Posts for July 2010
5 Posts found

2 Kings 9.5-8 & Isaiah 55.8-9
The death of Ahab & his family
Posted: 31 July 2010 in 2 Kings, Isaiah

“And when he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting; and he said, I have an errand to thee, O captain…. and he poured the oil on his head, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over the people of the LORD, even over Israel. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel:”

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The first thing to cross the mind of somebody after reading those verses from 2 Kings might be that the sentence pronounced by God is pretty tough on the descendants of Ahab – especially as it appears to violate a principle set out in Deuteronomy 24.16: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers.”

However, for me a couple of thoughts flow from this. The first is that Deuternonmy contains a principle set forth by God for us to obey. It is not supposed to constrain the sovereign freedom of God.

The second thought is that we need to take on board the warning contained in the verse from Isaiah – God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. It needs to be remembered that it is God, not us, who is the sovereign Lord and Judge of all creation, and it is God, not us, who disposes all things according to the good pleasure of his own will.

God is the Lord, we are his creatures, and it is simply not for us to question his actions.

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Mark 2.21-22 – The authority and divinity of Jesus
Posted: 30 July 2010 in Mark

No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.

I sometimes hear Christians ask, where in the New Testament does Jesus claim divinity? I will admit that, until very recently, I would not have believed that such a thing could be asked by Christians. One answer to the question, however, that is that Jesus claims divinity in numerous places in the Gospel of John. It must be admitted that references to his divinity are less explicit in the synoptic gospels, but even there they are still to be found, and the above passage is one such.

Jesus at this point in Mark is clearly announcing the arrival of a new covenant, and a setting aside of the Mosaic Covenant (new cloth – old garment; new wine – old bottles). In first century Judaism, claiming the authority to say such a thing would have bordered on blasphemy. Nobody would have been able to say it unless he was either insane, or knew himself to have the necessary authority. At the very least he would have needed the authority of a prophet. Here, however, there are none of the theophanies, at Mount Sinai, or at the burning bush, which Moses witnessed when the Old Covenant was being announced. Instead Jesus needs no such special revelations from God, because he is here speaking with the authority of God Incarnate.

Earlier in chapter 2, the scribes and Pharisees were scandalised when Jesus forgave the paralysed man his sins, again on his own authority.

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Job 9.1-4 – Suffering & Man’s dealings with God
Posted: 29 July 2010 in Job

Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?

We are privileged to know the ultimate the ultimate cause of Job’s suffering, because it is revealed to us in chapter 1 of the book of Job. But Job himself does not have access to that information, and the reason he has to suffer in this way is beyond his comprehension. Yet, at least in these few verses, he seems to know, in a way that modern man does not, that it is impossible for us to justify ourselves before God. Nor can we, except with the grossest impertinence, presume to sit in judgment upon our Creator.

It is not long, of course, before Job moves on, and starts doing precisely what he has just said man cannot do – and is duly upbraided by God from chapter 38 onwards. We would, most likely, all do the same. But Job’s first instinct is correct, and we must believe that whatever befalls us is serving God’s purpose in the grand scheme of things.

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Matthew 25.31-46 – The Last Judgment
Posted: 28 July 2010 in Matthew

Clicking on this italicised passage will open the full text in a new window.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats…..

I have seen this passage referred to as “The Great Surprise” rather than “The Last Judgment.” The point being that both groups appear surprised when they learn of the respective verdicts being passed upon them. The sheep are not conscious of having done anything to merit salvation, and, conversely, the goats are not conscious of having done anything to merit condemnation.

The implication is that we do not here have a religion where salvation is to be achieved through works, but rather one where it has to be achieved through the grace of God. Were it otherwise, the sheep would be conscious of having earned their salvation through their many good works, whereas the goats would be unsurprised to learn that they were finally to receive their comeuppance, because of their lack of good works.

Instead, without the sheep realising it, God has wrought in them a docility to his will, and the works which are pleasing to himself. The surprise of the goats, on the other hand, is at least partly to be accounted for through the realisation that attempts to earn their own ticket into heaven have not, in fact, succeeded in doing so. They were not conscious of their utter dependence upon God.

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Genesis 1 – Creation
Posted: 26 July 2010 in Genesis

Clicking on this italicised passage will open the full text in a new window.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day…….

Genesis 1 does not give a scientific account of creation. That is not its purpose. Instead its purpose is to talk about the great theological truths of God as the creator and sustainer of all that is. It talks about God’s omnipotent word efficaciously bringing about whatever he decrees. God speaks….. and it is. That is a refrain which runs throughout the opening verses of Genesis.

It is this depiction of God’s activity which makes me feel uneasy when God is spoken of as a designer. The word “designer” conjures up a picture of somebody sitting at a drawing board, long into the night, trying to overcome some problem he has encountered. To use that as a metaphor for the omnipotent God, whose mere word gives effect to whatever he decrees, does a grave dishonour to the glory of God. Even the notion of design dishonours him. Genesis 1 describes a universe which is spoken into existence by God, without any other effort on his behalf being necessary – especially not the effort of a designer. God is truly beyond our comprehension, and we must be on our guard against anything which reduces him to something we can more easily comprehend.

Later on in the chapter, the special role of man in God’s creation is mentioned. There may be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, but the Bible does not address itself to that question. Here on earth, however, man is created so that he can act as God’s representative and rule on his behalf. Being created in the role of God’s ambassador is probably what is meant by being created in God’s image. This clearly makes man into a servant – God’s slave even – and his dominion over creation does not, therefore, give him a licence to do as he pleases with God’s handiwork.

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