isaiah 3 resembles Leviticus? God spelled out laws, described beautiful garments, and even gave proper age ranges for his different kinds of servants. The story of Nadab and Abihu might help provide an example that parallels how people sometimes respond to God’s expectations. There are rewards and punishments in Leviticus. Step into the microcosm and share your observations on how we should really be seeking God’s blessing or avoiding His wrath.

Image Credit: Artist August Riedel Title: Judith Current location: Neue Pinakothek Source/Photographer: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Wikimedia Commons

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Isaiah Chapter One: The Price of Doing What You Want

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Isaiah was a prophet to four kings in Judah. His book is, in our modern version, 66 chapters long, the same as the number of the books in our Bible. Some have called it a microcosm of the whole Bible. Indeed, we can find many of the elements throughout the Bible in this one book, so studying it gives a chance to hit many of the highlights God wants us to discover throughout His Word.

Heavens and earth are called to witness the declaration. Creation has been an innocent witness to and victim of man’s rebellion from the time of the fall. Romans 8:18-25 details the correct attitude of believers, that of understanding that suffering is part of true service to God, because sin is not good and pleasant and enjoyable, but produces misery and anguish. Creation has longed for purging from the effects of sin ever since it entered the natural world.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:18-25, NASB)

This should have been the attitude of the Children of Israel in Isaiah’s time, but the truth was that they, instead of acting like sons raised up to love and serve their father, God, they revolted. They weren’t just indifferent or apathetic, they actively rebelled.
Trained domestic animals know better than these people about who to serve and obey. How can these people be ignorant? Sinful as a whole nation, burdened by all of that wickedness, generational guilt and corruption. Abandoning, despising, and turning away from God.

This has to be true because if the traditions were maintained, Jewish children were educated in the Law from an early age. They knew better, from the three methods God has always used:
1. the witness of creation,
2. the witness of His Word, and the message of the prophets. By this time they had numerous books of the Bible
3. plus teachers and prophets like Isaiah.

“There is no room for another mark.” Tars Tarkas said in the John Carter movie, speaking to his daughter Sola. Sola was punished for disobedience against her green Martian tribe by being branded each time she was caught. She had been punished so many times there was no space left on her body for the signs of her rebellion.

Whether this punishment in this movie was just or not isn’t the point. It illustrates the condition of the people of God. He had disciplined them for their true and unquestionable rebellion until there was no space that did not bear “bruises, welts, and raw wounds.” (Isaiah 1:6, NASB)

Put aside your socially-conditioned shock over corporal punishment, please. Even in our permissive society we reach a point where we have laws to try to correct wrongdoing. These were God’s attempts to lawfully correct His people’s wrongdoings. He just didn’t have any place left to administer correction.

From head to toe these people bore the marks of stubbornness and rebellion. The fact that they were untreated (raw) and “not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil” means that they were like sheep who wouldn’t even let a shepherd take care of the injuries sustained as part of the sheep’s natural tendency to wander and get itself injured or corrected with the rod. They’ve run from the tender aftermath where the father who had to discipline would love to take the rebel into His arms and administer comfort and display love.

The man-curated portion of creation also bears witness to rebellion. His structures created from God-supplied building materials are burned. His crops are stolen by invaders, as happened often throughout the book of Judges. These marauders devoured this food right in front of the Israelites. Desolation by strangers. A terrible fate.
This makes it clear that it wasn’t God who wanted to rob them of safety and sustenance. Enemies took the opportunity to swarm in because the people had trampled on God’s walls of protection. They smashed through those loving arms reaching out to defend them and embraced instead false gods and practices. In doing so they also invited in pain, misery, and loss.

All that was left was a little shack in an empty field, the place where someone was supposed to look after the crops as they grew. But there was nothing left to tend or protect. A besieged city will eventually run out of supplies and come to the end of its food and water. Israel had allowed itself to be surrounded and cut off from God’s help. Only a few survivors would remain because of God’s enduring mercy. They could have been wiped out, as Sodom and Gomorrah were, but God did not desire that.

How do we know that they were probably still following the traditions of teaching their children? Because they were following others, the sacrifices, the attendance at the Temple. We know this because God said they were sacrificing, but instead of enjoying the “sweet aroma,” as He has described it elsewhere, God said “I take no pleasure” calls them “worthless” and says “incense is an abomination.” He says “I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.” It’s as if you invited and important guest to dinner and served the garbage disposal scraps along with the real food. What were the Israelites thinking?

Just as the people were burdened with their sins in verse 4, God was burdened by their hypocritical sacrifices and growing weary of having patience, seeking true repentance in verse 14. That’s what sacrifices were supposed to be for, to show evidence of being sorry, turning away, and seeking forgiveness.

That’s not what these sacrifices were, though. When the Israelites prayed, they couldn’t even see that they were raising up bloody hands, stained by the innocent blood God says elsewhere that people were guilty of shedding. From evil kings all the way down to mothers who killed their own children, God recounts over and over again the horrors His own people were capable of committing. God will not, cannot, listen to the prayers of polluted people when they never give a thought to confessing and forsaking their sin but just feel like they have to carry out a ritual.

“Tradition!” shouts the cast of Fiddler on the Roof in the famous production number of the same name, but these traditions were empty of truth and meaning to those people in Isaiah’s time.

God begged and pleaded that they would see their sin, acknowledge it, and be cleansed from it. They needed to learn what the traditional education was supposed to be impressing on them, the basics of right human behavior.

These were such simple precepts. Stop doing evil. Learn how to do right. You don’t have to have superpowers to become a champion of justice. Tell bad people they are wrong. Stand up for children with no parents. Defend women left without husbands.
Did you think God was only interested in emotion, in mysticism? Then why does He invite us in verse 18 to reason together with Him? Because true belief isn’t weird. It isn’t mysterious and impossible to think through and understand.

God gives an object lesson. If you spill blood on something, it will stain. Just so, the people had stained themselves by killing the innocent. But blood can be washed out, even out of something pure white, like wool, and then it will be bright, clean, and shining pure again.

But of course He isn’t talking about literal blood or wool here. He’s talking about sin and its remedy. Sin is the destruction of innocence. People do murder innocents when they abort babies or leave newborns in a toilet or leave children in a cardboard box someplace because they didn’t want to protect them. The same goes for women who are attacked, molested, raped, or murdered because they are deemed easy prey.

In the days of Isaiah there were human sacrifices, usually children, but women were also victimized, used and discarded as temple prostitutes or subject to other monstrous mistreatment. Anytime we fail to value and protect life we are guilty of innocent blood.
Again, God appeals to simple reason in verse 19. Consent to obey, and you will have the best. Refuse and rebel, and the sword is coming to kill you. You have been warned, just as you are warned about the consequences of misbehavior when you accept a job.
If you keep abusing your position, stealing from your employer (so many ways to do that and no one can pretend they don’t know many ways to betray an employer’s trust) vandalizing his property, mistreating fellow employees, you could end up worse than fired. You could go to prison, at least. This is what the people were doing to God.

How does a person go from faithful to unfaithful? Just to unjust? Righteous to murderer? How does this happen in the heart of a man or woman today? A bride and groom do still sometimes exchange vows, including a pledge of fidelity. Believe it or not, this is still a thing in many marriage ceremonies, even nowadays.

Yet married couples betray each other by adultery, mistreat each other by hiding or misspending income, abuse each other with physical violence, and even murder a spouse, sometimes with the added horror of committing suicide afterwards. This can happen in other areas of life as well, following a pattern of initial faithfulness devolving into downward steps that end in some kind of terribly unnatural death.

Instead of maintaining valuable currency we have, like ancient Sparta, become satisfied with coinage worthless outside our own tiny circle. We can’t get anything but watered-down beverages because we don’t protect the value of things. We are led by the rebellious and form friendships with people who think stealing is just getting what you’re owed or the only way to get ahead. You can pay people to make you falsely successful. Nobody listens to the cries of the real needy, the orphans and the widows. They’re too busy chasing false success for themselves.

These people are adversaries of God. They oppose Him, and He will treat them like enemies in battle. He won’t put up with impurities like the dross in silver. Get ready for the lye soap, you dirty sinner. You will become pure by God’s washing and it won’t be comfortable or make you feel loved, since you didn’t want to be loved when you had the chance.

How do we get back to righteousness? Let God restore it. Stop rebelling. Give in to His wisdom in the choice of judges and counselors. He chose them in the time of the Judges, just to name one example. Wow! Would we have chosen Samson or Jephtha? God’s ways are not our ways, but He asks us to trust Him and to be obedient, not understand or know everything. “Trust and Obey” is far more than a song for children in Sunday school. It’s a life principle.

Only in that way can faithfulness be restored. God does it. We don’t do it. Our efforts fail and so do our sinful hearts. “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it.” But how do we get redeemed? By sacrifices? By struggling with our own version of righteousness? Nope. Once again, God does it. Verse 27 doesn’t say Zion redeems herself. It says she “will be redeemed.” How? By repentance.

What’s repentance? Simple. It’s when I’m walking that way, the way of sin, doing that thing that is opposed to God, and suddenly I say, “No. I’m going to walk the opposite way, and do the opposite thing!” You say and think the same thing about sin that God says. “No more! I oppose it! I turn my back on it.”

After all, transgressors, that is, people who turn off God’s path, ignore His signs so they can do things ‘way worse than walking on the grass, end up in the trash compactor. Hear that awful din when the garbage man comes with his big truck and those claws grab your can and hoist it into the air, emptying it into the maw of the crusher? Hear the roar and squeal and the grinding of the compactor mashing your trash into … yeah. That’s the fate of the sinner. You don’t want to be in God’s compactor. You don’t want to know what it means when God says these people will “come to an end.” (v. 28)

Why would you be ashamed of trees? Embarrassed by gardens? (v. 29) Maybe you don’t understand the Bible because you don’t see how the cultural applications are relevant today. Ever hear of a Zen Garden? Japanese and other Buddhists create these as a place where they can meditate. It’s a form of worship. False worship.

These trees, these gardens, mentioned in Isaiah, are places to worship false gods. You should be embarrassed if you are worshiping idols. Oh, you don’t worship any false gods? People throw around terms from other religions today, like feng shui, yoga, even mindfulness, claiming they are ways to get healthy, get focused, be more successful. They don’t see the idolatry. Or they don’t want to. These are obsessions with physical things that cross over into supposed spiritual benefits.

God uses parallels to visualize the fate of idolaters. Love to worship at that sacred tree? Watch the leaves wither and fall. Sitting and meditating in that mystical garden? It dries up without water. Who puts life into a tree or gives water to a garden? Look to the Source of life, God, and stop worshiping the mere life itself.

Not only are the tree and the garden temporary, not only do they die off, they dry up and so do the people who worship them. A man might seem strong and successful as he practices techniques of eastern mysticism, but if the focus is on the mere physical, something so temporary, when it dries up it could become just something to spark a fire. It could burn up. In fact, God says the idolater will burn up, no matter how strong he appears. No one can put out a fire that God starts, and He will start one, to do away with the idol and the idolater.

Questions for Further Study, Discussion, or Thought
1. Why is Creation a good witness for God to call upon?
2. How do we know that Israel should have known better than to rebel?
3. How should children respond to their father’s discipline? Why would they not respond correctly?
4. Why did God hate their sacrifices? What is the real purpose of sacrifice?
5. List some ways married couples can be unfaithful, and how this is a picture of man’s relationship to God.
6. Explain the meaning of repentance.
7. Share some cultural examples of idolatry that people may not realize they practice. What is their justification for doing these things?

Image Credit: Isaiah Bible Card from the Providence Lithograph Company, 1904. thebiblerevival.com Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

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A “To God” List

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Yesterday in our Sunday school class we were talking about the true meaning of the Sabbath. Some people believe the Sabbath is obsolete because it was part of the law. But Jesus kept the Sabbath, and never said we shouldn’t. He often said, however, that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. He also said the Jewish leaders burdened people with wrong ideas about the Sabbath. They condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, but He quite rightly pointed out that they would not hesitate to water and feed their livestock or pull them out of pits on the Sabbath. To these Jewish leaders, their Sabbath rules were a means to control people.

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Sometimes we think God is trying to control us. Many people say that is why they reject Jesus Christ and salvation, because they see it as a loss of freedom. They will be burdened with a heavy list of rules to follow, a life filled with “don’ts” that will make them miserable.

I want to share the whole 58th chapter of Isaiah because it is so fantastic on the subject of real reasons to do real things for God. But I’ll just share verses 13 and 14 and stick with the Sabbath discussion. God had a very different view of the Sabbath from the Pharisees and Sadducees, I think.

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“If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (NASB)

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Yes, we have to turn away from our own pleasure. But look! We can call the Sabbath a delight. People are fond of “name it, claim it” theology and visualization. This is a place where it works. Call the Sabbath a delight and it will be. You will also get to take delight in the Lord. Imagine how it would feel to “ride on the heights!”

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What is the heritage of Jacob? Maybe he’s not our father, if we are not literal children of Israel, but God gave Jacob, who was a most imperfect man, as are we all, huge blessings. Salvation is by grace, and was even for Jacob, and salvation puts us into God’s family. In Christ we can claim God’s blessings. God wants to feed us, and send us soaring like that daddy who swings his little one up in the air and makes him scream with joy.

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So instead of grumbling about all God is going to make us do, why don’t we make a change in our thinking? That’s all God really wanted us to do, with all the laws and regulations and commandments. Love God, love your neighbor. Jesus said these fulfill the commandments. It’s not a burden. It’s a delight.

Some people make “To Do” lists. What if we made a “To God” list, committing our day to God and seeking just to delight in Him, to honor Him, and see if we can’t get that ride to the height, and that feeding from His bounty?

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What would your “To God” list look like? We’d love to have you share it with us.

All images Public Domain from Pixabay

 

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What Did Jesus Do? — Post by Michael J. Findley

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Sheldon’s question, “What Would Jesus Do?” has driven some people to attempt great deeds for Christ. It has driven others to do things which can best be described charitably as questionable.

Few people invest the time and energy to study what Jesus actually did. When Jesus knew that he had less than a day before he would be crucified and return to the father Jesus spent his last hours fellowshipping with and teaching his disciples.

“Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know?” Jesus asked him. “The person who has seen me has seen the Father. So how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9 ISV)

Jesus spent his last hours with his disciples. Not all, or many or even most of disciples, but Jesus chose to be with just the twelve; eleven after Judas left. We do not know if there were servants or children or others who were not mentioned. Jesus chose to spend all of His remaining time fellowshipping with and teaching his disciples. Instead of trying to reach more people, Jesus spent His time teaching those who were the most knowledgeable; people who were already well taught.

After His resurrection, Jesus walked over seven miles with two men. Then Jesus told them, “O, how foolish you are! How slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! The Messiah had to to suffer these things and then enter his glory, didn’t he?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them all the passages of Scripture about himself. (Luke 24:25-27 ISV)

Jesus then met his disciples in a locked room in Jerusalem.
Then he told them, “These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds so that they might understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44 ISV)

Jesus met with his disciples several times after his resurrection. Probably the most well known is the meeting with seven disciples in Galilee when Peter goes fishing. After his resurrection, Jesus spent his time either teaching or building relationships with his closest disciples.

We certainly have many other responsibilities that we read about throughout God’s Word. But teaching the Word of God and building relationships is very important. Based on what Jesus did, we certainly need to make teaching and building relationships a priority in our lives. We need to understand what Jesus did. His relationships were based on obedience to the Word of God. And the doctrine He taught drew men into a closer relationship with Himself.

Relationships based on this world will fail. Doctrine which is not taught to others fails to build relationships. And without a relationship with Christ built on a correct understanding of the Word of God, relationships with other people will also fail.

And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another just as God has forgiven you in the Messiah. (Ephesians 4:32 ISV)

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Image Credits: WWJD? graphic by Mary C. Findley

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church [1], Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” Stained glass: Alfred Handel, d. 1946, photo:Toby Hudson Wikimedia Commons

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What Is the Gospel? Part One: What the Gospel Is Not

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“As you go into the entire world, proclaim the gospel to everyone.” (Mark 16:15 ISV)
The gospel, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, can be translated good news. But it is not just any good news. A friend getting married, a job promotion, a medical checkup free of disease, and many other types of good news are not the gospel Jesus commands us to proclaim.
This is the beginning of the gospel [good news] of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1 ISV)

Mark wrote to Romans who knew little or nothing of God and the history of God working in mankind. But the Romans were busy with the activities of this material world and spent little time examining the religion of foreigners. So Mark had to educate his Roman audience about the gospel.

Then [Jesus] went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every illness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

Matthew wrote to Jews who knew the Old Testament, but were blinded by additional traditions. So Jesus performed signs to proclaim the gospel to the Jews. When the signs had their attention, Jesus taught them that all of God’s revelation testified of Him. Was the gospel of kingdom which Jesus taught in the synagogues of the Jews different from the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God that Mark wrote about to the Romans?

I am astonished that your are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of the Messiah and, instead, are following a different gospel, not that another one really exists. To be sure, there are certain people who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel about the Messiah. Galatians 1:6,7 ISV

But those who are deceived do not realize that they are deceived. Millions of people throughout the world claim to be Christians but display none of the characteristics of Christ. Paul’s concerns were well-founded. Certainly there are babes in Christ who need to grow in Christ. But there are millions who are self-deceived, who believe that they are Christians, but have nothing of Christ in their lives.

This need to define what is and what is not Christianity, at least to the extent that sinful humans can evaluate other sinful humans, resulted in Fundamentalism in America, Canada and to a lesser extent, England. Fundamentalism made creeds of what was minimal for what was and what was not necessary to believe for saving faith.

The ecumenical councils of the early church also examined the Scriptures to determine what beliefs were orthodox and what were heretical. Unlike Fundamentalism, which determined the minimal belief necessary for salvation, the ecumenical councils defined individual orthodox doctrines when individual heretical doctrines became popular.

What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? There is no simple answer. Only God knows the heart of the individual. But many who claim the name of Jesus are not part of the body of Christ.
Jesus is not a commodity. That it, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ does not mean that we are eternal life insurance salesmen. Accepting Jesus as the Messiah does not mean that we can live the way we used to, just adding Jesus to an already crowded life.

Image Credit: An illuminated manuscript painting by Sargis Ptisak, who was a 14th century Armenian artist. First Page of the Gospel of Mark, Cod. 2627, fol. 436 r. (Matenadaran). Work of Sargis Pitsak scanned from B. Choukaszian, Sargis Pitsak, printed in Finland, 1986. from Wikimedia Commons

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How Jesus Dealt with People — post by Michael J. Findley

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Throughout His ministry, occasionally Jesus dealt with those who openly rejected Him, such as Herod and the Romans who were like the atheists/secular humanists of today. So [Herod] continued to question [Jesus] for a long time, but Jesus gave him no answer at all. (Luke 23:9, ISV)

Several times Jesus dealt with those who pretended to accept Him, such as the Sadducees. They are like modern liberals who choose to accept some Scriptures, but use their own opinions to reject other Scriptures. When they brought up a spurious question about a woman with seven husbands to Jesus, He revealed their true intentions. Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29 HCSB)

At His trial, Jesus gave the High Priest, a Sadducee, very brief answers to direct questions. But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him,I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63,64 NKJV)

Frequently Jesus dealt with the Pharisees. These were the conservatives of the first century. Unlike the Herodians and the Sadducees, Jesus spent much of His ministry attempting to instruct the Pharisees. As Jesus said, “They sit in Moses’ seat.” As exemplified in the confrontation in John 5, the Pharisees talked to Jesus for years. Both Nicodemus and Paul were Pharisees who believed in Jesus.

But Jesus spent the majority of His ministry instructing His disciples. Yet after three years of intense instruction in the true meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures, they still did not understand. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?” Jesus asked him. (John 14:9 ISV)

After His resurrection, He met two of His disciples and walked with them on the road to Emmaus. “Then Jesus told them, “O, how foolish you are! How slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! The Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter his glory, didn’t he?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them all the passages of Scripture about himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)

After rising from the dead, Jesus spent all of His time on earth providing evidence of His resurrection and explaining the Old Testament.

Image Credit: from Waiting For The Word “Jesus Washes the Feet of His Disciples” Artist: Nelson Flikr Commons

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Is Ancient History Important? — post by Michael J. Findley

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Pool of Bethesda ruins_2272 Author James Emery from Douglasville, United States Wikimedia Commons

What existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we observed and touched with our own hands-this is the Word of life! This life was revealed to us, and we have seen it and testify about it. (1 John 1:1,2a, ISV)

This defines the scientific method, which John applies to history.

Later on, there was another festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It has five colonnades, and under these a large number of sick people were lying-blind, lame, or paralyzed… (John 5:1-3 ISV)

Out of this crowd of sick people, Jesus picked one man.

One particular man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he asked him “Do you want to get well?”  (John 5:5, 6 ISV)

Jesus healed only one man out of the “large number of sick.” Each miracle had a purpose.

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” The man immediately became well, and he picked up his mat and started walking. Now that day was a Sabbath. So the Jews told the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well told me ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” (John 5:8-11 ISV)

The historical record of Jesus healing the man takes two verses. The issue of breaking the Sabbath takes up the rest of the chapter. Jesus healed this man with the intended purpose of using this healing to confront the Jews. When Jesus has the attention of the Jews because of the healing on the Sabbath, He makes a clear claim to be the Messiah.

“Just as the Father has life in himself, so also he has granted the Son to have life in himself, and he has given him authority to judge, because he is the Son of Man. Don’t be amazed at this, because the time is approaching when everyone in their graves will hear the Son of Man’s voice…” (John 5:26-28)

This is the entire point of this confrontation. The God who judges “everyone in their graves” is described in the Old Testament. Jesus is judging them for claiming to be the teachers of Israel and not understanding the Old Testament. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “You’re a teacher of Israel, and you can’t understand this?” (John 3:10 ISV) Jesus confronted the Jews over the keeping of the Sabbath because it demonstrated their failure to understand the Old Testament.

“You examine the Scriptures carefully because you suppose that in them you have eternal life. Yet they testify about me.” John 5:39 (ISV)

The Greek translated here “You examine” can be translated as a command. “Examine the Scriptures carefully!” The Greek words are exactly the same. It makes sense that Jesus intended the double meaning “You examine the Scriptures carefully,” pointing out that the Jews spent the time in study to examine the Scriptures carefully. But they missed the main point, so they needed to go back and “Examine the Scriptures carefully!” Jesus was pointing out that their Sabbath rules were yet another example of the Jews “straining out gnats and swallowing camels.”

The important point for this blog is that the modern world is committing the same sin these Jews did. The Jews studied the Old Testament without understanding. Modern scholars are ignoring the Old Testament in the mistaken belief that we can get along with one another by ignoring God’s Word.

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Woe_unto_You,_Scribes_and_Pharisees_(Malheur_à_vous,_scribes_et_pharisiens)_-_James_Tissot

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees J.J. Tissot Source/Photographer Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum Wikimedia Commons

How can you believe when you accept each other’s praise and do not look for the praise that comes from the only God? Do not suppose that I will be the one to accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope, because if you believed Moses, you would believe me, since he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:44-47 ISV)

Moses wrote that the Exodus, the Flood, and Creation were historical events. Moses provided us with information to date these events. We can take this information and correlate these events with other cultures to make a matrix to understand some of the important dates for all ancient civilizations.

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