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”

The Gospel of Hosea

We come to the last twelve books of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, the section commonly called The Minor Prophets.  But let’s clarify. They are “minor” only in length, not in importance.  As I read through these books, I’m still asking the question, “How does this illustrate, prophesy or relate to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”

We’ve felt compassion for Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, all of them witnessing the destruction of their nation, Judah, and her capital city, Jerusalem. Being a prophet of God is no easy gig, but Hosea faced what is arguably the most difficult challenge of any of the prophets,  God told him to marry a prostitute. Was she really a prostitute or did she become one after Hosea married her? Continue reading “The Gospel of Hosea”

Ebola, Risks and Opportunities

How should followers of Jesus respond to the Ebola crisis?

Are Ann Coulter and Donald Trump right that we should stay at home and leave Africa to its own problems because we have enough of our own right here?  Were Kent Brantley and Nancy Whitebol fools to place themselves in harm’s way to serve Ebola patients?  Does the fact that they were infected by Ebola themselves, prove they were fools?  Continue reading “Ebola, Risks and Opportunities”

The Gospel of Daniel

Next up is Daniel in our journey, The Gospel in the Old Testament.  In the history and prophecy of Daniel, we discover one of the most impressive figures in all the Bible. He stands out so much that Ezekiel, his contemporary who was also exiled to Babylon in the second exile of 597 BC, refers to Daniel along with Noah and Job as the best of the best in terms of being blameless and righteous. Ezekiel 14 Further, it is Daniel, not Solomon, who is Ezekiel’s example of excelling in wisdom, Who is wiser than Daniel? Ezekiel 28:3. Continue reading “The Gospel of Daniel”

A Monday Prayer

After my reading this morning from Daniel 12 and Psalm 119:48-72, and praying a prayer from The Valley of Vision, with no obvious connection to the previous, my mind latched on to the lyrics of a 200 year old hymn, Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart.

The line that surfaced was Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move. The seemingly random lyrics were imprinted from repeated exposure when I was a child, but suddenly took on fresh urgency. I had to look up this hymn and remember the other lyrics. It was all familiar except for the second stanza, an essential part of the whole.

I commend this hymn to you.  Pray it aloud (sing it if you know the tune) and ask God to graciously imprint the meaning on your heart.

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art;
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heaven descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

Lyrics by George Cro­ly, Psalms and Hymns for Pub­lic Wor­ship (Lon­don: 1854).  Croly was born Au­gust 17, 1780 in Dub­lin, Ire­land and died No­vem­ber 24, 1860 in Hol­born, Eng­land. Cyber Hymnal   Note that he was 74 years old when he penned these words, acknowledging even at that age that his heart still needed to be weaned from a dependence on this world.

Same Sex Marriage – Women, Children and Religious Freedom?

Following last week’s Supreme Court neglect of responsibility which forced states against their will to redefine marriage into meaninglessness, the overwhelming response of the press has not been objective reporting but wild cheer leading, a celebration of equal rights, good for all Americans. Is that reality?

Today, I’m not going to dissect all these opinions, but rather refer you to thinkers and writers much wiser than I. All four articles below are found at Breakpoint  They are transcripts of the Breakpoint radio program and can be read or heard.

First I refer you to the late Chuck Colson’s insight, Judaism’s Sexual Revolution – Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality. After you read this link, be sure to read the comment below it  Unbounded Sex is an equal-opportunity destroyer, posted by Ken Reighard.

Second, Colson’s legacy is being carried on by Eric Metaxas (biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer) and John Stonestreet. Check out Metaxas’s analysis, Supreme Inaction on Gay Marriage, What Now? that the legal challenge is not completely over, even though it is “the bottom of the ninth and we’re behind.”

Third, John Stonestreet addresses the double negative impact on religious liberty and doing good for children. The Jealous God of Tolerance – Gay Rights Trump Religious Rights Again?

Fourth, another Stonestreet commentary, The Unseen Pain behind ‘Gay Marriage” – Victims of ‘Happinesss’  For all the stories that compellingly describe gay couples and families, celebrating love and happiness, there is a long list of victims. Julie Darnelle’s story is heart breaking, but not rare. The human suffering caused by the supposed “right to sexual happiness,” will be multiplied by millions as America goes down this road.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court inaction last week, I posted What Next for the Church? Our Response to Same Sex Marriage.  Then on Sunday, October 12, in the last ten minutes of my sermon, I included points of application related to same sex marriage.  I am in an  expositional series in the letter of 1 John, available the Faith Church website under sermons.

The Gospel of Ezekiel

Like his contemporary, Jeremiah, Ezekiel lived and prophesied in the darkest days of the Jewish people, during the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. Unlike Jeremiah, who was in Jerusalem during this time until he eventually ended up in Egypt, Ezekiel’s ministry was in Babylon, the capital of Babylonia.  However, through visions, he observed Jerusalem and witnessed the devastating experience of the Glory of God departing from the city. Ezekiel 11:23 .

Ezekiel was a priest, exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon in 597 BC, His call to prophetic ministry at the age of thirty was in Babylon, where he lived throughout and presumably died. He was married. He had a house in Babylon and apparently suffered no major hardship there, unlike Jeremiah’s suffering back in Jerusalem.

Similar to other prophets, but more sharply delineated, there are three sections:

1. Judgment on Judah and Jerusalem
2. Judgment on the surrounding nations
3. Restoration for Judah and Jerusalem Continue reading “The Gospel of Ezekiel”