Posts for February 2012
5 Posts found

Deuteronomy 12.32 – Rightly worshipping God.
Posted: 29 February 2012 in Deuteronomy

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Although the above verse relates directly to the Old Testament cultus, the principle it enunciates is general enough for there to be no reason to suppose that it doesn’t apply to Christian worship as well. God does not change his mind. There are two temptations which face worshippers of the one and only God. One is to dishonour his name by doing only reluctantly what he commands, but the other is to imagine that we sinful creatures can add anything to that which he commands. God is sufficient unto himself, and there is nothing we can give or offer him, beyond that which he ordains. In this verse we are explicitly warned by God himself not to make the attempt.

All disobedience to God is by definition sin, and we should be wary of the arrogance of thinking that we sinful creatures can add anything to God’s glory by going beyond that which is commanded. On the other hand, it would be equally sinful for us to ignore our duty in not doing that which God requires, or by doing it grudgingly and with a heavy heart. And yet we are not able to perform even that duty, unless God graciously bestows upon us a heart which is not reluctant to do all his will – still less are we able to go beyond it, and have our worship be pleasing to him.

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Deuterononmy 8.11-14,17 – Original Sin and Salvation
Posted: 22 February 2012 in Deuteronomy

Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage….. And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.

There is nothing new under the sun. Even in Moses day, as soon as people had achieved some kind of material prosperity, they forgot about God, and started to worship money – that idol which is far more seductive than any idol made out of wood or brass. They forgot that God (and his will) are the origin of all things, and that there is nothing they can rightfully ascribe to themselves. Why do we so easily forget to be grateful to God? I suppose the answer to that is original sin – the sin we manage to be the owners of even without trying, and even without consciously transgressing any of God’s commandments. We are guilty because our first instinct is always to rebel against God and his authority, and we only need the first opportunity to do so.

People are sometimes heard to say that it would be unjust of God to inflict eternal punishment upon us for sins committed during a finite life time. That might be so if the only thing in question were particular sins, but there is no possibility that somebody in general rebellion against God would be able to live in his presence.

At one point during his ministry, Jesus’ disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” to which Jesus’ reply was “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” The disciples apparently realised that what Jesus had said, immediately prior to their question, made salvation impossible for men – unless, that is, God intervened. They seem not yet come to a full realisation of who Jesus was, and what his role was to be in the salvation of men (and women).

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Proverbs 19.3 and Isaiah 2.10-11 – Pride and fretting against the will of God
Posted: 16 February 2012 in Isaiah, Proverbs

The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.

Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.

Although the new atheists give many reasons for not believing in God, it is difficult to avoid the impression that one of the underlying psychological motives is a reluctance to have God reign over them. But that does not, of course, alter the fact that he does reign over them. Although foolishness in rebelling against their Creator seems to be one of the central characteristics of human beings, God will have victory over his enemies, and he alone will be exalted in that day.

But I suppose the new atheists are not altogether alone there. We all find aspects of God’s revealed will to fret against. The difference, however, ought to be that Christians realise that they have a duty to love God, and to seek his will always. Insofar as we fail in that, it ought both to humble us, and to make us aware of our total dependence upon God’s grace.

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Deuteronomy 2 – God as the Lord of history.
Posted: 15 February 2012 in Deuteronomy

…..command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore: Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession…. And when we passed by from our brethren the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, through the way of the plain from Elath, and from Eziongaber, we turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab. And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession….. Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle….. Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day….. Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people.

For me the interesting thing about this passage is the way in which it talks about God’s iron grip on history. It had been God’s will to give Edom and Moab to the children of Esau and Lot respectively, and the Israelites, on their way out of Egypt are told explicitly not to mess with them. But when it comes to Sihon, king of Heshbon, on the other hand, things are different. There it is the Lord’s will that Israel should dispossess the existing inhabitants. So God intervenes directly to harden the the heart of the king of Heshbon, and thereby ensures that Sihon comes out to battle with the Israelites and loses.

Christians sometimes talk as if God created the universe as a kind of playground for us. Thereafter we can do what we like in it, within reason, and his only role is to occasionally intervene to correct miscreants, and to ensure fair play, but otherwise he minds his own business. Sometimes we get angry when he falls down on the job we have assigned him. How dare he allow innocent suffering? The ancients were acquainted with suffering too, probably more so than us, but it generally did not occur to them to rail against God in the way that we tend to.

The God of the Bible, however, is not one whose primary purpose is to ensure our comfort. He created the universe, and everything in it, for his own purposes – not for ours, and we are here only to be his servants. The God of the Bible’s primary concern is to bring his plan for history to fruition. To that end he is quite prepared to preordain some to a life of comfort, and others to a life of suffering; some to eternal life, and others to destruction. Always he has in mind his ultimate purpose in creating the universe, and that is the furtherance of his own glory.

“The LORD do that which seemeth him good,” was Joab’s prayer prior to his battle with the Ammonites, because he knew that the outcome of the battle would depend solely upon that which God had preordained since before the beginning of the world.

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Revelation 20.13-15 and Matthew 25.45-46
The unpopular doctrine of eternal damnation
Posted: 13 February 2012 in Matthew, Revelation

“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

“Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

Eternal damnation is probably the least popular doctrine with which Christians have to deal. What makes it even harder to accept is the doctrine of Predestination. But, irrespective of whether or not we like it, it is a doctrine to be found throughout the New Testament. It is one which comes, moreover, from the lips of Jesus himself (on more than one occasion). The language is (sometimes) obviously picturesque, but Jesus must have thought it appropriate, otherwise he wouldn’t have used it. God is a Mystery, and scripture is given so that we can have an objective knowledge of God.  The only alternative to accepting what it says is to construct an idol which is pleasing to ourselves.

A fallacy frequently heard from atheists is that something (such as eternal punishment) can’t be true, unless they find it unobjectionable. Perhaps we can sympathise to some extent, but is a bit ironical when members of a group, who typically pride themselves on their scientific objectivity, decide the truth of biblical doctrine on the basis of their subjective feelings. Christians ought not to fall into the same trap.

There are a couple of things which need to be remembered. The first is that we are explicitly forbidden (Matthew 7.1) to usurp God’s role, and judge for ourselves who the saved and unsaved are. The second is that, although all men deserve to be eternally punished in God’s eyes, he, in his mercy, has made available a way of salvation for those appointed to eternal life. Only those who refuse it will be condemned. It is almost certainly better to dwell upon God’s mercy than to dwell upon his justice, but not to the exclusion of the latter. If we would not blaspheme his holy name, we are required to confess, and ourselves believe, that God, as he is revealed to us in scripture, is just in all his ways.

We must further believe that he is worthy of all glory, honour and praise, for none other reason than that he is, and ever will be.

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