1 Corinthians 2.1-7 – The Wisdom of God and man’s wisdom.
Posted: 16 July 2011 in 1 Corinthians

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

This passage seems to me very important, because it speaks about the limits of human intellection. I do not (for instance) doubt for a moment that the physical sciences are competent to talk about the universe, and that the knowledge they impart is very important. But it is not nearly as important as a knowledge of God, who is the Lord and Creator of all things. For that knowledge, we are wholly dependent upon God’s disclosure of himself. Furthermore, this revelation must be received in a spirit of humility and without doubting its divine origin. Even this necessary humility of spirit can only be received as an unmerited gift from God. He makes this knowledge available to us so that we can rightly worship him and glorify him in our salvation.

Those without the gift of humility that allows them to bow the knee before God, are, as Paul makes clear, on the road to destruction. The only wisdom which avails anything in our salvation is the wisdom which comes from God himself, and which is communicated to us through Christ and the holy scriptures. It is to be received humbly and without pride.

Frequently in the Bible we hear that the fear of the Lord is the begining of wisdom. I wouldn’t for one moment want to disagree with that, but I would extend it slightly: To fear God, obey him, and submit ourselves to his revealed word, is the very beginning and end of wisdom.

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Ezekiel 13.4-9, John 3.27 – True and false prophesy.
Posted: 15 July 2011 in Ezekiel

“O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken? Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord GOD. And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”

“A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.”

When God makes known his intentions, man has no sensible alternative but to bow his knee before the divine will; even if he doesn’t like that which has been revealed. It is precisely that which the false prophets, who had received no commission from God, flatly refused to do. It is difficult to overstate their foolishness of imagining that our wishes, rather than God’s will, can be determinative of future events, but if a present day prophet (one genuinely commissioned by God) were to tell us that London, or Washington, was about to fall to foreign invaders, I suppose we would all be guilty of precisely that.

The Westminster Confession can in no way be said to posses the divine authority of the Bible, but it contains the assertion that the time of prophesy is now over. Well I wonder about that. Whilst it is perfectly true that the Bible contains all things necessary for salvation, and anybody who wants to know God and his will for man only has to read it, in the nature of the case it cannot directly address itself to contemporary events. If they arose, to make that connection would be the function of present day prophets. Of course, God alone can raise up true prophets, and anybody claiming for himself the status of a prophet, without receiving a divine commission, would be a false prophet on an ego trip.

I suppose there are at least two tests a present day prophet would have to pass before he could be accepted as genuine. The first is that his utterances would have to be in accord with biblical revelation. The other is mentioned both in Deuteronomy, and by Jesus – if not in quite the same words. Namely: By their fruits ye shall know them.

Having said that, I cannot easily think of any present day prophets. Certainly not the American televangelists, or the “end is nigh” merchants. But if God saw a need for them, they could doubtless arise again.

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2 Chronicles 34.18-30 – Divine Judgment
Posted: 13 July 2011 in 2 Chronicles

Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Abdon, and Shaphan, and Asaiah, saying, Go, enquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us…. And Hilkiah, and they that the king had appointed, went to Huldah the prophetess….. and they spake to her to that effect. And she answered them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah: Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be poured out upon this place, and shall not be quenched. And as for the king of Judah, who sent you to enquire of the LORD, so shall ye say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel concerning the words which thou hast heard; Because thine heart was tender….. and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me….. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again. Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the LORD.

Even though he is told that he will not witness it, you might have expected that Josiah would be none too happy to learn that Jerusalem was going to be destroyed. Even if he was not going to witness it, his descendants would, and within a few short decades that is, of course, precisely what happened.

Having been told that Jerusalem was due for destruction at the hands of the Babylonians, you might have expected Josiah’s response to be that, since the ultimate catastrophe is about to befall Judah anyway, they might just as well eat, drink and be merry, in the time they have left. But that is not what happens. Instead Josiah recognises that man has an unconditional obligation to worship God, and the populace is called together for a reading of the law. That is followed by a celebration of the Passover.

Nevertheless, God’s decrees are immutable, and Judah is destroyed in 587BC. The lesson here, I suppose, is that idolatry can reach a point of no return, and thereafter even the righteousness of a King Josiah will be unable to turn away the divine wrath. It is, of course, an open question as to whether we are living in another such period. In much of the western world God gets scant attention, and the great god of consumerism reigns supreme.

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Psalm 147 – The Worship of God
Posted: 12 July 2011 in Psalms

Praise ye the LORD: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely. The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground. Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God…..

Reading the above psalm earlier today, the thing which struck me was that it mentions every motive for worshipping God except for the one really important reason. Namely, that God should be worshipped simply because he is God. The thought of what we might be able to get out of the arrangement is hardly a very satisfactory reason for forming a relationship with another human being; even less is it an appropriate attitude to take into the worship of our sovereign Lord. It is scarcely too much to say that it is an insult to his divine majesty, which ought to fill us with awe.

As a follow on from that remark, the Bible is admittedly the revealed Word of God, and that might seem to make it problematic to criticise anything it contains. However, according the Bible the high reverence it rightly deserves does not, I think, necessarily mean that we must go “Alleluia!” in response to its every line. If it is allowed that the Holy Spirit must interpret its text to us, then it is always possible that at some point, God will be saying, “This is not good enough.”

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Genesis 28.20-22 and 1 Timothy 6.7-9 – Reliance upon God
Posted: 11 July 2011 in 1 Timothy, Genesis

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

These two passages echo a theme which recurs in the Bible – Jesus’ statement that we cannot serve both God and mammon being a comment on the same theme. Whether we like it or not, we have to decide what our priorities are life. If our goal is to make Bill Gates look like a pauper, in comparison to us, that is the goal we will spend all our time pursuing, and God will get a scant look in. Conversely, if we really mean what we say about serving God, we cannot necessarily count on being able to do much more than hold body and soul together.

Of course that statement could be a bit misleading. What actually happens is not wholly up to us, but up to God. A large part of being a Christian is learning to live what God wills for each one of us as individuals, and a failure to do that can have the upshot that we spend many years banging our heads up against a brick wall. It is unlikely that God would will mega riches for those he has chosen, and that for the reason Jesus gave in the passage alluded to above.

Looking back over the last few posts, they seem to be on more or less the same theme. Maybe I should find a new song to sing.

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