Several Introductions to the Bible

This week’s reading is titled “Introductions.” We had our introductions to what the Bible is with brief readings from Hebrews and 2 Timothy.

When you read the passage in Luke you get an introduction to a way in which we can read the Bible. Jesus himself shows us that throughout all of Scripture we see him. He instructs disciples soon after the resurrection using the Old Testament and reveals all that those books say about him. Jesus didn’t come into the picture of God’s great plan late in the game. Jesus Christ was always the plan–before this world was even made we were chosen in him, as it says in Ephesians 1.

Then we turn to Genesis and are introduced to creation. Genesis has two accounts of the creation with the second one coming in chapters two and three. There we are introduced to the greatest of God’s creations, human beings, but then quickly we see how far we fall.

God made us and gave Adam clear instructions for how to live in the garden alongside God. But temptation comes when the serpent questions God’s word. “Did God really say that?… Oh, you won’t really die if you do that.” Adam and Eve do not believe the truth of God and believe the tempter. They exchange truth for a lie. The serpent wasn’t even holding something out that was an obvious treachery. The promise was for something akin to wisdom; it was to be like God. But in their pursuit of something good in the wrong way, they sin. And with sin there is consequence. There is shame, there is alienation, and there is curse.

Although God is the one who is wronged, he still seeks to provide even in the midst of passing out judgment. God is the one who clothes his children and he then in chapter three of Genesis promises one who will come for the serpent. Many see Christ as the offspring who will bruise the serpent from Genesis 3:15.

East of Eden

At the end of this introduction Adam and Eve are cast east of Eden, out of the garden and its gates are shut to them, with angels guarding the tree of life. What is next for them? Has God rejected the pinnacle of his creation, leaving humans on their own on earth? The good news that we know is that God does anything but leave us. God would one day come and be among us and there would be another tree of life. And on that tree Jesus Christ would die for us, giving us his very own life–a life abundant and eternal.

We Know Someone Greater Than Solomon

I am appreciative that someone today brought to my attention an interesting reference to Solomon found in the New Testament.

When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Luke 11:29-32

For all the talk of Solomon’s great wisdom, we know something greater than Solomon. Just as with folks like Moses and Abraham, here is another who fails in comparison to Jesus Christ and receives the “greater than” treatment.

In Luke Jesus is shown as greater than Jonah, whose preaching caused a wicked, enemy city of Israel to repent. He is greater than Solomon whose wisdom, wealth, and power were so great that the Queen of Sheba travelled to Jerusalem to marvel at him.

If a city repented in ashes and sackcloth at the words of Jonah and if the world gathered to Solomon to hear his words, how much more will Jesus impact our world. His preaching and his wisdom are matchless. Jesus came to gather all the world and to call all people, Jew and Gentiles, to himself. Even though we’ve read these weeks in Kings and Chronicles of Solomon’s wisdom, a wisdom he sought in order to rule as king, the wisdom of Jesus, our King, is new and greater. As we read elsewhere that even the foolishness of God is wiser than the best of humanity. And in God’s wisdom Christ did not amass great power or wealth as king. As king he suffered and served, sacrificed himself for us, and now reigns on high interceding for us every day.

We ought to be thankful for his wisdom–a wisdom that saves us, and we ought to ask for his type of wisdom as we seek to follow him.

Did Christ Go Up Up and Away?

Ascension of Christ, Garofalo, 1520

In the end of Luke and in the beginning of Acts we read about the ascension of Christ. This short article from the site Near Emmaus raises some questions about what occurred that day and makes you think about where heaven is.

Here’s a quick blurb:

Jesus didn’t keep going into space, past Jupiter, to some floating New Jerusalem a few miles past Neptune. Rather, Jesus disappeared into a parallel reality, yet God accomplished this in a way that would have conveyed symbolic meaning to the disciples.

Story So Far, Week 9

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí, 1951.

God has a special claim among his people of the first born. Then in Numbers 3 he makes an arrangement that I’m sure the tribes were happy about. Instead of having to give over their own firstborns, all the tribes will be represented by the Levites. They will consecrated to the Lord in the place of the children of the rest of Israel.

But this is not the only stand in we see in God’s story. Jesus is arrested and accused of crimes he did not commit. He alone in history is the true innocent one. Yet, in Luke 23, when the people call for someone to be pardoned they cry out for Barabbas. They cry out, “Crucify” to the innocent, and demand release for the guilty.

We can see ourselves in this story, taking the place of Barabbas. We are the guilty ones who deserve the punishment standing beside the innocent Jesus. But we receive the pardon because of Christ’s sacrifice. It is as though God says, “Take my own firstborn instead of these people who deserve the consequences of their sin.” Christ suffers the punishment that we deserve and stands in on behalf of God’s people. Because of this substitution sinners are forgiven and are reconciled to God.

Having completed such a work in Christ, we now press on to read in Acts, and we will see what God will do to care for and grow his church once Jesus has left the people. It is a church made possible only because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, who stands in on our behalf.

A Closer Look at the Israelite Camp and How it Looks Ahead to the Work of Christ

Here is a video that both describes and shows what the encampment of Israel may have looked like. It continues on into more detail about the tabernacle and the inner rooms. Then it jumps ahead to Jesus day and the temple. We read this week in Luke 23 that at the death of Jesus the great curtain that divides the holy of holies from the rest of the temple was torn in two, exposing that sacred space. This signifies the work of Jesus on the cross as removing such a barrier. We now have access because our sin has been paid for by Christ and we all can enter the presence of God’s holiness.

Week 9

A Plague Inflicted on Israel While Eating the Quails; as in Numbers 11:31-34; illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible; image courtesy Bizzell Bible Collection, University of Oklahoma Libraries (from Wikipedia)

The Old Testament begins with book names that can sometimes obscure what they’re about. But it is pretty simple so far. Genesis was the beginning. It was the beginning of creation, of God’s story of dealing with that creation, and the beginning of his very own people. Exodus was Israel leaving slavery in Egypt. Leviticus is the law for the levites, continuing the law given to the people in Exodus. Now we come to Numbers. What’s that about? Want a hint?

Numbers 1:2, “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel…”

That’s right there in the beginning of the book as God commands Moses to take a census, to number the people. It is a continuation of the story from Exodus, which began with their delivery from slavery, as God now numbers his people and prepares them to journey into the promised land.

Meanwhile in the New Testament…

Luke finishes this week and offers another opportunity, after already having read through John, to contemplate the surprising ending to the gospel story. It may not surprise us now, as we have heard it and read it before. But the people surrounding Jesus did not expect him to go to the cross. Who would expect a messiah, God incarnate, one who had such power, to be crucified like a criminal? Read it slowly with a renewed appreciation for the great humility of God to submit himself to such punishment to save the very people who deny him and yell, “crucify him!”

Also, keep in mind that what follows next week is the book of Acts, written by the same person. Try to keep Luke in mind once we begin Acts to see how they connect.

Story So Far, Week 8

If you go back and read through Leviticus 14 you’ll see the lengths the priests had to go to make clean those afflicted with leprosy. The priest required the sacrifice of birds, hyssop, scarlet yarn, and cedarwood, and the process involved sprinkling of blood, shaving off hair, and washing. And that was only the beginning.

Compare that to the power and authority that Jesus has in Luke 17. Jesus meets not one, but ten lepers on his travels. They cry out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” He tells them to do what seems to follow the order of Leviticus, “Go and show yourself to the priests.” But what should amaze the reader is that they are not cleansed after the priest heal them. Luke says, “as they went they were cleansed.” Their faith in Jesus’ words and their obedience was enough and they were clean. They did not need a week of sacrifices and ritual. Christ has greater power.

Sadly only one of the ten, upon finding out he was healed, turned right around to fall at Jesus’ feet and give thanks. If this Samaritan did not fully understand it before, Jesus then makes it explicit, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

In Jesus Christ, God has done so much to make us well, and because Christ has lived the righteous life for us, we need only to place our trust in him to be clean.

Having now finished Leviticus, and knowing that Christ has come to fulfill the whole law (Matt 5), not abolish it, isn’t it amazing that he could do so? All of Leviticus deals with the laws for the priests and much of Exodus directs people how to live in accord with God’s law. Jesus Christ came and perfectly fulfilled it. All that the law could not do, Christ did for us. What the law could never be for us, Christ is. He has fulfilled it and he has made us clean before God.

I hope by reading through these books of law you gain greater appreciation for the perfect work of Christ that he accomplished for us. He fulfilled the law and went beyond what it could ever offer us. “For if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal 2:21b). By his death we are saved and made righteous, and we can take no credit for such a gracious act.

Contest Extension

I’m giving y’all a bit more time to win the Prodigal God book by submitting any artistic representation of the Prodigal Son. Maybe today’s sermon inspired you, so make a doodle and send it in.

Here’s an example to get you going. It’s the younger son getting jealous of the pig’s food.