Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bible Challenge: Isaiah and Jeremiah

This week we have the end of the book of Isaiah - the concluding oracles of the book remind the people that the restoration of Jerusalem is part of God's plan.

These have come to be read as promises of the kingdom of heaven.

We also start the book of Jeremiah this week.

Jeremiah was the son of a priest.  He was born about began his ministry around 600 years before the birth of Jesus.  The book is a series of oracles against the kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.  There are also some oracles against foreign nations.

The book is not in chronological order.  It was probably put together long after the death of Jeremiah, and seems to be largely drawn from the memoirs of his aide - Baruch - which means blessing - and might refer to more than one person.

Also a part of this book are records of Jeremiah's struggle with God and the trials that he suffered during his ministry.  Jeremiah was not well received by the people of his time.

Jeremiah's writings focus a great deal on reward and punishment and the rewards for good and evil.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bible Challenge: Isaiah

This week we get the end of Second Isaiah.

This week's section contains the First Servant Song - This is Isaiah 49:1-6; 50:4-11; and 52:13-53:12.

These pieces of poetry have come to be seen as prophecies of the Messiah.  When they were first written the assumption of the people was that they referred to someone already alive in Israel at that time.  Someone who would lead the people into becoming the nation that God wanted them to be.

In the 300 years between the time that this was written and the coming of Jesus they had come to be read as telling the nation what the Messiah would be and do.

In the Christian era they have come to be read as prophecies of Jesus.

As we move through this section we find directions to the nation of Israel and reminders to them that God is on their side and will help them against their enemies.  We also hear about the blessings that are in store for God's people and we end this week's readings with the second Servant Song and the promise of the abundant life that God wishes for his people.

Much of this week's section will be familiar - we hear it during Advent as we prepare for the return of Christ and often in funerals as we remind ourselves of the promises of God.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bible Challenge: Isaiah

This week we finish the section of Isaiah that is known as First Isaiah.

We hear the second half of the oracles against the enemies of Israel and Judah and move into a section of reflection from the post-exilic period.

In the history of the Israel there are several times when large portions of the population were taken into exile after a military defeat - but the major one is what is known as the Babylonian Captivity.  This is when the Babylonians conquered Israel and carried the leaders and craftsmen and any one who was educated into exile.  The exile in Babylon lasted around 60 years.  This happened about 500 years before the birth of Christ.  The Post-Exilic period was a period when Israel reconsidered what it meant to be a nation and to be God's chosen people.  There was a lot of debate about purity and the authority of different parts of Scripture and what it meant to be God's people.

Some of those debates are seen at the end of First Isaiah - they are more fully developed in the later sections of the book.

At the end of First Isaiah we also hear of the coming of the Majestic King.  These prophecies talk about the coming of a peaceful reign of a king who rules in the name of God.

When Isaiah wrote them they were referring to the hoped for restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.  By the time of Jesus they had come to be read as prophecies of the Messiah - the one who would come in the name of the Lord and free the people.

This week we also have the first Chapter of Second Isaiah - Chapter 40.

This is between 200 and 300 years after the return from Exile and is calls the people to be ready for the coming of God.  It has become one of the most familiar prophecies of the Messiah - largely because Handel chose it as the opening words for his Messiah.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bible Challenge: The Major Prophets

We are beginning the reading of the Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations.  Ezekiel is also a part of this group - but we will be reading Ezekiel with the histories.

These books are called the Major Prophets because they are longer than the Minor Prophets.

We start with Isaiah.  Isaiah is actually three different books written by three different people at three different times in history.

First Isaiah is the first 39 Chapters and were written during the lifetime of Isaiah son of Amoz who wrote during the days of King Uzziah.  There is some material in those chapters that is later than that and was added over the years.

Second Isaiah covers chapters 40 through 55 and these were written between two and three hundred years later.

Third Isaiah is chapters 56 through 66 and those were written about 100 years after Second Isaiah and between three and four hundred years after first Isaiah.

This wee we read about the first half of First Isaiah.  The book begins with the memoirs of the Isaiah, setting the book in time and place and then moves on to oracles against the enemies of Israel - both those outside the community and those inside.

The chapters that we have this week includes all of the memoirs and the first half of the oracles.

Much of the this week's readings are written in poetic style.  You might have noticed one hallmark of Hebrew poetry - which is stating things twice in slightly different ways.