Day 170

How to Find Treasures in the Bible

Wisdom Psalm 75:1-10
New Testament Acts 13:13-41
Old Testament 1 Kings 6:1-7:22

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 treasure 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 75:1-10

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” A psalm of Asaph. A song.

1 We praise you, God,
  we praise you, for your Name is near;
 people tell of your wonderful deeds.

2 You say, “I choose the appointed time;
  it is I who judge with equity.
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. ’”

6 No one from the east or the west
  or from the desert can exalt themselves.
7 It is God who judges:
  He brings one down, he exalts another.
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 forever;
  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 will 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. 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. This is anthropomorphic language: words that are used to ascribe human form or attributes to something that is not human.

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 13:13-41

In Pisidian Antioch

13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. 14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”

16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; 18 for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; 19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.

“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’

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 recognize 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 traveled 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.’

34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,

  “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’

35 So it is also stated elsewhere:

  “‘You will not let your holy one see 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. 40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:

41 “‘Look, you scoffers,
  wonder and perish,
 for I am going to do something in your days
  that you would never believe,
  even if someone told you.’”

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. 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 6:1-7:22

Solomon Builds the Temple

6In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord.

2 The temple that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high. 3 The portico at the front of the main hall of the temple extended the width of the temple, that is twenty cubits, and projected ten cubits from the front of the temple. 4 He made narrow windows high up in the temple walls. 5 Against the walls of the main hall and inner sanctuary he built a structure around the building, in which there were side rooms. 6 The lowest floor was five cubits wide, the middle floor six cubits and the third floor seven. He made offset ledges around the outside of the temple so that nothing would be inserted into the temple walls.

7 In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.

8 The entrance to the lowest floor was on the south side of the temple; a stairway led up to the middle level and from there to the third. 9 So he built the temple and completed it, roofing it with beams and cedar planks. 10 And he built the side rooms all along the temple. The height of each was five cubits, and they were attached to the temple by beams of cedar.

11 The word of the Lord came to Solomon: 12 “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. 13 And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.”

14 So Solomon built the temple and completed it. 15 He lined its interior walls with cedar boards, paneling them from the floor of the temple to the ceiling, and covered the floor of the temple with planks of juniper. 16 He partitioned off twenty cubits at the rear of the temple with cedar boards from floor to ceiling to form within the temple an inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. 17 The main hall in front of this room was forty cubits long. 18 The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers. Everything was cedar; no stone was to be seen.

19 He prepared the inner sanctuary within the temple to set the ark of the covenant of the Lord there. 20 The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold, and he also overlaid the altar of cedar. 21 Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. 22 So he overlaid the whole interior with gold. He also overlaid with gold the altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary.

23 For the inner sanctuary he made a pair of cherubim out of olive wood, each ten cubits high. 24 One wing of the first cherub was five cubits long, and the other wing five cubits—ten cubits from wing tip to wing tip. 25 The second cherub also measured ten cubits, for the two cherubim were identical in size and shape. 26 The height of each cherub was ten cubits. 27 He placed the cherubim inside the innermost room of the temple, with their wings spread out. The wing of one cherub touched one wall, while the wing of the other touched the other wall, and their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. 28 He overlaid the cherubim with gold.

29 On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. 30 He also covered the floors of both the inner and outer rooms of the temple with gold.

31 For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors out of olive wood that were one fifth of the width of the sanctuary. 32 And on the two olive-wood doors he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid the cherubim and palm trees with hammered gold. 33 In the same way, for the entrance to the main hall he made doorframes out of olive wood that were one fourth of the width of the hall. 34 He also made two doors out of juniper wood, each having two leaves that turned in sockets. 35 He carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers on them and overlaid them with gold hammered evenly over the carvings.

36 And he built the inner courtyard of three courses of dressed stone and one course of trimmed cedar beams.

37 The foundation of the temple of the Lord was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv. 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.

Solomon Builds His Palace

7It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace. 2 He built the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon a hundred cubits long, fifty wide and thirty high, with four rows of cedar columns supporting trimmed cedar beams. 3 It was roofed with cedar above the beams that rested on the columns—forty-five beams, fifteen to a row. 4 Its windows were placed high in sets of three, facing each other. 5 All the doorways had rectangular frames; they were in the front part in sets of three, facing each other.

6 He made a colonnade fifty cubits long and thirty wide. In front of it was a portico, and in front of that were pillars and an overhanging roof.

7 He built the throne hall, the Hall of Justice, where he was to judge, and he covered it with cedar from floor to ceiling. 8 And the palace in which he was to live, set farther back, was similar in design. Solomon also made a palace like this hall for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom he had married.

9 All these structures, from the outside to the great courtyard and from foundation to eaves, were made of blocks of high-grade stone cut to size and smoothed on their inner and outer faces. 10 The foundations were laid with large stones of good quality, some measuring ten cubits and some eight. 11 Above were high-grade stones, cut to size, and cedar beams. 12 The great courtyard was surrounded by a wall of three courses of dressed stone and one course of trimmed cedar beams, as was the inner courtyard of the temple of the Lord with its portico.

The Temple’s Furnishings

13 King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram, 14 whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali and whose father was from Tyre and a skilled craftsman in bronze. Huram was filled with wisdom, with understanding and with knowledge to do all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.

15 He cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference. 16 He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars; each capital was five cubits high. 17 A network of interwoven chains adorned the capitals on top of the pillars, seven for each capital. 18 He made pomegranates in two rows encircling each network to decorate the capitals on top of the pillars. He did the same for each capital. 19 The capitals on top of the pillars in the portico were in the shape of lilies, four cubits high. 20 On the capitals of both pillars, above the bowl-shaped part next to the network, were the two hundred pomegranates in rows all around. 21 He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz. 22 The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed.

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. That is the wonder of the cross: that everything can be totally forgiven. Whatever struggles we are facing today in our lives, let’s bring them afresh to the cross of Christ.

Verse of the Day

Acts 13:39

Through him [Jesus] everyone who believes is set free from every sin…
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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 One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers used by permission

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