Showing posts with label Isaiah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Isaiah. Show all posts

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Mining the Minors: Micah (10)

Last week we invested a couple thousand words in discussing the three verses Micah and Isaiah have in common. The differences between the two passages in the original Hebrew are so miniscule as to not be worthy of lengthy discussion. It is obvious these two prophetic contemporaries were right on the same page in their messages to the nation of Judah at a time when, if not for the reforms of King Hezekiah, it might well have joined its sister kingdom in Assyrian exile.

However, from this point on the preachers part ways. This week I’d like to consider the differences between the two sermons that follow.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

You Don’t Know My Father

Let me tell you a story about my father.

Once upon a time (actually, more than once), a very badly behaved little boy sat in the back seat of the family car during a long road trip, deliberately provoking the driver by ramming his pointy little knees into the small of the driver’s back. It was a source of great pleasure to the boy, who disliked long car trips, had become bored and was looking for something fun to do.

From the front seat of the car came a series of calm responses something like this: “Stop that, please” … “I believe I told you to stop that” … “If you don’t stop that, there are going to be consequences”, and eventually, “The next time you do that, we’re going to have to pull over.”

Finally, after the third or fourth transparently intentional provocation, the car eased over to the shoulder of the highway, and child and parent made a trip into the woods together for some clarification as to who was in charge.

Keep this story in mind, if you will.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A Little Bed Rest

“They rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.”

If we are thinking this verse from Isaiah describes the peace of mind that accompanies righteous living, we need to look a little closer at the context. He’s not talking about the proverbial “sleep of the just”. The “rest” Isaiah has in view is of the rather-more-permanent variety.

There are lots of ways to exit this world, but departing quietly in one’s sleep has got to be among the best. There are nobler ways to go, sure, but they tend to come with their share of heart palpitations.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A Mistress Forever

Isaiah 47 is a harsh message from the Lord for the “tender and delicate” virgin daughter of Babylon.

Stop and think about that imagery for a bit. If you know anything about the Chaldeans and the city of Babylon from either history or the Bible, the picture of an attractive, chaste young woman is not exactly what it brings to mind. From the never-completed Tower of Babel in Genesis to the “Fallen, fallen” of Revelation 18, Babylon is associated with predatory mercantilism, false gods, colossal hubris and even murder. In Babylon the great is the blood of prophets and saints.

Where symbols go, the “great prostitute” seems more apt than the virgin daughter.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Balancing Act

“A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.”

False balances are generally associated with weights and scales. The idea is that there is an established price quoted per pound, ounce or liter, but when it comes time to measure out the product, the merchant has rigged his scales so that the balance shown does not reflect the quantity being measured, and the purchaser ends up paying for something he is not receiving. He is being ripped off.

We may come to view being fleeced as the cost of doing business, but the Lord loathes such practices. He calls them an abomination.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Spiritual Treachery

Samuel Reproving Saul, John Singleton Copley, 1798
It is not enough for certain kinds of people to despise truth. They can’t just express their lack of interest and walk away.

I suspect every Christian who has ever shared his or her faith has run into people who have no trouble making their lack of interest clear, and no trouble beating feet. I think it’s fairly normal. Picture yourself talking to someone about the love of Christ and the things in his word that have become intensely precious to you; the things that make it worth getting out of bed every morning; the things for which you and I live.

Now of course if you’re like me, you’re not a perfect communicator.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: The Judge of All the Earth

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

On her way to work a few months ago, a Muslim driver urged my friend to reconsider her ways in view of coming judgment. The driver knew nothing at all about his passenger, but he was convinced his god will one day be both her judge and the judge of all mankind.

Tom: Not all religions acknowledge judgment is coming, I suppose, but many do. It is not an exclusively Christian teaching. But there are some things about biblical judgment that make it distinctive, Immanuel Can, and perhaps we can explore some of those today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Amillennialism and Isaiah 60: Five Problems

I’ve been enjoying reading amillennialist Dean Davis at Come Let Us Reason.

Really. When I say “enjoy”, I’m not being snarky. It’s actually of considerable interest to me to see someone set out specific details of an allegorical reading of Isaiah 60, among many other passages Dean exposits as consistently as seems possible within the restrictions of the amillennial schema.

This is something few in his position do effectively.

Mr. Davis makes an effort to work through the chapter on a verse by verse basis, rather than doing the traditional hand wave and dismissal of any further clarification with the words “But it’s spiritual!” It’s nice to see any fellow believer take his preferred method of understanding the word of God seriously enough to examine the scriptures extensively and in minute detail. Many hours went into this, and I respect that.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

An Unnecessary Insertion?

In Matthew, the Father declares that he is “well pleased” with the Son three times.

“Three?” you say. “I can think of two.”

Sure: the baptism of the Lord Jesus and his transfiguration. But there is a third reference to the Father’s pleasure in the Son found in Matthew 12. It’s a familiar quote from the book of Isaiah.

“Oh, a quote. That’s kind of cheating.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Marching to Where?

I’m a bit cautious about the practice of grabbing verses out of the Old Testament and some parts of the gospels for the benefit of Christians living in the Church Age.

Notwithstanding the fact that there is centuries of historical precedent for appropriating Israel’s promises to ourselves in hymnology and liturgical language, this practice is quite unnecessary: the church has its own unique place and promises in the plans of God.

Generally speaking, when we replace our own promises with those made to national Israel, we are trading down.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

A Sheet of Glass

Now and then when I’m unable to write a new post for one reason or another, I’ll recycle something from our archives, generally without comment. But I couldn’t help but notice that this end-of-2014 post about the suddenness with which change comes to our world was definitely NOT inadvertently prophetic. Not one bit. Really.

Last week, Matt Drudge linked to an article in The Guardian that informs us “we are safer, richer and healthier than at any time on record”. In “Goodbye to one of the best years in history”, Fraser Nelson wraps up 2014 by reminding his readers that while it may have escaped our notice:
  • our lives now are more peaceful than at any time known to the human species;
  • global capitalism has transferred wealth faster than foreign aid ever could;
  • global life expectancy now stands at a new high of 71.5 years;
  • traffic deaths are down by two-thirds since 1990; and
  • there has never been a better reason for people the world over to wish each other a happy and prosperous new year.
While Mr. Nelson may have overlooked one or two little atrocities here and there in his glowing report on the human condition, he makes an effort to substantiate his claim that relatively at least we are doing pretty well as a species.

Terrific for us, until things change. And change is coming.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Hide and Seek

“You will ... find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

“I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.”

Do those two statements sound the tiniest bit contradictory? They aren’t really. They might contradict each other if they were both promises, and both given to exactly the same people under precisely the same circumstances, but they are not. One is a promise; the other is simply an observation, though a singularly important one for those it affects.

Either way, the notion that God is out there to be found — and, even better, willing it to happen — is something about which we ought to rejoice.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Exile or Egypt?

Yesterday we looked at the Assyrian invasion of Israel which took place during the ministry of the prophet Isaiah around 2,700 years ago.

With an army at their doorstep, the citizens of the city of Samaria were confronted with a choice: repent of their sins, humble themselves under the chastening hand of God and probably end up in Assyrian exile, or else seek the protection of the Pharaoh in Egypt in hope of retaining some of their wealth and a few shreds of national pride.

The message God gave Isaiah for the people was quite unambiguous: “Don’t go down to Egypt.” Not a complicated instruction, but it certainly went against Israel’s inclinations.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Egypt Option

Roughly one hundred years before the city of Samaria fell to Assyrian invaders, King Jehu of Israel offered tribute to their king, Shalmaneser III.

We know this from an inscription on the side of a seven-foot obelisk currently making its home in the British Museum. It depicts a rather scruffy-looking Israelite monarch on his face at the feet of his Assyrian counterpart. The accompanying caption reads, “The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears.”

The black obelisk was carved approximately 2,800 years ago. As you may appreciate, there are not many such items around. Those that remain are highly valued by historians.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Splendor and Disillusionment

At the church I attended as a teen, there was a family of three. I suppose they were reasonably affluent, though I did not pay much attention to such things in those days. After I moved on, I heard that the father succumbed in middle age to a degenerative disease and went to be with the Lord. Being a decent sort and forward-thinking, he had made financial arrangements for his wife and disabled daughter so that they would be cared for after he was gone.

That worked out well … until it didn’t. A con artist talked the gullible widow into a bad investment, and they lost everything. Years later, they’re still struggling.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Other Cheek

Turning the other cheek is never all that much fun, but lately I’ve begun to see Christian restraint as something more than merely tactical.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously told his followers, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

He did not tell them why, but we may reasonably infer that, like the instruction to love our enemies, turning the other cheek displays our family resemblance to our heavenly Father. (And, of course, there’s the bit in there about reward, but the less said about that the better; we wouldn’t want to look mercenary, would we?)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Distinction with a Difference

Isaiah makes the following statement, generally considered to be messianic:

“But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me?”

Now, hold up there for a moment. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord Jesus was both shamed and humiliated.

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Little Prophetic Pigskin

Isaiah prophesied for many years under many different circumstances about many nations and about many different things on the mind of God.

When he began his prophetic ministry, Assyria was at the forefront of world affairs. During Isaiah’s lifetime, Samaria fell to the Assyrians and Jerusalem was besieged by them. Even Israel’s neighbors had their own ill-fated run-ins with Sennacherib’s “unstoppable war machine”. So naturally much of the earlier chapters of Isaiah is concerned with current events. He would say things like, “Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people,” and then he lived long enough to see that very thing happen.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Deals and Deal-Breakers

Modern critics divide the book of Isaiah into three sections: (1) chapters 1-39, (2) chapters 40-55, and (3) chapters 56-66.

The claim is made that the latter two sections, which contain very specific prophecies concerning events that took place hundreds of years after Isaiah died, were actually written by disciples of Isaiah living during those later periods of Judah’s history and carrying on his mission under his name.

Naturally, conservative scholars disagree.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

My Church is on Life Support

Two verses about possible futures:

“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

“Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days.’ ”

Right. Now let me describe for you an increasingly familiar scenario.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Noble Man, Noble Plan

“I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.”
— Milton Friedman

I’ve liked that quote for a while now. In our current political climate it seems apropos.

It can certainly be read optimistically: If you can’t get people of good character into positions of responsibility, at least there’s a chance that a determined populace might motivate the bad characters with real power to dance to the tune of public opinion.

Perhaps there’s some hope in that.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

The Egypt Option

Roughly a century before the fall of the great city of Samaria to its Assyrian invaders, King Jehu of Israel paid tribute to Assyria’s then-king, Shalmaneser III.

We know this not from the account of Jehu’s life in scripture, but from an inscription on the side of a six-and-a-half-foot obelisk currently making its home in the British Museum. It depicts a rather scruffy-looking Israelite monarch on his face at the feet of his Assyrian counterpart. The accompanying caption reads, “The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears.”

The black obelisk was carved approximately 2,800 years ago. As you may appreciate, there are not many such items around. Those that remain are highly valued by historians.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Threshing Sledge and Cart Wheel

To the best of my recollection, I have never planted anything in my life. In an urbanized society where everything green you will ever need is already on the shelves of the local supermarket, I never had to. The plants I have cared for around the house from time to time were bought already potted and needed little more than the occasional watering.

I killed a few of those too, but that’s a different issue.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Inadequate Remedies

Some people live in active denial of the trends around them, oblivious to the spirit of the age and to all intimations of God’s coming wrath. They are dull by choice.

For example, the Lord Jesus criticized the Pharisees and Sadducees for failing to correctly interpret the “signs of the times”. They were skilled at predicting the weather and ordering their workdays accordingly, but blind to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy all around them. More evidence would not be given to them because they willfully ignored the signs they had already seen.

This is not that.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Root and Shoot

There’s an odd and rather bleak passage in Job in which he compares human beings to trees. “A man dies and is laid low,” says the beleaguered believer, but “there is hope for a tree.”

Why? “Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.”

Pouring water on a headstone does not generally produce similar results.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Forests and Trees

When I pick up a Bible and try to understand a particular verse or passage, I am at a slight disadvantage compared to the writer’s original audience.

“Slight?” you might well ask, taking out your logical 2x4 and preparing to give me a smart tap on the frontal lobe, hopefully in the interest of bringing me to my senses.

“How can you possibly call the disadvantage of living thousands of years after the original writer slight? Sure, you can read the words that the author penned, assuming there has been no significant textual corruption along the way, but you have no idea what was in the author’s mind. You’re not a Hebrew, and you didn’t live in his day. You don’t know the cultural baggage with which his language was freighted. You didn’t have his experiences. You don’t know Greek idioms or how they came about.

“Chances are quite high that you are coming to the text with all kinds of modern assumptions that influence how you read things.”

Monday, November 20, 2017

Moving in Circles

History is cyclical, nothing is truly new, and the capacity of men and women outside of Christ for evil, self-involvement and delusional thinking is no different today than millennia ago. That’s not what progressives teach, but it’s reality.

God repeats the same lessons to mankind generation after generation after generation, but the penny never drops.

In the seventh century B.C., Isaiah watched, warned and wrote about a nation at the end of its civilizational cycle. What he saw was not pretty, and it looks alarmingly familiar to those watching our own culture circle the drain.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (5)

David Brainerd is a little worked up, asking “Can anyone defend Paul’s misuse of scripture in Romans 3?”

He’s referring to verses 10 through 18, in which Paul strings together a lengthy series of Old Testament quotes in order to demonstrate that both Jews and Greeks alike are under sin.

Mr. Brainerd’s beef is that in their original contexts, none of these verses prove what Paul says they prove. Is he right?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Galilee probably looked something
like this in the time of Isaiah.
Are Christians really the world’s most persecuted religious group?

Nelson Jones at New Statesman has taken up the issue at some length in response to a recent statement from British Prime Minister David Cameron: “It is the case that Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world,” Cameron said. “We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other faith groups wherever and whenever we can.”

Jones starts his article by appearing to agree with Cameron and others who have voiced similar sentiments but as he meanders on, it becomes evident that what he really wants to say is: 1) religion causes fighting, 2) Muslims are persecuted too, 3) “persecution” is a relative term, and 4) anyway, if Christians ARE being persecuted, it’s certainly not because of their faith.

Which pretty much covers all the bases.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Three Kinds of Peace

Nick Lowe’s song (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? remains a staple in Elvis Costello’s live show more than forty years after Lowe penned it. Its simplicity and straightforwardness stand in sharp contrast to Costello’s ornate verbiage and characteristic cynicism, and yet the Lowe song often gets the strongest reaction of anything Costello performs. Why not? I mean, who could rightly disagree with the sentiment?

John Lennon famously urged us to Give Peace a Chance. If anyone suggested we Give War a Chance by way of response, it never got much radio airplay. There are times when men find compelling reasons to fight, but peace is usually preferable to bloodshed and death. Everyone agrees about that.

But peace means different things to different people.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Inbox: Radical Pruning

A reader writes:

“Over the past year I had to do a radical pruning of my social media feeds and the time I spent looking at them … the constant barrage of complaints and call-outs from Christians and non-Christians worked up about some political / social / educational / economic / artistic outrage was exhausting. It was making me feel angry and disgusted with humanity, and not in a good or holy way.”

Hey, that’s honest. And taking practical steps to solve the problem, as this reader did, is an eminently more sensible solution than fuming about the world and being miserable.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Motion Granted

“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.”
(Isaiah 53:10, KJV)

“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
(Matthew 3:17, KJV)

Not only the King James Version but many English translations of the Bible, old and modern, use the word “pleased” in both verses, accurately reflecting the meanings of the relevant words in each original language. Both the Greek and Hebrew words translated “pleased” have wide semantic ranges and are frequently rendered as “pleasure” or “delight”.

Still, it seems obvious to us that there are two very different kinds of pleasure in view here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: The Judge of All the Earth

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Taught to Die

Isaiah the prophet speaks the thoughts of the promised Messiah:

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.”

Taught, but not exactly.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Amiable Hedonism

Not every hedonist is stretched out in the sun, skin as orange as Hulk Hogan’s, quaffing endless daiquiris and enjoying the unwavering attention of blondes in bikinis. Not at all.

The red-eyed, coke-nosed, nightclubbing roué is always easy to pick out of a crowd. Blatant dissipation has a certain look to it. It’s a look often accompanied by pickled livers, deteriorated septa and a pressing need for drugs with names that end in -cillin.

But there is a less-talked-about and much more amiable variety of hedonism that often goes undetected. The neighbour who just shoveled your driveway may have hedonistic leanings. Your hard-working best friend might be a closet hedonist too.

That lady who’s always fundraising for the church down the street? A total hedonist.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Inbox: Down the Memory Hole?

Tertius writes:

Your chat with IC made me think of ‘I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.’ ”

Quite so. IC talked a little about the potential dangers of making dogmatic theological statements on the basis of figurative language, or what are sometimes called biblical “anthropomorphisms”. He points out that the writers of scripture use:

“… human-style metaphors, like the hand of God’, because we know what ‘hands’ are ... not because God the Father has a physical body like ours.”

“I will remember” is another of these human-style metaphors.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

As Relevant as Today’s Headlines

In an opinion piece for The Claremont Independent, Taylor Schmitt waxes eloquent about “How Campus Progressives Ruined Liberalism for the Rest of Us”. 

Coming from a self-avowed leftie and supporter of the legalization of both marijuana and gay marriage, it’s an interesting read. Mr. Schmitt is obviously not about to embrace conservatism, but his lucidity and willingness to call a spade a spade are bound to create serious distance between him and his fellow liberals.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Amillennialism and Isaiah 60: Five Problems

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Three Kinds of Peace

The most current version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Marching to Where?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Spiritual Treachery

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, January 02, 2015

When Everything Crashes and Burns

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Justin Trudeau, Judgment and the Angels

Waitasec ... who will judge whom?
Justin Trudeau wants to be prime minister of Canada.

This is not news. But campaigning for the highest office in the land tends to bring greater scrutiny than teaching high school; the occasional naysayer or critic comes with the territory.

No surprise then that the office of the Public Safety Minister said Trudeau showed an “appalling lack of judgment” for visiting a Montreal mosque in September. It turns out their imam teaches that stoning women and cutting the hands off thieves is necessary for a “healthy, pure and balanced society”. The minister is concerned that Trudeau’s visit lends legitimacy to the imam’s comments. 

So okay, maybe one little lapse in judgment. Nothing to make a big deal of, right?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

You Don’t Know My Father

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Naked Pastor and the Danger of Gratuitous Novelty

David Hayward, the self-styled “Graffiti Artist on the Walls of Religion”, is promoting his new book, The Liberation of Sophia (available on Amazon, naturally, for a mere $26.99, and if you think I’m going to link to that for him, you have another think coming). Sophia is a book of 59 cartoons with associated poetry and prose that … well, you can read his description of the work because I’m not sure I can do it justice:
“He began drawing images of a young woman in all kinds of situations. He recognized early on that these drawings weren’t just random pictures, but were the articulation of his interior life’s journey through spiritual, emotional, intellectual and social transition. He realized that Sophia was him!”
David Hayward calls himself the Naked Pastor (when he’s not “Sophia”, I suppose). I haven’t yet discovered why, but since the name is eminently Google-able and mildly transgressive, we can probably guess: Marketing 101. And it works. He’s the number 6 most-visited “Christian” blog this week, and climbing.

But the Naked Pastor has a thing about the Bible’s sheep metaphors.

He really, REALLY hates them.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Missing Links

The other day in a piece entitled “Top 10 Ways To Argue Like A Christian”, I mentioned that my ten choices were far from exhaustive. So far from exhaustive that I thought of another one almost immediately but, you know, ten is such a nice round number.

But another important facet of presenting an argument, while not specifically Christian, is just all-around good form and decent, respectful behavior. It relates particularly to internet discussions and arguments, but has application any time we take on a published assertion of fact or point of view.

So, mind if I add an eleventh?