Archive for February, 2018

Important Words

February 26, 2018

This is an excellent essay reminding us of the important function of community, both towards families as well as the state.  In the ultimate discussions of solutions to the hopelessness engulfing our youth, we need to remember that it isn’t laws or tools that should be the focus, but neighbors and community.

YFA – February 25, 2018

February 25, 2018
A Weekly Devotional Resource


  • Sunday – Reflect on Today’s Service & Sermon
  • Monday – Old Testament – Exodus 20:1-17
    • Which commandment is hardest for you to keep?  Which is the easiest?
    • What is the role of the Law in the Christian’s life?
  • Tuesday – Epistle – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
    • How does it feel to have your wisdom called foolishness?
    • How can we distinguish true wisdom in this world from false?
  • Wednesday – Gospel – John 2:13-22
    • What is Jesus’ essential complaint (v.16)?
    • How do Jesus’ actions demonstrate zeal for his Father’s house (v.17)?
  • Thursday Psalm 19
    • What aspects of nature convince you there must be a Creator God?
    • What causes you to trust God’s Word as the surest source of Truth?
  • Friday – Luther’s Small Catechism – The Apostles’ Creed 2nd Article
    • What does the Second Article consist of?
    • What are we to understand about the Son of God based on this?
  • Saturday – Hymn – Not All the Blood of Beasts
    • What beasts are referred to in verse 1?
    • Why does the author see his guilt on the cross with Christ (v.4)?


Reading Ramblings – March 4, 2018

February 25, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Third Sunday in Lent – March 4, 2018

Texts: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 2:13-22

Context: We’ve reached the halfway point of Lenten Sundays. But it’s important to remember that while Sundays fall in Lent, they are not Sundays of Lent. Sunday worship is always a celebration of the Resurrection, always an Easter. So it is that Sundays are not figured into the calculation of 40 days of Lent. Liturgically Lent is reflected by abstaining from Alleluia verses and other typical themes of rejoicing, but the tone of Sunday should always be a glimpse of Easter to come. And Easter is what we need because there is no other means by which we can reconcile our sinful and rebellious lives to a holy and perfect and righteous God. The reading from Exodus 20 makes this plain – we fail to keep the Law of God perfectly, and nothing short of perfection is acceptable. We cannot doubt either the truth of these instructions or the goodness of God, as Psalm 19 insists. Paul echoes these themes. Who would cast aside the instructions and wisdom of God in favor of their own? On what basis? To what end? All such efforts are the real folly, rather than the Gospel that so many wish to write off as folly. Even the Church must always remember that she never replaces or supersedes the authority of God or the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Whenever she attempts to – through good intentions more often than not, she needs to be called to repentance and a refocusing on the true grace of God in Jesus Christ rather than human wisdom and tradition.

Exodus 20:1-17 – This is as far as God gets in his direct revelation of his will to his people. At the end of the Ten Commandments, the people beg that God should speak to and through Moses, who will convey his words to them. The direct presence and voice of God is too overwhelming. Yet his Word stands! Those who prefer direct revelation and personal spiritual experiences to the Word of God need to be reminded that the Word stands and cannot be set aside. If we believe that God has spoken to us of an easier way, a lighter burden, a setting aside of the Law, we need to recognize this not as his voice but the voice of our enemy. Jesus reiterates the absoluteness of God’s Law (Matthew 5:17-18, Luke 16:17). We have not and cannot fulfill God’s law perfectly, so our obedience cannot be the means by which we are reconciled with God. Rather, we must rely on the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ, conveyed to us by the grace and mercy of God the Father (John 3:14-15).

Psalm 19 – We can know of God through nature. The variety of creation, the beauty, the order – all these things testify to an intentional, creative act of a scale beyond our ability to comprehend. All of this purely by chance? Random, repeated coincidence? How much more faith that interpretation requires than the obvious observation that this all looks like an intentional creation! So when comes to the revelation of the Creator through the Word, can there be any doubt that the Word is just as beautiful as the magnificence of creation itself? Can there be any doubt that a God who would go to all this trouble to create would also take pains to ensure that his revelation in his Word would be equally knowable and equally to our benefit? God’s Word is the only reliable guide to life. While He does not answer everything we want to know, what He tells us is more than enough to occupy our thoughts, our meditations, our actions, and our praise and worship for all of our earthly life!

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 – Dealing with divisions among the Corinthians in terms of who they follow and adhere to, Paul drives the conversation back to the real authority – Jesus himself. Presuming that Paul, Apollos, and Cephas (1:12) all are preaching the same thing – Christ crucified and resurrected – then how are they of any consequence compared to Christ himself? What powerful words to a church culture today obsessed with personality and performance over depth and maturation of the faith! It is Christ ultimately that matters, and the reality is that to many this message sounds ridiculous! Compared to what, Paul asks (1:20)? What would we substitute against a man claiming to be the Son of God who prophesies his own death and resurrection and fulfills that prophesy perfectly? It is the resurrection of the Son of God that trumps all alternate philosophical or theological musings or ideas about things. We are called to obediently take the word of the Son of God based on his resurrection, and to set aside our alternate pretensions and ideas about how things could or should work. After all, who are we? How many of us are geniuses? Billionaires? Thought-leaders or trend-setters? We are first and foremost sheep, followers of Jesus who trust in him alone for our safety here and now and for eternity. This is the privileged folly of Christians who follow the slaughtered and resurrected Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. So we ought to deal with one another in humility, focusing not on our own personal preferences but on the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ.

John 2:13-22 – There are many things vying for our attentions and our resources and our devotions. Some of the most compelling and powerful of these things can be the very Bride of Christ, the Church. But our only devotion is to be to our Lord and Savior, to the one who embodies not only the perfect will and obedience of God the Father, but also the perfect worship that we are called to in our lives. It isn’t Church or our involvement in it that saves us, but only the perfect life, death, resurrection, ascension,and promised return of the very Word of God made flesh, the Son of God by whom all things were made condescending to become one with creation that He might save creation. There is nothing to be preserved but this, and anything that becomes a false idol, anything that eclipses Him must eventually be torn down so that He might be seen clearly, in all his beauty and glory and splendor. John the Baptist realizes this as he tells his own disciples at the end of the next chapter in St. John’s gospel He must increase, but I must decrease.

At some point, this reality will cherish what we hold most dear, challenge our hearts and minds for our true affection, our true faith, our true fidelity, and our Lord is not above destroying even the things He has gifted us with in order that we might be set free from illusions and pretensions, that we might be brought back in repentance to the foot of the cross and to the open and empty tomb to simply marvel that all of this was done for us. For you, for me.

Reading Ramblings – February 25, 2018

February 18, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: Second Sunday in Lent – February 25, 2018

Texts: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38

Context: Promises are powerful things. Keeping promises is even a more powerful thing, both to the honor of the one who keeps it as well as the one who receives the benefits of the fulfilled promise. God promised Abraham that He would bless him. After nearly 25 years together Abraham has indeed been blessed, even though God has not fulfilled all of his promises to him. He does though, and Abraham is indeed the blessing to all of creation God indicates. It isn’t simply the long-awaited birth of Isaac in which God fulfills his promise. Rather, it is ultimately in Abraham’s distant descendant, Jesus of Nazareth. Here is where the promise to Abraham reaches it’s fullest application and fulfillment, and you and I today are part of the evidence of God’s faithfulness to his promises. Lent is a time of anticipation and trusting in the promises of God as we recognize just how unfaithful and untrustworthy we ourselves are.

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 – The skipped verses have to do with the covenant of circumcision, and are omitted to keep the focus on God and his promises. Likewise the reading stops short of Abraham’s response to God’s promise. These are irrelevant things. What God promises, God fulfills. Regardless of whether we believe He will or not. So we are called to trust God’s promises in Jesus Christ that our sins – which Lent gives us time to reflect on and repent of – truly are forgiven. This has nothing to do with the intensity of my faith or the size of my faith, for even what we might characterize as small faith is grounded in the power and promise of God himself, and is enough. Even the thief on the cross with his very small statement of faith – remember me when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:42) – is assured that God will honor his promises to this unlikely convert. Rather than be dismayed at the depth of our sinfulness, we should rather cast our eyes to the promises of God in Jesus Christ that though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). God keeps his promises!

Psalm 22:23-31 – The first half of this psalm is a powerful plea to God for help and mercy, a searching for a God who seems hidden but is trusted to be present. Jesus quotes the first line of this psalm as He hangs on the cross, dying. Yet today we focus on the second half of this psalm, which based on trust in God’s faithfulness transitions into an exhortation to praise. God is faithful, and the appearances of this world and our relative conditions in it are not accurate descriptions of the extent of God’s faithful promises to even those we would consider lowly or despised (v.24). Rather, God’s faithfulness will be extended to those who need it most, and we his people are to take seriously that, as Martin Luther described, we are masks of God through whom God fulfills his promises to his creation. When we see those who suffer we do not ask why God allows them to suffer, but rather why we allow them (or cause them) to suffer. Such confidence is not just the duty and privilege of the living but the dead as well, powerful assertions in the last two verses of the psalm. God is not the god of the dead but of the living, including those who seem dead to us.

Romans 5:1-11 – Paul beautifully summarizes what we receive from God and his promises through Jesus Christ. First and foremost we are now at peace with God. We are no longer actively in rebellion against him and his will and therefore subjects of his righteous wrath. Our sin no longer separates us from God. This in turn leads us to experience our lives not in anger against God for what He has or has not given us, but rather in trust that He has, does, and will give us all things, even if our current situation does not seem to reflect this. Christians suffer differently than any other person on earth because Christians suffer in the hope that God the Holy Spirit is at work even in the suffering, not simply helping them to get through it but actively working within them to change their very character in the process, which enables us to hold on to our hope in the promises of God. These promises are grounded in the very physical death and resurrection of the Son of God. We are not left to ground our hopes on nothing but on a historical event witnessed by many people and attested to by reliable witnesses still today in the four Gospels of the New Testament. We therefore have hope not simply to avoid punishment from God – which fell upon Jesus instead – but rather to enjoy the full blessings and promises of God witnessed to in the resurrection of the Son of God.

Mark 8:27-38 – We read the account of the Transfiguration which follows this section two weeks ago. Now we move back in time to see what happened before Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus in his divine glory. It begins with Peter’s miraculous confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s prophetic promises to his people since at least the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18). But expectations about what the Messiah will do and be need to be corrected, so Jesus proceeds to outline the trajectory of his ministry, culminating in his death and resurrection. This doesn’t match the hopes and dreams of a subjugated people, who long for a Messiah who will deliver them from the power of Rome and restore them to the glory they enjoyed under Kings David and Solomon! Peter feels the need to correct Jesus. In doing so, however, he becomes a source of temptation to Jesus, and in that respect no better or different than Satan when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness following Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). Fully human, Jesus no doubt is filled with fear and dread of the events He knows are coming. Would that there was another way! Peter vocalizes the temptations that Jesus must constantly face down and so He reacts sharply to Peter.

His words still haunt his followers today, who all too often have seen the truth in them. To follow Jesus is a denial of self and what we would prefer or desire according to our sinful and broken standards of what is good. To follow Jesus ultimately means committing oneself – if necessary – to taking up voluntarily the instrument of our death, rather than rejecting the one we know to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and the ultimate source and hope of our life not just here and now but for all eternity. Jesus’ words are not a Hallmark-card encouragement to keep our chins up when we have a bad day at work or when the car won’t start. The cross was a brutal, terrifying reality to the people of Judea in Jesus’ day. They understood his words clearly as a summons to death, if necessary.

We are to be bold in the face of death, resolved to our faith in the one who is faithful and keeps his promises to us. Failure to do so is a rejection of the only one who truly can give us life. Rejecting Jesus may allow us to live a bit longer in this world, or a bit more comfortably, but at the eternal cost of our very souls. God is faithful! Let us be faithful to him for this little while, regardless of what suffering that might require from us!

YFA – February 18, 2018

February 18, 2018
A Weekly Devotional Resource
  • Sunday – Reflect Upon Today’s Service & Sermon
  • Monday – Old Testament – Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
    • Why do you think God reiterates these promises to Abraham?
    • Do you consider yourself part of the fulfillment of these promises?
  • Tuesday – Epistle – Romans 5:1-11
    • What is the primary promise we have from God in Christ (vs.1-2)?
    • How does this promise help you when you suffer (vs.3-5)?
  • Wednesday – Gospel – Mark 8:27-38
    • How is Peter like Satan in this episode (vs.31-33)?
    • What is your greatest fear in terms of following Jesus?
  • Thursday – Psalm 22:23-31
    • How do you imagine all the ends of the earth turning to God (v.27)?
    • Is our hope in God only temporal, or eternal (vs. 26b, 29-31)?
  • Friday – Luther’s Small Catechism – The Apostles Creed 1st Article
    • Is God the Father’s creative work finished or ongoing?
    • What is the ultimate gift of creation that I will receive from God?
  • Saturday – Hymn – When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
    • What about the cross causes us to hold all else meaningless (v.1)?
    • What has Christ purchased in his blessed death (v.4)?


YFA – February 11, 2018

February 11, 2018

A Weekly Devotional Resource


  • Sunday – Reflect on today’s service & sermo
  • Monday – Old Testament – Genesis 22:1-18
    • Why is it important that verse 1 tells us this is a test?
    • What (or who) would you be least willing to trust to God?
  • Tuesday – Epistle – James 1:12-18
    • Have you attempted to blame God before for your temptation?
    • What should we expect instead from God (vs.16-i8)?
  • Wednesday – Gospel – Mark 1:9-15
    • What might God the Father be pleased about Jesus at this point?
    • Does Jesus seek temptation or does God the Father command it (v.12)?
  • Thursday – Psalm – Psalm 25:1-10
    • How is trust related to the study of God’s Word (vs. 2, 4-5)?
    • What is God’s eternal character (vs.8-10)?
  • Friday – Luther’s Small Catechism – The Apostle’s Creed Intro
    • Why is the creed divided into three separate articles?
    • What might this tell us about the creed’s purpose?
  • Saturday – Hymn – In the Cross of Christ I Glory
    • What might be meant by “the wrecks of time” (v.1)?
    • Is the cross only of use and comfort in suffering (v.3)?


Reading Ramblings – February 18, 2018

February 11, 2018

Reading Ramblings

Date: First Sunday in Lent – February 18, 2018

Texts: Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 25:1-10; James 1:12-18; Mark 1:9-15

Context: Lent comes to us through the Old English word len(c)ten, which meant spring. Eventually it came to be the word used to translate the Latin word quadragesima which means 40 days or 40th day and denoted the period of fasting and self-examination leading up to Easter Sunday. Though some of the Church Fathers dating back to the fifth century considered this pre-Easter time to be of apostolic origin, that viewpoint has been mostly done away with as scholars uncover a variety of observances and customs related to this time of the Church year in the first three centuries of Christianity. Irenaeus is usually quoted here in a letter to Pope Victor indicating disagreements both in when to observe Easter as well as the fast preceding it. Had the apostles instituted a 40-day period of fasting prior to Easter, the assumption is this tradition would have been disseminated and maintained against any alternate ideas resulting in a greater uniformity of practice. Not until the early 4th century is there a mention of a 40-day fasting period, and even there it isn’t necessarily talking about Lent. However by the end of the 4th century there are several references to a 40-day fasting period indicating that the practice had become more widely established and followed. While practices may have evolved gradually, the concept of self-examination and even self-denial in preparation to more properly receive with joy our Lord’s resurrection on Easter morning is a well-established concept. Lenten readings guide us towards these considerations even in traditions where fasting is no longer (or never was) a strong element.

Liturgically the tone changes in Lent as well. The use of Alleluia/Hallelujah is scrubbed from most liturgies. The tone is more subdued both musically as well as visually with the use of purple as the liturgical color for the season. The readings lead us in consideration of sacrifice and the great payment God made through his Son on our behalf. We are no longer in Ordinary Time, so all of the readings should work together towards a theme each Sunday.

Genesis 22:1-18 – One of the most powerful scenes in the Old Testament, and a cause for concern still today for many. Yet God is clear to Moses from the very start of this scene – this is a test. This is not an actual command of God that God intended to have carried out. Our God does not desire the sacrifice of human life – our God is rather committed to the salvation of human life and all of creation. In offering a story of a father called to sacrifice willingly and knowingly his son, a son he has waited 25 years for and receives long after his reasonable hopes of becoming a father have dissipated. What an enormous thing to offer such a thing to God, to respond in faithfulness in acknowledgment of God’s blessings and goodness! For those who consider grace to be cheap or free, it is good to ponder for a moment that God willingly did what He did not require Abraham to do. God willingly sacrificed his Son, a son who, like Isaac probably was, is participative in the sacrifice. It is not just the father’s will but the son’s as well! What an amazing thing! What a powerful thing! What a deeply moving and sorrowful thing! As we sing in a beloved hymn, Oh come to the Father through Jesus the Son, and give him the glory great things He hath done!

Psalm 25:1-10 – If the psalms had been around in Abraham’s day, I can easily imagine him reciting these lines to himself and to his son as they journeyed for three days towards Mt. Moriah. Where is our trust? Is it in ourselves and our plans and our ideas of what is right, or is it in the God who created all things? When we suffer, do we trust that God is with us and beside us? Do we look to him for deliverance? Is there any other source of deliverance? Can anyone else save us from our ancient enemy Satan, who wants to exult over our death and separation from our God (vs.1-3)? As such, it only makes sense that we would seek the Lord’s wisdom in all things and situations (vs.4-5). As we do so we become aware of our sinfulness, our refusal and inability to perfectly seek or carry out his will, and so we pray for his mercy and grace and forgiveness (vs.6-7). And we affirm that this is what God has indeed promised to do! We reassure ourselves with what He says to us – that in Christ, we are forgiven and reconciled (vs.8-10)!

James 1:12-18 – The Epistle lesson frequently comes up in discussion with the reading from Genesis. Wasn’t God tempting Abraham to sin? Hardly. While the Hebrew in Genesis 22:1 can be translated either as test or tempt, we need to remember that from Abraham’s perspective, what God asks of him is not a sin. It was a more or less common practice among some in the Ancient Near East to make human sacrifices and specifically child sacrifices. He wouldn’t have considered a sin, however confused the request might have made him otherwise. And God has no intention of allowing Abraham to carry out the sacrifice. God is not attempting to trick Abraham into sin to convict him, and we should not presume this is God’s intent with us either. Rather, God has given us his Holy Spirit to encourage and strengthen us against temptation and in duress. God desires to give us only his good and best – we have enough sin in us and around us – we need and receive only God’s goodness and grace!

Mark 1:9-15 – Unlike you and I, Jesus’ baptism and divine endorsement are followed specifically with a time of temptation. Is this a contradiction of James 1? Again, no. Jesus must be tempted specifically by God as He is not subject to original sin – the source of sin as per James 1:14. Why must Jesus be tempted? Jesus is the new Adam, without original sin and therefore capable of remaining perfectly obedient to God as no human being has been since Adam and Eve. If Jesus is to be the perfect, spotless atoning sacrifice for sin, He must reject sin himself and be thoroughly without it. So here, before He begins his ministry, He faces temptation specific to the ministry He is called to. Will He be obedient to the Father’s plan, one that will be slow, frustrating, difficult? Or will He choose his own will and way? Will He seek a short-cut? Will He give in to his own human fears and uncertainties of death and aversion to suffering? Only once He has overcome these initial – not final! – temptations can Jesus embark on his public ministry. Had He failed – as Adam and Eve did – there would have been no ministry. God’s plan of salvation would have been thwarted by sin.

Jesus comes not as a moral model or ethical teacher because He accomplishes what we are incapable of – perfect and total obedience to the will of God the Father, up to and including a violent death and burial. Jesus teaches and preaches repentance first and foremost, recognizing our failure to keep God’s will. Only then can we properly believe, desperately, that God indeed offers us what we cannot accomplish on our own – reconciliation. Grace. Forgiveness. Hope. Life. All of this because He himself is the perfect and spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Your sin. My sin. Forever. Much to think about, to reflect on, and ultimately to give thanks for as we begin our Lenten journey to the cross and the empty tomb!

A&tCL VI – Ezra through Song of Solomon

February 6, 2018

This post is part of a series on Alcohol & the Christian Life.  It is a continuation of this post.  I am systematically examining every verse in the Bible that deals with wine (and by extension strong drink or alcoholic beverages) to better understand the Biblical stance on alcohol as part of the life of God’s people.  

Ezra mentions wine in chapters 6 and 7.  Ezra 6:9 is part of King Darius’ reiteration of King Cyrus’ decree regarding the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Wine is mentioned here (chamar) as one of several essential items that are to be provided to the Jewish priests as necessary for their duties and services.  Ezra 7:22 is part of King Artaxerxes directives to his treasurers in the provices in and around Jerusalem to provide whatever Ezra needs for his efforts.  Wine (again chamar) is referenced as part of a larger list of necessities they are to provide Ezra.  There is no condemnation or commendation of wine in these passages – it is treated as a normal commodity and necessity.

Nehemiah has multiple mentions of wine using several terms (yayin, tirosh, and mamtak).  The uses of yayin occur in chapters 2, 5 and 13.  The uses of tirosh occur in chapters 5, 10, and 13, and mamtak occurs in only chapter 8 – the only usage of this word in the whole Old Testament.

Nehemiah 2:1 describes Nehemiah bring King Artaxerxes his wine (yayin), and makes no comment on it positively or negatively but simply as the context in which a conversation is about to unfold.  Nehemiah 5:18 describes how Nehemiah provided for rich banquets at his own expense, and a wine (yayin) is mentioned as something in abundance and variety.  Nehemiah 13:15 describes how Nehemiah attempted to remind God’s people to observe the Sabbath and not engage in work  or commerce, some of which included the loading and transport and even making of wine (yayin).  Wine is used by way of example, so Nehemiah’s warning is not against wine but against violating the Sabbath.

As for tirosh, Nehemiah 5:11 is a decree from Nehemiah to return to the poor what has been taken from them, including wine and other commodities.  In relatively close context to the use of yayin in 5:18, the variation in word choice for wine seems to be more poetic or aesthetic than attempting to convey any substantive difference implicit in the two Hebrew words.  Nehemiah 10:37 and 39 are both references to how God’s people will continue to care for God’s house and the priests who work there.  Wine is listed as one of several specified commodities that will be provided.  This is a similar use of the word wine (tirosh) in 13:5 and 13:12, and there appears no substantive difference of meaning from yayin in 13:15.

Mamtak means something sweet, and different translations interpret this word differently.  Some (like the KJV) leave it at this very general meaning, while others (such as the ESV) translate it as sweet wine.  Perhaps the context helps us understand why some might not want to translate it as sweet wine, since it is an order by Nehemiah to the people of God to celebrate the fact that the Law has been rediscovered and read to the people as dictated for the first time in a very, very long time.  Is Nehemiah encouraging God’s people to celebrate with wine?  Possibly, but not necessarily.

All references to wine in the book of Esther utilize yayin.  Chapter 1:7 & 10 reference wine in terms of what was served to King Ahasuerus (Xerxes).  Verse 10 references the king’s likely excessive use of wine, so that his heart is merry.  The passage is not specifically critical of Ahasuerus here, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to read into the passage that it is the king’s merry heart that both prompts him to summon his wife to show off her beauty, and perhaps provides the reason for her refusal, and certainly may contribute to the king’s anger at her refusal.  In Esther 5:6 wine is mentioned as being part of a feast given by the king.  And again in Esther 7:2, 7-8, wine is mentioned as present at a feast, and that the king is partaking in drinking wine.  Once again the king is roused to anger – this time not at his queen, Esther, but rather at his right-hand man Haman.  Throughout Esther it can be gleaned that excessive wine can inflame the emotions and lead people to act more spuriously, something I think is very true!

The book of Job has few references to wine, and the few there are come right away (1:13, 18) and then close to the end (32:19).  All of them utilize yayin.  In chapter 1 the two references are simply to the feasting that Job’s children were enjoying together.  In chapter 32 Job mentions wine as a metaphor for his condition of needing to talk or else he’ll burst from the words pent up inside of him.  None of these references provide any clue as to an opinion about wine.

For as many psalms as there are, only a few of them reference wine, mostly with the use of yayin and tirosh, but also with one occurence (69:21) of chomets, which as we saw in Ruth is possibly better interpreted as vinegar of some sort – something unsuitable for drinking.  Tirosh only occurs in 4:7 as a means of comparing great joy.  God’s joy is far greater than even the joy of those who have an abundance of food and wine.  There are four references to wine that utilize yayin.  Psalm 60:3 uses wine as a metaphor for the way that God has caused his people to stagger under the rejection and anger of God.  Certainly his is an inference that wine can be a cause of drunkenness, and drunkenness in turn can lead to physical coordination problems.  It’s a metaphor that lends itself easily to creating an image in the hearer/reader’s mind.  Psalm 75:8 uses wine in a similar sense as a means of describing how God has and will bring judgment against the wicked.  The wine here is a symbol of God’s righteous anger and judgment against those who oppose him and his people.  Similarly 78:65, which pictures God’s activity as someone who wakes from a drunken sleep.  The idea is not that God has been sleeping or drunk, but rather as a means of conveying to people the urgency of God’s actions when He chooses to act.

Psalm 104:15 is interesting.  Here wine is not a metaphor but described as a gift from God.  Not just a gift, but a gift that gladdens the heart of man.   It is as important a gift as oil and bread, two other commodities that I don’t think any Christian or Jew has debated or disputed as truly good things.  Here all three are referenced specifically for their benefits to humanity (gladdening the heart, making our faces to shine, and strengthening the heart) as well as their common source in God.  For those who might argue that wine (and by extension, alcohol of any kind) is not ultimately part of God’s good creation, this verse will be particularly challenging.  Note that I don’t believe that this verse is justifying drunkenness.  However I think it does point to the reality that there is a blessed and healthy result of drinking alcohol in that it can gladden the heart.  That can of course be pushed too far into drunkenness and the difficulties which drunkenness can bring when the heart is overly gladdened or overly directed by other emotions.  This would seem to be in contrast with other, non-alcoholic beverages.  All of them are good and delicious gifts from God, useful for health and vitality but not necessarily intended to gladden the heart of a man.  This seems like an important verse to say that alcoholic drinks are not just an inevitable necessity of human life, but are intended to be enjoyed.

Proverbs is a confusing book to many people.  It is classified as an example of wisdom literature, something that is still highly prized today and was also highly prized in the ancient near east.  We have examples of it also from the Egyptians.  Wisdom literature is concerned with how to live wisely, in a way most likely to lead both to temporary happiness and communal well-being as well as ultimate good standing before God.  Proverbs consists of many maxims, short, easily memorized statements.  What gets confusing is that because Proverbs deals with all of human experience across a lifetime, sometimes one maxim works best and sometimes not just a different maxim but a completely opposite maxim works best!  Sometimes it’s best to correct a fool so that he becomes less foolish (26:5).  But at other times it’s not worth the effort to try and correct them because they aren’t going to listen (26:4). It isn’t that these maxims are canceling each other out, but rather at different times, different wisdom is needed.

I would expect that a book on wisdom will have a few things to say about wine and strong drink, and certainly Proverbs does address this issue repeatedly,  mostly utilizing yayin but including one instance of mamsak, defined as a wine and spice mixture,  and one use of tirosh.  The tirosh reference comes first in Proverbs 3:10 – where wine is once again included with other commodities and classified as a gift from God, this time a gift given in response to our generosity and wise use of what God gives to us.

The mamsak usage comes in 23:30, which also has a yayin usage as well.  In response to the questions raised in verse 29, we are told that the ones who have woe, sorrow, strife, complaining, inexplicable wounds and red eyes?   Those that linger over wine and mixed wine.  There seems to be little difference between the words here – both seem to indicate alcoholic beverages created from grapes.  The context of chapter 23 is one of wisdom – clinging wisely to the teachings of mom and dad and avoiding the temptations of other sources of wisdom – the adulteress/prostitute and alcohol.  Certainly this advice is wise.  Anyone who obsesses too much over something dangerous is bound to regret it.  The question becomes how do we deal with this verse in light of other verses (in Proverbs as well as elsewhere) where wine is seen as a gift from God to be enjoyed properly?  One way would be to ignore those other verses, which is problematic.  Another equally valid method along those lines would be to ignore this verse.  Can both things be true?  Can wine be both a gift from God as well as a danger to some?  Of course!  Here I think the pairing with fornication (sex with someone you aren’t married to) is helpful.  Sex is a good gift from God, but sex when not contained properly as God intended it to be in marriage becomes very dangerous.  Likewise, when one is abusive of the good gift of God in wine and alcohol, the situation is very dangerous.  If you’re sitting around all the time wondering about when you can have your next drink (v.35), or if you spend all your time dreaming about alcohol, chances are good that it’s not what you should be going after!  So in certain circumstances this advice is dead-on accurate – for the person with addictive tendencies, they should avoid wine and alcohol because it is only going to get them into ever-deepening trouble.

Proverbs 4:17 utilizes wine (yayin) again as picture language for something else, a means of describing the ways of the wicked metaphorically as a warning against falling in with them.  Proverbs 9:2, 5 also uses wine in a metaphorical sense.  Here Wisdom offers her good gifts to those who seek them, as a good hostess offers good food and drink to her guests.  Again the issue is not wine but wisdom.  Proverbs 20:1 uses picture language to describe some of the possible effects of alcoholic drinks – violence, surliness, eagerness to a fight.  The warning is not to avoid it completely but not to be led astray by it.  This would definitely suggest not drinking to excess, but could also again be a warning to abstinence for those who have proven over and over again an inability to mediate their enjoyment, resulting ultimately in bad situations.  Proverbs 21:17 deals with a different aspect of wine and alcohol – an economic impact.  As a means to pleasure, the person who seeks after short-term pleasures will never attain long-term wealth since they spend their money on fleeting things as quickly as they acquire it.  Again wine is not the issue per se but it’s one example of a temporary pleasure which has the capacity to rob us of long-term financial security.  Finally, in the last chapter of Proverbs we have admonitions about when alcohol should or should not be enjoyed.  Proverbs 31:4 cautions rulers about wine and alcohol.  Esther provided some contextual examples of why this might be a good rule of thumb!  However to those who are suffering, wine and alcohol can be a source of temporary relief.  This could be a medicinal reference, but likely is just recognizing that for someone in need of relief from their misery or those close to death, wine and alcohol can be an appropriate distraction.

Ecclesiastes  has three references to wine, all utilizing yayin.  Ecclesiastes 2:3 references wine as one of the means the author employed to experience pleasure and search for wisdom.  Chapter 9:7 is his conclusion – enjoy the simple pleasures of life, here pictured as bread and wine both in the literal as well as more metaphorical sense.  Ecclesiastes 10:19 describes wine as something that makes our lives glad.  None of these condemn wine or alcohol in any sense, but treat it as a normal part of human life.  Not in the prescriptive, you must do this sense, but in the more descriptive this is what many/most people do.

Song of Solomon is the last book I’ll deal with today.  Like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, tradition fingers King Solomon – son of King David – as the author, although not without quite a bit of scholarly debate in some areas.  It is said that Solomon wrote Song of Solomon as a young man, preoccupied and fascinated with love and passion.   Proverbs is said to come when he was older, perhaps after becoming king, when his mind was more obsessed with how to help his people.  And finally Ecclesiastes is traditionally seen as his final work, the work of an old man with a good (though also unnerving to some) perspective of life and what matters.

Song of Solomon mentions wine a few times – predominantly using yayin but also throwing a curve ball in the form of mezeg – a word that only occurs here in the Old Testament and is presumed to refer to wine or other liquor mixed with water.  It occurs in 7:2 as a metaphorical description of the beauty and allure of his beloved’s navel.  Yowza!

In chapter 1:2, 4 wine is used in comparison to the affections of her love.  And if you aren’t sure which is better, you should probably go and take a look.  But it’s not the wine!  He utilizes the same comparison (with the same result!) in 4:10.  In 5:1 wine is referred to as synonymous with richness and good things.  He continues in 7:9 comparing her mouth to wine (favorably, I presume!), and she responds with an longing in 8:2 to allow her to give her love good gifts.

Throughout Song of Solomon wine is uniformly a good, sweet thing and therefore appropriate to be held up in comparison (even a paling comparison) with the worth and beauty of the young lovers.  As a whole, the books in this post refer to wine either casually, as a commodity of everyday life, or favorably, and also occasionally in warning.  It is appropriate with wine as well as with love that we be careful not to misuse  the good gifts of God to his creation!



Acting for Life

February 5, 2018

Each year there is a massive rally in Washington DC and all around the United States on or near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in this country 45 years ago.  And every year, despite thousands and thousands of protestors nationwide, the national press is by and large silent on it.  Certainly far more silent than it was about the Women’s March last year, despite that march having very little cohesive purpose.  And despite presidential and vice-presidential statements of support to pro-lifers, the news media saw fit once again to by and large ignore the event.

One of the typical responses against these marches is to criticize Christians for wanting to force women to have their babies but not wanting to help these women in that process, implying that Christians don’t really care about the women, only about the baby.  Which is somehow less sensitive than caring about the woman by killing the baby.


But it struck me that one of the problems with this attack on the Christian response to helping women in pregnancy is that it is increasingly difficult for the Church to do this, and the source of this increasing difficulty is the very State that seems determined to maintain the status quo on abortions.  Adoptions, for instance, are a highly regulated issue it turns out.  This is good in some respects – the potential abuse of women and babies by selling babies to the highest bidder or other such exploitation demands there be some rules on what constitutes a legal adoption.  Other regulations are not helpful – demanding that adoption agencies provide adoption opportunities to any potential couple including same-sex couples – something which violates the faith basis of many Christian organizations and has resulted in actually shutting down Christian (mostly Catholic) adoption agencies that refuse to comply with such regulation.

In other words, adoption is a political issue just as much or more so than abortion.  People who want to criticize Christians for not being helpful to young mothers also want to demand Christians violate their religious beliefs to help young mothers.  Problematic at best.

The other aspect to this critique is that as church participation declines in America in favor of some vague, inactive spirituality (even Christian spirituality), many young women have no church community and are therefore lacking in resources to assist them in dealing not only with their sexual development but with unexpected pregnancy.  I’d like to think that a congregation would try to help a member who found themselves in such a situation, though I’m sure many congregations have been guilty rather of ostracizing and casting out the person.

I pray that Roe v. Wade is overturned.  Sooner rather than later.  I pray that everyone will come to understand that freedom which requires the death of the most vulnerable can hardly be thought of as a freedom.  But discussion also needs to focus on how much State regulation actually prevents Christians from doing what their critics chastise them for not doing.


YFA – February 4, 2018

February 4, 2018
A Weekly Devotional Resource
  • Sunday – Reflect on Today’s Worship and Sermon
  • Monday – Old Testament – Exodus 34:29-35
    • Why do you think Moses’ face glowed after meeting with God?
    • Why do you think Moses felt it necessary to veil his face?
  • Tuesday – Epistle – 2 Corinthians 3:12-13, 4:1-6
    • What is the hope we have which makes us bold (3:7-11)?
    • What is the reason for our exemplary lives in Christ (4:5)?
  • Wednesday – Gospel – Mark 9:2-9
    • Why do you think Jesus only took Peter, James and John?
    • What is the significance of being told to listen to Jesus?
  • Thursday – Psalm – Psalm 50:1-6
    • What role of God’s is the psalm emphasizing (v.6)?
    • Who does God exercise this role with (v.1)?
  • Friday – Luther’s Small Catechism – The Tenth Commandment
    • How is coveting promoted in our culture today?
    • What active steps do you take to avoid coveting?
  • Saturday – Hymn – ‘Tis Good Lord, To Be Here
    • How is Jesus  the fulfiller of the past (v.2)?
    • How does Jesus accompany you and I down the mountain (v.5)?