Monday, March 01, 2010

Joel Osteen Always Good for a Laugh

Watching Joel Osteen Sunday night. His message was from the passage in which Jesus turned water into wine. Osteen used this story to say that God is going to "accelerate the blessings in your life. It goes like this:

Jesus took a process that normally takes years (the production of wine) and did it instantly. God will do the same thing with your dreams and goals. He will make your dreams come true faster than you ever thought they could. Just believe.

There is at least one major problem with this application. Water does not normally turn to wine. You can stare at a jug of water as long as you like and it will still be water (minus some evaporation). Jesus didn't speed up a process. He did the impossible.

Why Are The Begats Important?

Matthew opens his account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the most boring part of the Bible. The family tree of Jesus. To a person who has never read the Bible, the begats are the point at which that person, especially a young person, begins to wonder just how long it is going to take to get to the exciting part. The first family line is in Genesis. So right away, we run into a long list hard-to-pronounce names. There is a point, however to the family lines in the Bible. One of Matthew's main purposes is to present Jesus Christ as The King. From beginning (the lineage) to end (Matt 25), Christ is portrayed as the expected King. Jesus is not merely the King because he is God. He is the earthly king of the Jews as well.

While it is true that the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus as king (John 19) It is also true that Jesus family tree shows his royal pedigree. The King had to come from the line of King David. Look at the list in Matthew's Gospel and you will see that his line runs from Abraham through David through his adopted father Joseph. Notice verse 16 says "16Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah." The verse does not say Joseph was the father of Jesus. We know Mary was a virgin.

You might ask how Jesus is qualified to be king if Joseph is not his biological father. It is true that adopted children in Jewish society had all the rights of biological children. And later in his life Jesus was referred to as the son of Joseph so he was recognized that way. But there is even a better answer.

Mary was in the royal line as well. There is a fork in the road at David. Joseph's line came through Solomon. Mary's came through David's other son Nathan. So Jesus is doubly qualified. This is also important because in Joseph's line there is a man named Jeconiah. Jeconiah was put under a curse by God (Jeremiah 22:30). His ancestors were forbidden from taking the throne. So if Jesus were only in line through Joseph, that would have actually disqualified Jesus from being king. Another interesting thing about Jesus family tee is who is included in it. There are gentiles, women (even a harlot) and some rather unsavory people.

The point of this is that God uses whom he chooses. No one is chosen by God because of any special righteousness or qualificatiosns. In fact, the people God chose for His puproses were sinners. Just like us.

Matthew-First Installment

Background: Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors were employed as contractors by Roman senators. The senators would bid amongst themselves to auction off the rights to collect the taxes from particular territories of the Roman empire. The senator would pay the tax for say, Jerusalem. Then he would collect the tax plus a mark-up. The tax collectors would pay the senators and collect the tax plus the senators fee plus something for themselves. By the time the citizen paid the tax it was much more than what was actually paid to Rome, depending on just how much the senator and the tax collector were trying to extract for themselves. There was a fair amount corruption in the whole system. The Jews considered Rome to be an evil occupying force. Tax collectors were considered just above prostitutes in the social structure. Some (not all) tax collectors were ruthless. Zacchaeus was the tax collector who Jesus found in a tree (because Zacchaeus was short, he climbed up to see Jesus) (Luke 19) along his path and called him down to spend time at his home. Zacchaeus was so moved that he vowed to pay back everyone he had defrauded four-fold and give half of his belongings to the poor. This came AFTER he had been called by Jesus. Salvation came first. Charity and restitution second. Apparently, Matthew felt no such compulsion. Or he simply did not say so. Matthew may have been a relatively honest tax collector. Taking only a reasonable commission. This would not change the fact that Matthew was a sinner in general or mitigate the overall lostness of his soul. God's Word does say that when Matthew was called by Jesus, (Matt 9) Matthew left his previous life behind immediately. Even though Matthew is describing his own experience he writes in the third person, always keeping Christ at the center of the story.