Book review: Monster in the Hollows

The Monster in the Hollows (The Wingfeather Saga, #3)The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unlike other series, each of these gets better than the one before.

The characters develop nicely, giving lots of depth, while the action doesn't slow down much, either.  Lots of wrestling and sneakery for boy readers!

Peterson deals with themes old and new.

Brotherly love
The relationship between Janner and Kalmar is shown to be the centerpiece of the trilogy.  In book 2 we saw relational breakdown and hostility.  Here they are able to love each other as brothers do, though they haven't yet resolved everything in their past and continue to make mistakes.

Rejection of evil
Characters must continue fighting temptations old and new, especially not to condemn and rage against those who condemn you.

Condemnation for past failures
Many people reject Kalmar as a Fang, since he looks like one, though he didn't turn into one all the way.  This does much harm and hinders the battle against the real Fangs.

Connected to the condemnation - since Kalmar LOOKS like a Fang, he's rejected.

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1 Thessalonians 1-2

1 - Paul, Silas and Timothy, to the Thessalonian Christians: we thank God when we remember your conversion by the Spirit.  You serve the true God now, waiting for His Son to return again.

2 - Our ministry to you was sincere, not based on greed.  We supported ourselves and endured lots of hostility for you, as a father or mother works for their children.  You believed our message as from God, not man-made, and suffered persecution from Jews as we did.  We wanted to come see you, but have been prevented; you are our joy!

It is a great encouragement to remember back to when we first believed, or if we don't remember that (being raised in the faith), to consider the basics of what it means to be a Christian.

Those who speak the Gospel for a living must take care to their motives.  It'll become obvious over time if you're in it for the money or fame.  Be willing to sacrifice for people to know Christ.

Sharing a common faith in Jesus Christ is a huge source of joy.  Don't ignore this gift; share life with other believers if you are able to do so!

Psalm 111-112

God's works are great.  Those who delight in God study them.
He gives food, nations, justice, redemption, and His covenant.
The beginning of wisdom is fearing God.

Fearing God brings blessing: mighty children, a rich house, etc.
He is generous and fair, not fearful.
The wicked are mad at him, but it doesn't matter, because they fade away.

111 - take time to recount God's works in your life, and in history.

112 - This is a general principle, not a specific promise that every believer will be wealthy or have influential children.  But this doesn't mean there's nothing to it.  Left to its natural course, those who fear God will experience these things.

Psalms 104-106

God is above the heavens and gives the angels their power.
Everything we see in nature, God has done: mountains and valleys, springs and rivers, grass and grain, trees and birds, moon and sun, food for animal and man.
When God gives food and life, we get it; if He doesn't give it, we die.
May He rejoice in His works, but remove the wicked from His earth.

Sing to God and glory in Him; remember and tell of His works.
He made covenant with Israel to give them land, and brought them in, protecting them from kings.
He sent Joseph to preserve them through famine; he ruled Pharoah's house.
He made Israel numerous in Egypt, sent plagues on Egypt, and brought Israel out.
He provided for them through the desert, and brought them into Canaan.
He did this so we would keep His law.

Praise the Lord!
We sinned in Egypt, but You graciously delivered us from there, anyway.
In the desert we complained for food and against Moses.  We worshiped the calf.
We opposed going into Canaan at first, worshiped Baal of the Moabites, and demanded water.
Once in Canaan, we didn't destroy all the Canaanites and copied their wicked idolatry, even child sacrifice.  So God let them be subject to other nations, but spared them in His mercy.
Save us so we can worship You, Lord!  May God be blessed forever.

How this is about Jesus
104 - All things were made through Him and for Him.  He is the bread of life that truly feeds us.
105 - God's covenant with us is established in Christ.  He said the meek shall inherit the earth.  He will rule kings, and provide for His people.


Acts 17

After Philippi, they wind up in Thessalonica, where there is some response to the gospel in the synagogue.  This provokes the Jews and the extort money from Jason.  The believers send Paul and Silas on to Berea.  In that synagogue, they are more open-minded and hold the gospel message up to the standard of Scripture, resulting in many believing.  But the Thessalonian Jews send and turn many against them.  So they send Paul on, though Silas and Timothy stay behind.

Paul winds up in Athens!  He argues in the synagogue, and in the marketplace, bringing him to the Areopagus, out of their desire for novel teaching.  He appeals to their many gods, that (summarizing) "there is One who made all things, and us, who doesn't need temple offerings.  We live in Him, as your poets have said.  He calls us to repent of serving metal idols; He will judge the world by a man He raised from the dead."  Most mock him, but a few believe.

How this is about Jesus
"This Jesus is the Christ/Messiah."  This is the same message, in every synagogue in every city they come to.

It seems Paul was good at introducing the Gospel and arguing for it in a new place, but needed Silas and Timothy to do the quieter follow-up work behind the scenes.  Once you newly believe, adversarial apologetics isn't the need of the hour (Paul), but study and examination of your life for discipleship (Silas and Timothy).  They actually have to hustle Paul out once he kickstarts things, to avoid hostility that interferes with discipleship.  There is a time for a public controversy, and a time to avoid it.  The church needs different personalities, so we don't make these choices based on personality.

Christians today who reject a historical Adam are denying clear Scripture in verse 26.  Whatever the genetics today tell us, all humanity came from one man.

Evangelism should make a connection with people where they are, and take them to Jesus.

Psalms 99-100, 102

Yahweh is great, enthroned between the cherubim (on the ark?).  He loves justice.
He answered when His prophets called to Him.  He forgives and corrects us.

Come serve and praise God with thanksgiving, for we are His sheep, His people.
He is good, forever faithful and loving.

Hear my cry, Yahweh, for I'm fading fast.
But we remember You, and You will remember and pity Zion.
I write so a generation yet to be born will praise God - He is going to deliver us to praise Him again.
God has broken me, and I've asked to be sustained.
He laid the heavens and earth; they will wear out, but He won't.  So we are secure.

How this is about Jesus
99 - He has all authority in heaven and earth, and yet He loves justice.
100 - He is the same, yesterday, today and forever, as God will be faithful forever (vs. 5).
102 - He was cut off in mid-strength (vs. 23), working to save a generation yet to be born.  He says, "Here am I, and the children God has given Me" (Isaiah 8:18; Hebrews 2:13).

Psalms 96-98

Sing, declaring God's glory among the nations; only He is Lord, with splendor and majesty.
Give Him the glory and offering due to Him.
God reigns, and will judge the earth fairly; so the heavens, sea and fields rejoice!

Yahweh reigns.  Fire and lightning surround Him, showing His power.
The heavens proclaim His purity.  Israel rejoices at His fair judgment.
He preserves her and sows in her seeds of light and joy (which will blossom into... what more?!)

Sing a new song to Yahweh, for He has saved us, and everyone has seen it.
Use your harps and trumpets and voices to praise Him!
The sea and whole world sound forth His praise, because God is coming to judge all with equity.

How this is about Jesus
96 - He is the majestic one (Psalm 45 is about Him).
97 - He showed His hatred for evil (vs. 10) in cleansing the temple and rebuking the Pharisees.  He came to give us fullness of joy (vs. 11).
98 - God's right hand (Jesus) saved us.  Jesus is coming again (vs. 9) to judge the living and the dead.


Sixth, Pause, then Seventh and Last

Something I forgot to mention in my sermon on Revelation 14 last night.

I noted the pattern in the book of 6 trumpets or seals or bowls, then an interlude that shows attention and care for God's people, and then the 7th concluding thing, usually the consummation and Second Coming of Christ itself.

What I forgot to say is that this pattern is embedded in the creation week itself.
6 days of creation, then an interlude where God speaks to Adam and Eve with commands and blessings, then the 7th concluding day of rest.


Paul and Timothy to the church at Philippi:
I thank God for you - He'll finish what He started in you.
My imprisonment has advanced the Gospel, so rejoice with me.
I expect to be released, but I'd almost rather die and be with Christ, which is better.
Live up to the grace you've received, suffering for Christ if need be.

Be like-minded and like Christ, in His humility, putting others before yourself.  He did this, going to the cross, and was exalted afterward.
So work out your salvation, avoiding complaining like the whole world does.  If you stand out like that, I don't care if I die, I'll rejoice.
I'll send Timothy to you soon, a faithful son.
Epaphroditus comes now, since you were worried about his sickness.  He almost died, but now you can rejoice and we can all be relieved that God spared him.

Watch out for those dogs, the Judaizers, who put confidence in their circumcision.  I put confidence in nothing of my own.  It's all loss compared to knowing Christ and having His righteousness.  I press on to know Him and forget things I used to trust.  Imitate me in this, instead of following those who talk down the cross.

Help one another be in harmony, especially Euodia and Syntyche.
Rejoice always!  Be gentle, and know God's peace as you pray to Him for everything.
Think on things true, good, lovely, and right.
I'm glad you sent me a gift again.  I can be content with whatever, but you did well to think of me.  I seek the fruit the gift helps bring about, not the money itself.
God will meet your needs, as you have contributed to mine.
There are Christians in Caesar's household, and they with all the saints greet the Philippians.

When things are hard for others, we focus on the restoration of their comfort and convenience.  Paul goes a different direction: how is this hardship advancing the Gospel or growing me in the Lord?  This leads him to tell the Philippians repeatedly to rejoice, even though he's in jail.

Christ-likeness (chatper 2), seeking to know Him (chapter 3), and make peace with His people (chapter 4) are more important than other circumstances like imprisonment or financial hardship.

Philippians 3:7-11
"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

Psalms 93-95

Yahweh reigns.  His throne and world are established, even as the waters rise.
"Holiness befits your house."

Rise up and avenge, O God, for they crush Your people.
They think You don't see it, but You made the eyes in the first place.
Who is going to stand up for me against them?  Only God.
He can encourage me when I get down over it all, and He "will wipe them out."

Come to God with singing and thanksgiving!
We are His sheep, so don't harden yourselves against Him like we did in the desert.
They had to wander for 40 years and not enter the rest of Canaan.

How this is about Jesus
93 - He can manage and rule when the waters rage - He stilled the wind and waves on Galilee.
94 - He knows when His people are hurt and will take vengeance (2 Thess. 1:6-10; Rev. 14:14-20).
95 - He is the shepherd and we are the sheep.  We followed Christ, wandering in the desert (1 Cor. 10:4).  We are to worship and kneel before the Lamb, as well as before God the Father (Rev. 5:8-10).


Psalm 89 & 92

I will sing of the Lord's faithfulness and majesty forever!
You rule the sea, the heavens, the mountains, the behemoth.
You covenanted with David to establish him and his descendants forever.
But now we are defiled and plundered.  Where is your faithfulness to Your servants?
"Blessed be Yahweh forever!"

It's good to thank the Lord for His great works to us.
The fool doesn't know, and won't listen.  He may flourish now, but he's headed for destruction.
The righteous will flourish forever like fruitful trees in God's house, green and full of sap.

How this is about Jesus
He is the offspring of David, living forever, who makes this promise possible.  A descendant of David on the throne forever?  Only by the eternal King and son of David, Jesus.

He is the root of David, the tree on which we grow and bear fruit.

NYTimes on ISIS / Confederate and Rainbow flags

1. This is some good reporting from the NY Times, on the atrocities of ISIS.
"It has been nearly impossible for two U.S. presidents — Bush, a conservative evangelical; and Obama, a progressive liberal — to address the plight of Christians explicitly for fear of appearing to play into the crusader and ‘‘clash of civilizations’’ narratives the West is accused of embracing."

2. If you're not sick of the "Confederate flag - racism" topic yet, this is good reading to make all my different kinds of friends mad.  It'll make you think and cuts against the grain of assumptions of both north and south, conservative and liberal.  A few excerpts:
"a main reason for Christians to be critical of the flag is that the Confederate States of America was founded on a societal ideal that increasingly rejected Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy in favor of a culturally driven ideals, ideals that appealed to Christian aesthetics, in order to curry favor with the dispositions of the contemporary cultural elite." 
"Contrary to both the narratives of the paleo-conservatives and the social justice warriors, today’s progressives actually stand in continuity with the motivations of the Confederacy. And so perhaps they ought not be pulling down the Battle Flag after all. It pairs nicely with the rainbow."
"while the flag that flew in South Carolina was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, to assign it the values Fitzhugh articulated is not a historical overstatement. The battle was itself caused by the secession, and Southern states seceded to defend slavery. The Army of Northern Virginia fought to preserve a republic devoted to maintaining slavery. (An excellent work for any Christian who sees slavery as anything but a primary cause for secession is Charles Dew’s Apostles of Disunion.)"


Psalm 67 & 71

God will bless us with His face shining on us.
All the people will praise You, O God!
The nations will "be glad and sing for joy."

I take refuge in You, Lord.  Be my refuge as You have since birth.
Everybody thinks I'm going down, but I praise You yet.
Shame and turn back my accusers!  I will sing of what You have done.
Revive me after trouble, and don't forsake me, even to old age.
I will praise You, for You have defeated those seeking to hurt me.

How this is about Jesus
67 - the light and glory of God is found in the face of Jesus Christ.  Any blessing from God comes through Him.  The nations are HIS inheritance (Psalm 2), so they will be glad, since they will have such a King.

71 - this Psalm is like Psalm 22.  David is surrounded by trouble, but his focus remains on praising God, trusting Him.  So it fits well to imagine Jesus singing Psalm 71 from the cross.


Grace before Grace?

Part 5 - Soteriology (study of salvation)
Chapter 28 - Preparatory Grace

The Puritans taught preparaory grace, that God uses the Law to convince the unregenerate of their guilt.  This has often been wrongly equated with the Medieval idea that if you do what you can, God will give you grace and save you.  The Puritans rejected that Pelagian idea.

When the Spirit applies the law to a sinner headed for conversion, it wakes him up to his danger and guilt before a holy God.  Even the unregenerate should be persuaded to avoid sin and attend worship, to put themselves in the way of the means of grace.

There is an illumination that convicts, making us aware of God's justice and power to punish, and an illumination that saves, making us aware of His sweetness.  The Puritans distinguished these, but, seeing conversion as a process rather than a point in time, saw the first preparatory stage as often (naturally?) leading to true faith.

Scholars have assumed this preparatory grace idea is opposed and contradictory to Calvinism, but this is only so if you assume Gods sovereignty and human responsibility are contradictory.  They are not. The Puritans followed the early Reformers in affirming both (1) man's inability to come to Christ without grace, and (2) God's work (which we can resist more or less) showing sinners their guilt by the law, before they believe.

Evaluating preparatory grace - cautions
Whenever you preach our duties to God, legalism and Arminianism is a danger.
We don't want to say men who cooperate with preparatory grace are qualified (owed!) for converting grace.
It was also a mistake to hammer away with the law for a long time, without mixing in the comforts promised by Christ's benefits.
And finally, several Puritans analyzed the several steps of conversion in a rather mechanistic way, not leaving room for the mysterious way the Spirit works in our hearts.

Evaluating preparatory grace - lessons to learn
It is part of offering the Gospel to all.
It reveals our lack of merit, instead of earning merit before God, and thus is Reformed.
It highlights what the Spirit does beyond regeneration, convicting unbelievers of their sin by the law.
It honors God's work even in unbelievers, treating them not as stones, but as having reason and will.

My Analysis
Much of this debate is semantic.  Of course we should preach the law to unbelievers, hoping God will convict them.  But how to describe what happens when that conviction begins, but true is not yet present?  Is it grace?  It may be the work of the Spirit, but it is not yet the grace that saves.  We should encourage people to go to the Lord in prayer and contemplate their guilt before Him, while not giving the impression that doing so would make God owe them saving grace.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic - a Critique

Studying for a sermon on Revelation 14, where the Son of Man tramples out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored, I got curious about this song, and found this informative article.  The original lyrics and extra verses had my eyes widen in amazement.

I didn't agree with everything in the article, but I think the conclusion is spot on.


Praise God with skillful music!
God's word is faithful; He made all things by it.
His purpose stands, whatever earthly rulers try to do.
He sees all things, especially the king trying to deliver by his army.
He sees those who hope in Him, like we do.

Vindicate me against the deceitful, Lord!
Why do you let them oppress me?
Send Your light and truth to lead me to worship You.
Hope in God, cast down soul of mine, for He will save you.

Shout for joy to God.  See what He has done for us.
You brought us out of trials and into abundance.
I will come worship You, and tell everyone what You did for me.
You wouldn't have listened if I cherished iniquity, but You HAVE heard me.

How this is about Jesus
33 - He is the Word by which all things were made (Col. 1).  He knows His own (Rev. 2-3).
43 - God's light and truth were with Him, even when His soul was cast down (Luke 22:43-44).
66 - God brought Him through the crucifixion to glory, and by His Spirit and Church He sees that the whole world knows about God's salvation through Him.


Preach from the Original / Reconstruction Reviewed / Why Infant Baptism

John Piper (and Peter Jones) reminds me to keep studying my Hebrew and Greek, as part of my pastoral ministry.  It's really true.

Here's an insightful review of R.J. Rushdoony by Richard Mouw - it shows how he departed from the Reformed mainstream.  Deals with Kuyper well, and, my favorite quote, that Rush "displayed no 'ability to cooperate with anyone who disagreed with his interpretation of Scripture, no matter how minor or insignificant the distinction.' "

This may help some of my baptist friends understand what I'm thinking baptizing babies.

Psalm 1-2, 10

When you reject sin and delight in God, He blesses you with fruitful life.
You're like a tree firmly rooted by the water, while the wicked are blown away like chaff.

Earthly rulers conspire against God to be free of Him.  God just laughs.
The King HE establishes is the one who matters.
God gives His Son and King all their nations for Himself.
They can still serve Him, but must kiss the Son.

Don't hide when we're in trouble, Lord.
The wicked sneak around, getting away with murder.
Don't let him!  Deal with it, until all his wickedness is gone.

How this is about Jesus
1 - He is the blessed One who is sinless, delights in God, and is established forever.
2 - He is the King of Kings, the Son crowned by His Father.
10 - He will bring justice to all when He comes again.

Here is the reading schedule I'm following.


The Holy Spirit and the Quakers

Part V - Soteriology - the Doctrine of Salvation
Chapter 27 - The Holy Spirit

The Spirit is crucial in our salvation (soteriology).
The Puritans affirmed the "full deity and personality of the Spirit" (420) with the early church (see Matthew 28:19; Acts 5:3-4, 9).
The Spirit brings us to the Father, equipping Jesus in His ministry of humiliation and exaltation.

One of the appointed means of grace the Spirit uses for us to connect with God.  To attempt to access the Spirit directly without such means (Bible reading, fellowship, sacraments) is unwise.
We have an "allergic reaction to God's presence" in our sinful nature, so only by the Spirit will we come to Him at all.
The Spirit helps us pray (Romans 8:26-27).  Not that we are totally passive; Owen said the Spirit "is the fire that kindles all our sacrifices to God" (428).  This led many Puritans to reject form and written prayers, especially as the Book of Common Prayer was imposed upon them.

In the 1650s, the Quakers grew in number.  They disdained academics, asserted a divine spark in every person based on John 1:9, and the Spirit's direct work apart from means of grace, which the Puritans emphasized.  "The Spirit... is greater than the words" of Scripture (434).

Owen's criticism

  • Their tremblings weren't necessarily evidence of the Spirit's presence, but gave them "an un-son-like frame" (435).  They discarded the sacraments, since they pointed to the objective work of Christ.  Their focus was inward, not on that work.
  • They had the Spirit exalting His own work, while Scripture says He exalts Christ.
  • They don't call Scripture the word of God, wanting to reserve that for Jesus; but Scripture calls itself the word often.
  • Quakers treat Scripture as Rome does, making something else ultimate, whether a magisterium (Rome) or individual interpretation/conscience (Quakers).  Rome is right that there must be authorized public interpreters of the Word, not just anyone who wants to speak/preach.
  • They reject exposition and commentaries, but God has given us reason to best make use of the Word given us.
  • Scripture is the perfect and final rule for our obedience, not the inner light in us.  The inner light idea rejects the radical fall into spiritual blindness, as the Bible describes it.  The inner light was the Spirit, Quakers often said, but He is not given to all men, as they assert the inner light is.  The saving light is given by the Word as well as by the Spirit.

The Puritans insisted on the Word and Spirit working together.  Prayers apart from the Spirit are useless.  The Spirit without the Word leads us into mysticism.

My thoughts
Many evangelicals are functional Quakers today, if we go with the definition given here.  They agreed God revealed Himself in the Bible, but also wanted to insist God reveals Himself to us apart from the Bible directly by the Spirit.  It is common for Christians to talk this way, and we should affirm that God leads and guides us by the Spirit in the present.  But we shouldn't take this as revelation that we can impose upon or disrupt others with, or that competes with Scripture in any way.

Acts 16

As Paul and Silas visit the churches, Paul meets Timothy in Lystra and wants him to join them.  He has him circumcised to give him "street cred" with the Jews to whom they bring the gospel in the area.  They continue west, and Paul has a vision of a Macedonian calling for help, so they cross the Aegean from modern Turkey to Greece.  Luke seems to join them at this point.  

They make for Philippi, a Roman colony, and the likeliest place there would be a Jewish assembly without a synagogue.  God converts Lydia through Paul and Silas speaking, and they stay with her.  Paul casts a demon out of a slave, and her owners charge them with being anti-Roman.  They are beaten and jailed.

God breaks them out of jail with an earthquake.  The jailer is going to kill himself, but Paul keeps him from doing it.  The jailer asks how to be saved, and Paul presents the gospel.  He believes, takes them to his house, tends their wounds, and has his family baptized.

The city rulers send to release Paul and Silas quietly, but Paul refuses.  He wants an apology, since he's a Roman citizen - apparently they never asked in the frenzy the day before.  This gives Paul the upper hand politically, which will help the fledgling church in aggressively Roman Philippi.

How this is about Jesus
He had said the apostles would bear witness to the ends of the earth.  They are now beyond Turkey, in the heart of Greece and in a Roman colony!  Yet the Spirit is active, bringing faith to several.  Jesus is not confined to any one place.

  • Paul writes to the Galatians about this time not to submit to circumcision, yet has Timothy circumcised!  The difference is in the intent: do you think you need it to follow God's command (no! to the Galatians), or do you do it to avoid people not even listening to you as you try to present the gospel to them (Paul with Timothy)?
  • It is highly doubtful the jailer's whole family is baptized by immersion, in the middle of the night, in the city.
  • Paul uses his Roman citizenship here to get a foothold of respectability for himself and for the church he planted.  I'm sure the rulers fear charges he could bring against them, and so track him to Lydia's house.  So now they'll treat Lydia carefully.  We are starting to need this kind of shrewdness in dealing with the state, again!

2 Kings 24-25

Babylon invades during each of the last 3 kings of Judah, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.  Each invasion is progressively more devastating.  The first results in subservience and tribute paid, the second in deportation of the best people and treasures, the third in leveling the best homes of the city.

Babylon appoints a governor, Gedaliah, but he's assassinated within 7 months, and many flee to Egypt.

Back in Babylon, the imprisoned king of Judah is let out of the dungeon to eat with the king...

How this is about Jesus
God fulfills His prophecies, that Israel would be destroyed, with a remnant remaining.
Jesus comes from the line of kings preserved.  Jehoiachin at the end of chapter 25 is the same as Jeconiah in Matthew 1:12.

Judah's stubborness at this point is amazing.  Faced with overwhelming military force and the judgment of God through His prophets, the kings conquered continue to rebel against Babylon, inviting more and more reduction until there's just about nothing left.  Left to ourselves we will destroy ourselves, spiritually speaking, with the consequences of sin.


2 Kings 22-23

Josiah is only 8, but reigns for 31 years.  Not to be confused with the other boy king Joash, under Jehoiada the priest - see 2 Kings 11.  Josiah uses the money Joash set aside for temple building repairs.  They find a Bible, and it's so unusual that they bring it to the king, who repents and sends to Huldah the prophetess for help.  She pronounces doom, but since Josiah's heart is tender to God, it won't be in his reign.

Josiah renews covenant between God and the people.  He sweeps Judah clean of idolatry and witchcraft (lots of specifics showing how entrenched and wrapped up with Yahweh temple worship it had gotten!).  Even Jeroboam's altar at Bethel comes down, as predicted in 1 Kings 13:2.  He restores the Passover, to a height not seen since the Judges.  But God's judgement was still coming.  Josiah dies in battle with Egypt.

Jehoahaz his son reigns in his place, for 3 months.  Egypt imprisons him and makes his half brother Jehoiakim a puppet king, for 11 years.  He does evil.

How this is about Jesus
More temple building going on!  Jesus built His house with His own blood, and we are its living stones.
Jesus calls for covenant renewal focused on himself, and a clean sweep of idolatry in our hearts (rebuke of Pharisees) and in public worship (temple cleansing).

We get the greatest detail of the exact idolatries that went on in this section.  Judah seemed to be hedging their bets, trusting in Baal or Asherah or Milcom, Chemosh, Molech, the sun, etc.  There were houses for prostitutes in the temple of Yahweh!  We read of some of this in Ezekiel 8.

We must guard our hearts against trusting or seeking satisfaction in other things/beings, instead of the living, one, true God (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

2 Kings 19-21

After the Assyrian commander besieging Jerusalem intimidates Judah, Hezekiah goes to the temple and sends his officials to Isaiah.  He reassures them that the Assyrians will leave without harming them.  This happens, and the commander sends a threatening letter before he departs.  Hezekiah pleads with God over it, and Isaiah prophesies again that Assyria won't enter.  That night, God kills 185,000 in the Assyrian army.  The king goes home and is assassinated by his sons.

Hezekiah gets sick and Isaiah says he will die.  Hezekiah weeps, and before Isaiah leaves the palace God sends him back to say he will be healed and have 15 more years of life.  Hezekiah asks for a sign, and the shadow on his steps reverses itself.

Babylonian emissaries bring gifts to Hezekiah, and he shows them his treasure.  Isaiah hears of it and prophesies Judah's fall to Babylon - Hezekiah's own sons will become exiles and eunuchs there.  Hezekiah shrugs, since it won't affect him.  He dug a tunnel to bring water into the city during siege.  [It is there to walk through to this day!]

Manasseh, Hezekiah's son, reigns for 55 years, and undoes all Hezekiah's reforms for God, and worships Canaanite gods.  He sacrificed his son to them, and set up an Asherah pole [a phallic symbol] in the temple of God.  He shed much innocent blood [child sacrifice to gods endorsed].  Prophets pronounce Judah's doom for this.  Amon, Manasseh's son, reigns for two years, is wicked and is assassinated.  The people execute his assassins and put his son Josiah on the throne.

How this is about Jesus
He prophesies the siege and overthrow of Jerusalem, too, mentioning an abomination in the temple.

Hezekiah is one of a very short list of men who knew when they were going to die.  It didn't help him live any better, it seems.  His son born during the extended time is wicked, and he doesn't care much about future generations.  All this after his great reforms for the Lord earlier!

21 - Manasseh's sins are much like ours today: sexual indecency and abortion (children sacrificed to gods of pleasure and fertility).  Shedding innocent blood like abortion was the trigger that brought on God's judgment.

Galatians 4-6

The heirs of God's covenant were not treated as sons before Christ came to redeem us.
Why go back to that treatment, under the law, observing its days?
You followed me so zealously at first; what has changed?  The Judaizers exclude you to try to get you to follow them.
Abraham had two sons, and they represent two covenants: slave and free.  We are children of promise, like Isaac, born of the Spirit and not under the law.  Never mind the children of the slave woman, who persecute you like Hagar persecuted Sarah.  The Jerusalem above is our mother and we are free; we are not of the Jerusalem below, Judaism, of Mount Sinai, of bondage.

If you accept circumcision after believing in Christ, you're relying on the law to save instead of Christ.  This forsakes Him and puts you back in bondage.  Stay free, and use it to love others, not gratify sinful desires.  Walk in the Spirit and yield His fruit.

Restore gently those caught in sin, and don't sin yourself while doing it.  Help each other while bearing your own load.  Give to teachers and those in need, especially in the church.  The Judaizers persuade you to boast in how many are circumcised; I'll only boast in Jesus' cross.  Circumcision isn't what counts, but being a new creation in Christ - all such are the Israel of God.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus makes us free.  By Him, we are made sons, not servants, or guardians under age.
We should not seek out Old Testament shadows to rely on when He has come.
They may continue to teach us about Christ, but are not to act as we are under them.

Our only reliance for our good standing with God is Jesus Christ.  Freedom in Him yields righteousness and walking in the Spirit.

Faith in Christ is the defining marker of God's people, not circumcision.

Don't be "cool-shamed" into following worldly or legalistic things.  Both use this tactic, excluding you until you follow their ways.  Never mind them, if they are wrong!

Reliance on yourself to be right with God usually leads to corruption.

Self-sufficiency and generosity are marks of God's people.


2 Kings 17-18

Hoshea reigned in Israel for 9 years.  Assyria conquered Israel when he didn't pay them tribute.
God did this to Israel because they sinned against and forsook Him, worshiping idols.  He sent prophets to warn and correct them, but they didn't listen, but even worshiped Asherah and sacrificed their children.  So God wiped them out, leaving only Judah.  Judah disobeyed, too.

Assyria resettled other peoples in Israel, and they brought their gods to worship.  Assyria had to make Israel's priests teach the people to worship Yahweh.  To this day the "Samaritans" are a syncretistic people, worshiping God and other gods both.

Hezekiah reigned in Judah for 29 years.  He sought the Lord more than any other king of Judah.  He tore down the high places.  Assyria conquered Israel in his 6th year, and then besieged Jerusalem and intimidated Hezekiah, treating God like other nations' gods.

How this is about Jesus
When Jesus returns, it will be in judgment on the wicked, and He will turn away even professors of faith in Him who aren't really loyal (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Matthew 7:21-23).

The Samaritans were hated by Jews largely for their syncretistic history recounted here.  Yet Jesus treats them in stories (Good Samaritan!) and in person (John 4) as people of dignity equal to anyone else, who need His salvation.  We should do no less with whatever group we now single out for unique condemnation - I'd suggest Muslims and homosexuals as the two most prominent, for my circles.


Soft legalism / strong and weak brothers / natural food

Here's a pair of good articles by Nick Batzig.
They're a bit long, but really worth your time.

7 Areas of Unbiblical Conscience Binding

A Biblical Theology of Food and Drink
At least the section toward the end, "Weak is Not Stronger."

A fun video on "Natural Food."  I hear this more and more, and this takes a swing at the myth/fad.

2 Kings 15-16

Azariah, son of Amaziah becomes king in Judah at 16 years old, for 52 years.  He was good, but idolatry remained in Judah.  He became leprous and his son Jotham took over.

Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II becomes king in Israel for 6 months.  He was the 4th generation of Jehu's descendants to be on the throne.  That's all God promised him, and it came true... for 6 months.  Shallum assassinated him and reigned for a month before Menahem killed him and reigned for 10 years.  He had to buy off Assyria from conquering Israel.

Pekahiah, son of Menahem reigned two years.  His commander-in-chief Pekah assassinated him and reigned for 20 years.  Assyria conquered Galilee, and Hoshea assassinated Pekah.

Jotham, son of Azariah/Uzziah reigns for 16 years in Judah, starting at 25 years old.  He does right, but idolatry continues.  Syria and Israel both threaten Judah militarily.

Ahaz, son of Jotham reigns for 16 years in Judah.  He follows Israel's idolatry, even sacrificing his son to an idol.  Syria and Israel beseige Jerusalem, and Ahaz sends to Assyria for help.  Assyria conquers Syria; Ahaz goes there to thank him, and sees an altar he likes.  He has it copied and used in the temple in Jerusalem, moving the bronze altar to the side.  He melts down the bronze oxen holding the bronze sea (for cash to give Assyria?).

How this is about Jesus
His kingship will never end.
He does what is right, though idolatry persists in His lands and the hearts of His people.

Notice the Judean kings did what was right, but the high places weren't removed.  How can these both be true?  Some zealous believers deny it can be, rejecting any political calculation at all as compromising pragmatism.  It is not.  These kings are not condemned for not removing the high places - idolatry was entrenched in the heart of the people.  They knew they would lose power if they sent in the demolition crews, so they didn't.  God doesn't condemn them, but calls them good kings.  In the same way, conservative Republican Christians today in places of power may need to wait to introduce the legislation they and we really want until it has more support.  Pursuing incremental success in the mean time is not compromise.  They need our support, not our ire that they are "no different than the liberals."

Where we cross the line is where we put our trust.  Ahaz trusted Assyria, when God's prophet told him to trust God, to ask HIM for a sign (Isaiah 7:1-14).  So there is a sinful pragmatism we are prone to, but it doesn't exist in every cultural observation or political calculation.

Galatians 1-3

This is Paul, an apostle directly by Jesus Christ's authority, not through men.
You are leaving the Gospel I gave you for another message, and will be damned for it.
When I was converted I spent most of my time apart from the church leaders.
Jesus called me directly, to preach to the Gentiles, and the church didn't contradict me.

When I DID go to Jerusalem for apostolic "approval," they didn't stand in the way of my calling, even though they were lobbied hard by the circumcision zealots.
I opposed Peter when he caved to their pressure and wouldn't eat with Gentiles.
Neither Jew nor Gentile are justified by the law, but by faith in Christ.
We are dead to the law, crucified with Christ.

You're being foolish.  Did you believe at first by the Spirit, or did you start with Christ by doing the law?  You started like Abraham: by faith.  You have Abraham's faith, trusting in his Descendant, and are blessed.
If you rely on the law for blessing, all you have is curse, since all have sinned.
Christ redeems you from this curse.
The law came 430 years after the promise, and cannot annul the promise.
The law was there to hold back sin, to keep us under guardianship, until Christ came and showed clearly how we are justified.  It has nothing to do with being Jew or Greek, male or female; it's faith and baptism that mark you.

How this is about Jesus
Paul claims his authority directly from Jesus, not through the other apostles.  Jesus spoke to Paul on the Damascus Road and revealed Himself alive and Lord after the resurrection.
Jesus has a specific message for the world given to the apostles, and if we believe a different message we aren't following Jesus.

One wrong message it's easy to follow: if we follow these rules then God approves of us.
- Reliance on rules rather than a Redeemer.

Acts 15

Christians from Judea come to Antioch and insist that Gentile Christians be circumcised.  Paul disagreed strongly.  The Antioch church sends him and Barnabas to Jerusalem for help.  The "apostles and elders" gather.  Peter says God sent him to Gentiles and gave them the Spirit, without circumcision.  Don't put them under the law that didn't save us - Jesus saves us both.  Paul shares stories of Gentiles saved.  James gives a decision, based on Amos 9:11-12, not to impose the law of Moses on Gentile converts.  The council sends delegates Judas and Silas with Paul back to Antioch, with a letter, affirming Paul and Barnabas, and passing on the decision to abstain from idol food, blood, and sexual immorality.

Later, Paul proposes a trip to the churches.  Barnabas wants to take John Mark, but Paul refuses.  "There arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated form each other" (15:39).  This winds up doubling the effort though: Barnabas and Mark go to Cyprus, Paul and Silas go through modern Turkey.

How this is about Jesus
Did Jesus want Gentile believers in Himself to be circumcised?  He gave the Spirit to Gentiles just as He did to Jews, so no.  Amos 9:11 and Isaiah 49:6 show God expanding His people to include Gentiles.  If Jesus wants baptism to mark His followers (Matt 28:18-20), Jew or Gentile, how can there be another mark?
It honors the Lord when we take time to meet and talk through disagreements as Christians.

Disagreements so sharp they separate, have been with the church since Paul and Barnabas.  It is discouraging, but should not overwhelm us, as God will accomplish good even when we are (sinfully?) stubborn.
When you make decisions, first gather all the facts, hear all sides of an issue, then communicate the decision to those involved.


Amos 7-9

God shows Amos locusts and fire coming on Israel.  Amos begs for mercy and God relents.
God shows Amos a plumb line, representing His standard for judgment.  It will lead to Israel's desolation.
Another prophet accuses Amos of sedition and tells him to go to Judah and not prophesy in Israel anymore.  Amos replies that this wasn't his job - God called him to it.  The prophet's family and land will be laid waste, "and Israel shall surely go into exile."

Because Israel "trample[s] on the needy" by ripping them off, God will bring mourning instead of rejoicing.  Famine will come, not just of food, but of God's Word.

God calls for the temple to be torn down, and He will pursue sinning Israel until they are dead.
But He will re-raise David's tabernacle, and it will include Gentiles.

How this is about Jesus
John the baptizer came with locusts, speaking of fire; Jesus set the plumb line and the temple fell 40 years later.
Jesus was rejected, as Amos was.
Jesus rebukes the rich for oppressing the poor, too ("you devour widows' houses...").
Jesus prophesies the temple, torn down, He will re-raise it in 3 days!

When we are rushing into sin, we don't want to hear God's Word.
We can't wait to sin, and our sinful hearts love it (8:4-6).
Even when a nation is going down in flames for its disobedience to God, there is always hope for God to revive and restore it in the future.


God's Promises

Part IV - Christology
Chapter 26 - Understanding and Using God's Promises

By Scriptural promises we see Christ, and He fulfills them.

Understanding God's Promises
Promises are different than commands or warnings, the two other ways God teaches us.  They are about God's sovereign mercy, not our duty.  He is sure to keep them (Hebrews 11:11; Numbers 23:19).  We should know the promises, so we know what to believe and pray for.  They comfort us as we look ahead to God keeping them.  Promises are either legal promises for if we obey, kept only by Christ's righteousness imputed to us; or evangelical promises for if we believe in Christ.  They are general (John 3:16) or particular (for children in Exodus 20:12).  They are directly given (that Paul would stand before Caesar in Acts 27:24), or can be inferred as applying to us (when James 5:11 makes a promise to us based on what happened to Job).  They are absolute (kept no matter what we do) or conditional (in the Old Testament, temporal blessings promised if we obey).  These promises are precious because of the blood of Christ shed to keep them, the strength they give our faith, and the great value of what is promised.

Using God's Promises
1. Believe them - beliving helps us mortify sin, pray, submit to God in affliction, stay uncorrupted from the world, and value what is promised.  Belief is not just knowledge but of the heart
2. Depend on them - we trust with our words, but fail to rely on God.
3. Pray them - use the promises as the basis for what you ask.  Can you pray for things beyond what is specifically promised, like the salvation of a friend?  Yes, "but in the faith of submission and not with definite assurance" (415).

Amos 4-6

The women in luxury will be herded away into exile like cattle.
Go ahead and keep worshiping idols, since you love it so much!
I warned you with famines, blights, but you wouldn't listen, so "prepare to meet your God."

Only 10% of you will survive.  Seek Me, not your idols.  Do you think the God who made the stars can't touch you?  You squeeze the poor, deny justice in your courts, afflicted the righteous for money.  The prudent run for cover in your evil times.
You think you want the day of Yahweh to come - why would you want that?  It's going to be pain you can't escape.
I can't stand your worship - give Me justice for the needy instead!  But you've been worshiping idols since your 40 years in the desert.

Those in luxury are headed for exile.  You're acting like all the other wicked nations.
I'm bringing complete ruin on full houses.  You'll know it's from Me.

How this is about Jesus
Israel in Jesus' day was looking fervently for their Messiah, and wanted God's judgment to come on their Roman occupiers.  But as Jesus cleansed the temple, He pronounced judgment not on Rome but on Israel for their greed, corruption and idolatrous worship.

Be careful getting used to luxuries.  They will entice your heart away from the Lord - witness Solomon.  God gives us all we have, and He can take it away to wake us up to our faults, or just to help us rely on Him instead of His gifts.

Amos 1-3

Chapters 1-2
Amos was a shepherd from Tekoa in Israel during King Uzziah (Judah) and Jeroboam (Israel).

Yahweh roars like a lion from Jerusalem.  He will not hold back from punishing Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, or Moab for their barbarities, especially against Israel.

He will not hold back from punishing Judah, either, for rejecting the Law.

He will not hold back from punishing Israel, either, for her debauchery, though God redeemed Israel from Egypt and brought her into Canaan.  She forces her people to disobey the Word.  You won't get away from My punishment.

Chapter 3
God: I know you, and thus will punish you for your sins.  Doesn't God warn His people through His prophets?  So I'm warning you.  Pieces of Israel will survive, that's it.

This is about Jesus?
Yes.  God brought warning to Israel of its destruction through Jesus.  He was the one they were to believe in, not just a messenger.
In His Incarnation God showed to us that He knows us.
He is the lion of the tribe of Judah.

We like to hear God's judgment coming on others, and Amos plays to this, pronouncing doom on all the nations around Israel first.  But it turns out Israel has become like them, so why should God treat us any differently?  It is especially because God knows and chose us to be His special people, that we pursue righteousness and justice.  We don't sit back on our laurels in ease and presume on God's grace.

PCA / Cake bakers' plight / Government and Christianity

Here's all I've read on the PCA's recent General Assembly.

1. PaedoCommunion.  Interesting that the committees come down hard on presbyteries that allow child communion, but the assembly rejected their rebuke, thus actually accepting those more open to child communion.

2. Women as elders.  A Philadelphia ministerial candidate told a presbytery he wasn't certain the NT prohibits women from eldership.  The assembly's committee recommended rebuke, but had a minority report urging no rebuke as it wasn't a matter of "substance."  The assembly rebuked, 554-258.  That's a significant minority that doesn't want to make a big deal out of women's ordination, in the PCA!

Cake baking controversy - the facts
If you don't know about the Kleins yet, you should.

A short, basic and balanced article on "How the State Serves Salvation" in a recent Tabletalk.



God sends Jonah to Nineveh, but he runs away the opposite direction by boat.
God sends a storm.  The sailors pray while Jonah sleeps.
They cast lots which God points to Jonah.  He asks them to kill him by throwing him overboard.

God sends a fish to preserve Jonah in its belly for 3 days and nights.
Jonah prays, repenting, thanking God for saving him, and saying that salvation is up to Him.

The fish spits Jonah onto land.  God sends him to Nineveh again.  He goes and preaches doom.  They believe God and repent, every one of them.  God relents.

Jonah is mad Nineveh isn't destroyed.  This is why he ran away the first time - he didn't want God to have mercy on Nineveh!  He sulks outside the city, and God gives him shade by growing a plant.  The next day God takes it away, and iin the heat Jonah is back to complaining, and even asking for death.  He stubbornly stays mad when God questions him about it.

How this is about Jesus

  • He also slept through a storm, but the wind obeyed HIM afterward (Mark 4:35-41)!  Indirect assertion of the divinity of Christ, there.
  • He was in the heart of the earth 3 days and nights, like Jonah was in the fish (Matthew 12:40).
  • He also brings a message of repentance.


  • Jonah is thankful for his own salvation (2:2) and comfort (4:6), but upset that God would be kind to others.  He doesn't want to lift a finger to bring others to God.  This is very convicting!
  • Everything obeys God in this book, except Jonah.  The storm, the sailors, the lots cast, the fish, the plant, the king, people and animals of Nineveh.  God will see His purpose done whether we obey Him or not.
  • God says the plant is like Nineveh: why be mad if I don't take it away, when it provides shade for many, and there are many to pity within her?  Envious hoarding of God's grace for yourself is insanity.


Rejoice in trials, for they build your character and faith.
Ask God when you need wisdom.  He gives every good gift.  He doesn't tempt us, but we drag ourselves to death by caving to our desires.
The humble are exalted.  The doer of the word is blessed; the hearer-only is deceived.  Doing the word involves mercy (visiting widows) and purity.

Don't treat the rich better than the poor.  Keep the whole law of love.
Faith without works won't save you.  Your faith is shown genuine (justified) by the works you do.

It's hard to tame the tongue.  Such a small thing can cause such large-scale damage.  Man can tame big animals, but not his little tongue.  Wisdom will reap a righteous harvest, but jealousy and ambition yield disorder, strife and vileness.

Quarreling comes from covetousness; submit to God with humility and repentance.
Don't boast about your future - it is arrogance.  You don't know what will happen tomorrow.

Woe to the rich, who oppress others with their riches, and hold back good when they can give it.
Be patient to wait for God's timing, like the farmer waiting for his crops.
Pray when you are in trouble, and God will heal and forgive.

How this is about Jesus
As Jesus' brother, James here passes on His teaching ministry in summary.
Luther called this book an "epistle of straw," focused only on justification by faith, which chapter two appears to contradict.  But the faith that alone justifies us, must be the genuine article that will lead to good works.

2 Kings 13-14

Jehu's son Jehoahaz reigns after him in Israel and is wicked like Jeroboam.  His son Jehoash does the same.  God subjugates Israel to Syria.  When Elisha is near death Israel's king visits him and Elisha prophesies victory over Syria, but limited.  Elisha dies, but even in death God fulfills his prophecy and works a miracle through him.

Joash's son Amaziah reigns after him in Judah, and is mostly good.  But he insists on war with Israel and loses.  He is captured and Israel plunders the treasure and tears down the city wall.  Judah assassinates Amaziah and puts his son Elath on the throne.  Jehoash's son Jeroboam II reigns after him in Israel for 41 years.  He was wicked but God had mercy and made him strong to restore some of Israel's borders.

How this is about Jesus
Even in death God restores life through Jesus.
I count 13 miracles done by Elisha before he dies, but he had asked for a double portion of Elijah's spirit - double seven.  The miracle in chapter 13 is the 14th.  The capstone of his ministry is resurrection from his entombed body.

Count the cost and don't take on bigger projects than you can manage (Amaziah's example).  That ends up costing you more to fix it in the end.
We sometimes say, "While there is life there is hope."  But God goes beyond this, bringing life from the grave.


More Supreme Court response

Marvin Olasky at World quotes from the 4 dissenting justices.

RC Sproul speaks out.

Toby Sumpter chimes in with a unique angle.

A group of pastors in Iowa has a good brief statement here.


2 Kings 10-12

Jehu writes to Samaria to appoint a leader and fight him for the kingship.  They refuse and let him rule.  He demands the death of all 70 of Ahab's sons there, and they do it.  He kills all the house and officials of Ahab, and anyone he meets of Judean royalty who looks up to Ahab's house.  He tricks the Baal prophets into all assembling, and kills them all, defiling the temple.

Jehu did what God told him regarding destroying Ahab, but he didn't stop worshiping at Dan and Bethel.  He reigns 28 years, but Syria starts taking parts of Israel for itself.

When Jehu kills Ahaziah king of Judah, his mother kills the rest of the family, to consolidate power in herself, instead of them.  An infant grandson Josiah escapes, thanks to his aunt Jehosheba.  After seven years the high priest Jehoiada conspires to overthrow Athaliah and set Josiah on the throne.  It works, with the priestly class and Carites (bodyguards of the queen?) supporting Jehoiada.  Athaliah is killed and Jehoiada leads a national resolution to support Joash and worship Yahweh.

Joash reigns 40 years and does good under Jehoiada's influence.  The building fund he starts is a fiasco, though.  After 23 years of collections for repairs, no repairs have been done, and the money seems to be gone.  With clearer separation of offerings in a separate box, things go better.  It goes straight to the workmen, not through the priests, and they (workmen) deal honestly.

Militarily Judah continues to decline.  Syria threatens Jerusalem itself, and Joash has to bribe him not to attack.  Joash is assassinated, and his son Amaziah takes over.

How this is about Jesus
Jehu prefigures what Christ will do with unbelievers at His second coming.  Judgement awaits.
Joash prefigures Christ escaping from Herod's murderous intent, and coming back to rule.
His church will be built, no matter the obstacles (corruption, sloth, etc.) found in the body of Christ.

  • Ch 10 - Like Jehu with Ahab's house, we should be ruthless with the sin in our life.  Cut off the hand if it makes you sin.
  • Ch 11 - Jehoiada's overthrow of Athaliah's government was a bold and right move.  Absolute submission to the powers that be (Romans 13) is not always the right approach.
  • Ch 12 - financial dealings in the church and state need to be clear and transparent.

2 Kings 7-9

Chapters 6 & 7
Later Syria beseiges Samaria again, until food is extremely scarce and Israel is starting to eat their children.  The king blames Elisha and sends to arrest him.  Elisha promises the crisis will be over in 24 hours.  The king's bodyguard scoffs.  Lepers at the gate decide to surrender to Syria, hoping for food.  They find everyone fled, so they eat, take and hide stuff, and go back for more.  But they realize they should be telling Israel, not keeping it to themselves.  Israel doesn't believe it at first - it must be a Syrian trick to lure them out.  But all the camp supplies are there for the taking, so food prices are immediately back to normal.  The scoffing bodyguard is trampled in the rush for food.

Elisha predicts famine to the Shunamite woman, so she moves to Philistia for 7 years.  When the famine is over, they come back, ask for their land back just as the king is asking Gehazi for stories of Elisha's miracles, so they get their land.

Elisha goes to Syria when her king is sick.  The king sends his servant Hazael to ask Elisha if he will recover.  Elisha confides to Hazael that he will be king next, and successfully attack Israel.  Hazael suffocates the king the next day, and takes the throne.

Jehoram (or Joram) is king of Judah after his father Jehoshaphat.  He is evil, with Ahab's daughter as his wife.  But God preserves Judah for David's sake.  Edom revolts against Judah, who goes to fight them and loses, Jehoram barely escaping with his life.

Ahaziah is the next king of Judah, son of Jehoram.  As son in law of Ahab, he is cozy with Israel

Elisha sends a student to anoint Jehu secretly as the new king of Israel, prophesying that he will do away with Ahab's house.  Jehu's friends press him what it was about, and he tells them; they support him as king.  He heads straight for Joram, who is recovering from battle wounds.  Joram and Jehu meet on Naboth's vineyard and Jehu kills him.  The king of Judah is visiting, and Jehu has him killed, too (he is also of Ahab's house!).  He then goes to Jezebel and has her killed, though she tries to seduce him with her beauty.

How this is about Jesus
Chpts 6-7 - Psalm 22 must have been quite relevant during the seige, but is ultimately fulfilled in Christ's experience on the cross.  When life and food are restored, the people have a hard time believing the good news coming from outside the city (tomb) by outsiders (lepers here, women at the resurrection).
Chapts 8-9 - Jesus pronounces doom on Jerusalem, "your house is left desolate," as Elisha does to Ahab.

Believe God's Word or you will be trampled underfoot as others rush into the kingdom of God.
Do not ally yourself with the wicked or you will fall with them.

2 Kings 4-6

A widow of the prophets asks for help - she is on the brink of bankruptcy, which means selling her children as slaves.  He has her pour the little oil she has into all her jars, and it multiplies to fill them all.  She sells it to pay her debt.

A wealthy woman from Shunem builds a room for Elisha to stay in, since he passes through regularly.  Elisha wonders aloud in front of her, how to repay her, and promises her a child soon.  It happens, but the boy dies years later during harvest.  The woman goes to Elisha, who hurries to the room and raises him to life.

During a famine Elisha calls for the prophets to make a stew.  Somebody puts a poisonous gourds in it, making the whole thing inedible.  Elisha cleanses it miraculously.  Later, someone brings 20 loaves of bread, and Elisha makes it multiply to serve all 100 men.

A Syrian army commander Naaman has leprosy.  He took an Israelite girl captive a while ago, and she starts mentioning Elisha, who could heal Naaman.  Naaman sends to Israel's king, but he can't do anything and he says so.  Elisha tells the king to send Naaman to him.  He does, and Elisha sends a messenger telling him to wash in the Jordan.  This wounds Naaman's pride - he's a bigger deal than to be treated like this!  But his servant convinces him, so he goes and is healed.  He returns to Elisha professing faith and wanting to give a gift.  Elisha refuses, and after Naaman leaves Elisha's servant Gehazi schemes and lies to take something from the foreigner for himself.  When Gehazi gets back home, Elisha condemns him and he gets the leprosy Naaman had.

The prophets decide to expand the house where they live, and go cut down trees near the river.  Elisha goes along.  A borrowed axe head flies into the water, but Elisha makes it float, so the prophet can return it.

Elisha foretells Syria's troop movements for Israel.  Syria hears about it and beseiges Dothan where Elisha is staying.  His servant is scared, so Elisha asks God to show him all the horses and chariots of fire that surround Syria.  God strikes the Syrians with blindness through Elisha, leads them to Samaria the capital of Israel, and has the king there feast and return them home.

How this is about Jesus
Chapter 4 - Jesus does similar miracles
Chapter 5 - Gentiles come to seek Jesus for healing; He has greedy servants like Judas who are cursed.

Chapter 4 - The Shunemite woman has such faith that she doesn't want to tell her husband their son is dead - she assumes Elisha will raise him.  So should we be less fazed when we go through trials, knowing God will see His purpose done.
Chapter 5 - Pride wants us to be fawned over and made much of, but Naaman (and we) had to submit to God's ways.

2 Kings 1-3

  1. Ahab's son, Ahaziah get hurt in a fall and sends to the god of Ekron for help.  Elijah intercepts his messengers with a message from God that he will die, for not asking the true God.  The messengers return to Ahaziah, who figures out who it is and sends them to arrest Elijah.  Twice they go with 50 men but Elijah calls fire from heaven down on them.  The third time he goes.  Elijah delivers the message of death in person, and it comes true - Ahaziah dies.
  2. Elisha and the other prophets come to know Elijah will be taken from them.  Elisha refuses to leave Elijah, when Elijah asks repeatedly.  Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah's spirit as a last request, and the horses and chariots of fire come and sweep Elijah away.  Elisha sees it, tears his clothes in grief, takes up Elijah's cloak, and divides the Jordan with it.  Elisha begins to lead the prophets and do miracles.  He restores water, and when cursing naughty boys, 2 bears attack them.
  3. Another son of Ahab becomes king, Jehoram.  Moab rebels against Israel, and Israel musters to go get them, taking Judah along as an ally.  They go 7 days in the desert with no water for the army.  Elisha is along and they inquire of him for help.  He says he will only help since Judah is there - he won't talk to Israel.  He predicts water in the morning, and victory over Moab, and it happens.

How this is about Jesus

  1. When He is arrested, the same thing happens, but without the fire.  Jesus and Elijah were both really in control, though the hostile civil powers sought their life.
  2. There are many parallels between Elijah/Elisha and John/Jesus.  Jesus was greater than John, but in a way took up his mission when John died.  His disciples follow Jesus when John is gone.
  3. Jesus is sent to minister to Israel, but only for the sake of the elect.  The blood of Jesus looks like defeat to His enemies, but brings victory.  The blood reminds us of the Passover, too.


  1. Do not be overly discouraged when the king, president, congress, etc. are opposed to God.  He works His will in other ways.
  2. Don't mock and ridicule the old!  New leaders sometimes at the beginning need to follow their followers (vss. 2:17-18).
  3. Don't plead with people who consistently reject the Gospel - it casts pearls before swine and demeans the Gospel offer.  Jesus is an authority over us, not a pathetic salesman asking for a sale.  On the other hand, there is a time to join with an unbeliever (pro-life march?) in a good cause that will expose them to the Gospel.


Proverbs 31

Son, what are you doing?  Why give your strength to women and wine?
Give yourself to studying wisdom and justice to rule well, instead.

Seek an excellent wife, who

  • really helps her husband, so that he trusts her
  • works with her hands for the home's clothing
  • rises early to see to the home's food
  • appraises property and plants vineyards
  • is strong, makes quality stuff
  • stays up late
  • gives to the poor
  • has a husband with a good reputation
  • can laugh at the coming days
  • speaks kindly
  • has a family that blesses and praises her
  • fears the Lord, for that outlasts outward charm and beauty.

How this is about Jesus
He is ruling His kingdom well, and purifies His bride the Church to be beautiful and fruitful.

This is a call to virtue for the church generally, as we are the bride of Christ.
It is also a call to men in what to look for in a wife, and an indirect (believe it or not!) exhortation to productive and godly womanhood.

Acts 14

From the Antioch in mid-Turkey, Paul and Barnabas head east.  They plant a church in Iconium much like in Antioch: some Jews believe, the rest get mad, more Gentiles believe, and the Jews force them out.

In Lystra, they heal a cripple.  The people think they are Zeus and Hermes, and want to sacrifice to them, but they restrain them.  The Jews from the last two towns show up, chasing them down, and get the Lystrans to stone them again.  Paul goes back into town, then on one more stop east, before returning to each city, visiting the newly planted churches and appointing elders.  Then they return to Antioch, report and rejoice in God's work among the Gentiles.

How this is about Jesus
They do miracles in Jesus' name, preach Him as the Messiah to the Jews and as the death-conquering judge to the Gentiles.

Paul's boldness and courage take center stage here.  He knows he is the least of the apostles, saw Stephen stoned, and knows Jesus was crucified, so why does he deserve any better?  He lives the message he preaches, that death has no hold on Jesus or on us anymore.


Acts 13

The Spirit leads the Antioch church to send Saul and Barnabas out.  They go to Cyprus first (Barnabas' homeland - Acts 4:36), with John Mark assisting.  They get an audience with the Roman Governor, but a court magician opposes them.  Saul says he'll be blind, and he is, convincing the governor, Sergius Paulus.  Luke starts calling Saul Paul, he takes leadership of the group, John Mark leaves, and they head for Pisidian Antioch.  Paul leads the speaking, working in his ancestor King Saul (vs 21), focusing on the death and resurrection of Christ and how it fulfills Scripture as Peter said at Pentecost.  They are very interested, but next week many come to listen, making the Jews envious (they think the Gospel is only for Israel).  So they reject Paul and his message.  He says they then turn to the Gentiles.  Many believe, but the Jews turn the city leaders against them.  They go on to the next town, leaving a joyful planted church behind.

Reading between the lines
This is a bit speculative, but I think Saul changed his name to Paul at this point, not when he was converted on the Damascus road.  Verse 9 isn't an out of place "oh, yeah," on Luke's part harking back to his conversion.  He changes it to mark the Roman governor who believed at their first stop, and took a deliberate strategy of going to the Gentiles (though to the Jew first).  This explains the name change being mentioned here, and John Mark's departure.

  • When the Spirit leads, it isn't always some extraordinary and unexpected thing.  Barnabas went HOME for their first missionary stop.
  • The apostolic witness to Jesus' resurrection remains central, though Paul didn't see it.  He points to their witness.

1 Kings 21-22

Ahab asks for Naboth's vineyard, to use as a vegetable garden since it's close.  But it's Naboth's ancestral inheritance, and he refuses.  Ahab has no right to "eminent domain" in this way.  Ahab sulks again.  Jezebel gets it for him by false witness and murdering Naboth.  Elijah rebukes him and threatens punishment; Ahab repents of it, and God delays punishment as a result.

Ahab wants to attack Syria to retake some land.  When Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, visits, Ahab suggests an alliance, and Judah agrees.  The prophets predict success, but Judah wants a prophet of Yahweh to speak.  Micaiah predicts doom, and Ahab jails him.  In spite of Ahab's selfish scheme to protect himself, he is mortally wounded, and the dogs lick up his blood when they wash out his chariot back home as prophesied (21:19).

Jehoshaphat was Judah's king after Asa, and like him was generally faithful, though he made peace with Ahab.  His sailing expedition for gold was a failure, and he refused to ally with Israel (Ahab's son, Ahaziah) on another one.  Ahaziah was wicked, like Ahab.

How this is about Jesus
Ahab is an anti-type, a photo negative image of Christ.
Ahab takes an inheritance for himself; Jesus gives us one.
Ahab sulks when denied his desire; Jesus prays (in another garden/vineyard of Gethsemane) but remains faithful.
Ahab's wife lies to get his way; the leaders of God's people lie to get Jesus killed.
Kings shows the importance of a prophet to check the king.  Jesus is prophet and king.

Those in power must use it to serve justice to people, not to serve themselves; and they must heed God's direction in His Word.

How are we responsible if God is sovereign?

Part 7 - Doctrine of Man
Chapter 35 - Human responsibility and freedom

How is man responsible if God controls even his decisions?

Man is indeed called to be holy, as God is holy (Lev. 19:1; Matt. 5:48).  It is God's sovereignty is the foundation of our responsibility to Him.

Most people think we are only responsible for what we do freely.  While ignorance or inability sometimes lessen or alleviate guilt they do not always completely eliminate it (Luke 12:47-48; Romans 5:19).  "Scripture... urges us to inform sinners not only of the senses in which they are unable to believe, but also of the ways in which they are able" (822).

"Freedom refers to various kinds of abilities" (823).
The freedom to do good is moral freedom.  We lost this in the fall.
The freedom to do what we want is compatibilist freedom.  Compatible with predestination!
The freedom to choose a or b with "equal ease."  If we don't have it, we aren't responsible.  Frame calls this "Libertarian" freedom.

Libertarian freedom refuted:
The Bible doesn't teach it.  It assumes our responsibility because God made us, not because we are "Free to Choose" [HT: Norm Geisler].  Not even civil courts seek to prove that we are guilty because there was no cause but our will.  The Bible rejects we have a freedom of will independent of God.  God Himself is not morally responsible by this theory, since He cannot act against His holiness.  Libertarianism requires you reject God's exhaustive foreknowledge of anything.  It often relies on intuition that free will is right.  It requires that God has limited His sovereignty in some way, which the Bible never says He has.

The common objection to this is that we are robots, or that God shouldn't judge man for what He is responsible for making us to be.  But the Bible speaks of us as clay in the potter's hands.  We are creatures other than God, and He ordains our lives in a way that is consistent and maintains our integrity.  He gives us a role to play so that we are free, responsible and significant.  Arminians want to affirm this in a way that denies God's sovereignty over man; hyper-Calvinists want to deny this.

Being made in God's image involves choosing.  "We act according to our desires."  Not in a way that is independent of God's causation, but we participate in (copy?) His creativity.

Pilot and co-pilot.  No good, as only one of them flies the plane at a time.
Teacher and classroom.  Fits the libertarian view: God sets boundaries and students act freely.
Primary and secondary cause.  Common among Calvinists, but how is God not responsible for being a remote and primary cause?
Commander and Troops.  Gets at the authority aspect, especially through the Word, but only describes it, and not much else.
Author/characters.  This analogy works quite well.  The author is the ultimate cause of everything, but writes in a way that the characters are consistent and act according to their nature.  Macbeth is responsible for murder, but Shakespeare made him do it!  Macbeth is not technically responsible to Shakespeare for his murder, though the author is his judge, and it is possible to write the story such that the author is the One to whom we are responsible.

The last analogy of author and characters in a story also fits with the idea of covenant presence.  God the author is present at every point of the drama He writes.  He interacts with us as persons, not robots.  This analogy doesn't answer all our questions, but it does help us think biblically.


1 Kings 19-20

Jezebel threatens Elijah's life, and he runs far south.  God sustains him and he comes to Mount Sinai.  God asks why he is here, and he complains of Israel's disobedience (discouragement and self-pity abound, vss. 10, 14).  After an impressive display of power in wind, earthquake and fire, God speaks again in a still, small whisper.  He commissions him to go back to work in the north, anointing a king of Syria, Israel and a prophet, Elisha.  He rebukes his self-pity by pointing out the faithful remnant who are with him.  He calls Elisha and lets him go say goodbye to his parents first.

Syria threatens Israel militarily.  After some trash talk, Israel attacks and wins.  They win the next fighting season, too - Syria underestimates them and thinks Israel's god is local and can't fight as well in the plains.  Ahab gets help from prophets of God, and takes it, but he is too easy on Syria when he wins, letting the king go free.  A prophet confronts Ahab about it, and he goes home sullen.

How this is about Jesus
He also is in the desert 40 days and 40 nights, but without food to sustain Him.  He discerns God's voice, but without the self-pity.
He is greater than Elijah, which is why He doesn't let disciples say goodbye to their parents first (Luke 9:59-62).
He can help us anywhere - He is not local to Israel or any one country.
He is the prophet who is not threatened by the power of kings (John 19:9-11).

When things get tough, remember the one you serve.  Discern and heed His voice.  Remember His plan is bigger than you.
Trash talk and presumption when you're the big guy are usually a bad idea.  Pride goes before a fall.
When you are corrected, sullenness is a sure sign you aren't taking it well.


1 Kings 16-18

Jehu the prophet (not the king) predicts the downfall of King Baasha's house, and it happens just two years after his death and his son's succession.  Zimria assassinates him and takes power for 1 week. Israel's army makes its commander Omri king.  The people set up another guy, but Omri defeats him.  [This sounds like a military dictatorship, now!]  Omri reigns 12 years, and Ahab takes the throne after him for 22 years.  He marries a princess of Sidon and builds her a temple to Baal and Asherah in Samaria.  An ancient curse from Joshua's day comes true when he allows Jericho to be rebuilt (vs 34; Joshua 6:26).

The prophet Elijah announces to Ahab that there will be no rain unless he (Elijah) permits it.  He hides east of the Jordan.  God sends him to Sidon (Jezebel's land!) and a widow lodges him.  Though her pantry is down to its last meal, her flour and oil miraculously don't run out for a long time.  Her son almost dies, but Elijah prays and God revives him.

God prompts Elijah to confront Ahab.  He goes through Obadiah, a faithful prophet of God in Ahab's court, hiding and providing for 100 prophets out of Jezebel's sight, while she subsidizes 850 pagan prophets.  Elijah calls Ahab, the prophets and all Israel to Mount Carmel.  He calls Israel to decide between Yahweh and Baal, as Joshua did long ago, but they don't answer.  They want it both ways.  He proposes two bulls be readied for sacrifice, and the god that lights the fire himself is the true God.  The Baal prophets call on him all day, but no answer.  When it is Elijah's turn, he repairs Yahweh's altar, pours tons of water all over the sacrifice, prays two sentences, and God answers with fire that consumes the sacrifice and all the water.  Elijah takes the opportunity to have the people kill all Jezebel's 850 pagan prophets.  Elijah warns Ahab that rain is coming, and it does.  Elijah running beats Ahab in his chariot back to town.

How this is about Jesus
Jesus is our king, never deposed - His kingdom is stable, unlike Israel's in chapter 16
Jesus is our daily bread, never exhausted, like the widow's food in chapter 17
Jesus is the living water that Israel was longing for in the famine

  • Ahab almost always listens to Elijah.  He is weak-willed.  It's his wife that's the bigger problem.
  • Elijah called for people to give God their first, best and only, and trust Him for the rest.  He asks the widow with only one meal left, to make it for him (instead of for her son!), and God will supply.  He does.  He has Israel pour what little precious water they have on the altar to Yahweh.  When they do, it rains.
  • Like Abraham with Isaac, we must relinquish to God what is precious to us.

Proverbs 30

"Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God."
Verses 8-9

This seems such a wise desire for God to provide, and to remain dependent on Him.

The last half of the chapter has a series of 3 or 4 things that strike the author, and usually the last in the list is the main focus.  The theme seems to be the mystery of love (vss. 19, 23), and the limitations of kingship (vss. 28, 31-33).  The last three verses are quite a rebuke to a prideful king who is pushing too hard.

Proverbs 29

Verse 11 - "A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back."
Self-expression is almost an absolute good in our time. but Scripture cautions us.  Maybe being understood isn't the most important thing in the world.  Where it conflicts with the law of love, we ought to give way.

Verse 12 - "If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked."
Not only wicked rulers, but incompetent ones will encourage wickedness.  This is one way that power corrupts people.

Verse 18 - "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,[j] but blessed is he who keeps the law."
This one is often quoted as "Where there is no vision the people perish," asserting that leaders need to cast a vision for people to follow.  This mis-applies the text.  The point is more that without God's Word, we wander off discouraged or run off into folly.

Flags in Church / Baptismal View Changes How You Disciple Kids - Mark Jones

Mark Jones describes the difference between raising a child as a credo-baptist and as an infant baptist.  It's a great personal reminder of why God has included our children in His covenant with us.

On Trinitarian worship, also by Jones.  Two zingers:
"The problem with contemporary worship today is not that it is too emotional. No. The problem with contemporary worship is that it is not emotional enough. Our emotional life, because of our union with Christ, should reflect the full range of emotions found in the Psalter, which was Christ's hymnal and balm to his suffering soul on earth."

"An American flag in a church basically says: we don't ascend any higher than the land upon which this building stands."


1 Kings 14-15

Jeroboam doesn't consult his prophets, but Judah's when it really counts (his son is sick).
God prophesies the complete demise of his house, and the death of the child as she re-enters her house, to his wife.  Jeroboam reigns 22 years, though.

In Judah, they start to worship like pagans.  Within 5 years, Egypt conquers and takes all their temple treasure.  Rehoboam tries to act like he's still fine (vss. 27-28).  Solomon's question in Ecclesiastes is answered: when I die, what will happen to all my life's work and legacy?  Israel and Judah fight constantly.

Rehoboam's son Abijam reigns just like Rehoboam - ungodly.  But God spares him and Judah for the sake of His promise to David.

Abijam's son is Asa.  He gets rid of as much paganism as politically possible, but the people love the high places.  He allies with Syria against Israel (2 Chronicles 16 shows the folly of this).

Jeroboam's son Nadab is assassinated soon after taking the throne by Baasha, who kills all Jeroboam's house.  This fulfills the prophecy from chapter 14.

How this is about Jesus
He prophesies the doom of Israel's house, too (Matthew 21:43-46), and the people believed He was a prophet as He said it.  It happened within one generation.
He plunders the strongman, instead of letting pagans plunder Him.
We are spared destruction by God for the sake of God's promise to Jesus.

Like for Asa's reforms, piety has a corporate dimension we seldom consider - a culture of societal expectations that is more or less in line with God's Word.  You can reform your own life a great deal, but will hit some walls when society isn't on the same page (examples: Sabbath and holiday observance, and exposure to impurity/profanity).

1 Kings 12-13

Solomon's son Rehoboam becomes king when Solomon dies.  Jeroboam sees his chance, and gets Israel to pressure him to loosen Solomon's burden on the people.  Solomon's counselors agree and urge Rehoboam to do it, but his peers advise the opposite - make it heavier and show them you're the boss.  Israel refuses to have him as king, and they stone the tax man he sends to them.  When he raises an army to force union, God stops it with a prophet's warning.

Jeroboam fears Israel will reunite with Judah if they all worship in Jerusalem together, so he sets up golden calves in Bethel and Dan, giving the people something new, on the wrong dates with the wrong priests, against the Word of God.

A prophet from Judah goes to Bethel and prophesies its altar will be torn down and its priests killed on it at the hand of a man named Josiah (this eventually happens).  As Jeroboam calls for his arrest, the hand that points at the prophet withers.  He repents and invites the prophet to lunch to give him a gift.  The prophet refuses and heads home.  A prophet from Bethel chases him down and invites him back for lunch, lying that God told him to invite him.  So he goes.  At lunch God speaks through the Bethel prophet rebuking the Judah prophet for going back.  He'll die before getting home.  Sure enough, a lion kills him, but then stands by the body without eating it.  The Bethel prophet retrieves the body (with the lion standing right there!) and buries him with honor.

How this is about Jesus
God's people are torn in two, and only in Christ will they be reunited.  He is the prophet who comes foretelling doom for Israel if they will not return to God's ways, but He does not listen to lies but only to God.

Leaders should listen to older counselors more than to peers.
Don't mess with the worship of God for political reasons - to get people to like you.
The point of chapter 13 seems to be that Israel needs to listen to Judah's prophets; Judah shouldn't listen to Jeroboam's sham prophets.  Discerning who speaks for God is important.