Bible Readings for Sunday, November 20th, 2011
– The Week of The Last Sunday After Pentecost
*Click on each bible passage to expand the text.11. “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
20. “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22. I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.1. Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
3. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.
4. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
6. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7. for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.15. For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16. I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19. and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20. which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21. far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23. which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
31. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38. When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39. When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40. “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44. “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45. “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46. “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
- I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. – Ezekiel 34:16
- Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. – Psalm 95:6-7
- And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. – Ephesians 1:22-23
- “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40
I am deeply sorry for not getting this Sunday devotion out yesterday. As I was just wrapping up the section on “kolasis“, my cell phone lit up with my wife’s name shining out on the caller ID. She tends to call me about 30 minutes after she leaves because she is constantly planning our lives and she then calls me with updated to-do lists or thoughts on dinner, etc… but I knew this time was different and my guts filled with dread.
“This is Trig,” I answered and a man’s voice came back, calm but concerned.
He identified himself (I am ashamed I cannot remember his name) and informed me that he and his wife had stopped on the side of the interstate (I-25) heading to Denver to help my wife, Charlotte, who appeared to be suffering from a stroke or a seizure of some kind. My heart froze in shock: we’d just been through this in January.
I felt helpless, I was so far away and I had the kids by myself. Was she okay? Was there lasting damage from a stroke? Who will watch the kiddos? What’s Char’s client’s number she was driving to photograph? I need to get dressed. I have no idea where they are taking her. How do I get our car on the side of the freeway?
The thoughts were swirling. And in the middle of all of this was one thought, “Please don’t let her be harmed, or worse die, LORD. I haven’t done right by her yet.”
Thankfully, through the help of my fantastic friends I was able to get the kids sitters, and was driven up to my car on the side of the freeway. I got to the ER and my mother was there already with Charlotte. Char was speaking clearly and cogently, and it seemed like all of her symptoms had abated. We were simply waiting on the results of her head scans to see if she had in fact had an ischemic event, which came back negative. Thank God.
But she was diagnosed with an a-typical form of migraine, one that doesn’t have much pain associated with it, but can mimic all of the stroke symptoms we were watching out for since January.
The good news is my wife is fine. The better news is we both got a little bit of much needed kolasis.
God bless everyone for your prayers, support and vital help yesterday.
“…as you did unto the least of these…”
In yesterday’s post, we discussed the Will of God, as revealed through his Son, the Word, Yeshua the Annointed:
- It is the will of God that none of all things shall be lost. (Jn 6:39)
- It is the will that everyone who considers the meaning of the Son, and trusts absolutely in the same, shall live the Life of Ages and will be raised up on the last day. (Jn 6:40)
Through the life and teachings Yeshua the Anointed, the Word, the Bread, and the Way of God, we can learn the “how” of restoring all things to God.
We cannot restore through elementary evangelism (I detest such empty gestures).
We cannot restore through threats or force.
We must, as the brothers and sisters of God, work to aid a restoration of “all things” in the manner and form revealed to us through Yeshua.
- A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34
- So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. – Mt 7:12
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. – Mark 12:30
- Love your neighbor as yourself. – Mark 12:31
Living in this Way, emulating the life and love of Yeshua, is what he called The Life of The Ages.
The Life of The Ages
The first problem is with the modern English translation of “aion / αἰών”, which all English bibles translate as “eternal”. In fact, “aion” is the root of our word “eon” which we all understand as a finite – albeit very long – period of time. An “eon” is not infinite. Therefore, I often puzzle why our modern bibles insist that the correct meaning is “eternal”. (Actually, the only English bible I’ve found that stays faithful to the meaning of the Greek is Young’s Literal Translation.)
Moreover, Yeshua often uses “zōēn aiōnion” in the present tense, which implies this is not simply a “reward” at some future period, but a state of being, a way of life in the here and now.
- ‘Verily, verily, I say to you — He who is hearing my word, and is believing Him who sent me, hath life age-during, and to judgment he doth not come, but hath passed out of the death to the life.” Jn 5:24
- ‘Verily, verily, I say to you, He who is believing in me, hath life age-during; – Jn 6:47
From The HELPS™ Word Studies:
(aiṓnios) does not focus on the future per se, but rather on the quality of the age (aiṓn) it relates to. Thus believers live in “eternal life” right now, experiencing this quality of God’s life now as a present possession.
(Note the Gk present tense of having eternal life in Jn 3:36, 5:24, 6:47; cf. Ro 6:23.)]
And so we peel back a further layer of the grime of biased interpretation throughout the history of the bible: the future reward of “eternal life” now regains its tranformative truth as a present way of life!
And what does the Life of Ages look like? Here’s an example:
- You feed the hungry.
- You give something to drink to the thirsty.
- You welcome strangers into your home.
- You give clothing to those that are in want.
- You tend to the sick and dying.
- You visit the guilty in prison.
You don’t do these things only for the “deserving”, for the “righteous”, for the “strong of faith” – you do these things for the least among us, the weak of faith, the sinners, and the undeserving.
It is this selfless devotion to the “least among us” that is the key to the restoration of all things to God. And not everyone can do such things for others. Not everyone wants to.
The Fate of the Goats
This is why Yeshua tells us “The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats” in Matthew 25: to warn us, and to inspire us.
- He reveals to us all that there is a point to all of this: The Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven.
- He reveals to us that there will eventually be a Day of Judgement where all nations will be judged by their performance regarding the Commandments of Love.
- Those that will be judged “righteous” – the sheep, were those that loved and cared for the least among us, and became partners in God’s restoration of all things.
- The “sheep” receive God’s inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for us since the creation of the world.
- Those that will be judged “unrighteous” – the goats – were those who didn’t love or care for the least among us. They held close to their own, and loved only those that loved them.
- The “goats” (which will be most of us… let’s be honest here) will receive a sentence of “kolasis aiōnion/κόλασις αἰώνιον“.
Overwhelmingly, modern bibles interpret “kolasis aiōnion” as “eternal or everlasting punishment”. But as we have already determined that “eternal” is not a faithful translation of “aiōnion“, what are the odds that “torment or punishment” is not a faithful interpretation of “kolasis” as well? Very good, in fact.
It turns out, that according to the usage of “kolasis” by Plato, Aristotle and Clement of Alexandria, “kolasis” meant a corrective, or redemptive process. In fact, in the original extra-biblical Greek, “kolasis” meant “to prune”. By pruning, the gardener cuts away what is bad, old, diseased or dead from a plant or tree in hope that the plant will then grow even stronger and more fruitful in the future. Would anyone describe the pruning of flowers as punishment? I think not. It is only for the health of the plant that it is pruned.
From William Barclay’s book ‘The Apostle’s Creed“:
The word for punishment is kolasis. This word was originally a gardening word, and its original meaning was pruning trees. In Greek there are two words for punishment, timoria and kolasis, and there is a quite definite distinction between them. Aristotle defines the difference; kolasis is for the sake of the one who suffers it; timoria is for the sake of the one who inflicts it (Rhetoric 1.1 0). Plato says that no one punishes (kolazei) a wrong-doer simply because he has done wrong – that would be to take unreasonable vengeance (timoreitai). We punish (kolazei) a wrong-doer in order that he may not do wrong again (Protagoras 323 E). Clement of Alexandria (Stromateis 4.14; 7.16) defines kolasis as pure discipline, and timoria as the return of evil for evil. Aulus Gellius says that kolasis is given that a man may be corrected; timoria is given that dignity and authority may be vindicated (The Attic Nights 7.14). The difference is quite dear in Greek and it is always observed. Timoria is retributive punishment; kolasis is remedial discipline. Kolasis is always given to amend and to cure.
Kolasis is a pruning, a disciplining process intended to cure. The Greek hearers of Yeshua’s words would have understood this.
It cures us of our greed, our selfishness, our callousness, our apathy, our anger, our lust… what could you use some of God’s kolasis for right now?
That’s right, I mean currently: right now. God’s redemptive, corrective discipline is not limited only to The Day of Judgement, it can happen in your life right now.
Kolasis in the now
For instance, I have been taking my wife for granted a lot lately: I haven’t been setting up any date-nights, I haven’t been giving any help around the house, just letting her do all she does without thanks or acknowledgement. On top of all of her chores she does around the house and in our lives, she’s also my partner in our photography studio, and right now, we’re both buried under work. Consequently, I’ve noticed that as my attention for her waned, so did my attention for all things God: devotion, my writings, prayer, charity… all began to fall by the wayside over the last few months.
In short, I was becoming a selfish prick. And then the phone call came yesterday.
Kolasis. Just the right amount of pruning.
I needed to stop taking my wife, heck, this entire life for granted. So God reminded me of the fragility and randomness of it all yesterday.
My wife needs to let go of the fear and stop trying to control that which she can never control: death, aging, illness. She is killing herself slowly trying to overcome the impossible. Yesterday reminded her that her striving for control and achievement is making her miss out on a lot of life, too.
Most importantly, instead of bitterness or fear, yesterday taught us to trust a little more in God, that there are in fact many things we cannot control. Where we end, trust in God must begin.
Some will read these words and sneer, “This is insane. Who could see love in a God that would purposefully inflict fear or pain?”
Good point. But I guess my challenge back would be: ever played a sport?
For those that have played some kind of sport, when your coaches put you through one of the more horrifying conditioning drills (gassers, fart-licks, wind sprints, up-downs, wall-mothers, etc.), was it to punish or to improve? They are painful, but are they punishment? Is the coach a sadist for inflicting such suffering on his athletes? No. They are only meant to improve some aspect of the athlete’s abilities, especially the tolerance for pain and conditioning!
Take the circle drill in football, where one player stands in the middle of a circle of his teammates, and the other players take turns running out and hitting him as hard as they can. This could definitely be viewed as punishment and as sadistic by some, but for those of us who went through it we can tell you that you learn to take a hit, and to give one back… real quick.
Or the sparring found in MMA (mixed martial arts), where real punches, real kicks, real blood and real bruises are found. It this sadism, or a vital part of training for the sport?
As a former athlete (and recovering fat-boy), I can tell you that it is all for the better.
My view is the same for God’s kolasis, both in the now and at The Day of Judgement: God will make me a better man, whatever it takes.
The best part is: I deserve none of this care or correction from God. And that’s Grace, or God’s unmerited favor.
Now the challenge is to live out my life according to that trust in God, empowered by it. I had it earlier this year. Then I got selfish again.
God’s given it back – from a goat to a sheep in a day – and I don’t want to waste it this time.
Neither should Char.
Neither should you.
Restoring our lives to God as we restore all things to God.