Thinking Out Loud

June 16, 2020

The Tomb of the Prophets

This was originally supposed to appear on Saturday at our devotional blog, Christianity 201, but due to a glitch in scheduling, it didn’t go out until I discovered the problem yesterday evening. Again, while I don’t want Thinking Out Loud to simply become a mirror site for C201, I put a lot of work in to this one, and furthermore it was a rare request, in this case from my oldest son. So you get to read it here today.

NIV.Luke.11v47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them.

Throughout scripture we find definite definite support for landmarks and memorials. We’ve covered this theme here at least three times previously:

So why do those who built tombs for the prophets show up among the list of “woes” proclaimed by Jesus? Is it suddenly wrong to remember those who have gone before? There must be something else going on.

The IVP Bible Commentary notes that:

The second woe for the scribes is for their support of the slaying of the prophets. Now this woe contains irony: “you build the tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them.” They built these tombs, no doubt, to show how they honored the prophets. But Jesus argues that in fact it shows their support for killing these divine agents! By building the tombs, he says, you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did. Here is one of Jesus’ fundamental critiques of the leadership: they have been disobedient as their ancestors were…

The Wikipedia reference for “tomb of the prophets” states,

The Tomb of the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi… is an ancient burial site located on the upper western slope of the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. According to a medieval Jewish tradition also adopted by Christians, the catacomb is believed to be the burial place of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, the last three Hebrew Bible prophets who are believed to have lived during the 6th-5th centuries BC. Archaeologists have dated the three earliest burial chambers to the 1st century BC, thus contradicting the tradition.

Is that what’s referenced here?

As with all adventures in Biblical archeology, the journey is (pardon the pun) rather rocky. One article I read suggested that Haggai was buried near the tomb of the prophets. I think this is an example of a situation where we can get mired in the details — ‘Is this the right city?’ ‘Were they from the same family? ‘Was that the first cup or the third cup?’ — and miss what the passage is there to teach us. We shouldn’t get too caught up in what the Bible does teach us, especially when referenced to a 21st Century online encyclopedia in which many people (including me) have editing privileges.

Matthew’s version of this, in chapter 23, verses 29-32 is more detailed, but for greater context (and since it also mentions tombs) I’ve picked it up here starting two verses earlier:

NIV.Matthew.23v27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

On this Matthew passage, the website BibleStudyTools.com quotes John Gill,

Now our Lord must not be understood as blaming them for barely building the tombs of the prophets, and garnishing the sepulchres of the righteous, which they might have done without blame. But because they did all this, that they might be thought to be very innocent and holy men, and far from being guilty of the crimes their forefathers were; when they were of the very selfsame blood thirsty, persecuting spirit; and did, and would do the same things to the prophets and apostles of the New Testament, their fathers had done to the prophets of the Old.

What can we apply from this? The Wycliffe Bible Commentary has an interesting take:

The martyrs of one generation become the heroes of the next. It was easier for the children to build monuments to the prophets than for their fathers to obey them.

And perhaps the tombs were to ‘seal in’ those prophets as The Eerdman’s Bible Commentary suggests:

Although they built elaborate tombs for the prophets, they were really at one with their ancestors who had killed them by making sure they would stay dead. God in His wisdom had foreseen what they would do; their attitude to the prophets and apostles of the church would simply be the culmination of a long history of persecution of his messengers and judgment would follow. (emphasis added)

The International Bible Commentary echoes this,

The only prophets they honor are dead prophets.

This is the constant challenge of scripture and Christian teaching. If certain things are true — in their case it was the words of the prophets — then it may mean that I am going to need to make adjustments to my life.

I love how Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God Study Bible indicated these types of passages using a wrench as a symbol to represent adjustment. (The Bible is based on the author’s “7 Realities of Experiencing God” of which #6 is, “You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.”)

The Life Application Study Bible confirms this, noting in reference to Jesus that even as he is speaking, they are in fact doing the exact same thing. They are choosing not to answer the call for adjustment, response,

God’s prophets have been persecuted and murdered throughout history. But this generation was rejecting more than a human prophet — they were rejecting God himself.

There is always the danger of ourselves doing the same thing: Covering over a situation where our ancestors were complicit in something we would rather forget by appearing to be taking the opposite side. It appears noble, but not when we recognize that motivation is itself incorrect, and not until we realize that the heart attitudes are common to us today and require repentance.

 

May 30, 2011

Reconstructing Bible Times

Over the weekend I’ve been almost randomly paging through a type of book which has, so far, been foreign to my experience.  It’s one of those Bible reference books which attempts to give readers a fuller understanding of life during the Old Testament and/or New Testament times.  Some popular books in this genre include:

  • The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times, Revised and Updated by Ralph Gower
  • Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim
  • Everyday Life in Bible Times by Arthur Klinck
  • Essential Companion to Life in Bible Times: Key Insights for Reading God’s Word by Moises Silva, releasing in August from Zondervan

I guess part of the reason I’ve never been drawn to reading these is because (a) I rely on people like Ray VanderLaan to fill in those blanks, and (b) I grew up in an experimental middle school and high school environment which left me with very little studies in and appreciation for history, let alone archeology.

The book I was reading was Harper’s Encylopedia of Bible Life by Madelieine S. and J. Lane Miller (Castle Books edn. orig. published by Harper & Row in 1978; out of print) and in particular a section on The Life of the Farmer which runs from page 144 to 188.  Yeah…imagine… me reading about farming.  But I digress.

What so impressed me about this — and it was only part way through I developed a full understanding of what I was reading — was that instead of just presenting the data, they assembled all of the Old and New Testament scriptures which have any reference to agriculture, and created a fictional character, Abiram, and wrote about the typical routines for himself and his family in various sections of the agricultural calendar year.  This is Biblical fiction done with research taken to the nth degree.

This was not hastily put together in an afternoon.

It showed, among other things, a very high regard for scripture; hardly a paragraph went by without multiple references, several of which I stopped to look up.   And the insights that it brought out lined up with other scripture passages that were already familiar, bringing them to even greater life; a few of which I also stopped to read again.

This type of study can only enrich your Bible reading, but realizing that many of you are, like I was, somewhat distant from Bible reference texts of all kinds, I want to give you another option.  Rob Bell — yes, that Rob Bell that you’ve been hearing so much about lately — has done some excellent messages both at his home church and at Willow Creek.  I tried to find one from “Summer at the Creek” from 2010 where he explained the background behind, “If someone asks you to go one mile, go two;” but even though I watched it just a few days ago, it seems to have vanished off their site.    But you can get some older ones from the Seeds Bookstore, look for the New Community (dark brown) logo on this window.  (Dust and Day of Atonement are recommended; Dust is a much longer exposition of the material on the Nooma DVD.)  

Or check out the material from Ray VanderLaan in his various DVD series.  These are expensive to purchase, so it’s recommended they be bought for group use.

There is so much depth in scripture — especially scripture where analogies and parables are so tied to agrarian culture — that we miss reading through the lens of our 21st century life.  Resources like this help us to see the things that give the stories greater a greater richness.

December 3, 2010

I’m Dreaming of a White Hanukkah

Well, in view of yesterday’s post (and comments) here’s another stab at equal-opportunity blogging.

While Christians are focused on the fact Christmas Eve is now just  three weeks away, this is also the season of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.   But for most Jewish people, the question has always been, ‘Why should the Christians have all the good seasonal music?’

Enter this CNN Belief Blog story:

Now, making its viral video and international debut, we have the Maccabeats.

Out of New York’s Yeshiva University, this 14-member a cappella group introduced just this week, “Candlelight,” a music video that parodies Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite,” and specifically Mike Tompkins’ rendition of the song.

The song educates listeners about the story of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, an eight-day holiday which started Wednesday night. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt and the menorah (candelabrum) that stayed aglow for eight days, despite a lack of oil.

But the song’s chorus also invokes some of the symbols and customs associated with the holiday, including the traditional potato pancake (latke) Jews eat during Hanukkah and that spinning top, the dreidel – again, not made out of clay.

…More than 815,000 YouTube viewers , as of early Friday morning, have tuned into the video since it posted. TV shows are calling. Emails are filling the group’s inbox. Requests for appearances are coming in from across the country, including California, Florida and Ohio. People want to know what the Maccabeats’ performance rates are.

…By releasing this song and video, which took four days to shoot and three weeks to edit, the Maccabeats hope to give Jews a new Hanukkah tune and attitude.

Read the entire story from CNN here.

Or to just watch the video, click the comment section of this very post.  [RSS readers link to blog for this one.]

December 3, 2009

Self Deprecating Worship Music

Filed under: music, worship — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:50 pm

So the other night we’re reading Psalm 106.  You know that one.  The one where the Israelites are reminded of all the times they screwed up as a nation.   The times they forgot their God.    Then it suddenly occurs to me.    This is a PSALM.   They SANG THIS.   This was one of their WORSHIP SONGS.   As in, “Take your hymnbook and turn to number 106.”  How do you SING stuff that is so self deprecating?  Definitely a minor key.

6 We have sinned, even as our fathers did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.

7 When our fathers were in Egypt,
they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.

13 But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his counsel.

14 In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wasteland they put God to the test.

15 So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease upon them.

16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses
and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the LORD.

17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;
it buried the company of Abiram.

18 Fire blazed among their followers;
a flame consumed the wicked.

19 At Horeb they made a calf
and worshiped an idol cast from metal.

20 They exchanged their Glory
for an image of a bull, which eats grass.

21 They forgot the God who saved them,
who had done great things in Egypt,

22 miracles in the land of Ham
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

23 So he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him
to keep his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land;
they did not believe his promise.

25 They grumbled in their tents
and did not obey the LORD.

26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand
that he would make them fall in the desert,

27 make their descendants fall among the nations
and scatter them throughout the lands.

28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor
and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;

29 they provoked the LORD to anger by their wicked deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.

30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was checked.

31 This was credited to him as righteousness
for endless generations to come.

32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD,
and trouble came to Moses because of them;

33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
and rash words came from Moses’ lips. [c]

34 They did not destroy the peoples
as the LORD had commanded them,

35 but they mingled with the nations
and adopted their customs.

36 They worshiped their idols,
which became a snare to them.

37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to demons.

38 They shed innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was desecrated by their blood.

39 They defiled themselves by what they did;
by their deeds they prostituted themselves.

40 Therefore the LORD was angry with his people
and abhorred his inheritance.

41 He handed them over to the nations,
and their foes ruled over them.

42 Their enemies oppressed them
and subjected them to their power.

43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were bent on rebellion
and they wasted away in their sin.

Okay, I left out a few of the good verses.  But even so…

What if Western Christians had a song that was the modern equivalent to this?

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