Posts for January 2013
5 Posts found

Jeremiah 26.4-9 – The authority of the Bible
Posted: 13 January 2013 in Jeremiah

And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened; Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth. So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die. Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

It has a familiar ring to it when, in the above passage, people resist what God is saying to them in the person of his prophet. They don’t like what they are hearing, so they close their ears to it. Widespread today is the notion that God should adjust himself to our current attitudes and cultural mores. An example of that is belief in universal salvation. Not only is there no scriptural basis for that, but it seems to directly contradict what the Bible does say on the subject. But still it is believed in, because it is what people want to believe in. Another example is eternal punishment, which gets rejected even when it is accepted that salvation is not universal. Here is Matthew 25.46 from the lips of Jesus himself:

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

It says pretty much the same thing in any translation of the Bible you care to look at, so it is not just an oddity of a conservative translation. I cannot easily imagine that God will be appreciative if we substitute what we would like to be true for what he reveals to actually be true. It seems to me a fundamental matter of obedience to let the Lord speak for himself; whether we like what we are hearing or not. Jermiah’s listeners didn’t like what they heard. As difficult as it sometimes is, I think we must also refrain from the impudence of setting ourselves up in judgment on God.

Constructing a god who is nothing more than the personification of what we would wish God to be like can only be described as idolatry.

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Numbers 28.1-6 – The Worship of God
Posted: 12 January 2013 in Numbers

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, My offering, and my bread for my sacrifices made by fire, for a sweet savour unto me, shall ye observe to offer unto me in their due season. And thou shalt say unto them, This is the offering made by fire which ye shall offer unto the Lord; two lambs of the first year without spot day by day, for a continual burnt offering. The one lamb shalt thou offer in the morning, and the other lamb shalt thou offer at even; And a tenth part of an ephah of flour for a meat offering, mingled with the fourth part of an hin of beaten oil. It is a continual burnt offering, which was ordained in mount Sinai for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord.

It is an oft repeated truism the Gentile Christians are not bound to observe the Mosaic law. The New Testament contains no similarly detailed cultic regulations, and presumably God had good reasons for not giving any such ordinances. However, it is difficult not to feel slightly sadened by their absence. There can be nothing more pleasing to God than that which he himself has commanded, and our aim and desire should of course be to please him. But I suppose there would be a danger in having a cultus too tightly specified in the New Testament, and the previous sentence would be true only if that danger were avoided. The danger being, ot course, that if detailed regulations were given by God, then that could have encouraged the idea that merely to perform specified actions would be valid worship. If true desire and devotion to God were absent, then of course it wouldn’t be.

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Isaiah 43.3-7 – The Glory of God
Posted: 11 January 2013 in Isaiah

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.

A statement which occurs repeatedly in the Bible is that God created all things for the ske of his own glory. A few days ago somebody posted a comment in relation to another post, in which he made it clear that he did not appreciate the idea that God might be prepared to allow suffering in order to further his own glory. Nevertheless, if to glorify himself is God’s major concern (Matt 5.16, John 17.1, Romans 15.9 and Rev 15.4 are some of the pssages which suggest that it is), we have no reason to suppose that our lives will be free of suffering.

We are here to serve God, and as difficult as it may be, we must accept whatever he sends; whether that be suffering, release from suffering, or even ease and comfort. The problem with that last one is, of course, that it is the one most likely to lead to complacency and our neglect of God. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that Christianity is growing rapidly in Africa and Asia, whilst declining in the materially prosperous West. That ease and comfort should lead to a neglect of our duty to worship and glorify God is, perhaps, an indication of just how far mankind has fallen.

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1 Samuel 4.1-11 – The danger of unintended idolatry
Posted: 10 January 2013 in 1 Samuel

Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle….. And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men. And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that it may save us out of the hand of our enemies….. And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp….. And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the ark of God was taken.

When Israel suffered defeat at the hands of the Philistines, their first thought was to ask why God had brought such a thing upon them. Today we would probably be inclined to blame the generals, or the politicians, and the thought that the Lord of all history might have something to do with it would not even enter our heads. The Israelite’s second thought, though, was to conclude that they had been defeated because God had not been present in the camp – as if God is not always and everywhere present. So they sent to Shiloh to “fetch God” in the form of the Ark of The Covenant, and therein lay a piece of superstitious and naked idolatry. It was treating a material object, sacred though it may have been, as if it was God himself. It was really no better than the worship of images practised amongst the pagan nations. Consequently the Israelites were rewarded with a second defeat, and not only that, but the Ark of The Covenant was taken by the Philistines.

Nevertheless, it is clear from the next few verses that the Israelites felt the loss of the Ark to represent a rupture in their relationship with God, and about that they were right. Both Judaism and Christianity are austere religions in the absolute ban they place upon any physical representation of the transcendent and ineffable God.

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Mark 1.16-20, 5.18-19 – The call to discipleship
Posted: 9 January 2013 in Mark

Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.

And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

If a complete stranger came up to any of us, and said, “Follow me,” it is easy to imagine that our response might be something along the lines of, “What?!!” However, the difference is that the calling of the first disciples was part of God’s eternal plan, and so they would have had it put into their hearts to respond to Jesus in the way that they did. Rationalism can only take us so far; especially if it excludes from consideration any possibility of divine causation. Because, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” (Psalm 24.1)

Jesus chose the disciples; they did not choose him.

In the second passage quoted above, the healed demoniac tries to attach himself to Jesus’s inner most circle of disciples, but is turned away because he did not have that calling. The will of God, and the plan he has for his Creation, overrides all else – even the otherwise laudable desire to be an intimate companion of the earthly Jesus.

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