In Exodus 8:22 Yahweh says, "And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell that no swarms shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the land."
Yahweh says that He will become a firmament in the midst of the land, dividing between the land above (Israel) and the land below (Egypt). Yahweh will be a firmament in the land that protects His people from the plagues that strike Egypt.
And this "difference" between God's people and Pharaoh's people is literally a "ransom" (8:23)). Yahweh will be a firmament/ransom that protects His people.
This implies that this "division" between Egypt and Israel is already a sort of exaltation. Israel has been seated in the "heavenly places" even while still in Egypt.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
In Exodus 8:22 Yahweh says, "And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell that no swarms shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the land."
Monday, September 27, 2010
Nahum Sarna suggests that there is a seven-step sequence in the calamities that befall Job:
1. Sabeans raid oxen and donkeys
2. Sabeans kill the servants
3. Fire of God consumes sheep
4. Fire of God consumes servants
5. Chaldeans raid camels
6. Chaldeans kill the servants
7. Wind strikes the house and kills children
In our sermon text today, the Lord promises to come in great glory and terror and judgment. The day of the Lord will come and men flee and tremble. The earth shakes mightily, and the glory of the majesty of the Lord shines forth in splendor casting down all the high things, all the pride and haughtiness of men. When God draws near there are thunders and lightening and earthquakes and great terrors.
But then God draws near in Jesus, and He’s a baby lying in a manger. Then he’s itinerate preacher rabbi like many others, and then he’s crucified on a Roman cross like thousands of other Jewish men in the first century. Of course, we can point to a number of rather extraordinary things about the life of Christ as well. There were angels announcing his birth, a voice from heaven at his baptism, numerous miracles, and of most importantly his resurrection from the dead. There were thunders and earthquakes at various points throughout His life and ministry. But it is not hard to imagine many Jews being perplexed looking at the descriptions in the prophets and then back at the Jewish carpenter in front of them saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…” And “do not resist an evil man…” And “bless those who curse you….”And “love your enemies…”
Hebrews says that this New Covenant shaking in Jesus is a fulfillment of Haggai, another prophet who speaks of the Lord shaking the earth. He writes: For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations,’ and I will fill this temple with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. (Hag. 2:6-9)
The covenant is the greater glory that Haggai foretold. But greater glory isn’t necessarily bigger and more obnoxious sound effects. This greater glory is a deeper and more intense glory. And it does shake heaven and earth, but part of the glory is in the wonder of it all. In one sense, someone might have seen a little baby in a manger 2000 years ago and been a little disappointed comparing that scene to the descriptions of the prophets, though we know there were plenty of other indicators. But from our vantage, we can look back and unmistakable see the explosion that was detonated in that Bethlehem manger. What looked like an ordinary child, a nondescript man, another Roman crucifixion has in fact turned the world upside down. That spark has burst into a blaze that has begun to fill the world.
And all of this may seem rather unrelated to baptism, but the point is exactly the same. God loves to take ordinary looking things and reveal His glory in and through them. He takes weak things and displays His power. And so here this morning, we sprinkle a little water on this little baby’s head, and though it looks ordinary and small and weak, we see God shaking heaven and earth, we see God pulling down the proud and the arrogant, and raising up the humble and weak. We see the terror of God’s majesty shining forth. So Toby and Emily, as you raise David Wallace, the exhortation is twofold: first, believe the gospel, the story of God come for us in deep glory, the glory of a child, the glory of weakness, the glory of humility to save us all. And then teach your son that kind of glory. Model that glory for him in your love and care for one another, in your love and discipline of him. And raise him to love that kind of glory.
“For the day of the Lord of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up – and it shall be brought low – upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up…” (Is. 2:12-13)
On the Lord’s Day those things which are proud and lofty are brought low. In particular, Isaiah points to the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up. Those cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up are the cedars that were used to build Solomon’s temple. In other words, God says that His people have a mistaken understanding of God’s glory. As Pastor Leithart has pointed out, Israel has filled their land with gold and silver, horses and chariots, and has been led into idolatry by her alliances with foreign wives. All of these sins were specific warnings given in Deuteronomy to kings in Israel. He was not to multiply gold, horses and chariots, or wives that would turn his heart away from the Lord. Of course Israel ended up asking for a king in a great act of treason. Rejecting God as their king, they wanted to be instead a nation like all of the other nations. Israel wanted a glory like the other nations, and here in Isaiah, they have even turned even the gift of the temple into the glory of other nations. But God says they have turned His glory into shame, and He will come on the Lord’s Day and shake it down. He will even shake down the temple, even those things they think they have right. And this is fulfilled in the New Covenant in at least a couple of ways. First, it isn’t an accident that grammatically, there is a connection between the “Lord’s Day” and the “Lord’s Supper.” In Revelation, John is in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day and sees heaven open. The only other place this form of “Lord’s” is used is in 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul warns against abuses of the Lord’s Supper. He says that the Corinthian abuses are significant enough to cancel out their practice. He says that they are not celebrating the Lord’s Supper whatever they may think they are doing, and this does not render the meal benign, it rather makes it all the more dangerous. Paul says that some of the Corinthians are dead because of their arrogant abuses. Putting this all together, we need to be reminded that this meal has no automatic blessings and neither does our liturgy for that matter. Pride and arrogance in having the right liturgy, celebrating the sacraments rightly, having the best theology, warmest fellowship, best preaching, whatever, is all a sure way to have God come and bring us low. God does bless, and He does bestow His glory on His people, but it is not the glory of other nations. It isn’t respectable academic pomp and circumstance. It isn’t reasonable economic principles. It isn’t a place at the table in the political sphere. This is not a “religious ceremony” as though it fits along side of a Jewish Seder or Muslim Prayers. The glory of God is a crucified man on a Roman cross for the salvation of the world. The glory of God is grace and mercy and forgiveness for the world in a shared meal of bread and wine. So come with thankful hearts. Come taste the glory of the Lord.
“O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Is. 2:5)
Every week we gather for worship in order to be called once again to walk in the light of the Lord. This service is one of the significant ways God shines His light upon us, convicting us of sin, and drawing us near, and teaching us to follow Him. The light of the Lord is the Day of the Lord. It is when God’s glory shines forth, when He arises to shake the earth mightily. Hebrews says that in the New Covenant we have not come to a mountain that may be touched like the Old Sinai, but we have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to the armies of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, to God the judge of all, to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. Hebrews says that God still speaks at this new mountain, and when God speaks, everything shakes. His voice thunders, and earth and heaven are shaken mightily so that only those things which are permanent will remain, so that we may receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken. In the sermon text today, the response to the Light of the Lord is either people diving down into the rocks and dust in fear and terror or their idols being cast down into the rocks and caves. And this is always the option when we gather before the Lord of Hosts. Will we receive the blood of sprinkling? Will we cry out for mercy and cast our idols away from us? Or will we cling to our idols, to our sin, and try to stand on our own? But we know that God knocks down the proud; he brings low all those who think they stand. We gather here and now to cast our idols from us. We bow down before the Lord in faith, trusting that He will lift us up. We are at war with sin, and this means that we are sin confessors. A man who is not regularly asking his wife and children for forgiveness is deceived and arrogant, and he is asking for God to humble him. And he cannot be upset or surprised when the rest of his family does not know how to ask for forgiveness or repent of sin. But our help is in the name of the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. So come and let us walk in the light of the Lord. Throw down your idols, confess your sins, and walk in the light.
Monday, September 20, 2010
“He shall judge between the nations and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Is. 2:4)
When God comes for His people He comes not only to restore right worship but to restore their entire society, the whole world. And one of the principle affects of the gospel going forth in the world is peace. The phenomena of nations studying war and going to war is part of the old world, part of the old way of life. When God’s justice comes into a land, the military industrial complex begins to recede, and in place of guns and tanks, ploughs and pruning sheers become the culture’s norm. But this is not a call to agrarianism; God isn’t promising that everyone will become farmers. The plough and pruning sheers are particularly used for the production of grain and grapes. In other words, in place of swords and spears there will be bread and wine. In the place of coercion and violence, there will feasting and gladness. In place of oppression and injustice, there will be mercy and community. When God comes to bring His justice, He does not come as a great war general, He comes like a slave, like beggar who offers bread and wine, his own body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. This is justice. This is the judgment of the nations. Here, we share bread and wine, and in so doing we testify to the fact that Jesus brought justice into this world by the cross, and the cross is the only way of justice. This is the way of love and mercy and grace. But this also implies that these are far more powerful weapons. So take up this bread and wine with joy and thanksgiving. Here we share the peace of Christ with one another. Here is the peace of Christ for the world. Here we share the power of God to reconcile all things to Himself. Here, God promises to heal all brokenness. So come with faith, believing the promises of God.
We are gathered here as the disciples of the risen Christ. Here we are gathered to proclaim and enact the fact that 2000 years ago God came for this wretched, sin infested world. He came as our Kinsman Redeemer: He came for those who were bowed down beneath their debts, enslaved to tyrants - gods and men, widowed, orphaned, forgotten, diseased, trodden under foot. Christ our God came as our Warrior, our Hero, our Mighty Man, He came to deliver the oppressed, to free the captives, to heal the broken, to proclaim the forgiveness of every debt. But our Mighty Man, our Hero did not come for us crowned in gold. He did not come for us on a gallant horse with a sword at his side with legions of angels and soldiers prepared for war. Christ came for battle, He came for war, but He came as a Child, He came as a wandering teacher, He came as a homeless bum. He came with a family that rejected Him; He came like a crazy man. He came in weakness. He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. And He was despised and rejected by men, just like we despise the mentally retarded in wheel chairs, just like we despise the bums digging through ash trays looking for old cigarettes, just like we despise alcoholics and drug addicts. God came for you like one of them. He came for this world like a deranged bum, and he came like that for us because that is what we are. Compared to the glories of God, the riches of his communion, and the love that is shared between Father, Son, and Spirit, we are all handicapped, deranged, and addicted. We are all users and abusers. And Christ came for us in our rags, in our delusions, in our captivity in order to undo it all. He came to throw down the rulers of that old world, He came to break the death hold of sin, He came to give us Life. But as it turns out, the way God comes for us is also what Life looks like. The way Life comes is the way Life lives. Life frees, Life delivers, Life sacrifices, Life gives, Life forgives, and Life heals. Jesus came to call us to follow Him, and to give up our lives in service to Him. Christ came as our Hero, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Mighty Man, and He came like a fool, like a smelly beggar with a cane claiming to be the President of the United States. And he says to you and I, follow me. And when we think about like that, none of us really wants to do that. And so we need to beg for grace and forgiveness.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
As David Platt pointed out in his recent book Radical, when Jesus notices that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, he doesn't tell his disciples to therefore go out themselves and start harvesting. Rather, he tells them to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest (Mt. 9:37-38). He says they should pray. Prayer isn't a cheap form of discipleship; prayer is essential.
I think one of the other striking things about Christ's words is that the harvest belongs to the Lord. God is the Lord of the harvest; it's His harvest. And so we pray to the Lord of the harvest that the right harvesters might be sent out and at the right time and to the right places.
As it turns out, in the very next verses Christ does send out the disciples, but this comes after instructing them to pray. And perhaps this makes for a helpful qualification for those who think that they are perhaps called to missions and evangelism and mercy ministry. Have you been praying that God would send people?
Friday, September 17, 2010
If you have never read David Bentley Hart's essay "Christ and Nothing," you need to.
Here it is: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles2/HartChrist.shtml
And now you have no excuses.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
In the garden, Adam was tempted by the Devil, and that garden withered and died from Adam's sin and turned into a desert.
Many centuries later, the Last Adam appeared and went into that wilderness to be tempted by the Devil in order that by His obedience the desert might become a garden again.
C.T. Studd, a wealthy Englishman who sold everything and spent his life in missions wrote shortly before he died:
"Too long have we been waiting for one another to begin! The time for waiting is past! ... Should such men as we fear? Before the whole world, aye, before the sleepy, luke-warm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God, ... and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts. We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only in our God than live trusting in man. And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight. We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts; we will have a Masculine Holiness, one of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ."
(cited in Radical, by David Platt, 179)
Jim Elliot wrote in his journal:
"Surely those who know the great passionate heart of Jehovah must deny their own loves to share the expression of His... Consider the call from the Throne above, 'Go ye,' and from round about, 'Come over and help us,' and even the call from the damned souls below, 'Send Lazarus to my brothers, that they come not to this place.' Impelled then, by those voices, I dare not stay home while Quichuas perish. So what if the well-fed church in the homeland needs stirring? They have the Scriptures, Moses, and the Prophets, and a whole lot more. Their condemnation is written on their bank books and in the dust on their Bible covers. American believers have sold their lives to the service of Mammon, and God has His rightful way of dealing with those who succumb to the spirit of Laodicea."
(cited in Radical, by David Platt, 177)
Monday, September 13, 2010
Yesterday, Pastor Leithart preached an excellent sermon on Isaiah 1 in which he explored how the prophet condemned Judah for being another Sodom and Gomorrah. Jerusalem is not condemned for sexual sodomy however, not for homosexuality. Rather, Judah is condemned for her oppression of the weak and the vulnerable, for taking bribes and subverting justice and then having the nerve to show up for church on Sunday. The prophet condemns Judah for offering prayer to God with blood on her hands.
Pastor Leithart pointed out that the original Sodomites were also oppressors and sinned against hospitality. Rather than welcoming strangers in their gates (the angels that visited Lot), they wanted to rape them. Thus, the homosexuality and the oppression go hand in hand, so to speak.
The sermon concluded with application to our own nation. In what ways do we have blood on our hands when we offer prayers to God? An obvious example is the blood of the unborn that runs in our streets, and we have exported that evil by funding abortions overseas. And he asked, why would we think that if we are evil and wicked at home (abortion, homosexuality, etc.), we would somehow be saintly abroad? If we cannot defend our own weak and defenseless why would we suddenly grow a conscience when it comes to the weak and defenseless of other nations?
And in fact our military record suggests a pretty mixed bag. Even admitting that we have sometimes done great good does not make all the atrocities go away. Bombing cities filled with women and children, and chalking their deaths up to collateral damage is hardly justice or goodness for the weak. Being a king throughout the Old Testament repeatedly has to do with defending the poor, making sure they have justice, speaking up for those who have no voice, strengthening the arms of the weak.
But in addition to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an invasion in the Philippines, and various other military crimes in South America, we have supported and continue to support regimes around the world that actively persecute and suppress Christianity. Leithart pointed out that some of our greatest allies and those who receive the most support from the US militarily and financially are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel all of which penalize, suppress, and sometimes openly persecute Christians. Do we have blood on our hands? Do we have Christian blood on our hands?
Conservative Christians are frequently good at standing against sexual sodomy, but we frequently stand by and allow or even encourage a number of other forms of violent coercion. In other words, the homosexuality in our culture is a sign of far deeper forms of sodomy in our hearts. Our homosexuality began with raping and pillaging the unborn and the weak at home and abroad.
Leithart pointed out that not all of the Israelites hearing Isaiah's condemnation would have been guilty of war crimes and injustice, but the oracle still stuck. Being part of a people whose leaders have acted like the men of Sodom doesn't give the people a free pass. They are still considered the people of Gomorrah. And so in whatever ways we have contributed to the bloodshed, in whatever ways we can repent of injustice and oppression, in whatever ways we can defend the poor, give voice to those who suffer in silence, and strengthen the hands of the weak, we are called to do so.
“If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Is. 1:19-20)
The invitation to follow Jesus, to submit to Him, to obey Him, is an invitation to eat the good of the land. It may not always seem like that, but God’s way is always the way of blessings and life. Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. Jesus even says, Assuredly I say to you, that there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my sake and the gospel’s sake who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. Jesus invites us to His table, and His table is a feast of torn flesh and shed blood. Jesus calls us to partake of His sacrifice, to take up His cross and to follow Him. But He calls us to see this cross as the way to victory; He calls us to taste this cup which was wrath for Him and may be suffering for us, but if follow Him, we will eat the good of the land. The great irony is that if we do not partake of this feast, if we do not partake of the good land in faith, the warning is that we will be devoured, eaten by the sword of judgment. Obedience to Jesus means embracing His cross, and eating the good of the land. Disobedience and rebellion means being struck down. Of course the world offers their rival feasts: the communion and fellowship meals of popularity, respectability, beauty, or wealth. Those meals go down sweet; they pretend to offer the good of the land. But they are lies, and at the end of those paths is sadness and pain. Jesus doesn’t promise us a painless and easy life; but He promises resurrection life. He promises that as we give our lives away, as we follow Him, He will share His Resurrection Life with us in this life, and in the life to come Resurrection Life in absolute fullness. If you obey, you shall eat the good of the land. So come in faith, not fearing or worrying but believing.
Living as Christians in this world means facing giants. We live in a fallen world. We live in a world full of danger, hurt, and pain. There is great brokenness all around us. We live on a battlefield, and it is easy to look up and only see corpses and the enemy forces gathering in whatever form they appear to you. Maybe it’s the daily stress and chaos of a young family with lots of little ones. Maybe it’s stress at work with an oppressive boss, or maybe you don’t have a job and you’re wondering how you will pay the bills. Maybe it’s friends, relationships, or an antagonistic spouse or rebellious children. And you look up and only see the giants closing in for the kill. You are sure that everything is going to fall apart at any minute. Victory is impossible.
But looking at the giants in your life and allowing fear and worry to well up inside you is the surest way to secure defeat. You are called to faith. You are called to trust in the Lord Jesus who has gone before you in the battle. This means looking to Jesus. And this is not just a pious saying. Faith means saying that whatever giants are standing in front of you, none of them are too big for Jesus and therefore none of them are too big for you. And you may only have a tiny sling and a few little pebbles, but faith looks up and sees that the giants are too big to miss.
The gospel is this: God is determined to be God for you. God has claimed you, God has washed you, God has come for you in Jesus. And He holds you firmly in His hand, and He will not let you go. There is nothing that can tear you away from Him.
We have this truth in earthen vessels. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying around in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body… For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:7-10, 15).
So do not fear the giants. If God is with us who can be against us?
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:16-17)
“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26)
In this latter verse, Paul is primarily exhorting the Corinthians to act like they really are members of the same body. He has previously told them not to say they don’t need one another. The eye needs the foot, and the hand needs the eye. But if we really are members of one body and Christ’s blood runs through all of us, then whether we want to or not, it is simply a fact that we do effect one another. We may not feel that we are that closely related to one another, but Paul says that as we gather at this meal week by week, we are communing together in the body and blood of Christ. Just as nutrients flow through the blood throughout the body, so toxins and viruses can travel through the blood and infect the body. This means that suffering for one another may not only be something we consciously choose to do; rather, it may also be the result of being bound together as one body here at this table. In other words, a particular hardship or difficulty in your life may be in part suffering for and with someone else in the body. Of course this also implies a warning about unconfessed sin. It is not possible to isolate a cancer or a virus in one part of the body. When you partake of this bread and cup, you are sharing your life with your neighbors. Sometimes people object to the idea of a common loaf or a common cup in communion because of all the germs that might be shared and spread. But Paul teaches here that there is an even more significant sharing going on. We are being knit together, grafted together into one body, and this means that we share blood. This means that we suffer with and for one another whether or not we realize it, and as members of the body are honored, God bestows great joy whether or not we realize the connection. But this might be terrifying. The thought that I might be infected by your sin or suffering, or that my pain and suffering might be passed on to you is scary. But this really shouldn’t be scary or terrifying because this is the blood of Christ, the blood of cleansing. But this is the blood of the new covenant for the remission of sins. This is the blood of Jesus. This means that we are united, bound together by the Spirit, and we do share in one another’s suffering. But as we partake in faith, as we look to Jesus for our full forgiveness, we can confidently pass the bread and the wine to one another, trusting the goodness of God and the wisdom of the Spirit and the healing power of the blood of Jesus to knit us together in perfect holiness and love, granting us grace to be grace for and to one another, until we come to the Perfect Man, until this world is full of that grace. So come with thankful hearts.
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” (Is. 1:2)
The book of Isaiah opens with the Lord lamenting his rebellious children. God says that he nourished them and brought them up, and they have rebelled against Him. And we might be tempted think: well if God’s own children don’t turn out, who can hope to have children grow up to be faithful? If God’s parenting skills are not sufficient to produce godly offspring, who can be expected to do better?
But there are at least two lessons we can take from this. First, certain forms of covenant theology have highly mechanical views of how parenting and faithful children work: put the coin in the machine and out comes godly children. ‘Family devotions plus Christian education plus regular spankings, and out comes godly Christian children.’ And when the children turn out rebellious, we know that the parents failed. But by that equation, God failed as a father. It is true that God promises to bless faithfulness in parenting, and parents can trust the promises of God for the salvation of their children. But this leads to the second point: God’s parenting plan is not finished in Isaiah 1. Ultimately, God will come for his children in Jesus. He will drawn near them and embrace them. He will share their life, take upon himself their sins and hurts and diseases, and ultimately die for them.
There is no mechanical equation for faithful parenting and faithful children. The answer is love. Love that draws near. Love that embraces. Love that takes the weaknesses and hurt of children. Love that sympathizes and cares and ultimately dies and sacrifices for the children. God’s lament over his children provides hope for those parents who have days, weeks, months, even years where they see little or no fruit, where they have labored and nurtured children who have rebelled. God has felt your pain, but God did not stop there. God continued to pour Himself out for His children. And ultimately came for them in Jesus. And more to the point, God poured Himself out in love for your children. Jesus is God come for all the rebellious children. And therefore, we put our whole trust in God, and in the resurrection of Jesus.
And hearing this, we like Daniel cry out saying, “we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.” (Dan. 9:5)