Thursday, September 30, 2010

Farewell Good-Fellow

Last night I said my fairwells to a good friend of late.  We had become intensely acquainted with one another over this last year spending many days every week (and many, many hours each of those days).  While it is not as if I will never again be with this blessed is sad to not spend the time with him that I have.  I have chosen to write a full-length tribute to him HERE (or it can be read on the very top of my "Writings" link).  While I have taken to a new friend whom you have written highly will always be with me and I shall call upon you often....farewell my beloved Ezekiel....until we meet again....

Ezekiel 47-48 - The River And The Land

47:1-6 – A trickle from the temple becomes a great river.  The location that Ezekiel is shown may indicate where the “sea” was once kept in Solomon’s temple, but there is no mention of such a thing in this temple (1 Kings 7:23-26).  While the directional descriptions are difficult it seems that the trickle flowed through the temple and out the eastern gate that was closed (Ezekiel even uses a Hebrew term that sounds like gurgling from a jug for it coming out the gate).  Again, the man has his measuring rods and begins taking notes.  At 1000 cubits (1500ft.) it was ankle deep, at 3000ft. it was knee-deep, 4500ft. it was waist-deep and at 6000ft from the temple it was already so deep that Ezekiel was forced to swim…and all of this without tributaries and from a trickle!

47:7-12 – The river from the temple brings miraculous life wherever it flows (cf. Gen.2:10-14; Ps.36:8-9; 46:4; Joel 3:17-18; Zech.14:5-11; John 7:38; Rev.22:1-2).  “The scene calls for a miraculous act, the converse of that experienced by the Israelites at the Red Sea.  Instead of creating a dry path through the sea, this holy stream produces a water course through the desert” (Block NICOT II:694).  On the banks are many trees whose leaves will not whither providing “healing” and whose seasons have become months because of the life they receive from the river (cf. Ps.1:1-3;  Rev.22:2).  The river will flow to the Arabah (or the Jordan valley) and into the Salt Sea (the aptly named “Dead” Sea because it sits at 1400 feet below sea level and cannot sustain life) where it will not only turn its waters to fresh water (cf. Exo.15:25; 2 Kings 2:19-22), but will cause its waters to have more life than even the Mediterranean (the Great) Sea.  In fact the whole (“from En Gedi to En Eglaim” refers to the western and eastern shores respectively) of the Sea will be changed to give life, with the exception that the low areas will still produce salt.  Why should they be left?  “It is necessary that salt should be available as an element of covenant consummation” (Duguid NIVAC 533).  It will also serve as a blessing to those who fish and those who harvest. 

47:13-23 – The boundaries of the land of Israel (cf. Num.34:1-15; Josh.15-21).  Why does Joseph get two portions?  Because there must still be twelve (this was also the counting of the tribes) and Levi receives his portion as a priestly portion and because Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh as his own (Gen.48:8-20).  Of particular significance are four things: first that they receive their portions as “inheritance” in the form of gift from a sovereign and not by right, and second that they “are to divide it equally among them”.  This is significant, because this had never been done before.  There was a greater equilibrium to be accomplished in Israel by this act.  As part of this they each had a portion that ran from the Mediterranean inland and was exactly the same distance north-to-south.  Third, all twelve of the tribes were to be reunited into one land again which had not been possible for several hundred years.  Fourth, their boundaries were to exceed anything in their previous history.  It is also notable that Ezekiel mentions the “aliens” (Heb. gēr) as being permitted to receive an inheritance if they settle and have children (cf. Lev.19:33-34; or the “foreigner” in Isa.56:3-8).  In other words, this was not only a promised blessing for ethnic Israel, but for all who would identify themselves with the covenant community.

48:1-29 – The tribal, princely, sacred and city allotments.  The tribes are largely rearranged from their earlier portions and there is no longer any mention of the territories possessed in the Trans-Jordan.  Dan Block notes that in the allotment Bilhah and Ziphah’s sons are furthest out with Benjamin and Judah on both sides of the sacred precinct (cf. Josh.18:28; 1 Sam.9; 2 Sam.5:5-6)—though Judah is on the north and Benjamin the south—and Rachel and Leah’s sons are closest with Ephraim and Manasseh by each other (NICOT II:723-724; for the matronage see Gen.35:22-26).  In the midst of verses 1-8 and 22-29 describing the tribal allotments is the focus of the chapter—the special allotment that is for the prince, the city and the sacred precincts.  We have previously discussed this area in chapter 45 (for more detail see the notes there).  Some of the new things emphasized here pertain to the workers that would be necessary for maintaining the city and the supply of food for all of the tribes as they take their turns in coming to the temple and the city.

48:30-35 – The exits of the city.  There are twelve gates to this city which is considerably more than any normal city not to mention that it would be exceptional that any city should be square to begin with which has sacred connotations.  The city is approximately one mile by one mile (contrast this to the New Jerusalem that is described as a cube-like structure approximately 1400 miles by 1400 miles by 1400 miles! Rev.21:16).  Interestingly, Levi has a gate and so Joseph has a gate (which would be for both Ephraim and Manasseh). 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Worship of the Living and the Dead

Strange are the self-worshipers, since they worship carrion.
(Spiritual Sayings of Kahlil Gibran pg. 53)

Oh, that we would recognize our death, as the very dry bones filling the valley of Ezekiel's vision (Eze.37)!  Our sins have slain us and we are destroyed.  We lay scattered in all our macabre regalia...kings and paupers, priests and prophets, farmers and soldiers, clergy and laity.  How will we ever be saved if we cannot even cry out for lack of flesh for our dry bones, lack of breath to cry out to the only One who could answer?  Where is that one who will speak to the valley of dry bones and prophesy that we might be clothed with flesh and flesh clothed with skin?  Where, again, is that breath from the Living LORD that will blow and fill that valley and fill that mighty army to live as we were created to?  May the Spirit of Life speak through His people and give life to all who hear and may these dry, dry bones live and be made flesh and be filled with the breath of life!  And may we truly worship the Lord and Giver of Life and not the dry, dry bones....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ezekiel 45-46 - Sacred Land and Days

By Clarence Larkin (click to enlarge)
45:1-6 – The sacred district.  The full sacred area would cover an area seven miles wide and seven miles long.  One section stretching seven miles long and three miles wide would be for the priests and would be for the “Most Holy Place”.  Another section stretching seven miles long and three miles wide would be for the Levites who serve on behalf of the people of Israel in the temple.  They would no longer have towns scattered among the tribes (as in Josh. 21), but would live with all of the rest of Israel focused upon the center: the temple as the presence of the LORD in the midst of His people.  The “city” would take up a section about one mile wide and seven miles long for the whole of Israel.

45:7-12 – The prince(s) of Israel.  No longer would the princes be allowed to abuse Israel as had occurred throughout Israel’s history, but would receive a portion of the land surrounding the sides of the sacred districts.  What is the importance of fair measurements? (cf. Lev. 19:36; Deut. 25:13-16; Prov.11:1; Amos 8:5-6; Hos.12:7)  One shekel would be approximately 4 oz. and therefore one minah about 24 oz.  The ephah (for dry measurements) and bath (for liquid measurements) would be about 5.8 gallons and so the homer would be about 58 gallons total.

45:13-20 – Offerings for atonement.  Why would the LORD be so specific about the offerings Israel was to offer?  The offerings made of wheat and barley were nearly 2% of the total, the oil 1% and the sheep .5%.  These sacrifices were specifically for atonement.  What need would Israel have for atonement?  Also, note that the prince plays a particular role in making provision for the sacrifices as well.  There was to be an atonement made on the first day of the year and the seventh (were these to be repeated?) for atonement of the temple.  Why would the temple need atonement?  What sorts of sins were said to be covered by this sacrifice?

45:21-25 – The feasts.  The requirements here are notably different than those found in the Torah concerning the Passover celebration (cf. Exo.12:1-28; Num.9:1-14; Deut.16:1-8).  However, it is also notable that whereas there was never a repetition of the smearing of blood on the doorposts after the exodus from Egypt, yet in verses 19-20 the posts of the temple were to be smeared in sacrificial blood prior to the actual celebration of Passover that would begin a week later.  The other feast day is unnamed but is said to occur at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (cf. Deut. 16:13).

46:1-12 – The Sabbath and New Moon feasts.  The eastern outer court gate was perpetually kept shut, but the inner courts eastern gate was opened every Sabbath and New Moon when the prince was to come and offer sacrifices and stand at the entrance of the gate giving worship to the LORD.  The people were also to worship the LORD at that gate.  The prince must come and go at the same gateway, but the people were to leave at the opposite (if they entered north they left south and vice-versa).  What is the point of the control at the gates?  The prince was to act as just another person and would not stay longer than the rest of the people though he was the only one permitted use of the eastern inner court gate which would be shut at evening after he had gone.  There was a marked difference between what Ezekiel was instructed and what had happened throughout Israel’s history in regard to the ruler’s relations to the temple.

46:13-15 – The command to make daily offerings.  Why might the language have shifted from the third person to the second person (“you”) for these few verses?  Was Ezekiel expected to participate in this?  Also, how does the nature of the sacrifices being a “lasting ordinance” relate to what is written in Hebrews 7:27; 9:25-10:18?

46:16-18 – The prince and his land.  What is the importance of the inheritance being kept within the prince’s family and of the prince not being able to take any property from the rest of the house of Israel?  (on acquisition of Israelite territories and inheritance issues see Deut.17:14-20; 2 Sam.9:7; 16:4; 24:24; 1 Kings 9:16; 16:24; 21:1-29)  Many have often confused the notion of this “prince” with the Messiah, but Iain Duguid astutely notes, “It is the temple that points us to Jesus, not the prince” (NIVAC 524).

46:19-24 – The importance of the kitchens.  Why should Ezekiel be shown the kitchens in the temple and why should these be mentioned for us?  It is significant because temples of the ancient Near East were places for the gods to feast, but not for the general population, but in the temple of the LORD He prepares a table before His people and shares it with them (cf. Ps. 23:5; Matt.22:1-14; Rev.3:20; 19:9).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Praying for Palestinians

This is one of the reasons my heart breaks for the Palestinian people.  I pray that there will be peace in Israel and the Palestinian territories.  It is inherently evil what some Israelis have continued to perpetrate against their Palestinian neighbors (and perhaps "neighbors" shouldn't even be used with the type of treatment that is regularly doled out).

I can never condone the violence of militant Palestinians against the Israelis, but neither can I condone the violence of unjustly seizing land and homes from Palestinians. 

O, Lord how long....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nursery Rhymes With Bultmann and Wright

I just received a humorous reading of "Humpty Dumpty by N. T. Wright" (thanks to Jason Hood) and he further had a link to Bultmann's reading of "Mother Goose".  These are a little too close to reality...see what you think.  Or perhaps I've just spent too much time reading theologians...and that's why I think these were hilarious. 

Now if only I could find a Karl Barth reads "Rockabye Baby" (not sure how many volumes that would take...but knowing how much the man wrote on everything else......)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Church and Same-Sex Attraction

I recently read one of the finest (albeit sadly too brief) expositions for how the church ought to deal with issues of same-sex attraction.  It was an article written by Dr. Melody D. Palm (of the Assembly of God Theological Seminary) in the latest issue of Enrichment entitled: Desires in Conflict: Hope and Healing for Individuals Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction.  It was both generous and gracious, while being biblically sound and highly practical.  I would hope that there might be more teaching (and practice) like this in the church that has tended towards over-reaction (one way or another) to any issues related to homosexuality.  It was VERY encouraging to read something this positive in the Assembly of God journal and I do hope more such articles are regularly printed.

Briefly, Dr. Palm discusses the terminology (both positive and negative) that is a part of this discussion, then proceeds to debunk five common myths associated with homosexuality (they are child molesters, inherently promiscuous, its "contagious", it is the result of molestation and/or abusive parent/child relations, its a choice), five things to avoid in dealing with persons who have same-sex attraction (trying to do what only the Spirit can do, being preach-y or simply quoting scripture, denying their personal experiences, recommending marriage or opposite gender relations to "fix" their problem, breaking confidentiality), and five recommendations for the church to put into practice (creating a safe, non-judgmental environment for sharing, being educated about such issues, offering hope, helping to find identity in Christ, support towards holiness and wholeness). 

Homosexuality is something inherent to certain persons, but this in no way justifies acting upon personal inclinations.  We all struggle with various things that we by nature desire.  There is nothing inherently righteous about opposite-sex attractions (which just as often tend towards obsession, sin, violence, or infidelity), which also must be yielded to the Lordship of Christ.  It is not a matter of simply denying our desires and inclinations, but of learning to use them in a godly manner that glorifies the Lord.  Our individual inclinations (whatever they may be) are no excuse for inappropriate action or sin.  Each of us must learn to yield ourselves to the Lord in all things...our thought-life...sexuality...bodies...indeed, our whole being.  May we do this with grace and charity as one people made holy through the obedience of the Gospel.  May we all find freedom in this obedience and healing through the reconciling Spirit-empowered ministry of  the Church. 

Help us Lord to be a holy people, pure and undefiled!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ezekiel 43-44 - The Glory of the LORD and the Temple Torah

43:1-5 – The glory returns.  Why does the glory of the LORD approach from the east? (cf. Eze.11:23)  There is no ignoring the approaching glory which radiates the land and comes with a great tumult of sound.  This vision is likened to the appearing of the glory in chapters 8-11, but also to the appearing in the very beginning of the book.  Note that the reference is to the vision by the Kebar River when the glory had first come to destroy Jerusalem.  Ezekiel’s posture is as it was before when the glory appeared: prostrate.  And just as the Spirit had previously lifted Ezekiel up for action, here the same thing occurs.  Note what the glory of the LORD does. (cf. Isa.6:4)

43:6-12 – The temple torah is given.  Ezekiel hears an undisclosed person’s voice that gives him the temple instructions (torah).  Contrast the presence of the LORD in this temple to the one which Solomon built (1 Kings 8:48-49; Isa.66:1).  It was always the LORD’s design to live with His people Israel.  However, His continuing presence depends upon the holiness with which His people live.  The LORD promises that Israel and her kings will no longer do what they had done before in defiling the temple and rejecting Him.  In particular are the sins of the kings against the sanctity of the temple of the LORD when they set up idols for themselves (NIV’s “their high places” Heb. bāmôtām should likely read Heb. bemôtām “at their death”; see Duguid NIVAC 490fn5) and fornicated themselves.  It is notable that the glory of the God of Israel no longer is enthroned upon the ark of the covenant, but upon Jerusalem itself and His temple (Jer.3:16-17; Block NICOT II:581).  How might the plan of this temple cause Israel to feel shame for their sinfulness?  It would appear that the whole of this temple area is designed for guarding the holiness of the LORD.  The torah of Ezekiel and his function in the process of sanctifying the temple likens him to a second Moses (cf. Exo.29; Block NICOT II:606-7).

43:13-27 – The altars design and sanctifying.  Why might the dimensions of the altar be of significance to Ezekiel’s audience?  This altar area was approximately 1100 sq. ft. while the alter itself was nearly 600 sq. ft. and stood some 15 feet high.  The trench on the outside of the altar could handle nearly 3800 gallons! (see Block NICOT II:601).  This made it actually smaller than the one in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 1:50-53; 2:28-29; 8 ½H x 17W x 17L) and much smaller than the one in Herod’s temple (Josephus JW 5.5.6§§222-226; 15H x 50W x 50L).  The steps (against Mosaic instruction in Exo.20:26) to the altar notably face east when traditionally all of the altars had the officiating priest facing east.  The altar still needed dedication through purifying (Heb. hattā’t traditionally read as “sin offering”; see Duguid NIVAC 491fn10) sacrifices and burnt offerings that were supposed to last the course of a week for atonement and then on the eighth day the priests would begin making regular offerings upon it.  The animals were to be salted (cf. Lev.2:13; the “covenant of salt” in Num.18:19; 2 Chron.13:5; and see Mark 9:49-50) and their bodies disposed of outside the sanctity of the temple.  How will the LORD treat this sanctifying work and what will be His response?

44:1-4 – The eastern gate was shut permanently once the glory of the LORD had entered through it.  The prince (Heb. nāsî’) was the only one permitted into the gate to eat a fellowship offering before the LORD, but not through the gate.  While this would offer some special blessing to the prince, he was still excluded (as the rest of Israel) from entering the temple itself and could not enter through the gate which the LORD had entered.  Again, note Ezekiel’s response to seeing the glory of the LORD as the glory fills the temple.

44:5-9 – The entrances and exits of the temple.  It was not only the priests and the kings of Israel that were responsible for the defiling of the temple, but the whole of the house of Israel.  They were responsible for bringing foreigners into the temple (cf. 2 Kings 11:14-19) when the Levitical priests were supposed to have guarded the sanctity of it (Num.18:7, 21-23).  It was not that foreigners weren’t allowed, it was that these foreigners were not a part of the covenant people of God and had not purified themselves.

44:10-14 – The restoration of the Levites.  While the Levites had sinned they were promised to receive restoration as those responsible for the gates and certain of the sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel.  However, their idolatry was not without repercussions.  They would not be given responsibility to actually approach the LORD, but instead would represent the people’s presence in the temple itself.

44:15-31 – The Zadokites priest’s blessings and responsibilities.  It was not because the Zadokites were sinless, but they were more faithful than the Levites in general (cf. 1 Sam.3:11-14; 1 Kings 1:5-8; 2:26-27, 35).  Therefore, they would be given the particular blessing and responsibility of serving directly before the LORD and making the necessary sacrifices.  Their clothing was regulated in order to avoid both contaminating it with sweat (i.e. body fluids; see Deut.23:11-13) and to not “consecrate” the people when they leave the inner court before the LORD.  On holiness as a dangerous contagion see Lev.10:1-3; Num.4:15; 1 Sam.6:19; 2 Sam.6:6-9.  Their hair was never to be either unkempt or shaved off (cf. Lev.21:5, 10; 19:27), they were never to have alcohol when ministering (Lev.10:9), nor were they to marry any woman that might allow for the common Israelites to share in their inheritance.  They were to teach the people, to serve as judges and to celebrate all that the LORD had commanded.  They were to be kept from that which was dead (Lev.21:1-3) and to receive their inheritance in the LORD (Num.18:20) enjoying the sacrifices given by Israel (Exo.22:31; Lev.22:8; Num.15:20-21; 18:8-20).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Forever Listening to the Spirit

I recently read something by Lesslie Newbigin (that great missionary statesman of the twentieth century) that struck a chord with me.  He wrote the following concerning the Jerusalem congregation's recognition of the validity of the Gentile mission that Peter had just returned from (Acts 10-11):
"They were silenced because they had to recognize something new. Jesus had never spoken or acted to call in question the law of circumcision (as he had called in question the law of the Sabbath). The Church was entering a new way which it had not trodden before. Nor did the Church formulate a new policy in this matter by reflection upon and development of the remembered words of Jesus. It was a fresh action of the living Spirit which confronted the Church with the necessity for a new decision. 'The word of Jesus is not a collection of doctrines that is in need of supplementation, nor is it a developing principle that will only be unfolded in the history of ideas; as the Spirit's proclamation it always remains the word spoken into the world from beyond' (Bultmann). But this word is the word of Jesus; it is not another word. The work of the Spirit does not lead past, or beyond, or away from Jesus." (The Light Has Come: An Exposition of the Fourth Gospel Grand Rapids, MI: Wm.B.Eerdmans, 1982, pp.216-7)
We, as well, cannot simply treat the Scriptures as a comprehensive list (or we may end up being no different than some of the Pharisees of Jesus' own day--unless we take the New Pauline Perspective on the Pharisees as genuine) of do's and don't's. In every age we are called to listen to the voice of the Spirit which is the voice of the Lord Jesus speaking to His Church the very words of his Father. None of this is to suggest that there will be any discord between what God has spoken, is speaking and will speak. The Scriptures are our measure, but the Scriptures are not simply words that can be adopted apart from the working of the Holy Spirit within us. This means that in all of our hearing, we must press in to hear exactly what the Spirit is saying and once we have obey.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Ezekiel 40-42 - A New House for the LORD

40:1-4 – A new vision.  The date given in verse one marks the twenty-fifth year of the exile of Jehoiachin and the fourteenth year since the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem (April 28, 573BC).  The twenty-five year mark may be given in particular to suggest the turning point towards the fifty year Jubilee (Block NICOT II:512).  The tenth day of the first month (likely Nissan for the religious calendar and not Tishri of the civil calendar) would be the commencement of the Passover festival (Exo.12:3) though Ezekiel curiously does not mention this.  It has been proposed that Ezekiel may be giving a counter to the Babylonian New Year’s celebration (Akk. akītu) which was celebrated on the same day and wherein Marduk their chief deity was annually re-enthroned (see Block NICOT II:513).  Where might “the very high mountain” be located and what does this mountain represent? (cf. Eze.17:22; 20:40; Isa. 2:2-3; Mic.4:1; Rev.21:10)  What does Ezekiel see from the south side of the mountain?  The man who appears to Ezekiel acts as a guide and will reveal to Ezekiel particular dimensions of the visionary temple in order for Ezekiel to share this with Israel.

40:5-27 – The outer gates and the outer court.  What is the purpose of the wall surrounding the temple?  The measurement tool of the visionary guide follows the royal cubit instead of the common cubit and measures approximately 1 and ¾ feet long and so his “rod” is approximately 3 ½ yards (or 10 ½ feet) long.  This would make the wall about 10 feet thick and 10 feet tall (though almost no other height measurements are listed anywhere else).  Why did Ezekiel approach from the east first?  Note the many rooms for guards in the massive gate.  Why would there need to be so many guards and security?  Take note of the many measurements that are multiples of 25 throughout this visionary temple and the very simple carvings.  Who accessed the “outer court”?    Note the dimensions of the gates and the outer court.  Also, the steps from to the gates are seven.

By A. Gaebelein "The Prophet Ezekiel" (1918)
A. The Temple House
B. Altar of Burnt Offering
C. Inner Court
D. Gates to Inner Court
E. Separate Place
F. Hinder Building
G. Priest's Kitchens
H. Chambers for Priests
I. Chambers
K. People's Kitchen
L. Gates into Outer Court
M. Pavement
N. Chambers in Outer Court (30)
O. Outer Court
40:28-47 – The inner gates and the inner court.  Note the dimensions and decorations of the inner court and the eight steps which led up into it.  Each of the gates are identical (both outer with each other and the inner with each other respectively).  The furniture of the inner court is specifically only for the various sacrifices – burnt (Heb. ‘ōlâh; cf. Lev.1:3), sin (Heb. hāttā’t; cf. Lev.4:2-3, 13) and guilt (Heb. ’āŝam; cf. Lev.5:6; 6:6; 7:1-2) – whether tables, hooks (?), or utensils.  The guards were apparently Zadokite Levites responsible for all of the temple precincts security and priestly ministry (Block NICOT II:537-9; cf. Num.18:1-7; 2 Sam.8:17; 2 Kings 11:4-7).  Note the place of the altar in relation to the temple proper.

40:48-41:26 – The temple proper.  The temple was again located higher (10 steps up) than the inner court (eight steps up) which had been higher than the outer court (seven steps up) – leading to a total of twenty-five steps.  It is also set up higher so as to protect the holy from the profane and the profane from the holy.  While Ezekiel is taken through much of the wider building(s), he is only informed about the dimensions of the “Most Holy Place” of the temple.  The doors of each level also get progressively smaller and there are fewer and fewer that are permitted beyond each.  The decorations of the temple itself are cherubim and palm trees, which is considerably less ornate than Solomon’s temple or even the tabernacle of Moses.  The wooden table in the holy place just in front of the most holy place was likely for showbread (though there is not specific mention of its purpose here).

42:1-20 – Rooms for the priests of the temple.  Rooms stacked three stories high were built along the north and south sides of the temple proper in order to provide sacred space for the priests to eat the special offerings and to change out of their priestly garments.  Why should they change their clothes or eat in the sacred areas?  What are the dimensions of the whole complex as shown to Ezekiel? 

Some Questions and Comments Concerning This Temple – What does a comparison and contrast of this temple demonstrate with regard to the tabernacle of Moses, the temple of Solomon and the “New Jerusalem” of Revelation 21-22?  Note that while many dimensions are given for this temple of Ezekiel there are no materials mentioned other than with regard to the altars and tables.  Also, while there is great detail provided for dimensions there is no instruction to Ezekiel (or even through Ezekiel to Israel) to build such a temple.  The temple that was constructed under Ezra’s leadership never did fit the description of Ezekiel’s vision, nor does there appear to have been any attempt to even try.  Why is this?  What might this temple point to?  Is this temple representative of something or will it (as according to typical Dispensational beliefs) be built in a millennial reign of Christ?  If it would be built in such a time, why should there be continued sacrifices offered and what does this make of the once-for-all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Perhaps the best way forward is not to view this temple as prescribed to be built at some future time, but simply as indicative of the utter holiness with which God dwells.  Also, how might we understand this temple in light of Jesus claim of being the “temple” (John 2:19-21) and of Paul’s later comments regarding the individuals of the Church (1 Cor.3:16-17; 6:19) as well as the Church corporately being the “temple” (2 Cor.6:16)?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Naming-and-Claiming It

"He is a traitor who uses the Gospel as a threat to extract money...a hypocrite who uses the cross as a sword...a wolf disguised in a lamb's skin...a glutton who adores the tables more than the altars...a gold hungry creature who runs after the rolling coin to the farthest land...a cheat who pilfers from widows and orphans.  He is a monstrous being, with an eagle's beak, a tiger's claws, a hyena's teeth, and viper's fangs." (Spiritual Sayings of Khalil Gibran p.60)
Talk about a message that needs to be heard by the many preachers who have taken to proclaiming another gospel...which seems to know nothing of poverty, sickness and suffering...of THE Crucified's life and the concomitant crucified life.  Greed, gluttony, lies and manipulation do not belong to the Kingdom.  God help us!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Ezekiel 38-39 - Gog and Magog

38:1-9 – Who is Gog and what will he do?  It is believed that this is a reference to the recent figure Gyges of Lydia (reigned in approximately the first half of the seventh century BC according to certain Assyrian records) who was a usurper of the Lydian throne and reputed to have first printed coins.  He is recorded here in Ezekiel as being of the land of “Magog” (which may be possibly taken as “land of Gog”) and the “chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (cf. Eze.27:13; 32:26 for their presence in the grave; also Ps.120:5-7).  The names Magog, Meshech and Tubal are all listed in Genesis 10:2 as sons of Japheth.  They appear here to refer to locations in the western Anatolia and thus to be representing those at the fringe of the north for Israelite concerns.  Who is actually bringing Gog and his horde against Israel?  Allied with them are the combined forces of Persia (?), Cush (upper Egypt) and Put (Libya) representing the southern hordes.  From still further north than Lydia (and east), the armies of Gomer and Beth Togarmah (likely the Cimmerians) are gathered as well.  These would serve as representatives of the most wild and vast armies of the world.  They are called to gather at some distantly future time in order to invade a regathered Israel that is finally at peace.

38:10-16 – The thoughts and conversations of Gog.  Who will be responsible for Gog’s plans to conquer Israel?  Also, who intends to benefit from Gog’s plans?  The representative nations are from east (Sheba and Dedan) to west (Tarshish).  This would then entail the peoples from every direction in the plot to destroy the nation that lies at the center of the LORD’s plan for the ages.  “Why would Yahweh bring Gog against his own people after the covenant relationship had been fully restored?  Because an element in the divine agenda, the universal recognition of his person, remains unfulfilled” (Block NICOT II:451).  Is there a distinction between the self-revelation of the LORD and the revelation of the holiness of the LORD?

38:17-23 – The battle between Gog and the LORD.  How should we understand the question in verse seventeen?  Where would such prophecies possibly be found?  Some have suggested a radical changing of Isaiah 14:24-25 and Jeremiah 6:22, however it may be that the question was rhetorical and should receive the answer of “No”.  Gog was not called as the hand of judgment against Israel (as the Assyrians and Babylonians before him had been), but instead is brought against Israel for the judgment of the nations.  At some undefined moment in the future the battle would be engaged, but instead of Israel taking up the fight the LORD Himself would fight on their behalf.  The world will be shaken and made to tremble and radically altered (cf. Isa.24:17-20; Joel 2:10; 3:3-4, 15-16; Hag.2:6-7; Zech.14:4-5; Matt.24:29-30; Rev.16:17-21).  Not only will the LORD bear the sword against the hordes, but they will fight against one another (as at other pivotal moments in Israel’s history).  Divine judgment (as plague, bloodshed, torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur) will be poured out on that great host in order to demonstrate the greatness and holiness of the LORD.

39:1-8 – The slaughtering of Gog and his allies.  Notice that once again the LORD says He will be the one bringing Gog against Israel, but He will also be the one to defeat Gog (particular emphasis upon the weapons of archers for which the northern kingdoms were renowned).  Those who gathered for the battle will be destroyed as well as those who supported the invasion.  Note the reason the LORD gives for this: both for the nations and for Israel.  Though the day is far off from Ezekiel’s pronouncement does this mean that it will not happen?

39:9-16 – Israel must be cleansed.  Those who were living in safety now leave their homes to pick up all of the weaponry (seven types listed) that remains (which is said to last seven years) to use as fuel for their home-fires and to bury all of the dead (which is said to take seven months).  The use of seven seems to suggest completeness as to the destruction and cleansing.  There will be so many to bury that there won’t even be room for travelers through that portion of Israel which is then to be called the Valley of Hamon (“horde of”) Gog – sounding rather like a play on the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem.  What does Ezekiel mean by stating that the cities name will be “Hamonah”?  It may likely be a symbolic name for Jerusalem which had earlier in his prophecies been described as being filled with hāmôn (cf. 5:7; 7:12-14; 23:40-42; and Block NICOT II:471-2).  This would serve as a memorial of what Jerusalem had once been and how the LORD Himself had delivered her.

39:17-21 – The sacrificial feast of the nations.  Ezekiel is told to call all of the carrion creatures of the land and air to gather for a gluttonous and macabre feast upon the armies that were slaughtered (cf. Isa.34:6-8; Zeph.1:7; Rev.19:17-21).  The rulers and great men are referred to by names of animals for divine sacrifice and the parts usually reserved for God are consumed by the creatures of the earth.  What is the point of including such a grotesque description? 

39:22-29 – Israel is returned.  Will Israel be able to take credit for returning from exile?  What significance is given by the LORD’s face having been turned from Israel and what might be the difference between that and His face being turned against Israel?  Is Israel’s blessing (and was their judgment) for themselves or for the nations?  Does the LORD leave any of His people behind?  It is a wonderful thing to know that whereas the LORD had once poured out His wrath (Eze.7:8; 9:8; 30:15; 36:18) in that day He will pour out His Spirit (cf. Joel 2:28-32).

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

N. T. Wright Paper Approved

Yesterday I finally was notified that one of my paper proposals for the Society for Pentecostal Studies for the upcoming 2011 meeting in Memphis has been approved!  That's happy news indeed.  My proposal is (tentatively) titled: "N. T. Wright's 'Justification' and the Cry of the Spirit".  It is an interaction with Wright's view of justification (from his book of response to John Piper's response to him in "The Future of Justification" about having a lot to say to each other).  Essentially I'm arguing that Wright's pneumatological orientation for justification is helpful (especially for a more robust Pentecostal theology of justification) and will tease this out through expositions of the two Pauline passages (Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6) dealing with the cry of the Spirit, "Abba!"  (any possibility of a plug for the group by the same name...their songs always get stuck in my head :-)  There will also be some cameos by Gordon Fee in the paper (as he has been saying much the same thing as Wright...though obviously not in full agreement with Wright overall scheme as I understand it).