Archive for the ‘old testament’ Category

The vocabulary of grace

19 October 2011

We’ve just finished a series in the book of Job at church. Many are familiar with the story of Job, but probably less have waded through the waters step by step with Job and his friends. If you were to take an hour or so and read all of the speeches of Job’s friends you’d find a mixed bag. Some wonderful things said, some confusion things said, and some awful things said. But one thing that would be missing from start to finish in these speeches is grace. Job’s friends had no vocabulary for grace, it was foreign to them and they were unfamiliar with it. In fact, the reason they were so oppressive to Job is because they kept throwing a graceless God at him. In their graceless worldview situations such as Job’s didn’t exist, hence their mistaken accusations of Job’s sin.

A wonderful old hymn that’s been given new life is Jesus, I my cross have taken.  There are 4 lines in the fifth verse of this hymn that would, I think, have been a wonderful balm for Job to hear rather than the drivel of his friends. Henry Lyte writes:

Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine (fret).

Those are words filled with grace, because they bring Jesus to the suffering (Job in this case).

Anyhow, what is fascinating at the end of the book is the vocabulary lesson Job’s friends get. Thankfully, for them, God is not like they imagined him to be. He is a God of grace.

Job 42.7   After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

They’ve witnessed the innocent suffering of Job and could not make sense of it, and now they witness the innocent suffering of these animals. And I imagine through this vocabulary lesson in grace they understood, ‘unless I have a substitute I am doomed’. And they look in faith to the one whom Job so clearly pictures, the truly innocent sufferer, the Lord Jesus Christ. In one life only is Job excelled, in innocence and in grief. That is, of course, life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus. In is in Jesus’ perfection and in Jesus’ suffering that the questions of Job ultimately find their answer. And what is that answer? In a word, grace.

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Where in the world have you been?

18 October 2010

I’d like to address this question my two readers may be asking (dangerous assumption). The last number of months have been a whirlwind. We finished at Carrubbers in Edinburgh in June and moved down to Leeds in July to start a new pastorate. We were in temporary accommodation during July, in California most of August, and moved to our house in Beeston at the end of August, just in time for Anna to start school on 1 September. That’s the schedule as such.

These last months have also included our settling in to City Evangelical Church. Getting to know people (and remembering names!), getting a feel for the church, hearing what things people think are good and bad, and diving in to preaching James and 2 Chronicles.

A brief aside on books: I’ve always enjoyed my library, but that relationship was put in danger during the move. Currently my study is split between a church office and the loft (attic) at our house (accessed by one of those pull-down steel ladders). Needless to say, carrying dozens and dozens of boxes of books up this ladder (with the faithful help of my father) put the relationship in a delicate situation. But, I’m happy to say that all is resolved now. We’re waiting on one more bookcase for the bedroom to house some choice volumes.

I think this last week we finally feel like we’ve been able to surface for a bit to catch our breath.

We love our new home and the new church family that we are now a part of. What a joy!

Well, let me put something worthwhile here rather than just ramblings.

If you haven’t read The Word Became Fresh by Dale Ralph Davis, you are missing out. It is an excellent help in preaching through OT narrative, and it is immensely enjoyable to read (and it’s short!).

The new Amazon Kindle is a wonderful leap forward from the 2nd Generation, and it’s loads cheaper. It keeps the pile by the bed a bit shorter.

Lots of new music out lately. A new Matthew Smith album is certainly worth your time. Old hymns, new music, good stuff. There is also a fairly new release from Sandra McCracken of new and old hymns. It’s good, but The Builder and the Architect is better. Bebo Norman also has a new album out. I like it a lot. Caedmon’s Call has a new album out, I don’t like it as much (and if you’ve had the guild cds in the pass don’t sign up for the guild, because there is nothing new there – thanks to the band for taking my money anyhow!:). And then there’s the new Jars of Clay. I’ve been enjoying it the last couple of days. Lots of guest musicians and singers on it. Eyes Wide Open is my current favourite.

Well, I hope to maintain posting things here, that aren’t as random as this one.

God, a lucky charm?

9 April 2010

God is not a lucky charm, nor will he be manipulated by mankind, but that is exactly how Israel wanted to treat him. They thought God was a wee rabbit’s foot hanging from their key ring.

1 Sam 4.3 “And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.”

The lucky charm had arrived and Israel thought they were invincible. Well, clearly they weren’t, and they thought God had let them down. So what do they do when they get the ark back (Ch 5-6)? They said (Ch 8), “God didn’t work, so let us have a king like the other nations. Maybe he will be a lucky charm that will better work for us.”

The people of Israel didn’t need a lucky charm, and neither do we. The people of Israel didn’t need a God they could manipulate for their own ends, and neither do we.

It’s not a lucky charm that we offer to people in Christ and in the gospel because just like the people of Israel, they’ll throw it out once life gets ugly and hard. No, we have a message of forgiveness and true life that transcends the difficulties of this life. It’s not a lucky charm we point people to, but a sovereign God.

You see, the people of Israel didn’t want God; they just wanted the things God would give them. And how easily we treat God the same way. God wants us to desire him for himself, not the things he can give. When we desire God only for the things he can give, we make him into an idol giver. Desire God. Desire Christ. Sing with the hymnists, “Give me Jesus,” and “Christ, or else I die.”

The right thing, but the wrong thing to say

17 February 2009

Job had some of the worst comforters and counsellors ever. If he were not so low physically the remarks of his sage friends might have been met by blows. These guys didn’t get Job, or God for that matter. And yet, even though it was not what Job needed to hear or what they should have said, there are some rich truths in what they say. Consider Eliphaz’s words from Job 22.21-30

21 “Agree with God, and be at peace;
thereby good will come to you.
22 Receive instruction from his mouth,
and lay up his words in your heart.
23 If you return to the Almighty you will be built up;
if you remove injustice far from your tents,
24 if you lay gold in the dust,
and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed,
25 then the Almighty will be your gold
and your precious silver.
26 For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty
and lift up your face to God.
27 You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you,
and you will pay your vows.
28 You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you,
and light will shine on your ways.
29 For when they are humbled you say, ‘It is because of pride’;
but he saves the lowly.
30 He delivers even the one who is not innocent,
who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”

Let God be your treasure. It is not those who have no earthly treasure that need this particular counsel most*, it is those who have much in the world, whose temptation is to have something else as their treasure. Might our earthly treasures be as dust and river bed stones in our affections.

*I understand that people’s treasures are often not money or material things. Someone’s ‘gold’ might be a relationship, public esteem, their work, etc. So in one sense, all need this counsel, but in the context of the passage it seems the focus is on earthly possessions and money.

Mission in the OT?

30 January 2009

The Old Testament is full of Israel’s failure and refusal to do missions. Generally, they were inward focused and had no desire for God’s blessing to go to all the people’s of the earth. Somewhat ironically, perhaps, there seems to be a great conversion of people in the book of Esther, but not because of the people’s evangelistic endeavours. In Esther 8.17 we read, “And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for fear of the Jews had fallen on them.” Whether these people were God-fearing Jews and true worshippers of Yahweh, we don’t know; but this is perhaps the greatest spread of the knowledge of Yahweh outside of the land of Canaan. And it happens because the people of Israel are almost annihilated. God’s ways are not our ways. He will be honoured and glorified in all things, even though we often don’t see the whole picture.

Jesus: the better King

28 January 2009

We recently finished up our series on 2 Chronicles so I thought I’d finish off my thoughts on the superiority of Jesus to the Kings of Judah (previous posts here, here, here, and here). There are 6 kings left, but I am combining the last 4.

First up, Amon. Not too much is said about him, but there is much to see in contrast to Christ. First, Amon’s servants conspired against him and killed him. Christ, the servant King, however, was conspired against and killed by those he came to serve. In contrast to Manasseh, Amon did not humble himself, even though forgiveness was offered to him just like it was to Manasseh. As we thought about Christ dying so that Manasseh might be forgiven, Christ also died that forgiveness might be offered to Amon, even though he refused it. The death of Christ is the grounds for a universal gospel call to everyone to come to Jesus and find forgiveness.

The next king is another bright spot, Josiah. A few thoughts here. First, God withheld his judgment because of Josiah’s humility, obedience, and righteousness (2 Ch 34.26-28). In glorious contrast God poured out his judgment upon Christ, the sin-bearing substitute, precisely because of his humility, righteousness, and obedience. Sadly, Josiah finishes on a bit of a down note. He chose to fight the wrong battle at the wrong time and he ended up losing his life(2 Ch 35.20-27). In contrast Jesus refused to stray from his mission and true opponent. He wouldn’t become king early, by alternate means avoiding the cross, or according to people’s expectations. The Jews were expecting something a bit different than what Jesus brought. At times they wanted to make him king, but in the end he was not what the wanted in a king. Rome was the only oppressor they could see, but sin was the real oppressor. The patience of Jesus and trust in God’s timing and ways in incredible.

Lastly, there is Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachim, and Zedekiah. In 2 Chronicles 36.15-16 we read, “The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy.” These words sound strangely familiar in Mark 12.1-12, the parable of the tenants. This parable picks up where 2 Chronicles left off. God sent messengers and servants. In the end he sent his Son. He too was despised and rejected. He suffered on the cross, but in God’s grace his rejection did not mean that there was no remedy, but rather, Christ’s rejection was the remedy.

Jesus is the better king. The kings of Judah had their moments, but only to point us to the one who was to come, God’s forever King.

Manasseh and Jesus

14 January 2009

How exactly does Manasseh relate or prepare the people for Jesus? Primarily in contrasting ways. Here are a few thoughts. First, Manasseh filled the temple with idols during his reign (2 Ch 33.4-5). Conversely, Christ cleared the temple when he came (Jn 2.13-22). Secondly, Manasseh adopted the ways of his enemies and the pagan nations surrounding him (33.2). Christ, on the other hand, had the opportunity to live according to the ways of his enemies, most notably, when he was offered a new way of life by Satan in his wilderness temptations. Jesus could have had the kingdoms of the world without going to the cross if he worshipped Satan, but as God’s perfect and righteous Son he always did the Father’s will. And finally, forgiveness and salvation were offered to Manasseh even though he was at the top of the list of evil kings in Judah (2 Ch 33.12-19); even though his sins were many and didn’t deserve to be forgiven. And Christ, he sinlessly suffered for sin so that Manasseh might be forgiven. Amazing love!

How is Jesus better than Hezekiah?

5 January 2009

Previously I have posted on how Jesus is better than all of the kings of Israel, which in most cases is extremely easy because so many were such poor kings. Well, what about Hezekiah, one of the best? The chronicler spends 3 chapters focusing on Hezekiah’s reforms and really what is his reinstating of the means of grace for the people of Israel. And God blesses him (2 Chronicles 31.21). But, instead of responding in humility, Hezekiah became proud. He did repent of his pride, but strangely he didn’t seem too bothered when evil times were promised for his children and those who would come after him (2 Chronicles 32.26, 2 Kings 20.16-19). So long as my days are safe, I am satisfied, he thought. He didn’t care what the later days held for his children.

Jesus, on the other hand, was willing, for himself, to see hellish days, that our later days might be glorious and blessed. Christ would take the curse during his days that we might be blessed for all our days. Christ would bear the wrath that we might be saved. Christ had great care for what the later days would hold for his children, and we was willing for his days to be dark that ours might be bright. As good as Hezekiah was, he reminds us that it is Christ we want, not him.

King Ahaz – Grace in the face of Evil

24 November 2008

In a previous post I mentioned how Christ was better than all of the kings of Judah.

To add to the list as we are making our way through 2 Chronicles the next few are:

Uzziah – his pride caused him to act out of bounds to his proper God-given role and he tried to burn incense taking the role of a priest
Jesus – always fulfilled the role that God had given him glorifying the Father and doing the works of the Father

Jotham – would not go into the temple of God
Jesus – is the new temple of God

Last night I heard a sermon on King Ahaz (2 Chron 28). There was something that was almost unbelievable that was brought to our attention. Of all the kings of Judah, Ahaz was one of the worst (child sacrifice, idolatry, etc.). In 2 Chron 28.24 we read that he shut the doors to the temple, in a very real way saying ‘God, I will not go into your place.’ And yet, in Isaiah 7.14, it is to Ahaz that the prophecy is given of the coming of Immanuel, where God says to Ahaz (and us), ‘You will not go into my place, but I will come into your place.’ Grace in the face of evil. The promise of God to come into our place because we would not, and could not, go into his place.

As we shortly enter into our remembrances of the coming of Christ, God with us, may we remember the grace of God in the face of evil.

The Continuity of the Spirit’s Work

7 October 2008

Without question there is a marked difference in the Spirit’s work this side of the cross and the ascension of Christ, but there is also a remarkable amount of continuity in his work throughout the history of redemption. Perhaps it is more a case of degree as opposed to kind.

Here are some works of the Spirit we see in the Old Testament that have continuity with his work in these New Covenant days. We see the Spirit as the executive of saving activity (Is 63.7-14); provides access to God’s presence as the Spirit of God filled the tabernacle/temple (bringing us into the presence of God is a much broader theological theme and is in relation to the kingdom of God; I don’t think you can really separate the two); gives new life/heart circumcision/born again (Deut 30.6, John 3.1-15); involved in bringing God’s word to the people (via prophets, 1 Pet 1.11, etc.). A few thoughts on the Spirit’s ongoing work in and among the people of God.