The narrow gate (Mt 7:13-7:14)

“Enter through

The narrow gate!

The other gate is

Wide and spacious.

The way that is easy

Leads to destruction.

There are many

Who take the wide gate.

The narrow gate

Has a difficult way

That leads to life.

There are few

Who find it.”

 

ἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης· ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν, καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι δι’ αὐτῆς·

ὅτι στενὴ ἡ πύλη καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν, καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν.

 

This saying of Jesus is somewhat similar to Luke, chapter 13:23-24.  You had a choice between two gates.  Jesus, via Matthew, wanted you to enter the narrow gate (ἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης).  Matthew in his description of the wide or spacious gate (ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος) used two words for wide and spacious, “πλατεῖα” and “εὐρύχωρος,” that never appear elsewhere in the New Testament.  The easy way of the wide gate led to destruction (ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν).   Many people were entering through this wide destructive easy gate (καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι δι’ αὐτῆς).  On the other hand, the narrow gate (ὅτι στενὴ ἡ πύλη) had a difficult way, leading to life (καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν).  Only a few people were able to find their way through this difficult hard narrow life filled gate (καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν).  This idea of two ways can be found also in Deuteronomy, chapter 30:15-20, and among other religions with the way of death and the way of life.  The early Christian teachings of the Didache used this concept, as did many other dualistic religions that pointed to the choice of life or death, good or bad.  As you had basic choices in life, God was giving you the choice, life and prosperity with the narrow gate or death and adversity through the wide gate.  You could choose your path.

The fourth curse against the Chaldean drunkards (Hab 2:15-2:17)

“Woe to you!

You make your neighbors drink!

You pour out your wrath,

Until they are drunk,

In order to gaze

On their nakedness!

You will be sated

With contempt,

Instead of glory!

Drink!

You yourself!

Stagger!

The cup

In Yahweh’s right hand

Will come around to you.

Shame will come upon

Your glory!

The violence done

To Lebanon

Will overwhelm you.

The destruction

Of the animals

Will terrify you,

Because of human bloodshed

With the violence to the earth,

To the cities,

To all who live in them.”

Habakkuk then cursed the Chaldean drunkards.  They made their neighbors drunk so that they would become naked.  They themselves would drink until they staggered around.  They used alcohol as a weapon and as a form of feasting.  Their glory would turn to shame.  They had been violent to Lebanon.  The destruction of animals would terrify them.  They had committed violence that led to bloodshed in the various cities that they had taken over.

The cry for justice (Hab 1:2-1:4)

“O Yahweh!

How long

Shall I cry for help?

You will not listen.

I cry to you.

‘Violence!’

You will not save me.

Why do you make me

See wrongdoing?

Why do you make me

Look at trouble?

Destruction is before me.

Violence is before me.

Strife arises

Contention arises.

So,

The law becomes slack.

Justice never prevails.

The wicked surround

The righteous.

Therefore,

Judgment

Comes forth perverted!”

Habakkuk complained to Yahweh that there was no justice in the land.  He wanted to know how long he would have to cry to be heard by Yahweh, since Yahweh did not seem to listen to him.  Habakkuk has cried out about this violence, but there was no one to save him.  Why did he have to see so much wrongdoing and trouble?  There were all kinds of destruction and violence all around him, since his life was full of strife and contention.  The law had become slack, so that justice did not prevail.  The wicked were in fact surrounding the righteous, so that there were only perverted judgments, not true justice from Yahweh.

The distressed city of Nineveh (Nah 2:6-2:9)

“The river gates

Are opened.

The palace trembles.

It is decreed

That the city

Be exiled.

Its slave women were

Led away,

Moaning

Like doves,

Beating their breasts.

Nineveh is

Like a pool

Whose waters

Run away.

‘Halt!

Halt!’

They cry.

But no one turns back.

Plunder the silver!

Plunder the gold!

There is no end

Of treasure.

There is an abundance

Of every precious thing.

Devastation!

Desolation!

Destruction!

Hearts faint!

Knees tremble!

All loins quake!

All faces grow pale!”

Nahum painted this picture of chaos in Nineveh.  He said that the river gates were opened, so that the palace and the people in it were trembling.  The people of this city were going to go into exile.  The slave women were led away, moaning like doves and beating their breasts.  The whole city of Nineveh had become like an overflowing pool.  People were saying stop, but no one was listening.  No one turned back as they keep on fleeing.  Meanwhile, there was a great plunder of their treasures of gold, silver, and the other abundant precious things.  Everywhere there was devastation, desolation, and destruction in this great city.  Hearts were fainting, while kneels were trembling.  Their faces grew pale as their loins shook.

God saves Nineveh (Jon 3:10-3:10)

“When God saw

What they did,

How they turned

From their evil ways,

God changed his mind

About the calamity

That he had said

He would bring upon them.

Thus,

He did not do it.”

This is one of the few cases where God changing his mind.  God did not bring destruction to Nineveh.  God saw how the people and the leaders of Nineveh had turned from their evil ways.  Thus, he decided not to bring destruction to this non-Israelite town, because of their repentance.  God showed mercy to them.

The cosmic power of Yahweh (Am 5:8-5:9)

“He made

The Pleiades,

The Orion.

He turns deep darkness

Into the morning.

He darkens the day

Into night.

He calls for the waters

Of the sea.

He pours them out

On the surface

Of the earth.

Yahweh is his name.

He makes destruction

Flash out

Against the strong.

Thus destruction

Comes upon the fortress.”

Once again, Amos has a praise for the all-powerful cosmic God, Yahweh, as in chapter 4. Yahweh has made the star constellations of the Pleiades, or 7 stars, as well as the Orion, the hunter star constellation. Notice that these ancient prophets were aware of the night sky. Yahweh was able to turn darkness into morning light. At the same time, he was able to darken the day until it became night. Clearly, Yahweh or God controlled the day and night lights. Yahweh also controlled the waters of the sea that could be poured out on the earth. He also was able to bring destruction to the strongest fortresses that they had. Yahweh was a truly powerful cosmic God.

The final days (Joel 1:15-1:15)

“O!

What a day!

The day of Yahweh

Is near!

Destruction

Comes

From the Almighty One!”

The final days or the great day of Yahweh was near. Destruction from the almighty one, El Shaddai, is a play on words since the Hebrew word for destruction is similar to the Hebrew name for the almighty one.

Death and Sheol (Hos 13:14-13:14)

“Shall I ransom them

From the power

Of Sheol?

Shall I redeem them

From Death?

O Death!

Where are your plagues?

O Sheol!

Where is your destruction?

Compassion is hidden

From my eyes.”

Yahweh, via Hosea, wanted to know if he should ransom Israel from the power of Sheol, the shadowy afterlife experience. Should Yahweh redeem them from death. Then, he like Paul later in his description of death in I Corinthians, chapter 15, wondered where was the sting or the power of death. Where were the plagues and destruction of Death and Sheol? Yahweh would not have compassion on them, because it was hidden from his eyes.

The response of Yahweh (Hos 12:9-12:10)

“I am Yahweh!

Your God!

I brought you

From the land of Egypt.

I will make you

Live in tents again,

As in the days

Of the appointed festivals.

I spoke to the prophets.

It was I

Who multiplied visions.

I will bring destruction

Through the prophets.”

Yahweh, via Hosea, responded that he was their God. He had brought them out of the land of Egypt. However, he was going to make them live in tents again, like they did on the festival of Tents. He had spoken to the prophets. He had provided their visions. He now could bring destruction to them via the same prophets.

The curse against Ephraim (Hos 7:13-7:13)

“Woe to them!

They have strayed from me!

Destruction to them!

They have rebelled against me!

I would redeem them,

But they speak lies

Against me.”

Yahweh was going to curse Ephraim. They had strayed from him. Thus, destruction was coming to them. They had rebelled against Yahweh. They had spoken lies about Yahweh. He would have helped them, but instead they lied.