Jesus in the Psalms?

Should I be seeing Christ when I read the Psalms?

The Psalms are powerful, enduring songs from ancient Israel that still inspire us today. They praise the character of our heavenly sovereign, giving thanks for what he has done. They lament when things aren’t working out as they should under God’s reign. That’s the power of the Psalms: in joy and injustice, they refocus us on the one who rules. The heart of the Psalms is the refrain, The Lord reigns!

When Christians read the Psalms, we’re faced with a puzzle: Should I see Jesus in Israel’s ancient songs? Or should I read them as Israel understood them before Jesus’ time? Are the Psalms intended to be prophetic, about the one who was to come? Continue reading “Jesus in the Psalms?”

God’s spokesman (Exodus 4:13-20)

Open Exodus 4:13-20.

Delivering ultimatums to a powerful kingdom is high-risk business. Moses has no desire to serve as spokesman of the heavenly sovereign.

Moses sought exemption because he had no power in his hand. Now he claims he has no power in his voice. Continue reading “God’s spokesman (Exodus 4:13-20)”

The kingdom and prophetic engagement: speaking truth to power?

Does being the kingdom of God mean speaking out against abuses of power in the current political system?

Quick: give me a Bible verse on social justice. What comes to mind?

Continue reading “The kingdom and prophetic engagement: speaking truth to power?”

The produce defines the tree (Matthew 7:15-20)

Jesus’ words are so relevant in a world where media gives rise to hero worship.

Open Matthew 7:15-20.

Matthew 7:15-20 (my translation)
15 Watch out for those who claim to speak for God but don’t. They present themselves as sheep following God, but they’re viscous wolves inside. 16 You’ll recognize them by what they produce. People can’t get grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles. 17 Every good tree makes good fruit; but a worthless tree makes degenerate fruit. 18 A good tree cannot make degenerate fruit, and a worthless tree cannot make good fruit.
19 Every tree that doesn’t make good fruit is cut down for firewood. 20 You can certainly recognize them by their fruit.

What does this have to do with Jesus’ kingdom message? Because we treat religion and politics as unrelated categories, we miss what Jesus meant about false prophets. Jesus’ kingdom message is a threat to those who want power. Conversely, those who want power want to conscript God to affirm their leadership. False prophets are those who affirm false powers — rulers other than Jesus.

Continue reading “The produce defines the tree (Matthew 7:15-20)”

Matthew 1–5 reveals Jesus fulfilling Torah

Matthew’s opening chapters show Jesus as the fulfilment of Israel’s Torah.

deadseascroll_4q41_deut
Deuteronomy (Dead Sea Scroll 4Q41)

Open Matthew 1–5.

Here’s an intriguing possibility.

Matthew keeps focusing on Jesus fulfilling Scripture. He’s told us that six times already (1:22; 2:15, 17, 23, 3:15; 4:14). Does this motif define the way Matthew tells Jesus’ story? Continue reading “Matthew 1–5 reveals Jesus fulfilling Torah”

A voice in the wild (Matthew 3:1-6)

There’s a fascinating story behind John the Baptist’s life in the wilderness.

Open Matthew 3:1-6 and Isaiah 40.

He wasn’t a Baptist. Or a Protestant. But John the Baptizer certainly was a protester.

John shunned the benefits that human rulers provided to their towns: streets, markets, wells, walls, peace and security. He wouldn’t trade with them. His clothes were an anti-fashion statement, fashioned from whatever he scavenged — like hair from a dead camel. He survived on bush tucker — like grasshoppers and wild honey (3:4). Who knows where he took shelter from rain and wind. Continue reading “A voice in the wild (Matthew 3:1-6)”