Isaiah 51.4 – The nature of God’s law
Posted: 11 February 2011 in Isaiah

“Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.”

This verse is an interesting take on the nature of God’s law. The law is here not seen as an onerous imposition, which we must obey upon pain of divine retribution. Instead it is seen as a light, which is given to us so that we can walk in a way which is pleasing to God. For Christians, of course, salvation is through faith in Christ, and not through the works of the law. But still, law is far from unimportant, because the love we have towards God should manifest itself through obedience to his will. As John reminds us:

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5.3)

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Luke 18.35-43 – Spiritual Healing
Posted: 10 February 2011 in Luke

And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.

Like most of the healing stories in the Bible, this one probably has a double significance: Firstly there is a physical healing and, more importantly, there is also a spiritual healing – for which the physical healing serves as a metaphor. Healing requires the prior gift of faith, as Jesus’ words, “thy faith hath saved thee,” makes clear. In fact, the gift of faith actually is a spiritual healing, insofar as it enables us to turn to God for both our spiritual and physical needs – including further healing (which is not to deny that the medical profession has a role to play in physical healing).

Whilst physical sight is useful in navigating ourselves around the world, and doubtless the blind man was glad to have it restored to him, spiritual sight is essential for anybody who would see eternal life – and it comes only from God. With our spiritual eyes open we can read the Bible, and discover the living Word of God, instead of a secular history, or a long forgotten correspondence.

The immediate result of the healing is that the people glorified God, which, as ever, is the fundamental purpose of all Creation.

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1 Chronicles 29.12-15, 18 – All things come from God
Posted: 9 February 2011 in 1 Chronicles

Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:

This song of praise is a reminder that, as their Creator, all things belong to God, which includes us. Anything we possess is on loan to us, and we are duty bound to make use of God’s gifts not only in such a way as to glorify God, but also in a way which accords with his will. We have nothing we can offer him, except what he has already given us.

“Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all.” Riches and honour come to us as a gift from God, but so too does poverty. That poverty can be a gift may make a strange sound on worldy ears, but when somebody is deprived of worldly success, they are rescued from an earthly idol it is all too easy to go chasing after, and they are given a greater facility to serve God..

Even the desire to love and worship God must come from him in the first instance, which is why David prays for God to prepare his people’s hearts unto himself. After we have received the gift of faith, which we have no right to expect, we can implead God for greater faith, but we can do nothing without him.

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Isaiah 47.5-10 – God’s use of sinful motives
Posted: 4 February 2011 in Isaiah

Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms. I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke. And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it. Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments. For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.

The above passage exemplifies the way in which God can bring his purposes to fruition, even through the agency of those whose motives are wholly sinful. The Babylonians certainly entertained no idea that they were serving God in their actions.

The twice repeated phrase “I am, and none else beside me” is a deliberate reference to the divine name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3.14. The Babylonians were guilty of the besetting sin of human pride, with the self idolatry which inevitably flows from it. They are here reminded that there is only one God, who does not give his glory to another, and they are warned of impending judgment. Ironically, their sin is the selfsame one which originally caused Judah to be delivered into their hands.

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Isaiah 45.9-12 – The futility of striving with God
Posted: 3 February 2011 in Isaiah, Scripture

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.

If there is one thing you can’t help noticing about atheists on the internet, it is the way in which they are no sooner through telling you that God doesn’t exist, than they are lecturing this God about his incompetence in (for example) not preventing the holocaust. I suppose it should come as no surprise that an atheist feels no constraint in telling God his business, even if you can’t help noticing the illogicality of it, but it still implies a grossly inadequate conception of what the word God signifies.

We homo sapiens, who inhabit a 5,970 trillion tonne piece of rock, orbiting an insignificant star on the edge of the galaxy, which itself is just one amongst millions of other galaxies in the created universe; it is we who presume to make ourselves the equal of God, and lecture him about how to better govern his Creation. Although atheists have brought this gentle little art to its perfection, even Christians are guilty of it when they think God is somehow falling down on the job if he fails to arrange things quite to their liking.

There is no other response proper to human beings than to bow the knee before God’s majesty, and to ask for his will to be done. That, after all, was the response of Jesus on the night before he was crucified – and he was the Son of God in human flesh.

Although the primary purpose of the book of Job is to make the point that suffering does not necessarily represent divine retribution, we ought also to take on board a secondary lesson. That lesson is the response Job receives from God towards the end of the book.

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