Genesis 24.10-21 – Divine involvement in history
Posted: 8 July 2011 in Genesis

And [Abraham’s] servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed….. and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water. And he said O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham….. And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac….. And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out….. with her pitcher upon her shoulder. And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up. And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink . And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also….. And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.

Presumably readers of this blog will know how the story from Genesis 24 ends. If there is one thing the Bible makes clear, it is that the Judeo-Christian God is no deist god, but a God who is very much involved in history. Here the choice of Isaac’s wife hangs upon God’s involvement, and the participants in the story are more or less conscious of God’s involvement. But that is not always the case; in the Exodus story Pharoah is certainly not conscious of God’s role in hardening his heart. That God does involve himself with his universe does not always come as welcome news to Christians. It implies that our wills are not as completely free as we sometimes imagine, and we would like to attribute to ourselves that sovereignly free will which belongs to God alone.

A failure to acknowledge God as Lord and Governor of all creation, with our freedom being relative to his will, seems to me to detract from his glory.

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Job 2.9-10 – Accepting whatever comes from God’s hands.
Posted: 6 July 2011 in Job

Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Job’s case is rather extreme, but the principle these two verses set out is of more general applicability. We can’t ask for all sorts of goodies from God, and then complain when some evil comes our way. Confidence in God has to be confidence that whatever he determines upon will surely come to pass. The working out of his will might not always be to our liking, but one of the criticisms of Christianity I hear from atheists is that it postulates a universe which was created just for us. It was created for God of course, but it is unfortunate that there are too many Christians who give them reason to think that – with perhaps the prosperity gospel being the most grotesque example.


Luke 18.9-14 – Self Righteousness
Posted: 5 July 2011 in Luke

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Yesterday I encountered a bisexual woman on the internet who seems to have had a very rough time from evangelical Christians. By the sound of it she lived in the American Bible belt, and had precious few friends. This sort of thing makes me ashamed to be a Christian. Like the Pharisees who were forever catching the sharp edge of Jesus’ tongue, those kinds of Christian are too full of their own self righteousness, and have a marked reluctance to acknowledge their own sin. It is not actually unknown for people to end up committing suicide when they are as friendless as that woman seemed to be.

The Pharisee in the above parable is a good example of self righteousness. He is absolutely full of himself, and has no doubt about his own impeccable standing before God. So far as he is concerned, the publican’s only function in life is to be a foil against whom he can compare himself favourably. On the other hand, the publicans were notoriously dishonest, and this one seems to be well aware of his sinful nature. But paradoxically, the fact that he acknowledged his sin, instead of presuming to judge somebody else over theirs, meant that it was he who went down from the Temple in good standing with God.

If we do not observe Jesus’ injuction in Matthew 7.1-2, we might have to account for the consequences afterwards:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

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2 Chronicles 26.14-20 – The Lordship of God
Posted: 4 July 2011 in 2 Chronicles

And Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows….. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.

I suppose this is a follow on from the previous post. The hard truth we humans have to live with is that God is not, in our terms, “fair” in the bestowal of his gifts, but that he bestows them upon whom he will for the furtherance of his own glory. By the eighth century BC it was an established fact that it was God’s will the descendants of Aaron should minister to him in the priesthood, and nobody else. Here Uzziah displays what is probably an almost universal human failing in no sooner encountering a prohibition than in wanting to violate it. The word “no” is not one we like to hear – especially when it dents our pride, and makes clear that God’s Lordship is more than a form of words.

There is a not dissimilar story in Acts 8, where a gift which God has apparently reserved to the apostles is seen by Simon the sorcerer as a means of boosting his own prestige, and possibly bank balance as well. Unlike Uzziah he isn’t immediately smitten with leprosy, but he does get a severe dressing down from Peter.

I suppose God’s absolute severeignty in choosing whom he will, and always with his own purposes in view, is never harder to accept than when it comes to election to salvation.

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James 3.1-8 – Humility and a quiet spirit.
Posted: 1 July 2011 in James

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

James is surely right in thinking that a quiet spirit is unlikely to be accompanied by a noisy tongue – the reason being that a noisy tongue is most probably in trying to draw attention to itself, rather than serving Christ. For most of us humility is going to lie, at least in part, in recognising that somebody else has a divinely appointed leadership role. Not all members of Christ’s body have the same role, and neither the hand nor the foot is the head.

Of course, for somebody who does have a leadership role, humility is a major prerequisite. If somebody is noticeably lacking in that virtue, then we can be reasonably sure that any claim made to that vocation is a fallacious one. Nevertheless, for most of us obedience to Christ is going, at some point, to involve subjugating our ideas to those of somebody else, and we should really only be opening our mouths in order to serve Christ, rather than to contest their right to a leadership role.

** If it be suspected that the writer of this blog is here exalting his own role, I should make it clear that I have no role which could even remotely be described as a leadership role!

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