M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, January 27

Today’s readings are from Genesis 28, Matthew 27, Esther 4 and Acts 27.

Isaac sends Jacob away to Paddan-Aram (Haran), to find a wife.  He didn’t want Jacob to “take a wife from the Canaanite women” (Genesis 28:1).  He sends him away with a repetition of the covenant God made with Abraham (28:3).

jacob's journey to haran and back, headwater's christian resources

Esau (28:6-9) observes Isaac telling Jacob not to take a wife from among the Canaanites, so he marries again (cf. 26:34-35).  He marries one of one of Abraham’s descendants (a granddaughter, who was Ishmael’s daughter “Mahalath”).  “Mahalath” (“Dance,” v. 9) is evidently another name for, and the same woman as, “Basemath,” Ishmael’s daughter (36:2).

Meanwhile, Jacob went to Laban’s house in Haran.  Traveling up the Way of the Patriarchs he slept for the night and he had a dream of a ladder, with angels ascending and descending on it (vv. 11-12) and there God covenanted with Jacob…

13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.  The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Impressed by the dream and God’s presence (vv. 16-17), he took his stone pillow, make a pillar (v. 18) upon which he poured oil in worship and named the place Bethel.  This place already had a history of significance for the family of Abraham.

  • Near Bethel, Abraham built one of the first altars mentioned in the Bible, and there he “invoked the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 12:8)
  • After Abraham had fled to Egypt to escape a famine in the Holy Land, he returned to the same place near Bethel, and once again invoked the name of the Lord. (Genesis 13:1-4)
  • Laterm, after Jacob’s return to the Holy Land, Bethel was the second place where he and his family settled. There he set up an altar to God, and God spoke to him. (Genesis 35:1-15)

In response to God’s promises to Jacob, Jacob says…

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house.  And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”

Jacob is trying to bargain with God.  He’s still trying to do it his own way, not yet living by faith.  Jacob’s life is in chaos, not unlike ours when the Spirit calls us.

Matthew 27 recounts the crucifixion of Jesus.  Jesus is led away to Pilate (27:1-2).

david's citadel--where pilate would have met with jesus

David’s citadel, where Pilate might have met with Jesus, or possibly…

location of antonio fortress in relation to temple mount

close up of antonio fortress

Judas regrets his decision to betray Jesus (27:3-4) and throws the money away.  Judas’ remorse was incomplete.  It was like what Paul expresses in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11…

9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment!  At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

the hinnom valley, where judas hanged himself

The Valley of Hinnom, where Judas hanged himself

After Jesus’ initial answer to Pilate’s first question, Jesus remained silent.  Pilate asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.”  After that, Jesus was silent.  That is contrasted later in the passage with the shouts of the crowd.

Only Luke reported that now Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas for questioning (Luke 23:6-12).  Herod then returned Jesus to Pilate.  Pilate then tried to substitute another prisoner for Jesus, Barabbas (vv. 15-21.  The religious leaders would not hear of it.  Then Pilate’s wife warned him to have nothing to do with Jesus because of a dream she had (v. 19).

The crowds shouted “Crucify him!” (vv. 22-23), so Pilate symbolically washed his hands of the whole matter (vv. 24-25).  Pilate tried to claim innocence (v. 26) and the Jewish people gladly accepted their guilt (v. 27).  Neither of them knew what they were talking about.

Jesus was first scourged (v. 28) and sent to be crucified.

roman scourge, bible historyscourging, scott woodward

The whip (flagrum or flagellum) consisted of several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals.

As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh.  Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock.  The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross.

During the 12 hours between 9 PM Thursday and 9 AM Friday, he had suffered great emotional stress (as evidenced by hematidrosis), abandonment by his closest friends (the disciples), and a physical beating (after the first Jewish trial).  Also, in the setting of a traumatic and sleepless night, had been forced to walk more than 2.5 miles (4.0 km) to and from the sites of the various trials.  These physical and emotional factors may have rendered Jesus particularly vulnerable to the adverse hemodynamic effects of the scourging.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him.  28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.

crown of thorns

Thomas Constable explains:

The Sanhedrin and or its servants had abused Jesus as a false Messiah (26:67-68). Now Pilate’s soldiers abused Him as a false king.  Ironically, Jesus was everything He was mocked for being: Messiah and King of Israel.  The “scarlet robe” (Gr. chlamys) they put on Jesus (v. 28) was probably the reddish purple cloak that Roman military and civil officials wore.  Perhaps the thorny spikes that the soldiers wove into a circle (“crown of thorns”) resembled the one on Tiberius Caesar’s head, on Roman coins, that consisted of palm branches.

The imperfect tense of the Greek verb translated “beat” means they beat Jesus on the head repeatedly (cf. Isa. 52:14).

Of course, this robe, which was later torn off, would have been stuck to Jesus’ body by the drying blood.  This would have been worse than body waxing!

31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. 32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.

Jesus was able to carry the crossbeam of His cross until He passed through the city gate (cf. Mark 15:21; John 19:17).  Normally crucifixions took place outside the city wall (cf. Lev. 24:14; Num. 15:35-36; 1 Kings 21:13; Acts 7:58), which symbolized additional rejection (cf. Heb. 13:13).

Evidently some women offered Jesus some wine to drink, to which they had added myrrh to decrease His pain (Mark 15:23).  Jesus refused it after tasting it, because He chose to endure the cross fully conscious.

It would be appropriate to read Isaiah 53 here.

The Romans normally tied or nailed the victim to the crossbeam of his cross.  In Jesus’ case they did the latter.

nail driven in hand

They would then hoist the crossbeam and the prisoner up onto the upright member of the cross. Next they would fasten the crucified person’s feet to the upright, by tying with a rope, or nailing them with a large spike.

nailing in foot

The Romans constructed crosses in various shapes: an X, a T, or, as in Jesus’ case, the traditional T with the upright extending above the crossbeam (v. 37). Sometimes the victim was only a few inches off the ground, but Jesus appears to have been a few feet higher (v. 48; John 19:29).

cross

35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.

Normally victims would be crucified naked, except for a loincloth.  The four executioners took the criminal’s clothes for themselves.  These would have been his shoes, his turban, his girdle, his inner garment, and his outer cloak or robe.  In Jesus’ case, they cast “lots” for His robe (“garments”), fulfilling Psalm 22:18 (cf. John 19:23-24).  This happened in the late morning on Friday (Mark 15:25; John 19:14).

The Romans reserved crucifixion for the worst criminals from the lowest classes of society.  Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion unless Caesar himself ordered it.  For the Jews, crucifixion was even more horrible because it symbolized a person dying under God’s curse (Deut. 21:23).  Israel’s leaders hung up those who had died under God’s curse for others to see and learn from. Jesus bore God’s curse for the sins of humankind, so that people would not have to experience that curse (Galatians 3:13).

Jesus was mocked by the soldiers (vv. 37-38), by passersby (vv. 39-40), the religious leaders (vv. 41-43) and then the thiefs (v. 44), one of whom later stopped mocking and asked to be remembered.  Matthew did not record that anyone spoke in Jesus’ defense.

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

From noon to 3 p.m. an abnormal darkness covered the land.  No matter how it happened, it symbolized judgment–first on Jesus as the sin-bearer, but also upon the Jews.  At this time Jesus “cried out” the words of Psalm 22:1, because He felt like His Father was abandoning Him when He “(became) sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21) and bore God’s full wrath against sin.

Separation from the Father must have been the worst part of the Cross for Jesus who had never before experienced anything but intimate fellowship with His Father.

Since Jesus was God, I do not believe that He experienced actual separation from God the Father.  However, when the Father poured out His wrath on His Son—who took upon Himself the sins of the world—and for that moment and for that reason the relationship between the Father and the Son became different.  Jesus became the focal point of God’s judgment on mankind’s sin (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; 2 Cor. 5:21).  It was terrible and terrifying for Jesus.

The crowd thought Jesus was calling out to Elijah (vv. 47-49) and Jesus “cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (v. 50).

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.

The curtain spoken of here is the curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the other portion of the Temple known as the Holy Place.  It was 40 cubits (60 feet) long, and 20 (30 feet) wide, of the thickness of the palm of the hand (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 2:611; idem, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, p. 197).

The tearing happened at 3:00 p.m., the time of the evening incense offering.  A priest would normally have been standing in the holy place offering incense when it tore (cf. Luke 1:8-10).  Some early non-biblical Jewish sources also report unusual phenomena in the temple 40 years before its destruction in A.D. 70, one of which is the temple curtain tearing. (Robert L. Plummer, “Something Awry in the Temple?  The Rending of the Temple Veil and Early Jewish Sources that Report Unusual Phenomena in the Temple around AD 30,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48:2 (June 2005):301-16)

“The fact that this occurred from top to bottom signified that God is the One who ripped the thick curtain. It was not torn from the bottom by men ripping it” (Barbieri, Forty Days with the Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, p. 90.)

This was a supernatural act that symbolized the opening of access to God and the termination of the Mosaic system of worship.  This event marked the end of the old Mosaic Covenant and the beginning to the New Covenant (cf. 26:26-29).  Jesus Himself now replaced the temple (cf. 26:61).  He also became the Great High Priest of His people.  The rent veil also prefigured the physical destruction of the temple, a necessary corollary to its spiritual uselessness from then on.

Then we have these two strange verses:

52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

The resurrection of these “saints” (OT believers?) happened “after his resurrection” but are likely mentioned here to show the incredible power of the crucifixion and its connection to the resurrection.  Who they were is unclear.  Were they raised “like Lazarus” to die again?

There was a confession by the centurion who, with awe, said that “Truly this was the Son of God.” (v. 54).  Joseph was given permission to take and bury the body of Jesus (vv. 57-61).  A guard was set upon the tomb “lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,'” (v. 64).

Low in the grave He lay—
  Jesus my Savior!
Waiting the coming day—
  Jesus my Lord!

Esther 4

When Mordecai heard about the decree he reacted strongly, possibly because he felt responsible for it!

Notice that Mordecai put on sackcloth, wept aloud and fasted (v. 1).  There is no mention of prayer, but that does not definitely mean that he did not pray.  Jews around the provinces did the same (v. 2)

Esther finds out about Mordecai’s mourning, and becomes distressed herself (4:4).

Mordecai told Hathach what had happened with Haman and gave him a text of the annihilation decree, which Hathach reported to Esther (4:5-9).

Esther then sent work back to Mordecai that she would seek a time and way to approach the king (4:10-11).

Mordecai encouraged her not to shirk her responsibility to be involved in delivering her people (4:12-14). Here he utters those challenging words: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” (4:14)

We too get a choice to rise up to the situation in faith or slink back in fear and remain silent.  Will we obey the voice of God and speak and act for His glory or remain mute and motionless hoping that no one will notice?  If God is calling you to something and you remain silent, God will find another way… but you will miss out on how God wanted to use you for His purpose and lose the reward that would have been yours.

She responds to Mordecai’s challenge by asking for fasting (and we assume prayer) and then swallows her fears and says, “If I perish, I perish.” (4:15-17).

Finally Esther begins to see the depth of the problem and the need to follow Mordecai’s instructions no matter what the cost.  And it could potentially cost.  We shouldn’t underestimate the step that Esther took here and so it isn’t surprising that all the Jews in Susa are asked to fast for three days concerning Esther’s next move.  At the end of that time, Esther will do something that was not lawful to do (even for the Queen!) – she will go before the king unannounced.  If all goes well, he will extend the golden sceptre to her and she will find favour in his sight.  If the king is in the wrong mood, she will die.  It is a huge step of faith but one she is resolved to do!  ‘If I perish, I perish’ are the words on her lips as she takes each step of the journey.

John Gill comments on Esther’s abandonment to God’s will saying: “and if I perish, I perish; signifying, that she readily and cheerfully risked her life for the good of her people; and if such was the pleasure of God, that she should lose it, she was content, and acquiesced in his will, leaving herself entirely in his hands, to dispose of her as he thought fit.”

Again, the lack of references to God, or even prayer, indicate that God works behind the scenes to fulfill His promises even when people are far from Him and disobedient.

Acts 27 recounts Paul’s voyage to Rome, a true adventure.  Luke gives us an amazing amount of detail in this chapter, exhibiting it’s historical accuracy.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century a group of Scottish unbelievers decided to expose errors in the Bible.  They designated one of their number to visit all the places Luke mentioned that Paul visited with a view to proving the record in Acts inaccurate.  The man chosen was Sir William Ramsay who, after thorough study of the matter, concluded that Luke was accurate in every detail. [Note: Ironside, Lectures on . . ., pp 618-19.] Ramsay became a Christian and wrote several books on Acts and Paul in defense of God”s Word.

The circumstances of Paul’s Voyage to Rome were far different than for his earlier travels.  Before, he was a free man; this time, he was a prisoner of the Romans (Acts 21:27-26:32).

The Journey to Rome began in early fall of about 60 AD and ended the following spring of about 61 AD after a shipwreck near Malta.  The entire voyage is recorded in Acts chapters 27 and 28.

paul's voyage to rome, ferrell jenkins blog

Paul sails from Caesarea to Crete in vv. 1-8.

Most likely Paul sailed from Caesarea.  His ship originated from the port of Adramyttium just south of Troas opposite the island of Lesbos.  It was a coastal vessel that docked at most ports along the northeastern Mediterranean shoreline.  Sidon (v. 3) stood about 70 miles north of Caesarea.  So far, so good.

Prevailing winds in the Mediterranean during spring and fall usually blow from west to east and often from the northwest.  Consequently this ship sailed north up the east side of the island of Cyprus (cf. Acts 21:3).  Proceeding north it came to the coast of Cilicia and turned west passing Pamphylia and landing at Myra in Lysia, the southernmost region in the province of Asia. This was a 14-day journey by ship that spanned about 500 miles. [Note: Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission, 2:1266.]

Image result for Myra ferrell Jenkins

Harbor of Andriake, Ferrell Jenkins

andriake map

6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind did not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone.

This was a grain ship (Acts 27:38) that had accommodations for at least 276 passengers (Acts 27:37).  There were no ships devoted exclusively to passenger travel at this time. (Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, p. 759.)

According to a contemporary description, these large ships were usually 180 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 44 feet deep from the deck to the hold. [Note: Lionel Casson, Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World, pp. 158-59.]

Still good sailing, so far.

apostle paul and the greek island of crete (cob-net.org)

They figured the lee (south) side of the island of Crete would give them protection from the strong northeasterly winds.  They were wrong.

 8 Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

Fair Havens

Fair Havens, Ferrell Jenkins

Evidently the captain waited for some time for the weather to improve in Fair Havens.  The “Fast” refers to the day of Atonement that fell in the fall each year, sometimes as late as early October.  People considered it dangerous to travel by sea between mid-September and mid-November, and the harbors closed for the winter from mid-November to mid-February.

Paul, a seasoned sea-traveler,  had already experienced shipwreck three times (2 Cor. 11:25).  He recommended staying through the winter at Fair Havens.

Verse 9-26 describe the storm at sea.

The centurion had the final word.  Grain ships of this kind were part of a fleet that was under the control of the Roman government even though private individuals owned the ships.  The pilot (captain) and the owner (rather than captain) carried more influence with the centurion than Paul did.  Fair Havens was suitable for wintering but not as desirable as Phoenix (modern Phineka, or possible Lutro).

“Euroquilo” means northeastern.  The wind changed from a mild southerly breeze to a violent northeasterly gale.  This wind drove Paul”s ship southwest away from Crete and the harbor at Phoenix.

15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.

The small island of Clauda (modern Gavdos or Gozzo) lay south of Crete about 23 miles.  There appears to have been no adequate harbor there. However this island did provide enough temporary shelter for the sailors to haul the trailing rowboat (dinghy) on board.  Another safety measure was to feed ropes over the bow and hold them up against the ship”s hull from each side.  Drawn up tight under the ship these ropes helped to reinforce the internal braces of the hull.

The “shallows of Syrtis” (v. 17) might refer to areas of quicksand off the northern coast of Africa, or possibly shallow seas choked by seaweed.

The Greek word translated “sea anchors” (or “gear,” v. 17) simply means equipment and can refer to any gear, perhaps some of the sails and rigging here (cf. Acts 27:40).  With no stars they couldn’t navigate.  They were truly “at the mercy of the winds.”

Evidently the ship was taking on so much water that the captain decided to jettison the wheat on board as well as other cargo and all but the most essential tackle (cf. Jonah 1:5).  He kept some wheat on board probably for ballast as well as for food (Acts 27:38).

” All hope of our being saved was at last abandoned” (v. 20).  Now, I can remember one person saying, years ago, is that the reason for this comes from the KJV of verse 15 “we let her drive.”

Paul presumably mentioned his former advice at Fair Havens not to gloat, but to encourage his fellow travelers to believe what he was about to tell them.  What he had predicted had taken place, and what he was about to predict would also.  An angelic visitor now confirmed God’s former assurance to Paul that he would reach Rome (Acts 23:11).  He told Paul that all on board would reach land safely by running aground.

The winds and currents had carried Paul”s ship in a northwesterly direction from the south-central Mediterranean (vv. 27-28).  The sailors may have smelled the land, which sailors can do, or they may have heard the waves breaking on shore.

Shipwreck (vv. 27-44).  As they neared land, the crew (probably the first to suspect landfall) attempted to abandon ship.  They were caught, however, and the ship’s boat was cut away.  These men would be the only hope for everyone else were they to land the ship.

All on board needed to eat to gain strength for the work of getting ashore that lay ahead.  Paul gave thanks to God publicly for the food (cf. 1 Tim. 4:4-5).  This would have helped all present to connect their deliverance with God.

They lightened their load (v. 38) and eventually landed on a sandy beach (the second-best possible place to dock a boat!).  Although English versions say “reef” (v. 41), the Greek word does not specify it as a coral reef, but more like a sand bar.  Everyone, all 276 of them, eventually made it to shore safely.

maltese islands, acts 27 blog

Thomas Constable notes:

A British yachtsman and scholar who was familiar with the parts of the Mediterranean Sea that Paul covered on this journey retraced Paul”s route in the first part of the nineteenth century. His book relates his experiences and findings.  It is fascinating reading and confirms the accuracy of Luke”s references in this chapter. [James Smith, The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul.]

This unusually dramatic and vivid chapter stresses God”s sovereign control over circumstances to bring His will to pass, specifically that Paul should minister in Rome.  It reminds us of Jesus” ability to control the winds and the waves of Galilee to accomplish His will and to communicate His identity.  He had sent His disciples into a storm (Luke 8:22-25)) just as He had sent Paul.

Jesus had predicted that He would build His church and that Hades” gates would not overwhelm it (Matthew 16:18).  This chapter shows to what lengths God will go to remain faithful to His promises.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, January 26

Today’s readings are Genesis 27, Matthew 26, Esther 3 and Acts 26.

In Genesis 27 Jacob tricks Isaac and Esau gets a lesser blessing.  Isaac apparently “lives to eat,” as expressed in v. 9, “delicious food for your father such as he loves” and v. 14 “his mother prepared delicious food such as his father loved.”  That is probably an inordinate (abnormal) love, such that made Isaac favor Esau.  It blinded him from seeing Esau’s own weakness for food back in Gen. 25:29-34.

So Isaac was not merely physically blind.  And this is what has always puzzled me–why could he not tell it was Jacob rather than Esau?  The answer is that Isaac was also spiritually blind to Esau’s faults.

Robert Gonzales also points out that Isaac’s own love for food and favoritism towards Esau, required that he confer the blessing “in secret,” instead of in front of the whole family (Genesis 49).  When we have an idol, we hide our behaviors.

Did Isaac know that Yahweh “love Jacob but hated Esau”?  Was he ignorant of what he should have known, or was he purposefully going against God?  Either way, he was in dangerous territory.

While this doesn’t excuse Jacob and Rebekah’s sin, it does show that God will get His way, even through the sins of people.  Maybe Isaac eventually bowed to this, for when Esau did come in, Isaac didn’t revoke Jacob’s blessing, but gave Esau another, lesser blessing.

As a result of all of this, Esau hated Jacob and would have killed him if Rebekah had not sent him away to Haran.

Photo of modern Haran by Leon Mauldin.

jacob's journey to haran and back, headwater's christian resources

I got this chart from Cheri Gregory on the internet…

genesis 27, meddling vs. helping chart, cheri gregory

Matthew 26 begins the passion of Christ.  Passover was coming (v. 2) and a plot was being hatched (vv. 3-4).

Bible Atlas

matthew 26 1-16, bethany

Bethany, 1800s

Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon (v. 5) and was anointed (vv. 6-13).  Most believe this is the same event as in John 12, so it was the Saturday before the crucifixion.

John recorded that Lazarus was there, his sister Martha helped with the serving, and their sister Mary was the woman who broke the vial and anointed Jesus’ head (and feet, John 12:2-3).  Perhaps Matthew did not mention them by name in order to keep Jesus central in his story. John further recorded that the pound of perfume cost 300 denarii, about one year’s wages for a working man (John 12:3, 5).  Matthew and Mark just said it was “very” expensive (“costly”).

That was a big issue for Judas who saw this as a waste (v. 8).  Apparently it was the tipping point for him, for he went to the chief priests to see what he could get as his “severance pay” (vv. 14-16).  He needed his “golden parachute” because he could see that this venture was going nowhere.  The “30 pieces of silver” they agreed to pay Judas was a paltry sum (in contrast to the “high price” at which Mary evaluated Jesus, v. 9), and fulfilled Zechariah 11:12.  The amount constituted a month’s wages, if the silver pieces were denarii, which seems likely.

upper room, carl rasmussen

Traditional Upper Room, photo by Carl Rasmussen

Jesus gave directions to prepare for Passover (vv. 17-19), then celebrated Passover with His disciples (vv. 20-29), after the betrayer left (vv. 21-25).  So Judas was not there went they celebrated “the Lord’s Supper.”

Thomas Constable notes:

As the first Passover looked forward to deliverance and settlement in the Promised Land, so the Lord’s Supper looked forward to deliverance and settlement in the promised kingdom.  Disciples are to observe the Lord’s Supper only until He returns (1 Cor. 11:26).  Then we will enjoy the messianic banquet together with our Savior and King (Isa. 25:6; cf. Matt. 8:11).  Probably Jesus spoke these words after drinking the third cup of the Passover ritual.

gethsemane, land of the bible

Garden of Gethsemane

Afterward they went out to the Mount of Olives (v. 30), where Jesus predicted Peter’s betrayal (vv. 31-35) and then asked them to watch and pray with Him (vv. 36-45).  Of course, they could not stay awake as Jesus faced his “dark night of the soul.”  Faced with alienation from the Father, He asked that the “cup be passed” from Him (v. 39).  But at every step, Jesus was willing to submit to the Father’s will.

what would jesus drink_ (matthew 26 39; john 18 11), nick batzig

agony in gethsemane__a tale of three gardens, jeffrey c. waddington

five reasons the father silently said ‘no’ to the son in gethsemane, thabiti anyabwile

the agony of gethsemane__the most amazing and terrifying scene in the bible, nathan cherry

Then, the soldiers, with Judas, came to arrest Jesus (vv. 40-56) and brought him to Caiaphas, the officiating high priest (v. 57).

model of caiaphas' house

This is a model of Caiaphas’s house

This is the first of six trials of Jesus.  There are so many abrogations of the law in these trials.

Image result for 6 trials of Jesus

Image result for 6 trials of Jesus

These are just the four trials that occur in the Gospel of Mark, but they highlight some of the illegalities.

Matthew stressed Jesus’ righteousness for his readers by highlighting the injustice of His trials.

58 And Peter was following him at a distance (and that was the problem).

The lawyers had to interview several people (“false witnesses”) before they finally found “two” of them that would agree on a charge against Jesus.  This was another way that Matthew stressed Jesus’ innocence. Interpreting with wooden literalism, one might take Jesus’ words as a threat to desecrate the temple, but Jesus had spoken metaphorically (John 2:19-21).  He had meant that He was the true temple, the place where people met God and where God met them.  Most ancient Near Eastern people regarded the desecration of a temple as a capital offense, and the Jews shared this viewpoint (cf. Jer. 26:1-19).  Jesus had not, as far as the Gospel records go, said that He would or could destroy the temple.  He had said, “[You] destroy the temple . . . Nor had He said that He would rebuild the Jerusalem temple. (Thomas Constable)

When asked directly, Jesus agreed that He was ” the Christ, the Son of God” (v.63) and added “from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (v. 64).  They treated this as blasphemy (v. 65) and sentence Him to death (v. 65), then they spit on Him and slapped him (v. 66), then mocked him (v. 67).

The chapter ends with Peter’s three denials.

if it could happen to peter… (matthew 26), nicholas batzig

According to John 18:17 it appears that Peter’s denials took place at the house of Annas, the former High Priest.  However, according to Matthew 26:69 Peter’s denials took place at the home of Caiaphas, the current High Priest and son-in-law of Annas.  Obviously, these are two different homes with two different men presiding.

The solution, however, is not difficult to see.  In John 18:5 Peter makes his first denial of the night at the house of Annas during Jesus’ first Jewish hearing.  Then he follows the crowd with Jesus over to the house of Caiaphas where Peter makes his further denials during the second Jewish hearing (Matt 26:69–75; Mark 14:66–72; Luke 22:55–65; John 18:25–27).  So where did Peter deny Jesus?  First, right outside the doorway of Annas’ house and then sitting in the courtyard of Caiaphas’ house while warming himself by a fire.

Reconstruction of a 1st century AD house in Jerusalem, in the wealthy quarter of the city

Model of a house excavated from the ruins of 1st century Jerusalem. It may have belonged to Annas.
If so, Jesus was questioned in one of the small side-rooms or in a corner of the courtyard.

Jesus-story.net

In Esther 3:1 Haman gets promoted.  He is an Agagite, a long line of Jew haters.

King Saul, a Benjamite, failed to destroy King Agag, an Amalekite (1 Samuel 15); but Mordecai, also a Benjamite (2:5), destroyed Haman, an Amalekite.

Haman was proud, egotistical and spiteful.  He had all the God-hated characteristics of Proverbs 6:16-19.

Mordecai angers Haman by refusing to bow down to him (3:2), which infuriated Haman and causes him to overreach in seeking to eliminate the Jews altogether.  (It is possible that he could have successfully executed Mordecai, but he wants to do more!)

His pride wounded, Haman made a proposal to exterminate the Jews.  (Neither the king nor Haman knew that Esther was a Jew.)

He cast lots to determine the day most favorable for wiping out the Jews.  This was like reading his horoscope.  However, God controls the cast of the die (Prov. 16:33).  A day is set far enough in advance to allow the Jews to prepare to defend themselves.

Haman makes a request to the king to exterminate a people group (doesn’t mention the Jews by name) and contribute 10,000 talents of silver to the king’s treasury (possibly attained by looting the massacred people).  Vv. 8-9

In 3:10-15 the king gives permission and signs it with his seal, making it inviolable.

Swindoll drew three lessons from this section of the book:

“First, from Mordecai we learn: Never forget there will always be someone who will resent your devotion to the Lord. Second, from Haman we learn: Never underestimate the diabolical nature of revenge. . . . Third, from Ahasuerus: Never overestimate the value of your own importance.

In Acts 26 Paul makes his defense before Agrippa.  Paul explains his own background as a Pharisee (26:4-5).  The real issue of contention, Paul says, is the resurrection of the dead (26:6-8).  Then he goes through his testimony of opposition to Jesus at first (26:9-12), his conversion and calling on the road to Damascus (26:13-17).  I love v. 18

18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me’ [Jesus].

Paul was obeidient to his calling (vv. 19-20), but the Jews opposed him (v. 21).  But Paul will use every opportunity he can to proclaim the gospel (vv. 22-23).

Festus believed Paul was out of his mind (v. 24), but Paul assured him he was thinking rationally (v. 25).  Then he addressed King Agrippa, “do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe” (v. 27, cf. v. 3).  Agrippa felt some conviction (v. 28) to which Paul hope that ALL would “become such as I am–except for these chains” (v. 29).

A conference among the three of them determined that Paul had done nothing wrong, and could have been set free had he not appealed to Rome (vv. 30-32).  Thomas Constable says…

Luke implied that everyone present concurred that Paul was completely innocent.  This had previously been the verdict of the Pharisees (23:9), Claudius Lysias (23:29), and Festus (25:25).  Now Agrippa, a Roman ruler with Jewish blood in his veins who was sympathetic to the Jews, voiced the same opinion (v. 32).  In Agrippa’s opinion, Paul did not even need to be in prison, much less die for what he had done.

Now Paul is headed for Rome!  What a ride he will have!

Quotes to Ponder

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions.  Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke?  Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?   The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.  It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.  Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. F or the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return. ” (Annie Dillard)

“It is not enough to hear a sermon, but you must eat it down, take in what it commands, and then it will purge your heart…Take the word and digest it, squeeze the juice of it into thy heart, and it will purge thee from all contrary corruption.” pg. 73- ‘Mans Guiltiness Before God” (Thomas Goodwin)

This is one of the passages I quote (not all of it) at funerals on John 14…

It is as if he had said, The truth is, I cannot live without you, I shall never be quiet till I have you where I am, that so we may never part again; that is the reason of it. Heaven shall not hold me, nor my Father’s company, if I have not you with me, my heart is so set upon you; and if I have any glory, you shall have part of it… Poor sinners, who are full of the thoughts of their own sins, know not how they shall be able at the latter day to look Christ in the face when they shall first meet with him. But they may relieve their spirits against their care and fear, by Christ’s carriage now towards his disciples, who had so sinned against him. Be not afraid, ‘your sins will he remember no more.’ … And doth he talk thus lovingly of us? Whose heart would not this overcome? (Thomas Goodwin, Works, 4.100, 105)

And John Piper’s

God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied with Him.

God’s Charge against Israel’s Infidelity, part 1 (Hosea 2:2-3)

God’s Charge against Israel’s Infidelity, part 1 (Hosea 2:2-5)

We are in chapter 2 this morning, where we have a second series of judgment and redemption, just like we saw in Hosea 1:3-2:1.

This relationship was established at Mt. Sinai with the giving of the Law of the Old Covenant. In a passage describing the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:32, the LORD refers to this marriage covenant (which Israel had broken). The New Covenant, He declares, will not be:

according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.

In this chapter Yahweh charges Israel with infidelity.  They have broken the covenant by worshiping other gods, in particular the Baals.  Therefore God is going to take some severe measures with them, but all for the purpose of reconciliation.  God will keep His promises to Abraham, no matter how fickle and faithless Israel might be.

Keep in mind, that throughout the book, Israel is being distinguished from Judah.  The southern kingdom still had about 150 years before they would be judged for their sins.  But for Israel, time had run out.

Having just excited Israel with the glory days that will come “in that day” of the future, Hosea now confronts them with their present reality, and the dark clouds of coming judgment.

As Derek Kidner says…

“The delightful ending of chapter 1 was totally unexpected, the surprise of it highlighting the sheer grace of God which it reveals.  Now in chapter 2 we move to the same climax, with an ending that is richly happy; but we see the divine Lover taking his time and using every art to win a response that will make the reconciliation genuine” (Hosea, p. 26).

Hosea 2:2-5 says…

2 “Plead with your mother, plead– for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband– that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; 3 lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst. 4 Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. 5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

We will call these verses “God’s charge against Israel’s infidelity.”

Ronald Vandermey notes that these four verses, Hosea 2:2-5, correspond in theme with Hosea 4-7, which deal with indictments against Israel for their sins.

The setting is like an informal courtroom.  The word “plead” (repeated twice for emphasis) in verse 2 can have the idea of accusing or charging someone with a crime.  But this doesn’t seem to be a formal, legal setting, but a personal one, like a family in crisis marriage counseling.  The NIV translates this word “rebuke,” which is a stronger concept.  Another possibility is “find fault with” or “denounce.”

A wrong has been done and a penalty incurred, but this is not a formal judicial setting.  According to the law, an adulterous woman could be put to death.  But Yahweh doesn’t do that, neither does Hosea.  Instead the broken covenant could be mended because Yahweh’s love is stronger than his wrath.  It is this theological reality which transforms the message of doom in 2:4-15 into the message of salvation in 2:16-25.

Notice that the children are being asked to take up the “case” with their mother.  This could be because God Himself did not deal directly with Israel, but through His prophets.  Or, it could signal that the parents are separated.  Hosea 2:7 along with 2:15 indicates that the wife (Gomer/Israel) had left the husband.  And, in purely human terms, the violent language used in v. 5 indicates a state of mind in which a personal meeting between husband and wife would be unendurable.

Also, it reminds us that although the nation will be judged for their idolatry, a righteous remnant may escape judgment.  Seven hundred years later, the apostle Paul will offer the same promise as he “contended” with the Israelites of his day (Romans 11:1-5).

The motivation to contend with their mother is that she is unlikely to give up her adulteries.

“She is not my wife, and I am not her husband” does not mean that God and Israel were formally divorced, but that they had not acted like, or enjoyed the privileges of the husband-wife relationship for some time.  For Hosea and Gomer that could be a few months or years, for God it had been decades.  Covenant breaking on the part of Israel involves severe punishment, but that punishment maintains the covenant, it doesn’t negate it.

Duane Garrett explains the dynamics here:

The Israelites believed that they were God’s people solely because they were Israelites.  God was in covenant with this nation, and their identity as Israelites assured them of their special place before God.  Now God declares that the bond between himself and their “mother” is void.  Israelites can become God’s people only by renouncing Israel!  The identity in which they had trusted had become the greatest impediment between them and God.  This is as great a blow to their religious underpinnings as is John the Baptist’s claim that God could raise up children of Abraham from the stones (Matt. 3:9). (Garrett, Hosea-Joel, p. 76).

It is similar to what the author of Hebrews is saying to us new covenant believers in Hebrews 12, where he uses the image of the father and son, but the principle is the same:

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

So the discipline which Yahweh brings upon Israel (vv. 6-15) is designed to be corrective and establishes His claim upon Israel.  He takes no initiative to dissolve the relationship.

It may seem like the relationship was severed to the wife, but it was not in the husband’s perspective.  Likewise, we might feel at times like we have sinned our salvation away.  But that is not our Father’s perspective, or our Bridegroom’s perspective.  Instead, they hold tightly to us.

I like what Francis Anderson and David Noel Freedman say:

“It is not possible to fit the clean break of a divorce in with the other things that are happening in this discourse.  The expectation of a new courtship, engagement, and marriage outlined in 2:16-22 certainly suggests that Hosea (Yahweh) will begin all over again.  But neither the mending of a broken relationship within marriage nor remarriage after divorce could ever be spoken of in such terms.  Hosea 2:16-22 requires miraculous transformation into a first marriage ‘ as in the time of her youth’ (v. 17).” (Hosea, p. 222).

Throughout this passage, and in the rest of Hosea, we see the very “human” ambivalence of Yahweh expressed in his feelings towards Israel.  On the one hand, anger and revulsion move against her depravity with the severest penalties; on the other hand, there is compassion and undiminished desire to have and to love.

So what we have here is more a separation, with conditions placed on the woman.  It was not a lawsuit in which divorce was sought, but reconciliation through punishment.

The reason the children are asked to plead with their mother is that she has “gone whoring” and committed “adultery.”  That was literally in the case of Gomer—she had sought out paramours and been sexually involved.  Israel had sought out other gods, worshiping and sacrificing to them.

Israel committed harlotries and adulteries (vv. 2, 5 and 13).  She did this by pursuing Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility.  The religion of Baal was both superstitious and sexual.  Worshipers believed that Baal was the one who caused their lands and wives to be fertile.  Therefore in an attempt to appease this god and cause him to bless their land, they engaged in immoral acts.  The Israelites had somehow bought into this religion and forsaken the true God, Yahweh. Thomas McComiskey comments on how this could have begun among the Israelites:

It began, perhaps, with something innocuous as the placing of an image of Baal in a farmer’s field.  This is what their Canaanite neighbors did to increase production.  It is what people did in this land, and it appeared to work.  Gradually the invisible Yahweh lost ground to the baals whom the people could see and handle, whose religion was concerned with the necessities of life more than rigid moral demands.  It was the baals, many Israelites came to believe, who fostered their crops and blessed them with children (The Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, vol. 1, p. 34).

At its core it was pragmatism, pure and simple. The Israelites pursued what they thought would produce results.  Therefore they combined elements of pagan ritual together with divine ordained elements of worship of the true God.

This is not unlike the modern church growth movement, whose question is not whether it is biblical or pleases God, but “Does it work?”  Like Baalism, we can fall for a religion of pragmatism, doing “what works,” what seems to give us what we need.

“The children are not brought into the picture to arouse their mother’s better feelings; there is no appeal to motherly instincts.  They symbolize the fact that relationships have broken down, but they are not merely agents to deliver the message.  They are involved.” (Anderson and Freedman, Hosea, p. 219)

What she has done in criminal and worthy of death, which was required by the Mosaic law.  That she is not put to death is an act of mercy and compassion on the part of Hosea (and Yahweh).

The marriage bond, never relinquished by Hosea (the covenant bond never relaxed by Yahweh) provides the basis for the next step toward rebuilding the marriage.  It is in fact, the invitation, the command, to repent.

The words “whoring” and “adultery” in v. 3 are plural, which could indicate the intensity and frequency of her actions, but more likely refer to the multiple accoutrements she wore in her pursuit of lovers.

The “whoring from her face” and “adultery between her breasts” likely referred to a veil,  jewelry and possibly perfume that was used in sexual trysts.

Some biblical clues as to the specific form of ornamentation or markings may be found in Jeremiah 4:30, which apparently pictures a prostitute’s lurid use of dress, jewelry and facial cosmetics; in the Song of Solomon 1:13, where the woman compares her lover’s embrace to a “bag of myrrh, that lies between my breasts”; and in Genesis 38:15, where Judah judged Tamar to be a harlot, “for she had covered her face.”

The removal of these items—badges of her adultery—could be a dramatic and vivid way to abandon her conduct.  These items, which would signal her availability, once removed would signal her rejection of such a status.

So she is called to make a clean break with her life of adultery.  But like so many of us, she is more likely to say “sorry” than to actually abandon her sins.

Instead of being put to death (stoned, according to the Mosaic Law, Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22), Gomer/Israel would be stripped to exhibit her shame.  Gomer had exposed herself to her lovers (v. 2), and now her husband would expose her for all to see.

Ezekiel 16:37 says…

37 therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated.  I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness.

Ezekiel expresses similar words to Judah in Ezekiel 16:1-5.  The parallel references to shameful nakedness in vv. 11b and 12a indicate that this is more than just indecent exposure.  Verse 3 goes on to say…

3 lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst.

These verses indicate that what Yahweh intends to do with Israel is bring her former lovers (Assyria, Egypt, Babylon for Judah) and make Israel weak, helpless and ashamed in a day when they needed to show strength.

The day of the nation’s birth was the day of coming out of Egypt (Hosea 2:17).  In Ezekiel 16, the story begins on the natal day of the girl whom Yahweh found helpless in the desert and made his wife.  The idea presented here by the clause “as in the day she was born” connotes not only nakedness but also helplessness.

John Calvin says..

“He says that the Israelites were then born, when God delivered them from the tyranny of Egypt.  This then was the nativity of the people. And yet it was a miserable sight, when they fled away with fear and trembling, when they were exposed to their enemies: and after they entered the wilderness, being without bread and water, their condition was very wretched.” (Hosea)

Again, Calvin says…

“With regard to what the Prophet had in view, it was necessary to remind the Israelites here of what they were at their beginning.  For whence was their contempt of God, whence was their obstinate pride, but that they were inebriated with their pleasures?  For when there flowed an abundance of all good things, they thought of themselves, that they had come as it were from the clouds; for men commonly forget what they formerly were, when the Lord has made them rich.” (Hosea)

Some commentators see this “stripping” as the retrieval of everything a husband had provided for his bride (Ex. 21:10–11; cf. Hos. 2:9).

The phrases “make her like a wilderness” and “like a parched land” do not mean desolation of the land, but of discipline.  In the present context to be put back into the desert (or revert to the desert phase of national history) is to be expelled from the promised land.  It could also have the idea of becoming sterile and incapable of being able to bear other children.  Even though she craved more children, she would bear no more.

Israel will eventually lose everything—the land will be emptied and become a wasteland, the people will go into exile.  And often in the ancient world captives were taken away naked.

It is unlikely that Hosea cast Gomer out naked from the house, or made her strip down in the presence of former clients.  Verse 3 is more about God and Israel than Hosea and Gomer.

However, God would do that with Israel.  Because Israel willingly strips naked before the Baals and foreign nations to commit adultery with them, God forcibly expose them by the same powers in conquest.

The severity of this punishment is expressed in the last clause, “and kill her with thirst.”

The experience of thirst in the desert wanderings left a deep mark on Israel’s memories.  Some of the most severe times of testing and rebellious murmurings against Yahweh were associated with this dire lack of water.  There are two stories of Yahweh’s miraculous provision (Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:2-13) and they are often referred back to in the Psalms as proofs of Yahweh’s capacity for responsive love.

On the first of these occasions Israel accused Yahweh of bringing them up from Egypt “to kill me and my children and my animals with thirst,” exactly the words used here.  Compared to this, the measures threatened against the wife in the ensuring verses are less severe, dealing only with her possessions and circumstances.

Again, the grace of God is always there in the background.

Links I Like

The Danger of Mixing Culture with Biblical Faith by Tim Wiedlich

Aside from some interesting comments about Ethiopian culture, Tim talks about cultural elitism, saying…

The problem with mixing our biblical faith with our culture and history is that we lose the power in the message of the Bible. if we base our lives on what we think the Bible means, and it doesn’t mean that, our practice out of that belief will lack the power of God’s promise.

Another problem with mixing our faith and culture is that we will become cultural elitists who try to convert people to our culture in the name of Christ. Church History is full of examples, the Crusades, slavery, anti-semitism, prohibition.

The answer, he says, is Romans 12:1-2.

What You Need to Know About New York’s New Late-Term Abortion Law by Jessica Mouser

This article explains what the recent New York vote (and celebration) of the Reproductive Health Act.  The law allows medical practitioners to perform abortions up to the day of the birth, provided “there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”  That “or” is the problem, as is “patient’s life or health” which can, and is, broadly defined (read “emotional health”).

New York Legalizes Baby Killing: A Woman’s Response

This article, by Hannah Graves, reflects on the recent vote by New York legislators to make abortions through even the third trimester a possibility, says that this is not the first time such a “law” has been made.  Exodus 2 describes the attempt to kill all male babies, and God’s miraculous deliverance.  Herod tried the same.  She suggests four practical steps to getting involved in saving the unborn.

3 Steps to Making Friends in a New Place, Jeremiah Biggs

It’s not easy to make friends when you enter a new place.  Jeremiah shares three steps to making new friends–(1) identify an interest, (2) establish a regular time of meeting with people around that interest and (3) then start inviting them to do things outside that interest.

Why Reproductive Health Care is Abhorrent Trash! Empire State Conservative Network

Dr. David McKnight, who is a board certified OB/GYN released this statement;

 “It appears that the State of New York has legislated that an unborn baby can now be killed at term. They did this joyfully and celebrated by illuminating the Freedom Tower in pink light. As a board-certified OB/GYN physician for over 30 years, I need to say publicly and unequivocally, that there is NEVER a medical reason to kill a baby at term. When complications of pregnancy endanger a mother’s life, we sometimes must deliver the baby early, but it ALWAYS with the intent of doing whatever we can to do it safely for the baby too. The decision to kill an unborn baby at term is purely for convenience. It is murder. And now it won’t be long before a struggling mother with a 1-month old baby will argue for the right to kill her baby too, because taking care of him or her is just too difficult and inconvenient. When you are willing to rationalize murder, why be subject to a timeline? God help us.”

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, January 25

Today’s readings are Genesis 26, Matthew 25, Esther 2 and Acts 25.

Like father, like son.  A famine in the land (Genesis 26) causes Isaac to go to Gerar, to king Abimelech.  Sound familiar??  Isaac tried the same trick, passing off Rebekah as his sister (v. 7).  The only problem was, Isaac couldn’t resist enjoying time with her–Gotcha!

Isaac was blessed by God (vv. 12-14) causing Abimilech to say to Isaac, “Git!” (v. 16).  After moving away to the Valley of Gerar, Isaac had disputes over wells just like his father had experienced (vv. 18-22).  From there, Isaac moved to Beersheba (v. 23), where God renewed the covenant with him (v. 24) and Isaac worshiped (v. 25).  Abimilech was concerned about conflicts between him and Isaac so they covenanted together to live peacefully (vv. 26-33).

God’s blessing of Isaac, in a similar way to how He blessed Abraham, shows the continuation of the covenant and how God can be counted on from generation to generation.

isaac's journeys, bible-history

A concluding note is Esau’s marriage to Judith and Basemath, daughters of Hittites, which caused pain to his father and mother.

Matthew 25 consists of three parables–the parable of the virgins, emphasizing the need for preparation for Christ’s return (25:1-13), the parable of the talents, emphasizing the need to use what God has given you (25:14-30), and the parable of the sheep and goats, emphasizing the need to treat Israel well (25:31-46).

From the parable of the ten virgins, we see that disciples need to prepare for Messiah’s appearing as well as to anticipate that event.  Jesus was not calling for alertness in this parable, remaining awake when others sleep, as important as that is.  He was calling for preparation.  Preparing involves trusting in Jesus as the Messiah.  Many Jews in Jesus’ day were anticipating the appearance of Messiah and the inauguration of the kingdom.  However, they did not prepare, even though John the Baptist, Jesus, and Jesus’ disciples urged them to.  Those who did, became believing disciples of Jesus.

The same two types of Jews will exist during the Tribulation, before Messiah appears the second time.  The prudent disciple will be the one who makes the necessary preparation by trusting in Jesus.

The parable of the talents teaches us to be faithful stewards of all that God has given us.  Thus, the point of the parable of the 10 virgins, and the parable of the talents, is the same.  The difference is a matter of emphasis.  The emphasis of the first one is the importance of spiritual preparation, whereas the emphasis of the second is the importance of spiritual service.

The willingness to faithfully use those gifts proves whether or not one is a genuine believer.

All of us desire to hear Christ say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Here are some ideas from an article “What Can I Do to One Day Hear: ‘Well Done, Thou Good and Faithful Servant’ When I Get to Heaven?” from compellingtruth.org:

  • Study God’s truth. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”Put God’s truth into action. Tell others the Good News. Jesus left His disciples with a command to tell others about His saving grace and goodness and to make disciples of them (Matt. 28:18-20).

    Offer assistance to those less fortunate (1 John 3:17; James 1:27; 2:14-17).

    Forgive those who harm you. This instruction can be found in the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:12) and elsewhere (Matt. 18:21-22; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).

    Help those around you. Paul wrote the Galatians that to “fulfill the law of Christ” Christians should “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). He also wrote, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

    Fellowship with other Christians and encourage one another in the faith ((Hebrews 10:24-25).

    Set your mind and heart on God. Rather than seeking earthly treasures, pursue that which has eternal value and store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).

    Remember that everything that is good that happens to you or comes your way, is due to God and His blessing (James 1:17). Give Him continual praise and thanks (Phil. 4:4-7; 1 Thess. 5:18).

    Obey. God desires you to follow Him. He has communicated with you through the Bible, His Word, and by the Holy Spirit. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The New Testament is replete with practical instructions for living the Christian life—ways to love and honor God and ways to love and honor others. As we abide in Christ and learn to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can be fruitful (John 10:1-11; 16:7-15; 1 Thess. 5:19)

    To please God and hear these words from Him, you must know Him. The best ways to know Him better are to read and study the Bible (both alone and with others), worship Him in community, spend time with Him in prayer, and ask Him for guidance.

    2 Peter 1:3-8 reminds us that God equips us to be faithful servants and gives us instructions for how to live a life that is fruitful for Him: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The parable of the sheep and goats is a parable of the judgment of the nations, which will occur at the end of the tribulation.  Those people who survived the tribulation will be distinguished on the basis of how they treated “the least of these,” which seems to be the beleaguered Jews during the days leading up to the return of Christ.

This judgment happens at the end of the tribulation before the millennial reign of Christ.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

Jesus clarified the basis for judgment in vv. 25-40.  It would be the reception or rejection of the “King” as divinely seen in people’s reception or rejection of the King’s “brothers.”  The King’s “brothers” are probably His faithful disciples who fulfill His will by preaching the gospel of the kingdom during the Tribulation (cf. 12:48-49; 28:10; Isa. 58:7).  Most of these will be Jews, including the 144,000, though some may be Gentile converts as well (cf. Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-5).  They will have become believers following the Rapture, since all believers alive on earth just before the Rapture will have already gone to be with Jesus.

Esther 2

The fact that God placed Esther in a position so she could deliver her people—even before they were in danger—shows His far-reaching providence at work for His chosen people.

The plan to replace Vashti is put in place (2:1-4)–a beauty pageant.  Esther gets involved, likely not realizing the danger it would put her in (2:5-11).  If successful, she would become the wife of a Gentile king; if not, she would be added to his harem.

Someone has said that “God permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves.”

Esther is chosen as queen (2:12-20).  At Mordecai’s earlier command (2:10), she did not reveal her nationality.  Esther became queen in the winter of 479–478 B.C., four years after Vashti’s deposition (v. 16).

The final verses of this chapter (2:21-23), happens as the prologue to Haman’s plot to kill the Jews.  God made sure that Mordecai was recorded in Ahasuerus’ book of chronicles as a person who “saved” the king by exposing a plot to kill him.

Acts 25

Festus arrives in Jerusalem and is accosted by the Jews there, asking him to deliver Paul to Jerusalem for trial (vv. 2-3).  They were intending to assassinate Paul (v. 3).  But Festus planned to hear Paul in Caesarea Maritima and offered to take “leading men” there to try Paul (vv. 4-5).

As soon as Paul was brought out (v. 7), the Jews shouted out their charges against him.  When he finally had a chance to talk he re-emphasized…

“Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”

When Festus asked if he would like to present his case in Jerusalem (v. 9), Paul appealed to Caesar (v. 11).  So Festus concluded, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go” (v. 8).

When King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea, Felix explained what was going on with Paul, and that he had appealed to Caesar.  He wasn’t sure what to do with Paul, so he brought him before Agrippa and Bernice so that maybe they could figure out how to charge Paul.

Thomas Constable has these notes about Agrippa, Bernice and Festus.

This “King Agrippa” was Marcus Julius Agrippa II, the son of Herod Agrippa I (12:1-11), the grandson of Aristobulus, and the great grandson of Herod the Great (Matt. 2:1). Herod the Great had tried to destroy the infant Jesus.  One of his sons, Antipas, Agrippa II’s great uncle, beheaded John the Baptist and tried our Lord.  Agrippa II’s father, Agrippa I, had executed James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John. He had also imprisoned Peter and died in Caesarea (ch. 12).  His son, Agrippa II, is the man Paul now faced.

Agrippa II had grown up in Rome, and was a favorite of Emperor Claudius.  He was the last in the Herodian dynasty, and has been considered the best of the Herods.  He was also a friend to Flavius Josephus, who served as governor of Galilee and a Roman general about this time.  Among his other powers, Agrippa II was superintendent of the Jerusalem temple, and he had the power to appoint Israel’s high priests.

At the time he visited Festus, “Agrippa” (II) was the king whom Rome had appointed over the territory northeast of the Judean province.  He lived in Caesarea Philippi (Dan of the Old Testament), which he renamed “Neronias” in honor of Nero.  Agrippa was about 30 years old at this time, and his sister, “Bernice” (Lat. Veronica), was one year younger.  He ruled this region from A.D. 50 to 70.  Drusilla, Felix’s wife, was Agrippa and Bernice’s younger sister.  Bernice was first married to her uncle Herod, King of Chalcis, and after he died, she lived with her brother, Agrippa, in a suspicious relationship.  She concluded her profligate life by a criminal connection with Titus, the conqueror of Jerusalem.

Agrippa and Bernice evidently visited Festus on this occasion to “pay their respects” to the new governor of their neighboring province.  Agrippa and Bernice were essentially favorable to the Jews.  They both tried to avert the Roman massacre of the Jews in A.D. 66-70.

herodian-family-tree

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, January 24

Today’s readings are Genesis 25, Matthew 24, Esther 1 and Acts 24.

In Genesis 25 Abraham’s second wife, Keturah, and her children…

Image result for abraham and keturah

Abraham sent these sons “eastward” (v. 5) and then he died (vv. 7-8).  He was buried with Sarah “in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre” (v. 9).

Image result for abraham and keturah map

Josephus tells us that “Abraham contrived to settle them in colonies; and they took possession of  Troglodytis [bet you didn’t know where that word came from!] and the country of Arabia the Happy, as far as it reaches to the Red Sea” (Antiquities, 1.15.1).  Abraham, in all probability, tried to keep them apart from Isaac to avoid conflict while fulfilling God’s commission to spread out and inhabit the globe (Genesis 1:27-28; 9:1; Josephus Antiquities 1.4.1-3).

Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi (v. 11).

isaac's journeys, bible-history

Genesis 25:12-18 are the generation of Ishmael…

Image result for Ishmael family tree

Then, the generations of Isaac, starting in verse 19 with the birth of Esau and Jacob (25:21-28) and the incident of Esau selling his birthright for lentil stew and bread, thus Esau despised his birthright (25:34).

Paul speaks of the birth of Esau and Jacob (Romans 9:10-13), highlighting God’s sovereign grace in election, for neither Esau nor Jacob were worthy of being chosen by God.

10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad–in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls–12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

The writer of Hebrews focuses on Esau despising his birthright and adds…

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

I believe v. 17 speaks of him coming in to Isaac to be blessed, only to find out Isaac had blessed Jacob recorded in Genesis 27…

34 As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” 36 Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times.  He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.”  Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him.  What then can I do for you, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father?  Bless me, even me also, O my father.”  And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

Esau lost his birthright and received a sub-par blessing.

Matthew 24 is Jesus’ answer to the disciples wanting to know…

“Tell us, when will these things [destruction of Jerusalem] be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” (24:3)

matthew 24 chart--10 factors of the end times

Jesus tells them that all the terrible things that are happening in vv. 5-7 are “but the beginning of the birth pains” (v. 8).  The beginning of “birth pangs” is the beginning of this Tribulation.  Some interpreters believed verses 4-8 describe the first half of the Tribulation and verses 9-14 the last half.

The 70th Week of Daniel 9
Seven Years
The Tribulation

  Great Tribulation
Time of Jacob’s Trouble
Beginning of Birth Pangs Hard-Labor Birth Pangs
First Half Second Half

Thomas Constable, Matthew

A comparison of the “beginning of birth pangs” and the first four seals in Revelation indicate that they are likely describing the same thing.

“Beginning of birth pangs
(Mt. 24)

First Four seals
(Rev. 6)

1. False messiahs who will mislead many (v. 5) 1. First seal: Rider on white horse, a false messiah (v. 2)
2. Wars, rumors of wars, nation rising against nation (vv. 6-7) 2. Second seal: Rider on red horse takes away peace from earth (vv. 3-4)
3. Famines (v. 7) 3. Third Seal: Rider on black horse holds balances, represents famine (vv. 5-6)
4. Death through famine, pestilences, and earthquakes (v. 7) 4. Fourth seal: Rider on pale horse, represents death through famine, pestilence, and wild beasts (vv. 7-8)

Thomas Constable, Matthew

The persecutions (24:9-13) and the spread of the gospel will take place in the second half of the tribulation.  With verse 15 Jesus goes back to the mid-point, the “abomination of desolation,” the greatest sign to the Jews.  It is a term Daniel used in Daniel 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; and 12:11.  It describes something that—because of its abominable character—causes the godly to desert the temple on its account.

What Daniel predicted will happen in those seven years will be a unique national distress for Israel (Dan. 12:1; cf. Jer. 30:7).  It will begin when a wicked ruler (Antichrist) signs a covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27).  After three and a half years, the ruler would break the covenant and terminate worship in the temple.  He would end temple worship by setting up an abominable idol there (cf. 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:14-15).

This will cause a mass exodus from Jerusalem to the mountains.

21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved.  But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

The return of Jesus Christ happens at the end of this seven years.  Jesus reminds them not to believe every so-called “Messiah” (24:23-26).  His coming will be obvious to all.

27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

What does the verse about the vultures mean (v. 28)?  And who is the corpse?  One view is that the vultures represent Jesus and the angels, come to pick clean the morally corrupt world.

31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The passage He referred to was Isaiah 27:12-13.  There Israel is in view, so Jesus must have been speaking about the gathering of Israelites again to the Promised Land at His Second Coming.  The four winds refer to the four compass points.  This regathering will involve judgment (13:39, 41; 24:40-41; 25:31; 2 Thess. 1:7-8). This regathering will set the stage for Messiah’s worldwide reign.

Jesus then describes the moral responsibilities that arise from these eschatological truths:

First, he gives four parables about being vigilant and watchful.  He talks about watching the fig tree when it is about to bear fruit (24:32-36), with a clarifying parable about the “days of Noah” in 24:37-39.  Then the parable of the one taken and one left behind (24:41-42) emphasizes that neither gender, nor occupation, nor close relationship, will prevent the separation for judgment (cf. 10:35-36).  The parable of the homeowner who could have stayed away to prevent theft (24:43-44) is preceded by an exhortation to stay awake.  We don’t know when He will come, so we have to stay ready.

There are three parables in this section to finish chapter 24 and continue to the end of chapter 25.  All of them refer to two types of disciples, the faithful and the unfaithful.

The parable of the two servants (24:45-51) illustrates the two attitudes that people during the Tribulation will have regarding Jesus’ return.

Esther 1

Esther, like Ruth, focuses upon a woman, a Jewish woman who under God’s sovereign hand became queen so that she could rescue her people.  God’s people are in exile, taken into exile by the Babylonians.  But in 539 B.C. the Medes and Persians defeated the Babylonians.

This book describes the most serious threat to the preservation of the Jewish race, equaled only by the Nazi holocaust.

Even though God is never mentioned in this book, He is clearly at work behind the scenes.  So the most basic answer to how to survive is God, He protects us.

The events of the Book of Esther took place during the Persian period of ancient Near Eastern history (539–331 B.C.) and during the reign of King Ahasuerus (also called Xerxes I) in particular (486–464 B.C.).  History portrays him as a lover of war, women and parties, and the book of Esther confirms this.

The first historical event to which the writer alluded seems to be Ahasuerus’ military planning session at which he plotted the strategy for his ill-fated campaign against Greece (1:3-21).  The king held this planning session in the winter of 483–482 B.C.

The last recorded event in Esther is the institution of the Feast of Purim that took place in 473 B.C.  Therefore the events recorded in the book span a period of about 9 or 10 years.  Leon Wood wrote that the book “covers the third to the twelfth years of Zerxes’ rule (483-471; Esther 1:3; 3:7).”

Under the Persian rule, there were three specific returns of Jews to the land of Judah.

  • The first was led by Zerubbabel and involved an initial rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • The second was led by Ezra who promoted a revival among the people.
  • The third was led by Nehemiah and involved the rebuilding of the defensive walls of Jerusalem.

Image result for returns to israel post-exilic esther

This timeline shows you where Esther fits, in the timeline between Zerubbabel’s return and the building of the temple Ezra’s return to build up the people.

esther timeline

List of the Kings of Persia from 550 BC to 330 BC
Persian Kings Period of Reign (Approx)
Cyrus II “the Great” 550-529 BC
Cambyses II 529-522 BC
Darius I 522-486 BC
Xerxes I (Ahasuerus) 486-465 BC
Artaxerxes I 465-425 BC
Xerxes II 425-424 BC
Darius II 423-404 BC
Artaxerxes II 404-359 BC
Artaxerxes III 359-338 BC
Arses 338-336 BC
Darius III 336-330 BC

https://www.bible-history.com/old-testament/persian-kings.html

Image result for map of the persian empire from cyrus to darius

Here is Chuck Swindoll’s book chart of Esther…

book chart of esther, swindoll

Chapter 1 is the beauty pageant.  The first step is that Queen Vashti is deposed.  The king has a party (vv. 1-9), Vashti is deposed because of “lack of submission” (Esther 1:10-22).

The king gets drunk and orders his wife, Queen Vashti, to display her beauty for his guests (1:10-11).  We don’t know the precise dangers of this request, but she refused, infuriating the king (1:10).

Now drunk and angry, he seeks advice.  The reasoning is that other women might follow her rebellious example (1:17-18), therefore, she needs to be removed at once (1:19), so that all women will fear their husbands (1:20.  The king agrees and Vashti is deposed (1:21-22).

Acts 24: The delivery of the prisoner Paul to Caesarea marked the beginning of a two-year imprisonment in that city.  During this period he stated his case, and also the case for the Christian gospel, to two provincial governors and a king, fulfilling one aspect of the Lord’s prediction about his ministry (9:15).

In Acts 24, the high priest and some elders came to Caesarea to oppose Paul.  First, they tried to butter up Felix (24:2-4) before laying out their case against Paul.  He is a trouble-maker (v. 5) and profaner of the temple (v. 6), but you can examine him yourself (v. 7).  The charge of trouble-making gave the impression that Paul was guilty of sedition against Rome.

Paul also complimented Felix (v. 10), then answered one charge by saying he hadn’t been around long enough to cause trouble (v. 11).  In response to the third charge (v. 6), Paul replied that he had gone to Jerusalem “to worship” (v. 11).  Paul rebutted the second (v. 14) charge of leading a cult (v. 5), by explaining that his beliefs harmonized with the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures (“the Law and . . . the Prophets”).  The real conflict between Paul and his accusers was religious in nature.  He mentions the resurrection (v. 15) and comments on how it encourages him to keep a clean conscience (v. 16).

Paul then said that he had come to the temple, not to desecrate it, but to bring an offering for the people (vv. 17-18a) and that his original accusers were not even present (vv. 18b-19).  There was no wrongdoing (v. 20) except that Paul had brought up the resurrection (v. 21).

Felix put off making a decision (v. 22) but gave Paul some freedom while he held him (v. 23).  Paul finally had the opportunity to speak to Felix about the gospel (vv. 24-28).

“Drusilla” was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, who had been king over Palestine from A.D. 37-44.  It was he who had authorized the death of James, the son of Zebedee (12:1-2), and had imprisoned Peter (12:3-11).  Drusilla was Felix’s third wife, whom he had married when she was 16 years old.  She was now (A.D. 57) 19.  She had previously been the wife of Azizus, the king of Emesa, a state within Syria, but Felix broke up that marriage to get her. (William Barclay, Acts, p. 187)

Felix himself had been married twice before, to princesses, the first of which was the granddaughter of Anthony and Cleopatra.  Felix used his marriages to advance his political career.  The Herods were, of course, Idumeans, part Israelite and part Edomite. Drusilla eventually died when Mt. Vesuvius erupted, along with her child by Felix.

Something about Paul and or his gospel seems to have fascinated Felix.  Someone commented that when Paul talked to Felix and Drusilla, enslaved royalty was addressing royal slaves.

Paul’s emphases in his interview with Felix and Drusilla were the same three things—that Jesus Christ had predicted the Holy Spirit would convict people about—that would bring them to faith.  These things were: sin (“self-control”), “righteousness,” and “judgment” (John 16:8-11).

Felix and Drusilla were notoriously deficient in all three of these areas.  It is not surprising that Felix became uneasy.  He apparently was willing to discuss theology but not personal morality and responsibility.  These subjects terrified him (Gr. emphobos).

Felix’s decision to postpone making a decision about his relationship to God is a common one.  Often people put off this most important decision until they cannot make it.  This is probably why most people who make decisions for Christ do so when they are young.  Older people normally become hardened to the gospel.  We do not know if Felix ever trusted in Christ; there is no evidence that he did.

The “two years” to which Luke referred were evidently the years of Paul’s detention in Caesarea.  Felix’s superiors relieved him of his position, because he had handled a conflict in Caesarea too harshly, between the Jewish and Gentile residents, which resulted in the suffering and death of innocent people.  Too many Jews had died or been mistreated.

His replacement, “Portius Festus,” served as procurator of Judea from A.D. 59 to 61. To appease the Jews, Felix “left Paul imprisoned.”  The apostle had become a political pawn in the will of God.

It is quite likely that, if Luke was with Paul at this time, he used these two years to do some of the research he referred to at the beginning of his two-part work (i.e., Luke-Acts; cf. Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1).  He may have even written his Gospel then, and some of Acts.