Posts for September 2014
5 Posts found

Jeremiah 36.1-3 and 22-23 – The call to repentance
Posted: 24 September 2014 in Jeremiah

And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.

Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.

A central theme of the Old Testament is about nothing so much as mankind’s continual rebellion against God. And yet, also to be found in the Old Testament, there is God’s ongoing call for repentance. But, as the second quote mentioned above indicates, men, with their corrupt hearts and sinful ways, will always reject that call. They have no desire to recognise, or submit to, the Lordship of God, and prefer instead to be their own lords. They are no more capable of repenting than a man with a broken leg is capable of walking the four miles to the nearest hospital. If he happens to be located somewhere nobody is likely to find him, then he will die. Our state is as desperate as that man’s. Unable to help ourselves, we can only come to God if the Lord first of all creates in us the desire to do so.

It is a matter of common experience that not all men do, in fact, have their hearts remade in that way, and some are left to suffer the eternal punishment, which is the just reward of their sin. King Jehoiakim was apparently amongst those to whom the Lord chose not to extend mercy. That fact is a salutary reminder that, at the day of judgment, God will, for the sake of his glory, reveal not only his mercy, but also his righteous wrath and absolute sovereignty.

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Genesis 24.1-7 – Trusting in God’s promises and providence
Posted: 12 September 2014 in Genesis

And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age….. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house….. Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac. And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest? And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again. The Lord God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house….. and which spake unto me….. saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.

When Abraham answers his servant in the above passage, he effectively says to him that, “The word of the Lord endureth for ever,” and that, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent” (Numbers 23.19). God’s words are immutable, and what he has spoken will surely come to pass. To either doubt his word, or to act in a way contrary to his stated will, is a sin. Abraham is guilty of neither sin.

Although he entertains the possibility of failure for his servant’s sake, Abraham takes it for granted that, since whatever comes to pass has been preordained by God, if it be God’s will that Isaac’s wife come from his extended family, then his servant cannot help but be successful in his mission. A little later, in the same chapter, it is said that the servant, upon learning that his mission has indeed been successful, rightly attributed his success to God’s providence, and immediately worshipped the Lord. Which, of course, is how it should be.

Success comes from simultaneously acting in accordance with God’s will, and trusting in his providence. That latter is important, because we are to trust in God, to whom belongs all glory, and we are not to trust in ourselves. Furthermore, it is our duty to disclaim credit for any successes we may have, because any glory which comes our own way is glory which has been stolen from God.

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6.2)

Admittedly, that refers specifically to alms giving, but the principle is the same. As the creator, sustainer, enabler and Lord of all things, glory belongs to God alone.

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Psalm 99.1 and 103.7 – God’s holiness
Posted: 11 September 2014 in Psalms

The Lord reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

From what I read on various Christian forums, I get the impression that some Christians have become so used to hearing “God is love,” and little else, that they no longer have a sense of his transcendence, majesty and absolute holiness. Love is one of God’s attributes, but, if it is the only one ever heard of nowadays, it seems to me that there has been a serious imbalance in the Church’s preaching. Such a one sided view could never be extracted from any serious reading of the Bible.

It might be noticed that, in the second of the two verses quoted above, it is said that the recipients of God’s mercy will be those who fear him – i.e. those with an appropriate sense of his sovereignty, power and overwhelming majesty. To think of God as being a “jolly nice chap,” rather than as somebody who can only be revered, only rightly be approached in fear and trembling, and who, furthermore, is able to cast into hell, is little short of insolent.

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Jeremiah 32.3 – Submission to the words of God
Posted: 10 September 2014 in Jeremiah

For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it;

Jeremiah’s answer to Zedekiah might well have been the blunt, “Because that is what the Lord said unto me.” It is not an unknown phenomenon for people to close their ears to the words of God, if they don’t like what they are reading or hearing. But God is our Lord, and we are not invited to question what he says. To do so is surely impertinent, and a sin. We are invited only to submit to what is revealed as being inviolably and eternally true, or to what is commanded as being an unchangable and absolute obligation.

The Bible never says anything which is untrue, and, when difficulties arise, it is for us to either resolve them, or to embrace a genuine paradox. In any case, we cannot claim that God has not made his eternal truths known unto us.

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Psalm 96.4-7 – The plan of salvation
Posted: 9 September 2014 in Psalms

For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens. Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength.

It is true, of course, that there is only one God, and that he made the heavens and the Earth. And yet, at the time the above psalm was written, almost the entire population of the world was engaged in idolatry, of one sort or another, when they should have been fulfilling their duty in the worship of the one true God. If it be asked how that situation came about, the answer, naturally, is that it was a direct consequence of the fall. Nevertheless, out of this mass of unredeemed mankind, God chose for himself a peculiar people, as the King James Version of the Bible puts it.

Due to the general corruption of mankind, it is not to be doubted that those who know not God will, for their sin, be punished everlastingly. There is no point in fudging that fact, as some branches of Christianity are wont to do, and so, when the Lord graciously made himself known to the Jews, they became indeed a privileged people.

In retrospect it can be known that the vocation of this privileged people was to be the means by which God’s written word would be given to us, and, ultimately, by whom Christ would come into the world. Once that had been achieved, the written word could be the carrier by which God’s revelation was taken to all mankind, thereby bringing salvation to God’s elect.

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