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God’s Word for You

Luke 11:49b-51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 1, 2018

They will kill and persecute some of them. 50 and then this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the foundation of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation.

God knew how his prophets and apostles would be treated. Few of the prophets died of old age or from disease. The only recorded case we have of a prophet dying naturally is Elisha (2 Kings 13:14). In the same way, the only recorded case we have of an apostle dying naturally seems to be John (cp. John 21:22-23 and Revelation 1:9). The early church overflowed with accounts of the various deaths of the apostles—some from Scripture (Acts 12:2), but most from reports from witnesses later on.

The two murders Jesus mentions here are from the boundaries of the Old Testament Scriptures. Abel’s murder is recorded in Genesis 4:6-8:

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’ Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”

Zechariah’s murder is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21:

“The Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, ‘This is what God says: Why do you disobey the LORD’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’ But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the LORD’s temple.”

These two men are the first and last of God’s prophets murdered in the Old Testament. 2 Chronicles is the last book of the Old Testament in the Hebrew order of the books. Our English order of Old Testament books comes to us through the Greek and Latin translations. Jesus is saying “from beginning to end, throughout this people’s history, from the front of the Old Testament to the back, God’s prophets have been murdered.” And now those murders would be brought down on the heads of a single generation: this one. Why? This was the generation that would crucify Christ—not only the servants of Christ, and not only the harbingers of Christ, but Christ himself. The writer to the Hebrews warns with similar words: “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened…if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Hebrews 6:4,6).

After we have heard the gospel of forgiveness, after we have been brought into God’s family through baptism, after we have tasted his body and blood in the sacrament and shared our faith in fear and trembling, will we throw that away for some human argument that scorns Christ? Surely not! That is not to say that we can’t pray for those who have fallen into unbelief. We should pray for them, because without our prayers, they might be left alone by God, shunned by him, and allowed to wander away and multiply the number of sins on their heads.

The Pharisees and their teachers were on the verge of dismissing Jesus and condemning him. His warning teaches us the seriousness of their sin, and the soon-ness of his passion. All of this was for our sakes, and for the sins of the world.

Jesus’ choice of Zechariah from 2 Chronicles also draws a boundary around the Old Testament canon for us. None of the stories of the apocryphal books—not even the murders of certain believers in the days of the Maccabees like the mothers who were murdered for circumcising their sons (2 Maccabees 6:10) and the pious men and women who were burned to death in the caves for trying to keep the Sabbath (2 Maccabees 6:11),  and the great Judas Maccabaeus who fell in battle against Bacchides (1 Maccabees 9:14-18)—none are held up as Biblical examples by the Lord. Those writings are not part of the inspired word of God, and they are not contained or even implied when Jesus summarizes the Old Testament by saying “Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). The other books, the Apocryphal books, are useful and beneficial to read, but they are not to be taken as part of the Bible.

    For reference, the approximate chronology of the writing of the Old Testament seems to be this:

1446 BC – Genesis (Moses, during the Exodus)
1446 BC – Exodus (Moses, during the Exodus)
1446 BC – Leviticus (Moses, during the Exodus)
1407 BC – Numbers (Moses, toward the end of the Exodus)
1406 BC – Deuteronomy (Moses, just before his death)
1386 BC – Joshua (Joshua)
c. 1000 BC – Judges (unknown author)
c. 1000 BC – Ruth (Nathan?)
c. 1000 BC – Job (Asaph)
c. 1000-450 BC – Psalms (David, Asaph; compiled by Ezra?)
c. 970 BC – 1-2 Samuel (Nathan?)
c. 930 BC – Proverbs (Solomon)
c. 930 BC – Ecclesiastes (Solomon)
c. 930 BC – Song of Solomon (Solomon)
850 BC – (Early date for Obadiah)
c. 800 BC – Joel (Joel)
c. 770 BC – Jonah (Jonah)
c. 715 BC – Hosea (Hosea)
c. 700 BC – Amos (Amos)
c. 690 – Micah (Micah)
680 BC – Isaiah (Isaiah)
c. 680 BC – 1-2 Kings (Isaiah?)
c. 630 BC – Nahum (Nahum)
c. 630 BC – Zephaniah (Zephaniah)
605 BC – Habakkuk (Habakkuk)
590 BC – (Late date for Obadiah)
580 BC – Jeremiah (Jeremiah)
580 BC – Lamentations (Jeremiah)
c. 580 BC – 1-2 Chronicles (Jeremiah?)
573 BC – Ezekiel (Ezekiel)
530 BC – Daniel (Daniel)
520 BC – Haggai (Haggai)
520-480 BC – Zechariah (Zechariah)
c. 440 BC – Ezra (Ezra)
c. 440 BC – Nehemiah (Nehemiah)
c. 430 BC – Esther (Mordecai?)
c. 430 BC – Malachi (Malachi)

In Hebrew, the order of the Old Testament books is:

  1. Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
  2. Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 12 Minor prophets.
  3. Writings (or “Psalms): Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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