Proverbs 3.5-7 and John 1.1,10
Divine Wisdom and human understanding
Posted: 2 March 2011 in John, Proverbs

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”

Reading the above passage from Proverbs, I was reminded of the frequency with which I nowadays hear professing Christians saying things that, in the past, both Protestant and Catholic churches have regarded as heretical. A favourite target for such comments is the doctrine of the Trinity.

There is more than a little arrogance in ignoring the collective wisdom of centuries, and deciding that we ourselves can discover the truth, which has eluded everybody else for millenia. Clearly the Christian scriptures are incompatible with a unitarian view of God, and John 1 is a glaringly obvious example of that incompatibility.

Quietness of heart is the appropriate attitude when we are in the presence of God and his word, or even of the credal formulae which have been deduced from the scriptures. If we do not understand, we must nevertheless be prepared to accept what God has revealed. The reward for doing so will be a divine wisdom that gradually discloses itself in our hearts – even though it remains a complete puzzlement to our heads. In religion the understanding of the heart, and the ability to love God which comes with it, is of infinitely greater value than any understanding the head may be capable of.

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Jeremiah 2.10-17 and Revelation 7.9-12 – Sin and Salvation
Posted: 1 March 2011 in Jeremiah, Revelation

“For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing. Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? why is he spoiled? The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant. Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head. Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, when he led thee by the way?”

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.”

Ever since the Fall, sin has been a defining characteristic of humankind. We may no longer bow down to images of Baal, but we have no trouble finding other things we can serve and worship, in place of the one true God. Money and prestige are amongst the leading contenders here.

When Jeremiah prophesied against the ancient Israelites, and called them back to the proper worship of God, it brought only judgment, because fallen humanity is fundamentally incapable of mending its own ways.

Nevertheless, we who live in Christ are now not subject to the same condemnation. God had a plan for his creation, and that plan was not that all mankind should be condemned. For that reason Jesus Christ came into the world, that whosoever believes on him should not be condemned, but should be saved. And now the elect of God have the motive, as well as the duty, to be thankful to God, and to worship him unconditionally. Perhaps, like Job, we will sometimes find that difficult, but the duty will remain. The passage from Revelation depicts this worship as it will continue for all eternity, and it is in this eternal worship that Creation will have fulfilled its purpose.

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Jeremiah 1.4-14 and John 9.39 – Prophesy and Judgment
Posted: 28 February 2011 in Jeremiah, John

“Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant….. And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.”

“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.”

God always creates men (and women) for a reason, and, in Jeremiah’s case, it was revealed to him that he was created for the particular purpose of being the Lord’s prophet. However, no sooner has his vocation been made known to him, than Jeremiah protests that he is not equipped for the task. This is probably important, because somebody who thought he was ideally suited to the task would, most likely, be so full of himself that there would be no room left inside him for the Holy Spirit to either occupy, or take charge of. God can always make more effective use of those who consider themselves unworthy.

Jeremiah is told that, worthy or not, he must fulfill the task appointed for him. God touches him on the mouth and, doubtless much to his surprise, Jeremiah finds himself with a fluency of speech he has never before known.

After another few verses the narrative moves on to verses 13-14. The thing which struck me here is that God is telling Jeremiah what will happen – not what might happen should his contemporaries refuse to listen to him. Being omniscient, God already knows what their response will be, and how he will then act. But this raises the question, if God already knows how Jeremiah’s hearers are going to respond to him, why does he bother sending Jeremiah to them in the first place? On the face of it, Jeremiah is wasting his time. The only answer would seem to be: So that they are without excuse when they stand before God, and he judges them.

In John 9.39, also quoted above, Jesus seems to understand his mission as being, in part, the same as Jeremiah’s. The primary reason Jesus came to earth was so that all whom the Father had given him could hear his voice, come to him, and be saved. But, as the Gospel of John also makes clear, those who do not come to Jesus will stand condemned, and the condemnation will be, as in Jeremiah’s case, that they have heard the very words of God, and rejected them.

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1 Kings 21.20-24 – Divine judgment
Posted: 26 February 2011 in 1 Kings

And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD. Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.

The above passage follows on from the murder of Naboth, and the confiscation of his vineyard by Ahab. As a passage about judgment it could have been plucked, almost at random, from among many similar passages in the Bible. The point, however, is that none of these passages can very easily be reconciled with much of today’s liberal theology. In this theology God implicitly says, “Well, you can do what you want my children, there is no need to accept the means of salvation I have offered you, because I am the God of love, and I will give you eternal life anyway.”

It is very common for people to try and sweep passages concerning God’s wrath under the carpet by drawing a distinction between the God of wrath in the Old Testament, and the God of love in the New Testament. That won’t wash for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which is that Jesus himself took the Old Testament very seriously, and seemed to think that the God described in the Hebrew scriptures was his Father. Another problem is that it would be reviving a very ancient heresy, which was condemned as such in the second century.

In any case, the New Testament itself contains passages which speak of judgment. One such is the parable which has the rich man in hell and the poor man, Lazarus, in heaven, following the rich man’s not very charitable behaviour towards Lazarus. Hell as being a not very pleasent place, and which was the eternal destiny of some people after death, must have been a belief already current in first century Judaism. Were it not so, Jesus’ hearers wouldn’t have known what he was talking about. More to the point, it was a belief evidently shared by Jesus himself.

So if the incarnate second person of the Trinity thought that God’s wrath was as real as his love, perhaps it should be worked back into today’s theology, and dispose of the cuddly God, who never displays his displeasure, and never utters a word in judgment, as the pious fiction that he is.

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2 Chronicles 18.16-21 – God’s involvement in History
Posted: 25 February 2011 in 2 Chronicles

Then he said, I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace. And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good unto me, but evil? Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the LORD; I saw the LORD sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. And the LORD said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner. Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will entice him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.

This passage reminds me of Isaiah 6, in its depiction of God’s sovereignty over human affairs. In this case the destruction of the house of Ahab has been determined upon by |God, and now he decides how to effect what he has planned. I do not think this can be understood merely in terms of God reacting to something unforseen by him. That would reduce him to the status of a far from omnipotent deity, who was forever struggling to regain control of his creation.

For all its difficulties, the biblical writers prefer to think in terms of a God who preordains all things – even those things which will subsequently attract his wrath. At all points in history, God is intimately involved iwith his creation, and not merely as a spectator, idly standing by to see what will happen next. A typical example of this, admittedly from a completely different part of the Bible, is Isaiah 63.17

“O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.”

So here, a situation has resulted in divine judgment being passed upon Israel, but their disobedience is nevertheless thought to flow from God’s hardening of their collective heart. This is clearly a difficult idea, insofar as it tempts prideful humans to sit in judgment upon God most Holy, but the motif is there, to be found throughout the Bible, and we are compelled by faith to believe that God is all righteous. That in him there is no darkness at all.

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