Wednesday, November 30, 2011
This post is more intended as a thinking-out-loud post rather than a dogmatic one, but recently as I waslistening to a preacher mention these verses and read them I was struck by a thought of how these verses can overturn some misconceptions people sometimes have concerning God speaking to us. Jer. 32:6-8 Jeremiah said, "The word of the LORD came to me: Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, 'Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.' Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, 'Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.' Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. It should be noted that this all took place in the tenth year of Zedekiah that these events took place and thus it was near the end after more than 20 years as a prophet that this happened. Jeremiah receives a word concerning an event that would happen that day, and the impression that he should buy this field. It was a sign because at the time of this purchase the city was in the middle of a siege which the next year would result in its total ruin. Jeremiah’s purchase was showing his own faith that what he had foretold concerning the return after 70 years would be fulfilled, literally putting his money where his mouth was. What I would like to focus on in this portion, though, is the way he handled this word. Jeremiah had a word come to him which he believed was from God. It contained specific details of what would happen. Having received the word the details then occurred, and Jeremiah was confirmed in the course of action he should take, and also knew beyond all doubt that the word was from God, writing, “Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.” This shows us that even experienced prophets do not always know that every impression they feel is from God is from God. Jeremiah received what he believed to be a word from God and yet he waited to see the details line up before he said anything to anyone. If you read this portion of Scripture it seems that Jeremiah is alerting Baruch to this event right after the fact. It was only after the prediction came to pass that Jeremiah knew (infallibly) that this was the word of God. Thus even prophets should wait and ponder words of personal guidance to see if events match their impression and then they will know what is God’s word, which is tried seven times, and what is mere human impression. People sometimes think that prophets have an automatic infallible ear, but Jeremiah only knew that it was God’s word to him when he saw it coming to pass. Practically this should be a test that we subject our own things we feel God speaking to us to, namely, if it contains certain events or details, do they come to pass? It is wise to hold our peace when we feel something and lay it before the Lord, if it is of Him it will work out, if not we can be sure it was our own idea. Afterwards we can mention it to others even as Jeremiah did. May God guide us until death and receive us to glory! Amen.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Psalm 45, one of the Messianic Psalms written for Solomon but looking beyond him to Christ reads in verse 2, “You are the fairest of the sons of men; grace is poured into Your lips; therefore God has blessed You forever.” The thought is contained that not only is grace poured into the lips of the Messiah, but that this grace overflows and pours out from His lips. Christ was able to answer all people at all times with grace, He was able to bridle His tongue and was thus truly the perfect Man (James 3:2). In this post I would like to look at just how Christ showed lips of grace, so that we can see how far we often fall short of it and learn to be like Him. Since what a man is truly like is most often manifest in times of difficulty – George Washington was a man of very guarded temper, yet he forgot himself at Monmouth and when first hearing of St. Clair's debacle and these two instances are the only times when he was ever known to swear. Even the Apostle Paul did not always respond perfectly in his tests as we will see later here, but Christ shows His divinity in that the harder the trial the more admirable was His speech. I would like to look at a few instances in Christ's life now and if nothing else we will learn why the inhabitants of heaven cannot help but cry, “worthy is the Lamb!” 1. How He handled betrayal Christ's response to Judas in the garden is amazing. While He had spoken strong words of warning to him in the upper room prior to the betrayal (Matt. 26:21-24) perhaps as a last measure to save his soul or at least leave him without excuse, yet in the garden His response could not be more mild. He does not revile him, but instead gives the most mild expostulation possible, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Judas is that really what you are capable of, to use the closest sign of friendship as a sign of betrayal? There was no vindictiveness or rancour in Christ's behavior to Judas, but rather sorrow for who Judas was – what he had willingly become. 2. How He responded to gross injustice The trials of Jesus are interesting if for no other reason than that they show a total and complete disregard for law. The two legal systems that antiquity passed on to modern society and are recognized as most just are the Jewish and Roman, and both legal systems were entirely set aside by the judges in Christ's trial. Roman law required strictness of accusation. If a man was tried it had to be for a specific offense, at a specific time, yet when Pilate asked what charge was to be brought against Christ he received a reply that would have been grounds for dismissal in any ordinary trial, “If he were not an evildoer, we would not have brought Him here” (John 18:30). Other anomalies of this Roman trial include but are not limited to: pronouncing a not guilty verdict but not releasing the prisoner but instead offering Him in an exchange; followed by another not guilty verdict, and a flogging; and finally a third not guilty verdict resulting in the crucifixion. Christ's demeanor through all of this was outstanding. Actually He was not the one on trial, it was the whole world system and all its hypocrisy and time serving that was on trial and it and its ministers were found sorely wanting as the came up close to the Judge of all who brings forth His righteousness every morning. Prior to the Roman trial (in this small post we will not be examining the minor trial before Herod, which was really Pilates first hand-washing attempt) were the Jewish trials. These were likewise highly improper by Jewish law. The most notable irregularities involve the timing and secrecy of the trial (night time trials and secret trials were unheard of, because it was necessary that witnesses be able to come forward, this was especially true in regard to capitol crimes). Another major irregularity involves Christ being asked directly concerning His doctrine. All legal proceedings in following Mosaic law required two or three witnesses, and unlike in Roman law, torture and intimidation could not be used to extort a confession. It is from this Mosaic legal basis that the United States gets its fifth ammendment in the bill of rights. Yet Christ was directly questioned concerning His teachings in a deliberate attempt to trap Him in His words, was given no advocate, and had the judge also playing the part of prosecutor. When He brought attention to the illegality of the proceedings and requested that witnesses be produced to His words since He had never taught secretly, He was struck on the face. At this point Christ shows His divine dignity, rather than becoming rightly indignant, as even the Apostle Paul later did in a similar situation (Acts 23:1-3), He merely asks that if He had said something wrong let it be shown Him. After the false witnesses had been produced and had contradicted each other without suffering the ordinary consequences, Christ as the faithful and true Witness indicted Himself by His response to the oath of the High Priest, because to not come forward at that point would have been sin (Lev. 5:1). Through all of His trial He shows Himself to be above reproach in everything He did. While Paul had to apologize for his outburst, though it was honestly deserved, Christ kept His composure throughout His longer and even more unjust ordeal. 3. His Words to the Mourning Women Another amazing outflowing of grace from the lips of Christ is found in His address to the women who were customarily mourning for His death, because He was dying without offspring. He looked beyond His own suffering of the time, which had included a merciless flogging and beaten face, and plucked out beard, and had compassion for what His people who had rejected Him would endure, saying, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 23:28-31). Furthermore Christ while on the cross asked for forgiveness for those who killed Him, and welcomed the first penitent sinner, who had formerly reviled Him into His kingdom. All of these acts of grace flowed out in His time of greatest anguish. May God grant that we also are able to show a small measure of the grace that poured from Christ's lips in our own speech. Amen.
Sunday, November 06, 2011
Hannah was a remarkable woman, who became the mother of an even more remarkable son – Samuel, who carried the nation of Israel from the end of the time of the judges into the reign of their first king and the anointing of the second king. The story of Hannah does not start with a promise instead it starts with a problem. 1Sa 1:1-2 “There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.” Hannah was barren. This was a horrible reproach in those times, and in Hannah’s case one made worse by the behavior of her husband’s other wife. Hannah’s character is seen in that instead of retaliating at the insults, she went to the Lord. Yet emotionally this trial was very difficult for her, and she was so vexed that she would not eat. Clearly this was a problem and a need. Yet there is a greater need here than may be readily apparent. God had a need. He needed a prophet. The word of the Lord was rare in those days and the priests were leading the people into sin instead of into the knowledge of God’s ways. God’s burden was for the whole nation and carried into account the succeeding generations, at this point all Hannah was interested in was a son. Scripture tells us that God had closed Hannah’s womb (v. 6). So this trial was not caused by sin or the devil or anything else. It was brought about by God to bring Hannah into a place where instead of just carrying her own burden she begins to catch a glimpse of God’s burden. As the years pass by Hannah becomes more desperate, eventually she is so overcome with her need that she vows to give the son back to the Lord and have him consecrated as a Nazarite from birth. This is what God was waiting for. Hannah did not say these things lightly, she was actually so emotionally wrought as she was praying that the high priest, Eli thought she was drunk. Again Hannah’s character is shown in how she handles being misunderstood. When she could have been very angry at what happened, and even offended, she mildly explains herself to Eli (v. 15-16). Eli then pronounces a blessing upon her. At this point Hannah manifests a rest of faith, having received the word of God from the priest, she went home with a cheerful face and ate. Emotionally she came to peace by resting in God’s promise even though nothing had changed at all. Lastly Hannah fulfilled her vow to the Lord after Samuel was born. After she did that, God granted her even more children. To sum up the points I see in Hannah’s life to emulate if we want to see our prayers answered: 1. Take you burden to God 2. If He requires something from you give it, don’t just ask for your own needs, meet His and others needs 3. Do not become offended if you are misunderstood 4. If God speaks rest in His Word 5. Fulfill what you have promised unto the Lord in your distress May God give us all hearts like Hannah’s. Amen