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June 2016

Thus saith the LORD

Ezekiel 37 “Says who?” Children learn that phrase very quickly.  A sibling tells them to set the table.  What happens next depends entirely on the source of the command.  If the reply comes: “Thus saith mum!” things might just get moving. Hundreds of times the Bible says: “Thus saith the LORD.”  Even when  the LORD is […]

Sour grapes

Ezekiel 18 They looked lovely on the vine, but the acid bursts into your mouth and you realise they are unripe. You spit them out proclaiming, “I didn’t want them anyhow!” “Sour grapes” has come to mean disparaging something you had previously desired – probably because you can’t attain it.  This particular sense originates with […]

Great is thy faithfulness

Lamentations 3 The Bible’s description of exile sometimes sounds like it is at a distance. It happens to those people who deserved it for having committed those sins.  Lamentations feels very different.  Here the anonymous author (traditionally thought of as Jeremiah), lays bare the horror of Jerusalem’s destruction.  It’s a first person lament.  Jeremiah identifies fully with […]

Can a leopard change his spots?

Jeremiah 10:1-25; 13:15-27 Can people change?  Really change? Aristotle thought so.  Here’s how: “it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man.” If you want to change, then perform righteous acts and you will become righteous.  It’s ancient wisdom.  But it’s very modern too.  […]

Be horribly afraid

Jeremiah 2 What could be so bad that it warrants this warning?  A scientist morphing into an insect?  An alien monster rampaging through a spaceship?  What dread terror might have birthed the saying: “Be horribly afraid”? Answer:  The refusal of God’s abundant grace.  According to God, that is the horror of horrors! This striking imperative – “Be […]

A new heavens and a new earth

Isaiah 66 Isaiah could be called “a tale of two cities”.  Yet both cities are Jerusalem. There’s an old Jerusalem – the one in which Isaiah’s listeners live.  They face a terrifying judgement: threatened by Assyria but effected by Babylon.  The city is sacked, God’s house (the temple) is destroyed, the people are carried away […]

Holier than thou

Isaiah 65 Isaiah addresses the blindness of human unbelief.  He proclaims the LORD’s word to a “people walking in darkness.”  But while he insists that human wickedness is a disease, he never prescribes human religion as the cure.  No, healing is found only in the Righteous King.  He is the LORD of the temple vision, He […]

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard

Isaiah 64 It’s probably Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 64 that has become the best known version of this phrase: “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man…  (1 Corinthians 2:9) Such words can be the equivalent of a magician’s puff of smoke.  When stumped for […]

No rest for the wicked

Isaiah 57 It’s the sort of phrase your cheery postman might say on his rounds.  “Must push on I’m afraid, no rest for the wicked eh?”  We smile and wave and get on with our day. Yet this saying is the biblical equivalent of verses such as “these shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46) or […]

Bind up the brokenhearted

Isaiah 61 In the Bible, hearts can be failed, faint, glad, hard, willing, stirred, sorrowful, obstinate, lifted up, circumcised, wicked, grieved, hot, astonished, trembling, melted, inclined, merry, rejoicing, naughty, offended, dead, desirous, despising, lion-like, bowed, upright, understanding, large, turned away, turned back, sore troubled, tender, double, perfect, tried, prepared, free, united, proud, soft, walking, deceived, […]