Haggai wrote about the challenges faced by the nation of Israel in rebuilding its holy temple nearly 2,500 years ago. Yet his insights are directly relevant for today. They speak to both our liberal and conservative impulses. Chapter one calls us to leave the distractions of individualistic materialism; chapter two instructs us to set aside the enervating longing for a mythical golden age. Then, we can engage in consecrated, sustained effort to advance the kingdom of God through the building up of his church. Let us look a little more closely at both of these sections.
The story of Jonah contains significant ironies that can best be understood against the background of ancient maritime practices and Assyrian royal rituals. Various literary clues in the story highlight the ironic sequence of events that pack an enormous theological punch. The story begins with Yahweh’s command to Jonah: “Get up, go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim against it because their wickedness has come up to my face” (1:1)
A friend of mine posted a fantastic “idiomatic translation” by Eugene Peterson of the famous passage from Amos this week on facebook. And, as I read it again, afresh, I realized that it is so vividly self-explanatory that it is worth posting it at the beginning of this week’s Sabbath School study reflection:
Man has murdered and maimed since the Fall from the Garden of Eden. Then as now it is God, the Creator of all things, who will be the final arbiter of justice. Cain murdered his brother Abel because of religious jealousy. Abel’s offering was accepted by the Lord. Cain’s was not. The Lord sentenced Cain to a life as a fugitive and a vagabond. The Lord took sole responsibility to punish – no one else was permitted to harm Cain – for Cain’s offense was not solely against Abel but against God and His law. “Therefore whoever kills Cain,” [said the Lord,]
Devouring locusts, drought, and famine: from these portentous plagues Joel catapults us into the consideration of eternal issues, his broad brush painting across the centuries down to the very end of time. It is certainly not a quiet armchair read, not the kind of read that allows one to thumb through a favorite set of theological categories and then to sit back in smug satisfaction, the world sorted, the furies tamed. Not at all. Joel sets us back on our heels, startles and overwhelms, taking us into uncharted waters, historical events for which there is no precedent, the
No one reads in a vacuum. Everyone brings to the Bible their own bias and prejudice. I am no exception. As I read Hosea, I read it, first of all, as a woman. The first three chapters of the book are a love story gone awry and I am initially drawn to the character of Gomer. She is called a whore by none other than God himself. No, that’s not quite right, God instructs Hosea to marry a whore. Hosea chooses Gomer as a wife.
Our commentary this week is taken from the Bible Commentary by Adam Clarke (1762–1832), a British Methodist minister and theologian. It is interesting sometimes to get a historical perspective on some of the more difficult or controversial topics in the Bible, and there are few more "difficult" than Hosea.
As a child, I read the whole of C.S Lewis’s Narnia series avidly; the series was a gift from my parents when I was around eight. I became submerged in a parallel universe. Now as an adult, I recently sat in a classroom with my fifteen and sixteen year old students, watching the BBC version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Now I clearly see the deeply Christian allegory of a Creator who had been gone for a while but returned and died to fulfil his own laws. The dawn of the creation of our own planet was more than our physical emergence.