There are now two indexes for this blog, so you can find posts:
These blog posts are now indexed by topic and Bible reference.
These blog posts are now indexed by topic and Bible reference.
Persian astrologers came looking for Jesus? What do you make of that?
Open Matthew 2:1-12.
You’ve seen the Christmas cards. Three wise men. On camels. Following a star. Balthasar, Caspar, and Melchior — three kings of orient according to western tradition. So we build nativity scenes with a manger and kings and camels and shepherds and sheep and the donkey that carried the very pregnant Mary. There probably weren’t three wise men: their caravan would have been larger for safety’s sake. The Bible doesn’t say they rode camels either. We made up the bit about the donkey too.
And they weren’t “wise men.” Magi were originally a class of Persian priests who practiced astrology and other magic arts. In Daniel 2 (LXX) they’re bundled with enchanters and sorcerers as advisors to the king of Babylon. In Acts 13:6-8, a Cypriot ruler had a magos advising him, and Paul despised him. The word usually has negative connotations in Jewish literature—a trickster/deceiver. Matthew hints at that when he says that Herod was “tricked” by the magi (2:16). Continue reading “How did the magi find Jesus? (Matthew 2:1-12)”
Who was king of the Jews — Jesus, or Herod?
Open Matthew 2:1-12.
Mary, Joseph, wise men, shepherds, and perhaps angels. Ask people to name the key players in the Christmas story, and that’s probably what you’ll get. There’s someone else who doesn’t make our Christmas lists. That’s because we don’t read the Bible as a kingdom story. Continue reading “King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-10)”
Immanuel — the whole scope of the Bible’s story is in that word.
Open Matthew 1:22-23.
How do you understand Immanuel? Matthew explains it means, God with us.
What does that mean to you? A warm and fuzzy feeling that you’re not alone? A comfort? Assurance of safety? Yes, God’s presence does make a huge difference to us individually, but there’s so much more than that going on in Matthew’s story. In fact, what Matthew has in mind is pretty close to the core of the Bible’s whole story. Continue reading “Our king among us (Matthew 1:22-23)”
In what sense is Jesus the Immanuel child spoken of in Isaiah 7:14?
Slow down! There’s a significant message in that list of names at the start of Matthew’s Gospel.
Open Matthew 1:1-17.
Matthew would never win a creative writer’s award. His first chapter is about as interesting as a Jewish telephone book. Why would he start with a list of largely unfamiliar names? Continue reading “Why ancestry.com? (Matthew 1:1-17)”
The New Testament is not a stand-alone story. It’s the surprising plot twist that resolves the old kingdom struggle in a new way.
We’ve spent six months reading the first book of the Bible, showing the kingdom of God is the theme that binds the story together. We’ve seen why Jesus thought God-as-king was the central plot line. So I’ve been bursting to bring that understanding of the kingdom over from the OT into the New. Today we’re starting with Matthew’s account of the Gospel. Continue reading “Matthew’s main message”
We’re jumping to Matthew to prepare for a meaningful Christmas.
The whole narrative of Scripture is the story of God’s kingship, the kingdom of God. Earth belongs under heaven’s reign. That’s what the kingdom of God means. It’s the central theme of the Bible, and the central character is King Jesus—the ruler who restores the earth back under heaven’s reign.
In a few weeks, we’ll be celebrating the birth of the king. Okay, that’s not how Christmas is usually viewed in our culture, but it is how Matthew described it. So instead of continuing with the story of Joseph in Genesis, we’re skipping over to the New Testament. The kingdom perspective will reshape how you think about Christmas. Continue reading “Christmas: birth of earth’s king”
Esau’s kingdom story is such a contrast to the kingdom God is establishing through Jacob.
If you miss the kingdom perspective, you may wonder why Genesis 36 is in the Bible. It’s a repetitive jumble of names associated with Esau. Sure, Esau was Abraham and Sarah’s grandson; God promised them nations; and Esau has a nation. But there’s too much detail to just say that. Something else is going on. Continue reading “Esau’s ordinary kingdom (Genesis 36)”
The gospel is far more than the bit about how you get saved. Tim Healy explains why Jesus is good news.
What is the gospel? Tim Healy asked that question at Riverview Church. His answer was explosively powerful. Continue reading “What is the gospel? (Tim Healy)”
Jacob is invited to live in God’s house (Bethel). How well do they do?
Bethel—literally God’s House—is where Jacob is invited to live. But if they are to live in the house of their heavenly sovereign, they must purify themselves. After the skirmish with the Shechemites, the smell of death is on them and their clothes. Among the spoils are idols and talismans. When these impediments are gone, they enter Bethel. The surrounding cities are too terrified to seek vengeance on these servants of the heavenly king (35:1-5). Continue reading “Jacob’s life in God’s house (Genesis 35)”
Were the prophets who predicted Trump’s victory right?
Now that the American presidential election is over, I’m writing to beg my friends not to confuse your allegiance to Jesus with your allegiance to a political party or to your nation. I’m an Aussie. I’m neither pro-Trump nor pro-Clinton. I am pro-Jesus. I’m writing this because 4 out of 5 white Evangelicals voted for Trump, and some (not all) of you confused support for Trump and support for Jesus. I beg you to listen, because that’s really dangerous to your faith. Continue reading “Trump and the kingdom of God”
Dinah’s brothers defended her honour by killing the Shechemites. Were they justified in making a stand for righteousness?
Were Simeon and Levi justified in standing up for righteousness by killing the Canaanite prince who raped their sister, along with all his people? We’re examining how later Jews judged their actions. Continue reading “Were Simeon and Levi justified? (Genesis 34:30-31)”
Should God’s kingdom people enforce justice on the nations? Or should we just suck up the injustice? How do you respond to evil?
The unanswered question of Genesis 34 is how to respond to evil. Jacob’s family will be the agents of the kingdom of God in years to come, but how should they respond right now when a Canaanite prince rapes Dinah? Injustice remains a relevant question. Continue reading “How do we fight injustice? (Genesis 34:3-31)”
If God doesn’t prevent bad things happening, how do we cope?
Now that Israel is in the land with the sons who will form the tribes of Israel, how will they represent the heavenly king in the presence of people who do not submit to him? The nations do not submit to God’s laws. Driven by their own passions, they take whatever they want by force.
We’ve seen this picture ever since Nimrod the warrior of Genesis 10. It’s devastating:
Genesis 34:1–2 (ESV)
1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her.
Are you tempted to stop reading, to skip to something more pleasant? You really need this text if you think, “God’s running the world, so he’ll never let anything bad happen to me.” That belief will fail you. Neither can you blame Dinah, as if she must have been doing something wrong or it wouldn’t have happened to her. Verse 1 explicitly sets up the story by saying she was behaving well in her culture. Don’t blame the victim. Continue reading “When you get hurt (Genesis 34:1-2)”
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)”
Why did God accost Jacob as he crossed back into the Land?
“A man” wrestled with Jacob all night. It’s the strangest story. Jacob is 97 years old, but “the man” can’t throw Jacob off and eventually has to ask Jacob to let him go (32:24-26). It gets even stranger when Jacob says he’s been wrestling with God (32:29-30). Continue reading “Israel and the face of God (Genesis 32:22-32)”
How do you sort out a relationship with someone who wants you dead?
Jacob fears for his life. Esau will kill him if he believes he’s coming to claim the inheritance. Why else would he bring a posse of 400 men (32:6)? Continue reading “Jacob’s reconciliatory gift (Genesis 32:13-21)”
Jacob was petrified of facing Esau, until he found he had a bigger fight on his hands.
I hope that reading the Bible as the story of the God’s kingdom is helping unfold its core message to you. It really does make a huge difference. Even those who write commentaries on the Bible have difficulty making sense of the text if they miss this perspective. Continue reading “Discovering God’s army (Genesis 32:1-12)”