The Cartoon Old Testament - Part 4

Jeremiah through Baruch

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Jeremiah

Jeremiah 1

An Early Womber or a Womb with a View or Womb for Improvement

4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." 6 Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." 7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD." 9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."

Call for Jeremiah, God on Line 1

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Musings

This is Jeremiah's call to be a prophet. It is similar to Moses' calling in that God appoints him, he tries to get out of it, God reassures him that the words he needs will be provided and he finally agrees to it. Unlike Moses though, Jeremiah didn't really have a choice, since he was called in the womb, it was his destiny. Jeremiah isn't just a prophet to Judah but rather to "the nations." To Jeremiah God is at work in all the nations. Even in the calling though, it is clear that Jeremiah is not going to have an easy message - he will be bringing as much bad news as good, but at least the good news comes at the end. Jeremiah is written at about the same times as Isaiah - during the destruction, exile and post-exilic period for the Israelites in Judah.

Jeremiah 3

Sister Act

7 And I thought, "After she has done all this she will return to me"; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. 8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. 9 Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but only in pretense, says the LORD. 11 Then the LORD said to me: Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than false Judah. 12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: Return, faithless Israel, says the LORD. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, says the LORD; I will not be angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your guilt, that you have rebelled against the LORD your God, and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree, and have not obeyed my voice, says the LORD. 14 Return, O faithless children, says the LORD, for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

Jeremiah Discusses Marketing Strategies with God

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Musings

This is a very colorful way of saying that Israel was unfaithful, thus Assyria conquered them, but Judah is even more unfaithful (to God) making their fall inevitable as well. Judah is actually worse because they saw what happened to Israel and didn't learn from it. Jeremiah is sent to Israel to tell them to return to God, since Judah is seemingly not interested in fixing their own situation. God offers to restore Israel if they will repent. Also underlying the message is that it isn't God who abandoned Israel or Judah, but just the opposite. Nothing like a little name calling to get people's attention.

Jeremiah 17

Two in the Shrub are Worth ...

5 Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD. 6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. 9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse-- who can understand it? 10 I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

You Can Run but You Cannot Hide

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Musings

This comes after Judah falls and the people are exiled by the Babylonians. It was a result of Judah's corruption and unfaithfulness, yet this poem provides some hope amidst the hardship, basically saying that it is always best to team up with God. Some scholars think it echos Psalm 1 and perhaps later is echoed by Led Zeppelin in their song Stairway to Heaven (Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on). Okay, I doubt Led Zeppelin had this in mind, but it still fits, sort of.

Jeremiah 18

Harry Potter

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 "Come, go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words." 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9 And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the LORD: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

Getting Clay Feet

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Musings

This might also be titled "Have I Got a Deal for You." The parable or analogy is clear, God is like a potter who can even take the mess Judah has become and make it into something useful. God is shown again here as being in control of all events, so that if things are not working out, God can use whatever means God desires to fix them. So God is making an offer that Judah should not refuse, but in verse 12 (not included above) that's exactly what they do (refuse) thus sealing their own fate. Even though God is in control, they had a choice.

Jeremiah 20

Pashhur-ized

1 Now the priest Pashhur son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. 2 Then Pashhur struck the prophet Jeremiah, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD. 3 The next morning when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, The LORD has named you not Pashhur but "Terror-all-around." 4 For thus says the LORD: I am making you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on. And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon; he shall carry them captive to Babylon, and shall kill them with the sword. 5 I will give all the wealth of this city, all its gains, all its prized belongings, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah into the hand of their enemies, who shall plunder them, and seize them, and carry them to Babylon. 6 And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house, shall go into captivity, and to Babylon you shall go; there you shall die, and there you shall be buried, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely. 7 O LORD, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9 If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. 10 For I hear many whispering: "Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. "Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him." 11 But the LORD is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. 12 O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. 13 Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.

If I've Told You Once ...

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Musings

Well it sucks to be the high priest Passhhur. He doesn't believe Jeremiah's prophecy and tries to suppress his message. As a result he gets a new name "terror all around" and the future isn't looking too good for him and his friends and family. Jeremiah points out poetically (from verse 7 on) that he doesn't want to be the bearer of bad news, but he has no choice. God picked him and compels him to deliver the message he is given.

Jeremiah 23

Sleep on This

1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. 3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD. 5 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness."

Accounting Sheep

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Musings

Judah's corrupt leadership is the cause of its fall, but in due time God will save a remnant, give them a good davidic king and all will be well with Judah and Israel once again. The restored kingdoms are seen as a return to one kingdom and under one king in the davidic line, perhaps harkening back to a time before Israel split from Judah and they were at their strongest (under Saul, David and finally Solomon). Apparently sheep are way more talented that generally given credit (or debit) for.

Jeremiah 28

Yoking Around with the King

1 In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, 2 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord's house, which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4 I will also bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, says the LORD, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon." 5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD; 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, "Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles. 7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet."

Yolk's On You

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Musings

Jeremiah wishes his competing prophet, Hananiah, well but suggests there may be some doubt. Indeed that proves to be the case. Even though Nebuchadnezzar eventually loses power, it's not going to be when Hananiah predicts and worse for Hananiah, Jeremiah goes on to discredit him (vs. 10-17) and he dies later that year. It's not really clear why this was selected as a lectionary passage in that the verses selected tell a partial story of little consequence, but it does lend validity to Jeremiah as a prophet and shed some light on false prophecy (and bad eggs).

Jeremiah 31:1-6

Everlasting Love

At that time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. 2 Thus says the LORD: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, 3 the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. 4 Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. 5 Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit. 6 For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: "Come, let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God."

Amazing Grace

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Musings

This is a very upbeat view of the return from exile. Israel will be restored to one nation, prior to the split between Northern (Israel) and Southern (Judah) kingdoms. God will forget their adulterous past, hence the term virgin Israel, and continue God's faithfulness to them. Samaria and Ephraim are names for the Northern Kingdom and their agriculture will flourish and all the people will go to Zion (Jerusalem). All-in-all the return is to be a glorious time of celebration and re-unification. Grace will be found, whether she wants to be or not.

Jeremiah 31:7-14

Have a Nice Day

7 For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, "Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel." 8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. 9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. 10 Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, "He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock." 11 For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. 12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. 13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. 14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.

Happy Days are Here Again

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Musings

This is a vision or oracle similar to several in Isaiah (25, 40, 49, 55) and earlier in Jeremiah 23 of the restoration of Israel. What God scattered will now be brought back together and made even better. It will be a joyous time and all will live long and be satisfied. I'm guessing Jeremiah much prefers these messages to the others he's had to deliver.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Learning the Law by Heart

31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt--a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Two Tablets for Your Heart

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Musings

Continuing with the thoughts on how great it's going to be, God will make a new covenant. This covenant will be better than the one made on Mount Sinai, which the people broke. God will restore the direct relationship with the people and this time write the law on their hearts. This refers most directly to the return to and rebuilding of Jerusalem by the Israelite remnant after the Babylonian exile. Later it is referenced by Christianity in regard to Jesus' mission and echoed in Paul's letters when he suggests that the law has been superseded.

Jeremiah 33

Methaphors of a Cyrptic God

14 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The LORD is our righteousness."

Tales from the Crypt

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Musings

Jeremiah Chapters 30-33 is dubbed "the little book of consolation." It ends here with a final vision of the davidic kingdom returning to Judah and Israel (also mentioned elsewhere such as chapter 23) to prominence. Significant for the Israelites because it harkens back to their greatest kingdoms (David's and his son Solomon's) and significant in Christianity due to Jesus' davidic link. However, other than a brief independence under the Maccabees (the Hasmonean dynasty) Israel was not an autonomous nation since Judah's final fall to the Babylonians and until the modern nation was formed in 1948 after World War II.

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 18

Sour Grapes

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge"? 3 As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die. 5 If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right-- 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period, 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not take advance or accrued interest, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between contending parties, 9 follows my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully--such a one is righteous; he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD. .... 24 But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die. 25 Yet you say, "The way of the Lord is unfair." Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, "The way of the Lord is unfair." O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Outrageous Demands

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Musings

Ezekiel attempts to answer the question of how God could allow Judah to be defeated, the temple destroyed, and the people dispersed. He quotes a proverb representing a fatalistic view of God's sovereignty and then explains why this is not true. They can return to God's favor by essentially living by the law. In a sense, it's the grace side of the 2nd Commandment (Exodus 20:5-6) showing favor to those who follow God's commandments. He counters their arguments that God is unfair by suggesting that God's righteousness is fair, but it is their ways that are not.

Ezekiel 33

Sound the Alarm

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 O Mortal, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one of their number as their sentinel; 3 and if the sentinel sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people; 4 then if any who hear the sound of the trumpet do not take warning, and the sword comes and takes them away, their blood shall be upon their own heads. 5 They heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; their blood shall be upon themselves. But if they had taken warning, they would have saved their lives. 6 But if the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any of them, they are taken away in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at the sentinel's hand. 7 So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, "O wicked ones, you shall surely die," and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life. 10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: "Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?" 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B

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Musings

This opens with an explanation of the wartime responsibilities of the people and their sentinel and it ends with the focus on the role of the sentinel, which is Ezekiel. It echoes the plea of Chapter 18 to turn from evil ways, explaining that God wants them to be spared. While this is an indictment of Judah for abandoning God, it leaves hope to turn it around. In a few verses (21-22) it is clear that Jerusalem has fallen, yet Chapters 33-39 begin to change the tone from destruction toward restoration. So while they have lost their home, Ezekiel is telling them not to lose all hope. Let's hope no vuvuzelas were involved.

Ezekiel 34

The Good Shepherd

11 For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Culling the Herd

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Musings

Ezekiel proclaims God as the one true shepherd who will seek out God's sheep, restore the weak, find the lost, heal the injured and provide them rest. I'm guessing that the fat and strong sheep are those that did evil to the others either directly or indirectly, or continued to disobey God. Other places that mention the Lord as shepherd include Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:11, and John 10:1-18. Sheep generally get good PR in the Bible.

Ezekiel 37

Dry Bones

1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?" I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD." 7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11 Then he said to me, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.' 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act," says the LORD.

Sports Drink Proving Grounds

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Musings

Probably one of the more well-known stories in the Old Testament is Ezekiel and the dry bones. It answers the question as to whether God can bring back to life a "dead" people (a.k.a. Israel). The answer is "Yes" of course. I would not be surprised if Ezekiel didn't often feel like he was prophesying to a bunch of corpses, so this experiment (real or metaphorical) probably serves to boost his spirits as well as the Israelites. Modern day sports drink manufacturers - eat your heart out!

Daniel

Daniel 7

Check the Coffee

9 As I watched, thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne, his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. 11 I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13 As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. 14 To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.

Sheepish

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Musings

The first half of Daniel concerns the stories about Daniel and friends, and the second half records four apocalyptic visions attributed to Daniel. This excerpt is part of the first vision. In verses 1-8 (just prior to this excerpt) four beasts are described representing Babylon (lion), the Medes (bear), the Persians (leopard) and the Greeks (dragon). In these verses (9-14) the ancient one, God, is seated on the fiery throne and destroys the Greeks (the horn is Antiochus IV Epiphanes). The other nations aren't destroyed just yet. Kingship is given to "one like a human." This is another way of saying the "Son of Man" or Messiah. The Son of Man here has been interpreted in different ways including as symbolic of the faithful Jew or as an angelic being like Michael. Of course the imagery here is found in other books of the Bible including Job, Isaiah, and Revelation. In Revelation and the Gospels the Son of Man is used in reference to Jesus, thus bridging Old Testament prophecies to the New Testament. A sheep on the thrown might be a bit of a stretch, but like I said before, they have good PR.

Hosea

Hosea 2

Fatal Attraction

14 Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 From there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 On that day, says the LORD, you will call me, "My husband," and no longer will you call me, "My Baal." 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. 18 I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. 20 I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.

Israel at the Dentist

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Musings

Hosea is a very interesting prophet with a very unusual way conveying his message. He is called by God to be a prophet, to marry a harlot and to the name his kids with symbolic names (such as Lo Ruhamah "no mercy" and Lo Ammi "not my people"). The idea of Israel acting the harlot wasn't new (Jeremiah 3 for example), but actually living it out was. (The kids probably weren't too happy about it either.) That aside, this passage is calling Israel back into faithfulness to God - if they comply their relationships will be restored. God stands as the wronged husband willing to forgive and take back his unfaithful wife (Israel) and children (the Israelites) and make things better than they were before. It will lead to a "happily ever after" ending. Politically Hosea is suggesting Israel allying with Assyria is bad (part of why they are unfaithful) and Aram (Syria) is good.

Hosea 4

Missing the Point

1 Hear the word of the LORD, O people of Israel; for the LORD has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land. 2 Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed. 3 Therefore the land mourns, and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing. [...] 5:15 I will return again to my place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face. In their distress they will beg my favor: 6:1 "Come, let us return to the LORD; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know, let us press on to know the LORD; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth." 4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early. 5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have killed them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. 6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Chew on This

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Musings

God makes a case against Israel for breaking the covenant. Israel is violating most of the ten commandments; they aren't faithful to God; nor do they seem to have any relationship (or knowledge) of God. Everything suffers as a result since the covenant includes all creation. Therefore, in Verse 5:15, God abandons Israel. Hosea then calls for Israel to repent. The three-day restoration cycle probably reinterprets a Canaanite fertility mythology showing that it is God who is in control of the rain and who can bring them true help. Finally the excerpts end with sort of a lament that neither Israel or Judah heed their prophets (or God) and what God really wants is their hearts, not their rituals.

Hosea 11

What Am I - Chopped Liver?

1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. 3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. 4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them. 5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. 6 The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes. 7 My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all. 8 How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. 9 I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. 10 They shall go after the LORD, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west. 11 They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.

You Never Call

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Musings

Basically Israel (and Judah) are acting like ungrateful brats, yet God loves them anyway. God was with them in Egypt, during the Exodus, as they formed a nation, and yet now they show no faith or gratitude and, perhaps worse, "are bent on turning away from me." God will allow (or appoint) Egypt and Assyria to rule over them. Even so instead of God's wrath, which they deserve, they will get God's love and compassion. C.S. Lewis had to love this passage.

Note: Admah and Zeboiim were cities that got destroyed along with Sodom and Gamorrah.

Joel

Joel 2

I Have a Dream

23 O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. 24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25 I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 28 Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. 30 I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.

When It Rains, It Pours

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Musings

Joel is a prophet most likely in the 5th century BCE, probably in the early Hellenistic period (Greek rule) and Israel and Judah united again (under Greek control). There has just been a locust devastation that Joel views is punishment from God. The people repent and this passage picks up with God's response and promise for the future. Things are going to be very good and there will be a time of plenty and peace. Perhaps the most famous quote from Joel is verse 29 where the relationship with God will be so intimate that prophesy, dreams and visions of God's goodness will be widespread. Umbrella sales will be up.

Amos

Amos 5:6-15

Hate Evil and Love Good

6 Seek the LORD and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. 7 Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! [...] 10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. 11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins-- you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. 13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. 14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. 15 Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Get With the Program

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Musings

Amos is a prophet to Israel (the Northern kingdom) in the time prior to the Assyrian takeover and his main concern seems to be internal social justice. The book is a loose collection of oracles with no particular order or flow to it. In this passage Amos is clearly calling Israel to social justice. Hopefully by protecting the weak and helping the downtrodden (and not taking advantage of them) that will keep them in God's favor. Even worms get their day.

Amos 5:18-24

Lions and Bears and Snakes, Oh My!

18 Alas for you who desire the day of the LORD! Why do you want the day of the LORD? It is darkness, not light; 19 as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. 20 Is not the day of the LORD darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? 21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Really Fast Food!

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Musings

Amos' optimism turns to warning as he suggests that the expected "day of the LORD" could turn ugly rather than be the good thing that is expected. Rather than be a day of triumph for Israel it could be the day of their destruction. All the cultic worship they can muster won't save them if it is insincere. So he should have had their undivided attention by the time he got to "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Perhaps one of the most well-known verses of Amos. While not good for sacrificing, it might be good practice for carrying the Olympic torch.

Jonah

Jonah 3

Mask, Fins and Salvation

1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2 "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you." 3 So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk. And he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

The Problem with Success

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Musings

Jonah is tasked with going and telling his enemies that they are going to get destroyed by God. Even though he really didn't want to go (the whole swallowed by a fish thing), he did finally show up and deliver the message. The only problem is that Nineveh chose to believe him and repented and is spared. A few lessons seem to pop right out of this story. First, Jonah is taught through a calamity of his errors that God can show mercy to whom God chooses (so get over it and himself). Second, Nineveh's greatly exaggerated repentance to the warnings from a God they don't know or worship is in ironic contrast to Israel's own response (or lack thereof). The four short chapters of Jonah are well worth reading, especially with the help of a good commentary. It is fun and full of wit and allegory. It clearly illustrates that God is a God of grace and compassion as well as humor. Perhaps the only precursor to snorkeling in the Bible.

Micah

Micah 1

Guess Who's Ticked!?

2 Hear, you peoples, all of you; listen, O earth, and all that is in it; and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. […] 2:1 Alas for those who devise wickedness and evil deeds on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in their power. 2 They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and take them away; they oppress householder and house, people and their inheritance. 3 Therefore thus says the LORD: Now, I am devising against this family an evil from which you cannot remove your necks; and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be an evil time. 4 On that day they shall take up a taunt song against you, and wail with bitter lamentation, and say, "We are utterly ruined; the LORD alters the inheritance of my people; how he removes it from me! Among our captors he parcels out our fields." 5 Therefore you will have no one to cast the line by lot in the assembly of the LORD. 6 "Do not preach"--thus they preach-- "one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us." 7 Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Is the Lord's patience exhausted? Are these his doings? Do not my words do good to one who walks uprightly? 8 But you rise up against my people as an enemy; you strip the robe from the peaceful, from those who pass by trustingly with no thought of war. 9 The women of my people you drive out from their pleasant houses; from their young children you take away my glory forever. 10 Arise and go; for this is no place to rest, because of uncleanness that destroys with a grievous destruction.

The Bad News Is ...

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Musings

Micah's oracles were intended mostly for Jerusalem (the Southern kingdom of Judah) probably before and just after the fall of Israel (the Northern kingdom) to the Assyrians. Micah often refers to Judah in broader terms as Israel (or Jacob) and is more concerned about the mosaic covenant with God than the davidic one. This passage is about as straight-forward as it gets - Micah is telling Jerusalem in no uncertain terms that it is socially corrupt and God is not happy about it. There's not much symbolism or cryptic speech, it's basically a wake-up call where Micah is trying to tell Jerusalem that they are not living right and they are not invincible ... what is happening to the North can (and probably will) happen to them. Remember, in a court of law, some witnesses are better than others.

Micah 5

Not Turning the Other Cheek

1 Now you are walled around with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek. 2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 and he shall be the one of peace. If the Assyrians come into our land and tread upon our soil, we will raise against them seven shepherds and eight installed as rulers.

Choosing Sides

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Musings

Now it goes from straight-forward warning to more symbolic hope speech. There's really nowhere to go but up after Assyrian wipes out Jerusalem, so Micah begins to look for hope in the future. Bethlehem's main claim to fame is that it was the city of David, so will salvation come from her again? The prediction never materialized in the short run, although the Persians let the Israelites rebuild Jerusalem, there was to be no kingdom. The symbolism is not lost on Christianity with the ties to Bethlehem, David, kingship and Jesus. Sheep have infinite faith in their shepherds (like dogs to their owners).

Micah 6

Let's Go Over It One More Time

1 Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. 3 "O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD." 6 "With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

As Simple As It Gets

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Musings

Back to the court case God versus the People of Israel, we find God asking what it is they don't seem to remember about their covenant with Moses. Shittim and Gilgal represent the crossing of the Jordan at the end of the Exodus (last camp before the promised land and first camp after entering), thus the fulfilment of the promise to God's people. So what can be done to regain this relationship again now? Clearly no sacrifice, no matter how great, is sufficient. The answer is found in the most famous quote from Micah "what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (A rhetorical question of course.)

Habakkuk

Habakkuk 1

Wait for It

1 The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw. 2 O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save? 3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. [...] 2:1 I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. 2 Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. 3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. 4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

Habakkuk's Very Bad Day

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Musings

Chapter 1 poses the question (whiney though it is) to which Chapter 2 provides the answer (the righteous live by their faith). For some reason verse 2:4 was singled out by the Apostle Paul as support for his doctrine of justification by faith, and highly regarded by some Jewish scholars as embodying the entire law (all 613). Personally I just don't see it as all that compelling, but I wasn't consulted.

Zephaniah

Zephaniah 1

"Led Zeppelin" Zephaniah

7 Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is at hand; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests. [...] 12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, "The LORD will not do good, nor will he do harm." 13 Their wealth shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them. 14 The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there. 15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. 17 I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the LORD, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord's wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Battle of Evermore

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Musings

Another "day of the LORD" that sounds like a good day to miss, echoing the concerns of many of the prophets and directed at Judah (in this case). Basically the day of judgment will not be pleasant; the transgressions are many and wealth is not going to be any help in avoiding it. Zephaniah is often pictured as the one carrying the lamp, but it is clearly God who is searching Jerusalem shining the light and exposing both the righteous and the sinner in the process. I couldn't help but see the imagery from Led Zeppelin's rock classic "Stairway to Heaven" in this verse.

Zephaniah 3:1-9

Uh Oh - Soiled! or Avoiding a Really Bad Car Pun

1 Ah, soiled, defiled, oppressing city! 2 It has listened to no voice; it has accepted no correction. It has not trusted in the LORD; it has not drawn near to its God. 3 The officials within it are roaring lions; its judges are evening wolves that leave nothing until the morning. 4 Its prophets are reckless, faithless persons; its priests have profaned what is sacred, they have done violence to the law. 5 The LORD within it is righteous; he does no wrong. Every morning he renders his judgment, each dawn without fail; but the unjust knows no shame. 6 I have cut off nations; their battlements are in ruins; I have laid waste their streets so that no one walks in them; their cities have been made desolate, without people, without inhabitants. 7 I said, "Surely the city will fear me, it will accept correction; it will not lose sight of all that I have brought upon it." But they were the more eager to make all their deeds corrupt. 8 Therefore wait for me, says the LORD, for the day when I arise as a witness. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all the heat of my anger; for in the fire of my passion all the earth shall be consumed. 9 At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord.

A Bad Day at the Office

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Musings

Zephaniah is bringing a familiar warning of doom to Jerusalem, who despite their righteous God, choose evil over good from corrupt government to making a mockery of the law. However, God is not just going to judge Israel but all of the nations. The LORD (YHWH) is shown as worthy and in control of all things that are happening, yet the people reject it (which is much worse than not seeing it). God could continue with the destruction and wipe them all out, but instead decides to be compassionate and purify their speech and have them all serve with one accord.

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Silver Lining

14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! 15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. 16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17 The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing 18 as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. 19 I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20 At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.

Needlepoint Prophecy

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Musings

And they lived happily ever after! Chapter 3 continues (and ends the short book of Zephaniah) with a very strong note of hope for Jerusalem. The LORD will reverse the current situation and place Israel on the map again in a position of prominence. "I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth" would clearly be a message of hope for the future. As is often the case, the outcast, the lame, etc., are to be lifted up with the fortunes of the state - the tie to assist those less fortunate within their own society seems ever-present in Hebrew writings! I do not think the rumors of Zephaniah's lucrative needlepoint business have any truth to them (nor was he a member of a rock and roll band) - but hey, the rumors had to start somewhere.

Haggai

Haggai 2

Shake it Baby!

1 In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai, saying: 2 Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, 3 Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? 4 Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the LORD; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work, for I am with you, says the LORD of hosts, 5 according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. 6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; 7 and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts. 9 The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the LORD of hosts.

Name that Tune

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Musings

In Chapter 1 Haggai calls on the people to get to work rebuilding the temple ... and they do it! Haggai's book only spans a few months but was apparently a great encouragement to the people. No less here in Chapter 2, Haggai envisions the future glory of the Temple as it is restored and God returns to it. Definitely good news in what was still hard times for the Israelites. Kudos to one of the early motivational speakers of recorded history!

Zechariah

Zechariah 7

Ask a Stupid Question ...

1 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. 2 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men, to entreat the favor of the LORD, 3 and to ask the priests of the house of the LORD of hosts and the prophets, "Should I mourn and practice abstinence in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?" 4 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me: 5 Say to all the people of the land and the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? 6 And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink only for yourselves? 7 Were not these the words that the LORD proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, along with the towns around it, and when the Negeb and the Shephelah were inhabited? 8 The word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying: 9 Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; 10 do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.

Dude, It's Not that Hard!

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Musings

Zechariah and Haggai are contemporaries with a very similar vision of the future restoration of Israel and their writings may have circulated together. Here a group from Bethel arrives in Jerusalem on December 7, 518 B.C.E. and asks about fasting. Zechariah perhaps questions the motive of their visit warning against hypocritical fasting and redirecting the answer toward social kindness and compassion. His answer is pretty much another way of saying the golden rule! Still just as hard to follow today as it was then, and still just as relevant.

Malachi

Malachi 3

Silver and Gold!

1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

Better Late Than Never

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Musings

Malachi 3:1-4 comes at the end of a long argument between God and the people about God's justice. In the context with this and the post-exilic period in general, Malachi's message is about a messenger who will purify the temple priests and restore worship to it's rightful role. The refining process for metals is used elsewhere in the Old Testament (e.g. Jeremiah 9:7 and Zechariah 13:9) as an analogy for purification. The Christian tradition has also interpreted it messianically with the messenger either being John the Baptist (Mark 1:2 combines this text with Isaiah 40:3 to introduce John the Baptist) or Jesus, hence its use as an Advent reading. In the process prophesying, Malachi comes very close to discovering the formula for a line of best selling self-help books.

Malachi 4

Burn Baby, Burn!

1 See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. 4 Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.

A Prophet's Job is Never Done

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Musings

Malachi weighs in on the day of judgment (or the coming day) with a similar idea of a separation of the good from the bad and the destruction of the bad. He recounts the value of the ten commandments given at Mount Sinai (Horeb) and sees Elijah as the forerunner of that day. Moses and Elijah both experienced the presence of God on Sinai and this idea sort of ties it all together. The New Testament alludes to this as well in Matthew and Mark linking John the Baptist with Elijah and as being the forerunner to the Messiah (aka Jesus). Even though it's not written here, it is upon good authority (okay, silly conjecture) that there were cakes involved (refer back to Elijah).

Baruch

Baruch 5

You're Not Wearing That - Are You!?

1 Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God. 2 Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; 3 for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven. 4 For God will give you evermore the name, "Righteous Peace, Godly Glory." 5 Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east, at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them. 6 For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne. 7 For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. 8 The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God's command. 9 For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

The Fashion Police

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Musings

Baruch was the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah and his writings would be from that same time frame (597 BCE). If you can't find it in your Bible, do not fret. It is an apocryphal book of the Bible (not part of main or original canon of the Bible) and is an optional lectionary reading for that reason. Baruch brings a message of encouragement to the Israelites in exile in Babylon looking forward to the days when they can return to Jerusalem and God will restore them once again. It echoes many of the other prophecies particularly those in Isaiah (40, 43 and 60). Prophets often signal warning in times of prosperity and hope in times of desperation, and this is no exception.


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