What is Bible Study? You may have pondered that question yourself. Or you may never have given it much thought. What is Bible Study? Did you ever wonder how some people came up with facts they took out of the Bible? Where did they get those facts from? How or why did they jump from one book in the Bible to another? It seemed to sound good. All the information seemed to fit together. The subject at hand seemed to be thoroughly explained. The teacher seemed to have gathered information from the Bible to explain the subject at hand. But did they? Was their study guided by the Holy Spirit?
Has anyone ever explained to you what Bible Study is? Have you ever asked anyone to explain the process they used to study the Bible? There are processes to use. We can refer to each of those steps as Bible Study rules, guides, standards, or styles. I prefer the term style. Others may prefer the term rules. Does the Bible contain a set of rules to follow? To an extent the Bible contains and explains its own set of rules and procedures for Bible Study. The serious student of Bible Study will see those patterns, or styles established by scripture.
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Do you have a favorite author? What do you like about that author? Each author has a particular writing style. Writing styles can be much like fingerprints. Every fingerprint may look similar to one degree, but a closer look will reveal unique differences. Think of writing styles more along the lines of DNA. Who really knows what DNA is? You may have have seen an artists conception of DNA drawn on a computer. It looks something like multiple beads arranged along a spiral shaped strand. Every strand is different for each person, animal, bug, and plant in this world. DNA can’t be seen with the human eye, so we are taking the information we read with a measure of faith. That faith requires a degree of trust. Which is in fact a lot like Bible Study. When we receive information from other people, we really don’t see or understand how they put their facts together, so we assume they knew what they are doing. In other words, we are placing a measures of faith and a degree of trust in the hands of some person. Does that sound about right?
Every Christian should know what is at stake. We face two options, eternal life, or eternal death. Okay, there are variations on that choice, but that fact brings up the point, how do we really know? Which brings up the ever popular Bible Study method of, let’s see who can collect the most amount of information on a subject to see who wins the debate. Is that how we are supposed to study the Bible? Do we collect as much information on a subject to see which team on the debate can collect more words? Is there a precise way of measuring those words so we can place our faith and trust on the proper outcome? That may be like trying to identify DNA with the naked eye.
There is another far safer way of researching subjects using the Bible. God’s writing style is unique to say the least. How do you think a group got together to choose those sixty six books we find in most Bibles? Do you think those people on that committee read those books and decided, this one sounds good, that one looks reliable? How deep do you think that committee looked into the available books to decide which made the cut and which didn’t? We have to keep in mind, that committee had to look for books that were inspired by God. Each book had to show links to the other books, the same writing style, patterns, and other details such as sentence structure, use of symbols, key words, and a host of other evidence designed to examine the fingerprint or DNA that went into each book we find in the Bible today. Don’t you think God had that all planned out before He had Moses pen the first word?
Fingerprints, DNA, writing samples, and signatures are all admissible evidence in a court of law. All the evidence is introduced, examined, and presented in a very formal and precise manner in every court system. Why don’t we use the same care and common sense when it comes to Bible Study? Lives are at stake in courtrooms. What do you think is at stake whenever you read and study the Bible? The question is, what kind of evidence do you look for? How do you examine God’s writing style? Is one Bible more reliable than another? How do you know you can trust Bible translators? Don’t people have a tendency to interject personal thoughts and creeds into the Bible translation they are writing? Do transactions loose God’s DNA mark on His Word? Has the fingerprints been wiped clean? It seems we will never run out of questions about Bible Study. What is Bible Study?
God had a monumental task in front of Him when He told Moses to start writing things down. God had to trust Moses. Moses had to know God’s personality to a certain degree. Moses began to write a book God was prepared to spread over generations before it was complete. God had to ensure His writing style survived over a number of generations and could be recognized while using two major languages. Then those Hebrew and Geek manuscripts had to be translated into dozens of different languages all over the world. On top of that, each language was going to have dozens of different translations printed and distributed. Some of those transactions were word for word. That didn’t pose much of a problem or threat. But then the English language came on the scene. English sentence structure is quite different than Hebrew and Greek sentence structure. Other languages posed their own issues to deal with. Somehow God had to put together a collection of books recorded over generations, then deal all those translations, and still maintain the unique signature of the original Author. That sounds like an impossible task. But we have to realize, God created all those languages.
There are a number of ways to examine an author’s writing style. Their choice of words. Each author has a series of favorite words they use though out the books they write. Some authors thrive on using big, important sounding words. Most books on Bible Study are packed with words the average person never heard of, has trouble pronouncing, and in most cases, has no idea what those words mean. That is one signature or writing style to examine. Other authors stick to simple words. Words people can easily associate with and know what those words mean. An authors choice of words is normally consistent.
Writing is a way to convey information. There are technical styles, informal styles, suspenseful styles, descriptive styles, and other variations that a writer develops. An author may use a few of those styles in a book and mix them into any given chapter. That is one type of fingerprint an author leaves on the pages they write. In addition to an author’s choice of words, the combination of styles they use, sentence structure is another piece of evidence to look at. Are sentences short, long, drawn out, how does the author pose questions, comments, and follow up with questions they pose? There are different styles. Some authors are born teachers. That brings up a set of styles to look into. Many teachers like to provide answers before posing questions. Other authors or teachers prefer to ask questions then explain the answers.
All great teachers repeat important details to draw attention to the main theme at hand. How the author chooses to repeat important or key words is another fingerprint an author places in their books. Some authors think nothing about repeating the same word over and over again. Other authors repeat the key word once or twice then substitute similar words with the same meaning. And some authors love to use contrasts to teach a lesson. How an author repeats key words is one of the most important aspects of a writing style to examine.
How does an author flow from one subject to another? How does the author introduce a new subject? How does the author link their thoughts? Are their thoughts scattered, is there a consistent flow from one detail to the next? Does the author emphasis distinct links between one particular subject and the next in their book? The way an author links details is another aspect to examine.
How does an author introduce a subject? Does the author clearly point out the main subject, elaborate, then add a short summary at the end? Does the author pin point the subject, add in the details to make their point, then shift to the next matter to discuss? How concise are the points, how are they presented, and how does the author follow up on details presented? Those are all styles to consider.
Some authors are very good at writing scenes. They can arrange words in such a way, you can picture the scene in your mind. Other authors write in more of a technical manner. You are given enough facts to picture a scene in your mind, but specific details are scattered here and there. Setting the scene is a way of introducing the reader to what is about to happen in the story. Each author has a unique way of introducing a subject or scene.
Every good teacher will summarize subject matter. How an author summaries the lesson they are teaching is another unique writing style to examine. The summary will generally follow the same pattern or style as the introduction. Technical writes will use a technical slant, suspense writers will have their own style, and descriptive writers will generally use one style for an introduction, and another style of writing to sum up that part of the story, or the chapter.
When we look at the Bible, we have to notice how God repeated words. We should be asking why God repeated words. Repetition is not only a good way to teach, but a great way of keeping the student’s mind on the right subject. When we see the God of the Universe repeating Himself, that should tells us there is a good reason to pay attention. One of the most important aspects of Bible Study is to examine the words God repeated, then ask why He repeated certain words. Repetition is one of the most important ways of identifying the author, and extracting information. In Bible Study we refer to that as the General Rule of Repetition. At least in this book I will refer to it as the Rule of Repetition.
Highlighting a copy of the Bible can get you to see details a lot of other people will often miss. As soon as the chapter is highlighted, you can focus on key words God repeated, which sets your mind on the main thought in that chapter.
God not only has a unique way of repeating words, God has His own unique way of introducing a subject. How do you think that committee broke Bible books into chapters? The people who translated that Bible recognized God’s unique writing style and knew when a new subject was being introduced. God also has His own way of summarizing every subject. When the Bible was broken into chapters and verses, it was easy to follow God’s writing style to determine when one subject began, ended, and a new subject or thought began. In Bible Study we refer to that as the Rule of Introductions and Summations. The beginning of every chapter in the Bible contains an introduction to the main theme in that chapter. The end of every chapter in the Bible contains a summary of that subject.
Linking words is another unique style God used from Genesis to Revelation. Every inspired writer used God’s pattern or style of writing. Linking words were an important part of that pattern. When we see a chapter in the Bible begin with a simple word line, “and,” we know the present chapter at hand somehow followed the previous chapter. God used the simple word, “and,” to establish a link He wanted us to see. God also used other simple words and terms such as, “then,” and, “after that.” Those may seem like simple words of little consequence, but they are more important than many people thinks they are. For one thing, linking words establish an inspired link between one chapter and the next. In many cases linking words established a chain of events showing how one event followed another.
Whenever we read the Bible, we have to realize, we are making a connection with the God of the Universe. We have no idea how large that Universe is, how many beings God has to look over, what God has to do to keep the Universe functioning, or how much of God’s time is absorbed by the rest of the Universe. Here we are on this dismal little planet, with no way of knowing how the rest of God’s kingdom lives, what they do, what they eat, how long they sleep, or how they communicate. We can assume a lot of those details, but the point is, God sets apart time to explain the inspired book He gave this world. Do we appreciate the time God sets apart for us? Do we properly use that time God sets apart for us?
If we really knew God, we would see His DNA or fingerprint in every verse in the Bible. We would recognize a forgery in a second. We would find ourselves in God’s loving care 24/7. We would never have to rely on another living soul past, present, or future to explain a single detail in scripture. We would know how to call up God’s help line and go to the only reliable source for every answer, the original Author of the Bible.
There is something referred to as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the most important ingredient in Bible Study. You cannot efficiently or accurately study the Bible without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our Guide, interpreter, and will reveal all the mysteries in the Bible. That is, the mysteries we are ready, willing, and able to accept. When we study the Bible with the Holy Spirit, we should be able to explain how we made contact with the Spirit, how the Spirit led us to the information, what the Spirit showed us, and what we were told to do with that information.
Some people think the devil knows how to read and interpret scripture. The devil does not have the Holy Spirit to guide him. At best, Satan can only guess at what the Bible says. The devil proved he has no idea what the Bible says when he tried to use scripture to tempt Jesus. Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.'” (Luke 4:9-11 NLTse). The devil used a few lines out of the Bible to try to make a point. In Bible Study we refer to that as proof text. What the devil didn’t see was the next few verses that told the outcome of his encounter with Christ. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. (Psalms 91:11-14 RSVA).
That story basically sums up the common proof text method running rampant all over the world today. Just pick out a verse that suits your needs. Who cares about the time and effort God put into writing that series of books. After all, isn’t that God’s job to fulfill our needs? That is not the way Bible Study works. The Bible was not created to fulfill our desire of looking smart, answering questions, or putting people to the test. Most people who use that proof text method will insist the devil knows scripture better than anyone who has ever lived. The Bible proved Satan does not know scripture and his goal is to hid certain facts from us. Like the fact, Jesus is going to walk all over that snake.
I don’t want to concentrate on all the wrong ways people study scripture. That would never accomplish a thing. I could never list all the mistakes people make when studying the Bible using less than reliable methods. Even if I was able to make a list and tell the world, the devil would create another hundred bad study methods.
I did search Bible Study on the Internet. For the most part I find studies that jump all around the Bible to prove a point. People try to identify symbols, solve prophecies, and explain subjects with a handful of text, or maybe one or two. Is that a proper study method? Doubtful. Would you ever sum up a classic novel using a few sentences out of a few chapters? No one in their right mind would to that. Then why are some of the most respected theologians doing that to the Bible? A better question would be, why are people falling for such inadequate and unorthodox studies?
The first step in any Bible Study is to make contact with the Holy Spirit. Most people refer to that as prayer, which is opening up a direct channel to God’s throne. After that contact is made, who is the teacher and who is the student? I think you have those roles figured out. Once that contact is made, and you are at the foot of God’s throne, what do you do? You can be a little like David and throw in a praise or two. You can tell God how great He is and how you appreciate the time and attention He gives in your life. Then you may want to ask a question. This is where people get their wires crossed. People tend to think, since they are dealing with the all knowing God of the Universe, they should have no problem asking a dozen or so questions. Then what happens? In most cases nothing. In an attempt not to cross wires, God remains silent. Why? You just asked a dozen questions, and if you are like me, I don’t remember the order. If God started answering questions, chances are we would mix up the questions with the answers and be in worse shape then before we prayed.
Get into the habit of asking God one question, waiting for an answer, then if you don’t hear an answer, go onto the next question. As soon as you receive an answer, there will be no doubt the answer is from God. You will hear a hundred ideas, stories from the Bible explaining more than you could ever think of, and more than you are ever going to remember. If you sit down to write about your experience, many of the details will come back to mind.
When you are studying the Bible with the Holy Spirit, you will see dozens of details you never saw before. Give the glory to God. He wrote the book.
Now we are about ready to look at a few methods to study the Bible. Each example contains scripture as an example of what to look for, how to see the patterns, links, and connections God placed in His word, and the step by step methods used so you can use them in your own studies. Now let’s get started, and don’t forget to pray before each lesson.
I decided to do something a little different this time. I decided to write a chapter in a new book and post it on the Internet. I want to get some feedback. I want to see if people think this is the sort of book this world needs at this time. It would be great if people took the time to contribute some constructive thoughts. It would be great if we could witness God’s Spirit working all around the world to bring together a number of ideas.
I’ll post sections on some social media sites. But you have to go to the website page to read the entire chapter. You can leave your comments there. That way I will have a reference in one general location.
This book is going to take a look at how mankind has been digressing over the years. Are computers and cell phone making mankind smarter or dulling our God given senses? We will also take a look at how much mankind has forgotten over the years. When we put this together the facts will amaze you.
Adam and Eve
To understand how the earth is digressing, we have to look at how man began on this planet. The only reliable record we have of creation is found in the Book of Genesis.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27 KJV).
No one can argue the point, man and women were created in God’s image. What is God’s image? Can anyone say they are an image of God? Is any leader today or any historical figure an image of God? Take a look in the mirror. Can you say you are an image of God? Let’s take a look at the Hebrew definition of image.
From an unused root meaning to shade; a phantom, that is, (figuratively) illusion, resemblance; hence a representative figure, especially an idol: – image, vain shew.
It’s not by accident the word image was derived from an unused root meaning. Think about that on a spiritual level for a moment. We were created in God’s image. By the time the Bible was translated into English and supported by Hebrew and Greek dictionaries, the word used to describe our origin was an unused root meaning. That should give us a clue showing us how far this world has digressed. Let’s look at a few other words used to define the word image.
To shade, a phantom. That does not sound like a direct copy of God, but only a shadow of God. Were we created as a direct image of God or a mere shadow of our Creator? The words shadow and phantom are followed by the word illusion. What is an illusion? Wikipedia describes an illusion as:
“An illusion is a distortion of the senses, which can reveal how the human brain normally organizes and interprets sensory stimulation. Though illusions distort our perception of reality, they are generally shared by most people.”
As this world digresses, senses are lost. Before we can relate to how senses have been lost or altered from the time of creation, we have to understand a bit about creation at the very beginning. Let’s see how the Bible described creation.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5 KJV).
The first thing God did was create light. How did God create light? Has any man created light? Sure we have light bulbs in all shapes and forms. Fire also sheds light. But how was light actually created? Did God create light on the first day so He could see what He was doing? Or was light created on the first day to shed a little spiritual light on the subject? Let’s take another look at those few verses.
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Let’s compare darkness to light. They are opposites. In the spiritual sense darkness and light oppose one another. What does that tell you about what happens when God steps onto the scene?
“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”
\(Luke 11:34-36 NLTse).
We could write an entire sermon on light and darkness. But that is not the intent of this book. For the time being we will concentrate on finding God’s image. An image that has been all but lost in this day and age.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:6-8 KJV).
There could be a lot of different takes on this part of creation. People have a difficult time distinguishing between light and darkness. Now we get into the subject of earth and sky. But wait. There is no earth yet. All we have so far is water covering the earth and a mist of water above the earth God called Heaven. There is another clue showing what we are missing today. Look at the Internet. What do you see? We see people all over the world using the earth, or earthly wisdom to interpret the Bible. When the earth began, Heaven was above the earth in both the physical and spiritual sense.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day. (Genesis 1:9-13 KJV).
On the third day God took the earth that was under the water and brought it to the surface. What question does this raise today? This verse flies in the face of science. Most scientists disagree with the flood. They know if a flood can be proven, God could be scientifically proven. Science wants us to believe water just happened to be on this planet. That is why it is so important for science to prove water exists, or did exist on other planets. Why do you think they spend billions of dollars to go to Mars to look for that? Water. How smart is that. We have more water on this planet than we know what to do with. Why travel millions of miles to go to a planet with no sign of water to look for water? Some scientists will stop at nothing to prove God does not exist. But God had them figured out long before He created Adam. God had water to prove He exists. He also has light to prove He exists. And it gets better as we move along in the creation story.
And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. (Genesis 1:15-19 KJV).
This is where is begins to get really interesting, when God created all the planets and stars. Let’s take a quick look at those stars. We know the earth is round. Well most people believe the earth is round. We’ll stick with that belief for now. The earth rotates on its axis we refer to as the north and south poles. Those poles have magnetic fields. We normally concentrate on the north pole. We use that magnetic field to navigate. For generations people have been using the sun to tell time, and stars to navigate by night. We know the earth rotates and has been rotating at a consistent speed and in a consistent orbit for as long as anyone can remember.
At this point we could get into hundreds of scientific fields to prove God exists. But all we want to do for now is gain a better understanding of God to see what image Adam was created in. All of those stars, plants, moons, and galaxies required a complicated set of mathematical equations before the first series of stars and planets could be hung in the sky. God created and hung all of them in one day. No one can even count all the stars. God created all of them and placed them in individual orbits in one day. That proves, God know His mathematics, Not even a computer could calculate all that information in one day.
So far God has light, water, and now mathematics to prove He exists and created this world and the universe. But some scientists want people to believe all those stars and planets just happened to form in perfect orbits. If the earth’s orbit varied by just a few degrees, this planet would either burn up or freeze to death. Science could tell you that if they wanted to. But for some reason, science doesn’t think it can exist along side of God the Creator.
There is a little story in the Bible explaining why mankind has a difficult time accepting God without question. You see, Adam and Eve were not alone on this planet. There was a snake in the grass. Actually a serpent in a tree. God placed one tree in the middle of the garden He arranged for Adam and Eve. It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And that tree was off limits.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:16-17 KJV),
Why did God decide to place a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden, then tell Adam, if he ever ate from it, he would die. That sounds rather drastic. There had to be a good reason for that type of test.
It just so happened that one day Adam’s wife Eve decided to listen to that serpent hanging around in that tree. The serpent was Satan in disguise. But Eve had no way of knowing. Or did she? Eve did know that there was something in that tree she didn’t have, and she wanted it. Eve didn’t know anything about good or evil. That is rather difficult for us to imagine. But taking that fruit somehow gave her knowledge about good and evil. At first Eve had something Adam didn’t. So she convinced Adam to eat some fruit. That would once again level the playing field between the two of them. All it did was got them kicked out of the garden. Instead of living in a garden with all the fruit, nuts, and grains they could ever want, Adam had to sweat his butt off to put a meal on the table.
Now we have to look back and look at a few facts. Adam was created in God’s image. He was only a shadow of God. But did God explain to Adam, those stars were in the sky for a reason? Did God give Adam insight into how those stars moved and how Adam could tell the time and seasons by looking at the stars? Did God go as far as giving Adam the ability to understand the complex mathematical equations it took to put all those stars in planets in their perfect orbits? Was Adam a mathematical wizard? We have to look at a few pieces of evidence in the Bible to figure that one out.
We also know God created all the grass, trees, flowers, plants, insects, fish, birds, and animals on this planet. To create a bird that could fly, God had to know about the physical, scientific laws of gravity, lift, and what we refer to as flight. God had to create wings that worked. And worked the first time. More proof God is a mathematical genius. Some insects can walk straight up walls. The earth has this thing we refer to as gravity. Those bugs had to be engineered with the strength to grip what appears to be smooth surfaces, and the tools to grip them with. Those insects had to have a brain to decide where to move and how to control legs, eyes, and other senses. Some lizards have pads on their feet that can grip glass. Some animals climb trees. God had to calculate and design hands, feet, and tails so those animals could move through trees with ease. Then we have flying insects with wings that fold under hard protective shells. Some scientists insist it is mathematically impossible for the bumble bee to fly. Maybe there is something they don’t know. God created muscle systems and a system to power those muscles. In short, God created living machine that are still impossible for men to duplicate.
When it came time for Adam to leave the garden and eek out a living in this world now altered by sin, did God teach Adam the skills required to survive? There is a little side story I’d like to look at. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21 KJV).
God killed the first animals, skinned them, and sewed cloths to protect Adam and Eve from the coming cold. Can you image a God working with His hands to kill an animal He created, take off its skin, and sew those skins to make a set of clothing for the human beings that disobeyed one simple command? It seems we can learn a lot about God when we read what is written about Him.
But what about those skills? What evidence do we have in the Bible that shows us Adam had a brain and knew how to use it?
And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; (Genesis 2:21 KJV).
Not only does the Bible tell us God had surgical skills, the Bible also tells us Adam had to possess quite a brain to name all those animals. There had to be hundreds, maybe thousands of them. Adam not only had to come up with all those names, he had to remember all of them. Sit down and see if you can write out a hundred names. How long would that take you? Adam did it in one day. We have the evidence, God gave Adam a brain with the ability to think, and remember.
Science tries to convince us that man evolved from lower life. So thousands or millions of years later, someone developed the ability to speak and communicate. According to the Bible, Adam was able communicate on day one.
We still have to take a look at what God would have taught Adam and Eve. At first they tended the garden God planted for them. God must have taught them gardening skills. But did it stop there? Was that all Adam and Eve knew? They had to know much more than gardening to survive alone in the world. What about shelter? Did God build Adam and Eve a house? Did they figure that one out on their own? Or did God teach Adam a few basic construction skills? Don’t forget, we have to prove every detail from the Bible.
For generations it was traditional for fathers to teach their sons the family trade. Jesus’ father was a carpenter. Joseph taught Jesus how to be a carpenter. We also have tons of verses in the Bible describing mankind as a form of God’s son. God looked at Adam as a son. After making clothing by hand, God would not have turned Adam out into the world without teaching Adam. When we look at the beginning of Genesis, what was God’s trade? What was God’s job? God was an inventor, engineer, and Creator. That tells us, God would have passed those skills onto Adam. We know Adam had a mind to think, and a great memory. The only thing we don’t know is, how much information about creation and science God shared with Adam. Scientists like to insist their brains evolved without any influence, guidance, or help from God. Scientists insist mankind developed over long periods of time on their own. If God was willing to kill the first animals to make clothing for Adam and Eve, do you think the support from God stopped there? Or do you think that was only the beginning?
The only evidence we have that Adam was thrown into this world with no skills is the word of scientists and philosophers. Not one of then was there at the time. Not many of them bother to read the Bible. The majority of them dedicate their lives to disproving the Bible. In other words, even if they approached the Bible, it would be with a pile of preconceived ideas. They would take out a few sentences and twist them around to support their personal theories. In the end, we would get no where, and their man made theories would prove nothing. Do you really believe man evolved from lower life forms? Do you really believe that this Universe was created from a mass of nothing that somehow condensed and exploded? Do you really believe that explosion placed all the stars and planets in perfect orbits around one another? Where did the oxygen, helium, hydrogen, and other elements come from? Do you really believe a set of basic elements can meet in a pond of water someplace and decide to combine in a specific order to create a single cell living organism? If evolution is true, why don’t we have living, thinking oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen molecules able to combine with other molecules at will to create new forms of life? If those elements had billions of years to learn how to create living organisms, why did they decide to give up that learned skill? And how did simple one cell organisms decide they needed eyes, feet, legs, ears, hands, and other appendages to be able to compete in a world they were creating? I remember hearing a story that went much like this.
A group of scientists got together to match their combined wits against God. They told God they could do anything He could. Without a word, God knelt down on the ground, gathered a mound of dirt, formed it into an image of a man, and breathed on it. The scientists looked a the man stand up, and began having a conversation with God. After a short time, God turned to the scientists and said, “your turn.” The scientists gathered around each other to have a private conversation. After some time one of the scientists approached God and said, “we can do it, but it will take some time.” With a smile on His face, God said, “okay, but you have to get your own dirt.”
How little we know about dirt. How does dirt give life to plants and trees? How do trees and plants produce seeds and fruits from elements inside dirt? How do plants convert simple elements into edible food? Plants and trees have some type of internal factories to convert elements from the ground and air to create life. Plants can do more than the greatest minds in the world. God placed that knowledge inside those plants and trees.
Without a doubt it takes a great degree of faith to believe in either a living God with the ability to speak life into existence, or basic elements with the ability to either create life through planning, or by a complete accident. We either have to accept a Creator God who came from, no one really knows or is able to explain. Or we can choose to believe in the ability of basic elements to combine and reconfigure themselves into what ever shape they choose. Or whatever shape they happened to form by accident. In either case, man still has a mind to gather evidence to make a choice.
I seldom watch videos. You watch one video with one idea. The next has a totally different view. Especially when it comes to the Bible and history. When you combine history in the Bible, you have millions of different views. Bible dates and times should be easy to agree on. Bible dates and times are recorded in the most accurate and reliable source in the world. The Bible. But are those Bible dates and times accurate? And why do we need uninspired human sources to confirm the Bible? Especially the dates and time. It doesn’t make sense. And what sources are most reliable?
I’m not sure. I did receive a copy of a study years ago I didn’t pay much attention to. It was full of numbers, dates, and such. Not along my line of interest. I didn’t give that a single thought until I ran across this video. This video on Bible dates and times it well done. It is food for thought. This video on Bible dates and times compares a few old manuscripts. I have read a little about those manuscripts and would agree with this video. There were good and poor copies of the Old Testament circulated around way before Jesus was born, and after His resurrection. This video on Bible dates and times is well worth a viewing.
The story covers Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem. The question is often asked why John was the only Apostle to record this event. John was the only Apostle to record what Jesus taught about the Holy Spirit. Not many people question those chapters. After reading this study, you should understand why John was the only Apostle to record Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem. That first visit to Jerusalem was during the Festival of Shelters. Why did Jesus choose that time to go to Jerusalem? There is a spiritual reason behind it.
John 7:1-53 NLTse After this, Jesustraveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. (2) But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, (3) and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! (4) You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” (5) For even his brothers didn’t believe in him. (6) Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime. (7) The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil. (8) You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” (9) After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee. (10) But after his brothers left for the festival,Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. (11) The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. (12) There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” (13) But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders. (14) Then, midway through the festival,Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. (15) The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked. (16) So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. (17) Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. (18) Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. (19) Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.” (20) The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?” (21) Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. (22) But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) (23) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? (24) Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” (25) Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? (26) But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? (27) But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiahcomes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.” (28) While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he called out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. (29) But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you.” (30) Then the leaders tried to arrest him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. (31) Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?” (32) When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus. (33) But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. (34) You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.” (35) The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. “Where is he planning to go?” they asked. “Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe he will even teach the Greeks! (36) What does he mean when he says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?” (37) On the last day, the climax of the festival,Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! (38) Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'” (39) (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) (40) When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” (41) Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiahcome from Galilee? (42) For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” (43) So the crowd was divided about him. (44) Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him. (45) When the Temple guards returned without having arrestedJesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” (46) “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded. (47) “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. (48) “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? (49) This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law.God’s curse is on them!” (50) Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. (51) “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. (52) They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself–no prophet ever comes from Galilee!” (53) Then the meeting broke up, and everybody went home.
Indecision. That word sums up this chapter as well as the last chapter. Why? Why couldn’t people accept what Jesus was saying? Is it really that much different today? People read the Bible. And people seem to disagree on just about every subject, including the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus has been slowly introducing the subject of resurrection one little detail at a time.
Search the scriptures is not repeated in this chapter for nothing. Jesus sent people to scriptures. Did they refer to them? Did they see details we’ve seen? Was this another lesson showing how some people read God’s Word one way while other people say it means something totally different, or the opposite? How do we know which it true? The one thing we never want to do is separate a few verses out of a chapter and try to explain what it means. That is like leaving God’s hand, or leaving His Spirit behind like those people in the previous chapter left Jesus behind.
Jesus’ Brothers Offered Advise
John 7:1-9 NLTse After this, Jesustraveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. (2) But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, (3) and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! (4) You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” (5) For even his brothers didn’t believe in him. (6) Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime. (7) The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil. (8) You go on. I’m not going to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” (9) After saying these things, Jesus remained in Galilee.
Jesus went back to his hometown. The town He grew up. Jesus needed to stay away from those religious leaders. Out of their cross hairs. They were hunting Jesus because they wanted to kill Him. Another Jewish festival came up. It was the Festival of Shelters. It used to be a simple ceremony when Hebrews lived in temporary shelters for a time. This was to remind them, this world is temporary and one day God would come to take them to the real promised land. The promised land we refer to as the spiritual promised land.
“Remember that this seven-day festival to the LORD–the Festival of Shelters–begins on the fifteenth day of the appointed month, after you have harvested all the produce of the land. The first day and the eighth day of the festival will be days of complete rest. On the first day gather branches from magnificent trees–palm fronds, boughs from leafy trees, and willows that grow by the streams. Then celebrate with joy before the LORD your God for seven days. You must observe this festival to the LORD for seven days every year. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed in the appointed month from generation to generation. For seven days you must live outside in little shelters. All native-born Israelites must live in shelters. This will remind each new generation of Israelites that I made their ancestors live in shelters when I rescued them from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” So Moses gave the Israelites these instructions regarding the annual festivals of the LORD. (Leviticus 23:39-44 NLTse).
All that changed when Solomon decided to dedicate his temple during that festival. It seems like an oxymoron, putting God into a stone temple during a festival when Israel, including the king was supposed to move into a temporary shelter made of sticks and leaves.
A new tradition was born and people loved it. No more camping out every year. People replaced God’s festival with one of their own. An easier one to keep. But the vision of Heaven was lost. How could that happen? If you check back a few chapters before Solomon dedicated his temple, you’ll find Solomon appointed the priests and other religious leaders. The king controlled the church. You’ll also find, David did the same thing. We can’t tell how much of an effect that had on religious services, but we can see how later kings appointed pagan priests, religions, and introduced idols. For generations that temple bounced around from a pagan temple, back to Hebrew, and back and forth. Every change resulted in a blend of pagan traditions and what was left from the instructions Moses recorded. Jesus had His work cut out for Himself. This is why His work was so difficult. The religion those Jews followed was hardly a shadow of what Moses and Aaron followed and taught in the wilderness.
The symbols used in the Tabernacle were also lost. Little if anything in the stone temple pointed to Jesus. Herod’s temple was based on a grand and glorious design aimed at showing the world God’s greatness. The meekness and simplicity of Christ was gone. Even the sacrificial system had been so distorted, no one had any idea there was a connection between the lamb and Christ. The system was so broken, God’s plan was to start from scratch by introducing new symbols. But was the world ready for the change?
Jesus’ brothers summed up what the world wanted to see and understand about Jesus. All they cared about was His miracles. It’s pretty much the same today. Go to a church with a prayer and praise portion in their service. What do you hear? People asking prayer for this, that or the other thing. Does anyone praise God? Does anyone stand up to tell what God taught them that week? Not too often. For the most part, the few minutes is filled with people asking for things – asking God to prove Himself with another miracle.
Business was good in Galilee. People were making money selling lodging, food, water, and care for travelers animals. Believe it or not, Jesus’ ministry became a windfall for every business in Galilee. His brothers didn’t want Jesus sitting around. They wanted Him to go out and do some advertising to bring in more business. What better place to advertise than Jerusalem during a major festival.
All Jesus could tell them is, it wasn’t His time. Time for what? Most people look at the surface and think it wasn’t His time to go to Jerusalem to die. Although that may be true, it is far from the whole story. Jesus had to give God’s Spirit a little more time to set up details so some people would actually listen and understand. The best Jesus could hope for was a few people to listen and understand. Jesus knew the message He had to deliver would aggravate a lot of people. The message would aggravate a lot more if He moved too quickly.
We see how Jesus repeated the phrase about not being the right time. Jesus called it His time. When the time was right, it would be Jesus’ time to teach and continue His ministry. Everything had to be done on time, according to God’s plan, and according to every prophecy recorded about Himself. This was a vital key to Jesus’ success. One of the major conditions of Jesus’ ministry was to point people to the prophecies He was fulfilling, when He was fulfilling them. This is also a vital part of Christianity today, but a sadly neglected major portion of the ministry and message Jesus gave to take to the world.
Jesus Goes to Jerusalem
John 7:10-13 NLTse But after his brothers left for the festival,Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. (11) The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. (12) There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” (13) But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.
First Jesus told His brothers it wasn’t His time. About three days later, Jesus went to Jerusalem. Why did His brothers leave halfway through the festival? That shows how seriously they treated the festival and how much it had been changed. Why did Jesus wait for His brothers to leave before going to the festival? The obvious answer would be, He didn’t need their advise or influence. Jesus also didn’t need them asking for more miracles in front of the crowds, or using Jesus’ influence to get more people to visit Galilee. The influence in Galilee didn’t paint a proper picture of Jesus.
Jewish leaders were looking all over for Jesus. They expected Him to visit Jerusalem during the festival. It wouldn’t be a big deal for them to arrest Jesus during the Festival of Shelters. Jesus didn’t have the large following He did at the end of His ministry. John told us how people were leaving Jesus. We can assume reports to the priests were greatly exaggerated. Walking among the crowds showed those Jewish leaders how split Jews were when the talked about Jesus. As we know, little attention is paid to anyone supporting someone you despise, while the emphasis is placed on people agreeing with your view. It didn’t matter what the actual numbers were, the priests looked at any indicator in their favor as a victory.
Numbers didn’t matter to God either. Of course He wanted everyone to turn to His Son and be saved, but human numbers would not be of any consequence to any part of God’s plan. It never was and it never will be.
Jesus Taught in the Temple
John 7:14-24 NLTse Then, midway through the festival,Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. (15) The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked. (16) So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. (17) Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. (18) Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. (19) Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.” (20) The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?” (21) Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. (22) But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) (23) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? (24) Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”
God’s Spirit told Jesus when the time was right to go to Jerusalem. God had to make sure everything was prepared. Just before Jesus entered Jerusalem, He saw a few temporary shelters constructed outside the city gates. He stood and watched people pass those shelters and listened to them. People didn’t recognize Jesus. He was hidden from them like the message those shelters carried. People passed those shelters without giving them a though. A few people hurled insults and some threw a few stones.
Some of those shelters housed only individuals while others housed an entire family for a week, So many people passed them thinking it was some sort of long lost religious cult. Others thought it was some kind of misled movement. A few people stopped to ask why they chose to honor God’s festival this way. Those inside were more than happy to explain, and point them back to scripture. That was the only way people could see the message in the pattern. Passover, to harvest, to trumpets and atonement, then finally the shelters.
Jesus watched those people for some time. Then He went from shelter to shelter to listen to them and share a few words. Once inside the city gates, Jesus only saw a few more shelters. He stopped and talked to them on His way to the temple. A few people followed Him to the temple, but not many. Mostly they were people curious about those shelters. Something inside told them there was much more to learn about those shelters and Jesus seemed to know more than anyone they’ve ever met.
Once inside the temple court, Jesus and the few people following Him could see how the Jews celebrated the Festival of Shelters. What a contrast to those few people outside the city gates. People were busy exchanging money, buying lambs, goats, and birds, then standing in another line to have them sacrificed. It was clear all those animals were being sacrificed to honor the temple. The sudden impact of reality made people think and wonder how things could have changed. Jesus knew how.
The Festival of Shelters does more than serve as a reminder this life is temporary. It is also one illustration showing how people pick and choose which parts of the Bible to accept and which to reject. The festival also showed how easy it is for religious leaders to hide scripture from people to get their way. Jews concentrated on one part of scripture while hiding another.
“Five days later, on the fifteenth day of the same month, you must call another holy assembly of all the people, and you may do no ordinary work on that day. It is the beginning of the Festival of Shelters, a seven-day festival to the LORD. On the first day of the festival, you must present a burnt offering as a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the LORD. It will consist of thirteen young bulls, two rams, and fourteen one-year-old male lambs, all with no defects. Each of these offerings must be accompanied by a grain offering of choice flour moistened with olive oil–six quarts for each of the thirteen bulls, four quarts for each of the two rams, and two quarts for each of the fourteen lambs. You must also sacrifice a male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its accompanying grain offering and liquid offering. “On the second day of this seven-day festival, sacrifice twelve young bulls, two rams, and fourteen one-year-old male lambs, all with no defects. Each of these offerings of bulls, rams, and lambs must be accompanied by its prescribed grain offering and liquid offering. You must also sacrifice a male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its accompanying grain offering and liquid offering. (Numbers 29:12-19 NLTse).
The Jewish leaders emphasized one description of the festival while hiding the other. Tradition turned the festival into an endless stream of sacrifices to honor the temple. They had no evidence to prove God existed inside the temple. That was all the more reason to combine the long list of sacrifices on the Festival of Shelters with Solomon’s dedication of his temple when he sacrificed so many animals, blood ran into the streets like a river. The more sacrifices, the more money the priests made. Another well hidden scripture is found in Isaiah.
Listen to the LORD, you leaders of “Sodom.” Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.” “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the LORD. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting– they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. (Isaiah 1:10-19 NLTse).
The Festival of Shelters showed how religious leaders separate and segregate certain parts of scripture to benefit themselves and their beliefs. In the example of the Shelters, one section pointed to God’s prophets. The other was used to only point to profits. How was Jesus going to get them to look at all of God’s Scripture so they could see the truth for themselves?
At first the people were surprised at what Jesus taught. They heard much of what He had to say for the first time and were amazed at how simple it was, and how much they missed. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked. Everything was going great until Jesus mentioned the law.
“My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.” The message Jesus refereed to was not something new, but scripture recorded generations before He came to this world. Jesus pointed them back to scripture. He didn’t need to prove Himself. Everything He taught came from scripture, a full view of scripture.
“Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies.” People speak for themselves by taking little bits and pieces of scripture then telling people what they think it means. They don’t back it up with scripture, nor do they allow scripture to explain itself. They rely on themselves to glorify themselves.
“Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.” Jesus pointed them back to scripture. In particular, everything Moses wrote about the festival they were celebrating. It was time to put away man made traditions and look at what God gave them. It was time to put aside man made interpretations for the symbols and learn how scripture revealed the spiritual meaning for every symbol.
People didn’t like Jesus bringing up the subject of the law that had been twisted and remolded by men to become a burden people would just as soon avoid. Their reaction showed their distorted concept of the law. The crowd replied, “You’re demon possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?” More often than not, people will attack someone they don’t agree with by changing the subject. After listening to Jesus for a while, they all knew, they wouldn’t stand a chance debating the law with Jesus. They could see He understood a lot more than they did. So they accused Jesus of being possessed by a demon. Did that every happen to you?
It happens to me all the time. If you engage in online discussions about the Bible, it doesn’t matter what subject is being discussed. Chances are the group consists of one or two people who want to appear like they know everything. They feel threatened by anyone who introduces material they don’t know about. If they feel out matched in scripture, they change the subject by accusing you of being possessed, or a false prophet, a member of a church they consider an enemy, or something along those lines. This is what happened to Jesus.
It’s not hard to see who changed the subject. Jesus went right into an example showing how they chose one part of the law over another, and in His own way, asked them how to explain it. With the same question, Jesus asked them to explain why it was okay for them to circumcise a baby, but it was wrong for Jesus to heal an old man or woman on the Sabbath. When Jesus told them to, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” He pointed them back to scripture. Not to read it by themselves, but with God’s Spirit who could explain everything below the surface.
Could Our Leaders Believe
John 7:25-29 NLTse Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? (26) But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? (27) But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiahcomes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.” (28) While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he called out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. (29) But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you.”
We can see God’s Spirit was hard at work and another reason why Jesus had to wait for the right time. Some of the people began questioning their religious leaders. “Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah?” God’s Spirit opened up a door. But that door wasn’t open long. The enemy quickly went in and slammed that door shut for some of those people. They only wanted to believe what they saw with their eyes and interpreted with their own minds which was controlled by what they’ve been taught. “But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiahcomes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”
This showed how people can be misled when they decide to take the easy way out and let someone read and interpret scripture for them. This brings us to the worldly concept based on reliance upon gifted worldly leaders. We can see this was a problem in Jesus’ day. They were taught the wrong concept on the Festival of Shelters. God used this to introduce a lesson which expanded in verses 26 and 27 to include views on the Messiah. Once again we see how the subject is changed to avoid the subject at hand. Now we can see why Jesus had to keep repeating Himself in the previous chapter. The same pattern kept occurring here. Jesus was trying to teach one subject, but people who felt threatened kept changing the subject. Jesus had to repeat Himself to get them back on the lesson at hand. The enemy uses the same pattern today.
Religious leaders shared only what they wanted people to hear. Those religious leaders knew how Herod’s priests told him the Messiah was born in Bethlehem. But after Herod verified the Messiah’s birth by killing every child in Bethlehem, they needed to hide other scripture, another detail about the Messiah. Call it a political cover up or a conspiracy. Those priests were working with Herod to cover up a massacre. Something that never should have happened. But God wouldn’t allow it to be covered up. People still talk about it today. Most just can’t see all the spiritual implications. Talk about secrets being shouted from roof tops.
Jesus didn’t enter into another debate on scripture. He told them where they needed to go by telling them where He came from. “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you.” But did those people really know Jesus? He wasn’t about to argue with Him. Jesus knew they could only go so far to criticize Him. They were restricted by their reliance on the money flowing into Galilee from people visiting Jesus’ hometown. We see a parallel between those religious leaders and the people who grew up with Jesus. Both were profiting from the Messiah but couldn’t see the real Messiah in front of them.
I Will Be With You Only a Little Longer
John 7:30-36 NLTse Then the leaders tried to arrest him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. (31) Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?” (32) When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus. (33) But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. (34) You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.” (35) The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. “Where is he planning to go?” they asked. “Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe he will even teach the Greeks! (36) What does he mean when he says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?”
As soon as the priest’s saw Jesus gaining an advantage, they tried to arrest Him. When it looked like people were leaving Jesus, the priests didn’t think they had much to worry about. But once they looked a little deeper, they saw the number of Jesus’ followers beginning to increase in front of their eyes. The priests wavered to say the least. But once they made their move, they reached a point of no return. People believed in Jesus’ miracles and those priests couldn’t deny them. They tried to deny the miracles but that and it didn’t work.
Jesus was trying to teach the people what the priests couldn’t see. Jesus was trying to teach how to understand how God’s Spirit worked and how to properly understand scripture. Jesus wanted more than a bunch of people following Him around to see miracles. Jesus wanted more than people looking for physical healing. Jesus wanted to spiritually heal them.
Jesus introduced a new subject in the from of a parable. That parable was also a prophecy because it hadn’t taken place yet. Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.” We know Jesus was talking about His resurrection, but the Jews had no way of knowing what He was talking about. They didn’t know because they didn’t study scripture. They wouldn’t allow God’s Spirit to lead.
John introduced another important subject. John showed how the religious leaders were confused at that point during the event taking place. The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. “Where is he planning to go?” they asked. “Is he thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe he will even teach the Greeks! What does he mean when he says, ‘You will search for me but not find me,’ and ‘You cannot go where I am going’?”
People today are still confused. Jesus wasn’t referring to people physically looking for Him. Jesus referred to searching scripture. Jesus wasn’t using miracles to prove who He was. What was written in scripture should have been proof enough. It should be proof enough today. But how many people have the ability to open scripture and prove Jesus is the Messiah from the prophecies?
Those priests had the opportunity to either prove or disprove Jesus’ claims with scripture. They had years to search scripture for an answer. But their pride kept them from opening God’s Word. Ambition kept those priests from accepting guidance from God’s Spirit. What’s your excuse?
Rivers of Flowing Water
John 7:37-40 NLTse On the last day, the climax of the festival,Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! (38) Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'” (39) (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) (40) When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.”
Jesus didn’t introduce a new subject to the previous conversion but introduced this subject on another day. Jesus left those religious leaders wondering where He was going and why they couldn’t follow Him. Jesus told them to search scripture. Which brings us to our next subject.
Jesus quoted scripture, but I can’t find where He quoted this from. ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.” There are a few possibilities, but I can’t find an exact quote or anything that stays within the complete context of this chapter. Maybe that was done by design. What could be better than sending people back to scripture with a verse that requires them to examine a dozen or more texts to find a match. I wonder how many people looked for what scripture Jesus quoted and found lessons they hadn’t expected. Even though the particular texts Jesus referred to can’t be located, something Jesus told them impressed the crowd. When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” Did the crowd that day finally make the connection Jesus was using living water to symbolize? Many people think living water refers to Jesus. Is there scripture proving that? John tells us living water points to the Spirit just as Isaiah wrote. “For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.” (Isaiah 44:3 NLTse).
He is the Messiah
John 7:41-44 NLTse Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiahcome from Galilee? (42) For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” (43) So the crowd was divided about him. (44) Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.
John didn’t record a mistake, nor a contradiction. We have to look at who said what. In this meeting, people said, “the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” Earlier in this chapter someone else said, “When the Messiahcomes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.” Look at the context of this conversion. Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiahcome from Galilee?” John is showing us the confusion Jesus had to face.
We have to remember, much of John’s book centers on showing us methods Jesus used to reach out to people. John has been adding another important lesson, the confusion Jesus faced. Don’t we all face a bit of confusion when we spread the word, share what we know about Jesus, and try to lead people to Christ? We have an advantage. Most of the world has already heard about Jesus. They know something about Him. Most people we encounter consider themselves one type of Christian or another. Why is it we see the same problems Jesus experienced?
“So the crowd was divided about him.” This about sums up what Jesus experienced as well as what many of us, soldiers of Christ experience when we enter that spiritual warfare. Life is not easy. We know finding someone who wants to learn, who wants to dedicate themselves to understanding is rare. I wish there was an easy answer. If there was one, I’m sure John would have recorded it. But look at John’s life. He spent his last days exiled on an island. Not just any island but one the Romans dumped the worst criminals. A barren wasteland where life was difficult to say the least. No one cared if those prisoners on that island killed each other off. Talk about needing protection. John needed God’s protection everyday. That’s where God gave John a vision of a better life. He needed it more than anyone.
Have You Been Led Astray
John 7:45-52 NLTse When the Temple guards returned without having arrestedJesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” (46) “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded. (47) “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. (48) “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? (49) This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law.God’s curse is on them!” (50) Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. (51) “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. (52) They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself–no prophet ever comes from Galilee!” (53) Then the meeting broke up, and everybody went home.
It didn’t look good for the temple guards sent to arrest Jesus when the returned empty handed. Those guards are some of the few people who listened to Jesus. We can see God’s hand in protecting Jesus. The Pharisees were not happy at all. They made fun of the guards, asking how they could have been deceived by a man all the religious leaders could see through.
Those guards returned as witnesses. Nicodemus brought up a good point, “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” It was Nicodemus’ simple way of telling them to go back to scripture and checking some of those prophecies. The Pharisee’s reply was as simple as their thinking. “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself–no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”
That was the third time Jesus’ birthplace was brought up. Or shall we say, where He came from. Jesus never claimed to be born in Galilee. At least we can see the Pharisees knew where the Messiah was born according to prophecy. John wanted to leave the hint, they knew prophecy told the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. But notice how the Pharisees refused to speak the name of the city. It is their way of showing they don’t agree with, or want to avoid a subject. They’re displaying their human nature – which is a hard thing to figure out.
If there was an easy way to reach people, John would have recorded it. Instead, John gave us a list of conflicting personalities. Notice how John concentrated on personalities that opposed Jesus. Look at the variations. Do we learn anything from them other than the fact, there are a lot of reasons and excuses people don’t want to listen to Christ, much less follow Him.
Then we have to consider the fact, Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand much about the plan of salvation until a major portion of it was fulfilled. Maybe that’s recorded to show all of us have problems listening. We all make mistakes. We all have a lot to learn. The disciples experienced a time when they thought they knew enough. They had their moments when they thought they didn’t have to listen, or didn’t want to listen. At least they were man enough to record their mistakes instead of covering them up. They recorded their mistakes for us to learn from. Are we?
If you’ve ever wondered how the book of Esther fits in with the rest of the Bible, you must have asked yourself when the events took place. That’s not an easy task when it comes to unraveling this mystery using only the Bible. That’s true for a number of reasons we will cover later. One of the most profound reasons is the relationship Esther has to future prophecy, better known as end times, the moment in earth’s history a lot of people claim we are living in now. If you’ve searched the Internet to get a historian’s point of view, I know your really confused because they add in all kinds of names and kings who ruled between the main characters in the Bible, not to mention how their articles get side tracked with stories about wives and other relatives.
It’s not difficult to see a spiritual connection between Jerusalem’s fall and the end of the world. People pull away from God, He sends His prophets, people don’t listen and God is left with no choice but to go forward with letting the warnings He gave them follow their course. Here is a point to pay close attention to. While God was sending a number of prophets to accomplish two things, warn people of the impending doom and call them into a closer relationship, false prophets appeared to say things weren’t as bad as they seemed, as well as challenging God’s true prophets. In the course of their ministry those false prophets led people away from God. A close study of those prophets show us lessons we need to survive in the last days. God’s prophets in the Bible show us how God communicated with them, how they delivered their messages, how God protected them as well as methods used to lead people back to God. Those messages followed a specific pattern. Often times the prophet recorded the date or time he received the message. They also recorded the method God used to give them the message which consisted of a series of parts. Prophets established God’s authority, told people God’s intent to call them back, told them how they drifted away, told them the consequences they’d face if they don’t turn back, shared a detail or two telling how the consequences will be carried out, then closed with a promise of rewards God has if they decided to accept His offer, to return to acting like His people. False prophets can’t understand the sequence. False prophets defy God’s message then challenge the true prophets. In other words they do what they’re best at, pointing fingers. False prophets know they failed to lead people to God, which is the main reason Jerusalem was being threatened by invading armies. Instead of looking in a mirror to see the problem, false prophets play the blame game to hang onto their dignity, pride, and jobs.
The main point is to see there are two sides or sets of details to look at in every story. God’s prophets are like reporters telling both sides of the story and letting people decide what to do. Once you understand that point, your ready for the next level, to look into the deeper meaning of the lessons taught. Understanding the timing of Esther follows the same pattern. There are two sides to look at and a deeper lesson to learn when you understand the timing. Get ready to review a lot of texts because the lessons here are going to exceed anything you’ve ever encountered.
Esther 1:1-3 NLTse These events happened in the days of King Xerxes, who reigned over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. (2) At that time Xerxes ruled his empire from his royal throne at the fortress of Susa. (3) In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces.
The introduction of Esther begins by establishing the time. As usual the Bible uses the reign of a king to establish a date. But it’s not as easy as it seems to align this date with other books and events in the Bible. To explain this dilemma we can look at another more popular translation.
Esther 1:1-3 KJV Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) (2) That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, (3) In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him:
Notice how these two translations use different names? There is a logical explanation for that. Howe do you answer the question? The smart thing to do is look at the original Hebrew for an explanation.
Ahasuerus (Xerxes) H325
Of Persian origin; Achashverosh (that is, Ahasuerus or Artaxerxes, but in this case Xerxes), the title (rather than name) of a Persian king: – Ahasuerus.
The Hebrew dictionary tells us Ahasuerus,Artaxerxes, and Xerxes are the same name, but are not the name of a king but a title. So now we have a real dilemma, how are we going to accurately place a date when we really don’t know the name of the king? With the Bible there are other ways of examining evidence. There always is. That is a key point to remember when investigating any subject in the Bible, particularly prophecy.
Another detail we see with two names is the city Ahasuerus reigned from, Susa and Shushan. Since we’ve seen the the king’s title used two different names the most obvious word to search for the next clue is the city with two names. It’s a process staring us in the face that leads us to: These are the memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah. In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes‘ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. (Nehemiah 1:1 NLTse). We’ve seen the name Artaxerxes before. It is the same name for Ahasuerus and Xerxes.
Of foreign origin; Artachshasta (or Artaxerxes), a title (rather than name) of several Persian kings: – Artaxerxes.
We know we’re on the right track. Esther’s book begins in the third year of Artaxerxes’ reign in Susa. Nehemiah’s book begins in the twentieth year. Since Artaxerxes is a title rather than a name, we can’t be sure if this is the same king or person since the Bible will often refer to a kingdom or capital rather than a specific king. Other books will fill in more details. Persia and Media leads us to Daniel for additional details. So far it appears Esther was about seventeen years before Nehemiah went to rebuild the walls at Jerusalem.
The beginning of Esther shows us Ahasuerus was in charge or and represented the Persian empire. We also know Jews were living in that kingdom at the time since Mordecai and Esther were Jews. It’s part of the main theme of the book. There are some interesting points in Daniel also linked to this story we need to examine.
Daniel 5:30-31 NLTse That very night Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, was killed. (31) And Darius the Mede took over the kingdom at the age of sixty-two.
Daniel tells us Belshazzar, the Babylonian king lost his empire to Darius the Mede. Notice Daniel only identified Darius as a Mede and not as king of the Persian Media empire. We will get to that in a moment.
Daniel 9:1-3 NLTse It was the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus, who became king of the Babylonians. (2) During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the LORD, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. (3) So I turned to the LORD God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.
Now wait a moment. Was Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus? Wouldn’t that place Daniel in a time frame after Esther? You could search a bunch of online historical points on the subject and walk away totally confused and frustrated. The fact of the matter is, none of those stories recorded by historians has anything to do with the subject we are studying. They’ll do nothing but distract you. As a matter of fact if you waste time searching the Internet you’ll find all kinds of stories written by historians trying to discredit the Bible as well as preaches trying to defend it. Neither of them make any sense nor do they address the spiritual meaning of Esther or its lessons.
As a matter of fact you may also run across a list of preaches and religious teachers claiming Esther was long before Babylon as well as other placing it in a time frame generations past Daniel. They do that for two reason. First, they don’t understand the spiritual lessons in Esther nor God’s time line. The second reason they want to misplace Esther’s timing is because spiritual lessons taught in Esther conflict with their interpretation of certain chapters in Daniel. It would be useless to debate any of those details, as our goal is to let the Bible explain itself. Overall this is a test to see if you have what it takes to let God’s Spirit lead and put aside all the distractions associated with Daniel, Esther, along with the other books and prophets we will see associated with this time frame.
First of all you have to remember Ahasuerus is a title and not a specific name. Some historians will tell you Darius was a general and not a king. Others tend to think Darius was another name used for Cyrus. No matter. The Bible has many ways of making details clear. If we followed the same steps we used at the beginning of this study we can answer one of those questions.
Of Persian origin; Darejavesh, a title (rather than name) of several Persian kings: – Darius.
We see Darius and Ahasuerus share the same origin and meaning. Both are of Persian origin and serve as a title rather than a name. So there you go. It’s all in the translation although Daniel makes it clear there were two Persian kings he served under. So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Daniel 6:28 NLTse). The key point is to look at the spiritual side of these stories under rule of the second kingdom in Daniel’s prophecies.
Cyrus is where we need to focus some of our attention since it was Cyrus God named in a prophecy to overthrow Babylon. This is what the LORD says to Cyrus, his anointed one, whose right hand he will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never to shut again. This is what the LORD says: “I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness– secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name. “And why have I called you for this work? Why did I call you by name when you did not know me? It is for the sake of Jacob my servant, Israel my chosen one. I am the LORD; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things. “Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the LORD, created them. (Isaiah 45:1-8 NLTse).
Of course the introduction of the chapter establishes the theme of that chapter. As we’ve seen, there are a number of digressions and disagreements concerning this subject and timing. When we consider that fact and decide to put our faith in God’s Spirit to lead us to evidence that helps us understand this subject, it’s not unusual to see the lessons God placed in this simple prophecy. “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?'” This is what the LORD says– the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command. I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose, and I will guide his actions. He will restore my city and free my captive people– without seeking a reward! I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” (Isaiah 45:9-13 NLTse).
Let’s look at this story about clay questioning its Creator in context. According to context rules what is the clay questioning? The prophecy about Cyrus in the introduction. This is just like we see the world arguing over minor points today. Let’s stay away from those minor points and stick with the context. God named Cyrus as Babylon’s conqueror. This provides us with a definite name to continue our search which leads us directly to Ezra.
Ezra 1:1-4 NLTse In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: (2) “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (3) Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! (4) Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
As some studies will do, the fulfillment of one prophecy leads us to another. A general rule of Bible Study as well as common sense tells us, we won’t get the full story until we look at the original prophecy.
Jeremiah 25:10-14 NLTse (10) I will take away your happy singing and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard. Your millstones will fall silent, and the lights in your homes will go out. (11) This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. (12) “Then, after the seventy years of captivity are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and his people for their sins,” says the LORD. “I will make the country of the Babylonians a wasteland forever. (13) I will bring upon them all the terrors I have promised in this book–all the penalties announced by Jeremiah against the nations. (14) Many nations and great kings will enslave the Babylonians, just as they enslaved my people. I will punish them in proportion to the suffering they cause my people.”
We also saw this prophecy in the introduction to Daniel 9. Since these are both introductions establishing the theme or context of the chapters and they deal with the same subject, it’s important to compare them and see how they reveal more information when studied together. Both use the term first year. Ezra tells us Cyrus wrote a letter to rebuild the temple in his first year on the throne. Daniel understood the meaning of Jeremiah’s prophecy about the seventy years in the first year of of the reign of Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus, who became king of the Babylonians. If Daniel is using Darius as a title as the Persian word shows, that places Daniels prayer at the same time Cyrus distributed his proclamation which tells us Daniel understood the prophecy after Cyrus wrote the letter. That is only a small detail to consider. Once again we have to consider the translation as well as other texts.
Daniel 6:28 NLTse So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
The word, “and,” was added by translators to make the sentence read the way they understood it. If we read the texts the way it was originally written it would say, “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius, the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” Remember Darius is a title not the name of a person.
A greater detail to concentrate on is the fact Cyrus wrote the decree in his first year or reign. There is no doubt Daniel was Cyrus’ top adviser during that time. This is a vital piece of information to consider when we look at the story in Esther. The fulfillment of Cyrus’ prophecy is also recorded in 2 Chronicles.
2 Chronicles 36:21-23 NLTse (21) So the message of the LORD spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said. (22) In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: (23) “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are the LORD’s people may go there for this task. And may the LORD your God be with you!”
Chronicles puts a spiritual spin on the fulfillment. Ezra only mentioned Cyrus’ conquest and the building of the temple. Chronicles adds the reason why the Jews were carried off to Babylon. “ The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years.” Plus one important detail is mentioned in both. “Any of you who are the LORD’s people may go there for this task. And may the LORD your God be with you!” What does the Bible mean by, “Any of you who are the LORD’s people?” Is this an indication leaving Babylon is a choice? In a sense it is a choice. We have a choice to learn about God’s Word and prepare to share it, in a sense building a spiritual temple, or stay behind and enjoy whatever it is that seems more important. In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD fulfilled the prophecy he gave through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: (Ezra 1:1 NLTse). Now why is it God was able to stir Cyrus’ heart but was not able to touch the hearts of more than a small group of Jews to fulfill the prophecy? We see the same thing today. Jesus sends His disciples out to preach the GOOD NEWS about Himself but people are too busy doing what they think is more important.
Now the time line is beginning to come together and make sense. According to Ezra, Cyrus fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy to rebuild the temple in his first year. Daniel was one of Cyrus’ chief advisers at the time. Daniel most likely played a part in turning Cyrus’ heart to God. We know Daniel served Cyrus at least into his third year. In the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, Daniel (also known as Belteshazzar) had another vision. He understood that the vision concerned events certain to happen in the future–times of war and great hardship. (Daniel 10:1 NLTse). The book of Esther begins in the third year of Xerxes. At that time Xerxes ruled his empire from his royal throne at the fortress of Susa. In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces. Remember Xerxes is a title and not the actual name of a king. We also know Nehemiah begins his book in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes‘ reign. Artaxerxes is also a title. What we are seeing is how the Bible is placing Daniel, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah in the same time frame. All of them lived and influenced Persian kings when the temple was under construction. Daniel 10 tells us there were major problems with Persia’s king during that time. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. He replied, “Do you know why I have come? Soon I must return to fight against the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia, and after that the spirit prince of the kingdom of Greece will come. (Daniel 10:13, 20 NLTse). Here is where much of the conflicts we see today comes into play. People like to try to interpret chapters in Daniel without proper study techniques. Because these two verses deal with Persia during Daniel’s and Esther’s time, as well as Ezra and Nehemiah, the time frame conflicts with some popular modern day interpretations for Daniel. This question on time is cleared up by two of God’s prophets.
Haggai 1:1-12 NLTse On August 29 of the second year of King Darius’s reign, the LORD gave a message through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. (2) “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: The people are saying, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.'” (3) Then the LORD sent this message through the prophet Haggai: (4) “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? (5) This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! (6) You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! (7) “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! (8) Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD. (9) You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. (10) It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew and the earth produces no crops. (11) I have called for a drought on your fields and hills–a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get.” (12) Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of God’s people began to obey the message from the LORD their God. When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai, whom the LORD their God had sent, the people feared the LORD.
Beyond any shadow of a doubt, Haggai delivered a message to Jews rebuilding the temple. Or Jews who were supposed to be rebuilding the temple. Look at verse 1. Haggai or at least the translators used the name Darius instead of Cyrus. Now we have Biblical proof Darius is used as a title for Cyrus.
Zechariah 1:1-6 NLTse In November of the second year of King Darius’ reign, the LORD gave this message to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah and grandson of Iddo: (2) “I, the LORD, was very angry with your ancestors. (3) Therefore, say to the people, ‘This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.’ (4) Don’t be like your ancestors who would not listen or pay attention when the earlier prophets said to them, ‘This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Turn from your evil ways, and stop all your evil practices.’ (5) “Where are your ancestors now? They and the prophets are long dead. (6) But everything I said through my servants the prophets happened to your ancestors, just as I said. As a result, they repented and said, ‘We have received what we deserved from the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. He has done what he said he would do.'”
Zechariah also delivered a prophecy in the same year Haggai spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem. So we can see God had a number of prophets delivering messages during the reconstruction of the temple. This is one of the main themes and messages in the story about the rebuilding of the temple. God fulfilled His promises on time. God knew the Jews weren’t ready for the fulfillment of the prophecy so God sent His prophets to explain things. Which brings us to a very serious parallel today. There was a great call to come out of Babylon when Cyrus fulfilled a simple prophecy to rebuild the temple. No one knows how many Jews lived in Babylon or Susa when Ezra called them together to rebuild the temple. Do you have any idea how many answered the call? A total of 42,360 people returned to Judah. (Ezra 2:64 NLTse). Does that sound like a lot of people to you? It appears only a small percentage of people answered God’s call. Now apply that to what we see today. I mean really see today.
Oh sure we hear a lot of feel good sermons. A lot of preachers insist they are teaching the right message. Some claim they are the only remnant church, the only church with the right answers. But how many of them know what the Good News really is? How many can show you from the Bible what the Good News is? How many of them live the Good News, reflect the life and ministry of Jesus, and His willingness to sacrifice?
Working or not, the Jews in Jerusalem faced opposition. Ezra records a number of the trials they faced. Some of the trials the Jews faced have implications to last day events. If we were studying future prophecies this would be a point of focus. But we are only trying to establish God’s timing while trying to understand how God reached out at that particular time. Future prophecy is another subject but follows the same study methods. We can take a brief look at some of the problems Ezra faced while rebuilding the temple. Of course one of the first things you will have to do before considering any connection between Ezra and the last days is to explain how the temple is used as a symbol and what it points to. Remember the fulfillment is always greater than the symbol.
Ezra 4:1-8 NLTse The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a Temple to the LORD, the God of Israel. (2) So they approached Zerubbabel and the other leaders and said, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God just as you do. We have sacrificed to him ever since King Esarhaddon of Assyria brought us here.” (3) But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders of Israel replied, “You may have no part in this work. We alone will build the Temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, just as King Cyrus of Persia commanded us.” (4) Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. (5) They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their plans. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne. (6) Years later when Xerxes began his reign, the enemies of Judah wrote a letter of accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. (7) Even later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, the enemies of Judah, led by Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel, sent a letter to Artaxerxes in the Aramaic language, and it was translated for the king. (8) Rehum the governor and Shimshai the court secretary wrote the letter, telling King Artaxerxes about the situation in Jerusalem.
Once again we see the name Cyrus. This time it is followed by all there names we have already identified as titles rather than actual names. This can become very confusing. Daniel listed Darius followed by Cyrus. Ezra listed Cyrus, followed by Darius, Xerxes, then Artaxerxes. Does it matter? Maybe there is a clue in Daniel who mentions four Persian kings in a prophecy. I have been standing beside Michael to support and strengthen him since the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede.) “Now then, I will reveal the truth to you. Three more Persian kings will reign, to be succeeded by a fourth, far richer than the others. He will use his wealth to stir up everyone to fight against the kingdom of Greece. (Daniel 11:1-2 NLTse). To keep the details simple it’s best to look at these kings, whatever their names are, are representatives of or symbols pointing to the Persian empire, the second world power in Daniels other prophecy. After all, Cyrus was the only king mentioned in prophecy.
The key to this study is to learn the time line. We’ve seen how disagreements and distractions popped up from texts to texts. Now pay attention. It took a number of texts to explain the time line. Compare that to the hundreds of different interpretations written and preached about some of the other prophecies in the chapters and books used here. Do those other studies dwell on Bible texts the same way? Do they follow the same rules of Bible Study? Do they explain how to understand God’s time line?
Most people know there are going to be a lot of distractions in the last days. What can be more distracting than arguing about the minor details. As shown here, once context is understood, the minor details are either revealed or shown to carry far less weight than some people place on them. As shown in Ezra 4, there will be organized and well funded distractions until the spiritual temple is completed. There is nothing we can do about that. It happened in Ezra’s time and it’ll happen again.
Ezra 5:1-9 NLTse At that time the prophetsHaggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. (2) Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them. (3) But Tattenai, governor of the province west of the Euphrates River, and Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues soon arrived in Jerusalem and asked, “Who gave you permission to rebuild this Temple and restore this structure?” (4) They also asked for the names of all the men working on the Temple. (5) But because their God was watching over them, the leaders of the Jews were not prevented from building until a report was sent to Darius and he returned his decision. (6) This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor, Shethar-bozenai, and the other officials of the province west of the Euphrates River sent to King Darius: (7) “To King Darius. Greetings. (8) “The king should know that we went to the construction site of the Temple of the great God in the province of Judah. It is being rebuilt with specially prepared stones, and timber is being laid in its walls. The work is going forward with great energy and success. (9) “We asked the leaders, ‘Who gave you permission to rebuild this Temple and restore this structure?’
Ezra tells us God sent prophets to help the people build the temple. They not only provided words, they assisted with the labor. Do we see dedicated prophets like this today? There are some. We may not call them prophets today but we hear their messages and see them physically laboring in spiritual fields. Another detail to look for.
Ezra 5:13-17 NLTse However, King Cyrus of Babylon, during the first year of his reign, issued a decree that the Temple of God should be rebuilt. (14) King Cyrus returned the gold and silver cups that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple of God in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of Babylon. These cups were taken from that temple and presented to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom King Cyrus appointed as governor of Judah. (15) The king instructed him to return the cups to their place in Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple of God there on its original site. (16) So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the Temple of God in Jerusalem. The people have been working on it ever since, though it is not yet completed.’ (17) “Therefore, if it pleases the king, we request that a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to discover whether King Cyrus ever issued a decree to rebuild God’s Temple in Jerusalem. And then let the king send us his decision in this matter.”
Details about the decree from Cyrus is repeated in Ezra 5. A lesson with spiritual implications. There will be a lot of people opposing the Good News in the last days. The message Christ gave to His disciples to preach is almost forgotten. Its been trampled into the ground for so long it’s hard to find. There will be a second calling to deliver the right message before judgment ends. Who knows how many people will listen. Ezra worked hard to get the few people who followed him to Jerusalem to work together and remain focused on the goal. Look at the details. The first proclamation went out to everyone. The second went out to the people in Jerusalem and the group opposing them. There may have been a few people leaving Babylon to help rebuild the temple, but not the organized and funded effort when Ezra lead the first group to Jerusalem.
Ezra 6:1-12 NLTse So King Darius issued orders that a search be made in the Babylonian archives, which were stored in the treasury. (2) But it was at the fortress at Ecbatana in the province of Media that a scroll was found. This is what it said: “Memorandum: (3) “In the first year of King Cyrus’s reign, a decree was sent out concerning the Temple of God at Jerusalem. “Let the Temple be rebuilt on the site where Jews used to offer their sacrifices, using the original foundations. Its height will be ninety feet, and its width will be ninety feet. (4) Every three layers of specially prepared stones will be topped by a layer of timber. All expenses will be paid by the royal treasury. (5) Furthermore, the gold and silver cups, which were taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar from the Temple of God in Jerusalem, must be returned to Jerusalem and put back where they belong. Let them be taken back to the Temple of God.” (6) So King Darius sent this message: “Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province west of the Euphrates River, and Shethar-bozenai, and your colleagues and other officials west of the Euphrates River–stay away from there! (7) Do not disturb the construction of the Temple of God. Let it be rebuilt on its original site, and do not hinder the governor of Judah and the elders of the Jews in their work. (8) “Moreover, I hereby decree that you are to help these elders of the Jews as they rebuild this Temple of God. You must pay the full construction costs, without delay, from my taxes collected in the province west of the Euphrates River so that the work will not be interrupted. (9) “Give the priests in Jerusalem whatever is needed in the way of young bulls, rams, and male lambs for the burnt offerings presented to the God of heaven. And without fail, provide them with as much wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil as they need each day. (10) Then they will be able to offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the welfare of the king and his sons. (11) “Those who violate this decree in any way will have a beam pulled from their house. Then they will be tied to it and flogged, and their house will be reduced to a pile of rubble. (12) May the God who has chosen the city of Jerusalem as the place to honor his name destroy any king or nation that violates this command and destroys this Temple. “I, Darius, have issued this decree. Let it be obeyed with all diligence.”
This is really strange when you consider the past and ultimate outcome. Notice how Cyrus told them to rebuild the physical temple with the same defects the first had? Solomon’s temple burnt and fell because every third layer was wood. This is why the stone temple burned and fell when Rome set fire to it. Now you know how a stone temple can burn. It was poor planning. Someone should have learned from the first mistake and initiated proper changes to correct the situation. But once again tradition won out over common sense.
Ezra 7:11-21 NLTse King Artaxerxes had given a copy of the following letter to Ezra, the priest and scribe who studied and taught the commands and decrees of the LORD to Israel: (12) “From Artaxerxes, the king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the teacher of the law of the God of heaven. (13) “I decree that any of the people of Israel in my kingdom, including the priests and Levites, may volunteer to return to Jerusalem with you. (14) I and my council of seven hereby instruct you to conduct an inquiry into the situation in Judah and Jerusalem, based on your God’s law, which is in your hand. (15) We also commission you to take with you silver and gold, which we are freely presenting as an offering to the God of Israel who lives in Jerusalem. (16) “Furthermore, you are to take any silver and gold that you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the voluntary offerings of the people and the priests that are presented for the Temple of their God in Jerusalem. (17) These donations are to be used specifically for the purchase of bulls, rams, male lambs, and the appropriate grain offerings and liquid offerings, all of which will be offered on the altar of the Temple of your God in Jerusalem. (18) Any silver and gold that is left over may be used in whatever way you and your colleagues feel is the will of your God. (19) “But as for the cups we are entrusting to you for the service of the Temple of your God, deliver them all to the God of Jerusalem. (20) If you need anything else for your God’s Temple or for any similar needs, you may take it from the royal treasury. (21) “I, Artaxerxes the king, hereby send this decree to all the treasurers in the province west of the Euphrates River: ‘You are to give Ezra, the priest and teacher of the law of the God of heaven, whatever he requests of you.
We finally see the third decree from Artaxerxes. Notice how the decree to rebuild the temple is intentionally repeated? When God repeats Himself it is time to pay attention. There is one more detail to cover. When we look back at Esther we see her story took place in the third year of Xerxes’ reign. If we used Ezra’s list of kings as a guide, we can see when the events in Esther took place. “This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne. Years later when Xerxes began his reign, the enemies of Judah wrote a letter of accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. Even later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia.”
Not to get too tied up in exact dates and kings, according to Ezra, Esther took place somewhere near the end of the Persian empire. Remember translations for Esther could not agree if she married Ahasuerus or Xerxes. This places the events in Esther between the third and forth king mentioned in Ezra. At any rate, Jews during Esther’s time would have heard the first proclamation but decided to stay in Susa and the Persian empire.
Esther faced one particular problem. Haman tricked the Persian king into signing a law that would have wiped out all the Jews in the Persian empire. This included the Jews in Jerusalem rebuilding the temple as well as those who left with Nehemiah to rebuild the walls. Now we can see the important connection and begin to see the spiritual implications. Think of the position Haman had, the kings chief adviser. Daniel tells how other leaders in Persia tried to do away with him in the story about the lion’s den. See how all these stories fit together once you understand the time line? Once Daniel was gone, one of those jealous leaders took his position. Now we see why Haman hated Jews. It went all the way back to Daniel. Amazing how a man can touch the hearts of so many people and kings and still be hated by, well who knows until they show their true intents. Notice how quickly things changed. Notice how sneaky Haman was. He also shows how crafty the enemy can be by doing things like keeping this time line a secret for so long. Now we can see how far Satan will go to keep the Good News from reaching the world. When it looked like the temple was going to be finished, Satan initiated a plan to kill every Jew in the world. He’ll do the same when he sees the Good News going out to the world. Now we know why the Good News is all but forgotten. But when the proclamation is repeated, Satan is ready to lash out. Will we have a woman like Esther in the right place at the right time to do the right thing? Only time will tell.
2 Chronicles 11:1-12 NLTse (1) When Rehoboam arrived at Jerusalem, he mobilized the men of Judah and Benjamin–180,000 select troops–to fight against Israel and to restore the kingdom to himself. (2) But the LORD said to Shemaiah, the man of God, (3) “Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the Israelites in Judah and Benjamin: (4) ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not fight against your relatives. Go back home, for what has happened is my doing!'” So they obeyed the message of the LORD and did not fight against Jeroboam. (5) Rehoboam remained in Jerusalem and fortified various towns for the defense of Judah. (6) He built up Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, (7) Beth-zur, Soco, Adullam, (8) Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, (9) Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah, (10) Zorah, Aijalon, and Hebron. These became the fortified towns of Judah and Benjamin. (11) Rehoboam strengthened their defenses and stationed commanders in them, and he stored supplies of food, olive oil, and wine. (12) He also put shields and spears in these towns as a further safety measure. So only Judah and Benjamin remained under his control.
I decided to skip a few chapters to get to the next chapter dealing with the temple, in this case the priesthood. 2 Chronicles chapter 9 covered Solomon’s death. The chapter is filled with Solomon’s major achievements, including details about his temple and throne. That chapter also covers some details about the queen of Sheba’s visit.
Take a look at 2 Chronicles chapter 9. It seems unusual for the life of one of the most popular Bible characters to be summed up by a story about meeting another woman, and the wealth he was able to accumulate. I would expect to see a more spiritually sided story about treasures stored in Heaven. What about people Solomon was able to reach, and help change? Where are the stories about kings and nations Solomon was able to introduce to God? It seems the final chapter on Solomon’s life was focused on his riches, and how those vast treasures attracted people. Maybe that is why some TV preachers have to spend all that money on elaborate settings, backgrounds, and churches to attract the right audiences. Are they taking a page out of Solomon’s life.
Imagine for a moment, a God who blessed Solomon with all those riches, then came to this world, and left it, without the shirt on His back. What a contrast to learn from. Now think for a moment about how Solomon could have used all those riches to make a difference in this world.
When was the last time we saw an American president sit down to discuss how God influenced their lives. When was the last time we saw a president tell America how God had a hand in decisions he made that shaped this world? Why don’t we hear stories like that? It seems to me, if we elected the best minds in this country to guide and lead this nation, they should be able to find a way of showing how God made a difference in their lives, and influenced decisions they made, without offending people. After all, wasn’t this nation originally designed to be led by a God fearing government? According to what we refer to as the Declaration of Independence it was.
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
What changed this country? When this country was first formed, God was at the center. Our first president gave God credit for some of the most unlikely military victories he was a major part of. Some of our earliest elected representatives didn’t have a problem with mentioning God.
Ezra Stiles (1727–1795), the Calvinist president of Yale College, was curious about Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) and his faith. In 1790, he asked the nation’s senior statesman if he would commit his religious beliefs to paper. Franklin agreed. He was nearing the end of his life – he died six weeks later – and possibly believed this was as good a time as any to summarize the religious creed by which he lived.
“Here is my Creed,” Franklin wrote to Stiles. “I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable Service we render to him, is doing Good to his other Children. That the Soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this … As for Jesus of Nazareth … I think the system of Morals and Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw … but I have … some Doubts to his Divinity; though’ it is a Question I do not dogmatism upon, having never studied it, and think it is needless to busy myself with it now, where I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble.” (Religion And Early Politics: Benjamin Franklin and His Religious Beliefs)
“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” – George Washington (US History Quotes About God and the Bible)
The rights of the colonists as Christians…may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the Great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament. – Samuel Adams (US History Quotes About God and the Bible)
“Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe the religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man: To God therefore, not to men, must an account of it be rendered.” James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance
We claim to be a more advanced society than previous generations, but can’t seem to find solutions to problems the founding fathers of this nation looked square in the eyes and confronted. Not with a wisdom of their own making, but with divine guidance. What happened to those days?
Solomon not only failed to reach out to other kings and nations, he failed to produce a son able to coop with issues. In one generation Israel went from a united God fearing nation, to a nation split by high taxes, and a kingdom only concerned with increasing revenue.
Rehoboam had opportunists to solve problems Solomon left him to deal with, but the king made a decision after consulting his advisers. Rehoboam didn’t like the first answer he received, so he chose a new group of advisers more to his liking. That was a mistake God had to deal with.
God chose Jeroboam to lead the ten northern tribes known as Israel. Solomon’s son Rehoboam was left with the remaining two tribes in the south. If money can’t solve your problems, maybe a strong military can. Rehoboam decided on a troop build up to not only protect his nation, but to restore it. But God sent a prophet to Rehoboam, putting an end to those plans for a time.
Rehoboam may have listened to God when the message was blunt and to the point, but not his father’s advisers when they confirmed God’s message. That left the message open to a private interpretation. Rehoboam went on a spending spree building up defenses and his military power. It seems like an oxymoron to loose the majority of your nation over money issues, then go on a spending spree. What do we learn from that lesson?
Choosing One Evil Over Another
2 Chronicles 11:13-17 NLTse (13) But all the priests and Levites living among the northern tribes of Israel sided with Rehoboam. (14) The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property and moved to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons would not allow them to serve the LORD as priests. (15) Jeroboam appointed his own priests to serve at the pagan shrines, where they worshiped the goat and calf idols he had made. (16) From all the tribes of Israel, those who sincerely wanted to worship the LORD, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem, where they could offer sacrifices to the LORD, the God of their ancestors. (17) This strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they supported Rehoboam son of Solomon, for during those years they faithfully followed in the footsteps of David and Solomon.
It seems people didn’t have much of a choice. They could either follow Jeroboam and the Egyptian forms of worship he brought back with him, or the tax tyrant in the southern kingdom. Taxes couldn’t have been much better in the north where Jeroboam was busy fortifying his own cities, building an army, appointing priests, and building new temples. That also cost money, that was raised through taxation.
The first people to move were the priests and Levites. That shows us, they did have some influence over the people. After they moved, others followed. Why didn’t they use their influence for good while the nation was still united? Why did it take a major event for those leaders to make a move? Of course, political changes were drastic at the time. They didn’t have much of a choice other than to move. But look at what it took for God to get them to wake up and do something.
Where are the stories about what those priests did for the kingdom? We don’t have a complete collection of everything everyone did in Israel before the nation was divided, but we should have a few records showing how some people helped shape the nation, if it was important enough to catch the attention of the author, and God.
For a time, people followed the footsteps left by David and Solomon, even though Solomon’s son seemed to stray. That shows how people are able to put up a religious front when their true god is self. Who was Rehoboam looking out for when he decided to raise taxes beyond what the people were able to bear? Solomon did little or nothing with the riches he had to extend God’s influence over this world. What did Rehoboam want more money for?
2 Chronicles 11:18-23 NLTse (18) Rehoboam married his cousin Mahalath, the daughter of David’s son Jerimoth and of Abihail, the daughter of Eliab son of Jesse. (19) Mahalath had three sons–Jeush, Shemariah, and Zaham. (20) Later Rehoboam married another cousin, Maacah, the daughter of Absalom. Maacah gave birth to Abijah, Attai, Ziza, and Shelomith. (21) Rehoboam loved Maacah more than any of his other wives and concubines. In all, he had eighteen wives and sixty concubines, and they gave birth to twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters. (22) Rehoboam appointed Maacah’s son Abijah as leader among the princes, making it clear that he would be the next king. (23) Rehoboam also wisely gave responsibilities to his other sons and stationed some of them in the fortified towns throughout the land of Judah and Benjamin. He provided them with generous provisions, and he found many wives for them.
Rehoboam seemed to like to keep things in the family. Not only the wives he married, but control of the kingdom. Were his sons the only people Rehoboam could trust? What kind of union does that show us? After collecting all that money, Rehoboam had to find a way of keeping it in the family. Why pay a stranger to do a job when you can hire family?
The entire scenario may seem perfectly normal to some people, and totally strange to other people. It all depends on how you look at it. Is government supposed to be run like a business? Some businesses are family owned, and very successful. Why not governments? It seems like people felt secure by keeping government control in the family. One king died, some committee chose one of the king’s sons to take the throne. Some countries went as far as writing rules for who would be next in line to take a throne. Other people think family run regimes are a bad idea. It all depends on where people come from.
Family run governments tend to be more popular in nations willing to allow the government to establish the national religion. We see that throughout scripture. This chapter is a story about people making a choice, not so much about politics, but religion. People chose between Rehoboam and Jeroboam based on their religious views. Not that people agreed with all their views, but on the religion they felt more aligned with their own ideas about God.
We don’t know if people agreed with Rehoboam’s choice in wives, or how many people agree with multiple wives. It seemed like a tradition with kings and important people, but how did the majority of the community view it?
What about housing a host of prostitutes with government funds? What do you think people thought about that? Was the average taxpayer okay with seeing the king pay for sex, and house prostitutes? What would people say about that today?
We see more than religion in this story. We see how we need to examine a number of details to see a small glimpse of what was happening. In this book I want to stick with subjects related to the temple. The situation and decision of those priests who woke up to find themselves in a foreign country are the main focus. At this time we don’t have a lot of information, but if we studied the history of the northern nation of Israel, we’d see how that exodus of priests effected that nation and its direction. We’ll cover a few of those details in later chapters.
Most people know Daniel communicated with God through prayer when his life was on the line. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream no one could explain. When all looked dim, Daniel and his friends turned to God. Like many of us do. Why did God answer Daniel and his friends? When we look at the story the way it was written, we can see so many details – you would ask why you never saw those simple details before.
This video covers the basic introduction to Daniel’s book. Before we can understand the rest of Daniel’s book, we have to understand the introduction. Most people think they know Daniel Chapters 1 and 2. But have you ever had the details in Daniel Chapters 1 and 2 explained just how they were written? Daniel loaded Chapters 1 and 2 with details that have a great bearing on the rest of his book.
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Let me tell you something. When you asked God for wisdom, and He handed you a big black book over 1000 pages long. What did you do? Did you say it was too hard, and give up? Or did you look for someone to read it for you, and give you the quick run down on what it says? We are in the end of a spiritual war. Don’t you think it’s time to read the manual? The best thing you can do is pick up the book, read it, and if you need help, find someone who is able to explain how to understand scripture.
1 Kings 19:5-8 KJV And as he lay andslept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. (6) And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. (7) And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. (8) And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
In this acted parable Elijah finds himself asleep under a juniper tree. He had just been through the highest and lowest day of his life. Elijah was sent by God to challenge the prophets of Baal. In this scene he was out numbered four hundred and fifty to one. As the nation of Israel looked on, the prophets of Baal called out to their god to send down fire from the early morning until the time of the evening sacrifice. Dressed in their priestly attire, Baal’s prophets made a spectacle of themselves jumping, shouting, dancing, chanting, and cutting themselves until they were covered in blood. Elijah sat back and observed with so much confidence in the Lord, he went as far as mocking Baal and his prophets. He asked them if their god was too far away to hear, or possibly sleeping.
As time drew close for the evening sacrifice, Elijah began assembling a broken altar dedicated to God. The mass of bloodied and worn out prophets stood by watching as Elijah surveyed the area. He walked around the area, waiting to hear the still small voice of God he had come to recognize. Twelve large stones were scattered about. As Baal’s prophets observed Elijah’s every move, the sons of Israel also lingered close to the scene. No one stepped forward to offer aid to Elijah. After circling the area a number of times, Elijah chose one stone, setting it in place. He carefully choose the next stone, placing it next to the first one. Everyone stood in silence as Elijah finished the foundation. Now Elijah had to lift the next set of stones to place them upon the first.
Baal’s prophets mumbled amongst themselves, wagering on Elijah’s ability to lift the heavy stones. The setting sun cast shadows on Elijah’s arms highlighting every muscle as they strained against the massive weight of the first stone. The sons of Israel drew closer to witness the display of super human strength. A spark of confidence began to flow through the spectators. At the same time a fire began to burn in Elijah’s heart to match the fire he felt in his body as it strained against the weight. This feat was repeated until all twelve stones were in place.
After the altar was repaired, Elijah began digging a trench around it. This perplexed Israel, and brought out a number of comments from Baal’s prophets. Once the trench was completed, Elijah arranged the wood upon the altar, cut the ox into pieces and arranged in on the wood. Elijah then called for a large amount of water to be poured over the ox, wood, and altar, not once, but three times. With doubts and criticism at an all time high, “Elijah the prophet came near and said, Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel, and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your Word. Hear me, O Jehovah, hear me, that this people may know that You are Jehovah God, and that You have turned their heart back again. And the fire of Jehovah fell and burned up the burnt sacrifice and the wood, and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” 1 Kings 18:36-38.
Taking command of the situation Elijah ordered the sons of Israel to take all of Baal’s prophets and slay them at the creek Kishon. After that, Elijah prayed to God to end the drought. God answered Elijah’s prayers and sent signs of fire and rain. This should have been adequate to fill anyone’s faith to overflowing, but one little thing took all of Elijah’s faith and shook it. Threats from one little woman, Jezebel shook all the faith out of Elijah’s heart. In sorrow Elijah went into the wilderness to face his problems by himself. The power of one evil woman can shake the strongest, most confident follower of God.
This is when God sent His angel to touch and speak to Elijah, not once but twice. Was Elijah in a spiritual sleep when the angel touched him? Does this spiritual sleep represent a state in which God’s followers are not listening, or a condition of rest and meditation when His people are prepared to hear His voice? Was the cake and water a form of spiritual food and refreshment prepared and sent from God? Was Elijah exhibiting faith in God when he left on a journey without preparing for it? The angel fed Elijah a second time and told him the journey ahead was too great for him. Was this a physical or a spiritual journey? The food lasted Elijah for forty days and forty nights. Does this have any relationship with other texts with the same time period? Why did God lead Elijah to mount Horeb?
To find the answers to these questions, each word will have to be compared with other texts in the Bible to learn the spiritual interpretations.
Matthew 13:25 KJV But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
This is one of the most critically studied parables in the Bible. Jesus tells about an enemy, Satan, who plants weeds among the wheat. This happened while the men slept. Jesus is talking about a spiritual sleep in which His followers were not diligently watching. If we are not in constant study and prayer, Satan can sneak up and plant weeds in our lives, causing all kinds of problems.
Matthew 25:5 KJV While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
In this parable Jesus uses the symbol of a bridegroom to represent Himself. He knows His followers will be watching and waiting for a time, but as His return draws near, many will enter into a spiritual sleep. They will not be looking for the signs and wonders He will reveal through His word as His return approaches.
Psalms 3:4-6 MKJV I cried to Jehovah with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill. Selah. (5) I laid down and slept. I awoke, for Jehovah kept me. (6) I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set against me all around.
Through His prophet David, God assures us, He will hear our voices. God will watch over us even when we enter into a spiritual sleep. In this case, sleep was used to prepare David for the task ahead. God never gives up on His people, but uses different methods to attract our attention. It may be a blessing, or a trial. No matter what the odds, living in God’s perfect love will cast out all fear.
Sleep may a spiritual state in which the mind is not properly focused on God to see the signs he is providing, or it may be a state of preparation for an event that is about to happen. Elijah’s sleep may have been necessary for the forty days and nights of travel he was about to embark on.
Exodus 12:39 KJV And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.
Exodus 29:2 KJV And unleavened bread, and cakes unleavened tempered with oil, and wafers unleavened anointed with oil: of wheaten flour shalt thou make them.
Unleavened cakes were used on two occasions, the Passover feast, symbolizing freedom from bondage, both the physical illustrated by Egypt, and the spiritual, representing this sinful world. Unleavened cakes were also prepared as an offering to God in the Tabernacle service. Leaven is another word for yeast, a bacteria used to make bread. Other verses will reveal the spiritual meaning of leaven.
1 Corinthians 5:7-8 KJV (7) Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: (8) Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Matthew 16:12 KJV Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
The Passover was also a prophecy of Christ’s perfect sacrifice. Unleavened bread eaten before the Passover represented the absence of sin. Leavened bread represents malice and wickedness while unleavened bread represents truth and sincerity, being truthful to your word and promises. Bread represents Jesus. “And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35 MKJV). Leaven also represents doctrine, a person’s principle beliefs. The Bible defines two major doctrines, man’s and God’s.
Matthew 15:9 MKJV But in vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Romans 16:17-18 MKJV And I exhort you, brothers, to watch those making divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them. (18) For they who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple.
Men’s doctrines, or beliefs do not represent God, nor are they a substitute for worshipping God. They cause divisions and should be avoided. Manmade doctrines are created to serve the people inventing and enforcing them. Manmade doctrines also distract from the true worship of God.
Isaiah 28:9-10 KJV Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. (10) For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
Why did Isaiah ask two questions, “whom shall He teach knowledge, and whom shall He make to understand doctrine?” The questions are phrased as if God is asking if anyone is willing to listen to Him. This refers to the same frame of mind as a spiritual sleep. There is an answer, someone will eventually listen. God would not have asked the question if the answer was, no one. The answer is provided in the same texts. Weaned from the milk, and drawn, or taken away from the breasts refers to a physical and spiritual growth. A baby is totally dependent on the mother for food. Immature Christians are totally dependent on others to spiritually feed them. The real knowledge and understanding God offers is not taught through other people, it is a personal learning experience. The Bible goes on to explain the exact process to follow. Precept upon precept, line upon line refers to comparing scripture with scripture. The Bible is fully capable of explaining itself through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (John 16:13 KJV)
2 Timothy 3:16-17 MKJV All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work.
The entire Bible is from God. Doctrine should not come from any other source. The Bible should be used to prove and correct every source of doctrine. Any and all misleading doctrine will lead away from the perfected state God intended. Only the pure word of God will properly furnish God’s people for the work ahead.
Titus 2:7-8 MKJV In all things having shown yourself a pattern of good works: in the doctrine, purity, sensibleness, without corruption, (8) in sound speech that cannot be condemned, that he who is opposed may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
Jesus illustrated this point a number of times. No one knew the heart and true meaning of God’s word like Jesus. When questioned, Jesus would answer with the true meaning of God’s word. The results were always the same. “And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.” (Mark 3:4 KJV)
Proverbs 4:2 KJV For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.
God’s doctrine is His law, the character of God, pure, sensible, and without corruption.
Matthew 7:28-29 MKJV And it happened, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His doctrine. (29) For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
John 7:16-18 MKJV Jesus answered them and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. (17) If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself. (18) He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.
Jesus made it clear, the only doctrine that His people are to follow is from God. The same doctrine Jesus followed. The people who heard Him speak instantly knew His words were from God, because they were different from the scribes, who sought their own glory. Man’s glory can never measure up to God’s standards. The choice is obvious. The doctrines of men will not glorify God, but will compromise His law.
Horeb is known as the mountain of God. This is where God chose to speak to Moses at the burning bush. This is where God brought Moses to receive the ten commandments. Moses went to Mount Horeb to meet with God, and hear His word.
Why did Elijah journey to Mount Horeb? A study of the word Horeb illustrates a spiritual journey covering some of the most important events in the Bible. The real surprise is found at the end of the journey through the Old Testament, the final verses. The experience begins with Moses at the burning bush
Exodus 3:1-2 KJV Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. (2) And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
The scene of the burning bush was the beginning of a series of specific events designed to free the nation of Israel from bondage in Egypt. This was a physical event with many spiritual implications. Freeing Israel from bondage has many spiritual parallels to the second coming of Christ, when He takes all of His followers to the promised land, not made with hands, but built by Christ in Heaven.
Exodus 17:6 MKJV Behold, I will stand before you there upon the rock in Horeb. And you shall smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, so that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
After wandering the wilderness for a time, God called Moses back to Horeb. This time it was to supply life giving water in a place where none was found. Remember, Horeb means desolate. In the middle of a barren and desolate waste land God intended to teach Israel a lesson. In this illustration God provided physical water to save Israel, their flocks and cattle. The spiritual application is explained in the New Testament, “and all drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4 MKJV) Christ gave His people life giving spiritual water at the mountain on God. “Jesus answered and said to her, Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14 MKJV)
Psalms 69:14-31 NLTse Rescue me from the mud; don’t let me sink any deeper! Save me from those who hate me, and pull me from these deepwaters. (15) Don’t let the floods overwhelm me, or the deepwatersswallow me, or the pit of death devour me. (16) Answer my prayers, O LORD, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful. (17) Don’t hide from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in deep trouble! (18) Come and redeem me; free me from my enemies. (19) You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace. You see all that my enemies are doing. (20) Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me. (21) But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine for my thirst. (22) Let the bountiful table set before them become a snare and their prosperity become a trap. (23) Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and make their bodies shake continually. (24) Pour out your fury on them; consume them with your burning anger. (25) Let their homes become desolate and their tents be deserted. (26) To the one you have punished, they add insult to injury; they add to the pain of those you have hurt. (27) Pile their sins up high, and don’t let them go free. (28) Erase their names from the Book of Life; don’t let them be counted among the righteous. (29) I am suffering and in pain. Rescue me, O God, by your saving power. (30) Then I will praiseGod’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. (31) For this will please the LORD more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves.
We see another Psalm pointing us back to the cross. God arranges these in a particular pattern for a reason. We either missed something or He has been building us up, preparing us for a new lesson. We see how people are prepared for new lessons all around the cross in the fact His disciples had to endure the hardship and disappointment at the cross before they were prepared to receive all the benefits Jesus brought this world through His sacrifice. After more than two thousand years the lessons continue. It seems most preachers only teach one reason Jesus died on the cross while there are at least four major accomplishments Jesus achieved at the cross. He personally carried our sins on his body to the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. (1 Peter 2:24 NLTse). But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:26-27 NLTse). And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will soon give glory to the Son. (John 13:32 NLTse). And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. (Hebrews 10:19-20 NLTse). Jesus died so our sins could be forgiven. This is what most preachers teach. Some also teach Jesus died so He could send God’s Spirit, but only a small amount know what that means. Jesus also died to give glory to His Father. This requires more study to understand so hardly anyone teaches about it. When Jesus prayed in the garden and decided to go forward with the plans to do God’s will, He showed how He was about to give His life to save God’s kingdom. Satan had a claim not only on this world, but Heaven. Satan was restricted to this world to work out his plans and show Heaven where it would lead. Once Heaven saw Satan’s determination to win at any cost, it sealed his fate, relinquished his claim in God’s throne, and ended any claim he had in Heaven and earth. Jesus’ victory was complete. Once the Kingdom was secure, God gave it all to His Son. Some people preach Jesus’ only reward is a church – usually their church. This is a deception shedding darkness on the cross as well as Jesus’ ministry on earth. Jesus also died to open a direct path to God’s throne, something rarely taught. Many preachers want to keep this secret. They fear this because it takes control away from them. Most preachers prefer an order of command where people need to go to them while they exercise a direct connection with God. But it doesn’t work that way. When they restrict access to God, they also restrict their own access. I don’t know why they can’t understand this. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning. I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son. (2 John 1:6-9 NLTse).
David’s prophecy centers around deep waters, a reference to Jonah’s prayer inside the fish and the sign Jesus gave religious leaders when they didn’t want to acknowledge His miracles. David also centers on the attacks Jesus endured and how religious leaders tried to bring shame, scorn, disgrace, insults, and despair on Him. They tried to make Jesus worry. Once again Jesus takes a trial and turned it into a lesson. How many times do you worry? Did you ever stop to think the trial was trying to teach you how to pray and put your trust in God? How many times do you have to go through those little trials before you learn to pray Jesus takes your burdens away? It works!
Based on verse 21, “But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine for my thirst.” We know this prophecy centers on the cross. This prophecy is quoted in all four gospels, so which one do we use? We look at and compare the introductions and summations. This time we’re faced with four similar introductions and summations in the gospels. Looking back at previous studies that compared other prophecies with the fulfillments recorded in Matthew and John, it seems logical to look at Mark and Luke to see what details they will add. Mark appears to be the logical choice. Mark had a style of writing where he gets to the main point right away. By doing this Mark makes it easier to see the main thought, in addition to adding minor details other authors left out.
Mark 15:33-39 NLTse At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. (34) Then at three o’clock Jesuscalled out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (35) Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. (36) One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. “Wait!” he said. “Let’s see whether Elijah comes to take him down!” (37) Then Jesusuttered another loud cry and breathed his last. (38) And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. (39) When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
Mark focused on the key words called, calling, uttered, cry, and exclaimed. This focuses us on the detail Jesus was calling out to God in the prophecy when He asked God to rescue, save, redeem, and free Him from the mud, those who hated Him, and His enemies. All of those are key words pointing to the main thought in David’s Psalm. We are seeing how God used key thoughts to link a prophecy to the recorded fulfillment.
This prophecy and fulfillment shows us how to look into the personality of scripture. When we compare the two, we see how one compliments the other. This also shows how stories are linked in the Bible. Notice how references to water draw your attention to Jonah in the fish and the sign Jesus gave the religious leaders? That’s a connection for personal study you can do on your own. For now we’ll stick with the scripture at hand. Look for a spiritual connection between darkness in Mark 15 and deep waters and floods in Psalm 69. Think of how this relates to Jesus as living water and how the water surrounding Jesus became darkness.
Why did some people misunderstand what Jesus said? David provided an answer. “Don’t hide from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in deep trouble! Come and redeem me; free me from my enemies. You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace. You see all that my enemies are doing. Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me.” God didn’t hide from Jesus because He served His Father. On the other hand, Jesus’ words were misunderstood by people who didn’t serve God. Now we have a definitive description of the religions leaders who opposed Jesus. God saw what they were doing to Jesus. John explained in his book, If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.” (John 14:7 NLTse). This reinforces the description of the religious leaders.
The name Elijah is also repeated, which brings to mind another text. “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6 NLTse). The Hebrew word for fathers in this texts is actually singular. When we compare this to Jesus’ cry to His Father and the lack of understanding by His enemies, we can see this prophecy refers to Jesus as well as John turning people to God the Father, and opening up their hearts as God turns to them. In the the fulfillment, Jesus tried to accomplish this with His last dying breath.
Verse 31 sends us to another New Testament texts. “For this will please the LORD more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves.” This takes us to Hebrews 9:12-14 NLTse With his own blood–not the blood of goats and calves–he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. (13) Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. (14) Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. It would be interesting to continue this study with a comparison of introductions and summations between Psalm 69 and Hebrews 9, but this is another lesson left for you to study on your own, which is a pattern forming. New doors are opening. God’s Spirit has a way of calling out in may ways. And like this lessons we see repeated, God keeps repeating His call. For now it’s time to compare the introductions between Psalm 69 and Mark 15.
Psalms 69:1-4 NLTse Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. (2) Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deepwater, and the floods overwhelm me. (3) I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. (4) Those who hate me without cause outnumber the hairs on my head. Many enemies try to destroy me with lies, demanding that I give back what I didn’t steal.
Mark 15:1-15 NLTse Very early in the morning the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law–the entire high council–met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor. (2) Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.” (3) Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, (4) and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” (5) But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise. (6) Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner–anyone the people requested. (7) One of the prisoners at that time was Barabbas, a revolutionary who had committed murder in an uprising. (8) The crowd went to Pilate and asked him to release a prisoner as usual. (9) “Would you like me to release this ‘King of the Jews‘?” Pilate asked. (10) (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) (11) But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. (12) Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?” (13) They shouted back, “Crucify him!” (14) “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” (15) So to pacify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
David’s introduction links back to Jonah’s prayer inside the fish. Since this is repeated it requires a closer look. What David is doing is establishing a starting point in God’s timing which is one of the most difficult concepts of Bible study to comprehend. Man designs and looks at timing or history on a linear scale. Whenever we see history in charts it is presented on a straight line, so our minds have been programed to look at history as one dimension. Straight lines tell only a small portion of the lessons revealed in prophecies when compared to how God views, records, and reveals prophecies in regards to how He views time.
Most people look at the prophecy in Jonah’s prayer from inside the fish as a link to one moment of time, Jesus in the tomb. When we look at this from man’s aspect and understanding as a linear prophecy we miss the majority of the lesson. The easiest way to understand this portion of God’s timing is to picture the linear time line your used to seeing. God uses the linear scale as an intersection point. Now envision two lines forming an X intersecting that point. In this example the point is the prophecy Jonah recorded. The moment in time is when he was inside the fish. Jonah’s prayer is the prophecy. Now to understand the fulfillment of this prophecy we have to understand all the aspects it relates to. Man focuses on one moment of time, but God used many moments in time to teach the full lesson. To find these lessons we have to use at least two instances in the Bible related to the prophecy. Jesus points us to one of the intersecting lines. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. (Matthew 12:40 NLTse). Jesus tells us this prophecy relates to His time in the tomb. Now we need to add a second line which intersects that point in time. David points us back to an intersection on the same point while drawing us back to a time frame before the tomb. When we compare introductions, Mark 15 shows us David’s prophecy also relates to the religious leader’s plot to arrest Jesus. When we look at the two lines intersecting one point on the time line, they extend before and after that moment in time. The closer they are to the line, the more reliant they are to the event and lesson.
As we see, the intersecting lines cover moments in Biblical history before and after Jonah’s time in the fish. When we review those moments in time and compare them to scripture making up the intersecting lines, we can see the lessons. Since this study is focusing on a comparison of the prophecy and fulfillment, we will not go into detail on the symbols but take a general look at the events and how they relate to the chapters in the study. This is only an introduction into understanding God’s timing.
Jonah is known as the reluctant prophet. God gave Jonah a message to deliver and because he didn’t like the people he was supposed to deliver the message to, he boarded a ship and headed in the opposite direction. This draws attention to the time frame before Jesus was placed in the tomb seen in Mark’s introduction to chapter 15 where we clearly see how the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law–the entire high council–met to discuss their next step. They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor. They were headed in the opposite direction. We also see how God not only used actions from the people who run away from Him to teach lessons, we see how God recorded warnings for them to heed. When we look at the previous chapter in Mark we see a number of instances where Jesus was denied and abused. Look at the sequence as the line moves further away from the focus point in time.
And immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:72 NLTse)
You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!” (Mark 14:64 NLTse)
Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any. (Mark 14:55 NLTse)
As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss. Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. (Mark 14:45-46 NLTse)
Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? (Mark 14:37 NLTse)
When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no–the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (Mark 14:41 NLTse)
When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say. (Mark 14:40 NLTse)
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter–this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (Mark 14:30 NLTse)
On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ (Mark 14:27 NLTse)
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests to arrange to betray Jesus to them. (Mark 14:10 NLTse)
Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly. (Mark 14:4-5 NLTse)
As we move further back along the time line we see the relationship between Jonah and Mark’s gospel. We’re shown that not only were the religious leaders heading in another direction, some of Jesus’ disciples were reluctant prophets. We see other instances as we move further back.
Luke 9:54 NLTse When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?”
Matthew 15:22-23 NLTse A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” (23) But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”
Matthew 19:13 NLTse One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
Texts show us how Jesus’ disciples shared the same prejudice as Jonah. Jesus’ disciples were headed in the wrong direction. You can also find evidence in scripture showing the religious leaders shared this same attitude. What happens when we move to the other side of the time line? What did Jonah do after the fish delivered him to his destination? He walked through Ninevah and delivered the message, but with what attitude?
People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.” When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. (Jonah 3:8-10, 4:1-2 NLTse). Jonah had a poor attitude to say the least. How does this relate to Jesus’ disciples after Jesus rose from the tomb? After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her. Afterward he appeared in a different form to two of his followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. They rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them. Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead. (Mark 16:9-14 NLTse). The disciples refused to believe the prophecies Jesus shared with them. Other texts show how the religious leaders continued to oppose Jesus and His disciples. David was not exaggerating when he wrote, “Those who hate me without cause outnumber the hairs on my head.” Crossing the linear time line with the correct scripture shows related details between one book and another that share the prophecy and fulfillment. The lessons go on and on once you learn to look at prophecies with God’s timing.
God uses prophecy and timing in another way. Many people can see how Jerusalem’s fall is also an end time prophecy. There are a number of prophecies about Jerusalem’s fall that pertain to the physical downfall carried out by physical Babylon and the spiritual end of this world in which Babylon is a symbol. One rule remains constant, the fulfillment is always much greater than the symbols. There are other prophecies in the Bible pertaining to more than one moment in history. Many people look at a prophecy and are able to look at it from a personal view because previous experiences and trials taught them a lesson which closely resembles the prophecy. In those cases the prophecy explained specific details about the trial. This happens time after time. One prophecy relates to an individual in one specific manner, and another person in a different way. This of course does not take into consideration the symbols employed within the prophecy. Symbols always point to a far greater fulfillment. Personal lessons may help people to better understand a prophecy and the people who faced associated trials, but personal experiences never reveal symbols which are always revealed by God’s Word. That’s one mistake a lot of people make. They use personal experiences or history to interpret symbols. It may make sense to them and may be a small portion of the interpretation, but without concrete Biblical evidence they can never be a substitute the fulfillment God recorded in His Word.
Learning God’s timing is one step in this lesson. This doesn’t mean we stray away from the rules God has already taught and established. We still need to compare summations in this study. This is one of God’s checklists to ensure we are looking at His Word the way it was intended to be understood. We need to be thankful for what God has taught us. The further we progress in study, the more we see God’s system of checks and balances to ensure we find the proper fulfillment to God’s prophecies.
God provided clear definitions for all the spiritual symbols He used. Each is explained by a number of texts in His Word.
Repeated words are used as key words emphasizing the key thought. Often key words lead us to parallel texts and chapters.
Similar and related words also form a connection between texts and chapters.
The introductions and summations for parallel chapters always teach the same lesson.
One point in time is intersected by at least two other similar stories which are other moments in time that refer back to the original prophecy. Both references will explain details of the prophecy using events that build up to the fulfillment and later showed the outcome and effect.
As long as we stick to the simple rules God placed and confirmed with His Word, we shouldn’t have any problems. At every step God teaches us important lessons, which should always be our main focus with every Bible Study. Now to compare the summations for Psalm 69 and Mark 15.
Psalms 69:32-36 NLTse The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged. (33) For the LORD hears the cries of the needy; he does not despise his imprisonedpeople. (34) Praise him, O heaven and earth, the seas and all that move in them. (35) For God will save Jerusalem and rebuild the towns of Judah. His people will live there and settle in their own land. (36) The descendants of those who obey him will inherit the land, and those who love him will live there in safety.
Mark 15:43-47 NLTse Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus‘ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) (44) Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. (45) The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. (46) Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. (47) Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus‘ body was laid.
“The humble will see their God at work and be glad,” doesn’t exactly describe Joseph, but part of it does. Joseph was one of the religious leaders who followed and listened to Jesus. Acts tells us many of the priests were baptized after Jesus rose from the tomb, so they must have been open to God’s Spirit. Joseph volunteered to follow Jesus. Imagine getting paid to follow and listen to Jesus. It was something Joseph was thankful for and at the same time tore him apart. How could he report what he saw in Jesus and how His words were affecting him so the leading priests would understand? Joseph is an example of what a lot of us go through. We have family and know people in church set in their ways and don’t want to hear what we see and learn. Joseph shows us how to deal with the situation. Number one, Joseph listened to God’s Spirit and did what he was instructed to do. God’s Spirit worked through Joseph’s conscience as well as Jesus’ Word. The two worked together. Lesson two. Your not alone in the battle to save souls from Satan’s slavery. Jesus didn’t work alone and neither should you.
Joseph gave up more than his personal tomb. What did his tomb represent? People with money and power build tombs so their family and friends will remember them. How many people would have remembered Joseph and for how long? Maybe a generation or two? Joseph gave up the physical tomb, but look what he gained. No one knows where Joseph was buried, but his name has been talked about for more than two thousand years. That’s more than most people could hope for. It’s another example of how God returned much more than people were able to give. Joseph gave up much more than a tomb. When Joseph stepped forward to bury Jesus’ body, he gave up all hopes and dreams of advancing the political ladder in the synagogue. What did Joseph gain? His example gave other priests the courage to step forward to learn about and teach about Jesus. When we look at this from the aspect of the parable of a seed that grows to be a tree, think of the hundreds of priests who followed Joseph’s example and how many people they reached. And the people those people reached. When Jesus told the parable of the mustard seed, He knew Joseph was listening and one day see he was one of those trees. Joseph had no idea if and how he was going to accomplish this, David’s Psalm shows us he was too humble to think about accomplishments or take credit for any of the work. All Joseph wanted to do was follow what was in his heart one day at a time. Joseph shows us how we can ensure our names are written in God’s book of life for all eternity. David shows us another side of Joseph’s change of heart. His prophecy shows Joseph’s work begins in the home. “The descendants of those who obey him will inherit the land, and those who love him will live there in safety.”
Once you’ve learned how to read and study God’s Word in detail, there is no turning back. Joseph changed at the cross because he began the process before he saw Jesus hanging there. Out of hundreds of people at the cross who owned tombs, only Joseph stepped up and took action. A number of groups were represented at the cross. A few like Joseph took action putting their love for Jesus into action. Others felt saddened and disappointed. Some thought Jesus let them down and weren’t sure what to feel. A few only heard reports about Jesus and went to the cross never knowing Him. Seeing His actions at the cross changed a few of them. And there were the doubters and people lead by simple curiosity. Of course a large group of spectators were present to witness Jesus’ crucifixion to make sure He died. We still have different groups of Christians today. Some of the people reading this book have a real relationship with Jesus and know how to listen to His Spirit. They will see a few things in here they never saw before. Other details will help them explain who Jesus is by using a number of illustrations. Some educated Christians will look at this book and reject everything because some details are not what they learned in higher institutions. If it doesn’t agree with what they’ve invested large sums of money and time, they want nothing to do with it. The majority of Christians will never read a book like this. They’ve afraid to learn. Deep down inside they convinced themselves learning about Jesus means they accept responsibility for their salvation. They are comfortable living in the background of religion and placing all the responsibility on paid professionals. A few mediocre Christians will begin reading this book and put it down, afraid of what they can learn. Maybe a few of the vast majority of Christians who show up two times a year in church just to be on the safe side will see an answer to a question they carried for years. And others who have no interest in religion, never saw God or personally met Jesus, but want to stay on His good side just in case. They have a Bible and maybe a few other books collecting dust. The question I have is how many of those people are like Joseph, a good tree in the making. God is reaching out to all of them. Maybe His Spirit has a job for you.
What good will it do to learn how to look deeper into God’s Word than others ever dreamed about without seeing Jesus’ personality and feelings on the subject? This is a subject few consider while studying His Word. What did Jesus think and feel when He lived through the events recorded in the gospels? Looking back on this study we see a portion of what Jesus saw as He looked down from the cross. I don’t think it is a good idea to sensationalize the physical pain and suffering endured because total concentration on the physical always robs from the spiritual interpretation and lesson.
As Jesus looked down He saw people challenging and cursing Him. His mind wondered back over His prayer in the garden. Jesus saw people with little or no interest who were led to the cross by curiosity as they watched the loud display of the religious leaders, then looked over at the groups of His followers sitting and weeping. By standers considered the view. If Jesus’ followers really believed He was God’s Son, why are they weeping? Their ignorance of God’s plan of salvation held them back. The goal of the priests was achieved to a degree. They gathered groups to themselves. Jesus looked at His followers. Some wondered why their hopes were dashed. They prayed to themselves asking why their prayers of release were not answered. They wondered how Jesus feed thousands, cured hundreds, but did nothing to save Himself. Then Jesus looked at His disciples. They wouldn’t look up at the cross, thinking the site would draw shame upon their teacher. They thought about the lessons Jesus taught trying to see what they missed. Pride and previous teaching they couldn’t give up kept them from seeing their mistakes.
If Jesus let His human side take over, he would have given up. He would have cursed everyone at the cross blaming them for His suffering like the condemned man at his side. Satan showed the power he had over one of the condemned. The other was able to put enough of the world aside for God’s Spirit to touch His heart for a moment. It’s so easy for us to give into the world and blame others for set backs and trials. We’re a lot like the disciples who could only see the physical suffering of the cross while having no idea how God was using the scene to fulfill His plan of salvation, all of it recorded in the prophecies He gave them.
Jesus knew the prophecies. They gave Him the strength He needed to offer Himself and go to the death He had to face. The prophecies explained why religious leaders rejected Him. The prophecies also showed Jesus how His disciples would desire a direction opposite of the example He set for them. Jesus’ heart was heavy as he looked down on the world He was about to die for. Through blood stained eyes and the weight of His body pulling down on the nails holding Him to the wooden cross, it was difficult to see past His point of suffering. If Jesus had not prepared for His trail and death, He would have been open to the additional weight of Satan’s temptations. God’s Spirit and plan of salvation was able to lift Jesus above and beyond the cross. The prophecies about Him provided the vision He needed to endure the cross and see beyond the suffering. Jesus was nailed to the cross, but He clung onto God’s promises with all His heart and soul.
There are many ways to look at the cross. If you only see the broken body of Jesus, that’s the way you’ll view His Word, as broken, nailed in one position, unable to move. If you look at the cross with uncertainly, you’ll be like those observing the vocal priests and quite group of Jesus’ followers. You’ll most likely make the same mistake by placing your faith in religious leaders with little or no understanding of God’s plan of salvation. If you quietly look with no idea of God’s plan of salvation like His disciples, you have to learn to look back at Jesus’ life and what He taught and accomplished. You also have to look ahead at what the cross accomplished and how Jesus prepared His disciples plus the message He gave them. Than pray and wait for the message He gives you and follow at His command as He sends you out to souls He has prepared for His message.
I am trying something a little different here. I am working on a new book that will focus on Bible Study and how to study the Bible using a few different methods. Here is an example of one of the chapters in that book. I’d appreciate any feed back, comments, and suggestions. This is your chance to add a little input to a book that just may make a difference in the lives of people who sit down to read it.
Chapter 12 Introductions and Summaries John Chapter 2
A book on Bible Study and lessons on introductions and summations would not be complete without a look at one of the unique chapters in John’s Gospel. John recorded a rather unique series of events not found in any other book in the Bible. There was a good reason John recorded a series of events other authors omitted. Every series of events in the Bible is unique in its own way. It may be difficult to explain to a new believer, but those stories and the order they are recorded are designed to make a direct connection with us on an individual level. Of course the Spirit has to be involved before you can hope to see the spiritual side of any story.
I often see people struggling with events and timing in the Bible. They think they have to get the timing down in scripture before they can understand anything in the Bible. That is backwards thinking. God’s timing is not the same timing we are used to here on earth. We could almost say, God has no timing. God is eternal, and time means little to God. But God understands the limited view this world has on time, and how this world uses time to apply a type of spiritual chains on our understanding. John’s Gospel shows us one example.
Many theologians have tried to combine the four Gospels into a single time line. Of course they run into issues like we will look at in John Chapter 2. So what do those theologians do? They either eliminate that story, or apply it to a different time in Jesus’ ministry. In other words, they think the original author made a mistake and they are coming to the rescue by clearing up a misconception. In essence they are robbing people of the spiritual lesson God placed in that particular series of events.
One of the most effective forms of communication God uses is a series of events in our personal lives. Jesus’ disciples were not robots. Each had a distinct set of feelings. Each disciple had a different back ground, childhood, education, family life, and view of Jesus. When we read the Bible we are reading a part of the author’s personal perceptions combined with lessons God wants us to see and understand. A single event may teach us a little about what we need to learn about that issue. But a series of events will teach us ten times more about our own reactions, the reactions and influences of people around us, and how timing establishes its own set of lessons. Some people may have to fail a dozen times before they understand how God tried to warn them. We will never see or understand the warnings God sends us until we look back to see how we missed those warnings. Then we have to learn how to hone our listening skills. Or we can continue to receive an education from earthly sources who have absolutely no chance of ever warning us of any coming event.
John 2:1-25 NLTse The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus‘ mother was there, (2) and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. (3) The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’mother told him, “They have no more wine.” (4) “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” (5) But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (6) Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. (7) Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, (8) he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. (9) When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. (10) “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” (11) This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (12) After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples. (13) It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. (14) In the Temple area he saw merchantssellingcattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. (15) Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. (16) Then, going over to the people who solddoves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (17) Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” (18) But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” (19) “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (20) “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” (21) But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. (22) After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said. (23) Because of the miraculous signsJesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. (24) But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. (25) No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.
If nothing else, John’s style of writing as well as his book is unique. John included stories such as these found in chapter 2, as well as others not found in other gospels. Why, I don’t know why, but Bible writers have a way of introducing a subject then adding details later. Is this what John is doing on a spiritual level when we look at the gospels as a whole? The only way to know is to compare what John gives us and follow the law of context that tells us to look back to see how the author led into the subject.
Here is one of the most important Bible Study steps you want to learn and use:
Always look back to see how the author led into the event at hand. Most of us know in original scripture, neither the Old or New Testaments were divided into chapters and verses. That came much later. That has little to do with this rule, but to understand scripture, we have to look for patterns. One of those is how the author lead from one event to the next.
John 2:1-11 NLTse The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus‘ mother was there, (2) and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. (3) The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’mother told him, “They have no more wine.” (4) “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” (5) But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (6) Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. (7) Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, (8) he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. (9) When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. (10) “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” (11) This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
Because John didn’t record anything about Jesus leaving for forty days to face Satan’s temptations, it’s difficult to determine timing between those stories in John’s book. John began this story by pointing out, it was the next day. The original Greek tells us it was the third day. We can assume this may be the third day after His baptism. But we’re not here to examine the exact timing of every event in John’s book but to look at his story as a whole. The first step is to look back at the link between the end of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2.
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown. Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel–a man of complete integrity.” “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God–the King of Israel!” Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.” (John 1:43-51 NLTse).
I think the last verse is the one to concentrate on here. Jesus promised Nathanael he would see Heaven open up and angles going between Heaven and earth. John followed that story with Jesus at a wedding with His mother and some of the disciples. This is where Jesus performed His first miracle. Is that the spiritual view of the stairway Jesus promised Nathanael would see? Jesus called Nathanael, “a genuine son of Israel–a man of complete integrity.” Was Jesus referring to Nathanael’s ability to see the spiritual side of issues and events?
We also have to compare this introduction to the summary in the chapter. This will help us to understand the theme as well as the style John used to write this chapter.
Examine chapters by first comparing the introduction to the summation. This will give you clues by telling you want to look for within that chapter. If they are contrasts, the chapter will have contrasting stories and characters teaching the same lesson. If the introduction contains contrasts, the summation will most likely contain a contract. When you see this, stories within the chapter will also contain contrasts. The literal form of the introduction and summation will show what types of details to pay special attention to.
But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” (19) “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (20) “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” (21) But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. (22) After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said. (23) Because of the miraculous signsJesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. (24) But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. (25) No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.
We see a number of details in this summation. Jesus talked about destroying the temple. John explained, Jesus was referring to His body, which of course points to His death, three days in the tomb, and resurrection. We see Jesus’ first miracle performed in the introduction and an explanation of His greatest miracle.
John pointed out how those miracles made a difference after Jesus rose from that tomb. This makes us ask what impression they made on the disciples while they saw Jesus performing those miracles. What went through their minds when they saw Jesus turn clay pots filled with water to wine? Does that water point to a spiritual lesson? The water was used for ceremonial cleaning. Water was also used for baptism, a sort of New Testament ceremonial cleaning, in addition to the symbol of a new individual beginning.
We also see the word servant repeated in this story. Servents prepared the water for Jesus and carried the wine to the person in charge of the wedding. This showed how Jesus needed people to assist Him throughout His ministry. This is another detail to watch for as we progress through John’s book.
John 2:12-25 NLTse After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples. (13) It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. (14) In the Temple area he saw merchantssellingcattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. (15) Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. (16) Then, going over to the people who solddoves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (17) Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” (18) But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” (19) “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (20) “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” (21) But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. (22) After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said. (23) Because of the miraculous signsJesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. (24) But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. (25) No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.
This is a rather short chapter containing only two stories. The question is, what is the connecting factor? One point stands out above all. At the wedding John tells us, “But you have kept the best until now!” The story about the temple closed with Jesus telling about His death, three days in the tomb, and resurrection.
John is the only author who tells us about the first time Jesus cleared out the temple court. John’s story reflects the same effects and reasoning as the other author’s accounts. Those other stories are clearly dated at the time frame when Jesus cleared the temple court so He could return to the templecourt the next day to teach a number of parables and answer a number of questions asked by different groups of religious leaders. John also added a detail telling us what Jesus did before He went into the courtyard. “Jesus made a whip from some ropes.”
This is another time you want to sit and think about this scene, putting yourself into it. Imagine Jesus sitting outside the courtyard gate weaving a whip out of ropes. I’ve heard dozens of sermons claiming this story proves Jesus got angry. Some sermons try to call it a sort of controlled anger. But look at the details and ask yourself, how long did it take Jesus to weave a whip out of ropes, and what was He thinking about while He was weaving a series of ropes?
Jesus wasn’t displaying any type of pent up anger. Jesus thought about what He was about to do and prayed while He sat outside that gate. He knew what He was doing and the lesson He was about to teach. Nothing was a spur of the moment outburst in any part of Jesus’ ministry. What was the lesson Jesus taught here?
We get our first clue by looking at the key words. Key words are words the author repeated to draw attention to details. Words like merchants and dealers combined with exchanging foreign money, and marketplace tell us why Jesus formed that whip. How many people lost their money during the time Jesus formed that whip, and how many people wasted their money thinking it was buying them forgiveness for their sins? Jesus had to show them it was time for a change.
Key words are words the author repeated to draw attention to his main thought, point, or lesson. Key words are words that are the SAME, SIMILAR, or RELATED.
It may take a bit of practice to develop a pattern highlighting key words. I look at it as a fundamental and necessary way for God’s Spirit to slow you down and get you to listen. It’s difficult to thoroughly highlight all the key words in one pass. You have no choice but to go back and forth over scripture to do a complete job. Many people have heard of other texts in the Bible that show us how to study, such as line upon line, and using a churning method of going back and forth over scripture. Now you know what that means.
Cattle, sheep, and doves are also repeated. Neither one of those do a thing to forgive sins. In the Old Testament they were referred to as an atonement, which is a reminder. The book of Hebrews goes into detail to explain that change.
Once again we see Jesus quoting scripture. Let’s look at the entire verse. Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. (Psalms 69:9 NLTse). This is usually all most people will look at. But if we examine a few verses around that verse, we see one of the messages Jesus pointed to.
Even my own brothers pretend they don’t know me; they treat me like a stranger. Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. When I weep and fast, they scoff at me. When I dress in burlap to show sorrow, they make fun of me. I am the favorite topic of town gossip, and all the drunks sing about me. But I keep praying to you, LORD, hoping this time you will show me favor. In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation. (Psalms 69:8-13 NLTse).
Once we look at a few other verses, we see why Jesus quoted this scripture. He pointed them to a prophecy about Himself. We see how much Jesus cared about those priests when we see the prophecy refereed to them as Jesus’ brothers. We also see they thought of Jesus as a stranger, or a little strange. What would they think of Jesus when He walked into their courtyard and put them out of business during the busiest time of the year, Passover? Would that scripture have been enough for them to overcome their financial losses and attitude toward Christ? Look at the detail we see in the introduction to Psalms 69.
Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Those who hate me without cause outnumber the hairs on my head. Many enemies try to destroy me with lies, demanding that I give back what I didn’t steal. (Psalms 69:1-4 NLTse).
This is another prophecy about Jesus. This shows how Jesus felt and what He thought about while He was outside forming that whip. One look at that courtyard and Jesus felt like He was drowning. Jesus was just beginning His ministry and He was tired of crying. He was crying His whole life. It was time to get up and do something, to put God’s plan of salvation into action on time and on course. Jesus was definitely outnumbered. He was facing off against the priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, temple guards, Roman guards, Herod’s people, and a bunch of people who couldn’t understand His message. That didn’t slow Jesus down. You think David had to have a lot of faith to face his giant, think of what Jesus went up against.
If you still don’t believe Jesus pointed people back to scripture to see at least ten times more than the small message He gave them, look at the summation in Psalms 69.
Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. For this will please the LORD more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged. For the LORD hears the cries of the needy; he does not despise his imprisoned people. Praise him, O heaven and earth, the seas and all that move in them. For God will save Jerusalem and rebuild the towns of Judah. His people will live there and settle in their own land. The descendants of those who obey him will inherit the land, and those who love him will live there in safety. (Psalms 69:30-36 NLTse).
I don’t think I need to explain what’s been recorded in Psalms 69 and how it relates to John chapter 2. Can you see Jesus thinking about this Psalm as He’s sitting outside working on that whip? If those pastors trying to make an excuse to release their personal anger, or trying to explain their personal interpretation on that story had spent a little time, turned and few pages and looked where Jesus pointed them, where God’s Spirit was trying to lead them, they couldn’t have missed this message. The sad fact is, if those religious leaders in the temple had looked at that scripture, they would have never put Jesus on that cross.
To think, when I try to teach this simple study method, some people argue, saying there’s no need to waste time looking up scripture Jesus quoted. How can you hope to understand half of what’s in the gospels or New testament if you don’t look at Old Testament scripture Jesus and other people quoted? Those people who argue with me think it’s a simple matter of looking at a few random texts and going with whatever pops into your head. Isn’t that a form of eastern religion – relying on your inner being? Isn’t that in conflict with relying on God’s Word and relying on His Spirit? Not only are those people hurting themselves, but they are holding other people back from the simple things God is holding out to them. What could be easier than following clear and simple instructions in the Bible?
We see the words miraculous sign repeated. Those religious leaders asked what authority Jesus had in addition to asking for a sign. If they were listening, they would had seen, Jesus gave them everything they needed. That whip showed how all the words in scripture are woven together. They didn’t listen to Jesus. They didn’t go back to scripture. They didn’t know how to rely on God’s Spirit. No wonder Jesus didn’t trust them.