Thursday, November 8, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 29-30 and Epistles 2 and 3 of John

Ezekiel 29  – The year is 588-587 BC. Ezekiel goes on to prophesy against the Pharaoh of Egypt, the “great crocodile wallowing in [the] Niles” (29:3). God is going to “put hooks through [his] jaws,” pull him out of the Nile, drop him in the desert and give him “as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of heaven, so that all the inhabitants of Egypt may learn that I am Yahweh” (29:6).

He is disappointed that they have not been more supportive to the House of Israel: “Whenever they grasped you, you broke in their hands and cut their hands all over. Whenever they leaned on you, you broke and left their loins shaking” (29:7).
God intends to reduce Egypt to a desert and scatter its inhabitants for 40 years, and the Babylonians – agents of God’s wrath – will be reward by being able to loot the Egyptians. But the suffering of Egypt will not be forever either. Like the “chosen people,” Egypt will be restored. They will be weak at first, and they will not dominate others, but they will be restored.

Lawrence Boadt’s book on the Old Testament notes that Ezekiel 29:17-21 is about Nebuchadnezzar giving up on the 13 year siege of the island city of Tyre in 572 BC. Ezekiel 29:1-9 refers to the Egyptians sending a relief column to help Jerusalem escape the Babylonia attack of 588-586 (did not help).Tyre and Egypt are most condemned as promoters of pagan gods: Baal in Tyre and Egypt’s idea of their pharaoh being divine.

Ezekiel 30 – Again, Ezekiel is addressed by Yahweh – “Howl: Alas the day! For the day is near, the day of Yahweh is near; it will be a day dark with cloud, the end of an epoch for the nations. The sword will come on Egypt, and terror will visit Ethiopia when the slaughtered fall in Egypt, when her riches are carried away, when her foundations are destroyed” (29:3-4). These consequences will show the nations that the fate of all nations is in His hands. There is a plan, a will behind all that happens, however empty it may seem to those who suffer it.

Introductory Information on 2 and 3 John: These two epistles were written presumably by John the Apostle, thought at this time to be residing in Ephesus. He designates himself as “the Elder” of the church communities of Asia Minor. “The Lady” is a figurative title for the churches over which he is head. The challenge to John’s teaching that Jesus was “the Word made flesh” is seen as a danger and not a doctrine that was there from the beginning (Brown 397). This challenge might have been coming from local Jewish synagogues “that rejected as irreconcilable with monotheism the Johannine Christian confession of Jesus as God” (Brown 404-405).

On the “treatment proposed in 2 John 10-11 that false teachers should not be received into peoples’ houses or greeted as friends, Brown thinks this was not necessarily directed at all visitors of this persuasion but rather only those who came specifically with an intention to teach their erroneous doctrine.

2 John – This epistle is addressed to “the Lady, the chosen one, and to her children” (2 John 1), the church under his care. He says he is writing “not to give you any new commandment, but the one which we were given at the beginning, and to plead: let us love one another” (2 John 5). This is it in its simplest form: “this is the commandment . . . live a life of love (2 John 6).

But John is concerned that there are “many deceivers about in the world, refusing to admit that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (2 John 7). These deceivers are the “Antichrist.”

“Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and not get the reward it deserves. If anybody does not keep within the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he cannot have God with him: only those who keep to what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them” (2 John 8-9).

“If anyone comes to you bringing a different doctrine, you must not receive him in your house or even give him a greeting. To greet him would make you a partner in his wicked work.” (12)

3 John – Here John thanks his friend Gaius for receiving missionaries he has sent and helping them. But he complains that one Diotrephes,, “who seems to enjoy being in charge of [the church]” (3 John 9), refuses to receive the missionaries John has sent to them.  He advises Gaius not to follow this example. Demetrius, presumably one of the missionaries John has sent, “has been approved by everyone” (2 John 12), and John assures Gaius that he vouches for him too.

He says there are other things he would like to discuss but does not want to “trust them to pen and ink” (2 John 14).

Both of these letters do certainly help us to recognize that divisions in the Christian community – the church – were there from the beginning. I think that they should give Friends pause too because the error John sees in some of the early interpreters rejection of the “doctrine” that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, is rarely seen as an essential part of the Johannine gospel Quakers usually find so attractive.

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