Made Righteous: H.C. Question 60

How are you righteous before God?

Romans 3:21-28 – But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

Galatians 2:16 – know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Philippians 3:8-11 – What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Romans 3:9-10 – What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;

Romans 7:23 – but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

Titus 3:4-5 – But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Romans 3:24 – and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:8 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

Romans 4:3-5 – What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

Genesis 15:6 – Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

1 John 2:1-2 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Romans 4:24-25 – but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

John 3:18 – Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Acts 16:30-31 – He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”



Forgiveness: H.C. Question 56

What do you believe concerning “the forgiveness of sins”?

Psalm 103

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Micah 7:18-19 – Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21 – All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 2:2 – He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Romans 7:21-25 – So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

John 3:16-18 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Romans 8:1-2 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.



Romans 3:21-26 "Why Jesus?"

All of Jesus life culminates in the cross.  But when we look at the cross and all the Jesus bore for us, we can’t help but ask the question: “Why Jesus?”



Trinitarianism: H.C. Lord's Day 8

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 8

Q 24. How are these articles divided?
A 24. Into three parts: God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.

Q 25. Since there is only one divine being, why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
A 25. Because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word: these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.

In today’s world, discussions about ‘doctrine’ can often be an instant turn-off to anyone who wants to talk about matters of faith.  However, it is the doctrine of the Trinity that makes Christianity distinctly Christian.  Trinitarian theology is a foundational part of our beliefs; it is also probably one of the most confusing.  And, while certainly does not need to have a perfect understanding of the nature of the Trinity to be saved, it still is an important aspect of who we are and even how we get here.

Given it’s confusing and somewhat complicated nature, the doctrine of the Trinity has been subject to a number of false understandings and heresies over the 2,000-year existence of the Christian religion.  While that may seem to be of little consequence to you and me, the work that has been done to clarify this doctrine has a direct and very real impact on what we believe about God.

Because of this, it is important that we try to clarify what it is that we believe about the Trinity.  The doctrine of the Trinity can be summarized in seven statements:

  1. There is only one God
  2. The Father is God
  3. The Son is God
  4. The Holy Spirit is God
  5. The Father is not the Son
  6. The Son is not the Holy Spirit
  7. The Holy Spirit is not the Father

All of the creeds that we have read over the past week, all the theological jargon and other religious writings of Christianity have to do with safeguarding each one of these statements.  More than that, though, they must safeguard the statement without denying any one of the other six.  Some would say that this sounds like a relatively easy task, however, over the years, a number of people and groups have fallen into heresies that inadvertently or purposefully do just that.

The Athanasian Creed, which we have been a part of our reading this last week, states the Trinitarian belief structure like this:

Now this is the [universal] faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.  For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.  But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

The original translation of this Creed uses the word “essence” rather than “divine being,” indicating and affirming the single ‘Godness’ of God while also acknowledging the personhood of each member of the Trinity.  When we hear the word ‘person,’ we should think of an individual that is distinct from the others.  Again, while somewhat confusing, this is important because we worship One God (not three Gods) in three persons (one being).  Each is equally and uniquely God.

So, how has this gotten confused over the years?  Here are a number of ways and at least a few reasons why they are important.

Monarchianism – Emphasizes God as being one person.  It suggests that the Son and the Spirit subsist in the divine essence as impersonal attributes, not distinct or divine persons.  This is an attempt to better understanding the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  However, it creates other problems in faith and understanding, specifically around the cross and the atonement.  If God is one person, and God died for our sins, then God is all of the sudden not eternal, having died and been dead for three days.  In addition, if it was not God that died, but rather an attribute of God, then the divinity of Christ comes into question and the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross is either lessened or completely lost.

Modalism – Suggests that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as simply different names for the same God acting in different roles.  This is where we get the idea of the analogy of “water, vapor, and ice” as a description.  Though well intentioned, it denies the distinct persons of the Trinity and kind of labels God as a divine being that suffers from multiple personalities.  Again this is a denial of the three unique persons existing in one divine being.  If God is just one person/being and He died, it denies the eternal and infinite nature of God.  He cannot die.  This means that either God did die, making Him vulnerable, or He did not die as Christ on the cross, meaning that the atonement and salvation purchased by the blood of Christ is invalid as He was not God and therefore a human, tainted by sin like the rest of us.

Arianism – Denies the full deity of Christ.  It states that, though Jesus is the Son of God, He was created by the Father at a certain point in time, thus making Him less than the Father and subordinate to Him.  Thus Jesus is not truly God and therefore not a person of the Trinity.  This is an obvious error whose effects echo that of those above.  We believe that Jesus is both fully God (a person of the Trinity) and fully human.  He has to be both in order for His life and death to accomplish salvation.  He must be fully human to live the human life, to keep the law of God, and for His death to be in the place of humans, taking the punishment we deserve.  He must be fully God in order to live a sinless life and in order to be able to take on the punishment and wrath of God.  If Christ is not God, all of this falls apart.  Arianism also borders on the assertion that there is more than one God.

Tritheism – This is exactly like it sounds: tri (meaning three) – theism (belief in God.  This asserts that Christians actually believe in three Gods.  This is a direct contradiction of Scripture which speaks specifically to the fact that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4) and the notion of monotheism, a foundational principle in all three major Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).

One other thing that may be of some consequence to this discussion is the common argument that this doesn’t matter because you will never find the word “trinity” or specific mention of this doctrine in the Bible.  While this is technically true, Scripture is repute with references to both the unity of God as well as the diversity of the persons within the divine being.  The number of references to Jesus as being God as well as those referencing God the Father as God should be enough to convince us that there is more than one person in the divine being.  The Holy Spirit is also mentioned and used interchangeably with the word “God” many times.  Many are the suggestions of the plurality of persons within the divine being as well.

In closing, a common question comes up in this discussion, “why does this matter?”  It matters for creation because, unlike the many gods of other creation mythologies, God did not need to go outside Himself to create the universe.  A single person, creating the world “out of love” doesn’t make much sense as we know and understand love within relationships.  God would have had to create the world to understand love or to receive love making Him fairly similar to the ancient gods of other cultures.  Because God exists eternally in the Trinitarian relationship, God was able to create the universe out of the overflow of love found there, not needing something from the created order for Himself (God is self-sufficient).



Satisfaction: H.C. Lord's Day 6

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 6

Q 16. Why must the mediator be a true and righteous human?
A 16. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for sin; but a sinful human could never pay for others.

Q 17. Why must the mediator also be true God?
A 17. So that the mediator, by the power of his divinity, might bear the weight of God’s wrath in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.

Q 18. Then who is this mediator—true God and at the same time a true and righteous human?
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was given to us to completely deliver us and make us right with God.

Q 19. How do you come to know this?
A 19. The holy gospel tells me. God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets and foreshadowed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law, and finally God fulfilled it through his own beloved Son.

I love words; they have such power and ability to create meaning.  “Words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth.”  This quote, from the movie V for Vendetta (a silent favorite of mine), articulates well what I think about words.  In the Lord’s Day 6, there are a number of words, churchy type theological words, that no longer take up residence in our Christian vocabulary, that do well in helping us to understand the reality of the Gospel, the reality of the cross, and are alluded to here in the Heidelberger.

Expiation – “Christ’s death removed our sin and guilt”

Redemption – “Christ’s death ransomed us from the curse of the law and the punishment and power of sin”

Reconciliation – “Christ’s death restored our relationship with God”

Propitiation – “Christ’s death appeased or placated the wrath of God”

These terms make up the fundamental biblical aspects of the cross.  They describe the good news, or Gospel, about Jesus that in Him and through Him our sins are forgiven, we are freed from the law, our relationship with God is once again made right and we can stand before God the Father in full confidence, knowing we have been made clean and righteous.  All of this often falls under the use of the word Atonement.

Atonement  – reparation for (making up for, repairing) an offense or injury, satisfaction of law and punishment

Again, this is the Gospel, the very core of what it means to be a Christian.  The Gospel itself does not summon us to “live a better life” or show us “what we can do for God,” it doesn’t talk about cultural transformation or even relevance.  The Gospel is simply the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again from the dead on the third day.  The Gospel is the truth that we do not have to work for our own salvation because it was accomplished for us in Jesus Christ and that, through faith, we receive the total, complete, and eternal forgiveness for our sins.

What the Gospel, or “atonement theory” describes is the act through which Jesus Christ takes on the curse of God, is the subject of the full wrath of God, and receives the complete punishment of God on the cross in place of each and every human being.  This was done because, though humanity was created in God’s image to live in relationship with God, the infection of sin left us without hope and the ability to save ourselves.  We were, as the book of Ephesians says, “by nature, objects of wrath.”  That wrath was the wrath of God against sin which Jesus took on.

The good news that is the Gospel is that, when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, righteousness is imputed to us.  Here, I think two more words ought to be defined well for us:

Righteousness – “the state of being right in God’s sight and in line with the attributes of God’s law, holiness, justice, morality, etc.”

Imputed – “attributed to, caused, represented as being done, assigned to, ascribed to”

This is the core of who we are.  There is nothing more important in Christian theology that this!!  People try to water it down (not really sure why) or alter it in different ways, but the reality is still the same for us.  The Gospel is the good news of divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution for the sake of us.  This happens through Christ, both completely divine and completely human, who is our mediator, our Savior, our Lord.



Matthew 17 – Transfiguration

Read Matthew 17

There are an innumerable amount of stories about a son leaving home, going into the military, and coming back as “a man.”  There are much more about young people going through a trial and coming out more grown up and mature.  I imagine that the transfiguration had a similar impact on the disciples as they saw Jesus in heavenly glory, speaking with Moses and Elijah, both of whom had been dead for hundreds of years.

The transfiguration was a pivotal moment in the ministry of Jesus.  While He was not and more or less God or human before, during, or after, this event marks a pivotal change in the focus of Jesus’ ministry, turning from the work and traveling around Israel and towards Jerusalem and eventually the cross.  In fact, Luke 9 records the transfiguration followed by the verse 51, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

We experience our own “transfiguration” of sorts when we encounter the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  When we accept Him as our Savior and Lord we are, what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 as a “new creation.”  We used fancy Christian words like “justification,” “atonement,” or “reconciliation” to talk about this moment when we experience a fundamental change in who we are.  We go from lost and sinful to found and forgiven.

While this decision is the most important a person can make in their life, what is also important is the daily decision to live this new life we are given.  As Jesus, from this point, sets His face towards Jerusalem and the cross, so are we to set our face toward living the life, the freedom, and the mission that God gives us as His children.

 



Day 108: 2 Kings 9-11; Jehu, the Best Bloody King of Israel

English: Jehu was king of Israel, the son of J...

English: Jehu was king of Israel, the son of Jehoshaphat [1], and grandson of Nimshi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Legacy of King Jehu is somewhat of a double-edged sword, and our reading today reflects this is many ways.  He does a great deal of good in the land of Israel, but does it in a ways that is one whale of a blood bath.  Today’s reading is certainly not rated G or PG in nature, but I think that it lends itself to the reality of what sometimes needs to happen to rid evil from the land and from our lives as well.

This whole narrative begins with the anointing of Jehu, an anointing that is quite unlike all of the others.  Elisha sends his servant rather than going himself.  His instructions are basically to do the deed and get the heck out of there… “Do not linger” he says.  Whether Elisha is aware of what is about to take place or not, it is abundantly clear that the man Jehu is to be feared.  Our suspicions are confirmed when we read of the people that are look-outs and see him coming.  They say that he drives like Jehu, which indicates to us that Jehu has a reputation for bad driving, or perhaps wild behavior.  In any case, Elisha doesn’t risk himself and doesn’t want his servant caught in the cross-hairs (if you can call it that with bows, swords, and spears) either.

The resulting conflict is indeed bloody and swift.  Jehu wipes out the entire family of Ahab.  Scripture tells us that all of Ahab’s male relations, his friends, his priests, and anyone that was close to him.  Scripture is also very specific as to why this is done.  Unlike some of the kings anointed before him, Jehu takes the task he is given from the Lord rather seriously, perhaps maybe even to a fault?  I don’t think he was meant to kill the family of the King of Judah, at least not that I can remember, yet he does.  He almost seems like the perfect man for the job.  He follows the Lord’s command, carrying out what the Lord had proclaimed again Ahab, Jezebel, and all their family.  Through Him all the words of the Lord came true against Ahab.

He also takes out all the prophets of Baal, his worshipers and the house in which they worship.  The Bible says, “Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel.”  However, even to this credit, He still did not turn Israel around.  He left up the golden calves that were erected by Jeroboam and did not remove the idolatry from Israel.  Even with his failings though, the Lord looks favorably on him and says that the house of Jehu will reign for four generations, a promise that would not have gone unnoticed by the king, however evil he was.

English: Joas was the king of the ancient King...

English: Joas was the king of the ancient Kingdom of Judah, and sole surviving son of Ahaziah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, back in Judah, there are some royalty issues going on as well.  Jehu killed king Ahaziah and much of his family too.  In his stead his mother took control of the throne and sought to wipe out the entire royal family.  The actualization of this would have completely mitigated the Lord’s Covenant with Daivd.  Of course, this couldn’t and doesn’t happen.  One of the slain king’s sons was sneaked out by his sister, the only one of his line to remain alive.  How this got overlooked we’ll never know.  Only by the grace and power of God I imagine.  In any case, the Queen was even and Joash, also know as Jehoash was crowned king by those who were faithful to the royal family and God provides a good adviser for the 7 year old who would be king.  The Queen is put to death and Jehoash is crowned king at age 7.  Once again, God has shown Himself to be faithful to all that He has promised and has maintained the line of Kings from David for the sake of David and the Covenant that God made with him.

These stories often leave us with some uneasy feelings about how God can use something so seemingly evil to bring about His working and will in the world.  But I think, without over generalizing this story down to something smaller than what it is, we get a good picture of the wrath of God against the evil of the land.  We know that God is Love, but we also know that God is Holy and is completely opposed to sin.  We have seen time and again that God punishes His people when they sin through various means.  This is very much a part of the Covenant relationship that has been made with God.  But it is not a heartless beating, but rather like a Father punishing His child.  While this metaphor doesn’t work well due to all the death, perhaps it is better to look at the death as the working toward removing sin in the lives of the people.  Removing entrenched sin in our lives is often like going to war, having to struggle and cut things out of our lives in what can be a Spiritually bloody battle against the deceiver.  But even here we see God’s abundant faithfulness.  He does not leave His people to suffer alone with no hope, but instead brings someone that can do battle on their behalf… He has done this for us in Jesus Christ as well: God becoming human to taking on the sin of the world, to take it on himself… to do battle for us… and to overcome completely the oppression of sin and death in the world.



Day 105: 2 Kings 1-3; Elisha Succeeds Elijah

English: Ahaziah of Israel was king of Israel ...

English: Ahaziah of Israel was king of Israel and the son of Ahab and Jezebel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We open the book of 2nd Kings right where we left off in 1st Kings.  These books, as you can imagine, are completely linked.  Really, it is just the book of Kings, yet they are divided up into two volumes.  2 Kings opens just after the death of Ahab, which we read about yesterday.  Ahaziah takes the throne after his father and we read that he is apparently clumsy or something and fell through the “lattice” and probably injured himself somehow.  In any case, rather than going to God with his concern about his injury, he decides to go to one of the gods of the philistines, Baal-zebub (interestingly sounding a lot like “Beelzebub”).  Elijah meets the messengers on the road and delivers the message that God has given him.  Ahaziah will die from his injury because he did not seek the Lord.  I wonder what would have happened if he had sought the Lord…

This act and the the narrative surrounding it brings forth one of the primary issues that plagues both Israel and Judah in this book, and really during most of the time of the kings: Idolatry and a lack of spiritual center.  The people of Israel, both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms are children of the Covenant, living with the promise that God as made.  God is very present among them and has revealed Himself in a very special way to these people.  Yet it seems that whenever there is trouble, the people of Israel go off looking to other gods for help.  Israel was meant to be the light of God to the nations.  They were THE nation through which all nations would be blessed.  Yet, instead of turning to their light in times of need, they look to the gods of the nations that surround them.  Ahaziah is a prime example of this.

The other narrative that we read about today has to do with the succession of Elisha as the Prophet of God.  There are many things that we can glean from this narrative.  Elisha is persistent and loyal, never refusing to leave his master’s side, even after being commanded three times.  I suppose there could be an interesting correlation to Peter’s Denial of Jesus here.  Elijah asks his faithful protegee what he can do for him before he leaves and Elisha’s request is bold!  “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me” he says.  What a request!  And it is granted by his seeing Elijah being taken away, or so Elijah says.  Isn’t it interesting that it takes two strikes for Elisha before the waters part for him.  I think it is important to see here that when he strikes the first time he doesn’t just give up, but he questions the Lord, asking where He is and why he hasn’t yet granted the request.  He is given no sign, no message that he had the power of the Spirit, but he strikes again in faith and the waters part.

Speaking of water, as we close for today, it was suggested the other day by a professor or mine that at any time in the Bible that we talk about water, especially when we talk about going through the water, our minds should move toward the idea of baptism.  We touched on this when we talked about Israel crossing the Red Sea and again when Israel crossed the Jordan River.  Baptism, a washing and cleansing with water, a foreshadowing of Christ’s baptism and His atoning death on the cross, a dying to the old self and rising in the new self, a fundamental re-identification of the person.  This motif, this idea of identity and baptism persists throughout the Bible.  When Israel Crosses the Red Sea they enter as a group of slaves and emerge as a chosen, rescued people of God.  When they cross the Jordan they go down as a Nomadic group of wanderers and emerge as a the nation of God.  Elijah passes through the waters and is taken away and Elisha does the same and takes on the role of his now departed master.  All these events happen though because of the power and will of God alone.  It is God’s might that holds back the sea, it is God’s will, call, and promise that makes someone His… and it will be God’s grace and love which bring Jesus to the cross as atonement for our sins and ultimately the way to be found truly in Him as members of His body.



Day 90: 2 Samuel 12-13; David and Bathsheba

It was the best of times… and then it was the worst of times…

Yesterday, we talked at length about all of the victories and the good things that the Lord blessed David with, and today we see that even David, the man after God’s own heart, is not above sinning against the Lord.  The story of David and Bathsheba is a familiar one, told and taught about in many a Sunday School classroom.  It is important because it marks a turn in David’s household.  Up until now things have been pretty peachy for David and his family.  After now though, we’ll see that David’s household will be fraught with conflict, starting with the story Amnon and Absalom.

Yet even this “I told you so” story of what results when the Law and the Covenant are not followed really pales in comparison to the unmatched grace that God shows here and the faithfulness that God shows David in spite of this horrible sin.  While not all will likely read this on Easter Sunday, the writing of this post is for Easter Sunday of this year (2013), and there are some very important Easter themes that arise from this story that I would like us to reflect on today.  Read again with me the words of Nathan the prophet as he confronts David about his sin:

“He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had very many flocks and herds,  but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him.  Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”  Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.  And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.  Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’  Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.  For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”  David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” Then Nathan went to his house.”

David doesn’t know it, but he is pronouncing judgment upon himself… and Nathan redirects David’s anger over sin right back at him.  “YOU ARE THE MAN!!!” he declares!

Do those words resonate with you?  I don’t know about you, but when I hear about injustice and sin against others I am often outraged… but something inside of me also screams “YOU ARE THE MAN!”  And the pronouncement of judgment has been made… I deserve to die and the recompense for my sin is more than I’ll ever be able to pay.  And the reality is that God would be justified in sitting on the throne and saying “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in His sight?”  Yet today, on Easter Sunday, we remember the truth of God’s Word… the truth of God’s Nature… the truth of God’s grace.  Nathan declares to David what is declared to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “THE LORD ALSO HAS PUT AWAY YOUR SIN; YOU SHALL NOT DIE.”

This is the good news of Easter!!  Even though we deserve death, being sinners who have utter;y scorned the Lord, we have been saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ!!

Jesus Christ lived the perfect life.  An innocent, Jesus took on all our guilt and died the death we deserve to die.  In His resurrection, Jesus defeated death, vanquishing it, overcoming it forever that we may live forever bringing glory to His Name!  Hallelujah and AMEN!!



Day 49: Numbers 31-33; The Beginning of the End…

While exact locations of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness are unknown, scholars have, with their scholarly minds, come up with some good assumptions and guesses as to the path Israel took in its 40+ years in the wilderness.  It may have looked a bit like the route on this map I found on La Vista Church of Christ‘s .website.

Israel's Wilderness Wanderings

 

However… I’m sure for the people of Israel, it probably felt a bit more like this (Credit to Principles of Life Ministries website):

Israel's Wilderness Wanderings Humor

 

In much the same way that the hearing of a genealogy would have connected the Hebrew hearer to that time, so too would the recount of the wanderings of Israel connect them to that story.  It is the connection that is important, as we talked about a couple weeks ago.  The people at all times desired connection to the center, connection to the Divine.  Remember that, in this connection, the Hebrew person find him or herself participating in the Story of God and His actions for Israel, but also connected with the blessings that come along with this story.

As we talked about on February 15, this story once again, primarily tells us something about God.  Remember with me, back to the time of Abraham, when God first promises the land of Canaan to Israel.  Remember that God says in Genesis 15 that the people would leave the land of Canaan, which God had promised them, but would come back after four generation because the sins of the Amorites was not complete.  This is a seemingly cryptic statement back then, but we see the beginning of its fulfillment here in Numbers 31 & 32.  Here begins the end of Israel’s wandering journey.  Here begins the end of the sin of the land of Canaan.  God punishes Midian by wiping them out, wholly and completely… or so it seems.   They do crop back up again later in the Bible.

It is interesting to read these passages in the Bible.  Tales of war, of genocide commanded by God are things that don’t often make sense to us.  The God we worship is a loving God, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love as the Bible attests to.  Yet here, it seems, even God’s patience and forgiveness meets an end.  To be clear though, these were specific times and specific stories, ones that we find ourselves far removed from.  There have been people throughout the ages that have sighted these stories as the grounds for waging war on other countries, other people groups… even for racial and social prejudices leading to violence.  I can assure you, that is not the purpose of these stories.

We do serve and worship and God that is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  We also serve and worship a God that is Holy, righteous, and just.  In this story we see Israel being used as the tool of God’s righteous judgment, the outpouring of His wrath against sin.  While this may seem gruesome, it does show us how wholly opposed to sin God is.  It is not, however, an valid excuse for anything from the crusades to the Holocaust to any “holy war”, God’s Word never supports the slaughter of millions of people.  And, if you think that it isn’t fair that God is judging a people that didn’t know His laws, keep reading!  Later God uses other nations, sinful pagan nations that are appointed by God to exercise the same judgment on Israel who did know God’s laws and chose not to obey them.

But even there forgiveness is found… and the people return… which brings us to our story as well.  We all deserve the righteous judgment of God for our sins, yet once again we can read out of this the awesome grace of God in the sending of His Son that we would not bear this punishment, but are atoned for, redeemed, and can live now as a people free from sin and reconciled to God through Jesus to whom we have union by the work and power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen and Amen!