Why did the wonderful counsellor begin with the place that went dark first? Can his mediation resolve the violence and oppression to restore peace to God’s world?
From cards to cantatas, Isaiah 9:6 is part of Christmas. The child who is born, the son who is given is recognized with throne-names like Wonderful Counsellor.
What did wonderful counsellor mean in Isaiah’s time? How does it relate to Jesus?
Continue reading “Wonderful Counsellor (podcast) (Isaiah 9:6)”
How does Jesus fulfil the promises of Zechariah 9 about dealing with their enemies and restoring divine kingship?
The humble king, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 is an outstanding prophecy, worth exploring in context.
The previous eight verses say that God was opposed to their neighbours to the north (Syrians) and south (Philistines). How does that fit with Jesus? Didn’t the previous chapter promise that the nations would come to seek the Lord? (8:20-23) As always, we need to appreciate the wider context.
Continue reading “The king is coming (Zechariah 9)”
More than a wish; this good news heals the world.
Ephesians closes with two brief blessings that pull together the main themes of the letter. Peace and grace were common greetings in both the Jewish and Asian communities, but these words are much more than well-wishes. The good news in this letter is the divine grace that brings peace to the world. Continue reading “Peace and grace: the greeting that can deliver (Ephesians 6:23-24)”
You might be sick of hearing about a tiny virus threatening our way of life: health, economy, sport, travel, theatres, cafes, pubs, even churches.
How do you find peace in troubled times? Continue reading “Peace in troubled times”
Gospel of peace? A beatnik fabrication? A substitute for serious doctrine?
Actually, it’s in the Bible. I can see how peace would be good news for the world, but how is that the gospel? Continue reading “The gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15)”
It was a day in 1945 my Mum remembered vividly. She was a teenager working in a pharmacy in Roma (Qld) when a great hullabaloo broke out. People were dancing and hugging in the streets. Cars honked, making jubilation laps in the street. Joy swept through the whole town at the news, “The war is over!”
We have a message that’s even greater. Jesus is the end of hostilities on earth!
Have you heard the good news? Continue reading “Good news of peace (Ephesians 2:11-22)”
How can Jesus establish his kingdom with an unarmed army?
Open Matthew 10:34-39.
A military career in the ancient world meant heading off with your regiment in search of fame and glory. Unworthy of the empire was any milksop who couldn’t leave his father and mother. A soldier marched where the army needed him, even if it meant his children grew up without him. Real soldiers didn’t run for cover to save themselves! They grasped their swords and gave their lives for the sake of the empire.
What about the kingdom of God? Do its people face struggles like the kingdoms of the world? Or is it an idyllic life of shalom: no life-threatening situations, no dilemmas of family versus kingdom, no conflicting priorities, no need to run to save your own life? Continue reading “A disarmed kingdom (Matthew 10:34-39)”
How should Christians respond to the evil in the world? Do we stand up and fight it, or sit by and wait for God to set it right?
Open Matthew 5:7-12.
When I was young, someone told me that Beatitudes were Be-attitudes — attitudes I should be. They’re not. Jesus did not say we should try to be poor, sad, or squashed with injustice. “Try to be persecuted” is patently absurd. No, the Beatitudes describe the people to whom the Father gives the kingdom.
That’s Jesus’ kingdom vision. The kingdom of God is not arriving because powerful people arise to make it so. That’s how the kingdoms of the world operate, but it is not how God’s kingdom comes. Continue reading “How does the kingdom come? (Matthew 5:7-12)”
What kind of ruler could bring an end to war and injustice? He’d need to be a very different kind of ruler, and all humanity would need to submit to him.
As you read the Christmas story, do you see how rulers today still rely on evil and death as Herod the Great did? The spirit behind Herod reigned in the rulers who came before him: Antiochus Epiphanes IV, Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh Neco, Sennacherib, …
When Fidel Castro died, some rulers like Canada’s Justin Trudeau sparked a social media storm for eulogizing him (#trudeaueulogies). Michael Bird chipped in with examples of how rulers still reign through the power of death: Continue reading “One ruler can bring humanity home”
As God’s representative, Jacob must make peace with Esau and the people of Canaan.
He’s no longer Jacob, the usurper who tries to take his brother’s birthright and blessing. Now he’s Israel—the one who embraces God, even when it’s a struggle. The God of Bethel has been here all along, and now Israel has returned to live in the land that is the house of God. The sovereign living among his people — that’s the kingdom ideal.
But it’s not quite that straightforward. There are already people in the land: Esau to start with, and then the Canaanites. How can the kingdom of God ideal work for Israel in a world where others may not be keen to have them there? This was the major problem for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, just as powers that refuse Jesus’ kingship have been the major threat to Christians in the last two millennia. Continue reading “Living among people who don’t recognize God (Genesis 33)”
Jacob has a history of running instead of sorting things out. Remember how he ran from Esau? Well, it’s happening again. It tends to do that when you don’t resolve things. Continue reading “When running is bad for your health (Genesis 31)”
The Isaac narrative is all about the way Abraham’s descendants must follow in his footsteps.
Since Abraham laid the foundation of the nation that would restore the blessing of divine reign to the earth, what Abraham’s descendants must do is to follow in his footsteps. The Genesis narrator makes this point in the way he recounts Isaac’s life. Continue reading “Isaac: the next kingdom representative (Genesis 26)”
Since Abraham represents a very different kind of ruler, how can he live at peace among those who use force?
The Genesis narrator goes to extreme lengths to make sure we understand that YHWH rules all nations. He’s told us the blessing of YHWH’s reign will be restored through Abraham. Since then, he’s told us about Pharaoh, the kings of Shinar, Canaanite kings like Melchizedek, God’s care for Hagar the Egyptian, God bringing justice to Sodom, and God confronting Abimelech the Philistine king. How could anyone miss the emphasis on God’s continuing rule over the nations?
Continue reading “Living at peace in a troubled world (Genesis 21:22-34)”
So what is the significance of Abram’s meeting with two Canaanite kings, Melchizedek and Bera? Continue reading “How will the nations respond? (Genesis 14:21-24)”