Posts for March 2011
5 Posts found

Psalm 14.1-3 – Sin and Salvation
Posted: 30 March 2011 in Psalms

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

I think it was the evening before last that an atheist posted the above verses on a forum, with the expectation that they should embarrass Christians. It is not immediately obvious why the said atheist had that expectation, but she certainly had it fulfilled, as one evangelical after another lined up to say that the final sentence in the above quote in no way applied to them, but only to atheists and other unbelievers.

An English priest, who lives in America, used to say that America is both the most religious country in the world, and the most religiously illiterate country in the world. Presumably the evangelicals mentioned above have never heard of the doctrine of original sin, or, if they have heard of it, they didn’t understand it, and it is just a club to beat their opponents over the head with. From one end of the Bible to the other scripture bears testimony to the fact that all men (and and that includes all Christians) stand condemned before God, because of their habitual rebellion against him. It also makes clear that they can only be saved through his grace.

Throughout the Old Testament period God’s chosen people were rebelling against him, and the prophets were endlessly employed warning of a coming judgment. Now we are into the New Testament period, the theological landscape has changed, and the concept of a chosen people extends beyond the borders of Israel. But the sinfulness of those chosen people has not changed. I do not see how anybody can easily be a Christian without an acknowledgment of their own sinfulness, and therefore their need for a saviour in Jesus Christ.

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Numbers 14.1-21 – God’s concern for his glory
Posted: 11 March 2011 in Numbers

And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And  all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron:  and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in  the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!…. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they. And Moses said unto the LORD….. Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness….. And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word: But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.

Whenever I come across a passage such as the one above, where Moses is pointing out to God the flaw in his plans, I am always left bemused at idea that God would respond along the lines of, “Wow! Good point. I had never thought of that!” Somehow that doesn’t seem to sit very easily with the idea of divine omniscience.

That said, in the present context, God seems to use the prayer as a way of making clear the reason for his forbearance – namely an overarching concern for the preservation of his own glory. Presumably that is why the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to pray it in the first place. That God has such a concern seems to be attested to many times the Bible. For example:

I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. (Isaiah 42.8)
or
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14.13)

At first sight this might seem to make God rather self obsessed, especially in view of his aseity, but the reason for it can be seen in the disorder which follows whenever his creatures try to draw some of God’s glory towards themselves. In comparatively recent history, I suppose the Nazis were the most appalling example of that.

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Numbers 12.1-9 – Pride and resentment of God’s sovereignty
Posted: 9 March 2011 in Numbers

And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses….. And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it. (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.) And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.

Numbers 12 gives yet another display of that besetting human sin, pride. It is certainly the one the Bible seems to allude to more than any other – with the possible exception of idolatry.

I suppose we all know the feeling that we are as well qualified as Mr X, so why shouldn’t we be able to occupy his position? |But as the writer of Numbers hints, when he describes Moses as “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth,” that feeling in Aaron and Miriam automatically disqualified them as possible alternatives to perform Moses’ leadership role. As a member of the priestly caste, Aaron would already have enjoyed some prestige amongst his contemporaries, but instead of serving God in the role to which he had been called, he wanted more.

At bottom, Aaron resented God’s sovereignty. He did not like the fact that God could call whomsoever he wished, for whatever purpose he wished. Resentment against the Lord would hardly have made him the ideal servant of God, had he been in Moses’ place. As it is, we might wonder at God’s wisdom in even calling him to the priesthood. To indulge in some pure speculation, it is possible, I suppose, that God would have humbled his heart in the fullness of time, and then, that once proud man, would have been able to speak from personal experience when counselling others about the evils of pride and its consequences.

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John 1.1-13 – Jesus, the Eternal Word of God.
Posted: 8 March 2011 in John

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

The famous prologue to John’s Gospel bears witness to Jesus Christ as the eternal word of the Father. At the beginning of time, he was the word spoken by God, by which the universe we see today was brought into existence. This is a mystery in the proper sense of the word, as being something hidden in God.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

In one sense we are all the result of biological processes. Although they too come from God, we are the creation of  God in a more profound sense than that. We alone, in the animal kingdom, are endowed with something which can communicate with the Spirit of God, and we are thereby given a life which can, through the grace of God, receive its vitality from the life of the Trinity. The only thing required of us is obedience to God’s will. Unfortunately, ever since the fall, we have preferred to entertain the illusion that we can be our own gods, and as a result we are separated from God, and from his life giving Spirit. Separated from God, we are alive only in the sense that any biological organism is alive.

However, with the Incarnation comes the possibility of spiritual rebirth, which will come to us through the life giving Spirit, and from the indwelling of Christ. But this rebirth does not come cost free, and it  involves the sacrifice of Jesus. We should occasionally remind ourselves that the person hanging on the cross was the second person of the Trinity, and the eternal God.

Verse thirteen is a reminder that the ability to hear, and respond to, the words of Christ must come, like everything else,  from the sovereign Lord God, who bestows his gifts according to his own good pleasure, and for his own immutable ends – just in case we still thought that Creation was here for us to behave like apprentice gods, instead of for the glory of the one true God.


Verse 18 might also be worth quoting, lest anybody imagine that we can come to that intimate knowledge of God, and the life which flows from it, except from Jesus Christ:

“No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

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2 Chronicles 32.1-15 – Recognition of God’s Providence
Posted: 7 March 2011 in 2 Chronicles

When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, He took counsel with his princes….. to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him….. Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David….. And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together….. and spake comfortably to them, saying, Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. After this did Sennacherib king of Assyria send his servants to Jerusalem, unto Hezekiah king of Judah, and unto all Judah that were at Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust, that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem?…. let not Hezekiah deceive you: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?

This passage represents a sharp contrast between trust in God (Hezekiah), and outright contempt for God (Sennacherib). Hezekiah takes what might be regarded as prudent steps, in denying the Assyrians a water supply and reinforcing Jerusalem, but he realises that ultimately the outcome of the battle will depend upon the will of God, who always does that which seemeth him good. In contrast, the contempt of the Assyrians amounts to outright blasphemy. Consequently, God’s mercy and wrath are meted out respectively, and in equal measure, upon the two combatants.

Isaiah understood the current episode in terms of God humbling Sennacherib, whom he had previously used as the instrument of his judgment upon the nations, but who had now become over mighty, and was attributing his accomplishments to himself. Sennacherib lacked Hezekiah’s knowledge of God as being the only source of both weal and woe.

Attributing our successes to ourselves, rather than to the providence of God, to whom all glory belongs, is probably something we are all guilty of. Probably also, we are less conscious of God’s providence, as something ever present, than were either Hezekiah above, or Joab in 2 Sam 10.11-12:

And he said, If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me: but if the children of Ammon be too strong for thee, then I will come and help thee. Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.

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