Unbroken – a Review

One of the most impactful biographies I’ve read in recent years, was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, the story of Olympic runner, World War II gunner and Prisoner of War, Louie Zamperini.

Last night, Linda and I saw the widely heralded Angelina Jolie film, Unbroken, based on the book.  It’s not an easy film to watch. While watching brutality suffered by Zamperini in the Japanese prisoner of war camps, I had flashes of memory back to the viewing of the 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ.  I strongly recommend the film, but probably not for younger viewers.

Unbroken reflects the best in integrity, courage, toughness, loyalty and I’m sure many other admirable traits.  I commend Jolie for making the film.

But as good and powerful as the film is, it is misnamed and omits the main story.*  Continue reading “Unbroken – a Review”

The Gospel of Nahum

A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. Nahum 1:1

Of all the minor prophets, Nahum is among the least recognized. His hometown, Elkosh, not easily identified, is the name of a small village in northern Galilee on the Lebanese border, founded in 1949 by immigrants from Yemen. That is not likely Nahum’s home area. Other locations are a town on the Tigris River, not in Israel, but closer to Ninevah. And a third interesting possibility identifies Nahum’s town as Capernaum (Caper Nahum, the village of Nahum), the center of Jesus’ Galilean ministry on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The first words, a prophecy concerning Nineveh, establish the theme, God’s judgment on the Assyrians, the nations that conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 BC.  Nahum’s prophecy is dated in the middle to late seventh century BC, prophesying the fall of Ninevah which occurred in 612 BC as she was defeated by the Babylonians.

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
and vents his wrath against his enemies.

Who can withstand his indignation?
    Who can endure his fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire;
    the rocks are shattered before him.
Nahum 1:2, 7

Where is the good news in this?  Is the prophet gloating over Israel’s conqueror facing a similar fate? Continue reading “The Gospel of Nahum”

The Gospel of Micah

He has shown you, O man, what is good,
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 7:8

This is probably the most familiar passage from the prophet, Micah, contemporary of Isaiah, who prophesied in the 8th and early 7th century BC. during the reigns of  [Uzziah]*, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.  Isaiah 1:1; Micah 1:1.

Like virtually all the prophets, Micah’s message is judgment because of the sins of the house of Israel. Micah 1:5. But in the midst of this message of judgment, there are powerful statements of hope, promises of deliverance from sin and the provision of righteous leadership. That sounds like Good News!  Let’s take a look.

Continue reading “The Gospel of Micah”

The Gospel of Jonah

Jonah stands definitively apart from all the other writing prophets (those whose prophecies are collected in a defined book of the Bible) in that his is the only book of the prophets that is primarily a narrative and is biographical, possibly autobiographical.

The closest to Jonah is Hosea, whose marriage is the story behind the prophecy.  But while Hosea’s story gives way to several chapters of prophecy, Jonah is a story about the prophet from beginning to end.  And Jonah is one of the great stories of the Bible that interests both adults and children, the only one to find a place in a children’s book of Bible stories.  Continue reading “The Gospel of Jonah”

The Gospel of Obadiah

I’ve been anticipating all year that when I came to Obadiah, I would have a challenge finding the Gospel.  We won’t find specific promises concerning the Messiah or any details of the heart of the Gospel, the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So what Good News is to be found in Obadiah?

Obadiah is a common name meaning “servant of the LORD.” The name is found twenty one times in the Bible, but nothing necessarily links the prophet to any of the others by the same name. His prophecy is just one lonely chapter of twenty-one verses, the only singular chapter in the Old Testament and only matched in the New Testament by Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude. Continue reading “The Gospel of Obadiah”

The Gospel of Amos

About forty years ago when I was in seminary, I heard a sermon based on the prophecy of Amos, chapters one and two.   

Thus says the Lord“For three transgressions of Damascus and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, Because they … Amos 1:3a NASB  

This is followed by the specific reason for this judgment on Damascus, the capital of Syria (known also as Aram), and the specific acts of judgments that will be carried out against her, both the city and the whole nation.

This sequence of listing the sins of a people and the consequent judgment is applied to several cities and nations around Israel.

First, Syria to the northeast of Israel; then Gaza (Philistia), southwest of Israel along the Mediterranean; then Tyre, to the west and northwest of Israel, also along the Mediterranean; then Edom, southeast of the Dead Sea; then Ammon, east and southeast of Israel; then Moab, south of Israel on the east side of the Dead Sea.

Each of these six surrounding nations were condemned for their sins and subject to divine judgment.  In the sermon I heard forty years ago, the speaker postulated that the prophet was probably cheered after each section of judgment on Israel’s enemies.  They liked this preacher.  He had his listeners hanging on to every word with delight as he preached against their enemies. Continue reading “The Gospel of Amos”

The Gospel of Joel

Is there “justice for all” in America?  In the aftermath of the Grand Jury investigation in Ferguson, Missouri clearing Officer Darren Wilson of all charges in the shooting death of Michael Brown, that is the unresolved question for many. Unfortunately, the larger issue of inequality in America has clouded this case so that opinions were formed apart from facts.

Ironically, the emphasis on judgment in the Old Testament prophets is what gives hope in this world of injustice and inequality. This is Good News, part of the Gospel, that one day, there will be justice for all. God is the judge of all nations and all people. No injustice in any society will be left unresolved on the day of God’s final judgment. Continue reading “The Gospel of Joel”