Links & Quotes

One of the last pictures I took with my Mom ♥

“Love of the Word appears preeminently in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He read it publicly. He quoted it continually. He expounded it frequently. He advised the Jews to search it. He used it as His weapon to resist the devil. He repeatedly said, ‘The Scripture must be fulfilled.’ Almost the last thing He did was to ‘open their minds so they could understand the Scriptures’ (Luke 24:45). I am afraid that man cannot be a true servant of Christ, who has not something of his Master’s mind and feeling towards the Bible.” —J.C. Ryle, Bible Reading 

“The character of our praying will determine the character of our preaching. Light praying will make light preaching. …The preacher must be preeminently a man of prayer. His heart must graduate in the school of prayer. In the school of prayer only can the heart learn to preach.” —E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer 

I have blogged several thoughts about the historicity of the Bible. Here’s a post on Breakpoint about yet another archeological discovery that once again vindicates the Bible’s trustworthiness.

“Some pastors and preachers are lazy and no good. They do not pray; they do not read; they do not search the Scripture. … The call is: watch, study, attend to reading. In truth you cannot read too much in Scripture; and what you read you cannot read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well. … The devil … the world … and our flesh are raging and raving against us. Therefore, dear sirs and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, be diligent.” —Martin Luther

Looking at God’s awesomeness brings a peace that nothing else can.

A very thought-provoking Q&A with Sean McDowell and Dr. Stephen Meyer: Does Science Point to God?

The History Of Zechariah

Zechariah and Haggai are both very specific in the dating of their prophetic activity. We can also cross-reference their dates with the historical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and with numerous other extra-biblical sources. 

There is an important reminder for us in this: The historicity of the biblical accounts. 

In the chart I share there are references to other timelines:

  • the timeline for Haggai is here
  • the timeline for Ezra is here
  • and the story of Zechariah’s murder is found here

Always remember that God is sovereignly in control of world events—all of history is His Story! 

To check out other resources from the historical and prophetic minor prophets, check out the list I have posted here.

Sword Of God

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Zechariah is the longest book of the minor prophets. His ministry overlaps Haggai the prophet, Ezra the priest, Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest. I point all of this out because we need to always keep in mind that the Bible isn’t a collection of stories. It’s a verifiable (or falsifiable) record of real people at real moments in history. Many of the stories in the Bible confirm and even amplify each other. 

Let me remind you of what we learned from our study of the minor prophet Haggai:

  1. Hear the Word 
  2. Consider the Word 
  3. Obey the Word 
  4. Stand assured, encouraged, and unmovable on God’s Word 

Aren’t you more assured of a message that has a confirmation? Like if one person gives you a compliment that you hadn’t considered before, and then later on someone else notices the same attribute. I think we are more ready to receive the word when it has a confirmation like that. 

Haggai delivered a word directed to Zerubbabel the governor, which we saw was a prophecy pointing to and ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. God called Zerubbabel “My signet ring—a mark of God’s supreme authority. 

That might have been a difficult thing for Zerubbabel to accept, so Zechariah is given a confirming word two months after Haggai’s prophecy (Zechariah 4:1-9). This prophecy affirms the message given through Haggai, and also points to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. 

But then Zechariah is also given an amplifying word, as he speaks a word from God to Joshua, the other “olive tree” in his God-given vision (Zechariah 3:1-9; 6:9-13). 

Zechariah confirmed and amplified Haggai’s message. And then Jesus fulfilled both of their prophecies! We have the benefit of seeing the prophecy and fulfillment, which should build our faith in ALL of the promises in God’s Word. 

The Word of God then become the (s)word of God in our mouths and hearts!  

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would wield the sword of God, and this is the same blessing we can claim today. Jesus defeated satan’s temptations with the sword of God, and so do the saints of God today (Isaiah 49:2; Psalm 149:6; Ephesians 6:13, 17; Luke 4:1-12; Revelation 12:11). 

Because of these specific prophecies that have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, we can now stand assured, encouraged, unmovable, and well-armed with the same sword of God. 

There isn’t a more effective sword or shield than God’s (s)word! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series discovering the major lessons in the minor prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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God’s Precision

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

I love how often archeological discoveries absolutely verify biblical accounts. Haggai is a great example of this: He so precisely dates his prophecies, which are then corroborated by extra-biblical records from the Medes and Persians.  

For instance, check out these specific dates:

  • 538 BC—Cyrus issues a decree allowing the Jews to return to Israel (Isaiah 45:1-3) 
  • 537 BC—exiles return and in 536 BC they lay the foundation of the temple (Ezra 3:8)
  • 536 BC—opposition arises and the work stops (Ezra 4:1-6) 
  • 520 BC—Haggai and Zechariah arrive and begin ministering (Ezra 5:1-2; Haggai 1:1-15) 
  • 520 BC—opposition arises again and Haggai speaks a word of encouragement (Ezra 5:3-5; Haggai 2:1-9)
  • 516 BC—after receiving a favorable reply from King Darius, the temple is completed (Ezra 6:13-15)

(You can check out all of the above referenced verses by clicking here.) 

The reason these dates are so important is that they precisely align with the prophecy spoken by Jeremiah BEFORE the Israelites were even taken into exile. God said that they would return to worship in Jerusalem 70 years after their exile (Jeremiah 29:10-14; Daniel 9:1-2). Which is exactly what happened: They were taken into captivity in 586 BC, and the temple was completed in 516 BC! 

Haggai’s final prophecy (Haggai 2:20-23) has an unusual ending. It’s unusual in that it doesn’t sound like “The End” that usually ends a book of the Bible. That is precisely because it’s not the end. 

God tells Zerubbabel that he is God’s “signet ring,” a mark of God’s supreme authority. Zerubbabel was not the signet ring, but he was a forerunner—a type—of Jesus. 

So when we trace the genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament, we see that Zerubbabel appears in the family line of both Joseph and Mary—both the family line from Abraham who received God’s covenant, and the family line of Adam who heard God promise that a human offspring would crush satan’s head. 

These genealogies are as precise and exacting as the dates for the return of the exiles. God does everything exactly according to plan. He speaks His promises to us, and we can stand on those promises. Jesus is THE Signet Ring that stamps His “Amen” to every promise of God on which we stand.  

God is not vague; He is precise. He has a plan for all of history—which is His story—and He has a precise plan for your life too!  

So in building on our list from last week, let’s add one more item: 

  1. Hear the Word of God
  2. Consider the Word of God
  3. Obey the Word of God
  4. Stand assured, encouraged, and unmovable on the Word of God.

What God says He will do, He will do! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons from the minor prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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Rules Of Evidence

As I mentioned in my book review of David Limbaugh’s Jesus On Trial, he presents the evidence for the validity of the Bible and the historicity of Jesus Christ as if he were presenting a cae before the jury. As a trial begins, a judge will share with the jurors the rules for considering the evidence that is being presented. Here is a fantastic summary from Mr. Limbaugh—

“Applying the rules of evidence. … These rules are the ancient documents rules, the parole evidence rule, the hearsay rule, and the principle of cross-examination. 

“The common law ancient documents rule presumes a document is truthful unless it is self-contradictory, inaccurate, or there is internal evidence of text tampering. The one challenging the document generally shoulders the burden of proof. Unsolved problems or lack of clarity in the document don’t necessarily invalidate it as erroneous or unreliable. …

“The parole evidence rule provides that external, oral testimony or tradition will not be admitted into evidence to add to, subtract from, vary, or contradict an executed written instrument such as a will or a contract. This means the document, absent any applicable exceptions, will stand on its own. … 

“The hearsay rule precludes a witness from testifying as to what others may have said and, generally speaking, requires the witness to have firsthand knowledge of the matter to which he is testifying. As applied to the New Testament documents, this rule lends credence to New Testament authors who say they were eyewitnesses to the events they recorded. 

“The cross-examination principle holds that the more the testimony holds up once it is subjected to rigorous cross examination, the more credible we deem it to be, which, incidentally, is one reason for the hearsay rule, i.e., it excludes testimony from witnesses that can’t be subjected to cross-examination. … Law professor and historian John Warwick Montgomery, who rigorously applied all these evidentiary rules to an examination of the Bible, finds the witnesses who were challenged to confirm having witnessed Jesus’ resurrected body did so ‘in the very teeth of opposition, among hostile cross-examiners who would certainly have destroyed the case of Christianity’ had such accounts been contradicted by the facts. 

Josh McDowell summarizes Montgomery’s approach to New Testament examination as giving the document the benefit of the doubt, which is another way of saying the burden of proof is on the critic or challenger. So, Montgomery writes, ‘One must listen to the claims of the document under analysis, and not assume fraud or error unless the author disqualifies himself by contradiction or known factual inaccuracies.’ Applying this approach and similar ones, McDowell argues that we can’t just assume that what appears to be a difficult passage constitutes a valid argument against it. We must be sure we correctly understand the passage using accepted rules of interpretation.”

I present some evidence for the inspiration and validty of the Bible in these two posts: The inspiration of Scripture and Can we really know if the Bible is God’s Word?

Jesus On Trial (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I love studying Christian apologetics and learning how to explain to skeptics and seekers the eternal value in the Bible as it points me to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. David Limbaugh has given apologetics a new slant in his book Jesus On Trial.

Mr. Limbaugh uses his personal story from a childhood church attendee, to a skeptic of Christianity, to a reluctant seeker of the truth, and finally to a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus. But he also lets us see how he examined the evidence for the truth claims of the Bible through the eyes of a trained lawyer. 

Throughout this book you will discover legalese terms like rules of evidence, items of probative value, rules of logic, and expert testimony. Each chapter feels like another witness Mr. Limbaugh has called to testify, or another piece of evidence that needs to be weighed and evaluated, and we the readers are empaneled as the jury deciding the case. As witness after witness takes the stand, as more evidence piles up, and as Mr. Limbaugh delivers his closing argument, the preponderance of evidence seems to make an airtight case of the truth claims in the Bible. 

Whether you are looking for answers or hunting for evidence to use in discussions with your friends, Jesus On Trial is a reference book to which I believe you will repeatedly return. 

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First-Century Rulers In Palestine

I have frequently made the assertion that God is sovereign over all history, or as I like to say it… All History is His Story

When we are reading the Bible, it is important to keep in mind that these are not “once upon a time” stories, nor are they set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” but we are reading the accounts of actual people in actual moments of history.

I hope this chart from The Archeological Study Bible helps you in your reading of the New Testament.

Any of the names listed above in ALL CAPS are people who appear on the pages of the New Testament.

You may also want to check out a previous post where I discuss the historicity of the Gospels, or this post and this post about the resurrection appearances of Jesus.

The Historicity Of The Gospels

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

I’m intrigued by the way the four Gospel writers have recorded the dying declarations of Jesus:

  • Father, forgive them—only in Luke 
  • Today you will be with Me in paradise—only in Luke 
  • Dear women, behold your son—only in John 
  • My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?—only in Matthew and Mark (and this is the only dying declaration they record) 
  • I thirst—only in John
  • It is finished—only in John
  • Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit—only in Luke 

This is an excellent apologetic for the legitimacy and authenticity of the historical record. 

You know that when your friends are at an important event, not everyone notices the same thing or even to the same extent as the others. 

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace has pointed out that when he’s conducting an investigation, he separates the eyewitnesses from each other exactly so they don’t get their stories to “match.” Detective Wallace is able to get the full story precisely because of the differences in each of the accounts. 

This is why the Gospel writers’ accounts ring true: they tell us the same historical event from their unique perspective. It’s only by reading all of them that we get the full picture. If the death and resurrection of Jesus had been a conspiracy, these writers clearly would have collaborated to “get their story straight” ahead of time, and as a result, we would have four identical stories. 

The historicity of Jesus as told in the Bible is spot-on and completely trustworthy! 

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Resurrection Appearances Of Jesus

Jesus gave us ample evidence of His bodily resurrection. This is a recreation of a chart found in The Quest Study Bible:I also previously shared an infographic from The Infographic Bible. The historicity of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is firmly established making it a historically verifiable event.

History Matters

The minor prophets cover a span of about 300 years, from 760-450 BC, and Jonah appears right in the middle of that. Jonah overlaps Amos and Hosea in northern Israel, and he finishes his ministry just before Isaiah’s ministry begins in southern Judah. 

Jonah is the only narrative in the minor prophets. He was a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II when Israel was temporarily growing in strength. He is the first of Israel’s prophets to be sent to a non-Jewish population. 

Critics have raised questions about this book. Questions like: Did Jonah write this book himself or is it just a story about him? Is this book historical or allegorical? 

The five biggest objections that are raised to Jonah’s historicity are: 

  1. The hyper-nationalistic feel is more like when Ezra and Nehemiah led people back to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon, and not during the time of Jeroboam II. 
  2. Parts of Jonah appear copied from the prophet Joel. 
  3. There are no (or incorrect) details about the major city of Nineveh that Jonah visited. 
  4. There are no extra-biblical historical records of a revival in Nineveh. 
  5. Jonah was swallowed by a fish?! 

I think there are very good reasons to believe that Jonah was both autobiographical and historically accurate. 

First, there was a revival of sorts (although not religiously) in Israel during the time of Jeroboam II. This was a time that Israel felt like it could flex its muscles again, so Jonah would not be acting out of character to be so pro-Israel. 

Second, Jonah 3:9 and Joel 2:14 sound similar, but scholars cannot tell which was written first. Couldn’t God amplify a message? Consider how many parts of the Gospel of Mark are used in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. And it’s a regular practice for authors even today to directly quote other sources. 

Third, regarding the lack of details about Nineveh, the biblical writers give very few details of any places outside of Israel or Judah. The only “incorrect” detail skeptics point to is Jonah 3:3 stating that the city was so big that it would take three days to walk around it. Nineveh was a city of about 120,000 inhabitants, so it could easily take three days of walking and preaching in order to get the message to everyone. 

Fourth, the revival in Nineveh was clearly short-lived. Jonah was probably in Nineveh around 760 BC. Assyria was rising politically and militarily during that time and defeated Israel just 40 years after Jonah’s preaching. Assyria itself was then defeated in 605 BC. 

Finally, Jonah was swallowed by a fish?! The root word for fish in Hebrew means something that has grown to such an enormous size that it overshadows everything else. But notice that what caused the sailors to be in awe of God was not the whale/fish swallowing Jonah, but the immediate calming of the ocean when Jonah was thrown overboard (Jonah 1:15-16). Miracles appear throughout this book. And throughout the entire Bible! 

Why should the appearance of miracles surprise us? Some people have a bias against the supernatural, where they wrongly believe that we can know everything through naturalistic means. C.S. Lewis pointed out, “I use the word Miracle to mean an interference with Nature by supernatural power. … Nature as a whole is herself one huge result of the Supernatural: God created her.” 

I don’t think this story is a parable or an allegory because nowhere else in the Bible are such details given in the form of a parable. 

I believe this story is historical because Jesus talked about the historicity of Jonah in the same breath as He talked about other historical people: the Queen of the South and Solomon (Matthew 12:38-42). Jesus clearly viewed Jonah as historically reliable and accurate. To call Jonah into question is to call into question the truthfulness of Jesus Himself! 

History matters because all of History is God’s story! 

Our belief in the message of the Bible is not based upon “once upon a time” or “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” It’s based upon real people in real places, especially the historicity of Jesus (notice all of the historical details Luke lists in the birth account of Jesus). 

Jonah was clearly one of those historical people, in an historic place, and at a precise moment in world history that tells the story of Jesus and our redemption which He purchased! 

If you want to check out all of the messages in our series on the major lessons from the minor prophets, you can find that list by clicking here.

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