Tabernacle to Temple to Revelation: Temple Magnitude

June 6, 2012

While recently reading through the book of Exodus, and all the instructions on how to build the Tabernacle, I found myself wanting to skip through it all. I’m going to be honest, it is a little boring. But after walking away from it, and thinking about the measurements, and comparing them to the Temple, and then to the city in Revelation, I got an interesting idea in my head. One criticism I’ve heard from atheist when they map out the city as explained in Revelation is that the size and shape of the city would throw off the revolutions of the earth, destroying any sort of ecosystem on the Earth. Now I’ve heard Christians come back with the answer, “Well God could keep the Earth in place.” Sure, why not.

But as I made my way through classes at Multnomah, and specifically the book of Ezekiel, the new temple described in Ezekiel is never built by those dimensions, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason why the new city is so huge. But Dr. Kutz and Dr. Harper, in two separate classes, placed the idea before us that maybe they aren’t supposed to be literal buildings, so much as a growing in magnitude of the temple, sort of like the size of the fish you caught; it gets bigger every time. They didn’t use the big fish story, but you get the point. Rather the growing of the temple paints the picture of a growing knowledge of God in the world.

So I started thinking about the Tabernacle, and it’s relative size to the wandering people of Israel. They were a large group of people, but still covered little land. And then I thought about Israel the nation, with David/Solomon’s temple built, a nation covering more land, with more peoples coming in contact with the Law and YHWH. And it got me thinking that maybe the city in Revelation (which I should point out has a cube shape, like the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God is) isn’t just a big fish story, so to speak, but a future image of hope, that the presence of God, and His works, will not just be in a small group of wanderers, or a tiny nation, but will one day be known throughout the entire world. And as the entire world becomes the people of God, thus the entire surface of the earth becomes the temple, with the holy of holies in a cube like place.

Just a thought on what that could all be about. Thoughts?



Genesis 34: Circumcision, and “That’s messed up!”

January 11, 2012

In Genesis 34 there is a little story about Dinah, the sister of Simeon and Levi being sexually assaulted by Shechem. Once this happens Hamor and Shechem seek to make things right by having Jacob give his daughter to Shechem for a wife, and in this same way they will give their daughters and sisters as wives to the sons of Jacob, and the two people will become one. The sons of Jacob require the men to become circumcised first, claiming that they cannot be defiled by uncircumcised people. Shechem and Hamor agree, gladly, and tell the people to become circumcised so they may be at peace with the sons of Jacob, and intermarry. Sadly, the sons of Jacob use this ruse to kill all of the men, and then to plunder the city. And then the story ends like this:

34:30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought ruin on me by making me a foul odor among the inhabitants of the land – among the Canaanites and the Perizzites. I am few in number; they will join forces against me and attack me, and both I and my family will be destroyed!” 34:31 But Simeon and Levi replied, “Should he treat our sister like a common prostitute?”

Two things came to me while reading this story. First, circumcision is not so much an act you do, but rather something you become. They didn’t just go circumcise themselves, and that was it, but by doing the act of circumcision, it became a description of their being, much like someone would call a person an American, or Russian, or African. Circumcision was more about becoming something, much less just having something done. It was a way of setting themselves apart for something, rather than just an act. That fascinated me.

And secondly, and more importantly, they full on kill all the men and then take their wives and animals anyways! That’s messed up! Or at least, that is our response. But what I find so interesting is that ending to that story. So much detail is given, so much description about how they kill the men and then take their women and their cattle, and yet the story ends with Jacob afraid of his honor among the people, fear that because they are small they will be wiped out. But the sons reply, “Should he treat our sister like a common prostitute?” I feel like some men would agree with them, that they were right to defend their sister’s honor, and that Jacob was just being a pansy, more worried about his own life than to care about his daughter. And others would condemn the actions of the brothers for murdering the people that attempted to make things right, and even show how the sons are deceiving people around them just like their father.

But the author of the story? He almost doesn’t seem to say a word. He just reports Jacob’s speech, the sons rebuttal, and then leaves it there. He continues on to the next story. It kind of makes us wonder what is really going on by telling us this story.


Genesis 26 in John 4?

January 11, 2012

Whenever I read the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well I always get a little bit curious about the reference to Jacob’s well. What well is it, and why does that matter to John? But I stumbled across something a little interesting the other day while reading in Genesis in the original Hebrew:

26:19 When Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well with fresh flowing water there

What is so interesting is that in the original Hebrew the word for “fresh flowing” is actually the word living. The sentence literally says “a well waters living.” And what is funny is that many commentators of John point out that Jesus use of the phrase, “living water” is also the same phrase for fresh flowing water, thus a possible reason for the Samaritan woman’s confusion. Now albeit this story is about Isaac, and yet the parallels (and reversals) are just too interesting:

In Genesis the servants go out and find the living water whereas in John it is the Samaritans and not the disciples

In Genesis Isaac quarrels with the inhabitants whereas in John Jesus actually converses and calls them to him

Both stories have a child of promise dealing with wells

Isaac goes to Beer Sheba and worships God in that place, whereas in John Jesus claims that time is coming when worshippers will worship in spirit and truth

There is the promise of descendants that was given to Abraham, but in John we see that this is truly the son of the promise

It is hard to imagine that John isn’t in some way referencing back to Isaac’s own quarrels over living waters. And by doing so, we see that Jesus reverses the division that was established long ago in Genesis.


The Advice of Jethro

November 4, 2010

Acts 6:1-7 recounts an interesting story to us:

Now in those days, when the disciples were growing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews against the native Hebraic Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the twelve called the whole group of the disciples together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to wait on tables. But carefully select from among you, brothers, seven men who are well-attested full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this necessary task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal pleased the entire group, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a Gentile convert to Judaism from Antioch. They stood these men before the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.

This comes in the midst of the church’s beginning, after Pentecost and before the stoning of Stephen (who shows up for the first time here), as the church deals with the struggles that come in the midst of the gathering of the people of God. Just previously Peter and John had been arrested, Ananias and Sephira lied and were killed, and the Apostles underwent further persecution from the Jews. In the midst of all of this a little problem comes up within the church, an internal struggle between the handing out of food to the Greek and Hebrew widows. Whenever I’ve read this I’ve seen “First Deacons Appointed” and moved on from there. I thought it was cool that the 12 didn’t abandon their teaching and studying of scripture to make sure it was happening but rightly saw that this should be delegated to another group of people; they understood that their role was to teach the Word of God. It wasn’t that the Apostles didn’t want to do it, but they saw that it was important for them as the Apostles not to neglect God’s word and that this matter required help from among their numbers.

In the modern period we would say that the Apostles’ idea was a great idea and allowed for management and the dispersion of responsibility, as if the Apostles were CEOs and the Deacons their regional managers. This is suitable, I guess, but I wonder if they simply thought of the idea just off the top of their heads; this could be equally true. I don’t want to pretend to get into the Apostles heads and tell everyone what they were thinking and that this is the only way to view this passage. But something interesting came up today as I was reading through Exodus 18:13-26 (please excuse the long quote (and while you’re at it please excuse my dear aunt Sally)):

On the next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why are you sitting by yourself, and all the people stand around you from morning until evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me and I decide between a man and his neighbor, and I make known the decrees of God and his laws.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good! You will surely wear out, both you and these people who are with you, for this is too heavy a burden for you; you are not able to do it by yourself. Now listen to me, I will give you advice, and may God be with you: You be a representative for the people to God, and you bring their disputes to God; warn them of the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. But you choose from the people capable men, God-fearing, men of truth, those who hate bribes, and put them over the people as rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. They will judge the people under normal circumstances, and every difficult case they will bring to you, but every small case they themselves will judge, so that you may make it easier for yourself, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will be able to go home satisfied.” Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he had said. Moses chose capable men from all Israel, and he made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. They judged the people under normal circumstances; the difficult cases they would bring to Moses, but every small case they would judge themselves.

So here we have Moses out in the wilderness acting as the representative of God for the people, making judgments and the Word of the Lord known to the people. Moses knows the Word, studies the Word, and teaches it to the people, but at this moment he is spending all day just making judgments between a man and his neighbor. So Jethro advises him to make a change and to find men who are “capable”, “God-fearing”, “men of truth” to be taught the Word of God so that they might be able to make judgments in the small matters of the day. It almost seems that Moses is neglecting his role as the one who is supposed to study and know the law, and teach it to the people, much the like Apostles in Acts. This imagery is brought closer when the Apostles require that their helpers are also “well-attested” and “full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” In both cases there is a responsibility that is being neglected if the leader(s) attends to it; capable men are sought out; the burden is shared and the leader(s) can go back to studying the Word of God.

It makes me wonder if the Apostles, who had been studying the Word of God (which would include Exodus) found their advice in the council of Jethro and knew that it would be a good idea for them not to take the responsibility upon themselves. This emphasizes even more the idea of the New Testament church being a new Israel as we find a group of people in a “wilderness” and the leaders needing to find a suitable answer lest they neglect making known to the people the Word of God.

Something to think about.

Paul’s Psalm 44

February 2, 2010

Reading through Romans 8 the other day I noticed that Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 in the middle of his argument:

 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 8:37 No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul in this chapter has been discussing our relationship with God, through Christ, and the inability, now as sons of God, to be separated from God. We now call out, “Abba!” and are kept in this relationship. In this relationship then Paul asks if anything out there can possibly separate us from God, whether “trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (v.35) and then Paul quotes the psalm. So let us take a little look at the psalm that Paul quotes.

Psalm 44, the psalm quoted in Romans, begins with the psalmist recounting God’s provision and watching over the people of Israel: “You, by your power, defeated nations and settled our fathers on their land; you crushed the people living there and enabled our ancestors to occupy it.” But then at verse 9 the psalm switches the mood: “But you rejected and embarrassed us! You did not go into battle with our armies,” and we see God’s hand turning away from the people of Israel. In the midst of the psalmists lament of God’s handing over of the Israelites we get the verse Paul quotes: “Yet because of you we are killed all day long; we are treated like sheep at the slaughtering block” (Psalm 44:22). As the psalmist discusses distress, persecution, danger, and swords he points out that he and his people are like sheep being slaughtered. From this persecution the psalmist calls God to rouse himself, to protect his people.

Paul then seems to make this connection now that because Christ has come, because we are now drawn into relationship with the Father, unlike the psalmist we now no longer fear the sword, the danger, the persecution, the distress. Paul takes the psalmist’s lament and turns it around, showing that the one the psalmist had been waiting for, the salvation from his enemies has now come and that no enemy, or sword, or persecution can separate us from God. Paul is building his argument from the OT and showing that what they had been waiting for has now come, and nothing can separate us from God’s salvation. We no longer wait, for we have now seen God rouse from his sleep and “rescue us because of [his] loyal love!” (Ps. 44:26)

Chronicles to Luke/Matthew

December 22, 2009

We were discussing in Old Testament History and Poetry class the other day the genealogy of Chronicles and how the chronicler sets up the genealogy to help clarify his view of history: the chronicles genealogy starts at Adam and rushes to David, gets to David and slows down, and then continues on. The chronicler’s genealogy emphasizes the importance of David in all of history, that the genealogy of Israel is rushing towards that one man, and from him all history revolves itself. It is not Moses, or Abraham, or Israel(Jacob) but David. Which got me to thinking about genealogies.

In Matthew and Luke are two different genealogies, and scholars have commented on how they prove Jesus right to the Davidic throne and legitimizes Jesus family line. But what if, like Chronicles does, it also points out Jesus importance in all of history. In Matthew especially we see the book beginning with genealogy (a genealogy following the genealogies of Chronicles if the OT is taken in TaNaK order), rushing from Abraham, stopping at David, picking up again to Exile, then up to Jesus. And after that, the book slows down and tells us the story of Jesus, what he has done, who he is, his death and resurrection. And Luke begins with Jesus, and traces itself backwards to Adam, not even bothering to stop, as Matthew did, at David or Abraham, but continues to Adam, as if laying out that from Adam all history has been moving to the time when Jesus would come, which when he does the book of Luke slows down, explaining Christ, and then after his death, much like Chronicles does, goes on to further explain the acts of the apostles in Acts, sort of like a 2 Chronicles in the NT.

So what do you think? Could the genealogies not only legitimize Jesus but also act as an explanation of what all of history has been moving towards, the focal point on which everything was coming to, and is now moving from? Could Luke and Matthew use the genealogy to rearrange history?



October 16, 2009

So in Hebrew class the other day we had a fun little discussion about the word and idea of passover. Now this deals more with the actual event of Passover and not the celebration of Passover. Or in other terms, the verb “to passover” and not the noun Passover.

The verb form of passover shows up only a few times. In Exodus 12:13, 23

The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, so that when I see the blood I will pass over you, and this plague will not fall on you to destroy you when I attack the land of Egypt.

For the Lord will pass through to strike Egypt, and when he sees the blood on the top of the doorframe and the two side posts, then the Lord will pass over the door, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.

When I normally look at this story I think about Prince of Egypt with the cool smoke going through the land of Egypt and striking down all those heathen children, while passing over the houses of the Israelites, sort of excluding the Israelites from anything that is going on. But looking closer I found it interesting that the end of verse 23 has this little inclusion in it: “the LORD will pass over the door, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.” God passes over the door so that the destroyer will not enter. He is passovering, if you will, so that the destroyer doesn’t come in. That seems like an interesting little tidbit. So instead of excluding the doors of the Israelites, God is actively passovering the door.

So in class Dr. Kutz drew us to the other place where pass over is used as a verb in Isaiah 31:5

Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will ‘pass over’ it and will rescue it.”

So passing over isn’t this thing where God just ignores the door, or Jerusalem, but is an active verb, not an excluding thing. It is something he is doing, like being a shield and a deliverer, a rescuer and a passoverer. So in our normal context we thing that during passover the LORD just ignores the doors of the Israelites, but instead with this active verb idea we see that the LORD is standing in the doorway, passovering the door so that the destroyer cannot enter the house of the Israelites. We are not excluded in passover but included and protected by God. And when we see Jesus as the passover lamb, the one who stands before the judge, it is not that Christ’s blood just merely makes God glaze over our sins and exclude us from punishment, but instead we are actively passovered by Christ and His sacrificial blood. Christ stands before the judge and does not permit the judgment we deserve to strike us down. Oh what joy! What amazing power this blood of our saviour!

And to make a little side tangent as well, with my little exegesis I did on Numbers 16, there is this cool little thing with plagues and priests standing in the way, making these plagues pass over the people. The priest stands in the way of the plague, much as the LORD stands in the way of the destroyer, and Christ stands in the way of our judgment. It’s everywhere!

Passover is active!