Despite God’s longstanding patience giving us time to shape up, judgement will eventually come
The book of Ezekiel is an interesting one, packed with evocative prophetic imagery that portrays God’s power, patience, and eventual judgement. As follows through much of the Old Testament the people disobey God. He warns them to turn things around and is patient, hoping they will avoid the consequences of their wayward actions. He wishes for the best, and the people let him down.
But Ezekiel is confronted with a peculiar response to his messages of impending punishment. Like the boy who cried “wolf,” the people dismiss Ezekiel’s warnings (actually God’s warnings). They say, “Time passes on but these threats never happen.” They stop taking Ezekiel (and God) seriously, which they never fully did to begin with. They feel quite justified in ignoring the word of God because they think there is no downside for disobedience.
To this God says “enough.” He will withhold their punishment no longer and will fulfill all that he said. There will be no more delays.
I wonder how much we today are like these people of old, viewing God’s warnings as meaningless threats that will never happen. Since our wrong behavior receives no immediate punishment, perhaps we’re not so bad after all. Maybe God doesn’t really mean it when he says our wrong actions are sin.
To this I hear God again saying “Enough.”
There are consequences for disobeying God, and I fear our time is up.
[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Ezekiel 10-12, and today’s post is on Ezekiel 12:21-28.]
Studying scripture teaches us about classic literature and writing to inform our literary perspective
My post “13 Reasons Why I Love the Bible” started out as a top ten list, but I couldn’t stop at a round number. I kept going and couldn’t pare my list down to just ten reasons. And if I had kept thinking about it, I would likely have come up with more.
A related topic is considering the Bible as literature, the classic of classics. So much of what we read today has allusions, though sometimes subtle, to scripture. We see biblical themes repeated in TV and movies.
Knowing the Bible helps us to more fully understand God but also to better appreciate literature and entertainment. Consider what the Bible has to offer:
- Variety of Genres: The Bible contains different styles of writing. Much of it is history, with some biography and even autobiography. There are several poetry portions (albeit without rhyming and meter), which reveal ancient poetic styles and can inform modern day poets. The books of prophecy reveal the future, some of which has already come to pass and other portions, not. Books of wisdom give as wise advice. Other sections reveal God, serving as the first theology text. The Bible also contains letters from teachers to their students. There are epic dreams documented for us to ponder. And two books, Job and Song of Solomon, read much like the modern-day screenplay.
- Multiple Viewpoints: The Bible contains four biographies of Jesus (gospels). The four respective authors reveal different aspects of Jesus based on their personal perception and target audience. Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s writing contain the most similarities; John is the most different. Similarly, 1 and 2 Chronicles provides a counterpoint to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Last, some of the prophets provide additional historical accounts to round out what we learn from the prior six books of history (1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings)
- Different Perspectives: Much of the Bible is written in the third person point of view, while some passages are in first person. I especially enjoy these first person accounts as it places me in the middle of the action, as if I am there, living it with the speaker.
- Multiple Levels: Reading the Bible is analogous to peeling an onion. Each time we unwrap one layer, we find another that gives us additional insight and added meaning. There are many tiers, virtually unlimited. We will never know all of what the Bible says, but we do strive to learn more of what it reveals. With each successive read we are able to connect different passages together and glean deeper insight into its stories, lessons, and writers – as well as the God who inspired it.
The Bible has much to offer, not only from a spiritual perspective, but also from a literary one. Reading the Bible as literature will increase our appreciation of other things we read, what we write, and the world in which we live.
What is your favorite genre of the Bible? How does reading the Bible as literature inform your perspective.
The book of Revelation is a curious one; there is none other like it in the Bible. It is perhaps the most scrutinized and misunderstood section. While I will not make any attempt to explain it, I will offer some context as a guide:
- This book is written by John, but it is not his revelation; it is Jesus’ revelation (Revelation 1:1).
- John confirms the book is a prophecy, and we are blessed merely by reading it, hearing it, and taking it to heart (Revelation 1:3). But he doesn’t say we need to understand it!
- This book is a letter to the seven churches in Asia. Just as Paul, Peter, and John write letters to various people and different churches, this is another one of John’s letters (Revelation 1:4).
- The contents of the letter are supernaturally given to John in a vision when he is communing with God in the spiritual realm (Revelation 1:10).
- The purpose of the book may be found in Revelation 19:10: to worship God and celebrate Jesus.
We can consider Revelation in three sections:
1) Chapter 1 is the Introduction: In addition to setting the basis for the rest of the book, chapter 1 is awesome in that is hints at what our relationship with God can be like when we connect with him in the spiritual realm. We should not consider this unique to John, and we should embrace it as available to us – if we are willing to pursue it.
2) Chapters 2 and 3 Give Specific Messages to the Seven Churches: The letters to the seven churches are written to them. While we can receive encouragement from their successes and learn from their failures, we need to remember they are the primary audience and we are the secondary one, just like all the other letters in the Bible. We need to remind ourselves of their context and not make them into more than what they are intended to be.
3) Chapters 4 through 22 is a Future Prophecy: From the final nineteen chapters of Revelation, the intend is not for us to decode when these events will happen. After all, Jesus says, no one knows the time and date of when the end will occur. There is no secret plan for us to decode.
Instead I see three key things as I read the words in Revelation: God is awesome and worthy of our worship, Jesus is powerful, and for those whose names are written in the book of life (Revelation 20:15), the ending is a happy one. If you don’t believe me, read the last two chapters (Revelation 21 and 22) and be in awe – even if we can’t comprehend the details.
What do you like or not like about the book of Revelation?
The book of Deuteronomy has a curious passage about prophecy. It teaches if a prophet says something God didn’t instruct him or her to say, the prophet must be executed. That should certainly cause prophets to be careful with their words, saying only what God commands and nothing else.
A few verses later, it says if a prophet declares something that doesn’t come true, to just disregard that person. There seems little distinction between these two situations, but with drastically different outcomes: killing versus ignoring.
I wonder if the distinction might be intent, where the first instance is willful and the second, accidental.
A third situation, which this passage doesn’t address, is the opposite of the first. Instead of saying what God doesn’t tell them, they don’t say what God tells them. They are disobedient, but in this case their error isn’t public. Only they and God know about it, so there cannot be a response from the people. Yet I suspect that not saying what we should say is almost as bad as saying what we shouldn’t.
While not everyone is a prophet, most of us do talk about God – and we must take care in what we say as well as in what we don’t say. Much is at stake.
[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Day.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]
I recently happened upon an interesting understanding of time, of the past, present, and future. It identifies three major eras of the God who is revealed in the Bible.
From the perspective of medieval Christendom — as exemplified by Joachim of Fiore — history is prophetically divided into three eras, each lasting two thousand years.
- There is the past age of the Father, with a primary emphasis of God the Father (circa 2000 to 0 BCE).
- There is the present age of the Son, with a primary focus on Jesus, the Son of God (circa 0 to 2000 CE).
- And there will be a future third age of the Spirit, with the primary attention given to the movement and influence of the Holy Spirit, (circa 2000 to 4000 CE).
Although medieval man saw the age of the spirit as the distant future, today’s followers of God are able to experience it as the nascent present.
A significant change is occurring in the workings of God — and we have a front row seat.
In the parable about the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, Jesus shares an intriguing story. In it, both men die; Lazarus goes to heaven, but the rich man ends up in hell.
Desperate to spare his family from the torment he is suffering, the rich man makes a request of Father Abraham to send Lazarus back, warning those he loves. Abraham reminds him that they have already failed to heed the prior warnings that others have given.
The man persists, asserting that they would surely listen to someone who has returned from the dead. Abraham’s’ words are somber, saying “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
This was later proved to be correct. After Jesus’ resurrection, hundreds of dead people came back to life, went into the city, and appeared to many. Yet despite hundreds of formerly dead people walking around the city, only a 120 believed and were waiting in the upper room as Jesus commanded.
What happened to all the rest? They saw the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and hundreds of the undead, but they remained unchanged.
Jesus’ prophecy was correct, that “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
Though not everyone will be convinced, some will be. I am; are you?
[Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 27:51-53, Acts 1:14-15]