Category Archives: Ecclesiology

An Inevitable, Unstoppable Kingdom

Mark 4:30–32
30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

This short parable of Jesus is packed with significance for us. In attempting to explain the nature of God’s Kingdom (ie. God’s “rule and reign”), Jesus used the picture of a mustard seed.

mustard seeds
Photo courtesy of Anja Herbert Noordam

The mustard seed indigenous to the land of Israel is extremely small.  To the naked eye a single mustard seed seems trivial.

What possible significance could come from something so small?

Indeed, it’s difficult to image that from just one mustard seed a tree like this could emerge:

 

mustard seed tree
Photo courtesy of Anja Herbert Noordam

Many sermons have emphasized the point of Jesus’ parable to be that God’s kingdom begins small–almost imperceptively so–but grows large.  That is an important (and encouraging!) dimension to this teaching.  But there’s another aspect to this parable that sometimes goes unnoticed.

In the first-century laws were in place that placed strict parameters on where mustard seeds could be planted.  Why?  Because the aggressive, fast-growing nature of the mustard plant caused some to view it as a “malignant weed” with “dangerous takeover properties” (Michael F. Bird, Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission, Continuum, 2006, pp. 73–77).

From the Wikipedia Entry on the parable:

Pliny the Elder (Roman Naturalist and philosopher) , in his Natural History (published around AD 78) writes that “mustard… is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”

The significance of this fact is incredibly important for us to understand.  Jesus wants his disciples to understand that although the kingdom starts small, it’s growth is inevitable and unstoppable.  Regardless of where it’s planted, God’s kingdom is a offensive, encroaching, non-domesticated force that quickly overwhelms the ecosystem around it with God’s power, joy, love, grace, and truth.

Last Sunday about 60 people gathered at our church to worship, share communion together, pray, and learn more about following Jesus.  By Sunday afternoon I found myself reflecting on the the future of our church within the broader Nelson community. To the naked eye our church seems trivial.  

What possible significance could come from something so small?

And I realized in light of this teaching that I was asking the wrong question.

If we are sincerely following Jesus and allowing God to establish his kingdom within our lives, growth and impact will materialize.  The question I should have been mulling over was, “What possible significance will come from something so small?”

Because the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.  It has takeover properties.  Despite its meager beginnings, life-giving impact to the surrounding ecosystem is inevitable and unstoppable.

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Bible Overview Series: Jonah

 

Jonah
Jonah 
by Joseph Novak

When the prophet disobeys, even the fish of the sea are against him. When Nineveh repents, even the animals fast and pray..

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Jonah

God had created all mankind, but He’d chosen one special nation as His own: Israel. Through Israel, all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gn 12:3). God had given Israel His laws through Moses (back in Exodus), and called them by His name (2 Sa 7:23). Through Israel, the world would know who God is.

Nineveh, on the other hand . . .

Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and a place of great wickedness. So the Lord tells a prophet named Jonah to “Arise, go to Nineveh, and cry against it” (Jon 1:2).

But Jonah does something entirely unexpected: he boards a ship headed in the opposite direction. The Lord sends a mighty storm after him, which threatens to destroy the vessel. Jonah confesses to the sailors that he is a Hebrew, and that he is trying to escape Yahweh’s presence.

His proposed solution: “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you” (Jon 1:12). They do so, and the sea calms—and all the sailors recognize the God who spared them.

Then comes the part everyone remembers: Jonah is swallowed by a “great fish.” He prays from within the fish, and God has it vomit him onto the land.

Now we’re back to square one. God tells Jonah to arise and go to Nineveh, and this time Jonah obeys. He walks through the evil city, heralding Nineveh’s impending doom: in just 40 days, Nineveh will be overthrown.

The Ninevites do the unexpected: they repent.

And God relents.

And Jonah is not OK with this.

Theme verse in Jonah

“[. . .] Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” (Jon 4:2)

Jonah’s role in the Bible

Jonah is the most widely known of the Minor Prophets, the last 12 books of the Old Testament. When God had a message for the people, He spoke through the prophets. His word came in visions, oracles, dreams, parables, and the like. Most of these book were written to the people of Israel and Judah, but Jonah, Obadiah, and Nahum are more concerned with surrounding nations.

These Minor Prophet books record those messages. They outline the people’s sins, the consequences of those sins, and the proper response to God.

Well, except the book of Jonah. It’s a story, not a sermon. It focuses on the prophet, not the people. And Jonah contains hardly any prophecy at all . . . only one line: “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jon 3:4).

But fast-forward to the New Testament, and you’ll see Jesus referring to Jonah as a sign of the Messiah:

  • Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (Mt 12:40–41)
  • Jonah’s life events told some of Christ’s story, and his message foreshadowed Christ’s message: repent!

But Jonah isn’t all about repentance. It’s also a story of God’s compassion for all peoples, not just Israel. The book of Jonah can be divided down the middle to show two short episodes: God’s compassion to Jonah and God’s compassion through Jonah.

Jonah 1–2, God’s compassion to Jonah

  • God sends Jonah to Nineveh.
  • Jonah goes in the opposite direction.
  • God comes after Jonah in a storm.
  • Jonah explains to this destructive storm is from Yahweh, the Hebrew God.
  • The sailors pray to Him, “do not let us perish.”
  • The storm subsides.
  • Jonah prays to Yahweh.
  • Jonah is saved.

Jonah 3–4, God’s compassion through Jonah

  • God sends Jonah to Nineveh.
  • Jonah obeys.
  • Jonah warns that Nineveh will be destroyed.
  • Nineveh repents and calls on God “so that [they] will not perish.”
  • God relents.
  • Jonah prays to God.
  • Jonah is answered.

In both episodes, the Hebrew (Jonah) gets people from other nations to recognize God’s sovereignty and compassion . . . even when he disobeys.

The book of Second Kings tells us that Jonah had prophesied about Israel’s king Jeroboam II (2 Ki 14:25), which means his ministry may have overlapped with those of Hoesa (Hos 1:1) and Amos (Am 1:17:11), who also preached to Israel during Jeroboam’s reign.

Through the book of Jonah, we see God’s compassion for Nineveh when they repent. But Nineveh doesn’t stay on that path. Instead, they continue in violence and wickedness. The Assyrians (whose capital is Nineveh) come against Israel and carry her off into exile (2 Ki 17:6). Nineveh becomes so wicked that the Lord chooses another prophet, Nahum, to speak against it. But this time, there’s no way out (Na 2:13).

However, God’s story of compassion for the nations has only just begun. Later, there will arise yet another prophet who will obey and submit to God (Php 2:8), who will be a light to the Gentiles (Lk 2:32), who will make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19–20) . . .

Quick outline of Jonah

  • God directs Jonah, Jonah disobeys (Jon 1)
  • God has compassion on Jonah (Jonah 2)
  • Jonah preaches to Nineveh, Nineveh repents (Jonah 3)
  • God has compassion on Nineveh, but Jonah does not (Jonah 4)

 

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Bible Overview Series: Obadiah

Obadiah


Obadiah 
by Joseph Novak

I made you as numerous as the stars. Watch now while I rub out every star and wrap the world in darkness..

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

 

 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Obadiah

Israel has a longstanding rivalry with the nation of Edom, but now Edom has gone too far. When the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem and the temple of God, Edom was there—cheering on the Babylonians (Ps 137:7Ob 10–11).

Obadiah’s message is simple: no matter how safe they think they are, no matter how wise they think they are, Edom can’t get away with this (Ob 48).

The rivalry between Israel and Edom began long ago in the book of Genesis. Esau (Edom’s ancestor) sold Jacob his birthright for a bowl of soup, and then Jacob tricked their father into giving him the blessing of the firstborn.

Jacob and Esau resolved their differences (Gn 33:4), and God gave both of their descendants a land. Israel’s capital was Mount Zion (Jerusalem); Edom’s was Mount Seir (Dt 2:5). Both had an inheritance. Both had a mountain. Only one was God’s chosen people.

As time wore on,  the relationship between their descendants became strained. Edom refused to let Moses and the Israelites take the highway through their land, and opposed them militantly (Num 20:20–21). Edom and Israel also had several conflicts during the time of the kings.

But during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, Edom attacked and looted God’s chosen people, and happily returned to their own fortified cities in Mount Seir.

So God sends his messenger to them: a man named Obadiah (Hebrew for “servant of Yahweh”). Through Obadiah, God swears to turn the tables on Edom.

For now:

  • Edom dwells in security on their mountain
  • Israel is scattered and in exile
  • Edom has plundered Jerusalem
  • But when the Lord has His day:
  • Edom will be brought down from Mount Sier (Ob 4)
  • Israel will be gathered back to her land (Ob 19–20)
  • Edom will be plundered (Ob 6)
  • Mount Seir may seem to have won, but Mount Zion prevails in the end.

Theme verse in Obadiah

The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion
To judge the mountain of Esau,
And the kingdom will be the LORD’S. (Ob 21)

Obadiah’s role in the Bible

Obadiah is the fourth of the Minor Prophets, the last 12 books of the Bible. When God had a message for the people, He gave his message through the prophets. These messages came in visions, oracles, dreams, parables, and the like.

Most of the Minor Prophets are messages to the people of Judah and Israel (the Southern and Northern Kingdoms of God’s people), but Obadiah’s vision is different. Like Jonah and Nahum, Obadiah’s writings mainly concern the people outside of Israel—in Obadiah’s case, it’s the nation of Edom.

We don’t know much about the prophet Obadiah or when his book was written. Most scholars date this vision around the time of Jeremiah, when God had delivered similar messages concerning Edom (Je 49:7–22). Some Jewish traditions claim that this book was written by the Obadiah who served King Ahab, which would make him a contemporary of Elijah (1 Ki 18).

Obadiah is the briefest book  of the Old Testament, and the fourth shortest book of the Bible (after Third John,Second John, and Philemon). But despite its brevity, it unpacks a longstanding history between Israel and one of its enemies—and more importantly, the history of God’s covenant with Israel’s ancestors:

  • Back in Genesis chapter 12, God made a promise to Abraham: He would bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him (Gn 12:1–3).
  • That blessing was passed on to Isaac, Abraham’s son (Gn 21:12;26:24).
  • Isaac’s wife Rebekah had  twins: Esau and Jacob (Gn 25:24–26).
  • God had declared that one nation would prevail, and that Esau would serve Jacob (Gn 25:23). Isaac reiterated this promise, making Jacob the master of Esau (Gn 27:29).
  • Esau’s descendants became the nation of Edom, while Jacob fathered the 12 tribes of Israel. Both nations were neighbors, and were often at odds.
  • When Israel was serving God under the righteous king David, God’s prediction to Rebekah came true: Edom served Israel  as a vassal state (2 Sa 8:14).
  • After Solomon and Israel turned from God, the kingdom divided and troubles with Edom reignited (1 Ki 11:142 Ki 8:22).
  • When God finally exiled Judah top Babylon, Edom helped the Babylonians loot Judah (Ps 137:7Ob 10–11).

The Jews knew the story of Jacob and Esau, though. They knew about God’s message to Rebekah. So why would He allow the Edomites to do this?

The book of Obadiah shows that God will not forsake His promises to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. To the Edomites, it’s a message of judgment and doom. To the Jews, it’s a message of faithfulness and salvation.

Quick outline of Obadiah

The book of Obadiah begins with a promise to bring Edom down from their mountain (Sier), and ends with the deliverers of Israel ascending Mount Zion to judge Edom.

  • What will happen to Edom: punishment (1–9)
  • Why: because of Edom’s violence to Israel (10–14)
  • Israel’s restoration and Edom’s destruction (15–21)

 

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Bible Overview Series: Amos

Amos


Amos 
by Joseph Novak

Hallelujah! The Lord is here! Run for your lives!

 (Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

 Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Amos

Amos was a simple shepherd in the Southern Kingdom of Judah (Am 1:1). He wasn’t a prophet. There were no prophets in his family. But God had a message for the rebellious Northern Kingdom of Israel, and He chose Amos to deliver it (Am 7:15).

God had made Israel His chosen people (back in Exodus), and He was to be their God. But when the kingdom divided, the northern tribes turned their backs on Him. The Lord’s temple and priests were still in Zion, but Israel worshiped new idols at the cities of Bethel and Dan (1 Ki 12:28–30) and created a new order of priests (1 Ki 12:31), and listened to false prophets.

And now, while God had mercifully given them peace and prosperity under King Jeroboam II (2 Ki 14:26–28), the nation was abusing its own people. The rich were oppressing the poor (Am 4:15:11). The judges were accepting bribes (Am 5:116:12).

God had promised to bless the nation if they obeyed Him and curse them if they rebelled (inDeuteronomy). Israel rebelled, and now judgment is coming. But God isn’t going to punish Israel without explaining what’s going on (Am 3:7).

So Amos, the shepherd, the tree trimmer, goes to Bethel (a royal city of idol worship) and proclaims God’s message of justice, punishment, and restoration. He makes two bold prophecies:

  • King Jeroboam II will die.
  • Israel will be carried off into exile. (Am 7:11)

As you can imagine, this message doesn’t sit well with Jeroboam II and his false priests. But Amos answers to the Lord, not Israel (Am 3:8):

A lion has roared! Who will not fear?
The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?

And when Israel rebels at Bethel, the Lord roars from Zion (Am 1:2).

Theme verse in Amos

“‘Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom,
And I will destroy it from the face of the earth;
Nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,’
Declares the LORD.” (Am 9:8)

Amos’ role in the Bible

Amos is the third of the Minor Prophets, the last twelve books of the Old Testament. When God had a message for the people, He gave his message through the prophets. These messages came in visions, oracles, dreams, parables, and the like.

Amos’s ministry may have been the earliest of the Minor Prophets’. He preached during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel (probably no later than 750 B.C.), two years before a major earthquake *(Am 1:1). The prophets Hosea (Hos 1:1) and Jonah (2 Ki 14:23–25) also ministered to Israel during Jeroboam II’s reign.

Amos was a prophet from the South (Judah) whom God sent to the North (Israel). This book focuses on God’s sovereign justice:

  • God is sovereign. He created the universe (Am 5:8). He is the one who allows cities and nations to fall (Am 3:6). He is the one who rescued Israel from Egypt (Am 9:7). “The Lord of hosts is His name” (Am 4:13).
  • God is just. Before the nation of Israel entered the promised land, they made a covenant with God. God promised blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience (in Deuteronomy). Israel has disobeyed, and the judgment is on the way.

Amos claims that Israel will be carried away into exile as punishment for their rebellion. His prophecies come true when the Assyrians conquer the Northern Kingdom (2 Ki 17:6–23).

The writer of Second Kings tells us that God’s prophets urged Israel and Judah to turn from their evil ways and keep God’s commandments, but the people stubbornly ignored them (2 Ki 17:13–14). Amos is an example of this. When God sent Amos with a message of judgment, the false priest tries to silence him (Am 7:10–13).

Amos gave his message during a time of prosperity in Israel—prosperity that God had mercifully given them through the wicked king Jeroboam II (2 Ki 14:24–28). The book of Amos reminds us that God’s blessings don’t always coincide with our obedience (and are often in spite of our disobedience).

Amos also shows us that God demands justice for the poor. During their time of God-given security, Israel had abused her most insecure citizens (Am 4:15:11–12)—a crime God considers worthy of punishment. God’s standards on this haven’t relaxed with time. According to the apostle James, God still expects the rich to deal justly with those around them, and will punish those who oppress the poor and the righteous (Ja 5:1–6).

Even though the book of Amos is a message of impending doom, it isn’t without notes of hope and restoration. Amos urges the people to “seek the Lord that [they] may live” (Am 5:4–614–15), and even foretells of a day when Israel will be restored from captivity (Am 9:14–15) and reunited with Judah under David’s line of kings (Am 9:11).

Quick outline of Amos

  • Judgment on surrounding nations (1–2:3)
  • Judgment on Israel (2:4–4:13)
  • The dirge against unrepentant Israel (5–6)
  • Amos’ visions against Israel (7–9:10)
  • God’s promise of restoration (9:11–15)
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Bible Overview Series: Joel

Joel2

Joel by Joseph Novak

Through the cracks in our broken hearts the grasshoppers have come swarming in.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Joel

Locusts. Locusts everywhere.

A devastating swarm had come to Judah, the Southern Kingdom. This was no small infestation; the people had never seen anything like it:

“What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten;
And what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten;
And what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten.” (Joe 1:4)

The crops were gone. The people were hungry. The cattle were hungry. What was happening—and why?

The day of the Lord was upon them. When God was delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt, He sent a plague of locusts on the Egyptians’ crops. Now, hundreds of years later, He was judging His people with the same kind of plague for straying from Him.

But God also sends His prophet: Joel.

Joel explains to the people what the Lord wants from them: repentance. The Lord would soon have His day, both with Judah and the whole world. Joel’s message has two strong points:

  • God is judging Judah, but He will bless and restore them again when they repent.
  • God will judge all the nations on Judah’s behalf.

God disciplines His people, but He also defends them. Joel says that although Judah is under God’s wrath right now, in the future holds many exciting things for the people of God:

  • The Lord will pour out His Spirit on all mankind.
  • Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered.
  • The Lord will avenge Judah of her enemies.
  • Judah will again become a land of plenty.

Joel’s message is stern for the disobedient, but it also highlights God’s love and desire to be with His people. Rather than let them starve after sending the locusts, God sends Joel to direct their hearts back to Him.

Theme verse of Joel

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil. (Joe 2:12–13)

Joel’s role in the Bible

Joel is the second minor prophet, who ministered to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. We don’t know much about him, and we don’t know much about how his message was received.

We do know that Joel’s prophecy about the day of the Lord has begun to come to pass. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles and they began speaking in tongues (on the day of Pentecost ). Peter explains that this is what Joel prophesied about in Joel 3:28–32.

However, the promises of Joel’s third chapter are yet to be fulfilled.

Of all the Old Testament books, Joel has the highest concentration of imperative verbs: 1.1% of the Hebrew words are commanding verbs.

Quick outline of Joel

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Bible Overview Series: Hosea

Hosea2


Hosea 
by Joseph Novak

She has given birth. Another son! Tenderly her humiliated husband gathers the little prophecy into his arms.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Hosea

The Northern Kingdom of Israel had turned her back on God.

When God chose Jeroboam to rule the northern ten tribes of Israel, He was prepared to establish Jeroboam’s bloodline the same way He’d done for David (1 Ki 11:38). Instead, King Jeroboam set up two golden calves and instituted a pagan priesthood—forever cementing his legacy as the one “who made Israel sin” (1 Ki 13:26).

Israel had left the one who had saved her, loved her, and made her His own. The Southern Kingdom of Judah wasn’t far behind.

So God tells a man named Hosea to marry a harlot.

Hosea marries her, and has children. But she leaves him and commits adultery.

Then God tells him to go after her and bring her back.

Hosea’s marriage is symbolic of God’s covenantrelationship with Israel. Through Hosea, the Lord tells the story of Israel’s disobedience, His discipline, and His steadfast, faithful love:

  • Rejection and betrayal. Hosea’s wife, Gomer, leaves him for another—just like Israel has left God to worship idols.
  • Rejection and discipline. Just as Israel rejected Him, God will reject her. Israel and Judah will fall to other empires and be taken away from their promised land.
  • Restoration and reconciliation. Hosea brings back his adultrous wife and loves her again. In an even greater way, God will not forget his love for Israel and Judah, nor His promises to them. He will bring them back to their land. He will restore them to Himself and to David their king: “they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days” (Ho 3:5).

Hosea’s message is harsh. Hosea’s message is tender. Hosea’s message is heartbreaking.

It’s the story of God and the unfaithful nation He loves anyway.

Theme verse of Hosea

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.’” (Ho 3:1)

Hosea’s role in the Bible

Hosea’s book is the first of the Minor Prophets—the last 12 books of the Old Testament. When God had a message for the people, He gave his message through the prophets. These messages came in visions, oracles, dreams, parables, and the like.

While most of the Minor Prophets were from the Southern Kingdom, Hosea was from the North and ministered to the North. He does mention the Southern Kingdom of Judah a few times, though (Ho 1:111;4:155:58–156:4118:1410:1111:1212:2).

Hosea is especially famous for his marriage to the prostitute Gomer. His role and Gomer’s profession don’t strike readers as the best match, and their marriage certainly would have attracted some attention when it occurred. So does did it happen?

Hosea marries a harlot because God was proving a point: Israel had treated Him in the same way Gomer treats Hosea.

That’s the dynamic that sets Hosea apart from the rest of the Scriptures: no other prophet so squarely focuses on the intimate relationship God holds with His people, even when they betray Him.

Unfortunately, we know that Israel did not listen to Hosea’s warnings (2 Ki 7:13–14).

Like Jeremiah and Habakkuk, Hosea lives to see his prophecy of captivity come to pass. Hosea ministered during the days of southern kings Ahaz and Hezekiah (Ho 1:1), who reigned when the Northern Kingdom was sacked and carried off by Assyria.

Quick outline of Hosea

  • Hosea illustrates God’s relationship with Israel (Hos 1–3)
  • Hosea’s wife is unfaithful to him, like Israel is to God (Hos 1–2)
  • Hosea brings his wife back, like God will do for Israel (Hos 3)
  • Hosea explains God’s plan for Israel (Hos 4–13)
  • Israel’s idolatry against God (4–7)
  • Israel’s impending punishment (8–10)
  • God’s loving discipline (11–13)
  • God’s promise of restoration (14)
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Bible Overview Series: Isaiah

Isaiah2


Isaiah 
by Joseph Novak

When the four corners of creation are picked up like a tablecloth, all the crumbs will slide into the middle, into Zion.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

 


Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Isaiah

The nation of Israel has long been split into two nations: North and South, Israel and Judah.  They’d weathered wars against each other and the surrounding nation for a few hundred years, but neither kingdom can stand through the storms to come.

The Assyrians are rising in power, and the Babylonians will overthrow them in time. And the people hadn’t remained faithful to their God, and so their security as a nation cannot last.

The North will fall soon. The South will fall later.  God raises up the prophet Isaiah to tell the people this message.

But by His grace, the message doesn’t end there.

Yes, God is going to bring the Assyrians against the North. He will bring the Babylonians against the Assyrians. He will send the South into exile in Babylon.  He will bring the Persian Cyrus against the Babylonians.

But He will also bring Israel back home. He will also rule Israel as Immanuel: God with us. He will judge Israel’s enemies, and bring all the nations to Himself, too.

And somehow, a mysterious Servant will bear the sins of many, reconciling Israel and the world to the Lord.

That’s Isaiah’s message. God’s judgment is coming, but so is His comfort.

Theme verse of Isaiah

Zion will be redeemed with justice
And her repentant ones with righteousness. (Is 1:27)

Isaiah’s role in the Bible

Isaiah is the first of the Major Prophets. When God had a message for the people, He spoke to them through prophets: men moved by the Holy Spirit to speak on God’s behalf.

Isaiah is the only Major Prophet whose story takes place before the fall of Jerusalem. While Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesy about these events before and while they happen, Isaiah looks into the future to see Judah’s Babylonian captivity.

And the other writers of the Bible look back at Isaiah when telling the story of Israel. Isaiah personally interacts with the kings of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, and so his story covers some of the events in in Kings and Chronicles:

  • The writer of Chronicles cites Isaiah as a source of information on kings Uzziah and Hezekiah (2 Ch 27:2232:32).
  • Isaiah describes the spiritual conflict surrounding Ahaz’ war against Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Aram (Is 72 Ki 16:5–92 Ch 28).
  • Isaiah goes into much detail on Hezekiah’s reign: including his run-in with Sennacherib and miraculous recovery.
  • Isaiah foretells the downfall of Israel at Assyria’s hand, which we learn about in more detail in Second Kings (2 Ki 17).
  • Isaiah anticipates Judah’s fall, too. He predicts that the Babylonians will carry the Jews away. We see this come true in Second Chronicles and Daniel (2 Ch 36Da 1:1–2).
  • Lastly, Isaiah makes the incredible prediction that Cyrus, the Persian emperor, will send the Jews back home. Second Chronicles ends on this note, and the story continues in Ezra (2 Ch 36:22–23Is 44:28–45:7).

Isaiah’s most famous prophecies, however, concern Jesus. No other prophet is referenced in the New Testament as much as Isaiah. Isaiah preaches of the coming King who will rule Israel and the nations in justice and peace. He also looks forward to a special Servant of God: one who will fulfill all Israel’s duties and bear their sins.

Here are just a couple of famous things Isaiah said about Jesus:

“Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Is 7:14). This prophecy ultimately points to Jesus, as the Gospel of Matthew points out (Mt 1:22–23).

“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Is 53:6). The entire fifty-third chapter is a beautiful prophecy of Jesus.

Isaiah’s words also have a special meaning for today’s church (which is made up of Jews and Gentiles). Paul quotes Isaiah extensively in his letter to the Romans as he explains salvation, the sovereignty of God, and the new relationships between the Lord, the Gentiles, and the Jews.

Quick outline of Isaiah

  • Messages of righteous judgment (1–35)
  • Judgment on Israel and Judah (1–12)
  • Judgment on the other nations (13–24)
  • Promised restoration of all nations (25–27)
  • Woe and judgment on Jerusalem (28–33)
  • Woe to nations, blessings to Jerusalem (34–35)
  • Isaiah’s ministry to Hezekiah (36–39)
  • Messages of comfort and salvation (40–66)
  • Israel’s coming restoration (40–45)
  • Babylon’s judgment (46–48)
  • Salvation through the Servant (49–56:8)
  • Rebuke for the wicked (56:9–59:21)
  • Zion glorified (60–65)
  • God’s righteous, final judgment (66)
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Bible Overview Series: 1 and 2 Kings

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Kings by Joseph Novak

1 Kings: So, you really want a monarchy huh? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

2 Kings: I told you so.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

 

 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of 1 and 2 Kings

The books of First and Second Kings are the story of Israel’s decline. Whereas First and Second Samueldocument Israel’s shift from corrupt judges to the righteous leadership of David, Kings shows how Israel divides and falls into the hands of her enemies.

These books of history pick up where Second Samuel left off: Israel is united under the godly King David, who appoints his son Solomon to rule after him. Solomon is blessed with wisdom, and charged with building a majestic temple to the Lord in Jerusalem. God tells Solomon to remember Him and follow his father David’s example.

Unfortunately, Solomon is unfaithful to God in his later years, and God divides the kingdom after his death. The northern ten tribes follow Solomon’s former warrior and taskmaster Jeroboam, and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain loyal to the throne of David. The rest of these books document the way these kings (and those who followed) lead God’s people to worship. Each king is remembered according to whether or not they lead Israel to worship God in Jerusalem or worship idols elsewhere.

Neither the Northern Kingdom (Israel) nor the Southern Kingdom (Judah) keep the Law of Moses and worship God at Jerusalem, and therefore both are taken captive by enemy nations. Israel is taken by Assyria (2 Kgs 17:6–23) and Judah falls to Babylon (2 Kgs 25:1–26)—which is just what God promised would happen if they disobeyed His law (Dt 28:36–37).

Theme verses of 1 & 2 Kings

“As for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight.” (1 Ki 9:4–7)

1 & 2 Kings’ role in the Bible

The books of Kings were probably written during the time of Judah’s captivity in Babylon (which begins at the end of Second Kings). The temple of God was destroyed. Jerusalem was in ruins. The tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and some of Levi were serving a pagan king in a faraway country. These books answer the questions, “What happened? How did it come to this?” that captive Hebrews would have asked.

The response: “Whom did you worship?”

The kings are evaluated by how they worshiped the Lord God. Good kings served the Lord in the temple at Jerusalem, the others did evil in His sight. Two kings set examples for the rest of the nation: David and Jeroboam. David honored God and upheld His law. Jeroboam disregarded God and His temple, and instead set up two golden calves to worship.

Good kings of the South followed David’s example. Every king of the North followed Jeroboam’s example. Most kings of the South worshiped pagan gods, too.

The books of Kings show us how faithful God is to His people. We see the full spectrum of God’s dealings with Israel: from extreme blessing under Solomon to utter desolation and captivity. These blessings and curses were all promised to Israel in the book of Deuteronomy.

Quick outline of 1 and 2 Kings

 

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Bible Overview Series: 2 Samuel

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Samuel by Joseph Novak

Victory! A riot of joy! The victor covers his face: O Absalom, my son, my son.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of 2 Samuel

King Saul and the prophet Samuel are dead, but God has not left Israel without a leader. David, the boy who killed Goliath, is a famous and mighty warrior in Israel—and the man God has chosen as Israel’s new king.

David is a good king who serves the Lord and cares for his people. God blesses David and the entire nation under his rule. More importantly, God makes a covenant (a solemn agreement) with David, promising to establish his throne forever.

However, David disobeys the Lord and sleeps with Bathsheba, who is married to one of David’s soldiers. David repents, but God punishes him with wars, betrayal, rebellions, and national upheaval. David still serves God throughout these difficulties, though, and God is faithful to His promise: David remains king over Israel.

Theme verse in 2 Samuel

“Now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are truth, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant.” (2 Sa 7:28)

2 Samuel’s role in the Bible

Whereas the book of First Samuel shows Israel’s transition from God’s authority to Saul’s irresponsible rule, Second Samuel documents the transition back to God-honoring leadership under David.

David was anointed king of Israel by God, and is a picture of the true Messiah (God’s anointed one). In the New Testament, Jesus is revealed to be the fulfillment of a godly king. While David seeks to uphold the Law of Moses, but Christ comes to fulfill the law (Mt 5:17). David is tempted and fails, but Jesus overcame temptation (Mt 4). God promises that David’s bloodline will have an everlasting kingdom, and Christ will rule over Israel forever (Lk 1:32–33).

The books of First and Second Samuel are really one story: God finds a man after His own heart to lead His people.

Quick outline of 2 Samuel

 

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How To Invite Someone To Church

Even as our culture moves a  post-Christian direction, it’s not uncommon for Christmas and Easter church services to be the largest of the year.  These services continue to draw seekers and skeptics who are haunted by the suspicion that modern secularism is not the end-all and be-all; that there must be a deeper reality and truer story that holds the promise to change our lives and world for the better.

That deeper reality and story, of course, is the gospel of Jesus.

However, for many people (myself included), helping people connect to that message is no easy task.  Where do we start?

With Easter Sunday around the corner, may I make a humble suggestion?  Invite them to church this Sunday.

Granted, this idea is neither flashy nor innovative, but this Sunday may be the best and easiest Sunday to invite friends, family, and neighbours to.  Many people are still open to attending a church service, especially around the Christmas and Easter holidays.  And unless your church really pulls an epic Easter fail, the truth and power of Jesus’ resurrection will take centre stage!

Some people hesitate when it comes to inviting their friends to church.  Me too.  I find that questions and doubts can shut  down the invite before it has a chance to even be considered.

  • How will they react to the invitation?  Will they be weirded out? Will it affect our relationship going forward?
  • What will they think of our church?   Will they “get it”?
  • Will the service fall flat?  Will the music and/or message sucks? (and I ask this as the message-giver!)

While well-intended in their sensitivity, these questions often plant doubts that keep us from ever extending an invite.  By focusing on the what if’s, we actually remove faith in God’s leading and power. Instead, we localize our faith and trust in our ability to “deliver the goods.”  Our confidence gets rooted in whether we can extend the perfect invite to the perfect service with the perfect music and perfect message at the perfect church.

I hope the issue with this line of thinking is obvious: there are no perfect any of those things. And that’s OK.  Our imperfect invites, imperfect services, imperfect music, imperfect messages–our imperfect churches–are not an obstacle for God.  The hope we offer people is not our perfection, but Jesus‘!  Not only that, but God delights in using our weakness as a conduit of His power and glory (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:9).

So this year I’m challenging myself (and you!) to invite one friend, family member, or neighbour to church this Sunday.  Your invite will be an act of faith (who knows how they will respond?…), but when it’s done relying on God’s resources and not our own, great things can happen.

How To Invite Your Friend To Church

Ready to take the plunge and invite someone?  Here are a few simple ways to invite them to church:

1. Email or Text.  Today I invited two people to our Sunday service via a short text message:

Hi _________, I’m not sure if you’d be interested, but I wanted to extend an invite to our church’s Easter morning service this Sunday. It starts at 10am at Nelson Covenant Church.  No pressure, just wanted you to know that there was an open invite.  If you have any questions about the service or our church, let me know. 🙂

2. Phone call.  This is more personal than an email or text, but may put people on the spot depending on what they are doing at the time of the call.  You’ll have to judge based on the nature of the relationship.

3. Face-to-Face.  This is the most personal approach, but like a phone call, picking a context that doesn’t feel like you’re cornering someone is probably important.  If an opportunity arises, however, this is ideal.  It allows you to fully express yourself (i.e. tone, body language, etc.) to the person which helps people feel your care and warmth.

You’ve got four days until Easter Sunday.  Take the initiative and invite someone to join you at church this Sunday.  Worst case scenario: they say “no thanks.”  Best case scenario: they say “Yes!”, not just to joining you on Sunday, but ultimately to Jesus and his gospel.

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