What’s your favorite plague of Egypt? I remember in third grade, mine was the frogs. All the other plagues seemed utterly undesirable, but the prospect of having multitudes of frogs absolutely everywhere all the time sounded awesome, because I was an eight-year-old boy.
What the crud, Joseph.
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.
Having bested his opponents among the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish religious leaders in a series of dialectical sparring matches, Jesus spends an entire chapter dunking on them. Matthew 23 is one big vitriolic criticism of the scribes and Pharisees, a warning from Jesus to his disciples and the multitudes not to fall into their traps.
We’ve seen the sorts of parables Jesus tells to the general populace and to his disciples. But what sorts of parables does he tell to the Pharisees? Apparently, he tells parables about people who disrespect the servants of those in power and who, as a result, face the master’s wrath when he learns of their misdeeds.
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.
I try not to miss the forest for one very specific tree in these posts. I try to at least hit an overview of the passage of the day, and today’s passage continues God’s charges against his people, with an accusation that Israel is straight-up robbing God as the centerpiece. But one verse caught my eye: a quick-and-dirty litany of indictments early in the chapter. If God were to put this list to music and then sing it, he might end with the line, “These are a few of my least favorite things.” If it were a Buzzfeed article, they might title it “Six Things God Will Be a Swift Witness Against, Drawing Near to You for Judgment.” But it is not an article, and God–as far as I know–has not performed it as if right out of the Sound of Music. It’s a list.
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.
If you read through the Bible, there are at least three major themes that you’re likely to pick up on: 1) God loves human beings. 2) God hates it when human beings are cruel to each other. 3) The Biblical region of Lebanon was well-known for its cedars, whose wood was considered among the highest quality in the ancient world.
Happy Thanksgiving, Chocolate Book fam. If I were smarter, I would have thought ahead and planned out a Totally Hip Gratitude post in keeping with the holiday. And I suppose it’s not too late to set Zechariah 10 aside, dig out my word search for “thanks,” pick a reference, and continue my study on gratitude. So why don’t I do that? Seriously, why don’t I do that? I’m going to do that.