Tag Archive | II Chronicles

Resurrection of the Leprous Prodigal

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy  (Wikimedia Commons)

Those who have leprosy might as well be dead.  Never mind that the disease we call leprosy today may or may not be one of the skin diseases meant by the Hebrew word tzara’at (צָרַעַת).  The fact is, whoever had it was cut off from the community:

Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, “Unclean!  Unclean!”  He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.  (Leviticus 13:45-46 NKJV)

Think about that for a moment.  Lepers could not go home.  They could not have any kind of normal relationship with their family members, friends, business associates, or anyone else with whom they interacted before the cursed condition fell upon them.  It did not matter what station of life the leper occupied; whether peasant or king, the disease cut them off from the life of the nation.  Even mighty King Uzziah of Judah learned that.  Although he reigned for 52 years in Jerusalem, the leprosy he contracted in the midst of his reign meant that he was king in name only:

King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death.  He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord.  Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.  (II Chronicles 26:21 NKJV)

How can a person shepherd the people of God when he is cut off from the House of God?  Is there any hope for him, or for the people he is anointed to lead?

Yes, there is hope.  That is why the Torah portion Metzora (The Leper; Leviticus 14:1-15:33) provides elaborate detail on the procedures for cleansing lepers.  Once healed, the priests help them through this process to restore them to their place in society.  In a certain sense, this is a resurrection from a type of death, and thus it is a symbol of what Messiah will do. 

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Pictures for Pondering II

Connecting the dots in Scripture can be lots of fun – and challenging. The fun part is the “Aha!” moment when something finally makes sense. The challenging part is when that “Aha!” moment presents a different picture from what we have learned all our lives. Do we take that new revelation and run with it, knowing it can make waves, or do we set it aside and hope that it never comes up again?

This second offering of Pictures for Pondering may be a challenge. As with the first edition, posted last spring, these are images from Bible passages prepared originally for posting on YouVersion (the Bible App). The first edition presented some interesting perspectives on the Kingdom of Heaven, Law and Grace, and prophecy, but also some whimsical illustrations. This time there is an attempt at a unifying theme. Part of the challenge is identifying that theme. The other part is investigating it from Scripture to see if it is so.

Good hunting!

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Fox Byte 5775 #47: Re’eh (See)

רְאֵה

Farmer Maggot and his dogs. (Source: Deviant Art, ©2010-2015 ringbearer80)

Farmer Maggot and his dogs. (Source: Deviant Art, ©2010-2015 ringbearer80)

It is understandable why Peter Jackson had to take considerable license with The Lord of the Rings when he brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s mammoth work to the screen, and yet his choices inevitably brought disappointment to Tolkien aficionados.  Why, for example, did Jackson choose to minimize the presence of Farmer Maggot?  Tolkienists take issue with the fact that his role in The Fellowship of the Ring was diminished to the point of insignificance.  In the book, Farmer Maggot saved Frodo and his companions as they fled the Shire, giving them provision and helping them elude Sauron’s dreaded Black Riders.  It was unexpected help, for Frodo had considered Farmer Maggot an enemy.  As a child Frodo had taken a liking to Maggot’s mushrooms, and on more than one occasion absconded with portions of the good farmer’s crop.  Such youthful mischief roused Maggot’s anger, compelling him to chase Frodo from his land and threaten him with his very large dogs should he ever return.  And so it was that Frodo grew up fearing Farmer Maggot, never knowing that beneath his fierce anger lay a loyal, generous, and hospitable heart.  Thanks to the mediation of his companion Pippin, and to the dire need of the moment, Frodo at last gained opportunity to get to know the real Farmer Maggot.  He explained as much as they prepared to leave Maggot’s home:

Thank you very much indeed for your kindness!  I’ve been in terror of you and your dogs for over thirty years, Farmer Maggot, though you may laugh to hear it.  It’s a pity:  for I’ve missed a good friend.

Frodo’s words present us with an all-too-familiar and all-too-tragic reality.  How often have individuals, families, and nations remained at odds over ancient offenses, the causes of which are long forgotten?  How much suffering has multiplied on the earth because natural allies regard each other as enemies, or at least minimize their contact with each other out of mistrust and misbegotten fear?  And how much greater is that tragedy if the people who regard each other in this way are the two parts of YHVH’s people?  In truth, Moses and Yeshua have no contradictions or arguments, but their followers think they do, and for that reason Jews and Christians have separated themselves from one another for twenty centuries.

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Fox Byte 5775 #27-28: Tazria (Leprosy) / Metzora (Cleansing the Leper)

תַזְרִיעַ / מְּצֹרָע

Sturgeon in Aspic, a traditional Russian method of preparing this Caspian Sea fish.  A sturgeon like this one prompted the reaction that so embarrassed Sergei Kapitonich Ahineev that he resorted to slander in a vain attempt to preserve his reputation.  (Photo:  Cuisine by Andrei)

Sturgeon in Aspic, a traditional Russian method of preparing this Caspian Sea fish. A sturgeon like this one prompted the reaction that so embarrassed Sergei Kapitonich Ahineev that he resorted to slander in a vain attempt to preserve his reputation. (Photo: Cuisine by Andrei)

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov wrote a story about how a dead fish ruined a man’s life.  To be honest, it was not the fish itself, but what happened when this particular man encountered it.  Chekhov opens “A Slander” by explaining that Sergei Kapitonich Ahineev, a writing instructor, is enjoying the celebration of his daughter’s wedding at a great feast.  As time for supper approaches Ahineev goes into the kitchen to see if everything is ready.  He asks Marfa, the cook, to show him the centerpiece of the banquet, a fine sturgeon, and at its unveiling is overcome with delight at the aroma and presentation of the great fish.  The sight of it moves Ahineev to smack his lips, a sound much like a kiss.  Just at that moment, one of his colleagues, Vankin, looks in and makes a joke about Marfa and Ahineev kissing.  Apparently thinking nothing further about it, Vankin moves off to rejoin the party.  Ahineev, however, is mortified that Vankin would think he was kissing the cook, and anticipates that he will be spreading that story to the guests.  Determined to prevent such a slander, Ahineev makes the rounds of the party, telling everyone he can that there was nothing to the story Vankin would be spreading about him kissing Marfa in the kitchen.  In the process, he describes both Vankin and Marfa in the most unflattering terms, calling him a silly fool, and her a perfect fright whom no one would care to kiss.

Having completed his self-appointed task of circumventing Vankin’s anticipated slander, Ahineev settles down to enjoy the rest of the celebration.  All is well until a few days later, when his headmaster calls him into the office and reprimands him about his indiscretion not only in having an affair with his cook, but also in being so public about it.  Truly scandalized, Ahineev goes home at the end of the day, only to face the anger of his wife at his supposed unfaithfulness.  Angered himself, Ahineev leaves immediately to confront Vankin, the man he supposes has spread this false tale.  Yet that confrontation does not turn out as he expects, for Vankin’s sincere denial convinces Ahineev that he is innocent of the gossip.  Puzzled, Ahineev reviews the list of his acquaintances, frantically asking himself who might have ruined his reputation.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904)

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

To the reader there is no mystery about the guilty party:  it is Ahineev himself.  By spreading rumors about his colleague and his servant, he has made himself an outcast.  In other words, Ahineev has become a social leper.  And in presenting the hapless writing instructor to us in this way, Chekhov helps us understand the deeper meaning of the Torah’s instructions about leprosy.

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The Shemitah and The Yovel:  Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part VIII

Walking Through The Open Gate

The Vision of the Dry Bones is the most graphic illustration of God's promised restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.  The establishment of the State of Israel opened the way for Judah (the Jewish portion of Israel) to return to the land, but to the way for Ephraim (Northern Israel) is only now beginning to open.  (Ezekiel's Vision, The Coloured Picture Bible for Children, available on Mannkind Perspectives.)

The Vision of the Dry Bones is the most graphic illustration of God’s promised restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. The establishment of the State of Israel opened the way for Judah (the Jewish portion of Israel) to return to the land, but to the way for Ephraim (Northern Israel) has remained closed until now. (Ezekiel’s Vision, The Coloured Picture Bible for Children, available on Mannkind Perspectives.)

An Enduring Standard

We see from Scripture that the Creator’s processes are lengthy, thorough, and often completely different from what humans desire or expect.  This should not be a surprise.  YHVH says quite plainly that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  Nevertheless, He does tell us what we need to know, and He reveals things at the appointed times to those who bother to seek Him.  What we often learn is that the answer has been there all along, but we have never understood it correctly until the right time and until we approach with the right heart.  When it comes to the purpose of the Lord’s processes regarding His people Israel, the answer has been staring at us for about 3,000 years.  He spoke it through Moses to prepare the people for their first great meeting with Him at Sinai:

In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.  When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.  Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel:  You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.  Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”  (Exodus 19:1-6 NASB, emphasis added)

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The Shemitah and The Yovel:  Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part VII

Managing Expectations:  Case Studies in God’s Processes

The Scriptures tell us that God designated two men to be Nazirites from the womb:  Samson and John the Baptist.  The engraving Samson and Delilah, by Gustave Doré, features Samson's uncut hair, the sign of a Nazirite.  Their hair indicated their special status as set apart to God, and in the case of the Bible's two most famous Nazirites, that the Holy Spirit rested on them for similar purposes of judging the nation of Israel and proclaiming the Lord's salvation.  In John, the Spirit's presence manifested in uncompromising preaching; in Samson the Spirit imparted supernatural strength.

The Scriptures tell us that three men were designated to be Nazirites from the womb: Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. The engraving Samson and Delilah, by Gustave Doré, features Samson’s uncut hair, the sign of a Nazirite. Their hair indicated their special status as set apart to God.  In the case of the Bible’s famous Nazirites, the Holy Spirit rested on them for purposes of judging the nation of Israel and proclaiming the Lord’s salvation. In John, the Spirit’s presence manifested in uncompromising preaching; in Samuel it was unquestioned authority to anoint the kings of Israel; and in Samson the Spirit imparted supernatural strength.

Ancient Hair Care

One of the most colorful characters in the Bible is Samson, the Judge of Israel from the tribe of Dan.  His story is in Judges 13-16.  It begins like this:

Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children.  And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son.  Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean.  For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son.  And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”  (Judges 13:2-5 NKJV, emphasis added)

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The Shemitah and The Yovel:  Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part VI

No Idle God

Since Messiah is the Bridegroom for Israel, His Bride, it is fitting that Yeshua's first recorded miracle occurred at a wedding.  (James Tissot, The Wedding at Cana.)

Since Messiah is the Bridegroom for Israel, His Bride, it is fitting that Yeshua’s first recorded miracle occurred at a wedding. (James Tissot, The Wedding at Cana.)

Fast, Cheap, or Good?

Let us step back a bit and consider why the Creator of the Universe would allow this people He has chosen to languish in exile for a seemingly indeterminate period of time.  Better yet, let us consider why the Creator created the people on this earth in the first place.  Judging from the numerous references in Scripture about God taking a bride it would seem that He is seeking a co-regent to help Him run the universe.  At the very least, the Bride of our King has a destiny to have dominion over the earth.  That, after all, was the first instruction YHVH gave to our ancestors in His Garden.  Beyond that, there is very little to tell us what He really wants.  We know quite a bit about this seven thousand year experiment called human history, both how it has unfolded in the six millennia that have preceded us, and how it is to take shape in the last millennium under Messiah’s direct rule.  But then comes eternity, with a new heavens and a new earth.  What would God want us to do in eternity?  Sit around and play harps, stuffing our mouths with whatever tastes good and with no fear of consequences?  Probably not.

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The Shemitah and The Yovel:  Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part V

Is The Time Now?

It Is Finished, by James Tissot, follows  the standard Christian depiction of Messiah's work on the cross.  He did indeed complete the work of redemption, which is cause for great rejoicing among the prophets of Israel who foretold it.  However, the world continues to wait for the promised fulfillment of His work of restorating all things.

It Is Finished, by James Tissot, follows the standard Christian depiction of Messiah’s work on the cross. Yeshua did complete the work of redemption, which is the cause for great rejoicing among the prophets of Israel who foretold it. However, the world continues to wait for the fulfillment of His work of restoring all things.

Expectations of Messiah

Let’s think for a moment why the disciples would ask Yeshua if the time had come for Him to restore the kingdom to Israel.  This question does not even enter the consciousness of the average Christian.  That is because Christian theology over the last 1,700 years has taught that Jesus Christ completed the work of the promised Messiah by dying for the sins of the world and returning to life on the third day after His crucifixion.  This is a standard feature of Christian belief across the entire spectrum of traditions, from Catholic to Orthodox to any of the thousands of Protestant permutations, whether conservative or liberal.  At the heart of this interpretation are the words of Yeshua just moments before He died:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”  Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth.  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”  And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.  (John 19:28-30 NKJV, emphasis added)

A person who had no knowledge of the rest of Scripture might assume from these words that Yeshua meant He had accomplished everything He had been sent to earth to do, and thus would conclude that everything Yeshua did as recorded in the Gospels was all that Messiah was supposed to do.  Yet that is clearly not the testimony of the Prophets, nor does it match the expectations of the Apostles.  Messiah Yeshua did indeed accomplish the crucial tasks of salvation and redemption, but He did not complete the work of restoration.  Even though Christian traditions teach that Messiah will return at the end of the present age to rule the world, for the most part the teaching is scanty on details.  The emphasis usually is on the events leading up to Messiah’s return, but skips over the extensive prophecies regarding how Messiah will rule from Jerusalem, and about life under His rule.  Moreover, the typical Christian perception is that those prophecies have little relevance to the church, being only for Israel (meaning the Jews), or having already been fulfilled somehow.

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The Shemitah and The Yovel:  Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part IV

A Habitual Rebellion

Restoring What We Never Knew We Lost

The return of Ephraim and reunification of all Israel has taken a key place in Jewish thought since ancient times.  In fact, a key identifying feature of Messiah would be that He would end the exile of all the tribes, reunite Judah and Ephraim, and initiate a period of peace and prosperity sitting on the throne of David.  Consider, for example, Hosea 11, which begins with a well-known reference from Matthew 2:13-15 cited as one of the proofs of Yeshua’s Messiahship.  Yet the remainder of the chapter very rarely gets any notice in Christian circles.  Here is the full chapter:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My sonAs they called them, so they went from them; they sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to carved images.  I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them.  I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.  I stooped and fed them.  He shall not return to the land of Egypt; but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to repent.  And the sword shall slash in his cities, devour his districts, and consume them, because of their own counsels.  My people are bent on backsliding from Me.  Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him.  How can I give you up, Ephraim?  How can I hand you over, Israel?  How can I make you like Admah?  How can I set you like Zeboiim?  My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred.  I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim.  For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror.  They shall walk after the Lord.  He will roar like a lion.  When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west; they shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt, like a dove from the land of Assyria.  And I will let them dwell in their houses,” says the Lord.  “Ephraim has encircled Me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah still walks with God, even with the Holy One who is faithful.  (Hosea 11:1-12 NKJV, emphasis added)

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The Shemitah and The Yovel:  Examining The Relevance of God’s Appointed Times, Part III

Diaspora Does Not Mean Destruction

The Assyrian conquest of Israel (Ephraim) began under Tiglath-Pileser III and ended with the destruction of Samaria under Sargon V.  Engravings by Henri Faucher-Gudin from a sketch of Tiglath-Pileser III by Eugène Flandin and of Sargon V by Austen Henry Layard, in G. Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Vol. VII, Part B.

The Assyrian conquest of Israel (Ephraim) began under Tiglath-Pileser III and ended with the destruction of Samaria under Sargon V. (Engravings by Henri Faucher-Gudin from a sketch of Tiglath-Pileser III by Eugène Flandin and of Sargon V by Austen Henry Layard, in G. Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Vol. VII, Part B.)

Ephraim:  Still Enduring the Exile

By the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s first conquest of Jerusalem in 605 BC, the Ephraimite (Northern) Kingdom of Israel had been in exile for over a century.  As with Judah, the exile of Israel by the Assyrian Empire proceeded in stages, beginning with the invasions of Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul) in 734 BC, and concluding with the siege and conquest of Israel’s capital, Samaria, by Shalmaneser V and Sargon II from 724 to 722 BC.  The account of II Kings 17 contains the summary of the conquest, as well as an explanation of why the exile took place:

Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years.  In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.  For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.  Also the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city.  They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree.  There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, for they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.”  Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.”  Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God.  And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them.  So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.  And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.  Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone.  Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made.  And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight.  For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king.  Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them commit a great sin.  For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets.  So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.  (II Kings 17:5-23 NKJV)

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