Richard Ritenbaugh, while acknowledging that technology has given modern culture some marked advantages over ancient societies, laments that the fields of psychology (with its propensity to deny sin) and mental health have not kept up with advances in the "hard" sciences. Instead of resolving basic interior problems, modern psychology treats the symptoms rather than the ailment by masking the consequences of sin with drugs. A notable exception to the general defect of psychology are recent developments in crisis and grief counseling. It is altogether feasible to see the Book of Lamentations as a form of crisis counseling, facilitating stricken Israel's coming to grips with waves of grief. The crisis itself—Jerusalem's fall to the pagan Babylonians—represented an intervention from God, as He tried to turn Israel away from her sins. The Book of Lamentations provides strategies to cope while moving toward repentance, including (1.) creating awareness, delving into possible causes, (2.) allowing catharsis, that is, expressing emotions, (3.) providing support, assuring Israel that her responses are natural, (4.) increasing expansion, that is, helping Israel overcome tunnel vision, (5.) focusing upon the specific cause of the crisis, (6.) providing guidance in overcome hurdles, (7.) providing mobilization, that is, pointing out peripheral support, (8.) implementing order, that is, putting Israel on a manageable routine, providing her with a sense of control, and (9.) providing protection from self-inflicted injury. In chapter 2, the narrator (speaking as the voice of Godly reason), uses some of these strategies. Sadly, however, at the chapter's end, Lady Jerusalem sidesteps godly repentance, opting instead for self-centered recrimination against Almighty God. Though God has actively brought about Judah's tribulations, the root cause of her troubles lay with her breaking her covenant with God.
When Solomon visits the Temple, he comes away from his observations of the worshippers with a sense that too many treat religion far too casually and carelessly, forgetting that they are coming before the great God. As John Ritenbaugh explains, Solomon admonishes his readers to listen to God's Word when they approach Him and to be careful to follow through with what they promised when they made the covenant with Him.
Just a few days before Jesus observed His last Passover with His disciples, He gave them two chapters full of prophecy, parables, and other instructions in what has come to be known as the Olivet Prophecy ....
Martin Collins, reflecting on the phenomena of rogue waves (unpredictable destructive waves that reach up to 100 feet), suggests that many lives have been lost at sea because of them. Sea imagery and maritime metaphors are used throughout scripture to depict chaos, destruction, turbulence, and disorder. In contrast to the tumultuous waves, the sea of glass in front of God's throne is tranquil and serene, as well as awe-inspiring. Before we can stand before God on this sea of glass, we are required to be totally cleansed and consecrated. Solomon had a bronze sea constructed (holding 17,000 gallons of water) to symbolize the sea of glass before God's throne, used for the cleansing of the priests in the temple. The imagery of the turbulent worldly sea (from where the Beast emerges) stands in stark contrast with the imagery of the sea of glass like crystal before God's throne, depicted in Revelation 4, a throne surrounded by an emerald rainbow. God's throne will be the focal point for all future periods of judgment and installation into His family. Even when it is seen in vision, the throne room of God itself makes stalwart individuals weak as gelatin because of the awe and splendor of the surroundings.
Within the pages of the Bible, relatively few dates are mentioned. Because of this, and because God works in similar patterns and many of the prophecies have a dual fulfillment, when prophetic dates are mentioned, they take on a special significance. ...
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the Garden of Eden, the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Temple Mount, and Mount Moriah were all names of God's house on this earth. In the Holy of Holies, within the Ark of the Covenant, Aaron's almond rod that budded symbolizes God's power over the tribes and salvation by grace through the sacrifice of Christ. The golden lamp stand, a seven bowled menorah, symbolized an almond tree in full bloom. Jesus crucifixion took place outside the camp of Israel, just outside the border of the Garden of Eden, the general area where the Miphkad Altar stood, where He was evidently nailed to a cross piece on a living tree, a tree of light. Perhaps the Tree of Life located in the middle of the Garden of Eden was an almond tree. The golden pot containing manna in the ark symbolized Jesus as the Bread of Life. The tablets of stone are found right under the mercy seat of the ark, representing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, perhaps symbolized by a fig tree, forming the basis from what we are judged. The law of God should be a perpetual source of delight for us. The testimony represents the entire Holy of Holies. The Miphkad Altar located outside of Jerusalem's east gate in the region of the Mount of Olives where Jesus had begun His triumphal march into Jerusalem and where he was arrested (in direct line of sight from the eastern side of the Temple), a place of public execution, where the red heifer was sacrificed, where Abraham intended to sacrifice Isaac, was the most probable location of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the real cradle of civilization is not Mesopotamia, but Jerusalem, a venue where God started His physical creation and where He will bring it to spiritual fruition. The world's corrupt civilization did begin in Mesopotamia, between the rivers, but God called Abraham and his descendents out of this corruption back to the region of the promised land - probably within the geographical region of the Garden of Eden, the location of Abraham's abortive sacrifice of Isaac (renamed Yahweh Yirah) Mount Moriah - the site of Solomon's Temple, the Lord's Mount, and the most probable site of the Garden of Eden) in the current Jerusalem area - the Temple Mount, Mount Zion, and the Mount of Olives. Both Moses in his instructions for building of the tabernacle and David in his instructions for building the temple were obligated to follow the pattern that God explicitly gave them. Like the temple and tabernacle, the Garden of Eden was probably an enclosed place with a single entrance on the east side, all replicas of heavenly originals, designed specifically to give us understanding and faith. The sacrifice of the red heifer on the Miphkad Altar displayed many differences from the sacrifices on the Brazen Altar. The midst of the Garden of Eden and the Holy of Holies (typifying God's throne room in Heaven - surrounded by Cherubim) were evidently in the same location. When Cain sinned, God admonished him to provide a sacrifice on what would be the location of the Miphad Altar.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon geography and place names of the Bible, asserts that God has often allowed different groups of people to use different names for the same geographical location (i.e. Mount Hermon and Mount Zion describe the same location). A major perennial theme throughout the Bible involves copies, shadows, symbols, and patterns, with the original pattern residing in the heavens and the copies made on the earth. The objects in the tabernacle derive their original form and pattern from God's pattern in Heaven. In the same respect, God is the original and we are copies. The river flowing eastward out of Eden (God's personal residence on this earth) and the river flowing from God's throne (Revelation 22:1) are both symbolic of God's Holy Spirit. Cain, the real progenitor of Babylon, wandered eastward, systematically away from God. Conversely, Abraham's descendents migrated west and northwest, eventually occupying the western-most countries. Jerusalem (the location of Mount Zion as well as the Gihon Water Course and underground spring - a virtual never-ending aquifer of water) occupying the centermost position among the nations becomes the likely location of the Garden of Eden and the likely location for the Heavenly Jerusalem. Mesopotamia is ruled out as the locale of the Garden of Eden.
As Christians, we realize that God is not only powerful, but He is also the source of all power. How do we translate this understanding into practical action? John Ritenbaugh explains how we can tap into God's power to avoid slipping into apostasy.
We do not often hear the word "profane" these days. Its full meaning has disappeared from common conversation, and it is now used almost exclusively with regard to language--as in profanity. But obscene or vulgar speech is only a fraction of what is contemplated by "profane." ...
John Ritenbaugh suggests that the Bible shows a clear pattern of how people leave the Church. The first step in the pattern is looking back, as in the case of Lot's wife. The second step is to draw back, motivated by self-pity, shrinking back as from something distasteful. Step three consists of actually walking away and looking for something else. Step four consists of arriving at the point of no return, going backward, refusing to hear. In contrast, the book of Hebrews is a compact book laying out clear doctrine and practical exhortation to called-out ones who had started to drift, giving a practical model of being sanctified. Chapter 10 contains a fearful threat of the Lake of Fire for those having committed the unpardonable sin. The unpardonable sin constitutes sinning willfully and deliberately. To sin willingly means to be disposed to do it as of a second nature. We need to draw near God's throne with boldness, cleaning up our acts, using faith, hope, and love.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on God's presence in the pillar of cloud and fire, suggests that it is a vital part of the meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread and depicts God's visible presence and protection, His Shekinah, which appeared continuously for forty years above the Tabernacle. God has appeared to many people in various forms and in various degrees of glory. We dare not fixate or limit God's appearing to one form or another. Ultimately, God's glory is His awesome goodness and righteous character, embodied in Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth. His glory is composed of all those things that are part of God's way and character. Remarkably, these godly attributes may and should (by means of the Holy Spirit, Christ in us) be transferred to us, unifying us with the Father and the Son, our hope of eternal glory.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon our future responsibilities as a priest in God's Kingdom, asking us if we are really preparing for this role. If we are not practicing being a priest right now,we will not be prepared. During the Millennium, the priest will be required to make a large number of mediating sacrifices on behalf of the people, mediating, reconciling, teaching, judging, and saving the remnant of Israel. The primary function of a priest is to assist people in accessing God- so that there can be unity with God. A priest is a bridge-builder between man and God. The sacrifice that God demands is a total sacrifice of time, energy, and service (in short, ones whole life) to that end. Nothing will prepare us to become a priest more than to commit our entire lives as a total living sacrifice.
John Ritenbaugh describes the process through which God perfects His image in us, linking three sub-themes: 1) God's disciplining, 2) our listening, and 3) God's watchful care. Obedience to God's Word strengthens us, enabling us to receive our spiritual heritage. Remembering the lamentable condition of our slavery to sin and God's deliverance and involvement in our lives helps us to exercise obedience, keeping us growing toward perfection. Paradoxically, humble dependency upon God strengthens us, while prideful self-sufficiency weakens us. No matter what situation, God carefully watches over us like an eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11), ready to come to our aid and supply us with what we need.
John Ritenbaugh warns us that in our relationship with God, we must emphasize principle over pragmatism, because pragmatism inevitably leads to idolatry. Jeroboam, in setting idolatrous shrines and festivals at Dan and Bethel, appealed to the carnal desire for practical convenience (I Kings 12:26-33). These practical compromises eventually led to the desecration of the Sabbath and the holy days, ending in the captivity of Israel. When doctrine is diluted, it turns into outright idolatry. Like ancient Israel, we have to guard against the tendency to gravitate toward ministers speaking smooth and pleasant things at the expense of turning from the truth. If we are led into deception, it is because our carnal nature wanted it that way (Jeremiah 17:9).
John Ritenbaugh asserts that keeping the Feast of Tabernacles in a central location enables us to realize that we are involved in something larger than our own salvation- part of a universal and eternal mission, giving us unity toward God's purpose. Jeroboam, motivated by political ambition and self-centered fear, incrementally and surreptitiously established a more convenient idolatrous festival, replacing the Levites, and establishing new centers of worship in order to prevent his people from keeping the legitimate Feast of Tabernacles in Judah. The modern parallel seems quite clear.
John Ritenbaugh stresses the importance of making preparations, gathering our thoughts, and turning our lives around while there is still time, rather than squander our opportunities like the foolish virgins (Matthew 25:3) and the timid Shulamite (Song of Solomon 5:3). The Apostle Paul gives two significant warnings, signaling the impending Tribulation: (1) The falling away or Apostasy and (2) the appearance of the man of sin who exalts himself above God, ultimately setting up headquarters in the temple in Jerusalem (II Thessalonians 2:3-4). Because of the immense international geopolitical significance of this personage, it is unlikely that an errant leader of a small church, as speculated by some, could remotely fulfill this role.
Prior to the study of Lamentations, John Ritenbaugh explores the topic of visions and dreams from the biblical point of view. Visions and dreams, used very rarely by God to communicate to people (God does not play around with people's minds), must be corroborated by scripture or God's law to establish their veracity. The second chapter of Lamentations, preceding the first chapter in time sequence, describes the stunning and disorienting shock of seeing the total systematic devastation and utter destruction of something formerly considered indestructible, and realizing that God was responsible for the devastation. The prophets and the religious leaders bear the greatest blame for this destruction by providing a quasi-religion (with smooth and feel-good teachings condoning sin) and not teaching the Law of God.
John Ritenbaugh continues to reflect on Stephen's incendiary message to fellow Hellenistic Jews (ostensibly given in hopes of their repentance), chastising them for their perennial rejection of prophets and deliverers, including the greatest Deliverer ever sent (namely Jesus Christ), clinging instead superstitiously to the land, the law, and the temple. Stephen's 'untimely' martyrdom and his compassion on his persecutors, followed by the protest reaction against his brutal murder (all part of God's divine plan) resulted in a rapid spreading of the Gospel. The study then focuses upon the influence of Simon Magus, a noted practitioner of sorcery or magic who became impressed with the power of God's Holy Spirit, presumptuously offering Peter money to purchase this power for selfish purposes to control others rather than to serve them. Peter recognized the hypocritical, deceitful, impure motives of this request and responded appropriately.
John Ritenbaugh explains that Stephen ignited the ire of the Hellenistic Jews, a group passionately devoted to the temple, law and land as a defensive reaction to their historical scattering. Stephen rebukes them for their reactionary (almost superstitious) devotion to the past or reverence to a specific temple location, advocating instead a pilgrim mentality, realizing that God is not confined to a fixed location. Stephen points out that historically, God has dealt with His people without land or temple, but instead through a series of deliverers (Joseph, Moses, and ultimately, Jesus Christ), initially unrecognized or rejected by their own people. Stephen suggests that his audience has rejected the Deliverer and has replaced it with an idol (of worshiping the temple) as their forefathers had turned to a golden idol, while rejecting God and His living law.
John Ritenbaugh picks up with the account of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem shortly before His crucifixion, an event which fulfilled prophecies and significantly dramatized Jesus Christ's messiahship. The crowds welcoming Jesus, while looking for a political or military hero, were actually choosing the sacrificial Paschal Lamb of God on the 10th day of Nisan. Jesus was actually throwing down the gauntlet, laying claim to His role as Messiah. The religious authorities were terrified of losing their power base. Jesus cleansed the temple of opportunistic usurious moneychangers in the courtyard of the Gentiles, an extremely crowded public place. God's Church should never be involved with fleecing the membership in any way. Additionally, God's name should never be associated with junk. After driving out the money changers, Jesus healed the blind and the lame and befriended the children who were engaged in praising Him. The truth is often clearer to the simple and innocent than to the sophisticated intellectuals. Because the fig tree was emblematic of peace and prosperity, and because it was generally prolific in yielding, Jesus cursing the fig tree carried an implied caution against lack of spiritual productivity. If a fig tree does have full leaves, it should also have full fruit; if not, the growth cycle is out of sync or degenerate. The fig tree in the New Testament (Luke 13:6) represents you and me; we are required to bear fruit. God judges by what a person produces; if we don't produce, we are useless. Uselessness invites disaster. Profession without practice is condemned. Jesus taught the disciples that prayer is power and extremely profitable in clearing up mountainous problems. Prayer should be used by us to find the ability to do. God will only do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. God wants us to be problem solvers, proved by trials, tests, and experiences He gives us. Prayer should give us the ability to accept our cup- our circumstances. [NB: This series of Bible Studies from 1981-82 is incompl
John Ritenbaugh distinguishes a temple from a synagogue, indicating that there was but one temple in Jerusalem, a monument to God, having very little preaching, but many synagogues in each town. Jesus taught in their synagogues in services which contained formalized prayers and readings from the scripture. Following the readings, a sermon was given either by the ruler of the synagogue or someone he deemed worthy, even though the person may not have had formalized ecclesiastical training. Except for the ruler of the synagogue, there didn't seem to be a formal minister. Preaching was intended to be general, providing overview, while the teaching was intended to be specific, providing details. Matthew provides systematic order and structure to his Gospel. Matthew's encapsulation of the Beatitudes, the essence (perhaps the distillation or compendium of many sermons) of Jesus Christ's teaching, contains the foundation of His teaching through the entirety of His ministry. It would be entirely possible to make a sermon from each one of the verses from Matthew 5-7. The various themes are presented in different contexts in Luke's account, indicating a perennial theme. Luke set things down in chronological order; Matthew set things down in topical or thematic order. The seriousness of the teaching can be illustrated by Jesus sitting down to teach. The beatitudes, attitudes directed way from self are intended to provide an antidote for depression and sorrow now and in the future, bringing a state of happiness and bliss, totally unattached from physical things or circumstances, but bubbles up from within deriving from divine favor- a gift from God. Poor in spirit connotes more absolute trust in and submission to God rather than abject poverty or financially impoverished. Mourning or sadness is good to make us see cause and effect and make the heart better; when things go wrong, we are driven to think and look for solutions. Godly pain
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