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Apokalipsis_XVII am excited to have officially kicked off our Tuesday lunch study of Revelation.  It will take us a few weeks to settle into a routine and build rapport that will allow us to converse casually, but I have no doubt we will get there.

I am also very blessed to see that our facilitator plans to blog our weekly progress on his very snazzy looking new WordPress blog (surely Peter helped him get that thing started).  You can join in the Revelation conversation by following along with Watchman Curtis each week.

The book of Revelation is, as Curtis puts it:

…the most intimidating, mysterious, confusing and ignored book of the Bible.

But, in the midst of the mystery and confusion, we discover that it is the only book in the Bible that carries its own promise of blessing to those who read, hear, and heed its words. 

I truly look forward to this season of reading, hearing, and heeding the Revelation of my Lord Jesus, and I am thankful that even those of you who can’t join us for lunch on Tuesdays can still join in the study through The Watchman’s Gaze.  I invite you to come follow along and be blessed!

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We concluded our series from the book of John yesterday with an exploration of the story of healing of a man who was blind from birth.  Our primary focus was on the conversation between Jesus and His disciples’ in John 9:1-5.

This story is an absolutely amazing encounter with the healing grace of our Lord and it is written in more detail than most of the other stories in the book of John.  It highlights the tension that is occurring between Jesus and the Pharisees, and this passage contains one of the biggest misunderstandings of Scripture in the Bible.

John 9 vs 1-5 NASB jpg 

What conclusion can we draw from this text?  At first glance, it appears that God made this man blind so Jesus could come along and heal him.  We are going to explore the language of this text and see if we can reveal how this misconception occurred.

If we begin to apply the basic principles of Biblical interpretation, a different picture unfolds.

It is important to remember that our oldest manuscripts of the New Testament are in Greek.  They are hand written, they are written without punctuation or spaces between words, and they contain very few capitalizations.

When scholars work with these texts, they not only have to translate the words, but have to determine where sentences begin and end as well.  Sometimes it is their subjective opinion that determines the location of periods and commas.

And the placement of a period or a space can make all the difference in the world!

Let me illustrate the point.  Imagine a man came home to see this letter scribbled on a note card and lying on the kitchen table.

Honey Dinner jpg  

How can we perceive this note?

 Hey, Honey dinner is on.  I love you just a little.  Trip to the store.

Or, is it possible she is telling him:

 Hey Honey, Dinner is on.  I love you.  Just a little trip to the store.

We look at those options and consider this very easy to interpret: We conclude that she loves him, they have plans for dinner, and she has gone to the store.

Our conclusion is based on our assumption of a healthy relationship.  But what if they had just had a fight?  What if her ex-boyfriend works at a store?  What honey is she having dinner with?  What exactly is a honey dinner anyway?

Remove capitalization and punctuation from the text and things can get complicated in a hurry.

Here is another illustration.

godisnowhere jpg 

What do we have in this text?

 God is now here jpg

 

When you take a confusing situation, add a language barrier and throw in about two thousand years of time, it is possible that you could misunderstand what Jesus is communicating.

I believe it all boils down to the placement of a period — and the unnecessary addition of words for clarification.

Let’s look again at the text.  We are reading from the New American Standard Bible, one of the most literal translations available.

John 9 vs 1-5 NASB jpg 

You may notice that some of the words are in italics.  The preface to the NASB reads, “Italics are used in the text to indicate words which are not found in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek but implied by it.”  The italicized words included in this literal translation of the Scripture are an attempt by the translators to increase readability and understanding of the text.  When translators cross the line of adding “implied words,” they have moved from the function of translation and take on the role of interpreting the Scripture. 

A certain level of interpretation from translators of the Scripture is to be expected, but the interpretation will always pass through the filter of human bias and understanding.

So, literally, the words in italics are not found in the original language.  You could cross them out of your Bible and not be altering the Word of God.

Let’s try it —

John 9 vs 1-5 NASB crossed out jpg

 

This is very interesting. When we take out the words that don’t exist in the Greek we are left with an incomplete sentence in verse three.  What do we do with that? 

We realize that the conclusion of verse three is found in verse four.

John 9 vs 1-5 NASB punctuation jpg 

You may ask, “Why are you making such a big deal out of this one verse?”

It is because this verse deals with one of the foundational lies that is attacking the church: the belief that God causes sickness in people so that He can be glorified.

And it almost looks like you can find it in the Bible.  But, when you look at the text, you realize it is grammatically incorrect to make that assumption, and it is spiritually incorrect to assume it as well.

It is theologically inconsistent for God to afflict people and for Jesus to heal them.  They would be working against each other, which could lead to the incorrect conlusion, “But God afflicted them, so that Jesus could heal them.”

The truth is God doesn’t have to afflict people.  There is enough brokeness in the world without the creator and sustainer of life hurting people.

Another essential aspect of Biblical interpretation is allowing the Bible to interpret itself.  It is important to allow the Sciptures to bring clarity to difficult concepts contained therein.

Let’s look at what else the Bible says about the relationship between Jesus and God concerning healing and the source of brokeness.

Acts 10 vs 38 jpg

Question: According to this passage, who did Jesus heal?

Answer: All who were oppressed by the devil.

Question: Where is God according to this passage?

Answer: God is with Jesus.

It does not say Jesus went around healing those who were oppressed by God.  Jesus healed those who were oppressed by the devil.  The reason Jesus appeared was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

When you see Jesus — you see the perfect revelation of the heart of God.

The confusion occurs because all of us have seen situations where someone we know or love has come through a tragic situation and drawn closer to God on the other side.

Our natural deduction is to assume God did that to them so they would learn to depend on Him.  That is where the lie creeps in —- but, the truth is that God cannot give what He doesn’t have.  God doesn’t have sickness.  He doesn’t have disease.  God is not poor or broken or ashamed.  He doesn’t give that junk away.

We live in a broken world, and people get broken because of the brokenness of sin.  But, God is not the one breaking, He is the one healing.

It is important to understand this today so we can learn to trust the heart of the Father and know His intention of goodness toward us.

Jer 29 vs 11 jpg

The key to the confusion in John 9:3 really comes from the fact that the disciples are asking the wrong question.  They are wanting to know “Why?”  Why is he blind?  Why did it happen to him?  Why aren’t I blind?  Did sin cause this? If so, whose sin?

We hear the disciples question, and we want to know the answer, too.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why is there hurting, hunger, and brokeness in the world.

Why?  Why?  Why?

The fact is: Jesus doesn’t often answer the why question. 

He doesn’t feel a need to justify Himself or your circumstances to you.  Rarely, if ever, do we discover why.

When we look to John 9:3 for the answer to “Why?” of course we get confused, because Jesus is not answering “Why?”

Jesus is telling us “What now?”

The key to moving forward in life isn’t found in asking “Why?”  The question we must consider is, “What do I do now?”  Jesus will lead you through that question.

 

(Blogger’s Note: A special thanks to Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California, for first introducing me to this remarkable truth from John chapter 9.)

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The conversation between Jesus and those who were following Him after the feeding of the 5,000 in John Chapter 6 is a remarkable exploration of the human psyche.

From the New American Standard Bible the text reads:

John 6:26-30 (NASB)
28     Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”

29     Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

30     So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?

From the literal aspect of the NASB, we begin to see the humor of the conversation, even in English, but when we look at the Greek words used and repeated in the text, the heart of man is revealed.

John 6:26-30 (NASB)
28     Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do (4160), so that we may work (2038) the works (2041) of God?”

29     Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work (2041) of God, that you believe (4100) in Him whom He has sent.”

30     So they said to Him, “What then do You do (4160) for a sign, so that we may see, and believe (4100) You? What work (2038) do You perform? 

  • 4160 – gr [poieo] verb.  translated “do” – def: to make, to produce
  • 2038 – gr [ergazomai] verb.  translated “work” – to work, to labour
  • 2041 – gr [ergon] noun.  translated “work” – business employment, that which one undertakes to do
  • 4100 – gr [pisteuo] verb.  translated “believe” – to think to be true, to be persuaded

As I explore the conversation, this is what I hear being said:

People: What can we produce to work in the employment of God?

Jesus: This is God’s employment opportunity — believe that He sent me to you.

People: Well then, what will you produce, so that we can believe?  What kind of work will you do?

Can you see their hearts?  Can you see your heart?  It just can’t be that simple.  Somebody has to do some work around here for us to get on God’s good side.

The amazing reality is that it is that simple.  According to Jesus, if you can become persuaded that He is who He says He is, then you are qualified for employment in the Kingdom of God.

No character references.  No background check.  You’re hired.

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but god_tThere are two words that, when joined together in the pages of the Bible, absolutely change everything — “but God.”

These are the words in The Word that cause you to lean forward and look deeper.  The reality of these words is the longing of our lives.  When we find ourselves in impossible situations, we know we have become prime candidates for a “but God” moment.

The following is a “but God” list that I pray strengthens your faith and gives you courage as you take the next step.

  • Gen 8:1 (NIV)  But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
  • Gen 31:42 (NIV)  If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.
  • Gen 41:16 (NIV) “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
  • Gen 45:7-8 (NIV)  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.  He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.
  • Gen 50:19 (NIV)  But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
  • Judges 15:18-19 (NAS) Then he became very thirsty, and he called to the Lord and said, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant, and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”  But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi so that water came out of it. When he drank, his strength returned and he revived.
  • 2 Chronicles 25:8 (NCV)  You can make yourself strong for war, but God will defeat you. He has the power to help you or to defeat you.
  • Psalm 49:13-15 (NIV) This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. Selah  Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them . . . But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.
  • Psalm 73:26 (NIV) My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • Psalm 75:6-7 (NAS) For not from the east, nor from the west, Nor from the desert comes exaltation; But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.
  • Jeremiah 50:33-34 (NCV) The people of Israel and Judah are slaves.  The enemy took them as prisoners and won’t let them go.  But God is strong and will buy them back.  His name is the Lord All-Powerful.
  • Matthew 19:25-26 (NCV) When Jesus’ followers heard this, they were very surprised and asked, “Then who can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “This is something people cannot do, but God can do all things.”
  • Luke 12:18-21 (NIV) “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
  • Luke 16:15 (NIV) He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”
  • John 1:12-13 (NAS)  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • John 1:18 (NIV) No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,  who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
  • Acts 2:23-24 (NIV) This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.  But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
  • Acts 3:14-15 (NIV) You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.  You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
  • Acts 10:28 (NIV) He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.”
  • Acts 10:39-40 (NIV) “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.”
  • Acts 13:29-30 (NIV) When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.  But God raised him from the dead…
  • Acts 26:21-22 (NCV) This is why the Jews took me and were trying to kill me in the Temple.  But God has helped me, and so I stand here today, telling all people, small and great, what I have seen.
  • Romans 5:7-8 (NIV) Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Romans 5:21 (NCV) Sin once used death to rule us, but God gave people more of his grace so that grace could rule by making people right with him. And this brings life forever through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • Romans 6:23 (NCV) When people sin, they earn what sin pays—death. But God gives us a free gift—life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Romans 8:3 (NCV) The law was without power, because the law was made weak by our sinful selves. But God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son to earth with the same human life that others use for sin. By sending his Son to be an offering to pay for sin, God used a human life to destroy sin.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 (NIV) Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (NIV) However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NIV) I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:24-25 (NIV) But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:37-38 (NIV) When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.  But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NCV) We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living.  We are persecuted, but God does not leave us.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NCV) Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God.
  • 2 Corinthians 7:5-6 (NIV) For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus…
  • Galatians 1:13-15 (NCV) You have heard about my past life in the Jewish religion. I attacked the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was becoming a leader in the Jewish religion, doing better than most other Jews of my age. I tried harder than anyone else to follow the teachings handed down by our ancestors.  But God had special plans for me and set me apart for his work even before I was born.
  • Galatians 3:18 (NIV) For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
  • Galatians 3:20 (NIV) A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.
  • Ephesians 2:3-5 (NAS) Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…
  • Philippians 2:27 (NIV) Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.
  • Hebrews 3:3-4 (NIV) Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.  For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.
  • Hebrews 5:5 (NIV) So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest.  But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”
  • 2 Peter 3:12-13 (NCV) When that day comes, the skies will be destroyed with fire, and everything in them will melt with heat.  But God made a promise to us, and we are waiting for a new heaven and a new earth where goodness lives.

What “but” do you need from God today?

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