Study group is working through Micah. Whilst preparing I found myself drawn to write another meditation. This time the passage is Micah 5:1-5 but really its centred on vs 1 and 2. You can read the background here. There is lots of blood and political intrigue… along with some very famous passages.
One of the key themes of Micah is that of land. When Micah (~ 740-690 BCE) was delivering his prophetic messages to the ruling elite of Jerusalem one of the things he railed against was the fact that the inherited land of the common people was being taken from them with impunity. He says that these things were done in the morning light, so degraded was the leadership of the time. Each family considered that God had personally give their land to them. Without the family land, life for these people was very difficult, since the land signified not only their economic provision but also their membership into the covenant with Yahweh.
In addition to the this prophets were delivering ‘God’s words’ to the those who would pay for them, and the priests were going through the motions. The leaders have fallen far from what they were called to be. There is clearly much more going on here as well, but the upshot is that God would bring the Assyrians against Israel.
Chapter 1 describes God coming down from his Holy Place and how the earth reacts to the presence of the Other One. Micah describes himself as wailing and lamenting like the Ostrich and the Jackal as Israel has become incurable and the Assyrian army is at the gates of Jerusalem. There is disinheritance, injustice and false religion. By Chapter 5 Micah is looking forward again to the Assyrian army laying siege to Jerusalem, with all the horrors that entailed. Suddenly, Micah seems to jump and we read:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (5:2)
In the midst of the bluster and evil and despotic failure of the King, prophets, priests – in other words the ruling classes – Micah fast forwards, and turns his attention to a tiny, insignificant village from which an eternal one would spring. The human government, where justice and divine revelation was for sale, and where the elites performed land-grabs from the middle classes of the day, was likely loud and brash and full of pride. Into this Micah thrusts front and centre the insignificant, the quiet and the humble.
Here is the meditation we did in Life Group last week on the passage in Colossians 1. As is usual for our group, we only touched on many of the themes within the verses. In preparing I felt that the tendency is to bring our rational and intellectual minds to a passage -which of course is a good thing. Yet some passages will not give up their treasures like this, hence a meditation.
We read the passage over several times to get us started. You might like to do the same.
In this post we look in a little detail at what it means to be dead – no not like that. How did Christ make us alive according to Paul? We also see that a cabbage has much to teach us of the Divine Realm. But we begin with The Essenes.
The Essenes, authors of the ‘dead sea scrolls’ wrote that as a member of their sect you were “raised from the worms of the dead”. The language seems somewhat overstated to us. Paul however, embraced it. We can see similar thoughts as he kicks of Chapter two.
Ever found yourself floundering as you read Paul’s letters? Do you wonder if you’re missing something? Do you start reading a chapter full of determination, and then find yourself at verse 5 thinking about if you’ve fed the dog with little idea of what you have just read? If you are someone who finds Paul easy then good for you! This post is not for you, but rather for those, like me, who have a somewhat more difficult relationship with Paul.
Previously in the first two verses we marveled (!) at how Wesley and Whitfield were able to paint such a cornucopia of theological goodness in so few words. We considered the barrage of triggers that were thrown at the singer by phrases such as ‘joyful all ye nations rise’ and ‘pleased as man with man to dwell’. Unsurprisingly verse three doesn’t disappoint as another volley of Christology is planted in the consciousness, setting free the ‘white horses of imagination’ to kick up their heels and gallop joyously. Such is the power of the poetry and biblical allusion.
In the first part of this mini- series on Hark The Herald Angels Sing I got excited about verse 1, where the writers of this awesome carol describe the manifestation into our physical realm of the angelic realm and God’s presence. Celebrating the day of Jesus’ birth leads to the final restoration of the nations into their God-ordained place of perfection. Wow. But for now…. nothing is eternal. Everything we experience is subject to decay.
Hark The Herald Angels sing is a fantastic romp through some truly inspiring theology. It is too good to be only sung at Christmas – its going to feature at my funeral. The more mystically minded Christians speak about the participation with God as being like swimming in the sea. You can paddle in the shadows or go in further until you are surrounded. Either way you are participating in the experience and being of the sea, yet there remains a vast body of which you know nothing stretching out beyond.
First published this post in October 2011…. having re-read it I figured it deserved another shot.
Just had an interesting moment!
Running “Spotify” on my phone, plugged into the Hi Fi, listening to “What does anything mean, basically” by The Chameleons – and its been a number of years since I heard it. Nearly every song evokes a strong, significant emotional response in me – you know memories of college, old friends that I haven’t seen in years, feelings of studying physics in the uni library, drinking in the student bar, playing in bands, the optimism of youth etc etc. Every song a winner, wave after wave of pleasure. Some of the musical arrangements are frankly beautiful; stunning almost – shimmering veils over pounding rhythms that wont let up. They should have been just MASSIVE. Bigger than the biggest thing ever.
In “human identity – divinity” we cemented the connection between image (tselem) in Genesis 1 and cult statues or idols. To the people of the aNE (ancient near east) an idol was the living embodiment of their god, and not just a physical thing like a statue in the local park. To them it was not only alive, and in it their god was fully present to them. If you think about it this sheds light on the way humans could worship idols them and lavish care on them. Clearly, the understanding of the writers of genesis was very different to ours.
In the first post “human identity – representation” we looked at the Hebrew words used for image and likeness. In “human identity – crowned” we looked into the royal meaning behind some of the words the Hebrew bible uses to describe Adam and Eve’s role and status. Given that the same ‘image’ language is used in Gen 5 it is clear that what was true of Adam & Eve is true for all of us – they were ‘God’s Royal Representatives.’ We briefly concluded by saying that to the cultures of the aNE, royalty were seen as children of a god. We cited two examples of this, and left the implicit link to Adam & Eve unspoken. It’s time to dig into this at last.
One time in home group we worked through Mark’s gospel reading a good chunk (like 3 chapters) and then considering it in the light of, well, whatever cropped up really. Without wanting to overstate it, this a great series – so much came out of our attempt to have a ‘first-time’ reading of it. The pace is remarkable.
So much of what Jesus said and did turned things upside down – the first are last, the untouchables are touched, the marginalized are heard, power structures are ignored. Marvelous.
Recently I was looking for something to read. When we cleared out my parents’ house one of the hardest things to deal with was the books. Did they have some boring looking books – and my mum had become something of a regular visitor to charity shops towards the end! But as someone who loves books it was hard to just throw them. So they have been sitting on my shelf for several years, and now I was packing for a holiday with nothing to read. In the end I just reached out, picked something off the shelf and zipped up the suitcase.
When we go on our family holiday we always have what the girls refer to as ‘boring parent days‘. And I am pleased to say that in Spain we managed to get not one, or two but three ‘boring parent days’. On one of these I had one of those little experiences of God that leaves me wondering.
This was a stonker of an essay, which was both a joy and a pain to write. Both of these theologians wrote masses of material. Augustine is in some sense known as the Father of the Western Church, and much of what we believe in the West goes back to him. Interestingly, I recently heard some Orthodox Theologians expresses the opinion that Augustine was a heretic … when considering some of his views. Gregory was new to me, and I was so impacted by him that I am considering doing something on him for my dissertation.
The subject matter of this essay is not for the timid evangelical who doesn’t want to have their reading of scripture challenged. When the eastern and western churches ‘branched off’ they each took some unique theology with them. In my opinion the east has A LOT to teach us.
I couldn’t get enough of the Gregory of Nyssa. What a depth. What an insight. Perhaps the same is true of Augustine, but given the subject matter I’d take the East any time.
Read on… if you dare (well kind of)
Analyse and evaluate critically Eastern & Western views of human nature, sin and salvation evident in Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa as they write on the nature of the fall & God’s response.
The Book of Lamentations
I am sure I had read Lamentations before I opted for this essay – but I couldn’t really remember anything much about it. I knew it was a ‘depressing’ book, perhaps written by “weeping Jeremiah”, and that it was hard work.
How WRONG I WAS. The more I studied it, the more I fell in love with this book. It is so exquisitely put together, and the language is so brutally honest that I simply could not get enough. Its an anguished cry from the heart, and nothing is left unsaid. Such a short essay as this cannot begin to do justice to the structure, let along the content.
I studied for it by a pool in the Canary Islands! At the same time Isis (IS etc) where rampaging their way through the Yazadi and Christian minority groups in Iraq. You couldn’t get a sharper conflict of situations, nor perhaps a more compelling reason to meditate upon the words of Lamentations.
This was a ‘relatively’ easy essay in that the sources were quite straight forward. What really stuck me was just how much I have been a dualist – you know, its either ‘right’ or its ‘wrong’. So, I’d thought Paul must have either totally gone along with the Roman Empire, or totally not!
The more I read the more wonderfully subversive Paul became – he was a low grade anarchist, of sorts, and he knew how to play the system… I am stuck by just how conservative the church has become and I for one need to adopt the astuteness of the ‘Political Paul‘ and by inference the ‘Political Jesus’.
On Sunday 2nd of January 2011 I went on a retreat. This meant going to a nature reserve in the Chiltern Hills, where usually I can wander around for a whole day and not see anyone.
Recently the question “What is the last thing that God said to you?” has been in the air. I’ve heard it asked on several occasions. I have convinced that God wants to speak to us. The unique revelation of Jesus Christ was that God is our Father. Logically, what kind of Father doesn’t speak? We wouldn’t think much of a silent one now would we?
A few years back, when my little ones where really little this song was all the rage. How we enjoyed doing the rain coming down and washing away the foolish man’s house on the sand.
Around that time I was reading Dallas Willards “The Divine Conspiracy”, perhaps one of my all time favourite books. One of the things I took out afresh from this book was just how practical the Sermon on the Mount is. Jesus was truly a genius. He fully understood how people interact with each other, and what goes on in their hearts (inner man). So its a good idea to listen to what He says.
If we/I carried out what is written in the sermon on the mount, we’d change the ecosystem around us. You couldn’t help it!
My children where singing and singing that the “Wise man builds his house up on the rock“. And then it hit me – this little parable is right at the end of the sermon on the mount – ie its part of the sermon on the mount. And Jesus also says that the person who hears His word, AND DOES IT, is like a man who builds his house upon the rock.
I’d never noticed that!
You want to be wise, and to be able to stand when the storms of life come? Then DO the Sermon on the mount. Do it. Do it as “Preparation” for when those inevitable storms hit. Jesus doesn’t want admirers he wants disciples – doers. And He wants us to be “Doers” because its better for us. So let’s join with the apostle !!!!!! when he exhorts us to be doers or the word and not just hearers.
Read that sermon. Do that sermon. Build that house.
We are bombarded. If, like me, you have embraced facebook and forums, can’t turn off your mobile, and check your emails constantly then you are bombarded too.
I think the greatest invention of my lifetime is the Walkman. This is because it ultimately gave birth to the iPod, which in turn led to an explosion of wonderful, wonderful podcasts. There is a fantastic banquet of epic proportions laid out for internet savvy Christian who has access to iTunes (other podcast systems are available…).
And I can’t get enough! Thank you Father for your provision!
Not an Original Idea in Sight
When I teach I often joke, saying that I have yet to have an original thought. I find that when I teach, its usually a smorgasbord of all the other teaching that I have been bombarded with other the last months. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing! However, wouldn’t it be great to have something really original to say? To be frank, I have had some original ideas,but just to give credit where its due here’s my list of sources – well, some of them – you’ll find their influences through out my teaching!
- Derek Prince
- Creflo Dollar
- Chris Vallouton
- Dallas Willard
- Leslsy Malpas
- CS Lewis
- Crispin Fletcher-Louis
- Helen Eldon
- NT Wright
- Bob Craine
- lots more..
All that’s good of course – you listen, you filter, you assimilate you pray over. But I crave the original.
The original in your hands…
I am convinced that God has much to say. There is an inexhaustible supply of fresh insight for us, waiting. Derek Prince said something along the lines, respectfully, that the bible is “Nothing more than black marks on white paper” if the Holy Spirit doesn’t make it alive. You can read it, and its interesting, maybe even beneficial, but you need the Holy Spirit to bring the words to life.
The words in the bible have to be applied to our situations. If they aren’t, it can do your head in. When the Holy Spirit of God breathes on a passage, often just a line or two, and applies them directly into our lives it is life and health and food and drink. Now there’s my original thought.
To my experience the original most often comes when I draw away. Get quite. Just me, and my bible (and sometimes coffee…).
Maybe, its easier to download a new Chris Voluton, read a theological tome, ask the wife, than it is to draw away, still your mind, and listen to God. He’ll bless in what you listen too, if you apply it (remember that Wise man building his house upon the rock). But when you get away on your own, turn off the teachers, and focus on loving logo – the unobtainable original becomes possible!
Well, there’s my original thought.,