Red Clay Theology

Descending – a meditation on the lectionary

CC-BY-NC Brett Sayer



“or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).


This week’s lectionary readings are a meditation on descent.

Katabasis – Descending 

The “catabasis phenomenon” in Robert Bly’s Iron John describes a type of descent into depression, Commonly, it is a young male who descends into depression because of separation from a strong father figure or because of a lack of rituals and ceremonies to mark his growth as a man.

Joseph, the favorite son, was separated from his loving father – separated from others who worshiped Yahweh, the Eternal Triune God.

The Old Testament lesson find Joseph, descending from his spot of honor as”favorite son,” descending into the well, descending from the Promised Land to worldly Egypt, descending into slavery.

Joseph’s Brothers (to each other): 19 Oh, here comes the great dreamer. 20 Let’s kill him and throw his body into one of the pits. Then we can tell everyone a wild animal killed and devoured him. We’ll see then what becomes of his stupid dreams.

21 When Reuben heard the plan, he tried to help Joseph.

Reuben: Let’s not kill him. 22 We don’t need to shed any blood to be free of him. Let’s just toss him into some pit here in the wilderness. We don’t need to lay a hand on him.

Reuben thought perhaps he could secretly come back later and get Joseph out of the pit and take him home to their father before any more harm came to him.

The brothers agreed. 23 When Joseph arrived, they ripped his robe off of him—the fancy, colorful robe he always wore that his father had made for him, 24 and they threw him into the pit. Now this pit happened to be an empty cistern; there was no water in it.

25 Then they sat down to eat. Soon they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelite traders approaching from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with gum, balm, and a fragrant resin; and they were on their way down to Egypt with their goods.

Judah (to his brothers): 26 What profit will it be for us if we just kill our brother and conceal the crime? 27 Come on, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites instead. We won’t have to lay a hand on him then. He is, after all, our brother, our own flesh and blood.

All of the brothers agreed. 28 As the Midianite traders were passing by, they brought Joseph up out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites for about eight ounces of silver, the usual price of young male slaves. The traders set off with Joseph in the direction of Egypt.

—Genesis 37:19-28


Our Gospel lesson finds Peter, loosing faith, taking his sight off of Christ and descending, falling, sinking, slipping,falling below the waves. His eyes fell/descended to the waves about him. His faith fell,sank, descended in his heart as the water ascended around him.

Peter: 28 Lord, if it is really You, then command me to meet You on the water.

Jesus: 29 Indeed, come.

Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water and began walking toward Jesus. 30 But when he remembered how strong the wind was, his courage caught in his throat and he began to sink.

Peter: Master, save me!

31 Immediately Jesus reached for Peter and caught him.

Jesus: O you of little faith. Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear?

—Matthew 14:28-31


The Gospel of Christ is a story of Descent.

Jesus came down -descended- from Heaven.

He became incarnate- took on flesh- descended into a body.

Descended into the grave, and to the place of the dead.

But he ASCENDED back to glory —

He will descend again,when he returns for His Bride, the Church.



The Rich Man and Lazarus – Trinity 1 at XCrawford

The Rich Man and Lazarus – Trinity 1 at XCrawford.

The Rich Man and Lazarus - Trinity  1 at XCrawford

Luke 16:19-31

The Voice (VOICE)

19 There was this rich man who had everything—purple clothing of fine quality and high fashion, gourmet meals every day, and a large house. 20 Just outside his front gate lay this poor homeless fellow named Lazarus. Lazarus was covered in ugly skin lesions. 21 He was so hungry he wished he could scavenge scraps from the rich man’s trash. Dogs would come and lick the sores on his skin. 22 The poor fellow died and was carried on the arms of the heavenly messengers to the embrace of Abraham. Then the rich fellow died and was buried 23 and found himself in the place of the dead. In his torment, he looked up, and off in the distance he saw Abraham, with Lazarus in his embrace.

24 He shouted out, “Father Abraham! Please show me mercy! Would you send that beggar Lazarus to dip his fingertip in water and cool my tongue? These flames are hot, and I’m in agony!”

25 But Abraham said, “Son, you seem to be forgetting something: your life was full to overflowing with comforts and pleasures, and the life of Lazarus was just as full with suffering and pain. So now is his time of comfort, and now is your time of agony. 26 Besides, a great canyon separates you and us. Nobody can cross over from our side to yours, or from your side to ours.”

27 ”Please, Father Abraham, I beg you,” the formerly rich man continued, “send Lazarus to my father’s house. 28 I have five brothers there, and they’re on the same path I was on. If Lazarus warns them, they’ll choose another path and won’t end up here in torment.”

29 But Abraham said, “Why send Lazarus? They already have the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets to instruct them. Let your brothers hear them.”

30 “No, Father Abraham,” he said, “they’re already ignoring the law and the prophets. But if someone came back from the dead, then they’d listen for sure; then they’d change their way of life.”

31 Abraham answered, “If they’re not listening to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be convinced even if someone comes back from the dead.”


The Divine Council

A doctrine held by many popular ministers in the Word-Faith movement is the teaching that believers are “little gods,” baby gods, or demi-gods. This is the root of the Prosperity, “Name it and Claim It,” Gospel. It is based on BAD Hermeneutics. A bad reading of an English translation of The Gospel of John 10:34 (Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?).

The Divine Council

If we are going to unpack what Jesus was saying in John 10, we need to know a little bit about Hebrew Cosmology- how Ancient Jewish people viewed the heavens and their belief in henotheism. – Henotheism is the worship of a single deity, but belief that there are other spiritual beings and gods in existence. Throughout the Old Testament and the Second Temple Era, henotheism was the spiritual worldview of the Jewish people (except for the Sadducees who rejected all conceptions of a spirit world- including a human soul-  YHWH alone was the spirit being). After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. the Sadducee view became the prominent view in the diaspora. Under the henotheistic view, enemy nations who worshipped other gods were praying to angels (good and bad, or angels and demons).  This may be difficult to accept initially, but it is firmly Biblically based- here we see that YHWH divided the nations up according to the “sons of God” –  there is some dispute over what this means (some argue angelic princes, and some argue that it is the children of Israel- language in the Dead Sea Scrolls and LXX lean toward angels- language in the Masoretic text leans toward nation of Israel – Dr. Michael Heiser has written a very technical textual analysis siding with Sons of God/Angels here)  , but He kept Jacob’s people as His people.

Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (ESV)

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord‘s portion is his people,
    Jacob his allotted heritage.

A reading that says that angels and demons were placed in charge of nations would be supported by Daniel 10.

Daniel 10:12-14; 20-21 (ESV)

12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”

20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

In Daniel, it would appear that malevolent angels were set up as princes of Persia and Greece, but Michael was the Prince of Israel (or possibly the Prince of the Faithful as YHWH’s archangel).

This leads us to Psalm 82, the source of the phrase that Jesus quoted. Psalm 82 has YHWH taking his place on the throne of (or presiding chair) the divine council, the assembly of the elohim. The divine council is defined by Dictionary of Old Testament Wisdom, Poetry, and Writings as “[The divine council is] the heavenly host, the pantheon of divine beings who administer the affairs
of the cosmos. All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council. The divine
council of Israelite religion, known primarily through the psalms, was distinct in important ways.”
This idea that YHWH “holds court” or has a council of spiritual beings that he presides over can also be seen in Job- here, Satan is even seen as a member of the divine council, or assembly of spiritual beings, when they are summoned before YHWH’s throne to give an account.

Job 1:6-7 (ESV)

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

Psalm 82

We will use this view of a divine council to guide our parsing of Psalm 82:

82 God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk about in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I said, “You are gods,
    sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
    and fall like any prince.”

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
    for you shall inherit all the nations!

Verse 1: God has taken his place of authority in the assembly of the spirit beings like he did in Job, to hear their accounts and judge them.

Verse 2: God says that the Princes of the Nations are being unjust judges, rewarding the evil doers.

Verses 3-5: YHWH reminds them of their duties as His surrogate.

Verse 6: This is the verse that Jesus quotes- notice it is only a fragment of a sentence.

Verse 7: God pronounces that the gods of the nations will die like men, like mortal princes.

Verse 8: Asaph adds that YHWH will take back all of the nations that he gave to the princes in Deuteronomy 32.

What Was Jesus Saying?

This is similar to Jesus quoting the Psalm on the cross, His references to the first line is supposed to bring to mind the rest of the Psalm- on the cross he says “Why have you forsaken me?” from Psalm 22, but the completion of the Psalm is implied. In the case of Psalm 22, Jesus is saying “I feel forsaken…” but this is a Messianic Psalm- it leads to “he shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,that he has done it.”  The reader (or hearer in original context) should fill in the rest of the Psalm.

In the case of “ye are gods,” when the hearer fills in the rest of the Psalm he gets “nevertheless, like men you shall die.”

One reading of John 10:31-39 could then be something similar to this:

Why are you convicting me to death? Why have you sentenced me? Haven’t I brought you gifts from My Father, these good works? And you judge me unjustly? I want to remind you that even the gods that are worshipped by the Canaanites, the Greeks, The Romans, The Philistines will be sentenced to death by My Father for not giving people fair trials. If he does that to a pagan god, how do you think He will judge someone who knows The Law by Heart like You do??? Put me on trial! if I don’t have the evidence to back up my claim then convict me, but if you see the evidence, then issue the verdict yourself and say, “Jesus is the Son of God.”


The “little gods” doctrine isn’t Biblically supported. While the common refutation that “elohim also means earthly judge” is true, I don’t believe that it takes into account the full force of what Jesus was saying in John 10:31-39

Light of the World- Jesus and the Feast of Dedication


Jesus and Hanukkah


Psalm 136 – Psalm 136 is known as the Great Hallel or the Great Praise and was probably read responsively with a celebrant or rabbi reading the first part and the people reciting the repeated response. It traces the Redemptive history of the Eternal God.


Old Testament Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-31


Gospel Reading: John 10:1-30


 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,

                • The Gospel of St. John 10:22 (ESV)



In the tenth chapter of John’s gospel, we see Jesus preaching about The Good Shepherd and knowing His sheep in Jerusalem, the Feast of the Dedication was being celebrated.


What is “the Feast of the Dedication?”


It was Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, a celebration of the re-dedication of the Temple after it had been defiled by the Greco-Syrian king, Antiochus IV- who was also called Antiochus the MadMan.


This happened after the time of the Old Testament prophets, and it was also around 150 years before the Birth of Christ.

Antiochus the Madman laid siege to the land and even took over Jerusalem and the Temple itself. He had people killed, women killed for having their sons circumcised according to the Old Covenant that the people of Israel lived and worshiped God under. The Greco-Syrians destroyed the holy books, they even set up idols in the Temple and sacrificed pigs to the pagan deities, as seen in the First book of Maccabees:


1 Maccabees 1:54-64

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

54 Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year,[a] they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, 55 and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. 56 The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. 57 Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or

anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. 58 They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. 59 On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. 60 According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised,

61 and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.

62 But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. 63 They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. 64 Very great wrath came upon Israel.



But Judas Maccabee reminded the faithful that God had always poured out his protection and mercy on them:


1 Maccabees 4:6-11

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

6 At daybreak Judas appeared in the plain with three thousand men, but they did not have armor and swords such as they desired. 7 And they saw the camp of the Gentiles, strong and fortified, with cavalry all around it; and these men were trained in war. 8 But Judas said to those who were with him, “Do not fear their numbers or be afraid when they charge. 9 Remember how our ancestors were saved at the Red Sea, when Pharaoh with his forces pursued them. 10 And now, let us cry to Heaven, to see whether he will favor us and remember his covenant with our ancestors and crush this army before us today. 11 Then all the Gentiles will know that there is one who redeems and saves Israel.”



After retaking the Temple, the process to rededication, cleanse, or purify the Temple was started – but they only had one jar of oil for the Great Candlestick (menorah) that was in the Temple; Miraculously, one days worth of oil lasted the eight days it took to get more supplies. Judas proclaimed that the Re-dedication should always be remembered:


1 Maccabees 4:41-60

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

41 Then Judas detailed men to fight against those in the citadel until he had cleansed the sanctuary.

42 He chose blameless priests devoted to the law, 43 and they cleansed the sanctuary and removed the defiled stones to an unclean place. 44 They deliberated what to do about the altar of burnt offering, which had been profaned. 45 And they thought it best to tear it down, so that it would not be a lasting shame to them that the Gentiles had defiled it. So they tore down the altar, 46 and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them. 47 Then they took unhewn stones, as the law directs, and built a new altar like the former one. 48 They also rebuilt the sanctuary and the interior of the temple, and consecrated the courts. 49 They made new holy vessels, and brought the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table into the temple. 50 Then they offered incense on the altar and lit the lamps on the lampstand, and these gave light in the temple.

51 They placed the bread on the table and hung up the curtains. Thus they finished all the work they had undertaken.

52 Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-eighth year, 53 they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering that they had built. 54 At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. 55 All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. 56 So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and joyfully offered burnt offerings; they offered a sacrifice of well-being and a thanksgiving offering. 57 They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and fitted them with doors. 58 There was very great joy among the people, and the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed.

59 Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.

60 At that time they fortified Mount Zion with high walls and strong towers all around, to keep the Gentiles from coming and trampling them down as they had done before.


The Historian Josephus mentioned Hanukkah celebrations- calling it LIGHTS and saying:


“Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. ” – Antiquities of the Jews XII



Jewish people still observe Hanukkah by lighting a candle on a menorah every night of Hanukkah, eating traditional foods, reciting Psalms and reading scriptures – according to the traditional custom (see note), some of the scriptures read included Psalm 136 and Ezekiel 34. Our Psalm and our Old Testament reading for today, so, according to this system it looks like Jesus was on Solomon’s Porch – the Portico of the Temple- preaching a sermon about that days scripture reading- He was preaching a Hanukkah sermon since it looks like his discourse on the Good Shepherd in John 10 was a sermon based on the reading from Ezekiel chapter 34- the portion from the book of the prophets that was to be read that day to celebrate the Festival (see NOTE).


Our readings from Ezekiel and John both concern The Good Shepherd –

The message from God in Ezekiel says “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” We see this literally happen in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He came to seek and save His sheep and in John 10 He even says that He Knows His Sheep, and they will hear His voice and follow Him because He is the Good Shepherd and He will lay down His life for His sheep.

Ultimately, as Christians, we can see that the story of Hanukkah was a type or a foreshadow of the birth of our Savior, through miraculous means the True Light came into the world to dedicate a New Covenant. The people of Israel during the Maccabean Revolt only knew of God dwelling with man in the Holy of Holies of The Temple, that is why The Temple was so important to them. BUT, we know that Jesus was God in the Flesh, the Second Person of the Trinity. Revelation calls Christ Jesus The Tabernacle that walks among men- so, we shouldn’t see Hanukkah as a “rival holiday” – we should see it as another historic sign post pointing towards Christ Jesus and an opportunity to share Him as the True Light that Never Goes Out.


NOTE: The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship by Aileen Guilding, 1960, describes the ancient three year reading cycle ( a Palestinian Jewish Triennial Lectionary) in The Temple and in synagogues from the “Jerusalem” tradition during the First Century, but Modern Jewish people follow a single year lection system that corresponds to the Babylonian cycle of Torah (Pentateuch) and Haftarah (Books of the Prophets) portions.



Survey of Prophets 3


Day 3 – October 3- Isaiah 43

What is the New Thing that the Lord is Doing? Is it an “Immanence” interpretation? Since God exists outside of the bounds of time is he ALWAYS doing something New? or do you see this as part of and a continuation of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant Messianic Prophecy in the preceding chapter and the NEW thing He was About to do was be embodied- come into the world in physical form as the Suffering Servant?

Survey of Prophets 2



Day 2 – October 2 – Isaiah 25
sometimes chapters 24-27 are called the Isaianic Apocalypse- the Revelation to Isaiah-

The Little Apocalypse of Isaiah- is not only a work of prophecy, but  an early example of Apocalyptic Poetry, a style usually associated with the later Post-Exilic period.

Isaiah 25 describes the elaborate and lavish banquet of the Lord- it is a prolepsis- an anticipatory song of redemption that celebrates God swallowing Death forever.

Compare the Banquet in Isaiah 25 with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19 verses 6 through 9

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,


For the Lord our God

the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and exult

and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself

with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”  Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.


Survey of Prophets 1


During October, I am running a Facebook Group that is doing an overview of OT prophets

The Prophet Isaiah, 1729, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo @ Palazzo Patriarcale in Udine, Italy

The Prophet Isaiah, 1729, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo @ Palazzo Patriarcale in Udine, Italy


Day 1 – October 1 – Isaiah 1

Isaiah lived about 800 years before the Birth of Christ- he was married and his career as a prophet could have lasted for up to 5 or 6 decades. Some of the early Church leaders referred to him as Esaias because of the translation of the time. – We will be reading Isaiah 1, 25, and 43 the next three days- but if you have time- you should also check out Isaiah 6 – it includes the “Sanctus” or the song of Holy, Holy, Holy constantly being sung in the presence of the Heavenly Throne and recited my many Christians every week during their worship service. This book is the first listed of the Latter Prophets, however, Isaiah was not the oldest of the Latter Prophets.

Chapter One introduces the work of a Prophet- a prophets primary job is to Call a Group Of People to Repentance- delivering predictions of future events was a secondary job- many times, the future events were conditional on repentance, like Jonah’s “40 Days and Ninevah will be overthrown” was conditional on their acceptance or rejection of Jonah’s message.

*Reading Note: if you are reading the KJV- verse 31, “tow” is a bundle of fibers or coarse and broken fibers of hemp or flax- which could be used as tinder to start a fire– this Hebrew root word is only used one other time in the Bible- Judges 16:9