By Jeff Pulse

The Old Testament text for this Sunday, November 5, 2017, comes from the prophet Micah in the Book of the Twelve. The text is Micah 3:5-12, which is the end of the first significant “Law” portion of his short book. Micah ends this section with strong judgement against the “prophets” and the “rulers” of Israel. It is important to remember that Micah is a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah as we see many of the same themes and similar language. Some would argue that Micah borrowed from Isaiah; others would say that Isaiah borrowed from Micah. Ultimately, this is neither important nor a problem. Certainly, the LORD is unlikely to give contradictory or competing prophecies toward His One people through two prophets. It comes as no surprise that these contemporaries deliver a similar, consistent message to the people of God.

By Jeff Pulse

The Old Testament text for this Sunday, October 29, 2017, comes from the third book of the Torah, Leviticus. The text is Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18. Verse 2 is frequently considered to be the Old Testament equivalent of Matthew 5:48, where Jesus says: “You must therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Too often, both of these verses are understood in the sense of a mandate, a command. Most English translations lean this way. However, this would indicate that the LORD God has now placed a burden upon His people which they have no hope of fulfilling, and therefore, no hope whatsoever. This is NOT the correct interpretation of Leviticus 19:2, and I would argue, NOT correct for Matthew 5:48 either.

By Jeff Pulse

The Old Testament text for this Sunday, October 22, 2017, comes from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 45:1-7 and contains a very unusual, even problematic declaration by the LORD God, Himself; The LORD calls, “Cyrus”, His anointed one. This Cyrus is a reference to “Cyrus the Great” the powerful Persian leader. This reference causes concern on two fronts. For those who struggle with the idea of prophecy and miracles in general, this declaration of the LORD through His prophet Isaiah sends them off the rails. Cyrus has not yet been born—in fact, is several hundred years in the future. It is one thing to give a general prophecy that a nation/power from the East will bless/rescue God’s people; it is quite another to give the precise name of this “one” who is far in the future. For those of us who do NOT struggle with prophecy, miracles, etc. this is not overwhelming in the negative—it is impressive in the positive.

By Jeff Pulse –

The Old Testament text for this Sunday, October 8, 2017, comes from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 5:1-7. The first thing to discuss is the location of this text. Exegetes have long pondered why these first five chapters of Isaiah are placed BEFORE the call/sending of Isaiah in chapter 6. Basically, the challenge is to address the issue of prophecies, such as our text, coming before the prophet is appointed. How does that work? Apart from the usual higher-critical mumble jumble that some redactor was prowling around the text, there are some other possibilities.

By Jeff Pulse

The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday, October 1, 2017, is from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. The Text is Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32. The text could very well include the entirety of chapter 18 because the overall theme and focus is one. This theme is one of “justification” or “damnation” of the individual. At first blush, this may seem somewhat straight up and academic to us in our theological culture, but to the Hebrew/Jew of this era, it was far from it. They were more used to hearing and speaking in corporate or communal terms. This was not wrong; Israel/Church is one entity, one Bride, etc., and when one person suffers, the whole community suffers. When one person rejoices, all rejoice. However, Ezekiel is quite clear here that this does NOT mean that the sons suffer for the sins of the fathers. In other words, when the father does not believe, this does not condemn the son to perdition, and conversely, the faith of the father does not save the son. This false theology actually came from the pagan cultures around them.

 

By Jeff Pulse

The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday, September 17, 2017, is from Genesis, the first book of the Torah/Pentateuch. The text is Genesis 50:15-21, a short account, but it also contains the ONLY EXPLICIT theological statement in the Joseph narratives (chapters 37-50). This statement in chapter 50 is a condensed version of the same statement as written in chapter 45 and is spoken by Joseph for the same reason. His brothers are convinced that Joseph is going to enact his vengeance upon them for the way they have treated him. All things considered, it is a well-placed fear! In chapter 45, Joseph has finally revealed his identity to his brothers, and because they had sought to kill him earlier, they thought their own demise was at hand. However, Joseph points out to them that it was God who was using all of this. It was God who sent him before them to Egypt to preserve life and to preserve a remnant of the chosen/covenantal people (vs. 4-8).

By Jeff Pulse

The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, September 10, 2017, is from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. The text is Ezekiel 33:7-9, a short section that proves to be a pivotal part of Ezekiel. It is helpful to first back up to Ezekiel chapters 2 and 3. You may recall that chapter 2 is the “call” or “sending” of Ezekiel as a prophet to the people of Israel, specifically to those who are in exile in Babylon. There are three (perhaps four) exiles of the Southern Kingdom to Babylon. Ezekiel was taken in the first exile and is called to be a prophet while in Babylon. So, while Ezekiel begins his prophetic ministry, the city of Jerusalem is still standing—but not for much longer.