Building Tombs – (Luke 11)

In verse 29, Jesus tells the increasing crowd that ” this generation is an evil generation,” which seeks a sign. It is an evil generation because they have the Son of God in their midst, and they will, by and large, reject Him. He compares them to Nineveh, who repented because of Jonah’s preaching, and the Queen of Sheba who came from so far away to witness Solomon’s wisdom. They have one greater than both of those, yet they will not accept Him.

English: A dispute with the pharisees. Passeri...

English: A dispute with the pharisees. Passeri. In the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum, England. Print 4384. From “An Illustrated Commentary on the Gospel of Mark” by Phillip Medhurst. Section D. Jesus confronts uncleanness. Mark 1:21-45, 2:1-12, 5:1-20, 25-34, 7:24-30. http://pdfcast.org/pdf/an-illustrated-commentary-by-phillip-medhurst-on-the-gospel-of-mark-section-d (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The only sign they will get is the sign of Jonah, He says. Jonah was in the belly of the “great fish” for 3 days, just as He will be in the tomb. But even this greater sign will not be enough for so many of them. It is in this context that Jesus tells them that the eye is the lamp of the body. Those who see the truth for what it is will have this light affecting their entire lives. Those who choose not to see the truth will have the darkness.

While Jesus was speaking to them, yet another Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. He was amazed that Jesus did not wash first. This was not a matter of hygiene to the Pharisees, but a ritual that they had dictated – and so it also was a rejection of the Pharisees’ authority. Jesus then chides them for cleaning the outside of their cups and dishes, yet inside themselves they are corrupt.

Jesus pronounces three “woes” on the Pharisees then. He says they tithe even the herbs they cook with, but they neglect justice and the love of God. It is their love of having the best seat in the synagogue, and their love for the honors bestowed on them by men that He condemns in the second woe. Then he says they are like unmarked graves that people walk over without knowing. Contact with a grave would make one ceremonially unclean. Yet people follow the teachings of these hypocrites, thinking that they are pleasing God, when they are actually being tainted by them.

The lawyers that He next pronounces woes upon are the Scribes. They are responsible for keeping the law (as the Pharisees see it), and for teaching it. Yet they push rabbinical laws that God does not command upon the people, while not holding themselves to the same standards. The statement that they build the tombs of the prophets that their fathers killed is not hard to understand, once we look at the next sentence. It says that they are witnesses, and they consent to the deeds of their fathers. They are witnesses to the very Messiah that the prophets died proclaiming, and by their rejection of Jesus, they “build the tombs” of those prophets that their fathers killed. The last woe refers to them taking away “the key of knowledge.” This refers to the knowledge of the Messiah. And though they do not enter the kingdom of God, they hinder others from entering in.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Reversal of Fortunes – Nahum and Nineveh

If the Book of Jonah (see previous blog post) were a photograph, Nahum would be the negative. In what was likely the first half of the eighth century B.C., Jonah reluctantly ventured to Nineveh to warn them of the coming judgment of God for their wickedness. To Jonah’s complete dismay, Nineveh repented and God spared them.

As Sennacherib beautified his capital city, Nineveh, Hezekiah withheld tribute and prepared for battle. The Assyrians advanced toward their rebellious western border, attacking swiftly down the Mediterranean coast. From Lachish, Sennacherib threatened to take Jerusalem, but Isaiah knew his threats would die with him on his return to Nineveh. This map shows the route of Assyrian conquest which started in Nineveh. God promised his people that Nineveh would not escape judgment.

As Sennacherib beautified his capital city, Nineveh, Hezekiah withheld tribute and prepared for battle. The Assyrians advanced toward their rebellious western border, attacking swiftly down the Mediterranean coast. From Lachish, Sennacherib threatened to take Jerusalem, but Isaiah knew his threats would die with him on his return to Nineveh. This map shows the route of Assyrian conquest which started in Nineveh. God promised his people that Nineveh would not escape judgment.

But that repentance did not last long. By 745 B.C. Tiglath-pileser III had made Assyria the most powerful in force in that part of the world., establishing their dominance with torture, massacres, and exiles on a horrific scale. The real estate of the Assyrians was greatly expanded by making vassal kingdoms of other countries (such as the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah) until Assyria “terminated” the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. Under Sennacherib’s reign (704 – 681 B.C.) Nineveh became the capital of Assyria.

More than a hundred years after Jonah, God sent Nahum to again announce judgment on Nineveh and the fall of Assyria itself. This time, there would be no repentance, and Nahum does not appear to have been reluctant in the least. Nahum 3:8-10 speaks of the destruction of Thebes (an ancient Egyptian city also called No-Amon in this book) in the past tense. We know that it fell to Assyria about 663 B.C. Assyria was conquered by the Medes and Babylonians in 612 B.C., making this book written between 663 and 612 B.C.

During this 50 year period, Assyria’s holdings and power were already in decline. Nahum’s first chapter reads like a prelude to battle, while the second and third chapters move into the real thing, with imagery that strongly suggests that the author saw much with his own eyes. True to the prophecy, Nineveh was destroyed, never to be rebuilt. The ruins lay close to the modern Iraqi city of Mosul.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Saving Nineveh – The Book of Jonah

God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Many of Jonah's countrymen had experienced the atrocities of these fierce people. The last place Jonah wanted to go was on a missionary trip to Nineveh! So he went in the opposite direction. He boarded a ship in Joppa that was headed for Tarshish. But Jonah could not run from God.

God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Many of Jonah’s countrymen had experienced the atrocities of these fierce people. The last place Jonah wanted to go was on a missionary trip to Nineveh! So he went in the opposite direction. He boarded a ship in Joppa that was headed for Tarshish. But Jonah could not run from God.

Jonah was a prophet during the reign of Jeraboam II around 750 B.C. According to 2 Kings 14 23-28, he was the son of Amittai, hailing from Gath-hepher. Gath-hepher (meaning “winepress of the well”) was on Zebulun’s border in ancient Israel. The Book of Jonah has been the subject of some debate and there are those who consider it allegory. But such is not the case. Jesus certainly spoke of the events of the book as historical fact; and Jonah’s adventure is mentioned in Matthew 12:38-41, 16:4, Luke 11:29-32, among other passages.

As for the most famous part of the book, many are quick to point out that the Bible does not say that it was a whale that swallowed Jonah. God in fact, it says, appointed “a great fish” for the deed. The truth is that the taxonomies we use today for classifying such creatures did not exist in their present form, so the distinction between fish and mammals is purely academic and relevant only today. True enough, a creature other than a whale could have been responsible (one such suggestion is a “Sea Dog”). And there have been reports in the past of people surviving after having been swallowed and regurgitated by such. One such incident was reported in “The Boston Post-Boy, October 14, 1771” about a man named Marshall Jenkins (see this article on Christian Evidences) It hardly matters. In any event, it was a miraculous feat completely orchestrated by God for a specific purpose – just as that of the worm (Jonah 4:7).

But this miraculous event aside, the most important aspects of the Book of Jonah lay elsewhere. The Book of Jonah shows us God’s boundless compassion in multiple ways. Any time the early Christians of the first century began to question whether Gentiles were to be part of God’s plan of salvation, they needed only to look at this book. God sent Jonah to give His message to the Ninevites to give them the chance to repent. They were not part of Israel by any stretch of the imagination. But God cared about them, just as He tried to teach Jonah in Jonah 4:1-10.  In God’s eyes, everyone is worth saving.

Jonah sat under a goard vine, waiting and hoping for God to destroy Nineveh. But God taught him an important lesson about forgiveness through the vine (Jonah 3-4).

Jonah sat under a goard vine, waiting and hoping for God to destroy Nineveh. But God taught him an important lesson about forgiveness through the vine (Jonah 3-4).

Jonah’s attempted flight from God shows us a couple of things. First, and most obviously, we cannot hide anything from our Creator. Even the “smallest” of our deeds is known to Him. Secondly, as is shown repeatedly in scripture, when God wants something done, it gets done. He sent His only son to sacrifice His life for us, and establish His kingdom. The misunderstanding some have that Jesus somehow failed at that the first time, but will try again later, is ridiculous.

Finally, Jonah’s attitude and God’s reaction in chapter 4 should give us pause to think about our own compassion for our fellow man. How often do we view others with disdain or even contempt? How concerned are we really about salvation for those outside God’s kingdom? Have we truly committed ourselves to Christ if we are not willing – yes and even eager – to help others to work out their salvation?

Though only 4 chapters, the Book of Jonah is a powerful and important book of prophecy and teaching. Do yourself a favor and read these 47 verses if you have not done so in a while – and do so with these things in mind. It will enrich you in your walk with the Lord.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.