Category Archives: Scripture Musings

Today’s Scripture – July 19, 2018

John 8:2-8 (NIV)
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

Jesus took every opportunity to teach the people about the advent and reality of the Kingdom of God. The people were just as hungry to hear this good news as He was to give it. So He was at the temple as soon as the sun was up, and a crowd immediately began to gather around Him.

But that morning’s session was interrupted by a mob of scribes and Pharisees, dragging a woman into the crowd and standing her right in front of the spot where Jesus was seated teaching the people. The woman was obviously ashamed, her gaze directed straight down in front of her, unwilling to meet Jesus’ eyes.

The story the scribes and Pharisees told had a few holes in it. This woman was “caught in the act of adultery.” It was unclear if the man’s wife had caught her in bed with her husband (if so, she was the witness and had to be present to hold any kind of trial, let alone achieve a conviction), or if it was the assembly of these Jewish leaders, or a subset of them, who had stormed the bedroom and caught the couple together.

The other hole in the story was the man. The law these leaders approximately quoted to Jesus was incomplete. What the law actually says is, If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 22:22 NIV) BOTH are to be executed, not just the woman. So, where was the man, who would also have been “caught in the act of adultery”?

The whole thing just didn’t smell right. John was 100% correct when he wrote that this was a setup, a trap. If Jesus said that they must follow the law and stone the woman, He would be running afoul of a Roman law that forbade the Jews from executing anyone (John 18:31), and so these leaders could accuse Jesus before the governor of subversion, or even treason. But if He said that she shouldn’t be stoned, He could be hauled before the Sanhedrin for teaching doctrine contrary to the law.

Jesus needed a moment to think and pray. So, He bent down and started to doodle in the dirt with His finger, purposefully tuning them out, effectively ignoring them while they yelled at Him that He had to make a decision in this case.

Finally, He had the answer that He needed. He straightened up, looked around at the angry faces of the leaders, and gave His judgment. The law was clear: the woman, if truly an adulteress, must be put to death. But one of them who had never committed a single sin themselves should be the one to throw the first stone. Then He went back to doodling on the ground, completely ignoring the crowd around Him.

Father, I am always blown away by Jesus’ wisdom and discernment. He never “shot from the hip”, never made a snap judgment. When confronted with a situation, He paused, he prayed, He listened until He knew what Your plan was for that moment, and then He unhesitatingly did that. That is obviously a really good model for us, His people, today. Help me to have the same wisdom, the same discernment, the same willingness to not react, but to reflect, until I hear Your voice, then the grace to move forward in obedience to your instructions. Amen.

 

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Today’s Scripture – July 18, 2018

John 7:53-8:1 (NIV)
Then each went to his own home. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

The meeting of the Pharisees was unproductive, as the group was divided. So, everyone simply went home. Jesus continued to teach in the temple until nearly sundown, then went to His usual campsite on the west slope of the Mount of Olives opposite the temple.

Opposition didn’t bother Jesus. In fact, He expected it and accepted it as simply a part of the work that He had been sent to do. He knew two things that helped Him to maintain His perspective. First, a key part of His work was overcoming the inertia that had set into God’s people and had cause them to stagnate in their spiritual progress. Overcoming inertia is always difficult in the beginning. Until enough momentum is built up, inertia “pushes back”, struggling to maintain the status quo. So, the resistance Jesus experienced didn’t discourage Him; it simply encouraged Him to continue pushing until things began to move.

The second thing Jesus knew was that a key part of His work involved recapturing territory that had been usurped by satan. You can see this easily when He confronted and cast out demons. But it is not as obvious when He took on the entrenched power structures that were not simply representative of inertia, but that had become positive tools of the enemy, leading God’s people into a fruitless legalism and urging them to reject God Himself by rejecting the one that He had sent as the Messiah.

Both of these were large-scale, long-term jobs that required Jesus to get up each morning ready to fully engage the mission. They required that He work strategically and never give up, even though the work was often tedious, repetitive, and tiring, and even though many days ended without any significant fruit to show for His labors. Each night He went to bed tired, slept well, and woke with His purpose and energy renewed, ready to move things forward, even if only slightly.

Father, so much is contained in these two small verses! We face the same two issues today. We also have far too many Christians who have grown complacent and satisfied, and who have developed a terrible inertia that resists change and improvement, satisfied with the status quo. We need Your guidance and power to overcome that inertia and help them to start moving again, and Your will to never give up until inertia is replaced by momentum in the right direction. We are also commissioned by You to recapture territory usurped by the enemy, enslaving the minds and souls of people all around us. We need Your power and guidance in this work as well, so that we can know the best ways to move forward, and faithfulness so that we don’t give up when we get push-back. Help us, Lord, to be faithful and true to our mission, just as Jesus was to His. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 17, 2018

John 7:45-52 (NIV)
Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared.
“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law–there is a curse on them.”
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”
They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

When the temple guards returned empty handed, it enraged the Jewish leaders. But the fact that they didn’t arrest Jesus said two very important things. First was that Jesus was not causing a disturbance on the temple grounds – the only real grounds that would have existed for arresting Him. In those days, long before the advent of amplifiers and microphones, when a respected teacher was speaking before hundreds or thousands of people, everyone tended to be very quiet so that they could hear well. Since the Pharisees had stormed off in a huff earlier, that quite attentiveness was the scene that the guards had found in the temple.

But the other thing is that the guards found Jesus’ teaching fascinating, compelling, and more interesting than any other teacher that they had ever heard. They found nothing subversive, theologically problematic, or dangerous in what He was teaching that would have given any possible justification for an arrest.

But the Pharisees, so confident of their own righteousness, and stinging because of Jesus pointing out their flaws and their misreadings of the law, were furious. If anyone believed in Jesus, it couldn’t be because he was right (which would make them wrong!). It could only be because they were deceived. It could only be because they were ignorant of the real intricacies of the law.

Nicodemus, however, challenged them, interrupting their rant in mid-phrase. The very law that they were taking their stand on did not allow condemnation of anyone or any teaching without a careful investigation into the facts of the case. But those leaders were not in any mood to investigate. They were responding defensively, emotionally and, in the end, irrationally, and would not be talked down.

Instead, they turned their wrath on Nicodemus, accusing Him of being ignorant of the Scriptures, and worse, a Galilean. Galileans were considered by the elites of the day, those who quartered in Jerusalem, to be a backwater area of the country, given to compromise and superstition, and able to be manipulated into foolishness by clever folks. To the Pharisees, the only reason that anyone would listen to someone from Galilee, or think that He might possibly be the Prophet or the Messiah, would be if he or she was a Galilean (that is, in their thinking, “an ignorant hick”) themselves. And they dismissively directed Nicodemus to go back to do some research, and he would see that the law said nothing about the Prophet or the Messiah coming from the northern part of the country. (Again, they hadn’t investigated, or they would have known that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem of Judah, exactly where their Scriptures said that the Messiah would be born!)

Father, we can see this same kind of reactionary stuff going on in our society today. And, if we read further, it is easy to see that that kind of emotional defensiveness and ad hominem attacks lead to self-defeat and ultimately to ignominy. Help us, as Your people, to not get caught up in this kind of stuff when it happens around us, whether in the arena of politics, or church, or society in general, but to always be like Jesus: so focused on the work and the goals that You have given to us that we let the rest just roll off. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 16, 2018

John 7:40-44 (NIV)
On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
Others said, “He is the Christ.”
Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

Even when Jesus was here on earth, his words and actions caused divisions among the people. Many were naturally skeptical of any claims to the Messiahship, having been disappointed before. Some were hopeful and primed to believe in Jesus. And others were just waiting until Jesus took control of the throne of Israel, then they would believe.

In this case, some were ready to receive Jesus as the Prophet that Moses had foretold (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), whom many taught as the forerunner of the Messiah. Still others were already prepared to receive Him as the Messiah Himself on the basis of not only His words, but also on the basis of His actions, His miracles, and the large crowd of followers He had been able to amass.

But the idea of Jesus being the Messiah ran into opposition from those who were educated in Messianic theology. They knew that the Messiah was prophesied to come from Bethlehem, and to be a descendant of King David (Micah 5:2). But, from all that they knew, Jesus was from Nazareth, way up north in Galilee. Therefore, they reasoned, either the very clear prophesies were wrong (unfathomable!), or Jesus was NOT the Messiah. Case closed!

But there was far more to Jesus that they did not know or understand. Yes, Jesus did grow up in Nazareth, but as both Matthew and Luke point out in their gospels, Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:4-7), and he was definitely in the line of King David, from both Joseph’s and Mary’s side (Matthew 1:6-16; Luke 3:23-31), so he met all of those qualifications (and all of the other scriptural qualifications) to the letter.

But rather than do the required research (which could have been has simple as asking Jesus Himself for His birthplace and genealogy), many, especially those with a bone to pick with Jesus, simply assumed that they knew all that was necessary to make an informed decision as to who Jesus was and where He had come from. And that was their big mistake.

Father, there is a ton of information in Your word, more that we can ever fully digest or retain. It is a big mistake if we ever assume that since we know some of it, we know all that is necessary to determine Your mind on a subject, or Your will for our day, or even our whole life. Help us to always stay open to truths that we have not yet really seen that are clearly contained in Your word, so that we can know them more, and thus know You more. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 13, 2018

John 7:37-39 (NIV)
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

One of the traditions of the final day of the Feast of Tabernacles was drawing a jar of water from the pool of Siloam, bringing it into the temple court, and pouring it out at the base of the great altar in front of the temple. This ritual had a loose association with the Holy Spirit, but Jesus was about to make that association much more concrete.

In the midst of the ceremony, a loud voice boomed from the Court of Israel, just north of the altar: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” It was Jesus, of course, using the opportunity to help all the people gathered there to see the real significance of the symbols that had been incorporated into the ceremony.

At the inception of Jesus’ ministry, John had identified Him as the one who would baptize the people of God with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33-34), drawing the symbol of cleansing water alongside the symbol of purifying fire, and applying them both to the Holy Spirit. To the Samaritan woman (John 4:13-14), Jesus had promised “living water” that would quench spiritual thirst forever.

But now Jesus informed the symbol of water even further. For those who trusted in Him, the Holy Spirit would not merely fill their lives, but would actually flow through their lives like a perpetual stream. This was a far different paradigm of the Holy Spirit than had ever been seen or taught. Up to that time, the Holy Spirit, or “Spirit of the Lord” was a mysterious force that would fall without warning on someone, causing them to prophecy, or temporarily empowering them to do some amazing deed that would deliver God’s people. But when Jesus taught about the Holy Spirit, He did so from the perspective of the promises in Ezekiel 36:25-27 and 37:1-14, Isaiah 11:1-5 and 61:1-3, and Joel 2:28-32, all of which pointed to a more permanent dwelling of God’s Spirit in His people.

John explains to us that the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out on God’s people because Jesus had not yet been glorified. Jesus taught His closest disciples at the Last Supper that the Holy Spirit would not come until He had ascended to heaven (John 16:7). And on the day of Pentecost, when all these promises and prophesies were finally fulfilled, Jesus pointed back to that very promise and condition (Acts 2:33) and argued that the fulfillment was convincing proof that Jesus was in fact the Messiah and had been exalted to the status of Lord of the world (Acts 2:36).

The fulfillment was still a couple of years in the future. But in His teachings, Jesus was holding out with fresh passion and clearer outlines than had ever been seen before the promises that God had made over the centuries. The reality behind the promises was on the way!

Father, sometimes we lose heart, grow impatient, and start to doubt Your promises when they are a long time in being fulfilled. But Your word will ALWAYS be fulfilled at the perfect time. Help us wait, not just patiently, but expectantly for any promises we have received from Your word, in the clear understanding that You have NEVER failed to deliver what You have promised. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 12, 2018

John 7:33-36 (NIV)
Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

While the plot against Jesus was unfolding, Jesus simply continued to teach the people in the temple courts. Woven into that teaching was the warning that the people would not have an unlimited amount of time to listen to Him and to believe in Him; there was a finite window. At this point, in fact, Jesus’ time among the people was already approaching the halfway point.

Of course, even though Jesus was very clear about the circumstances of His departure, the people did not get it. “I go to the one who sent me” is actually very clear IF you are willing to receive the fact that He was sent from God’s throne to do the work He was involved in. He was simply letting them know that He would not be around forever, as popular Messianic theology portrayed. His time on earth among God’s people would soon draw to a close, and then He would return to heaven from whence He had been sent.

But the people had no clear frame of reference from which to correctly interpret His words. Enoch and Elijah had both been taken bodily to heaven when their time on earth was completed, but those were incredibly rare exceptions. Everyone else, when they said that they were leaving, or were returning to the one who had sent them, were signaling that they would be leaving for another city, or maybe even another country.

Jesus’ words were so strong that the people interpreted His meaning in the most drastic way that they could imagine. They opined that He probably meant that He would be leaving the country to preach and heal among the Jewish people who lived elsewhere in the Roman Empire among the Greek-speaking gentiles. Maybe He would even teach those gentiles about the true God and His kingdom.

All of that fit into their information set and their worldview. But, like nearly all human reasoning applied to God and His kingdom, it was dead wrong. But Jesus still had a way to go. He would be back to the city several more times before the final scenes of His mission were played out.

Father, You make a really good point. Human reasoning, no matter how heartfelt or educated, is no substitute for Your clear revelation. We will always get it wrong, limit Your plans in our minds to what we see as necessary and achievable, and thus shoot far, far too low. Help us, Lord, to simply receive Your word, Your instruction, and Your promises as given, so that we can live every day in them. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 11, 2018

John 7:31-32 (NIV)
Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?” The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

Jesus’ teachings and miracles were powerful evidence of who He was. The common people could easily see it because they had no skin in the game, like the Pharisees and teachers of the law did. Jesus’ power made their own powerlessness look like complete impotence. Jesus’ clear exposition of the Scriptures, often using charming and memorable stories, communicated so clearly and succinctly about the things of the kingdom that it made the learned lectures of the teachers of the law and their numerous quotations of ancient rabbis look like mere ramblings.

The leaders knew that they were losing power and influence to Jesus. They could clearly see that, if things were allowed to continue down this path, it wouldn’t be long before the people would all be following Him, and they would be reduced to irrelevance.

The reasonable thing to do in this situation would be to become disicples of Jesus themselves, and try to learn what Jesus clearly knew. His power and supernatural abilities were obvious, and His teachings really did have a life to them that their own lacked. Perhaps by following Him instead of trying to undercut Him, they could receive that same kind of power and wisdom themselves.

But the majority of them were completely unwilling to even consider this course of action. It would be a tacit admission that they were wrong. It would mean abandoning the traditions that were such a significant part of their lives, and that had set them apart from less “spiritual people”. And, worst of all, it would mean accepting the fact that an “uneducated” carpenter from the sticks had somehow gotten hold of the deep truths of God, while they, with their years of careful study and devotion to tradition, had inexplicably missed the boat.

All of that was inconceivable to them, so they went another way. They determined that the best way to keep Jesus from making them look bad was to take Him out of the way, arrest Him, and either convict Him, or besmirch His reputation so badly through accusation and innuendo that He would lose influence with the people. So, the sent the temple guards to arrest Him, ostensibly for causing a public disturbance on the temple grounds where He was teaching.

Father, I can see this same dynamic working in our society today – not in the arena of the church so much, but in the arena of politics. Neither side is willing to give an inch, or to admit that the other side may have a point or a plan that will work. If it is not 100% their plan, their way, their philosophy, then it must be completely rejected, impugned, and even destroyed. And so, many of the leaders continue to demonize, obfuscate, twist the truth, and attack even good ideas to satisfy their base and to protect their own turf. If only our leaders would learn the lesson of history, even Scriptural history, that those who set themselves steadfastly against the truth, and ultimately against You and Your ways, are destroyed and scattered. Help us, Lord to be healed from our nearsightedness as a nation that so quickly and thoroughly divides us, and to be unified. Amen.

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