John 20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
We know Lent is leading us, first to the Tomb, then to the Cross and finally to examine our heart. It seems like the empty tomb has come too soon in my readings. I’m still in preparation mode. “The stone” is the thing that has repeatedly caught my attention. In all four Gospel versions the story is about the empty and open tomb with specific mention of the stone and how it was moved.
My Cliff Notes:
– God chose “stone” to write His most important Words on
– Living stones
– Stone: a hard substance that comes from the ground, used for building of carving, used for a particular purpose.
It’s not too big a stretch of faith to associate these two verses and the mystery of that heavy “stone” having been moved. God’s first choice of material to write the 10 most important things He wanted His people to know was stone. Jesus is described as the Cornerstone,a and you are described as living stones. That’s in the Bible too. The wonder of the stone being moved is that once again God used a “Stone” to reveal exactly what He wanted His people to know. We know, thanks be to God, that it was His Breath of Life that moved Jesus from the tomb to His place in us. “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
a 1 Peter 2:4-7
Psalm 119:153-160 ר Resh – Head
153 Look on my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great; preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
Right >§§§> Left
I have not forgotten your law, look on my suffering and deliver me. Preserve my life according to your promise, defend my cause and redeem me. The wicked do not seek out your decrees, salvation is far from them. Preserve my life according to your laws, your compassion, Lord, is great. I have not turned from your statutes but many are the foes who persecute me. The faithless do not obey your word, I look on them with loathing. Preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love, see how I love your precepts. All your righteous laws are eternal, all your words are true.
Resh – Head might be the Psalmist’s acknowledgement that he knows God is his Head. He is confident God always acts in accordance with His character. He is truly certain of what his heart knows about God but his words show us that isn’t always what is in his head. God has chosen to show us the honest words of this man “after His own heart” because they clearly reveal a struggle between the faith of his heart and the words of his head. That is the struggle people of faith still confront today.
The Psalmist knows every circumstance of his life is exposed to God’s own heart. I think that’s what he wants us to learn too. “We [must] let our mind descend into our heart and there stand in the presence of God.a Standing in that presence our heart and head can finally recognize the gaps in our faith. That is the place God’s own heart transforms our faith from what our own heart and head know into faithfulness based on knowing God’s law is always balanced by His promises; His decrees by His compassion and His precepts by His love.
a Henri Nouwen in Spiritual Direction
Reading these verses forwards, and then backwards and pondering their meaning continues. It seems like all of Psalm 119 has been about the building of the temple within the people of God; you and I. Today seems a perfect time for to punch a hole in the walls that we depend on for protection to let in a little more light using the Hebrew “ה He.” I haven’t missed the “coincidence” that God has used winter darkness, a raging pandemic and the period of Advent to do just that.
ה He – Window, Lattice
Psalm 119: 33-40 ESV
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandment for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!
33 I will keep the way of your statures to the end, O Lord; teach me
34 I keep your law and observe it with my whole heart because you give me understanding
35 I delight in the path of your commandment, lead me to it
36 Your testimonies, not Selfish gain, inclines my heart
37 Give me life in your ways and turn my eyes from looking at worthless things
38 Your promise confirms that you may be feared to your servant
39 Your rules are good for they turn away the reproach that I dread
40 Your righteousness gives me life! Behold I long for your precepts
Click here to read a previous post about the meaning of ה He – Window
25 My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
God’s Word has survived all these centuries because it’s more than information. Psalm 119, Daleth – Door is truth beyond time, translation, and even survives reading these eight verses right to left. My hope is that after you’ve read the eight verses above as copied from the English Standard Version you’ll read my right to left versions with the “Door” in mind. Daleth is the Old Testament Word of God that opens the “Door” to our communication with Him through our relationship to Jesus. “Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”
25 Give me life according to your word, dust clings to my soul
26 You answered me with your statutes to teach me your ways when I told of my ways
27 I will meditate on your wondrous works to make me understand the way of your precepts
28 Your word strengthens me when my soul melts away for sorrow
29 Graciously teach me your law and put false ways far away from from me
30 Your rules set before me are the way of faithfulness I have chosen
|31 Let me not be put to shame O Lord, I cling to your testimonies
32 Enlarge my heart so I will run in the way of your commandments
Click here to read a previous post about ד Daleth – Door
Hebrews 3:12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.a” [NIV]
“That day, next day, one day and someday” is a tongue-in-cheek description I recently read to describe the confusion of keeping track of time and days when the routines of life are altered during long-lasting life circumstances like this pandemic. I’ve experienced that confusion about time and days myself. It’s a real thing that caused me read this Scripture as if it was speaking about the confusion of time and days, then, as a danger in the spiritual life of believers in Jesus Christ now…and the much needed protection offered for “today.”
We have been so blessed for so long as a nation, as a democracy and as individuals that we’ve become confused about how real, and subtle, the danger of a “sinful, unbelieving heart” is. “Today” is the one word in this Scripture that made me realize “that day, next day, one day and someday” is really about missing the warning and protection available “now.” “Now” is our God-given opportunity to to “share in Christ” and “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness…Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…a”
a Psalm 95
Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[our] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory…16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Here’s a timely grammar lesson for 2020 courtesy of the Apostle Paul written during the first generation after Jesus, sometime in the 50s, while Paul was in prison. His If/Then sentences present conditions/situations [the Ifs] and the resulting/expected outcomes [the Thens] that even the passage of time can’t diminish.
If – “you have been raised with Christ”
Then – “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right
hand of God”
If – “you set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”
Then – “when Christ who is your[our] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”
If – this Word from the Apostle has found it’s life in you today
Then – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
I Corinthians 3:7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building….21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. NLT
This image of how seeds sprout is a visual object lesson of the truth of this passage. Growth begins with a small kernel of life locked within a hard outer shell. You could be forgiven if you looked at that unsprouted seed and thought it was just a small pebble. That would be a sensible conclusion because there are some things only life can confirm. Without planting and water that is all that seed could ever be.
Paul describes the growth of life: “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” Growth reveals what was hidden in that hard shell is the power of life only God can release. That broken shell will ultimately fall away as the “spout” grows but will always be the primary evidence that confirms God can produce new life from hard cases.
“And you are God’s field. You are God’s building…So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”
We have plenty of evidence of moral and physical decay around us now. That seems very contemporary but actually it began much further back. God has spent generations patiently waiting for His creation to understand “the end of all things is at hand” began as the natural consequence sin set in motion way back in that First Garden. The blame game began there with the corruption of everything perfect God created. It’s too late now for questioning “why didn’t God…?” God did! Jesus is our beginning that overcomes “the end of all things” and validates our life and prayers through His Spirit in us. BC[before Christ] you were already “dead.”
I Peter 4:6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 3:8-10 ESV, NIV, AMPC
• 8 Finally, all of you…
ESV-have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
NIV-be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
AMPC-should be of one and the same mind (united in spirit), sympathizing [with one another], loving [each other] as brethren [of one household], compassionate and courteous (tenderhearted and humble).
• 9 Do not…
ESV-repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
NIV-repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
AMPC-return evil for evil or insult for insult (scolding, tongue-lashing, berating), but on the contrary blessing [praying for their welfare, happiness, and
protection, and truly pitying and loving them]. For know that to this you have been called, that you may yourselves inherit a blessing [from God—that you may obtain a blessing as heirs, bringing welfare and happiness and protection].
• 10 For…
ESV-“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;
NIV-“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.
AMPC-him who wants to enjoy life and see good days [good—whether apparent or not] keep his tongue free from evil and his lips from guile (treachery, deceit).
I read through these three versions of I Peter 3:8-10. Then I starting looking for similar words, phrases and ideas in each version with the assumption that the repetition agreed upon by so many different translators at different times gives them meaningful emphasis.
Finally all of you…Agree to focus your minds as one heavenly household on sympathy, compassion, love, and recognizing one another with tender hearts.
Do not…miss your inheritance of blessing because of misinterpreting revenge and rebuttal as your right to justice
For…only you can restrain your tongue and lips from convincing deceit that can keep yourself, and others, from being able to love, and enjoy life and see good days.
Jeremiah 29:10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. [NKJV]
I’m still concentrating on Jeremiah 29: 10-12 and the Spurgeon sermon from 1887. I found a meaningful difference in the New King James Version’s translation of a phrase from verse 10: “I will perform my good word toward you.” The Bible is more than history, wisdom and recorded answers to allow us to learn how to live according to the expectations of God. It’s His “good Word“ written to reveal His intent to intervene and perform it in the life of His leading characters [you and I] as we navigate through the emotional and unexpected circumstances of life. We are a performance oriented culture, well-trained over most of our years to figure things out but today our unexpected circumstance is a deadly virus. Coronavirus is now daily confronting our ability to figure out what we do know and what we don’t know.
God knows! That is the one thing Spurgeon has reminded me over and over as I’ve read his sermon. “When Moses came out of Egypt, he had no plan as to the march of Israel. He knew that he had to lead the children of Israel to the promised land, but that was all. He probably hoped to take them by the shortest cut to Palestine at once…Brother, you do not know what is to be done, but the Lord knows for you. O, body of Christ, let your head think for you! O, servant of Christ, let your Master think for you. “I know,” says God “the thoughts that I think toward you.” AND “I will visit you and perform My good Word toward you…”
∞ Look back and thank God…Look forward and trust God ∞