Archive for January, 2010

zechariah 3

January 31, 2010

I took a different approach to my through-the-bible-in-a-year reading in 2009, resulting in it taking 13 months rather than the 12.  In other words, I’m still working on it.  I was still trying for my goal through October and November, but my final stretch was in the old testament prophets.   I gave it up.  I can skim genealogies quickly, but the prophets require too much thought, prayer, and study.

To me, the vision Zechariah records in chapter 3 is one of the most intriguing things in the bible.   Every time I read it I stop and ask “God, just what does this mean?”  Two nights ago I was going to finish off the book (of Zechariah), but I got completely hung up in that ten-verse chapter.

The list of characters is a lot of what makes it interesting.   They are, in order of appearance:

  • Joshua, the high priest (in dirty clothes, in front of the angel)
  • The angel of the Lord
  • Satan, standing to Joshua’s right.
  • The Lord of Hosts
  • A crowd (later identified as Joshua’s friends)
  • “The Branch” (a servant of the Lord)
  • Zechariah
  • A stone with seven eyes

The dialog flows like this:

The Lord (to Satan): The Lord rebuke you Satan.  Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!  Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?

The Lord (turning to the people standing around): Remove his filthy clothes from him [Joshua].

The Lord (turning to Joshua): See, I’ve taken your iniquity away from you and will dress you in party clothes.

Zechariah: Let them put a clean turban on his head

[the crowd put a clean turban on Joshua’s head and dressed him up nice while the angel of the Lord stands and waits]

The angel of the Lord (to Joshua): If you walk in my ways and if you will perform my service  then you will also govern my house and have charge of my courts and I will grant you free access to those who are standing.  Now listen Joshua, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you, indeed they are men who are a symbol.  Look, I’m going to bring in my servant “The Branch”.  Look at the stone I’ve set in front of Joshua.  On one stone are seven eyes.  I’m going to engrave an inscription on it and I will remove the iniquity of the Land in one day.  In that day every one of you will invite his neighbor over to sit under his vine and his fig tree.

My first, and probably best, guess is that “Joshua = Jesus”.  In fact, the name “Jesus” is a transliteration of the hebrew name “Joshua”.  From that point of view, the vision takes place in heaven as Jesus takes on the sins of the world (his dirty clothes) and God is taking away that sin and declaring his future reign.

The stone with seven eyes might be the Holy Spirit.   I’m guessing this because of the “seven spirits of the Lord” in Proverbs 8:12-14, Isaiah 11:1-2,  and Revelation 4:5.  And though I don’t recognize the stone’s face, who could forget those eyes? (Zechariah 4:10 and 2 Chronicles 16:9).

The angel of the Lord is interesting because of other places that God’s angel shows up, like to Abraham and Moses.  Commentators like to suggest that he’s really a pre-incarnate Jesus (i.e.: before he was born on earth).  This passage seems to clearly show that the two are distinct.

The thing that gets my attention though is “the Branch”, which the footnotes say this literally means “the sprout”.  The translaters change branch to sprout to make it agree with Isaiah (4:2, 11:1, and “sapling” in 53:2) and Jeremiah (23:5-8 and 33:15-18).  The Branch throws  me off because the Lord seems to be talking about someone distinct from Joshua/Jesus.  He’s mentioned again in chapter 6:11-15.  There the Lord is speaking prophetically through Zechariah to Joshua the high priest.  He says “behold, the Branch” but not “you are the Branch”, leaving it ambiguous whether Joshuah/Jesus and “the Branch” are one and the same.

In any case, all the branch and sprout verses refer to a time when Israel and Judah will be restored to their own land and a king will permanently be on the throne in Jerusalem.  The next time a pastor derides the Jews of Jesus’ day for not understanding his first coming they should read these prophecies.  Their clear message is that when the King comes he will subdue the nations and Jerusalem will be preeminent in the world.

india

January 30, 2010

Felecity Dale has another excellent post regarding the exponential church growth India is experiencing in simple churches.  If you have a minute to spare I highly recommend it.

to know you

January 25, 2010

image courtesy stock.xchng

Imagine a girl growing up in a good family in a very traditional culture.  Many of the social constructs in her life exist to protect her from situations where her innocence would be threatened.  She becomes engaged to a godly young man and they marry.

They’re enthralled with each other!  They talk about everything and hang on each others’ words.  The cuddle, go for long walks, and sometimes just stare into each others’ eyes.  “Do you like …?” and “Have you ever…?” and “I love it when you…!”  Sure, they have responsibilities of carrying on life, but their true joy is being together and learning to know each other.

So that’s the story, and the lesson is this: God portrays his relationship with us in exactly these terms!  He doesn’t talk about us as being a 90-year-old couple who were childhood sweethearts and can complete each others’ sentences.  That kind of love is a beautiful thing, but it’s not the picture he paints.  He talks about us as being in the passion of young love; crazy about each other; enraptured in intimacy!

That’s where our situation differs from the story.  He already knows us intimately!  He knows our parents and our grandparents.  How we grew up.  Our likes and dislikes.  Every injury.  Every fear.  Every disappointment.  He knows what we think about when we lay on our beds late at night.  There isn’t anything about us hidden from him!

But that makes the relationship a little one-sided, doesn’t it?  He knows us so well, and we know him so little!  Intimacy, for our part, requires two things.

The first is that we get to know him.  That we desire to know him, not in a passing way, but with a burning passion!  In a I-just-can’t-go-another-minute-without-you way!  We have to hunger and thirst for his word, not only his written word but the gentle voice of his Holy Spirit.

The second requirement for intimacy with God may be less obvious.  We have to let down our guard.  We have to drop the defenses and tear down the walls we’ve used to protect ourselves.   But why should we if he already knows everything about us?  Isn’t that enough?

And the secret is this.  Being vulnerable isn’t about letting the other person have something.  It’s about freeing ourselves from the walls that have trapped us.

why we are here

January 22, 2010

Felicity Dale’s blog is so good today I’m just going to point you toward it and suggest you read it.  She’s been posting for a couple weeks now based on notes she took from a house church conference in India.  The whole series is good!

contrasts

January 22, 2010

I read Amos today, which is mostly about all the judgment coming on Israel and Judah and all the nations because we’ve been so sinful – excepting the last five verses on return and reconciliation.  Then I read David Wilkerson’s devotional blog which is on Enoch and intimacy with God.  It was a good contrast.  Both are truth.

sweet fellowship

January 19, 2010
kids playing football

image courtesy sunward.org

I wrote this to a friend earlier and afterward thought that some of you might appreciate it too.  I’m not very natural with my people skills –    they’re something I have to work at.  So from time to time I have to remind myself of  things that are pretty basic.

This is possibly stating the obvious, but when people fellowship (a.k.a.: hang out), we always fellowship around something that is shared.  Food is the most common.  Inviting someone to a meal prepared at your home can immediately take a friendship to a deeper level.  But there are a million other interests and activities that can be the center of fellowship.  An activity like shopping.  A place that the people involved enjoy.  A sporting event.  A hobby.  You get the idea.

What was initially revelatory to me was that the thing you’re fellowshipping around isn’t really the purpose for the fellowship.  The purpose is the relationship!  Fellowship develops relationship, giving it an opportunity to mature toward intimacy.

So the trick is to find something you can fellowship around.  Something you and the other person or the group will enjoy.  As you fellowship your relationships mature.  And as they mature the other person or people grow in trust and love for you, and you for them.  And mutual trust allows intimacy – lowering the walls hiding our secret thoughts, desires and fears.

And intimacy is the most precious thing in life.

interface

January 16, 2010

I don’t know how many people will get this.  It really paints a clear picture to me, though.   Let me know what you think.

When you click on a web page link, this is  what’s really happening:  you’re sending a request to a computer somewhere on the internet that has a web server on it.  In response, that computer sends back a screen-full of information to your computer.  There’s a little more to it than that but it’s not important just now.

What is important is this.  When you click that link, the server that handles your request might be thousands of miles away.  But it doesn’t make a bit of difference to you.  In fact, you don’t have to think about where the server is.  And if someone moved the server between your requests, you wouldn’t even know it.  And why is this?

It’s the Internet!  We don’t have to know where the other computer is.  We just click out mouse to send the request and the Internet does whatever it needs to do to get our request to its destination.  The Internet lets your computer and the other computer act as if they’re in the same room connected by a wire.  They carry on their conversation oblivious to the miles of cable and switches and equipment between them.

So here’s the point.

The Holy Spirit is our Internet.  He doesn’t have a message of his own.  He doesn’t add or subtract anything from what he tells us.  He’s just there to get the message to us.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. – John 16:13

For me, that clarifies the function and purpose of the Holy Spirit.

only questions

January 14, 2010

A lot of days I get done with my morning bible reading and ask, “Is there anything I should write about?”.  But days like today I have more questions than answers, so I just keep quiet.

Pray for Haiti.  Send help if you can.

his presence

January 8, 2010

We went and did a test run at the studio last night, culminating in a couple hours of free-flowing worship.  Afterwords at Denny’s we talked a little about the presence of God.  What is it really?  We know he’s here with us 100% of the time anyway.  Not just with us – people who love him and are trying to serve him – but with everyone.  And we know he lives in every believer by way of the Holy Spirit.  We hear his voice when we pray and when he wants to give us particular instruction.

But in a time of worship it’s not unusual to feel God’s presence tangibly enter the room.  Usually everyone senses it at once, though each person might describe the experience a little differently.  So what is it about that sense of his presence that we’re feeling?

When I got home I’d probably had too much coffee (I’m almost off the stuff), so I devoted some bible-study time to the topic.  There was the cloud and noise on top of mount Sinai, the glory of God when it filled Solomon’s temple,  and the sound and flames of the day of Pentecost.  One thing that stuck with me as I finally drifted off to sleep about 5:30 a.m. was from first Corinthians 10:1-12.  It’s about the people of Israel in the desert going from Egypt to the land of milk and honey God had promised. This group of people:

  • Followed a cloud by day and a fire by night
  • Walked on dry land through the Red Sea where water had flowed only moments before
  • Ate a special food that was provided for them 6 days of the week
  • On two occasions drank water that flowed from a rock in the desert

But these same people who experienced the supernatural presence and provision of God, these people who audibly heard the voice of God from the mountain that shook them so that they feared for their lives, these people rebelled against God and died in the desert.

Wow!

I could say more here, but let me just post a couple verses:

These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall. – 1 Corinthians 10:11-12

science says

January 8, 2010
photo courtesy wikimedia commons

photo courtesy wikimedia commons

When the word science comes up, I automatically treat what I’m reading, watching, or listening to as an opinion piece – like something from the editorial page of a newspaper.

Why?

If it’s in the news or in a blog, science is consistently invoked to support the author’s world view and belief system.  People quote science in exactly the way a Christian would quote a bible verse or a Muslim the quran.

If instead I’m reading a peer-reviewed journal then the author is living on grant money and has a vested interest in supporting the world-view and belief system of his funding entity.