3.27.2014

On Expecting the Predictable

In the 10th century B.C., Israel - then a united kingdom - essentially had it all. While we know that God's work was far from over, the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai seemed to reach a powerful climax when Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem. After hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt, a generation of wandering in the desert, no shortage of bloodshed while taking possesion of the promised land, and a few missteps while establishing a united kingdom, everything finally seemed... right. 2 Chron. 5-7 paints a powerful picture of celebration, triumph, and great anticipation at the inauguration of what should have been a long era of spiritual health and national peace. The glory of the Lord filled the temple. God dwelt in the midst of his people and they enjoyed the opportunity for fellowship with and forgiveness from him like never before. There was relative peace within the kingdom and with it's neighbors. Israel propsered.

Just over 200 years later, Israel - now the northern portion of a divided kingdom - was utterly defeated by the Assyrians and carried off into exile. Judah - the southren kingdom - would soon suffer a similar fate. (2 Kings 17:6-41, 25:1-21)

What happened? It may seem obvious with the benefit of 2,736 years of hindsight. But you can imagine the Israelites' questions as they were being led away, "Why is this happening to us? I thought we were God's chosen people! Where is he? Why has he abandonded us? How can a good God let this happen?"

3.13.2014

On the Rise and Fall of Unreasonable Faith

Hebrews is a theologically rich letter. It's filled with powerful and robust imagery that demonstrates, among other things, how wonderfully superior Jesus, his ministry, and his covenant are to their "counterparts" in the old covenant. The trouble is, such rich theology is a bit complicated. To understand the author's images, you need at least a cursory understanding of the old covenant's sacrifices and priests. And then there's that one, pre-Mosaic-Covenant priest and king of Salem: Melchizedek. You'd think that these images and concepts would undoubtably be clearer to 1st century Jews than they are to us. But, as it turns out, even early Jewish Christians had a hard time understanding all this. In Hebrews 5:11-14 the author says,

"About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have thier powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil," (ESV).

Those are blunt words. The author of Hebrews was rightly frustrated with the recipients' apathy (v. 11). They had not trained thier powers of discernment by constant practice (v. 14). Though by that time they should have been able to understand theological "meat", they were still in need of "milk" and coddling. This was not the sort of child-like faith that Jesus affirmed (i.e. Matt. 18:3-4). This was the perpetual, intellectual immaturity of undisciplined believers.

Nearly 2000 years later, we're inflicting ourselves with this same condition.