Day 171

How to Find Treasures in the Bible

Wisdom Psalm 75:3-10
New Testament Acts 13:26-39
Old Testament 1 Kings 6:38

Introduction

I first encountered Jesus through reading the Bible. Ever since, I have read it practically every day of my life. Yet, I am constantly seeing and discovering new things.

St Gregory the Great said that Scripture ‘grows with its readers’. As Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa explains, ‘It reveals new meanings according to the questions people have in their hearts as they read it.’ The Bible is full of inexhaustible treasures for you to read and digest, and through which you can encounter God.

Yet, it is not always an easy book to understand. One key ingredient to understanding the Bible better is to recognise the language and genre that the writer is using – the type of literature and therefore what the writer intended.

Wisdom

Psalm 75:3-10

3 ‘When the earth and all its people quake,
   it is I who hold its pillars firm.’
4 To the arrogant I say, “Boast no more,”
   and to the wicked, “Do not lift up your horns.
5 Do not lift your horns against heaven;
   do not speak so defiantly.”’

8 In the hand of the Lord is a cup
   full of foaming wine mixed with spices;
he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth
   drink it down to its very dregs.
9 As for me, I will declare this for ever;
   I will sing praise to the God of Jacob,
10 who says, ‘I will cut off the horns of all the wicked,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.’

Commentary

Powerful metaphors

Something can be ‘true’ without being ‘literal’. In this psalm we see examples of truth expressed in metaphor.

God’s justice is the foundation of our universe. In today’s psalm we find at least four metaphors about the justice of God.

1. Evil and its effects

The psalmist knew as well as we do that the earth is not held up literally by pillars. He is deliberately using metaphorical language that needs to be read as such. This is the language of poetry and it is every bit as true as ‘literal truth’.

The quaking of the earth (v.3a) and its people is a metaphor for the effects of evil. Immorality undermines the stability of the earth and society. The Lord proclaims that he graciously upholds his creation: ‘It is I who hold its pillars firm’ (v.3b).

2. Power and its problems

Horns’ (v.4) symbolise power. Again the word is used metaphorically; this is poetic language. God exalts the horn (that is to say, power) of the righteous, and cuts off the horn (the power) of the wicked (v.10). Power can so easily corrupt and lead to arrogance. God says to the arrogant, ‘Boast no more’ (v.4).

3. Ministry and its might

The ‘hand of the Lord’ (v.8) is used as a symbol of his might and power.

When we ‘lay on hands’ in ministry – our hands themselves can do little, but they symbolise God’s mighty power working through us.

4. Judgment and Jesus

Likening God’s judgment to ‘a cup’ is another metaphor (v.8). ‘God has a cup in his hand, a bowl of wine, full to the brim. He draws from it and pours; it’s drained to the dregs. Earth’s wicked ones drink it all, drink it down to the last bitter drop!’ (v.8, MSG).

On the cross, Jesus bore in his own body the cup of God’s judgment. He spoke about it beforehand (Mark 10:38; Luke 22:42; John 18:11), and took the judgment that we deserve upon himself.

Prayer

‘We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near’ (Psalm 75:1). Thank you that one day you will get rid of all evil from this world, and goodness and righteousness will prevail for ever.

New Testament

Acts 13:26-39

26 ‘Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognise Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had travelled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.

32 ‘We tell you the good news: what God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:

‘“You are my son;
today I have become your father.”
\t\t 34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. …

36 ‘Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.

38 ‘Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.

Commentary

Historical facts

How can you be sure that you have been forgiven? How can you know that death is not the end? How can you be assured that you will have eternal life?

You can be sure of all this because of the historical facts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Luke was writing history. At the beginning of his two-volume work (Luke and Acts), Luke says that the evidence of ‘eyewitness’ accounts have been handed down to them. He has carefully investigated everything and written an orderly account ‘so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught’ (Luke 1:3–4).

Today’s passage describes the history of Paul’s travels and reports his speech. Likewise, in his speech, Paul talks about historical facts. He retells the history of the people of God: the historical facts of the exodus, wilderness years, conquest of Canaan, the judges and the kings – all leading up to David, from whose descendants would come the historical Jesus.

Then Paul focuses on the historical facts of the death and, in particular, the resurrection of Jesus. He makes four affirmations about the resurrection:

1. God’s action

‘They took him down from the cross and buried him. And then God raised him from death’ (Acts 13:29–30, MSG). What God had promised in the Old Testament, he fulfilled in the New Testament, by ‘raising up Jesus’ (v.33). It had been prophesied in the Old Testament (v.34). ‘He raised Jesus, exactly as described in the second Psalm’ (v.33, MSG).

2. Historical fact

‘The fact that God raised him from the dead…’ (v.34). The resurrection is not a metaphor. It is not something that is only experienced existentially within our hearts. It is, Paul says, a historical fact. The physical resurrection of Jesus actually happened. Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

‘There is no disputing that – he appeared over and over again many times and places to those who had known him well in the Galilean years, and these same people continue to give witness that he is alive’ (v.31, MSG).

3. Unique event

The resurrection of Jesus was a unique event in history. Paul contrasts Jesus with David, who ‘has been in the grave, dust and ashes, a long time now’ (v.36b, MSG). Others may have been resuscitated (and then later died), but Jesus was resurrected and his body never saw decay: ‘When he raised him from the dead, he did it for good – no going back to that rot and decay for him’ (v.34a, MSG).

4. Good news

This is the good news (v.32) that Paul preached. The resurrection means that the cross was effective, and forgiveness of sins is possible (v.38). Everyone who believes is justified (v.39). Your past has been dealt with and you can live in a right relationship with God.

The historical fact of the resurrection has huge implications for your life and your future. If Jesus died, was buried and then raised by God, it means that, one day, those who believe in him and have died will be raised by God to eternal life (see 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).

When you have ‘served God’s purpose’ for your ‘generation’, you too will ‘fall asleep’ (Acts 13:36) and then be raised by God to eternal life.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for the amazing good news of the resurrection. Thank you that my sins are forgiven, that I am justified and I need no longer fear death. Help me, like David, to serve your purpose in my generation.

Old Testament

1 Kings 6:38

38 In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it.

Commentary

Symbolic representation

Have you ever wondered whether God is really interested in the details of your life? As we read the precise instructions for the building of the temple, we see how carefully God prepared, anticipated and prefigured the far greater temple that is unveiled in the New Testament. If God is so concerned about the details of a building, you can be sure that he is even more interested in the details of your life. If something matters to you, it matters to God.

Typology is about symbolic representation. It is a key part of our understanding of the Old Testament as Christians. Some of the great New Testament truths are anticipated in the Old Testament history of salvation. For example, Adam is described as a type of Christ (Romans 5:14, NASB).

The temple in the Old Testament can be seen as ‘a type’ of the temple in the New Testament (the people of God). In this passage, we have a description of the temple, which Solomon spent seven years building (1 Kings 6:38). It was designed to be the dwelling place for the presence of God on earth: ‘I’ll personally take up my residence’ (v.13, MSG).

Hence, excellence was of the upmost importance because it was the place of God’s presence. God’s name was at stake. They did everything as well as they possibly could. It was ‘dazzling’ (v.22, MSG) and ‘no expense was spared’ (7:9, MSG). If excellence was a high value for them, it should be an even higher value for us now that God’s presence is in us.

It is worth noting that God is not in a hurry! ‘In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign… he began to build the temple of the Lord’ (6:1).

The temple in the Old Testament points forward to the people of God. We are God’s house. God lives in us individually. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). The church today is the holy temple of the Lord in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:21–22). This is God’s ‘house’ today.

Prayer

Lord, open my eyes to see the inexhaustible treasures in your word. Above all, help me to see Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead – the one whom the whole Bible is about.

Pippa adds

Acts 13:38b–39

‘I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.’

We can never be good enough however hard we try. The wonder of the cross is that everything can be totally forgiven. Whatever struggles we are facing today, let’s bring them afresh to the cross of Christ.

Thought for the Day

The historical fact of the resurrection has huge implications for your life and your future.

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References

Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, Good Friday homily OFM Cap., delivered April 10, 2020, at St Peter's Basilica.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel

  • HOST'S INTRO
  • INTRODUCTION
  • WISDOM BIBLE
  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
  • NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • PIPPA ADDS
  • HOST'S OUTRO

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