Numbers 23.18-24 – Election and God’s free choice
Posted: 29 January 2012 in Numbers

And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.

Those familiar with the story in Numbers will know that Balak, king of Moab attempts, on three separate occasions, to persuade Balaam to curse Israel. On each occasion God instructs Balaam to bless Israel, and puts the appropriate words in his mouth. The above is the blessing Balaam utters on the second occasion.

In ancient times, as it does today, Israel represented a very small percentage of the world’s population, and to human sensibilities it is bound to seem outrageous that God should place his blessing upon them alone. Nevertheless, the Lord chooses whom he chooses, and, as the above passage says, God is not a man that he should repent. We know, of course, that Israel’s election will include its role in bringing the light of Christ to the Gentiles. Even after the time of Christ, however, there is an elect whom God has freely chosen for himself. Nowhere in the Bible is an explanation given for why God should choose some, but not others. It is stated as a fact, and left at that.

But maybe the scandal in the particularity of election is also its point, at least in part. If everybody were chosen to be recipients of God’s special favour, and with the human psyche being what it is, it would not be long before the idea began to insinuate itself into our minds that we had some kind of automatic right to the gifts which God distributes as he will. Prior to the fall we might have conceived of ourselves as creatures wholly dependent upon the good pleasure of our Creator, and without any rights when we stand before him. But now we need something like predestination as a sharp reminder that we are but creatures, and dependent upon our Creator’s will.

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2 Peter 3.1-9 – Pride and submission to God.
Posted: 28 January 2012 in 2 Peter

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

As with the Epistle of Jude elsewhere in the New Testament, we are told here that the faith was once delivered to the saints, and now it can neither be added to or subtracted from. Not in quite those words, but the message is the same. But here we are also told that in the last days scoffers will arise. I am not a great one for end time predictions; they arise too often, and fail just as often – with the last one being less than twelve months ago. Nevertheless, it can hardly be denied that the scoffers are out in force; especially in the West.

If one of the new atheists is asked whether he would believe in God if there ere irrefutable proof of his existence, he will be anxious for it not to appear that he is compromising his intellectual integrity, so he will say, “Of course.” However, he will then very quickly add, “But I wouldn’t worship any damn god,” or words to that effect. That sort of gives the game away. Pride – the original sin – is a significant part of the driving force behind the new atheism. The Bible is full of examples of what happens when an entire people turn their back upon God, and decide that they don’t want to be accountable to anybody or anything greater than themselves. It is usually the end of that civilisation.

The acids of pride and skepticism won’t stop at religion, even if the new atheists think it will, and it has the potential to undermine an entire civilisation. Already post modernists are calling science into question, with any claim to truth being dismissed as a power play. Anybody who listens to the new atheists will know that one of their great gods is science.

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Numbers 12.6-8 – The uncomfortable implications of God’s sovereignty over history
Posted: 27 January 2012 in Numbers

And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and og the king of bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to the battle at edrei. And the LORD said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon. So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land.

When we read that God ordained the destruction of an entire people, it makes us feel very uncomfotable; especially in the light of the events in Germany about seventy years ago (or at least, I hope it does). So there is a very real temptation to try and discount it in some way. And yet God is always righteous, and every thing which he wills is righteous, whilst, on the other hand, all things contrary to his will are (by definition) evil.

If we today needed a scriptural justification for dismissing as a madman any “prophet”, claiming to possess a divine commision for genocide, I suppose we could find it in Numbers 12.6-8:

And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold:

Obviously the nature of Moses’s relationship to God was quite unique (although not as unique as that of Christ). Even so, the passage at the top of this post is a reminder, if any were needed, that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways (to quote Isaiah). Furthermore, it is not for us to judge God.

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John 15.18-24
Posted: 20 January 2012 in John

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

Following the fall the world, en masse, is in rebellion against God. Unless he chose some out of the world, and called them to himself, none would be saved. That seems to be what is implied in the above verses. Jesus’ entry into the world brought with it a two edged sword. One edge bringing salvation to those whom the Father has chosen, but the other edge bringing into full view the world’s hatred of both Jesus and his Father.

There is no sense in which the will of God can be frustrated by men, and the only rational thing for them to do is to bend themselves to it. But such is the corruption of sin, that we refuse God the worship which is his due.

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Jeremiah 5.7-14 – The worship of idols
Posted: 17 January 2012 in Jeremiah

How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses. They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour’s wife. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the LORD’s. For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against me, saith the LORD. They have belied the LORD, and said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine: And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them: thus shall it be done unto them. Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.

The Bible is given for our learning, and contains endless warnings about the consequences of idolatry. In fact, I think I have made more posts about those passages than anything else. But such is our endemic sinfulness that now, as back then, we ignore those warnings, and carry on with our various forms of idolatry. The warnings cannot be dismissed, as is sometimes done with other parts of the Bible, as being “just the Old Testament” – accompanied by the unspoken notion that God changed his ways in New Testament times, and is now much more loving (i.e. indulgent of sin). That, of course, is nonsense, and anybody who does not offer God the exclusive worship which is his due, and put their faith in Christ, will stand condemned. Which makes it all the more urgent that we avoid the idols that are so pervasive in this present day. Easily said.

The idol which is almost universally worshipped in the West is (needless to say) material prosperity, and doubtless Asia will soon be joining the West in that. To which the new atheists add a deified science as their next most favourite idol. That second idol adds pride to avarice as one of our most besetting sins. Like the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, we too will probably fail to fully repent, until our civilisation is brought to collapse, or to the brink of collapse.

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