Like Moth and Lion (Part One)

Hosea 5:1-15

Their actions do not allow them to return to their God, for a spirit of promiscuity is among them, and they do not know the Lord… When Ephraim saw his sickness and Judah his wound, Ephraim went to Assyria and sent a delegation to the great king. But he cannot cure you or heal your wound (5:4, 13 CSB).

What is your view of God? What do you think he is like? No, this is not an exercise in allowing your imagination to run wild. The essence of idolatry is inventing a god from human imagination. Instead, I am asking what you know of God’s revelation of himself in the Holy Scriptures. God has communicated understandable and adequate truth about himself for life and godliness. Since he is God and our Maker, he is quite able to do this.

We should not be content with a minimal acquaintance with the Lord, for he is our Creator and Judge. What do you know of the One to whom you will give an account for your actions in this life? Can you provide others with an accurate picture of the Lord of the universe?

Old covenant Israel could not. The people that were called to be his witnesses could not even give an accurate testimony to themselves of God’s true nature, what he expected of them, and the way to find him. God’s prophet Hosea calls them back to the basics of spiritual reality, for in the spiritual realm, few things are as deadly as deception.

God exposed Israel’s lack of repentance. Here we observe a problem of the heart (5:4). Remember that the heart means the entire inner person, including the mind, emotions and will. It is the seat of your personality. Think of the importance of the motives of the heart. Here we encounter the deepest spiritual and psychological level of a person (Ezekiel 14:1-11; Hebrews 4:13). As we have seen, they pursued prostitution, whether sexual or spiritual, from their innermost desires. They did not know the Lord. Notice how the Holy Spirit keeps on emphasizing this point! Lack of knowledge of God is the empty space in the heart of a mere professor of religion. Such a person goes through the routine of worship without a personal relationship with the Lord. The true Christian knows the Lord (John 17:3; cf. 1 John 5:20; Hebrews 8:10-12).

God exposed their problem of performance (5:4). There are two ways of looking at this.

  • The sinner is held prisoner by their sins. He or she cannot run away from their master. They are slaves to sin, though they suppose themselves free (Romans 6:15-20).
  • The sinner’s mere profession to saving grace is betrayed by his or her actions (Romans 2:1-29). Before we judge others, we must first judge ourselves (Matthew 7:1-5).

A problem of misdirection (5:13)

Israel knew she had problems. When invading armies gather on your borders, it is hard not to notice.

Many Americans see our nation’s problems: escalating debt, troubling trade issues, increasing violence, deep, political hatred, the scourge of “new” diseases (HIV, Lyme’s, Autism, Alzheimer’s), declining literacy, and an entire litany of abuse (sexual, physical, substance, pornography, gambling). Not many can dare with a straight face to call this a golden age.

Israel decided to turn to her enemy for help! How deceived! Will one who seeks your destruction heal your sores? Yet they vainly hoped that Assyria would help them.

Israel turned to what was ineffective. Assyria would not have been able to help in any event, because Israel’s problem with God was beyond Assyria’s resources. (Recall that Assyria was the “superpower” of the day.)

The failure of our day is the ongoing human failure to recognize the depth of our problems. We have serious issues with God that the resources of American “superpower” cannot address and that tweaking our thinking with postmodern “insights” knows nothing about. May the Lord of all step into our lives in mercy and power.

Grace and peace, David

The Holy Spirit (Part Twenty-two)

John 14:22-26; 16:12-15

In our last article about the Spirit of God, we saw that the Holy Spirit had a crucial role in the production of the New Testament Scriptures, just as he did in the Old Testament Scriptures. By the way, this is why it is simply silly to pit the Spirit against the Scriptures. The written word is the voice of the Spirit. He caused people to write what the Father through the Son decided to reveal about himself, his work, and his redemptive activity in the whole Bible. He acted to guarantee that what was written was the word of God.

Next, let’s consider the qualification of the Spirit for this important ministry. What are his credentials? Listen to what Jesus says. The Spirit is qualified because he is the “parakletos”. There has been much misunderstanding about this word, which is used only five times in its noun form in the New Testament Scriptures (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7; 1 John 2:1). All refer to the Holy Spirit, except the reference in 1 John where it refers to Jesus. Part of the problem is that there is no exact English equivalent for this noun. The verb form is used over 100 times with various meanings, like invite, call upon for help, urge, exhort, encourage, request, comfort, cheer up, and beg. But the noun is used differently. “Comforter” is definitely an inadequate translation.

We should not try to determine a word meaning by breaking it up into its “root” parts. Nonsense can result! (Think of our English words butterfly and pineapple. The parts of each word bear little connection with the word meaning.) So, let’s avoid such methodology in our understanding of Biblical words. Since the word as used in the Greek of that time had legal overtones of a friend helping another friend in court, but falling short of what we would call a lawyer, perhaps the best translation in all five passages would be, as Ferguson suggests, “the Friend at court”. The Spirit does whatever is necessary to produce what is in our best interests. Since Biblical revelation is instruction that is binding upon us, the “Friend at court” acted in our best interests by making sure that we have a clear record of that revelation.

The Holy Spirit is qualified because he is “the Spirit of truth” (16:13). This phrase is used three times in John’s Gospel in reference to the Holy Spirit (14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Since Jesus is “the truth”, we can again see how the Spirit is “another Friend in court” like Jesus (14:16). Yet as used here, the emphasis is on the Spirit communicating truth. “If the Holy Spirit is the one who completes the revelation of Jesus Christ by explaining things the disciples could not then bear to hear (16:12-15), then it is reassuring to learn that truth characterizes him; for we may be sure his testimony will be true. Just as Jesus authenticates the veracity of the biblical revelation before him (e.g., Matt. 5:17-20; John 10:35), so also he authenticates the veracity of the biblical revelation still to come” (Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus, p. 53).

Let us thank the Lord, who came to reveal the Father, that he left the New Testament revelation in such competent hands! It all points to the glory of our Redeemer and his love and mercy for us. Thank him for the provision of the Spirit and the Scriptures today.

Grace and peace, David

The Holy Spirit (Part Eighteen)

2 Peter 1:20-21

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (ESV).

One of the great questions of humanity involves the study of knowledge. “How do I know?” and “How do I know that I know?” There are only a few basic answers to that question, such as “mankind can’t know,” or “mankind can know through some mystical process,” or mankind has all the ability to know,” or “mankind can only know truly through revelation.” All the first three answers are defective or insufficient for many reasons, which are outside of our theme in this article. What remains is the Biblical position that we can know because God has spoken. This brings us to the place of the Holy Spirit in God revealing himself to mankind.

Revelation has two parts: general and special. General revelation is God revealing himself in creation (Psalm 19:1-6). Special revelation is God revealing himself by speaking to mankind. God chose some of that special revelation to be permanently recorded in written form to speak with God’s authority. The Lord does this so that we might know his person, his will, and his saving activity. This written record God calls the Scriptures, and we often call it the Bible, the Book.

Our focus in this article is the activity of the Holy Spirit of God in giving us the written message. As we begin, it is wise to state that we will encounter mystery here. The Spirit does not answer all our questions in the Bible. In it he gives us true truth, though not exhaustive truth, for a good reason (John 21:25). But though we cannot know fully, we have all we need to know. Consider an example.

The games of the great chess grandmasters have been preserved for people to enjoy and study. If you have some understanding of chess, you can replay them and grasp to some degree how they achieved victory. But sometimes it is a marvel how they could discern the possibilities in a position and bring out its potential sometimes through a sequence of many moves. Watch the movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer, if you want to see some of this. In a similar way, when we come to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, we can learn what he has done, but he has not made known the full process of how the Scriptures were written. We will have to stop where the Scriptures stop. Be content that the Spirit knows, even though you do not.

The Scriptures are a joint product of the Holy Spirit and people. We see this divine-human interaction in many areas of Biblical teaching.

  • Christ has two natures (one divine and one human) in his one person. Both are clearly attested in the Scriptures, though the exact nature of their interaction is beyond our understanding.
  • God’s sovereignty interacts with human responsibility in salvation. God clearly chooses people to salvation, yet everyone who is saved repents and believes.
  • The mission of evangelism is another divine-human interaction. Our task is to tell others the good news, but unless the Holy Spirit regenerates, all our evangelistic efforts fail.
  • As we shall see, the whole area of growth in grace involves divine-human interaction.

Each of these divine-human interactions varies in different ways. But the product of the Scriptures is closer in kind to the relationship between Christ’s two natures than the others, all of which involve human sin.

The apostolic teaching is that “men spoke from God” or “holy men of God spoke”, as the NKJV reads following the textual variant. In either case, we are clearly taught that the Scriptures came through human instrumentality: “men spoke”. We see this same assertion made in other places: David (Luke 20:42; Ac 2:34), Isaiah (John 12:39), Joel (Ac 2:16), and “the word of the prophets” with Amos in mind (Acts 15:15). Compare also Matthew 13:14; 15:7; 22:43; Mark 12:36. Yet as these men spoke, God spoke through them (Matthew 2:17; 3:3; 13:35; 21:4; Acts 4:25). We can also see this in the differences of style among the various human writers. Ezekiel does not sound the same as Moses, nor does Paul sound like John. Yet in all, we read the same consistent teaching, sense the same heart of the master author, and are presented with the same zeal for God’s glory in the face of Christ. All this occurred in about forty human writers over the space of 1600 years! The observable facts of Scripture attest to this divine-human interaction.

This should lead us to worship the Lord. “Who are you, Almighty God, that you can work in human hearts in such a magnificent way?”

Grace and peace, David

God’s Time Is Right on Schedule

Genesis 41:1-36

There are times when it seems like God’s good promises will never come to fulfillment. Many believers have had to live and die waiting for the appearance of God’s plan (Hebrews 11:13-16, 39-40). During a long time of waiting, we must maintain our confidence in the Lord. His time is not necessarily our time.

God’s time had now arrived in Joseph’s life. One moment he was suffering in a dungeon. The next he is being honored by the king. Let us seek to learn more about the providence of God in this series on “God intended it for good.”

God revealed the future to Pharaoh (41:1-8). Here is part of the mystery of God’s ways. Usually, he spoke to holy men in ancient times (2 Peter 1:20). But when it was necessary, he spoke to the ungodly. For example, he spoke to ungodly Abimelech to protect Sarah. He chose a method that would lead to the exaltation of his servant and the honor of his name (cf. Mark 4:10-12).

Part of the plan was a defeat of the Egyptian culture (41:8). The religious men of Egypt could not discern the meaning of the dream. The scholars of Egypt could not explain what it meant. American culture worships or at least has overweening pride in education as a cure-all for our problems. It is clear that education has failed as our nation continues its downward spiral into the depths of violence, addictions, and abuse.

God interpreted the dream through Joseph (41:9-32). The Lord brought Joseph to the center of the kingdom in an unanticipated way. The time had come for the chief cupbearer to tell his story. If he had spoken sooner, his story may have been mocked or ignored. Now it is different, for Pharaoh needed a man like Joseph. God’s servant acted wisely (41:14). On occasion, we must offend the cultural feelings of the ungodly. However, in things indifferent we must not. (There was not yet any law pertaining to the shaving of the beard.)

Joseph proclaimed God’s word in the court of Egypt. He honored the Lord as the dream interpreter (41:16). Not to us, but to the Lord, be the glory (Psalm 115:1). While he honored the Lord, Joseph gave hope to his counselee.

Joseph declared the rule of God over all things (41:25, 28). God is in control of the weather. It was not a change in meteorological conditions. It was what God “is about to do”. The Lord can predict the future because he is in control of it. If events can happen outside his authority then things might happen that would be contrary to what he foretold.

For this reason, Joseph confronted Pharaoh with God’s unalterable decree (41:32). People have lost a sense of purpose, due in part to rejection of the biblical revelation of God’s plan. History is headed toward God’s goal. Life is not a meaningless collection of events.

God revealed the way of deliverance (41:33-36). To appreciate his way, we need a full Biblical perspective. If we looked at the seven years of famine in isolation from the rest of God’s plan, we could wrongly infer that he did not care about human suffering. When we think of tragedies like famines, we must also hold two other truths in mind. Evil and suffering are in the world because of mankind’s sin. And God has made a way of deliverance. Our hearts ought always to say, “Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ our Lord!”

God granted wisdom to his servant. Joseph knew the way to handle the crisis: a proper management of resources during the years of fruitful harvests. Read Psalm 105:16-22. He set forth the importance of organization as a means to God’s end. What is everybody’s business often turns out to be nobody’s business. A skilled manager was required to provide for the general welfare. We should give thanks to God for the good gifts he has given to people.

Grace and peace, David

Thinking about God and His Friendship with His People (Part Four)

Psalm 25:8-15

Previously in this series, we have thought about God as the friend of his people. The Lord is good and upright, he forgives great sin, and he confides in his people. Next, we want to consider how to respond to God’s friendship. We must remember that this is an unequal friendship. The awesome Creator and Controller of all wants to be our friend, yet he is God. Therefore, we must always realize that he is God, and not try to pull him down to our level.

This text mentions four ways to express friendship with God (humility, obedience, godly mindedness and fear of the Lord). In this article, we learn that we express friendship with God by being humble before him (25:9).

Humility is hard for postmodern people to come to terms with. Certainly, people claim to be turned off by arrogant, pushy people. Yet, since people like to think they can interpret the world in agreement with their own ideas and preferences, arrogance is fueled by their core values. This results in humility being interpreted as weakness. From a Christian world and life view, humility is valued and essential. How do we attain humility before God? Two ideas:

  • By having a correct view of God (Hebrews 11:6; 1 Timothy 1:17) – We cannot be a friend of the living God, unless we know him as he has revealed himself to us in the Bible. Until we are convinced of his majestic holiness, we will struggle with his right to do as he pleases (cf. Romans 9:20-21), and this will hinder our friendship with God. “You are God; you are God!”
  • By believing that righteousness before God is only through the gospel (Philippians 3:4-9). Too many try to develop a relationship with God based on their religious efforts; that is, by keeping the rituals and rules of religion or spirituality. Paul knew religion quite well, and he rejected all he could do in favor of relying on Christ and his righteousness to be right with God.

Is your friendship with God based on the grace of God in Christ? Only those who rely on Christ alone for salvation are accepted by God (cf. Ephesians 1:5-6).

How is humility expressed? Humility is expressed by an active faith in God (1 Peter 5:6-7). Faith acknowledges God’s almighty power and is willing to wait for God to lift the believer up in his time. Until that time comes, he or she casts every anxiety on God. We see examples of this in the life of Abraham. Consider how Abraham humbly obeyed God by faith.

  • The Lord said to Abraham, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” What did Abraham do? “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him” (Genesis 12:1, 4).
  • Abraham was distressed greatly, because Sarah wanted him to get Hagar and her son Ishmael out of their household. God tells him, “Listen to whatever Sarah tells you…” What did Abraham do? Early the next morning he sent Hagar and her son away (Genesis 21:11-14).
  • The Lord said to Abraham, “Sacrifice Isaac there as a burnt offering.” What did Abraham do? Early the next morning, he took Isaac to the appointed place (Genesis 22:1-19).

In our lives, there are four special occasions that require us to especially humble ourselves before the Lord.

  • In times of visible confusion in the world (cf. Psalm 46:2-3, 6). How does the person of faith humbly respond? “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:7).
  • In times of amazing, divergent variety in the conditions of believers. Think about this. “Some under persecution always, — some always at peace; some in dungeons and prisons, — some at liberty in their own houses; the saints of one nation under great oppression for many ages, — of another, in quietness; in the same places some poor, in great distress, put hard to it for daily bread all their lives, — others abounding in all things; some full of various afflictions, going softly and mourning all their days, — others spared, and scarce touched with the rod at all; — and yet, commonly, the advantage of holiness and close walking with God lying on the distressed side” (Owen, Works, Vol. 9, p. 114). Why does God deal so differently with his people whom he loves? “Who can, now, with an eye of reason, look upon them, and say they are all the children of one Father, and that he loves them all alike? Should you come into a great house, and see some children in scarlet, having all things needful, others hewing wood and drawing water, — you would conclude that they are not all children, but some children, some slaves: but when it shall be told you that they are all one man’s children; and that the hewers of wood, that live on the bread and water of affliction, and go in tattered rags, are as dear to him as the other; and that he intends to leave them as good an inheritance as any of the rest; — if you intend not to question the wisdom and goodness of the father of the family, you must resolve to submit to his authority with a quiet subjection of mind. So is it in the great family of God; nothing will quiet our souls, but humbling ourselves to the law of his providence” (Ibid, p. 115).
  • In times when their circumstances change suddenly. At sunrise, life seems wonderful, but before twilight comes, one’s life seems ruined beyond recovery. Yet how does humble faith respond? Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
  • In times of deep, continual, apparently hopeless suffering. But how does humble faith respond? It says as Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

In all things, the humble friend of God rests on the revealed truth that God is righteous, in control, and wise. “When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace… When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.” Bow in humble dependence before your God this day.

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Nineteen (Part Two)

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (19:2-4b NIV).

People like to gaze up at the sky and into the heavens above. Sharon and I live in a suburban area, and we rarely can see many stars. There are too many lights around us. At such times, we miss upstate New York. When we can be out in the country, we like to star gaze. I suspect you do, too. In these verses, David considered the revelation that God has made in nature, specifically, in the sun and the stars.

Day after day they pour forth speech…. David next entered into a more particular explanation of the principle stated in verse one. We might picture a storyteller starting at first light with his tale, continuing it until the sun sets, but then another storyteller comes on the scene to continue the same story! “They ‘pour forth’ or literally ‘bubble forth’ their information. As someone has rightly remarked, it is as though their eloquent testimony bubbled forth at every crack and cranny of the universe” (Leupold). Speech: David emphasizes that everyday the creation communicates with mankind about their Creator. God has a twenty-four hour “TV station or web page” that only broadcasts commercials—messages about his glory. The creation says to mankind, “Stop, listen to my voice, and think about what I am telling you about the glory of God.”

Night after night they reveal knowledge. The night is usually the time for rest, sleep, and the pursuit of pleasure. The creation, however, is always at work preaching the glory of God. What an advantage may be received by people from this preacher! Until recently, people were unable to know little about the universe around him during the daytime. Sometimes the moon is still visible early in the day, and there is the occasional morning star or supernova, but it is the night that reveals the immensity of the universe. It displays knowledge not easily received otherwise; even the most illiterate can look up and read a vast library regarding the glory of the Lord.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Since the Tower of Babel, mankind has been under the judgment of many different languages, which has hindered human progress and frustrated mankind’s pride. How difficult it can be to understand someone from another language! Yet God is not frustrated in communicating with people. His creation speaks to people of all languages, so that all are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Observe that there are no “innocent heathen”, but that all are responsible to God because of the message of creation. They all are able to hear the language that the heavens speak.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Verse four is quoted in Romans 10:18, in that great passage about the sovereignty of God in the spread of the gospel (good news). No one will be able to say on that day of judgment that he or she never heard about the Creator, because the Lord has had his words about his glory and his work proclaimed to the ends of the world. But someone may object, “But this message tells nothing about the way of salvation! That doesn’t seem fair!” However, God is most just. Since they refuse to listen to the message of his glory and suppress it constantly (day after day… night after night), God cannot be blamed for not sending another message, the good news of his Son.

When we tell others the good news, we do not go among those who have never heard, but among those who refuse to listen—a hostile audience. Don’t be surprised when they will not listen to you. To turn someone from darkness to light requires the action of the Holy Spirit with God’s word. We can and should tell others the word, and at the same time, we must pray for the Holy Spirit to produce spiritual life as they hear the word. For whom are you praying?

Grace and peace, David

Psalm Nineteen (Part One)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1 NIV).

Psalm 19 is a great hymn for public worship composed by David. Its subject is God’s revelation in nature and in the Scriptures. This psalm calls us to consider the excellent nature of God’s disclosure of himself to all people everywhere in nature. Even though it is of such a high quality, it does not exhaust all that the Creator says to those made in his image. God has also given verbal communication to people in his word, the Bible. Only by this higher revelation may we learn about God’s will and his grace. Then having acknowledged God’s revelation, we must evaluate ourselves based on what God has said to us.

True worship is always the worship of God alone. We do not worship the Bible or the creation, but the God who revealed himself in both creation and the Scriptures. So then, this psalm calls us to bow before the God who is able to communicate clearly, consistently, and constantly with mankind. In a world that continually suppresses the knowledge of God, the people of God ought to rejoice that we know the living God, who can speak! We do not walk in darkness, but we have a steady source of light. Be glad, believer in Christ, and sing!

The apostle Paul also discusses the concept of revelation in Romans 1:18-23 and 10:11-21. There we find that general revelation (God’s witness to himself through what has been created) is sufficient to cause all people everywhere to be without excuse, but it is only the Scriptures that can give the knowledge that makes us wise unto salvation (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15).

Here is a brief outline of Psalm Nineteen:

  • General revelation (19:1-6)
  • Special revelation (19:7-11)
  • Response to God’s revelation (19:12-14)

Verse 1

David uses one general example from creation of how God has spoken to mankind. “Look up and around you to the heavens and to the sky. Both tell you the greatness of the living God.” If we would look at ourselves or at all creation on a microscopic level, we would also see God’s majesty. But David tells us to look at the immensity of the heavens and the skies that surround our living space. Look at them and think about the God who is immense enough to make what to our senses seems to stretch out forever.

Notice that God designed the heavens and the skies to communicate. They declare and proclaim. This is not communication by words but by pictures. From our earliest days, our senses are confronted with these living color pictures that say to us, “Stop, look, think. Who made us and who made you?” As the Hebrew text makes plain, this communication always occurs. It intrudes upon us, whether we will have it or not. God speaks through it in a way that it is always in our face.

The person of faith has nothing to fear from true science, for its only materials for thought and investigation have been formed by an all-wise Creator. The “opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20) are a problem, but never true science.

What do the heavens and the skies speak of? They tell us about the glory of God and the work of his hands. “The God who made us is majestic and deserving of honor. Be impressed by the weight of his magnificence.” In our time, few things seem to impress us. Our attitude is “So what? Let me get back to having a good time.” The creation calls out, “No, no, no! Leave your preoccupation with yourself and meditate on the glory of God.” So then in this psalm David invites us to add our praise of the God who speaks to that of creation crying out his glory.

To think about the glory of God means that we must consider his ability to act, to create, to do. Creation says that the hand of God is its maker (Psalm 8:6; 95:5; cf. 1 Chronicles 29:12; Isaiah 59:1). Here we have God speaking through what he has made to tell us that he is able to make all things. And this ought to furnish ample material for praise in public worship. Is it worthwhile to worship? Oh yes, for we serve the One True God who is mighty!

Grace and peace, David

An Unsatisfying Conversation

IMG_1732Exodus 5:22-6:12

Everyone experiences conversations that do not go as well as we wish. If we evaluate such disappointing talks objectively, which is a difficult task, we might able to realize that our own motives and/or expectations were incorrect concerning the outcome we desired. Usually we are left with less than pleasant thoughts about the other person. We can end up feeling rather dissatisfied.

This passage in the story of God’s glory (the Bible) is about a man who was in a conversation with the Lord God and walked away dissatisfied. I think that it is a fair evaluation, because he ends the discussion with a complaint that ties in with a previous dialogue that wasn’t satisfying to him also. The man was Moses, but not the heroic Moses of the pretend world of “God does nice things for us that make us happy”. Instead, it is the real Moses who was beginning to find out that living God is not someone that we people get to order around. The Lord patiently led Moses through this discovery process.

Moses began the conversation with a complaint that the Lord had let him down. Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all” (Exodus 5:22-23 NIV). Since Moses is human like us, it might be beneficial to consider how many of our prayers are complaints. (I’m not implying that Moses usually prayed this way, but simply asking a question.) It is a rather doubtful method to build your friendship with God by constantly complaining about something. Do you want to a friend that incessantly complains? Moses had a lot to learn, but he had enough insight to recognize a couple points:

  • He saw that the Lord God was in charge of the unpleasant events. Seeing God as in control of all that happens is almost a prerequisite to prayer. Since God is God, he is sovereign over all.
  • Moses saw that Pharaoh was one of the responsible agents in oppressing God’s people Israel. Everyone is not “nice”, some are very evil and destructive. There is no “spark of goodness” in human hearts. Moses could evaluate Pharaoh and call him out as wicked. Moses was telling the truth at this point.
  • He was disappointed about God’s schedule. If he had listened carefully to the Lord (in Exodus 3-4), Moses would have known that God planned to rescue his people from Pharaoh and Egypt over a period of time. The rescue would be a process, not a single act. God works the story of his glory out in time. We want him to do everything yesterday, naively forgetting that there are plenty of people yet to be rescued today and tomorrow. We need to accept that the Lord works out the rescue or salvation of people from sin to glory over time. We must be willing to wait calmly as the rescue happens.

Next, we hear the first of the Lord’s answers to Moses’ complaint. God didn’t dismiss Moses for his failure, but used it as a teaching opportunity to make more of himself known to Moses and to us. God’s answer is to reveal some of the most important truths about his relationship with his old covenant people, Israel. But first, he decided to answer Moses’ complaint. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country” (Exodus 6:1 NIV).

  • The Lord told Moses that his rescue operation was on time; in fact, now was the time. For his own wise purposes, the sovereign God allows people to reach the full measure of their sins before he steps in (cf. Genesis 15:16). God’s people must be patient during those times. We wait and trust and look for the dawn of salvation.
  • God said that he would act against Pharaoh. He knew the identity of the oppressor and would bring him to justice. The sovereign Lord sees and he will act at his appointed time. Anyone who comprehends this will not dare to oppress other people.
  • God planned to use his mighty hand to accomplish the rescue of his people. As we will see in future articles, the Lord had a good and wise purpose in this method. He used the whole situation to demonstrate his glory.

I don’t know what unsatisfying conversation you might be in with God. But I know that his word, the story of his glory, reveals his ways to us, and that he invites us to be a partner in this great story. You may enter into it through the gate, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 10:9-10). If you are a partner, let God’s story transform the way you look at your life. Let your complaints become humble questions to your Father in heaven.

Grace and peace, David

Thinking about the Faithful God

Hebrews 10:23IMG_0722

Theology is the study of God; it is the proper study of God’s people. He is the starting point of our world and life view. Since we are in a personal relationship with the Maker and Preserver of all things, we seek to understand what he has told has about himself. As we grasp his majesty, we are capable of making better sense of ourselves and the world he has placed us in. So we can say that the study of God is one of the most practical activities that we can engage in. The writer of Hebrews has told us in this great paragraph to hold fast our profession. The second part of verse twenty-three tells us of the motivating force to obey the command in the first part of this verse. Why should we obey? “For he who promised is faithful”.

Remember some basic ideas about our faithful God. When we talk about the living God with people in our generation, we need to define what we mean by the word “God”. Don’t assume that your neighbor has the same ideas that you have. They will define “God” according to whatever their religious philosophy is—Hindu, Buddhist, Islam, pagan, new age, religious existentialist, etc. Let’s think about two truths concerning the true and living God that relate to our subject.

God is personal. We need to listen carefully to what God has said about his nature and what people say about their “god”. God is not an impersonal force to be manipulated by people. God is a tri-personal being. Yes, he is infinitely greater than we are, but he is personal as we are. We must accept God as he reveals himself. We cannot recast God to conform to our opinions. God tells us that he is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; one God in three persons. Certainly this is very difficult to understand, because we know of no other being like him. But our lack of comprehension does not give us the right to reinterpret reality according to our whims. There are many parts of higher mathematics that the average person does not comprehend. That lack of comprehension doesn’t alter the reality of mathematics.

God is a communicator. God speaks to us in language we can understand. He could have spoken in a way that no human could understand, but that would not have agreed with his purpose to make himself and the way of salvation known to us. To speak to us clearly, God chose three human languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic) and the thought forms, idioms, and qualities of each of those languages. In doing this, the living God was able to make known the truth about himself and how to know him.

God gives us statements that we can rely on. For example, he has told us that he is eternal, all-powerful, and compassionate. This provides us with confidence in him when we grieve over departed loved ones, feel the weakness of our human flesh, and feel miserable. The Lord God makes promises to us out of his desire to draw us to himself that we might experience the wonder and joy of who he is. For example, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 HCSB). We might feel helpless and hopeless, but Jesus’ words encourage us that he will rescue us from the guilt and punishment due us for our sins.

So then, God’s revelation about his nature, fuels our confidence in the faithful God. If we follow God’s example in talking with our neighbors in this way, then we can share with them the promises that God makes to people who will turn to him and trust in him through Christ.

Grace and peace, David