Posts for February 2011
5 Posts found

1 Chronicles 29.12-15, 18 – All things come from God
Posted: 9 February 2011 in 1 Chronicles

Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:

This song of praise is a reminder that, as their Creator, all things belong to God, which includes us. Anything we possess is on loan to us, and we are duty bound to make use of God’s gifts not only in such a way as to glorify God, but also in a way which accords with his will. We have nothing we can offer him, except what he has already given us.

“Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all.” Riches and honour come to us as a gift from God, but so too does poverty. That poverty can be a gift may make a strange sound on worldy ears, but when somebody is deprived of worldly success, they are rescued from an earthly idol it is all too easy to go chasing after, and they are given a greater facility to serve God..

Even the desire to love and worship God must come from him in the first instance, which is why David prays for God to prepare his people’s hearts unto himself. After we have received the gift of faith, which we have no right to expect, we can implead God for greater faith, but we can do nothing without him.

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Isaiah 47.5-10 – God’s use of sinful motives
Posted: 4 February 2011 in Isaiah

Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms. I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke. And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it. Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments. For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.

The above passage exemplifies the way in which God can bring his purposes to fruition, even through the agency of those whose motives are wholly sinful. The Babylonians certainly entertained no idea that they were serving God in their actions.

The twice repeated phrase “I am, and none else beside me” is a deliberate reference to the divine name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3.14. The Babylonians were guilty of the besetting sin of human pride, with the self idolatry which inevitably flows from it. They are here reminded that there is only one God, who does not give his glory to another, and they are warned of impending judgment. Ironically, their sin is the selfsame one which originally caused Judah to be delivered into their hands.

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Isaiah 45.9-12 – The futility of striving with God
Posted: 3 February 2011 in Isaiah, Scripture

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.

If there is one thing you can’t help noticing about atheists on the internet, it is the way in which they are no sooner through telling you that God doesn’t exist, than they are lecturing this God about his incompetence in (for example) not preventing the holocaust. I suppose it should come as no surprise that an atheist feels no constraint in telling God his business, even if you can’t help noticing the illogicality of it, but it still implies a grossly inadequate conception of what the word God signifies.

We homo sapiens, who inhabit a 5,970 trillion tonne piece of rock, orbiting an insignificant star on the edge of the galaxy, which itself is just one amongst millions of other galaxies in the created universe; it is we who presume to make ourselves the equal of God, and lecture him about how to better govern his Creation. Although atheists have brought this gentle little art to its perfection, even Christians are guilty of it when they think God is somehow falling down on the job if he fails to arrange things quite to their liking.

There is no other response proper to human beings than to bow the knee before God’s majesty, and to ask for his will to be done. That, after all, was the response of Jesus on the night before he was crucified – and he was the Son of God in human flesh.

Although the primary purpose of the book of Job is to make the point that suffering does not necessarily represent divine retribution, we ought also to take on board a secondary lesson. That lesson is the response Job receives from God towards the end of the book.

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Isaiah 43.3-7 – Eternal life & the purpose of Creation
Posted: 2 February 2011 in Isaiah, Scripture

For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.

The whole of creation is here for no other purpose than to glorify God, but as is made clear in the last verse quoted above, that is especially true of those he has specially chosen for the purpose. Christians are therefore placed under an absolute duty to worship God, not with the motive of expecting anything in return, but simply for the sake of glorifying their Creator. Even so, it is God’s will that he be worshipped in eternity, and therefore those who have been chosen and redeemed for the purpose will have access to eternal life.

Notice that it is God, and not man, who is at the centre of all this.

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John 21 – Co-operating with God
Posted: 1 February 2011 in John

After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. (John 21.1-6)

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. (John 21.9-10)

There are more parallels between John 21, and other passages in the gospels, than immediately jumped out at me on a first reading, many years ago. The draught of fishes is obviously paralleled by similar passages in the synoptic gospels, but it is also paralleled by Jesus’ discourse about himself as the true vine, elsewhere in John’s Gospel. In both passages the point being made is that, without Jesus we can achieve nothing – or at least very little. The disciples had been fishing all night, and they had caught nothing, but Jesus comes on the scene, and all of a sudden there is a graught of fishes.

The passage also reminds me of Jesus’ description of his disciples as fishers of men.

Verses 9-10 hark back to the feeding of the five thousand with two small fishes. The point here being made is (again) that by ourselves we can accomplish little, but, if we surrender our meagre resources to God, much can be achieved.

On a similar note, when Jesus gives his disciples their great commision, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, they are told to go out and preach the Gospel to all the world. But note that they are not told to go out and make converts, because conversion is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit, and he alone can change the hearts of men. It is very common to hear enthusiastic evangelicals talking about “winning souls for Christ”, and forgetting that their role is only to preach the Gospel. Everything else depends upon God.

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