Category Archives: Old Testament

Week 1: Choice

citing Isaiah 56:7
…these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
and Jeremiah 7:11
Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord.

This is my first attempt at using a new study idea based on a book — Old Made New[a].  It’s a how-to book with a different premise;  to let the New Testament read the Old Testament to me thru its citations.  I’m going to use the Scripture references in the book for my post each Wednesday and pay attention to those citations.  What is it about them that mattered to Jesus and may change my mind about what I read?  Here we go…Week 1.

The Book of Jeremiah was written between 630 and 580 B.C. and Isaiah was written sometime during the ministry of Isaiah (approximately 740–701 B.C.).  I can’t be the only one who’s forgotten the antiquity timeline is a countdown.  So…Isaiah wrote first, then Jeremiah.  Their  words show the progression of their choice to neglect those old words.  Luke is reminding his readers that Jesus saw their choice and grieved over the loss of God’s purpose for the purity of His house of prayer.

Jesus had paused to look over the city as he neared Jerusalem and was moved to tears over the “things that make for peace” that are no longer visible there.  They no longer had any claim to innocence.  The passage of time showed the result of neglect to those old Words. Jeremiah had to pass along God’s harsh observation about His house looking like a den of robbers. I  don’t know how to explain why Jesus chose such uncharacteristic behavior in the Temple.  Maybe it was anger, frustration, judgment and grief all combined at their willing acceptance of what had been lost.  Did they even notice the decline?

I’ve noticed something because of following those citations in this passage.  My emphasis changed as I read from wondering about Jesus’s unexplainable behavior to thinking about mine.  It’s a choice to pay attention to old Words like Isaiah’s promise of acceptance and Jeremiah’s warning about neglect.  It’s become a reality check about not neglecting old Words.  Romans 8:12 says we do have an “obligation.” Our obligation to the “house that is called by [God’s] name is not our innocence, Adam took care of that.  It’s our choice!  Jesus is calling us to choose purity and He’s given us a completely different how-to Book filled with everything that can make that a reality in our life.

[a] Old Made New

 

Think About These Things


What If…
— Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” Jeremiah 1:5

— You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

— We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

— God’s workmanship in me began long before a specific egg and sperm met one another

— God began to justify His choice in my mother’s womb before my first breath

— That first breath began my sanctification even before my first cognitive thought

— God has created me in the likeness of His perfection to insure I could be of value and succeed at what He’s prepared beforehand

— My whole imperfect and incomplete way of life is the inspired field of operation He’s chosen to accomplish His good works

— In him we live and move and have our being…for we are indeed his offspring  Acts 17:28

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.  Philippians 4:8

The Bread of Life

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.  Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. Micah 5:2   

ethlehem means the “House of Bread” in both Hebrew and Aramaic and thanks be to God, because Mary and Joseph’s hearts were obedient in the less-desirable details of life, Jesus began His earthly life born in the House of Bread just as Micah had forecast in “the distant past.”  I hadn’t purposely planned to be baking bread today because of this post but as it turns out I’m sitting here at the table waiting for my batch of dough to rise.  I’m watching it climb up the side of the clear dough-mixing bucket and enjoying the yeast’s aroma as I write.  It’s satisfying, but it’s the bread I’m really waiting for.  This simple choice to make bread today seems too relevant to this Advent post to be anything other than a homemade picture of God’s recipe. His recipe had the right ingredients, the right place, the right timing and the right baby to reveal His own identity as the Bread of Life the world was really waiting for.  God’s own recipe would satisfy the “aroma” of the prophet’s word and Jesus, the Bread of Life, would rise up and save many souls.  ‘Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”  Psalm 34:8 NLT  PS: Today’s bread turned out good too.

God Bless You…

1
In that day you will sing:
“I will praise you, O Lord!
You were angry with me, but not any more.
Now you comfort me.
2
See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.”
3
With joy you will drink deeply
from the fountain of salvation!
4
In that wonderful day you will sing:
“Thank the Lord! Praise his name!
Isaiah 12 NLT

First Sunday of Advent


he weeks leading up to Christmas are one of the rare times when the hearts of complete strangers are softened by music, lights, food, parties, friends, family…and gifts. Softened enough that what Isaiah says to us may touch them as well. There will never be a better time than Advent to “lift up your voice”…and bless someone.  I’m asking you to be brave enough to respond to the people that cross your path everyday between now and Christmas with a simple no-cost gift of blessing.   Saying God bless You doesn’t come naturally to me so I’ve been sitting here jotting down ideas of ways to fearlessly speak that blessing.   Isaiah’s timeless truth, “do not be afraid,” has finally hit home for me. Most of us find it easy to say Thank You but it’s the first three words of this blessing that make it the gift.  Have courage — speak because you may be the only person they’ll ever hear these words from — God bless you…
 …for your kindness
…for your cheerful greeting
…for ringing that bell
…for opening that door

I’ll practice on you.  God bless you — with opportunities to let your voice be a blessing for others in these days leading up to Christmas.  God bless you — with courage to speak these unfamiliar words of blessing to a stranger, friend or a family member this Christmas.  They may never hear anyone else speak those words to them.  Who knows who else nearby may hear them and be blessed too?  Who knows…as your ears hear your own voice speak them…they may become a blessing for you too.

 

Sunday with John — Reliably Prepared

John 13:36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Peter was a follower of Jesus and prepared to go anywhere with Him.  He was convinced of the reliability of his own words “I will lay down my life for you.”  Jesus knew that night Peter was going to learn the answer to his question “Lord, why can I not follow you now?”  Jesus knew Peter’s preparation to “follow afterward” must include understanding the deniability of human reliability.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus knew the whole plan!  He had no illusions about the present situation or that every detail would become a reliable part of Peter’s future.

What does it say about people?
Peter’s mind could not comprehend the unpredictability of his own heart.

Is there truth here for me?
Every follower of Jesus knows this story.  Any believer who’s ever professed an “absolute” belief has discovered the reliability of their words challenged by their own unpredictable heart.  My heart wants to believe the faith God has given me is a monolithic [formed of a single large block of stone] superstructure that will stand up against every challenge but then I read and ponder: why wouldn’t God choose the same preparation He required of Peter for me, or for you?  The deniability of my own human reliability is where my faith discovers it’s true dependence on the grace of God.   Grace reveals the truth that Jesus is less interested in unmovable, monolithic superstructures than He is in hearts that will be reliably prepared by Him to “follow afterward.”

Ezekiel 36:23b, 26 & 27 …Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes…26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Wednesday with John – Choice

John 13:12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
“Do you understand what I have done to you?” “I have given you an example.” “Do just as I have done to you.” “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” “I know whom I have chosen…“the Scripture will be fulfilled” “I am telling you this now” that “you may believe that I am he.” “Whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
He washed their feet.  He resumed His place.  He said:  I am.  I have. You ought. I have given.  You should.  I say. If you know. I know whom I have chosen.  I am telling you this now. Believe that I am He. Whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.

What does it say about people?
All these chosen men, even the betrayer, must have had a reaction to seeing Jesus stoop to this subservient position and do this menial act. Peter spoke, but surely others were confused too.  It was certainly more than Judas could accept.  Everything in their relationship with Jesus has been building their confidence that His power declared Him to be the Messiah, come from God.  This night Jesus must teach them humility and service are the other side of Sovereignty and power.

Is there truth here for me?
All these men, even Judas were chosen by the same process Luke 6 describes: 12 In these days he [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles…”  Judas was chosen, and named an apostle, by Jesus Himself.  He heard every word spoken that night as the Messiah washed the visible dirt off his “feet” but the serpent of the “heel” from Genesis 3:15 had found an ally in Judas, who’d decided just like those two original friends of God he too could make a better choice than serving his Creator.

Sunday with John — Need

John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” [Is 53:1] 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” [Is 6:10] 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The Sovereign Lord has set guidelines to control what is seen, heard and believed by every heart.  John records some of the most difficult Words in the Bible from Isaiah; that God will withhold Himself from those who’s heart’s desire would only lead them to abuse His Grace. God alone knows exactly who to reveal Himself to.  He alone knows the hearts that have created a lord of their own ideas to give them what they want.  Those hearts are not interested in wanting God who desires to give them what they need “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God sets the rules. His heart’s desire is to accept confession and heal but His perfect and timeless knowledge knows the reality of each heart.

What does it say about people?
It’s possible to know the reality of the Lord enough to know what His heart’s desires are, without understanding He knows the truth of what your heart wants and acts accordingly to preserve the integrity of His Grace.

Is there truth here for me?
I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard the phrase “wants versus needs.” Usually it’s been cherry-picking that phrase in relation to accumulating “stuff.”  John and Isaiah have thrown Grace into that picture. Can I accept admitting my need for Jesus is part of the gift of Grace rather than a crutch or weakness?  Can you?  Now I think I see what Isaiah saw; when I confess my need for Jesus, the wants of my heart change and I experience the reality of “the glory that comes from God”…His Grace for my need…Jesus.

Sunday with John + Abundant

John 11:38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The mourners are standing around at the tomb.  The tomb is the physical evidence of  the separation between life and death.  There’s been a proper burial so for Jesus to ask for the stone to be taken away seems shocking.  There are rules that must be observed once the tomb is sealed. These mourners are about to see Jesus challenge the power of death with the glory of God…life.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus has promised Martha that belief would let her see the glory of God.   Jesus prays aloud for the crowd.  They need to hear and understand the miracle Jesus is about to do is undeniable proof for them that He has been sent by His Father to overcome the defilement of death with God’s glory…life for Lazarus.

What does it say about people?
The people have come to mourn Lazarus.  There’s an unusual backstory here; moving that stone away is risky business.  Jewish law stated mere nearness to a corpse could render a Jew unclean [Numbers 19] and sometimes the tomb stone would be painted white as courtesy alert for passers-by to take a wide berth because the defilement of death was catching and one person could pass it to another. 

Is there truth here for me?
“Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.”  It wasn’t the mourning of Lazarus that troubled Jesus, it was that death had the power to defile life that was meant to represent the glory of God.  Jesus came to this open tomb to prove He was both the Power of God that could raise Lazarus and the Glory of God, who by a simple two-word command “unbind him” could overcome the defilement of death with abundant life.

Sunday with John + Escape

John 10:31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make ourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? [Psalm 82:6] 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. 40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus is threatened but once again he’s “escaped” the sure death they wish for Him.  “How did that happen?” was the first question I had. The second question was “is Psalms part of the “law?”  This passage seems like a perfect example of God making His point about about the power of Scripture.  Inspired old Words have the same power today, as they did then, to demand thoughtful pauses.  Jesus “escaped” by using His knowledge of the old Words of Psalm 82:6 to effectively push pause in the minds of those Pharisees long enough to get away from them.  He gives them their own law to point out they are accusing Him of the very thing God has declared about them [I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you].  Then…“He escaped…He went away again across the Jordan…there He remained…many came to Him…and many believed in Him…”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
“I have shown you many good works from the Father…” Jesus is confident the basis of His works and His words are from His Father. 

What does it say about people?
From Spurgeon’s Treasury of David: When the dispensers of law have dispensed with justice, settlements are unsettled, society is unhinged, the whole fabric of the nation is shaken.

Is there truth here for me?
Sometimes I find my judgements fall so short of justice that I am unsettled by my own harshness. I realize how easy it is for me to use the Word of God to confirm my judgement instead of pausing to let the God of Mercy confirm His truth that has allowed me to escape sure death.