Tag Archives: Jesus

God’s People, part 112: Yeshua

Read Zechariah 3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel.” (Ezra 3:2a NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

YeshuaPart 112: Yeshua. At the outset of writing the God’s People devotion series, which I started back on May 27, 2017, I have been eagerly awaiting reaching this point in the series. This is where we begin to see the Old Testament and the New Testament beginning to meet together. How so, you might wonder? I will attempt to answer that very question in this devotion.

Yeshua, as I am sure you realize by this point if you have been reading the series as of late, was the person who was chosen by God to be the high priest of the people who returned back to Jerusalem from exile. There is little that is known about him but for a few short and obscure passages in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. With that said, his significance cannot, nor should not, be underwritten.

Here is what we do know. Yeshua was of a priestly lineage and served as high priest circa 515-490 BCE, which means he served for about 25 years upon his return from exile. Yeshua was also one of the catalysts, along with Haggai, that pushed for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple (Haggai 1:1, 14) after 16 years of the project having been delayed by endless negotiations and bickering between the Jews and “the people of the land” (aka the Samaritans).

As such, it seems that Zerubbabel, Yeshua, and Haggai upset the order and ruffled the feathers who were seeking to hold the project off even longer. Once Haggai delivered the message of God to Yeshua and Zerubbabel, they sprung into action with the people and began to rebuild the Temple. As such, a divisive conflict rose up against them.

Before I continue, there are two basic schools of thought on the timing of Yeshua in relation to Zechariah’s prophecy. The first being that Yeshua was alive at the time of his great-great-grandson’s marriage to a Gentile woman (see Nehemiah 13:28), and subsequent expulsion from his priestly duties and from Jerusalem. If that was the case, then Yeshua would have been 90 years old at that time and Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 3) would have been directed toward Yeshua.

The second school of thought is that, perhaps, Yeshua was dead by that point and Zechariah’s prophecy was directed toward his grandson, Eliashib, who succeeded him as high priest, using Yeshua’s scenario with Satan as an allegory. While this is certainly possible, I am of the belief that Zechariah’s prophecy was directed toward Yeshua and that what we have in Zechariah’s prophecy is evidence of the tension that the high priest was dealing with.

In today’s Scripture, we see that Yeshua the High Priest is standing before the Lord and Satan, who is throwing accusations out at him. In other words, Satan is trying to convince God that Yeshua is not worthy. It is generally understood here that Satan is seen as the force behind the divisive opposition that rose up against Yeshua’s leadership as high priest during his push to rebuild the Temple. Zechariah went on to state that God rejected Satan’s accusations and proclaimed the following to Yeshua and the priests who were to follow him: “Listen to Me, O [Yeshua] the high priest, and all you other priests. You are symbols of things to come. Soon I am going to bring My servant, the Branch” (Zechariah 3:8).

This, in and of itself, is an amazing Testament to what was about to happen. Clearly, Zechariah was prophesying about the coming Messiah. Still, what’s more amazing, is the high priest’s name itself. Yeshua (often spelled in the Bible as Jeshua…but I spell it phonetically as it sounds) is the name יְהוֹשֻׁוּעַ, or Joshua, which means “The LORD saves”. The Greek equivalent for Joshua is Ἰησοῦς, or Jesus. That is right, Yeshua in Greek is Jesus. Thus, in Zechariah we have Jesus the High Priest, being deemed the symbol of the Messiah Jesus who was to come and bring salvation not only to the Jews but to all the world!

This Messiah Jesus to come would also establish himself, and all who believe in him, as the true temple where people worship God (regardless of where they are) in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:21-23). How amazing is it that? Seriously. Here we have explicit Biblical evidence, written at least 3 – 4  centuries before Christ, that God was clueing people into the fact that there was an overarching plan to redeem this world through the Messiah. What’s more, there is explicit Biblical evidence that God not only revealed the plan, but even hinted at the Messiah’s name!

The question for us is, do we trust God’s plan or do we get mired in our own. Don’t get me wrong, not everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the only reason that things happen is that they do. People are not raped, beaten, abused, hurt, impoverished, homeless and/or are suffering for any reasons other than the fact that we live in a broken world, mired in sin and less-than-ideal circumstances. With that said, God has an overarching plan, despite the sin and circumstances that beset us, to redeem all of the world, us included. Do we trust that? Do we trust enough to step out of the way and to join God’s ranks in transforming this world from what it is into the Kingdom of God? Let us reflect honestly and open ourselves to the convicting of the Holy Spirit.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The Bible is very resonant. It has everything: creation, betrayal, lust, poetry, prophecy, sacrifice. All great things are in the Bible, and all great writers have drawn from it and more than people realise, whether Shakespeare, Herman Melville or Bob Dylan.” – Patti Smith

PRAYER
Lord, I place my trust in you and your Word. Amen.

God’s People, part 25: Joshua

Read Joshua 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come.” (Hebrews 4:8 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

JoshuaPart 25: Joshua. Joshua is a very strong character in Bible, in fact, he may be one of the strongest. Sure, there is Samson; however, Joshua is displayed with little to no weaknesses, whereas Samson is filled with weaknesses a plenty. But we’ll discuss Samson at a later time. Joshua was the protégé of Moses. He was the son of Nun, born a slave in Egypt before the time of the Exodus.

Almost immediately following their escape from Egypt, selected Joshua to be the leader of a militia group and was put in charge of fighting and defeating the Amalekites in Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-16). Quickly, Joshua became Moses’ right-hand man. It was Joshua, and Joshua alone, who ascended Mount Sinai with Moses to accompany him as he communed with God “face to face” and received God’s vision for the Israelites in the land of Caanan, as well as received The Ten Commandments.

He ended up becoming the leader who took over for Moses, the one who led them to enter into Canaan and conquer the lands from the native peoples inhabiting it. He led with an iron fist, so to speak. He was a general, a warrior, and a conqueror and he had much blood on his hands.

While Joshua was most definitely a person of strong faith, and one who was faithful to God, he also was someone who saw things only in black and white. You were either for him or against him. You were either Hebrew or not Hebrew, which also translated to you were either allowed to live and flourish in the Promised Land, or you were slaughtered and killed. Even when one looks at the story of Rahab, she proved to be for Joshua and the Israelites and so she was spared.

Upon one’s theology and understanding of God rests how one interprets Joshua’s leadership. Joshua believed that he had been appointed by God to take over from Moses, and he was instructed by God to not turn to the right or to the left from Moses’ teachings (Joshua 1:7). What followed was a campaign to ethnically cleasnse all of Canaan and to build a Kingdom of Israel. This involved the raiding of cities, towns and the countryside and resulted the deaths of countless men, women and children.

I am not writing this to debate, one way or the other, as to the reason or the justification for what Joshua and his army did. We live in different times and, no doubt, the Israelites were not going to be able to just knock on the doors of Jericho, expecting a welcoming embrace and gracious hospitality. Joshua was made leader and, in his leadership, he turned his band of nomadic desert wanderers to a unified army that conquered the land it had in its sights. From that land rose judges, kings, queens, prophets and, ultimately, the Messiah.

What I also know is that Jesus is the english transliteration of the Greek word name for Yehoshua, which is the name Joshua in English. In other words, Jesus (which is Greek) really was named Joshua. That is why the author of Hebrews compares Jesus to Joshua…or rather, the two Joshuas. Joshua, son of Nun, brought them into the land of Canaan where they could rest from their wandering in the wilderness, Joshua (aka Jesus) the Christ, brings us into the Kingdom of God.

Unlike Joshua, Jesus didn’t do this by military conquest, but through unconditional love, compassionate grace, and merciful forgiveness. Rather than slaying his enemies, Christ sacrificed himself and was slain by his enemies. Rather than conquering by the sword, Christ conquered THE ENEMY, by loving those who persecuted them even to the point of forgiveness and he conquered death by resurrecting from the dead into true life. One Joshua led to the other, no matter how imperfectly.

To play upon Joshua’s own advice, we need to choose this day whom we serve. Will we serve a black and white mentality? Will we serve the imperfect Joshua who conquered by the sword? Or will we serve the Joshua who died because he loved instead of hated, who rose so that we might rise to life in him, and who calls us to conquer evil through unconditional love and divine grace? Choose this day whom you serve.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.” – William Blake

PRAYER
Lord, remind me daily that I am a servant of love. Let love be my ultimate campaign. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Mr. Merit, Tear Down That Wall

miltonious-blog-unicorn-of-technical-difficulties-640x360It appears that a mysteriously mischievous unicorn has kept me from uploading the next devotion. While this technical difficulty could be frustrating, I have seen the rainbow lining and am just happy the majestic, mythical creature showed up to say hi. What are the odds?!? As I work to get the next devotion up by the next publishing time, please click here to read a blast from the past. I hope you find it as relevant now as it was then.

A LOOK BACK: Bilbo’s Pity

2016-new-year“It is the New Year and all through my mind,
Came the need for a holiday and some time to unwind.
I have written so many devotions with love and care
In hopes that you’ll discover the Christ that I share.”

While I have taken some time off of writing for the holidays, here’s a look back at a devotion that is no doubt as relevant today as it was when I wrote it. Click here to view today’s devotion.

Happy New Year!

Crooked Paths

Read Isaiah 42:12-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Seek [God’s] will in all you do, and [God] will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:6, NLT)

crooked-pathA couple of months back I was watching a televangelist who just happened to be on at the time I turned the TV. I cannot remember which televangelist it was; however, I distinctly remember his message. He was utilizing Proverbs 3:6 and proclaiming that those who submit to God, those who know God and have a relationship with God, those who faithfully acknowledge God will find that God makes their paths straight (NRSV) for them. In other words, bumpy, crooked, twisted, and labyrinth-like roads are OUR doing. The implication is, of course, that if life is hard, if things aren’t going smoothly, if we feel that our path is an obstacle course, then that means we are NOT submitting to, knowing, or faithfully acknowledging God and God’s direction for our lives.

I vehemently reject that notion! Too often I hear people questioning their faith, as well as God’s love for them, because their road is hard and things aren’t going well. Too often the sick are guilted to think they didn’t faith enough or they didn’t pray hard enough when they aren’t healed. Too often the abused think that God is punishing them, or allowing the abuse to happen, because they haven’t been acknowledging God enough in their lives. Too often the oppressed stay in oppressive situations because they feel that God has placed that on them as “their cross”, only to find out that the cross is never, ever removed.

While I do not deny that there is truth to the Proverb, I think that it has been hijacked by those who want to say what it doesn’t. When we look at the Bible, we do simply DO NOT see a God who ALWAYS gives the faithful a straight path. Let’s look at the Exodus. They submitted to God, went out on a limb and followed the seemingly nutty prophet Moses straight out of Egypt with the hopes they would arrive safely, and relatively quickly, to the land of promise. Instead of God taking them the direct route (approx. 372 miles or about a week’s journey, give or take), God led them on a 40 year journey zig-zagging, backtracking, and back again through the wilderness. Yes, the people fell in and out of faith during that journey, but it started off crazy. They cross the depths of a sea instead of going a few miles North to go through shallow water. They go South, through mountainous terrain instead of North, which was the direction of the Promised Land. So, yeah, they were a little frustrated when an entire generation of people died off before they reached what should have been only a week away.

Beyond the Exodus, let’s look at Esther. Was her path straight? How about Jeremiah? How about Daniel? How about Job? Was Job’s path straight? How about Jesus? Look at his life. He invested himself in God and in the people he came to serve. Did that lead to a coronation, to adoration and a straight path to being revered? Nope. His path was anything but straight. It led to being second guessed by his family, misunderstood by his disciples, betrayed by one of his own, rejected by the people he had invested in, arrested by his enemies, and beaten, tortured, and killed by the world he came to save. That doesn’t sound like a straight, “easy peasy lemon squeezy” path to me. Should our theology imply that Moses, Esther, Jeremiah, Daniel, Job, John the Baptist, and Jesus didn’t submit, faithfully acknowledge or follow God well enough? Should we imply that they failed in their faith? Of course not!

Do not be seduced by such conveniently simple, and extremely dangerous, theologies. God never promised us easy, straight paths. What God did promise is that God would never abandon or forsake us on this bumpy journey. God would never forget us or leave us alone. Even if we aren’t always faithful, God always is!!! If we are faithful, then our faith will make us aware of God’s presence. The aforementioned proverb is pointing to that. If we acknowledge God, then our faith in God will show us the way God is leading us. It will make God’s way clear to us. Let us not be seduced by shortcutting around hard-earned understanding with bad theology, let us rather wrestle with God and grow in our faith. Then the path will be made known to us, whether it is easy or not.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

PRAYER

Lord, I have faith that you are with me and I trust that you are guiding me. Make your way clear to me and I will follow. Amen.

The Prophet’s Call

Read Amos 5:11-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Those who exploit the powerless anger their maker, while those who are kind to the poor honor God.” (Proverbs 14:31 CEB)

US-Pope-Francis-Congress.JPTwo weeks ago, America was tuned into the 24 hour news cycle. It wasn’t because of some nefarious criminal, or some horrendous crime. It wasn’t because some celebrity was getting married or that some other celebrity was getting divorced. There were no major scandals, and for the first time in I am not sure how long, the news wasn’t very negative at all. Why was this? Because Pope Francis I was visiting the United States of America for the very first time. He started off in Washington D.C., headed from there to New York City, and finally ended up in Philadelphia. The news, and the country, could not get enough of it!

With that said, not ALL of the news was positive. All of the commentators seemed happy that the Pope was here and they were praising him and his papacy; however, with that said, some commentators objected to some of Pope Francis’s stances. Some disagreed with his stance on climate change, while others disagreed with his stance on capital punishment. Some were astounded that the Pope would come to the U.S.A and talk about the injustice found within the golden calf we call capitalism. Some were upset he interjected in our ongoing immigration debate.

“With all due respect to the Holy Father,” I heard one commentator state, “he really should stick with things of a religious nature and leave the politics to the politicians. He’s the head of the church, and while at the Vatican he is also the head of state, America is not a theocracy and he is out of his league speaking in politics here.” Some commentators opined that the Pope didn’t understand capitalism in American and that he only knew capitalism to be as it was in his country of Argentina: crony capitalism (as if that doesn’t exist here too).

Hearing all of the debates going back and forth made me question, was the Pope out of line for speaking out politically against things he felt were wrong, unjust and in need of change? Should a religious and/or spiritual leader simply keep to “religious” things and leave politics to the politicians? Of course the answer is both yes…and NO! Let me address “yes” first. If a religious leader is putting themselves out into the political sphere to garner political points or to receive political gain, then obviously that religious leader is acting inappropriately. If the religious leader is pushing an inherently political agenda for the purpose of getting a specific person elected, or to push his/her congregation to endorse a specific candidate, I will concede that the religious leader is in the wrong.

Yet, I object the claim that religious leaders should stick to religion and leave the politics to the politicians, because that inherently disregards what religion is and it denies the very station that religious leaders and prophets (Jesus included) have taken in society. You cannot divorce religion from politics, just because a religious leader’s message is inconvenient to one’s agenda. The fact is, if a society is acting unjustly, then it is the religious leaders duty to speak out against that injustice. That isn’t political…IT’S RELIGIOUS.

Religion literally means to reconnect or rejoin together. It is the reconnecting of our relationship with God and with our neighbors. It’s all about relationships. Therefore, if a society is in moral decline and/or if there is injustice and oppression within it, then it is counteracting the call of the Spirit to be in right relationship with God and neighbor. It is also hindering others from doing the same. It is a religious person’s duty, it is their obligation to speak out on those subjects no matter how inconvenient those truths might be. That can be done without naming people, without any hidden agenda and certainly without bashing or endorsing candidates; however, the faithful are called to stand up against oppression and injustice. As I see it, Pope Francis is leading the way. Don’t scoff, but join him in ending injustice.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” – Amos, Jewish prophet (circa 750’s BC)

PRAYER
Lord, let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Strengthen me to speak your words of truth to the power. Amen.

Stoned

Read John 8:1-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NLT)

Glass HouseOne of the most powerful testimonies to the kind of compassionate, merciful, forgiving nature that Jesus embodied, is the story of the adulterous woman who was brought to him as way of his opponents to test both his understanding of Scripture as well as his commitment to the Torah. Under normal circumstances, according to the Law of Moses, the law demanded only one thing: the woman must be stoned. Yet, with that said, these were not normal circumstance and the religious leaders were, indeed, setting a trap for Jesus.

First, it is important to note that while the Law of Moses demanded that adultery be stamped out (via stoning) of Israel, it seems that by the time of the prophets, there may have been a more merciful way of handling adultery: divorce. There adulterer was divorced, and shamed  before the whole community, as a way of both punishing and correcting the sin. This precedence is alluded to in Hosea 2, Isaiah 50, and Jeremiah 3…though the prophets themselves are referring to the adultery of Israel against God. Second, the Law found in both Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22-24 requires that there be two witnesses that can testify against the adulterers, and that both adulterers (as it takes two to tango) be stoned if convicted of the crime.

The religious leaders believe that they have this Jesus, this simpleton from Nazareth, in a proverbial pickle. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus answers to them, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” Well, who is without sin? Not one person could rightfully throw the stone at this woman after that. But not just because we are all, theologically speaking, sinners. The people trying to trap Jesus were found to be committing the sin by their not following the Law in a just manner. First off, if there were any witnesses to her act of adultery, they did not bring these witnesses to Jesus. For all Jesus knows, this woman could be falsely accused. Second, they did not bring the person she committed adultery with. If she had committed adultery, the Law is quite clear that both her and her illicit partner need to be stoned. Where was he? These religious leaders were sinning by the very act of handling the trial the way they did, and Jesus knew it…as did they!

What’s most important is that in the face of the rigidity of the law, Jesus opts for grace, for humility, for compassion and for mercy. How often do we, like the religious leaders, uphold the law in a way that favors us over others? But, by the very act of doing so, we bring the law down upon our own heads. While it is easy for us to stand above others we think are wrong, we are wrong by standing above others as their judge, jury and executioner. Christ has called us to live by the heart of law, which is living in right relationship with God and with each other. While adultery does not live into the heart of the law because it breaks the covenantal bond within the marital relationship, neither does holding others to a standard that we ourselves cannot, and do not, live by.

Here is what Jesus is telling us. If we are to receive love, let us love. If we are to receive forgiveness, let us forgive. If we are to receive mercy, let us be merciful. If we are to receive compassion, let us be compassionate. If we are to receive respect, let us be respectufl. If we are to receive justice, let us live justly. For to live by the law is to die by the law. If we want to receive the law and all of the consequences of not following it, then we are on the right path when we judge others, for we will be judged according to the same standard with which we judge. Let us ever be mindful of that as we continue to live out our lives in the name of our righteous, holy and just God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“One who lives in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones.” – Unknown

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be loving, merciful, graceful, compassionate, just and certainly humble. Amen.