Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Bible Challenge: Day 278

The scriptures read are Ezekiel 19-20, Psalm 78:40-72 and Revelation 1.

Ezekiel 19. Two parables. In the first, a lioness raises 2 cubs to be maneaters. One is captured and sent to Egypt, the other is captured and sent to Babylon. The lion is probably a reference to Jacob's blessing of his son Judah, when he calls him a lion cubs. The lion (Judean king) taken to Babylon is obviously Zedekiah. The first lion puzzled me. One commentary figures it to be Jehoahaz/Shallum who was deposed after 3 months by Pharaoh Neco. I had forgotten him in the flurry of many puppet kings who ruled just before the exile.

The vine is a frequently used image for God's people. Here it fails to produce good fruit, as in Isaiah 5. So the useless vine is thrown in the fire.

Ezekiel 20. Here we get the history of Israel from God's point of view. He keeps holding back from drastically punishing his people but it doesn't do any good. His people keep worshiping other gods. He will bring them back from exile one day.

Psalm 78:40-72. I like this unusual video with the verses of the Psalm, which underscore God's mercy, sung in both French and English.

Revelation 1. Notice that it is Revelation with no "s." The Greek word is Apokalupsis, from which we get apocalypse. It means not the end of the world but an "unveiling." God is letting his people know the outline of events to come.

According to Irenaeus, John wrote this near the close of the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD). The church was being persecuted and it's good to keep this in mind when reading the book. The imagery, taken from the Old Testament prophets, was meant to disguise the fact that the author was writing about Rome. If the authorities realized that, they would destroy all copies of it. That's why it's hard to understand today. But the basic thrust is easy to pick up: God will win in the end and so you who are persecuted and even facing martyrdom must hang on. Things will get worse before they get better. Trust in God and don't succumb to the corrupt culture of the Empire.

It is a Sunday on the island of Patmos when John gets this vision and is told to write to these 7 churches located in 7 key cities in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). the number 7 is going to pop up a lot. The whole book is constructed of overlapping 7s. 7 is the Biblical number of completeness. It is interesting that a 7 armed candlestick or menorah, which usually is a symbol of Israel, here represents the 7 churches. Possibly it is a symbol of the whole people of God.

Jesus is dressed like a priest. The rest of the description of his appearance reminds me of the freaky things that Ezekiel saw. No wonder John faints.

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