Northeastern Seminary Blog

Advent Reflection: Holy Intervention

Posted on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 @ 10:00 AM

The Bible is full of powerful statements about God's intervention in our lives: God watches over us, God goes before us, and if God is for us who can be against us.

God watching over us talks about God's protection and care for his children. Just as earthly parents make sure their children are taken care of with their needs provided and out of harm’s way, God makes sure that our needs are met and our ways are safe.

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Tags: advent

Sabbath-Keeping: So We Can Look For God

Posted on Sun, Dec 14, 2014 @ 01:30 PM

Last year I traveled to Peru to talk with some Free Methodist pastors about the importance of self-care in ministry. One of the highlights of that trip for me was a small group time where we talked about taking a Sabbath rest each week. Most of the pastors in the group were bi-vocational, and poured themselves into their ministry whenever they had the opportunity. The idea of taking a rest each week, while acknowledged as important, was also experienced as a real challenge.

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Tags: interacting with God, reflection, ministry, sabbath-keeping

Second Saturday of Advent: Faithful living in an age of panic

Posted on Sat, Dec 13, 2014 @ 10:30 AM

Deliverance and judgment intermingled continue to characterize our Isaiah text. While Jerusalem is under siege, God tells Isaiah to write on a large clay tablet, “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens” (Hebrew: maher-shalal-hash-baz) as a witness to the coming deliverance. Then, somewhat later, but before the siege is lifted, Isaiah’s wife (the prophetess) bears a child who is to be named Maher-shalal-hash-baz, the same peculiar words as on the tablet (v.3). Like Immanuel, this name is a sign of hope, clearly specifying the doom of Judah’s enemies. And as with Immanuel, a time-frame is given. Before the child says its first words (“Daddy” or “Mommy”), the wealth of Syria (Aram) and Ephraim will be carried off as spoil by the Assyrian king (v.4).

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Tags: advent

Second Friday of Advent: Coming to terms with change

Posted on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 @ 11:20 AM

The ambiguity of Ahaz’s faith, hinted at yesterday, becomes an issue in today’s Isaiah text. When offered a sign as confirmation of God’s promise to protect Jerusalem (v.11), Ahaz refuses under the pious guise of not wanting to “test” God (v.12). This surface piety, however, disguises a deeper fear of risk, indicating that Ahaz’s pro-Assyrian policy was less a matter of trust in God than of political caution. For this timidity, Isaiah accuses Ahaz of testing or wearying God (v.13).

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Tags: advent

Second Thursday of Advent: Faith and politics in Advent

Posted on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 @ 05:07 PM

The background to the events of Isaiah 7-12 is an important political crisis, described concisely in Isaiah 7.1 see also 2 Kings 6.5-9). While Judah had for many years pursued a policy of non-resistance as a vassal state to the encroaching Assyrian empire, many anti-Assyrian alliances sprang up throughout the region. One such was led by Rezin, king of Syria (Aram), who was joined by Pekah, newly ascended to the throne in Ephraim, the northern kingdom. Together these kings and their armies marched against Judah in 734 B.C., seeking to lay siege to Jerusalem and replace King Ahaz with a puppet who would willingly join the anti-Assyrian coalition (v.6). Ahaz was understandably shaken (v.2).

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Tags: advent

Second Wednesday of Advent: God's cleansing fire

Posted on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 @ 05:03 PM

Having described Judah as tinder-dry and ready to go up in flames of judgment (5.24), Isaiah recounts, in vivid first-person narrative, a vision of Yahweh dominated by the image of burning. In the year of King Uzziah’s death, a year that saw the Assyrian empire grow stronger and extend its imperial reach over the ancient Near East, the prophet glimpses another king, enthroned over the entire earth (vv.2-3), to whom even Assyria is subject. The Temple, where this vision takes place, functions as a window on God’s throne room, but itself can contain only the hem of his robe (v.1)! The immensity of scale alone is staggering. But add to that the encircling seraphim, Yahweh’s six-winged blazing heavenly attendants (saraph means “to burn”), whose praise of the Lord of Hosts rocks the Temple to its foundations and fills it with smoke (v.4), and Isaiah is reduced to holy and abject terror.

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Tags: advent

Second Tuesday of Advent: God’s alien deed

Posted on Tue, Dec 09, 2014 @ 11:07 AM

Isaiah 5.18-25

Luke 21.29-38

Therefore the anger of the Lord

was kindled against his people,

and he stretched out his hand

against them and struck them.

Isaiah 5.24                                   

The woes Isaiah began describing in yesterday’s reading here become broader and more sweeping, and quickly pile up in an intensifying series of abrupt accusations (vv.18,20,21,22). Alas! he cries again and again in pained acknowledgement of the people’s sins. Isaiah pictures his hearers slowed down by the heavy burden of their justice, which they drag along like a treasure they can’t part with (v.18). Yet they demand immediate action from God, goading the Lord to provide a sign and so prove himself (v.19). We, of course, don’t ask mockingly, but pray earnestly for God to act decisively in our historical situation to set things right (which usually means to set our immediate situation to rights). The irony, of course, is that this is precisely our calling, our task, to set things right (to do righteousness), if only we would cast off the ropes of injustice with which we have bound ourselves.

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Tags: advent

Second Monday of Advent: Discerning the times

Posted on Mon, Dec 08, 2014 @ 10:44 AM

Isaiah 5.8-17

Luke 21.20-28


Ah, you…who do not

regard the deeds of the Lord,

or see the work of his hands!        

Isaiah 5.11-12


Isaiah vividly describes the “wild grapes” or spoiled fruit of Israel’s social life in a series of accusations framed as “woes” (vv.8,11-12) that continue into tomorrow’s reading (vv.18,20-22). The Hebrew hoy! can be simply an attention-getter (hey!), a pronouncement of doom (woe!) or a cry of lament (ah! or alas!), as at a funeral or other sorrowful event. In our text these are all combined.

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Tags: advent

Second Sunday of Advent: A harvest of disappointment

Posted on Sun, Dec 07, 2014 @ 10:39 AM

Isaiah 5.1-7

Luke 7.28-35


The Lord expected justice,    

but saw bloodshed;


but heard a cry.

Isaiah 5.7

Today’s Old Testament reading is a carefully crafted literary piece, at once a love-song, a lawsuit and an extended parable with a climactic punch line. Isaiah introduces the piece as a song for his dodi, a term of endearment meaning friend or beloved (v.1). Casting himself in the role of best man, he sings about his friend the bridegroom and his vineyard. In the ancient Near East vineyard, field and garden, were common metaphors for a bride (see Song of Solomon 8.12).

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Tags: advent

Sabbath-Keeping: An Intentional Endeavor

Posted on Tue, Dec 02, 2014 @ 09:51 AM

At a recent lecture Dr. Matthew Sleeth discussed the necessity of Sabbath rest and why this command often gets overlooked or goes underappreciated even within the Body of Christ. In his attempt to remind us of Sabbaths past he asked that we remember some of the special things that happened on Sunday’s when we were children which, for most, meant recalling a time where Blue Laws were still observed which made it almost as impossible to break the Sabbath as today’s culture does to keep it.

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Tags: person in ministry, spiritual formation, reflection, pastor, seminary alumni, sabbath-keeping