Which Prophet?

Jeremiah 28:5-9

Psalm 89:1-4,15-18
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

 

A common misconception of the role of prophets is to say that they predict the future. While a prophecy can be made about the future, it is more common for prophecies to be about the now. Jesus, for example, does give us a look at times to come, but mostly he talks about what we need to be doing and thinking today.

God gave Jeremiah the unenviable task of telling the king of Judah that his sins and the sins of his people would lead them to slavery at the hands of Babylon. The prophet Hananiah opposed Jeremiah and promised victory over the invading Babylonians.

Jeremiah assured Hananiah that a prophet … can be recognised as one truly sent by Yahweh only when his word comes trueNJB That is why there is no Book of Hananiah in the Bible.

We face the same choice King Zedekiah faced, whom should we believe?

Naturally, the answer is Jesus, but, wait, there’s more. For 2,000 years people have interpreted the words of Jesus and arrived at opposing conclusions. Millions have been executed or killed in wars as a result.

The battles continue today. When a preacher says something I disagree with, I turn to someone else. Am I right to do that? Should I trust the one who has prayerfully studied the Bible to give me the proper Word of God?

The short answer is no. I have a Bible and a brain. I can prayerfully study and seek to know God’s Word, and I can compare what I find with what others find. If someone says something I think is wrong or misleading, I need to study and pray about it; look at what was said from all directions. If I still disagree, I should ask for a discussion.

Christianity is a communal religion. No one person can be right all the time. We each must be prepared to accept others critical remarks about our positions as we must be critical of theirs. All should be done in a spirit of love and tolerance.

The bottom line: be prepared to hold an unpopular belief, but still live with those who disagree with you.

See my comments on the New Testament portion of today’s scripture from July 2, 2014 here.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

I Am a Foreigner

Jeremiah 20:7-13
Psalm 69: 8-20
Romans 6:1-11
Matthew 10:24-39

 

To be a follower of Yeshua is to opt for a life as an outsider. The Gospels record the crowds that came to hear Yeshua preach and teach, but they were always eager for the miracles. The Gospels also report the times when the crowds faded away, each time after the teacher said something too hard to accept.

We are called in America to be offensive to most Americans, because most Americans do not do the things Yeshua did. Far too many of us who attend church regularly have bought into the consumerism gripping this country. Rather than spend our money to help the poor, the sick, the defeated, we buy the newest HHD TV and the newest car we can afford.

It’s not just consumerism. Many are convinced that controlling the government is the way to properly follow the Messiah. The danger is in believing that a particular official will do God’s work while in office. We forget that our protection and salvation lies with God alone.

In Matthew 10:16, Yeshua told his disciples, I am sending you out like sheep among wolvesNIV We have come to expect that doing God’s work in this world is more like sheep among sheep. We see no reason why non-believers should criticize us. We are the elite, the special ones of God.

We count ourselves children of God, forgetting that will come in the new life. For now, we are students, little more than slaves. Our inheritance will come in another existence.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

A New Covenant

Exodus 19:2-8

Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:23

 

The picture above is of the tree of forty fruits as painted by Sam Van Aken. Several full-grown versions will grace the Syracuse University campus and many other places in years to come. It is done by grafting branches of many fruit trees onto one stock.

It is a picture of what God promised would happen in His plan to redeem the world. Before the time of today’s reading in Exodus, God made many covenants with individuals, all of which had implications of including the rest of humanity.

In the Exodus reading, God sets up the super covenant with Israel, the one that requires much of four books to describe and explain, as well as the rest of the Bible to fulfill. If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. ESV

The wonderful one-hundredth Psalm makes it clear that the covenant is for the whole world. Shout for joy to Adonai, all the earth! Serve Adonai with gladness. Enter his presence with joyful songsCJB  One Youtube version here.

Jesus reinforces that concept by sending his disciples out with detailed instructions about expanding the field of believers. In the Great Commission, he will instruct them to go even farther afield, “to make disciples of all nations.”

But, both Jesus and Paul add an edge to the Commission: suffering. This is the part few of us signed up for, but being a follower of Yeshua the Messiah will put us at odds with those who do not know him. One of the unfortunate characteristics of humans is that we tend to want to hurt those we don’t understand or don’t like. Christians will suffer.

With Paul, we should take joy in such suffering because it is what happens when we are following the Way.

One last point, there is no New Covenant. We have been grafted into the Covenant God made with Israel. We are the new branches of the old tree. God does not expect us to do all the things done by Israel. He does not expect us to do all the things Yeshua did (not being God).

I need to live as close as possible to the Way of Yeshua while remaining a 21st Century American.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Grace, Love, Fellowship

 

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

The two letters Paul wrote to the people of The Way in Corinth contain considerable criticism of the lifestyles they chose to live, yet Paul concludes both letters in a loving spirit. The first letter ends with: May the grace of the Lord Yeshua be with you. My love is with you all, in union with the Messiah Yeshua. CJB

The second letter has a similar ending but is a full statement of the Trinity. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you allESV This is a complete and accurate translation, but I also like the embellishments of the Message: The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of youMSG

There are two important questions regarding this trinitarian closing: Is it found in the Old Testament and is it a proper depiction of God? Without a yes to both, the Trinity fails.

There are several major themes in the Old Testament, one of which is that The God With No Name is the only God, there are no others.

Another important theme is that of the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, is the presence of the God who called Himself, I Am.

A third theme is the Promised One, the Messiah. He is described throughout the Bible, and the man Jesus fulfilled all the features of the promise.

To argue that God cannot exist in three forms is to deny the omniscience of God. The Trinity is Truth.

Paul gives us more in his closing sentence. He binds grace with Jesus, love with God, and fellowship with the Spirit. He did not intend to suggest those terms in any way limited God, rather that they described a most important characteristic of each.

Through his life—and death—on earth, Jesus made it possible for the Grace of God to be given to humans. God wants us to have the grace because He loves us.

The special gift of the Holy Spirit is fellowship. Every human desires fellowship with God and with other humans. In a perfect world—the one we have been promised—we will be able to sit with God in that close fellowship of child and Father. For now, fellowship with others and with the Spirit will have to do.

Grace, love, and fellowship, living with the Messiah.

My earlier commentary on today’s scripture can be found here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Wind and Water

 

Pentecost
Numbers 11:24-30
Acts 2:1-21
John 7:37-39
Psalm 104:25-35, 37

The reading today from John places us at the wrong feast, so let’s see how it all works out.

The Jewish calendar has seven feasts, four in the spring and three in the fall. All of them relate to the harvest seasons and to the Exodus.

Passover begins the series on the 14th of Nisan (generally in April) followed the next day with the opening of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which lasts for a week. On the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits is celebrated by dedicating the bread made from the first grains of barley harvested on Passover.

The fourth feast of the year comes fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits. It is called the Feast of Weeks. The Greek New Testament used the Greek name for the Feast: Pentecost. It coincides with the first harvest of wheat.

In the fall, the Feast of Trumpets—lasting two days—is more somber and too complicated to describe here. That is followed by the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur.

The last feast is the Feast of Tabernacles, a seven-day feast followed by an eighth day for the Ceremony of Water Pouring and Illumination of the Temple; the feast John describes.

Now on the last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” CJB

Jesus probably spoke those words as the High Priest was carrying a gold vase, filled with water from the Pool of Siloam, to pour out around the altar in the water ceremony.

So, why is this passage of Scripture assigned for us on Pentecost?

In the Old Testament, water is frequently associated with the Holy Spirit, as it was at Jesus’ baptism, and ours as well. We need not doubt that Jesus meant the Spirit because he adds:  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorifiedNIV

When the resurrected Jesus met with his disciples, he promised they would receive their portion of the Holy Spirit. That promise was fulfilled at the Feasts of the Firstfruits.

May the Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit be with you.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence