A Repeated Biblical Theme

We say that the God having inspired Scripture is all about redemption, but it still surprises us when we see it.  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” (Psalm 118:22 ESV).  We know it, we’ve read it, but it still surprises us when we stumble over it in Scripture.

Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a valiant warrior, but he was the son of a harlot. And Gilead was the father of Jephthah.  Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.”  So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves about Jephthah, and they went out with him.  It came about after a while that the sons of Ammon fought against Israel.  When the sons of Ammon fought against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob; (Judges 11:1-5 NASB)

Does anyone else see David’s story here?  Not exactly, but the “exiled warrior” motif seems similar.  But what else should be similar is the rejection and redemption cycle.  The brothers of Jephthah exile him, as David was exiled by Saul.  Both are wronged by those who should have loved and supported them.  But it’s the kind of people who come around them, those disheartened and considered worthless.  Again with the motif of marginalized warriors.

But both show character, Jephthah, and, later, David both are examples of faith.  Both suffer tragedy.  Yet both stand, and both are faithful through the tragedy.  And, please keep that in mind, that both are faithful, even in tragedy.  We make much of David’s failure with Bathsheba, but he also suffers rejection and exile before, and still remains faithful.  Suffering doesn’t always come as a punishment.  Sometimes suffering just comes, and it becomes a test of our faithfulness.

In both instances, Jephthah and David, they remained faithful in exile.  Yahweh sees, and approves of them, eventually using them to lead His people.  The redemption part isn’t to glory and fame, as much as redemption to the purposes of Yahweh.  He uses them in His plans, these who the people rejected.  He changes the course of His people using the ones in whom they saw no value.

Here’s my takeaway:  1) If you’ve been rejected by people, take heart.  And 2) if you’ve rejected people, take care you see them as their Creator sees them.  There are those Yahweh rejected, but there are far more who were rejected by people only to be redeemed by Yahweh.  We need to be careful we see people and their value as Yahweh sees them.  This takes a sense of our Master found only in learning His character from Scripture and time with Him in prayer.  There’s no short cut.

Well, that’s my simple view this morning.  I could probably work up some more complex application, but, why cloud what seems so clear?

What do you see through your knothole of our Master?


The Sign of a Grumpy Prophet and Bad Preaching?

As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.  For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.  The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.  The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”  (Luke 11:29-32 NASB)

When I think if my favorite prophets or stories from the Hebrew Scriptures, Jonah only makes the list because of he’s so amusing.  I don’t know of anyone who uses him as an example of how to live or as a positive example of any sort.  Yet Jesus uses this prophet as a “sign” of His ministry to this generation.  So, how is this reluctant prophet a sign of anything but “DANGER! Grumpy Preacher!”?

In Matthew 12:40, Jesus says the “sign” of Jonah has to do with Jonah’s time in the fish, and Jesus’ time in the grave being 3 days.  Mark just says Jesus refused to give a sign of any sort.  Luke seems to “split the difference” and refers to the sign of Jonah, but explains it a it differently.  I think that by coupling Jonah with the Queen of the South, Luke redefines the way Jonah is a sign to the generation of the people to whom Jesus ministers.

On a side note, I think that Matthew simply defines the sign one way and Luke another.  I think what happened is Jesus merely says, “No sign will be given to this generation except the sign of Jonah” and Matthew interprets it one way and Luke another.  I don’t think either is wrong, and I think a good case could be made that Jesus meant both ideas in the sign.

Luke seems to understand the sign of Jonah relating to the reception of the Ninevites versus Jesus’ reception by this generation.  Whereas Jonah preaches what has to be the worst sermon in Scripture and the Ninevites repent, Jesus preaches and the people reject Him.  The Ninevites are pagans, and the people to whom Jesus preaches are supposed to be God’s people.  It’s possible that Luke wants his audience to see the inclusion of Gentiles by God, but I think it is more directed at those who should know better but still reject Jesus.

So, the application is really for those of us who should know better but still seem to reject the testimony of God.  In churches today, this happens way too often.  But I don’t think we need to look around to see examples.  Even the church I attend, where it’s mostly healthy, we still have examples of those who seem to be more in love with their own ways than interested in hearing of Jesus’ ways.  Who wouldn’t be more comfortable with the ways they have always addressed and lived in this world versus the ways Jesus taught?  The alternative may require them to reject the ways of their righteous parents, change how they treat certain people-groups, or even what they do with their money.

One of the most difficult things to accept could be the context of this passage where Jesus is casting out a demon of muteness from a man.  The miraculous often makes modern American believers very uncomfortable.  But we don’t even need to go there to find other elements that make us uncomfortable.  Love your neighbor as yourself coupled with turning the other cheek works just as well.  Forgive seventy-time-seven perhaps will drive some to squirm in their seats.  “What, give up my resentments? Why, I’d rather give up my children!”  It’s crazy, but seems sane for those encumbered with resentments.  Been there, have the tee shirt, discovered “denial” isn’t just a river in Egypt. But that’s just me, right?

What do you learn from the sign of Jonah?

Fearless Transmission of the Kingdom of God

But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.  Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.  The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”  (Luke 10:10-16 ESV)

Rejection.  We fear it.  It’s a defensive part of volleyball and basketball.  We do it in fear and pain.  Rejection is a powerful human action.  In a sense, it’s also a divine action.  While the word is not used, the action of not regarding the sacrifice of Cain was rejection of the sacrifice.  But also keep in mind that God continued to speak with Cain.  It was rejection of his sacrifice, not of Cain, not until later after he killed Abel.

Here in this passage, rejection is referred to as “rejection” but also in terms of not being received.  And Jesus reserves a harsh judgement for such activity.  Consider that for a moment.  Rejection and harsh judgement are things we are not terribly comfortable with.  We fear them both.  Yet these woes and judgements of Jesus were to be encouragement to the seventy He was sending out.  In the face of rejection, the seventy were to respond with a challenge to the village.  Shaking the dust from the feet, but also a call that the Kingdom of God has come near regardless of your rejection.

The truth is I fear rejection.  I fear what others think of me.  And I shouldn’t.  Think about it sure, but fear it, no.  There’s no cause for me to fear it.  The truth is that when I bring the Kingdom of God near to others, they become responsible to receive or reject.  In a sense I have brought them to a terrible precipice.  The judgement they incur on themselves when they reject the Kingdom is severe.  Yet notice that the judgement is for the “day”.  In other words, once the Kingdom comes near, even should they reject it, they have time.  They can repent, change their minds.

So bringing the Kingdom of God near to people is both a danger to them, but also a hope.  They may reject, but they may, after rejecting, repent.  Yet all I can think of is myself, how will I feel, what if they don’t like me, how uncomfortable with I be, and so on in additional nauseating procession.  I want to be thought well of by others.  Well phoey on that!  Who cares?  While that’s easy to say and to write, it’s hard for me to live out.  But I must.  It’s not an option, it’s an imperative.  I must live out fearless transmission of the Kingdom of God to those around me.  For the Kingdom of God has indeed come near to them.  They need to know that.

I need to change.  What do you need to do?  What’s your view through the knothole?

Now We Listen, Now We Don’t

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:20-22 ESV)

One of the many perplexing things Jesus does is His criticism of Nazareth.  It’s also recorded in Matthew 13:54-58 and Mark 6:1-6.  In those passages, there’s not much detail about Jesus reading Isaiah, nor about His response to their response.  No one tries to throw Him off a cliff either.

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