4.25.2015

1 Samuel 7-9

Samuel leads Israel to national repentance and the Philistines attack.  God helps and Samuel sets up an Ebenezer stone for a memorial.

Samuel's sons are wicked and take bribes.  Israel asks for a king like other nations.  Samuel is upset, but God says to listen to them (God does not rebuke Samuel for his disobedient sons, like he did Eli.).  Samuel warns Israel that a king will take the best of their stuff and people for himself, but they want a king, mainly to fight their battles.

Saul is sent to find his father's donkey, and winds up asking Samuel.  But God has sent Saul to Samuel for anointing as king.  Samuel favors Saul publicly, but does not anoint him publicly, yet.


How this is about Jesus
He sets up Baptism and Communion as memorials for us to remember God's acts to save us.
He was God's prophet rejected for worldly kings ("we have no king but Caesar" - John 19).
He was of obscure origin and began His ministry with little noticeable fanfare.


Application
  • Trust in God's ways, not the world's ways of realpolitik.
  • Sometimes parents are to blame for disobedient children (Eli) and other times they are not (Samuel?).
  • Be on the lookout for God's providence.  Your agenda for some event may not be God's.  Saul looking for a donkey was God sending him to Samuel.  So be ready to drop your agenda when you see God at work.

Luke 18

If an unjust judge will finally give the widow justice because of her constant asking, surely God will give us what we need.  So ask Him.

Comparing yourself favorably to others doesn't justify you before God, only sincere humility and repentance will.

If you think you are keeping the law perfectly, you will need to sacrifice all you've got.  literally give it away, to justify yourself.  It's especially hard for the rich to let go of their stuff for the kingdom.  But we can enter the kingdom and receive reward without trying to justify ourselves.

Jesus predicts His rejection, death and resurrection in Jerusalem, where he is now heading.  He heals a blind man near Jericho.

1 Samuel 4-6

Israel fights the Philistines and takes the ark along to win.  It doesn't work.  Eli's sons die; Eli falls dead when he hears of the ark's capture.  Eli's son's wife dies in childbirth the same day, naming her child Ichabod "the glory has departed."

God afflicts the Philistines with tumors wherever the ark goes for 7 months.  Dagon falls broken before the ark.  THey send it back with offerings showing their belief that their afflictions were from Yahweh, God of Israel.  It winds up in Beth-Shemesh, but some of them look into the ark and die.

How this is about Jesus

  • The ark was a portable temple at the time, and Jesus is the living temple now.  In Jesus' day and now, we are tempted to USE Jesus to get our agenda done.
  • Even Gentiles acknowledged the divine source of Jesus' works.


Application
Don't treat Jesus or religious objects like magic charms.
Set your heart on seeing God honored among people (4:13, 18).
Do not pry irreverently into the things of God (6:19).

1 Samuel 1-3

Life is a mess.  Hannah is a second wife with no children while her rival wife provokes her about it.  Her husband is small comfort.  At temple they face incompetent (1:12-14) and wicked (2:12-17) priests.  But God answers her prayer for a son, Samuel is born, and Hannah gives him to God at the temple.  She thanks God, in faith, for lifting up the poor and bringing down His enemies.  This is faith because it hasn't happened yet.  Samuel is serving faithfully while Eli's sons abuse the people and disobey the law (2:22).  Eli rebukes his sons but doesn't stop them.  God rebukes him for it: his house will fall and God will raise up a faithful priest.

God calls Samuel at night while still a boy.  Samuel thinks it's Eli, who sends him back to bed twice before he gets that it's God.  God tells Samuel the same thing he told Eli.  Samuel has to tell it to Eli!

How this is about Jesus
  • He is ordained from before His birth to fix our mess.
  • His mother is faithful.
  • He had to interact with wicked and inept religious leaders.
  • God rejected Caiaphas, Annas, the Sadducees and Pharisees, and gave His Word instead to His Son.

Application
  • When life is a mess, trust God to save you, and work and give for Him
  • Thank God for His present and future salvation, even when you see wickedness right in front of you.
  • When you correct your children verbally, actually stop them from sinning, too.
  • Listen when God speaks in His Word.  Be not slow of hearing.
  • Sometimes we have to speak hard words to each other.

Luke 17

Temptation happens, but woe to the one who tempts!
Forgive your brother as often as he repents.
This is no more than what is expected of you.
Jesus heals 10 lepers, but only 1 returns to thank Him - a Samaritan.
The kingdom of God comes silently and is already among you.
In the end it will be sudden - don't look back like Lot's wife, falling in love with things of the world.
Jesus says it will come where the vultures (or eagles) gather, which may mean the Roman army beseiging Jerusalem.

The Covenant of Grace

Part III: Anthropology (Man) and Covenant Theology
Chapter 16 - Covenant of Grace

Beginning in Genesis 3:15, we have a new kind of covenant with God, since the basis of our salvation is faith in Christ's work rather than our own work.  As Owen says, "our own works are not the means of justification before God" (261).

Adam
Rather, faith in the seed of the woman is.  This seed is Christ primarily and the whole Church by extension.  Though it's obscure, this promise to crush the snakes head contain all Gods promises to us.

Noah
Though some ignore Noah in outlining the progress of covenantal revelation, it is an extension of this covenant.  We have the first mention of the very words "covenant" and "grace."  We have a sacrifice pointing to Christ, and the inclusion of children.

Abraham
Gods promises to Abraham build on Genesis 3:15.  He is promised a seed!  This is Christ (Gal. 3:16),  mainly, and all thos with him.  Outward and inward aspects of the covenant come to the fore, here.  Abraham is father of the ethnic nation of Israel, and they are in the covenant, though not all are spiritual seed of Abraham and co heirs with Christ.  Abrahams faith was credited as righteousness.  As our father in the faith, Abraham saw the prequel to Christ in Isaacs birth and sacrifice, and believed (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Moses
Lutherans argue that the covenant at Sinai was of works, and some reformed agree.  But most see it as another administration of the covenant of grace.  It was "based on God's redemptive activity" (269) in the Exodus.  The promise of blessing and condition of faith (shown through keep the ritual law) was similar to Abraham's covenant.  This view emphasizes the third use of the law (rule for believers to follow)more than the second use (conviction of sin, driving us to Christ).  Sinai republished the moral law written on Adam's heart, but it was not "as a means of justification before God" (270).

David
God revealed a lot to David about Christ: His work, incarnation, offices, judgement, death and resurrection.  Anything good said about Daivd can be taken as a type of Christ.  God promised David a kingdom, a blessed son to reign after him, an eternal throne, gracious correction of his posterity.  Some of these were absolute promises and others were conditional: the temporal glory of Davi'ds line was broken due to his and Israel's future sin.  But promises pertaining to the spiritual blessing of believers through Christ stand firm.

Exile
This covenant was revealed mainly through Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and furhter reveals Christ to us, especially the servant songs of Isaiah (ch 49-53).  Promises of hope to captives abound, key to which is return to the land.  All the covenants from Genesis 3:15 to this one are the one covenant of grace, developing over time.

New Covenant
This is the covenant of grace, ratified in the death of Christ.  It differs from the old covenant in that Christ's blood avails, where animal sacrifices did not.  We have "a more sure ground of confidence" now.  God's grace and justice are more clearly revealed than before, as is the Trinity.  The Incarnation is new.  Faith and obedience are conditions of the covenant, but they don't cause the blessing, they follow from the cause of God's election.  It is conditional in that Christ must die and man must rely on that death.  Viewed from man's ability, the new covenant required nothing of man and is unconditional - God grants all He requires.  The main promises are forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38) and "heart-conformity to God's moral law" (Hebrews 8:10).

Christ is central at each stage of this covenant of grace.  We look back to Him as Old Testament saints looked forward.

4.23.2015

Receiving the Word of God

John Frame's Systematic Theology
Chapter 27 - From God's Lips to Our Ears

From God's breath to prophets or apostles, to the written word, there is no decrease in authority of God's Word.  But when we start talking about copies of Scripture, human reception, confessions and interpretation, we deal with fallible means.

Original and copied texts
  • God inspires texts, but only original texts.  Scribal additions or errors would common-sensically not be God's Word.  But copies can duplicate the original.  We don't need (and don't have) the original document, if we can discern the original text, and we can.  God has not promised to keep every copy perfect.  
  • When the NT quotes the Greek translation of the OT, it isn't to claim it is infallible, but just to use the reliable means available to them at the time.  
  • Since we can discern the original text, what we have isn't a dead letter, inerrant only theoretically in original texts we don't have.  The Bible repeats important themes, so if there are minor variants, we can compare with other parts of the Bible.  
  • God allowed the original texts to be lost, maybe so we wouldn't worship them; having them wouldn't help any more with understanding and applying the text.  
  • God allowed some imperfection in copying texts, probably so we would read Scripture in community with the church, needing the gifts of scholars and others.  
  • Haven't we lost something, though from inerrant autograph to texts we have now?  Yes, but this is under God's providence - we have what He wants us to have.

Translations can err, but they are also essential and need not distort the text's meaning.
Preaching is an authoritative announcement of God's Word more than a communication of ideas (teaching).  Communicating God's Word need not be done only by church officers as long as they oversee it.

Sacraments are events, and visible words: they are normative signs (pictures) of truth, actions sealing the covenant, and create the presence of God (not automatically but by the Spirit and through faith).  God speaks not only in His Word, but also in visual and tactile ways, in baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Tradition is not as authoritative as Scripture, but unavoidable as a fact in history.  Worship order, theological terms, are examples.  We must avoid traditionalism of putting these things on par with Scripture or never allowing change to them.  Strict subscription to confessions functionally forbids such change.  Still, confessions communicate God's Word as the consensus of the church.  We should honor our forefathers, but "each generation should rethink these documents, reforming them, where necessary, by the Word of God" (656).

Human reception and interpretation
Just because we don't receive it doesn't mean God didn't reveal it.  The truth we suppress in Romans 1 is actually revelation.
God speaks to Himself, the natural world, mankind, and the church.
Our proper response to revelation is to believe (normative), obey (situational), and participate (existential).  The Spirit opens our eyes to be able to do this.
Interpreting a text means restating it, explaining theological terms, and showing how it affects one's life today.  Interpretation is application.
How can we understand a text written so long ago, in a foreign context?  There are cultural similarities as well as differences.  The church has existed in each generation since, and builds a bridge of interpretation over time.  There are experts in those ancient cultures who can help us.  Scripture interprets itself infallibly, and ultimately God helps us supernaturally to understand His Word.

4.22.2015

Ruth

Chapter 1
Elimelech from Bethlehem goes to live in Moab for 10 years due to famine.  His sons marry Moabite wives, Orpah and Ruth.  All 3 men die in Moab.  Naomi goes back home to Judah and asks her daughters-in-law to stay in their native land to find husbands.  Ruth insists on going back, so that Naomi's God can be Ruth's.

Chapter 2
Ruth gleans in Boaz' field.  She works hard, and Boaz is impressed also with her loyalty to Naomi.  He protects and provides for her.

Chapter 3
Naomi sends Ruth to Boaz' threshing floor at night, basically to propose marriage (seek redemption).  He promises to resolve it the next day, and sends her home with a ton of grain - twice the amount Sarah baked for the three angels in Genesis 18 - almost 80 liters, about 100 pounds!!

Chapter 4
In the gate, Boaz gathers elders and the nearer redeemer and offers him first dibs on buying Naomi's land.  He agrees until he hears marrying Ruth is part of the deal.  I think this makes his refusal based on Ruth's race, not a financial loss, as he claims.  Or part of his estate would go to the heir of Ruth, when he already had children.  Boaz then claims the right to redeem Naomi's land and marry Ruth.  The elders of Bethlehem are not racist against Ruth, but wish her to be fruitful "like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel" (4:11).  This is more true than they can imagine!  They do acknowledge the irregularity in referring to Tamar.


How this is about Jesus
He is born in Bethlehem, being a descendant of David.
He agrees to redeem Ruth, though it cost Him much.
He has rich resources and stewards them well, like Boaz.
He covenants with God to redeem us, as Boaz agreed with the elders of Bethlehem.
He protects and provides for the needy, and His bride.
He promises future blessing with generous signs of much grain (bread and wine of Communion).


Application
Life can make us bitter, like Naomi, so that we spurn the loyalty of friends (Chapter 1).
Work hard, even when life seems against you (Ruth in chapter 2).
Pursue options God has given to improve your life, even if they seem unconventional (chapter 3).
Resolve issues that distress people as soon as possible (3:13).
Initiate such resolution to the best of your ability (4:1-4).
Sacrifice to provide for the needy.
Express your best wishes for others, especially when they are outside your circle of friends.

4.21.2015

Judges 19-21

Post-script story #2
A wandering Levite has a mistress from Bethlehem who abandons him.  He gets her back, but her father pressures him to stay, day after day.  Finally they leave late in the day, so they only get as far as Jerusalem.  The Levite won't stop there, since Canaanites occupy it.  They go on to Gibeah in Benjamite territory, but no one takes them in.  Finally, an old man does, but the men of the city want to rape the Levite.  The Levite gives them his mistress and they abuse her all night - she is unresponsive in the morning - dead?  The man cuts her up and sends a limb to each tribe of Israel, calling for justice.

Israel gathers and sends to bring the men of Gibeah to justice.  Benjamin defends them and fights Israel!  God tells Judah to lead the fight.  Israel loses two days in a row, but continue seeking and following God's counsel.  They win the next day, wiping out all but about 600 men of Benjamin.

Now there's a new problem - how to continue the tribe of Benjamin at all.  Israel swore when they gathered not to give their wives to Benjamin.  But no one from Jabesh Gilead was there.  So Israel kills all but the 400 virgin women of Jabesh Gilead and gives them to Benjamin.  They are still 200 short, so they allow Benjamin's bachelors to kidnap any daughters who go to a feast at Shiloh.


How this is about Jesus
Joseph and Mary also got no hospitality, very near here, when Jesus was born.
He provides for our life and lineage in his death, like Benjamin was provided for.
His death came amidst great brutality and gratuitous violence, just like in this chapter (John 19:1-3).
His death brings perfect justice, not the rough justice we see here.


Application
In trying to fix one problem, we often create several more problems.
Two wrongs don't make a right.  The end does not justify the means.

Last verse of Judges:
"In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

No kidding.

Luke 16

A steward is accused of mismanagement and fired by his boss.
To make himself friends, he discounts his boss' debts and gets the debtors to pay them off at the lower rate.  The boss commends his shrewdness.
Notoriously difficult to explain!

  • The steward put friendship before money?
  • He (Jesus) reduced the burden (rules) his master (Pharisees) put on the people?
  • He (us) should handle our money which isn't ours but God's with mercy and forethought, not strict justice like the Pharisees would (vss. 14-15).


A rich man and poor Lazarus both die.  Lazarus goes to Abraham's bosom, and the rich man to torment.  He asks for relief and to send someone to his brothers still living to warn them.  Abraham says if they won't listen to the written Word, they won't listen if someone comes to them from the dead, either.


Application
Listen to Abraham and Moses in the Old Testament, and you will find yourself listening to Jesus.
Be prudent yet generous in your financial dealings with people.

4.20.2015

Luke 15

When you lose something and find it back, you rejoice more than if you never lost it.
So with sinners who leave the Lord, but then return.
Those who never left should rejoice with God instead of condemn.

Once a man had a son who took his inheritance and wasted it all on immoral living.  He landed in the gutter and figured he had nowhere to go but up with his father.  He returned and repented to him, and the father welcomed him back with celebration.  The older brother resented father's welcome, but the father pleaded with him to extend grace to his brother.


Application
The Gospel of Jesus is all about restoring what was lost to its rightful owner (sinner to God) and rejoicing over it.  Do both!  Restore (yourself and others) and rejoice!

Father and Son Agreeing for Our Salvation

Part III: Anthropology (Man) and Covenant Theology
Chapter 15 - Covenant of Redemption

Most Puritans saw the agreement between Father and Son for the Son to redeem mankind, as a separate covenant from the covenant of grace God made with the people He would save.  This agreement is called the covenant of redemption.

Even before the fall of man into sin, God decided to satisfy divine justice and honor by Christ's atoning work, to reconcile man to God.  The Father appointed, or ordained the Son (1 Peter 1:20) to be our "prophet (Deut 18:15), priest (Heb 3:1-2) and king (Ps 2:6)" (pg. 244).  The Son accepts, and Isaiah 49 describes this discussion and agreement between Father and Son.  The arrangement is for a specific people who Jesus will die for (limited atonement, or particular/definite redemption).  Christ agreed to take on human nature, fulfill the covenant of works which Adam did not by keeping the law throughout His life, then die as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  The Father promised Christ would be equipped, rewarded, victorious, and effective in His task.  The Spirit must have been involved in this covenant, given the closeness of the relations of the Persons, but there is no Scripture describing it.  He was sent to apply our redemption, of course, but to what extent He was a "negotiating partner" of the formal covenant is a matter of dispute, so this was left out of the Westminster documents.

Christ's reward for keeping this covenant was that He would be glorified, rule the nations as King, and judge the world.

This covenant has many similarities with the covenant of grace God makes with man: grace is the motive, Christ the instrument, God elects, the elect benefit.  But there are differences: there is no mediator in this covenant between Father and Son, no threat/warning for the Son, no involvement of man in it, the parties are equals, and man's consent was not required.  Some preferred to say that this covenant was just the eternal and intra-Trinitarian aspect of God's covenant of grace to save men.

This covenant helps explain John 14:28, where Jesus says, "My Father is greater than I."

Judges 16-18

Samson has repeated moral failings with foreign women, finally giving up his integrity and strength for one.  He is captured, blinded and ridiculed.  He prays for vengeance, and God gives him strength to take down 3,000 Philistines in a temple, along with himself.

Samson is the last judge mentioned in Judges, but there are two post-scripts in the book.  The first is about Micah, a Levite from Bethlehem and some Danites (chapter 17-18).
Much unfaithfulness is portrayed: lying, idolatry, lack of restitution, selling religious office, all unrestrained.

On their way to conquer a people, Danites plunder Micah of his idols and his priest.  The priest is glad for the promotion!  It turns out this priest (or was it a different guy?) is the grandson of Moses (vs. 18:30)!!  This shows the reversal Israel has undergone: no longer do they have a faithful intercessor like Moses, but an opportunist like this Jonathan.  Was Laish outside of the boundary of Israel, making this conquest offensive to God?  It appears not.  Their conquest was not wrong in itself, but what they did to Micah on the way casts serious doubt on the integrity of taking over this "unsuspecting" people.


How this is about Jesus
He does not compromise morally, like Samson.
He is betrayed for silver - not nearly as much!
He does not cry out for vengeance on His enemies at His death, but asks for their forgiveness.
He saves by His death, instead of continuing a violent cycle.
He rebukes priests for allowing money changing and being greedy.
He heals in the region of Tyre/Sidon instead of conquering.


Application
One sign of moral corruption is that you treat the church and its officers as assets of wealth for you personally.  You support them, they are in your hire, your back pocket, instead of being prophets to speak truth to you and hold you accountable.  You go to a church to be told soft words that you want to hear, not what the Bible says and what you NEED to hear.  Church officers gravitate to organizations with bigger budgets, instead of going where God calls.
You cannot fight the good fight while you give in privately to immorality.

4.19.2015

Judges 13-15

An angel announces Samson's birth to his parents.  The father is quite clueless but the mother gets it (13:22-23).  Samson is to be a Nazirite his whole life - no drink from the vine and no haircut (Numbers 6:5).

Samson demands a Philistine girl for a wife, against his parents' wishes.  He kills a lion on the way the first time, and gets honey from the carcass the second time.  The Philistines exploit this by extorting as much money from Samson as possible: 30 gifts expected for 30 groomsmen!!  Samson turns this into a challenge with a riddle about the lion and honey.  He gives his fiancee the answer to the riddle, which she tells them.  (She is more loyal to her people than to Samson, while protesting that Samson isn't loyal to her.  Wicked.)

Weeks or months later, Samson goes back for his bride!  She was given to another man, and Samson takes vengeance.  The Philistines blame the bride's father and kill them.  Samson takes vengeance again.  The Philistines force Judah to hand Samson over.  They do, but he breaks his rope bonds and kills 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.  Samson judges Israel 20 years.


How is this about Jesus?

  • John's birth and life as a Nazirite was also announced to Zachariah and Elizabeth.  Elizabeth got it before Zachariah did, too.
  • God gave Jesus strength to defeat sin and the evil one, without any sinful compromise, anger or vengeance.
  • Judeans handed Jesus over to the Gentiles for punishment, too.
  • Jesus delivered Israel by dying himself, instead of killing the enemy, as Israel's judges did.  This was not sinful on the part of the judges, but God means for a different interaction with unbelievers now (Matthew 28:18-20).


Application
Which way is cultural influence flowing?  Israel was going after other gods and intermarrying with Philistines when God said not to.  Samson achieves some military dominance over Philistines, but it doesn't do much good in the "culture war," given his compromises.  Losing personal integrity gives cultural dominance to the evil one.  Samson resists giving the Philistines financial gifts, but he allows them to master him when he is seduced by the Timnite woman.  His victories against Ashkelon and other places do not make up for his compromise in Timnah.  Personal purity is part of culture wars.

4.18.2015

Judges 11-12

Gilead puts Jephthah in command because of his strength, though they cast him away before, and though he gathered worthless men to himself.  He gives the Ammonites, gathered for war against Israel, a history lesson in how God gave Israel the land the Ammonites want back.  He gathers Israel, takes a rash vow to sacrifice to God the first thing out of his gate when he returns home, and wins the battle.  His daughter, his only child, comes out first!

Ephraim complains to Jephthah like they did to Gideon (8:1-3).  But Jephthah isn't the diplomat Gideon was and civil war ensues.  Jephthah conducts tribal genocide (42,000 dead) by the watchword "shibboleth."  Jephthah judges for 6 years.  Ibzan of Bethlehem judges for 7 years.  Elon judges for 10 years.  Abdon judges for 8 years.


How this is about Jesus

  • Could Jephthah's daughter be a pre-quel to Christ?  Killed out of misguided zeal by Israel's leader.  Her purity is emphasized as Jesus' innocence was.
  • The stone the builders rejected became the capstone - as Israel rejected Jephthah at first then took him as leader, so Israel rejected and crucified Jesus.  He came to bring division and a sword - brother against brother.  But every knee will bow to Him in the end.



Application

  • Just because you CAN do a thing doesn't mean you should.  Jephthah grew strong and thought might meant right.  His treatment of Ephraim was horrific.
  • Just because you make a promise doesn't mean you should keep it, if it would mean sinning.  We should swear to our own hurt (Psalm 15:4), but not that of others (e.g., Jephthah's daughter).
  • Just because someone else succeeds, doesn't mean you should envy them and complain against them.  Ephraim does this twice, to Gideon and Jephthah, and neither time with good reason.  Gideon's gentle answer turned away wrath.  Jephthah's rough handling of people led to unnecessary and bloody violence.