Woe to the self-serving shepherds!

The performance of the president of the United States and his enablers brings to mind what God said to the prophet Ezekiel about certain kings of ancient Israel: “Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: . . . Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not the shepherds feed the sheep?…

Baby Jesus in the vaccine queue

Arrival of COVID-19 vaccines is wonderful news, but there is a sober side to the story: wealthy or influential individuals and nations will receive the life-giving protection first. CNN reports (December 9) that “Rich countries have bought enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to immunize their populations three times over . . . but developing countries are being…

Welcome the stranger

The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said there are three great commandments in the Torah. Jews and Christians often quote the first two: love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. But too often we miss the third: love the stranger. At least thirty-six times the Hebrew scriptures instruct…

Demise of a corrupt ruler

During the misrule of Emperor Nero (AD 54-68), Paul wrote that everyone should be “subject” to governing authorities because they “have been instituted by God” for our good (Romans 13). Did Paul know how corrupt Emperor Nero had become? Ancient historian Suetonius gives details.  Raised in privilege and given every educational opportunity, Nero became emperor…

The Word tabernacles among us

“Under stress, people regress,” a psychologist told me recently. We imagined that pandemic lockdowns and masks would last weeks, but now it’s been five months. Political debates become acrimonious, domestic violence increases. Some impatient people ignore pandemic safety guidelines, which will extend the misery for all of us and lead to more deaths. My (Zooming)…

You are a city set on a hill

Amid pandemic, with national and ecclesial cultures facing up to systemic racism, I hear Jesus speak to the church: Let your example and witness be bold! What will the world see? You cannot hide! When Jesus told followers that they are a “city set on a hill” (Matthew 5), the only example of such a…

Even Jesus protested

When leaders become unjust or blasphemous, people of conscience protest. Jesus once broke furniture at the temple when he saw merchants turning the place into a “den of thieves.” Whatever we make of that dust-up, Jesus’ teaching and actions otherwise were nonviolent. But he did not hesitate to speak boldly to an unworthy political leader….

Silence in heaven awaits our prayers

No, this is not the end of the world. But COVID-19 certainly is an apocalypse—an “unveiling”—as the word is understood in the book of Revelation. The prophet John, quarantined on the island of Patmos, received a vision that unveiled both the misrule of Rome and the sovereignty of God. Readers could see “divine” emperors as…

Starry heavens and healing of the nations

Darkness descends as I drive alone through the desert of southern Israel, vast terrain where ancient Hebrews wandered for forty years. Eager to see a moonless sky in the desert, I pull off the road and wait for my eyes to adjust. Innumerable pinpoints of light appear, and planets blaze against the coal-black canopy. The…