Monthly Archives: December 2018

Peace and Rest–thoughts on Psalm 19

Thoughts on reading Douglas Kelly’s Systematic theology and Psalm 19…

The heavens declare the glory of God. God is invisible. He is not accessible to our senses. Our eyes do not see him, for he is not made of matter. We do not hear him, for his passing does not ruffle the wind into sound waves.

And yet, God delights to reveal himself. How does God reveal himself to us?

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God’s invisible attributes are seen in creation (Romans 1). The colors of the world direct us to look to the one who created the colors. The stars in the sky direct us to the one who scattered them.

The earth is perfectly placed – during the day, the sun shines and the stars are hidden. The stars are greater than the sun, but they are far away. And yet, they are not too far away. They “come out” at night when the sun retreats. And God’s wisdom and beauty and love are seen. He scatters Pleiades and Orion and ursa minor, so the hearts of men will rejoice. They look to the stars and see the familiar, the stability of the universe, they find their bearings.

For what reason does Mars sparkle red, other than for the delight of men and women? For what reason does the eye see in color, other than the delight of the children of mankind? There is far more to creation than the mindless pursuit of sex and food and reproduction. The law of the jungle doesn’t explain the platypus and the rainbow and the snowflake.

The heavens declare the glory of God.

God is supremely beautiful, but our eyes only perceive matter. So God created the world to reflect his beauty and his goodness.

The most common colors in all of creation are green and blue, the colors of rest and peace. How different would the world of men be if the sky shone red instead of blue or if grass was white instead of green.

God created the world to be a home for humankind, for man to rest in peace and rejoice.

The devil hates rest and seeks to destroy it. Shame and fear and guilt pound red in the eyes, the voice of enemies shout in black and white – nobody loves you. You are fat and stupid and worthless. God can’t even stand you. Look at you. You’re a disgrace. Shame on you.

Children of God, this isn’t the voice of God. God calls in love – come to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Find rest for your souls. God is a God of peace and desires that you find rest in Him. He who painted the earth in greens and blues also says, “Come unto me, and rest.” Cannot the one who put the stars in the sky to direct you north and south also guide you to the safe harbor across the Jordan of death? Does not the one who made the meadow know how to give peace and rest?

He leads me beside the still waters. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul.

The sky curves down and meets the earth. The sun descends into twilight. The horizon bursts into colors – blue and orange and purple and red. How beautiful it is when heaven meets the earth! And how much greater is the one who painted the sunset with the word of his mouth! He made the stars also! What a universe of wonder in such a few words!

How can the One who created the brook and the water-lilies be unable or unwilling to do us good?

Cease from warring against him. He became flesh in our Lord Jesus Christ. Immanuel. God with us. We could see him, hear him, watch him, hold him. They watched him eat and drink. They watched him sleep. And then he woke up and commanded the sea to be still. And there was peace.

This is the one who calls to you. Peace, little one. Be still. Your sins are forgiven. Your iniquities are pardoned. No one can harm you under my wings. Peace. Be still.

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A Greater King

From the archives

My Only Comfort

I’ve been thinking lately about a challenging passage in the Bible. I think that too often, we read the stories of the Old Testament as quaint fables of old, or stories of another people and another time and we wonder what it has to do with us today.

But those stories are written records of God’s redemptive history. The written accounts of the Old Testament are given to us by God to teach us how God has prepared the world for his Redeemer, who would save his people from their sins.

The disturbing account that I have been meditating on is found in 2 Samuel 24, and the parallel account is in 1 Chronicles 21.

If you haven’t read these accounts lately, or if you have never read these accounts, please do so before you read my comments. I’m just a guy trying to point you to Christ…

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Put Christ back into Christmas

‘Tis the season for the hysterical fearful to retreat into their separatist caves and worry about the secularization of the Christmas Season.

This isn’t a post about that. Sorry.

(Just one pet peeve – the “X” in Xmas is the Greek letter chi, and is the abbreviation for “Christ.” It has been since the first century. So everyone relax.)

OK. Now I’m done with that particular pet peeve.

So, here is what I would like to advise. Put Christ back into Christmas.

John wrote,

No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. (1Jo 4:12)

It is God’s will that Christ be seen in the world NOT by images, not in words only, not in traditionalism or icons, but in love.

No one has seen God. Not in a nativity scene, or a living Christmas tree, or in your very thoughtful rebuke of the poor Starbucks barista, but in love.

YOUR love, as a Christian, in particular. We love, because he first loved us.

So put Christ back into Christmas by your love.

Give a smile and an encouraging word. Look into the eyes of that image-bearer of God that is different than you are, and show her respect and dignity and honor, because Christ died for you.

Give a glass of cold water, clothe the naked, feed the hungry. Give a kind word, a timely prayer, a good tip, a thoughtful gift.

Put off your fear, your anger, your contempt. Quit fretting about your neighbor, and love them. Quit ranting about “Happy Holidays” and “Xmas” and trees and lights and malls and commerce, and rejoice.

Be cheerful, be happy – for God now accepts your works. Be at peace, for nothing can take you from his hands.

Look at the beauty of the lights and the joy of the trees and snow. (Or fake snow, for Northern California people).

When you come to a work party or a family dinner, does everyone say, “Ugh. That guy”? Or do they rejoice, because you are coming?

Help people walk a little taller. Bear a burden. Be kind. Be the kind of person that people want to be around. Be generous.

Put Christ back into YOUR Christmas. Love one another fervently, for God is love.

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Out of Egypt I have called my son

There is a very perplexing verse in Matthew’s gospel:

13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
  14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
  15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. (Matt. 2:13-15)

In verse 15, Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that this event in the life of the child Jesus fulfilled a prophecy. He quotes that prophecy as “Out of Egypt, have I called my son.”

One of the best things that you could do when reading the scriptures is look up the passages that the New Testament apostles quote. It is quite enlightening to see how they interpreted the scripture. They didn’t do the modern “proof-texting” – where you take a verse out of context and twist it to apply to some point you want to make.

So here is the interesting bit. Matthew is quoting Hosea 11:1. It is the only passage he COULD be quoting. In Hosea’s context, God is rebuking Israel for rejecting the great privilege that he had given them. He loved them, and redeemed them from Egypt. But even more than that, he gave them the great honor of being called the son of God. Here is how the  passage reads:

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
  2 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
  3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. (Hos. 11:1-3).

This is quite perplexing until you understand how the apostles viewed the sacred scriptures. What does this passage have to do with the child Jesus fleeing to Egypt from the wrath of Herod? Does Matthew know how to interpret scripture? Could the original readers of Hosea have known that this was a prophecy about the Christ?

Is Matthew’s hermeneutic (the science of the interpretation of scripture) wrong?

This passage always puzzled me. I knew that Matthew was not a modern preacher just picking a verse that reminded him of what he wanted to say. He was a far better expositor than that. More than that, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, inerrant and infallible. We can trust his words.

So here is the question – in what sense did the historical event of Jesus returning from Egypt as a child fulfill Hosea 11:1.

The heart of the gospel is this: God is seeking a people for his name, a people who worship him in spirit and in truth. Adam was created in God’s image, and was called the son of God (Luke 3:38). But Adam failed.

Israel, the descendants of Abraham, were delivered from Egypt to be the peculiar people of God, His own special treasure (see Exodus 19). They also were called the sons of God. But they failed spectacularly, which is what the book of Hosea is about.

Will God’s bride be forever lost? This is the tension in Hosea. How can God be just and loving at the same time? How can God love Israel, when the very nature of Israel is an abomination to the Lord. They are idolaters, oppressors and thieves. They are a nation of adulterers. God cannot abide sin. He cannot pretend to be pleased with their human sacrifices to demons, their calf worship, their adultery and murder. And yet, he loved them.

Since God cannot abide sin, but is angry with the wicked every day; since we are all sinners and come short of the glory of God; since we are all covenant breakers like our father Adam, and like the nation of Israel; how will God fulfill his desire to redeem a people for his name. God desires a nation to call his own special people. My son.

The answer is found in the book of Galatians, primarily in the 3rd and 4th chapters:

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
  5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
  6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
  7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal. 4:4-7).

Jesus was the son promised to Abraham. Jesus was the seed. Jesus is the Israel of God. He is the one who succeeded where Israel failed.

So it was necessary that he be tempted in all points, like as we were, that we might be saved IN HIM. This included being “redeemed out of Egypt”. He is the reality, and the nation of Israel was the shadow. The whole miraculous event of the Exodus was given to us for one purpose – so that when the Christ came out of Egypt, we would know for certain that “Out of Egypt have I called my Son.”

The exodus was about Christ. Not about the twelve tribes. It was about the people of God.

Jesus is the Israel of God. For this reason, immediately after his baptism, Jesus is taken to the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He is there 40 days, re-living the 40 years that Israel spent being tested in the wilderness.

The temptations were the same. God is not good. Put him to the test. Force him into your box. And if you just bow to the calves and worship me, I will give you your heart’s desire. Israel fell to each one of these temptations.

Moses rebukes them in Deuteronomy chapters 6-8 and calls them to repentance. They should have remembered who God was, Moses said. They should have known.

Jesus resists each temptation by quoting this exact passage 3 times. He remembered his God. He obeyed perfectly. He was the true and faithful son of God.

We know also from scripture that Jesus is the eternal, natural son of God which we can never share. He is truly divine, of the same essence as the Father, and we will always be human. But that is another post.

Matthew is reminding us that Jesus is the son of God in another sense. He is the one who obeyed and loved perfectly, who was faithful even until death. He was the well-beloved son, succeeded where Israel and Adam and each one of us continually failed.

And the whole point is this – if we believe the words of the apostles, by faith we are also sons of God, and heirs according to the promise. It is Christ who is the Israel of God. And when we believe in him, we are also children of the same promises. Whether we are Jew of Gentile, male or female, bond or free, in Christ we are also “delivered from Egypt”, “obedient in all things” and the “well-beloved sons of God.”

That is the gospel. It is why the book is called the “Good news according to Matthew”.

The nation of Israel is not the true Israel. The Gentiles are not the true Israel. Only Christ is the true Israel. And all who are ingrafted into that tree by faith are also the true Israel of God, and heirs according to the promise. The promise that “all Israel will be saved” is a promise that God will also call Israel to himself by faith in Christ and not forget any one of his elect. He has not cast off the physical Israel, but he will call them also in Christ, when the fulness of the Gentiles are brought in.

And if you believe on the Lord Jesus, you also are children of Abraham, just as scripture says, because He was a child of Abraham. This promise is yours in Christ, the true seed of Abraham. This is why the New Testament begins with a genealogy – Jesus is the true seed of Abraham, the true seed of David. He became flesh for us, that we might become the sons of God – each one of us.

And thus was fulfilled what John the Baptizer said, “He is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

There is a lot here. Think on these things….

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