You think you’ve got troubles with the finance company? Hah!
The clay tablet in the picture is a legal document from 664 B.C., discovered at Tel Hadid in central Israel, which was then under Assyrian rule. The document is the record of a loan in which the borrower agreed to pay 33% interest if his bill was overdue… and he had to put up his wife and sister as collateral! “Rocky” would come and take them away if the loan was not repaid on time. (Does this shed any light on the Bibles consistent condemnation of usury?)
Those seem like pretty harsh terms to me. You’re better off with Household Finance.
The document doesn’t say what the borrower needed the loan for. Probably not smart pills. Obviously they weren’t making them back then.
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Hebrews 12: 26-27
This essay by Martin Selbrede will do for a sermon.
God shakes the earth. We see that as a hardship, a rough ride; but it’s also God’s promise. As for the shaking, “It is how God fulfills His promise to His people that they will inherit the earth while His government increases without end.”
You can read the whole essay for yourselves. I just want to add one more thought to it.
What if God didn’t shake the earth? What if He didn’t remove those things that oppose Christ’s Kingdom?
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read through the Bible. This morning I came again to Ezekiel Chapter 1; and again I shake my head and wonder, “What was that?”
I’ve never seen an illustration that does it justice. To me it reads like some poor guy who’s burst into a local police station, trying to tell the cops about some incredible thing he’s seen, and he can’t get the words to make any sense.
We can be reasonably sure that Ezekiel’s description of his vision made more sense to his contemporary audience than it does to us. But are we sure we have to think it through? Are we sure we have to decipher it? I mean, who says so? Is it not enough to understand that this whole thing is about being in the presence of God–and of course it’s going to sound like crazy-talk when we try to describe it.
How are we, being flesh, to make sense of spiritual things? How are we, being earthly, to speak of heavenly things? Of course it’s going to come out weird. A lesser man than a prophet would’ve fainted dead away. Ezekiel, both a prophet and a priest, certainly seems to be having a hard enough time just keeping his head from falling off.
If the vision made perfect sense to us… it’d probably be fake.
But at least we can get this meaning from it: God is–and is He ever!
In Ezekiel’s lament for Tyre (Ezekiel 27), naming some of the luxuries enjoyed by the wealthy people of that city, the prophet mentions “benches of ivory, brought out of the isles of Chittim.”
This puzzled Bible scholars for many centuries. “Chittim” denotes the big island of Cyprus in particular, and refers collectively to the islands and seacoasts of the Mediterranean. But ivory from Chittim? There aren’t any elephants in Cyprus! Must be more o’ that fiction they just tossed into the Bible while they were cooling their heels in Babylon.
But in prehistoric times there were elephants on many of the islands in the Mediterranean–dwarf elephants, pygmies. No one wrote about them because writing hadn’t been invented yet: or else it had, but the writings have been lost–which, given the upheavals and tumults of history, not to mention the Flood, would not be surprising. Anyway, by modern times the little elephants had been thoroughly forgotten.
Until later on in the 20th century, when, lo and behold, fairly large troves of elephant bones and skeletons turned up on many of the islands. Lots and lots of ivory, not old enough to be quite fossilized.
So, yeah, in Ezekiel’s time, it would be natural to import ivory from Chittim, where they didn’t even have to hunt the elephants to get it. To this day elephant remains can be found there; they haven’t all been collected.
The Bible preserves much information that would otherwise be lost, and much that hasn’t been deciphered yet–and all of it true.
I’ll have to go back and check this, but if memory serves, the Bible speaks of ivory that comes from Cyprus–which (ahem) Reputable Bible Scholars Inc. pooh-poohed until later on in the 20th century, when the abundant remains of pygmy elephants were discovered there.
Alas, the giant dormouse is no more; but that doesn’t take into account God’s promise to restore His whole Creation.
These thoughts burst unexpectedly into my mind this morning. I think it shows why we ought to read the Bible again and again–so that eventually its lessons get through to us.
Temptation is a big deal for us. Everybody’s tempted, and we worry about it. The thought is father to the deed. It’s what comes out of the man, not what goes in, that defiles him, Our Lord Jesus Christ taught (Matthew 15: 18-19). We know temptation can lead to active sin; but is temptation itself a sin? Are we in trouble as soon as we’re tempted to any kind of sin?
Jesus Himself was tempted. In Matthew 4 and Luke 4, Christ is fasting in the wilderness and the devil comes along to tempt Him with three temptations. 1) Food. The devil challenges Jesus, who by now must be pretty hungry, to prove He is the Son of God–and assuage His hunger–by turning stones into bread. “Dude, let’s see what you’ve got! Show us that you really are the Son of God!”
The first gambit having been declined, the devil dares Christ to demonstrate His special status by jumping off the high pinnacle of the Temple (2). If He really is the Son of God, God won’t let him be injured in the fall. It’s another temptation aimed at pride, and again the Lord declines it.
Satan plays his top card with 3), power, wealth, and fame. Takes Him up atop a mountain and offers Him all the glories of this world (“for they are mine to give”) if only Jesus worships Him instead of God. This is the most powerful temptation of all, but Christ, because He really is the Christ, rejects it. The devil gives up and goes away for a while.
Did Jesus sin, just because he was subjected to those temptations? And don’t forget, they wouldn’t be temptations if they weren’t powerfully attractive to their target. Jesus, who has a right to be the King of kings, was tempted with the prospect of becoming a great king before God’s time. You wouldn’t get Him with an offer of a book of green stamps. So did Jesus sin because He was tempted?
The Bible says no! “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4: 15) He couldn’t be without sin if temptation itself is sin.
You and I don’t get tempted with the kingdoms of this world. Everyone is vulnerable in different ways.
But we can come “boldly” to Christ’s throne in prayer, when we are tempted, and find forgiveness there, and powerful assistance to fight off our own temptations. And who doesn’t need help with that from time to time?