017 | Dogs Surround Me

Close up of painting by Oswaldo Guayasamín
I am journaling through the book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story written by Whitney T. Kuniholm. In reflecting on this passage Kuniholm writes "It's not difficult to see how this psalm relates to Jesus; it's a vivid description of what Jesus would experience at his crucifixion."

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1)
According to Matthew in the account he wrote of Jesus on the cross this psalm was on his mind just before his death. In this Psalm written hundreds of years before Jesus walked on this earth we get a glimpse of how he would die. A preview of the horrific physical torture the Son of God would endure.

When I read the accounts of his mock trial, torture, and execution I am overwhelmed by the brutality and incredible physical pain Jesus endured. He was spat on, slapped, beaten, wiped, then nailed to the cross, hanging there bloody and naked for all to see. Dr. C. Truman Davis wrote about the pain, suffering, and ultimate death of Jesus on the cross from a medical point of view in an article published in "Arizona Medicine" back in 1965.

As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks, which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet. At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided."

Spasmodically, He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences that are recorded. The first - looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” The second - to the penitent thief: “Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” The third - looking down at Mary His mother, He said: “Woman, behold your son.” Then turning to the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John, the beloved apostle, He said: “Behold your mother.” The fourth cry is from the beginning of Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”"

In reading the scripture that Jesus was thinking about as he was on the cross enduring this unbelievable physical torture and pain we also get a glimpse of what was going on in his mind, the mental pain he was also enduring. We get a psychological picture of what it would be like to have all of the rebellion and evil, all the sin, in the world from the beginning of time to the end, dumped on one individual. We read in this psalm of the agony Jesus felt as God the Father became more distant as all the evil of the world surrounded Jesus while he was dying on the cross.
Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. (Psalm 22:11-13)

Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16)
The only sinless man that will ever live was experiencing all the sin that had ever been committed and all the sin still to be committed. As a result of the presence of evil there was at this and only this moment in time an immense canyon between God the Father and God the Son. As we read in Matthew's account "darkness came over all the land." (Matthew 27:45) Evil was all around Jesus. My own sin, my own rebellion was on his back pushing him down.

We also learn in Psalm 22 that Jesus never turned away from his Father. Under the weight of this evil, the sin of the world, Jesus acknowledges the Father "Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One (Psalm 22:3) ... Yet you brought me out of the womb (Psalm 22:9) ... You are my strength (Pslam 22:19) ... I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you." (Psalm 22:22)

Psalm 22 helps me to understand how Jesus thinks. It gives me the ultimate example of acknowledging God first even in the worst of times, even when I can't sense his presence, even when I think it is over. At the moment of His death on the cross it was over, but not for Jesus. Dr. Davis ends his famous article with these words.

In these events, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil that man can exhibit toward his fellowman and toward God. This is an ugly sight and is likely to leave us despondent and depressed. But the crucifixion was not the end of the story. How grateful we can be that we have a sequel: a glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man—the gift of atonement, the miracle of the resurrection, and the expectation of Easter morning."

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016 | Presumptuous? Who Me?

Another feature that makes the psalms so rich in meaning is that they continue the developing story line about Jesus Christ that we've been following throughout the Bible."

I am journaling through the book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story written by Whitney T. Kuniholm. The above quote is from Kuniholm's introduction to this next group of five passage readings from the Psalms.

on top of the world

In reflecting on Psalm 2 Whitney Kuniholm wrote "...the name given to Jesus, Messiah, means "Anointed One," the very phrase used in this psalm (v.2)".

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, "Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles." (Psalm 2:1-3)

"I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain." I will proclaim the LORD's decree: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have become your father. (Psalm 2:6-7)

Kiss his son, or he will be angry and you and your ways will be destroyed, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:12)
Many times there are different levels on which a passage can be read. These levels are the result of the eternal nature of the words. The words have meaning and purpose in every generation. Here I find at least three levels in Psalm 2. This was a royal psalm written for the coronation of kings in Israel. Specifically for King David and his royal line running through Israel's history. On another level, when this psalm was written it was looking forward in time to the coming royal Son of David, the Anointed One, the Messiah. We learn in this Psalm that the coming Messiah will be the very Son of God. At the same time the Israelites are focusing on the coronation of a king they are getting a preview of God's ultimate plan.

This is a psalm that starts with questions. Questions about authority. Why do kings and rulers of this world put so much stock in their authority, in their power, in their abilities, and ignore the authority of God the creator of this world? Why do they oppose the authority of God's anointed King? Why do they want to be free from the power and authority of God? Why are they so presumptuous?

We get a glimpse of what the kings and rulers of this world and their power and authority really look like to God from his vantage point. A vantage point beyond the physical world outside of space and time by the One who created everything. It looks a little silly. A little presumptuous. It must look like a big waste of time and energy.

The third level I see here in this Psalm has to do with me right now - today. Do I presume to have authority over my life? How do I view my abilities, my power, my authority? How do I view God's ability, power, and authority? Do I oppose God's authority? Under who's authority do I live my life? In who do I take refuge? Do I accept His anointed King?

Who is on top of the world? Who is on top of my world? Who is King?

I can answer these questions right now intellectually in thoughts and words, but do I answer these questions with my actions? Do I submit to God in my actions? In his letter to the Romans Paul urges them to worship God with their bodies.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Do I offer my body as a living sacrifice? I want to answer yes. This is my goal for today, tomorrow, and the next day. I pray this is my goal for the rest of my life.

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015 | More than 120,000 Spared

I am journaling through the book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story written by Whitney T. Kuniholm. In reflecting on the Book of Jonah Kuniholm writes "When the skeptical religious leaders of his day asked for miraculous proof of his authenticity, Jesus referred to this Old Testament book."

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." (Jonah 1:1-2)

... Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." (Jonah 3:1-2)

... The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. (Jonah 3:5)

... When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:10)
In their written accounts of the life of Jesus both Matthew (Matthew 12:38-45) and Luke (Luke 11:29-32) describe an encounter between Jesus and a crowd where he points to the story of Jonah as a sign. A story that the Jewish crowds he was speaking to were quite familiar. In response to repeated requests from the religious leaders of his day for an immediate and spectacular miracle or sign direct from heaven to end all doubt whether he was the Messiah, Jesus points to an old account known very well by his audience. The religious leaders and teachers of the law who were demanding this sign would have read and taught the story of Jonah many times before, which at this point in history was already more than 700 years old. Jesus points to the City of Nineveh and the justice of God.

The Reconstructed Mashki Gate of Nineveh. One of the fifteen gateways of ancient Nineveh. The lower portions of the stone retaining wall are original. The gateway structure itself was originally of mudbrick. A few orthostats can be seen at the right of the passageway. Height of the vault is about 16 feet. Photo from April 1990.

Here we have a city of more than 120,000 people who are pursing violence and evil. A people dedicated to sin. A city who was coming face to face with the justice of God and was doomed to destruction, but something happens, something changes, there is something else they encounter. These 120,000 or more people also came face to face with the incredible love of God. This is a story, among other things, about the justice and love of God.

The verdict of God was clear and the city of Nineveh was doomed. Justice required destruction of the city, but love provided a second chance. This is where a man named Jonah comes into the story. God calls Jonah to deliver a message to the city, but Jonah runs from God. Ultimately after nearly dying in the sea Jonah accepts God's will and goes to Nineveh to deliver the message that they are doomed to destruction. The message and the people's response to it changed everything. Hearing the message the people believed it and turned away from violence and sin. I find it interesting that this response started with the people and ended with the government of the city. It was a bottom up change not a top down change. It was a heart change not a law change. They believed the message from God, expressed sincere sorrow, and turned from evil. In other words they believed, repented, and turned away from their sin. God spared the city from destruction a this time, but it would not extend for eternity. Nineveh would be destroyed and conquered by the Babylonians 200 years later. Eternal salvation was not available yet but it was coming. A greater prophet and messenger was coming. Much greater!

One of my favorite quotes sums up what happen in this account perfectly.

"The wisdom of God has devised a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God without compromising the justice of God."
John Piper didn't say this referring to the account of Nineveh as recorded in this ancient book titled Jonah. He wrote this about the Cross, about Jesus. Jesus is the WAY. Jesus provides us the way to satisfy the wrath of God without compromising His justice.

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014 | Intersection

The building was impressive in its architecture (1 Kings 6:1-38) and filled with extravagant furnishings (1 Kings 7:13-51). But its true significance is what would happen there: God's glory would be present (1 Kings 8:10-13). How mind-boggling that the Creator of the universe would be willing to take such a step! But that reveals something important about God: he wants to meet with his people."

Whiney Kuniholm wrote this in reflecting on the passage from 1 Kings chapter 8 in the Old Testament of the Bible. I am journaling through his book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story. This is the 14th passage of 100 that are outlined in this book.

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple. (1Kings 8:10-11)
One of the grand threads that run through the entire Bible, both testaments, is the periodic and incredible intersections between heaven and earth. We read about these intersections all throughout the Scriptures. This theme is established right from the beginning in the first few chapters of the Bible in the garden where God lived with Adam & Eve. God even walked with them in the garden during the cool of the day. (Genesis 3:8)

Much later after God won their freedom from slavery in Eqypt we read about the tabernacle. This was the portable tent of meeting that God gave them instructions to build and take with them as they traveled around the desert for forty years. It was a place where God dwelt among His people. (Exodus 25:8) It was a place where heaven and earth came together, the intersection between God and humans.

In this chapter of first Kings we read about the transition from the portable tabernacle tent to the more permanent stone temple just built under King Solomon. The priests transferred the ark of the Lord from the tent of meeting, or Tabernacle, to the inner sanctuary known as the Most Holy Place in this brand new temple. Here we read an account of what happened after the ark of the Lord had been moved into the inner sanctuary. A cloud filled the temple and the priests couldn't continue their work. The Glory of the Lord filled the temple causing all other actions to cease. Wow! Another point at which heaven and earth intersected.

Before Christ came to this earth the tabernacle and later the temple were the place, the location, where God was present. It was the place on earth where God dwelt, where heaven and earth overlapped, where heaven and earth intersected. It was also a picture of a new intersection. A preview of what was coming - who was coming.

In Christ Jesus God and the human race intersected literally. God became human. Jesus was both God and man and lived on this earth with us humans during a very specific time in our human history interacting face to face, flesh to flesh, with those He created. God here living and walking among His people.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [Son], who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

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