Posts for January 2011
5 Posts found

Psalm 106 – The purpose of Creation
Posted: 15 January 2011 in Psalms

We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea. Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known…..

This entire psalm is about Israel’s idolatry and disobedience, and it is a good summary of why mankind stands in need of salvation, and of the grace which comes only through Christ. However, verse 8, amongst many others in the Bible, contains what might be an uncomfortable truth for present day Christians:

Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.

In other words, salvation for the ancient Israelites, and more generally their election, was not for their own benefit, but because God desired to be thereby glorified. A similar rationale is given for the entire episode involving the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus, and so too for us: Our salvation in Christ is not given primarily because God thinks we might enjoy ourselves in heaven, but because he wishes to be thereby glorified. There is a verse in the New Testament where the glory and good pleasure of God is even more explicitly spoken of as the purpose of creation:

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)

I suppose there is a tendency in all of us to think of creation, and still more of salvation, as being primarily for our benefit, but the Bible reminds us that it is quite otherwise. To properly worship God, we need to keep that in mind.

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John 6.39-45 – God’s gracious gift
Posted: 14 January 2011 in John

And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

At one level the Jews reaction to Jesus is very easy to understand. If somebody from our neighbourhood, whom we known for years, was suddenly to announce himself to be of divine origin, our immediate reaction would probably be to send for a psychiatrist.

And yet, in Jesus’ case there were at least a few people who had been given eyes to see, and who could discern his true identity. This is a very great gift. Why did God choose precisely those people to be the recipients of this gift? Who knows? But we are here made aware of the gracious nature of God’s activity, in giving sight to the spiritually blind, and of our utter dependence upon the God without whom we can do nothing.

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Exodus 14.10-12 – Trusting in God
Posted: 13 January 2011 in Exodus

And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD. And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

The above passage is representative of many in the book of Exodus, where the Israelites demonstrate their lack of trust in God. Next they will be complaining of thirst, then it will because they have nothing to eat. They are given manna, but then complain because it is getting a bit boring, having the same thing to eat all the time. Of course, it is not that these things aren’t actually necessary for survival; it is just that they don’t trust God to provide them as the need arises.

After a time I find myself thinking, “How does God put up with these people?” Well, I suppose it is confession time now. Because, after a little more reflection, I recognise myself in them. I too find it very difficult to trust in God. No matter how often problems seem to resolve themselves just in the nick of time, I never completely dismiss from my mind the thought that it might just have been coincidence, that things worked out in the way they did. Hot on the heels of that thought is the temptation to pay no more than lip service to divine Providence, and start trying to arrange things for myself. Just one more manifestation of original sin, I suppose.

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Mark 10.13-16 and John 3.5-7 – Faith in an age of skepticism
Posted: 11 January 2011 in John, Mark

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Although skepticism can be useful, especially when listening to politicians, if it starts being lauded as something always desirable, it stops being a useful tool, and becomes a corrosive acid. You do not have to spend very long listening to the new atheists to realise that a corrosive acid is precisely what it has become in their minds.

In the above passage from Mark, Jesus emphasises the need for a trust, such as that a child has for its parent, in our relationship with God. In the early twenty first century we live in a culture where skepticism is thought to be sophisticated, and trust is always thought naive. Such an atmosphere undermines all relationships, but especially that with God.

It does seem unlikely that we would be able to escape our cultural conditioning, unless our hearts were touched by God and we were remade by him from within – or, as John puts it, unless we are born of God. Spiritual rebirth is clearly something which only God can bring about; it doesn’t necessarily have to be accompanied by fireworks, but it does have to happen. It is a gift and a privilege to be called by God, and we have every reason to be thankful to him for it.

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Hosea 4.1-7 – God and politics
Posted: 10 January 2011 in Hosea

“Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law. Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee. Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him. They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off. Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency? For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces. For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.”

When we see Christians indulging in the not very edifying spectacle of judging other people, it is easy to think that they should take due notice of Matthew 7.1 (Judge not that ye be not judged), and stick to judging themselves in the light of the New Testament.

There is undoubtedly some truth in that, but the danger is that it can encourage us to think that morality only operates at the level of the individual. However, as the above passage makes clear, sin can have consequences which operate at the societal and national level. That being the case, religion cannot just be a matter of private devotion, and verse 4 in particular makes it clear that we have no business trying to keep God out of the political sphere. Nor have we any business allowing secularists to do it for us:

“They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not:”

Obviously we no longer live in an age when absolute monarchs rule. Translated into terms of the government of liberal democracies, this verse implies that decisions made by our political parties must always be made in the light of Christ’s teaching and example. It is perhaps unfortunate that the American experience has led people to think that a politics informed by Christian morality must necessarily be right wing politics. In Europe the Christian Democrat parties can just as easily be parties of the left, or parties of the centre, as they can parties of the right.

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