Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Marrow of Modern Divinity

25 parts of my reading of the Marrow are on YouTube so far, and I try to be regular about posting one part a day.  Check out the series for yourself:


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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Out of Egypt

Out of Egypt I Called My Son (Hosea 11:1)

God loves his church, like a husband loves his bride, and like a father loves his son. He has had great care in us before the foundation of the world, in his elect, and like a doting father he has loved us from the beginning.  When we were new children in Christ, when we were born again, he revealed himself to us as the creator of our souls and source of our rest. We were born into sin, because of our first father, Adam, and while we were yet sinners, in that state of unrepentant slavery to sin, God picked us up and took us into his arms.  That laborious drudgery of a fallen soul with nowhere to turn, lost in his own despair, cries out for salvation, and God, our father, loving us from when we were young, comes to our rescue.

Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, but our old man, our false king, our sinful master, who beats us and brands us his own, our Herod, hears about the true king, the real king, who has come to redeem his people, and he sets up a plan to destroy our salvator. Joseph is warned in a dream, and he takes his wife and newborn son down to Egypt to hide, until the sinful, old man is dead, the Herod who ruled over us in our lost state, is dead. The son comes back to Israel.  We cried out in Egypt and the son was brought near.  His blood spilled over the doorways to protect us from the creeping death.  Now that the old ruler of our hearts is dead, we are free to come home, but first we must travel through the wilderness.

The prophets warned us.  The prophets still warn the church.  They warned Israel.  Moses warned them, and then all the rest of the prophets over the centuries.  They called them to bear fruit in keeping with repentance.  John the Baptist called them again in the time of Christ.  However, the Israelites rejected Moses.  They rejected the sound teachings of God.  They rejected his commandments.  The more the prophets preached, the more the church fled from the sound counsel of the Lord.  The more the church slipped in to idolatry.  We see this in history, and we see this in our own lives.  The time spent on YouTube could have been time spent with the Lord in his Word, and the more we are called to pray to God, it seems the more we run in the opposite direction and look for something damnable to do with ourselves.

Yet he taught us to walk. God held our hands and showed us how to step. And we repay him by walking in the wrong path.  We choose the wide path of destruction, not the narrow path of Christ.  He took us in our arms, and then we pushed him away.  He healed our hearts, and then we attributed the healing to worldly things and celebrated the darkness.  God restrains us from self-destruction and heinous ruin, and yet we complain that he fastened any kind of yoke to us, even though the bonds he gave us were easy and the burden light.  The cords he ties us with improve us, but our sin cries out that he has made our lives worse.  Every word that comes from his mouth is precious remedy for our souls, and yet we spit his word out of our mouth as if it were poison.

We will not return to the land of Egypt.  Our old lives are truly behind us, but many will attempt to return there, and what they will find is much, much worse than Egypt.  In Egypt, God was there, he sustained us and gave us good things, even in our adversity.  In Assyria, where the unrepentant sinner is bound, there is no solace from God.  There is no hope.  When we go to Assyria, we ask God to forsake us.  We ask him to remove himself from our lives forever, and when that happens, we realize how much God had been caring for us all along, now that it is gone.  We refuse to return, because the sanctifying wilderness is too rough, and we would rather return to our place of sin.  But now, our sin has overtaken us, and it is in complete control of our lives.  When all is sin, all is death, and all is sorrow.

But he will never give up his elect.  He will never surrender his true church.  He will never destroy us, and his heart breaks for us.  He is compassionate, slow to anger, and he is patient for us to awaken and return to him.  We will walk the narrow way, because he is fierce and strong, and he is our protector.  Like the child who is severely disciplined, he trembles and shakes as he returns to the father's side in repentance and awe.

Jesus died for our sins.  He came to Egypt to rescue us, and he led us away from sin and death.  He opened his arms and embraced us.  Now, we go through trials, we go through wilderness, and we are tempted to walk away from it all, back to our sins in Egypt, not knowing that we will not get Egypt but Assyria.  Go trembling to the side of the father through the love of the son.  Only through Christ is one redeemed.  He suffered all things on our behalf, so that we would not suffer again for eternity.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The True King

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:1-12)

1. Herod is the acting king of the House of David.
2. These Magi are gentiles from the east.
3. Magi are a caste of wise men specializing in astronomy, astrology, and natural science.
4. Science points toward God, not away from God.
5. The Magi are looking for the true king of the House of David.
6. Herod is not the true king.
7. The Magi have come to worship the true king.
8. Herod is troubled by this news, and all of Jerusalem is troubled along with him.

As it says in the first verses of the gospel of John:

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13)

In Matthew 2, we see Israel, in name only, greatly disturbed by these gentiles from the east searching for the true king. These Magi are scientists who have followed their science to the true king of Israel, and they are willing to worship this king.  They are olive branches grafted onto the tree of Israel, and the shuddering inhabitants of Jerusalem are dead branches which are to be pruned from the tree.

This is the Epiphany: everything you assumed to be true is wrong, and the light has come into the world to shine its truth upon Christ. If we look at Romans 9, we can see some nuances that we may not have seen before. This sentence in Romans 9:7: "Through Isaac Your Descendants Will Be Named (Called)." Abraham had two sons, but Isaac is in Christ and Ishmael is not. Isaac had two sons, but Jacob is in Christ and Esau is not. Those in Jacob are called to God's purpose. Those in Esau are not. However, Esau was born first, which traditionally meant that he was to get all the inheritance. However, God has his secret election of individuals, those whom he sees as being in Christ. The Magi point to this election: gentiles whose science leads them to Christ. But the sitting king and the people of Jerusalem, though they be physical descendants of Jacob, they be spiritual descendants of Esau.

The birth of Christ turned everything upside down, and our rebirth in Christ turns everything upside down in us. Are you following the star? Are you being led more and more into Christ? So many clues abound in scripture about those who have thought themselves to be rejected actually being the ones approved. God wants you to know that you are not left out. You, too, can be his. Follow the star to where it leads.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Immanuel

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:22-25)

This Old Testament quote is from Isaiah 7. Let's look at the historical context:

1. Israel tries to conquer Judah but fails.
2. Israel and Judah used to be one nation but had split.
3. Judah is sorely frightened.
4. The Lord, through Isaiah, tells Ahaz, king of Judah, not to fear, because the plan will fail.
5. The two countries that are attacking Judah will be destroyed.
6. Isaiah gives Ahaz a sign that this will take place.

Now, before we break down the sign itself, how does the thwarted attack on Judah encourage us today?

1. The two enemies of the true church are the false church and the world, according to the book of Revelation.
2. Israel used to be one nation but divided into Israel and Judah.
3. The House of David (the true church) resides in Judah.
4. We today, as the true church, have two enemies, the world, which we know, and the false church, which we have trouble realizing.
5. We are frightened of this "false" church, because we say to ourselves, "what if it is the true church, and WE are the false church?"
6. Judah has the House of David, which means it has the true Jesus of the Bible, not a false Jesus.
7. Are you part of Judah?
8. Do you have faith in the Jesus of the Bible, even all the parts you don't like?

Verse nine tells us, "If you will not believe, you surely shall not last." These are the Lord's words for Ahaz, but these words, "If you will not believe, you surely shall not last," are also for anyone who wants to be in the true church. Only by faith is one saved. Ahaz actually shows himself to not believe by rejecting Isaiah's instruction to "ask for a sign." Isaiah says "your God" to Ahaz when instructing him, but when Ahaz rejects asking for a sign, Isaiah then refers to "my God." However, the prophecy itself should change Ahaz's heart.

Now for the prophecy. This sign would not take place for 500 years, long after Ahaz was dead, but the information itself was a good enough sign for him, because what it tells him, historically, is that God is with them and will never depart from the House of David. Not only that, but the messiah will indeed come from the House of David. The prophecy goes on for several verses, each more encouraging than the last, for Ahaz. For us, the critical verse is 7:14, so let's look at that.

1. This sign is obviously predicting the Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus Christ.
2. By the name "Immanuel" we are also given a clue to Christ's dual nature: fully God and fully man.
3. The words in Isaiah says, "she will call his name," but when Matthew writes to us, he says, "THEY shall call his name 'God With Us.'" This implies a deep faith in all believers.
4. Joseph is instructed by the angel, "you shall call his name..." Joseph is included in this faith.
5. Joseph has no more doubts, and with pure faith, he does exactly as the angel instructs.

One last part of the prophecy is usually glossed over:

He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken. (Isaiah 7:15-16)

1. Curds and honey implies heaven, the promised land, from where Immanuel comes.
2. Refusing evil and choosing good reveals an end to the curse brought on by Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As we know, eating of the tree put all of mankind's will in bondage to sin. We would, and still will, always choose the evil. Christ frees us from that bondage, so that believers are now able to choose the good.

God is with us. Do you believe this? Do you call his name Immanuel? Is God with you? Do you believe in the Jesus of the Bible? Even the things about him that you don't like? Is your residence heaven? Are you an exile here? Do you not belong and long for something more? Are all your righteous deeds like filthy rags? Your righteous deeds will keep you from Christ unless you discard them and only seek and abide in His righteousness. Have faith. Abhor the evil and choose the Good. Choose Christ. God will give you the faith to do so. He has promised so.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Son of David

Of course Jesus is called Son of David throughout the Gospels, but here, Joseph is called the Son of David:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

The angel has given Joseph, who is the natural son of David along the kingly line, the authority of the son of David. He has given him permission to exert his authority as son of David in the following ways:

1. He has the authority to take Mary as his wife.
2. He has the authority to name the child "Jesus."

First, what are the powers of the office of king? In Zechariah 9:9, we find that a king is just and endowed with salvation. According to Zephaniah 3:15, the king is a wise judge and protector. He has mercy on his subjects. He always does the right thing by his people.  Now, what is Joseph supposed to do to Mary, according to the law? When we read Deuteronomy 22, we discover that his options are two: he can divorce her (put her away quietly) or he can have her stoned. Obviously, he was in the process of choosing the former when the angel came to him.

Now, according to Christ there is a righteous spirit of the law, which supersedes the legal, outward keeping of the law.  So, two examples from Matthew 12: Jesus shows that even though it is technically unlawful to do work on the sabbath--work that included eating heads of grain--Jesus reminds them that David--the king--broke the technical law, as well, by eating consecrated bread that was meant for only priests. David's spirit of the law superseded the technical law. Next, Jesus heals a man's hand on the sabbath. This is technically against the law, but Jesus asks which one of them would not rescue a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the sabbath? No one, because sheep are valuable, and a man is more valuable than a sheep.

A third example from Mark 10:

Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Yes, it is technically legal to divorce your wife, he tells us, but the righteous and wise thing to do is to stay married. Why? Because the king is concerned with the salvation of his people, and keeping families together provides better chances of salvation for the individuals (provided at least one of the individuals in question has a healthy fear of God and an abiding faith in Jesus Christ).  So, Joseph does exactly this. He follows the angels command and with his authority as the son of David, he chooses neither to divorce her, nor to stone her, but to marry her.

Finally, with the authority of the son of David, Joseph names his son Jesus, which means, "he saves." Salvation of his subjects was the primary concern of a just king, and Joseph fulfills his kingly role in the kingly line of David by naming the son of God appropriately and as commanded.

Make Christ your king. He has always been concerned with your salvation, from the foundation of the world, and his wise justice will conspire to keep you safe in his hands, so that not one hair on your head is harmed by God's wrath. He has providentially put you in the best possible situation for your good, and has given you situations to foster your salvation and bring you closer to him. Live in the kingdom of Christ. Abide in him. He is your stronghold and and your sure defense. Trust in him. He will not forsake you. He is your king.