If you like parables, then good news: by popular request, we’re returning to Matthew 25 for the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. And by “popular request,” I mean that one person requested it. If you don’t like parables, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Matthew 24 is basically Luke 21, and I’ve already talked about Luke 21, so I guess we’re done here.
Sometimes, even though you’ve read a passage before, you open it up again and find that you’re reading it as if for the first time. It must have been early 2001 when I had that experience with Matthew 24, the analog of today’s chapter in Luke, and Matthew 25, which comprises several parables about the last days. I seem to recall that I was in Georgia visiting relatives over spring break, and I was sitting in the back of the family Toyota Sienna reading the passage. But wherever I was, I had recently learned from some book of N.T. Wright’s about the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD, and I remember trying to sort out the passage, asking which of Jesus’ prophecies had already been fulfilled and which ones genuinely pertained to the Second Coming.
This is the last chapter of Malachi, and, in the canon’s traditional arrangement, the last chapter of the Old Testament. I can’t say for sure whether it’s also last chronologically. Some quick Googling reveals that it’s dated roughly around 500 B.C., give or take sixty years either way (thanks, Bible.org), which puts it somewhere around the Ezra-Nehemiah period. According to Ichthys.com’s chart of Biblical composition, however, it was the last book to be written down. And it ends with a short chapter, clocking in at a mere six verses. What are those verses about? Judgment and restoration.
The bulk of today’s chapter is a prophecy of judgment. At some future day, God promises, he will use Judah and Jerusalem as an instrument of his justice, inflicting on those who oppose his people the due penalty for their evil. He uses a number of analogies to paint the prophetic picture: Judah will be like a cup of wine causing inebriation, a stone too heavy to lift, a firepot setting the surrounding wood on fire. But as the chapter concludes, we come to what appears to be a Messianic prophecy.
God is not a man that He should change His mind, but we’re not God. I’ve read through the Bible more than once, and each time I come around to a passage, I’ve grown as a person, I’ve learned new things, I’ve come to a different place that gives me a new perspective on it. If you’ve been reading the Bible for awhile, you’ve likely had the same experience. And sometimes God shows us we’ve been wrong about something. Our views change, we reject old opinions, and hopefully our new opinions jibe more consistently with the text and the universe as they are. Here on Chocolate Book, we approach the Bible heuristically.
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.
You probably already know a verse from Micah. You know the expression “beating swords into plowshares?” Maybe you own the Magic: the Gathering card. Well, the idiom comes from Micah 4:3: “Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” You may not have known that you knew a verse from Micah, but there it is. And if you didn’t know before, now you do. We all can say together, “We know that Micah is the book with the ‘swords to plowshares’ verse.”