Ezekiel 15-16 – R-rated Jerusalem: Useless and Unfaithful

15:1-8 – What use are the clippings of vines? How is Jerusalem like a clipping of a vine? (cf. Ps. 80:8-19) What do the references to fire have to do with Jerusalem? (cf. Eze. 5:2, 4; Rev. 17:16) What does the LORD promise Jerusalem? What does it mean for the LORD to set his “face against” something or someone? Again, what was the stated point of the judgment? (Eze. 15:7) What charge did the LORD make against Jerusalem? The charge of unfaithfulness (and thereby uselessness)! (cf. John 15:1-2, 6)

16:1-5 – The LORD will “confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices”. Take note of the “detestable practices” mentioned throughout the chapter. What does it mean to be from the Canaanites and to have it said that “your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite”? (see Deut. 7:1-5) How was Jerusalem treated by her parents once born? How did the LORD treat her? The significance of this is noted as an adoptive function whereby the LORD makes claims upon Jerusalem. How should have the LORD’s treatment impacted her in light of abandonment by her parents?

16:6-7 – What was the LORD’s response to Jerusalem? Why does He say “Live!” and what happens once He does? What are the possible dangers of Jerusalem’s infantile and then matured (“your breasts were formed and your (pubic) hair grew”) nakedness?

16:8 – Why does the text say the LORD waited until Jerusalem was “old enough for love”? What does it mean for the LORD to “spread the corner of his garment over her”? (cf. Ruth 3:9; Num. 15:37-41; Deut. 22:12; and possibly Matt. 9:20-22) What type of covenant is referred to here? What does it mean for the nature of their relationship?

16:9-14 – What does the LORD claim to have done for Jerusalem? Verse nine possibly refers not to the acts of cleansing just after birth (16:4), but to some form of wedding bath (though otherwise unattested) following virginal bleeding (cf. Deut. 22:13-21). Note that the materials—for adornment and food—were those used for the tabernacle. What does all of this mean? What were the immediate results? (16:13-14)

16:15-19 – Using beauty and fame to whore? What was Jerusalem accused of doing? Also, what might be the connection between the many fine things given by the LORD and their use in prostitution? Who is Jerusalem engaged in prostitution with?

16:22-22 – Whose children were sacrificed to idols? What role should remembering beginnings play? “In her intoxication with her newfound beauty and her insatiable lusts, she suffered from a severe case of amnesia. Instead of remembering her desperate beginnings or celebrating the goodness of Yahweh in rescuing her, she trampled underfoot the grace of God” (Block NICOT 491).

16:23-29 – The “mound” and “lofty shrine”? How did Jerusalem degrade her “beauty”? She literally “spread her legs (Heb. pasaq raglayim) to every passerby” and engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians with the “enlarged flesh” (Heb. gidle basar; and see Block NICOT 466-7 for greater detail). Who all did she whore herself to and what was the result?

16:30-34 – What might this passage teach us about any notion of the freedom of the will? In what way was Jerusalem unlike a prostitute?

16:35-42 – What was the punishment and who would carry it out? What would satisfy the anger of the LORD? How does this account fit into one of God as faithfully merciful? (compare Hosea 2:2-3)

16:43-48 – What were the “other detestable practices” to which lewdness was added? In what way is the proverb true that is cited here? Who did the LORD declare to be the family of Jerusalem and why? (cf. John 8:39-47) Samaria as “older” (Heb. gedola) sister and Sodom as “younger” (Heb. qetanna) sister refers to size and not age (Duguid NIVAC 213; Block NICOT 507fn256). Jerusalem was “more depraved” than Sodom?

16:49-52 – What were the sins of Sodom according to Ezekiel? (cf. Gen. 18:16-19:30; esp. 18:20 and 19:30) What kinds of things did Samaria do (which aren’t listed until chapter 23) and how did this compare to Jerusalem? How wicked would one have to be to make Sodom and Samaria “appear righteous”?

16:53-58 – Was there any hope for redemption? Whose “fortunes” would be restored and what does it mean? Why must the punishment be public?

16:59-63 – Did Jerusalem deserve punishment? What role does the covenant play in judgment and mercy? (cf. Jer. 31:31-34) Who will atone for Jerusalem? What does it mean for the LORD to “remember” His covenant and to what “eternal covenant” does this refer? Once again, what is the stated purpose of all of judgment?

Ezekiel 14 – When Righteousness Saves

14:1-5 – “Some of the elders”. This group represents the rest of the elders who seek the LORD outwardly but are inwardly idolaters. What does it mean when the LORD says He will answer such persons Himself? In what way is this not what the seekers desire? (see 14:8) “Answer Himself” refers to the fact that He will not answer their inquiry, but will instead answer their idolatry (see Block NICOT 427). Note that the LORD is not about having a people unless He also has their hearts.

14:6 – What does repentance entail in this context? Turning and renouncing.

14:7-8 – Who is included as outwardly belonging to the LORD and therefore needing to hold only to Him in adoration and worship? How might persons be separated from the LORD? Compare Paul’s teaching in Romans 8:38-39 and consider how these two teachings might belong together. What is the LORD’s judgment of the inward idolater who only outwardly seeks Him?

14:9-11 – What does it mean for a prophet to be “enticed to utter a prophecy”? (cf. Num. 22-25; 31:16; Deut. 23:4-5; 1 Kings 22:19-23; Jer. 20:7, 10) Who actually entices the prophets to lie? What is the result? Who bears the guilt? (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9-12) Why would the LORD do such a thing? He does this so that His people will truly be His people: a people without sin and with God.

14:12-20 – What does it mean for another country to be “unfaithful” to the LORD? Why are Noah, Daniel and Job named as paragons of virtue? They are mentioned because they stood faithfully in the midst of much ridicule, rejection and wickedness (Gen. 6:9; Job 1:8; Dan. 1:8). Ezekiel is using them as ideal examples of those whose righteousness would not be sufficient to save anyone but themselves in the Day of Judgment. Dan Block (NICOT 449fn49) believes the “children” refers not to their children, but to children in general who would be thought worthy of being spared. The name “Danel” (which is noted as being the original spelling in Ezekiel – see also 28:3) is sometimes thought to refer to a Near Eastern legend of one Danel who was faithful to carry out justice despite his suffering (see Aqhat), but this seems unlikely. While Noah and Job were ancient examples, Daniel would be a contemporary one (and the Danel of the Aqhat legend was not considered faithful to the LORD, but to various other deities of the Ugaritic pantheon). It is more probable that this is simply a variant spelling of Daniel who was a contemporary of Ezekiel (Block NICOT 447-9; contra Duguid NIVAC 193-4). Daniel had been taken into exile in about 604BC and would have been in Babylon for over 15 years by this point and risen to some considerable level of notoriety among the exiles.

14:21-23 – Note the “four dreadful judgments” – sword (Lev. 26:25), famine (Lev. 26:26), wild beasts (Lev. 26:22) and plague (Lev. 26:25). (cf. Jer. 15:2-3; Rev. 6:8) Why do the animals suffer punishment as well? (cf. Jonah 4:11; and Yael Shemesh’s “‘And Many Beasts’ (Jonah 4:11): The Function and Status of Animals in the Book of Jonah,” JHS, Vol.10 Art.6, 2010). In the midst of judgment there is hope in “some survivors” not because they were more resilient or more righteous than the rest, but because the LORD wanted to show the exiles (who were perceived to have been the wicked and thus exiled already) that those left in Jerusalem and Judah were idolatrous and wicked. This was to demonstrate both the justice and mercy of the LORD.

Jesus and the Old Testament

There was a wonderful and concise blog post over on the Desiring God Blog that I rather enjoyed (you can read it here). It’s about the fact that there was never anyone who knew the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) better than Jesus. (I especially thought the quote at the end was noteworthy…and quite funny). How well do you know and care for the Old Testament?

10 Reasons I Shouldn't Embrace Jesus (but still do)

1) Jesus is too Jewish.
2) Jesus doesn’t play well with others.
3) Jesus loves people that I don’t want to and believes they are worth my loving.
4) Jesus commands things I don’t want to do.
5) Jesus never answers questions according to how they are asked.
6) Jesus seems to think (as a first century man in an obscure insignificant kingdom) that he lays claim to everything that is, ever was and ever will be.
7) Jesus believes that he alone is the way to God.
8) Jesus believes he has a peculiarly intimate relationship with God that the rest of us don’t have.
9) Jesus believes he is returning to the earth some day to carry out judgment of the righteous and wicked.
10) Jesus makes me uncomfortable and unsettled.

(Please read the forgoing as recognizing both my sarcasm and also the difficulty of actually believing on one who so thoroughly challenges all my presuppositions and sensibilities. All that being said…the reason I actually embrace Jesus is only because he embraces me).

Ezekiel 12-13 – Blind and Deaf Leaders

12:1-2 – The key to the following prophecies in Ezekiel is found in these two verses. “They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people” (see Isaiah 6:9; 43:8; Jeremiah 5:12; and the same thing stated concerning idols in Psalm 115:57). According to this passage, why can’t Israel see or hear?

12:3-7 – A living sermon “as they watch” – pack an exile bag in the daylight, dig a hole in the wall in the evening, and carry out the belongings with covered face at dawn. What does it all mean? Did they understand what Ezekiel was doing? What might an exile’s bag contain? How is Ezekiel a “sign to the house of Israel”? How does this relate to verse 2? Note that Ezekiel did exactly as he was commanded.

12:8-14 – In the morning Ezekiel is to explain the living sermon of the previous day. Who is the “prince in Jerusalem”? Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:18-25:7; 2 Chronicles 36:11-14; Jeremiah 52:1-11) is the “prince” as a semi-derogatory title (rather than “king”). He was the last king of Judah and was rebellious against the LORD and Nebuchadnezzar. He fled Jerusalem when it fell to the Babylonians, but was captured and given a trial where he was punished by slaughtering his sons in front of him and then gouging out his eyes. There is a possible slight allusion to the blinding of Zedekiah by the references to not seeing the land again. The “prince” (as ruler of the people) is also indicative of the people of Judah left in Jerusalem. Who carried out the judgment of the “prince”?

12:15-16 – “They will know that I am the LORD” once the LORD scattered and dispersed Israel among the nations and preserved the remnant for Himself.

12:17-20 – Why did Ezekiel have to eat with trembling and drink with shuddering? What does this signify? Why would Israel eat and drink in fear? Note that violence against others leads to a final violent judgment of the perpetrators.

12:21-28 – Three issues concerning prophecy: 1) All prophecy should not be rejected, 2) it must not be falsely given, and 3) it must be done with the certainty that it is the word of the LORD. The way of removing false prophecy from Israel was to remove the false prophets themselves from Israel. “Flattering (or slippery) divinations” were manipulative and not simply an attempt to discern the will of the LORD (see Block NICOT 390 and 390fn31-32). Is the LORD slow in keeping his promises? (see 2 Peter 3:3-10)

13:1-9 – What does it mean for the LORD to say there were some who “prophecy out of their own imagination”? Does this still go on today? How is this contrasted with the word of the LORD? In what ways are false prophets “like jackals among ruins” (cf. Nehemiah 4:3; Lamentations 5:18)? They don’t repair the breaks in the walls or defend against the enemy, but instead they live only for themselves and prey on the weak and use the breaks for their own advantage. Is “divination” always wrong? What would be the difference between divining the will of God and lying divination? Is there a difference? Does using the LORD’s name give absolute assurance that what we say or pray will be done? What does it mean to not belong to the council of God’s people or not be “listed in the records of the house of Israel”? “The records of the house of Israel” seems to refer to the official records of those who would survive to return to Israel (Ezra 2:62; Nehemiah 7:64; see also the books which the LORD keeps in Exodus 32:32-33; Psalm 69:28; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Revelation 3:5; 20:12; 21:27). Ezekiel was sent to Israel so they would “know that a prophet had bee among them” (Eze.2:5). Where the LORD declares that His “hand will be against them” there is an allusion to inspiration in order to subtly express that “those who never felt the reality of the divine hand in inspiration will now feel it in judgment” (Duguid NIVAC 173fn11).

13:10-16 – What does it mean to be white-washed flimsy walls? The flimsy wall will be exposed and destroyed and the white-wash shown to have been worse than worthless since it was used to simply cover up what should have been repaired as if everything was alright. How is this related to those who were prophesying “peace”? (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:3)

13:17-23 – Who are “the daughters of your people”? They were false prophetesses who used magic to control and manipulate. Magic charms were worn on their wrists and (magic?) veils on their heads (or around their necks). These seem to refer to something like a phylactery that functioned as a talisman or charm. Why did they practice their magic? What does the LORD accuse them of doing? They “disheartened the righteous” and “encouraged the wicked”. The false prophet/esses had ensnared the LORD’s people, but the LORD would deliver “his people” and ensure and destroy the false prophet/esses.

Ezekiel 10-11 – The Glory of the LORD Departs

10:1 – How does this vision compare and contrast with the vision of chapter one?

10:2-8 – The “man dressed in linen” previously marked the righteous of Jerusalem and at this point was told to gather coals of fire from under the divine chariot and scatter them over Jerusalem (for “fire” in Jerusalem see 2 Kings 25:9; 2 Chron. 36:19; for an angel who will use the “fire” from the altar in final judgment see Rev. 8:3-5; and God as a “consuming fire” see Deut. 4:24). Why does a cloud fill the inner court as the coals of fire are taken? Why are the glory of the LORD and the wings of the cherubim moving? What does it mean for a sound to be “like the voice of God Almighty (Heb. El Shadday)”? (Exo. 6:3; cf. Ps. 29:3; Eze. 1:24; Heb. 12:18-19; Rev. 10:3-4)

10:9-17 – What do we make of the further description of the wheels and cherubim? Why are the cherubim suddenly described as covered with “eyes”? Why is the order and description of the cherubim’s faces (10:14) different than in 1:10? Daniel Block thinks because of the different direction Ezekiel is facing in relation to the cherubim affects the different ordering and he also proposes that the bull and cherubim faces are just two ways of describing the same face (NICOT 324-5).

10:18-19 – Why does the glory of the LORD and the chariot rise? Notice that there is a pause while leaving Jerusalem. What is the possible significance of this? Why should it be emphasized that the cherubim (and the wheels) go straight ahead? Also, why repeatedly remind the reader that these are the very same creatures as in chapter one’s vision (10:15, 20, 22)?

11:1-6 – Why does Ezekiel mention Jaazaniah (who is different than the man with the same name in 9:11) son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah among the 25 leaders noticed? Likely because he knew them and the people he was prophesying to knew them and he was specifically exposing their sins (which were plotting evil and giving wicked advice – cf. Micah 2:1). What is the meaning of the “cooking pot”? Why do they think it will soon be time to build houses? “Prophesy against them, prophesy” places particular emphasis upon the demands of the LORD to Ezekiel. What does the Spirit of the LORD say? He knows their hearts and their violence against the people of Jerusalem (see Eze. 22:27).

11:7-12 – The leaders of Jerusalem are “not the meat” in the pot? How is this bad? What does it mean that they are the refuse outside the pot? (refer to the entire prophesy of Eze. 8-11) Note again the reason given repetitively, “You will know that I am the LORD” (11:10, 12) and therefore the covenant responsibilities this places upon them (11:12). How has the pot motif changed in this vision? It was no longer a safe place, but now the place where they have been consuming the people of Jerusalem (cf. Micah 3:1-3). They are the refuse from the pot and as such are going from the frying pan and into the fire. Why is the judgment of them said to occur “at the borders of Israel”? Who should Israel have been conformed to? (11:12)

11:13 – While Ezekiel was prophesying Pelatiah (“the LORD has delivered”) son of Benaiah (“the LORD has built up”) died. According to Daniel Block (NICOT 338), he “symbolized the hope of Jerusalem” and so his death would signal the end of Jerusalem’s hope that they would be delivered. Ezekiel’s exclamation following Pelatiah’s death seems to be the answer to his parallel statement in 9:8.

11:14-15 – “Your brothers, your brothers”? Why is this doubled? It is emphatic about who will be redeemed. “Your blood relatives” is literally “men of your redemption” which is a reference to the next of kin responsible for redeeming you if needed (see the “kinsman-redeemer” of Ruth; Lev. 24:47-55; 25:23-34; Num.35:19-28).

11:16 – What does it mean that the LORD has become “a sanctuary” (Heb. miqdash; cf. 8:6; 9:6 – where it refers to the Temple) for “a little while” (or less likely “of a lesser degree”) for the exiles who have been removed from Jerusalem? (see also John 2:19-22; 3:21-23)

11:17-21 – When was the promise of the exiles returning fulfilled? Who is the promise addressed to – the people of Jerusalem or the exiles? Who will bring Israel back and who exiled them to begin with? What does this say about the LORD’s involvement in the affairs of people? Who was responsible for cleansing the land? Who will give them a new heart and new spirit (but compare Eze. 18:31)? Contrast the new hearts of 11:19 with the hearts of 14:3 and 20:16. What was the heart change expected to accomplish? The key statement here is “They will be my people, and I will be their God” (Exo. 6:7; Lev. 26:12; Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 24:7; 30:22; 31:33; Eze. 14:11; 36:28; 37:27; Hosea 2:23; Zech. 13:9; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:10; Rev. 21:3).

11:22-25 – Why does the glory of the LORD stop over the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem? Apparently the glory departs for twenty years until Ezekiel 43 speaks of the glory of the LORD returning. Suddenly Ezekiel is returned from the vision to the exiles whom he immediately informs about what he just saw (chapters 8-11). How did they respond? We aren’t told what their immediate response was. Iain Duguid describes the connection between the “glory” of Ezekiel 10-11 and Jesus as mentioned in Matthew 23:37-24:3: “There Jesus laments Jerusalem’s history of hard-heartedness towards the prophets and her refusal to come to him (23:37). As a result, her house will be left desolate (23:38), and Jerusalem will not see Jesus again until they are willing to welcome his coming (23:39). He then prophesies the forthcoming destruction of the temple (24:1) and removes himself to the mount of Olives, leaving behind a magnificent but doomed structure” (NIVAC 153).

Shadow and Light

I have recently become convinced that we live in danger of two things that come out more clearly during Holy Week.  I watched The Passion of the Christ this Wednesday and was brutally reminded of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I wanted to turn away.  The absolute ugliness and weakness of the cross were overwhelming.  On Friday, I participated in a community worship service that entailed a bried recounting of the seven last words of Christ from the cross.  I was moved again by the shear horror of what Jesus enduring suffered.  I wanted to rush to Sunday morning, but knew that unless he endured the cross there would be no resurrection.  On the other hand, once Sunday came along I gloried readily in the joy of Christ’s resurrection, but knew that this resurrection was of the Crucified and none other.  In my heart, I know that we cannot have only the joy and not the sorrow; only the blessings and not the judgment.  The resurrection and the crucifixion must be held together. 

I have often encountered others who likewise appear to overly focus upon one to the neglect of the other.  There are those who wrongly emphasize the cross to the neglect of the resurrection.  I’m thinking here of certain church traditions in particular that focus more on suffering or on the things we seem capable to do ourselves.  There are churches that recreate the crucifixion on a weekly basis through the constant representation of Christ’s sacrifice.  This emphasis upon the cross has indeed created an atmosphere where it seems only fitting that Christ hanging from the cross is the central icon.  There is little emphasis upon the recreated life that is empowered by the resurrection of Christ.  There seems to be little power over sin.

On the other side are those who want to emphasize the resurrection and not the cross.  They glory in everything finished in Christ.  They live as if they’ve already arrived in glory.  Such churches seem unconcerned about preaching the utter necessity of the crucified life.  Emphasis on the cross means suffering and shame and they believe we should not focus on that, but on the victory of the resurrection.  Is it possible that both are completely wrong.  The one seems devoid of the resurrection power to save, make new and transform; the other seems devoid of following the very one who was raised, but bore his cross and commanded all who follow after Him to do likewise. 

We need the foolishness of the cross AND the power of the resurrection to be preached and lived.  We have not received all that we will receive through the resurrection and so we continue to bear our crosses as He did.  We must put to death everything that exalts itself against Jesus.  But in the crucified life we must not live as if we are only choosing some morally possible path.  No, we were given life when we were absolutely dead.  We could not save ourselves and the Resurrected One gave us life…indeed gives us Himself.  Instead of an either/or, we must be faithful to the biblical tension of the two.  Live in the light of the resurrection under the shadow of the cross.

(As an aside I’m grateful for those — like blogger Brian Fulthorp citing Eugene Peterson — who are wanting to reemphasize one where the other has been overemphasized).

Ezekiel 8-9 – The Mark of the LORD

8:1 – The date of this revelation is September 18, 592 BC (Ezekiel’s first vision was on July 31, 593 BC). How should we understand this in light of his laying his sides for 430 days? He was sitting at home with the elders of Judah around him (to inquire of the LORD through him? cf. Eze.14:1-3; 20:1). Note that the hand of the LORD did not simply “come” upon him, but “fell” upon him. What is the significance of this?

8:2 – “A figure like a man”? (Eze.1:26-28) How should we understand his appearance?

8:3-5 – “Taken by the hair” and “lifted by the Spirit”? (cf. Bel and the Dragon 36) The term translated “idol” here (Heb. semel) is only referenced two other times (Deut.4:16; 2 Chron.33:7, 15; for explanation see Block NICOT 281) and here it is labeled “that provokes to jealousy” (cf. Deut.4:15-24). This idol is visible from one of the doorways to the Temple (as if to guard?). He sees the glory of the God of Israel (the Living God) which is contrasted with the idol that does nothing.

8:6 – “Do you see”? (8:12, 15, 17; note the wheel within a wheel covered in “eyes” in 1:18; Duguid NIVAC 132fn10). If the prophet is shown these things then surely the LORD has seen far more than He has shown. Why is this asked repeatedly? It serves a rhetorical effect for the prophet (and the readers) to take notice and not turn a blind eye to the surrounding sins. How could the LORD be driven from His sanctuary?

8:7-9 – Why is there a hole in the wall of the inner court of the temple that leads to a secret chamber for Ezekiel to dig through? It may demonstrate that though the secret remains (i.e., Ezekiel goes in through the hole and not the door), yet the LORD sees all.

8:10-12 – What kinds of things are being worshipped and how? Who is represented by the seventy worshippers? (see 8:1; contrast with Ex.24:1, 9; Num.11:24-25) He focuses on Jaazaniah son of Shaphan. Who is this fellow? Shaphan, his father, was a scribe in the days of King Josiah’s reforms (2 Ki.22:3-14; 2 Chron.34:8-20) and his brothers were Ahikam who assisted Jeremiah (Jer.26:24), Elasah who delivered Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles (Jer.29:3), and Gemariah who tried to stop Jeremiah’s scroll from being burned by King Jehoiakin (Jer.36:10, 25). He was apparently not deported with Ezekiel and became defiled in idolatry (despite or even ironically in relation to his name’s meaning “the LORD hears”). Note that each elder representative worshipped a separate image of a creature. The seventy seems to refer to the totality. “The LORD does not see us”? What might this mean? Possibly (1) that the LORD has abandoned them or (2) that the LORD is ignorant of their idolatry (cf. Ps.10:1-11; 94:1-7). Does He in fact see? (Gen.16:13-14; Deut.4:28; Ps.115:4-8) Has He utterly “forsaken the land”?

8:13 – “More detestable” things will be shown (and 8:15)? What could be more detestable?

8:14 – Ezekiel was shown women “mourning for Tammuz” (lit. “weeping the Tammuz”)? Tammuz was the name given to an ancient Sumerian king who was divinized after dying and returning (not necessarily resurrected). The Mesopotamians annually worshipped Tammuz through a (particularly) women’s mourning ritual. Why is this being practiced in the Temple and what is its significance?

8:16-18 – Idolatry in the inner court. Why are the worshippers backs to the Temple and their faces to the east? It demonstrates a rejection of the LORD and worship of the sun (cf. 2 Ki.21:5; 23:11-12; condemned in Deut.4:19; 17:2-5). “The essence of idolatry is not so much denying the reality of God but the relevance of God” (Duguid NIVAC 140). Worse yet they are oppressive, violent and cruel to one another. What does “the branch to their nose” (or “my nose”) mean? Somehow it is insulting, though how is unclear.

9:1-2 – The statements about no pity (8:18) are immediately followed by the call for the executioners of the city of Jerusalem. Six executioners (much like the Levite temple guards in Eze.44:11) and one scribe arrive to carry out the judgment. Who is the scribe or who does the scribe represent? Suggestions have included Gabriel and the Christ.

9:3 – “The glory of the God of Israel went up”? “Above the cherubim” refers to the holy of holies and the ark of the covenant (Ex.25:18-22). Who commissions the scribe?

9:4-7 – “A mark on the forheads”? What was the mark and who was marked? (cf. Rev.7:3; 13:16) The ‘taw’ is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and at that time looked like an X (represented in English still in the ‘T’). This was perhaps like a signature (see Block NICOT 307). Who was to be judged by execution? Is there any gender or age discrimination? Why not? The list in 9:6 is of “the defenseless, the frail, and the innocent” (Block NICOT 308). The holy was profaned by idolatry and so was no longer holy and therefore the wicked could be slaughtered there. Iain Duguid (NIVAC 134-135) has noted the parallels to Passover in Exodus 12, but here it is Israel that is judged.

9:8-11 – “Left by myself”? Will the LORD destroy everyone? Note the reasons for the LORD’s judgment. Does he spare the righteous? (cf. Gen.18:23) Robert Chandlish (cited in Duguid NIVAC 137) astutely wrote, “The Lord waits long to be gracious, as if he knew not how to smite. He smites at last as if he knew not how to pity.”

Preach the Word

I wish someone had sat me down and shared the exceeding value of preaching expository sermons when I started pastoring. I was coming up with 4-5 topical messages every week right out of Bible College and I thought I was going to kill myself doing it. I would wrestle and wrestle with what topic to preach about, but found myself becoming drier spiritually.

Then one day I realized that if I preached expositorily my preaching would actually be richer and my study time more focused. I could preach on topics as they come up in the text that I wouldn’t otherwise touch doing a topical message or series. I also realized I was creating a better sense of the wider and deeper appreciation of Scripture within the congregation (and myself) rather than fragmented passages strung together creating a pastiche of whatever I could come up with. It forced me to wrestle with the difficult portions of Scripture and to wrestle with the context of God’s dealing with His people throughout the ages. I believe I have become a better reader of Scripture and a better listener to the voice of the Spirit to the church through a faithful hearing of God’s word.

I have since advised many younger pastors to preach expository messages and was delighted to see that Enrichment Journal just posted an article dealing with this topic from a Pentecostal perspective on their online section ( “Why Pentecostals Don’t Preach Expository Sermons” ). What do you think about expository preaching? What are some of its weaknesses or strengths as you understand them?

Why I'm Celebrating Earth Day…

The current issue of “Assemblies of God Heritage” magazine (GPH 2010, pgs.16-26, 69) has a wonderful article on the Pentecostal origins of Earth Day.  You can download the article “John McConnell, Jr. and the Pentecostal Origins of Earth Day” as a pdf.  I recently visited with Darrin Rodgers (editor of Heritage magazine and Pentecostal historian) about this topic and thoroughly appreciated his recent article on it.  I think you’ll be surprised by what you find.  This article is the reason I’ll be celebrating Earth Day this year (on Sunday, March 21st)…thank you John McConnell, Jr.  Just one brief snippet to whet your appetite:

McConnell’s purpose was to promote “a climate of peace and justice as a prerequisite for ecological preservation”…[as opposed to its now having become, at the hands of Senator Nelson,] a political protest against pollution.’

You can also watch a lengthy interview of John and Anna McConnell concerning Earth Day by Darrin here.