Minor Prophets: Sound the Trumpet!


Amos has been connected to the sheep: he was a shepherd by trade, who had a tremendous concern for the downtrodden, and was called by God to become a prophet.

Chapters 1-3, Amos prophesied about God’s plans to judge Israel and the surrounding nations, eight in all. Today, we will conclude this section with chapter 3.


Some period of time elapsed between chapter 2 and chapter 3, with Amos presumably delivering his message multiple times, perhaps going out into the villages, or traveling to other cities.

By chapter 3, the book of Amos begins the recording of three sermons preached to Israel (Chapters 3-5), calling all of God’s people to repentance. Each of the sermons begins with the words “Hear this word…Woven throughout Amos’ words were the theologies of the ancient Hebrew faith.

In chapter 3 Amos addressed the whole people of God, all twelve tribes of Israel were God’s specially chosen people from out of the nations of the earth, The Lord’s family.


Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel,

against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:

You only have I known

    of all the families of the earth;

therefore I will punish you

    for all your iniquities.

Amos 3:1-2 (NRSV)

Amos touched on two theologies:

  1. Exodus theology: The phrase “brought up out of the land of Egypt” would have triggered instant recognition of this teaching’s key thought “God brought us up with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” and would have alerted them to the roots and bones of their beginnings.

    Because God had rescued and redeemed them, the people of God belonged to God. They were to remember who they were, once enslaved and oppressed, then delivered and liberated. Out of great thanksgiving, they were to internalize God’s own core values of righteousness and justice, to extend God’s mercy, and to be the very display of God’s character and truth to the nations.
  • Election theology: The Hebrew verb “yada” is translated “known,” though some versions have “chosen,” and is a word often used to express the intimate relationship between a husband and a wife. The Lord had covenanted with Israel to enjoy a special relationship with God, and also to express God’s great love and care to the whole world, to be a blessing to all nations.

God had chosen and knew one people of all the people groups on earth—the Israelites. Just that one phrase, “You only have I known,” would have generated a whole cascade of thoughts and feelings tied in with the Exodus theology.


For you are a people holy to the Lord your God;

the Lord your God has chosen you

out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples.

It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8 (NRSV)

Amos then gave physical illustrations of cause and effect to depict the spiritual cause and effect about to come:

  • You and I see two people walk together, what we did not see was them agreeing to get together, but that is what happened.
  • We see the trap snapped shut, that is because a bird flew into it.
  • We hear a lion roaring; well, that is because the hunting lion has found its prey.

All of these illustrations were meant to clarify the cause and effect of sin and judgment. Amos was telling the people, If you have done wrong, fallen short of God’s covenant, then God is going to judge it, and God has roared, so that means you have sinned, and the judgement is coming.

And, Amos continued, here I stand before you today, just like the trumpeter on the wall that only blows when trouble is coming.

It is good to be afraid.

Just like you would be if the trumpet really were blowing, or if there really was a lion roaring in your ear, because my prophesying is proof that God has spoken, otherwise I would not be here.  

In order to shock his audience awake to the grave magnitude of their wickedness, Amos called upon those places that represented the worst of the worst to Israel—Philistia and Egypt. Come, Amos shouted, metaphorically, to these centuries’ old opponents. You think you are the worst? Come look at Israel, then you will know what true wickedness is.


Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod,

    and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt,

and say, “Assemble yourselves on Mount Samaria,

    and see what great tumults are within it,

    and what oppressions are in its midst.”

They do not know how to do right, says the Lord,

Amos 3:9-10 (NRSV)

The Israelites’ moral compass had broken, they had lost discernment about right and wrong because they had rejected God’s core values.

God’s judgement would include being overrun by their enemy, only a remnant would survive.

With vivid imagery, Amos depicted what God had shown him in his vision, “Thus says the Lord: As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who live in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.

There would not be much left.

It is remindful of those grim and tragic scenes where families pick through the scant remains of their homes, devasted by fire, or tornado, or hurricane. A broken plate, a sodden teddy bear, perhaps the arm or leg of a favorite chair.

All of it would go, “I will tear down the winter house as well as the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end, says the Lord.” In Israel, the poor, the foreigner, the widow and orphan barely eked by, they had truly little to nothing at all. For them, there would not be much to lose.

But for the wealthy . . . this seemed unimaginable horror.

What is more, God would see to it the horns of Bethel’s altar would be cut off and “fall to the ground.” Not only would there be no sanctuary, no hope for reprieve, but God would show the utter powerlessness of the religion northern Israel had put such hope in.

With its horns removed,

  • there would be nothing to hold up the grates for sacrifice,
  • there would be nothing to grab hold of for protection or power,
  • the altars would be both corrupted and mutilated,

. . . gutted in an eloquent portrayal of God’s final judgment against all that was corrupt and false in His people.

Because wealth and power—not God—were at the heart of their religion, all that represented those things would be stripped away. The beautiful mansions would be torn down, their military might torn away, their fortresses and vaults plundered.

The Lord was going to remove every barrier of sin between God and God’s people, and the Bethel-based idolatry would be destroyed once and for all.


Blowing a shofar | Picryl

Gospel of John: A Gospel Sidebar


The theology involved in thinking about the Lamb of God is called “Penal Substitutionary Atonement,” and is probably the most well-known, today, of the salvation themes found in the Bible.

  • “Penal” means “punishment,” and refers to the punishment of death.
  • Substitutionary” I will get to in a minute, and means what it sounds like.
  • “Atonement” has to do with reparation, payment for a crime.

PSA is an old, old theology, going back far deeper and far earlier than even the two millennia between you, me, and the cross.

As it was instituted in the wilderness, according to the book of Exodus, a person would bring a yearling lamb (or a yearling kid) to the altar and lay their hands on the yearling’s head, symbolically transferring their violation of the covenant and their offence towards God to the yearling, before it was sacrificed. Its death represented the person’s own death, the just penalty for their trespass against God’s Law, and therefore God.

There was nothing particularly sacred in the animal, apart from its being physically perfect, without any blemish, flaw, or mark of any kind.

The effectiveness of these sacrifices was based entirely on what Messiah would one day do.

There is an exhaustive list of transgressions in the book of Leviticus, as well as circumstances for which sacrifices would be appropriate—including making sacrifice for offenses committed in ignorance.

These sacrifices were based, essentially, on substitution. In Greek this concept of substitution is found in the word huper, which means “on behalf of,” or “in another’s place.”  Huper is the chief Greek term for expressing this principle of substitution, and many would claim substitution is the chief salvation concept found in the whole of the Bible.

Now, all of this was at the individual’s level. One lamb would be required to make substitution for one person’s trespass.

God also provided for those gathered in one household through the Passover lamb. The Passover lamb died in the place of every first-born Hebrew the night God judged all Egypt, during the tenth plague. Every household which had literally painted the lamb’s blood on their door posts was spared that fateful night.

Passover continues to be an important festival on the Jewish calendar, commemorating the great salvation and redemption God wrought for them.

Finally, God provided a way for one lamb’s death to substitute for an entire nation’s iniquityYom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. (The book of Hebrews exegetes Yom Kippur in light of Messiah.)

On this one, sacred day a perfect lamb was chosen for slaughter, and a perfect goat—a scapegoat—was chosen to take on all the sins of the nation and be driven into the desert, taking Israel’s unrighteousness with it, forever removed from the people.

Only the high priest could enter the most holy place, the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and never without the shedding of blood. The slain lamb’s blood would be sprinkled upon the mercy seat, the footstool of God’s throne in heaven, showing atonement for having broken the covenant contained within the Ark of the Covenant. And God would accept the substituted lamb’s life as payment for Israel’s sins.

Even to this day, Yom Kippur is considered one of the holiest of Jewish holidays, traditionally observed with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer.

Before sunset, on the eve of Yom Kippur the congregation gathers in the synagogue. The Ark is opened, and two people take from it two Torah scrolls, and the congregation begins a service held only once each year, a time of cleansing and forgiveness.


As the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus had to be without any flawinwardly and outwardly completely without any of the defects, transgressions, imperfections, violations, or corruption of any kind.

Jesus had to be without sin.

But Jesus also had to be completely righteous.

And he was. Jesus was so attuned to the Father, they were of one mind. Jesus spoke only what the Father gave him to say, perhaps in the way you and I speak only what comes up from within our own inner beings to say.

Jesus was said to have been perfectly obedient to the Father, perhaps in the way you and I are “perfectly obedient” to our own wills. And the kicker is, Jesus even submitted, completely perfectly, to the whole of the Mosaic law, though he himself is God.

According to the theology of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, you and I must figuratively place our hands onto Jesus as we confess our sins, and envision our sin transferring to him, believing that his death is in place of the death that your trespass and mine brings us.

By his sinlessness Jesus was qualified to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins, the perfect substitute to absorb all the punishment and wrath for sin. Because he is God, infinite and eternal, Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient once and for all, enough for all sin past, present, and future.

And there’s more.

Substitution also works the other way, too. We, in effect, trade Jesus’ righteousness for our sins.

However, to say Jesus died for our sins, or that sinners are saved by grace, is to explore only one aspect of a much more massive revelation of God.

Salvation, in the Bible, means:

Adoption—Jesus becomes our brother as we are made God’s heirs, beloved sons and daughters.

Atonement—Jesus’ blood makes reparation for our sin.

Cleansing—Jesus washes our sin away, making us fresh, clean, and pure.

Forgiveness—Jesus forgives us for all our wrongs.

Justification—Jesus’ death is counted as our death, “Just as if I had not sinned,” so we can be declared innocent. It is a clearing of accounts.

Propitiation—Jesus’ death satisfies God’s wrath and the need for justice.

Reconciliation—Jesus restores us to right relationship with God, with each other, and with all creation.

Redemption—Jesus pays for us to be set free from enslavement to the law, sin, and death.

Regeneration—Jesus makes us become a new person by his Spirit, called a new birth, or new life.

Salvation—Jesus saves us from certain death and saves us to eternal life with God.

Substitution—Jesus substitutes Himself for us, He takes our penalty, and gives us his righteousness.

Victory—Jesus conquers sin and death and makes us the victors with him. He aslo shares with us the spoils of victory: spiritual gifts.

And even this is probably not the whole list of salvation themes.

The point is, even though Penal Substitutionary Atonement is an important concept, maybe even a foundational one, it is not the only important word on salvation, certainly not the last word, for the gospel is so, so much more.


[Shofar and Scriptures | Provenance Unknown]

The Gospel of John: The Baptist Reveals the Lamb


The following day, [John the Baptist] sees Jesus is coming toward him and he says, “Behold the Lamb of God the One who takes up and takes away the sin of the world. This is concerning the One I spoke of,

“‘After me is coming a man who has come before me, who is preeminent before me, (first in eternity).’

“Even I had not perceived him, but rather so that he would be made apparent to Israel through this [picture John gesturing around him, and then to the Jordan], I myself came baptizing in water.”

John 1:29-31

Apparently, his contretemps with the Jerusalem delegation had hardly registered, for John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing, just like usual, the very next day. But something, call it the Holy Spirit, drew his attention up and out, and there he was, Jesus, the Lamb of God, walking right towards him.

Remember how John had answered the delegation’s fifth question? The baptizing John was doing was part of God’s plan to reveal Messiah.


And John testified, saying that he had carefully and deliberately observed the Spirit coming down just like a dove out of heaven and remain on [Jesus].

“Even I had not perceived him, but rather the One who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘on whomever you see the Spirit coming down and remaining upon, that is him who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’”

John 1:32-33

We know from the other gospels this event had actually taken place about six weeks before. Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, Jesus had gone into the desert for a forty-day ordeal of testing.

John the Baptist -had- known Jesus as a person. The Baptist was Jesus’ cousin of some ilk since Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Elizabeth, John’s mother, were kinswomen. When Mary first went to visit Elizabeth, thirty years previously, Luke wrote that John, already filled with the Holy Spirit, leaped inside Elizabeth because of Jesus being carried inside Mary. In fact, John, the writer of this gospel, may also have been Jesus’ and John the Baptist’s cousin since tradition has it that his mother Salome was Mary’s sister.

So they were all family.

But look back to John 1:11 “He came to those who were personally His own (as in his kinspeople, those of his culture and people group), and those personally His own did not receive him.” Even Jesus’ own brothers did not know who He was as they grew up with Him

Early in his life, it seems, John had gone to live in the wilderness, and only reappeared a little while before Jesus’ ministry was to begin. They had both grown up during that time and become men.

When Jesus came up to John the Baptist to be baptized in the river Jordan, the gospels record John protesting, saying Jesus was really the one who should baptize him. Even before God revealed to the Baptist that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus had from infancy grown every day in wisdom and he had the grace of God upon him. In fact, Jesus grew in everybody’s esteem and good opinion. He found favor with God and with people. John the Baptist had never known Jesus to ever do a wrong thing, growing up together. That is why he told Jesus, no you should be baptizing me, because I know I am a sinner, but I have never known you to sin.

What the Baptist was about to find out, as he reluctantly lowered Jesus into the Jordan’s flowing, living water, then lifted Jesus back up anew, was that Jesus was not only perfect, but


Even I perceived and I have testified that this is the Son of God.

John 1:34

When he baptized Jesus and saw the Holy Spirit come down and rest above Jesus and heard the Father say, “This is My Son in Whom I am well pleased,” that was the sign God had given to the Baptist. But he could not announce Jesus to the world until after Jesus had returned from the desert—this moment recorded in John 1:29-34

Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world and baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

John declared Who Jesus is in two ways:

  1.  Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away sin.

This relates back to Adam and Eve when God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or they would die. Adam and Eve did eat the fruit of that tree, introducing sin and death into the world, something all people have had to live with up to today.

But God, in mercy, had already prepared a way out. God provided a way for people to experience and understand the Lord’s forgiveness. People would not be able to earn it. Forgiveness could only—and would only—come through God’s own love and mercy.

The way God provided would illustrate the awfulness of sin. In that ancient story of Adam and Eve, God slaughtered a creature and used its hide to cover the naked man and woman.

Later, the story continued, Adam and Eve would make animal sacrifices before God, and the ancient reader understood this was as it had to be, for it explained why Israel was given the book of Leviticus, explaining in exquisite, if also repugnant, detail all the many sins that would need cleansing by blood, and how that blood was to be shed.

Time and again, down through the thousands of years that existed between that first dreadful killing, and the killing that came again, and again, and again, by the hundred thousand, by the million, sin’s horror was put on display.

The wrenching stench of death; the cacophony of terrified bleating from the heretofore well-cared for and trusting sheep or goat, or even fatted calf; the utter wastefulness of it, the stomach-churning disgust of it, all peeled back the skin of ugly sin, its corruption and abhorrence.

And the innocence of the creature, its perfection without any blemish or flaw, the sweetness of its innocence, all pointed to the Lord Who would one day absorb and neutralize both the totality of human sin and all its pollution.

  1. John also said Jesus was the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

The word baptism comes from the Greek word “baptizo,” a word rich with meaning.

  • Wash ceremonially for the purpose of purification.
  • Plunge, or immerse.
  • Soak, for example in wine.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an immersion in the Spirit, a total saturation in God Who washes away all that is impure and a soaking that changes from mortal to immortal. A new life is created within by the Holy Spirit, and that new life is eternal.

Being baptized with water is a visible way of illustrating this profound and powerful spiritual thing that has happened, God creating new life within.


[Lamb of God | Francisco de Zurbarán / Public domain]

Gospel of John: John’s Mic Drop


John seemed to be willfully obtuse, speaking so little of himself, and answering their questions with such terse remarks whole new arrays of questions burst from their minds. Uncomfortable in the crosshairs of John’s stare, they each searched for a more specific question that might wedge apart the fortress of the Baptist’s reserve.

It was dawning on them that perhaps they should not be trying to figure him out, they should be looking to where he was pointing.


John looked like a prophet, he lived like a prophet and he acted like a prophet.

But the most important thing about John was that he was willing to say what a prophet says. A complete witness is not just how you and I live our lives. Yes, that is important. However, a complete witness not only has a voice but has the courage to use it.

Courage to say the hard things at the right time.

The LUMO Project
http://www.freebibleimages.org

How often do you and I have that kind of courage?


As the Jerusalem delegation looked around them, already disturbed by the unproductiveness of their inquiry and the alarming ways in which John had answered them, they noted the chief centerpiece of John’s ministry. The Pharisees were a very elite group of religious observants who were zealous for not only God’s Law but also the Mishnah, the oral laws added to explain, exegete, and apply God’s law.

These added tenets and regulations were viewed with the same reverence as the original Torah, for it is what had preserved them as a separate people, as set apart unto God, all these centuries since their exile.

Judea’s religious authority, the Sanhedrin, the rabbis, the teachers of the law, the scribes as well as the Pharisees, saw themselves as belonging to an inner circle with God, as the experts and keepers of the law.

They looked at John speculatively.

John was not the Messiah.

John was not Elijah.

John was not The Prophet.

John, in his own words, was nothing more than a disembodied voice in the desert. Suddenly, it clicked. If he was a nobody, then what authority did he have!?

“Why then do you baptize if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”

John’s reply must have created quite a buzz. He was not a bit intimidated by all these officials. He was also completely unconcerned with his own lack of official credentials, or his unorthodox use of baptism.


“I myself baptize in water.

“Among you all stands one you have not perceived nor acknowledged. The one coming after me I myself am not holy [enough] to [even] loosen the thong of his sandal.”

John the Baptist, as quoted in the Gospel of John 1:26-27

Someone I am too unworthy to even be the slave of is standing right here in the crowd, and you, with all your Bible smarts and holy living, you don’t even see him, let alone know who he is.

Here was the Baptist going toe-to-toe with an official delegation from the Sanhedrin. Thousands of people, including his own disciples, were standing on their tip-toes taking it all in.

And then John announces this.

Can you picture shivers going up and down thousands of people’s spines?

Can you imagine thousands of people craning their necks and asking, Who is it, Who is it??

Have you ever wondered why none of that delegation asked John to point the Messiah out?

This more than anything reveals their real motives. Evidently, they had not come with the attitude that maybe God was at work, but rather with a sense of being offended that John was disrupting their religious practices and interfering with their authority. For this scruffy desert preacher to imply that they, the Bible and religion experts, didn’t know about the Messiah being right there was just a little too much for their pride and sense of dignity.

After making sure John the Baptist did not have any illusions of self-importance, they considered their job done. It seems apparent, they did not really want to know who the Messiah was.

John knew who John was, and and more importantly, who John was not.

He was not somebody important with a reputation and a power base to protect. He was simply God’s servant, called to make everyone ready for the Messiah, for God. John did not have any illusions about his own importance.

I had to ask myself how humble of a position am I willing to take in order to show my devotion to Jesus?

  • Serve someone who does not like me, or does not have my best interests in mind, when God asks that of me?
  • Allow myself to be wronged and extend kindness and forgiveness instead?
  • Waive my rights on a matter, if God asks that of me?
  • Forego the immediate impulse to defend myself, and instead listen to the other person’s feelings and side first?
  • Allow my mind to be changed when a better thought or idea is presented?

Because of his confidence in God and his humility, John could not be intimidated, and he was not worried about being embarrassed. Instead he was bold and spoke the simple truth.

If you are a believer, how well do you know who you are in Christ? How deeply do you identify with belonging to God’s kingdom, a free person, profoundly alive, filled with God’s Spirit? How deeply do you identify with being God’s servant, commissioned by Him with a calling that involves kingdom work? How confident are you in being known and loved by God, and by His people?

Knowing who you are gives you confidence and courage to use your voice

Ultimately, whatever our calling, whatever our gifts, our lifestyle, our proclivities and talents, whatever God has given us to do and whatever way He has asked us to do it, whether in public and powerful ways, or in gentle, hidden ways, whether to great acclaim or to an audience of two or three, it is to the Lord we are pointing, not to ourselves.

Ultimately, you and I are not the final authorities on spiritual things, we are witnesses to the final authority, Jesus Christ. We are not the light, we reflect the light and point to the source, Jesus.

How often do you and I make sure that God gets the honor He should have in the stories we tell about our lives?

In what ways have you and I arranged our lives to point to the goodness of God, to the forgiveness of Jesus?

In fact, how often do you and I have the courage to say we are seeing Jesus when we see Him?


[John the Baptist | The LUMO Project, Free Bible Images, http://www.freebibleimages.org]

Gospel of John: John Rattles His Questioners


Because of John’s enormous impact, the Sanhedrin—Judea’s council of religious authorities—sent a delegation to investigate John and his unorthodox baptism activity.

These men were priests, who came from the extended family of the high priest, and other representatives from the tribe of Levi who were temple workers. And, being sent from the Pharisees, they were also Bible experts.


It was a well-traveled road, cobblestoned in the Roman way. The air was redolent with the smell of fried meat and pungent wine spreading from the dotted stands offering food and drink. Kiosks selling the assortment of goods travelers often found they wanted—including amulets and souvenirs—were wedged in everywhere along the way. Hawkers’ competing voices called out to the pilgrims.

The constant desert wind blew hot all around them, braziers spit with fat; clay, silver, and bronze figurines clinked like wind chimes; pack animals groaned and brayed; children screeched in laughter, and sometimes in protest; travelers shouted to each other over the clang and clamor. As Levites, the men avoided most of the common commerce which catered to every nationality, for fear of becoming ritually unclean by some accidental brush or touch.

One of the men lifted the hem of his outer garment and wiped his forehead. They had begun this excursion to Bethany soon after Shacharit prayers, taking best advantage of the cool morning, but now the sun was approaching its zenith, and they needed a rest.

Another lifted his gourd while uncorking the little clay stopper for a sip of water. “Brothers,” he said, his breath heavy from the heat, “let us stop a while.”

One of the priests familiar with the area suggested a stall he knew of, just a little farther ahead, where they could sit in the shade and have something to eat and drink in safety. Their destination would not be far off, after that.

As they made their way forward, the blue tassels on the corners of their robes became ever more grubby from the swirls of dirt lifted by many feet. And at regular intervals, when they shook the gravel from their sandals, they noted the growing traffic headed towards the Jordan’s banks, just over the horizon. The Baptist had been drawing ever larger crowds, pulling not just from the local villages, but indeed from all Judea, from the Galilee to Jerusalem itself.

It was not often religious pilgrims would actually leave the holy city for an even more spiritual experience, but that is what the Sanhedrin had increasingly been hearing. More and more, travelers to the city would come for the temple prayers and ask for the Lord’s protection as they entered the wilderness, seeking a word from the great prophet.

“Some say he is the ‘voice crying out in the wilderness.’”  They had just reached the Levite-friendly refreshment booth. “I wonder who -he- thinks he is?” They all nodded at this good question. They knew who others were saying the Baptist must be. They knew who the Baptist’s father had been. John himself could have been a priest, even a high priest, descended as he was from Aaron’s seed. But who did John think he was?


Priests and Levites, sent from the Pharisees and religious council in Jerusalem
The LUMO Project
http://www.freebibleimages.org

The delegation had come with five burning questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Are you Elijah?
  3. Are you the Prophet?
  4. What do you have to say for yourself?
  5. Why are you baptizing people?

Judging from John’s response, these were not unexpected questions, and they were fair to ask. It was well within the Sanhedrin’s purview to examine those who would presume to speak for God. Especially now, with the Roman occupation, and the time of the Maccabees only a generation behind them. On the one hand, if there were to be a Messiah who would liberate them from oppression, the Sanhedrin should know it first, and lead the people to him.

And on the other hand, if John were a pretender or leading the people astray, the religious authority needed to take him in hand and shut down his ministry. As well, his popularity was somewhat troublesome for temple business, for though John supported the Law and the Prophets, and all the oral law and wisdom of their forefathers, he was baptizing even those of Jewish faith in good standing with the Law and with their temple practices.

Who are you?

One of them shouted above the low din and drone of the surrounding crowd.

John was very forthright about not being the Messiah. Messiah means “the anointed one,” the king from David’s line who would be the everlasting king of Israel.

“What then? Are you Elijah?”

They knew that Elijah had not died, and believed Elijah was going to come back one day and announce, at the end of the Ages, that the anointed one, the Messiah, was coming.

John was very like Elijah, he dressed like him, he appeared suddenly, he was rustic like Elijah, having a similar lifestyle and preaching style, and he was full of the Holy Spirit, powerful.

But he said no because he was not -literally- Elijah.

When the angel Gabriel told Zechariah, John’s father, he and his wife (elderly and childless as they were) were going to have this miracle baby, Gabriel said John would come in the spirit and power of Elijah and prepare the way of the Lord.  

Later, Jesus also said John had come in the spirit of Elijah to announce the suffering Messiah—instead of the conquering Messiah King.

One day, Jesus implied, Elijah will come and announce Jesus’ second coming as conquering King, but this was not that time.

“Are you The Prophet?”

There was some confusion about Moses’ prophecy, whether he meant the Messiah, or some other great prophet, so the delegation was covering all their bases.

John’s answer was very simple: “no.” The delegation was on the wrong track by pursuing John as anything special.

“Who are you? In order that we may deliver an answer to the ones who sent us, what do you say about yourself?”

They wanted John to make a stand, religiously and politically. What did he stand for? Was he for or against The Sanhedrin and its interests? What authority did he think he had to run this big religious operation, as they saw it, in competition with the official religious authorities? They saw him as a possible threat to their establishment.

So John gave them the best credentials anyone could have, God’s word.


John the Baptist
The LUMO Project
http://www.freebibleimages.org

He said,

“I am the voice shouting tumultuously in the wilderness,

‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’

Just as Isaiah the prophet said.”

John the Baptist, as quoted in John 1:23

The priests and Levites, Bible scholars all, were visibly shaken. One of them unconsciously began to stroke his prayer shawl, just under his outer cloak. Several of them looked at each other with startled eyes, knowing the scroll from which John had chosen his words. What could it mean? For though he had spoken one line, this famous passage had been memorized by them all, even the ordinary villager.

“Israel’s sin has been paid for!?” One of the priests rasped in a hoarse whisper. Isaiah had meant the time of exile had come to an end, had he not? So, what did John mean by that?

Another muttered throatily, “The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken?!”

“Yes,” hissed a third, his voice grated with horrified fascination, “Here is your God?!” They shuddered together as though a sudden chill wind had blown through the sweat of their distress. “And where is he?”

To a man they abruptly turned their heads in every direction, taking in the crowds around them, the sere landscape with its tufts of dusty vegetation and rocks burnt black by the sun, as John held them in his steady gaze. They had suddenly realized they were looking for the one who

Tends his flock like a shepherd:

   He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

    he gently leads those that have young.

Isaiah 40:11 (NRSV)

[John the Baptist | The LUMO Project, Free Bible Images, http://www.freebibleimages.org]

Thanksgiving


Years ago, I read a fascinating article called “How the New Science of Thank You Can Change Your Life.”  Apparently, scientific research has now been able to prove what God has been teaching people since the days of Cain: practicing gratitude can actually make us healthier – literally!!

Paul was no stranger to pain and hardship. He knew what it was to be hated, persecuted, beaten and left for dead. He did time in prison, dealt with chronic physical disability, and extended emotional distress. Sometimes, Paul was left holding the bag, when all his friends and fellow workers simply abandoned him. There was a lot about his life that you and I might find hard to be grateful for.

So what did Paul mean by this instruction to the beleaguered believers in Thessalonica?

Though I originally joined the other three members of our church’s teaching team in giving a series of four short talks for our Thanksgiving service, it seemed like good timing to bring it out now, as we try to grapple with how COVID 19 has changed our lives.

Thanksgiving
Grace and Peace, Joanne

Minor Prophets: Amos and Social Justice


Amos has been connected to the sheep: he was a shepherd by trade, who had a tremendous concern for the downtrodden, and was called by God to become a prophet.

Chapters 1-3, Amos prophesied about God’s plans to judge Israel and the surrounding nations, eight in all. Today, we will take a deep dive into final paragraph of chapter 2.


Amos had leveled seven damning indictments against the nation and people of Israel, and he had done it within the heart of their religious center. Like the hot fire of God’s light, Amos’ words exposed their rampant corruption.

When God had gathered the people in the wilderness, to bring them into an eternal covenant as God’s people, and a holy nation, God had consistently portrayed Himself as caring for the oppressed and needy.

Had God not heard their cries for rescue, when they were enslaved in Egypt?

Had the Lord not proven to be their very great champion and savior?

Had God not redeemed them with an outstretched arm?

Did not the Lord freely provide for their every need, water from the rock, manna and quail from the sky, sandals and robes that did not ever wear out, and victory over every opposition?

God now commanded the people to show the same love and care for those in need among them. Those with resources and connections, those who were empowered were to use those resources and connections to empower the powerless, to care for those in need, to protect the vulnerable, to enable the disabled, to lift up the downcast, to make the nation of Israel—God’s people and God’s nation—stand out among all others as a people who cared for people and the earth.

God’s people were to be recognized in their likeness to the LORD.


And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.

You shall not defraud your neighbor;

you shall not steal;

and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.

You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind;

you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

You shall not render an unjust judgment;

you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.

You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people,

and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.

You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin;

you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people,

but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:12-18 (NRSV)

I picture Amos trembling with emotion, so swept up is he in the Lord’s anguish and grief over how God’s people have profaned everything the Lord holds dear. The people shift uncomfortably under Amos’ searing gaze and scalding words. They cannot deny the truth of his scorching excoriation.

Some may have begun to tear up, others to feel their own anger—a covering for fear—rising up in their chests. “How can you say such things to us?!” Our country is powerful, wealthy, we are politically and militarily respected among the nations. How could those things be true without God’s favor?


There surely were those in the crowd who were faithful to God, who were honest in their dealings with others, generous to those in need, who did their best to live by God’s commands as well as their government’s laws. Perhaps they felt distanced from those they knew who were unquestionably guilty. Perhaps they thought so long as God’s people were in the land, God’s judgement would not roll down.

But as one who lived there, in Israel—just as you and I live in our nations today—what God said through Amos was spoken for all. This was not just about God’s eternal wrath over evil, this was about God’s temporal judgment over wrongs done to the earth and to each other.  

Through Amos, God showed not just concern for the individual, but also concern with nations. God judged the nations. Whether those nations had pledged faith with God or not, when God’s law was transgressed, and God’s people harmed, God took notice.

If God is consistent, then we have to assume God continues to take notice.

The first part of what Amos had to say was hard to hear, but the next part had to have been far, far worse, for God now described the impending punishment. There would come a terrible crushing that none would escape—not the swift, nor the strong, not the skilled nor well-armed, the fleetest foot and galloping horses could not outrun what was coming, and


“Even the bravest warriors

    will flee naked on that day,”

declares the Lord.

Amos 2:16

The atmosphere has changed precipitously. What had begun as a righteous rally of indignation at the nations who had wronged them was ending under the pall of condemnation. Some shook their heads and waved scoffing hands at Amos, trying to dismiss him by turning away. Others spat on the ground and snarled. Then, those who had come in last began to leave first, as people dispersed.

Perhaps a few stayed and stared in hurt resentment, asking each other, or maybe even asking Amos,

“Is it fair for such a horrific consequence to fall on everyone alike?”

Amos might have answered with his own question: Is it possible for people to believe they are God-fearing and God-honoring while at the same time act without regard for those who are on the edge?

“Does it not make a difference if someone is deserving, or undeserving, of help?” Another might have called out.

“And did God speak of such a difference in the laws given at Sinai?” Amos might have replied.


[Homeless | Curtis Cronn, flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/]

[Many thanks to Dr. Steve Delamarter for his presentation on Amos at George Fox University]

Gospel of John: John the Baptist


Think about the last time you found yourself talking about your beliefs to someone who did not agree with you. Maybe it was over a particular political issue. Maybe it was in a conversation about a social issue, or religion, or morals. Maybe someone asked you what makes you think that your beliefs are any better than someone else’s beliefs. Maybe you were defending truth against a more hybrid view.

How did you do? Were you confident? Were you able to talk about your faith in a knowledgeable way? Did you invite this person to “come and see”?

God has given each person a longing to know Him, and to relate to Him, though not everyone recognizes that longing for what it is. Often people think that what they long for is happiness, or stability, or at least one good relationship, or success in some fashion.

But meaning in life is found in God.

In last week’s passage, John the Baptist said if you want to know who God is, then you need to know who Jesus is, because Jesus is the one who makes God known.

This week, we’ll hear John the Baptist answer questions from Biblical scholars who represented the leading religious authorities of their day.

Before dive in, though, I thought I would dig up some background on John the Baptist, that we can glean from the other gospels (especially Matthew’s and Luke’s gospel):

Family Background

  • Parents: He was the only child of elderly, Godfearing people from a small village just outside of Jerusalem. Both his parents were of the tribe of Levi, his father was a priest in the temple, and his mother was actually descended from Aaron himself, the first high priest of Israel.
  • Birth: An angel was sent to Zechariah, John’s father, to announce John’s miraculous conception, as Zechariah and Elizabeth (John’s mother) were both past childbearing age.
  • Spirituality: Even before he was born, John was already filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • Cousin: John met Jesus—who was John’s cousin—when both were in utero (John was at 6 months’ gestation, Jesus may still have been a zygote).
  • Nazirite: John was born into the Nazirite vow (just as Samson had been) and remained a Nazirite all his life, by God’s express command.
  • Character: As John grew up, he became “strong in spirit.”
  • Lifestyle: Because he seems to have gone to live in the wilderness early in his life, some scholars associate him with the Essene community.

John the Baptist
The LUMO Project
http://www.freebibleimages.org

Ministry

  • Timeframe: We know the exact time when John began his career as a prophet: 26-27 AD, the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee.
  • Dress: John adopted the garb and diet that would most associate him with the prophet Elijah, who had been described as wearing a garment of hair and leather belt.
  •  Board: John’s menu of locusts and honey has an intriguing twist to it. According to one scholar, “The Greek word for locusts (akris/ἀκρίδες) is very similar to the Greek word for ‘honey cake’ (enkris/έγκρίς) that is used for the ‘manna’ that the Israelites ate in the desert in the days of Moses.
  • Message: John’s directive was simple and clear: Prepare the way for the coming Messiah.
  • Popularity: No prophets are recorded between Malachi and Matthew, indicating a time of dormancy, so as the last of the great Hebrew prophets, John became wildly popular, with people thronging the desert to hear him preach, both Judeans and Gentiles, including Roman centurions and the Sanhedrin alike.
  • Baptizer: John was acclaimed for his clarion call to cleanse from all unrighteousness in preparation for the king and kingdom to come. Positioning himself by the Jordan River, John baptized thousands.

John the Baptist, baptizing Jesus
The LUMO Project
http://www.freebibleimages.org

Encounters with Jesus

  • Baptism: Though at first reluctant, John agreed to baptize Jesus, thus inaugurating Jesus’ own official ministry.
  • Disciples: John had close followers throughout his ministry, though he regularly pointed them to Jesus, sayingHe must increase, but I must decrease.” Two of John’s most well-known disciples were Andrew and another John, the one who would later become known as “the one Jesus loved.”
  • Questioning Ministry: Some of John’s disciples questioned Jesus’ disciples why they did not fast. Jesus explained it was because they had Jesus, the bridegroom, with them. The time would come when they would fast.
  • Questioning Identity: Whether John himself experienced a moment of unsureness, or whether his disciples were unsure, John sent an envoy to Jesus questioning his identity and purpose, prompting Jesus’ firm and public proclamation of who he was with an accompanying sermon on the dangers of wavering faith.

Death

  • Imprisonment: Herod Antipas had John arrested and imprisoned for publicly denouncing Herod’s affair and marriage with his brother Philip’s wife Herodias (to whom he was also related).
  • Beheading: At the request of his stepdaughter Salome (who, in turn, acted on behalf of her mother, Herodias) Herod, during a drunken party, agreed to have John beheaded.
  • Burial: John’s disciples were permitted to lay John’s body in a tomb. John’s head had already been delivered to Salome on a platter. Were the head and body ever reunited?

So, John grew up, and he grew strong in the Spirit. At some point  early in his life, perhaps when his aged parents had died, John moved out into the desert and sort of dropped out of sight.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, John reappeared, now a grown man, rugged, dressed in camel’s hair and leather, eating only wild honey and locusts (or manna?), and preaching what we would call hell-fire-and-brimstone sermons.

John instructed and baptized even Greeks and ROmans
the LUMO project
http://www.freebibleimages.org

His big message was that -everyone- was a sinner, even good Jewish people were sinners, and they all needed to repent and get ready for the Messiah Who was coming very soon. As an outward sign of their repentance, John was baptizing people in the River Jordan—baptizing everybody: Greeks, Roman soldiers, and even Judeans alike.

That those of the Jewish faith were willing to do this is downright amazing, because no prophet or religious leader had ever done this. Before only people trying to become Jewish went through baptism. But John was saying nobody was right with God, not even those of Jewish faith or descent.

This made him a very controversial figure.

People came by the thousands, out into the wilderness, to hear the prophet John preach and to get baptized by him, because of the great spiritual hunger during that time.

People wanted to know God.

It was also politically a very turbulent time, and the whole known world (not just Judea) was expecting a Messiah, a great king who would come as redeemer, bringing liberty and peace.

Everyone expected a great leader to emerge, who would be bigger than life, maybe even supernatural.


[John the Baptist | The LUMO Project, Free Bible Images, http://www.freebibleimages.org]

Gospel of John: The Incarnate Word


To the Greeks, Logos was an abstract philosophy, and in fact a heresy had been growing in the church in John’s time that claimed Logos was a spirit that had entered Jesus when he began his ministry and then left him before his final hour of the crucifixion.

That heresy was called Docetism, from the Greek word “dokeo” which means “to seem.” It was a form of Gnosticism that said Jesus only -seemed- to be both man and God.

John 1:14-18, The Incarnate Word

So John carefully chose his words to dispel any misunderstanding about who Jesus is.


And the word became flesh

John 1:14a

In the original Greek text those two words appear side by side,

Καὶλόγοςσὰρξἐγένετο
AndThewordfleshbecame

“And the word flesh became.”

The Word, the creative thought and energy of God, became a soft, vulnerable baby.

This is called the incarnation

the infinite became finite

the eternal became conformed to time

invisible became visible

the supernatural One chose to be reduced to the natural

The Word did not cease to be God. The Word willingly laid aside some of the privileges of glory, but he never gave up his deity. This is the hard part to truly grasp. Jesus was fully God and fully man.

Amazingly, this was what God had in mind from the very beginning.

And, the Lord designed human beings with the capacity for God and a hunger for God. God created people in God’s own image, the image of Jesus, and made us to correspond to the Lord. Being made in God’s image, then, means that people are made as personal, moral, and spiritual beings.

Spirituality

God gave some animals the ability to think and feel in a “soulish” way, as the Bible puts it, but only the human received God’s breath, or “Spirit.” When a person is brought forth out of God, anew, the Lord fills—totally saturates and permanently alters—that person with God’s own Holy Spirit.

People are designed to contain God’s Holy Spirit in the most intimate communion possible.

Personality

  • People have intelligence, the ability to think and to know, to understand ideas. We have the ability to think (at least some of) God’s thoughts, to share in the Mind of Christ.
  • We also have emotions, specially designed to experience God in a different way than thoughts: adoration of the Lord’s beauty, reverence towards God’s holiness, awe at God’s power and perfection, a response of love to the Lord’s own loving kindness, compassion and mercy.
  • People have a will—the ability to make choices, to reject or receive the light, for instance.

God gave people the gift of language, the ability to communicate with God and to understand the Lord’s unique revelation of God and humanity, of spiritual things and the spiritual realm, things we cannot otherwise know, as they are unseen, beyond the reach of our scientific inquiry.

Morality

Jesus has always shined the light into darkness, by giving every person the innate ability to tell right from wrong, which is called the conscience. From the beginning God has always given each person a simple test, to teach us how to know, and understand in an experiential way, the difference.

Right is upholding to God’s word, and wrong is choosing something apart from God’s expressed will.

Because we are made in the image of God, our original design was to display God’s holiness. And because the Lord made people like God, people have the ability to be in relationship with God. Being in loving fellowship with God is every person’s greatest purpose, every person’s greatest good, deepest fulfillment, pleasure, happiness and satisfaction.

So, John went on to say that


. . . and he resided among us

John 1:14b

Literally, that word “resided” means “tabernacled,” which would have made Jewish readers of John’s gospel think immediately of God’s tabernacle in Exodus.

During the desert years, the Hebrew people lived in tents, and The Lord had a tent pitched for God as well, which would be God’s home, as it were, that the Lord could live among the people. God’s Shekinah, the pillar of fire and cloud which was the visible aspect of God’s presence, descended on the tabernacle and tented with the rest of the Hebrews in the desert.

The law was kept and put on display at the gate of God’s tabernacle. It was the place of revelation, where Moses would speak to God face-to-face, and God would speak to the people. People came to God’s tent, the tabernacle, to worship the Lord. And, at the tabernacle, the sprinkled blood of sacrifices would symbolize God’s forgiveness for their sin.

Now Jesus fulfilled all that by taking on a body to “tabernacle” in with his people


. . . and we beheld, perceived, and contemplated his glory, the glory in the manner of a father’s only-born, full and complete in grace, joy, and favor and truth

John 1:14c

The glory Moses had asked God to show him, John saw in Jesus.

Jesus was fully man, but he never stopped being God. In verse 15 the Baptist gave his testimony that even though Jesus had been born six months -after- the Baptist, and even though Jesus started his ministry -after- the Baptist had started his own ministry, prophesying in the desert, still


“This was the one I spoke of: the one coming -after- me who came into being -before- me, who was first (in eternity) before me,”

John 1:15b

Jesus is from eternity.

John described the fullness of Jesus’ grace in verses 16 and 17. If you have a Bible, take a look at that phrase “grace upon grace” or “blessing after blessing.” The first grace, or blessing, from God was the law God gave to Moses in verse 18.

The first grace, or blessing: through that Law people came to know God’s holiness and perfection, which none of us can match on our own, and also God’s generous forgiveness which the sacrifices only symbolized, always pointing to Jesus.

The second grace, or blessing: the Lord gave was God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. The grace and truth of Jesus are the same as life and light. Life is the gracious gift of God to all God’s creatures, and light is the understanding of truth, the illumination of truth. True life and true light only come through faith in Jesus

No one has ever seen God, John said in verse 18. But Jesus, the unique one and only, fully man and fully God who is at the Father’s side, has made God known to us.

To know Jesus is to know God

Just as a scientist studying quantum physics can show that one particle can be in two places at the same time, the apostle John could, by his own eye witness testimony, along with John the Baptist’s, demonstrate that the Word was not only with God, but the Word actually was God, too.

It seems impossible, it is a mystery, but it is true.

Though there are at least two people (Hagar and Moses) who saw God in some way, only Jesus has fully seen God as God truly is, and only Jesus makes God fully known to you and me.


[The Word made flesh | Gerard van Honthorst / Public domain]

Gospel of John: The Witnessed Word


It might seem strange that John the Baptist would appear so early in John’s account. It points to one of the heresies John the Gospel writer was addressing: there were groups of people in as late as 200 A.D. who were still worshiping John the Baptist as the Messiah.

God knew the Gospel writer John was sympathetic. The apostle John himself had started out as a disciple of John the Baptist. John had known the Baptist well, had admired and respected him, had seen him as both mentor and rabbi, and had initially thought to become one of the Baptist’s acolytes.

John the apostle of Jesus was the perfect candidate to gently undertake redirecting misunderstandings about the Baptist, so he quoted the Baptist several times as saying he was not the Messiah, but a messenger.

John 1:6-13, The Witnessed Word


There came to be a person who was sent from God whose name was John, who came as a witness, so that he would testify concerning the light, in order that all might believe through him.

That one was -not- the light, but rather in order that he would -give testimony- concerning the light.

John 1:6-8

The emphasis here is verse 8, the Baptist understood that he was not the light, but he was to prepare the people to believe the true light when they saw it.

The task of a witness is to point to the truth. You know the phrase “to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” We use that in a court of law because that is what everyone is expecting the witness to do, to bring out the truth.

In fact, everyone who knows Who Jesus really is, is called to be a witness to the truth. Witnessing is both verbal and nonverbal. To keep integrity, the words have to match the life of the person saying the words.

This the Baptist was well-known for. He lived blamelessly, and honorably, with all the markings of a prophet from God. Then, John the Baptist identified Jesus—who otherwise looked like an ordinary person—as the true light.

Some would be repelled by the light, and others would be drawn to it.

Yet, tragically, most people did not even recognize the light in spite of the Baptist’s testimony.


The true light which enlightens all people was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world through him came into being, and yet the world did not know him (did not come to know by observation and experience, the world did not recognize him, did not “get” who he was).

John 1:9-10

The Creator came and the creatures did not even know who he was.

World,” “cosmos” in Greek, is another word John often used, in most cases, to refer to the created order that is now in rebellion against the Creator. John said this light was coming into the created order which was now in darkness, in rebellion, against the source of light. The world could not apprehend the light because of spiritual blindness.

But even more amazing, in verse 11, is that Jesus came to His own home, that is the sense in the Greek, and even his own people did not recognize him.

These were the covenant people of God, who had been entrusted with

  • God’s law
  • God’s covenants
  • God’s promises

. . . for thousands of years.

These were a people who had been actively waiting for their messiah since the days of Moses. God had specially made these people to be his own treasured possession. Of all people, these people were by far the best equipped to recognize and receive the Messiah. But they did not.

Nevertheless, there -were- those who did receive the Light.


But, however many took hold of him, he bestowed to the ones who believed in his name privilege, capacity, and authority to become children of God—these not out of blood, nor out of the will of the flesh, nor out of the will of a man, but rather they have been brought forth out of God.

John 1:12-13

Every human being comes into this world by birth. There is simply no other way to get here except to be born.

And the same is true for those who enter the kingdom of God, you must be brought forth, as though born.

John listed the ways that people mistakenly think they can come to God.

  • This is not of blood, or by natural descent, in other words, not by inheritance, or by human ancestry. Being raised in a Christian home and going to church all your life, going to a Christian school, being involved in lots of Christian activities does not automatically make one a Christian.
  • This is not of the will of the flesh, something that just happens. When we were born into this world, it happened because two people . . . well, you know. Being brought forth into new life will not happen that way. This is not something someone can simply make happen.
  • This is not the will of man, or some translations say “husband.” This is not by human caveat. No one can decide for you and me. By that same token, you and I cannot decide for someone else, either.

Jesus gives his life to all who receive him and believe in his name

Each individual must respond to Jesus’ light on their own terms. This is between each person and God.

No amount of ceremony, or reciting of words or saying special prayers or creeds, or going forward, or performing certain rituals brings a person “forth out of God.” John was saying that God’s children can only be brought forth out of God by God within the human heart. Because it is all God’s doing, and no one else’s, it is accomplished beyond any human effort.

And it is available to all who, as John put it, “take hold of,” or even “seize hold of” the Word:

  • who with their mind accept the facts and understand the light,
  • who with their emotions respond with desire for the light,
  • who with their will give themselves to light, to Jesus, and take hold of Jesus as their own.

This experience takes place deep in the human spirit, as God accomplishes this mysterious transformation.

It is not something you or I can do, and we might not even feel it happening. A mother does not feel the moment when a baby is first formed deep within her, and yet there that baby is, tiny and growing.

New life has begun, and God knows the moment. The Lord nurtures that new life and is in charge of its growth, and with that life comes light, the ability to understand God’s revelation of God and of spiritual things, in the world around us and in the Bible


[John the Baptist | James Tissot / Public domain]

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