God’s Legs

There are many word-pictures in the Bible to illustrate to the human mind what God is like.  One of the biggest we see is God as our shepherd.  I’d like to examine something that perhaps you have never thought of regarding God shepherding His people.

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The Laying on of Hands – S’mikhah

If you are a student of the New Testament then you will immediately recognize the phrase “the laying on of hands,” but you may wonder where this practice came from. Once we read through the Gospels and arrive in Acts we find this peculiar act where the Apostles lay their hands on people and they receive either the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18), or it is some sort of giving of authority (Acts 6:6). Perhaps the most peculiar thing about this is that people seemed to know what was going on when they did it. In other words: it wasn’t a brand-new process. Rather, this was an established tradition that dates back to the time of the Patriarchs, known as giving s’mikhah.

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 5)

This is the fifth part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each builds on the previous.

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

Part 2 – The New Tenants

Part 3 – Give to Caesar…

Part 4 – A Silly Question

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 4)

This is the forth part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each builds on the previous.

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

Part 2 – The New Tenants

Part 3 – Give to Caesar…


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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 3)

This is the third part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each builds on the previous.

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

Part 2 – The New Tenants

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 2)

This is the second part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each one builds upon the previous:

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

In post will cover the question “who are the ‘new tenants’ mentioned in Jesus’ parable”?

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 1)

Note: This was originally one post, but since it’s over 4,000 words, I decided to break it up into several smaller posts.  I’ll be posting the next parts one per day over the next few days.

Introduction

One of the ministers at my church, Bob Chisholm, told this story to the congregation not too long ago.  He was at a conference on Biblical studies attended by people from many different denominations when he went to a lecture given by a Jewish rabbi.  The rabbi got up to speak and began by telling everyone that what he was about to say would revolutionize his listeners’ studies.  Bob was naturally very intrigued by the idea and listened with great anticipation.  What secret, what kernel of Jewish wisdom would this rabbi impart to him?  The rabbi said something akin to, “When you study to Bible, in order to get the best understanding from it, do not ask merely ‘What does this text mean today?’ but rather ask yourself, ‘What did it mean to its original hearers?'”  Bob was stunned, but not because it was so revolutionary, but because he’d been taught that all along at the Harding Graduate School.  However, he noticed it was apparently quite shocking to many in the room.  Was it really that foreign of a concept to try to understand what the written Word meant to its original readers?  Apparently so.

In this series of posts I want to show you what understanding the original context of the Bible does for you by taking you through Mark 12.

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A Glimpse of the Throne from Sukkot

Friday at sunset begins the Festival of Sukkot (pronounced: sue-COAT, also known as Tabernacles or Booths), the last and most joyful of all the Lord’s holidays.  It is a time of intense celebration and joy because God has given us the Promised Land.  And so, during this time of joy, we remember what it was like to live in the desert so we can appreciate the land we have now.  But Sukkot has always held special significance not only for Jews, but also for the Gentiles.  Indeed, the Torah, the Prophets, the Writings, and even the New Testament uses Sukkot as a picture of the future Messianic times.  By studying Sukkot, we can get a glimpse of what Heaven will be like!

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Look at What You Hear!

One very common teaching technique used by ancient rabbis (and even to this day) is to use what is around you as metaphors or examples.  Unlike Christian universities where students sit in a building at their desks, ancient Jewish rabbis would take their talmidim (disciples) through the world and use real examples to teach about God.  This is the way rabbis taught in the first century in Galilee.  A rabbi would almost never make an example of something and it not be right there for his audience to look at.  That may sound silly to you, but ancient Jewish culture was very eastern in nature, in which information comes in pictures (as opposed to western culture which attains information through abstract ideas).  So this is just part of the culture that the picture had to be there for the point to make an impact.  This is epitomized in the verse:

“Consider carefully what you hear!”

–Mark 4:24

The Greek here beautifully captures the Hebraic element of Jesus’ original saying because it says literally “Look at carefully what you hear!”  How do you look at what you hear?  If the information comes in pictures, then it’s possible.  In this post we’re going to look at what we hear.

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The Day is Short and the Workers are Few

Introduction

One thing that Jesus taught on quite a bit was the harvest of people for God.  This subject was not uniquely Jesus’, nor was the metaphor of a harvest.  Many rabbis of the time used this language to teach their disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven.  The harvest in rabbinic literature is about gathering men and women to be followers of God’s rule now, in this life, so that they may inherit eternal life in the World to Come.  So the metaphor of the harvest was used by rabbis to discuss eternal life.  You see this in Jesus’ teachings, for instance, in Matthew 13:24-30 where the harvest of wheat are those who will be saved.

To shed some light on this subject from Second Temple Judaism, let’s explore a quote from a famous rabbi that I didn’t have time to cover in my summer class, Rabbi Tarfon, as he teaches about the harvest of people, and how our time is short.  But, like a Jewish rabbi, he’s bluntly honest about the situation at hand.  Let’s dig in.  Continue reading