Sometimes a lot of different things happen in a chapter. In today’s chapter, for example, God tells Jacob to go dwell in Bethel, which Jacob does, and God has a message of blessing for him once he settles there. Also, people die: Rebekah’s nurse Deborah, Rachel as she gives birth to Jacob’s twelfth son Benjamin, and then old Grandpa Isaac. If you can find a common theological or spiritual thread through all these events, more power to you. But as far as I can tell, the only theme tying them together is “some things pertaining to Jacob’s family happened in Canaan.” Sometimes chapters are like that.
In yesterday’s chapter, Paul preached his Mars Hill sermon, which we in our blog post for all intents and purposes ignored. Through the sermon, he won the interest of the Athenians and a non-trivial amount of converts, as well as a measure of scorn from some for believing that the dead can be raised. In today’s chapter, having made all the progress he can in Athens, he leaves of his own volition, for once not chased out by angry mobs, and goes to Corinth. And in Corinth, he finds a populace surprisingly receptive to the gospel.
In junior high, I somehow came by a compilation album titled Right from Wrong. I think it may have come with my parents’ copy of Josh McDowell’s book Right from Wrong, which of course I also read, because it was a book and I was myself. But the CD Right from Wrong collected several songs from such Christian bands as the Newsboys, DC Talk, and Audio Adrenaline, built around the theme of countering moral relativism. One of the tracks on this album, by perennial Christian hard rockers Petra, was “Midnight Oil,” about the Parable of the Ten Virgins. And today’s chapter, Matthew 25, begins with the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Now you see where I was going with this. Bam, relevance.
We have a buffet of passages within this chapter to examine, and many of them are cans teeming with worms eager to be released. We could talk about miracles, the implications of Jesus’ statement that mustard-seed-sized faith is sufficient to make trees uproot themselves, and the historicity of Jesus’ own miraculous healings. We could talk about how after nearly two millennia, Jesus has not returned. We could talk about how Jesus’ parable in verses 7-10 apparently suggests that our posture toward God should be that of slaves. If we opened up any one of these cans, could we get all the worms back in the can by the end of the post? This is the risk you run when you open cans.
Remember the Day of the Lord? Featured big in the book of Joel? Well, it’s back in Zephaniah. Prophecies about it are back, anyway.
I’m pretty sure the only reason Amos 1 and 2 aren’t a single chapter is to keep the chapters short enough to read in under two minutes. Remember the formula from the first chapter? “For three transgressions of Nation X and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they did Terrible Thing Y, so I will send fire upon the wall of Nation X and it will consume her citadels, garnish as necessary with additional judgments?” In this chapter it continues. However, it only runs through one foreign nation (Moab) before turning to Israel and Judah. Yes, that’s right. For all the attention God gives the heathens abroad for the abuse they’ve heaped on his people, now he’s turning his attention to his people’s own biggest abusers: themselves.
I just checked, and the three parables in this chapter haven’t changed since we last read them. The woman still lights a lamp and sweeps the house in search of her missing coin; it’s still the younger brother rather than the older who demands his early inheritance; there are still the same number of sheep. If anything was true that we previously said about these parables, it continues to be true even now. But we haven’t yet examined the context in which Jesus tells these parables. Where does he tell them? Who does he tell them to? Let’s step outside the parables and find some answers.