Posts for March 2013
5 Posts found

Deuteronomy 13.1-5 – Present day idolatry
Posted: 22 March 2013 in Deuteronomy

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

Only God is to be worshipped, and, just to underline the point, the above passage goes on to stipulate the death penalty for all forms of idolatry. So complete is the prohibition on idolatrous worship, that even somebody showing the signs of a true prophet is not to be trusted, but instead put to death.

Given that to be the case, it is difficult to comprehend what must be the full extent of God’s anger, when he looks down upon the modern world and beholds the almost universal idolatry of wealth. In the case of the new atheists, the idolatry of science is not far behind. Anybody who forswears the worship of that former idol is likely to be thought of as, at best, a bit eccentric. In America there is even the nonsensical heresy (and it is heresy) known as the prosperity gospel. There could hardly be any laws prohibiting idolatry today, because our whole culture is built upon it.

But that fact ought not to be an occasion for self-righteousness, as we imagine that we can exempt ourselves from the judgment which must surely come. We can only become aware of ourselves as contributors to the systemic sin which characterises this modern world. It is certainly not the case that we have no part in it.

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Revelation 6.12-17 – The Conclusion of History and Judgment
Posted: 21 March 2013 in Revelation

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

I suppose that it can more or less be taken for granted that Revelation was originally(!) written as a tirade against the Roman Empire. I do not, however, see how that must necessarily commit anybody to a preterist understanding of Revelation. To suppose that it must is to suppose that the thought processes of the human and divine authors were the same. That is not necessarily the case, and of course it is the divine author whose intentions are important for us today. If God had wanted to give us a history lesson, he could have done so in language a lot less cryptic than that to be found in Revelation.

Instead, what is to be found in Revelation, admittedly in highly symbolic language, is a description of what awaits men when God finally decides to wind up history, and they are directly exposed to divine omnipotence and majesty in all its glory. The ancient belief that death awaits anybody who sees God is not totally without foundation, and well might men seek to “hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains”.

The answer to the last question quoted in the psaage must be nobody is worthy to stand before God. All men are sinners, and all men are worthy of the eternal punishment which will await some. Only the divine mercy will spare others – to the glory of God. What is certain is that there will be no atheists on that day, and, although it is a hard thing to say, there will be no members of other religions either. They will face judgment, and eternal damnation, not because they were more wicked or evil than other men – Ghandi is repeatedly held up as the archetype for those who are not. They will face judgment, and its consequences, because only Christ is able to save us from the righteous wrath of God – merited by all men, without exception.

Whether we like it or not, and it is easy not to like it, God’s standards of righteousness are higher than ours. Furthermore, the Sovereign Lord of all Creation has no need to justify himself to us. And we, his impudent creatures, have no right expecting him to. If God reveals something to be his will, then that must be sufficient. We have no invitation to debate the governance of the universe with our Lord God.

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1 Chronicles 13.4-9 – Rebellion against the will of God.
Posted: 20 March 2013 in 1 Chronicles

And Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in mount Ephraim, and said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel; Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord. And there are gathered unto him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tenderhearted, and could not withstand them. And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord in the hand of the sons of David; and ye be a great multitude, and there are with your golden calves, which Jeroboam made you for gods. Have ye not cast out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods.

After the northern tribes had split from the southern kingdom of Judah, they no longer had easy access to the temple in Jerusalem, and so Jeroboam created his own shrines, complete with idolatrous images, in Dan and Bethel. The author of 1 Kings clearly disapproved of this, and his reasons for doing so may have been partly political.

Nevertheless, viewed as divine revelation, the passage makes clear that men have no right to try and arrange things after their own heart (Psalm 81.11-13) and still less do they have the right to substitute idolatrous worship for the worship (free of images) which has been appointed for them by God. The universe revolves around the will of God, not the will of man, and under all circumstances, to place the latter above the former is sin. It may be no conincidence that, during the centuries which followed, the northern kingdom was almost uniquely unstable politically.

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Deuteronomy 11.1-4 – Divine foreordination and worship in heaven
Posted: 19 March 2013 in Deuteronomy

Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway. And know ye this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm, And his miracles, and his acts, which he did in the midst of Egypt unto Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and unto all his land; And what he did unto the army of Egypt, unto their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the water of the Red sea to overflow them as they pursued after you, and how the Lord hath destroyed them unto this day;

I suppose one reaction to the above passage might be that God’s dealings with the Egyptians was a bit tough on the Egyptians, wasn’t it? On the other hand, a theme which runs throughout the entire Bible is that God has his chosen people, whom he will bring to salvation, and there are others, whom he chooses not to. It is said a couple of chapters earlier that there was nothing in the Israelites which earned them the privelege of being God’s chosen people:

Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deut 9.5)

Had there been anything in the Israelites which earned them the status of being God’s elect, then I suppose there would have been an irresistable temptation for them to go around, preening themselves on their righteousness. Which would have been a bit ironic, given their subsequent hisory – and the prophets’ constant protest against their sin and idolatry.

And that might be why God preordained the fall. Nothing happens by accident in God’s creation, and least of all a catastrophe like that. To suppose that it could have happened without divine intention is to postulate a fairly in competent god – in lower case because such a god is certainly not the God of the Bible. God had (and has) no wish to be surrounded in eternity by creatures who think that God owed them their salvation; instead of them owing him absolutely everything – even their very lives – and owing him an infinite debt, which they cannot repay. Thereby is God, in his absolute majesty, and sovereign freedom, to be worshipped and glorified forever.

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Ezekiel 3.17-19 – Christ the only means of salvation, and our duty to preach the Gospel
Posted: 18 March 2013 in Ezekiel

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

Implicit in the above passage is a statement to the fact that it is not necessary for a prophet, or the Church, to be remiss in warning people of the consequences of their sin before they stand condemned before God. The sin itself is enough, and consequent upon that fact is the further fact that people who have never had the Gospel preached to them will still be guilty before God, if (as will necessarily be the case) they lack faith in Christ.

Were it the case that people could be saved, even though (through no fault of their own) they lacked the means of salvation, then the New Testament would seem to be something of a sham. After all, if some can be saved without explicit faith in Christ, why not everybody? – and why would the death and ressurection of Christ have been necessary in the first place? God was not being frivolous when he gave us his only begotten Son. The Bible is not there primarily to teach us morality, in spite of the nonsense which is sometimes heard. It is primarily there to teach us about our plight in the light of the fall, and about the only means of salvation.

But, on the other hand, Ezekiel receives a blunt warning that, although the Israelites will reap the consequences of their sin if he does not warn them, he too will reap the consequences of his disobedience, if he disobeys God, and does not warn them. By extension, the Church also stand condemned before God if we do not obey the explicit commandment (Matt 28.19) to preach the Gospel to all nations. If they do not have at least the possibility of responding to the divine invitation to repent, they will suffer the consequences of their sin, but their blood will be required of our hands.

The problem with theology is the ease with which it allows people to substitute what they would like to be true for what actually is true – especially today when even people professing themselves to be “Bible believers” think that they can sit light to the explicit words of the Bible. The only motive we can have for ignoring the Bible’s very explicit statement that there is no other means of salvation – with that warning on one occasion being uttered by Jesus himself – is to make ourselves feel better about the fate of those the Church has failed to evangelise.
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Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4.12)

There are no exceptions mentioned there.

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