Not one stone

If the disease breaks out again in the house, after he has taken out the stones and scraped the house and plastered it, then the priest shall go and look. And if the disease has spread in the house, it is a persistent leprous disease in the house; it is unclean. And he shall break down the house, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them out of the city to an unclean place. (Leviticus 14:43-45)

Mark records in his gospel that Jesus rode into Jerusalem and went to the temple, “And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” He went back the next day and drove out the buyers and sellers and overturned the money-changers’ tables saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

As High Priest, Jesus went into the temple to examine it and found persistent leprous disease in the house. It was unclean. The temple should have been a house of prayer for all nations, a point of light and guidance for all people. But it was not. As Jeremiah had said before:

Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. (7:11-14)

Luke recorded Jesus’ temple examination:

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying,”Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (19:41-44)

Because they refused to repent and recognize the day of their visitation, their house was left to them desolate. Just as Solomon’s temple was torn down by Nebuchadnezzar, so Herod’s temple would be torn down by the Romans. Not one stone was left upon another.

Besieged trees

In Deuteronomy 20, there is a somewhat odd prohibition against cutting down trees in time of war.

When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you? Only the trees that you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls.

Certainly something can be said about only cutting down the fruitless trees, like Jesus cursing the fig tree for not bearing fruit in Matthew 21, or the unfruitful branches cut from the vine in John 15.

But I think the war siege is an interesting aspect. In Mathew 3, John the Baptizer was preaching in the wilderness of Judea and his message was, “Repent! for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” John was the herald of a foreign kingdom (not of this world) declaring the invasion against the established Jewish tradition, religious practice, and economy, which were all corrupt. God declared war on apostate Israel. The Pharisees and Sadducees came out and he rebuked them,

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father, ‘ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Jerusalem had become a city under siege and the war devices were being built and arranged in preparation for it’s destruction at the end of that generation. Forty years later, in 70 AD, the city was physically leveled such that Josephus wrote, “there was left nothing to make those who came there believe it had ever been inhabited.” (The Jewish War, vii.i.l)

Murderous slander

Deuteronomy 19 is structured to draw a heavy parallel between murder and false witness.

But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies (11)
If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing (16)

and he flees into one of these cities, then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there (11,12)
then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently (17,18)

and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. (12)
then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. (19)

Your eye shall not pity him (13)
Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (21)

but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may be well with you. (13)
So you shall purge the evil from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. (19, 20)

Bearing false witness against a brother is as murder. It creates a wall of division – an excommunication – between the accuser and the accused. The liar cuts off his brother. It is an attempt to cast the brother into isolation, into the outer darkness. But the judgment of God turns the lying murderer’s words against him. He is the one that is cast out without pity. Jesus recapitulates in Matthew 5:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

It is interesting that in the middle of the passage in Deuteronomy is a statute about moving land boundary markers:

You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.

This is a combination of false witness and murder, but for future generations. It is the cutting off of the inheritance of the neighbor’s children through deceit.

Psalm 5

Psalm 5 is laid out chiastically in a broad pattern and closer in.
Broadly it can be broken up as:

A. prayer to God

B. evildoers will not stand

C. the righteous fear God

B’. evildoers are cast out

A’. praise to God

Even in a brief overview, the psalm shows that we can and must praise God in the midst of our trials. Surrounded by boastful, bloodthirsty, deceitful men, David calls out that he will fear God and not man. As he says also in Psalm 56, “in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Breaking it down further:

A. Give ear to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.

B. Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.

C. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

D. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.

E. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.

F. You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

G. But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.

H. I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.

G’. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

F’. For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.

E’. Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;

D’. because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

C’. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,

B’.and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.

A’. For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.

The heart of the psalm has David entering the house of God and worshiping. This is the response of the one who trusts God. With evil men on every side, we fall down and give thanks and praise to God, because we know the end of those who practice evil. They will bear their guilt; they will fall; they will be cast out. But those who trust, who take refuge in the living God will rejoice, will sing for joy, and will exult in him. He is our covering, our shield, and our mighty fortress.

The psalms are filled with prayers for us to meditate on and learn from. It is the prayer book and song book of the saints. Much heresy and weakness in the church will be driven out as we learn to pray and sing again from the psalms.

For more on psalm singing: Rediscovering the Psalms on Reformation 21 by Joe Holland

False sons

I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. – John 5:43

Pilate offers to release Christ, “The King of the Jews,” but the Jews call out, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Barabbas is Aramaic for “son of a father.” Rival sons stand on the judgment seat and the Jews side with and attach their identity to the false son revealing themselves as the seed of the serpent, as Jesus pointed out in John 8 – “You are of your father the devil.”

Wedding wine

The miracle at the wedding in Cana in John 2 fits into the creation/dominion pattern quite nicely. This is the pattern of the whole scripture (and thus, all of creation) and shows up in little patterns all over the place, like a fractal.

Creation – Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

Division – And he said to them, “Now draw some out

Ascension – and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.

Testing – When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him,

Maturity – “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

Conquest – This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee,

Glorification – and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Heroes

From the introduction of Everett Fox’s translation of Genesis:

A word should also be said here about hero traditions. In the great epics of the ancient world the hero often stands as a lonely figure. He must overcome obstacles, fight monsters, acquire helpers (whether women, “sidekicks,” or magic objects); and his triumph in the end signals man’s triumph over his archenemy, Death. Every battle won, every obstacle hurdled, is psychologically a victory for us, the audience, a cathartic release from our own frustrating battle against death.
The Bible sees things rather differently. Death is also overcome, but not only by the individual’s struggle. It is rather through the covenant community, bound together by God’s laws and his promises, that the heroic vision is lived out. Despite the triumphs of the characters in Genesis, it is really in the book of Exodus that the great battle scenes (the plagues in Egypt, the Red Sea) and meetings with the divine (Mount Sinai) take place. And it is therefore God himself who is most properly the “hero” of these stories. No major character in Genesis achieves success without depending fully on God, and the standards that are held up to them are ultimately seen as God’s own, to be imitated by imperfect humankind.

Humble servant

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” – Luke 17:5-10

Jesus gives the work of a servant as an answer to the apostles’ lack of faith. He does not say “hear and know” he says “hear and obey.” The work that God gives us is good and does accomplish his purpose for it. If we have done the duty God has given us, we don’t look for another reward, say of praise or position, but the work itself is the reward. It is a gift that comes down from the Father of lights to grow our faith.
So the very duty that God gives us is himself and he is forming us into the image of his son. Just as Christ “learned obedience through what he suffered,” so we also are made perfect through our duty as servants and our suffering with him. Our work is not meritorious, but forming. We do not work for some thing to be held in the hand or received as a thing apart from very God. There is no salvation outside Christ, not a gift given other than his own being. When he gives us the gift of faith, he gives himself. When he gives us grace, he gives himself. When he gives us work, he gives himself and we grow into him who is our head. If his very life is our faith and our work, we should rightly say, “we are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”

Leviticus 24 chiasm

Leviticus 24:13-23 forms a chiasm. I’ve modified this a little from the original posting. The “A”s didn’t quite line up as well as I would like.

A. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.

B. And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him.

C. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

D. “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death.

E. Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life.

F. If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him,

F’. fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.

E’. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good,

D’. and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.

C’. You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native,

B’. for I am the Lord your God.”

A’. So Moses spoke to the people of Israel, and they brought out of the camp the one who had cursed and stoned him with stones. Thus the people of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Love leads the way

Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, wrote a letter to the Philippian church exhorting them to lead lives of righteousness. Speaking of the letter previously written to them by Paul he says,

if you study them carefully, you will be able to build yourselves up in the faith that has been given to you, which is the mother of us all, while hope follows and love for God and Christ and for our neighbor leads the way. For if anyone is occupied with these, he has fulfilled the commandment of righteousness, for one who has love is far from all sin.