Isaiah 37.21-29 – God’s Majesty
Posted: 25 January 2011 in Scripture

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent unto Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Whereas thou hast prayed to me against Sennacherib king of Assyria: This is the word which the LORD hath spoken concerning him; The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel. By thy servants hast thou reproached the Lord, and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof, and the choice fir trees thereof: and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel. I have digged, and drunk water; and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the besieged places. Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps. Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded: they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up. But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me. Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.

Although coming the lips of God himself, the above is basically a hymn to God’s sovereign majesty. The Assyrian king Sennacharib has been victorious in all his other campaigns, and now he intends to include Judah to his list of conquests. His pride and arrogance in not seeing God as the author of his successes is now going to lead to his downfall.

All the actions of men lie in the hands of God, and nothing can happen unless he ordains it. God has settled upon Judah as his chosen people, so Judah will ultimately triumph. And nobody can say unto God, “What doest thou?” The fear of the Lord is indeed the beginning of wisdom.

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Luke 6.1-5 – Legalism
Posted: 24 January 2011 in Luke

And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days? And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him; How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone? And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

The Pharisees problem was that they wanted to obey God’s commandments, not through a sense of duty or love towards their Creator, but as a way of winning brownie points with God (and at the same time with their contemporaries). Such an approach to the commandments leads straight into a narrow legalism. The idea gains hold that, the more minutely the letter of the law is observed, the greater will be the number of brownie points gained.

Jesus would have been the last person on the face of the Earth to say that God’s commandments were unimportant, but, as far as he was concerned, they were to be obeyed in spirit, and not in letter. The sabbath law does not mean that people cannot attend to their physiological needs on the sabbath, and still less does it mean that acts of mercy are ruled out on the sabbath (as with the healing which follows in Luke’s Gospel).

Even worse than his attitude to the law, from the Pharisees point of view, was the greater humanity thereby revealed in Jesus. Compared with the Pharisees’ legalism, people found Jesus attractive, and so his authority grew, until he became a threat to the establishment.

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Amos 3.8, Luke 5.8 – Fear of God
Posted: 22 January 2011 in Amos, Luke

The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

God is the Lord, and we are but servants.
The Lord God hath spoken, and who can but prophesy?

This kind of fear, and deep reverence for God, is one of the things which seems to be missing in our present day. This doesn’t apply just to atheists, or even to those indifferent to Christianity. Christians abound whose conception of God seems to ressemble that of a cuddly Father Christmas figure, rather than that of a God who is Lord of all Creation. Peter’s response, in the verse quoted above, would seem to be a response more appropriate to a sinful creature standing before his Lord.

This lack of reverence, or fear of, God probably arises from an idea which seems to be prevalent in modern theology – namely that our welfare, and not his own glory, is God’s number one concern. I remember reading the Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, saying precisely that. Quote:

God wills nothing but man’s advantage, man’s true greatness and his ultimate dignity. This then is God’s will: man’s well being. (Hans Kung, On Being a Christian)

How he manages to get that from the pages of the Bible, I don’t know. In any case, it seems to have escaped his notice that there is an entire universe out there, beyond this pokey little planet, and it is all there for the glory of God.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev 4.11)

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Nehemiah 13.15-18 and Amos 2.4 – Judgment & Redemption
Posted: 21 January 2011 in Amos, Nehemiah

In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked:

Nehemiah need not have been surprised at what happened as soon as his back was turned, because fallen humanity can abandon the worship of God without a moment’s thought. This is true, even though the worship of God is the purpose for which we were created. It is especially true when we are in full pirsuit of that most seductive of all idols – money. A few centuries earlier Amos had been warning his hearers that disobedience to God brings judgment. To take this warning on board, and to realise that we stand under judgment, is to comprehend the extent to which we all stand in need of God’s mercy, and of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

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John 3.17-19, 12.37-41
The God whe determines the destinies of men
Posted: 20 January 2011 in John

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

A theme to be found in all four gospels is that Jesus will bring division. Some will recognise him for whom he really is, and respond accordingly, whilst others, afflicted with some sort of spiritual blindness, will reject him; thereby bringing judgment on themselves.

It may be wondered, from whence does this spiritual blindness arise? and the second passage quoted above gives the answer. It arises, ultimately, from the will of God. He who governs all things, according to the good pleasure of his own will, has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts. Why God should do this is something known only to himself (although the New Testament contains clues). If this is felt to be an unwelcome truth, that is understandable. But a God who did not have control over all things, essentially leaving Creation go its own way, would hardly be particularly awesome, or worthy of our worship.

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