Posts for May 2011
5 Posts found

1 Chronicles – 13.5-10 – Vocation
Posted: 19 May 2011 in 1 Chronicles

So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor of Egypt even unto the entering of Hemath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjathjearim. And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is, to Kirjathjearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up thence the ark of God the LORD, that dwelleth between the cherubims, whose name is called on it. And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart. And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.

It must be admitted that the above appears to be a slightly strange story. But, further on it is said, or at least hinted, that the reason for God’s anger was that the levites alone had been commisioned by God to carry the Ark, and Uzza wasn’t a levite. So the moral for us, I suppose, is that we all have a vocation from God, and that it is for God – not us – to decide what that vocation should be. Uzza was taking it upon himself to fulfil a role which wasn’t his, and apparently God did not appreciate his presumption.

Naturally we like to think that our lives are ours to order as we like, even whilst we are paying lip service to the idea that we are God’s servants. However, it is not common for somebody to employ servants, and then allow each of them to decide for themselves how they will occupy their time. Instead he expects each of them to fulfil the role assigned to them. So God similarly expects each one of us to fulfil the vocation we receive from him, and to seek out his will in whatever way we can. Perhaps through prayer, and perhaps by discussing our intuitions of what God wants with others. It is probably important to have input from a third party, because it is likely that they can be more objective than we can in our own case. At the end of such a process we might not like what we hear, and we might feel tempted to do our own thing anyway. We shouldn’t of course, but we might, and it will be a test of our obedience.

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Revelation 9.13-21 – The fallen state of man
Posted: 18 May 2011 in Revelation

And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

In the above passage, the refusal of men to repent after witnessing what they had just witnessed could hardly be described as rational. And yet, in that complete lack of rationality, there is revealed a picture of just how deeply sin is ingrained in the human species, and of its lamentable effects. There is more than a suggestion that we are actually incapable of real repentance without a special grace from God.

The language in Revelation is of course highly symbolic, and there might perhaps be a suspicion that it exaggerates the story just a little. However, Jeremiah 42-43 tells a similar tale, but this time in a concrete historical situation. Jerusalem has just fallen to the Babylonians, and a group of apparently chastened men come to Jeremiah saying that they will obey whatever God commands, if only he will intercede for them. So Jeremiah does intercede, and he makes God’s will known to them. But their immediate reaction is to reject the counsel of God, and go off to do what they always intended to do anyhow.

When men seem so incapable of acting even in their own best interests, it is difficult to overstate the woeful state into which men have fallen. If the above passage does anything, it ought to make us conscious of just how dependent we are upon the mercy of God and of his Christ.

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Romans 5.6-12 – Humility and salvation
Posted: 17 May 2011 in Romans

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

For many years I would read passages such as the one above, and think that they made absolutely no sense. How could it possibly be the case that somebody being nailed to a cross 2,000 years ago could have anything to do with justice or salvation? I could leave conservatives to believe in that sort of nonsense, but there was no way I could believe it. Gradually, however, I was brought to a realisation and acceptance of the fact that, actually, it wasn’t necessary for me to be able to make sense of something before that something could be true. The Bible is given to us precisely as a revelation of truths we wouldn’t otherwise be able to discover for ourselves. It is not given so that we, in our arrogance, can sit in judgment upon God’s revealed Word. It was precisely that kind of pridefulness which necessitated Christ’s sacrifice in the first place.

Theology and the physical sciences do, of course, employ very different methodologies; with each one being appropriate to their respective subjects. But they do have one thing in common, and that is the irrelevance of somebody’s ideas of what ought to be true in determining what is true.

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Mark 10.17-23 – The cost of discipleship
Posted: 16 May 2011 in Mark

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

I wonder how many of us would react differently if we found ourselves in the position of the rich yoing man? Being submissive to the will of God is an idea easy to assent to in theory, but possibly much more difficult to put into practice. There is a theological virtue called detachment, the practice of which is supposed to ensure that we are attached to nothing so strongly that we can’t give it up if the service of God requires that of us. But, of course, that most of us are fairly well attached to clothes on our backs, roofs over our heads and food in our bellies.

Should we be inclined to think that God could never require such sacrifices of us, contemplating the lives of people like Jeremiah, or even of Jesus himself, ought to sober us up a bit.

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Joshua 7.11-25 – God’s “unfairness” and our salvation
Posted: 9 May 2011 in Joshua

Immediately preceeding this passage is the Israelite’s defeat at Ai. They had been forbidden to help themselves to the spoil from the Battle of Jericho, but one of their number had nevertheless done so.

Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff…..

So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites….. and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done….. So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua….. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah….. and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.

This passage could be plucked more or less at random from a great many others which tell a similar story. The thing they have in common is that God holds, not just the individual who has transgressed responsible for his actions, but the group of which he is head. In Numbers it is the families of Korah, Izhar, Dathan and Abiram who suffer a similar fate and most famously, of course, in Genesis 3, the entire human race is held to be accountable for the actions of just two individuals. To our way of thinking this is bound to seem very unfair, but it is, perhaps, just one more illustration of the fact that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways. Nevertheless, God is the Lord, and we must bow before him.

However, this “unfairness” has a flip side, which apparently is just as unfair, but which works to our advantage. As Paul points out, if the misdeeds of a group’s representative can bring condemnation upon the whole group, then those who are called into the Body of Christ can be made righteous by virtue of Christ’s righteousness, who is their head and representative.

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