Presumption

I was reading today in 1 Samuel 4, about the leaders of the young nation of Israel. They had just been defeated in battle by the Philistines, most likely for not having consulted the Lord in advance. Instead of regrouping to seek the Lord and inquire about these matters, they went further astray, deciding to force God’s hand to support their campaign…

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2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. (esv)

The presence of the corrupt sons of Eli (Hophni and Phinehas) signals the reader of pending doom (as foretold in chapter 3). You can guess that it did not end well — they were defeated, these wicked men were killed, and the Ark of the LORD was captured by the enemy. It’s interesting to notice more fear and awe of the LORD on the part of the Philistines than the presumptive Israelites in the passage.

As I prayed and reflected on this today, the grave sin of presumption stood out to me. When we do not find things going well, or worse, dare we think that the problem is the lack of input and effort on the part of our Lord?? Can our God be manipulated into blessing our various endeavors? I should say not.

Once again I discover the value of daily reading God’s holy Word, to examine my thinking in its light and to put a check my self-centeredness. The Word and prayer. I need these daily.

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The First Promise of Grace

“14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.  15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Gen. 3:14-15 esv

MANTON MONDAY (from the writings of Puritan Thomas Manton)Manton

These words are a part of the gospel preached in paradise, or the first promise of grace and life made to mankind, now fallen and dead in sin. As God was cursing the serpent, He draws out this comfort to our first parents, who were confounded with the sense of sin and their defection from God. Satan’s condemnation is our salvation. He did the first mischief, therefore the crushing of his head gives hope of our deliverance out of that state of misery into which he has plunged us.

The words are dark in comparison of the larger explications of the grace of God by Jesus Christ which were after delivered to the church. Who would look for a great tree in a little seed? Yet the seminal virtue does afterward diffuse and dilate itself into all those stately and lofty branches in which the fowls of the air do take up their lodging and shelter. So do these few words contain all the articles and mysteries of the christian faith, which are the fountains of our solid peace and consolation. In the seed of the woman is contained all the doctrine concerning the incarnation of the Son of God; in the bruising of his heal, his death and sufferings; in the crushing of the serpent’s head, His glorious victory and conquest. As obscure as these words are, an eagle-eyed and discerning faith could pick a great deal of comfort out of them. The antediluvian fathers, so famous throughout all ages for their faith and confidence in God, had no other gospel to live upon. Abel, who offered a better sacrifice than Cain, Enoch, who walked with God, Noah, who prepared the ark, did all that they did in the strength and upon the encouragement of this promise.  [WORKS of Thomas Manton, XVII.241]

Our Father in Heaven

Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” father-and-son-1314627-1279x1923

Perhaps the most significant thing you can say about the one true and living God is that He is the Father of His people. Michael Reeves says “the most foundational thing in God is not some abstract quality, but the fact that he is Father.” The label Father is not limited to the New Testament, where Jesus so often spoke of our Father in heaven; it appears throughout the Old Testament as well. Even before God was seen as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, He was the God the Father — alongside Jesus the Son of God, and God the Holy Spirit.

Consider a few OT verses (esv) about the Fatherhood of God…

Exodus 4:22, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son…”

Deut. 32:6, “Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?”

Isaiah 63:8, “For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.”

Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

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Review: Jesus on Every Page

I recently read this excellent book and wrote a review for the December issue of The Banner of Truth magazine (I strongly recommend you subscribe; they have a nice, inexpensive electronic subscription option). Here it is for my blog readers…
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Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament by David P. Murray (Thomas Nelson, 2013, 256 pp. paperback, $16.99
ISBN: 978-1-40020-534-9)
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Having a deep appreciation for Jonathan Edward’s wonderful book, A History of the Work of Redemption (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2003 repr.) and his grasp of the centrality of Christ in the story of the whole Bible, I was delighted to learn of Jesus on Every Page by David P. Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, MI). It is an excellent, albeit brief, presentation of Jesus in the various parts of the whole Old Testament. Dr. Murray is a native of Scotland, where he pastored two churches for twelve years prior to coming to the USA.

Taking from the story of Jesus after the resurrection on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), it is organized into two parts, ‘My Road to Emmaus’ (chs 1-6), and, ‘Spiritual Heartburn’ (chs 7-16) — the latter title an interesting take on the original companions’ burning-heart experience and the author’s own deeper discoveries of Jesus throughout the Old Testament. At the end of the book, there are several very good study questions for each chapter, profitable for personal review or group discussion.

The subtitle of the work is unfortunate if it conjures up in one’s mind an expectation of a simplistic ‘how to’ book, for Murray skilfully handles an impressive breadth of topics. While answering the key question (and title of ch. 2), ‘What’s the Old Testament all about?’ the next four chapters in Part One engage the reader in some biblical theology, and present answers drawn from the teaching of Jesus, Peter, Paul and John. The chapters effectively display Murray’s thesis (It’s all about Jesus), as well as draw the reader further into the book. They also display Murray’s personal and conversational style of writing—a real attraction for modern readers. On the other hand, an abundance of sub-headings (five on a single page in ch. 11!) were an unhelpful distraction to this reader.

Beginning with the phrase ‘Discovering Jesus in . . .’ each of the ten chapters in the second part of the book the author explains the various genres and themes of the Old Testament as they relate to the person of our Lord. Themes handled included: Creation, Characters, Appearances, Law, History, Prophets, Types, Covenants, Proverbs, and Poems. These chapters are well-organized, brief and clear with Murray faithfully providing biblical texts as illustrations and examples along the way.

A real strength of the book is the way it introduces the fruit of impor- tant works on this grand subject by authors old and new—including Jon- athan Edwards (History of Redemption), Patrick fairbairn (Typology of Scripture), Graeme Goldsworthy (According to Plan), Christopher Wright (Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament), and, O. Palmer Robertson (The Christ of the Covenants). Those who may have given up reading Fairbairn’s tome will be thrilled with Murray’s skilful condensation of it in one ten-page chapter!

One minor criticism is that Murray often writes at too fast a pace, or moves on too quickly after making a wonderful insight, often leaving the reader wanting more. His postscript refers to the book as ‘these introductory chapters’, and one can only hope that some day a future expanded edition might be undertaken.

Don’t be fooled though! This slim volume, with its pop subtitle, is of wide-ranging value for pastors, teachers, as well as the general reader. It not only presents the content of the Old Testament in a faithfully Christ-cen- tred way, but it opens windows to several avenues of further biblical study. In our day of growing biblical illiteracy, Jesus on Every Page will ably connect the dots and fill in the blanks as to the vital importance of the Old Testament to lovers of Christ.

Omnipotence & Redemption

Here is a fine excerpt from a chapter on God’s Power, written by John Frame, in The Doctrine of God. It brought me to pause and praise our mighty Lord.

Redemption itself contradicts all human expectations. It is God’s mighty power entering a situation that, from a human viewpoint, is hopeless. God comes to Abraham, who is over a hundred years old, and to Sarah, far beyond the age of childbearing, and He promises them a natural son. Sarah laughs. But God asks, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14). God’s omnipotence intervenes, and Isaac is born. The omnipotence is the power of God’s covenant promise. The Hebrew text literally r1413842_61268220eads, “Is any word of God void of power?” God’s powerful word comes into our world of sin and death and promises salvation. Isaac will continue the covenant, and from him, in God’s time, will come the Messiah, who will save His people from their sins. When the Messiah comes, He will be born, not to a barren woman like Sarah, but to a virgin — an even greater manifestation of God’s omnipotence. So to Mary the angel echoes God’s promise to Abraham: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36).

So God’s word never returns to Him void (Isa. 55:11). It is His omnipotence, doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. Apart from God’s power, we could expect only death and eternal condemnation. But he brings life in the place of death. So the resurrection of Christ becomes a paradigm of divine power in Ephesians 1:19-23. A God who can raise people from the dead can do anything. He is a God who is worthy of trust.

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God’s great gift of sacrifice

Do you know the precious connection between the Old Testament sacrifices, and the cross of Jesus Christ? Do you see them both as gifts from God? In one of the best theological books I’ve read in many years, THE FAITH ONCE ENTRUSTED TO THE SAINTS? (IVP, 2010), Geoffrey Grogan writes the following:

God’s gift of the Old Testament sacrifices and his supreme gift of Christ’s one final sacrifice reveal the marvel of his grace to sinners. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the importance of this, so well expressed in the Old Testament by Leviticus 17:11 where God says of the blood sacrifice, “I have give it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar,” and in the New by Romans 3:25 and 1 Corinthians 5:21, in both of which the cross is seen as God’s act. The way back to God was provided by God himself.