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Category Archives: Old Testament Studies

The Old Testament are the biblical books considered by Christians to be canonical Scripture and the self-revelation of God and thus authoritative for Christian churches. The Protestant Canon is composed of 39 verbal. plenary, God-breathed inerrant books (there are also 27 New Testament books that complete the Scriptures).

James Boice Sermon: Genesis Part 13 – “The Seventh Day”

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 13

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. - Genesis 2:1-3

What does it mean, God rested on the seventh day? It does not mean that God closed his eyes and went to sleep. He did not take a nap. It does not mean that God rested in the sense that he became indifferent to what the man and woman were doing. We know God was not indifferent because when Adam and Eve sinned he was immediately there in the garden calling them to an accounting. He pronounced judgment and held out hope of a Redeemer to come. Rest is not to be understood in either of those ways.

What is involved here is what St. Augustine had in mind when, with his magnificent use of words, he contrasted the rest of God with our restlessness. He said, “Thou has made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Augustine was thinking of the turmoil of the human heart. He was saying that our true destiny is to find the rest that is found in God only.

Is it not the case that what is involved here is this kind of rest? God, having completed his work of creation, rests, as if to say, “This is the destiny of those who are my people; to rest as I rest, to rest in me.”

Rest and Restlessness

One thing that makes our lives restless is the pace of change. I wonder how many people have had the experience of watching a population clock. I did at the first of the world congresses on evangelism in Berlin in 1966 and can report that it is a very disturbing experience. In the Congress Halle in Berlin, where the meetings took place, there was a population clock display. It was a printout of numbers that kept increasing at the rate of the increase of the population of this planet. The numbers went by very rapidly. They were literally flipping by in front of our eyes—ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred, two hundred, three hundred, a thousand, two thousand, three thousand. … That is the way they went. As I stood watching this clock, I was overwhelmed by the rapid pace of change. On this occasion even the clock was overwhelmed, because the mechanism was unable to keep up with the increase of the population and the poor thing began to slow down. Toward the end of the assembly someone had to announce from the platform that the clock was not keeping up with the population and if you wanted to know what it was, you had to upgrade the numbers by a certain amount.

If we fail to recognize how disturbing this is, we need to think of this further fact: not only are the numbers increasing, indicating that time is quickly marching on, but even the rate of increase is increasing. The population increases are accelerating. Instead of slowing down, the clock should have been speeding up. The speed at which it was going back in 1966 for the World Congress on Evangelism was much slower than it would have to be if it were keeping pace with the increase of the world’s population today.

Moreover, the problem is not just the increase in population. That would not be such a bad thing in itself. It is that everything is changing. This is why Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock speaks of a pending monumental breakdown of people who live in industrialized lands. It is not a case, as some have said, of our choices being increasingly eliminated and industry forcing us into greater and greater uniformity. Rather, our options are increasing and at an ever faster rate of speed. People cannot keep up with the choices they are compelled to make. We look at such things and conclude, rightly and inescapably, that this is an age of great distress and restlessness.

However, we still have not come to the real cause of restlessness. If we were to go back in history before what we regard as the modern age and the quickly accelerating pace of modern life, we would still find people having the kind of restlessness about which St. Augustine wrote. He lived in an age of change. But if we could have asked him, “Augustine, how can it be that you, living back in what we regard as the early periods of western history, can speak of restlessness? We see our problem as having to do with the fast pace of modern life.” Augustine would have said, “It’s not the fast pace of modern life or the slow pace of life that is your problem; the basic problem is sin, which brings turmoil to the heart.” Perhaps he would have pointed us to those words of Scripture that speak of the wicked having lives that are like the churning sea that never rests. That is what sin causes.

The devil was the first one to sin, and he has as one of his names, Diabolos, which means “the disrupter.” The word diabolos is based on two Greek words: dia, which means “through” or “among,” and ballō, which means “to throw.” We get our word “bowling” from it. Together the words describe one who is always throwing something into the middle of things. He is the one who throws the monkey wrench into the machinery. He disrupts. And so does sin! If we were sinless, we would have the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ within. But because we do not, we are at odds with God (who has become our enemy), with others (with whom we are in constant conflict), and ourselves. Even when we sit by ourselves we are unable to be at peace. An author once said, “The greatest problem with men and women is that they do not know how to sit and be still.”

Sabbath Rest

What is the cure for restlessness? It is interesting that these verses in Genesis are picked up by the author of Hebrews in a chapter that is entirely given over to this subject. He begins in chapter 3, but it is really in chapter 4 that he talks about what he calls “Sabbath-rest” (v. 9). He calls attention to the fact that although God has created rest for his people, we are not at rest. He points out that when God led Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness in their days of wandering, he had as a goal to bring them into the Promised Land. It was to be a place where they would find rest from their wandering. It was a symbol of heaven. But the people rebelled, as we do, and God judged that generation. The author quotes Psalm 95:11 in which God says, “I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” The author asks how this can be. Here is God, who creates a day of rest and promises rest and yet swears that his people will never enter into that rest. He replies that we do not enter into rest because we will not come to God at that point at which rest may be found, namely, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The author exhorts the people of his day. He says, in effect, “Don’t go on as those people did who perished in the wilderness, about whom these things were said. Rather strive to enter into God’s rest. Cast off sin. Cast off everything that keeps you from Christ. Come in the fullness of faith to rest in him.”

Jesus himself made that offer. Before his crucifixion when he was with his disciples in the upper room, he recognized that they were bothered by what was happening. They had heard his prophecies of his death, and although they did not understand them fully they knew that things were going to change. They were troubled, but he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). He went on to talk about heaven and the giving of the Holy Spirit and the privilege of prayer, and when he got to the end he gave them something that can rightly be regarded as his legacy: peace. He said, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (v. 27).

How does that come about? It is by finding Christ who has done what we need. Sin is the basic cause of restlessness, and sin is the problem with which we must deal. We cannot handle it. We are the sinners. But the Lord Jesus Christ not only can, he does. He comes; he dies; he pays the penalty for our sin. He opens the door into the presence of God for all who believe in him. Then God, on the basis of the death of Christ, pronounces the believing one justified. That one now stands before the presence of God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

As long as we live we will be troubled by sin. But we can begin to enter into God’s rest now and can look forward to that day when we will be made like Jesus and stand before God in holiness.

Holiness and Sin

That leads to the second point. God not only promises rest in these verses, he promises holiness as well. Holiness means to be set apart. So God sets the Sabbath day apart to teach that we are to enter not only into rest but also into holiness.

The two go together, because holiness is the opposite of sin, and sin is what makes us restless. Why is it that when we go out into the world with the gospel the world is not willing to respond to Christ’s teaching? Why is it that when we talk about rest, the world, which is restless, does not rush with open arms to embrace the gospel? The answer is that rest is connected with holiness and the world does not want holiness.

The attributes of God are always an offense to men and women. God is sovereign. That is offensive because we want to be our own sovereign. We want to be lords of our lives. We want to say, as one of the poets did, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

God is also omniscient. He knows everything. This is troublesome, too, because it means that God knows us. We do not want to be known, certainly not well. We want to be noticed. We want to be praised, built up. But we do not want to be known as we are because we are ashamed of what we are. Yet God knows us as no other man or woman will ever know us, and to be exposed in the sight of a holy God is frightening.

The most troublesome of all the attributes of God is holiness. God is absolutely holy. He has no place for sin. There is not a sinful thought, not a sinful wish, not a sinful deed or emotion in God. Yet everything we do is marred by sin. It says a little later in the Book of Genesis that the thoughts of people had become “only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). We may resist the judgment of God and say that this is not true, but this is the way God sees it. We tend to minimize sin. We say, “Of course, there are times when I do not do everything I should, but generally I’m pretty good.” God says, “Even those good times are so infused with sin that, if you could see as I see, you would abhor yourself in ashes.”

Men and women do not like God for his holiness, and it is this that makes the gospel so hard to preach. People need rest, yes. But they need it in the way it is to be found: by having sin’s penalty removed through the work of Christ; sin’s power broken through the power of the Holy Spirit; sin’s presence eradicated by Christ’s return, when those who believe on him shall be made like him in all his perfections.

For believers there is a sense in which the seventh day is fulfilled in us now. We enter by degrees into the rest and holiness Christ provides. But the ultimate realization of the Sabbath is to be at Christ’s return when we go to be with him and rest with him in holiness forever.

To the Work

In spite of the promise of the seventh day, it is nevertheless the case that the seventh day is succeeded by the first day, which also has importance for us. Donald Grey Barnhouse in his devotional study of the Book of Genesis has an interesting word at this point. Each segment of Genesis is followed by a devotional comment, and at this point, after the words “on the seventh day God finished the work which he had done and rested,” Barnhouse remarks, “But not for long.” Sin entered, and God was soon at work again in Christ to bring redemption. Jesus said, “The Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” That work is still going on. So if God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are working, then we had better be working too, because there is much work to be done.

It is significant that the Christian day of worship is not the Sabbath day of rest (characteristic of the Old Testament period) but the first day of the week, Sunday, which is a day of joy, activity, and expectation. Why is it a day of joy? Because we see the culmination of the gospel in Jesus Christ. Before, God’s people lived in expectation. They looked for the coming of the Messiah. Now the Messiah has come, and we rejoice in him. Christ’s first word to the women after his resurrection was “Rejoice.” They were to rejoice because there was much to rejoice about.

Then let us be done with the long faces and solemn demeanors that so often characterize the people of God on the Lord’s Day. And let us be done with the type of worshiper who comes to church only to go home. If you do not enjoy the worship of God and the fellowship of God’s people, if you do not enjoy the preaching of the Word and the response of the congregation in word and song, stay home! In the early days of the church the apostles did not have to go around ringing doorbells to get people to come out to the service. They did not have to maintain every-member visitation plans to renew flagging interest. In fact, the opposite was true. We read in the second chapter in Acts that the Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. … Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (vv. 42, 46–47).

These were happy Christians. Other people liked to be with them, perhaps most of all because they were happy. Friendships developed. Then on the basis of these friendships the Lord moved and added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The second characteristic of the Lord’s Day is activity. The first Lord’s Day was a day of activity: the women on the way to the tomb, the appearances of Jesus, the return to Jerusalem of the Emmaus disciples, the sharing of experiences, communion, the Lord’s commission. It is possible that if you have been working hard for the other six days of the week, Sunday might have to be a “day of rest” for you. But this is not an integral part of the Lord’s Day. The Sabbath was the day of rest. If you need to rest, try resting on Saturday. The Lord’s Day should be a day of activity.

This does not mean that just any old activity will reflect the fullest significance of the day. You may mow your grass, if you wish. You are not under law. But this does not have much to do with Christ, nor does it help to express your joy in his resurrection.

Worship is significant. It may strike some persons as strange to speak of worship as an activity; for in many minds worship is conceived in a passive sense, that is, sitting in a pew and letting the words of the day run through one’s head like water. But this is a travesty of real worship. The Lord said that real worship is done “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Truth involves content. So worship is above all else an active, rational activity.

Why do we have Scripture readings in the speech of the people instead of in Hebrew, Greek, or Latin? Why are the words of music in common speech? Why does a sermon stand at the heart of each service? The answer is: to engage our minds.

“We must therefore beware of all forms of emotional, aesthetic or ecstatic worship in which the mind is not fully engaged, and especially of those which even claim that they are superior forms of worship,” writes John R. W. Stott, retired rector of All Souls Church in London. “The only worship pleasing to God is heart-worship, and heart-worship is rational worship. It is the worship of a rational God who has made us rational beings and given us a rational revelation so that we may worship Him rationally, even ‘with all our mind’ ” (John R.W. Stott. Christ the Controversialist. Downers Grove: IL.: IVP, 1978, 165).

Another activity that ought to characterize the Lord’s Day is witness. Jesus revealed this characteristic when he instructed the women, “Go tell my brethren,” and later informed the disciples that they were to carry the good news of his life, death, and resurrection into all the world. You can do that on any day, of course. It is of the essence of our day that anything done on Sunday can also be done (and perhaps should be done) on other days also. But do you at least bear witness on Sunday? This is a day on which to invite your friends to go with you to hear God’s Word. At the very least it is a day on which you should teach what you know about Christ to your children.

There is one thing more: the first day should be characterized by expectation. I love Sunday, and one of the reasons why I love Sunday is that I never know in advance what will happen. As I leave my house on the way to church I never know precisely whom I will meet. I never know who will be present in church or who will respond to the preaching. I never plan messages to preach at problems that I imagine to be present in the congregation, yet it is often the case that what I say is used of the Lord to speak precisely to some problem. Lives are changed. Not infrequently, the day is the turning point in someone’s entire spiritual experience.

We who know the reality of the rest and holiness of God should of all people be most joyful, active, and expectant as we take the gospel’s glorious message to a world that knows neither rest nor holiness, but needs them desperately.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 13 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Source: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

James Montgomery Boice’s Books:

1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

SOURCE: from the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, website

 

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Warren Wiersbe: The Power of God’s Name

OT Words for today Wiersbe

“From the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts.” – Malachi 1:11

The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high view of God, wrote A.W. Tozer in his excellent book The Knowledge of the Holy. For “church” you may substitute “Christian” or “Sunday school teacher” or “missionary.” The prophet Malachi ministered to the Jewish exiles who had returned to their land from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Unfortunately, the level of their spiritual life was not very high. They could have glorified the name of the Lord before the Gentiles, but instead they chose to argue with the Lord. Believers today have three responsibilities when it comes to the names of God.

(1) We must know God’s name. In Bible times, names were indications of character and ability, and the names of God tell us who he is and what he can do. Jehovah means “I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:13-14). He is the self-existent, eternal God who always was, always is, and always will be. Jehovah-Sabaoth is “the LORD of hosts, the LORD of the armies of heaven” (1 Samuel 1:3,11), while Jehovah-Rapha is “the LORD who heals” (Exodus 15:22-27). For the battles in life, we must know Jehovah-Nissi, “the LORD our banner” (Exodus 17:8-15), who can give us victory. Jehovah-Shalom is “the LORD our peace” (Judges 6:24), and Jehovah Ra-ah is “the LORD our shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). I could go on, but I suggest you pursue this study yourself with the help of a good study Bible. To know God’s names is to know him better and be able to call on him for the help we need. “Those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).

(2) We must honor God’s name. The priests in the temple were not honoring God’s name but were despising it by performing their ministries carelessly and offering the Lord sacrifices unacceptable to him (Malachi 1:6-10). Malachi used the word “contemptible” to describe their work (1:7,12; 2:9). God demands that we give him our best and serve him in a way that honors his name (1 Chronicles 21:24). The Lord would rather that someone close the temple doors than allow such cheap sacrifices to be offered on his altar (Mal. 1:10; Lev. 22:20). The priests were not rejoicing in their ministry but were weary of the whole thing (Mal. 1:13). “Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2). We must give glory to his name (Mal. 2:2) and fear his name (1:14; 4:2). There was a godly remnant that did fear the Lord and honor his name (3:16-19), and they were the hope of the nation.

(3) We must spread his name abroad. The Lord wanted his name to be “magnified beyond the border of Israel” (1:5). The prophet saw a day when Jews and Gentiles would be one people of faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). When he died on the cross, Jesus tore the veil of the temple, opening the way to God for all people and breaking down the wall that separated Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14) so that we are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). The name of Jesus Christ and his gospel must be shared with the world, for there are no borders that must confine us. “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Are we doing our part?

*SOURCE: Adapted from Warren Wiersbe. Old Testament Words For Today. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013, Chapter 95.

 

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Book Review of Iain M. Duguid’s: “Is Jesus in the Old Testament?”

“The Whole Old Testament is About Jesus”

 Book Review By David P. Craig

IJITOT? Duguid

There is currently a resurgence of interest on books on Jesus in the Old Testament. Many of these books are very scholarly and technical. Duguid’s primer is a welcome addition to this mix. He writes for the novice, or lay person with relation to how rightly interpreted, the whole Old Testament focuses on and prepares us for Christ’s sufferings and glories that will follow in the gospel.

Duguid points out first of all that the Gospel is the center of the Bible and as such three important implications result from this fact:

(1) This means that the gospel (the good news about Jesus’ death and resurrection is not merely the starting point of the Christian life from which move on, but that it is the very heartbeat of our lives as Christians – the central focus to which we must return again and again.

(2) Being gospel focused helps us realize that our sanctification is rooted in, and flows out of our justification. The gap in our understanding of Scriptures isn’t so much in our knowledge, but in our lack of obedience due to a faulty dichotomy of segregating the law from the gospel (i.e. “moralism”).

(3) Duguid writes, “Our aim in studying the Scriptures (both OT and NT) is not merely to know more ancient history or to learn useful life principles, but rather to be brought to see in a new way the glory of God in Jesus Christ and to bow our hearts before him in adoration and praise.”

Dr. Duguid goes on to give examples of several wrong ways we read the Old Testament and how this can be remedied by viewing each passage through the lens of the overall plan of God which is completely fulfilled by Jesus in the New Testament. One of the ways we can do this is by asking the some of the following questions of an Old Testament passage:

“How does this event our story advance God’s program and point us to the great work that God is accomplishing in this world, which is the work of salvation through the gospel?”

“How does this passage show us the sufferings of Christ and the glories that follow? For example, does it uncover the sins for which Christ had to come and die?”

“How does it demand our demonstrate the righteous behavior that Jesus came to perform in our place?

“How does this gospel then teach us to live in light of this specific portion of God’s Word, out of gratitude fro what God has done?”

In the bulk of Duguid’s book he gives us a history of the Old Testament and demonstrates how its incompleteness, and thus fulfillment can only be met in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He cogently demonstrates how all of history is the story of God carrying out his grand plan in this world for the redemption of his people in Christ. Jesus applies all of Israel’s history in the Old Testament to himself (Matt. 12:3). As a prophet, Jesus authoritatively declares God’s word to his listener’s (Matt. 5:27). As the archetypal wise man, Jesus embodies wisdom in human form (Matt. 6:28, Luke 2:40; Col. 2:3). In other words, as the Old Testament consists of law, history, and wisdom books – Jesus fulfills in himself all three divisions of the Old Testament: he is the ultimate sacred historian, prophet, and wise man. All the prophets, kings, and priests point to Him.

Duguid masterfully tells the story of redemption from the Old Testament and how it’s fulfilled in Christ in three primary ways: (1) Jesus comes first of all as the new Adam (Rom. 5:18-19; 1 Cor. 15:22); (2) Jesus is also the true son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1; 2:15); (3) Jesus is the new David (Acts 13:22). In talking about Jesus’ roles as Priest, Prophet, and King – Duguid writes, “The ministry of Christ in his suffering and resurrection is thus the central focus of the whole Old Testament: he is the one toward whom the whole Old Testament is constantly moving, the one for whom as well by whom it exists…the Old Testament shows us repeatedly why no one and nothing other than God himself in human form could possibly be the answer to our deepest need and provide deliverance from our sins.”

I highly recommend this book as an excellent primer that will give you the big picture of the Bible as the gospel is threaded from Genesis to Revelation making a continual bee line to Christ’s glorious Person and work for our redemption and restoration.

 

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Who is God According to the Bible?

“THE TRUE GOD AS REVEALED IN THE SCRIPTURES” 

DR. JAMES MONTGOMERY BOICE

Foundations of the Xian Faith image

It is evident that we need more than a theoretical knowledge of God. Yet we can know God only as he reveals himself to us in the Scriptures, and we cannot know the Scriptures until we are willing to be changed by them. Knowledge of God occurs only when we also know our deep spiritual need and when we are receptive to God’s gracious provision for our need through the work of Christ and the application of that work to us by God’s Spirit.

Having established this base, we nevertheless come back to the question of God himself and we ask, “But who is God? Who is this one who reveals himself in Scripture, in the person of Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit?” We may admit that a true knowledge of God must change us. We may be willing to be changed. But where do we begin?

“I Am Who I Am”

Since the Bible is a unity we could answer these questions by starting at any point in the biblical revelation. We could begin with Revelation 22:21 as well as with Genesis 1:1. But there is no better starting point than God’s revelation of himself to Moses at the burning bush. Moses, the great leader of Israel, had long been aware of the true God, for he had been born into a godly family. Still, when God said that he would send him to Egypt and through him deliver the people of Israel, Moses responded, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” We are told that God then answered Moses by saying, “I AM WHO I AM. . . . Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:13-14).

“I AM WHO I AM.” The name is linked with the ancient name for God, Jehovah. But it is more than a name. It is a descriptive name, pointing to all that God is in himself. In particular, it shows him to be the One who is entirely self-existent, self-sufficient and eternal.

These are abstract concepts, of course. But they are important, for these attributes more than any others set God apart from his creation and reveal him as being what he is in himself. God is perfect in all his attributes. But there are some attributes that we, his creatures, share. For instance, God is perfect in his love. Yet by his grace we also love. He is all wise; but we also possess a measure of wisdom. He is all powerful; and we exercise a limited power. It is not like that in regard to God’s self-existence, self-sufficiency and eternity, however. He alone possesses those characteristics. He exists in and of himself; we do not. He is entirely self-sufficient; we are not. He is eternal; we are newcomers on the scene.

Self-existence means that God has no origins and consequently is answerable to no one. Matthew Henry says, “The greatest and best man in the world must say, By the grace of God I am what I am; but God says absolutely — and it is more than any creature, man or angel, can say — I am that I am.1 So God has no origins; his existence does not depend on anybody.

Self-existence is a hard concept for us to grapple with for it means that God as he is in himself is unknowable. Everything that we see, smell, hear, taste or touch has origins. We can hardly think in any other category. Anything we observe must have a cause adequate to explain it. We seek for such causes. Cause and effect is even the basis for the belief in God possessed by those who, nevertheless, don’t truly know him. Such individuals believe in God, not because they have had a personal experience of him or because they have discovered God in Scripture, but only because they infer his existence. “Everything comes from something; consequently, there must be a great something that stands behind everything.” Cause and effect point to God, but — and this is the issue — they point to a God who is beyond understanding, indeed to one who is beyond us in every way. They indicate that God cannot be known and evaluated like other things can.

A. W. Tozer has noted that this is one reason why philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God. These disciplines are dedicated to the task of accounting for things as we know them and are therefore impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself. Philosophers and scientists will admit that there is much they don’t know. But it is another thing to admit that there is something they can never know completely and which, in fact, they don’t even have techniques for discovering. To discover God, scientists may attempt to bring God down to their level, defining him as “natural law,” “evolution” or some such principle. But still God eludes them. There is more to God than any such concepts can delineate.

Perhaps, too, this is why even Bible-believing people seem to spend so little time thinking about God’s person and character. Tozer writes,

Few of us have let our hearts gaze in wonder at the I AM, the self-existent Self back of which no creature can think. Such thoughts are too painful for us. We prefer to think where it will do more good — about how to build a better mousetrap, for instance, or how to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before. And for this we are now paying a too heavy price in the secularization of our religion and the decay of our inner lives.2

God’s self-existence means that he is not answerable to us or to anybody, and we don’t like that. We want God to give an account of himself, to defend his actions. Although he sometimes explains things to us, he doesn’t have to and often he does not. God doesn’t have to explain himself to anybody.

No Needs

The second quality of God communicated to us in the name “I AM WHO I AM” is self-sufficiency. Again it is possible to have at least a sense of the meaning of this abstract term. Self-sufficiency means God has no needs and therefore depends on no one.

Here we run counter to a widespread and popular idea: God cooperates with human beings, each thereby supplying something lacking in the other. It is imagined, for example, that God lacks glory and therefore creates men and women to supply it. He takes care of them as a reward. Or again, it is imagined that God needs love and therefore creates men and women to love him. Some talk about the creation as if God were lonely and therefore created us to keep him company. On a practical level we see the same thing in those who imagine that women and men are necessary to carry out God’s work of salvation as witnesses or as defenders of the faith, forgetting that Jesus himself declared that “God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Lk. 3:8).

God does not need worshipers. Arthur W. Pink, who writes on this theme in The Attributes of God, says,

God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That he chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on his part, caused by nothing outside himself, determined by nothing but his own mere good pleasure; for he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11). That he did create was simply for his manifestative glory. . . . God is no gainer even from our worship. He was in no need of that external glory of his grace which arises from his redeemed, for he is glorious enough in himself without that. What was it moved him to predestinate his elect to the praise of the glory of his grace? It was, as Ephesians 1:5 tells us, “according to the good pleasure of his will.” . . . The force of this is [that] it is impossible to bring the Almighty under obligations to the creature; God gains nothing from us.3

Tozer makes the same point. “Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, still the sun would shine by day and the stars by night, for these owe nothing to the millions who benefit from their light. So, were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what he is in himself without regard to any other. To believe in him adds nothing to his perfections; to doubt him takes nothing away.”4

Nor does God need helpers. This truth is probably harder for us to accept than almost any other. For we imagine God as a friendly, but almost pathetic, grandfather figure bustling about to see whom he can find to help him in managing the world and saving the world’s race. What a travesty! To be sure, God has entrusted a work of management to us. He said to the original pair in Eden, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28). God also has given those who believe in him a commission to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk. 16:15). True, but no aspect of God’s ordering of his creation has a necessary grounding in himself. God has chosen to do things thus. He didn’t need to do them. Indeed, he could have done them in any one of a million other ways. That he did choose to do things thus is therefore solely dependent upon the free and sovereign exercise of his will and so does not give us any inherent value to him.

To say that God is self-sufficient also means that God does not need defenders. Clearly, we have opportunities to speak for God before those who would dishonor his name and malign his character. We ought to do so. But even if we should fail, we must not think that God is deprived thereby. God does not need to be defended, for he is as he is and will remain so regardless of the sinful and arrogant attacks of evil individuals. A God who needs to be defended is no God. Rather, the God of the Bible is the self-existent One who is the true defender of his people.

When we realize that God is the only truly self-sufficient One, we begin to understand why the Bible has so much to say about the need for faith in God alone and why unbelief in God is such sin. Tozer writes: “Among all created beings, not one dare trust in itself. God alone trusts in himself; all other beings must trust in him. Unbelief is actually perverted faith, for it puts its trust not in the living God but in dying men.”5 If we refuse to trust God, what we are actually saying is that either we or some other person or thing is more trustworthy. That is a slander against the character of God, and it is folly. Nothing else is all-sufficient. On the other hand, if we begin by trusting God (by believing in him), we have a solid foundation for all life. God is sufficient, and his Word to his creatures can be trusted.

Because God is sufficient, we may begin by resting in that sufficiency and so work effectively for him. God does not need us. But the joy of coming to know him is in learning that he nevertheless stoops to work in and through those who are his believing and obedient children.

Alpha and Omega

A third quality inherent in the name of God given to Moses (“I AM WHO I AM”) is everlastingness, perpetuity or eternity. The quality is difficult to put in one word, but it is simply that God is, has always been and will always be, and that he is ever the same in his eternal being. We find this attribute of God everywhere in the Bible. Abraham called Jehovah “the Everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). Moses wrote, “LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting thou art God” (Ps. 90:1-2). The book of Revelation describes God as the “Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). The creatures before the throne cry, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

The fact that God is eternal has two major consequences for us. The first is that he can be trusted to remain as he reveals himself to be. The word usually used to describe this quality is immutability, which means unchangeableness. “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas. 1:17).

God is unchangeable in his attributes. So we need not fear, for example, that the God who once loved us in Christ will somehow change his mind and cease to love us in the future. God is always love toward his people. Similarly, we must not think that perhaps he will change his attitude toward sin, so that he will begin to classify as “permissible” something that was formerly prohibited. Sin will always be sin because it is defined as any transgression of or lack of conformity to the law of God, who is unchangeable. God will always be holy, wise, gracious, just and everything else that he reveals himself to be. Nothing that we do will ever change the eternal God.

God is also unchangeable in his counsels or will. He does what he has determined beforehand to do and his will never varies. Some will point out that certain verses in the Bible tell us that God repented of some act — as in Genesis 6:6, “The LORD was sorry that he had made man.” In this example, a human word is being used to indicate God’s severe displeasure with human activities. It is countered by such verses as Numbers 23:19 (“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?”); 1 Samuel 15:29 (“The Glory of Israel will not lie or repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent”); Romans 11:29 (“The gifts and call of God are irrevocable”); and Psalm 33:11 (“The counsel of the LORD stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations”).

Such statements are a source of great comfort to God’s people. If God were like us, he could not be relied on. He would change, and as a result of that his will and his promises would change. We could not depend on him. But God is not like us. He does not change. Consequently, his purposes remain fixed from generation to generation. Pink says, “Here then is a rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty torrent is sweeping away everything around us. The permanence of God’s character guarantees the fulfillment of his promises.”6

The second major consequence for us of God’s unchangeableness is that he is inescapable. If he were a mere human and if we didn’t like either him or what he was doing, we might ignore him knowing that he might always change his mind, move away from us or die. But God does not change his mind. He does not move away. He will not die. Consequently, we cannot escape him. Even if we ignore him now, we must reckon with him in the life to come. If we reject him now, we must eventually face the One we have rejected and come to know his eternal rejection of us.

No Other Gods

We are led to a natural conclusion, namely, that we should. seek and worship the true God. This chapter has been based for the most part on Exodus 3:14, in which God reveals to Moses the name by which he desires to be known. That revelation came on the verge of the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt. After the exodus, God gave a revelation on Mount Sinai which applies the earlier disclosure of himself as the true God to the religious life and worship of the delivered nation.

God said, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex. 20:2-6). These verses make three points, all based on the premise that the God who reveals himself in the Bible is the true God:

  • We are to worship God and obey him.
  • We are to reject the worship of any other god.
  • We are to reject the worship of the true God by any means that are unworthy of him, such as the use of pictures or images.

At first glance it seems quite strange that a prohibition against the use of images in worship should have a place at the very start of the ten basic principles of biblical religion, the Ten Commandments. But it is not strange when we remember that the characteristics of a religion flow from the nature of the religion’s god. If the god is unworthy, the religion will be unworthy too. If the concept of God is of the highest order, the religion will be of a high order also. So God tells us in these verses that any physical representation of him is dishonoring to him. Why? For two reasons. First, it obscures his glory, for nothing visible can ever adequately represent it. Second, it misleads those who would worship him.

Both of these errors are represented by Aaron’s manufacture of the golden calf, as J. I. Packer indicates in his discussion of idolatry. In Aaron’s mind, at least, though probably not in the minds of the people, the calf was intended to represent Jehovah. He thought, no doubt, that a figure of a bull (even a small one) communicated the thought of God’s strength. But, of course, it didn’t do so adequately. And it didn’t at all communicate his other great attributes: his sovereignty, righteousness, mercy, love and justice. Rather, it obscured them.

Moreover, the figure of the bull misled the worshipers. They readily associated it with the fertility gods and goddesses of Egypt, and the result of their worship was an orgy. Packer concludes,

It is certain that if you habitually focus your thoughts on an image or picture of the One to whom you are going to pray, you will come to think of him, and pray to him, as the image represents him. Thus you will in this sense “bow down” and “worship” your image; and to the extent to which the image fails to tell the truth about God, to that extent you will fail to worship God in truth. That is why God forbids you and me to make use of images and pictures in our worship.7

“My Lord and My God”

To avoid the worship of images or even the use of images in the worship of the true God is not in itself worship. We are to recognize that the true God is the eternal, self-existent and self-sufficient One, the One immeasurably beyond our highest thoughts. Therefore, we are to humble ourselves and learn from him, allowing him to teach us what he is like and what he has done for our salvation. Do we do what he commands? Are we sure that in our worship we are actually worshiping the true God who has revealed himself in the Bible?

There is only one way to answer that question truthfully. It is to ask: Do I really know the Bible, and do I worship God on the basis of the truth I find there? That truth is centered in the Lord Jesus Christ, as seen in the Bible. There the invisible God is made visible, the inscrutable knowable, the eternal God disclosed in space and time. Do I look to Jesus in order to know God? Do I think of God’s attributes by what Jesus shows me of them? If not, I am worshiping an image of God, albeit an image of my own devising. If I look to Jesus, then I can know that I am worshiping the true God, as he has revealed himself. Paul says that although some knew God they nevertheless “did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Rom. 1:21). Let us determine that this shall not be true of us. We see God in Jesus. So let us know him as God, love him as God, serve him as God and worship him as God.


Notes

  1. Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 1 (New York: Fleming H. Revell, n.d.), p. 284
  2. A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), p. 34.
  3. Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, n.d.), pp. 2-3.
  4. Tozer, p. 40.
  5. Ibid., p. 42.
  6. Pink, p. 41.
  7. J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 41

Author

Boice JM holding bible w smile

James Montgomery Boice held a B.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Theology from the University of Basel in Switzerland. He was the pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and the author of many books, including the three volumes in the series, “Foundations of the Christian Faith”. This article is taken from volume one of that same series, entitled The Sovereign God.

 

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David Murray on 7 Reasons To Study Your Old Testament

On the basis of my less-than-scientific survey of Christians’ Bible reading habits, I would estimate that the Old Testament forms less than 10 percent of most Christians’ Bible reading. Remove the Psalms and Proverbs, and we’re probably down to less than 5 percent.

“So what?” many say.

“No great loss, is there?” others shrug.

Let me suggest seven reasons to stop shrugging and start studying the other 60 percent of our Bibles.

1. The Old Testament reveals Christ.

The Old Testament doesn’t just “point forward” to Christ; it reveals him. It isn’t merely a series of signposts to Christ; his revealing shadow falls on every page, exciting faith and love in believing hearts.

But why linger in the Old Testament shadows when we have New Testament sunlight?

Have you never found it easier to read and be refreshed in shade? Have you never admired the unique and wondrous beauty of the dawn?

Consider the unparalleled revelation of Christ’s substitutionary atonement in Isaiah 53. And although the Gospels describe Christ’s outer life, the messianic psalms disclose his mysterious inner life, the unfathomably deep emotional and mental struggles of his earthly suffering.

2. The Old Testament is a dictionary of Christian vocabulary.

How do we understand the theological words, phrases, and concepts of the New Testament? If we turn to a modern dictionary, we will import 21st-century Western meaning into ancient Eastern words. Greek lexicons will usually get us closer to the original meaning, but that still assumes the biblical authors were influenced exclusively by Greek culture.

Rather, when we come to a word, phrase, or concept in the New Testament, our first question should be, “What does the Old Testament say?” Remember, the New Testament was originally written by Jews, and much of it was written to Jews. It assumes knowledge of the Old Testament and builds upon it.

3. The Old Testament is a manual for Christian living.

While there is understandable debate over the continuing validity of a small percentage of Old Testament laws, there are 10 clear and unchanging moral principles that God applies in different ways in different contexts: to Israel in the wilderness (Exod. 20), to Israel about to enter the promised land (Deut. 5), and to Israel settled in the land (Proverbs). Jesus and the apostles continue this varied cultural application of these same 10 moral principles for their own generation (e.g. Matt. 5; Eph. 5). All these examples provide models for how to think about and apply these moral principles in our own day.

4. The Old Testament presents doctrine in story form.

God has not only given us laws; he’s given us lives. He’s incarnated his 10 moral principles in the lives of Old Testament characters, providing us with fascinating biographies to inspire and warn (1 Cor. 10:11Luke 17:32).

We also see New Testament doctrines worked out in Old Testament believers’ lives: through typology we learn most about Christ’s priesthood from Aaron, kingship from David, and prophetic office from Moses. Abraham demonstrates justifying faith, Elijah portrays effectual and fervent prayer, Ruth and Naomi display the communion of saints, Job perseveres through the Lord’s preservation, and David exhibits how forgiveness and chastisement often go together. And it’s all in the vivid Technicolor and Dolby of flesh-and-blood humanity.

5. The Old Testament comforts and encourages us.

As we read the Old Testament narratives, we experience the beautiful comfort and hope that Paul promised would accompany such study (Rom. 15:4). We are comforted with God’s sovereign love, majestic power, and covenant faithfulness in his relationship with Israel.

When we know the Old Testament backgrounds of the “Hall of Faithers” in Hebrews 11, we’re encouraged to follow their Christ-focused faith and spirituality.

In the Psalms, we’re given songs that have comforted and encouraged believers throughout the world and throughout the centuries.

And when we see the way that hundreds of Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Christ, our faith in God and his Word is strengthened.

6. The Old Testament saves souls.

The apostle Paul had the highest regard for the Old Testament’s origin, nature, power, and purpose (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But the Old Testament wasn’t only helpful for Christian living; it gave Christian life. When Paul assured Timothy that “the Holy Scriptures [are] able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” he was speaking of the Old Testament (2 Tim. 3:15). Like the New Testament, the Old Testament also saved (and still saves) souls through faith in the Messiah.

7. The Old Testament makes you appreciate the New Testament more.

For all the Old Testament reveals of Jesus, and of Christian doctrine and experience, we must concede that it also conceals, that there’s a lot of frustrating shadow, that there’s unfulfilled longing and desire, that there’s often something—or rather someone—missing. The more we read it, the more we long for and love the incarnate Christ of the New Testament. The dawn is beautiful, but the sunrise is stunning.

About the Author:

David Murray

David P. Murray is professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Murray blogs regularly at Head, Heart, Hand: Leadership for Servants. Learn more about reading and applying the Old Testament from David Murray’s new book, Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (Thomas Nelson, 2013). The article above was adapted from http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/08/27/jesus-on-every-page-7-reasons-to-study-your-old-testament/

 

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John Piper on How to Pray for a Desolate Church

An Exposition of Daniel 9:1-23

Piper w hands up preaching image

Daniel’s Prayer for His People

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 

All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

“O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

The reason I titled this message “How to Pray for a Desolate Church” is that I see much of the Christian church today as desolate. The ruin of Jerusalem and the captivity of Israel in Babylon are pictures of the church today in many places around the world. There are pockets of life and purity and depth and faithfulness and power and zeal around the world. God will never give up on his people and he will get his global purposes done, even if he has to use a remnant to do it.

But much of the Christian movement today has become a desolation of disobedience and disunity and dishonor to the name of Christ. So the way Daniel prays for the desolation of his people is a pointer for how we can pray for the desolation of ours.

Three Aspects of the Desolation of God’s People

Let me mention three aspects of the desolation of God’s people in this text to see if you won’t agree that it sounds like much of the Christian movement today.

1. The People Are Captive to Godless Forces

Two times, verses 11 and 13, Daniel says that this calamity of Babylonian captivity was warned against in the law of Moses. For example, in Deuteronomy 28:36 Moses says that if the people forsake God, “The Lord will bring you . . . to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known; and there you shall serve other gods.” Now that had come true in Babylon.

In 1520, Martin Luther wrote an essay which he called “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.” What he meant was that forces and powers that were foreign to Christ and to his Word had captured the mind and heart of the church. She was in bondage to godless forces.

That is the situation in much of the church today. Millions of church-goers today think the way the world thinks. The simple assumptions that govern behavior and choices come more from what is absorbed from our culture than from the Word of God. The church shares the love affair of the world with prosperity and ease and self. Many groups of Christians are just not that different from the spirit of Babylon, even though the Lord says that we are aliens and exiles and that we are not to be conformed to this age. So, like Israel of old, much of God’s church today is captive to godless forces.

2. The People Are Guilty and Ashamed

Daniel spends most of his prayer confessing the sin of the people. For example, verse 5: “We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from thy commandments.” In other words, we have great guilt before God. And because of this real guilt there is real shame. This is mentioned in verses 7 and 8. The RSV has the phrase “confusion of face”“To us belongs confusion of face.” Literally it means, “To us belongs shame of face.” What we have done is so terrible and so known that our face turns red and we want to cover it and run away. That is the way Daniel felt about the people of God. Their guilt and their shame were great.

Today in the church there is an uneasy conscience. There is the deep sense that we are to be radically different, living on the brink of eternity with counter-cultural values and behaviors of love and justice and risk-taking service that show our citizenship is in heaven. But then, we look in the mirror and we see that the church does not look that way. And the result is a sense of shame based on the real guilt of unbelief and disobedience. So we slink through our days with faces covered, and scarcely anyone knows we are disciples of Jesus.

3. The People Were a Byword Among the Nations

Verse 16b: “Jerusalem and thy people have become a byword among all who are round about us.” “Byword” (in the RSV) means reproach, or object of scorn. It means that the nations look at the defeated and scattered Israelites and they laugh. They mock Israel’s God.

That is the way it is with the Christian church in many places. She has made the name of Jesus an object of scorn by her duplicity—trying to go by the name Christian and yet marching to the drum of the world. So the world sees the name “Christian” as nothing radically different—perhaps a nice way to add a little component of spirituality to the other parts of life that basically stay the same.

So when Daniel prays for the desolations of the people of Israel, I hear a prayer for the desolations of the Christian church—captive to godless forces, guilty and ashamed, and a byword among the nations.

Four Ways to Pray for a Desolate Church

Now how do we pray for such a church?

1. Go to the Bible

First, we pray for a desolate church by beginning where Daniel began. We go to the books.

Verse 2: “In the first year of [Darius's] reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books . . . “ The books are the prophet Jeremiah and other biblical books. Prayer begins with the Bible.

George Mueller said that for years he tried to pray without starting in the Bible in the morning. And inevitably his mind wandered. Then he started with the Book, and turned the Book into prayer as he read, and for 40 years he was able to stay focused and powerful in prayer.

Without the Bible in our prayers, they will be just as worldly as the church we are trying to free from worldliness. Daniel’s prayer begins with the Bible and it is saturated with the Bible. Phrase after phrase comes right out of the Scriptures. There are allusions to Leviticus (26:40) and Deuteronomy (28:64) and Exodus (34:6) and Psalms (44:14) and Jeremiah (25:11). The prayer brims with a biblical view of reality, because it brims with the Bible.

What I have seen is that those whose prayers are most saturated with Scripture are generally most fervent and most effective in prayer. And where the mind isn’t brimming with the Bible, the heart is not generally brimming with prayer. This is not my idea. Jesus was pointing to it in John 15:7 when he said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” (John 5:7). When he says, “If my words abide in you . . . ,” he means, “If my words saturate your mind . . . if my words shape your way if thinking . . . if my words are memorized and just as likely to come to your mind as advertising jingles . . . then you will pray so as to heal the desolations of the church.”

So the first way to pray for a desolate church is to go to the Book. Saturate your mind with the Bible. Pray the Scripture.

2. Confess Our Sin

The second way to pray for a desolate church is to confess our sin.

About 12 verses of Daniel’s prayer is confession: verses 4–15. This means being truthful about God and about sin.

It means recognizing sin as sin and calling it bad names, not soft names: things like wickedness and rebellion and wrong (v. 5) and treachery and shameful (v. 7) and disobedience (v. 10). It means recognizing God as righteous (v. 7) and great and fearful (v. 4) and merciful and forgiving (v. 9). It means feeling broken and remorseful and guilty (v. 8) before God.

Before God! There is a difference between feeling miserable because sin has made our life miserable and feeling broken because our sin has offended the holiness of God and brought reproach on his name. Daniel’s confession—biblical confession—is God-centered. The issue is not admitting that we have made our life miserable. The issue is admitting that there is something much worse than our misery, namely, the offended holiness and glory of God.

So we pray for a desolate church by going to the Book and by confessing our sins.

3. Remember Past Mercies Knowing God Never Changes

The way to pray for a desolate church is to remember past mercies, and be encouraged that God never changes.

Verse 15: “And now, O Lord our God, who didst bring thy people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand . . . “ Daniel knew that the reason God saved Israel from Egypt was not because Israel was so good. Psalm 106:7–8,

Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider thy wonderful works; they did not remember the abundance of thy steadfast love, but rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

Prayer for a desolate church is sustained by the memory of past mercies. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). If God saved a rebellious people once at the Red Sea, he can save them again. So when we pray for a desolate church, we can remember brighter days that the church has known, and darker days from which she was saved.

This is why church history is so valuable. There have been bad days before that God had turned around. The papers this week have been full of statistics of America’s downward spiral into violence and corruption. Church history is a great antidote to despair at times like this. For example, to read about the moral decadence and violence of 18th century England before God sent George Whitefield and John Wesley is like reading today’s newspapers. For example,

Only five or six members of parliament even went to church . . . The plague, small pox, and countless diseases we call minor today had no cures . . . Clothing was expensive, so many of the cities’ poor wore rags that were like their bedding, full of lice . . . The penalties for crimes seem barbaric today (hanging for petty thievery) . . . Young boys, and sometimes girls, were bound over to a master for seven years of training. They worked six days a week, every day from dawn to dusk and often beyond . . . If you were unlucky and starving, you might fall foul of the law and be packed off to the stench of New Gate Prison. From there, you might have the chance to go to the New World in a boat loaded with prisoners of all sorts . . . [Drunkenness was rampant] and gin was fed to the babies too, to keep them quiet, with blindness and often death as a result [did you think crack babies were a new thing?] . . . The people’s love of tormenting animals at bull-baitings was equaled only by their delight in a public execution. (“Revival and Revolution,” Christian History 2, pp. 7–8)

All that and more, including a desolate and corrupt and powerless church. Yet God moved with a great awakening. And to add hope upon hope for our prayers, he used two men who could not agree on some significant theological points and one of them was overweight and the other was 5′ 3″ tall and weighed 128 pounds.

We pray for a desolate church by remembering past mercies, past triumphs of grace. We remember that history is not a straight line down any more than it is a straight line up.

4. Appeal to God’s Zeal for the Glory of His Own Name

Finally, we pray for a desolate church by appealing to God’s zeal for the glory of his own name.

Look how the prayer comes to its climax in verses 18b–19: “We do not present our supplications before thee on the ground of our righteousness but on the ground of thy great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, give heed and act; delay not, for thy own sake, O my God, because thy city and thy people are called by thy name.”

The people of God are known by his name. And God has an infinite zeal for his own name. He will not let it be reproached and made a byword indefinitely. That is our deepest confidence. God is committed to God. God is committed with explosive passion to the glory of his name and the truth of his reputation.

So that’s the bottom of our prayer for a desolate church. We are called by your name. We live by your name. Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory. For your name’s sake, O Lord, save. For your name’s sake, revive. For your name’s sake purify and heal and empower your church, O Lord. For we are called by your name.

©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

 

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James Montgomery Boice on the Distinction Between the Rapture and the Lord’s Day

Two Great Days: The Day of the Lord and the Day of Christ

What The Bible Has To Say About The Future: Part 3 in a Series of 9 - By Dr. James M. Boice

To the people of the ancient east the stars had great significance. They were the means by which people determined the hours of the night and the seasons of the year. The morning star was particularly important for it heralded the rising of the sun and the coming of a new day. The Lord Jesus Christ is our morning star, according to the book of Revelation (Revelation 22:16). He is coming. The dark night of human history may be long and filled with grim terrors, but the Daystar is coming and with Him the dawning of a new age.

We will consider the importance of this theme in biblical prophecy, to distinguish between two important aspects of Christ’s coming under the descriptive phrases “the day of the Lord” and “the day of Jesus Christ,” and to develop the relevance of the theme of the Lord’s return.

A Prominent Doctrine

It is unfortunate that in our day the second coming of Jesus Christ has faded to a remote and sometimes irrelevant doctrine in the opinion of many persons, even, it seems, within large segments of the evangelical church. That may be true in part because many extravagant, foolish, and utterly unscriptural  teachings have been linked to the doctrine of the Lord’s return. But that has been true of all biblical doctrines at some point of history, and that alone should not deter us from seeking to appreciate a theme which is prominent in the Word of God.

How prominent is this doctrine? In the New Testament 1 verse in 25 deals with the Lord’s return. It is mentioned 318 times in the 260 chapters of the New Testament. It occupies a prominent place in the Old Testament, inasmuch as the greater part of the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ in the Old Testament deal, not with His first advent in which He died as our sin-bearer, but with His second advent in which He is to rule as King. The return of Jesus Christ is mentioned in every one of the New Testament books except Galatians (which deals with a particular problem that had emerged within the churches of Galatia) and the very short books of the New Testament such as 2 and 3 John and Philemon.

The various New Testament writers obviously believed in the Lord’s return. Mark traced the origins  of his belief to the very words of Jesus. The first reference to the return of Jesus in Mark occurs in chapter 8. There is recorded Peter’s great confession of faith – “You are the Christ” – which was in turn the occasion of a greater revelation by Christ of the most important events that were to come in His ministry. First, He foretold His death and resurrection. He spoke of discipleship. Then, at the very end of the chapter, He spoke of His coming again.   Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Mark 13, where Jesus outlined what would come in the last days, is also full of this doctrine. Jesus spoke of the horror of the days immediately preceding His return, then added, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” At this point the discourse moved on to teach that the disciples should be watching for this return; Jesus emphasized the point by an illustration: “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning– lest he come suddenly and find you asleep” (34-36).

Finally, this doctrine is mentioned in the account of Christ’s trial before the Jewish high priest (Mark 14). Jesus answered a question about whether or not He was the Messiah by saying, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). Here are three expressions of the truth of Christ’s return in a book which most scholars consider to be the oldest of the four gospels.

In the other three gospels the same doctrine is prominent. Matthew and Luke repeated most of the sayings about the second coming given by Mark, sometimes with additions and variations, and John added others. For instance, John recorded a number of lengthy farewell discourses given by Jesus just before His crucifixion. In one of these Jesus declared, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Christ’s return is also referred to in the last chapter of John’s gospel, in the record of Jesus’ conversation with Peter after His resurrection. The reference is incidental to Jesus’ point, but is all the more authentic on that account. Jesus had been encouraging Peter to faithfulness in discipleship, but Peter with his usual impetuosness turned and saw John. He asked Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:21-22). John himself then points out that although many of the Christians of his day had interpreted that to mean that John would not die until Christ came back, that was not what Jesus had said. He had said only that even if that were the case, it should not affect Peter’s call to faithful service.

In all four gospels, then, there are unmistakable quotations from Jesus Christ to the effect that He would return to this earth a second time in glory, and these are quoted in such a way that we cannot doubt that the early church believed that these promises were to be fulfilled literally and in detail, possibly within its lifetime.

Paul’s letters are also full of this doctrine. To the church at Thessalonica he wrote, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). To the Philippians Paul wrote: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:2–21).

Peter called the return of Jesus Christ our “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3). Paul called it our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), John declared with conviction: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (Rev. 1:7a). The same author ended the New Testament with the words, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

In these verses and in many others the early Christians expressed their belief in a personal return of Jesus Christ, a return  which would be the first of the unfolding events prophesied in the end time. The return of Jesus would be associated with a time of great wickedness on earth, the resurrection and transformation of their own bodies, an earthly rule of Jesus, and a final concluding judgment upon all men and nations. They comforted themselves with these truths in the midst of persecution or some while attempting to live their lives on a moral plane that would be honoring to the returning One.

The Day of the Lord

In the picture I have just presented, however, two important ideas have been merged. Therefore, to paint the prophetic picture for the end times in clearer detail and to have a basis for understanding some of the most important New Testament prophesies we must distinguish between them.

The first idea is associated with the phrase “the day of the Lord.” This phrase is quite prominent in the Old Testament, but it occurs frequently in the New Testament too, even in the context of some of the passages I have been quoting. This phrase is a technical phrase used initially by the Old Testament prophets to designate a future period of catastrophic judgment. Literally, it the day of Jehovah, the day in which Jehovah will break silence and intervene in history to judge Israel and the Gentile nations. The characteristics of this day can be seen in the following quotations:

“For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up–and it shall be brought low” (Isaiah 2:12).

“Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!…Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light” (Isaiah 13:6, 9-10).

“Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?”  (Amos 5:18-20).

It is obvious from the reference to the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars that this is the event referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24, where Jesus taught that He would exercise judgment. It is also the event of which Peter spoke when he wrote,

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10).

In the liturgy of the church this is expressed by the Dies Irae, which means the day of the wrath of God. From an examination of these and other texts (Jer. 46:10; Lam. 2:22; Ezek. 30:3ff.; Joel 1:15; 2:1-11; 3:14-16; Zeph. 1:7-2:3; Zech. 14:1-7; Mal. 4:5) several things are clear.

  • First, the day of the Lord is the day of God’s judgment.
  • Second, the day is still future.
  • Third, it is preceded by a time of great trouble on earth.
  • Fourth, it is followed by the earthly rule of the Messiah.
  • Fifth, it has nothing to do with the church of Jesus Christ, for the church is not in these prophecies and was, in fact, completely unknown to the Old Testament writers who compiled them.

To be sure, as Kenneth S. Wuest, who summarized much of the data in his collection of Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, observed, “Some of the references to the day of the Lord in the Old Testament have a fulfillment in the past, and are precursors of the day of the Lord to follow (Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, vol. 3 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966, p. 35]). But that does not alter the fact that the strict fulfillment of most of these prophecies awaits a future day.

That day is coming. The disasters of this life — pestilence, famine, wars, natural catastrophes — are only little judgments which come in the most part from man’s activities. When the day of God’s wrath is revealed, these things will pale by comparison, and no one who is not united to Christ by faith will be able to stand against Him.

No one can be sure of defending himself even from man-made destruction. For instance, there is an extensive military radar network called DEW line (Distant Early Waning), which stretches across the North American Continent. This line of defense has cost the United States billions of dollars. It was designed to limit to a minimum  the breakthrough of Soviet long-range bombers coming to wreak nuclear destruction on the United States; but today it is outmoded by missiles. Man can never defend himself adequately against the possibility of future destruction.

Thus, too, does he stand before God. Man has run away from God, and God has pursued him. God came to die for him in Jesus Christ. God has warned us of judgment — distant warnings and near warnings, early warnings, and late warnings — and He has warned us that He can penetrate any defense which we may try to throw up against Him. Man stands naked before God. The day of judgment is near. If you are not yet a believer, let me encourage you to turn to Christ. Martin Luther looked at this day and wrote for those of his time:

Great God, what do I see and hear!

The end of things created!

The Judge of mankind doth appear

On clouds of glory seated!

The trumpet sounds, the graves restore

The dead which they contained before:

Prepare, my soul, to meet him.

If you are a believer in Christ, let me encourage you to look up and be faithful to Him.

The Day of Christ (The Rapture)

The second major idea is associated with the phrase “the day of Jesus Christ.” That is not the same as “The day of the Lord.” The day of Jesus Christ is a happy day rather than a day of judgment. Moreover, far from warning men to fear it, the New Testament actually speaks of it as an event to be warmly anticipated. Christians are to be ready and watching, and they are to encourage one another because of it.

What is the nature of this day? The clearest answer to this question is in the verses already quoted from Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Thessalonica. They were in sorrow over certain of their number who had died, and Paul wrote to them to comfort them with the thought that they would see their departed friends once again at the day of Jesus Christ. He describes it thus:

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Quite obviously, this day does not concern Christ’s earthly rule. It is an aspect of His coming to draw believers out of this world to Himself. He will come in the air and gather His church up to meet Him, first those who have died and then — almost in the same instant — those who are living.

Jesus described this event, also stressing its unexpected and selective nature:

“Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:40-42).

In biblical theology this event is generally called the rapture. It is the first in the whole series of events prophesied for the end times. It is possible that at this point some of this teaching has become confusing. So let me elaborate upon the distinction between the day of Jesus Christ and the day of the Lord by looking at the way the Apostle Paul dealt with a similar confusion in his day.

Wherever he went, Paul apparently preached the full body of Christian doctrine as it had been revealed to him. And that included, quite naturally, the doctrine of the Lord’s imminent return to be followed, after certain events, by God’s judgment. These events  included persecution and great tribulation. We know that this doctrine had been accepted by the church at Thessalonica, for Paul alluded to it in his first letter, reminding the Christians there that they were to be comforted by the doctrine of the Lord’s return in face of the death of their friends. Some time after he had written this letter, however, a time of persecution broke out in the church at Thessalonica. Because the persecution seemed terrible and intense, someone began to teach that the persecutions were those leading to the day of the Lord, with its ultimate judgements, and that the Christians in Thessalonica, therefore, had missed the rapture. The Thessalonians may actually have received a letter purporting to be from Paul which affirmed this idea (2 Thessalonians 2:2).

News of their distress reached Paul, and he immediately wrote to the Thessalonians again, attempting to explain the meaning of their present persecution assuring them that they had not missed the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ for those who believe in Him. First, he dealt with the meaning of present persecution. This occupies the first chapter. Then, in the second chapter, he begins to deal with the view that Christians might already be going through days of tribulation.

“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 to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?”  (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5).

Paul’s main points clearly were that the present suffering of the Christians at Thessalonica was not the tribulation prophesied  in the Old Testament and taught by himself, that the final tribulation would not come until after the Christians were caught up to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air, therefore, that the coming of Christ rather than the final judgment should be uppermost in the minds of believers.

(Note: There is a view in prophetic theology known at “posttribulationism.” According to this view, the church of Jesus Christ will go through the great tribulation, after which Jesus will return for those believers who are remaining. In reply, it is enough to note that, although the church has gone through periods of great persecution in the past and undoubtedly may go through intense persecutions before Christ’s return, nevertheless, the view of a posttribulation rapture is impossible for the simple reason that it makes meaningless the very argument that Paul was presenting in the Thessalonian letters. Paul was arguing for the imminence of Christ’s return. That is to be a major source of comfort for suffering believers. If Christ will not come until after the great tribulation [that is, a specific time of unusual and intense suffering still in the future], then the return of the Lord is not imminent and tribulation rather than deliverance is what we must anticipate. In view of the Bible’s message we must be careful not to adopt any view which turns our minds from Christ. If anything must occur before we see Christ personally, then the anticipation of that event will turn our eyes from Him to it. We may even guess that Satan will try to turn the believers’ eyes from Christ to events or signs that are supposed to precede Him and we should be warned accordingly).

All these themes will be treated in later articles, but even at this point we need to note the importance of the two events which Paul says must take place before the day of God’s judgment. The second event is the appearance of one whom he calls “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2:3). This person will attempt to centralize all human worship in himself, and will actually sit in the temple at Jerusalem, claiming that he is God. Since that has not happened, says Paul, the day of the Lord is yet future.

The first event that must take place before the day of the Lord comes is called “the falling away” in the Authorized Version of the Bible (2 Thess. 2:3). This is an unfortunate translation. The basis for this translation lies in the fact that elsewhere in the Bible a time of great apostasy or “falling away” from true Christian doctrine is prophesied for the time preceding the Lord’s return. Although this is true in itself, however, it is not the meaning of the Greek word here. The word apostasia, preceded by the definite article. Apostasia has given us our word “apostasy,” but the word itself simply means “a departure.” In a context where the truth or falsity of doctrine is in view, the word would naturally mean, “a departure from true doctrine” or “apostasy.” But here, where the issue is the past or future coming of Jesus Christ for his saints and where a particular event is specified by the use of the article, the word can mean equally well “the departure of believers to be with Jesus” or “the rapture.”

In Kenneth S. Wuest’s study, referred to earlier, these following additional facts are elaborated. Apostasia occurs in the New Testament only twice. But it is based on the verb aphistemi which occurs fifteen times. Eleven times it is translated “depart,” never “a falling away.” Unfortunately, most of the English versions follow the leading of the Authorized text (The ESV translates apostasia as “rebellion”). But it is significant that in the versions that precede the publication of the King James Bible — those of Tyndale (1534), Coverdale (1535), Cranmer (1539), and the Geneva Bible (1560) — apostasia was translated as “departure,” and the reference was obviously to the much-anticipated rapture of God’s saints.

It is worth pointing out that precisely the same order of events is presented in 1 Thessalonians. Once again the two different days — the day of the Lord and the day of Jesus Christ — are in view, as well as two distinct classes of people. The day of the Lord is a day that should concern unbelievers. Paul speaks of this group as “they” and “them.” The day of Jesus Christ is for believers only. Paul speaks of this class as “us” and “you.”

“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief…So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober…For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4, 6, 9).

Paul’s teaching clearly indicates that the rapture, “the day of Jesus Christ,” must come first. Then will come the unfolding of the other events of prophecy, beginning with a period of great tribulation and continuing though Christ’s return to earth to judge Israel and the nations, the millennium, the final judgment, and a complete transition from the life of this world to the life of eternity.

These are the two greatest days of future world history — the day of Jesus Christ and the day of the Lord. Every man who has ever lived must stand before the Lord Jesus Christ on one of these two days. Which will it be in your case? Will it be the day of the Lord with its judgments? Or will it be the day of Jesus Christ with the joy of seeing Him and the glorification and rewarding of believers? Believers wait only for the coming of Jesus Christ, and they rejoice, knowing that this the next event in the unfolding of God’s prophetic timetable.

A Practical Doctrine

Thus far in our study of the return of Jesus Christ we have dealt with the importance of the doctrine of the New Testament books and with the precise meaning of His return as it is related to the catching away of believers first and to God’s judgment. It would be wrong to stop at this point, however, for we must go on to see that the doctrine of the Lord’s return is practical. In other words, it should have a bearing on our lives.

(1) First of all, the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ should be an incentive to godly living. That is the point Jesus Himself made when talking about His return in Matthew 24. The chapter is filled with imperatives: “See that no one leads you astray” (v. 4); “See that you are not alarmed” (v. 6), “flee to the mountains” (v. 16); “pray” (v. 20); “do not believe it” (vv. 23, 26); “learn” (v. 32); “know” (v. 33). Jesus concluded with the warning, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). The apostle John, who undoubtedly heard the Lord on this occasion, later made the identical point in one of his letters, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who this hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

This thought should affect every aspect of your personal life — your prayer life, your choices in the area of ethics and morals, even your social concerns. Lord Shaftesbury, the great English social reformer and a mature Christian, said near the end of his life, “I do not think that in the last forty years I have ever lived one conscious hour that was not influenced by the thought of our Lord’s return.” In his case, the expectation of meeting Jesus was undoubtedly one of the strongest motives behind his social programs.

Are you looking for Christ’s return? In an earlier study of this same subject I once wrote:

If you are motivated by prejudice against other Christians or others in general, whether they are black or white, rich or poor, cultured or culturally naive, or whatever they may be–then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you. If you are contemplating some sin, perhaps a dishonest act in business, perhaps trifling with sex outside marriage, perhaps cheating on your income tax return–then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you. If your life is marked by a contentious, divisive spirit in which you seek to tear down the work of another person instead of building it up–then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you. If you first protect your own interests and neglect to give food, water, or nothing to the needy as we are instructed to do in Christ’s name–then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you (James Montgomery Boice, Philippians: An Expositional Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971], p. 249).

(2) The second result of a belief in the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ should be an effort on our part to comfort Christians who are suffering, particularly those who are suffering the close loss of a friend or relative. We have already seen how the Apostle Paul did this in the case of his friends at Thessalonica. They suffered persecution. They had lost friends through death. Paul wrote to them, reminding them of the blessed hope of Christians. He then observed, “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Dr. R.A. Torrey, a former president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA) and a great Bible teacher, wrote along the same line: “Time and again in writing those who have lost for a time those whom they love, I have obeyed God’s commandment and used the truth of our Lord’s return to comfort them, and many have told me afterwards how full of comfort this truth has proven when everything else has failed” (R.A. Torrey, The Return of the Lord Jesus [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966], p. 15). The return of the Lord Jesus Christ is the one doctrine with which God commands us to comfort suffering saints.

(3) Finally, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ should make us more and more energetic in evangelism. If it is true that the Lord is coming, then it is not true, as scoffers say, that all things will “continue as they were from the beginning” (2 Peter 3:4). The end is in sight. The days for evangelism are numbered. Is it not a lesson for our own time that, when the disciples began to ask Jesus Christ for specific details of the time of His coming after His resurrection and before His ascension, He brushed their requests aside and instead reiterated the church’s great commission to evangelize throughout the duration of this age? They were not to look for a precise timetable. They were to go into the world with the Gospel.

He said to them “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).

These were Jesus’ last words on earth. The next words we hear may well be the question: “How well have you carried out my commission?”

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. He was one of only a handful of reformed theologians that was premillennial in his eschatology (Steven J. Lawson, John MacArthur, Erwin W. Lutzer, S. Lewis Johnson, Rodney Stordtz, John Hannah and John Piper also come to mind). However, what makes him really unique is that he was not Historic Premillennial – but leaned Dispensational (Held to a pre-tribulation rapture) as well. This article was adapted from Chapter Three in one of the first of James Boice’s plethora of books, and is entitled: The Last and Future World, Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1974 (currently out of print). This book is based on 9 sermons that Dr. Boice preached at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1972. Though this book was written almost 40 years ago – it is just as relevant as when it was first written since many of the prophecies taught in the Scriptures and addressed by Dr. Boice in this book have yet to be fulfilled. Scripture verses are quoted from the more modern English Standard Version – DPC.

 

 
 

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The Problem of Anxiety by Dr. Tim Keller

praying man on one knee image

Series: Modern Problems; Ancient Solutions

October 24, 1993, Manhattan, N.Y. Based on Psalm 27

“The Problem of Anxiety” by Tim Keller

We’ve been looking at the book of Psalms in the fall, and we’ve been trying to bring them to bear on what we’ve been calling “modern problems,” which, of course, if you can bring the Psalms (a 3,000-year-old book) to bear on them, they’re not that modern, but we always like to flatter ourselves that our problems are worse than anyone else’s. I mean, every age has always felt that way. So I’m pandering to our arrogance and suggesting we do have modern problems (yet which have solutions) that are very ancient. Now let me read to you Psalm 27 in its entirety.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. 11 Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. 13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heartand wait for the Lord.

That’s God’s Word

Now this psalm is all about fear, worry, anxiety, and how the Bible tells us to deal with it. Now when we look at the psalm, we’re going to see a very refreshing realism, even though it’s full of tremendous promises, because the realism is important. I was just reading an author, a man named Ernest Becker, who said, “I think that taking life seriously means something such as this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise, it is false.”

He must have lived in New York. There’s always this rumble of panic. It’s really the subway, but you walk along and you feel this rumble of panic, and you say, “Why do I feel so disconcerted?” Then you realize you’re on Park Avenue, and there goes the subway. Ernest Becker is right, and here’s why.

So many of the articles and the books I survey (and I constantly do) … Whenever I see a book in a store or an article in a newspaper or a magazine saying, “How to Overcome Worry” or “How to Overcome Anxiety,” almost always what they essentially say is, “The things you’re worried about may never happen. What a waste of time it is to be worrying about things that may never happen. Instead, visualize a future that is satisfying and focus on that. Visualize that future. Focus on that. Don’t sit around and visualize all the things that could go wrong.”

Is that the way David does it? No. You know, for example, in verse 10, he says, “Though my father and mother forsake me …” Now there is no indication David’s mother and father had actually forsaken him. It says, “Though an entire army was encamped against me …” He doesn’t say, “It has encamped against me …” It says, “Even if it did …” What is David doing? He is doing the opposite of what the articles say. He is actually imagining the worst things that can happen. He is visualizing the worst things that can happen. Why? Because he wants to have a strategy of life, a strategy of dealing with fears and anxieties, that can stand up to anything.

He doesn’t listen to the advice that says, “Maybe none of these things will ever happen, so don’t think about them.” Oh no. As Ernest Becker says, any attitude toward life that minimizes the evil and terror of things is phony. Well, he would have been very happy with Psalm 27. David goes so far as to imagine the worst. The fierce realism of the Bible is seen right here. The Bible says you can have a way of dealing with anger and with anxiety and fear that assumes the worst things may and can happen, that your father and mother forsake you, that an army encamps against you. Think about it! Go ahead. It doesn’t matter, because you can use this on anything.

So what is that strategy? I’ll tell you, whatever it was, we ought to look at it because David had literal enemies, and they had real weapons. They were people who were literally after their lives. Most of you, that’s probably not true. Therefore, if he was able to find a strategy that enabled him to deal with the fears of his life, don’t you think it ought to work for most of us? So let’s see what he says this great strategy is. Actually, it’s all in verse 4.

In verse 3, he says, “I have so much freedom from anxiety and fear that I have enough left over that if an army came up, I’d be okay. I’d be able to handle it.” That’s what he says in verse 3. Then in verse 4 he tells us the secret. There are three verbs: to dwell, to gaze, and to seek. Those are the three. So let’s take a look. How can you have a strategy that will enable you to face any of the anxieties, the stresses of life? I don’t know how you’re doing right now with this, but I know you can improve. Take a look.

1. Dwelling

In verse 4, he says, “One thing I ask of the Lord … that I may dwell in the house of the Lord …” Now what does that mean? What does it mean to dwell in the house of the Lord? Now one of the things you have to think about is David is not thinking so much about a physical spot. First of all, he couldn’t dwell in the house of the Lord literally. You can’t live in a temple. He wasn’t asking for that. Only the Levites could live in there, and nobody could live right there in the Holy of Holies.

What he is actually asking for is to experience the unbroken presence of God, because the thing he is really after is the face of God. The face! “I want to gaze on your beauty. I want to be in your presence.” The house of God or the temple of God was the place where God’s paniym (which is the Hebrew word for face, his presence) dwelt. What David says is, “I want to be always in your presence.” What’s that mean?

Now people always ask this question at this point: “What does that mean? I thought God was present everywhere!” The answer is always best given through an illustration … something like this. You know, Tammy (who was playing the piano) and Steve (on the flute and the sax), you are in their presence, aren’t you? I mean, you’ve already heard them playing. You’re in their presence. Of course. You’ve listened to them and you’re in their presence, and yet nobody can say (yet) that you have met them unless after the service you walk on up and you come up face to face.

Because, you see, your face is the relational gate into your heart. From far away, you can’t have a relationship. You actually have to come up face to face. When you come up to somebody, you can’t look at their kneecap or their shoulder. You have to look in their face if you want to have a personal transaction, a personal interaction, because the face is the place where I see and hear you and the face is the place where you see and hear me. So you have to come face to face.

Now why am I saying that? Last week we said Psalm 19 says the heavens are telling of the glory of God. Psalm 19 says when you go out and see the stars, are you in God’s presence? Sure! The Bible insists you can’t know God personally through nature. It insists on it. Now we looked at that last week in some detail, but let me just put it out again this way. When you come into the presence of a pianist and you listen to her play, as great as it is to be in her presence, you haven’t had a friendship with her by that. You have to come up face to face.

If you want to have a friendship with Henry Ford, you don’t do it by putting your head under a Model T and saying, “Henry? Are you in there, Henry?” To be in the presence of the handiwork, to be in the general presence of someone, is not the same thing as to have a personal relationship. The Bible says, therefore, what David is after here is, “I don’t want to know you distantly. I don’t want to obey you in a general way. I don’t want to have a kind of general inspirational belief in you. I want to know you personally and intimately. That’s what I want.”

That’s the whole secret to a fearless life. Now why? Why? Why does verse 4 answer and explain verse 3? Why would verse 4 be the answer to fear? Here it is. When David says, “The one thing I want is to dwell in your house and gaze on your beauty and seek you in your temple,” that’s the secret right there. Let me put it this way, and then we’ll unpack it. What David is saying is, “My fears are directly proportional to the vulnerability of the things that are my greatest joys. If the thing that is my greatest joy is God, I will live without fear. If my one thing … the thing I most want … is God, I am safe.”

You see, when David says, “I’ll be safe in your dwelling place …” You see it in verse 5. He says, “I’ll be safe in the tabernacle, the tent of God.” David is not thinking physically. He isn’t! He is not so stupid as to think that these people who are after him with their real knives and their real swords, if he runs into the tabernacle, somehow if they come in after him in an Indiana Jones style kind of scene, the ark of the covenant will zap all the bad guys. That’s not what he is thinking.

What he is saying is, “I’m only safe not when I’m physically inside the dwelling of the tabernacle or the temple. I’m only safe when you are the one thing I want most of all. Then I’m safe. Then I’m fearless.” Let me show you how that works. There’s a man over at Drew University named Thomas Oden. He is a great theological teacher, and he is an expert on the early church writers. It’s call patristics, meaning the church fathers. I was reading some of his work on Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine had an amazingly relevant (especially for us today looking at Psalm 27) and intriguing way to understand anxiety.

Augustine said, “Here’s where anxiety comes from. All of us have good things in our lives, and we love them, and we desire them. Good things! Parents and children are good things. A career is a good thing. Romance is a good thing. Sex is a good thing. All sorts of things are good things. We have lots of good things in our lives.” But Augustine says, “When something which is finite becomes …”

In other words, when the good things become the “one thing” we think we have to have in order to be happy, when the good things become the “one thing,” we gaze on them. We seek them. We gaze on their beauty. We adore them, and we believe we cannot receive life joyfully unless we have it. So when good things become “one things,” when good desires become inordinate desires, disproportional-to-their-being desires, Augustine says that’s when anxiety comes.

Why? Because anxiety is like the smoke, and you can follow the smoke down to the fire. The fire is this. Anxiety is always the result of the implosion or the collapse of a false god. “When good things become ‘one things,’ you see, when things that are good to have become things you have to have, when they become the central values of your life, that’s where anxiety comes from,” says Augustine, “because anxiety is always a sign of the collapse of a false god.”

Now let me tell you one of the reasons we squirm with this and one of the reasons some of you may squirm. Some of you may be eaten up with worry and anxiety right now, and you think this is unfair, because you’re worried about a person, or you’re worried about how you’re going to feed your family because of the finances. You’re worried about a lot of things, and they’re good things. See, this is what’s so hard. The things that turn into little idols in our lives are always good things. They were created by God. They’re wonderful. That’s the reason they can slip into the center.

Let me put it this way. A little anxiety is always a very good thing. Remember, there is a place where Paul says, “I have on me the daily anxiety of all the churches.” So a little anxiety shows you’re a caring person, but debilitating anxiety and devastating anxiety shows good things have become “one things.” Now you’re gazing on their beauty and you’re seeking them above all. You think, “Unless I have that, I cannot be happy.” That is what creates debilitating anxiety and fear.

So do you see what David is saying is, “If you’re my ‘one thing,’ if you’re the one thing I require, the one thing I ask for … to gaze on your beauty, to seek you in the temple … I’m fearless?” Because, see, anything but God and his will is subject to the vicissitudes of time and life. Anything but God and his will is vulnerable. Nothing can take God away from you. Nothing can take that away from you. Now you’re fearless. But anything else you set your heart on like this can be taken away. When there’s a threat to it, you go to pieces.

Now David gives us a great example of this. Let’s just use one example. “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” Now is there anything wrong with the love between parents and children? Of course not! God invented love between parents and children. God commands love between parents and children. Therefore, for you to want, for example, the love of your parents is something good. For you to want it very deeply is something good. Not only is it something very good; it’s something inevitable that you want it.

Yet what happens if your mother and father forsake you, which of course happens, does it not? What happens? There are people who I’ve talked to, who you’ve talked to (and maybe some of you are), who say, “My mother and father have forsaken me, and I will not be consoled. I will not! I will never forget what they did. I will never forget what they failed to do. I will never be okay. I will always feel worthless. I will always be unhappy!” You just refuse to be consoled. What is that? A good thing (parent love) has become the “one thing,” and you’re gazing at its beauty, and you’re longing for it, and you’re seeking after it. You’re worshiping it in the temple.

As a result, you will be anxious and fearful all of your life. Don’t you see? “If my father and mother forsake me, if my spouse forsakes me, if my career forsakes me, if romance forsakes me, if my looks forsake me, the Lord will receive me. The Lord will receive me!” Unless you get that into your blood, unless you understand the reason we get anxious is because good things become “one things,” and they slide into the center, unless we actually are …

You know, Augustine said anxiety is a very, very helpful thing. It tells you a lot about yourself, because you can always follow your worries to those things which enslave you. You can always follow your worries. Anxiety is always the result of the collapse of a false god, the implosion. Do you understand that? Unless you’re able to get this into your blood you’re going to live a fearful life.

So the question then is … How do we make sure God becomes our “one thing?” How do we do that? I would say the text is actually telling us two ways. The two ways are right there in verse 4. You see, when David says, “There’s only one thing I want,” and then he says, “… to dwell, to gaze, and to seek,” now wait a minute; that’s three things. So what does he mean? He has to mean dwelling and gazing and seeking are basically all the “one thing.” In fact, I think seeking and gazing are actually two ways we dwell in the house. I think seeking and gazing is just a kind of breakdown of what it means to dwell in God’s house.

Do you want to live in his presence? Do you want him to be the “one thing?” Do you want that so you can live a fearless life? The question is … How? You have to gaze on his beauty, and you have to seek him in his temple. Now the reason I think that’s true, by the way, that these two things are the ways in which you dwell in the house (gazing on his beauty and seeking him in the temple) is because the rest of the psalm breaks into two parts.

Starting in verse 8, he says, “Show me your face.” Verses 8 through 10: “Show me your face.” Then verses 11–14 are, “Teach me your way.” Those are the same two things! “Show me your face” is the same thing as gazing on his beauty. “Teach me your way” is the same thing as seeking him. Let me show you these two things. These are the two things you have to do in order to make him your “one thing.”

2. Gazing

First of all, you have to gaze on his beauty. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll just tip my hat to those of you who were here at the end of August because I gave a sermon once on this at the end of August in the evening. When David says, “I’ve come to the temple to gaze on your beauty,” do we think it means a literal vision, something he saw with his physical eyes? I doubt it. Well, I’m not saying David, being a prophet and being a great king and so on, could never have had a vision, but I doubt very much that’s what he is talking about. There’s no indication it means every time he goes in he gets a vision. Oh no!

What does it mean to gaze on his beauty? This is what we’ve called communion with God. This is the difference between knowing about God and knowing God. This is the difference between knowing he is holy and loving and experiencing his holiness and his love. Let me go back to Saint Augustine. Some of you might remember this from two months ago, the sermon in the evening.

Saint Augustine was a great African theologian of the church. He lived in the fourth and fifth century AD. Augustine actually lays out in one of his sets of writings what it really means to actually see God. He says there are three parts: retentio, contemplatio, and dilectio? Remember? Retentio, he says, is finding a truth, getting it out of the Bible. Retentio is the word for retain. You retain it. You distill the truth, and you say, “There it is.” You see it, and you learn it, and you know it.

Augustine stays, “Ah, but you don’t stop there. Oh no! You mustn’t stop there. Once you get that truth, you see God is holy, you see God is wise, you don’t just close your book. You don’t close your notebook and say, ‘Ah, now I know that! I know another attribute of God. I know it!’ Oh no! Now, secondly, you move from retenetio to contemplatio, which means you contemplate or you look at God through the truth. You gaze at God through the truth.”

That means you start to ask yourself questions. “What does this verse tell me about God? What does it show me about God? What does it show me about how marvelous he is, how holy he is, how loving he is? Do I really understand he is holy? Do I really understand it? Am I living it out? What false attitudes and false emotions come when I forget this?” What Augustine means is this is a discipline of the mind in which you’re reaching out and you’re actually saying, “I want to see you.” You stretch every nerve to not see him with the eyes of your eyes but to see him, as Paul says in Ephesians, with the eyes of your heart. You stretch out.

Because we have the Holy Spirit, sometimes to some degree or another, we move to the third of the three phases: dilectio, which means to delight in him. Sometimes we find if we really spend the time seeking to see him, to gaze on his beauty, ideas about him get very real. Ideas about his holiness or his love begin to comfort us, begin to disturb us, begin to thrill us. Now don’t look at me like, “What is all this?” Don’t you remember what Augustine said? Everybody does this with everything but God. We all gaze at the beauty of these good things that have become “one things.”

You know what it means to gaze on the beauty of something. You turn it over in your imagination, the thing you want. It may be a career. It may be a house at the beach. It may be a particular person, and you think what life will be like if you get it. You gaze on the beauty of it. See? You fill your mind with it. You taste it. You rest in it. We do it with everything else but God. Now do it with him! That’s the only way to make the real one thing the “one thing.” Gaze on his beauty. Do you know how to do that? Do you take time to do that? David says unless you do that, you’ll not be dwelling in his house and you’ll have a fearful life.

3. Seeking

He doesn’t just say, “I want to gaze on your beauty,” but, “I want to seek him.” Now the word seek is a very, very specific Hebrew word. It actually means to go and get counsel. So what it means is, “When I come to you, I am trying to find out what your will is, Oh Lord.” He wants to obey. He wants to find out God’s will, and he wants to submit to it.

Boy, this is extremely important. These are the two parts of what it really means to be a Christian. These are the two parts of true religion: gazing on the beauty and seeking God’s will. If you only seek God’s will to obey, to find out what he teaches and disobey it day in and day out, if that’s all you do without gazing on the beauty, it will be all phariseeism and legalism. On the other hand, if you just try to gaze on his beauty, just have this great experience, but you don’t want to find out his will and do daily obedience, well, it won’t work either, and I’ll show you why.

Just think of marriage. A good marriage is a wonderful thing because you can fall in each other’s arms every so often. You see, you gaze on each other’s beauty. You have intimate fellowship, but you can’t walk around all the time in each other’s arms. There’s a life to live. You have to go to work and so on.

Let me tell you what 95 percent of what marriage is: finding out how to serve the other person and how to do for them. Because if you want to experience the other person’s love and yet the other person says, “Hey, would you do this and this and this for me?” and you say, “Oh no. That’s too inconvenient. I don’t like to do that,” if you live like a selfish person, if you don’t learn what the other person’s wishes are, if you don’t serve that other person in the little things day in and day out, it will be the end of intimacy.

Don’t you see? You can’t just live selfishly. You can’t just walk around and do anything you want, not trying to find out how to serve that person, not making sacrifices for that person, not obeying the needs and the wishes of that person and then expect to just jump in bed and have a wonderful, wonderful time of gazing on her beauty or his beauty. If you think that’s going to work, it doesn’t! It never works!

A human being is not a computer. There’s not an entrance sequence that you just poke in and then you get everything you want. In a relationship if you want intimacy, if you want to gaze on the beauty of the other person, if you want to commune with that person in love, you also have to find out that person’s will and do it. That’s just the way it works! What does that mean? I’ll tell you what this means.

A lot of people have wanted desperately to gaze on God’s beauty and get these experiences I’m talking about. You know, I was reading the other day. Here’s a guy who wrote a friend near the end of his life. There was a minister who prayed every day but began to really get a breakthrough, began to gaze on God’s beauty. Almost every week he began to just have these breakthroughs.

He wrote a friend, and he said, “Almost every week, a measure of his great love comes down upon my heart. He has unlocked every compartment of my being and filled and flooded them all with the light of his radiant presence. The inner spot has been touched, and the flintiness of my heart has been melted in the presence of love divine, all love’s excelling.”

What is that? He is in the temple. He is dwelling in the house of the Lord. He is gazing on the beauty, and all of his fears are going. Somebody says, “Ah! I want that so much.” A lot of us go to church just seeking that. A lot of us try to find church that will give us this great sense of highness, that we’ve touched God during the worship services. That’s good. That’s fine, but I’ll tell you this. To gaze on his beauty without seeking his will will never work. You want to gaze on his beauty? There’s a way to do that.

Do you remember blind Bartimaeus? He knew Jesus was going to come by on a certain road, so he pitched his tent there. He just cried out, “Lord, have mercy on me!” Do you want to experience the beauty of God? Do you want to gaze on his beauty? Do you want to have the sense of love these great people I always am reading from their journals have? Do you want that? Of course you want that. Well, how do you get it? You don’t get it by running around trying to get it. You pitch your tent on the road Jesus inevitably will come down, and that road is the road of obedience, seeking him.

There are disciplines to seeking his will. You read the Bible. You pray. You meditate. You take the sacraments at church. Those are the inner disciplines. Then you have the outer disciplines. Be simple in your lifestyle instead of materialistic. Be chaste in your lifestyle instead of impure. Be forgiving in your lifestyle instead of bitter. Have a servant heart instead of an ambitious and selfish heart. These are disciplines. Obey, seek him, and you’ll gaze on his beauty. Otherwise, no.

Okay, you want to dwell in his house? There’s the discipline of gazing on his beauty, and there’s the discipline of seeking his will. Now let me close this way. Some of you are probably finding this a pretty odd thing (gazing on God’s beauty), and you’re thinking, “Well, that’s great. I’d love to have an experience like that. How do I do it?” Here’s how you do it. You have to seek him in his temple. You have to gaze on his beauty in his temple.

Ah, but what is his temple? It says in John 2, Jesus Christ looked at the temple, and he said to the religious leaders, “Tear this temple down, and I will build it up again in three days.” They all looked at him and said, “You’re crazy! It took 40 years to build this temple. You’re going to build it up in three days?” The text tells us he was referring to himself. Jesus is the temple. Now let me explain what I mean.

David gazed at the beauty of God. Now remember we said Augustine says the way you gaze on God is you take certain truths and you look at God through the truths. You look at God through them. So when we’re told David gazed on the beauty of God at the temple, what did that mean? We said he probably didn’t have a vision. It means he went and he watched the temple ritual, and he saw the beauty of God through it. How did that happen?

Well, like this. You know what happened in the temple ritual? Animals were constantly getting slaughtered on the block and sacrificed up to God. David saw the beauty of the Lord, he gazed on the beauty of the Lord, through the sacrifices. How could that happen? Well, when he saw the animals being slain, he saw the beauty of God’s justice and holiness. He said, “Here is a God who requires sin be paid for. Here is a God who is so good and so holy, he cannot count men’s sin. Here’s a God who can’t overlook it. Here’s a God who must deal with evil. What a good God. What a just God. What a holy God.”

On the other hand, when he looked at the sacrifices, he also saw a merciful God. “Here’s a God who wants to deal with our sins so we can still approach him. Here’s a God who wants to forgive us our sins. Here’s a God who wants to find us a way to himself.” Now here’s the point. If David was able to gaze at the beauty of God through the tabernacle and the temple worship, how much more of the beauty of God will we see if we gaze at God through the face of Jesus?

You see, when we look at God today, we don’t have to look at him through a bull being slaughtered on the block. We see the face of a human being, the most loving human being ever, dying for us, suffocating on the cross, his ribs snapping as he suffocates, the blood and the sweat flowing down on his face, looking at us and saying, “You don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve been forsaken for you.”

Now let me tell you something. If David saw so much of the beauty of God in the temple, so much of the beauty of God that it turned him into a great heart so that he could handle an army, how much more of the beauty of God do you think you and I can see if we do what Paul said? What did Paul say? He says, “We are beholding with unveiled faces the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

That’s what we look at. Gaze on him. Look at him. Look at what he is doing. Look at him dying for you. Gaze on the beauty of God. If the beauty David saw could turn him into someone who could handle an army, what do you think it’s going to turn you into? How much more of the beauty of God can we see? How much more are we going to be able to look at God and say, “You’re my ‘one thing.’ I see your beauty. It fills me up so I’m afraid of nothing anymore. I have the only thing I need?”

This is what it means to seek him. You have to seek the Father. You have to gaze at his beauty through Jesus. It says in John 1:12, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God …” So if you want him, if you want all the things we’re talking about, it’s not an abstract thing. It’s not a technique. You have to go to God through Jesus. That’s how you gaze on his beauty.

Now, Christian friends, just think about this. There are a number of you who are saying, “Okay, this is very interesting. In fact, this is very moving. This is very powerful, but I’m scared right now about something that’s going to happen on Thursday. That’s four days away. What do I do till then?”

Listen. It’s true the Bible gives you this tremendous solution to anxiety. It says learn to gaze on his beauty and seek him in his temple. Eventually you develop a habit of the heart. You develop a whole orientation toward God. Of course that’s not something that happens really quickly. So the fact of the matter is I can’t give you something that really quickly will overcome all of your anxiety between now and Thursday. The books in the bookstores do. The magazines in the grocery store do.

They give you those little behavior modification grids, and they give you these little rational motive techniques on thought control. They teach you how to turn away from the negative thoughts and put on the positive thoughts. Let me tell you something. The Bible is giving you an antidote to anxiety too, but it’s not a patch. It’s not a Band-Aid. It’s regeneration. It’s a new heart, a new way of life, a new way of doing everything.

So I admit this is something that takes a long time to develop. This is not a quick fix, but you can start right now. You know, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” right? You know that cliché? Okay, let’s use it. Do you know what the first step is? Today you can say, “One thing. Finally, Lord God, I’m going to make you the ‘one thing.’ One thing. I’m going to make you my highest priority.

I today determine that gazing on your beauty and seeking you, I can no longer let other things crowd it out of my schedule. I can no longer let other things crowd it out of my energy. I can no longer let other things crowd it out of my creativity. Today you’re the ‘one thing.’ Finally I ditch all other competition. I ditch all other competing concerns. I ditch everything else. I insist on this. I will make time for it. I will do it.” That’s the first step, so do it.

Last of all, let me just give you a quick read of something. In a minute we’re going to sing the hymn that goes, “We rest on Thee, our shield and our defender.” Do you remember several years ago we had a woman here named Betty Elliot who was a missionary? She told us her husband, Jim Elliot, 40 years ago or so now, and six other missionaries decided they were going to go into the jungles of Ecuador and make contact with a very primitive tribe they were going to try to meet, try to live with, try to learn their language, try to give them a written version of their language, bring in literacy and give them a copy of the Bible in their own language.

They were going to do literacy work and Bible translation. They knew it was dangerous, so the night before they were to contact these Indians, they sat around a table, and they sang this hymn together.

We rest on Thee,

Our shield and our defender!

We go not forth alone against the foe;

Strong in Thy strength,

Safe in Thy keeping tender

We rest on Thee,

And in Thy name we go.

Strong in Thy strength,

Safe in Thy keeping tender,

We rest on Thee,

And in Thy name we go.

The next day they were all speared to death by the Indians. Do you remember that story? Elisabeth Elliot, a friend of ours, will say that’s interesting. “We rest on Thee,” they sang. “Strong in Thy strength and safe in Thy keeping.” The next day they were speared. So does it not work? “Of course it works,” she said. They also sang,

Jesus our righteousness,

Our sure foundation,

Our Prince of glory,

And our King of love.

You see, if the one thing that’s non-negotiable in your life, if the one thing you really want, if the one thing you really need, if the one thing is to gaze on the beauty of God, you’re absolutely safe, because the worst thing that could happen to you is a spear gets thrown through your heart (which is exactly what happened), in which case you gaze on the beauty of the Lord in a way you never have before.

Or there was an English missionary named Allen Gardiner. In 1851 he was on his way to South America to start a new mission, and he was shipwrecked on a very remote island. He and his companions tried their very best to stay alive until somebody came to find them, but nobody did. Finally he died, far away from everybody, far away from his loved ones, far away from his family, dying of thirst, dying of hunger. A horrible, horrible way to go.

When they finally discovered his body they found right next to his body was his quiet time notebook, his journal. They opened it up, and they saw on the very last page, he had written out Psalm 34:10. This is what it says: “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” Right underneath it, the last words he penned were, “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.”

Huh? What do you mean, “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God?” Why wasn’t he mad? Why wasn’t he angry? Why wasn’t he scared? Because he had the “one thing,” and there was nothing to be afraid of. Don’t you see it’s your only hope? Come and get it. Dwell. Gaze. Seek. Let’s pray.

Father, now we pray everybody in this room might be enabled to say, “The one thing I want is to dwell in your house and gaze on your beauty and seek you in your temple.” Father, for some of us, that’s going to mean actually to get ourselves converted to say that. For a lot of the rest of us, it means we’re going to have to reshuffle our priorities around and realize we’re living like pagans. Many, many good things have become our “one things,” and we’re being just jerked around by them. I pray today you will enable, by the power of your Spirit, to let everybody in this room say, “One thing I ask. One thing only will I seek.” We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.[1]

 About the Author

Tim Keller seated image

Timothy Keller is founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New York City and the author of numerous books, including The Reason for GodKing’s CrossCounterfeit GodsThe Prodigal God, and Generous Justice.


[1] Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

 

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Why the Incarnation of Jesus Was Necessary by Dr. Gordon Wenham

Christmas Incarnation

 

The Blood of the Lamb of God by Gordon Wenham

 

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins,” says the epistle to the Hebrews (9:22). Most of that epistle is taken up with showing how Christ fulfilled the hopes and aspirations of the Old Testament, especially in regard to the sacrificial system of ancient Israel. But for modern readers who have never seen a sacrifice and do not think in Old Testament categories, this is all double Dutch: What has the killing of animals to do with the forgiveness of sins?

It is explained at length in the book of Leviticus, which begins with a long section setting out just how to offer the different kinds of sacrifice and what each achieves (chap. 1–7). However, we need to start further back than this to understand Leviticus and the basic notion of sacrifice.

Genesis 18 tells how Abraham was visited one day by three men. He had no idea who they were, but being a very hospitable man, Abraham laid on a splendid feast for them. His wife Sarah made a pile of fresh bread, while he offered a tender young calf, which his servants killed and cooked for the visitors. We are not told that he gave them wine, but, doubtless where that was available, it too would be served to important guests. Subsequently Abraham discovered who his visitors were — the Lord and two angels!

Though this episode is not seen as a sacrifice, it does give us an insight into the basic dynamics of sacrifice. At a sacrifice, God is the most important guest: His presence is honored by offering Him those items — meat, bread, and wine — that were served only on very special occasions. Meat eating was a rare luxury in Old Testament times, and doubtless wine was reserved for big occasions too.

Israel’s ancient neighbors saw sacrifices as meals for the gods, but the Old Testament indignantly rejects this idea. It is God who provides food for man (Gen. 1:29), not the other way around. Psalm 50:10, 12 puts it well:

Every beast of the forest is mine,

the cattle on a thousand hills… .

If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the world and its fullness are mine.

So what was the point of these massive feasts in front of the tabernacle and later in the temple precincts? The first sacrifices in the Bible are those offered by Cain and Abel. These are mentioned straight after Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, where they had enjoyed walking with God in the cool of the day. Excluded from the garden, they were deprived of this privilege of intimacy with God. So one motive for sacrifice suggested by this story is that sacrifice allows man to renew fellowship with God.

But it must be offered in the right spirit. Cain offered only some of the fruit of the ground, whereas Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions” (Gen. 4:4), that is, the very best bits of his most valued animals. God accepted the latter but not the former. Here we realize one of the most important features of sacrifice: the animals must be young and healthy, not decrepit and elderly. The Passover lamb had to be without blemish and one year old. Repeatedly, the sacrificial laws in Leviticus insist that the animals involved must be “without blemish.” The Cain and Abel story shows what will happen if this is ignored: “they will not be accepted” (Lev. 22:25; see also 19:7; 22:20).

After the fall, an avalanche of sin, especially murder and violence, engulfed the world. God complains that sin is built into man: “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). “The earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (6:11). So God sent the flood to wipe out sinful humanity and start afresh with Noah, the one man “who was righteous, blameless in his generation” (6:9).

When Noah eventually emerged from the ark, his first act was to build an altar and offer sacrifice. One might suppose that this was just an act of thanksgiving for being saved from destruction himself, but the text indicates it achieved much more. “When the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth’” (8:21). In other words, though man’s evil character has not been changed (see 6:9), God’s attitude to human sin has: He will never again punish the world with a flood. Why? Because of the pleasing aroma of the sacrifices offered by Noah (8:21). Sacrifice according to Genesis 8 thus cools God’s anger at human sin. That animal sacrifices produce a pleasing aroma for God is a frequent refrain in Leviticus 1–7.

But why is animal sacrifice so effective in appeasing God’s wrath? The account of Abraham’s offering of Isaac gives some insight into this. Genesis 22 tells how God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his most precious possession, namely, his only son Isaac. Abraham did not know that this was a test — for him it was deadly earnest. So at the last minute, just as Abraham was about to cut Isaac’s throat, the angel of the Lord told him to stop: “for now I know that you fear God” (22:12). Then Abraham looked up, saw a ram, and offered it up instead of Isaac.

This story shows that if someone is ready to obey God totally, God will accept an animal instead of the worshiper. Isaac was Abraham’s future, and Abraham was willing to give him to God, yet God was satisfied with a ram. Here the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is illustrated for us. It is even clearer in the laws in Leviticus, where an essential feature of every sacrifice is the placing of the worshiper’s hand on the animal’s head. This action declares that the animal is taking the place of the worshiper. The worshiper is giving himself entirely to God by identifying himself with the animal; the animal is dying instead of the worshiper.

In Leviticus 1–7, four different types of animal sacrifice are discussed. The emphasis in these chapters is on how to carry out the different types of sacrifice. We must now focus on the features that distinguish one type of sacrifice from another. The burnt offering (Lev. 1) was unique in that it was the only sacrifice in which the entire animal was burnt on the altar. In this, the total consecration of the worshiper to the service of God was represented. At the same time, it made atonement (Lev. 1:4) for the worshiper. “Make atonement” is more exactly “pay a ransom,” a phrase used elsewhere in the Law, where an offender who might otherwise face the death penalty was let off by the payment of damages (for example, Ex. 21:30).

The peace offering (Lev. 3) was probably the most popular of Old Testament sacrifices, as it was the only one in which the worshiper who donated the animal had a share of the meat (usually, only the priests ate the sacrificial meat). The peace offering could be offered spontaneously as an act of thanksgiving to God, but it might be offered when you made a vow asking for God to do something for you, or when that prayer was answered.

The sin offering (Lev. 4) was peculiar in that some of the animal’s blood was smeared on the altar or sprinkled inside the tabernacle or temple. This blood cleansed the tabernacle from the pollution of sin. Sin does not just make one guilty before God or make Him angry, it also makes places and people unclean and thus unfit for God to dwell in. By smearing blood on the altar or sprinkling the interior of the temple with blood, these objects were cleansed of pollution. At the same time, the sinner who had caused the pollution by his misdeeds was forgiven his sins and cleansed from its pollution. This cleansing made it possible for God to re-enter the temple and indwell the believer.

Finally, there was the guilt offering (Lev. 5:14–6:7), which expressed the idea that certain deeds put us in God’s debt. These sins can only be atoned for by the sacrifice of an expensive ram. Though discussed relatively briefly in Leviticus, the sacrifice is of great importance in Isaiah 53, where the suffering servant is called the guilt offering (v. 10; see the ESV, “offering for sin”), who suffers for our transgressions (vv. 5–6). As this chapter describes most fully the atoning role of Christ, it is central to the New Testament’s understanding of Christ’s death.

The imagery of sacrifice in general pervades the New Testament’s interpretation of the cross. When John the Baptist said “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), he was most likely seeing Christ as the perfect Passover lamb, an image that Paul also uses when he speaks of “Christ, our Passover lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7). He is also seen as the supreme burnt offering, a sacrifice superior to Isaac, an idea alluded to in such well-known passages as John 3:16 and Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.” Mark 10:45 describes the Son of Man as the ultimate servant, who gave “his life as a ransom for many.” 1 John 1:7 takes up the imagery of the sin offering when he says that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” For the epistle to the Hebrews Jesus is the supreme High Priest, who through His death achieves all the goals to which the Old Testament sacrificial system pointed (see Heb. 9:1–14).

Finally, we should note that the death of Christ does not exhaust the significance of the sacrificial system for the Christian. We too are expected to walk in Christ’s footsteps and share His suffering (1 Peter 2:21–24). So we too are encouraged “to present our bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). Paul, anticipating his own death, compared it to being “poured out as a drink offering,” that is, like the wine that was poured over the altar with every animal sacrifice (see also Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6). In this way the old modes of worship should still inspire our consecration today.

 

About the Author: Dr. Gordon Wenham is senior professor of Old Testament at the University of Gloucestershire, England, and he served on the translation oversight committee for the English Standard Version Bible.

Article Information: From Tabletalk Magazine, September 1, 2005. © Tabletalk magazine 
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to http://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Any exceptions to the above must be formally approved by Tabletalk.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: http://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

 

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Jesus: Our Perfect High Priest by Nancy Guthrie

 

OYBODJITOT Guthrie 

None of Israel’s high priests ever lived up to what God intended for those he set apart to serve him in his Temple. Aaron sinned by leading the people in false worship. His sons sinned by offering unholy fire on God’s altar. Eli sinned by failing to discipline his sons who were such wicked priests that God struck them both down on the same day. Eventually the priesthood broke down altogether, so that the Old Testament ends with this warning: “The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 2: 7-8)

While the priesthood was responsible for its sinful failure, it was never meant to last forever, but rather to prepare God’s people for the perfect Priest God would send. Jesus came, not to fit into the earthly system of priestly ministry, but to fulfill and put an end to that human priesthood, and to orient our attention to his ministry on our behalf in heaven. As our perfect High Priest, Jesus ministers in a superior place— not in the Temple, but in heaven itself. “For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9: 24).

Jesus ministers to us with superior righteousness— not external, like a holy set of clothes, but intrinsic to his own holy person. “He is holy and blameless, unstained by sin” (Hebrews 7:26).

Jesus ministers to us with superior sympathy— he “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus ministers to us with superior longevity“There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever” (Hebrews 7: 23-24).

And Jesus ministers to us, offering a superior sacrifice— not by the repeated sacrifices of animals, but with the once-for-all sacrifice of himself. “With his own blood— not the blood of goats and calves— he entered the Most Holy

Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever” (Hebrews 9:12).

Prayer: Jesus, my merciful and faithful High Priest, you are the kind of priest I need because you are holy and blameless, unstained by sin.

Article adapted from the FABULOUS RESOURCE by Nancy Guthrie (2012-10-08). The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 7946-7965). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Guthrie Nancy image

About Nancy Guthrie (In Her Own Words):

“God has been preparing me my whole life for teaching his Word,” says Nancy Guthrie. “He has blessed me with so many sound Bible teachers to sit under–from my days as a college student in Bible classes, to terrific Bible Study Fellowship leaders, gifted pastors — as well as several teachers like Tim Keller and John Piper that I listen to almost daily on my ipod.”

Nancy’s life experience–dealing with the loss of two of her children–has significantly affected her teaching substance and style. “I’ve had to dig into God’s Word in search of answers to hard questions about how he works, and I and that my listeners usually have the same struggles and questions. And while I openly share the deep hurts in my life, I also like to laugh. People who hear me teach say that I’m very real, and that is certainly what I want to be.” “To me, God’s Word is a treasure to be mined,” Nancy says. “The deeper I go in it, the more I see its wisdom, the more it authenticates itself, the more it reveals to me the amazing mystery of God.”

Nancy is the author of six books including Holding on to Hope, The One Year Book of Hope, Hoping for Something Better, Dinner Table Devotions, Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow, and When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One (co-written with her husband, David). She is also the editor of several anthologies published by Crossway, collections of great writing by noted classic and contemporary Bible teachers and theologians including Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, Be Still My Soul, and O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.

She is currently working on another book for Tyndale’s One Year line that will be One Year of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament.

Nancy and her husband David live in Nashville, Tennessee while their son, Matt is off to Western Kentucky University.In addition to teaching opportunities at her church, Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Nancy speaks regularly at conferences and events around the country such as the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Conference, The Brooklyn Tabernacle, Second Baptist Church of Houston, Taylor University, Covenant College, and in countries including Scotland and Colombia.

 

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