Haggai 1.7-10 – Seeking God’s glory before all else.
Posted: 2 March 2012 in Haggai

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. Ye looked for much, and, lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.

In the New Testament Jesus tells his followers that nobody can serve both God and mammon, and, further, that they should take no thought for their material needs, but, as their first priority, always to seek the kingdom of God. To obey that injunction naturally requires both a commendable detachment from material wealth, and a great deal of faith in the providence of God. Neither of which exactly comes naturally to human beings: but to disobey is, as always, sinful.

The above passage carries much the same message as the sayings of Jesus, but in the more concrete situation of an actual disobedience. The recently returned exiles from the Babylon were putting the pursuit of material well being ahead of their obligation to serve and glorify God, and, in consequence, they were reaping the due reward of their disobedience. Being prepared to rely upon the providence of God is part of what it means to be a holy fool. If we put our physical welfare at the top of our list of priorities, in the world’s eyes, not to mention our own eyes, we are doubtless behaving in a way which is rational and sensible. But our lack of faith will not necessarily play well with God. That is a hard lesson.

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Matthew 10.32-33 – Being holy fools for Christ’s sake.
Posted: 1 March 2012 in Matthew

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

I suppose the difficulty we experience in allowing ourselves to be holy fools will, in large measure, depend upon the extent to which our sense of self worth depends upon the world’s approval. If we define ourselves in terms of (say) our success as a great computer programmer, and if, in order to climb the career ladder, we need the recommendation of our boss – who just happens to be a fairly militant atheist, then we might be tempted to play down our commitment to Christ. But if, on the other hand, we identify ourselves primarily in terms of our relationship to God and his word, it will be relatively easy to sit light to the opinion of the world and its spokesmen.

Being fools for Christ’s sake does not mean that we must put our brains in the deep freeze, or ignore evidence from extra biblical sources, such as science, but it does mean that we must be prepared to live with the scorn a world which has little time for God or his word. If we would disdain from being holy fools in that sense, the following passage from Ezekiel warns of the consequences for ourselves.

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. (Ezekiel 3.18-19)

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Deuteronomy 12.32 – Rightly worshipping God.
Posted: 29 February 2012 in Deuteronomy

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Although the above verse relates directly to the Old Testament cultus, the principle it enunciates is general enough for there to be no reason to suppose that it doesn’t apply to Christian worship as well. God does not change his mind. There are two temptations which face worshippers of the one and only God. One is to dishonour his name by doing only reluctantly what he commands, but the other is to imagine that we sinful creatures can add anything to that which he commands. God is sufficient unto himself, and there is nothing we can give or offer him, beyond that which he ordains. In this verse we are explicitly warned by God himself not to make the attempt.

All disobedience to God is by definition sin, and we should be wary of the arrogance of thinking that we sinful creatures can add anything to God’s glory by going beyond that which is commanded. On the other hand, it would be equally sinful for us to ignore our duty in not doing that which God requires, or by doing it grudgingly and with a heavy heart. And yet we are not able to perform even that duty, unless God graciously bestows upon us a heart which is not reluctant to do all his will – still less are we able to go beyond it, and have our worship be pleasing to him.

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Deuterononmy 8.11-14,17 – Original Sin and Salvation
Posted: 22 February 2012 in Deuteronomy

Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage….. And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.

There is nothing new under the sun. Even in Moses day, as soon as people had achieved some kind of material prosperity, they forgot about God, and started to worship money – that idol which is far more seductive than any idol made out of wood or brass. They forgot that God (and his will) are the origin of all things, and that there is nothing they can rightfully ascribe to themselves. Why do we so easily forget to be grateful to God? I suppose the answer to that is original sin – the sin we manage to be the owners of even without trying, and even without consciously transgressing any of God’s commandments. We are guilty because our first instinct is always to rebel against God and his authority, and we only need the first opportunity to do so.

People are sometimes heard to say that it would be unjust of God to inflict eternal punishment upon us for sins committed during a finite life time. That might be so if the only thing in question were particular sins, but there is no possibility that somebody in general rebellion against God would be able to live in his presence.

At one point during his ministry, Jesus’ disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” to which Jesus’ reply was “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” The disciples apparently realised that what Jesus had said, immediately prior to their question, made salvation impossible for men – unless, that is, God intervened. They seem not yet come to a full realisation of who Jesus was, and what his role was to be in the salvation of men (and women).

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Proverbs 19.3 and Isaiah 2.10-11 – Pride and fretting against the will of God
Posted: 16 February 2012 in Isaiah, Proverbs

The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.

Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.

Although the new atheists give many reasons for not believing in God, it is difficult to avoid the impression that one of the underlying psychological motives is a reluctance to have God reign over them. But that does not, of course, alter the fact that he does reign over them. Although foolishness in rebelling against their Creator seems to be one of the central characteristics of human beings, God will have victory over his enemies, and he alone will be exalted in that day.

But I suppose the new atheists are not altogether alone there. We all find aspects of God’s revealed will to fret against. The difference, however, ought to be that Christians realise that they have a duty to love God, and to seek his will always. Insofar as we fail in that, it ought both to humble us, and to make us aware of our total dependence upon God’s grace.

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