Posts for February 2011
5 Posts found

Jeremiah 1.4-14 and John 9.39 – Prophesy and Judgment
Posted: 28 February 2011 in Jeremiah, John

“Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant….. And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.”

“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.”

God always creates men (and women) for a reason, and, in Jeremiah’s case, it was revealed to him that he was created for the particular purpose of being the Lord’s prophet. However, no sooner has his vocation been made known to him, than Jeremiah protests that he is not equipped for the task. This is probably important, because somebody who thought he was ideally suited to the task would, most likely, be so full of himself that there would be no room left inside him for the Holy Spirit to either occupy, or take charge of. God can always make more effective use of those who consider themselves unworthy.

Jeremiah is told that, worthy or not, he must fulfill the task appointed for him. God touches him on the mouth and, doubtless much to his surprise, Jeremiah finds himself with a fluency of speech he has never before known.

After another few verses the narrative moves on to verses 13-14. The thing which struck me here is that God is telling Jeremiah what will happen – not what might happen should his contemporaries refuse to listen to him. Being omniscient, God already knows what their response will be, and how he will then act. But this raises the question, if God already knows how Jeremiah’s hearers are going to respond to him, why does he bother sending Jeremiah to them in the first place? On the face of it, Jeremiah is wasting his time. The only answer would seem to be: So that they are without excuse when they stand before God, and he judges them.

In John 9.39, also quoted above, Jesus seems to understand his mission as being, in part, the same as Jeremiah’s. The primary reason Jesus came to earth was so that all whom the Father had given him could hear his voice, come to him, and be saved. But, as the Gospel of John also makes clear, those who do not come to Jesus will stand condemned, and the condemnation will be, as in Jeremiah’s case, that they have heard the very words of God, and rejected them.

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1 Kings 21.20-24 – Divine judgment
Posted: 26 February 2011 in 1 Kings

And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD. Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.

The above passage follows on from the murder of Naboth, and the confiscation of his vineyard by Ahab. As a passage about judgment it could have been plucked, almost at random, from among many similar passages in the Bible. The point, however, is that none of these passages can very easily be reconciled with much of today’s liberal theology. In this theology God implicitly says, “Well, you can do what you want my children, there is no need to accept the means of salvation I have offered you, because I am the God of love, and I will give you eternal life anyway.”

It is very common for people to try and sweep passages concerning God’s wrath under the carpet by drawing a distinction between the God of wrath in the Old Testament, and the God of love in the New Testament. That won’t wash for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is that Jesus himself took the Old Testament very seriously, and seemed to think that the God described in the Hebrew scriptures was his Father. Another problem is that it would be reviving a very ancient heresy, which was condemned as such in the second century.

In any case, the New Testament itself contains passages which speak of judgment. One such is the parable which has the rich man in hell and the poor man, Lazarus, in heaven, following the rich man’s not very charitable behaviour towards Lazarus. Hell as being a not very pleasent place, and which was the eternal destiny of some people after death, must have been a belief already current in first century Judaism. Were it not so, Jesus’ hearers wouldn’t have known what he was talking about. More to the point, it was a belief evidently shared by Jesus himself.

So if the incarnate second person of the Trinity thought that God’s wrath was as real as his love, perhaps it should be worked back into today’s theology, and dispose of the cuddly God, who never displays his displeasure, and never utters a word in judgment, as the pious fiction that he is.

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2 Chronicles 18.16-21 – God’s involvement in History
Posted: 25 February 2011 in 2 Chronicles

Then he said, I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace. And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good unto me, but evil? Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the LORD; I saw the LORD sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. And the LORD said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner. Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will entice him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.

This passage reminds me of Isaiah 6, in its depiction of God’s sovereignty over human affairs. In this case the destruction of the house of Ahab has been determined upon by |God, and now he decides how to effect what he has planned. I do not think this can be understood merely in terms of God reacting to something unforseen by him. That would reduce him to the status of a far from omnipotent deity, who was forever struggling to regain control of his creation.

For all its difficulties, the biblical writers prefer to think in terms of a God who preordains all things – even those things which will subsequently attract his wrath. At all points in history, God is intimately involved iwith his creation, and not merely as a spectator, idly standing by to see what will happen next. A typical example of this, admittedly from a completely different part of the Bible, is Isaiah 63.17

“O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.”

So here, a situation has resulted in divine judgment being passed upon Israel, but their disobedience is nevertheless thought to flow from God’s hardening of their collective heart. This is clearly a difficult idea, insofar as it tempts prideful humans to sit in judgment upon God most Holy, but the motif is there, to be found throughout the Bible, and we are compelled by faith to believe that God is all righteous. That in him there is no darkness at all.

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John 14.6 and Acts 4.12 – Christ, the only means of salvation
Posted: 24 February 2011 in Acts, John

“Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

I think I have commented on both of these verses before, but John 14.6, in particular, is probably famous enough, to bear being commented upon again.

It is very easy to empathise with people of other faiths, and feel that they too must be capable of salvation, if they remain faithful followers of their religions. That is, perhaps, especially true of those who belong to the Jewish faith, because we share three fourths of our scriptures with them. Nevertheless, we are bound by what we find in the God inspired scriptures, and there it is said, unequivocally, that salvation is through Christ alone.

We must respect God’s sovereignty, and submit to his word, without necessarily expecting to understand his motives. Even so, on this occasion the reason for what may (superficially) appear arbtitrary, may not be that hard to find. The Incarnation was only necessary in the first place because sinful man is incapable of reaching up to God. Instead, if we are to be saved, God must reach down to us. That he did, once for all, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Consequently, anybody who would come to the Father must now do so through Jesus Christ.

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2 Chronicles 15.1-8
God’s absence from the collective consciousness of society today
Posted: 23 February 2011 in 2 Chronicles

And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law. But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them. And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries. And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex them with all adversity. Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded. And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.

This is another of those passages which makes it clear that, in biblical times, the knowledge and proper worship of God was conceived of as being, not merely a religious duty, but something central to the health of the nation. The same idea echoes throughout the writings of the Old Testament prophets. How different is that to anything which crosses the minds of today’s politicians? For them religion is a personal little eccentricity, harmless in its way, but of no great importance to the nation at large.

It must be admitted that politicians today would have greater trouble than the absolute monarchies of ancient Israel in ensuring their populations were religiously literate. For one thing, it is not common in western democracies for there to be only one religion to which the entire population, at least in theory, subscribes. For another thing, they would probably also not helped (especially in America) if they had pastors telling their congregations that modern scientific theories were the work of the Devil.

Nevertheless, we live in a society which seems to think it can get by without any reference to God, and we have no reason to suppose that we will escape the consequences of that idolatry.

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