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Posts Tagged ‘Old Testament’

THAT guy? Are you kidding me?!?

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:21)

During my afternoon devotions today I was reading in 1 Kings 21, the infamous story of King Ahab and Naboth’s vineyard. For refreshers, Ahab totally covets Naboth’s vineyard. Even he has a vineyard that he is willing to trade, plus an offer of money. Naboth insists that his vineyard isn’t for sale. Usually quite crooked and quite resourceful, Ahab just pouts. Jezebel, his wife, finds out what has happened and sends some ‘worthless fellows” to falsely accuse Naboth and have him killed so that Ahab can just take the vineyard. Ahab complies of course.

As a result, God sends Elijah to tell Ahab that because of this particular sin, Ahab, his wife, and his children will be judged. Then something weird happens: Ahab repents and God relents on His immediate judgement.

Now, I’m one to admit that often in Old Testament historical book I’m slow to see the overarching theological purpose. I’m sure there’s more to it in this particular passage, but here’s what really hit me hard:

God will forgive ANYONE if they repent.

I know…duh. But seriously, Ahab had it coming. He was famous for the degree of idolatry he brought to the Northern Kingdom. He was an avid persecutor of the prophets. He referred to Elijah as his enemy. He brought Jezebel to Israelite life. In just the previous episode in 1 Kings, he was willing to surrender his children and wives to Ben-Hadad, but he is unwilling to let them search his home fore treasure. If anybody had it coming it was him.

If I had the choice, when he repented and mourned I would have said “Good.” and let him have it. But God relented.

What do I learn from this?

  1. I lack understanding of the grace of God. When people (like myself) balk at God showing mercy, that is the case.
  2. I don’t understand the perversity of my own sin. Compared to God’s perfect standard, I’m in the same boat as Ahab.
  3. I need to be thankful I haven’t suffered the just reward of my sin.
  4. I need to appreciate the ministry of the Holy Spirit in this age. It provides believers the ability to do the things they know they should do.
  5. I need to regard other sinners with compassion, praying that God would show them the same grace He has shown me.

Ultimately Ahab met his end, but not as a direct result of his sin against Naboth. God certainly went to great lengths to preserve His glory in the people of Israel. He handled them with kid gloves when they deserved to be exterminated.

In myself, as in Ahab, I am reminded of the fact that God’s glory is greatest when mercy is extended to the most undeserving. Christ, God’s greatest gift was exchanged for objects of non-existent worth. Because f His sacrifice I have no business judging my fellow sinners in such self-righteousness. Just as grace and mercy are His, so too is my righteousness His.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:21)

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New Testament? What’s wrong with the OLD one?

I’ve been going through Numbers 22-26 on Sunday mornings recently, looking at the glory of God revealed through His dealings with His people. It has afforded me some great time to reflect on the importance of the Old Testament. Here are a few of my choicest, choicest gleanings:

  1. The Old Testament is anything but boring. I’ll grant you that Leviticus is not my favorite cover-to-cover read, but the storyline of the OT is a great one.
  2. You have to make an investment in studying the OT for it to come to life.
  3. Reading an OT Survey is a must for grasping the bigger picture. You can get there yourself, but it’s a longer road and you’ll miss plenty in the mean time by walking alone. “Survey of the Old Testament” by Paul Benware is brief and to the point. I recommend it.
  4. Grasping the overwhelming importance of the Abrahamic Covenant is THE absolute must. It is THE plot thread from which all other threads hang. If you have missed this point, you are missing THE point.
  5. Gaining a basic framework of OT history is essential to understanding individual books. For example, note the development of Israelite government from the wilderness to the Judges and to King Saul. This makes the book of Judges make much more sense to me.
  6. Some books, like Habakkuk, are so obviously related to modern day questions (i.e. how can a holy, sovereign God allow evil or even use it to accomplish His will?) that I can’t believe we never hear these books referenced at all.

Repent, you Old Testament redactionists. Buy Bible trivia! Bone up! Estudicate yourselves!

Enjoy.

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Thanks…I think?

“I said to myself concerning the sons of men, “God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.” (Ecclesiastes 3:18)

I stumbled across this verse while reading through Ecclesiastes in my car during a lunch break a few days ago and it caught my eye. I’ve read through Ecclesiastes before, and no doubt I’ve read this verse already, but this time it jumped at me. What an insulting way to be uplifting!

Immediately what came to mind was the study that Ikon Youth Ministries has been going through in Judges. This book is a magnification of what went on throughout Israel’s history. First Israel was one man (Israel, duh!) then a family, then a people, then a nation with a law, then a nation with land, with judges, and with kings. Each level of God’s governance produced the same thing: failure. In the case of the periods of the Judges and Kings: anarchy.

Solomon, during the period of the Kings notes wisely that God’s testing revealed them to be like beasts. So did God’s governance fail?

Hardly.

In 1st Samuel, the people make a request of God through the prophet Samuel:

“…and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations. But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us ” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” (1 Sam 8:5-7)

At each stage of Israel’s life God increased their level of earthly government, in this case even taking a request, but note the end of the passage, “but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” God was always their king, their ruler, but they did not live in light of this. In a way, God gave them what they wanted in order that their hearts would be revealed to them.

This is the nature of sin: The depth of depravity of which we will sink should drive us to our knees, begging for mercy. The world as we know it is a cesspool of our own design . Romans1:18-32 highlights this fact. three times this passage says that we are given over to the consequences of our desires, and the result is pure human ugliness.

As a Christian, the cross of Christ has shown me that I am a beast. The desire of my flesh is for my destruction, and not just my destruction but a painful trip. I am lifted up only after first being brought low. Like a weird version of “It’s A Wonderful Life” I can praise God that it is His righteousness, His wisdom, His mercy, and His Son that will forge my way into eternity.

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Judging the judges.

Recently, as our High School group has been going through the book of Judges, one particular thing keeps jumping out at me: man those guys had problems! Seriously, most of these people just could not get it straight. Samson, probably the best known judge, pretty much did nothing right.

I was discussing this over dinner the other day and it really hit home. Samson was constantly selfish, violent, committed sexual immorality, and was so stuck on a Philistine that he gave in to her even though it was obvious she was trying to get him killed. Even his famous death was tinged with selfishness.

God’s people clearly struggled and a major reason why was the Holy Spirit, or permanent indwelling lack thereof (grammar check, please!). Without the Spirit to impel them to fruitfulness, many of the Hebrews Ch.11’s “hall of faith” were pretty spotty (re: Jepthah).

This is why it is so significant that Jeremiah says:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer 31:31-41)

This is made possible only by the coming of the Spirit, foretold in more detail by the prophet Joel. The coming of the Spirit would enable God’s people to obey Him. Where the history of Israel shows the inability of man to please God, the “New Covenant” (Jer 31) promises that someday, God Himself will perfectly repair the relationship, through the Spirit.

Here’s your teaser for next week’s post” Are you a Judges “christian” or a church age “Christian”?

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Majoring on the Minors: Pt.1

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness and relenting of evil.”

-Joel 2:12-13

Rend your heart and not your garments. As I have been working through the minor prophets recently, several key themes have jumped out at me. One of them is the subject of repentance. True repentance. Biblical repentance. Through all of Israel’s cycles of sin and return, God continually pleads with the nation to return to Him. Most, if not every one of the prophets make this demand of God’s people, the exceptions being a book like Nahum in which God is pronouncing final judgement on Nineveh for its gross, unrepentant sin. Over and over again God calls the nation of Israel to return to Him and certainly none of what the nation has done over the centuries has satisfied God’s demands.

This brings us to the subject of repentance, and its bookend, obedience. The repentance that God commands is not one of perpetual resolve and subsequent defeat that is the product of effort in the flesh. instead, God commands us by the power of His Spirit to cease from sin, and put off the deeds of the flesh since the old man has already been crucified.

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” -2 Cor 7:9-10
When our sin continually haunts us, we must conclude one of two things:

1.) As Christians we are using the power of our flesh which is in fact our deceiving enemy, and failing to use the power of the indwelling Spirit through prayer and the knowledge of His Word.

OR

2.) We are not Christians and lack spiritual power to effect real change. Inability to repent reveals our need to be saved.

This is the crisis that Israel faced as Joel wrote his prophecy: That The nation’s unbelief was revealed by their perpetual failure to finally repent of their sin. Ultimately He will pour out His Spirit upon them (Jer 31), enabling their obedience as HE has foreshadowed in the Spirit’s ministry to the Church. Until then, they will continue in their unbelief just as the Gentile unbeliever drowns in his sown sin.

The bookend of repentance, as mentioned before, is true obedience; obedience of the heart. Rend your heart, and not your garments,” the Lord says. He is not satisfied with outward obedience. As the 2 Cor 7 passage continues to say in v11, spirit-born repentance yields spiritual fruit. Israel was guilty of keeping up appearances, going through the routine. They would engage in superficial acts of grief over their sin (i.e. the rending of garments) but they wouldn’t submit themselves wholly to God. Unfortunately for them, for God “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22). Spirit born repentance yields fruit, not merely cessation from sin.

I find this passage from Joel to be a troubling one because it calls me to do more than go to church, read my Bible, and pray. It is easy to do just that. God wan’t so much more. He is not satisfied with struggle because He has given power for victory. He has not commissioned a painting, but created a living, breathing thing. He is not satisfied with hiring employees because He has adopted us as sons. He will not accept mediocrity because HE has sacrificed His greatest treasure, His son.

So weep and mourn over your sin. Be sick about it, but be done with it. Don’t play with your sin, rather deal with it.

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