Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Saint Andrews College: Why Are You Here?

A new promotional video by Christian Leithart:


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Daniel on Icons

There's a running "image" theme in Daniel. It runs explicitly through chapters 2 and 3 where Nebuchadnezzar initially has a dream that he requests be told to him and interpreted. God reveals the dream to Daniel, and it is the vision of the "image" of the statue. The image-statue has layers of gold, bronze, iron, and feet mixed with iron and clay. Daniel tells Neb that he is the head of gold on this image.

Immediately, in chapter 3, we are told that Nebuchadnezzar set up an "image of gold." Hmmmmmm... we ought to say to ourselves. Where have we heard this before? It's almost like Neb stopped listening after Daniel told him that he was the head of gold. But Neb may also take the vision as some sort of directions from God/the gods. Who knows. But he nevertheless sets up this image, and we are ushered into the famous story involving the three friends of Daniel who refuse to bow before the image.

The last explicit reference to "image" in Daniel comes in 3:19, and it linguistically connects one last dot: after the three friends insist that they will not worship the gold "image" that Nebuchadnezzar has set up, the text says that "Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego..." Literally, it says that he was full of fury and the "image" of his face changed... We've gone from the golden head on the image-statue, to the golden image set up to be worshiped, to the "image" of Nebuchadnezzar's face.

In other words, it appears that the text hints at what the the golden image looked like. It was an image of Nebuchadnezzar. It was his "image" that the three friends refused to bow down to and worship. And just to push this a little tighter, this is the aramaic equivalent to the same word (TSELEM) used in Genesis 1:27 to describe the relationship between God and man made in His "image."

It would have been right and proper for Daniel and his three friends to bow before Nebuchadnezzar as the king. He is an image bearer and their lawful authority. In fact, in the very last chapter, Nebuchadnezzar has bowed before Daniel and presented an offering and incense before him (2:46)! Furthermore, if Nebuchadnezzar is the new convert to the true religion, wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity to introduce the proper use of images into Babylonian worship? But bowing to images of images is forbidden (Ex. 20:4-6). We may not bow before images that are not alive because they are false in so far as they are lifeless.

One last item to note is the fact that after Neb throws the three friends into the furnace, a fourth "form" appears in the furnace with the three friends. The fourth form is like "the son of God." Whatever this means on the lips of a Babylonian king, the son of God or the gods is something "angelic" (3:28), and given the context, the "son" is one who represents the father-god, an image-bearer, frequently having a close resemblance to the father, like Adam, the first son of God, the first image bearer. Thus, Nebuchadnezzar is answered image for image, a golden lifeless icon cannot compete with the living icon of God, the son of God who comes to deliver His servants.



Daniel urges Nebuchadnezzar to repent so that his second dream does not come true: "Therefore, O King, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off yours sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity." (Dan. 4:27)

Interesting that Daniel doesn't point directly at Neb's arrogance and idolatry which are clearly the root issues. Instead, Daniel urges Neb to be just and merciful to the poor. Daniel knows that arrogance and idolatry go hand in hand with injustice and oppression of the poor. Nebuchadnezzar can't have it both ways. No man can serve two masters; no man can serve both God and Mammon.

The curse is also fitting: Because Neb will not treat his subjects with justice and mercy but rather treats them like beasts, Neb will become a wild beast. Because Neb will not honor the image of God in those he rules over, God will reduce Nebuchadnezzar to a sub-human state. Because Neb robs his people of the honor due fellow image-bearers, he will for a time be robbed of his image-bearing status.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Atheist Wisdom

Atheist Michael Ruse explains here, why he thinks the "New Atheists" are a "bloody disaster." Here's what I thought was some of the best bits:

Most importantly, the new atheists are doing terrible damage to the fight to keep Creationism out of the schools. The First Amendment does not ban the teaching of bad science in publicly funded schools. It bans the teaching of religion. That is why it is crucial to argue that Creationism, including its side kick IDT, is religion and not just bad science. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If teaching "God exists" is teaching religion - and it is - then why is teaching "God does not exist" not teaching religion? Obviously it is teaching religion. But if science generally and Darwinism specifically imply that God does not exist, then teaching science generally and Darwinism specifically runs smack up against the First Amendment. Perhaps indeed teaching Darwinism is implicitly teaching atheism. This is the claim of the new atheists. If this is so, then we shall have to live with it and rethink our strategy about Creationism and the schools. The point is however that the new atheists have lamentably failed to prove their point, and excoriating people like me who show the failure is (again) not very helpful.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Doing the Math of Mercy

Taught on Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman this morning, and the role that the past plays in the present is haunting.

Willy Loman is exhausted, worn down by a life of misdirection, misunderstanding, and failure. He followed a dream, and the dream let him down.

The story traces (indirectly) Willy Loman's life from a hopeful, friendly husband and father to the crust of bread that he is in the present. And what is unveiled is the reality of the weight of guilt. Loman's great failure is his failure to repent of sin. His failure is a blindness to his own failures. His dream was the dream of fame and fortune, of becoming "number one." Even Loman's death is an illustration of his inability to see himself. The weight of failure has piled up, and it comes out that he has been contemplating suicide. We find out that the real motivating factor in this consideration is the fact that he has a life insurance policy that might be cashed out for his wife and two sons. Maybe twenty grand will give them a new start at life.

But this is more of the same. Willy Loman thinks that life is found in money, in fame, in material possessions, and all along he is slowly ripping his family off. He is cheating his wife and sons out of the love and attention they deserve and keeps offering them the cheap substitutes of money and mammon.

The terrifying thing is that Willy's sons have learned the lessons well. Just as Willy is reaping the crop he has sown over the course of his life, his sons emerge embodying this same harvest. They are selfish womanizers. They have dreams of making it big, and they purchase their dreams with the same empty, creative spin as their father.

This is no surprise really when God has promised to be jealous for our worship. He promises to visit the iniquities of unfaithful fathers on their children to the third and fourth generations.

However, in the same place in the Second Word of the Ten Commandments, God likewise promises mercy to thousands of generations (Ex. 20:5-6). And this really is mind blowing.

Think about it: If Adam was created roughly 6000 years ago, that means there has only been about 150 generations on this planet so far. Even if you push it out a little ways for so-called gaps in the genealogies, you won't come up with half that. Assuming forty years per generation, you have to assume 40,000 years before you get to one thousand. And God says that He shows His mercy to thousands. That's plural.

So on the one hand we have the startling and terrifying warning regarding worshiping carved images and idolatry, the sins of fathers handed down to grandchildren and great-grandchildren. God keeps those accounts open for three and four generations. But the following verse bursts out like the grace that it is. God may keep counting for three or four generations when it comes to iniquity. But then He stops. He stops counting and clears those accounts. But He keeps on counting when it comes to mercy. He keeps those accounts wonderfully open. He loves to pay out mercy for thousands of generations. He loves to keep track of the grace He gets to pour out. And then we realize that there hasn't even been a thousand generations yet. Then we realize that God has only just begun to keep track of that mercy.

But notice that this also has implications for history. God only remembers sin for three or four generations, but He remembers mercy for thousands. This means that mercy is adding up. We have mercy accumulating. Grace adds up on top of grace, mercy on top of mercy. Or to put it another way, God's grace and mercy is greater towards those who love Him and keep His commands today than it was one hundred years ago. God's mercy is growing with every generation. The mercy He promised Abraham is still in the bank, and that tiny nugget of investment has multiplied beyond recognition.

Of course Jesus is the Faithful One beyond compare. His obedience and love for God the Father far outshines every human attempt. And if we are in Him, if we are sons of the Most High, then our inheritance is great indeed. The grace and mercy stored up for us and our children is infinite, extending to thousands of generations.

One last point is that all of this is reason for gratitude, thankfulness to God, to Christ of course. But it's also reason for thankfulness to our parents, to grandparents, to great-great-great-great-great grandparents, names we don't even know any more, faces we cannot even imagine. But we had ancestors who were faithful, who loved the Lord Jesus and kept His Word, some of whom died for the faith. And God is blessing us today with the mercy He promised them and to their descendants to a thousand generations.

There may Willy Lomans. There may be many Willy Lomans. But they only get three or four generations. Failure has an end. It's great-grandchildren are the end of the road. But mercy multiplies. Our God is saving up to bless us and our children. And that's the math of mercy, full and overflowing.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pinning Every Atom in Place

The Holy Spirit loves the details. The Spirit hovered over the waters of creation, and He was the breath that carried the Word of God crashing out into the nothing.

"Let there be light," was the Word, and the Wind of the Voice spun the nothing into light.

The Spirit constantly does that. The Spirit constantly carries the Word of Power that upholds all things. Like the Gravitron at the fair, the Spirit is the Wind that holds everything in its exact place in space.

I like to think of this while I'm sitting at my computer at my desk in my office. I like to think of the room rushing and howling with the Spirit-Wind, holding my coffee cup absolutely motionless, holding the books in their crooked stacks, all of the papers stuck, smack against the desk, unfurled flat in the storm of the Spirit.

That's really fun to think about, and occasionally the Lord gives prophets and seers glimpses into this reality.

But what I was trying to get to was the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. But it almost seems superfluous now. I was going to describe how the Spirit superintends all the details, all the billions of details in history, how the Spirit conducts the symphony of time and every note lands on the page exactly where it belongs.

The Holy Spirit loves all those details, and so should we. J. Gresham Machen counters the academic fools of his day who object to plenary inspiration claiming that the doctrine is all mechanical, all machinery, all clunky and fabricated. But Machen rightly insists that in fact plenary inspiration "does not deny the individuality of the biblical writers; it does not ignore their use of ordinary means for acquiring information; it does not involve any lack of interest in the historical situations which gave rise to the Biblical books" (C & L, 74). What it does do, is insist that the Holy Spirit so ruled that there are no errors in the Scriptures.

Plenary inspiration insists that the Breath of God has carried the Word of Power perfectly, fully, without a hitch in the dance, blowing, bursting the nothing, pinning every atom in place since that first thunderous shout.


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Ordination of Jesus

According to Hebrews, Jesus became our High Priest.

This means that Jesus was ordained to the priesthood.

When and how did this occur?

Hebrews says that Jesus did not take this honor to himself, but He was called by God when God said to Him: "You are my Son, today I have begotten You." (Heb. 5:4-5) Of course this is a quotation from Psalm 2, and elsewhere Paul applies this same verse to the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 13:33). And we might suspect that Hebrews is applying this verse the same way.

The writer cites Psalm 110 declaring: "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." And he tells us when this ordination occurred: "in the days of His flesh, when he offered up prayers and supplicatiosn, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able save Him from death..." (Heb. 5:7) The writer explains that though Jesus was a Son, He too learned obedience through His sufferings (Heb. 5:8). Jesus was ordained in His sufferings and was perfected in order to become the author of eternal life to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9). In other words, Jesus was declared to be the High Priest when He was perfected, ie. in His resurrection. Then He was called by God as High Priest, "according to the order of Melchizedek."

Surely part of this exegesis is bound up with the adverb "forever." Only a resurrected, perfect Son can be a priest forever.

Just before this passage, Hebrews has already stated that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God (Heb. 4:14). This suggests that the entire Passion-Resurrection-Ascension narrative should be viewed as a sort of ordination liturgy. Jesus is marked with blood and becomes the ordination sacrifice (cf. Lev. 8), but He is raised from the dead and ascends into heaven. Following the ordination rite of Aaron, Jesus too lifts his hands in blessing (Lev. 9:22), goes into the presence of God (Lev. 9:23), and then comes back to His people and the glory of the Lord appears to all people at Pentecost and fire comes out from the Lord to consume the (living) sacrifices and all the people are amazed (Lev. 9:23-24).


We Lift This Cup

Pastor Leithart has been working through the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ teaching to his disciples about the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, and he has emphasized the fact that just because this refers to specific events that have already occurred this does not make it any less applicable to us. The pattern is throughout Scripture. We serve the God of death and resurrection, judgment and mercy. And this table is yet another instance of the same principle. This meal points in many directions every Lord’s Day. It points back to the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a memorial of that judgment: Jesus said that when the Spirit came He would convict the world of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged. When Jesus was crucified, Satan was thrown down. But this meal also points forward, it points forward to the final Feast, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, where the final judgment has occurred, where all have been raised, when all justice has been complete, when the world has been put back together. And of course the first judgment of the cross and resurrection is the down payment, the first fruits of that final judgment. But this table also points to numerous points in history too where Jesus has judged wickedness and cast it down, where Jesus has exalted the humble and lowly. The first and last judgments are connected, and they are not connected by an invisible, ethereal fiber optics line. They are connected by history. Justice is being worked out in history, the first judgment is climbing up to meet the last judgment and we are somewhere in the middle. And this meal is a constant reminder and proclamation of this fact. And so as we drink this cup we declare the Lord’s death and therefore the death of all sin, the death of all evil, the death of all death. We declare the first and last judgments, and we declare the judgments of God to world. We declare the judgments of Jesus to every enemy of God. To those who stand against King Jesus we declare the death of Jesus as their doom. To those who kill babies, we lift this cup. To those oppress the poor and fatherless and the widows, we lift this cup. To those who legislate immorality and wickedness, we lift this cup. To those who pour out the blood of the innocent on the altars of greed and lust and power, we lift this cup. To harsh and tyrannical husbands and fathers, we lift this cup. To bitter and critical wives and mothers, we lift this cup. To disobedient and rebellious children, we lift this cup. Jesus is in heaven, and He is ruling until every enemy has been put beneath His feet. So come, eat, drink, and rejoice in your King.


Spilling Grace

When someone pokes you, what comes out? What happens when someone questions some conviction or practice you hold dear? It could be anything from your faith in Christ down to your conviction that socks should be folded, not rolled. What if someone expresses a contrary opinion? What if someone expresses a strong contrary opinion? How do you respond? When someone pokes you, what comes out? How do you handle it when someone in church disagrees with your health care convictions? What comes out? What comes out when someone says they think homeschoolers are lazy? Or what comes out when someone says that people who have their babies in the hospital are stupid? Or what about having babies at home? What comes out when you get poked?

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that they would know the love of Christ which passes understanding, and that they would be filled with all the fullness of God. Later, he urges them to be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody in their hearts to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God… Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in other words was that when the Ephesians got poked, they would spill the fullness of God. And notice that Paul ties this directly to knowing the love of Christ. Do you know the love of Christ like that? Do you know the love of Christ such that when you get poked, you pour out the fruits of the Spirit and thankfulness and submission in the fear of God. Or do you spill crankiness, prickliness, and defensiveness? And if when you are poked you don’t spill the fruits of the Spirit, and you are cranky and defensive, you need to consider why. Why do you get defensive when someone suggests that your cigarette habit is kind of stupid? Or your clothing is offensive or your childrearing is defective or your roommate says you are totally unhip?

If you aren’t spilling grace then you need to reconsider what you’re holding on to or how you’re holding on to it. If it isn’t grace that you’re holding on to, then grace isn’t going to come pouring out. And if it is grace, but you’re holding it like a thug, then you can’t be surprised when something thuggish emerges. Be filled with the Spirit, and know the love of Christ which passes knowledge. You know that you’re filled with grace when someone pokes you and you spill grace. You know you’re filled with the Spirit when someone pokes you and you start singing psalms and inviting them over for dinner.


Eternal Mercy Ministry

In the discussion here between D.A. Carson, John Piper, and Tim Keller, the question is asked, "How do we protect the centrality and purity of the gospel message while giving ourselves to mercy ministry?" In other words, how can we make sure that our mercy ministries do not devolve into mere social advocacy groups.

John Piper makes the excellent point that the doctrine of hell is perhaps one of the greatest safeguards against a watering down of the gospel. If hell is a reality, and there will be people who experience eternal, conscious suffering, then the gospel message is itself the most important mercy ministry. He says that he tells his congregation that they are all about relieving all suffering, especially eternal suffering.

In that light, Tim Keller notes that this collapses any spirit/body duality. It's not like keeping the gospel central is somehow undervaluing the material, physical circumstances of people. Keeping the gospel central is not gnostic or dualistic in that sense. Rather, the reality of hell insists that the priority is a temporal one. We keep the gospel central because we want to see eternal relief from suffering not merely temporary relief.

I like this approach. Many times the line of reasoning is that we ought to keep the gospel central because the lack of the gospel, salvation, Christ, etc. are the root problems of all problems and therefore if someone gets right with God everything else will work its way out. But this is an overly simplistic answer. And for anyone who has worked in mercy ministry or done counseling with people who have many health, social, psychological, or physical challenges knows, it's just not that simple. Of course it's absolutely true that dealing with sin and coming to know Christ is the answer, but the effects of sin and death are complex and difficult.

This means that those mercy ministries that do devolve into mere social advocacy groups may in fact do so out of pure and faithful love of individuals, and this is right and good. But in so far as they refuse to attend to the eternal well being of individuals they in fact neglect their material/physical needs. Those who refuse to address the eternal physical state of those they love are like doctors who put band-aids on their cancer patients because it makes them feel better.

But to state it more positively: many of our dearest friends that we minister to for years may have only some slight improvements in their physical/material circumstances. But those who know Christ and have been joined to His body will be raised incorruptible. They will be delivered from eternal suffering and delivered to eternal glory and wholeness. Of course this is no license for coasting on relieving physical suffering now. But it is assurance that no matter the progress we make, Christ promises to finish it at the resurrection.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Brian and Kelly

As I’ve meditated on Dt. 7 and thought about what I would say to you, Brian and Kelly, I’ve thought that this really is a great wedding text. I think it needs to make it into the wedding lessons more frequently than it usually does.

This passage talks about conquest, destroying idols, the love and election of God, the covenant and mercy of God, the judgment and blessing of God. Everything is there. Everything is here for a great wedding sermon. Joshua and I have the great privilege of tag-teaming you today: I will be laying out all the weapons and instruments, and then he will get to poke you with them.

The chapter begins with a declaration of the gospel. Moses says, “When the Lord you God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and cast out many nations before you… nations greater and mightier than you…” That’s the same way the Ten Commandments begin: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt…” The Word of God begins with blessing, it begins with salvation, it begins with the gospel, with the declaration of victory and freedom. But notice one significant difference from the preamble to the Ten Commandments. Here in Dt. 7, the gospel is future. The gospel is a declaration of good news concerning what God will do, what is coming.

The truthfulness of God’s promise is so certain, that Moses gives specific commands to the Israelites regarding these promises. When you take possession of this land that God will give you… The Israelites will need to be prepared to do several things. First, Moses tells them that when God delivers the enemy nations over to them, Israel must conquer and destroy them. And in case there was in ambiguity in that requirement, Moses makes it clear that this means they may not make covenants with them or show mercy to them. Sinful hearts have the amazing ability to turn commands like “destroy them” and “conquer them” into suggestions that really mean something more like make covenants with them and show them mercy. Moses has been with Israel long enough to know better, and he throws a couple of road blocks up to at least slow them down. He also tells them that this means they can’t make marriages with them or allow their sons and daughters to intermarry. Moses notices one fellow in the back scribbling furiously who had figured out how to make the words “destroy” and “conquer” form a chiasm which actually symbolically represented a unity candle which obviously meant that God wanted them to all get married. But Moses closes that exit too. He points that intermarriage would be a particular folly because it will result in turning their children and grand children away from following the Lord to follow other gods instead, and the end result of that will be that Israel will have become an enemy of God. And God destroys His enemies, and so God will have to destroy Israel.

Again, Moses doesn’t leave any doors unlocked for Israel. He spells out clearly that this means Israel must specifically destroy all of the pagan altars and liturgical trinkets they find in the land. The pillars, the images, and the altars must be cut down, broken down, and burned in the fire (7:5).

The Lord reminds Israel that she is a chose people, a special treasure above all the peoples of the earth. But He also reminds them that this is not because of something special in them. It wasn’t because they were the strongest or the most numerous – that was clearly not the case. Rather, they were the least of all peoples, and the Lord brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord set his love upon Israel because of His great mercy and because of His covenant with their forefathers.
The passage concludes reminding the people of Israel of what it means to be the covenant people of God. What does it mean to be loved by God? God’s love for His people means blessing and mercy for a thousand generations toward those who love Him and keep His commandments (7:9). And this means blessing and prosperity in the womb, in their land, in their grain, in their wine and oil, in the cattle, and God promises to drive barrenness and sickness and the plagues of Egypt far away from them. But this love of God also includes a righteous jealousy that insists that He will repay those who hate him, and those who refuse His love and resolve to be His enemies, He will treat like enemies and destroy them.

So what does all of this have to do with love and marriage? Well nearly everything actually. A faithful and godly marriage must include everything that we covered in this passage. Marriage begins with the blessing of God, and that’s really what a wedding ceremony is. We all stand up here and put our best clothes on and ask God to bless this new family, this new household. We begin with the blessing of God, but that blessing is a blessing that looks forward to something. It’s good news, it’s a promise of blessing, but it’s future. Your suits and dresses and flowers are meant to point forward. They of course honor you today, but they are also meant to signify in a small way the glory that awaits you. The glory of life together, the joy of children, laughter around dinner tables, the wonder of making love, walks under the stars at night, and the countless other glories of sharing life together. But you haven’t done that yet. It’s all ahead of you. And so all of that is the land that the Lord your God is giving you. And of course literally, the Lord will give you a place, a piece of land probably where you will settle down together. But all of that is the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you.

But this inheritance is not free of enemies. Today, the Lord is declaring to you that He is giving you this wonderful land, this wonderful gift, all of these glories and far more. And the Lord is also declaring to you that He will take you there, He will ensure that you arrive safely, and He will cast out the nations that stand in your way. And just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that God is arranging for the layoff of some poor chap in graduate student housing so that you can get a really fancy duplex. No, we do not struggle against flesh and blood, our struggle is against far more insidious nations, far more difficult enemies. The enemies of sin, the flesh, and the devil, and of course this doesn’t mean that your warfare is only inside your head. This warfare begins now and you will face these enemies everywhere. You will face them at your dinner table, when you’re going to bed at night, and when you get up in the morning. You will face temptations at your work, in your studies, with your children, with friends, family, and throughout the rest of your life. But the Lord your God has promised to cast them out before you. He promises to cast out these sins, these lusts of the flesh, these devils that try to drag us down. God promises to give you this land, and therefore He will go before you and prepare it for you.

But this doesn’t mean you just get to relax. The command is the same for you as it was for Israel. You must go into this land and conquer and destroy these enemies. And you may not make covenants with them and you may not show them mercy. What are the names of these enemy nations: pride and arrogance, lust and greed, contentiousness and bitterness, backbiting and lies, all of those nations must go. And of course these evils do not ordinarily show up and introduce themselves with horns and a tail and a pitchfork. They don’t usually show up and introduce themselves as evil and ask to be your friend. And this means that you must be on your guard, alert, with your hand upon your sword at all times. And of course your sword is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Ps. 149 has the wonderful line where the Psalmist calling God’s people to praise Him, and he says, “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples” (Ps. 149:6-7). How are the nations to be driven from the land? With the high praises of God in your mouth and a two-edged sword in your hand. In other words, let the word dwell in you richly so that you are constantly armed against every enemy.

Like Israel, you need to recognize that the reason God is granting you this wonderful inheritance, the reason he calls you to these great blessings, is because you are His people, you are a special treasure to Him. And this is not because you are stronger, smarter, better looking, or greater than everyone else. No, actually one of the qualifications for being special in God’s eyes is being helpless and weak. Just as God delivered Israel out Egypt with an outstretched arm and displayed his might and glory in that great victory, so too God has displayed his power and glory in each of you. He has freed you from your own enslavement to sin and death, and has brought out with His outstretched arm. And He has done this simply and solely because the Lord loves you, and He loves to display his covenant mercy and kindness.

And God promises that this love and mercy will go with you. It is this love and mercy that guards you and keeps you; it is this love and mercy that goes before you and casts out the enemy nations from the land. It is God’s love and mercy that promises you children and grandchildren, promises to bless you in all of your endeavors, and to drive all barrenness and evil from your midst. God is the one who has brought you out of Egypt, and He is the one who will keep Egypt far from you.
Of course the warning is also for you: God does repay those who hate Him, there are curses for those who reject His love and mercy. And marriage pictures this covenant so well because it too is a covenant. And you all have been around long enough to know that marriages can be some of the most wonderful blessings and glories, and others can be pure and horrifying hell. And it really always comes down to love and mercy. So remember the love and mercy of your God, the love and mercy that surrounds you today, the love and mercy that promises to follow you all the days of your life, the love and mercy that will go before you and cast out your enemies. Gird your sword upon your thigh, with your glory and your majesty, and ride forth from here in majesty because of truth, humility, and righteousness, and Your right hand will teach you awesome things. Your arrows will be sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; the peoples will fall under you.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!