Christianity 201

February 14, 2018

Tree Imagery in the Bible

Psalm 1:3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Numbers 17:8  Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.
Habakkuk 3:17&18  Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will rejoice in LORD. I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Read 50 more verses related to trees at Knowing Jesus.

We added this one which I’d like to spend more time focusing on in future, I think there’s a lot going on in the (formerly) blind man’s comment:

Mark 8:24 NLT The man looked around. “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly. They look like trees walking around.”

Overview: Many articles online focus on the contrast of the “bookended” trees in scripture: The tree in the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life in the book of Revelation. But there are other trees as well, which we decided to think about today. (If quoting from this, please cite the original link, not ours.)

First, a general comment from Rev Douglas Taylor-Weiss:

One of our problems in biblical interpretation lies in our inability to see the world as charged with the power and glory of God. We decide that, for example, the “tree of life” means such-and-such. Then we pretty much discard the actual tree and proceed to its “meaning.” In our world, things have lost their enchantment and their glory, and are just things. To us, a star is just nuclear fusion; a snake is just a reptile; a baby is just an arrangement of cells. We cannot see the inside — the interiority — of things…

…Trees then continue to play their role in the biblical story. We have fig trees and sycamores, the cedars of Lebanon (today mostly destroyed) and the shoot that grows out of a stump. Of special interest is the grapevine — not exactly a tree, yet functioning as one when Jesus tells his followers, “I am the vine, you are the branches, and my Father is the gardener.”

Steve Allison writes,

…Trees are in the background and in the foreground of the Bible.  From the beginning to end.  They are a critical part of the action.  The Tree of Life is mentioned early in the Genesis and also in the last chapter of Revelation, for example.  There are over thirty kinds of them mentioned in the Bible.  Some like the olive tree are mentioned quite often and are well know to us, both as to physical, literal manifestation and some of its symbolic meaning, ie. you know what the olive branch signifies.  In some cases it is not certain what kind of tree it is that is being described.

Perhaps you didn’t realize it but trees figure in the story of Abraham, in several places.  For instance, after the call to leave Ur we are told in Genesis 12: 6  Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.  “Moreh” means teacher.  It was a significant tree for Abraham and the Canaanites.  Was some kind of school there? Was it an Oak?  Some think it was…

The balance of today’s article is from Athena:

Significant Trees In The Bible And Their Symbolisms

Many varieties of trees are cited in the Bible.

The cedar became a temple, the fig, a covering, and the gopher an ark. A tree was connected with man’s sin. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:1-7). Another tree played a key role in the price of man’s sin. At Calvary, the Lord Jesus Christ died by crucifixion upon a tree.

The Fig Tree

The first species mentioned by name in the Bible is the fig (Gen 3:7). This tree has sometimes been labeled a hypocrite tree because the fruit is green and not easily detected among the leaves until it is nearly ripe. It is only by close examination in the early stages that the fruit can be detected. Jesus came to a fig tree, desiring fruit, but found only leaves. He cursed the tree, and it fried up from the roots (Mark 11:12-14, 20).

After they have sinned, Adam and Eve used fig leaves to try to hide their sinfulness from the eyes of a searching God (Gen 3:6-13).

One time a fig tree was used to enable someone to see Jesus (Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus climbed into a sycamore tree (a type of fig tree) to see Jesus as he passed that way. It is not unusual for a sycamore tree to reach a height of fifty feet.

The Olive Tree

Another tree of importance, especially in the land of Israel, was the olive. The tree became the Biblical symbol for the nation of Israel (Rom. 11:15-25). Its berries continue to be leading articles of Israeli commerce. This tree has been called an emblem of peace, prosperity, and wealth (Ps. 128). When the olive crop fails, it is considered to be a sign of divine wrath (Jer. 11:16-23).

Needing no irrigation, the olive tree thrives well in the Palestinian hills. Since animal fat cannot be kept for a long time, olive oil became the only source of fat for consumption and frying. Additionally, the oil served as a base for all cosmetics and cleaning products. Used in clay lamps, it was the main source for lighting.

Its economic value was much enhanced by the fact that the great river valleys of Egypt and Mesopotamia have unsuitable soil and climate for the cultivation of olives; therefore, olive oil became a major item of export.

Olive oil was also used in the tabernacle for light and ceremonial anointing by the priests of God (Exod. 30: 24- 25; Lev. 24:2-4). It even plays a role in the book of Genesis. When the dove returned with an olive leaf in its mouth, Noah knew the waters had receded from the earth.

The Cedar Tree

The cedar tree was chosen for the temple of God in Jerusalem (I Kings 6:9-20). There are several possible reasons for this tree’s having been chosen. “The wood is not attacked by insect pests; it is free from knots. It has remarkable lasting qualities.”

The cedar forests in Lebanon were famous, and the people traveled great distances just to see them. These trees grew to heights of 120 feet and girths of 40 feet. Their life span was often over two thousand years. The cedars of Lebanon are now very rare; their glory has passed.

The cedar tree was used to build not only the temple of the Lord but also Solomon’s house and other public edifices in Jerusalem. It was used for roofing the temple of Diana at Ephesus and that of Apollo at Utica, and other famous buildings.

The Oak Tree

Another tree known for its longevity is the oak. The sturdy oak stood as a witness to certain events. In the time of the patriarchs, Jacob took the false idols from the members of the household and buried them under an oak at Shechem (Gen. 35:4). It was by an oak tree that, years later, Joshua took idols from the nation of Israel, who promised to serve only the true God (Josh. 24:14-26). Was it the same tree? The scriptures do not tell us, but some scholars infer that this may be true.

When the land of Israel was oppressed by Midian, the Angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon under an oak tree. There the angel made a covenant with Gideon to deliver Israel from their oppression (Judg. 6:11-19).

Some oak trees also witnessed evil. The heathen worshipped idols in oak groves (Ezek. 6:13); Absalom, David’s son, died in an oak tree (II Sam. 18:6-17); and King Saul was buried under an oak tree. (I Chron. 10:12).

One of the most interesting uses of trees in the Scriptures is as a simile for a person’s life – a productive tree and a barren tree. The principle of the comparison still applies to our lives today.


We’ve used the picture of the Constitution Oak Tree twice before. We discovered it reading Mark Hall’s book Thrive. Caption: Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]  (Mark is the lead singer of Casting Crowns.)

We also used the picture before at an article here titled Be a Tree (2015).


Here’s one more verse:

Isaiah 61:3The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

…which should remind you of this song. Note: This is the original Scripture in Song recording from 1977.


 

 

 

January 5, 2017

A Theology of Clothing

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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You’ll have to look up the scripture verses for this one. We found this a few days ago at Share Faith Magazine, which is a wonderful resource site for churches. It originally appeared under the title below, which you may click to read it in full.

10 Threads Of Deliverance In The Bible: Symbolic Clothing of Deliverance

by

Threads of deliverance in the Bible: Scripture is often enlivened when we see symbols or circumstances through the stories in the Bible. As we delve into particular events, there is rich and complicated meaning in real-time, but a bird’s eye view can also assess what’s occurring in light of what happens next. For example, Sarah wouldn’t know Hannah or Elizabeth or Mary, but the line of God’s mercy and providence in these unexpected mothers is profound, and comparing the songs of Hannah and Mary, even more. Water is another example. It nourishes the first garden, redeems us through Noah, delivers Moses, turns red with plague, comes apart several times, quenches wilderness thirst, saves Israel for a time with Hezekiah, breaks with the Son of God’s first breath, begins His ministry, changes to wine… and more. It’s a powerful, redemptive narrative. And this kind of patterned approach is applicable to our congregations. Water, for example, is something God still uses, inviting each of us into baptism and a life sustained by living water. How much more full is the symbol with the background of God’s story! Let’s read some stories of the threads of deliverance.

10 Threads Of Deliverance In The Bible

I want to weave a similar collection of moments where clothing is significant, leading up to the swaddling clothes in a manger and beyond. It sounds strange at first, but I think we’ll find an application of deliverance in the Bible at every turn. (Let me make one note. The stories of the Old and New Testaments are stories and not simply symbols. As many of us learned in seminary, there is a fair warning to not over-extend our interpretation or diminish the contemporary working of God into only a projected symbol.)

God fashions the first clothing (Genesis 3:21-24)

After the sin that cast us out as sojourners, it is God who kills the first animal in order to clothe Adam and Eve. He’s a good, good father and he does what he can to protect the first couple in the wilds of a fallen creation. I imagine God weeping through the whole episode, knowing what they don’t, that the father of lies will drag them through the dirt of his own fall, trying desperately to wipe clean any hint of the imago dei that makes them unique before God. This clothing is the first step in grace.

Rebekah’s deceit (Genesis 27)

Jacob learns a valuable lesson with his thread of deliverance. It starts with Rebekah favoring Jacob over Esau. It’s a sordid tale that makes me wonder why we follow the mischief of Jacob and not the clan of Esau. The hair-shirt Rebekah uses to deceive her blind husband is a costume Jacob doesn’t forget (and Laban returns it with disguising Leah). Yes, God uses a liar, but he knows he can break the liar into a limping man, one who sees the activity of God in heaven and becomes the father of 13 sons who form Israel’s tribes. When Jacob puts on his brother’s clothes, he disguises his real identity to get what he wants. He puts on a show. What a change of clothing from the first couple, who in humility and with heads down, leave the garden. But, in time Jacob learns his lesson and even celebrates his son Joseph in a brilliant cloak. Who knows, perhaps he remembered that evening a long time ago.

Joseph’s coat of many colors

Joseph’s thread of deliverance causes quite a stir. It’s a wonder why Jacob didn’t learn about the danger of playing favorites from his own upbringing, but he doesn’t. Joseph gets his coat and with it, God’s plan. The rage in his brothers and the near death experience for Joseph will be the stuff God uses to humble all of them. Without the coat, the brothers don’t have anything tangible to wield against their father, and, I bet without the coat, we don’t have a Joseph who runs so quickly away from Potiphar’s wife that he leaves behind his cloak (Gen 39:11-18). He knows God has a plan for him and he will not be defiled by the charms of sin.

Wash your clothes (Exodus 19)

After the exodus, God says, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (19:4-5). He then instructed them, among other things, to wash their clothes (10). Why? This is certainly in line with being holy and set apart. It’s tucked into this passage about God coming into their midst and warning them to not even touch the mountain or they will die. God is holy. It’s a precursor to what we know baptism symbolizes, a washing clean of sin. And baptism is a precursor to the white robes we’ll receive in heaven (Rev. 7:9).

The priestly garments (Exodus 39; Leviticus 6)

The details in the priestly garments are fascinating: “the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth… bells and pomegranates alternated around the hem… tunics of fine linen… the plate, the sacred emblem, out of pure gold and engraved on it, like an inscription on a seal: holy to the Lord…” A human being is readying himself to go into the presence of God. The garments act as a barrier between the Almighty and the altogether puny, if we’re honest. The priest goes into the Holy of Holies to ask for God’s mercy upon a guilty people. And we go into his sanctuary under the same reality. Yes, we know God through Jesus, but his holiness has not changed and our sinful hearts are still in dire need. The garments are a symbol for what we hear the Psalmist say, “I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy” (132:16).

The sash of Rahab (Joshua 2 & 6)

The thread of deliverance for Rahab was her sash, her sash represents the salvation for the Israelites and her own redemption, placing her in the family tree of Joseph (Matt 1:5). Her scarlet cord is a testimony to God’s mercy to a foreigner and a sinner. Remember that Rahab is a prostitute. The cord that wraps and unwraps sinful acts becomes the salvation for the two spies and all of Rahab’s family. It’s easy to read into the story of her self-interest, but God doesn’t see an opportunist; he sees a broken woman who wants mercy and love and a home. She converts and the story says, “…she lives among the Israelites to this day” (6:25). She stands as an early Mary Magdalene and receives favor because she knows she needs help. May we have eyes to see what others don’t and minister beyond our own comforts.

Saul’s robe is cut

Saul is in devilish pursuit of David. The former guitar soother is now an enemy to Saul’s throne and he will not surrender it to this farmer boy from Bethlehem. David knows he’s beyond angry and hides out until God works the circumstances into His will. David doesn’t force them. Remember when Saul sacrifices to God because Samuel is late (I Samuel 15)? When Samuel turns to go in anger over Saul’s sin, Saul rips his robe. Samuel then says, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you” (28). We then get this moment in I Samuel 24 where David sneaks up to Saul and cuts a piece of his robe. The point is, “I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed,” David says (10). Saul will end up piercing his own robe and killing himself (I Samuel 31:4-6). What does it mean? Saul continually tries to shape God’s will around his own, and not the other way around. If we are molded by God’s will for us, perhaps we will sing with the psalmist, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…” (30:11).

David’s sin and response (2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51)

This thread of deliverance in the Bible ironically starts with no clothes. David intrudes on a private moment and takes advantage of Bathsheba. There is nothing, nothing, nothing good about this story. It’s a breaking point for David. It’s entirely his fault. His unchecked pride invites sin to the table of a man touted as someone after the heart of God. Not so in this case or in his coverup with Uriah’s murder. What happens next is where David gets it right.  When comforted by Nathan, David admits to his sin. He gives no excuses. When Nathan says the child will die, David fasts and wears sackcloth, pleading before the Lord. When the baby dies, David, “got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (12:20).  David learns what the prophet Joel says, “Rend your heart, not your garments” (2:13).

The magic cloak of Elijah (2 Kings 2)

Elijah’s thread of deliverance in the Bible leaves us speechless. First, Elijah rolls up his cloak and bats the Jordan River. Then he and Elisha cross over because the water obeys him. He tells Elisha to watch, drops his cloak, and catches a ride on a fiery chariot to Heaven. Elisha uses the cloak to direct the Jordan again and leaves with even greater power. What?! Certainly, the cloak represents Elijah and his holy commitment to God, but what a story and why a cloak? We know the cloak is used almost as a shield, protecting the wearer against weather, for example. We more commonly think of a cloak as a disguise, an interpretation with some historical age to it. Perhaps the suggestion is that Elisha is now fully identified in the powerful “skin” of Elijah. This idea of putting on is part of our walk with Jesus. Paul says, for example, that, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 2:22-24).

Find him wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:11-12)

The angels make sure to mention the swaddling clothes to the shepherds because more than likely it shows Jesus’ significance. The wrapped linen is juxtaposed to the lowly surroundings of a stable and makeshift bed. Much like the first couple, perhaps the clothes signaled God’s provision after a long journey from Nazareth. Did Mary keep them at the ready? Did a kind stranger provide them to Joseph as they entered the town? We don’t know. Including it in the proclamation of the angels gives us the best guess that these clothes mean royalty, Son of God, the God of Joseph’s robe and Rahab’s sash and Elijah’s magic cloak is here in humble splendor.

It is Jesus who invites us, like the father of the prodigal son, to come home and wear the best robe (Luke 15:22). It is Jesus who notices the need of a broken woman who touches the hem of his robe (Luke 8:43-48). It’s Jesus who gets mocked with a purple robe by the guards he loved even then, in their darkest hour (Mark 15:20). It’s Jesus who resurrects and folds his grave clothes (John 20:7). It’s Jesus who will make our robes white with his blood (Revelation 7:14).

 

February 11, 2016

Vine Imagery in Scripture

This devotional content is Day 1 in Shelly Cramm’s 5-part series on BlueLetterBible.org titled “Garden Stories: Away from the Last Supper,” and is excerpted the NIV God’s Word for Gardeners Bible in which scripture mix with principles of maintaining a vineyard. Click the title below to read at source. The readings are not long, and you can easily do all 5 parts in about 15 minutes including time to click through to the Bible references.

Grapevine’s Intertwined History

John 15:1

“I am the true vine.”

 Genesis 49:22;

“Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.

Genesis 50:16-21;

16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

In using the grapevine as a metaphor, Jesus not only sharpened his disciples’ understanding of events to come, but drew upon a rich, deep heritage of the grapevine analogy in Israel’s history. Vitis vinifera, the grapevine, a member of the Vitaceae family, is a hardy and long-lived plant, extending roots deeply into most soil types. Preferring a Mediterranean climate with early spring rains, and little moisture on the flowers and fruits as they mature over summer, the vine will grow vigorously for generations. The grapevine pictures the establishing of a household’s prosperity, its nourishment, blessing and forgiveness intertwined throughout the Old Testament. Its particular characteristics of vivacity and need for pruning are vital in understanding God’s ways.

Grapevines are so full of enthusiasm and eagerness to grow that this is only the beginning — never let them get the upper hand; let them know from the very start that you are the boss. An annual pruning is essential and will maintain them in good health and vigor. — Louise Riotte, Growing Grapes and Berries, 1974

In Genesis we read that Joseph had the favor of his father Jacob over his sister and twelve brothers (Genesis 37:3). His father’s adoration grew Joseph’s confidence bordering on comeuppance. When he dreamed that his older siblings were bowing down to him, he used no discretion in telling them so (Genesis 37:5). He displayed “enthusiasm and eagerness,” noted by Louise Riotte in Growing Grapes and Berries, intrinsic to the grapevine. It would take many years and many pruning events — being sold into slavery (Genesis 37:28), thrown into prison (Genesis 39:20), and appointed to huge administrative responsibilities (Genesis 41:40) — to cut back and shape his ambition. Yet at the end of his life, Joseph bore the fruit of such pruning: Wisdom, humility, kindness, forgiveness and deep love of his family. Eventually, he did rule over his older brothers, a wise, benevolent and prudent leader. “Joseph was a fruitful vine” (Genesis 49:22), his father pronounced in his dying blessing.

Joseph’s forgiveness of his family foreshadows Jesus’ ultimate act of forgiveness; in the dark shadows of the crucifixion eve, moving away from the last supper, Jesus alluded to this great ancestor of forgiveness through the grapevine metaphor. In doing so, he prepared the disciples to endure his impending injustice and the trauma of losing their leader with the trusting wisdom that Joseph had spoken, as if to say, Remember, my friends, my Father will use what is intended to harm me for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20).

…continue to part twopart 3part 4part 5

October 29, 2014

Bible Metaphors

Bible Imagery

Today’s reading is adapted from the book The Ransomed Heart: A Collection of Devotional Readings by John Eldridge, author of Wild at Heart.


The Bible uses a number of metaphors to describe our relationship to God at various stages.  If you’ll notice, they ascend in a stunning way:

Potter and clay.  At this level we are merely aware that our lives are shaped – even broken – by a powerful hand.  There isn’t much communication, just the sovereignty of God at work.

Is. 64:8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.

Shepherd and sheep.  At this stage we feel provided for, watched over, cared about.  But beyond that, a sheep has little by way of true intimacy with the Shepherd.  They are altogether different creatures.

John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Master and servant.  Many, many believers are stuck in this stage, where they are committed to obey, but the relationship is mostly about receiving orders and instructions and carrying them out.

Matthew 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.

Father and child.  This is certainly more intimate than being a servant; children get the run of the house, they get to climb on Daddy’s lap.  These fortunate souls understand God’s fatherly love and care for them.  They feel “at home” with God.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Luke 11:2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father,…

Friends.  This stage actually opens up a deeper level of intimacy as we walk together with God, companions in a shared mission.  We know what’s on his heart;  he knows what’s on ours.  There is a maturity and intimacy to the relationship.

John 15:15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you

Bridegroom and bride (lovers).  Here, the words of the Song of Songs could also describe our spiritual intimacy, our union and oneness with God.  Madam Guyon wrote, “I love God far more than the most affectionate lover among men loves his earthly attachment.”

John 3:29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.

Rev. 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.

Where would you put your relationship with God?  Why did you choose that “level”?  Has it always been that way?


 

This particular section of The Ransomed Heart is taken from The Journey of Desire Journal and Guidebook page 150. The scriptures are taken from the NIV and were not part of the original.

March 14, 2011

Light The Fire Again

Although I’m now a confirmed fan of Brian Doerksen’s worship music, I didn’t immediately gravitate toward the song “Light The Fire Again” when it was first becoming popular.  Only a few days ago, as I was reading the text it is based on in Revelation 3 (the letter to the church at Laodicea) did I really come to appreciate the song.

To craft a song like this you would need several things to be happening

  • At the most basic level, an awareness of the text
  • Second, a familiarity and comfort with the text.  Many times we shy away from poetic images or prophetic images, or even the book of Revelation itself
  • Finally, that familiarity with the text has to extend to an ability to restate the text in words that are immediate and relevant to our modern church experience.

Here’s the text itself:

(NIV) Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Here’s the video and some devotional thoughts on the song that appeared here just a month ago.

Let’s go a different direction with this today:  We’re not all songwriters, but here are some questions to ask ourselves…

  • Are there texts we are unfamiliar with?  A recent study showed that in many churches, despite owning a vast collection of hymnbooks, there were really only 27 hymns that were common to all.  These are the “popular” hymns, the ones that survive even in churches that do modern worship.  It’s the same with Bible texts.  We have our favorites, our “go-to” places in the Bible that we perhaps read at the expense of other places God would have us discover.
  • Are there texts we are uncomfortable with?  Parts of the Bible we avoid?  I’m not talking about obscure genealogies or Levitical laws, but other places that don’t resonate with us, so we tend to skip over them instead of prayerfully reading them, asking God to show us more of His nature and His character in the words He inspired.   They should become part of us.
  • Could we re-state certain passages in ways that would connect with people living 21st Century lives?   Have we captured the “gist” of a passage enough to describe it, paraphrase it, or even put it into a song?  Or do we just skim the words and then close the book?

I’m not there yet.  I just think when we see writers who are able to take these passages and literally make them sing, we need to look into the depth of our own reading and processing of scripture, and if it’s somewhat lacking, take steps to move from a Christianity 101 approach up to the level of Christianity 201.