Catch-up Friday

Regular readers will remember catch-up Friday from February. It’s a day with no new content, giving you a chance to catch up on days you might have missed. And for those who are up-to-date, a related passage of Scripture to read.

I’m bringing it back for two reasons: (1) because the website stats suggest that most people aren’t seeing every post; and, more pressingly (2) because my workload this semester has significantly increased.*

So today, as we prepare to contemplate on Monday one of the greatest statements of the Bible (spoiler alert: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us), if you’re up-to-date, read the following passage from Exodus, which gives us some of the background.

Exodus 33:7-23 (The tent of meeting, and the glory of God.)

Exodus 40 (The glory of God in the tabernacle)

* For those who care, the increased workload is from some good things happening at Morling College: larger-than-expected numbers of people wanting to study preaching this semester (there goes my marking load…), making improvements to how our online subjects are taught, and preparing to make a new subject, Principles of Hermeneutics, available online next year. Interested in theological study next year? Visit

John 1:1-13 (And the Word was God)

Yesterday, we looked at the term “word” (logos) to see how John was presenting Jesus as the personification of wisdom and reason – the embodiment of everything that both Jews and Greeks were looking for. The eternal creative force turned up as a real person to live among us.

But Jesus isn’t just the creative “force” behind the world. He’s nothing less than God himself:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Continue reading

John 1:1-2 (What’s the Word?)

We spent two days looking at the big picture of the prologue to John’s gospel (1:1-18) – how it functioned like an ancient letter of introduction, describing who Jesus was, authorising him as the Father’s representative, and urging us to receive and trust him if we wanted to access the favour of God. Now, we’ll go through it line-by-line as we unpack the rich theology it contains.

John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Continue reading

John 1 – Introducing Jesus (part two)

Yesterday, we thought about how the prologue to John’s Gospel (1:1-18) functioned like an ancient letter of introduction. We concluded by reading the prologue, trying to identify the three key features of a letter of introduction:

  1. The name, character, and the writer’s close relationship with the one being introduced.
  2. The impending arrival of the one being introduced, and the addressee should “receive” them.
  3. The benefits of friendship with the one being introduced, and that the addressee would also benefit from their friendship.

How did you go? Here’s what I had:

Continue reading

John 1 – Introducing Jesus (part one)

This week, we begin a new series in the first three chapters of John’s Gospel. We’ll start with the well-known, poetic prologue – which will take us a few days to work through. Today, we’ll focus on the big picture of the prologue – what’s it trying to communicate? – before looking at the details later in the week.

Because this prologue (John 1:1-18) is designed to introduce John’s Gospel. Not just the Gospel, but the subject of the Gospel: Jesus. In some ways, it functions like an ancient letter of introduction.

Continue reading

Daniel and the Lions II: this time, it’s literal

Yesterday, we left Daniel stuck in the lions’ den. What’s more, we sealed it with all of our signet rings so we’d know if someone had been in to help him. And then we spent a sleepless night wondering if God would rescue him. It’s time for part two:

Daniel 6:19-20 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

I would have shouted “are you OK in there?” but he’s a king, so he’s probably had his speechwriter up all night crafting the perfect soundbyte.

Continue reading

Daniel and the Lions: a political thriller

As we conclude our tour of the first six chapters of Daniel, we come to the best known story in the whole book: Daniel in the lions’ den. Although we won’t get to the literal den of lions until tomorrow, as we read the set-up of the plot we’ll notice that Daniel’s already very much in a metaphorical den of lions. He’s surrounded by jealous and scheming enemies who wish to do him harm, frequently described as “lions” by David:

Psalms 57:4 I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. (See also Ps 22:13, 21; 35:17.)

The story begins with the new king, Darius,* appointing Daniel as one of his three key administrators – and grooming him for the top job. Which doesn’t go down well with all the others, having this foreigner put in charge:

Continue reading

Daniel 5 – Part Three-and-a-half

Over the last two days we’ve read the story of King Belshazzar’s feast, a defiant rallying of the troops in the face of a looming Persian invasion – and a brazen slap in the face to Israel’s God, using the temple cups in drunken worship of his idols. So God writes some graffiti on the wall, which no-one can interpret. No-one, of course, except Daniel. Taking Belshazzar’s arrogant and unrepentant attitude to task (in contrast with that of his more teachable ancestor, Nebuchadnezzar), an aging Daniel is about to interpret the writing on the wall.

Continue reading

Daniel 5 – Part Two (Fresh pants, please)

Yesterday, we saw how King Belshazzar gave a banquet, probably as a rallying-cry to war, with the Persians approaching the gates of the city. During the banquet, he deliberately brought out the gold and silver cups stolen from the temple in Jerusalem by one of his predecessors, Nebuchadnezzar, as a way of reminding the faithful of previous conquests. Belshazzar used them in drunken worship of gold and silver idols (not to mention those made of bronze, iron, wood, and stone). That pretty much sums up his attitude toward God. And, as we’ll see in today’s reading, God’s not impressed.

Continue reading

Daniel 5 – Part One (Belshazzar’s Feast)

Welcome back to our Daniel series. Today, we begin a three-part look at chapter 5:  Belshazzar’s Feast.

Daniel 5:1-4 King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.

Continue reading