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Discussion in 'Bible Reading Plan 2017' started by Aaron, Aug 19, 2002.
[ August 19, 2002, 11:58 AM: Message edited by: Aaron ]
To any people, Jew and Gentile alike. When God showed Abraham the land He had promised him, He said that He could not yet give to him, "but in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full," Genesis 15:16. The Amorites had not yet crossed the line. They still had rights to the land.
When Israel finally moved in, Moses said,
What will make America strong? Righteousness. What will tear her down? Sin.
Good evening -
Indeed, history has shown many, many times that once a society loses its moral fabric, the entire society and eventually the government crumble right behind it. The US is no exception.
We read a lot of material in the final chapter of Nehemiah. Chapter 13 shows further the contrast between Nehemiah and Ezra. While Ezra was often passive and allowed the people to interpret their own sins, Nehemiah was very proactive in his leadership. Part of the reason for this may have been that Nehemiah was working on a time table and was expected to return to his duties as cupbearer. These final reforms solidified the return to sound doctrine by the Israelies. In verse 13:13, notice that the treasurers are represented by a priest, a Levite, a scribe and a "layman". This is a very good model of a committee followed similarly by modern churches. Also in 13:23-27 we see that Nehemiah was very straightforward and even a bit violent in dealing with the Jews who had married foreign women. Contrast this passage with Ezra 9:3. This shows distinctly the different approach to the leadership that these men took.
Finally, the short prayer in verse 31 is the final words we hear from Nehemiah, a plea to God to remember him. This Book has so much to teach us.
In Luke we read one of the favorite stories of children, Zacchaeus in the sycamore-fig tree. I think children like this story because of the description of his small stature. The moral of this account is, of course, that the zeal of this supposed "sinner" brings salvation to his home. Christ makes the point that Zacchaeus is more true to the intention of the Abrahamic covenant than the Pharisees. Though the Jews had corrupted the Law, this man had believed the Messiah's Divinity and had offered to pay back his debt to nearly the full extent for stealing as described in Exodus 22:1.
In Titus today Paul once again tells the reader of the need for staying true to the course and, just as Nehemiah, to be proactive in dealing with the rebellious. The future of the Church in Crete was dependant upon these instructions being carried out. The quoting of the Greek saying in verse 12 shows that even the non-Christians in the city recognized these people as bad. Their presence in the church made a poor testimony for that struggling institution.
May God bless you
Sunday School lecture - 5/16/04 Part II
Titus 1:10-16 Refute the Errorists
It is in this Passage that Paul explains why the teaching of sound doctrine by qualified elders is essential. The presence of "insubordinate (KJV - unruly)" men, "empty (vain) talkers," and "deceivers" posed a serious threat to the Cretan church. The unruly will not acknowledge authority. Vain talkers are those who give more lip service to religion than actual application to their lives. The term "deceivers" may hint at magicians or sorcerers among the Cretan church.
Paul becomes quite specific in naming the Judaizers as a particularly visible aspect of those who refuse sound doctrine, naming them the "circumcision party (KJV - of the circumcision)" just as he does in Galatians 2:12. Interestingly, Paul does not call for exclusion of these errorists as he does in 1Timothy 1:20. Instead he calls for their silencing. With the mission in its infancy, exclusion was not the most correct solution. However, their philosophies were "upsetting whole families (KJV - subverting households)". Also they taught with the wrong motives as they did what they did for profiteering. The phrase "teachings which they ought not" may be another ambiguous reference to incantations and magic.
In verse 12, Paul backs his warning with a quote from a 6th century BC poet, Epimenides. Paul is not giving the pagan prophet the credibility of Old Testament prophets but is rather citing a secular source that contains a truth just as he did Menander in 1Corinthians 15:33. The use of Epimenides' quote is actually a brilliant maneuver on Paul's part. In this way he avoids the appearance of racial or nationalistic bigotry. Paul merely quotes one of their own and simply nods in agreement.
The Cretan error requires decisive action from Titus and Paul call for him to rebuke them sharply. As seen in other Passages dealing with discipline, however, the goal is to correct not to exclude as Paul says, "that they may be sound in the faith." The minister's role is analogous to the doctor's. He desires the patient's cure not his loss.
The disease in this case had two components: adherence (1) to Jewish myths and (2) to the commands of men. The "myths (KJV - fables)" as discussed in our study of 1Timothy 1 involved speculations and extra-biblical traditions and expositions of Old Testament stories. The commands of men are those that contradict the commands of God as our Savior spoke of in Matthew 15:4-6.
Such views are perversions of the truth. Those that hold them have abandoned correct understanding. Paul explains that purity, or good conscience, depends on the inner man made right by faith. The quote "to the pure all things are pure" has been misconstrued before as saying "anything goes," however, Paul is here quoting Christ as he spoke on dietary laws in Luke 11:41. What Paul is saying instead is that ritual purity is a superficial act. The inner person is purified by a right faith in Christ.
In order that his statement not be misconstrued, Paul states the negative side. "To the corrupt [morally impure] and unbelieving, nothing is pure." Such people lack the capacity to distinguish good from evil. No matter what acts of purification they may undergo, they will not receive the blessing of God nor the eternal reward. The reason is that even though they may have ritually purified their bodies, their minds are still defiled.
The Cretan errorists probably felt they had a handle on religion. That they "professed to know God" may mean that they understood monotheism or, negatively, it may have been a tendency towards pre-Gnostic philosophies. In either case, their claim to know God was disproved by their actions. In the Christian life, deeds must match words. Paul can hardly find words strong enough to denounce these errorists. They are detestable, abominable, as disobedient as pagans, and completely unqualified for any good deed.
Sunday School lesson 1/23/05
The 19th chapter of Luke represents the transition from what is commonly referred to as the “travelling ministry,” beginning in 9:51, and the onset of the “Jerusalem ministry” beginning in verse 19:28. Luke has been preparing us for this climax, reminding us throughout the narrative that Jerusalem was the goal. The chapter picks up with Jesus in Jericho where He had healed a blind man at the gate.
There is an insinuation in the text that there is a rather large entourage following Jesus and the Twelve by this point. With the coming Passover, multitudes of other pilgrims would also be journeying towards Jerusalem to partake of the holiday in the holy city. It is not unreasonable to assume that many of these independent travelers would have joined in the throng surrounding Jesus as rumors of His miraculous deeds and the promise of potential messiahship ran through the crowd. Of course the Jews missed the higher implications of the Messiah and perceived of a nationalistic military leader who would purge Palestine of the Romans.
Jericho was an important city at this point in history. Situated only fifteen miles northeast of Jerusalem, much commerce passing from the east came through this town. It was also the seat of a strong agricultural center noted especially for palm and balsam groves. Because of its warmer climate, the Herods used Jericho as a winter capital and had made many architectural projects there modeling them after the Roman architecture of the time. It should also not be overlooked by the student that it was through the town of Jericho that Joshua, Jesus' namesake, had first entered the Promised Land and expelled the Canaanites.
It is upon this backdrop that the 19th chapter of Luke opens.
Luke 19:1-10 The Conversion of Zacchaeus
This Passage has always been a favorite of children. Perhaps the appeal is that Zacchaeus is described as a small man. Perhaps it is because of his ability to climb trees. Perhaps it stems from his strong desire to see Jesus despite the obstacles in his way. In any case, for the adult student, this story shows once again that Jesus’ ministry was and is to reach the lost, one of the key concepts of the Gospel of Luke.
Zacchaeus is described as being the “chief” tax collector, a position about which we know nothing. However, we can assume from the title that he was in charge of a staff of tax collectors over a certain district. The Roman government had reserved the task of collecting personal and property taxes to their own but collecting taxes on goods were delegated to the locals. Such a position allowed for a great deal of exploitation and corruption and this certainly explains why Zacchaeus was rich. Because of this exploitation and their association with the conquering Romans, the tax collectors were one of the most disliked sects in Jewish society.
As Jesus walks down the street in Jericho, the masses surrounding Him prevent Zacchaeus from seeing Him because of his short stature. Therefore, he gets ahead of the crowd and climbs a “sycamore tree,” a variety of tree that produced a fig eaten by the poor and cattle with low spreading branches ideal for climbing. The curiosity of Zacchaeus regarding Jesus, One of whom he had obviously heard much, resulted in a turn of events remarkable enough to be recorded and preserved in the Gospel of Luke.
Upon arriving at the tree, Jesus calls for Zacchaeus to come down to Him. This constituted a bold move by Jesus that ran against the grain of the religious society at the time. The should of Zacchaeus was at stake here and as a result Jesus breaks social protocol by calling to him and goes even further by stating that He “must,” a divine necessity, stay at the hated man’s home that day. No self respecting Jew of the time would have made such a gesture and the crowd responds with “murmuring,” a sign of their displeasure. The public ridicule was inconsequential, however, as Zachaeus’ response to Jesus was one of conversion. Note that Jesus’ acceptance of the tax collector was not conditional. He did not say, “I will come stay with you if you give up your job and give to the poor.”
Under the impact of this unconditional acceptance Zacchaeus’ life is miraculously transformed. This transformation is displayed in his new attitude towards wealth. Manna is no longer his god as he will give half of his wealth to the poor and the rest will be used to make restitution to those whom he had defrauded. In the Mosaic Law, if one confessed of defrauding another it was required that he compensate the offended party with the value plus one-fifth of the value stolen (Leviticus 6:5). Zacchaeus goes beyond the requirement of the Law, however, and voluntarily decides to compensate those he wronged with a “fourfold” repayment, the restitution required for stealing a sheep (Exodus 22:1).
Jesus’ response to this declaration is directed at Zacchaeus but is meant for the critics. Just as the miraculous acts of healing and feeding of multitudes were demonstrations of God’s power, the entrance of Jesus into this house was a demonstration of God’s Grace and man’s salvation. Zacchaeus, though genetically a son of Abraham, was an outsider among his own people and an outsider of the Kingdom. Nationality was not the basis of his salvation. Verse 10 sums up the Gospel well. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. The lost are the despised and the hated. They are the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the multitudes. They are those outside of the religious inner circle who had been scorned and rejected, despite their genealogy. It was these lost sons of Abraham who would constitute the foundation for the new Israel.
Typically, when we begin a new Book I like to add an introductory commentary to give a more insightful insight into our study. In the case of Esther, however, there is so much ambiguity as to its origins that a separate commentary is not warranted. We do not know the author. Not even tradition gives us any clues. The time of the writing is anywhere from 300-50 BC. The location of the writing is impossible to determine.
The Book of Esther has always been a source of controversy. The early Jewish synods all accepted the work as canonical but the Christian community was either hot or cold on the Book. Luther wished to exclude it from the Canon as he did with many other writings because of its “Jewishness.” Fortunately for us, God in His Providence has preserved this great work for us in our modern Bibles. There are also questions of certain historical accuracies in the Book that we are unable to overcome in the present age.
In my opinion, the best way to approach Esther is not as a historical work, though it may be studied in that manner. The better approach is to look at the Book as a novel with a deep theological undercurrent. To dwell on the historical points, while a scholarly method, leaves one too bogged in sorting out the discrepancies between secular historical records and the account before us. However, by enjoying the Book as a well crafted story, the beauty of the account unfolds as well as any short story in history.
It would also be an oversight to not mention the lack of the mention of God in this Book. Some theologians throughout church history have stated that Esther is “sub-Christian.” Thousands of people die in the Book and though the Book is about God’s covenant people during the time of the exile we see a complete disregard for the covenant laws. Yet for all this, the Book carries within its pages a standard of ethics and a statement about the sovereignty of God and His hand moving through history. God is not mentioned by name, but He is unquestionably on every page.
Esther 1:1-9 The Splendor of King Ahasuerus
There is general agreement that Ahasuerus is Xerxes I who ruled Persia from 486-465 BC. Susa was indeed his capital and modern excavations of the sight plainly confirm the wealth proclaimed by the Book of Esther.
We are told that the king held a banquet of one hundred eighty days, a very extravagant event. We are also told that all the princes and servants were in attendance and special mention is made of the army chiefs of Persia and Media.
When the feast for royalty was concluded after one hundred eighty days the king decreed that a feast for all the subjects be given that would last seven days. We are then informed that Vashti, the queen, also gave a feast for the ladies of the royal harem. This reminds us that Vashti had great freedom and could give parties whenever she chose.
Esther 1:10-12 The Obstinacy of Queen Vashti
On the final day of the commoners’ feast, Ahasuerus called for Vashti to be brought before him in full regalia in order that he may show her off to his guest. Surprisingly, Vashti refuses to come. We are not told why she does this but it starts a chain of events in motion that will save the captive Jews from annihilation.
Esther 1:13-22 A National Crisis
It is amusing to see that the king reacts so strongly emotionally to Vashti’s refusal yet is so weak that he needs royal council to find a solution to the dilemma. These counselors were men “who knew the times” and were always with the king to offer advice when he needed. The king needed them now. The mighty ruler of one hundred twenty seven provinces was unable to rule his one wife!
The counselors raise the incident from a family squabble to a national incident. Memucan states that not only has Vashti sinned against Ahasuerus but against all the husbands in the province. When it became known that the first lady had shunned the king, the other wives in the nation would also refuse their husbands’ commands resulting in a complete national breakdown.
It pleased the king’s vanity to hear that his frustration was really an important national sentiment and he agrees to a royal decree that men be stated as masters in their homes and Vashti be deposed and replaced with a more subservient queen. The humor in the story would have been as obvious to the original audience as to us.
Our Scriptures for 8/20 are: