‘Genesis 24 and God’s plan for the world’ by David Schrock

camel train, Middle East, Palestine, Egypt, Abraham, Genesis 24, Isaac

Image from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs online catalog.

“And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” . . . . ”Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor.” (Genesis 24.2-4,10). An old photograph (taken between 1934 and 1939) showing a camel caravan in the Middle East.

Genesis 24 tells how Abraham found a wife for his son Isaac. It’s the longest chapter in the Book of Genesis. David Schrock explains this story and explores its importance in the Bible storyline. He writes, “. . . the longest narrative event in Genesis is a love story, one that seems Dickens-like in its profusion of extraneous information. Certainly, as the promises of God are given to Abraham and his offspring, the marriage of his son is no small matter. Yet, it seems as though the account of the servant traveling back to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac is prolix detour from the rest of Genesis. . . . . So why the long drama of finding Isaac a wife? My answer is that this story reflects God’s story for the world, and the long-time-in-coming union between God’s beloved son with his bride. Let’s consider.”

After showing us how Genesis should be read in the context of the whole Bible story, he comments, ”. . . we have reason to read Genesis 24 as a narrative meant to point to Christ, just as the firstborn son of Abraham points to Christ (cf. Romans 8.31–32). We should likewise see the account of Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage as patterned after the original marriage and foreshadowing a greater marriage—after all, this is the mystery marriage, that every husband and wife are types of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5.22–33). Last, we should consider how Moses intended to tell the history of Isaac and Rebekah and perhaps something else—namely another rehearsal of the exodus event he had experienced with Israel. . . . . With these ‘reading requirements’ in place, what do we find in Genesis 24?”

Dr Schrock details how the story in Genesis 24 foreshadows how God will bring a bride to His Son. He concludes, “Incredibly, Genesis 24 is not the longest chapter in Genesis by accident. It is a pure and holy story of covenant marriage, set against all the other debauched stories of sexual immorality in Genesis. And . . . it teaches us how to look at the entire world with hope in Christ and the marriage he offers to those who forsake their fathers and join themselves to God’s Son. . . . . It surely should encourage us as we the bride serve our Master and call others to come to him!”

Read the whole article HERE.

CREDITS Scripture citations (other than those in quotations from other authors) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 19 (1 February 2019)

What does it mean that God is jealous? Tim Challies asks, “God’s perfections are a matter for praise; but how can we praise God for being jealous?”

The missing word in our modern Gospel Kevin DeYoung writes, “By definition, you cannot have a Christian who isn’t shaped by and saved by the gospel. . . . . But let’s preach the gospel the way Jesus and the apostles did. . . . . It is good news to hear . . . that God loves us in Christ and that we are precious in his sight. But the gospel is more than positive self-talk, and the gospel Jesus and the apostles preached was more than a warm, “don’t let anybody tell you you’re not special” bear hug. There’s a word missing from the presentation of our modern gospel.”

The everlasting impact of faithful shepherding Dustin J. Coleman writes, “The Bible calls on both the church community and the leaders of the church to care for and oversee each of its members. . . . . Faithful shepherding secures souls. . . . . Faithful shepherding has an everlasting impact.”

Learning to linger in a Spotify age Jimmy Needham asks, “If we cultivate unfocused and fickle attention spans, how can we possibly expect to cultivate a deep and intimate knowledge of God?”

His Suffering Sparked a Movement. David Brainerd (1718–1747) John Piper writes, “His life was short — 29 years, 5 months, and 19 days. And only eight of those years as a Christian. Only four as a missionary. And yet few lives have sent ripples so far and so wide as David Brainerd’s. Why has his life made the impact that it has?”

Teaching doctrine to uneducated hearers Andy Prime, a church planter in Edinburgh, Scotland, shares briefly about his experience of teaching in a context where there are many people who won’t achieve any educational qualifications.

What does it mean that God is jealous?

Tim Challies writes, “. . . time and time again, God reveals himself as a jealous God. He even goes as far as to give his name as Jealous (Exodus 34.14). So we do well to ask: “What is the nature of this divine jealousy? How can jealousy be a virtue in God when it is a vice in humans? God’s perfections are a matter for praise; but how can we praise God for being jealous?” Read the whole article HERE.

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The missing word in our modern Gospel.

Kevin DeYoung writes, “By definition, you cannot have a Christian who isn’t shaped by and saved by the gospel. . . . . But let’s preach the gospel the way Jesus and the apostles did. Theirs was not a message of unconditional affirmation. They showed no interest in helping people find the hidden and beautiful self deep inside. They did not herald the good news that God likes you just the way you are. . . . . I don’t doubt that many of us feel beat up and put down. We struggle with shame and self-loathing. We need to know we can be okay, even when we don’t feel okay. It is good news to hear, then, that God loves us in Christ and that we are precious in his sight. But the gospel is more than positive self-talk, and the gospel Jesus and the apostles preached was more than a warm, “don’t let anybody tell you you’re not special” bear hug. There’s a word missing from the presentation of our modern gospel.” What is that missing word? And why is it so important? DeYoung explains.

Read the whole article HERE.

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The everlasting impact of faithful shepherding.

Dustin J. Coleman writes, “A couple of weeks ago, I had two conversations. The first was with my best friend from college, Steve. . . . . He told me how he did not any longer consider himself a Christian or have any sliver of belief in what could be called the Christian God. I could hardly sleep that night. I buried my head in my pillow, praying with all my heart that God would undo in Steve’s heart what I had heard him say with his mouth. The second conversation I had later that week was with Joan, a woman who is a member of our church but has not been attending recently. The elders of our church have a shepherding plan where we contact each of our members, whether by phone or face to face, every couple of months. . . . . She had been struggling in her faith. . . . . As we talked, I reminded her of the gospel. I reminded her of our church’s love and concern for her. I reminded her not to separate herself from her faith family and cut herself off from the preserving power of church fellowship. . . . . . . . by the end of our conversation she was joyful. . . . . As I hung up, two questions overwhelmed me: First, what would have happened to Joan if no one had called? And second, had anyone from Steve’s church ever called him? When he stopped showing up, did anyone notice? Did anyone from his church community reach out to him, not to chide him for non-attendance, but to listen to his heart and the areas where he was struggling? Did anyone remind him of the gospel? Affirm their affection for him? In short, did anyone from Steve’s church take responsibility for his soul? . . . . Faithful shepherding secures souls. . . . . Faithful shepherding has an everlasting impact.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Learning to linger in a Spotify age.

Jimmy Needham comments, “Humans were made to gaze. . . . . My greatest times of growth and dependence on God have come when I’ve taken an extra hour, day, or week to wrestle with a passage, meditate on a truth, or enjoy a promise. . . . . The best things in life don’t come in an instant but over time, which means we must cultivate the ability to wait, listen, and linger. Our age, though, is one of short-form content. We live in a world of bits and bytes, snippets and sermonettes, scores of one-liners—140 characters or less if you please. . . . . Scripture shows us what it looks like to become stable, sturdy, faith-filled people. We learn that the righteous man “delights in the law of the LORD, and in his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2). It is sad but true that, by and large, the church has lost the capacity to meditate like this.”

Needham asks, “If we cultivate unfocused and fickle attention spans, how can we possibly expect to cultivate a deep and intimate knowledge of God? . . . . Are fast-paced mediums of entertainment and social networking making it difficult for you to linger long over the things of God? If so, bid them farewell for the sake of joy.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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His Suffering Sparked a Movement. David Brainerd (1718–1747).

John Piper writes, “His life was short — 29 years, 5 months, and 19 days. And only eight of those years as a Christian. Only four as a missionary. And yet few lives have sent ripples so far and so wide as David Brainerd’s. Why has his life made the impact that it has? Why did John Wesley say, “Let every preacher read carefully over the Life of David Brainerd“? Why did William Carey regard Jonathan Edwards’s Life of David Brainerd as precious and holy? Why did Henry Martyn (missionary to India and Persia) write, as a student in Cambridge in 1802, “I long to be like him!” (Life of David Brainerd, 4)?  . . . . Why has this life had such a remarkable influence? Or perhaps I should pose a more modest and manageable question: Why does it have such an impact on me? How has it helped me to press on in the ministry and to strive for holiness and divine power and fruitfulness in my life?”

Piper continues, “The answer is that Brainerd’s life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints who cry to him day and night to accomplish amazing things for his glory. There is great fruit in their afflictions. To illustrate this, we will look first at Brainerd’s struggles, then at how he responded to them, and finally at how God used him with all his weaknesses.”

Dr Piper gives a brief biography of David Brainerd – the various struggles that he faced and his response to them, the fruit of his ministry, the impact of Jonathan Edwards’ biography of him, The Life of David Brainerd.

Read the whole article HERE.

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Teaching doctrine to uneducated hearers.

Andy Prime, a church planter in Gracemount, Edinburgh, Scotland, shares briefly about his experience of teaching in a context where there are many people who won’t achieve any educational qualifications. He says, “teaching doctrine to someone who has been a school dropout is not harder than teaching doctrine to someone who’s got a university degree. It may change the way you do it but it doesn’t change the fact that you can do it.” Listen to what he says HERE. Learn more about Andy and his wife Sarah and their ministry HERE.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in direct quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

‘On the third day’ by James M. Hamilton

Image © Lumo Project through Free Bible Images All rights reserved

“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 26.5-6)

In this fascinating little exploration of Old Testament typology, James M. Hamilton writes, “There is no prediction in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be raised from the dead on the third day, but when Paul says that Jesus “was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”, he’s not referring to a prediction. Paul is referring to the fulfillment of these patterns . . . .” Dr. Hamilton briefly explains seven Old Testament passages which he sees as foreshadowing Jesus’s resurrection on the third day. They include events in the lives of Abraham, David, Hezekiah, Esther and Jonah; a passage in Hosea’s prophecy, and something that Moses tells us in His narrative of the covenant that God made with His people at Mount Sinai. Dr Hamilton tells us “All the promises are yes and amen in him, all the patterns find fulfillment in him, and all the shadowy types have their substance in him.”

Read the whole article HERE.

CREDITS Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture citations (other than those quoted by other authors) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved..

‘Sabbath: a token of eternity’ by Bernard Bell

The Garden of Eden from Wikimedia

The Garden of Eden by Thomas Cole (1801-1848).

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2.1-3).

Bernard Bell explores the theology of the Sabbath from Genesis to Revelation – in the creation account; in the Old Testament era; for Jesus, during His earthly ministry; for us as God’s New Testament people; and in the new creation. He writes: “On this seventh day [of creation], four verbs are predicated of God: he completed, he rested, he blessed, and he sanctified.”

Bell comments, “The climax of creation is the consecration of time.” God called His people Israel to observe the sabbath. Bell writes, “The Sabbath was given to Israel as a picture of the seventh day. On the Sabbath, Israel was to fall into the pattern established by God when he completed his work and rested. This established a rhythm to the week: for six days the Israelites labored, then for one day they rested. Each week, the Israelites took a journey through time. The Sabbath was the goal of the week, the day that gave meaning to other six days. But after each Sabbath they had to start the journey over again. This rhythm that Israel observed each week was itself contained within two larger rhythms. Every seventh year, Israel was to give her land a sabbatical year, a year of rest from being cultivated (Leviticus 25.1-7). After every seventh sabbatical year, i.e., every fiftieth year, Israel was to celebrate a Jubilee Year in which slaves were set free and land restored to its rightful owner (Leviticus 25.8-55). These cycles of a week, of seven years, and of fifty years, were powerful reminders that there lay something beyond the mundane life of the daily routine. Beyond the common lay the sacred, the holy. Beyond the six days lay the seventh. Beyond the six years lay the seventh. Beyond the forty-nine years lay the fiftieth.”

He asks, “Why did Jesus choose the Sabbath for so many of his healing miracles, such as the one in Mark 2.23-3.6? . . . . The seventh day was the goal toward which God moved his Creation, the day in which God brought creation into completion. The Sabbath was his gift to Israel, the goal towards which both creation and redemption moved. Surely then, Sabbath is the most appropriate day for Jesus to heal people, . . . . Sabbath was the day for being made whole, made complete so that one could enter into rest.”

But what does the Sabbath mean for us now? Should we observe it – and, if so, how? Bell writes, “The first Christians recognized that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, something dramatic had happened to Sabbath. These Jewish Christians quickly moved their assemblies to the first day of the week. Paul, formerly the most fanatical of Pharisees, and therefore punctilious about Sabbath observance, came to realize that Sabbath was just a shadow of a reality that had now arrived.” He concludes, “Today [Sunday] is not Sabbath; it is what Sabbath pointed to. In turn, both Sabbath and Today point towards the Seventh Day that will fill all of time. Both are tokens of eternity. Sabbath was one day in seven. Today is seven days in seven. Go out today and live it as a token of eternity, but then carry on living that way on Monday and on through the week. Improvise however you see fit, but do so within the framework established by the rest of the plot. Then it will be a day of completion, of rest, of blessing, and of holiness. Sabbath is not the place we’re not allowed to play football, but the place where we enter God’s teleological rest through Christ, and live a foretaste of eternity. ”

The sermon is available as an audio file and a PDF HERE.

CREDITS Scripture citations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

‘Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord?’ by L. Michael Morales

“Once a soul has come to understand something of the unutterable majesty of the holiness of God,” writes L. Michael Morales, “the question asked in Psalm 15 and 24 suddenly weighs upon the heart: “Who shall ascend the mountain of the LORD?” That is, who can draw near to this living God in worship? . . . . Who, what’s more, could ever abide with God in his house?”

He continues, “Ezekiel 28:13-14 describes the Garden of Eden as being upon “the holy mountain of God”, . . . . Our first parents, then, had tasted the bliss of living in the Presence of God upon the holy mount. . . . . But from this breath-taking height, radiant with the countenance of God, Adam’s sin plunged all humanity into the dark abyss of exile from the divine Presence – a ‘Fall’, to be sure. Humanity, once enjoying the paradise of God himself, was made to descend the mountain of the LORD. Who, now, shall ascend? . . . . The tragedy of the Fall is the catastrophe about which the drama of the Bible turns, a drama that finds its denouement (or resolution) through the promised Messiah who, in bearing our sins upon the Cross so to bear the holy wrath, will one day bear us into the glory of our Father’s Presence. . . . . Between the original creation (and subsequent Fall) described at the beginning of Genesis and the glory of humanity dwelling with God in the new creation at the end of Revelation, there is a sweeping drama. . . . all the biblical narratives following the Fall of Genesis 3 are in some fashion or another, and by varying degrees, moving this drama forward, developing the plot that eventually resolves in, to borrow Dante’s insight, a “comedy”. That plot can be followed by keeping one’s eye (and, surely, one’s heart) fixed upon the central question given us in Israel’s book of worship: “Who shall ascend the mountain of the LORD?” This theme at the heart of Scripture would, I think, be profitable for us to explore together….”

Dr. Morales briefly and deftly explores this theme through Genesis and Exodus, until the LORD’s glory-cloud descended upon the Tabernacle. He concludes, “. . . the Tabernacle had become Israel’s portable Mount of the LORD, that is, Israel’s regulated means of approaching God. The Tabernacle cultus, then, was a theological drama. This drama called upon memory, looking back to Adam’s lost communion with the Creator atop Eden’s mount. More profoundly, this drama called upon faith, prophetically looking forward to the last Adam and ultimate High Priest’s ascent into the reality of the heavenly Zion’s summit.”

The article is in three parts: read part 1 HERE, part 2 HERE, and part 3 HERE.

L. Michael Morales is the author of Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus. In this brilliant study of the Book of Leviticus, we learn about the book’s narrative context, literary structure and dramatic movement, and theology. And the author tracks the development from the Tabernacle to Zion’s temple and through to the heavenly Mount Zion in the New Testament. Dr. Morales shows how life with God in the house of God was God’s original goal for His creation – and thus is the goal of God’s plan of redemption, a plan that culminates in the new creation. See the publisher’s description HERE (please note: the first of the reviews on that page is about a another book, and is placed here in error).

‘The four seeds of Abraham: natural, national, Christ and “in Christ”‘ by David Schrock

“And [the LORD] brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15.5–6).

David Schrock writes, “. . . it is vital to see how God’s earlier revelation prepares the way for his later purposes. Sometimes this is called an ‘eschatological’ reading of Scripture. That may sound complicated, but it’s not. Eschatology means ‘the study of last things’ (eschatos = last), and most of the time people immediately jump to what they perceive are the ‘last things’ in the Bible. However, if we consider that God stands outside of time and created all things for the purpose putting them under his Son’s feet (see Ephesians 1:10), then we must read the Bible as one unified-but-unfolding plan of redemption. In this way, eschatology doesn’t begin in Revelation, or Daniel, or Zechariah, it begins in Genesis. And from Genesis to Revelation, God is working all things for the purposes of his people—the offspring of Abraham. But who is/are Abraham’s offspring?”

Dr. Schrock explains who the four seeds of Abraham are, and places them in the developing storyline of the Bible. He concludes, “. . . ultimately, it is the third and fourth seeds that are most important. To be sure, the second seed takes up most of the pages in Scripture, but that second seed was always chosen for the purpose of the third seed. And nestled within the second seed, even before the coming of the third, was the fourth. . . . . Keep your eyes on the storyline of Scripture, and watch how the historical figures in the Old Testament bear witness to the coming Christ. In Scripture, all things are directed towards him, and thus only as we place faith in him, do God’s people find their blessing, as children of Abraham. This is how the Scripture explain God’s purposes in time, just as Paul puts in Galatians 3.23–29. . . . . Indeed, as we read Scripture may we learn how to tell the time. And most important for setting our watches is learning to see how God is at work over the different covenants of Scripture.”

Read the whole article HERE.

CREDITS All Scripture citations (other than those in quotations from other authors) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 18 (4 January 2019)

The priority that isn’t Tony Payne wrote “Over the past couple of months, pastors and church leadership teams in many parts of the world have been reviewing the year just past, and dreaming and scheming about the year to come. . . . . Perhaps you and your team have been be considering some of the following plans . . . .” He then lists 8 areas of church life and ministry. He comments, “The problem, of course, is that you simply can’t do all this. . . . . So which items are you going to prioritize?”

If you preach like Whitefield, think like Wesley Eric Geiger writes, “In his highly popular book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell contrasted the ministry of George Whitefield and John Wesley. . . . . . . . Wesley’s impact was more far-reaching . . . . ” Geiger explains why, and how we can, in his words, “think like Wesley”.

‘Broken,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘surrender’: the problem of Christian jargon Dan Doriani throws a spotlight on a number of terms often used in Christian circles. He comments, ”The need to get our language right applies to all sorts of theological and ethical discussions. Approaching them, we remember Paul forbids quarrels about words and encourages a peaceable approach (2 Timothy 2.14, 24–26). Yet we also know that precise language is a servant of good theology. . . . . So let us strive to use the right words in the right way, for the sake of Christ and his church.”

Say it in a sentence Justin Buzzard writes, “When I was 21, I started preaching once a month at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. . . . . One Thursday afternoon I went for a walk with my pastor. He asked me what my sermon was about for later that night. Four minutes into trying to explain what my sermon was about, my pastor interrupted me and said: “SAY IT IN A SENTENCE!” . . . . That piece of advice transformed my preaching . . . .”

Four lessons I’ve learned from the Puritans Dave Arnold writes, “Although I was exposed to a few of the Puritans when I was in college – namely, in my preaching classes – it wasn’t until 2014 that God, by His grace, opened my eyes to these spiritual giants of the seventeenth century and forever changed my life.”

He will hold me fast Ada R. Habershon wrote the hymn When I fear my faith will fail in 1906; the chorus begins He will hold me fast. Matt Merker adapted the words and wrote a new tune for it. This is a wonderful hymn; in Keith and Kristyn Getty’s words, “a unique jewel that would be a comfort and encouragement to God’s people as we live out faith in these difficult times, whether in suffering, persecution or death.”

The priority that isn’t

Tony Payne, of Matthias Media, wrote (in January 2014): “Over the past couple of months, pastors and church leadership teams in many parts of the world have been reviewing the year just past, and dreaming and scheming about the year to come. . . . . Perhaps you and your team have been be considering some of the following plans . . . .” He then lists 8 areas of church life and ministry. He comments, “The problem, of course, is that you simply can’t do all this. You have limited time and resources. So which items are you going to prioritize? . . . . . . . I continue to be surprised at how widely one of the most important of these bullet points is neglected. It just gets overlooked, or put in the too-hard basket, or falls off the end of the priority list in the face of all the other competing pressures and possibilities. It is one of the most important because it is the bullet-point that in many respects drives and enables all the others.” What is that priority? Find out HERE.

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If you preach like Whitefield, think like Wesley.

Eric Geiger writes, “In his highly popular book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell contrasted the ministry of George Whitefield and John Wesley. Gladwell articulated that Whitefield was the better communicator, a more powerful preacher than Wesley. Whitefield was also known as a more capable theologian than Wesley, more likely to be compared to Luther or Calvin than Wesley would have been. Yet Wesley’s impact was more far-reaching . . . .” Geiger explains why. He then briefly considers what it means, in his words, “to think like Wesley”. Read the whole article HERE.

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‘Broken,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘surrender’: the problem of Christian jargon.

Dan Doriani writes, “It’s easy, perhaps even necessary, to mock Christian jargon from time to time. . . . . . . . however, we must make distinctions. Some jargon comes directly from Scripture. For example, “saved” appears many times in God’s Word, and it generally has the sense we give it in church circles. “Saved” is an important biblical term, and the danger is not that it’s misleading, but that we use it thoughtlessly, so the term loses its heft. But more often, our jargon has a light connection to Scripture. One thinks of prayer language like “hedge of protection” and “open door.” . . . . “Broken” is an interesting case. In my circles (perhaps not yours), certain pastors and teachers often tell their people they are broken or need to face their brokenness. . . . . There are three difficulties with the jargonish use of “broken.” . . . . There is a third category of jargon—terms that have no biblical basis whatsoever and come from secular culture. “Surrender,” “transparency,” and “authenticity” all belong in this category.”

In his conclusion, Dr. Doriani comments, “The need to get our language right applies to all sorts of theological and ethical discussions. Approaching them, we remember Paul forbids quarrels about words and encourages a peaceable approach (2 Timothy 2.14, 24–26). Yet we also know that precise language is a servant of good theology. . . . . So let us strive to use the right words in the right way, for the sake of Christ and his church.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Say it in a sentence.

Justin Buzzard writes, “When I was 21, I started preaching once a month at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. I didn’t know how to preach and I wanted to learn . . . . . . . . I used spare time to work on my sermons for the Rescue Mission. I didn’t have a method. I generally picked a text or two, studied the text, then wrote down a bunch of stuff to say. One Thursday afternoon I went for a walk with my pastor. He asked me what my sermon was about for later that night. Four minutes into trying to explain what my sermon was about, my pastor interrupted me and said: “SAY IT IN A SENTENCE!” He said I wasn’t ready to preach until I could state what my sermon was about in one, clear sentence. That piece of advice transformed my preaching . . . .” [Please note: a link to an interview follows, but this link is broken.] Read the whole article HERE.

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Four lessons I’ve learned from the Puritans.

Dave Arnold writes, “Although I was exposed to a few of the Puritans when I was in college – namely, in my preaching classes – it wasn’t until 2014 that God, by His grace, opened my eyes to these spiritual giants of the seventeenth century and forever changed my life. I remember the morning clearly. It was early and my daughter (who was only a few months old), was sitting on my lap contently. I reached over to grab my Kindle and scrolled through the ‘free books’ section. It was then my eyes fell upon a title Samuel Rutherford and Some of His Correspondents by Alexander Whyte. I knew of Whyte and had read some of his sermons, so I thought I’d download it. And I’m so glad I did! Whyte had me at the introduction, as he beautifully portrayed the life of Rutherford, the great Scottish divine of Anwoth, his exile in Aberdeen, his involvement in the Westminster Assembly, and most importantly, his ardent love for Christ. Not only did I read Whyte’s classic work on Rutherford’s letters, but then went on to read the Letters myself, which drastically impacted the trajectory of my life. Moreover, through Whyte, and then incidentally, Rutherford, their writing opened my eyes to other Puritans; and thus, my journey to understand the Puritans began. With that said, I’d like to share with you four lessons on how the Puritans have impacted me personally.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Ada R. Habershon (1861–1918) wrote the hymn When I fear my faith will fail in 1906. Matt Merker has adapted the words and written a new tune for it, which was introduced to Merker’s church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC, in 2013. Keith and Kristyn Getty write, “From the first time we heard this song written by Matt Merker, we felt it was a unique jewel that would be a comfort and encouragement to God’s people as we live out faith in these difficult times, whether in suffering, persecution or death.” Kristyn Getty sings it as a solo in the YouTube video above. Below you can hear it sung by the congregation of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

You can find more information, including the lyrics and Matt Merker’s story of how he came to write this new version of Ada Habershon’s hymn, HERE.

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‘Holy War: Jesus Style’ by Nick Batzig

The charge © Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Roman soldiers charging – a re-enactment by the Ermine Street Guard. The Guard’s reconstructions are primarily from the latter half of the first century AD (the period of the early Church). Paul would therefore have been familiar with soldiers’ uniform of this type. In Ephesians 6.11-19, Paul pictures believers as Roman soldiers. He writes: “Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” He lists the pieces of armour that God provides: “the belt of truth” , “the breastplate of righteousness” , “as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” , “the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” , and “the helmet of salvation” . Our weapon is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” . Then he writes, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, . . . .”

Nicholas Batzig writes, “While it may not appear evident at first glance, the Holy War in which Israel was engaged in the Old Covenant (Exodus 34.11-16) and the Holy War in which Christians are engaged in the New Covenant (Ephesians 6.10-19) are directly related to the saving work of Christ.”

A key point that Batzig makes is this: “The idea of purification stands at the forefront of God’s command for Israel to destroy the nations in the land of Canaan.”

He tells us: “The cleansing of the land of Israel through Holy War prefigured the cleansing of the Temple. Vern Poythress explains the connection between the land and the Temple when he writes: “ . . . . Because the land is particularly associated with God, it is in a broad sense holy and will be defiled by gross sins (Leviticus 18.24-28). . . . . Defilement of the land corresponds to defilement of the tabernacle, and cleansing of the land, as in Numbers 35.33-34, corresponds to cleansing the tabernacle. . . . . ”

Batzig continues, “ . . . . “The several acts of Temple cleansing in the Old Testament pointed back to the conquest of Canaan and forward to the work of Christ (2 Chronicles 29.3-19; Nehemiah 13.4-31). . . . . At the beginning of his ministry our Lord said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up. (John 2.19); He “was speaking of the Temple of His body” (John 2.21). . . . . When Christ was crucified, the Temple was cleansed in the greatest act of judgment. In the destruction of His flesh, the sin of His people was cleansed (2 Corinthians 5.21). The Father declared Holy War on His people, and their sin, when He declared it on His Son. In the death of Jesus, the people of God were judged for their sins. When Jesus was crucified, we were crucified with Him (Galatians 2.20). The power of sin was destroyed (Galatians 5.24). When He rose, we rose with Him to newness of life (Romans 6.5-10; Colossians 3.3).”

Batzig tells us, “Today, the Church is engaged in Holy War. It is a war against the spiritual enemies who lay behind the kingdoms of this world (Ephesians 6.10-11). . . . . At the cross, Jesus disarmed principalities and powers (Colossians 2.13). In His ascension He plundered the enemy (Ephesians 4.8), freeing His people from the power of sin and the devil. We participate in His victory by participating in the Church’s mission. When sinners are converted, they undergo a spiritual death and resurrection. Their hearts are cleansed through faith in the crucified Savior. Wherever the message of the cross is proclaimed—and whenever believers engage in hand-to-hand combat with their sin—Holy War is being fought.”

Read the whole article HERE.

In his article, Batzig quotes a number of passages from Vern Poythress’ excellent book The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses. The full text of a draft of this book is available in two parts, HERE and HERE. Or you can purchase the book; the publisher’s information is available HERE. More free resources by Vern Poythress are available HERE. I recommend them.

CREDITS All Scripture citations (other than those made by other authors) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

‘Open eyes on an unveiled Word’ by Alastair Roberts

Image from Lightstock

As we enter 2019, perhaps we are considering our Bible reading plans for the year ahead. But how should we read our Bibles? This article by Alastair Roberts offers some basic guidelines. He writes that the Bible “is a book that we can never truly have read: we remain students of it for the entirety of our lives. We may have been reading for decades, yet, when it comes to reading our Bibles, we are all very much beginners.” He then offers seven fundamental principles for our reading of Scripture.

His first principle is to practice attention. He explains: As we seek to be faithful to Scripture, we must learn truly to hear its voice, rather than just hearing what we expect, want, or are primed to hear. [Roberts’ emphasis.] This requires us to develop the discipline of attention to the text. We may need to suspend our questions (and our answers) and learn how to listen. . . . . Attentiveness is a skill, the sharpening of our senses as readers or hearers of Scripture, which will become more developed in us the more deliberately and consistently we practice it.”

Another principle is to recognise that Scripture is our story. He writes, ”One of the most startling passages in the writings of the Apostle Paul is found in 1 Corinthians 10, when he retells the story of the Exodus and relates it to the life of the Corinthian church. . . . . The striking thing about these statements is the way that Paul stresses the fact that, when we are reading the story of the Exodus—and other stories in the Scripture—we are reading our story, a story that is both for and about us. Whether we are Jewish or Gentile Christians today, we need to see the children of Israel who escaped from Egypt as ‘our fathers’! Likewise, in the story of the Exodus we see the same patterns playing out in Christ’s forming of the Church today. The music continues, and we are being caught up into it! When we read our Bibles, we can easily become accustomed to reading it as a series of accounts of things that happened to them back then. But God has given us the Scripture so that we might hear its music continuing in what is happening to us right now.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Why was Jesus’ birth announced to shepherds?

Image from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs collection.

An old photograph (taken between 1920 and 1933) showing shepherds watching over their flocks at night. You can see the town of Bethlehem in silhouette in the background.

Just a final thought about the nativity narrative. Have you ever wondered why Jesus’ birth was announced to shepherds? Luke tells us, “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2.8-20).

So why did the angels appear to shepherds? There seems to be more than one reason. In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel, I. Howard Marshall writes, “the motif that God reveals the birth of the Saviour to ordinary, lowly people, is undoubtedly present.” God’s angelic army announced the Saviour’s birth to humble shepherds, not to those of wealth and status.

But is there another reason why shepherds were privileged with the news of the Saviour’s birth? In his classic work The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim tells us: “That the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, was a settled conviction. Equally so was the belief, that He was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, ‘the tower of the flock.’ This Migdal Eder was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheepground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion, that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple-sacrifices, . . . .” If so, God is pointing these shepherds, who watched over sacrificial lambs, to the true Sacrificial Lamb, the Lamb of God Who would be the perfect Sacrifice for sins. John, of course, picks up this theme at the beginning of his Gospel: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1.29, see also John 1.36).

But perhaps there’s a third reason why God chose to reveal the news of Jesus’ birth to shepherds. Matthew tells us this: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2.1-2). Herod gathered all the chief priests and scribes and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They replied, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2.5-6).

Notice how the chief priests and scribes connect the birth of the Messiah to His role as Shepherd of God’s people. The citation in Matthew 2.6 is a paraphrase of Micah 5.2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” But two verses later, Micah tells us this about the Messiah: “And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.” (Micah 2.4-5a). The Messiah will be a Shepherd of God’s people. The chief priests and scribes pick this up and allude to Micah 5.4 when they add, “who will shepherd my people Israel”. The actual words used, however, are drawn from 2 Samuel 5.2, when the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron. One of the things the tribes said was this: “And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, . . . .” .

So Bethlehem was the town of David, a shepherd of God’s people. Now it became the birthplace of the Great Shepherd of God’s people, Jesus the Son of David. The sacrificial Lamb of God would be “the Good Shepherd” Who “lays down his life for the sheep” . (John 10.11). The writer to the Hebrews, too, connects Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection to His role as the Great Shepherd of God’s flock: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13.20). When the shepherds gathered around the baby Jesus, and gazed in wonderment upon Him, they beheld a Shepherd ― the Great Shepherd of God’s people, Who would lay down His life for the sheep.

Alfred Edersheim’s The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah can be downloaded in PDF form HERE (the quotation above is found on pages 209-210 of this edition).

CREDITS Text copyright © 2017 Robert Gordon Betts Scripture citations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.