God’s Perspective (Part One)

The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and of Jeroboam son of Jehoash, king of Israel (Hosea 1:1 CSB)

Think about a child’s impression of the adult world. “They make the rules,” he or she thinks. “There’s power for you! And they have the money, however much they moan about not having much—there’s freedom! Just think what we children could do with all that freedom and power!” (Compare Kidner’s comments.) Kids long to be adults; then all their problems will be solved! No oppressive adults telling them what to do, and with all the money they’ll have, they’ll be able to buy anything they want. All their dreams will come true! But what really happens when you become an adult?

Christians, too, can have childish dreams about God’s rule of the world. If only God would do things our way, we think, the world and national situation would improve rapidly and dramatically! Just speak a word of omnipotence, and all will be right! The Lord can calm a storm, can’t he? Didn’t he create the universe just by speaking? Yes, he did. Then it’s so simple, isn’t it?

Please excuse me for suggesting this, but perhaps we all are too simple-minded. We confess to believe what God has told us about himself, but then promptly forget all that we say we believe. We hear some truths about God’s sovereignty, holiness, justice, love or mercy, and quickly choose one of them, and then ride that one selected truth like some people will buy only one brand of vehicle.

What we forget is God’s ultimate purpose—to display his own majestic glory (Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). What we fail to consider is that God’s glory is not defined by one of his characteristics, but by all of them in harmony. To help us understand more about his glory, in the book of Hosea God pictures his rule over the world as a husband leading his family. The picture is surprising, even shocking! God presents the truth of displaying all his glory like this. It is not the picture of a husband who calls all the shots and whom no one dares to question. Nor does he present a husband with an adoring wife and perfect children. Instead, we read of a husband whose wife has left him and whose children are bent on destroying themselves. Some find this picture disgusting, but the Holy Spirit has not smoothed the rough edges to meet prudish Victorian standards of propriety. Without further introduction, let us turn to Hosea’s prophecy about God’s love to unlovely people.

God put his copyright on this message. In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways… (Hebrews 1:1 NIV). He gives the publication data. This is like the information you find on one of the opening pages of a book. You remember—that stuff you had to write down to make a bibliography.

  • The messenger is Hosea. He was a prophet who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel. Nothing else is known about him apart what we read in this book. It does not matter that people know of you; what matters is that God knows you.
  • The time of God’s message through Hosea was during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel; in other words, during the eighth century B.C. The ministry of Hosea is God’s call to repent to a people on the brink of destruction. Compare this with Jonah. In Jonah a group of Gentiles repent, but God’s visible people refused to listen to Hosea’s message!

However, there is a publication problem in the opinion of some people. They simply do not approve of how God spoke through and by the prophet Hosea. What happened to him offends their ‘moral sensibilities’. First, we should realize that God sometimes had his prophets illustrate their message by performing some action (cf. Jeremiah 16:1-9; Ezekiel 5:1-4). God presented a play, and then handed out “Cliff Notes” explaining what the play meant.

Second, what God commanded Hosea was unpleasant and brought much trouble into his life, and God didn’t even ask for Hosea’s permission! The Lord does not usually lead his servants to walk on smooth, level, dry paths. Some of our paths are hilly, rocky, and perhaps mucky and swamp-like. Our mission is to serve God wherever he leads, regardless of the inconvenience or suffering that it brings (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10). This is not to say that we like suffering, but we value the glory of God so much that we persevere through suffering for Christ’s sake. Grace and peace, David

Telling God’s Story

Luke 1:1-4

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (NIV).

People like to get a glimpse of a master craftsmen at work in his studio. They like to see how a genius puts things together, whether a work of art, music, design, etc. “Oh, so that’s how it’s done!” brings satisfied smiles to the onlookers. In the same way, Luke gives us a glimpse into his “study” about the holy writing we call “the Gospel of Luke”. In the above verses, he tells us about the method and the purpose that the Spirit led him to use.

Luke begins with his place in telling us the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. He was not the first to do this. He does not identify those who preceded him in this good work, but they included Mark and Matthew (John was written many years later), as well as others who had told the story orally. There were probably a number of spoken accounts of Jesus and the gospel events circulating, which should not surprise us, given the powerful authority of his person, message, and works. But the Spirit chose the four Gospel writers to set forth all this in Scripture (the Holy Writings).

Notice Luke’s emphasis on fulfillment: the things that have been fulfilled among us. He tells us that the good news of Jesus happened in conformity with the plan and promises of God. He wanted Theophilus, the original recipient, to know that what he had become part of, as a follower of Jesus, was in consequence of what the Sovereign God had purposed and accomplished. Nearly twenty centuries later, we need to know this, too. The Lord has called us into the true story of his glory in Christ, because by grace we are in Christ.

Luke reveals his method to us.

  • He benefited from the ministry of those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. This usually happens in any human endeavor that makes an impact. People learn from skilled instructors and are able to take what they have received to the next level. Or more simply, they are in the right place at the right time. Luke received truth from eyewitnesses and teachers of the word. They handed it down to him.
  • He researched the material. He confirmed information and evaluated it. He had to sort through it and then to profit from it himself.
  • He started from the beginning of the story of Jesus. This led him to include important material about Jesus’ forerunner, the prophet John. Jesus did not come on the scene unannounced. God prepared the way for the coming of his Son.
  • He was cautious. He affirmed that he himself had carefully investigated everything from the beginning. While Luke tells us many things in common with Matthew and Mark, he adds a great block of material that is his own, when compared to the other Gospel writers. He desired to provide us with an accurate account of what Jesus said and did.
  • He considered carefully how to arrange his material: I too decided to write an orderly account for you. By orderly, Luke did not mean chronological. But he did have a plan. Perhaps, we can write more on this another time.
  • He wrote purposefully. He wrote to persuade Theophilus and others who would read. Thus, the Gospel of Luke is not “a life of Christ”. None of the Gospels are. They are theological narratives that are intended to inform and to convince people to follow Jesus Christ as fully committed disciples (learners). They are accurately telling us what happened, but in a way to change our ideas, attitudes, and actions.

So then, Luke asks for a careful reading of his work. Hopefully, we will do so, mixing it with faith in God, in order that we might profit from what is written. Luke wrote carefully; can we do anything less than to listen carefully?

Grace and peace, David

Changing Moods (Part Three)

Psalm 30:6-7, 11-12

When I was secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you showed your favor, you made me stand like a strong mountain; when you hid your face, I was terrified… You turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to you and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever (CSB).

People tend to think they are prisoners to their emotions or moods. This might be true of those who do not know the Lord, but the people who are in Christ have been called to freedom. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). We must draw our self-image from what we are in Christ, and not blindly accept the opinions of our culture. We do not have to be subject to our moods. The good news is that God acts to bring his people into a correct emotional condition.

The Lord is not passive about us! We tend to view ourselves as the one who initiates communication and sharing of life with God. That is a very proud, human-exalting view! Instead, God does work directly and indirectly to relate with us. Since we belong to the Lord, he is not satisfied to let us go our own way. He wants us to walk in his way and works to keep us in his way by his word and the Spirit (cf. Colossians 2:6-7; Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:16-26). God’s action in our lives may occur over a long or short time span. Study Psalm 32 for one example.

What should we learn?

A true believer can endure great turmoil due to his or her incorrect thinking. Don’t blame someone else for your joylessness or whatever. “No doubt the trouble is with you.”

Our moods should be viewed as indicators of our spiritual condition. But we in turn must test the readings of those indicators by the standard of the Scriptures and good common sense (cf. Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, pp. 14-19.) Ask yourself, “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” (Read Psalms 42 and 43.) You need to examine yourself. For example, “Do I feel secure because my heavenly Father cares for me or because ‘everything is going my way’?”

You should check various feeling indicators:

  • Coldness to spiritual truth
  • Faultfinding in others
  • Anger about situations
  • Indifference to needs of others
  • Fear of the future
  • Jealousy about another’s prosperity
  • Bitterness about anything or anyone at any time

Warning! Don’t become more involved in looking at your spiritual vital signs than in looking at the Lord Jesus Christ! As John Reisinger said many times, “Take one good look at your heart, and then take ten thousand looks at Jesus Christ!”

Here is an important point, worthy of much emphasis. The way of establishing sound emotional patterns is by focusing on one’s relationship with the Lord, not by seeking an emotional lift. Listen to the words of a man who suffered much for the Lord Jesus, and who surely endured many down times from his afflictions. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8a NIV).

Grace and peace, David

The Holy Spirit (Part 15)

John 14:6-11

Have you ever toured a mansion? Sharon and I have been on several tours. A typical tour goes something like this. You purchase your tickets at a welcome center, walk to the mansion, and then wait. Finally, a tour guide appears, gives a lot of instructions, and walks you through. Some rooms are roped off, so that you can just look in, and of course, you can’t touch anything! Other rooms might be dimly lit, and you wish you could enter fully in with a bright light and really enjoy the riches displayed in such rooms.

The believer in Old Testament times lived in a dimly lit chamber. They had great blessings as God’s people (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5). But they could not see them clearly or experience them fully. They had to wait for the coming of a great light, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:1-7). Listen to what the Spirit reveals about the level of insight that the prophets, who spoke the word, had. Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things (1 Pt 1:10-12 NIV). The prophets received and spoke God’s word, but unless the Spirit explained it to them, they could not understand it. They were before the Light of the world came, and lacked events like the resurrection and the Day of Pentecost to understand what was met. They had an ignition key but no car. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets cf. Eph 3:4-5 NIV). Some truths simply were not revealed until the new covenant age began. You might desire the next generation cellphone, but until it’s on the market, you can’t have it or use it. Many of the truths about the Holy Spirit had to wait till after the ascension of Jesus the Messiah.

From these texts, the church has long recognized the truth of the greater light of the New Testament Scriptures. Consider the words of Augustine. “The New Testament is in the Old concealed, and in the New, the Old revealed.”

“The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted: the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what was in it but was only dimly or not at all perceived before. The mystery of the Trinity is not revealed in the Old Testament; but the mystery of the Trinity underlies the Old Testament revelation, and here and there almost comes into view. Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but is only perfected, extended and enlarged” (Warfield).

Our next subject in our series on the Holy Spirit is the Person of the Spirit of God in the dimly lighted chamber of the Old Testament Scriptures. Obviously, we cannot speak in detail about this. Whole books address this theme! But in some glimpses of his glory as God that the Spirit gave in the Old Testament Scriptures, we may learn more of God and all that he is for his people. So then, we’ll take the rope down and with the light of Christ explore a little of this dimly lighted room.

Grace and peace, David