Growing up the son of a Lutheran pastor has exposed me to
some things from an early age. As a
child I was always fascinated by the colors used in church. For many years I did not understand the
church seasons or the church year, but I was always excited when the purple
candles would be set out. To me this
meant that Christmas was not to far away.
Being older now I have a greater appreciation for the church year. Advent is the beginning of the church year
and even though many churches have changed from purple to blue for this season,
it still gives me butterflies when it begins.
Just as an aside, blue is the color of hope and expectation so it is an
appropriate color for the season. There
has been some confusion as to the season of Advent and the following might help:
Advent is perhaps the most confusing season in the church
year...Is it an appetizer to Christmas, introduction to the coming event and
forward to the birth of baby Jesus? Is
it a few more weeks of end times? Is
this John the Baptist coming and the coming of Christ? Or is it the conclusion of Ascension- Jesus’
return? Some of all of the above works
it way into Advent. However, Advent’s
ultimate aim is to remind us that He whose birth we are soon to celebrate, the
One we shall shortly witness lying humble in a manger, is coming again on the
clouds, in full glory with His angels attending Him to judge the living and the
dead. And we on our part are to be
prepared and to be “prepare-ers” for that most wonderful event!
On to the study...
The Old Testament
We will finish up the Book of Daniel this week and we see some strange visions
again. One thing to learn from this section is that when you see a horn in a
vision, like on a beast, it almost always refers to some sort of power. So the
horns that get divided and grow all relate to power. With that being said, the
vision hopefully makes a bit more sense to you. It is always nice to get the
meaning to the vision right in the book, and Daniel helps us out on this one. “The four great beasts are four kingdoms that
will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the
kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.” (Daniel 7:17-18 NIV). The last
vision most likely had its completion in the person of Alexander the Great and
those that followed him. Some see this as an addition to the book of Daniel to
make him look good and to prove that he was a prophet after his time, but I
believe that Daniel was given this vision from the Lord! In Chapter 9 we read
the prayer of Daniel and I want to draw your attention to one fascinating line.
In verse 18 we read, “We do not
make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great
mercy.” (Daniel 9:18b NIV).
What a great phrase. Who said there is no grace in the Old Testament? What a
wonderful prayer. With the end of Daniel comes the end of what is known as the
Major Prophets. With Hosea we begin the section called the Minor Prophets.
Minor not in significance, but in scope of ministry and number of words
recorded. We will really start flying through books so get ready.
Hosea is a fascinating book that relies on one major point
of imagery or symbolism. The marriage of Hosea to the prostitute Gomer
describes the relationship between God and his people who have prostituted
themselves by worshiping idols. This book needs to be read through this image.
We can extrapolate this image further by saying this is similar to the image of
the bridegroom Jesus and his marriage to his bride, the Church (a New Testament
image). God loved us so much that he would still care for us even when we
constantly go our own way and worship other things.
The New Testament
John likes to use imagery himself in his letters. Not unlike his gospel, we see
many of the same images that describe our life in Christ (Dark and light, etc.)
One theme that is constant in all of John’s letters is love. A bit must be said
about love. In English this word has a variance of meaning. In Greek the word we
translate as love can be one of four words which all have a range of meaning.
Most often when we read the word love in John’s letters, he uses the word agape, which means unconditional love.
It is more than just brotherly love, or love between members of your family. It
is more than the love of husband and wife. It is pure, unconditional love that
God has for us. It is not dependent on our behavior or actions. It is the kind
of love Hosea has for Gomer, and what God has for us. Love almost overflows
from the pen of John as he writes as he describes God’s love for us and the
love we should have, not only for God but for other people as well.
Another thing we need to talk about is what John calls
“antichrists”. What he is talking about are things and people who are against
the message of Jesus. It is interesting to note that John talks about
antichrists (plural) here and the Antichrist (singular) later. Are they the
same? Not really. John warns against those whom he calls antichrists. We should
be watching out for such people who do not believe in Jesus or show love to
their neighbors. He also calls them “false prophets” that we should watch out
Bits and Pieces
The Old Testament
We will going through books fast and furious this month so we have a lot to cover.
Here are the vital stats for the book of Joel:
PURPOSE: To warn Judah of God’s impending judgment because
of their sins, and to urge them to turn back to God
AUTHOR: Joel son of Pethuel
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The people of Judah, the southern kingdom,
and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Probably during the time Joel may have
prophesied from about 835 to 796 B.C.
SETTING: The people of Judah had become prosperous and
complacent. Taking God for granted, they had turned to self-centeredness,
idolatry and sin. Joel warned them about this kind of lifestyle and that it
would inevitably bring down God’s judgment.
KEY VERSES: “ ‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to
me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart
and not your garments. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and
compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and relents from sending
calamity” (2:12-13 NIV).
LAW THEMES: Punishment brought by locusts; the day of
darkness; fasting and mourning; judgment of the nations.
GOSPEL THEMES: Grace and mercy for the repentant;
consecration; the gift of the Spirit; a harvest of blessings; refuge from
KEY PEOPLE: Joel, the people of Judah
KEY PLACE: Jerusalem
Here are the vital stats for the book of Amos:
PURPOSE: To pronounce God’s judgment upon Israel, the
northern kingdom, for their complacency, idolatry, and oppression of the poor
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Israel, the northern kingdom, and God’s
DATE WRITTEN: Probably during the reigns of Jeroboam II of
Israel and Uzziah of Judah (about 760-750 B.C.)
SETTING: The wealthy people of Israel were enjoying peace
and prosperity. They were quite complacent and were oppressing the poor, even
selling them into slavery. Soon, however, Israel would be conquered by Assyria,
and the rich themselves would become slaves.
KEY VERSE: “But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never failing stream!” (5:24)
LAW THEMES: The nations condemned; the Lord as a lion; only
a remnant; unfaithful worship; the day of the Lord.
GOSPEL THEMES: The remnant; seek the Lord and live; the
booth of David; restoration of Israel; the Lord relents.
KEY PEOPLE: Amos, Amaziah, Jeroboam II
KEY PLACES: Bethel, Samaria
SPECIAL FEATURES: Amos uses striking metaphors from his
shepherding and farming experience—a loaded cart (2:13), a roaring lion (3:8),
a mutilated sheep (3:12), pampered cows (4:1), and a basket of fruit (8:1-2)
And the vital stats for Obadiah:
PURPOSE: To show that God judges those who have harmed his
AUTHOR: Obadiah. Very little is know about this man, whose
name means “servant (or worshiper) of the LORD”
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Edomites, the Jews in Judah, and God’s
DATE WRITTEN: Possibly during the reign of Jehoram in Judah,
853-841 B.C., or possibly during Jeremiah’s ministry, 627-586 B.C.
SETTING: Historically, Edom had constantly harassed the
Jews. Prior to the time this book was written, they had participated in attacks
against Judah. Given the dates above, this prophecy came after the division of
Israel into the northern and southern kingdoms before the conquering of Judah
by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.
KEY VERSE: “The Day of the LORD is near for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own
head” (verse 15).
LAW THEMES: Pride in security; pillaging; the day of the
Lord; fire; exile.
GOSPEL THEMES: The day of the Lord; escape; the Lord’s
KEY PEOPLE: The Edomites
KEY PLACES: Edom, Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: The book of Obadiah uses vigorous poetic
language and is written in the form of a dirge of doom.
The New Testament
Three books to go. Here are the vital
stats for 3 John:
PURPOSE: To comment Gaius for his hospitality and to
encourage him in his Christian life
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Gaius, a prominent Christian in one of the
churches know to John; and to all Christians
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 90, from Ephesus
SETTING: Church leaders traveled from town to town helping
to establish new congregations. They depended on the hospitality of fellow
believers. Gaius was one who welcomed these leaders into his home.
KEY VERSE: “Dear friend, your are faithful in what you
are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you” (verse
KEY PEOPLE: John, Gaius, Diotrephes, Demitrius
Here are the vital stats for the book of Jude:
PURPOSE: To remind the church of the need for constant
vigilance—to keep strong in the faith and to oppose heresy
AUTHOR: Jude, brother of Jesus and James
TO WHOM WRITTEN: Jewish Christians, and all believers
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 65
SETTING: From the first century on, the church has been
threatened by heresy and false teaching—we must always be on our guard.
KEY VERSE: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to
write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you
to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints"
LAW THEMES: The ungodly pervert God’s grace; contend for the
faith; God destroys unbelievers; blaspheming; eternal chains; gloomy darkness;
stained by the flesh; judgment; eternal fire; way of Cain condemned.
GOSPEL THEMES: Called and beloved by God; Peace; Salvation;
Mercy of our Lord; present you blameless; God our Savior.
KEY PEOPLE: Jude, James, Jesus
And the vital stats for the book of Revelation:
PURPOSE: To reveal the full identity of Christ and to give
warning and hope to believers
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The seven churches in Asia, and all
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 95 from Patmos
SETTING: Most scholars believe that the seven churches of
Asia to whom John writes were experiencing the persecution that took place
under Emperor Domitian (A.D. 90-95). It seems that the Roman authorities had
exiled John to the island of Patmos (off the coast of Asia). John, who had been
an eyewitness of the incarnate Christ, had a vision of the glorified Christ.
God also revealed to him what would take place in the future—judgment and
ultimate triumph of God over evil.
KEY VERSE: “Blessed is the one who reads the words of
this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is
written in it, because the time is near” (1:3).
LAW THEMES: Deception of false prophets; call to repentance;
beasts; dragon (Satan); God’s wrath; plagues; torment; woe; bottomless
pit; tribulation; Babylon the Great;
second death; judgment; call to patient endurance.
GOSPEL THEMES: Word of God; made a Kingdom of Priests;
Jesus’ love; Lamb of God; Christ who conquers; tree of life; Bride of the Lamb
(Church); God is faithful and true; water of life.
KEY PEOPLE: John, Jesus
KEY PLACE: Patmos, the seven churches, the new Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: Revelation is written in “apocalyptic”
form—a type of Jewish literature that uses symbolic imagery to communicate hope
(in the ultimate triumph of God) to those in the midst of persecution. The
events are ordered according to literary, rather than chronological, patterns.