Martin Collins, reviewing the episode of Habakkuk's frustration that God would use an evil people to punish Israel, points us to the prophet's resolve to cease being a fretful worrier and to become a responsible watcher, determined to understand the purpose of God's dealing with His people. Only a faithful believer will ever stand acquitted before God's fearful judgment. While the taunt-song, dealing with the five woes, certainly applies to Babylon, it applies doubly to God's people Israel, who should have known better, but chose to become ignorant. The first two woes in Habakkuk 2:6-8 concerns the woe against greed, avarice, covetousness (a virulent form of idolatry), and selfish ambition, leading to the crime of usury, charging excessive interest on loans, making the debtor a virtual slave, totally against God's instructions in Deuteronomy 24:10-13. The earth metaphorically cries out against the oppressor who garners wealth by stealing from others and amassing fortunes by exploiting the poor. The third woe focuses on a nation's tyrannical oppression of captive peoples, building a city with bloodshed and establishing a town by violence, denuding forests, wantonly slaughtering animals in order to subjugate other defenseless peoples. The fourth woe results from a people corrupting others with drunkenness and lust, having both literal and metaphorical implications; today the intoxicating Babylonian system embraced by Jacob's descendants has caused our nation to resemble, both figuratively and literally, a drunk vomiting over itself, exposing its sins and folly to the entire world, after adamantly refusing to be governed by God's laws. The fifth woe leveled against the Chaldeans, and by extension to the modern descendants of Jacob, results from idolatry, the sin of worshiping the creation rather than the Creator, applying to literal idols of stone and wood as well as to pagan new age religious practices and including anything we might exalt over God Almighty, including our physical possessions, talents, abilities,
John Ritenbaugh references an advertisement by a large popular Protestant megachurch in Gastonia, North Carolina, which regularly uses the allurement of show business and entertainment to draw large crowds. The charismatic pastor has purposely scheduled the services for late Sunday afternoon, to allow people sufficient time to indulge in other activities (family, shopping, etc.) before spending a little sliver of relaxing kick-back time with God. In other words, God is reserved for last place on the scheduled list of priorities. Consequently, nominal 'Christians' are steadily losing any knowledge of God and His purposes that they may have once had in the distant past. The elite educational leadership have made sure that the Word of God has been denigrated if not altogether extirpated from public school curriculum. Even the prominent atheist Richard Dawkins was alarmed at the dumbed-down state of young people, whose ignorance of the literary heritage of the King James Bible has impoverished their appreciation of English literature, greatly stunting their cultural growth. As a second example, consider the comments of noted columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post. She revealed her woeful lack of knowledge about biblical imagery by misinterpreting a statement concerning "the body of Christ" made by Presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Sadly, American educators are more conversant with the fiction of media and pop culture than they are of legitimate historical documents. The pathetically gullible American public get their concepts about the Bible from movies and television rather than reading the Bible. Consequently, they have lost their anchorage as to what constitutes truth and what constitutes falsehood and prevarication.
Most people, and even theologians, interpret the Parable of the Mustard Seed as an illustration of phenomenal growth of the church. Martin Collins shows, however, that the traditional interpretation is flawed, and that a comparison of biblical symbols points to a much darker explanation.
David C. Grabbe: In the world of money, growth is of supreme importance. Regrettably, this approach has taken root within Christianity, too—both true and false. "Success" for a church is all too often measured in income, membership, and new converts, all of which are typically very unreliable indicators. ...
Richard Ritenbaugh, addressing our current scattered state as a form of exile, asserts that exile has been a form of punishment God has used from the very beginning, with our original parents through the patriarchs, through the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, right up to the present time. God exiles to punish for sin, separating individuals and groups from Him in order to spur repentance. There is something to exile that God finds very good. God has scattered the greater church of God (keeping the bad figs from contaminating the salvageable ones) because He loves us and wants us to begin rebuilding as much as lies within us, getting our relationships right with God and our fellow exiled brethren, bearing fruit and seeking peace.
Richard Ritenbaugh reiterates that the Kingdom of God or of Heaven has past (Hebrews 11:13), present (Hebrews 12:22), and future (Hebrews 12:28) aspects. The Kingdom parables primarily provide instruction for the present aspect, a time when struggle and suffering are part of the mix (Matthew 11:12). The first parables of Matthew 13 reveal Satan's battle plan to: (1) attack in the early stages of development, (2) infiltrate with secret agents, (3) cause the church to grow large and worldly, exceeding God's prescribed limits, and (4) corrupt by false doctrine, destroying the relationships between the brethren. These parables describe the last quarter century in the church of God.
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