He Came Under the Law

Luke 2:21-24

God reveals himself and his redemptive purposes in his word. He does this for his glory and our joy! His message concerns his dearly loved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is formed according to what God did, does, and will do through him. It declares from its earliest pages “he will come,” and then “he has come” and “he will come again”. Various themes assist in the telling of this message, such as the kingdom, the seed, and the covenants. In our text we ought to see how the Christ or Anointed One came. He came under the law, meaning the old or law covenant, made by God with his people Israel. Listen to Paul’s statement. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV).

Why do you and I need to know this? We can begin by saying we must understand how God tells the story of his glory to us. It helps us as we read parts of the Scriptures like this text, because we can wonder, “Why does the Spirit of God use four verses of the Bible on this stuff?” I think I can safely say that no one ever was told to memorize these verses in Sunday School, Bible study, or a discipleship program. It provides part of the background for understanding what Christ did for us and the newness of life we are called to walk in. It also provides a rare glimpse into the infancy of the Redeemer. Let’s observe a few things of his earliest days.

His parents walked obediently according to the old covenant. He was circumcised and presented to the Lord as the law required. They presented an offering required by the law. Remember that the covenant given at Sinai functioned as the people brought offerings to the priests at the tabernacle or temple. This was their worship. Since the new covenant has one finished sacrifice offered by Jesus the great high priest, our worship is in him. We come to God through Christ, but Mary, Joseph and Jesus approached the living God through sacrifices like this. So then, they were obedient worshipers, just as we should be.

They, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, kept the word of the Lord that came to them through the angel Gabriel. They named their son Jesus (Luke 1:31). This shows their faith that God had indeed spoken to them. We have received the New Testament Scriptures through the apostles and prophets of the Lord. When we read the Bible, we read what the Lord has said. We are to keep what the Spirit has caused to be written for us with the same spirit of faith. In other words, when we pick up God’s book, let us reverence God for what he says to us, and let us respond with faith.

Jesus was born to poor parents. We learn this from the offering that Mary brought for her cleansing after the birth of a son. But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean (Leviticus 12:8 NIV). The earthly parents of the Messiah could not afford a lamb. So, the Lamb of God was presented to God Most High with a pair of doves or pigeons! It was all they could give, but they gave what pleased the Lord. In the same way, God only expects us to give according to the manner that God has prospered us (1 Corinthians 16:2). God does not burden us beyond our abilities. In fact, he sent his Son from heaven’s riches to earthly poverty to make us rich in him. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV). Rejoice in the God who gives generously to make us forever rich!

Grace and peace, David

Three Prisoners (Part One)

Genesis 40:1-23

By God’s appointment, the lives of people become intertwined. From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live (Acts 17:26 CSB). We receive a family by birth, neighbors by residence, schoolmates by education, fellow workers by occupation, and friends by common interests. The lives of each affect the others, often in surprising ways. Certain other people, whom we might not meet under normal circumstances, can suddenly enter our lives. It might be a car accident, a tragedy in the community, a stay in the hospital, even getting stuck in a ditch on a snowy night.

God’s purpose is always at work. He will work out all things in conformity with the counsel of his own will. In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11 CSB; cf. Romans 11:36). His purpose is not often visible to our observation. There are times he forever changes the direction of our lives by someone we meet. Such a time now comes to Joseph. However, do not think that he could read the rest of his life’s story in his meeting with two new prisoners.

The Lord opened a new chapter in Joseph’s life (40:1-4). The immediate occasion was the anger of a king. Involvement in politics exposes oneself to dangers. A king’s fury is a messenger of death, but a wise person appeases it (Proverbs 16:14 CSB). In our current situation, we observe hatred on all sides politically. It is more than kings that have fury. Pray and act for peace.

The exact nature of their offense, real or imagined, did not matter. They served an absolute monarch whose slightest whims were law. There was no opposition party, no appeal beyond the decisions of Pharaoh. If they displeased him in the slightest, his wrath could demand their demise. Yet in this dire situation, the living God was in control of the king. The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Proverbs 21:1 ESV). God directed that they be assigned to Joseph’s care.

These two new prisoners had connections with royalty. “Again we perceive how the Lord was favoring Joseph by opening the way for him to reach positions of great responsibility in the structure of the government of Egypt” (Aalders).

For a while nothing happened. Life on this planet is not a series of exciting events. All three prisoners experienced for a while the gloom and despair of prison existence. The dull days of our lives ought to be used in preparation for the days of great significance. The time to grow as a Christian is the present. The hour of crisis is a poor time to learn. We need to recognize that the people that the Lord has placed in our lives are there for a reason, for mutual benefit. Perhaps they will expose weaknesses in your spiritual character that require change. Or they might be near, because the Lord wants you to point them toward Christ and salvation. In every case, the people nearby are your neighbors, and so you are to love them. Love them joyfully today!

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Six)

They will perish, but you will endure; all of them will wear out like clothing. You will change them like a garment, and they will pass away. But you are the same, and your years will never end (Psalm 102:26-27 CSB).

God is immutable. “The unchangeableness of God is linked to his eternity… but they are not identical. The eternity of God means that God has always existed and will always exist; nothing comes before him, nothing after. The unchangeableness of God (immutability) means that God is always the same in his eternal being” (Boice, The Sovereign God, p. 183).

It is important that we invest time to understand this attribute and listen carefully to what the Scriptures actually teach. It is hard to understand because creation and we change constantly. There are three general ways that God is unchangeable:

  • God is unchangeable in his being (Malachi 3:6).
  • God is unchangeable in his attributes (Psalm 100:5).
  • God is unchangeable in his purposes (Isaiah 46:10)

Having stated these three truths, let us think about them. First, God is unchangeable in his being (Psalm 102:26-27). This means that we always worship the same God. The living God is not in the state of becoming something; he is the “I AM”.  “God is the exact same God and not something different. The God of the New Testament is not different from the God of the Old Testament. He is not older, wiser, more knowledgeable, bigger or smaller, greater or lesser, stronger or weaker. Only ONE God, as the eternal I AM, is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Morey, Battle of the Gods, p. 211, his emphasis). This provides a rock of stability to us. If God could change, how could we ever depend on him? For example, what if his power was diminishing? We could not be assured of eternal life, because his power is necessary to sustain ours. Let us rejoice that God does not change!

Second, God’s attributes do not change (James 1:17). “What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realize that our heavenly Father never differs from himself. In coming to him at any time we need not wonder whether we shall find him in a receptive mood. He is always receptive to misery and need, as well as to love and faith. He does not keep office hours nor set aside periods when he will see no one. Neither does he change his mind about anything. Today, this moment, he feels toward his creatures, toward babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as he did when he sent his only-begotten Son into the world to die for mankind” (Tozer, quoted by Boice, p. 187).

Third, God’s purposes do not change (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21; Hebrews 6:17-18). What God has planned to do for Christ (Philippians 2:9-11), for his redeemed people (Romans 8:28-30) and for the wicked (Matthew 25:41) does not change. Neither does his word change (Isaiah 40:6-8).

Someone might ask, “But what about the few passages in Scripture that speak of God’s ‘repenting’?” (See Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:11, 35.) Do these pose any problem to the doctrine of the immutability of God?

“First, we have already stated that the immutability of God concerns the being of God. None of the passages in question speak of a change in God’s nature, but rather describe some act of God. Second, all of these passages describe a change in God’s works in terms of his revelation, relationship, or attitude toward man” (Morey, p. 222).

When we say that God is unchanging, we do not mean that he lacks emotional expression toward his creatures in conformity with his holiness, love, and justice. The personality of God demands that he has emotions, like we do, because we are created in his image. When God tells us in these passages that he “repented”, he is revealing his sorrow over the evil situation that occurred, just as we would say, “I’m sorry I ever did that,” though we might make exactly the same choice again for various reasons of love, truth, or justice.

The historical outworking of God’s plan of redemption might appear to show that God has changed his mind (from the fall to the old covenant and then to the new covenant), but that is an apparent change only. God revealed his plan in stages, and now with the New Testament Scriptures, we have the full revelation of his plan (Ephesians 3:2-11; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; 1 Peter 1:10-12).

Grace and peace, David

The Cry of the Powerless

DSCN34112 Chronicles 14:9-15

God brought Asa and his people to the time to act in faith (14:9-15). God constantly does this. Part of his purpose for his people is to declare his praises (1 Peter 2:9), and we do this when we trust God and demonstrate his surpassing glory by a life of faith. Do not be surprised when trials come when you must rely on the living God. Be ready to believe; be expectant of God’s grace.

I repeat, in a fallen world, times of crisis and fear will come. This world is not heaven. The people in it are marked by rebellion against God. Therefore, they do not love God or people. They are greedy and lust for what others have. Those who have worldly wealth try to get more at the expense of those who are weak. Those who lack worldly wealth assume they are right in trying to take from those who already have. How did this happen to King Asa and his people?

An attack came from the area southwest of Israel. Zerah led a very large army against Judah. Although Asa had prepared wisely, he could not absolutely prevent the greed of others who wanted to rape and pillage. Do not think that if you follow Christ, then others will join with you or respect you for doing so. If you stand in the way of their lusts, they may try to ruin you to enrich themselves.

The approaching attack required Asa to lead his army to a defensible position southwest of Jerusalem. Mareshah had been fortified by Rehoboam years before (cf. 11:8). It was wise to put his army in the best forward place for defense, before the enemy could do additional damage.

In a time of fear, Asa exercised faith in the Lord (14:11). Though he acted responsibly with his army, he did not rely on his own strength. Instead, he also did the best thing he could do. He prayed to the living God, who rules over all.

  • In humility Asa confessed the Lord’s holy power. There is no one like the Lord to help the powerless against the mighty. Here is theology (the right teaching about God) put in action.
  • In humility Asa confessed their dependence on the Lord.
  • In humility Asa asked God to remember his covenant relationship with Israel and to defend his honor and his people.

What happened? Many in our time are not convinced about the significance or prayer. Yes, I know that people ask for prayer when they think there is no other hope. But do they actively seek the Lord as able to act in space-time history as a usual part of life? What do even most Christians do? They strategize; they put out calls for action from like-minded; they dream of political solutions. But pray? Faced with Zerah’s army, would today’s western Christians call out to the Lord in faith, or would they melt away in fear. My friends, the “armies of Zerah” are coming, they will always come, and the followers of Jesus Christ must call upon Lord in faith!

In his faithfulness, the Lord defended his people (14:12-15).

  • The Lord acted against the attackers in some unstated way. Whatever the action, God struck them so that they could not recover. Fear overtook them and they fled.
  • Since armies in that time carried a great deal of wealth with them, the victory also provided Judah with a great deal of worldly wealth. And so the Lord completely reversed the intentions of Judah’s enemies. Not only were they safe, they were also wealthy.

We serve the living God, who is able to do much more than we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). If we consider only our own resources and live according to opinion polls, we can get very discouraged. But if we trust in the Lord and call on him, as Asa did, then we may see him act in unexpected ways for his glory and our good. Now is the time to exercise strong faith in the living God. Desperate situations call for fervent prayer to the Lord of all. We might be powerless, but we serve the all-powerful, Sovereign Lord. Let us call upon him now.

Grace and peace, David