They Saw the Star

January 20, 2011

Why did the wise men follow a star?

“Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)

Certainly their vision was beyond so many of their contemporaries (i.e. Herod, the Pharisees, etc.), but must it be beyond ours as well?  Should their pursuit of the star come as a surprise?  Possibly not–and I want your thoughts on this:

‘I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not close at hand.
A star will march forth out of Jacob,
and a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the skulls of Moab,
and the heads of all the sons of Sheth.
Edom will be a possession,
Seir, his enemies, will also be a possession;
but Israel will act valiantly.
A ruler will be established from Jacob;
he will destroy the remains of the city.’” (Numbers 24:17-19)

Are the wise men merely good readers of Numbers when they make their long journey or is Balaam’s prophecy meant to be taken more symbolically than perhaps they’ve taken it?

Either way, Jesus seems to have no qualms about his identity:

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” (Revelation 22:16)

Oh that is good!


Obeying the book of Revelation

December 10, 2009

Last week as I began reading Revelation I didn’t make it far before I hit a snag.  Actually, I only made it three verses, until I landed on this:

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near!

This of course, got me to thinking, “How does one obey the book of Revelation?”  The journey that ensued and consumed the last week of my devotional time with the Lord came out something like this…

To “obey” Revelation means essentially to worship Jesus.  Revelation is “prophecy” (1:3; 22:7)–the spirit of which is “testimony about Jesus” (19:10).  Testimony about Jesus defines those who are for Him (1:2, 9; 6:9; 11:7; 12:11, 17; 15:5; 17:6; 19:10; 22:16–testimony about/for Jesus seems to be the primary designator of Christians in Revelation; 10:7; 11:10; 22:6–of prophets testifying about Jesus; 11:18; 16:6; 18:20, 24 of prophets testifying about Jesus in parallel with “saints”) and defines those who are false prophets (2:20; 16:13; 19:20; 20:10) because their testimony leads people to worship someone other than Jesus (19:20).

Twice John tries to worship the angel who speaks with him.  Twice the angels forbid him and urge him to worship God.  The first time (19:10) this urging appears to elaborate what it means to “hold to the testimony about Jesus”.  Alternately, the second exhortation to worship (22:9) appears to elaborate what it means to “obey the words of this book” (which is itself a testimony about and revelation of Jesus, 1:1).

Repeatedly (7x in the opening 3 chapters) we hear the refrained exhortation: “The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).  Rather than being an aside to those reading the Spirit’s words to the churches in chapters 2-3 (i.e. an aside to us), I believe it makes more sense that the Spirit’s “word” should be that which comes after chapters 2 and 3.  One reason for this is in the repeated blessing on the one who obeys the words of the prophecy (1:3; 22:7).  Essentially John says, “Blessed are you if you obey [1:3]…Now that you’ve heard, you’ll be blessed by obeying [22:7].”  Notice: the blessing at hearing is NOT repeated in chapter 22.  Instead, John curses anyone who, having haerd, chooses to add to or take away from the prophecy.

As for timing, I believe the book’s own timetable seems to make the most sense.

  • “The time is near (1:3; 22:10)
  • “…must happen very soon” (1:1; 22:6)
  • “little longer” (6:10)
  • “There will be no more delay!” (10:6)

UPDATE: I’ve been wondering lately if maybe our living in the last days has more to do with the NT idea that in Jesus’s resurrection the final restoration has already begun and than it has to do with the number of years before Jesus’ return.  More on this later perhaps?  We’ll see.  Back to Revelation…

Lastly, the imminent expectation of Revelation’s occurring is also bolstered by John apparent placement of himself in that group which would experience the persecution of Revelation “very soon” in 1:8 (“I John…who shares with you in persecution”).  If the book is something imminently to happen (which does not preclude its being future yet still, so don’t get too nervous if this messes with your chart) then I think the repeated exhortations to endurance are not idle (2:10, 24; 3:11; 13:10).

In light of all these thoughts, here is my proposed outline for the book:

I.  Introduction to the revelation and testimony to Jesus Christ (Ch. 1)

II.  Exhortations to the Churches called to live in response to the revelation/testimony about to be given (Ch 2-3)

III.  “What must happen soon” (22:6) so that the world might repent and turn from their blasphemies (9:20-21; 11:13; 16:9, 11, 21) to worship God (19:10; 22:9) with all who are His (4:1-11; 5:8-14; 7:1-12; 11:13, 15-19; 14:1-3; 15:1-4; 16:5-7; 19:1-8) (Ch 4-22:5)

IV.  Closing exhortation to obedience: worship and come to Jesus in the brief time before He comes (22:6-21)

I’ve been slow in my approach to Revelation in past years, so this is among the first of my forays into understanding this infamously difficult book.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Shared questions?

Prophets in Kings

May 22, 2008

Just a quick post on prophets in the book (“books” for those of us who can not reconcile the fact that I and II Kings are really just one book…).

First of all, prophets and their prophecies–specifically the fulfillment of their prophecies–seem to litter the book.  Here are the prophecies which I found to be given and fulfilled within Kings:

  • I Kings 13:26 fulfills I Kings 13:22
  • I Kings 14:18 fulfills I Kings 14:12
  • I Kings 15:29 fulfills I Kings 14:10
  • I Kings 16:12 fulfills I Kings 16:3
  • I Kings 17:16 fulfills I Kings 17:14
  • I Kings 22:38 fulfills I Kings 21:21
  • II Kings 1:17 fulfills II Kings 1:4
  • II Kings 7:16 fulfills II Kings 7:1
  • II Kings 9:26; 10:17 fulfill I Kings 19:17
  • II Kings 23:16 fulfills I Kings 13:2
  • II Kings 24:2 fulfills II Kings 21:13-14

Though there may be others I have missed, I have only spotted two fulfillments of prophecies given outside of Kings:

  • I Kings 2:27 fulfills I Samuel 2:33
  • I Kings 16:34 fulfills Joshua 6:26

With all the prophecy/prophet emphasis noted above I am let to ask two questions: 1) Why is there so little prophetic involvement in the life and times of Solomon (chps. 1-11)?  And 2) Why does the author of Kings place such a large emphasis on the prophets?  Here is my stab at an answer to these questions:

1) The author of Kings uses the temple building/Solomonic era as one of the litmus tests which will    clarify the outcome of the book for the reader.  To illustrate: when Solomon builds his temple God offers him an ultimatum:

“Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations.  Then I will allow your dynasty to rule over Israel permanently, just as I promised your father David…But if your or your sons ever turn away from me…then I will remove Israel from the land I have given them, I will abandon this temple I have consecrated with my presence, and Israle will be mocked and ridiculed among the nations.” -I Kings 9:4-7

If in fact there is a divine ultimatum being issued here, then it sets the reader up over the course of the book with a clear guide by which he or she will be able to judge the actions of the following kings (cf. II Kings 25:9).

2) The answer to the second question (regarding the heavy emphasis on prophets) is that their function within the book is to declare the current state of things in view of God’s ultimatum (above).  Their role, as ones who remind God’s people of God’s standard, is central to the book, because it taps in to one of the central questions to the book: How will God’s people perform according to God’s ultimatum? 

Ultimately the outcome of the prophets’ involvement in Kings is the explanation of the demise of Israel/Judah (though there remains a point of light in II KIngs 25:27-30) and the establishment of God’s position on his people’s actions throughout the monarchy period.