Psalm 72 – Foretelling of Christ
Posted: 4 June 2010 in Scripture

“In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth…… Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper…… His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.”

It is easy to read psalm 72 as a prophesy of Christ’s kingdom, and even easier to read Isaiah 53 in the same way. Conservatives, of course, would have no problem with that idea. Liberals, on the other hand, would probably dismiss it as a pre-critical idea, and insist that the writer or poet had contemporary events in mind when he wrote. However, if it is remembered that every book of the Bible has two authors, human and divine, there is no necessary conflict between those two positions. The human author may, and probably was, motivated to write in response to events around him, but the divine author could additionally have in mind an event which still lay several centuries into the future. If both Testaments of the Bible are understood to have been inspired by one and the same God, it should come as no particular surprise if the Old Testament contains intimations of the New Testament.

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Acts 17.19-21, Galatians 2.16-20 & Hebrews 10.26-29 – Commitment to Christ
Posted: 2 June 2010 in Acts, Ephesians, Galatians, Hebrews

“And they took him [Paul], and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)”

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ…… and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment….. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God…… and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”

The passage from Acts is, of course, a caricature of what an English journalist has more recently described as the chattering classes. They simply must be up with all the latest developments in intellectual fashion, but the essential hollowness of all their chatter is betrayed by their reluctance to make any sort of commitment.

The passage from Galatians briefly describes Christianity as being a commitment to the only means of salvation God has made available to mankind. Namely through faith in the sacrificial death of Christ. But then in Hebrews comes the warning about treating too lightly a sacrifice made at great cost to God himself. If the Athenians’ caution in too easily committing themselves had been motivated by that thought, then perhaps they would have displayed great wisdom after all.

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Tags: commitment, salvation

Proverbs 20.24, 21.1 & Ephesians 1.3-6
Predestination
Posted: 31 May 2010 in Ephesians, Proverbs

“Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?”

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will”

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

The above are, of course, just three of the many allusions to predestination/preordination to be found in the Bible. It is easy enough to understand why people have difficulty with this doctrine, and the God revealed in the Bible is probably not one we would invent for ourselves. Nevertheless, God does not leave things to chance, and least of all did he leave the death and resurrection of Jesus to chance. Which means the treachery of Judas must have been preordained.

And yet Judas is not thereby relieved of moral responsibility for his actions. Matthew 25.31-46 makes it clear that we will similarly be held accountable for our actions, even though we too are subject to God’s predestination. It is very difficult to see how those two themes can be reconciled, but the fact that they are both to be found in the Bible requires us to embrace both of them – holding them in a creative tension. It is not open to us, as it is to atheists, to say that we can’t understand it, and therefore it can’t be true. We are the ones who must live with Mystery (capital ‘M’).

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Tags: human responsibility, predestination, preordination

Luke 12.22-31 – Relying upon God
Posted: 30 May 2010 in Luke

And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Here is another of those scriptural psssages exhorting us to trust in God, and not to rely upon ourselves. Clearly it would be easier to serve God if we did not have to worry about every day necessities, but that is nevertheless a very difficult lesson to take on board. Not the least reason for the difficulty is being unsure whether we would really be obeying Jesus’ injunction to rely upon God for our needs, or whether we would simply be displaying an ill advised imprudence.

Immediately preceding this passage is another one warning us not to idolse material well being. That is perhaps easier to take on board, but no easier to put into practice.

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Tags: trusting in god

Nehemiah 9.6-8 – God as Creator and Lord
Posted: 29 May 2010 in Nehemiah

Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee. Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham; And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous:

The best known hymns to God as Creator are, of course, to be found in the opening chapters of Genesis. Here, however, is a reminder that creation is not just a one off event, which occurred in the immeasurably distant past, but is, rather, an ongoing process by which God seeks to guide creation towards its ultimate destiny.

This creative activity of God was, obviously, preeminently to be seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Nevertheless, just as creation wasn’t a one off event, it wasn’t a twofold event either, and God is still at work in the world today. Even in those areas where mankind has had a share in God’s creative activity, those accomplishments were only possible because God had gifted the individuals concerned with the necessary skills. Our responsibility is to cooperate with God, and to use our skills in the manner desired by him.

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Tags: creation, purposes of god