“This successful life we’re livin’ got us feuding like the Hatfield
and McCoy’s” — Waylon Jennings
Every war had a beginning. KU-MU: the boarder war, started with Quantrill’s raiders attacking (killing 200 citizens) and burning the town of Lawrence. Once the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri began lacing up the hightops, the war has taken
shape on the basketball court. As a Jayhawk fan, I want to be honest
with you readers: we hate losing, but if the choice was between KSU
and MU, I would much rather lose to KSU than Mizzou! The Hatfield and
Mccoy Rivalry of the mid to late 19th century began over the killing
of a Union soldier after he had returned from the war. In the prologue
of Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliette, we learn that this is an “ancient
grudge” between the Capulets and the Montagues. One can only assume
what started that war. Was it wealth? power? fame? a spilt wine glass
on one of the cone things they wore around their necks?
The point is this: Every war has a triggering factor.
What if you were the triggering factor? What if you were the Helen of
Troy? The reason for the fighting. Homer’s Illiad (with huge nods to
other ancient historians) recounts the battle of Troy as Paris, the
Trojan Prince, has taken (as Sappho and Homer claim, others would
argue she was taken by force) Helen, the beautiful wife of King
Menalaus. This war was massive. Men from all over the world would
fight in this war. How would you feel if you were the cause? If you
This is the very dilemma that John Mark (know as Mark from now on)
faced in Acts. Though his decision would not cost any lives, he did
cause a schism in the team of Paul and Barnabs (or should I say
Barnabas and Paul?).
Mark was from Jerusalem. He had seen Christian Church from its
infancy. His mother’s house was a place of prayer and worship (Acts
12.12). Once his cousin Barnabas (Colossians 4.10) had taken a bigger
role in the ministry of Jesus, Mark knew he wanted in. Barnabas was
the one who had brought Saul into the mix with the apostles (Acts
9.27) here in Jerusalem. Now years later Barnabas and Saul ask this
man, Mark, if he wants to be part of the first missionary journey!
That’s like being asked to go to the moon, or if you wanted a
Pulitzer? Its not something you scoff at or hesitate on. You jump at
the first opportunity, just as Mark did.
The honeymoon period for missionaries doesn’t last too long. Soon the
newness wore off and Mark had a problem. What that problem was we can
only speculate. Perhaps it was the reallocation of power between Paul
and Barnabas (notice the names are now reversed, with Paul taking a
leading role for the rest of the book) possibly didn’t sit too well
with the cousin. Maybe it was fear. They were headed to a place
(Pisidia Antioch) known for its bandits. It could have been sickness
or a family crisis. For whatever reason, Mark leaves (Acts 13.13) to
return to Jerusalem.
This action doesn’t sit too well with Paul. When the idea came up
about returning to all the places they visited on the first missionary
journey, Paul and Barnabas began assembling a team (Acts 15.36). The
subject of Mark came up. Barnabas wanted him, Paul didn’t (Acts
15.37). He had deserted them in Pamphylia (Acts 15.38). The greatest
team of missionaries to the date was now split up by the disagreement
over Mark. Barnabas took Mark to his home of Cyprus and Paul took
Silas (Acts 15.39-40).
That had to be rough on Mark. To be the one who is fought over. The
one causing the dispute. Chronologically this is the last we will hear
of Barnabas. He isn’t mentioned again. How would you feel if you were
Mark? The dispute had to have some kind of lasting effects. Paul was
probably just as disappointed in him as he was that Barnabas wanted to
take him. These are the kinds of wounds that linger for some a
Though Barnabas fades away, Mark resurfaces. Nearing the end of his
life; perhaps just days or hours before his execution, Paul asks for
Mark to come to Rome with Timothy, because he is helpful to his
ministry (2 Timothy 4.11). Paul mentions him from an earlier
imprisonment in Colossians 4.10, and we have to wonder if the
instructions were about his rehabilitation for Paul? It matters not,
at the end of Paul’s life, he wants Mark to come to him! Paul just
spent time telling Timothy about those that have deserted him: Demas,
Crescens, and Titus. We aren’t sure of all the circumstances here or
whether they left on good terms, but needless to say, Paul is alone
(aside from Luke). Bring Mark!
So many times our arguments are final. All to often our differences
are relationship ending. We harbor resentment and anger; hatred and
aggression. Paul, during a hectic first missionary journey, was
deserted by a guy he thought he could trust! Like the rope that is
holding a mountain climber, often the resentment and anger are the
only thing that still attaches us to relationships. I don’t know what
Mark did to get reinstated or whether it was Paul’s grace and mercy
towards an old friend, whatever it was it is an example.
longer can resentment rule the attitudes of our heart. We may not
agree on everything, but no matter how great the wound, forgiveness
and understanding can fill it. Ministry philosophies and ministry
dedication differs; family troubles are handled differently by all;
and some people are just hard to get along with. They will abandon,
infuriate, and tear down. They will act apathetic, lethargic, and
illogical. Paul felt all these from Mark, but in the same way that
Jesus felt and bore all these as well, Paul found ability to forgive.
Bring Mark, for he is helpful to my ministry (2 Tim. 4.11)! The
original title for Mark was: “helper” (Acts 13.5). Good to know he
ended the same way he started.
“grab life by the horns and hope it don’t grab you back!”
Scars make anonymity impossible.
Years had passed since his mast had disappeared over the horizon following Agamemenon to Troy in battle. King Odysseus left a beautiful young wife, Penelope, and an infant son, Telemanchos. For 10 years, he fought the Trojans at Troy. Then he spent the next 10 surviving the wrath of Poesidon on the seaways back home. His travel
tribulations, his apologoi (adventures) rival those that Paul tells of in 2 Corinthians 11. Twenty years of travel will change a man.
Chris Ledoux, another classicist, paraphrased Homer best: “It ain’t
age that makes me look this way/it ain’t the years boy, it’s the
Odysseus finally makes it home and finds the place in shambles. His house is overrun with men suiting his wife, eating him out of house and home, and an absent son. Taking the form of a beggar so as not to become a target, Odysseus infiltrates the palace where all this is taking place. He gains a counsel with Queen Penelope and after giving her word of Odysseus (without relinquishing his identity) she treats him like royalty asking Eurcyleia to bath him and prepare a room for him. As she washed his feet, her hand ran across a scar just above the knee. She knew it was him. It was from a boyhood boar hunt; an event many years past, but with great present value. It was the scar that announced a king’s return. He was home and the nostos was complete. Identity announced by a scar.
Scars tell the story of the men who carry them. Scars juxtapose the
current and the past. In The Old Man and the Sea, the great fisherman of many years is in the midst of a 84 day slump. Hemmingway’s
description of him contrasts his present predicament with his history: “…his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert.” A great fisherman who had fallen on
hard times as described by his scars. Scars tell a story.
“I got this one in Paris, in a war ‘fore you were born/ and this one when I was half your age, workin’ on my Daddy’s farm./ You know the way I see it, you’ve been round but you’re still green/ ‘cause tattoo’s and scars are different things.” – Montgomery Gentry
“Tattoo’s and Scars”
The presence of scars is on thing, but not all scars are made equal.
My scars tell different stories. The one on my foot will tell of
stupidity. There is not on ounce of redemption to be found in the
scar that will be on my foot. There was nothing at stake and nothing
on the line. The scar on my chest, however, came from the day that my grandfather had died. I was working above my head, taking down 2×4 braces on a garage door. It had popped loose just as we got word that grandpa was Code Blue and the exposed nail tore into my chest. That scar runs diagonally across my pectoral muscle. When I look down and see it, I see how quickly life can blindside us.
The 8” “C” shaped scar that adorns my right shin is from a bull spur.
While working a hang up at Burlington, Kansas when the bull came around to the right, sending the rider, with legs and spurs flying, in my direction and when the muddy water cleared, the crimson was running down my leg.
Everybody’s got scars and everyone has stories; but not all scars had purpose. When all three come together, scar, story, purpose, the results are life-saving. Take a fire-fighter with third-degree burn scars, the story of the collapsing building, and the lives that are still living. Think of the soldier, with the bullet wound, the ambush that was set, and his brother being pulled to safety. Think of John 20 and Revelation 5.
John 20 is a conversation between Thomas and the disciples. The
disciples had seen the resurrected Jesus, but Thomas was strangely
absent (20.24). When he does show up, the disciples let him know that
they had seen Jesus (20.25). Thomas wasn’t having it though. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand to his side, I will not believe.”(20.25b) Translation: “Let me see the scars”.
In Revelation 5, John is observing worship around the heavenly throne. When a scroll is brought forth, an Angel asks: “Who is able to open this thing?” Nobody in heaven was able to open the scroll and this was a problem. If this scroll doesn’t open, everything that has been, is, or will be, will not. So John begins to weep at the proceedings. But Jesus is found to be capable. John describes the one who approaches the throne this way: “…I saw a Lamb, looking as if it has been slain…” (Rev. 5.6)
Here the dilemma lies: the resurrection is supposed to make things right. Heaven is supposed to make things better. But Jesus bears the marks of the crucifixion; the Lamb bears the marks of sacrifice. In heaven, I wont get to look like Tom Brady or George Clooney. And I wont be given a Jimmy-Buffett-relax mentality. Reading through
Revelation, it appears that the pain of suffering will still be remembered, the scars of life will still be present, and the torment
of Earth still a reality. Though they wont be felt or experienced,
they are no less real. Why is this?
Heaven is where the perfection of the Garden of Eden was meant to be realized. Notice it was the perfection of the Garden, not the
“idleness” of the Garden. There is the prevailing mindset that we
will spend eternity floating on clouds, playing harps, and doing very little. This idea of Heaven would necessitate very little
preparation. However, should we get to Heaven where work is involved, worship is enacted, and both community and culture were cultivated; that will take us some training here. Scars are the resume of that training. Scars are the results of our learning what it means to worship, to sacrifice, to live for others. Jesus has his scars
because it was his identity, his story, and his purpose. That is why
he carries them throughout eternity.
TIME magazine sounded the alarm a little late this year. With the latest iPhone release and the new Moto coming out, the smart phone has now turned 10 years old. Still to young to measure the ultimate effects that it will have on society, but old enough to begin watching the trends play out. TIME magazize about once a year runs a apocalyptic/praise piece on the smart phone and youth culture.
Schools don’t know what to do. Part of the reason I didn’t return to full time at school was because of the policy on phones. Give a kid a $300 laptop and they still have to wander around with a phone? Teachers don’t want to be on phone duty, but if they did without administration backing, the kids were on their phone suring lessons, in the hallway, and at lunch: non-stop.
There have been numerous articles and pieces written now about inattentive walking. I about hit a kid in the parking lot at Taco Bell because he had his earphones in (as he had all throughout his dinner with his family) and was texting as he stepped out into the parking lot. PSA: if you hit the age of 16 and have to have an ear bud in at all times, some where in 16 years you failed to learn a very important lesson about respect.
These two stories are my most recent interactions with smartphones. I am not the biggest fan of them. I have watched (grown people: 28, 29, 30 years old) people get a smart phone and suddenly fall into the internet abyss. I myself have been convicted by my own use age. TIME definitely sounds the alarm with this piece.
The article begins as many others do: a seemingly happy student attempts suicide. The shocked parents realize the amount of depression after the attempt and stumble onto the social media accounts. Bullying, peer-pressure, and drama are the underlying causes, but smartphone usage is the symptom that was a) missed and b) blamed.
This students depression did not come because of the piece of aluminum, plastic, and glass that she held in her hands. It was all the things the phone stood for.
Smart phones are this generations and this worlds answer to our deepest desires. 1) Connectivity. We want to be connected. We want to be able to reach people immediately. When Facebook began, you could send a message to a friend and they might not check it that day. Now they have Messenger which alerts you to a message immmediately. This is an app that you have to use now on your smart phone, which by the way has a feature on it nearly as old as the cell phone itself called text messaging”
2) Opprotunity. FOMO is an acronym that stands for “fear of missing out”. Without a phone 24/7 and the ability to talk to everyone all the time, there is a chance that something will be missed. It could be as trivial as a trip to Sonic or Publishers Clearing House holding a million dollar check at your door. The predominant way thinking today is that there is always something better out there than what I’m doing now…I don’t wanna miss the opprotunity to upgrade.
3) Image. If I were to stop eating decently healthy, and quit trying to be active, my health and appearance would suffer. If I decided to stop checking the fluids in my truck and quit doing maintenance on it, the truck would eventually have some issues. In the same manner, should an image be constantly maintained, it will have a health issue. Social media is the place where an image is cultivated and displayed. It must be regularly kept up and it must be constantly added too. When the phone is off, when the tablets are down, when away from the internet, an identity is being starved.
So how is the situation curt tailed? How is the screen epidemic to be remedied?
- In education. I understand that technology is the career of the future and it is a tool in the classroom; however, educators should spend half of their classes without technology. I’m not saying that it needs to be only teaching time w/o technology. It could be a brain break or Kagan activity. It could be an ice breaker game or communal learning. A lecture or even homework time with, God forbid, paper and pencil. Education’s purpose is to cultivate viable citizens. The educational buzz word now is “soft skills” that employers are looking for. Non-screen time aids in both.
- At Home. Disallow screen time at the table. I get more frustrated watch kids at a table with other people while on the phone. The same can be said about adults. Make it a point to put the phone away and spend 45 minutes talking with the people in the same room. It may be awkward do a time but it will be ok. Make it a point to have a black out time. 9:00 pm the phones go away on week nights. There are emergencies that take an adult call but I trust an adult to be able to screen calls. Trust me, there is no such emergency that would warrant a teen answering a call at midnight who is at their own residence.
- In public. Less phone and more interaction. I get bothered watching a kid in a shopping cart watching a video on their parents phone. A 6 year old kid can learn to walk along side their parent I the store. Heck, if I’m there tell them I will buy them a candy bar and I will do it.
Our screen epidemic was created by us…it’s time for us to start working to solve it.
“A tragedy is when the hero comes face to face with his true identity.” — Aristotle as explained by Mike Rowe
Jesus is the antithesis of Aristotle’s hero. He didn’t have a fatal flaw that would lead to his downfall (in most Greek tragedies it is hubris). He walked this earth humbly, acting as a servant to all. He was without pride. He lived a flawless life.
Neither did he have a fall from greatness. He didn’t go from living in a palace with riches to a poor homeless state. But in a way he did, however, it was a choice to “empty” himself by coming to Earth (Philippians 2.7). He left the heavenly realm, seated at the right hand of the Father, and put on human flesh as a baby. Satan fell from heaven; Jesus stepped down. So he misses that category as well.
But the third characteristic, “face to face with his true identity”, describes perfectly the final situation where the Three Musketeers are together. The story takes place textually in Mark 14 and geographically in the Garden of Gethsemene. The disciples are with Jesus as they enter the garden. Then he gives the twelve an order to remain there while he goes to pray. (32). He takes Peter, James, and John deeper into the garden with him. (33). They could tell that Jesus was under stress. As a side note, Mark was a traveling companion of Peter in the book of Acts. Most would argue that Mark’s book is really a collection of Peter’s sermons. That would make some sense as to how Mark knew some of these things. As it is pertinent here, Peter recounts the duress that Jesus is under on their little hike.
Going on a little farther, he turns to the Three and says: “stay here and keep watch?” Jesus knew that soon a mob would be coming to arrest him. The word translated “keep watch” is the same way a guy watches over his household. So it has physicality to it, however, later on Jesus would explain the reason he wanted them awake: to pray for strength against temptation. (38) Three times Jesus goes away to pray and all three times he returns to find them sleeping.
“Simon…”, he walks them up by saying Peters name. Two times in Mark is a proper noun spoken by Jesus and both of them are used of Peter. The first is just after Peter confesses Christ. Jesus says he must suffer and die. Peter rebukes him and Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan…”. The second is here. This too is not a good situation. Peter is being called out.
Jesus knew that this wasn’t the end for these three. They would combine to write 8 books of the New Testament, preach on two continents, and die as either martyrs or in exile. This was prep time for the future. Jesus knew the more you bleed in training the less you bleed in battle.
Secondly, Jesus knew what lay beforehand him. He prayed the cup would be passed from him. For the rest of the book, his death was always down the road aways. Now it was imminent. It lay directly a head of him.
This study shows that the three saw the Power of God in Jesus in Mark 5. It also showed the Presence of God in Jeusu in Mark 9. This final grouping of the three shows the perseverance of Jesus in the plan of God. The three get an in depth look at the petitioning Jesus for God to find another way, but also the willingness of Jesus to trust and follow.
Jesus had always known that he was sent to save the world. On this night that reality was driven home harder because of the nearness of the event. The Three Musketeers, much like D’Artagnan in the Dumas’ novel, saw and got more than they bargained for that night.
She was whisked away as fast as she entered in chapter 12. She was a blip on Solomon’s radar; but King Lemuel, he took some time to dwell on her. The structure of the end of Proverbs is unique in its formation. Two things make it stand out from the rest of the book.
First, it is a unit. For much of Proverbs, aside from pieces here and there, the author makes statements that stand on their own. The prologue to the book (1.1-9) and Wisdom’s Poem (8-9) being the obvious exemptions. For much of the book it is stuff like you find in chapter 10. Its a couple verses about obtaining wealth (10.2-5ish); the way to walk (6-9); thoughts on the tongue (10-14); then back to the wealth (15-16); verse 17 is an outlier; then back to the tongue (18-21); the wicked and the righteous (22-30); and finishes with the tongue again (31-32). If you have ever tried to outline the book of James or even the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, you would know the frustration of trying to put an outline to the book of Proverbs. The themes bounce around, into and off of each other like particles at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. But not in this chapter and not for King Lemuel.
Lemuel wants to dwell on this topic of the Woman of Noble Character. It is shown in the number of verses she has devoted to her. Twenty-one verses are devoted to describing her character, her worth, her activity. I guess it depends on how you divide it up and how you categorize and group them, but there aren’t many topics that warrant the amount of ink as the wife of noble character. Wisdom, Righteousness, Discipline, Money are on the short list that get more press than her.
Its not only the number of verses he devotes to her, it’s the way he arranges them. The end of Proverbs 31 is an acrostic poem. Each subsequent verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. He begins in verse 10 with the letter aleph: “‘isha-chayil“. The translation is “a wife/woman of noble character”. The use of ‘isha in scripture is a bit ambiguous. Going back to a previous post of first text principle in Genesis 2.23-25. The word is used 4 times in four verses; once in 22, 23, 24, and 25. The first two times the NIV translates it as woman, and the last two wife. To say that this only applies to a married woman, rendering ‘isha as wife, would, I think be hermeneutically arrogant. I would feel safer applying this to all women.
The second word of that first verse chayil is an interesting word. It is most commonly translated as “army” or “wealth”. If you remember from the last post, the word for “helper” [‘ezer] has military implications. Those are the literal translations. The meaning, the thought, behind the word is “strength”. Kings are only as strong as their armies and their wealth. Joel and Habakkuk knew the meaning of this word. Habakkuk writes: “The Lord is my strength [chayil]…” (Hab. 3.19) and Joel adds: “The Lord thunders at the head of his armies [chayil]” (Joel 2.11).
Moving on the second verse (11) beings with batach…the hebrew letter bet, translated as “trust”. The following verse begins with a gimel. The hebrew word is “gemalathu” meaning “she will give”. Hebrew (and greek for that matter) is not as confined to sentence structure as the English language is. English sentences are usually constructed as “subject-verb”. The components are generally determined by their location in the sentence. Hebrew, on the other hand uses suffixes to words to denote their function in the sentence. That being said, the order of the sentence is not nearly as important in the Hebrew. King Lemuel utilizes this freedom. He begins verse 10 with noun-adjective; verse 11 with verse-preposition-verb; verse 12 with a verb…and so on.
He continues throughout the Hebrew alphabet, all the way through too “tav”. Twenty two letters (or 21 if you combine the letters sin and shin, which are used interchangeably as the Psalmist in 119 does as does King Lemuel) leading the verses about the woman/wife of noble character. Psalm 119 is the perfect example of this. Most NIV Bible’s even begin the sections with the Hebrew letter that will lead the sentence in the subsequent sections.
When’s the last time you composed a poem? Haiku’s not included. Have you ever tried to sit down and write one? Forget a poem. Just try a word. On the left side of a piece of paper, write the alphabet vertically with one line per letter. See if you can come up with something that starts with that letter using a theme. Pick one: animal, college, chemical element, or food. See how long it takes.
I wrote one about Taco Bell (An Ode to Taco Bell). It took me a while during last summer. To get the right words, in the correct order, to convey the meaning, to clarify thought, was a stressful and intellectually challenging endeavor…and it was about Taco Bell, something so insignificant. Can you imagine, King Lemuel agonizing over the proper words to get his point across? Can you picture, King Lemuel, being poured into by the Holy Spirit, and the words flowing from his pen as he describes the heroine of the story?
The woman of noble character was worth all of the effort. All of the time spent describing her was worth spending.
Just like a Knight who has earned the scars from battle and now gets to bask in the affection of the Damsel, he would say: “it was worth the effort.”
Just like Jacob, who worked 7 years for Rachel’s hand in marriage but they only seemed like a few days because of his love for her. (Gen. 29.20) Ask him if it was worth it?
King Lemuel would answer the affirmative. Most certainly yes! She is worth it. That is why he composes this poem to her honor.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household…” (Philippians 2.19)
It sucks being the outsider. When I was in 3rd grade, a buddy of mine invited me to this thing called Church Camp.
We drove down to the K-mart in North Topeka and purchased a $3 KJV Bible. We didn’t own any Bibles and we figured one was just as good as any other.
The first thing we did every morning was raise the flags, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, recite the Christian Pledge, and the Bible Pledge. I was good on the first one. The other two were completely foreign.
During the day, we had devotions and teachings; but, the other kids Bibles had different words than mine. Not totally different, but different enough.
That night it rained. We were shuttled into the Chapel where we watched a pickle singing about a hairbrush. No Lie!
I remember thinking that night: “If this is what Christianity is all about, count me out!”
I was the outsider. In language, culture, thinking, and everything. VeggieTales just revealed it.
Now its exactly opposite…trying to navigate the shop, the pens, or Walmart, there is a vernacular, culture, thinking, and language that I am unaccustomed too.
When a culture begins to feel home, you have left one and became a citizen of the other.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but citizens…” Paul says.
They were called out of one culture, the culture of Ephesus, and into a new one. They were learning a new way of living, a new vocab, a new thinking. Ephesians is rich with all the basics and foundational teachings on this new culture.
Ephesians 1: “In him we have redemption through his blood…”
Ephesians 2: “Dead in transgressions…alive in Christ…saved by grace”
Ephesians 3: “…through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God is made known…”
Ephesians 4: People are equipped “…for works of service to build up the body”
Ephesians 5: “Be imitators of God…just as Christ gave himself…”
Ephesians 6: “Finally be strong in the Lord…”
The basics are a fantastic place to start!
(This is a summary of a chapter from a book I’m finishing up)
Culture is constantly in flux. It changes by the second; an avalanche of ideas and information. We are overtaken by changes every breath we take on this earth.
As mentioned before, Daniel is in a centerfuge of change. His world is spinning around and he is trying to keep up. Prayer has sustained him thus far and given him stability in his time of service in Babylon, but now a new ruler is in town. Daniel 9 begins like this: “In the first year of Darius…in the first year of his reign…”. Daniel has a new boss. This is right around the same time as the den of lions event where Daniel was/will be persecuted for his prayer life.
During this regime transition, Daniel is studying the Scriptures, specifically Jeremiah. Seventy-five or so years prior to Daniel studying this passage, Jeremiah first delivered it. Daniel, a man familiar with God’s words, attributes the passage not just to Jeremiah, but to the Lord as well. The passage he was studying was from Jeremiah 25; a prophecy about the seventy years of captivity that the nation of Judah would endure because of their unfaithfulness and sin.
In the midst of his Bible study, Daniel is confronted with the same question we are when we open up the scriptures: “What now?”
What happens when we read and study Scripture? What happens when we approach God’s Word seeking understanding? What happens when we look to apply it in our lives?
When committed to reading God’s word, I realize how far short I fall of what God desires, has commanded, has loved.
“So I (Daniel) turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and position, in fasting, and in sack cloth and ashes.” (Dan. 9.4)
Daniel assumes a posture of mourning and begins to pray. In this prayer, Daniel confesses:
- “…we have sinned” (5, 8)
- “…we have been wicked and rebelled” (5, 9)
- “…we have turned away” (5)
- “…we have not listened” (6)
- “…we are covered in shame…because of our unfaithfulness” (7)
- “…we have not obeyed” (10)
- “…all Israel has transgressed your law and turned away.” (11)
Scripture acts as a mirror showing a reflection of the life before it. Only when it is read and studied is sin revealed. When sin is revealed, the only acceptable response is confession. Daniel shows this in his transition to his next thought in the book when he says: “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel…” (9.29)
Daniel’s reading of scripture led him to confession.
When reading and studying Scripture becomes a priority, worship ensues. Notice how Daniel’s prayer begins: “Lord, the great and awesome God…” (Dan 6.4). There is no question about who He is addressing.
Daniel isn’t the only one who began his prayer in worship. Jesus did it in Matthew 6: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed (or holy) is your name…” (Matt 6.9) Habakkuk begins his prayer in chapter 3: “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.” (Hab. 3.2).
Daniel doesnt just stop there. Sprinkled throughout the prayer are acclamations of God’s character, His activity, and His presence. Isn’t that what worship is? A person acknowledging who God is and honoring Him?
According to Daniel, based on his study of Scripture, God is, as attested to by his prayer, merciful (9, 18), righteous (7, 14), forgiving (9), and the one who brought them out of Egypt with his mighty hand (15). Daniel voices his adoration and worship throughout this prayer and it all began with the study of Scripture. As the Psalmist writes: “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.” (Psalm 119.7)
The connection between study and worship is as real today as it was for the Psalmist and Daniel.
A commitment to understanding scripture brings with it an reminder of the readers identity. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the surrounding culture. (See chapter 2) In the pace of life, amongst the media, the expectations, and the rituals of the world, the things that make believers unique can get left behind and forgotten.
Daniel has been in Babylon for a long time…and the people have been there a long time. They wrote about this experience: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion…How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.” (Psalm 137.1,4-5)
But they had forgotten. Here they were God’s people, their temple destroyed, their walls crushed, their pride gone. When they did return home to the land, when Ezra read the law to them in Nehemiah 8, it had to be translated because they had forgotten the Hebrew language. The people of God, had forgotten the name they carried.
Daniel ends his prayer: “Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (19)
For Seventy years the identity, their name, had been last; but Daniel, in his study, remembered who they were as a people.
In this prayer three things are tied together: 1) who we are: confession; 2) who God is: worship; 3) what God has made us into: identity.
These themes, as a result of the study of Scripture occur elsewhere. Two examplesstand out in Scripture.
Josiah, as an 18 year old King, gets handed the Book of the Law found in the Temple. (2 Kings 22.10) It is read to him and upon hearing, he immediately fears his clothes and confesses the sins of his people (10-13). Then he reads it to the people and they celebrate Passover for the first time since the era of the Judges (21-23). The central event of Hebrew history hadn’t been done in their memory. They worshipped and recovered their identity.
Nehemiah 8 tells of a time just years after Daniels prayer. After the Jews had returned to the land, rebuilt the walls and resettled their towns, they assembled and Ezra the priest read the law to them. The priests translated and explained to the people what it meant (8.2-3,8). The people wept as they listened to the words being read (9-10). Thy stopped weeping and celebrated God and His works that they now understood (12). When they heard Ezra read about the festival of booths, they realized that God had commanded them to live in shelters every year, just as they did when God had brought them out of Egypt (Lev. 23.37-40; Neh. 8.13-15). A central tenant of the Jewish faith, it hadn’t been done for years, since “the time of Joshua” (17).
When a commitment to study and understanding of Scripture is made, revival happens.
My rules for literature consumption:
1. No reading The Shinning before vacation.
2. The Hunger Games should be read every year before school starts just to remind us how shaky the house of cards really is.
3. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is read every Christmas. No exceptions.
After following these rules faithfully for the last couple years, in the wake of last nights Jackson Co. Fair visit, I have added a fourth literary rule:
4. Never read Animal Farm before going to a fair.
The basic plot of the Orwell classic is this: Farm animals feel exploited. A rebellion, began by the old pig Major, is executed by Napoleon and Snowball, two pigs and his juniors. The animals take over the farm, throwing off their human masters with the sheep chanting the mantra, “Four legs good, two legs bad.” Snowball is the thoughtful and calculated leader, but Napoleon is the brash and charismatic leader. He also has two advantages over Snowball as he grabs sole control over the Farm: 1) he has Squealer, a pig who is gifted at controlling, spinning, and disseminating information to the other animals; 2) he has the dogs. When a litter of puppies is born, Napoleon puts them in the loft, cut off from the other animals, and put himself in charge of their education, turning them into his own henchmen posse. Napoleon expelled snowball (labeling him a Traitor), works the animals to death, and controls all the decisions on Animal Farm. He is a paranoid dictator, exploiting the labor of even the most loyal of animals, Buck the draft horse. The novel ends with the animals realizing their new animal overlords, the pigs, are not an improvement over the humans. Things are worse than ever.
Walking into the beige barn that rises up in the middle of the Jackson Co Fair grounds, I was ready to watch the steer weigh in. Then I saw it. Some pigs were being driven in the show pen. Every other animal gets a halter and a lead rope…but not the pigs. The are untethered. Their handler, if you can really call them that since they are not attached, has a little stick to direct their pigs with taps on the side. Some pigs are pretty tame…some are fairly insane. Then I looked to the pens where they are being fed fine grain, lounging under fans, and getting baths. Wilbur from Charlottes Web never hadn’t it so good. That’s when I began to look at every pig in the barn with a healthy suspicion.
On the west end of the barn were the sheep. The dim witted animals of the novel that represented the masses. They blindly followed orders, never thinking for themselves. I had no fear in the west end of the barn. But the east end left me with an uneasy feeling, as though we were in.ching ever closer by the second to an uprising. There was a plot a-ungulate-foot. No wonder the Hebrews were forbidden pigs.
I felt like they knew that I had had bacon that morning.
Read the classics, but don’t do it during fair season.
In Sunday School classes across the country, there was a game that was played as I was growing up. They called it “Sword drill” after the Hebrews 4 passage comparing God’s Word to a sword. The game is quite simple. The Bible is held on top of the students head until the teacher calls out a scripture. Students slam their Bibles on the table and frantically search for the scripture that was called out. The first to arrive at the passage and begin reading would get a point. I have better and kinder Sunday School teachers than I was as a teacher. My two favorite verses to call out to my students were: Acts 8.37 and Mark 15.28. Most likely they are quoted in the footnotes of your Bible, but it is not often they are found in the actual text of your Bible. They are called textual variants (more on that later) and scholars don’t really know what to do with them. It brought me great joy to see the confusion on some of my kids faces…kinda mean right. I always gave them doughnuts to make up for it.
The quotation of Isaiah 53.12 is the textual variant, the added verse, of Mark 15.
Prior to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1439, manuscripts, books, and correspondence was copied by hand. It was an arduous, time-consuming, and precise. Errors in copying, both intended and unintended, happened. Sometimes, scribes hust heard things wrong. At other times things were misspelled. Think back to a time before word check and spell check. Sometimes, the scribe felt background information was needed for the reader to understand (see John 5.4). Or the scribe wanted to harmonize two passages (Luke 11.2-4 and Matthew 6.9-13). It wasn’t an exact science nor is it an easy topic to study. But what does this have to do with Mark 15.28.
It too is a textual variant that most scholars would argue was not in the original text of Mark. Mark was the first gospel written. It lacks the intricate structure that the other gospels possess. It show signs of being written rather hastily. It also doesn’t use OT prophecy in the same way, nor the volume of the other gospels. Mark is like a 6th grader on Red Bull, bouncing around telling the story at a fast pace, hoping his readers can keep up! One of his favorite words is euthus meaning “immediately”! The oldest, most complete, and best preserved manuscripts, codices, and papyri, do not have this verse in them. Some later families have the verse inserted. It is doubtful that Mark wrote this verse.
So if Mark didn’t write it, who did?
This is not meant to weaken anyone’s faith in the Bible or the accuracy of Scripture. To the contrary, I think it can strengthen it. The Bible is more complex yet so simple. It is a simple story of God loving the World, with a storied history.
The early church’s used to get letters and books from writers, make copies, and then send them on to the next one. People would copy down reports and books for their own personal libraries. They shared with one another, traded with one another, and compared libraries. With the same veracity of a 9 year old with Pokemon cards, men of ancient renown collected volumes of documents.
There is no doubt in my mind that John Mark wrote the original gospel of Mark. Ancient historians attest to it, the content seems to point to him, and I believe that he even wrote himself into the book (Mark 14.51-52). But once Mark wrote down his gospel and made his own copies (however many there were); he sent them out to the Church’s as a testimony to the identity of Jesus. And somewhere along the way, someone inserted this verse and it got copied over and over and over. Many later copies of Mark have this verse. It is in both manuscripts and papyri. It is wide spread.
So if it wasn’t original to Mark, and someone else inserted it after the fact, why worry about it here? Why Easter?
First off, Isaiah 53 is finally put in the “right” place. It’s a passage about the sacrifice of the servant in place of the people. And every other place its been quoted, it wasn’t at the crucifixion! Some early scribe, probably thinking about Luke 22, put this verse about “counted with the transgressors” at the cross. Some early believer knew this was something that needed to be spelled out to the readers of Mark.
Secondly, it connects with the mission of Mark. The main point Mark is trying to make is communicated in Mark 10.45: “For the son of Man came not be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If that isn’t the thrust of Isaiah 53, I certainly don’t know what is. If that isn’t the main thrust of the Crucifixion in Mark 15, I certainly don’t know what is. Some early scribe connected the two and took away the doubt.
Finally, it says something about Isaiah 53. All of the major New Testament authors drew from Isaiah 53 in vastly different ways and for many different purposes. Mark, or should I say the scribes and copiers of Mark, used it in the most straight forward way possible. Jesus hangs between 2 criminals…which is exactly what Isaiah said. Could it possibly be that a scribe, who knew that they did not have apostolic authority or the direct access to an apostle, shouldn’t stray to far from what would be called direct application? Just a thought.
The point is that Isaiah 53 has more than just crucifixion in mind as evidenced through the last week. But when it comes down to it, the major application, the major point of Isaiah 53 is straight forward: a servant took on our sin.
“For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10.45)
In rereading Scot McKnights book The Blue Parakeet, I am reminded of the storybook nature of the Bible. Not a mythical story, or a fairy tale, but a narrative including characters, in depth story lines, a central plot, and revelation. The story can be lost with too narrow of focus so, just like I will present to the Middle Schoolers at camp tomorrow morning, I have put together a reading plan to capture the whole story.