4.30.2015

Luke 21

Jesus commends a widow for putting just a little in the offering, when the rich parade their much larger gifts.
When the disciples admire the temple buildings, Jesus says it's going to be destroyed.  They ask when.
Jesus foretells warfare, natural disaster and persecution, Jerusalem's fall and His return.
Be ready for it, and don't get lazy or immoral.  Trust the Spirit for what to say.  Discern the times.

Application
Don't overly admire wealth.  Heart matters more.
Judgment will come on the wicked, and some of the righteous will get caught in the persecution backlash.
Don't confuse delay in judgment with no impending judgment.  Serve your master faithfully, though He delay in returning.

1 Samuel 19; Psalms 23 & 59

Saul's instability grows.  He gets more hostile to David until David has to flee for his life to Samuel.  Saul's soldiers are stopped only by the Spirit making them prophesy.  The same happens to Saul.

Psalm 23
David is living with the real threat of enemies and death.
But God is his shepherd: He will feed and protect and sanctify him, and finally take him to live in His home forever.

Psalm 59
David cries out for deliverance from enemies (Saul's soldiers) lying in wait to capture and kill him.
David doesn't deserve this.  Bring them down and show the people they are in the wrong.
God has been and will be my fortress, so I will sing to Him.


How this is about Jesus
Israel's rulers sought unjustly to kill Him, too, but He trusted in God.


Application
When we are assailed, we should first check if we deserve it.  Can we say Psalm 59:3-4 honestly?
Put your trust in God, in the presence of enemies.  Make Him your fortress.
It is okay to pray for the downfall of God's enemies, as long as personal vengeance isn't your motive.

ISIS Imprecation; Abuse in Church; How Many Kids?

How do we respond to new ISIS videos martyring Christians, and subjugating the nation of the cross?
One thing we do is pray imprecatory Psalms.


Here's a great piece on abuse in the church.  Many are strongly tempted to silence and cover-up, but it is the wrong road.  The statement from the elders is especially good.


A provocative article for some, on how many children you should have.  This article assumes family planning, that we need not leave the decision in God's hands by rejecting any birth control.  It doesn't argue that position.  Many in my circles reject this view, but I still found this article very useful.
"God’s promise to Abraham, to make him the father of many nations, is fulfilled in Christ, expanding the blessing beyond mere physical procreation (John 1:13)"
"Wives can forget that their primary ministry is their husband, especially when children arrive."

Written on Our Hearts

John Frame's Systematic Theology
Chapter 28

We've been talking about the words God reveals, and it's transmission to us.  But in the end, revelation is interpersonal interaction.  God speaks a personal word to us.  Scripture can be trusted; it is like hearing a parents voice; God grants assurance that it is from Him as we read.  This certainty is a hallmark of faith.  We ought to strive for certainty in receiving and believing Gods word to us, not a tentative hope mixed with doubt.  We see this in 1 for 15:1-6; Gen 15:6; 1 John 5:13; John 17:3; Luke 1:4; Acts 1:3; Hebrews 6:13; 2 Peter 1:19-21. 

God reveals Himself to us through people, besides words and events.

  • Theophany - taking the form of men to Abraham and Jacob, etc.  The glory cloud of Genesis 1:2 and Exodus 40:34 is another example.
  • Jesus - He speaks in every way: as God, the Word, a theophany who actually was a man, creator, redeemer, and prophet.
  • Spirit - He is the one who inspires other people to speak and write Gods words.  He leads us into the truth, illuminates Scripture for us, convinces us of the truth, authority and source of the Bible, and lives within us to guide us to walk by the Spirit.
  • Why do we believe Scripture is God's revelation?  Its own witness (normative), the facts and evidences within it (situational), and the Spirit's testimony to us (existential).  The Spirit causes belief, while the first two are reasons to believe it.  Westminster's Confession 1:5 addresses this, but gives too much efficacy to evidences apart from the Spirit's work.  These evidences are all suppressed without the Spirit at work to enlighten us.
  • This doesn't deny Scripture's sufficiency.  God has given us all we need in it, but we also pray for the Spirit to illumine it.
People as revelation
The image of God remains visible in us, in spite of sin, and in believers it is more visible.  Imitation of Christ, the apostles, other leaders and believers, and OT saints is a big NT theme.

Revelation in our hearts
God sets His name (His authority and presence) on our hearts, writing His covenant revelation there (Jer. 31:31-34; Isa. 51:7; 2 Cor. 3:2-3).  The Bible speaks of revelation received, which is neither general nor special revelation, but existential (Isa 53:1; Matt 11:27; Eph 1:17).

This messes with our categories of general and special revelation, which is okay since they are extra-Biblical concepts.  The Bible speaks of our reception of His revelation as itself a revelation.

4.29.2015

1 Samuel 17-18

Israel and Philistines line up against each other again, and their champion Goliath defies Israel unanswered for forty days.  David the delivery boy pipes up and offers to fight him, trusting God and the shepherd skills he's cultivated.  He speaks in Gods name, knocks Goliath out with a sling stone, and cuts off his head with his own sword.

Goliath was just the beginning!  David is made commander in chief, Jonathan's friend, and he defeats the Philistines many times.  Saul is afraid of him, and angry that Israel honors David more than himself.  He tries to get David killed by sending him to fight many Philistines.


How this is about Jesus
He alone could defeat the strong man and plunder his house to free us from our spiritual tyranny.
He was envied by Israel's rulers who maneuvered to get rid of Him.

Application
Like Saul, there are times we are so envious of fellow believers, we would rather see God's enemies defeat them than see them prosper.
We need to trust God in the face of opposition, and not fight the good fight with worldly weapons.

4.28.2015

Law and Gospel - Foes or Friends?

Part III: Anthropology (Man) and Covenant Theology
Chapter 17 - The Covenant at Sinai: Law or Grace?


Puritans agreed that there is a distinction between the covenant of works and that of grace, and that the covenant of grace has several manifestations, described last time.  But they did not agree on how the Mosaic covenant related to this - is it a part of the covenant of grace or republishing the covenant of works?

Most Puritans saw two covenants: works and grace.  Sinai's covenant is part of the second.  But how does this fit with Paul's contrast of works/law with faith/grace in 2 Corinthians 3 and Galatians 4?  The Puritans distinguished between the law taken strictly as a rule of righteousness (how Paul speaks of it), and taken more generally and focusing more on the promises and blessings attached (Exodus 19:1-9; 20:1, for instance).  The Ten Commandments are given after redemption, with that redemption in mind.  It speaks of God showing mercy.  How could God deal with sinful Israel at all if it was a relationship of "obey or die"?  The sacrifices point to mercy given.

"Law and the gospel are opposed concerning the doctrine of justification, but agree regarding the doctrine of sanctification.... for those who are justified (through faith in Christ) the law becomes a friend" (286).

Some Puritans saw three covenants: works, grace, and Sinai.  Sinai is a separate covenant, under the covenant of grace.  It serves grace by leading Israel to trust Christ, more than conveying the life of faith itself.  This is a disagreement of emphasis: is Sinai so different that it's a separate covenant from the covenant of grace?

Lurking under the discussion is a disagreement in how opposed law and gospel are.  Congregationalists (simplifying, here) saw them as opposed everywhere, all the time, so couldn't see Sinai as a version of grace.  Presbyterians saw them as opposed in our justification but working together in our sanctification, so they could see Sinai as a version of a gracious covenant.

Luke 20

The temple leaders challenge Jesus' right to cleanse the temple.  He challenges their rejection of John the Baptizer.  (This indirectly asserts His authority straight from God to challenge them.)  He tells a parable to the effect that God will come and destroy them and give His promises and blessings to others, for their murdering of His Son.

The leaders try to take Him down by debate, since the people love Him and they can't arrest Him outright.
  • Should we pay taxes?  (The people will hate Him for saying yes, they can arrest Him for saying no.)  "Give the state what is rightly the state's, and give God what is rightly His."
  • How can the resurrection be real when there are multiple marriages in this life?  "You don't marry in the resurrection; He is the God of Abraham, who lives before God now."
  • Jesus goes on offense: "David calls the Christ his Lord in Psalm 110:1, not his son.  It looks like the Messiah will be greater than David.  Hm..."
  • Watch out for the scribes who lust after honor and wealth.

Application
  • Jesus doesn't really give answers when challenged to prove His authority.  We have the answer in His miracles and resurrection and the record of His apostles.
  • We owe the state taxes (Romans 13:6-7); we owe God all our lives (Romans 12:1).
  • Jesus is the greatest man you can imagine.  If you don't let Him rule you and try to rule yourself, you are in for big trouble.

1 Samuel 15-16

God tells Saul through Samuel to destroy Amalek, leaving no person or animal alive.  They fight and win, but keep the best animals to sacrifice to God.  God confronts Saul through Samuel - obedience is better than sacrifice and you have rebelled.  Samuel wants to leave, but Saul is desperate to avoid consequences for sin and begs him to go with him to a sacrifice with the people.  Samuel kills the Amalekite king himself and never sees Saul again.

God sends Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint the next king - one of Jesse's eight sons.  It turns out to be the youngest, not the biggest or strongest - David.  The Spirit attends the anointing and comes upon David, while Saul has an evil spirit tormenting him.  Saul sends for David, who can play the harp well, and it soothes Saul.


How this is about Jesus
He was a younger brother in Israel (John 8:57).
He wasn't the biggest or strongest - obvious leader by physical appearance.
He was anointed at His baptism, to replace the current rulers of Israel and be our king.
His parents had to release Him to dangers in the world (16:20; Luke 2:34-35).


Application
Don't judge by outward appearance.
Don't try to make up for sin with your own sacrifice.  Trust Christ's sacrifice and obey.
Follow the King of Israel, Jesus Christ.


"Yahweh sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks on the heart" - 1 Samuel 16:7.

1 Samuel 13-14

Jonathan leads an attack on the Philistines so they gather against Israel, and Israel hides in fear from them.  It is now the 7th day (that Samuel told Saul to wait for in 10:8?).  Saul doesn't wait for Samuel, but offers sacrifice himself.  Samuel arrives in the middle of the service (!) and tells Saul that God will find another king and take Saul's reign away.  Saul musters the army and has only 600 men and 2 sets of metal weapons, for him and Jonathan.

Jonathan leads another attack on the Philistines, unknown to Saul.  He pulls it together and Israel begins to win.  Saul takes a dumb vow that no one may eat until it's over, which wearies the people and lessens the victory.  Jonathan blames Saul.  The people are so hungry they eat meat raw with the blood in it.  Saul blames the people.  He inquires of God who doesn't answer, so he inquires who has sinned.  He is rash again, declaring they will die, not knowing who it is or what they have done.  The people overrule him and spare Jonathan.

Saul fights Philistines his whole life and usually wins.


How this is about Jesus
He leads God's people in battle (Joshua 5:14; Rev. 19:11-16).
He relies on and inquires of God during His battles and temptations.


Application
Leaders need to be decisive but not rash, lest they exasperate their people.
Don't get caught up in a moment (like winning a battle) so that you make dumb decisions that hurt others.
If leaders don't lead, someone else will step up (Jonathan).


"The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people" - 1 Samuel 13:14.

Luke 19

Jesus restores Zacchaeus, but many grumble that He goes to a sinner's house.

Jesus tells the parable of the 10 talents to show the kingdom isn't coming right away, and that we must be good stewards while we wait - fruitful and productive, not lazy.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as King, triumphantly, but some Pharisees oppose Him.  Jesus grieves over Jerusalem's future destruction, drives out of the temple sellers of goods, and teaches in the temple daily.

Application
The common theme to these three sections is that Jesus is acting as ruler of His house and His people, restoring things to how they should be and teaching us how to be in His kingdom.  Restore the lost sinner, drive out wicked behavior, be productive.

4.27.2015

1 Samuel 10-12

Samuel anoints Saul privately and tells him what will happen in specific detail in the next few days.  He is to wait at Gilgal for Samuel for 7 days.  Saul prophesies with a group of prophets, but doesn't tell his family about it or about his anointing.  Samuel inaugurates Saul publicly at Mizpah - some don't support Saul.

The Ammonites besiege Jabesh Gilead, but give them 7 days to seek help from Israel.  Saul raises the army and defeats them.  Israel celebrates and confirms Saul as king at Gilgal.

Samuel says farewell to Israel, asking if he's wronged anyone.  He retells their history and calls down thunder and rain to instill reverence in them for the Lord.  Israel admits they did wrong to ask for a king.  Samuel assures them of pardon from God.


How this is about Jesus
Jesus is anointed King of Israel by the Spirit at His baptism.
He also is approved by the people for a time, after visible victories of healings.
He leads us to repentance and deals mercifully with us afterward (His restoration of Peter, e.g.).


Application
God knows what will happen to us specifically in the next 36 hours (ch. 10)
When God's people call for help, respond and help them! (ch. 11)
Keep short accounts of reconciliation so that no one can accuse you of offense or injustice (ch. 12)

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.

Luke 14

Humility leads to honor, but self-promotion leads to humbling.
We think everyone will be crowding into the Kingdom of God, but many don't respond to the invitation.
Count the cost of entering the Kingdom.  Jesus comes even before family, and you have to carry your cross like He carries His.  If you don't do this, you won't have the flavor you're supposed to as a disciple, like salt does.

4.17.2015

Doctrrine of Scripture

John Frame's Systematic Theology
Chapter 26 - The Nature of Scripture

God's Word is inspired.  A few parts of it were dictated (Ex 34:27; Jer 36:4; Rev 2-3), but for the most part we call it organic inspiration.  The peculiarities of human writers are retained, but they wrote what God wanted.  Inpiration is plenary (all of it, not just parts) and verbal (the words, not just the thoughts/ideas).

God's Word is inerrant (without error) and infallible (incapable of error).  God never deceives or makes a mistake.  Qualities of scripture that don't violate inerrancy: lack of scientific precision, language that is ordinary rather than technical, unrefined grammar, narrative out of chronological order, round numbers, paraphrased quotations, unscientific and imprecise descriptions.

Apparent difficulties with God's Word shouldn't give us any more trouble than they gave Abraham when He was called to sacrifice Isaac (Romans 4:17-21).  We cannot set ourselves up as judges of Scripture, demanding all its issues be resolved to our satisfaction before we accept it.  Our finitude and our sin lead us to have problems with the Bible.

Clarity of Scripture: it isn't equally clear in every part, but it is for everyone.  It is gives us enough to carry out our obligations.

Necessity of Scripture: we need it to know the way of salvation.  This comes through words!

Comprehensiveness of Scripture:  it "addresses all of human life.... calendar, holidays, diet, clothing, economy, employment practices, education, marriage and divorce, and civil government, as well as their prayers and priestly sacrifices" (616).  Not just areas of "spirituality" or salvation!

Sufficiency of Scripture: it has everything "needed for any aspect of human life" (618).  Logic aids in this.  Nothing may be added to the Bible, by new revelation or tradition.  The Spirit is still needed to illuminate the Bible for us.  Common sense is still needed in specific areas - "Scripture doesn't speak specifically to every detail of human life" (621).  But it equips us for EVERY good work (2 Tim. 3:17).  Scripture was sufficient at every point of redemptive history (Noah and David each had enough to follow God), and it will not be added to now that Christ's redemption is complete (Hebrews 1:1-4).  2 Peter 1:3 summarizes this doctrine.

Challenges to sufficiency

  1. Soft charismatic view: prophecy is ongoing, but not on a scriptural level.  But why would the operation of prophecy change from OT to NT?
  2. Doesn't general revelation continue, in creation?  Yes, but special revelation has ceased.
  3. Don't we need Scripture applied to us today?  Yes, not by bare Bible reading or "fresh revelation of the Spirit" but by the eyes of faith perceiving, a la Eph. 1:17 (627).
  4. Preaching of the Word is an extension of revelation.
  5. Protestant traditions: fundamentalism's insistence on abstinence from alcohol, Reformed insistence of strict subscription to confessions without freedom to "rethink the confessions" (628), and worship style - each elevated to the level of Scripture.

Review: The Canterbury Tales


The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Chaucer's tales are delightful and instructive as to human nature.

I read some of these in college but this is the first time I read them ALL. Yes, some are PG-13 or R rated for their bawdy descriptions. Not having read the secondary literature on Chaucer, I may be way off, but...

There's a theme that runs through most of the tales of marital, romantic or sexual relationship and love. How are a husband and wife to relate to each other? We hear lots of stories about how NOT to do it! The henpecked husband, the deceitful spouse, many virtues are considered and how they affect the marriage relationship. Chaunticleer's pride almost gets him killed - will we learn our lesson and reform before it's too late?

There are a few other tales that don't relate to love, but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't cover the seven deadly sins systematically. The tale of the alchemist and how greed leads to a downfall comes to mind.

The last "tale" struck me the most - the parson's sermon. It could almost have been told by a Puritan! He quotes Augustine a great deal, and goes through how to repent of your sins, describing the seven deadly ones and their remedies. There's some Roman error mixed in of course, given his time, such as clericalism and penance (even self-flagellation approved on the second to last page!

But Chaucer's leave-taking last page is a glorious testimony to one seeking the grace of Jesus Christ and forgiveness for his sins, even in his life's work.

Several of the tamer tales are great for younger teens.
The whole lot might want to wait for college or beyond.



View all my reviews

Judges 9-10

Abimelech, one of Gideon's (Jerubbaal) sons, gains political power in Shechem and kills all 70 of his brothers at once, except one named Jotham.  Jotham goes and rebukes Israel for it with a parable on Mt. Gerzim.  He runs away and Abimelech rules for 3 years.  But he loses much support and Gaal comes in and challenges him.  Gaal calls for Shechem to serve the Canaanites who raped Dinah back in Jacob's day (Hamor in Genesis 34:2)!  The mayor of Shechem, Abimelech's second in command Zebul, sends to Abimelech and he conducts a surprise attack on Gaal.  The next day he destroys the whole town of Shechem.  Then he attacks a neighboring city, but a woman throws a millstone down on him and kills him.  This ends the bloodshed, but Jotham's curse has come true.

Tola judges Israel for 23 years from Ephraim.  Jair judges for 22 years from Gilead.
The Ammonites oppress Israel, who cry out to Yahweh in repentance and for deliverance.  God's response is to go ask the gods they've served for years since forsaking Him!  But they are insistent, actually put away those gods, and God "became impatient over the misery of Israel" (10:16).  The armies gather, but Israel wonders who will lead, who will "begin to fight."


How this is about Jesus
  • Jesus is like Jotham in chapter 9 - disobedience leads to oppression leads to infighting among God's people.  This is the story of Israel, and Jotham and Jesus both point out the political silliness and infidelity that result (Matthew 23; 21:13; John 19:11).
  • He also prophesies that Israel won't repent, when they show temporary faith in Him at the triumphal entry.  This pattern happens in Judges 10:10-14, and Joshua 24:19-22.


Application
  • Chaos and violence ensue when a nation forsakes God.  The only real option is a return to oppression and bondage.
  • Mount Gerizim is the place of blessing for Israel (Deut 11:29; 27:12), but their blessing has turned to curses.  What God means for blessing in our lives turns to sources of anxiety and woe, when we aren't faithful.

Jamie Soles - from "Bad Guys 3"
Abimelech killed all his brothers on a single stone
and called himself king
Turnabout - a single stone was sent to take him out
by the hand of a woman

Luke 13

Hearing of martyrs for faith should drive us to repentance ourselves.
But God is patient in giving us opportunity to bear fruit.
Jesus heals on the Sabbath and rebukes those who try to shame Him for it.
When asked how many will be saved, Jesus says it's a narrow door, but focuses on making sure you get in yourself.  They will come from all over (29) and many unexpected people will be saved (30).
When told Herod is out to get Him, He remain focused on His mission to die in Jerusalem.  He loves her, though they will reject Him and be forsaken and desolate.

Application

  • Jesus is not distracted from His mission by the crowds' sensational suggestions about martyrs or Herod or speculating on the number of the redeemed.
  • Get on with the work of your repentance and vocation, and leave the world news and its pundits (and even Christian speculation) to themselves.

4.16.2015

Judges 7-8

God shaves Gideon's 32,000 assembled army down to 300, so He alone gets the glory for the victory.
God gives Gideon another sign assuring Him of victory - the Midianite's dream (think Jacob's ladder, or Joseph's dreams).
In pursuit, fellow Israelites don't help Gideon, afraid he may yet lose.  Gideon punishes them when he returns victorious.
Gideon refuses to set up a dynastic rule by his house over Israel, but takes gold from the Midianite plunder and makes an idol that Israel worships!  You can get the Cananites out of Israel militarily, but it's harder to get Canaanite idolatry out of Israel spiritually.


How this is about Jesus
He also fought a major battle with a very small force (Himself!), winning an unexpected victory.
He received signs and help from God before and during His fights (Matt. 4:11; Luke 22:43).
He will execute kings who resist Him, as Gideon did Oreb and Zeeb (Psalm 110:6).
He got resistance from His own people as He fought for them.
He did NOT give in to idolatry as Gideon did (Matt. 4:10).


Application
Our first response to God's promises and assurances is worship.  Then it's hard work.  (Vss. 15-18)
Success can be dangerous.  It brings more temptations.
Success in outward things (wealth, political freedom, military might) doesn't guarantee faithfulness to God.

4.15.2015

Judges 4-6

Hazor conquers for 20 years, with iron chariots.  Prophetess Deborah tells Barak from God to gather an army.  He is reluctant so doesn't get the glory - Jael does.  Shes crushes the head of Sisera (whose name is related to the word "snake") with a tent stake.  Deborah and Barak sing a song telling of the culture war, military conflict, and mixed response of the tribes of Israel - some fought and some didn't.  There is peace for 40 years.

Midianites conquer for 7 years, and Israel tries to hide their produce.  A prophet rebukes Israel for their disobedience.  An angel calls Gideon to lead a resistance army.  Gideon is very doubtful, but he offers the sacrifice the angels directs and it bursts into flame.  The angel says to pull down his father's Baal and Asherah idols (!).  Gideon does it at night because he is afraid.  When the town sees it and wants to kill him, his father stands up for him.  He gathers Israel to fight and puts out the fleece two nights in a row for a sign from God that he is doing the right thing.

How this is about Jesus
He faced timid Israelite leaders and foreign oppressors in His day, too.
He got a mixed response from Israel to His leadership, like Deborah and Barak.
When He cleansed the temple (pulled down the idols), the leaders got mad.
He did NOT test God by demanding signs.

Application

  • Courage and faith is the ongoing theme.  Barak and Gideon both lacked it, yet God worked through them to save Israel, anyway.  Don't underestimate how much courage it took for their tasks.  Barak had to assemble an army against a stronger force with superior technology.  Gideon had to take down the idols in the public square that everyone loved.  THEN assemble an army against a superior force.
  • Yet Gideon should have had more faith than to test God repeatedly with the fleece.  This is NOT a pattern for us to follow - Gideon had God's Word saying NOT to test God (Deuteronomy 6:16).  When God says He is with us, we may not think up some extra test to confirm "Is God with us or not?" (Exodus 17:7).

4.14.2015

The Covenant of Works

Part III: Anthropology (Man) and Covenant Theology
Chapter 14 - Covenant of works

Covenant
We turn to describing Adam's relationship with God before the fall.  Most Puritans called it a covenant of works.  Though the Bible never calls it a covenant, the essential elements of a covenant are there.  You have an agreement with promises for keeping it or punishments for not keeping it.

Adam had the Law
The moral law was written on Adams heart.  Most Puritans saw Adam as created in a covenant, signified by the two trees in the garden.  The punishment is not just a test, but is intended to bring Gospel out of law.  This is Samuel Rutherford's idea.

What else Adam had
What was God obliged to provide Adam as His creature in covenant?  Goodwin says,
Ability to be faithful, but not a guarantee of perseverance.
The Holy Spirit, though not in an unforfeit-able way like Christians today have Him.
Faith - different from faith today in that ours is supernatural and Christ focused, but Adam had faith, too.
Reward - most Puritans thought the reward promised was eternal life in heaven, but there are some good reasons Goodwin gives to doubt this.  As he was, Adam was not incorruptible, so how could he attain incorruptible life in heaven, without Christ?

Grace and Merit
Most Puritans viewed grace more broadly than just redemptive favor that deals with our demerited condition.  So they saw the covenant of works as a gracious covenant.  God initiated it graciously, promised a reward that surpassed strict justice for obedience.

The Fall
Adam did not have grace granted to him from God to persevere in obedience.  Somehow, God decreed this Fall without being the author of sin.  Adam is responsible.  The Fall made Adam guilty before God, and defaces and shatters His image in us.  This guilt and corruption is imputed to us through Adam, as Romans 5 says.

Review: 1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians
1 Corinthians by David E. Garland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Encyclopedic - covers most theories on every passage.
Format also helps glean the main point and application, too.
Solid for sermon preparation.



View all my reviews

Review: 1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary


1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary
1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary by Anthony C. Thiselton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



75% verse by verse exegesis. 25% suggested questions for application.
Decent exegesis. Application was spotty - sometimes insightful.



View all my reviews

Review: 1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians
1 Corinthians by H.A. Ironside

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Pretty good on individual application, though pietistic at times. Off base when his dispensationalism comes out. Strong on fundamentals against liberalism.



View all my reviews

Review: Life in the Light of the Gospel - Studies in 1 Corinthians


Life in the Light of the Gospel - Studies in 1 Corinthians
Life in the Light of the Gospel - Studies in 1 Corinthians by William Brownson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Solidly evangelical sermonettes. Good study questions for application at the end of each chapter. Good resource for illustrations or application in preaching.



View all my reviews

Judges 1-3

Judah conquers more cities, as do Simeon and Benjamin.
The 6 other tribes do not drive out Canaanites.  God rebukes Israel for it.
Joshua dies and Israel worships Canaanite gods.

Pattern of the book:
So God has the Canaanites defeat them militarily and economically.  God saves them by temporary leaders (judges, or deliverers), but Israel keeps idolizing Canaanite gods and intermarrying with Canaanites.

Mesopotamia conquers and God raises Othniel, Caleb's nephew, to defeat them.  Peace for 40 years.
Moab conquers for 18 years, but God gives Ehud courage to kill Eglon and raise Israel's army to defeat Moab.  Peace for 80 years.
Philistines attack but Shamgar leads a successful resistance.

How this is about Jesus
He is our permanent deliverer
He saves sinners, not because they stop sinning but because God wants to save them.
He wins an unexpected victory at the cross, as Ehud unexpectedly defeats Eglon in his bedroom.

Application
Unfaithfulness generally leads to economic bondage or oppression or defeat, and political servitude.
The judges needed courage to act, knowing that action would bring reprisal from stronger Canaanites around.  Culture wars take courage today, too.


Summary verse
Judges 2:16-17
"the LORD raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do so."

Luke 12

Jesus teaches.
Do not fear man, but God.
Do not covet or lay up treasure to trust on earth.
Do not worry or be anxious about your money - seek God's kingdom instead.
Be ready for the master's return.  Don't get indulgent or lazy.  You know He's returning, so you're responsible.
My time is almost here, and I'm distressed until it's done.  Division will result, but people can't see what's happening.

Application
Keep an eternal perspective when dealing with people (fear of man) and money.
Don't let yourself grow lazy and selfish, forgetting you have a Lord who will return for you.

The Day Lincoln was shot

Justin Taylor has lots of pictures and trivia about Lincoln's assassination.
I learned a lot, especially about John Booth.
Lincoln's wife "Mary Todd Lincoln was unpleasant company."

4.13.2015

Joshua 22-24

The tribes settling east of the Jordan return home, building an altar of witness on the way.  Israel hears about it and gets ready to fight them, assuming it's an idolatrous altar.  The tribes assure them they are loyal to God - the altar is not for another god or to sacrifice on at all, but for Israel to remember in the future that the eastern tribes are part of Israel, too.

Joshua charges the leaders to stay loyal to God, who has kept all His promises to them.
Joshua gathers all Israel and tells them their story, covenanting with them to serve God, not other gods around them.  Joshua and Eleazar die and are buried in Canaan.  The bones of Joseph are buried with Abraham, Issac and Jacob at Shechem.

How this is about Jesus
He ministers in Bethsaida a fair bit, which is east of the Jordan.
He leaves out none of the lost sheep of Israel.
He tells Israel their story, too, convicting them of hypocrisy and idolatry.
He is buried, but raised to life again.

Application
Joshua ends with deaths and burials and charges to be faithful to God.  There are already hints of disloyalty and idolatry coming in future generations, though.  Note the futility: earthly resolve and warnings and charges cannot guarantee obedience - we still go astray and die.
Israel has rest, but not ultimate rest (Hebrews 3-4).  Do not find your security in your own doings, deeds and works, but in God's.

4.12.2015

Joshua 19-21

The rest of the tribes get their land, and Joshua gets his at the very end.
Israel appoints six cities of refuge, where accidental murderers can be safe from family avengers until judgment is made.  Levites receive cities in each tribe, the first going to Aaron in Judah and Benjamin (Hebron, here, but Jerusalem is on the border of Judah and Benjamin, the future capital of Israel).

How this is about Jesus
Jesus sits down to rest only after accomplishing our rest, like Joshua.
He is the greater high priest than the priest-judges in the cities of refuge, who accomplishes perfect justice and mercy for us, setting us free from the punishing avenger.

Application
Give others rest before you take it.
Be fair in your judgments.
Support those appointed to rule, judge and teach according to God's Word.

Luke 11

Jesus teaches His disciples to pray with the Lord's Prayer.  God is good and willing to give good gifts to His children, so ask with persistence.

Jesus is fighting and plundering Satan.  Evil spirits can come back with a vengeance after a superficial victory.

Jesus is greater than Jonah or Solomon, so He isn't going to hide or mute His message.  He rebukes the Pharisees for focusing on externals while leaving their hearts defiled and wicked, focusing on minor points of the law while neglecting the main points of love and justice.  This results in pride (verse 43) and irrelevance (44).  The scribes/lawyers are also to blame for loading the people with many obligations they don't think they have to keep themselves, and for killing the prophets while paying lip service to them with memorials.

Application
Our attitude toward God when we pray is critical.  Do we trust that He is a kind heavenly Father?
In your fight against the evil one, stand guard with vigilance.  Don't presume one victory ensures all victories in the future.

Jesus is greater than any other biblical figure, so pay attention when He speaks and heed His rebukes.

4.11.2015

Joshua 16-18

Land for Ephradim and Manasseh described.  When the can't drive out the Canaanites they complain that they don't have enough room.  Joshua has no sympathy for this. Drive them out!

Israel sets up the tabernacle at Shiloh.  The rest of Israel seems reluctant to take possession.  Benjamin's lot is described.

How this is about Jesus
He sustained his ministry through prayer instead of complaining.

Application
Perseverance and courage are essential to the Christian life.

4.10.2015

The Sinfulness of Sin

Part III: Anthropology (Man) and Covenant Theology
Chapter 13 - The Sinfulness of Sin

Sin involves guilt and corruption.

Guilt
God made man upright.  Adam had God's image by nature, but also needed God's grace to obey Him.  They had the power to avoid sin, but also the ability to choose sin.

Imputed from Adam.  Romans 5:12 makes clear that all men sinned when Adam sinned.  We were all accounted guilty immediately in his sin, not just as we copied Adam ourselves.  "What Adam did we did" (207), just as Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek while still in the loins of Abraham (Heb. 7:9).

Corruption


The puritans saw sin as pervading every aspect of our being.  Our original sin, inherited from Adam, causes our actual sins.  The unregenerate are prone to different sins, based on their constitution,social standing, and opportunities.  Their intellect is sinful, not just their will.  Any natural gifts and abilities they have "do not compensate for the damage done by sin."(211).

Application
For the believer, a "formidable struggle" remains with sin (Rom 7:21; Heb 12:1).  Sin remains rooted in the heart, which is deceptive and wicked.  But we are free from sin's dominion (Rom 6:11; 8:1).  We get rid of sin in our lives day by day (mortification).  This is a consequent condition of the covenant: "if people claim to be Christians but do not mortify their sins, they are lost" (215).  This does not mean we can be perfect in this life, but we must be killing sin, or it will be killing us.  We need more studies of sin today.

Pulpit, Pence, and Pale Praise for Preachers

On the Indiana religious freedom mob indignation:
"We need to stand up and speak clearly about the biblical teaching on sex, marriage, and family. It’s the leaders of the Church who should be attacked in public as “homophobic,” not politicians like Mike Pence who are trying to do the right thing."  Edward Feser


The pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow. ― Herman Melville, Moby Dick

People have an idea that the preacher is an actor on a stage and they are the critics, blaming or praising him. What they don't know is that they are the actors on the stage; he (the preacher) is merely the prompter standing in the wings, reminding them of their lost lines. ― Søren Kierkegaard

Joshua 13-15

Boundaries of the tribes described.
2.5 tribes east of the Jordan are roughly across the Sea of Galilee.
Levites received no land inheritance, except for cities and small pastures.
Caleb asks for Hebron, to drive out the rest of the giants.  He is 85.
Judah's land is described, and they take many well known cities, but not Jerusalem.

How this is about Jesus

  • He heals the demon possessed man across the Sea of Galilee, beginning to retake that land for God.
  • Christian Levites sold the land they had after Pentecost, since Jesus promised that the meek shall inherit the earth.  The land promise is extended to all the world; the nation or land of Israel is no longer a unique promised blessing from God for His people, anymore than all the nations.
  • Jesus comes from the tribe of Judah and the lineage of Caleb.  He defeats THE giant that remains in the land and in our hearts...


Application

  • Receiving blessings from God leads to work.  Surveying, fighting, stewardship, etc.
  • Don't think you are too old to be of service to the Lord - look to Caleb's example.
  • There will always be things you don't get accomplished, that have to wait for future generations, like Jerusalem in this text.

Luke 10

Jesus sends out 72 disciples to preach, heal and exorcise demons on their own, with His authority.  If they reject the apostles, they are rejecting Jesus.  When they come back excited, Jesus reminds them that it's more important to be in the kingdom themselves than to do great things.  The kingdom is revealed and accepted by the unexpected.  Many have longed for it to come, and now it is here.

A scribe knows the two greatest commandments, but wants to make sure he's on the way to heaven, so he asks who his neighbor is.  Jesus tells the good Samaritan parable.  Help whoever needs it that comes across your path, no matter their race, gender, etc.

Martha is harried and frustrated that Mary would sit and listen to Jesus instead of get the supper ready with her.  Jesus says Mary has chosen well.

Application

  • Give more thought to your own kingdom membership than excitement to "power encounters" with demons.
  • Obedience to God involves compassion to anyone in need.
  • There is a time to do what needs doing (practical stuff like housework, cooking, going to work), and a time to stop all that and listen to Jesus.

4.09.2015

Luke 9

Jesus sends the twelve out to preach and heal and cast out demons on their own.  Herod hears about it and is haunted by John.  The twelve come back, and Jesus feeds 5000 miraculously.  Jesus clarifies His identity (the Christ) and His mission (crucifixion) with His disciples.  He is then transfigured, as if God Himself confirms this clarification.  After this, and a sensational exorcism, the disciples cannot hear that He will die.  They argue about who is the greatest, instead, and get condescending to those not with Jesus.

Jesus claims to surpass Elijah's ministry: 
  • greater commitment from disciples (not burying father first or looking back from the plow), 
  • more gracious or gentle ministry (not calling down fire), 
  • less comforts than Elijah had (a place to lay his head at the brook)


Application

To be a disciple of Jesus we must know his mission, buy into it, and be committed to following Him.

Luke 8

Jesus' regular entourage is the twelve apostles, and some women of means who fund their living.  Jesus tells the parable of the sower, and explains that the Word is received differently, but bears fruit abundantly in some.  Jesus rejects His family's claim on Him above His ministry.  He calms a storm, heals a demon possessed man in Gentile country (which wrecks the local economy and scares the locals!) and heals a woman back in Israel.  This last healing causes a delay which results in the death of Jairus' daughter, but Jesus is not subject to the march of time and death anymore than He is to the wind, waves, or demons - He raises her from death, too.

Application

We need not fear, for Jesus our Lord commands the fruitfulness of His Word, just as He commands nature, time, diseases, demons and death.

Joshua 10-12

"For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, and that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, as the LORD had commanded Moses" - Joshua 11:20.


Canaanites attack the Gibeonites, for surrendering to Israel.  Gibeon appeals to Israel for help and Israel defeats 5 kings at once (Jerusalem is one). Joshua asks God to make the sun and moon stand still, so he has more time to defeat them all, and God does it. Joshua makes a public example of the 5 kings, to encourage Israel in their mission. Israel also conquers all of Canaan, except some Anakim in Gaza and Gath (Goliath's town).  They came out to fight Israel.  Chapter 12 lists kings and peoples conquered.

How this is about Jesus
He commands nature to defeat evil forces, too (Mark 4:35-41).
He conquers kings that fight against Him (Psalm 2:8-12).

Application
  • It is interesting how similar to ISIS beheading videos Joshua 10:22-26 is.  God did approve Joshua doing it, but it is a brutal atrocity without God's warrant.
  • Today we conquer the land by conversion, not killing.

Joshua 7-9

Israel goes on to attack the next city, Ai, but Achan sinned by keeping some of Jericho's first fruit for himself, so God stymies Israel.  He also enables Israel to discover the sin, and Joshua deals with it faithfully.  Then they defeat Ai, and Joshua does what God said to do in Deuteronomy 27: write the law on Mt. Ebal, and hold a ceremony of blessing and cursing based on the law.  A Canaanite tribe, the Gibeonites, trick Israel into letting them live.  Joshua forgets to seek Gods will in this, and the people complain.

How this is about Jesus
  • Tempted to take for Himself as He began to conquer the land (fulfill His three year ministry), Jesus does not give in, when Achan did.
  • He gives blessings in the beatitudes and curses upon the Pharisees in Matthew 23.
  • He stays one with His Father's will, especially in Gethsemane, instead of doing what He wants.


Application
  • Secret sins will stifle spirituality.  God will see to it that the secret is discovered, but it's up to you to respond faithfully in repentance and/or discipline.
  • Don't deceive others for self interest.  Don't forget to ask God and consult His Word before making major decisions.


Joshua 4-6

Israel and Joshua set up stones as two altars, one in the riverbed, another on the west side, to remember and tell their children what God did.  Joshua circumcised the whole nation (they hadn't been circumcised for 40 years!), and they keep the Passover.  God's Commander Jesus appears to Joshua, and claims a higher role than Joshua.  God has Jericho's walls crumble just by Israel marching around it.  They destroy everything except Rahab and her family.  As the first fruits of the land all the plunder and people of Jericho belongs to God, not the people.

How this is about Jesus
  • He also gives His people signs as they are about to be commissioned to disciple nations.  Instead of circumcision and Passover, we now have baptism and the Lord's Supper.
  • He is merciful to Gentiles with faith.


Application
  • We must remember Gods mighty acts for us, through the signs He has given us.
  • We are under authority, no matter how high a leadership role we are given.
  • We must fight God's way, even if it seems strange (2 Cor. 10:3-6).


Joshua 1-3

God speaks encouragement to Joshua.  He prepares to invade, and Israel agrees to follow him.  He sends two spies to the first city of Jericho.  A prostitute helps and hides them (and tells a blatant but justified lie in the process), believing their God to be real, and reporting that all Jericho is quaking in their boots over Israel.  They promise to save her.  Joshua has Israel cross the Jordan, the ark going before them and dividing the waters.

How this is about Jesus
Joshua is a preview of Christ.  God speaks to Jesus, too, at the Jordan river at His baptism.  He then invades Israel and gathers an army of disciples who help Him (including some unexpected sinners).

Application

When we interact with Canaanites (unbelievers) we should not be discouraged and expect unexpected help.  Our task is to be faithful to our leaders and our God.

Deuteronomy 32-34

Moses composes a song telling Israel's story so far.  God saved Israel but they went after other gods.  God was jealous and takes vengeance... on Israel's adversaries (not on Israel!).  The same day Moses delivers this song to Israel, God sends him up Mt. Nebo to die.

Moses blesses each tribe of Israel, and the nation, as a whole.  God has saved them and will avenge them.  God shows Moses the land of Canaan, and he dies.  Joshua succeeds him but no prophet has come like Moses, since then.

How this is about Jesus
  • He tells parables that tell Israel's story, too.
  • He will take vengeance on the enemies of His people (2 Thess 1:8-10).
  • He blesses the apostles as He ascends to heaven, as Moses blessed the tribes before ascending the mountain (Luke 24:50-51).
  • He is the prophet greater than Moses, of whom Moses spoke - Deut 18:15; Heb 3:3)


Application
Accept God's story of your life: you are a rebel He is saving.

You will die before you attain all you seek here on earth.  Live by faith.

4.07.2015

A Time for Silence?

Is it time for the church to mute its message on sexual issues?

No way.

"Winsomeness is a good servant and a terrible master."

4.06.2015

Deuteronomy 30-31

When you repent of going astray I will restore you.
You can keep this law, so choose life.

How this is about Jesus
He saves the lost.  Zacchaeus, Matthew, woman at well.
He is the life.
He commissions apostles to go take the land and disciple the nations.
He read and kept the law.

Application
Repentance is always possible, even after great sin.
Pass on the faith to the next generation.

Disposable People?

Pretty good explanation of why abortion is not okay.

4.03.2015

Deuteronomy 28-29

If you obey God, He will bless you in every way you can think of.
If you disobey Him, you will be cursed in every way, so that you'll be driven mad and want to die.  (53 verses describing this!)  You'll be sold as slaves back to Egypt.

God covenants with all Israel standing before Moses, through Moses, and with their future descendants.  Disobedience will bring curses, future generations will wonder what awful thing happened, and they'll be uprooted from the land.


How this is about Jesus
Jesus took this curse on Himself at the cross.  While forgiven Christians may still face consequences for their sins (often to sanctify us), there is no condemnation or punishment for its own sake.
At Jesus' trial, the Jews historically echo this, as they willingly take responsibility for the blood of Jesus onto their heads and their children's heads.


Application
Living in God's ways generally brings prosperity and blessing, though not always.
This chapter applies only to Israel then, as it speaks of uprooting them from the land.  God exiled them according to His promise.  This is not a curse He holds over every nation's head for disobeying Him.  However, disobedience will naturally bring bondage to others: lenders, tyrants, etc.

Let us love obedience to God (the root) more than freedom (the fruit).
Let us obey from gratitude that we have been freed from guilt before God, not from desperation to stay politically or financially free.

Robert Schuller, RIP

So, Dave Ramsey is a pretty good finance advisor, but a lousy theologian.
He gave a glowing eulogy of Schuller, who died recently, on his show yesterday.  He says there's a difference between prosperity theology and positive thinking.  This is true, but both need some correction.  Dave calls critics of positive thinking Pharisees.  But it is not Pharisaical to criticize a preacher who commits to never mention sin in the pulpit - such criticism is biblical.  Dave defends Joel Osteen, which is a real problem in my book.  Of course we can overdo it to worm theology and get stuck there, without living the freedom of forgiveness.  But positive thinking doesn't prosper you automatically.

Al Mohler's review of Schuller was great (starts at about 13:55).  He even quotes from my seminary president, Dennis Voskuil, who wrote a book critiquing Schuller.  To call Voskuil, who I interacted with personally plenty, a Pharisee is laughable.  For ministers of the Gospel to dilute and downplay our sinfulness before a holy God for popularity's sake is tragic.

Christ's Descent into Hell

Where was Jesus between His death and resurrection?

He tells the thief on the cross that he will be with Him in paradise that day, so He went to Heaven, right?  But the Apostles' Creed and 1 Peter 3:18-22 seem to say that He was in Hell.

Hm.

Here are all the options I've heard about:

  1. Calvin said Jesus experienced Hell on the cross, forsaken by His Father.  The weakness of this is that it messes up the chronology of the Creed: died, buried, descended to Hell.  Did Jesus descend to Hell, die, then burial?  If so, it avoids all the messy questions below!
  2. Jesus went to Hell briefly to announce His victory, then went to paradise (Heaven) with the thief on the cross.
  3. Jesus went to Hell to announce His victory, and was there until His resurrection.
  4. Jesus went to Hell to announce His victory, and brought all believing saints from Sheol up to Heaven.
  5. Jesus went to Hell for a final fight with demons and Satan.


Paradise
Most people assume this means Heaven.  However, in the Greek worldview, paradise is the good section of the underworld where the good dead go.  This also seems to fit with the Old Testament view of Sheol.  When OT believers died, we assume they went straight to heaven, but the OT doesn't talk that way (Job 17:16; Psalm 16:10; 86:13; Prov. 1:12; Sheol and Hades appear to be the same, when you compare Isaiah 14:14-15 with Matthew 11:23).  The OT doesn't mention purgatory, or a waiting time or soul sleep, of course, and what I'm advocating here doesn't either.  Once they died, they were conscious and blessed, but not fully united with Christ, nor in the immediate presence of God.  That waited for the arrival of Christ in 1 Peter 3:19-20.  This theory is a real possibility, but I'm not going to die fighting on this hill, either.  Ecclesiastes 12:7 looks like the strongest argument against it (our spirit returns to God when we die).  Over at the Gospel Coalition, Gavin Ortlund repeats the standard Protestant belief - "the idea that Old Testament saints were consigned to some form of hell prior to Christ’s death and resurrection... is not acceptable."  I'd like to see some reasons why, beyond rejecting purgatory, a state of limbo, etc.


Plundering Hell
IF Jesus went to Hell, He either (1) only announced His victory to demons, or (2) also took believers with Him to His Father (assuming from above that they were there!).  George Grant takes the latter view, and he is a Protestant like Gavin Ortlund, who deliberately rejects purgatory, soul sleep and all the standard Roman or liberal errors.  Grant quotes Ephesians 4:8-10, which also mentions Christ's descent into Hell.  The captivity Christ leads out and up are the OT saints.  I take Grant's view, remembering that this is not a "second chance" for those who died outside of Christ.  His preaching in Hell is not to gain converts, but to announce His victory, the release of the OT saints to greater glory with Him, and the condemnation of the rest of Sheol's inhabitants.  Jesus meant this when He said, "how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house" (Matthew 12:29).


Fighting?
I've recently heard of view #5 above and it must be rejected.  It arises out of charismatic contexts that love extra-biblical, sensational experiences of spiritual warfare.  The idea is that Jesus engaged in a further fight or temptation with Satan after He descended to Hell.  This denies the finality of the cross.  Jesus descended to Hell as a conqueror at this point, not one with more fights to wage.


Conclusion
So my preference is for view 4 above, while not denying Calvin's view that Christ suffered the ultimate torment and punishment of Hell on the cross: forsaken by His Father.  We should keep this line in the Apostles' Creed.  Although we don't know the details about it, it reminds us that Christ won a victory over Satan and evil that we cannot fully comprehend.


Colossians 2:13-15
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it."