Posts for January 2011
5 Posts found

Amos 3.8, Luke 5.8 – Fear of God
Posted: 22 January 2011 in Amos, Luke

The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

God is the Lord, and we are but servants.
The Lord God hath spoken, and who can but prophesy?

This kind of fear, and deep reverence for God, is one of the things which seems to be missing in our present day. This doesn’t apply just to atheists, or even to those indifferent to Christianity. Christians abound whose conception of God seems to ressemble that of a cuddly Father Christmas figure, rather than that of a God who is Lord of all Creation. Peter’s response, in the verse quoted above, would seem to be a response more appropriate to a sinful creature standing before his Lord.

This lack of reverence, or fear of, God probably arises from an idea which seems to be prevalent in modern theology – namely that our welfare, and not his own glory, is God’s number one concern. I remember reading the Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, saying precisely that. Quote:

God wills nothing but man’s advantage, man’s true greatness and his ultimate dignity. This then is God’s will: man’s well being. (Hans Kung, On Being a Christian)

How he manages to get that from the pages of the Bible, I don’t know. In any case, it seems to have escaped his notice that there is an entire universe out there, beyond this pokey little planet, and it is all there for the glory of God.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev 4.11)

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Nehemiah 13.15-18 and Amos 2.4 – Judgment & Redemption
Posted: 21 January 2011 in Amos, Nehemiah

In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked:

Nehemiah need not have been surprised at what happened as soon as his back was turned, because fallen humanity can abandon the worship of God without a moment’s thought. This is true, even though the worship of God is the purpose for which we were created. It is especially true when we are in full pirsuit of that most seductive of all idols – money. A few centuries earlier Amos had been warning his hearers that disobedience to God brings judgment. To take this warning on board, and to realise that we stand under judgment, is to comprehend the extent to which we all stand in need of God’s mercy, and of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

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John 3.17-19, 12.37-41
The God whe determines the destinies of men
Posted: 20 January 2011 in John

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

A theme to be found in all four gospels is that Jesus will bring division. Some will recognise him for whom he really is, and respond accordingly, whilst others, afflicted with some sort of spiritual blindness, will reject him; thereby bringing judgment on themselves.

It may be wondered, from whence does this spiritual blindness arise? and the second passage quoted above gives the answer. It arises, ultimately, from the will of God. He who governs all things, according to the good pleasure of his own will, has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts. Why God should do this is something known only to himself (although the New Testament contains clues). If this is felt to be an unwelcome truth, that is understandable. But a God who did not have control over all things, essentially leaving Creation go its own way, would hardly be particularly awesome, or worthy of our worship.

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Isaiah 28.9-13 – Taking God’s word seriously
Posted: 18 January 2011 in Isaiah

Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

The word of God is not difficult to understand, and it is meant as much for the most lowly educated as it is for the most highly educated. But if God speaks, and we do not like what we hear, we can always pretend that it is difficult to understand. We can dissect it with a surgeon’s scalpel, subject it to casuistic examination – “here a little and there a little” – and then put it back together so that it says something more to our liking. From Isaiah’s time to our own, it has always been thus. But although we may fool ourselves with such a proceeding, we will not fool God – who knows the hearts of all men, and understands their motives perfectly.

I think I have seen them both conservatives and liberals doing this, and I know full well that I have done it in the past.

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Exodus 18.17-23 and Isaiah 30.1-3 – Consulting the will of God
Posted: 17 January 2011 in Exodus, Isaiah

And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee….. I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee….. thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge….. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.

Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion.

In the first of the two passages above Moses’ father in law is making what, on the face of it, a perfectly sensible suggestion. But the thing to notice is that he tells Moses that his suggestion should only be pursued if God commands him to do so. It is not human ingenuity that matters, but the will of God. In the second passage, through the agency of Isaiah, God is complaining about the people’s inveterate tendency to rely upon their own resources, instead of recurring to his will and his wisdom – but most importantly to his will – because we are servants.

Reliance upon God is, of course, a very difficult lesson to learn, but that is one of the reasons we need to read God’s word so assiduously. Over time its message will begin to penetrate our thick skulls, and then, through the Holy Spirit, it will start to inform our actions. But not until our hearts have been reformed, and our motivations changed, will that happen to any great extent.

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