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.



True Justice: H.C. Lord's Day 4

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 4

Q9. But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?
A9. No, God created human beings with the ability to keep the law.  They, however, provoked by the devil in willful disobedience, robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.

Q10. Does God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
A10. Certainly not. God is terribly angry with the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit.

As a just judge, God will punish them both now and in eternity, having declared: “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”

Q11. But isn’t God also merciful?
A11. God is certainly merciful, but also just. God’s justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty—eternal punishment of body and soul.

There is a lot of talk about love these days.  Whether it’s the now famous slogan “Love wins,” or the rather unique and emotional poetic proclamation that “love is love is love is love is love,” it seems like everyone is proclaiming that love is rather important.

People do this too when we talk about sin.  They may shrug or scoff that Christians focus too much on sin and that the “hellfire and brimstone” God that used to be preached is not the God of today.  God is love; that is what He is.  So do we really need to talk about judgment, punishment, and wrath?  Isn’t God merciful?

Quite simply the answer is Yes.  Yes, God is merciful.  Yes, God is love.  Yes, God forgives.  Yes, God is also just.  As a matter of fact, these two things are inextricably linked together, woven and bound in such a way that you cannot have one without the other.

Far too often we talk about God’s justice, God’s wrath, and God’s punishment for sin as if it is somehow unfair.  If we are all sinners and have been since we have been born, it’s impossible for us to keep the law.  You wouldn’t punish your 8-year old for not doing his advanced calculus correctly; God shouldn’t punish us for sin, then, either.

The reality of our questions this week is that we were indeed created with the capability of following the law.  However, because of Adam, we all inherited sin.  We call this “Original sin.”  It is something that we are born into and something we have to face, even though, like Adam, we are created with the capability of following the law.  Simply put, though, we just don’t.  In the same way that we yell at the T.V. when a ref makes a bad call, so too is God angered by the sins that we commit against Him.  He has every right to be as well.

If God is holy, and completely set apart, He is the very antonym of sin.  As that is the case, sin (and all those who commit it) must be held accountable.  God is just in doing so.  When someone breaks the law, they have to pay a fine; that is the natural way of things.  No one questions a police officer for writing a ticket to a speeding driver or arresting someone who drives drunk.  Why, then, do we somehow think that God should just overlook sin in the name of “love” and “grace?”

Grace isn’t sweeping sin under the rug.  Love isn’t overlooking sin for the sake of the sinner.  What would God’s love amount to if He just let us get away with whatever?  It would actually be less fair, less just, and downright harmful to His creation.  Sinners need to be held accountable… sin needs to be punished.  “Overlooking sin does not exalt God’s mercy, it undermines it,” says Kevin DeYoung in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot.

Enter Jesus.

God sent His Son to this earth to take on that burden.  Jesus lived the perfect life as a human and then died, taking on the punishment of a sinful universe, all so that our relationship with God could be put right again.  God’s justice and wrath are satisfied in Jesus’ death… Sin as been dealt with in Jesus Christ and because of that (and only that) God can and does freely extend His grace and mercy to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Consider this parable of Jesus.  The debt that is owed by both men is not simply swept aside; the money lender doesn’t look the other way and not acknowledge the lack of repayment.  The debt is FORGIVEN.  This means that the money lender himself has to take that debt on, and the magnitude of the forgiveness is amplified by the amount of the debt.  So it is with us.  Thanks be to God!

Luke 7:36-50

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”



Am I Not Merciful? H.C. Question 11

Heidelberg Catechism Question 11

But isn’t God also merciful?

Exodus 34:6-7 – And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

Psalm 103:8-9 – The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;

Deuteronomy 7:9-11 – Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.  Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.

Psalm 5:4-6 – For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome.  The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.  You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies.  The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest.

Hebrews 10:30-31 – For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Matthew 25:35-46 – For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”



Day 347: 2 Thessalonians 1-3; More on the Second Coming of Christ

People the claim that they know when the second coming of Christ is, or when the day of the rapture is going to happen, or even when the final judgment will begin often seem crazy to us.  Those folks like Harold Camping, and others that have sought to lead people astray by teachings these false doctrines are often the source of ridicule, mockery, and criticism from both inside and outside the church.  We may think that they are the first, today the world has survived over 150 documented predictions (thank you wikipedia) of the end of the world, ranging from hundreds of years before Christ to as recently as December 31 of last year.  If that comforts you, then just know that we only have about 20 or so more documented apocalyptic events to get through, the closest of which is supposed to happen on February 22 of next year, the farthest out being about 10 to the 100th power years away when the “heat death” of the universe takes place.  Clearly these predictors have not read or taken seriously the words of Jesus in Matthew 24, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

You may think this inconsequential to the reading for today, but sadly it was to address confusion such as this that Paul writes this second letter to the Thessalonian church.  There was, apparently, a great deal of confusing surrounding the final judgment and it seems as though there might have been another letter than came to the church in Paul’s name claiming that the final judgment had already begun.  People quit their jobs, sold all they had, and just waited for Christ to return.  Sound familiar?  This is what the followers of Harold Camping did in the days and weeks before his predicted dates of Jesus’ return.  Sadly, and I do mean that in some ways, it did not happen.  As I have said many times before though, the Bible is the given revelation of God’s self by God Himself to His people and the world.  There is no hidden code that is contained within its pages.  It is the Gospel of God’s mercy and grace that is seen in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and that is testified to by the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s people.

2 Thessalonians is one of the books from which we get a great deal of pre-Revelation, post-Gospel understanding of the events of the second coming of Christ as well as other elements that will be part of this process including “the man of lawlessness.”  This person is commonly known as the “anti-Christ,” a figure who appears towards the end of time in opposition to Jesus Christ and the Church.  This figure, perhaps a single person or maybe a political or corporate entity, will exalt himself over God and all other gods, and will even proclaim himself to be God.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.  Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.  Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?  And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.  The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

A great deal of the end of time theology has been popularized in the Left Behind Series, an outcropping of pre-millennial dispensationalism.  This is a line of belief about the second coming of Christ that is drawn largely from a small amount of single verses that are woven together as proof texts to shallowly support a “doctrine.”  This line of belief claims a great deal of literal understandings of the final days of the earth, even drawing on the prophets as predictors of the future (which was not their primary function), and then drawing out a timeline from their reading of Scripture.  This includes a the popularized notion of a rapture, which comes from an interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which has basically no Scriptural support (or other Scriptural support) whatsoever.

Indeed, Jesus talks about a great number of people who will come in His name (recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21), and that these people will be those who try to lead the believers in Christ astray.  I think, when we take these whole passages, as well as some of the other discussions that are had on the second coming of Christ, what we see is that all of creation is moving towards this time, and has been since the fall.  God is always at work for the restoration of all things, and there are forces of evil at work in this world that are dramatically opposed to this work.  Many have indeed come as “men of lawlessness,” and some have even claimed to be divine.  Many of the Roman leaders were like this, at times the leaders of the Roman Catholic church have walked this line, and there have been many leaders (the most prominent of which was Adolf Hitler) who have sought to rule the world and have even co-opted the church and the Gospel to support their cause.  Paul’s warning, as well as Jesus’ words tell us that we need to open our eyes to the greater happenings of things in the world.  This isn’t an encouragement to look for conspiracies and plots, nor is it encouragement to look at all the natural disasters as signaling the end of the world, and neither is it encouragement to say that “wars and rumors of wars” are signals of the immediate coming of Christ.  All of these things have been happening since the fall of humanity.

So what should our response be?  Paul says stand firm in the face of it, holding to the hope that we have in Christ Jesus in the midst of uncertainty.

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

He also says that we need to not be idle.  The notion of selling all you have, quitting your job, and just sitting around and waiting for the coming of Christ is entirely antithetical to Biblical teaching.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.  For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.  It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.  For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”



Day 270: Micah 5-7; What Does the Lord Desire?

In one verse, Micah summarizes pretty much the point of the entire message of all the prophets:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

This is indeed what the Lord is calling the people back to.  Idle repentance, veiled holiness, and pretend religiosity is nothing to the Lord.  Actions without inner change are worthless.  God does not want their sacrifices or offerings, He does not desire festivals or celebrations.  God desires those who walk along the path that He has set out for them, the path of justice and mercy, in a humble and contrite manner.

What is at the core of this statement?  The fact that this is exactly what the people of Israel were not doing.  In fact, as we read in Micah and other prophets, the people of Israel were acting unjustly towards all, especially those who were poor, downtrodden, and could not defend themselves.  The original call of God to His people was both to love Him with all of their heart, soul, and mind, but also to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  This idea was in contrast to that which the world seeks, motivated by self-interest and the desire to promote the self at the expense of others, particularly the poor.  This is not how God created the world and God wanted to show the world through Israel the right way to be in relationship with others, and the mercy that He shows to all those who are downtrodden.

Going along with this was the Lord’s desire to love mercy.  For many this goes along with the idea of acting justly, but in many ways it is completely different.  From a strictly justice standpoint, debtors that are indebted to someone should have to pay them back and when the loan is called, the debt collector is justified in taking a person’s belongings to satisfy the balance of the loan.  But to do this heartlessly, without understanding is not what God has in mind either.  In fact, the Law is full of examples of when loans are to be forgiven, slaves are to be set free, and land is to be returned to its original owner, no matter what the circumstances are.  This is what true mercy is… this is the way God has called us to live… and it is in response to the way that He has shown mercy on His people as well.  Whether it is freeing them from bondage in Egypt or dying for their sins on the cross, God has shown us mercy upon mercy, grace upon grace.  There is really no two ways about it.  We are to be merciful in the same way that we have been shown mercy.

Neither of these have any traction without a true posture of humility that comes with following God and walking with Him.  The true purpose of the people of Israel was not in the actions of justice or mercy that they took, but in the posture in which they took them.  As the Psalmist writes,

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

Actions can be empty.  Anyone can fake niceness or happiness when they want to.  God desires something much deeper from His people: their heart.  Micah uses the word and in this verse as well… like the commercials about ‘and‘ and ‘or’ say, “and is better.”  All of these are what the Lord desires of us…

To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.



Day 261: Hosea 5-9; You Reap What You Sow?

The old saying “you reap what you have sown” is the main message of Hosea’s prophecy in today’s reading.  In so many words, Hosea has rehearsed for the people the entire story of Israel from God’s first calling to Abraham all the way up to the present day… and it wasn’t pretty.  As we read this story and reflect on it, we see that there are really very few times in which the Lord says of Israel, “you followed me well and obeyed my commands.”  Most of the time God is maintaining His relationship with Israel, His side of the covenant while they are still being unfaithful.  That is, however, the nature of the covenant… the nature of any covenant actually, and it is why God’s relationship with His people is covenantal in nature.

There is a difference between a contract and a covenant, a very large difference.  We enter into contracts all of the time.  A contract is an agreement between two parties that describes the actions and expectations of each party to fulfill some sort of a goal.  The contractual obligation depends on the actions of both parties for it to be valid.  If either party breaks the terms of the contract, then it is considered null and void and the other person is free to leave the contract and not have to fulfill his or her obligations.

A covenant is different though.  While there are still two parties, the terms and goals of the covenant are dependent on only one party which is usually the person making that covenant.  For the covenant to remain in place, only the one making it need be faithful.  Of course there are expectations that the other party adhere to the terms of the covenant, but the overall validity of the covenant does not depend on both parties, only the covenant maker.

In Israel’s case, God is the covenant maker.  He is the one who called Abraham and made a covenant with him that “I will be your God and you will be my people.”  Over the years, the covenant took on more meaning and complexity, but ultimately God is still their God no matter what happens or what the people do.  Now, there are stipulations that are placed on the covenant like if the people don’t follow the Law they would be punished, but never would the covenant be nullified.  This is the nature of God’s dealing with His people.  He knows that they will never be able to hold up their end of the bargain, that they are imperfect and could never live up to the standards of holiness that God set before them.  God knows that His people face trials, temptations, and all other manner of worldly things that would draw them away from Himself.  A contract with them would have never worked.  But God, the Lord who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, would have no problem covenanting with them; His very nature is that of mercy and grace even in the light of unfaithfulness.

Hosea, like many of the other prophets, has declared that the people of Israel and Judah would face judgment for the sins that they have committed.  This, as we have said many times, is something that is set up in the Law as the result for what the people have done.  As Hosea points out in such a vivid metaphor, “you sowed the wind, now you will reap a whirlwind.”  And so they did.  In fact, the Northern Kingdom would never again be itself.  The “Samaritans” that live there are considered to be a sort of ‘half-breed’ Hebrew in Jesus’ day.  But even in their punishment, God never says “I am no longer your God” for that would be against the covenant and completely against the character of God.  Even when the people do not follow Him, God is still God and He is still their God as well.



Day 216: Isaiah 61-64: The Coming Day of the Lord

There is a lot to be said about the end times.  Especially now as we see things and around the world get progressively worse (depending on your point of view), and culture take a moral nosedive, the talk of the time that Christ returns and when God makes all things right is greater than it ever has been before.  We’ve seen cults come and go, denominations split over eschatological views, the books upon book being written about what things will be like, when these things will happen, and how it will all play out when they do.  Often times we find people quoting Isaiah, Daniel, and Revelation as source material for their views on specific events and timelines for how the return of Christ will be ushered in.  Some people have even gone so far as to predict dates and times, all of which have failed of course, that Christ will come back.  Laughably, to date, we have survived well over 100 end of the world scenarios as well as, what could be considered countless dates in which Christ was to supposedly return.

Yet this topic is one that is rather heavy in the Bible.  It is spoken of quite frequently throughout the Old Testament, in the prophets especially, and is addressed at length in the New Testament (specifically in Revelation) and by Jesus Himself while He was still on earth.  There are few topics that are more controversial and have been more divisive in the Christian Church than that of eschatology.  However, in that same vein, there are few topics that are truly less important from a salvation aspect than that of Eschatology.  As a member of the Reformed Church, growing up in the Reformed tradition, and studying the Bible at a Reformed Seminary, I know what my denomination believes, and I also know the arguments for different denominations and thought processes for the 4 main eschatological views of the Church.  However, it is not my intent to promote one over the others here today.  In fact, I truly believe that the divisiveness that this topic has had in the Church has really come from us making central a belief or viewpoint that is truly peripheral to the Christian faith.  Isaiah, Daniel, Revelation, and the myriad of other places in the Bible that this is addressed would seem to substantiate this opinion as well.  Instead of talking about what is going to happen and how, these Scriptural texts paint an image for us of what life will be like when it happens.  Today’s reading is just one of those passages.

Our text today starts our with Scripture that Jesus Himself reads at the beginning of His ministry:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…

Jesus says, in Luke 4, after reading this text that it is indeed fulfilled by His reading it and the people hearing it.  Knowing this, we have to believe that this text in Isaiah is directly linked to the Incarnation of Jesus.  With this in mind, we have to also understand all of these texts, which seems to contain the same themes, are inexplicably linked to Jesus Christ as they are all about the day of the Lord.  Sure, these passages talk about many different topics about the day of the Lord, namely Salvation, vengeance, mercy, and freedom, but these are all subtopics of the same event, the coming of the Lord.

Some may ask though, if this passage was fulfilled when Jesus came, why has not all of this happened yet?  Clearly the world is still quite messed up, things are obviously not as the should be.  They would be right in saying this.  Salvation has come; Jesus came and lived the life that we could not and died the death that we deserve.  He opened for us the path to God once again so that we could be in relationship with Him.  Jesus’ actions in healing the sick and driving out demons was but a foretaste of the judgment and wrath against sin that is to come.  However, the same healing, love, mercy, and forgiveness that Jesus showed people is a foretaste of what is to come in when He comes again.  Sin was defeated; sin is defeated.  What we are experiencing now can only be described as the death throws of one whose doom is assured.  Restoration is coming and all will be made right on that great and glorious day when we will see Jesus face to face and the dwelling of God will be here on Earth (oops, that is a bit of Reformed Theology – reference Revelation 21).  We do not truly know when this will happen, or the specific series of events.  Will there be a rapture?  Will there be a literal 1,000 year reign?  We’ll explore these topics around Christmas time.  What is important is that we know and have hope in the fact that Jesus has promised that He will come back.  His return is assured.  The restoration of the world is assured.  As the Church, we should be working to usher in this Kingdom here on Earth, and leave the details of how and when to God alone.



Day 152: Job 35-38; Enter Elihu

Today we pick up in the middle of Elihu‘s speech to Job and his friends, but really today’s post is all about Elihu, from Job 32-37.  Elihu is the contrast, the friend that we all wish that we had.  He is the guy that tells it like it is, who doesn’t shy away from discomfort, but also isn’t afraid to tell the truth.  And so he does here, without hesitation, rebuking Job and Job’s friends Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphaz.  He then speaks the truth of the situation to them all.

First, Elihu speaks to Job’s friends, making known the truth of their words towards Job.  There was no wisdom to be found among them say he, despite their age and experience.  Among their many words to Job, no answer could be found to Job’s cries.

Second, Elihu speaks directly to Job in truth about Job’s situation, one that we all find ourselves in as we discover.  Elihu makes it plain to Job that all of humanity is the same before God, we all stand before him as that which is taking from the clay, from the dust of the earth… creatures before our creator.  Contending with God as though we know better is not right, Elihu says, and we must be careful in what we say.  None of us are blameless before the Almighty and none have knowledge or wisdom above that of God.  Indeed God is in control of all things in life and sustains the world from beginning to end.  From the dust God formed us.  It is He who gives us life.  It is He who sustains us.  It is He who numbers our days.  Nothing happens in this world without the will of God in heaven.  Who are we to stand up and say God is wrong and we are right?

The Wrath of Elihu, from the Butts set. Pen an...

The Wrath of Elihu, from the Butts set. Pen and black ink, gray wash, and watercolour, over traces of graphite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finally, this is the answer that Elihu gives to both Job and his friends Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphaz: God is Great and Majestic… God is Justice.  There is really no better way to say it so I will leave today with excerpts from Elihu’s speech.  I think it deserves to be said though, in closing today, that Elihu is different from Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad.  He has answered Job and these three friends truthfully.  He has rebuked what needs to be rebuked, and has left the rest up to God.  Elihu doesn’t give quick answers without thought, but speaks the Truth of God’s Will, and leaves the rest to God.

“Of a truth, God will not do wickedly,
and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
Who gave him charge over the earth,
and who laid on him the whole world?
If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
and man would return to dust.”

“Remember to extol his work,
of which men have sung.
All mankind has looked on it;
man beholds it from afar.
Behold, God is great, and we know him not;
the number of his years is unsearchable.”

“Do you know how God lays his command upon them
and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
Do you know the balancings of the clouds,
the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge,
you whose garments are hot
when the earth is still because of the south wind?
Can you, like him, spread out the skies,
hard as a cast metal mirror?”

“And now no one looks on the light
when it is bright in the skies,
when the wind has passed and cleared them.
Out of the north comes golden splendor;
God is clothed with awesome majesty.
The Almighty—we cannot find him;
he is great in power;
justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.
Therefore men fear him;
he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”



Day 26: Exodus 31-34; The Golden Calf

Here we come to another story that is familiar.  I feel like the book of Exodus is filled with familiar stories interspersed with writings about the law, the tabernacle, and the like.  This story is a bit different that some that we have read in the past week or two, and yet still abundantly similar as well.  As is the norm when something happens to this wandering nation of Hebrews, they complain and grumble against Moses and God.  Different this time would be the actual making of a “god” to worship when they face uncertainty.  Unfortunately, this is only the beginning for God’s chosen people.

So Moses is up on the mountain meeting with God and receiving the Law.  In the mean time, the people are starting to wonder what happened to Moses.  Never mind the big smoking cloud, the fire, and the lightning on the mountain, it is clear that Moses has abandoned them.  So, they do that seems to be out of the ordinary for us, for anyone really… they make a god for themselves.  However, this really isn’t something new for this culture or the cultures around them.  We saw that Egypt pretty much had a god for everything, created and worshiped in hopes of a favorable turn for them.  We would say now days that these people didn’t understand the world around them and thus things they didn’t understand were deemed supernatural, for which a god figure was created.  So really, the Israelite people were just mimicking what they saw all around them.  Would this be something that is pertinent only to those people at that time?  I think not.

But perhaps someone would argue, “we don’t make golden calves for ourselves to worship.”  On one level that would seem to be true.  I haven’t visited many people in my life that have statues of golden calves in their houses or yards much less alters to worship them on.  We try to avoid those stores with the big golden buddhas on the shelves and stuff like that.  We simply don’t make gods for ourselves in our lives do we?

Well… I tend to think, at least in my own life, that I often worship at the alter of a few things other than God.  I make myself busy in an effort to do as much as I can because I don’t trust that God will take care of things.  Sometimes I worship at the alter of current events, paying more attention to TV, celebrities, or even weather reports than I do my Bible and devotional time.  I often worship at the alter of self, trading God time for me time claiming that I need my video game time to help me recharge rather than prayer or the Bible, or even worship.  Maybe we worship at the alter of money, working longer and harder, sacrificing our family time for the sake of a few more dollars.  Maybe there are other things that fit this category… I am forced to ask the question of myself, and maybe you will think about this too: “what is the golden calf in my life?”

Whatever it is that may be distracting us, the other parts of the story here are quite important as well.  Most of all, from what I see, is the picture of God that we get.  It raises some questions… and gives us some comfort.  The proclamation of God’s name, His very nature of Love, Grace, and Mercy, are all found when Moses hears the name of God as God passes by him.  (34:6) ““The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…”  Our God is a forgiving God.  If He weren’t, we would all have been wiped out long ago.  No matter what the alter you find yourself worshiping at today, know that it is not too late.  Throw away your golden calf and come back to God for He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

One question that is raised here… and perhaps this isn’t a good place to leave off for the day (but perhaps will generate some discussion)… We also get a picture of God being angry with Israel, threatening to wipe the nation out and start over with Moses.  Ultimately this doesn’t actually happen because Moses pleads with God and God changes His mind.  Yet we are told that God is unchanging or “immutable.”  How do we reconcile these two things?  I’m curious to know your thoughts!