Tuesday, August 2, 2016

get Star-ted

The Word for today:
Nehemiah 13
I remember the first Bible I read. It was a plain old KJV (still first in my heart!) without a lot of the notes and charts and lists and maps that come with many of our modern Bibles. There was no concordance, no book summaries. It was pretty much just the Word of God, unfiltered.
But that first Bible had one feature:
That's all there were, a bunch of stars strewn randomly (I at first thought) throughout the pages: one here, one there, another over yonder.
It wasn't too many days before I happened to notice, on the page opposite the Table of Contents, a star symbol, followed by this explanation:
A star immediately following a verse in the Old Testament indicates that in the concurrent opinion of many scholars and theologians, the verse embodies a prophetic reference to Christ.
So that's what the stars mean!
I never really got too far beyond what I learned those first few times through my old Bible.  All of my subsequent teaching and writing has been essentially nothing more than pointing out to students and readers where the Star is on page one, and where the Star is on page two, the Star on page three, on page four...
The Old Testament tells us all about the Star--then waiting in the wings--who would one day take center stage:
"I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; 
A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult."  (Numbers 24:17)
The Wise Men followed that Star:
Behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  (Matthew 2:9)
The Star keeps on shining all the way to the last page of your Bible:
"I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star."  (Revelation 22:16)
I love our modern study Bibles with all their graphics and their helpful commentary.  But I wish that the first time through, everyone could read the Bible I had.  Because those stars shone through the clutter and helped me to see that, from star to star, the Bible and the entire universe is about one thing: Jesus. 
Where, then, are the stars in today's reading of Nehemiah 13? They're right here:
They had not met the children of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them.  However, our God turned the curse into a blessing. (Nehemiah 13:2)
This is a direct prophecy of what God did at the cross of Jesus Christ, who bore the curse of sin for our salvation.
And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the temple.  Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers.  (Nehemiah 13:8-9)
This scene is like going to the movies and watching a preview of "Jesus Cleanses the Temple."
Neither Nehemiah or Jesus tolerated the money changers and religious racketeers:
Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, "Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you."  (Nehemiah 13:19-21)
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.  (Mark 11:15-17)
The Stars might not be printed in your Bible like they are in mine. But there is nothing stopping you from taking your pencil and, wherever you see Jesus in the Old Testament, drawing one of these in your margin:
Better yet, of course, would be to get a big yellow crayon to mark every Star sighting:
In fact, it is the official recommendation of the Stand in the Rain Blogger's Association that for real Bible study, there could be nothing finer than a big old Bible and a shiny new yellow crayon!  Get yours soon and get Star-ted!

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